Omniscience and Time
December 16, 2006 — 12:20

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Concept of God  Comments: 6

There hasn’t been a lot of activity here, so I thought I’d direct readers to my latest post on my own blog. I’ve been posting the class notes for an introductory philosophy course that I teach, and I do a little philosophy of religion in the class, majoring on the arguments for and against the existence of God but with a little bit on philosophical theology at the end. My latest post is on the “Does God know what time it is?” problem for atemporal views on God. I’ve tried to package it in a way first-time philosophy students can understand the issues, and there’s probably nothing there that most readers of this blog will not have seen before (we’ve discussed these issues at length), but it’s been pretty quiet here lately, so I thought I’d give people something to read even if I don’t think it’s on a level that justifies cross-posting it here.

  • Robert Landbeck

    To take another spin on ‘time’ and omniscience, if what is circulting on the web is confimed God is about to demonstrate both. I quote:
    Using a synthesis of scriptural material from the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha , The Dead Sea Scrolls,The Nag Hammadi Library, and some of the worlds great poetry, it describes and teaches a single moral LAW, a single moral principle and offers its own proof; one in which the reality of God responds to an act of perfect faith with a direct, individual intervention into the natural world; making a correction to human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception; providing new, primary insight and understanding of the human condition.

    December 26, 2006 — 14:49
  • That is a very good blog post. I just finished a paper that dealt with the question of, given an A-Theory of time, can a timeless God be omniscient? I say no, because the definition of the A-Theory (offered by Zimmerman in “The A-Theory, the B-Theory and Taking Tense Seriously,” a fantastic read) is that at least one proposition changes its truth value over time. God’s knowledge cannot change if he’s timeless, therefore he is either not timeless or not omniscient. Nothing special. I’ll have my paper up on my blog in a few weeks.
    I highly recommend the above Zimmerman paper. It’s available on-line.

    December 30, 2006 — 2:57
  • I haven’t read that paper closely, but it looks very good. Dean has greatly influenced my thinking on that issue.
    If knowledge is a relation, couldn’t God be timeless and consist of a relation to tensed truths that itself changes, while God does not? It depends ultimately on what counts as knowing and on whether God’s relational properties can change. I would say an A-theorist who defends divine atemporality should say that God’s relations can change even if God’s intrinsic properties don’t. If knowledge of a proposition about changing properties is a relation of the sort that whatever changes in God’s knowledge is not an intrinsic property but rather a matter of what God is related to, then I don’t think there should be a problem with holding an A-theory and God’s knowledge.
    I’m not sure if that sort of view will ultimately work out, but it’s the sort of thing that I think an A-theorist who defends divine atemporality ought to try to say.

    December 30, 2006 — 10:52
  • Well, if knowledge is a relation that God bears to the world, and the world is constantly changing, then the relation is constantly changing, and thus God is constantly changing. But you’re right that this change could possibly be construed as purely extrinsic (like me moving a foot to the left changes my relation to you, even though you didn’t change at all). I guess the modest conclusion is that God is at the very least extrinsically temporal. But knowledge seems to me to be an internal relation, which would make God intrinsically temporal as well (if the above stipulations are true).

    January 10, 2007 — 2:04
  • Atemporalists wouldn’t say that God is extrinsically temporal but maybe that God’s relations to temporal things are temporal.
    I guess I don’t think of relations as extrinsic at all, so I don’t think it follows that knowledge is intrinsic. What makes it knowledge is the external state of affairs. Otherwise it would be false belief. So how can it be intrinsic? There might be an intrinsic state that constitutes my knowledge, but isn’t my knowledge the relation of that state to the world?
    In the atemporal case, I could see God’s intrinsic state as unchanging with what it relates to as changing. The knowledge, then, would be temporal without God’s intrinsic state being temporal or changing.

    January 10, 2007 — 11:15
  • I guess I was thinking of knowledge as an intrinsic property because it involves belief, but after reading your post and talking with some people, I’ve realized I was mistaken.
    In view of that, it seems to me the conclusion one ought to argue for is that because God’s relations change over time, then God is at least in some sense affected by time. Perhaps divine atemporalists are perfectly willing to grant this, but I would think not. Most of the divine atemporalists I’ve read want God to be entirely unaffected by time.

    January 13, 2007 — 12:57