Problems for the standard view of an everlasting God
November 9, 2009 — 9:48

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Concept of God Divine Providence Open Theism  Tags: , ,   Comments: 32

The standard view of an everlasting God is that God has existed in time for an infinite amount of time and will continue to exist for an infinite amount of time, and a finite amount of time ago, creation sprang into being. Thus, God existed a year ago, a billion years ago, a trillion years ago, and so on. (I think, though I shall not argue for this here, that if one denies God’s atemporality, one should adopt the standard view on pain of believing something theologically much worse, such as that God has a finite age or that creation is infinitely old. So if the standard view of everlastingness is false, then God is not atemporal.)

I shall talk of the universe springing into being a finite amount of time ago rather than its’ being created a finite amount of time ago, to disambiguate between the time of the cause (God’s act of creating) and the time of the effect (the universe’s springing into being).

Problem 1 (Augustine’s problem): Why did God wait this infinite amount of time before the universe sprang into being, rather than, say, making the universe spring into being a hundred years earlier? Augustine records the old chestnut that God was busy preparing a hell for those who ask such questions. His own answer that time began with the universe’s springing into being is not available to the defender of the standard view. One might take a relational view of time on which the question does not make sense–the world where God create a hundred years earlier is the same world. Only a B-theorist can say that, and not every B-theorist can.

Problem 2 (Deliberation and omniscience): Suppose God at t0 is deliberating what should spring into being and when it should do so. But God being omniscient already knows what will spring into being and when it will do so. How can one deliberate over what one already knows?

It seems, for instance, that deliberation requires a belief in alternate at least epistemic possibilities. But if one knows with certainty what one will do, then there are no alternate epistemic possibilities.

One answer is that one can bracket some of one’s beliefs when deliberating. The alcoholic who keeps on falling off the wagon can intend to stay on the wagon while bracketing the inductive data that gives her a justified belief that she will fall of it again. It seems to me that positing such bracketing should be a last resort in the divine case. Another answer is open theism, but I shall simply dismiss that as being one of the options least compatible with the theological traditions of the three great monotheistic religions.

Now consider what the atemporalist has to say. The atemporalist also has this problem: she thinks that God outside of time is deliberating what to create and when it should spring into being, and that God knows what he will create and when it should do so. However, she can say that God’s knowledge is explanatorily posterior to God’s deliberation, even if it is not temporally posterior to it, and indeed the knowledge is partly constituted by the result of the deliberation, and this means that he does not need to bracket the knowledge.

Can the everlastingness advocate say that? Maybe, but I feel–though I cannot argue–that it is not as satisfactory. So let me just put the problem out for comments.

Problem 3: When did God decide at what time the universe should come into being? There are three options: (a) at the moment at which the universe came into being; (b) at some earlier moment; and (c) the decision was made at every earlier time.

Option (a): This faces Augustine’s problem with a vengeance. Now we have God going on for an infinite amount of time without deciding to create, and then suddenly he decides to do so. This sits poorly with the idea of God’s goodness as fittingly diffusive of itself–why did he earlier, and so often–indeed, infinitely often–decide against creating? Was God slowly warming up to the idea of creating? That is theologically problematic. If he said “no” to an infinite number of earlier chances to create, what does that say to his character? It does not seem to be a character that is diffusive of goodness in the way the Tradition holds it to be.

Option (b): The problem of waiting an infinite amount of time is still here, and it’s married to the problem of why God set the date of the universe’s springing into existence for some specific time that is finitely in the future of the decision. Note that the B-theoretic relationalist answer to Augustine’s problem is irrelevant, because what is at issue here is the amount of time between the decision and creation, and the relationalist can make sense of that.

Option (c): God had decided from everlasting eternity. This seems to be the most promising solution, but I think it runs into several problems. One way of taking “God had decided from everlasting eternity” is that for every time t, God had decided before t. But unless there is a time before every time, which would be contradictory, or unless God exists outside of time, which is not what the standard view says, this is incoherent. So, instead, we have to say this: for every time t1 prior to the universe’s springing into being at t2, God decided at t1 that the universe would spring into being at t2. This is problematic, however, for at least two reasons.

Problem 3c1: God’s decision is the cause of the universe’s existence. It seems, then, that the universe’s existence is massively overdetermined by an infinite number of divine decisions. Isn’t that weird?

Problem 3c2: Presumably, the decisions couldn’t have been independent of one another. It surely was not possible that God at t0 would decide that the universe would spring into being at t2, while God at t1 would decide that the universe would instead spring into being at a later or earlier time t3. For that would impugn God’s power–the power to decide at t0 what happens at t2. Moreover, it would lead to weird questions like: Did God in fact change his mind? Which decision was the one that was in fact effective? What sorts of grounds led him to change his mind? And of course the very idea of God’s changing his mind in a literal sense is problematic theologically. Surely, once God decided the universe would spring into being being at t2, he couldn’t un-decide that. So God’s decision at t1 is already predetermined by his decision at t0. So when did he originally decide, one wants to ask? Each decision was predetermined by an earlier one, ad infinitum, so there seems to be no room for freedom. Indeed, there seems no room for a decision–each “decision” seems rather to be a reaffirmation. Moreover, we seem to have here a regress of precisely the sort that defenders of the cosmological argument deny the possibility of. So, anybody who says this must accept Hume’s infinite-regress critique of the cosmological argument.

One way out of some of these problems is to suppose that God must create the best, and so he has no room for libertarian freedom–he always necessarily decides what to create. One problem with this is that unless relationalist B-theorist holds, it is clear that this world is not the best–a world where the universe sprang into being five minutes earlier would have been no worse. Another problem is that it denies the gratuity of creation.

Departures from the standard view: One might try to hold on to an everlasting God, but depart from the standard view in one or more ways. One way is to say that God has come into existence a finite amount of time ago, and decided to create then and there. This, I think, may escape all the problems, but has the problem that it makes God have a finite age, which seems as absurd as anything. Moreover, if God decided to create then and there, then creation is as old as God. Furthermore, plausibly, anything that comes into being has a cause, and a sufficient condition for coming into being is having finite age.

A different, and I think preferable, way is to suppose that creation has always existed. Nevertheless, one will still have variants of the problems. Let H be the whole history of the world. When did God decide to make a world with history H? Barring backwards causation (which still has an arbitrariness problem), since H goes infinite far back, the decision cannot have been made at any point in time. One probably has to go for a view on which God was creating the universe temporal slice by temporal slice. But then at each time he was already stuck with there having been a universe–he suffered from thrownness just as much as Dasein does. (Couldn’t resist that bit.) Let p be the proposition that there was, is or will be something contingent. When, on this view, did God decide on p? Nowhen, it seems. But surely that is exactly the sort of thing we want to have depending on God.

The best way is simply to opt for an atemporal God.

Comments:
  • hattip

    Have you considered that time itself is an aspect of creation, and outsode of it there is in fact none?
    Time is a result of distance from god inside his creation?

    November 9, 2009 — 11:23
  • That’s a view on which God is outside time, and hence it is a view not subject to the difficulties I give. I don’t know what to make of the “distance” metaphor here, though.

    November 9, 2009 — 11:34
  • Mark Murphy

    Distinguish between the events of deliberating and making a decision from the condition of having a settled mind about what to do. With us limited rational beings, having the settled mind about what to do has to be preceded by the events. But with God, perhaps, God has always had the settled mind about what to do with respect to creation: perhaps the settled mind is doing x for reasons y. So I don’t see why the defender of this standard view really has problems 2 and 3.
    As for problem 1: Think about it this way. Suppose one believes that God did not have to create, because there are incommensurable goods involved in a world without creation and a world with creation. Call the goods in a world without creation A and the goods in a world with creation B. The same sort of incommensurability might arise with respect to the time at which creation occurs — the point at which we go from a world with A goods to a world with B goods. For example: Suppose that there is a great good in a world in which the perfect being is not disrespected, and a great good in a world in which free created rational beings are in existence. Well, it may be that at the point of creation (or maybe shortly thereafter), we’re going to move from a world in which A and not B goods are available to a world in which B and not A goods are available. There may be no unique solution about when this transition is best made, so there is no answer to why God actually created at the time at which God did other than that it is one reasonable decision for the most reasonable possible being to make and it is what God in fact settled on.
    (Anyone who has gotten married and intentionally delayed having kids for any period of time should not have a problem with this. There are great goods in childlessness and in childfulness. Is there a unique solution for a couple as to when it is best to go from having zero to having one child?)

    November 9, 2009 — 18:42
  • Mike Almeida

    Option (c): God had decided from everlasting eternity. This seems to be the most promising solution, but I think it runs into several problems. One way of taking “God had decided from everlasting eternity” is that for every time t, God had decided before t. But unless there is a time before every time, which would be contradictory. . .
    I don’t see the contradiction. Why not say that there is no time which is such that at no time before it has God decided? If no time has that property, then possibly there is no time at which God has decided which is before every (other) time and for every time t at which God has decided, there is an earlier time t’ at which God has decided.

    November 9, 2009 — 19:35
  • Heath White

    I am no big fan of divine everlastingness, but I think I would say something like this:
    There is no particular reason God created when he did, rather than some other time. Just as, faced with the possibility of many possible worlds of equal value, or many possible worlds for each of which there is a better, he just picks one, so, faced with many times at which he might create equally well, God just picks one.
    God’s intentions to create are everlasting, just as his knowledge is. God’s reasoning doesn’t take any time, so there was no point when God knew some P but not what follows from it. Likewise, God’s deliberation doesn’t take any time, so there was no point when God knew everything but had yet to make up his mind on some decision, e.g. when to create. This is not a series of decisions but one decision maintained infinitely long.
    I don’t see that any of this impugns freedom unless we think there is some reason God could not have changed his mind (and I’m doubtful even then).

    November 9, 2009 — 19:59
  • Mark:
    Re. problem 1:
    But aren’t all the transitions value-wise the same–an infinite amount of time of no-creation followed by an infinite amount of time of creation?
    Maybe not–maybe we get incommensurability because by essentiality of origins different individuals get created at different times.
    Re. problem 3:
    On the view you’re suggesting for the everlastingness advocate, God has always had a settled mind. But, plausibly, there needs to be deliberation explanatorily, though perhaps not temporally, prior to having a settled mind, if the decision is free. But now, God’s mind is settled at, say, both t1 and t0. When is the deliberation? Either at t1 or at t0 or at both. That it’s at t1 won’t do, because then his mind is settled before deliberation, namely at t0. That it’s at t0 won’t do, because before t0, there is an earlier time at which his mind is settled, and the problem comes back. So, God’s mind is settled at both t1 and t0, and God deliberates at both t1 and t0.
    But now we have a puzzle: Why is the outcome of the deliberation at t0 the same as the outcome of the deliberation at t1, given that the outcome of the deliberation is not necessitated? I think that when there is a necessary connection between contingent states of affairs, either (a) the states are the same, or (b) one of the states explains the other, or (c) some third thing explains both. I don’t think (c) will work here. Option (b) is better, but it leads, I think, to an infinite chain.
    That leaves option (a)–there is only one deliberation, it happens at all times, and is always already settled. I suppose this is kind of like the way that on one philosophical account of the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass, Christ’s crucifixion is present in 33 AD and also literally present at Mass. Given that I see the latter doctrine as coherent (and indeed take it to be the right view of the doctrine, just as I take the right account of transsubstantiation to be literal (non-robust) multipresence), it doesn’t seem I can coherently complain about option (a). We have a simple event which overlaps infinitely many times, just as our bodies are extended simples (on my view). So, yes, it seems that (a) might well work–if one is willing to accept the possibility of the same temporally indivisible event being fully present at different times.
    This significantly weakens my argument.
    My one response is this: if times are individuated by events, then unless there are other changing events, there will be only one moment of time prior to creation, and hence the hypothesis that God existed for an infinite amount of time will be hard to make sense of (unless we have some sense to attach to how long a single moment of time can last).

    November 9, 2009 — 20:44
  • Mike:
    “Why not say that there is no time which is such that at no time before it has God decided? If no time has that property, then possibly there is no time at which God has decided which is before every (other) time and for every time t at which God has decided, there is an earlier time t’ at which God has decided.”
    Ah. But then we have a regress, and we don’t have an explanation as to why the regress started at t (the greatest lower bound of the times in the regress) rather than at some earlier time.

    November 9, 2009 — 21:04
  • James Brantner

    I’m an atemporalist, which obviously solves problems one and three. However, I’d like to comment on #2, along the lines of Mark’s comment.
    When we say that God changes his mind (or, as late in Jonah, repents of the evil He’d planned to do to Ninevah), this isn’t really a mind-changing or repentance. It’s just told to us in language that makes sense to us (I suppose this comes along the lines of the Thomist view of language about God). So why can deliberation not be solved in the same way? God always knew what He was going to create; His choice is built into His very nature (for how does He act but in an outpouring of His nature?). He never deliberates, at least not in the way that we understand deliberation. Just like He never has need to repent (Jonah) or regret His actions (beginning of the Flood narrative). Does this not solve the problem, both for the atemporalist and for the standard view?

    November 9, 2009 — 21:43
  • Mike Almeida

    Ah. But then we have a regress, and we don’t have an explanation as to why the regress started at t (the greatest lower bound of the times in the regress) rather than at some earlier time.
    I don’t know why you say the regress started at the glb, the glb is not in time and so nothing occurs there. Rather, we should say that there is no starting point: for each t in time there’s an earlier t’ such that God has already decided at t’. There’s a regress, but regresses are not in general troublesome. This one isn’t.

    November 10, 2009 — 7:17
  • James (if I may):
    I think your solution commits you to the idea that God creates of necessity, or else I do not understand your solution.
    Everybody:
    Of course, even if Mark and Heath’s suggestions work, there is the following little puzzle. In the actual world, time has some particular mathematical order structure–maybe the structure of the real line (if time is continuous), or maybe the structure of the integers (if time is discrete), or the like. But other structures seem to be possible. For instance, suppose time has the structure of the real line. Well, the reals can be embedded in a larger mathematical structure, the non-standard reals. That structure is coherent, just as the structure of the reals is coherent.
    If God is temporal, then it is difficult to see how God could be responsible for the particular global structure, whatever it is, that the time line has. I think on a view like that we will have to say that the fact that times are in one-to-one correspondence with the reals, rather than with the non-standard reals, is either brute and contingent or necessary, and neither of these strikes me as very plausible.

    November 10, 2009 — 7:20
  • Mike:
    But is there a time before the regress?

    November 10, 2009 — 7:25
  • James Brantner

    Alexander:
    Not logical necessity, but it does rely on the idea that God lacks free will in a libertarian sense. But I’m quite convinced that libertarian free will is an incoherent doctrine to begin with. It is, of course, inconsistent with determinism by definition, and I accept the argument (I think it was Hume’s?) that it is inconsistent with indeterminism. So yes, I accept that God’s free actions are an outpouring of His nature and are not free in the libertarian sense. Those who can’t accept that probably have to look for a different solution, as I don’t think this can be amended for use by libertarians. But for those who do accept it, I believe this works to solve #2.

    November 10, 2009 — 8:43
  • But wouldn’t it be really weird for it to be built into God’s nature to create precisely at t17, rather than one second earlier or one second later? What’s so special about t17?

    November 10, 2009 — 9:21
  • Alan Rhoda

    Couple points:
    First, I don’t see why the choice has to be between timelessness and the standard everlastingness view. It seems to me that Craig’s view that God is atemporal sans creation and temporal since creation is coherent and theologically unproblematic. (Describing this view as attributing to God a finite age misleadingly suggests God’s having come into existence a finite time ago, but no one says that.)
    Second, I think problem (2) is a more serious problem for timelessness advocates than Alex admits. Saying that God’s knowledge is explanatorily but not temporally posterior to his deliberation seems incoherent to me. The reason is that deliberation and choice essentially involves a before-after sequence from non-having-yet-decided to having-decided. Since those two intentional states are incompatible – one can’t be in both states with respect to the same subject matter – deliberation and choice marks an intrinsic change in God. Hence, a God who deliberates and chooses cannot be timeless.
    The proponent of timelessness should admit this, I think, and say instead that God eternally wills whatever he wills – thereby dropping all talk of divine deliberation and choice. But that comes at a hefty price. How is one to make sense of divine providence apart from divine deliberation or choice? Best to reject divine timelessness, I think.

    November 10, 2009 — 10:08
  • Jeremy Pierce

    Alex, can you say more about why you think the relationalist solution requires a B-theory? All the relationalist needs is that there are relations between things in time across time. It’s true that cross-time relations are a problem for A-theorists, but those are a general problem and not specific to this difficulty. If A-theorists ever end up surmounting that problem (which I think unlikely), then they would solve this one too, right? So there’s nothing particular to the question of when God created and the relationalist response that’s incompatible with an A-theory, at least nothing that isn’t already a problem for A-theories that A-theorists hope to have an answer for. If this is a problem, then it’s a deeper problem for A-theories to begin with. Or did you have in mind a different problem with A-theories and relationalism about time?
    In response to Alan, I don’t think Craig’s view makes sense unless you take him to be conjoining what’s compossible about both views. But that means that God is both everlasting in time and occupying a point-dimension outside time. So God is temporal, and it’s false that God is atemporal, when you think absolutely. The only sense in which God is atemporal is when you ignore God’s temporality, which is as true as God’s presence in eternity.
    I don’t think such a view can easily fit with presentism, either, because it doesn’t make much sense for the eternal-now to be simultaneous with times that don’t exist. So it has one major disadvantage of atemporal views without even technically being true that God is atemporal. I don’t think it’s an incoherent view, but I don’t think it has the virtues Craig attributes to it, so I don’t think there’s a lot of motivation to keep it open as a major option.

    November 10, 2009 — 11:26
  • Mike Almeida

    Mike: But is there a time before the regress?
    Alex,
    We are answering the question when did God decide at what time the universe should come into being. Right? My answer is that there is no time at which he made that decision, since for everytime t at which he might have made such a decision there is an earlier time t’ at which is was already made. I have a God that is everlasting and I have avoided the arbitrariness problem. How do I do that? I do it by noting that there is no specific time at which the universe came into existence.

    November 10, 2009 — 11:32
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I’m not sure why it needs to come from God’s nature for this sort of response to work. If God is omniscient, then all the things that might go into a deliberation are part of his knowledge, and all the things that might be calculated during such a deliberation are also already part of his knowledge. So the deliberation seems unnecessary. It doesn’t have to flow out of God’s nature, as if his nature necessitates its occurrence. It could still be free at least the Thomistic sense of choosing based on what reason dictates. But the reason doesn’t have to have occurred as deliberation if God has always known what such a deliberation would have produced. This is how atemporalists have to think about deliberation, but why couldn’t a temporalist do the same thing?

    November 10, 2009 — 11:44
  • Jeremy Pierce

    It occurs to me that my last comment actually does bolster the argument for atemporalism in one respect. It allows the temporalist a response to this argument, but it does so at the cost of one of the arguments for temporalism, namely the argument that an atemporal God can’t deliberate. It allows God the equivalent of deliberation without deliberation in time. So it restores the coherence of temporalism in the face of this objection while undermining one of the reasons anyone would be a temporalist to begin with.

    November 10, 2009 — 11:49
  • Alan Rhoda

    Jeremy,
    I think you misunderstand Craig’s view. (Maybe I do too, for that matter.) At any rate, I take his view to amount to this: God is timeless sans creation not in the sense that God occupies a point dimension outside of time, but rather in the sense that no intrinsic changes have yet taken place in God (or anywhere else, for that matter). God’s deciding to create, however, is an intrinsic change in God, a change that is concurrent with the temporal beginning of creation. To say that God is temporal with creation does not mean that God is now “in” time – time is not a container – but only that intrinsic change has taken place in God. The view is coherent so long as it’s possible for God to undergo intrinsic change and for there to be a first such change.

    November 10, 2009 — 13:00
  • Mike Almeida

    The view is coherent so long as it’s possible for God to undergo intrinsic change and for there to be a first such change.
    Well, there’d have to be a coherent notion of durationless change, too. Is there one?

    November 10, 2009 — 13:39
  • Mike Almeida

    Mike: But is there a time before the regress?
    Alex,
    I think the question’s not coherent. There is no time at all before the glb on the regress. I take it that being everlasting does not entail enduring over an infinite span of time (it might involve existing over a finite span of infinitely many moments), but rather there never being a time at which you don’t exist.

    November 10, 2009 — 13:49
  • Alan Rhoda

    Mike: Well, there’d have to be a coherent notion of durationless change, too. Is there one?
    Alan: I think so. Think of a durationless change as a zero-thickness boundary between non-identical, successive states of affairs. Given a ‘before’ state of God sans creation and an ‘after’ state of God + the initial state of creation there has to be a moment of transition between them, one which would seem to be a moment of durationless change.

    November 10, 2009 — 14:04
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alan,
    If God is timeless in the sense that “no intrinsic changes have yet taken place in God”, then either this state of changelessness (i) occuppies an infinite amount of time, (ii) occupies an infidescimal amount of time, (iii) or it is a wholly non-temporal state.
    Option (i) inherits the problems of the standard view.
    Option (ii) surely entails that God came into being a finite amount of time ago.
    Option (iii) faces this problem: either God knows that there isn’t a future during this changeless state or he knows that there is a future. If the later, then his choice about which future there is to be must have “already” been made, which contradicts the assumption that God’s choice is posterior to his changeless state. If the former, then how can God have a choice in the matter, given that He knows that there is no future? This seems to be the sort of problem Alex has been trying to lodge against my own account of the timeless-to-temporal God view (in my kalam post).
    I’m still thinking about the second horn…

    November 10, 2009 — 14:25
  • Alan Rhoda

    Hi Josh,
    I presume that by option (ii) you mean “infinitesimal”. While I don’t affirm that option, I’m not sure why it entails that God “came into being” at all, much less a “finite” time ago.
    At any rate, I’ll go with (iii). I don’t see that your dilemma poses a serious problem for divine freedom. Antecedent to God’s choice there is no future for God to know. So at that moment God doesn’t know that there “is” a future. Still, he could know at that moment that there “will be” some future or other (if he’s got to make a choice), though not that this or that determinate future will be (since his choice is free).

    November 10, 2009 — 15:33
  • Mike Almeida

    Given a ‘before’ state of God sans creation and an ‘after’ state of God + the initial state of creation there has to be a moment of transition between them, one which would seem to be a moment of durationless change
    I have no idea why it would “seem to be a moment of durationless change”. Nor do I know what “the initial state of creation” would be. It’s more likely that there is no initial stage–do you mean initial instant?–of creation. I guess I take the point that there might be instantaneous change; but I’m less certain that instantaneous change is durationless. Certainly instants of time can be summed. They’d have to be infinitessimally small, but not durationless. That is, we’d need a non-standard measure of them.

    November 10, 2009 — 19:16
  • Jeremy:
    The relationalist view says that times are constituted by temporal relations between events, and so the thought experiment–this world, but shifted over temporally (say, everything happens five minutes later)–is incoherent, as the result of shifting everything is no difference at all. However, I do not know that the A-theorist can say that. Consider a world just like this one, but where everything happens a thousand years later. Now, in that world, it is the middle ages. So that world is objectively different from ours.
    Alan:
    I don’t see why deliberation requires two different mental states. Consider the following model of human deliberation. At all times up to, but not including t0, the agent is deliberating and not yet decided. At t0, the agent has decided–she is in a decided state of mind M. And then this mental state M causes, without any further freedom on the part of the agent, the effects of the action.
    So, the agent at times prior to t0 has caused the decided state M that occurs at t0, and M then caused, say, the hand to move at t1, which then caused the stick to move at t2, which then caused the puck to move at t3.
    Now, once the state of mind M occurs, the time of the agent’s primary responsibility is over, since by the time M occurs, the freedom is over.
    The divine case, however, does not require a mental intermediary M between the deliberation and the effect. The having-decided is constituted by the deliberation and the effect.
    If you think it is impossible that one have just deliberation and the effect, imagine the following scenario: the agent perishes right after t0. In that scenario, the agent still has done something–she has caused herself to be in state M. This something is something she is responsible for. Let’s say M is the state of being decided on a murder (committed by shooting the puck at someone’s head, say). Then even if the agent is destroyed right after t0, she dies guilty of attempted murder. In that case, all we have is the deliberation and the effect–the effect being M.

    November 10, 2009 — 22:47
  • Alan Rhoda

    Thanks for the reply, Alex. What you say, though, doesn’t alleviate my worry about the compossibility of divine deliberation and divine timelessness.
    As I see it, the issue has nothing to do with the relation of the divine decision and any effects downstream of that. Rather, it has to with the conceptual point that a decision seems to essentially involve an intrinsic change in the decider. In deciding one moves from contemplating multiple, incompatible possibilities and from contemplating them simply as possibilities to a state of mind in which one has settled on one of those possibilities with an intent to actualize it over against the others.
    You propose that “the having-decided is constituted by the deliberation and the effect”. I don’t see how this could constitute a decision. God’s decision is supposed to explain the effect (creation of this world rather than another), not vice-versa.
    In my view, proponents of divine timelessness should do what Hugh McCann does and just drop deliberation talk altogether when it comes to God. But then, as I said above, I have no idea how to make sense of divine providence.

    November 12, 2009 — 16:36
  • Alan Rhoda

    Hi Mike,
    I don’t know if this will help, but I take the first instant of time to be the temporal boundary of creation, and I take it to be identical to the event that is God’s deciding to create.
    The durationless state of God’s existing sans creation is on the LHS of that boundary. Everything else is on the RHS. Perhaps you’re right that such a boundary should have infinitesimal thickness, rather than zero thickness. But it wouldn’t be the sort of infinitesimal that figures in non-standard analysis, but rather the kind one finds in smooth infinitesimal analysis. (The former allow one to “drill down” to higher- and higher-order infinitesimals; the latter don’t.)

    November 12, 2009 — 17:08
  • Mike Almeida

    I don’t know if this will help, but I take the first instant of time to be the temporal boundary of creation
    I’m not familiar with smooth infinitessimal analysis. Give me a reference. I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘first instant of time’. There isn’t a first instant of time; how could there be? It would be like the first instant after 8am: there isn’t one. It would have to be a first interval of time.

    November 12, 2009 — 17:37
  • Alan Rhoda

    For information on smooth infinitesimal analysis see the SEP entry on “Continuity and Infinitesimals”.
    I agree that if time is continuous there can be no first instant after 8am, but why can’t 8am itself be the first instant? Continuity only precludes the possibility of a second instant. Similarly, zero is the first non-negative real number, but there neither is nor can be a second.

    November 13, 2009 — 14:00
  • Mike Almeida

    I agree that if time is continuous there can be no first instant after 8am, but why can’t 8am itself be the first instant? Continuity only precludes the possibility of a second instant.
    8am can be the first increment, if we are talking about the interval [8am, t], but we are talking about the half-open interval (8am, t]. Similarly for the beginning of time; it is also a half-open interval, at least on Hawking’s model. Thanks for the reference.

    November 15, 2009 — 12:43
  • Michael

    I have to agree with Craig’s view as well, as it seems to eliminate all of the problems. For if time began at creation, everything “before” creation is simply logically prior, rather than temporally prior. So this would eliminate the problem of deliberation as it’s not like He was sitting there pondering how He should go about things or whether He should do it at all, or at least not in anyway we can imagine since time passes as we think. It also eliminates Augustine’s problem, as it’s not like God was planning to create the world at time t, as we would plan to leave for a trip or something, since there is not time until creation. So it could be explained that t comes into existence at t1, t1 is the first moment of creation. Finally, decisions are based on temporality. I can decide to do something or to not do something, but all of our decisions require time to make the decision in the first place. If time comes into being at t1, then there was no time before it.
    Craig holds that God becomes temporal when He creates, as He knows tensed facts, and would not on a B-theory or atemporal theory.

    November 18, 2009 — 22:45