God and Time: Boetheius

Perfection Theology

God is

  • Immutable
  • Impassible
  • Omniscient


For religious practice

  • No intercessory prayer?

For our conception of truth and time.

The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge

Basic problem:

  1. Sure foreknowledge of the future requires that future events cannot be changed.
  2. God has sure foreknowledge
  3. If before I begin to act, I cannot refrain from acting, then when I act, I do not do so freely.

Therefore, there is no free will.

Possible Objections

  1. It's not that we must act because God knows we will. Rather, it's the other way around.
  1. Foreknowledge does not require that future events cannot be changed.

Disturbing Consequences

No salvation through works.

in vain is reward offered to the good and punishment to the bad, because they have not been deserved by any free and willed movement of the mind. That which is now judged the most equitable, the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the good, will be seen to be the most unjust of all...Nothing more wicked can be conceived than this.

A New Relation to Time

Eternity vs. Perpetuity

Eternity is...

Perpetuity is...

How does this help?

Sure foreknowledge requires that events cannot be changed.

Mere knowledge does not.

It necessitates, but only conditionally.

Solution: there's no problem with your action being logically necessary simultaneous with your acting. The problem is necessity prior to the action.

But God's knowledge isn't prior to anything. It's eternal, not perpetual.

How to understand this?

Worry: obscurum per obscurius

  1. Moving Spotlight?

Problem: Divine Omniscience

  1. Frozen Block?

Problem: No Real Change. Am I a slice? Am I a worm? Unity of consciousness.

Can I change God's knowledge?

Boetheius: No.

[God's foreknowledge] does not not change, as you think, with alternate knowledge of now this and now that, but with one glance anticipates and embraces your changes... God receives this present mode of knowledge and vision of all things not from the issue of future things, but from His own immediacy


Charitably: change requires first being one thing, and then being another. Since God knowledge doesn't involve being in time, there's no change for God.