God is immaterial (Aquinas) no body which has characteristics.
Augustine: God is unchangeable cannot lose or gain characteristics
Aquinas: God signifies ‘being/ existing.’
Brian Davies: not like ‘a human being’ but God is whole like ‘the human race.’
Change involves movement from one thing to another
God is perfect = lacks nothing
Something unchanging can logically be the causer of the created world that changes.
Brian Davies: anything that changes is part of the world and not distinct from it. So if God is creator God needs to be separate and thus unchanging.
What problems might it pose for omniscience?
Can God really know everything if God doesn’t know what it is like to change?
Can God ‘know’ new events as they happen if God doesn’t change?
Influenced by classical philosophy e.g. Plato unchanging World of Forms
Nicholas Wolterstorff: different from humans’ experience of life in physical world “freed from the bondage of temporality.”
God exists outside of time
God has no beginning and no end
Anselm: God is eternal because nothing can contain God.
Aquinas: time and change are inseparable – God cant change so cannot be in time.
Book 5 of ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’
God is changeless
Does not exist in time/ God’s existence is limitless
Eternity: “the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life.”
All time is present to God ‘simultaneously.’
E.g. Like watching a film and seeing the opening titles and credits in ‘one glance’
“ And God possesses this present instant comprehension of ….. From his own simplicity.”
Aquinas agrees with Boethius: “eternity exists as a simultaneous whole and time does not.”
This means time passes: past – present – future
Anthony Kenny: notion of time being simultaneously present to God is incoherent.
Swinburne agrees: he could not “make much sense” of this.
How can God be personal and act in creation e.g. Red Sea?
Love involves a two way process and ability to respond
How can an eternal God respond to people’s prayers?
Paul Helm: “ God, considered as timeless, cannot have temporal relations with any of his creation.”
Boethius: God knows the results of human’s free actions = not foreknowledge.
God is timeless in the sense of being time free.
Language that suggests God acting personally in the Bible reflects people of the time encountering God.
God changelessly wills good/ love for people.
Aquinas: prayers not for requests
Wiles: no selective response from God –ongoing creative activity.
Not Eternal but … Everlasting
‘ Everlasting’ = God always exists (no end) however time passes for God.
Swinburne agrees: “God knows the events of AD 1995 unless it means that he exists in 1995 and knows in 1995 what is happening….hence I prefer that understanding of God being eternal as his being everlasting rather than as his being timeless.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff: some of God’s actions in Bible are free responses to human beings behaviour = time passing.
Aquinas “ God can do anything.” – God’s power is infinite, eternal and non physical
God cannot sin (Aquinas / Anselm) – limitation of power
Power beyond human comprehension and ability e.g. miracles
Descartes: God can do the logically impossible e.g. change laws of physics
X J.L.Mackie logical impossibilities do not exist
What does it mean to say God is ‘omniscient’?
Aquinas: “God’s knowledge is not reasoned or discursive, though he knows all reasoning and processes”
God knows all true propositions
God knows 2+2=4 but does not know 2+2=5
Truths of mathematics and logic
And empirical truths
Anselm “you are supremely perceptive.”
Omniscience : unlimited knowledge. Past, present and future. God is outside of time – knows whole of time from beginning to end (eternal)
Limited omniscience : limited to what is logically possible. God chooses to limit what he knows = human freewill. God's knowledge changes overtime (everlasting)
Why might God’s omniscience pose a problem for free will?
Does God’s all-knowingness include knowledge of future events?
God foreknows all my acts
What God foresees must come to pass
Therefore, if my acts must come to pass, then they cannot be free
Determinism must be true- no freewill
Swinburne- The Coherence of Theism
God does not know what will happen in the future
An omniscient person knows every true proposition…
But a future action isn’t ‘true’ or ‘false’ until it has happened
So an omniscient being does not have to know them
Boethius: God has no foreknowledge = God is eternal – does not know future but all history
Augustine: God simply knows our choices.
Aquinas: God knows past, present and future, but does not interfere with this path (Walkers up the hill)
God is perceived, in classical theism as omnipotent, omniscient and Omni-benevolent
Total power and knowledge implies God controls the future - Divine Determinism- Calvin
But the problem is: how can humans still be held responsible for their actions?
How can human actions be judged ‘evil’ and therefore punished if they do not have free will?
And does this make God responsible for suffering?
Classic problem of evil= Epicurus & Hume
Attempts by Christian thinkers to defend God in the face of evil and suffering
Augustine: Evil is a privation of good- Humans are wholly responsible for evil (deserve punishment)
Irenaeus: Earn perfection - Possibility of evil has to exist for the possibility of good to exist
Problems for Augustine
Scientific criticism- Alternative origins to world and humankind e.g. Evolution
Logical error- Schleiermacher- how can absolutely perfect world go wrong? How could an omniscient/ omnipotent God let it?
Moral problem- if Hell exists, evil must have been anticipated- need for punishment
Problems for Irenaeus
Allows for evolution idea for modern thinker
Is it fair for everyone to go to heaven?
Even if we accept suffering and evil as necessary possibilities, does it have to be so severe for us to grow?
DZ Philips- is allowing suffering ever an expression of love?
Free will Defence: Hick and Swinburne
It was necessary for God to give us free will
Otherwise, we would be controlled robots
Life would be pointless
We either have complete free will or no free will
And this leads to possibility of any extreme of evil acts being committed