Re: God and time

Garry DeWeese (
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 21:56:12 -0700

At 03:13 PM 11/13/1997 -0500, Moorad Alexanian wrote:

>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

I do not understand how God could "see" the remainder of the trajectory
unless it were real. But if the future does not exist, then even though
God knows the remainder of the trajectory, he cannot see it as really
there, as "actualized," or as "already completed." The issue here is not
whether the future is what God knows and what we don't know, but whether
the future actually exists *now* or not. Spacetime diagrams cannot settle
this issue; it is a basic question of the ontology of time.


I wrote:
>>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.

I didn't say God does not know the future; unlike some theologians and
phuilosophers who hold to "freewill theism" (sometimes called "the openness
of God" view), I believe that he does. But he does not know it in virtue
of its present exietence.

If there is any succession in God's experience, then God is temporal. I
find this no more troubling than saying that God is spirit. This is far
from saying that he is "embedded in spacetime." Spacetime is necessarily a
physical entity, but the time defined by the succession of God's experience
certainly is not necessarily physical. So he is, on my view, a temporal
being whose time is not our physical time.

By "succession in God's experience," I am thinking of the *possibility* of
God "counting down" to the creation of the physical universe: "One, two,
three--let there be light!" That sequence clearly would not correspond to
our physical time, but would nevertheless be a temporal sequence. Perhaps
more plausible, though, would be some successive experience of loving
relationships among the three members of the Trinity. I find it much
easier to conceive of three infinitely loving persons relating to each
other in a dynamic manner rather than in some unchanging, unextended
timeless relation.

>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.

Again, I am not takling about an epistemic asymmetry of past and future,
but about ontological asymmetry. If there is no ontological asymmetry, but
only an epistemic asymmetry, then the future exists *now,* even though I
don't know it.

If temporal becoming is not a real feature of the universe, but is only
psychological, then I believe that it is difficult to give any real meaning
to the notion of causation, let alone to escape the fatalist dilemma.

Garry DeWeese