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A website for the book by Ian J Thompson:

"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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Previous: 16.2 Foreknowledge Up: 16. We Act Sequentially Next: 16.4 Freedom

16.3 The future

In order to resolve the long-standing dispute between freedom and foreknowledge, we have to distinguish the ways in which God’s love and wisdom are related to time, even if they are perfect and divine. Secondly, we have to remember that core theism states that God is a living God, and he is free (not predetermined) in what he does and how he interacts with the world.16.5

I began above to argue that, whereas Divine Wisdom by its nature encompasses all truth eternally, Divine Love and Action are always in the present. Whatever we or God may know about the past or future, we only love what is present to us, and we only act in the present. For example, we may perhaps have a vision of our future grandchildren, but, even if that vision proves to be completely accurate, we do not love them until they actually exist. They certainly cannot love us until they come into existence. That occurs by being born. Even perfect foreknowledge, we conclude, does not provide objects to love.

Another approach is to consider that, in process ontology, the future does not yet exist. It has no substance. Foreknowledge of such a future could only refer to the form or shape or structural details that will (one day) become instantiated. Even perfect foreknowledge cannot know the instantiated event as an actuality, since that does not yet exist. In the terms of philosophy, perfect foreknowledge may know the types of future events, in some theoretical manner, but it can never be acquainted with the actual tokens which will instantiate those types. In a process ontology, we have always to remember that reality is not purely mathematical or formal but has an actuality at least in the present.

Our conclusion is that divine foreknowledge may be possible in a process universe with real becoming in the present. We allow this as possible only as long as that foreknowledge is confined to the formal types or forms and not to the actual tokens or substance that will instantiate those types or forms. This makes divine foreknowledge, based as it is on the wisdom of forms (as discussed in Chapter 14), an abstract knowledge rather than a concrete acquaintance of an actual being. It is not the case that ‘things are as God knows them’, because that knowledge is knowledge of form and not of substance. Since love is the substance of things, and wisdom is the knowledge of forms or types, the ideas in the previous two paragraphs are essentially the same.

Core theism may thus consistently affirm that, while we may have a process ontology of substances being each the power to make their changes freely, God may yet have perfect foreknowledge of the form of the future but still not have acquaintance with the actual substance of the future. Bringing about the substance or actuality of the future still needs the loves and propensities to make actual things. As we cannot just sit back and wait for the future to actualize with no effort on our part, if that effort is needed to bring about the future, there is no fatalism.

You may wonder about the reality of those everyday loves and propensities, if knowledge of their outcome already exists. What reality can be attributed to the multiple possibilities we thought were possible at each moment if only one of those possibilities is ‘really possible’ according to God’s foreknowledge? My answer is that the multiple possibilities would show up if the configuration or state of those objects were repeated identically, based on the fact that the being or substance of objects is constituted by their powers. If there were free actions of persons or random actions of quantum objects such as decaying atoms, and if an identical experiment were run in the future, then the results would be different. Multiple radioactive decays of nuclei, for example, should give a distribution of different results just as predicted by quantum mechanics and Born’s Law. We may easily allow that God knows in advance both the common tendencies and the varying actual outcomes.

Previous: 16.2 Foreknowledge Up: 16. We Act Sequentially Next: 16.4 Freedom

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