December 3, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

Timeless foreknowledge?

Dr. Paul Helm wrote this in his work ‘Eternal God: A study of God without Time, Second edition’. Pages 98-100

What is it that the timeless foreknowledge is before? It cannot be before anything for the timeless knower, for him there is no temporal before or after, since he occupies no position in time. Thus for a timeless foreknower the statement:
(a) I foreknow that A
Where A is some event or action in a temporal ‘stream’, is necessarily false, since for it to be true A would have to stand in some temporal relation to the foreknower, which is impossible if the foreknower is timeless. However, though (a) is necessarily false, it does not follow that
(b) He foreknows that A
Is necessarily false, where ‘He’ refers to the timeless knower, and where (b) is uttered by a temporal individual. In the same way, although temporal individuals can say that God, if he exist, has existed a day longer today than yesterday, God could not say this. This is parallel to the fact that while the utterance ‘I am not talking now’ is necessarily false, ‘He is not talking now’ can be true, even though ‘I’ and ‘He’ refer to the same person. For ‘I am not talking now’ to be true of the speaker would not have to be uttering anything and a fortiori not uttering the words ‘I am not talking now’ , likewise for ‘I foreknow that A’ to be true the speaker would have to be in time, but if he were he could not be timeless.
But if (b) is not necessarily false, what does it mean, and under what conditions would it be true? (b) might be paraphrased as:
(i) At a time before this time (the time of (i)’s utterance) the statement ‘T timelessly knows A’ (where T refers to the timeless knower, and A is an event future to the time of the statement’s utterance) is true.
Or, more neatly
(ii) Before t (where t is the present) the statement that T knows (timelessly) that A was true.
Where T is a timeless knower, it will follow (i) and (ii) refer not simply to a particular time before the statement’s utterance, but to any time before that time. What (i) and (ii) imply is that if anyone had asked yesterday, or at any time before the present, whether T tirelessly knew A the answer would have been ‘Yes’. But what would the point be of asking whether T tirelessly knew A? If T is a timeless knower would it not be obvious that he tirelessly knew A yesterday? What do (i) or (ii) say that the unvarnished ‘T tirelessly knows A’ does not?
One thing that ‘T foreknows A’ implies that ‘T tirelessly knows A’ does not is that A is an event. For suppose that A were the proposition Red is a colour, then it would be absurd to say that T foreknows that red is a colour, just as it would be absurd to say of a temporal individual that that individual foreknows that red is a colour. Knows before what? There can only be foreknowledge of things that happen. So whereas in ‘T tirelessly knows A’  (A) could be an event, in ‘T foreknows A’ (A) must be an event;  (i) and (ii) indicates this in a way in which ‘T timelessly knows A’ cannot.
A further way of making this point is to say that for T to know the future timelessly is for T to know an event future to some individual in time, and for T to know all about the future is for T to know all events future to some individual in time.

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