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An Eternal God Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 2.

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1 An Eternal God Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 2

2 Today  An eternal God?  God as unchanging, God as a simple being:  Outline differing views about what is meant by God being eternal the ‘timeless’ view the ‘everlasting’ view  How do these relate to other claims about the nature of God  Divine omniscience?  Can we arrive at a coherent view?

3 1: Two views of eternity  Timeless: God exists outside time  Everlasting: God exists within time but has always, and will always do so – no beginning, no end

4 God as timeless Eternity, then, is the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of boundless life, which becomes clearer by comparison with temporal things. For whatever lives in time proceeds in the present from the past into the future, and there is nothing established in time which can embrace the whole space of its life equally, but tomorrow surely it does not yet grasp, whereas yesterday it has already lost … it does not simultaneously comprehend and embrace the whole space of its life, though it be infinite, but it possesses the future not yet, the past no longer. (Boethius Consolation of Philosophy §VI, in Davies Guide p461)

5 Simultaneity  Does this mean that since all events are known at once by God, all events are simultaneous?  Not if God is outside time, and never simultaneous with anything

6 Changelessness and Omniscience  Advantages of this view?  Time implies change: if God is outside time, he may be changeless  If God has no past, present or future this accounts for God’s omniscience

7 Changelessness  A timeless God cannot change, cannot lose attributes, cannot be limited  But can a timeless God choose, decide, act, plan, remember etc?  Can he interact with temporal events?  Maybe: timeless will, leading to events in time?  Can there be any events at all for God?

8 Timeless, changeless, loving? [The Bible shows] God both caring and knowing about the world, even the five sparrows, which at one time had not yet been, and later had been, sold for two farthings, and intervening in the world, doing things, saying things, hearing prayers and sometimes changing his mind. (Lucas, The Future p214)

9 Knowing God? … my referring to X is a temporal event. It both begins and ends, as do all my acts. Now the event of my referring to X is identical with the event of X being referred to by me. And this event is an aspect both of X and of me. …Thus if God were eternal, no human being could ever refer to him—or perform any other temporal act with respect to him. If he were eternal, one could not know him. (Wolterstorff in Davies Guide p501)

10 Omniscience God is wholly outside the order of time, standing as it were in the high citadel of eternity, which is all at one time. The whole course of time is subject to eternity in one simple glance. So at one glance he sees everything that is done in the course of time; he sees everything as it is in itself, not as if it were future relative to his view. (Aquinas, in Davies Introduction 2nd Edition p153).

11 Knowledge and foreknowledge …divine foreknowledge does not alter the proper nature of things, but sees them present to him just such as in time they will at some future point come to be. Nor does he confuse the way things are to be judged, but with one glance of his mind distinguishes both those things necessarily coming to be and those not necessarily coming to be … So then the divine perception looking down on all things does not disturb at all the quality of things that are present indeed to him but future with reference to imposed conditions of time. (Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy §VI in Davies Guide p 463)

12 An everlasting God  Explains how God can act, decide, intervene  A life as a person, an existence with events  Existing now, at this moment

13 Infinite series  Can an infinite series reach an end? Can the present moment arrive?  Perhaps the series stretches back from the present moment, infinitely into the past

14 Change  Allows for God to change  But does this threaten the cosmological argument?

15 Everlastingness and omniscience  Can God know the future?  Maybe the future cannot be an object of knowledge?  Can God infer the future?  Or does he grasp everything that is the case about the universe –including future events?  The threat to free action …

16 Timeless, then in time  God enters time with creation  An unlimited and free creator  But is this coherent: can timelessness come before an existence in time?

17 Reading suggestions  Davies, Introduction Chapter 8 (in either edition, but fuller in 2nd)  Davies, introduction to section in Guide on ‘Eternity’  Leftow, ‘Eternity’ in the Blackwell Companion.  Stump and Kretzman, also in Davies Guide.  Also: Ganssle, G.E. (2002) God and Time. UK: Paternoster Press (not available in the library)

18 Some questions  Can you clearly express the two different understandings of what is meant by divine eternity, as expressed by: Boethius, Aquinas, Stump and Kretzman (the ‘timeless’ view) Wolterstorff or Swinburne (the ‘everlasting’ view)  What are the pros and cons of each?  What are the implications of each for our freedom of will and action?  Which, on balance, seems to you the most plausible, and why?

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