Monday, December 19, 2011

Foreknowledge, Time and Omniscience

If God is outside of time, God can foreknow exhaustively on the basis of being omniscient and self-existent, without regard to decree whatsoever. The notion that God foreknows because he has foreordained becomes superfluous, completely unnecessary. Further consideration of it as the cause of foresight can be tossed aside because it is unexplanatory. Of course, that doesn't disprove that God decrees and that is why what is so, is so, but it does remove any necessity for that decree explaining foreknowledge.

If God were instead entwined somehow in time, if there were some sense in which he abided by it, then God could not be the Holy God and the future could not be said to truly exist (to be known). In that case, God would be subject to a quality of creation, not self-existent, and would, like creation, have to wait and see. There could only be the now and the record of the past in such a situation. Any premonition or prescience, even by God, could not be taken as fact so much as prognostication.

God, in fact, sees all at once without regard to and unlimited by time and space--timeless omniscience. This must be so, no matter how hard it may be for us to envision, if God is truly self-existent. That means that God sees all time references with equal facility. Since God is apart from time, I think Simple Foreknowledge is more than adequate to account for God's knowledge of all that is and will be.

That doesn't explain counterfactual knowledge, but that will have to wait until next time...


James Goetz said...

SLW, How does transcendent omniscience imply "exhaustive definite foreknowledge of undetermined events" ("simple foreknowledge" per traditional Arminians)? Surely God in his transcendence and omniscience knows all possibilities and his best response in any given contingency, but how does that imply simply foreknowledge? For example, scientific hypotheses of an eternal block universe say that there actually is no sequence of time, but all appearance of sequence is an illusion of determinism.

Kevin Jackson said...

Good post. I think God is both outside of time and also exists inside time too (that doesn't have to be a contradiction) :)

God is above time, he is everlasting, he is transcending. He also meets us where we are at, and interacts with us in history. Since he does have exhaustive knowledge of everything that will happen, he has the ability to do specific things in time and in human history in order to bring about his purposes - his main purpose being to reconcile sinful humanity to himself, through the person of Jesus.

SLW said...

Nice to hear from you again.

Transcendent omniscience implies exhaustive, definite foreknowledge of undetermined events because, being outside and not subject to time or its limitations, it has, so to speak, "already been there" for any moment within time which in that moment is unfolding. He who is omniscient in any moment is omniscient in every moment, now. That implies simple foreknowledge because it becomes the most straightforward, elegant explanation that agrees with the picture of God speaking to and interacting with mankind in the scriptures. Of course, in my view, one of the most important features of that is human freedom. I'll talk about contigencies and possibilities in my next posts.

As for the block universe, I'm not certain about your description: "illusion of determinism." Perhaps you could give me a little more info.

SLW said...


I agree with you, and I see that it causes effects in our future that would not have been part of our future apart from or without that interposition. What gets really crazy is realizing that happens over and over again through history--that puts a real twist on "possible world" and parallel universe thinking! I'll be talking about some of that in the next posts too.

James Goetz said...

Hey SLW, I'll first clarify that I need to limit my blogging during this pre-Christmas season. This has something to do with my temporalness and trying to plan a holiday with a wife and four youth :-)

I probably could give a long answer to this, but I am giving only outline for reasons above. Here is a good article on time at the STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY called "Time."

The article explains McTaggart's B theory of time and other eternalist theories of time. These theories claim that there is no distinction between the past, present, and future, but that the universe is a unified block with no passage of time while human experience of time is nothing but an illusion.

Do you believe in a distinction between the past, present, and future, or do you see distinction between them? As far as I know, Arminian simple foreknowledge does not imply a lack a of distinction between the past, present, and future.

I might not have time to get back here until after Christmas.

Merry Christmas :-)


SLW said...

I understand the time pressure, not to worry, I like brevity!

Believe it or not, that article is one of my bookmarks! I understand (now that is a misuse of the word ;-) ) the theory of the block universe, and theories of Time A and B. What I was questioning was just the descriptive "an illusion of determinism." If you would have said "an illusion of lapsing" or "passing," I would not have had any confusion. I'm still not quite sure what you meant by it.

I think your general assessment of an Arminian approach foreknowledge concerning a distinction in time reference is correct. I do not think there was an attempt to describe reality scientifically in positing that, however. Personally, I do see a distinction between them, but it is a consequence of faith (I believe in a distinctive beginning and a determined end to time, hence the notion of lapsing is more substantial than mere psychology) rather than anything I could derive from a secular, relativist's viewpoint. The relativist has proven that time is of the universe (dimensional), but he or she has not (and cannot, I would think) prove that there was a distinct beginning to time or that there will be an end. Regardless, that proof demonstrates that time is created rather than something the Creator experiences.