Tuesday, January 01, 2008
The Relationship of God To Time and the Nature of Foreknolwedge
I am seeking to answer some arguments of John Loftus on the comment section of Dbuncking Christianity. In order to do this. I present the theory I'm suing here and in part II, I will actaully take on Loftus.
Does God have true foreknowledge of all events? The answer to this question is henge upon one's assumptions about God's relationship to time. The concept of foreknowledge doesn't require that God be outside of time(foreknowledge means actually literal knowledge of future events as a certainty), however, in modern thinking this is seen as the most viable answer. The notion that God is outside of time and sees all events of time as a great tapestry laid out before him, was popularized by C.S. Lewis and others. There is no modern concept of time in the bible. We as Christians are not bound to accept this model. It is not part of the Gospel. While it is beneficial in some ways, ti evokes so many temporal paradoxes that I have abandoned it. I see time as running eternally but within the limited scope of the mental construct that frames the fantasy of god we call "reality." In other words, God as the mind that thinks the universe (the universe as a thought in the mind of god) leads to a neat resolution that solves all temporal paradox, including including problems stemming form foreknowledge. The following two analogies will help to clarify the difference.
Analogy 1: God transcends time.
Think of a large room in which stands a man and in his hands he holds a beach ball. The ball is the space/time envelope and our world, our "reality" the space/time dimension we call "reality" is on the surface of that ball. God is outside that envelope and can look at the whole thing at once and can see all of history from the start to finish. God is in some great timeless void.
The problem is this analogy limits God to a localized existence, although in some other realm we can' imagine and introduces the question about where that realm came from (presumably God created it). This also brings up questions about foreknowledge and determinism. How could God see the whole of time and yet we are free to act? Wouldn't everything be determined?
When I used to defend this model my answer was that God's knowledge of what we will do does not negate the decision making that goes into our actions. God merely knows what we will do, h e does not force us to do it. Somehow this answer never satisfied anyone. Critics still saw this as necessitating determinism.
Analogy no 2: world as thought in the mind of God.
Again a big room with beach ball, but no man. The ball is space time, but the room is the mind of God! Now we have no concern about the creation of the timeless void, that is the eternal mind of God. We might ask about "where is God outside of this mind, what is outside of his mind?" That must forever remain dark. That will never be known to us. There is a temptation to see it as an ICR, and god could be a fuller brush salesman in the Dallas Texas of that larger mega B time realm. Our world exists as a fantasy that he thinks about as he pounds the pavement from door to door. But such fantasy levity is unnecessary. We need not speculate since Ockum would tell us not to multiply necessities. There need not be anything beyond the room of God's mind. God is a thought structure consisting of existential energy and need be nothing more. Thus, there is no "beyond" the big room just as there is no beyond the breach ball in Einstein's physics.
This theory would necessitate a "B" realm of time, which has been "debunked" supposedly by many philosophers. But the difference in this theory and those is that this "B" time is not really the time scheme in a higher realm, because it doesn't require time of any kind. All it requires is a mind. The Mind of God creates the concept of time for conventional time-bound creatures. WE need not flesh out which came first the time chicken or the time-bound creature eggs. Its' enough to assume those ideas could all come at once. We need not second guess God's creative juices. Time runs eternally if you are on the surface of the beach ball. That eternity would be represented as a a point form God's perspective. Go into the point as an infinitesimal and you have our universe. From that perspective time runs eternally. Time is not dependent upon the existence of the earth or even upon the existence of the galaxy. It is a function of space/time, however, so it would be limited to the surface of the beach ball. It only exists in the first place as a conventional point of reference. God is not so much outside time, as time is inside God. the first analogy model doesn't allow for this. It charts God as existing outside time and to intervene he has to stick his finger onto the surface of the ball. This is like the flat landers where the mathematician is touching the two dimensional surface and the flatland people think his finger tip is the whole being. In the second analogy God is always already immediately present to the space/time on the beach ball because it's a product of his thoughts. He doesn't have to stick his finger down there, and his actions are not butting in, the the natural framework that supports reality.
Is any of this provable? No not at all. Its all so much mental masturbation. But assuming it solves a lot of theological problems, is consistent internally, and makes sense in relation to what we know of the world. We need to be careful not to over commit to it. Christians over committed to the God outside time model. We need to remember this is all crap and could be totally wrong. But these are useful assumptions to make.I call it "Berkeley-Goswami" view, as I have a God argument on my list based upon this. Berkeley is Bishop George Berkeley,second person of the empiricists Trinity (along with Locke and Hume) who argued that "to be is to be perceived." I argue that to be is to be perceived as a thought in the mind of God. Berkeley didn't say that but he inspired me. Then I discovered an India mathematician who argues the very same thing and says he has the math to prove it. see the link.
(1) Does God know the future?
The major problem is this view removes God's actual foreknowledge because it means the future does not exist as a done deal. There is the beach ball, but that's in the mind of God; he's not outside the ball observing it as a map set on the table, he's thinking it in his head s it goes along. So the future is not a done deal, God doesn't know it from the perspective of seeing it on the map, or the tapestry, so it's not there to be known. I have said that I don't accept omnipotence. Omnipotence is veg. I agree that God has all power that is logically necessary but not power that is logically contradictory. Meaning, God cannot make square circles because they are a logical contradiction; God cannot smell next Thursday because this is not self consistent meaningful thing to be done. When we say "God has all power" we need to specify what kinds of power there are. In other words the future is not a done deal so God can't know it as a certainty. Then you may ask how can God issue prophesies if he doesn't know the future? He knows it in two ways:
that is by analyzing what will happen. God is real smart, the smartest guy around, so he can understand all variables. Only the mind of God could maintain such a grasp of the infinite number of variables a to have near prefect knowledge of the future, but in an analytical way not by observing an already accomplished future.
......(b) God has the power, even though it's not so unlimited that he can do contradictory things, he can do anything that logically can be done, and that includes many things that we can't imagine can be done. Thus no power can prevent God from bringing about his promised actions and he understands the fall out form them.
Thus through superior calculation and the power to do what he says God can know the future in such a way that for all practical purposes it is to us as though he understands the future as a done deal. Of course I've said God doesn't calculate. The calculation of permutations form events can happen in the mind of God instantly before creation.He doesn't have to sit and think about it, but it's still predicative in terms of probability.
This leads to the question about the second major problem, which may well be the hardest to solve:
(2) Is it determinisms?
There are 3 sub problems here:
........(a) If God calculates all the permutations in advance doesn't that mean it's all determined?
No, because he can allow for the uncertainty principle. No prophesy is 100% defined within a given situation, and all are veg. They are all limited to one or two little things; in other words "I will die on the cross and raise form the dead" there's no prediction about what color of clothes Pilate would wear at the trial or how much the stone would way in front of the tomb. He can allow a lea way for uncertainty. We also need to talk about (some time) the nature of Biblical prophesy because I don't believe any of the eschatological schemes hatched by fundies. We have to be careful about what we think is being prophesied anyway.
........(b) Or didn't I say he's thinking time as he goes along so it's not a done deal? Isn't that a contradiction?
Well I don't mean he's planning out each step in our lives. I believe he has the permutations on some independent trajectory that allows for uncertainty. We can't really do this ourselves in our thinking, and this is where the analogy breaks down. But the analogy is not the point. I have experienced a phenomenon where I tried to write a story and the story wrote itself. Characters I formulate as so definite that when I try to force them to do certain things they just wont do them (in the sense tat I say "O he wouldn't do that"). How much more ability would an infinite mind have to allow the characters and the fantasy to run on its own? All of that can be understood within a flash. There's no time in God's mind. Time is just a convention of our understanding. So God is not bound by any kind of time paradox. The thing that rules in God's mind is God's imagination, not the laws of physics.
(c) if we are thoughts in the mind of God doesn't that in itself mean that our end is determined? Couldn't God change the past by thinking about it? are we part of God?
God could change the past, he could fix the future as a done deal. But that would violate the purpose that times serves in the economy of the experiment. He has the mental discipline not to do that. In fact saying its "mental discipline" is of course to reduce God to human level. I say that metaphorically.
Does this mean we are part of God? I don't know. Are your thoughts part of you? Can't you distinguish between images in your heard that you don't want there and you? If you see a gross sight, one you don't want to remember, its in there. Is it now you? You are that gross sight? Can't you screen it out and say "this is not me?"
This useful framework solves many theological problems in spite of bring up few:
(1) temporal beginning.
this is fleshed out in the link above. The issue is no time before the big bang. No movement or change in a timeless void how could God create in a timeless void? The answer: God transcends time paradoxes because they are all just conventional bench marks for us.
reality is mental. Although I would not break out the Crack in the Egg of the Universe just yet.
Reality is mental but it's another minds construct. So we can't play with it.
(3) Determinism and foreknowledge are not problems
as seen above.
there are many more applications.
tomorrow I will post part II in which I argue how this theory relates to the arguments of John Loftus.