“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:6, 7)
Here are two of the primary verses that open theists use to assert that God does not know the future, independent choices or decisions of men. The rationale goes something like this: If God was sorry that He made man upon the face of the earth then He clearly did not see the event coming for which He was sorry. After all, why would He say He was sorry about something He knew was going to happen, and something that was the result of His doing?
See the argument?
First, let’s not go beyond what these verses are saying. These verses are not saying God did not know what would happen. They are simply saying that God was sorry. The Hebrew word used here and translated “sorry” is nacham and it means, “to be sorry”, or “moved to pity” or “grieved”. So we know God was grieved and moved to pity; but nowhere are we told that He lacked the information He needed or wished that He had.
Second, as is clear from 1 Samuel 15:29, the LORD does not regret as man regrets. While man may regret due to lack of foresight, God grieves or ‘feels sorry’ while having perfect foresight. When God saw ‘in real time’ the judgment that was coming upon the world and the wickedness of man (i.e. every thought of man’s heart being wicked and the world being filled with violence – Gen 6:5,11), there appears to have been a sense in which God looked back to man’s creation and was grieved that his behavior would come to this and warrant such judgment. This was not because He was surprised but because He was not indifferent to their wickedness and He was not unaffected by the judgment that would come upon them. God is complex and able to regret things He foreknew, and communicate that regret in time.
Third, remember, God had foretold the coming of His Son before this event. God knew that He would send His Son into the world to crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15); He knew that it would happen in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4; cf. Is 11:1; Jer 23:5; Jer 33:15; Mic 5:2); and, not too long before the days of Noah, Enoch prophesied about the Lord’s second coming with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment upon the ungodly (Jd 14-15). God clearly knew man would be wicked – wicked enough to warrant judgment and need a Savior. Therefore, God’s grief is not a grief that regretted man’s creation in such a way that He wished He had a ‘do over’. Rather, seeing that God saw all the way ahead to both comings of Jesus, and that He decided before the foundation of the world to appoint grace for His elect in Christ (2 Tim 1:9), it is most reasonable to interpret God’s words here as what they are: (a) the revelation of His heart and not the revelation of lack of information, and (b) His great sorrow [in time] when He looked back at an event [the creation of man] that would lead to great sorrow [the flood].