Tuesday, July 27, 2004

With unbent mind... =)

Thanks for your comments, please do comment on any posts you haven't looked at yet.

I felt I should clarify my view, and my mind, on the whole God/time issue with one more post. I have unchanged my mind, resorting to a view that God is both 'in time' and 'outside of time.' Many people disagree with me, and I respect other viewpoints also. Let me explain...

I believe God knows all true knowable facts, rather than all true knowable facts AND all 'deterministic possibilities'. A 'deterministic possibility' is the actual future that would have happened given a different choice. As I see it, the actual course of history is a fact, but deterministic possibilities are not fact, and thus uncertain (though predictable with some accuracy using reason).

Now even though God knows the actual future, I believe He still has to decide based on the past and present, just as we do. To understand this, we need to think in a logical frame of reference. Temporal reference frames just lead to time paradoxes. So, let's assume God performs X. Y happens as a logical consequence. Possiblility Z did not happen as a logical consequence, but would have happened if He had not done X - Y and Z are mutually exclusive. God cannot 'undo' action X, and see what would have happened - God cannot uncreate or undo any of His actions because He is God. Further, He cannot logically use only the fact that Y actually happened as basis for performing X, because BOTH Y and Z logically - not temporally - dependent on action X. i.e. Because His actions determine the future, he cannot use that future to determine his actions. Although God knows the future, His actions must still be based on wise reason given information about the past and the present.

Some oppenents to the Open View say that such ideas of God making decisions based on this 'limited' knowledge mean God can make 'mistakes' - but I believe the only reason one of His actions could ever have a negative outcome is due to our subsequent choices, for His decisions are surely perfect. Also, His knowledge of the actual future allows Him to accurately predict it. Thus, God effectively makes choices and relates to us 'in time', but exists also outside of time because He knows the future.

Now some would say that God knows both Y and Z as FACTS, rather than history (Y) and possibility (Z), and therefore knows the exact outcomes that would result from his actions. But such knowledge logically concludes that God actually determines which course history runs, but choosing either to do X, or to not do X - because He knows the exact consequence of either. If He knows the exact consequences of His choices, those consequences are chosen by Him. Y and Z could be anything. Thus if God had absolute knowledge of what would happen, by logical conclusion we reach pure Calvinism and God chooses who is saved and who is not, if you get hit by a car on a certain day, if and when you brush your teeth... It's absurd! I do not believe this conclusion, and see my view as a good alternative which avoids this conclusion.

No view diminishes God, for He cannot be diminished. This view does, I think, diminish the classical ideal of God created by man and largely influenced by pagan Greek philosophy. It helps explain in my mind why God acts the way He does and why the world is how it is. It means we actually have real free-will, rather than the contradiction between free-will and a God who knows exactly what would have happened.

My own view is, I suppose, a fusion of Arminianism and Open View, although I was not influenced by proponents of the Open View - I thought this by myself several months ago. Furthermore, my view supports that God can genuinely regret His actions, and be surprised, and yet also know the exact future and predict things exactly. Sure, there are still some tricky verses, but there are either way, and this one seems to fit with a good deal of the ones on both sides of the argument. So, let me summarise...

  1. God does not control us, but treats us as people, not puppets.
  2. God acts based on limitless knowledge of the past and present, but that knowledge does not include the future outcomes that would have resulted had He acted differently. This means we have a true choice, and means God truely can regret or be surprised, change His mind and have a true relationship with us in time.
  3. God also acts in the knowledge of the actual future, and can therefore declare it accurately. In this sense, God is 'outside of time' - but I prefer to think of it simply as God seeing what's ahead of the present, rather than existing ahead.
Ultimately, our ideas about God should spur us to love and serve Him more, with greater passion, rather than less. It is for this reason why I reject the Calvinist and Arminian views, and I reject the nominal Open View because of some difficulties with prophesy etc. I am therefore led to take my view, because as scary as it is, I think my choices really matter.


Andrew said...

If the future logically depends upon God's choices, how can God know the future? Or does He know the current potential future? ie what would occur if he did not intervene further in history.

Secondly, if knowing the future, he chooses to intervene and tell us (prophesy) the future, isn't there the possibility that by his very act of intervention he will change the future, and thus the prophesy will self defeat? ie it would have been true, had God not told us, but because he told us, it will no longer happen.

You said:
"Now some would say that God knows both Y and Z as FACTS, rather than history (Y) and possibility (Z), and therefore knows the exact outcomes that would result from his actions. But such knowledge logically concludes that God actually determines which course history runs..."That's not necessarily Calvinism, just Molinism. Calvinism goes one step future and asserts God knew those facts prior to creating our essences, Molinism denies this. Thus Calvinism says that God creates people with the certain knowledge that they will not be saved because He will not choose to save them. Molinism says God creates people (not knowing whether they will be saved or not) and then tries to create the best possible world for them.

incognito said...

Andrew - you're still thinking temporally... God can know the actual future which depends on the choices He makes - because He can look back and see 'history'.

Andrew said...

The ACTUAL future depends on God's actions. Thus the actual future F depends on the fact that God chooses to intervene at time e and do action E. God's action E is logically prior to the future F: The future F follows as a logical consequence of God's decision to do E. Thus either:
1. God did not know F prior to deciding to do E; or
2. God foresaw his own action E prior to deciding to do E.

Answer 2 seems to limit God's free will in a paradoxical way... which is probably not a good thing. So we'll go with 1, which you seem to agree with...
Now, at the logical instant that God was deciding whether or not to do E, did he know that E -> F and ~E -> F2? ie Did he know the exact two possible futures which would stem from His decision about whether or not to perform E?
As I understand it, you are saying that at the logical instant that God was deciding whether or not to intervene at e, he had the knowledge of what the exact future would be like without further intervention on his part (ie F2). He decides to do E and then as a logical consequence gains the knowledge F of what the future will be like now that He has done E.


incognito said...

Andrew... clearly I cannot explain myself well at all, for you have totally missed my viewpoint.

I do not believe #1 - but agree with #2. The limitation you believe this places on God is imaginary. Think of it this way. Able to see all of time, God knows all the choices that He makes - but He still has to choose them. Here is the mind-bender - just because God can see what future choices He makes, they wouldn't BE true choices unless He actually CHOSE them! His choices are still based on reason and consideration of possible alternative outcomes that He does not KNOW! To think of this in terms of 'prior', 'before' or 'then' makes nonsense because that is introducing a concept of time.

To Him, they are just choices - just like our choices. Just because you know the future it doesn't mean you don't have to choose... Say we know we are driving somewhere, we know we will turn the ignition to start the car before we choose to do so. And we turn the ignition knowing (at least expecting) our car will start. But niether of these facts negate that we still have to choose to turn the key the moment we do so.

I believe He only knew F, not F2 - there is no F2, only a possibility P = F2. The future F and possibility P are both results of his choice - either to act or not to act. Whether future F is a consequence of his action OR HIS LACK OF ACTION does not matter. It has nothing to do with whether or not He acts in a given situation... the actual future (F) IS THE ACTUAL FUTURE. How much clearer can I put this?

Andrew said...

Methinks you are a run of the mill, standard, classical, normal Arminian... and here I was thinking you'd invented some wacky wierd form of Open View.

Let me just clarify one thing:
God has knowledge of his future actions, because he can see the ACTUAL future and see himself making those actions.
BUT: Does his knowledge of his future actions merely temporally precede them, or *logically* precede them as well?

Here's an example:
I decide I want to be a champion runner. THEREFORE I decide that tommorrow I am going to run 10km.

The second decision was a logical consequence of the first - it was logically second. But it will happen first - tommorrow I will run, in the distance future I will be a champion runner. So it is temporally second.

Now I see no problem with God forseeing his actions in the TEMPORAL future, due to his outside-of-timeliness. I do have a problem, however, with God seeing his actions in the LOGICAL future. If God KNOWS his own actions, LOGICALLY PRIOR to his decision to perform them, then that seems to be straight-out nonsense. It would be asserting that God had knowledge of the final state of contingincies which had not yet been resolved.

But if God DOESN'T have knowledge of his logically future actions when logically finalising decisions, then he can't have knowledge of the ACTUAL future when he is actually MAKING the decision. He would only gain that knowledge logically after -but temporally before- the decision was made. Thus, it seems this knowledge can't actually help him in making his decisions, and God can't possibly intervene and tell us the actual future.

...which is why I think standard Arminian is impossible.