God doesn’t exhaustively control the future. He also does not exhaustively know the future.
The future, by definition, is partly unknowable; it has not been settled. It is illogical to think that God knows the entirety of the future since there are things that are not there for him to know. Some aspects of the future are not even set until they are resolved by free agents, human beings.
If this is the case, then how can I trust a God who faces a future that is partly settled and partly open? If he isn’t in control, then who is? I would first like to offer an argument against the classical Christian view of God’s foreknowledge being exhaustive, then offer an argument in favor of God’s foreknowledge consisting of both settled facts and unsettled possibilities. I believe the latter position to be most faithful to biblical evidence, logic, and experience.
The classical Christian belief of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is founded on the deeper conviction that God is unable to change; he is immutable. Many think that if God did change, it would indicate some kind of imperfection, according to this line of reasoning. The thinking continues, if God is immutable, then his knowledge must also be immutable. All of reality is then settled according to the will of God (Calvinism) or in the knowledge of God (Arminianism). I would argue that this belief in God’s immutability is influenced more by Hellenistic philosophy than the Bible. For one, what is admirable about not being able to be affected by others? One might be able to make the case that this kind of behavior is sociopathic. If God is not affected by his creation, then how can he experience regret or surprise, as we see in Genesis and Isaiah? How can one genuinely experience regret or surprise if they knew from the outset what the outcome would be? The explanation that I would like to offer is that God knows the future—in one sense as determined, in another sense as open.
If this was not the case, then one would expect God to speak in absolutes throughout Scripture. There would be no “maybes, ifs and mights” for a God who exhaustively knew everything that was to pass. If we read Scripture plainly, however, we see that there are many possibilities that God is open to.
Take the example of Moses, who was not certain that having God on his side would be enough to convince his Israeli elders as is referenced in Exodus 4. In verses 8 and 9, God specifically uses the word ‘if’ to indicate the possibility of the elders disbelieving Moses. Wouldn’t a God who knew the future exhaustively know with certainty if the elders would believe Moses? Furthermore, wouldn’t that same God know exactly how many signs Moses would need to show the elders in order to get them to believe? The conclusion is that God was leaving this event up to Moses to resolve, rather than determining the outcome himself. This occasion is evidence that the future is partly open in the eyes of God.
This notion might be scary to think about, as God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is a place of security for many believers. I believe, though, that a God who faces a partly open future is more admirable, wise, and trustworthy.