Open Theology in MIB3

A few weeks ago my wife and I rented Men in Black 3 (MIB3 – 2012), starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin. I didn’t dislike the first two films, but it’s not really my style. I like sci-fi films, but sci-fi comedy… not so much. However, we heard it was good so we decided to give it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well the plot held my attention. I like Will Smith, and of course Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin are great actors. But as entertaining as it was to watch them, I found that the most fascinating character in the movie was an alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg). He appeared to be human, but he was unlike anyone you’ve ever met.

Griffin has the ability to see all possible futures. While Griffin is merely a human (or alien), he possesses a “supernatural” ability to see what only an infinite-minded being could foreknow.

I think Griffin works well as a comedic caricature of God, as presented in the open view. In fact, I believe that Griffin offers a teachable moment for those who remain unclear or even skeptical of open theism.

In a nutshell, open theology comes down to this:

God created a free universe where creatures are always given an appropriate degree of freedom to operate within creation and shape the future. Therefore, God is immanent and operates within his creation according to its laws and nature. Since God’s foreknowledge is perfect in his infinite ability to know all possible futures, as if they were all certainties, he is forever ahead of his creatures and fully prepared to interact and respond to us.

In the following scene, Agent J (Smith) and a young Agent K (Brolin) are introduced to Griffin. They quickly discover his unique abilities. They are at first bewildered by Griffin’s great power of foreknowledge, but in time they see his ability as reason to place great confidence in him.

Do you think it is logically and biblically consistent to believe that God sees all of the future as predetermined, while at the same time claiming that human beings have free will? Let’s instead consider how an infinitely intelligent God can grant a great level of freedom to human beings, leaving the future open to a degree, and also reign supreme over creation in the unfolding of God’s good purposes for the cosmos.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in student ministry for 7 years, taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy for 5 years, and now pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

7 responses to “Open Theology in MIB3

  • Paul Snyder

    This is very interesting and I think God does, indeed, have the ability to see the future. My thoughts on the subject have always been that he is outside of time and doesn’t just see the future, but reigns eternally in all places and at all times simultaneously. Einstein had some theories about time which make this concept probably, though not very easy for time dwellers like ourselves to comprehend.

    At any rate, it does seem strange to me how it is that people think God’s perfect knowledge of the future somehow proves predestination. In my very limited knowledge I can foresee the rising of the sun and the greening of the grass in spring. I can often even foretell the outcome of a movie without employing anything but intuition and logic. My foresight is not synonymous with the imposition of my will on either the sun or the grass.

    If I understand this correctly, when God set things with free will in motion he created potential. God made organic, fruit-bearing beings…not mechanical automatons. When trees don’t bear proper fruit it is usually because of disease, soil conditions, drought, etc. When people don’t bear the fruit of his life and character it is because they are somehow disconnected from the Vine, and not by God’s choosing: “I am willing that none should perish.”

  • Innperlenburg

    I think it’s entirely logical and biblically consistent to believe this.

    God is outside time – ie, He sees time, or our conception of it, from the beginning to the end and everything in between, just as a person looking down on a piece of paper can see the whole piece of paper. Put an ant on the piece of paper. The ant can decide wherever it wants to crawl, anywhere on the peice of paper, but the person watching can see all the possibilities and all the possible outcomes.

    God is eternal life – he is infinite – He is.
    Our 4-fold dimension is a subset of His dimensions – probably 10 hyperdimensions, according to the rabbis – so while we are confined to the inside of God’s creation of matter and time, it is hard for us to conceive of any other dimension outside our own. The spiritual is only a breath away.

  • paul del signore

    I like the Open Theism position but I tend to lean more towards Middle Knowledge.

    It seems to me that if we presume that God is outside of time, then ‘staying ahead of his creatures to respond’ doesn’t make much sense. Rather, having foreseen all possible worlds, God allows the free acts of his creation and in so doing orchestrates the outcome via his good and perfect will – this I think can work.

    One problem with the MK position of course is the complexity of counterfactuals that God uses to weave his perfect world. Nevertheless, it is a complexity to marvel at.

    • David D. Flowers

      You’re right, Paul. The complexity is something to marvel at. I think in our age we often overlook the mystery, even the mystery of things that we understand.

      I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I will say I don’t fully know what to make of the “God is outside of time” point that is always made. I do believe that God transcends the cosmos, and that time is definitely something we depend on. But I do think God enters into time and operates according to the laws of the universe he created, except when he appears to suspend those laws. I’m still working through the whole thing. :-)

      Thanks for sharing.

  • AO Green

    What would prevent God from being in time?

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