Re: God and time

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Thu, 13 Nov 1997 15:54:19 -0500 (EST)

At 09:38 AM 11/12/97 -0700, Garry DeWeese wrote:

>At 10:09 AM 11/11/1997 -0500, Moorad Alexanian wrote:
>>Dear Garry and Jan,
>>I believe that how God views us is useful in the discussion of some issues,
>>in particular, the question of God knowing what we are going to do in the
>>future. In physics we can draw diagrams of spacetime where a point
>>constitutes an event occurring at a particular position in space and at a
>>particular time. The world curve of a sequence of events will depict what is
>>the spatiotemporal behavior of something. Therefore, the whole lifetime of a
>>person can be denoted by a curve beginning with the point of conception and
>>ending in the death of the individual. That is to say, all the actions of
>>the individual are there to be seen yet the individual may not loose his/her
>>ability to decide for himself/herself. For God the whole lifetime of people
>>is like an eternal Now. Of course, there is more knowledge of God that the
>>mere spacetime. He knows us before conception and after death. The analogy,
>>of course, breaks down but it is still useful. I recall reading C.S. Lewis
>>on these points and I found his writing useful. In particular, when he said
>>that the reason that God knows what you are going to do tomorrow is that He
>>already saw you do it. That view is consistent with seeing the whole of the
>>path in the spacetime diagram.
>My main problem with this is that the possibility of describing the
>evolution of a physical system in the future (ignoring, for the moment,
>questions about how do define "now") does not mean those future points
>actually exist. I can plot the trajectory of a projectile, but even though
>I can plot (or calculate) its impact point, the impact is not *real* in any
>sense until the projectile actually comes down! The fact that time-like
>world curves can be ploted (or it is alleged that they can be plotted) in
>4-space does not mean that the "future" of those curves (all points later
>than "now") actually exist, or are real.

Dear Garry,

In the sense that I used the analogy of the spacetime diagrams, God would
see the whole curve as an actualized sequence of events, while those
embedded in spacetime would still be living instant by instant exercising
their free will. In the example you bring up, God sees to whole trajectory
of the projectile already completed while we still view it instant by instant.

>I think (and I do say this with considerable humility--and trepidation)
>that physicists who try to give a realist interpretation to such things are
>forgetting that solutions to mathematical models are no more than
>theoretical entities. If I solve a simple quadratic equation to determine
>the length of the board I need to cut for the sloping roof of a dog house
>I'm building, I don't have to wonder if I should cut it at 28" or
>*negative* 28". The latter is an artifact of the mathematical model, but
>corresponds to no physical reality; it is physically unrealistic. Of
>course you and other cosmologists know this. But why then should you think
>that all solutions to, say, Einstein's field equations are physically
>realistic, or that if you can solve (theoretically) for complete world
>curves in space-time, that the segment of the curves which are later than
>"now" correspond to anything real?

These mathematical models are mere pictures to aid us in understanding our
experiences and mental constructs. Let us face it for us humans we must even
construct imperfect models of God in order to understand. If you think of it
whenever we reason we use models which aids us in our understanding. All
understanding is based on model building. Witness the very notion of a
language. Why is it so hard to state what love is in any language, because
such a concept defies the limitations inherit in every language.

>The upshot is I disagree significantly with what you wrote about God
>knowing the future in virtue of knowing the entire world curve of an

If God does not know what I am going to do tomorrow, then it seems to me
that He Himself is also embedded in spacetime and thus could not have
created it.


>Note: I am not denying God's foreknowledge. I merely maintain that God
>does not know the future because it actually exists. For I maintain that
>there is an ontological assymetry between past and present, on one hand,
>and future on the other; the future does not exist. So God's knowledge of
>the future is grounded differently.

So long as God sustains His creation, then spacetime exists and so there
will be a future. Knowledge of the asymmetry between past, present, and
future is a human feature. I do not think animals know that. If we did not
know what the future holds for us, that is death, then the Christian message
would make no sense. It would be interesting how evolutionists would view
the knowledge of eminent death as a positive outcome of evolution. I rather
be a crocodile and not know that I am going to die.

Take care,