Omniscience, Immutability and Tense

Richard M. Gale has posted on his website the following two short arguments:

The Omniscience-Immutability Argument Against a Timelessly Eternal God

1.      God is omniscient, i.e., knows all and believes only true propositions.  premise

2.      There are true temporal tensed propositions to the effect that certain events and/or times are now past, present, or future.  premise

3.      It is conceptually impossible for a timeless being to know a tensed proposition.  premise

4.      God (conceived of as timelessly eternal) does not know every true proposition.  From 2 and 3

5.      God is not omniscient.  From 4

6.      God is omniscient and God is not omniscient.  From 1 and 5

The Omniscience-Immutability Argument Against an Omnitemporally Eternal God

1.      God is omniscient, i.e., knows all and believes only true propositions.  premise

2.      There are true temporal tensed propositions to the effect that certain events and/or times    are now past, present, or future.  premise

3.   For someone to know every true tensed proposition requires that she changes from one

4.   God (conceived of as omnitemporally eternal) changes from one time to another.  from  1,  2, and 3.

5.  God is not immutable.  From 4

6’. God is immutable and God is not immutable.  From 3 and 5’

The arguments each look alright (though they are in need of some editing I think), but I think the problematic premises are the second premises of each argument respectively. It is useful to see such arguments presented together as it makes it clear that the theist has to choose which of three beliefs she is willing to part with: 1) that God is immutable, 2) that God is omniscient, or 3) that tense is an objective feature of reality. I choose to abandon the third of those beliefs. I note that William Lane Craig parts with the first one. If I cannot persuade evangelicals who are not bound to hold the essentials of the Catholic faith (such as God’s immutability or his omniscience) that they ought to feel bound to hold them, then at least I can let them know how great the cost is for following Craig on this point in accepting the A theory of time and suggesting that God is ‘inside’ of time ‘since’ creation.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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2 Responses to Omniscience, Immutability and Tense

  1. circlecitadel says:

    I don’t think you would necessarily have to give up on tense as an objective feature of reality. For God does not see creation as we do, that is, in a discursive manner; he sees it “all at once” through Himself, that is, His knowledge, as things exist because God knows them–as opposed to God knows things because they exist.
    cf. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm

    The third premise (and likewise second) seems faulty to me, as it seems to be a self evident conclusion from the definition of a timeless being (Such as, an angel by definition is immaterial, therefore an infinite amount of angels can dance on the head of a pin). I think one would need an argument as to how one goes from the definition of a timeless being to “it is conceptually impossible for a timeless being to know a tensed proposition.” But I imagine the fault lies in that “eternal” is being conceived of as an “endless amount of time” rather than a “never-ending moment.”

    • I think you may be misunderstanding the nature of the problem. William Lane Craig also accepts that God’s knowledge is intuitive and not discursive. However, if Truth is literally in a state of changing (which is what it means to say that tense is an objective feature of reality) then God’s knowledge, if he is to be omniscient, must change in step with the truth. For instance, if there is an objective fact about tense, then the proposition ‘Tim will scream’ becomes false when the proposition ‘Tim is screaming’ becomes true, and likewise ‘Tim is screaming’ becomes false when the proposition ‘Tim did scream’ becomes true. For God to have a knowledge of all and only true propositions, and for propositions to be changing truth values over time (which is what ‘objective tense’ means) entails logically that God’s knowledge of all and only true propositions changes over time.

      Most philosophers of time, and theologians who have written on the subject, have agreed that to appeal to God’s intuitive knowledge in order to paper over the problem that objective tense implies that God’s knowledge must change over time if he is omniscient, is just a confusion of categories. I see the temptation to do as you suggest, but I am in agreement with Craig and others that that suggestion is actually a confusion of terms.

      Thanks for your comment, and feel free to comment some more.

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