God can be viewed as eternal in two ways:
Eternal refers to God existing outside of
time – timeless
Eternal that refers to God having no
beginning and no end but time passes for
Eternal - timeless
God exists outside of time (God is perfect: time passing
God has no beginning and no end
Biblical passages hint at Gods eternity:
“who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” Isaiah
Heavily influenced by Classical Philosophy: Plato/
Unchanging world of Eternal Forms
Nicolas Wolterstorff adds that idea of Eternal God not just
based on Classical Philosophy
Eternal God has to be different from humans experience of
life in physical world.
“The gnawing of time bites all.”
Book 5 of ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’
God does not experience past, present or future
All time is present to God at same time.
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’
Aquinas supports Boethius
God existence is unending:- without
beginning or end
time and change are inseparable – God cant
change so cannot be in time.
Aquinas agrees with Boethius: “eternity
exists as a simultaneous whole and time
“freed from the bondage of
Anselm: God is eternal
because nothing can
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
Love involves a two way
process and ability to
How can an eternal God
respond to people’s
Paul Helm: “ God, considered as
timeless, cannot have temporal
relations with any of his creation.”
Language that suggests God acting
personally in the Bible reflects
people of the time encountering God.
Wiles: no selective response from
God –ongoing creative activity.
Aquinas: prayers not for requests
A possible problem is that Boethius ends up
defining a God that is intrinsically different
from the God of Classical Theism
More of a Deist God because leaves
questions about incarnation/ Christ,
relevance of prayer (pointless) and no
Eternal as Everlasting
One solution to the problems raised by God’s
eternal nature = God is everlasting.
God always exists and will always
exist without end but time passes for God
Not a lessening of power
Supports a present and active God answering
prayers/ granting miracles
Supports this view: idea of events
occurring simultaneously to God
cannot be made sense of.
Therefore an everlasting God fits more satisfactory with
God as revealed in Bible
“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.”
• Only way to understand some of God’s
actions in Bible is to see them as
responses to humans’ free choices
e.g. 10 plagues to human beings
behaviour – time passing
• Wolterstorff also argues that you
cannot criticise an everlasting God for not
knowing the events of the future because
God’s omniscience only includes knowing
what has happened.
• the future as it does not yet exist
Eternal - timeless
Omniscience – has all
Omnipotence – has all power
to create and remain separate
Perfect: no limits, constraints
Immutable: not changed by
But Questions God's:
Omni benevolence – not
present in time
Personal – not answering
Eternal - everlasting
Omni benevolence: active in
Personal: answers prayers/
But Questions God’s:
Omniscience: If God does not
know future can God be all-
Immutable: if time/ humans
change God can God still be
Perfect: Is God limited by time?
“ The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are
the everlasting arms.”
This can be interpreted in three ways:
1. God is both timeless and everlasting
2. God is eternal = timeless
3. God is eternal = everlasting – inside of time
The issue is based on interpretation of the scripture.
Omnipotence: concerns God’s ability to
do anything even the logically
Rene Descartes: God can do anything
God can change the fundamental laws of physical
However rejected by many later philosophers.
X J. L. Mackie argued: idea of logically impossible
actions were ‘Only a form of words which fails to
describe any state of affairs.” = Logical impossibilities
do not exist
Omnipotence concerns God's ability
to do what is logically possible for a
perfect God to do.
“Whatever involves a contradiction is not held by omnipotence, for
it just cannot possibly make sense of being possible,”
This quote answers many challenges to God’s omnipotence.
If God is eternal and not physical = no body to climb a tree =
illogical to argue otherwise.
Illogical to argue that God can change the past. “absolutely
impossible that it did not take place, for it implies a contradiction.”
Omnipotence is an aspect of God's nature = God cannot sin because
contradicts God’s nature as good.
Anselm agrees: God cannot sin as shows a lack of control = lacks
Omnipotence is a statement of
the power of God
Anthony Kenny: omnipotence is best understood as a
statement of God's power.
“A being is omnipotent if it has every power which it is
logically possible to possess.”
Logically possible for us to climb Mount Everest – just
because it is logically possible does not mean I have the
power to do so.
However in the case of God, God is the omnipotent
Creator = not only means it is logically possible but also
that God has the power to do so e.g. miracles.
Omniscience: Perfection of God includes unlimited
knowledge of past, present and future. God is outside
of time – knows whole of time from beginning to end
Limited omniscience: limited to what is logically
possible. God chooses to limit what he knows =
human freewill. God's knowledge changes overtime
Anselm “you are
Does God know the future as part of his Omniscience?
Yes: Divine Foreknowledge:
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
This view is supported by Calvin:
Predestination = before creation God determined the fate of the universe
throughout all of time and space.
God chooses some to be saved (pre elected) and some to be damned.
Irresistible Grace (TULIP) when a person is predestined for heaven.
No matter what they do and no matter what they think, they are saved.
Supported by Scripture (“In love He predestined us...” Ephesians 1:5)
Modern day followers: Phelps family -Westborough Baptist Church
X N. Geisler If our sins are predetermined, then we have no real control
over them and our will is not free. In fact, it is God’s will working through
us. “Moral determinism makes God immoral and makes humans amoral.”
Team Boethius (we love you)
Problem for Boethius: how God can have Divine foreknowledge of the future (full
omniscience) and human beings still remain free agents.
Discussion with Lady Philosophy in Book 5 “The Consolation of Philosophy.”
“hopeless conflict between Divine (God) foreknowledge of all things and
freedom of human will.” (Boethius)
Foreknowledge = Knowledge before something happens – knowledge of the
If God knows the future of our actions how are our actions therefore free?
Boethius continues that if God sees everything in advance (all our acts/
plans/wishes/thoughts/ choices) and God cannot be fooled or deceived then
whatever God’s ‘Providence’ foresees will happen.
Providence = knowledge of the future
This future cannot change otherwise what God sees is just “fallible opinion”
Fallible = imperfect
Pointless to argue a Pre deterministic God (similar to
Calvinism) whereby God has knowledge of all our
actions because …..
It will be pointless to reward and punish – if not
free/voluntary then good/wicked acts are not
governed by my own will = unjust to punish and
Therefore the author = responsible for vices and
If God was pre-deterministic then all human events
depend on God’s Providence not man’s intention
(Boethius wants to avoid this view at all costs).
So....many pages later.... = answer to this fundamental
God is eternal.
God’s eternity explains how God can be both Omniscient
and how humans can still have freewill.
Answer from Boethius
God does not see past, present and future
but all of time together as the “eternal present.”
God sees all of time but does not distinguish what is in the
past, present or future.
God does not know events as in the past or future but just
God lives in an “eternal present” all time is eternally
present and never past or future.
So Boethius concludes that this is “not knowledge of
future events, but knowledge of a never changing present.”
Summary of Boethius
God does not have Divine Foreknowledge
God does not know past , present and future – this is the
human perspective on time and life passing
God just knows everything including all history in a
This means that God is justified in reward and punishing
us as we are totally free to decide our actions.
In other words, God has eternal omniscience but not
Divine Foreknowledge because this means God would
determine our actions.
God knows everything but as a ‘collective whole
knowledge’ not what happens in past, present or future =
still have freewill.
God has a ‘bird eye’ view on the whole of history that is
theocentric – from God's perspective
God not interfere with our freewill (Walkers up the hill)
Good for the middle part of essay – link between arguments
“God sees all things together and not
successively” This means God sees everything
but not linear – like the human perspective on time.
God takes in all history as a whole.
(Not Divine Foreknowledge)
Option 1: Option 2: Option 3:
God’s omniscience is limited to what is
Future has not yet happened = unknown.
Therefore God's omniscience is not
‘limited’ (lack of power) because
impossible to know what does not exist
or has not existed yet.
God is omniscient = perfect knowledge
of what has occurred and is occurring.
This means God's knowledge changes
God can acquire new knowledge as time
God makes the
choice to limit
what he knows
God is aware
we are free
which one to
Swinburne- The Coherence of Theism
God does not know what will happen in the future
An omniscient being 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 (supports option
Augustine: God simply
knows our choices.(3)
Luis of Molina :
God’s omniscience includes all
possibilities for the future. (3)
Change involves movement from one thing to another
God is perfect = lacks nothing
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
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
Aquinas: God signifies ‘being/ existing.’
Augustine: God is unchangeable cannot lose
or gain characteristics
Brian Davies: not like ‘a human being’ but
God is whole like ‘the human race.’
“And God possesses this present instant
comprehension of ….. From his own
But the problem is:
how can humans still
be held responsible for
How can human
actions be judged
‘evil’ and therefore
punished if they do not
have free will?
And does this make
God responsible for
Classic problem of
evil= Epicurus &
Can God really
know everything if
God doesn’t know
what it is like to
Tries to support
freewill of humans
and allows for God
to reward and
But even if God just
sees events not on a
timescale are we
Can God ‘know’
new events as they
happen if God
And if God does
humans is God still
If God cannot see
the future, even if it
impossible to see,
does that take away
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