Infinite Temporal Regress

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 15, 2009 in Kalam Argument

Part 8 of my Mapping the Kalam series.

infinite_timeToday we examine premise 2.12 of Craig & Sinclair’s defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

2.12 An infinite temporal regress is an actual infinite.

On a B-Theory of time, according to which time all events in the past and future currently exist, there is no question that an infinite temporal regress is an actual infinite. But the KCA assumes and requires an A-Theory of time, according to which the only events which “exist” are those in the present moment.

Aristotle’s example of an eternal blacksmith may be useful. If a blacksmith had been working from eternity, using a new hammer after each one breaks, then he would now have used an infinite number of hammers. That is, the number of hammers used by the blacksmith is actually infinite. And the same is true of the number of events that have passed. So an infinite temporal regress is an actual infinite.

Premise 2.12 is part of a sub-argument which begins with the premise that “an actual infinite cannot exist.” But if the series of past events constitutes an actual infinite, might we not equally say that the series of future events constitutes an actual infinite? Craig replies:

…there never will be an actually infinite number of events since it is impossible to count to infinity. The only sense in which there will be an infinite number of events is that the series of events will go toward infinity as a limit [but never quite reach it]. But that is the concept of a potential infinite, not an actual infinite.

Now, my readers are probably aware of Wes Morriston’s criticisms of this point, but remember that for now I am merely working my way through Craig’s paper, and will only later turn to published criticisms.

This concludes Craig & Sinclair’s first philosophical argument in support of premise 1, that the universe began to exist. Remember, the full sub-argument is:

2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.12 An infinite temporal regress is an actual infinite.
2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

Next, we turn to a second philosophical argument in favor of a universe which began to exist in the finite past.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk September 15, 2009 at 8:20 am

Aristotle’s example of an eternal blacksmith may be useful. If a blacksmith had been working from eternity, using a new hammer after each one breaks, then he would now have used an infinite number of hammers. That is, the number of hammers used by the blacksmith is actually infinite.

But not all of those hammers would exist at the same time. Some discarded hammers might have been reforged into newer hammers, while others might have rusted into oblivion. So it appears (to me) that the point is lost.

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BJ Marshall September 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

I don’t see how an infinite temporal regress is even possible. Here’s how I understand Big Bang cosmology. I’ll put it into standard format for ease of dissection:

P1) The universe consists of matter and energy existing in space-time.
P2) The universe came from the Big Bang.
P3) Prior to the Big Bang, the universe was infinitely small; that is, there was no space.
P4) [Implied: Prior to the Big Bang, there was no time.]

Therefore, the farthest you can go back is to the Big Bang (~13.7 Billion years ago). There is no infinite temporal regress.

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Steven September 15, 2009 at 10:10 am

So if there is no actual infinite, then

1. God had a beginning
2. God is not bound by logic, and therefore this is all for nought. An actual infinite God is akin to a square circle (according to Craig’s arguments).

Craig dismisses this by saying that God is infinite “qualitatively” not “quantitatively” – that just because God can do anything doesn’t mean he has done everything that is possible, etc.

How does this work with time? This seems to suggest that God is qualitatively eternal, not quantitatively. Of course this means that the temporal world is illusory – we must have always been here, because there could not be a point in time that we were created – since there is no quantitative time with God. Basically, if God is qualitatively eternal then so is anything he has done – so we must be qualitatively infinite as well.

This also means, of course, that the universe is qualitatively eternal, and therefore negates the second point of Kalaam. Unless we argue that Kalaam only pertains to the illusion of quantitative time.

But if we’re only talking about quantitative time, and it doesn’t apply to God, then GOD DOESN’T EXIST, according to Kalaam. This is because “exist”, as used in Kalaam, only applies to quantitative existence.

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Reginald Selkirk September 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

BJ Marshall: I don’t see how an infinite temporal regress is even possible. Here’s how I understand Big Bang cosmology. I

Infinite temporal regress is philosophically possible or impossible

and

The universe we inhabit does not have infinite temporal regress

are two entirely different things. I presume we are using the philosophical concept of “possible” here, not discussing what the evidence tells us about empirical reality.

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lukeprog September 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

BJ,

That is precisely Craig’s point. An infinite temporal regress is impossible.

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Paul September 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I am fascinated by the KCA but am I in the minority that think the implied conclusion is unjustified?

It seems by its purpose to be nothing more than a sleigh of hand. Am I being unreasonable?

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Ben September 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Luke,

Is WLC an open theist?

Ben

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lukeprog September 16, 2009 at 6:49 am

Ben,

Which meaning of ‘open theist’ do you have in mind?

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Kip September 16, 2009 at 11:35 am

I just posted a comment but it didn’t show up. Now when I try to repost it, it says “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”.

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Kip September 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

Video that mentions WLC’s KCA & God’s transcending time & space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wV_REEdvxo (at 2m25s).

Reposting:
So, I’m not sure why this won’t post. Maybe comments with URLs are being moderated? If so, you need a message saying so, so I don’t keep trying to repost it over and over. I’m giving up after this, though. :-)

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Steven September 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I posted a view on the KCA over on my blog – very short – fallacy of Equivocation. I’m sure somebody has brought it up before……

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lukeprog September 16, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Kip,

Akismet grabbed it as spam. I don’t go through the spam queue every day. Once I saw your message there, I approved it, so now the original should show up.

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Ben September 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm

lukeprog: Ben,Which meaning of ‘open theist’ do you have in mind?

Well one that enables God to not know future events. I thought all versions of “open theism” did by definition, but maybe I’m mistaken. I’m assuming WLC has to get out of the fact that God’s knowledge of eternity forces it to be an actual infinite of events rather than the potential infinites he advocates. I’m just trying to figure out how he does it, if he does it. Or maybe god just knows what would happen hypothetically in a perfect sense if the present wasn’t all that existed? Perhaps WLC thinks infinite immaterial knowledge magically doesn’t count or something? So I guess God can’t count his own thoughts? Haha, that makes him an unconscious being. I’m just thinking out loud here. So…God would only have a finite number of actual thoughts? What does it really mean to “know everything” if you aren’t really allowed by these anti-infinity stipulations to “know” it? Such fun nonsense.

Ben

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lukeprog September 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Ben,

WLC endorses a “middle knowledge” position. There are tons of articles on this at his website.

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Ben September 17, 2009 at 7:31 am

lukeprog: Ben,WLC endorses a “middle knowledge” position. There are tons of articles on this at his website.

I’ve tried to read about that in the past, but have been bored to death that he never seems to get to the point. I must never have got to the part where it is actually applicable to a real issue that’s not based on something else I disagree with. I guess I’ll give it another go though.

Ben

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Ben September 17, 2009 at 8:05 am

I don’t see how anything about middle knowledge addresses the issue. He seems mostly concerned about its implications for free will which is a total non-issue in my perspective even if determinism is untrue. I don’t see why God’s foreknowledge infringes on any version of free will unless you arbitrarily say it does. But those are issues for libertarians and it makes the majority of these articles a pain to read due to their terminology and their shear irrelevance.

If I ask WLC if God knows about every event in the new heaven and the new earth before it happens, it all has to exist, or at least the countable bits of information have to exist in some way as divine knowledge. That’s an actual infinity in one way or the other and part of WLC’s understanding of Kalam argument precludes that. If you intend to address the issue in a later post, that’s cool. I know you have a grand scheme of things so we can just come back to this if its not on the agenda right now. I will be curious to know.

Ben

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Paul September 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm

As an aside on the topic of middle knowledge – can middle knowledge be true if determinism is not? I don’t know how the former can be true w/o the other.

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Michael November 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Paul, the idea behind Kalam is not to show that the Christian God exists, but rather that a powerful, somehow atemporal (at least before the universe), very intelligent creator exists. He uses other arguments for arguing the Christian God. However, his idea of creator does follow logically… in a way. I have tried to show that it is not justified, as Quentin Smith tries to show that the universe created itself. However, I cannot think of any other possible cause than a creator, even if it deistic or malicious or what have you. So I have personally found the conclusion to be justified unless another cause can be found.

Ben, you bring up great questions regarding Craig’s ideas. In fact, these same questions haunted me for a while as well. I think your point, as well as Morrison’s critique, does show a problem with Craig’s view, and therefore I have developed my own, that i have found more plausible.

My view:
God would have had to be atemporal logically prior to creation(as there was no time before it). After creation, the Christian God would have to become temporal to some degree if He is to intervene within time (Jesus). However, the question then is what is His relationship to time? I agree with Craig that we operate on an A-theory of time, and that the past does not actually exist (sorry, time travel is impossible on this view). However, I think that God would most likely experience time very differently than we do, simply because he created it in the first place and is not dependent on it for his existence as we appear to be. Having said this, I think that God operates on the B-theory of time and exists omnipresently throughout all moments of time. This would explain His foreknowledge (He is experiencing all instances at all times), without limiting His omnipotence. I also think this follows from the ontological argument (if it works) as a being that exists in all moments of time at once seems greater than one that doesn’t.

Another idea that I have thought of is that maybe there is a time other than that of our universe. An analogy would be any sport, as there are 60 minutes in a football game for example, and this time is “separate” from the time outside of the game as it is not a measure of real time due to timeouts and two-minute warnings, etc. So it may be that there is a time that God exists in outside of our time, although this may be a stretch.

Paul, I would say that middle-knowledge is actually an argument against determinism in a way. This is because middle-knowledge is simply knowing what one would do freely in any given set of circumstances, and therefore only a part of omniscience rather than the idea of determining what someone will do. It simply says that given these circumstances a will choose p, and will not freely choose not p if in this circumstances. Therefore, it limits determinism if and only if we do have free will.

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Ben November 16, 2009 at 6:41 am

Michael: I agree with Craig that we operate on an A-theory of time, and that the past does not actually exist (sorry, time travel is impossible on this view). However, I think that God would most likely experience time very differently than we do, simply because he created it in the first place and is not dependent on it for his existence as we appear to be. Having said this, I think that God operates on the B-theory of time and exists omnipresently throughout all moments of time. This would explain His foreknowledge (He is experiencing all instances at all times), without limiting His omnipotence.

Hey Michael,

Thanks for responding.

It seems your solution poses a contradiction since it entails that all points in time both do (for God) and don’t (for us) exist. It’s either all A theory or all B theory since they are both supposed to be ontological absolutes and not mere subjective frames of reference on the same thing.

Further, the idea that an atemporal god can “experience” anything presupposes that he is on a temporal axis and can undergo some kind of psychological change from one state to another. Using that language is incoherent. An atemporal God doesn’t do anything at all any more than a statue does.

And to make an argument against A theory, if the past no longer exists, then from the frame of reference of God (the god’s eye view), that entails a logical contradiction as well since every moment in time would have to both exist and not exist simultaneously in eternity, which makes no sense.

Food for thought! Enjoy.

Ben

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Michael November 16, 2009 at 7:39 am

Ben:
It seems your solution poses a contradiction since it entails that all points in time both do (for God) and don’t (for us) exist.It’s either all A theory or all B theory since they are both supposed to be ontological absolutes and not mere subjective frames of reference on the same thing.  

The latter is exactly why I thought of God being on the B-theory of time because of problems that would arise. However, I disagree tat the two theories are absolute in the way you say. The reason for this is because God was not always in time (at least according to traditional thought). To me, it seems logical that He COULD be experiencing time very differently than we do, as we are stuck in time. Now, I respect the idea of absolutes, but my question is on what ground is this established? I do think that all moments could exist for God (and from the Christian perspective, this seems logical as it explains certain of His attributes without infringing on others) and not exist in the same way for us. I have recently brought this up with some philosophy professors and students, and at first they seemed dismissive, but after some thought, they said they saw no true contradiction and that it seemed plausible. This is actually what I plan to do graduate research on here in the next few years, but most of the people I have talked to agree that it doesn’t seem to be contradictory in depth, but only on the surface. I’m trying to think of an analogy… Um… The best analogy, and this may be a stretch, is DVR. I don’t personally have DVR, so I can’t watch a show more than once. But with DVR, you can pause and rewind “live” tv. God has DVR, and we don’t. I understand the problem here is that even then you can only watch one frame at a time. But I think that since God is eternal, and experiences time differently than we do, that He could watch more than one frame at a time, like the way our body does multiple things at one time. For example, I play lacrosse. When I make a pass or shoot the ball, I have to think both about technique and where I am throwing it all at once. So while it may be a stretch, I think that you can at least get the jist. I would think that this is so hard because we are trapped in the now, viz. we can’t see the future and can’t even go back a second in the past. So like me and not having DVR, I don’t have the luxury another may have, I lack the possibility of that view. In this way, we lack the ability to think about any other way than how we experience things.

And I agree that an atemporal God could not experience anything in time. This is why I hold, as Craig does, that He must be temporal at least sans creation.

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Ben November 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Michael,

If the past ceases to exist, then it ceases to exist. God can’t observe what doesn’t exist. I don’t know what your professors were thinking, but there’s nothing deeper here. It’s just contradictory. I don’t know what the point of entertaining theory A is if you don’t really mean it. Then again, I’m not really sure why anyone entertains theory A at all.

Michael: But I think that since God is eternal, and experiences time differently than we do, that He could watch more than one frame at a time, like the way our body does multiple things at one time.

I don’t have a problem with “different” but I do have a problem with trying to have it both ways. If you want to say God can experience every “frame” at the same time, that’s great, but that still means he has to be on a temporal axis for each “frame” to process that information in some meaningful way. That’s still a temporal god. I’m afraid theology’s never going to be able to find a way to ride both these horses.

I’m not sure if you understand that the concept of “experience” entails the passage of time and when you rob it of that, it ceases to be meaningful. There’s not one mental phenomena that still makes any sense when you eliminate the passage of time.

Michael: And I agree that an atemporal God could not experience anything in time. This is why I hold, as Craig does, that He must be temporal at least sans creation.

You can stick a temporal son of god into the time stream (or a holy spirit) and that’s great, but the rest of the godhead in terms of the father is still atemporal dead weight. You no longer have a coherent trinity. Even if the father partitions himself off to experience time, the rest of the father is meaningless. And all that we are left with to call god is a temporal entity that mainstream theology outright rejects.

Ben

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Michael November 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I disagree with the idea of theology rejecting a temporal God. They maintain that God is eternal, not atemporal, and this is an important distinction. Either way, I hold to the A-theory of time for humans, and if necessary, then for God as well. And if that is true, then I feel that Craig has it right (you can read really any of his articles that explain his thoughts if you are interested).

And I think it is questionable at least to say that God cannot experience what doesn’t exist for us. I think it is at least possible that God be on a different theory of time than us (maybe there is a C theory that should be developed that could explain how we are stuck in the now and He could be in all moments). But I think the idea of Him being temporally omnipresent is possible even if not for us.

I think it is actually necessary that the entire Trinity be temporal sans creation since God intervenes (miracles, prophets, etc.) and obviously Jesus and the Holy Spirit must as well. I do not know of any contemporary theologian with any philosophical background that holds that God is atemporal, as this seems to contradict mainstream belief of God. This is extremely important, as we are supposed to have a relationship with Him, and this would be impossible if He were not temporal.

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Ben November 16, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Michael: They maintain that God is eternal, not atemporal, and this is an important distinction.

Well okay. Let’s pretend like you are correct (since I don’t feel like doing a huge survey of theists). WLC has a problem with an actual infinite and all the arguments he makes against an infinite past for the universe backfire on his god’s infinite past. Feel free to correct me (or link me) if I’m misunderstanding WLC’s views.

Michael: And I think it is questionable at least to say that God cannot experience what doesn’t exist for us.

Yeah, the “for us” part is the curve ball. Notice my language stops abruptly at “exists” and yours adds in the relative perspective. A-theory doesn’t entail relative perspective. What in the world do you think b-theory entails other than the literal existence of the past and future and the relative “non-existence” of them in terms of the present? If that’s what you think A-theory allows then there’s no difference between A and B. It’s like you think B-theory entails that B-theorists are stupid and think they can waltz on over to 1982 just as easily as they can walk across the street.

I know this is difficult subject matter for a lot of people. But these are pretty straight forward errors, imo.

Michael: This is extremely important, as we are supposed to have a relationship with Him, and this would be impossible if He were not temporal.

The idea that “They wouldn’t do that because that doesn’t make sense” presumes that theologians care about making sense first and foremost rather than accommodating their religious traditions in philosophical trappings. The obviousness of the issue as you’ve pointed out hasn’t stopped theologians from cloaking a timeless god in “mystery” and proclaiming the proverbial “QED.”

Ben

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Michael November 16, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Ben: The idea that “They wouldn’t do that because that doesn’t make sense” presumes that theologians care about making sense first and foremost rather than accommodating their religious traditions in philosophical trappings. The obviousness of the issue as you’ve pointed out hasn’t stopped theologians from cloaking a timeless god in “mystery” and proclaiming the proverbial “QED.”

I hate to agree with you here, but I do. However, I try to be as objective as possible and ignore what the Bible seems to say on things, and do my thinking apart from it. And then compare my findings to what the Bible says and whether they are compatible. So it is very unfortunate that many theologians don’t assess things in this manner.

And I think I get your point here that B-theory is not at all compatible as it isn’t relative to experience but rather objective. So this is something I will have to ask my professors as to why they didn’t mention this beforehand. So thank you for the input.

As for God being temporal, Craig and I both hold that God was timeless before He created the universe. This seems necessary if the cosmological argument succeeds as it requires a timeless creator if time came into being at the Big Bang. However, this does not mean that God could not choose to be temporal after creation, as there is now time that He can relate to, while “before” there wasn’t. This is so difficult to grasp and explain because we can’t think of non-time at all, but there must have been a “before” creation in a logical sense. Here are some links to some of Craig’s articles discussing this.

Craig articles and divine eternity and related topics

There are quite a few articles here, all scholarly, but popular ones are available at his site as well.

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Ben November 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Michael,

Your link doesn’t work. I’ve explored WLC’s “Reasonable Faith” site in the past, but never found any straight forward articulation of his views (at least in terms of what I was looking for at the time). Browsing through I did find this one. I might read it later.

I’m currently reading the internet encyclopedia’s entry on “god and time” (which includes WLC’s views).

The traditional view has been that God is timeless in the sense of being outside time altogether; that is, he exists but does not exist at any point in time and he does not experience temporal succession. What may be the dominant view of philosophers today is that he is temporal but everlasting; that is, God never began to exist and he never will go out of existence.

It is a little curious that the popular philosophers’ view is that of a temporal deity, and yet I’m not sure I’ve met a single layperson that advocates anything but the timeless classic view. Not sure what the deal is on that.

I do appreciate your honesty. If you happen to remember little ole me after you talk to your professors, let me know.

Michael: As for God being temporal, Craig and I both hold that God was timeless before He created the universe.

It seems I’ve responded to this view already:

Ben: You can stick a temporal son of god into the time stream (or a holy spirit) and that’s great, but the rest of the godhead in terms of the father is still atemporal dead weight. You no longer have a coherent trinity. Even if the father partitions himself off to experience time, the rest of the father is meaningless.

You might as well be saying God only exists because he created time. And that’s a throw back to the absurdity of God creating himself. Even if we ignored that, once this god is temporal, it can no longer commune with its timeless self. Talk about a one-sided conversation!

Michael: However, this does not mean that God could not choose to be temporal after creation, as there is now time that He can relate to, while “before” there wasn’t.

When will this “after” be? Aren’t you looking forward to eternal life with glorified resurrection bodies in a new heavens and a new earth? Is that scheduled to end at some point?

Michael: This seems necessary if the cosmological argument succeeds as it requires a timeless creator if time came into being at the Big Bang.

Eternal life would constitute an actual infinite and hence undermines the Kalam cosmological argument which entails that an actual infinite is impossible in order to justify the necessity of a timeless being like God. The Kalam argument cannot be used to justify Christianity. Surely WLC has heard this rebuttal before. If you know of a response (or have one yourself), I’d like to know.

Ben

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Ben November 16, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Michael,

I’m trying to get this right. Does WLC (and yourself) believe that ALL of God the Father was converted into a temporal agent along with creation or that only some aspect of God the Father was converted (like perhaps that’s what the Holy Spirit is)?

More random tidbits. You said you couldn’t think of any contemporary philosophers who endorse timelessness. WLC says:

“And on the contemporary scene, such philosophers as Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzman, Paul Helm, Brian Leftow, and John Yates have all defended the theory of divine timelessness.”

Ben

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Michael November 17, 2009 at 7:43 am

Alright, I will do my best to respond in order.

So first, the idea of a temporal deity… I agree, most lay people do hold to atemporality without thinking too much about it. But that is that problem and is the reason many people still hold to that, they don’t think. They just accept what they are told. I am the opposite of this. I question everything (in a good way) and have tried to come to my own conclusions on just about everything. I think if anybody thinks about it, they will see that God must be temporal sans creation due to His ability to interact in the world and with us. It is necessary. So for those who don’t hold this view, I would say a majority of them have never really thought about it.

Craig and I both hold that the whole Trinity did become temporal sans creation. And the “after” I was referring to was at the big bang, and not a later time in existence. It would have been simultaneous. A few reasons for this:
The Father interacted in the world before Christ through the prophets and kings.
He has performed miracles that Jesus attributed not to Himself but to the Father.
We are told to have a relationship with Him, which, as you alluded to in the Trinity if one of the aspects was atemporal, would be pretty much impossible if He were not temporal.
These are a few reasons, I am sure there are more, but I think the get the point across.

AHA! Heaven being an actual infinite is a question I heard him answer in a debate once (I think it may have been Morriston who asked it… but don’t quote me on that). Craig explained that the future was merely a potential infinite, as something cannot reach infinite. This becomes apparent in math when a line has infinite as a limit, this means that it merely approaches it but never can reach it. For example, there will never be a future event where one can say, “This is the infinite moment in history,” because there will always be a next moment. So the idea is that this is not an actual infinite. I would go even further as to say that an actual infinite MAY require an infinite past, which is actually Craig’s philosophical reason for the nonexistence of actual infinites. But this is one of those things I plan on doing research on. Another question was asked about this idea, however. He asked Craig what if he and Craig offered praises to God once a minute for the rest of eternity (this would seem to suppose an actual infinite), but then let’s say that one of them was not offering praises, and it was only Craig doing so, surely this would still constitute an infinite number of praises (Hilbert’s Hotel for future events basically). Now, I could only find the opening speeches of the debate, but I’m guessing Craig replied that it has been shown that an actual infinite cannot be achieved by adding one member after another, as surely another member could always be added (this goes back to an actual infinite requiring an infinite past as well). So in the end, the distinction is between the potential and actual infinite, so no true contradiction is there. Another possibility is that heaven will be timeless in one sense or another. For example, and this is pure speculation but still a possibility if even a potential infinite causes a problem, the “new heaven” could be an entirely different universe that actually exists as God Himself before the current universe existed. Now this is not what most hold to, but some do hold this. The problem I see here is that the Bible holds to a physical resurrection of life, so at least similar laws to what we have now must still exist. Even more, most philosophers hold that logic exists timelessly like numbers and that God necessarily “obeys” logic as He Himself is logical.

thanks for the others that hold to divine timelessness. I actually found some of the same names in some of Craig’s articles.

Here is the site with Craig’s scholarly articles. He discusses pretty much all aspects of time in eternity and God’s relation to them. Hopefully it helps.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=scholarly_articles_divine_eternity

What do you think about the idea of A-Theory but God existing at all times, which would plausibly make Him in all “Nows” but we are stuck in this now? or does that fall into the same problem as my previous thoughts?

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Ben December 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

Michael: We are told to have a relationship with Him, which, as you alluded to in the Trinity if one of the aspects was atemporal, would be pretty much impossible if He were not temporal.

If you understand that, then I don’t understand why you don’t understand that the “before” version of God, the Father is meaningless. A frozen god is a frozen god. Being dethawed “after” time begins doesn’t somehow retroactively make the previous state of being coherent.

It means as I said that God basically creates himself as a coherent mental entity along with space and time. Any god that is timeless in any way for any reason is a meaningless god. Any theology that incorporates the incoherence of timelessness is itself that incoherent.

Michael: Craig explained that the future was merely a potential infinite, as something cannot reach infinite.

Let me rephrase my question. If God is omniscient, then what point in time in the future heavens and earth does God not currently know about?

It’s an actual infinite. Sorry. And if that’s necessarily true in Christian theology, then it has no basis to reject the possibility of an actual infinite in other worldviews.

Ben

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Michael December 2, 2009 at 9:12 am

Ben: If you understand that, then I don’t understand why you don’t understand that the “before” version of God, the Father is meaningless

So numbers are meaningless? Properties are meaningless? That’s bold statement. These are all considered to be timeless, and yet they clearly have meaning, so Why would God be different. You would have to show that all of these things are meaningless, which I believe is impossible, as we know that they do indeed have meaning of some sort.

Ben: It means as I said that God basically creates himself as a coherent mental entity along with space and time. Any god that is timeless in any way for any reason is a meaningless god. Any theology that incorporates the incoherence of timelessness is itself that incoherent.

I find this more of an opinion. And why would God have to create Himself along with space and time? Many philosophers think that numbers, properties, and such exist timelessly and uncaused. So again, you have to show that all of these things are meaningless and incoherent, which is not the case. You also make the claim that timelessness is incoherent, but don’t explain why that is. So that is something you must do as well, as I feel that it is completely coherent, even necessary if the universe is finite in its existence and therefore there was a “time” at which no time existed.

Ben: Let me rephrase my question. If God is omniscient, then what point in time in the future heavens and earth does God not currently know about?
It’s an actual infinite. Sorry. And if that’s necessarily true in Christian theology, then it has no basis to reject the possibility of an actual infinite in other worldviews.

Finally, what about omniscience? Well, I don’t think omniscience at all infers knowing an infinite number of things, as there can’t be an infinite number of things to know! This goes back to the philosophical argument against an actual infinite, especially about how one cannot reach an actual infinite by adding one thing upon another. In this way, there can’t be an infinite number of things to know (although possibly a potential infinite, but then there is no problem), and therefore the Christian never makes the claim of an actual infinite. Craig is very explicit about this, and I am too, as that would be hypocritical and flat out incorrect to claim such a contradictory statement as there cannot be an actual infinite but that God can know an actual infinite number of things. So I would say that is a straw man, as I certainly don’t claim an actual infinite can exist at all.

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Michael December 2, 2009 at 9:28 am

And my professors have yet to get back to me about the A and B idea, as they seem to be having to think quite hard on it. I am not sure how they would be compatible, at least in the light you have given it. I guess I wonder if it may be possible for what is real for God to be different than what is real for us, but then I see many other negative consequences of that, as well as the fact that even if possible that would be highly improbable. I will keep you updated though with some of their thought as I can.

The only one I have heard back from said that he sees it as possibly being a perspective issue, as maybe due to God’s omnipresence and omniscience He would necessarily be present in all moments of time and know all things at all moments of time. But then you may fall into the inability to know tensed facts, unless you say that God can know tensed facts based on His knowledge of when something happened in respect to others, which would still stand. But then I feel like the idea is becoming ad hoc, even though necessarily so, I think this detracts from its believability.

I am kind of thinking out loud here, but you have offered some helpful critiques and figured you would do so again.

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Summa December 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

“But atheism isn’t false, because God is very improbable (due to the argument from evil, the absurdity of magic, etc.)”

The “absurdity of magic”??? HUH?? If the BIG BANG THEORY (which holds that SOMETHING suddenly sprang from NOTHING like a rabbit could materialize out of thin air) isn’t pure, unadulterated, top shelf cinderella MAGIC I don’t know what the heck is.

Absurdity of magic.

Bah!

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Ben December 7, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Michael: So numbers are meaningless? Properties are meaningless? That’s bold statement. These are all considered to be timeless, and yet they clearly have meaning, so Why would God be different. You would have to show that all of these things are meaningless, which I believe is impossible, as we know that they do indeed have meaning of some sort.

No, I said a timeless MIND is meaningless, because it can’t do anything a mind can do (other than exist). Abstract entities in general are entirely another issue.

Michael: You also make the claim that timelessness is incoherent, but don’t explain why that is.

I don’t think I made that claim. And if I did, I take it back. As far as I know, I’ve only been arguing that timeless MINDs are meaningless.

Michael: Craig is very explicit about this, and I am too, as that would be hypocritical and flat out incorrect to claim such a contradictory statement as there cannot be an actual infinite but that God can know an actual infinite number of things.

I would love to see his answer. But, you are saying that God does NOT know everything that’s going to happen in the future, right? Isn’t that a pretty bold theological claim? Is this open theism? Cuz when exactly does God’s database arbitrarily drop off? A hundred years in the future? A thousand? That pretty much means God doesn’t know the future at all other than what he can guess.

Ben

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Ben December 7, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Michael: due to God’s omnipresence and omniscience He would necessarily be present in all moments of time and know all things at all moments of time.

I’m going to assume in light of your position in the previous comment, that God does not exist in all moments of future time, since that would entail an actual infinite, correct?

Michael: But then you may fall into the inability to know tensed facts, unless you say that God can know tensed facts based on His knowledge of when something happened in respect to others, which would still stand.

It seems to me that “tensed facts” are just regular facts even on the A theory of time. Why is it not just a rhetorical twist on regular facts? I don’t understand why a God on A theory would be unable to know tensed facts if he knows any facts at all. It seems the mistaken belief is that only people located in time can know these things, and that’s just an assertion that can’t be defended. It might never make grammatical sense for an a god who is looking at our whole timeline to use tensed grammar, but so what? What does that have to do with knowledge?

Frames of reference do not change knowledge any more than a person who uses the moon as their frame of reference to calculate the locations of the other bodies in the solar system “knows more” or “less” than someone who calculates using the earth as the frame of reference. There is not a difference in knowledge between the two of them, but for some reason some theistic philosophers when it comes to God and temporal entities think there is. So confusing.

Why not just join me on B theory so as to get away from these contrived issues? :D

Ben

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Michael December 9, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Ben: Why not just join me on B theory so as to get away from these contrived issues?

Well. give me some reasons to, haha. The main reason I am an A-theorist is due to experience, and I have not found reason to reject it. I cannot be in more than one point of time, nor do I think that time travel will ever be possible, although owning a DeLorean would be cool. So I would say if given “sufficient” evidence that outweighs my experience, by all means I will!

And given your theory of time, I guess maybe MY idea of God’s relation to it may suffice, although there would be other kinks I would have to think through.

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Ben December 15, 2009 at 12:11 am

Michael: Well. give me some reasons to, haha. The main reason I am an A-theorist is due to experience, and I have not found reason to reject it. I cannot be in more than one point of time, nor do I think that time travel will ever be possible, although owning a DeLorean would be cool.

hehe, well I’d be a B-theorist even if time travel were impossible. And the main reason is that to think time is burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, entails an absolute ontological contradiction. For a moment in the past to simultaneously exist and not exist is a logical impossibility. Maybe we can’t go there practically today, but it is incoherent to say the past no longer exists in an absolute sense. If it ever existed, it still exists. Likewise, if it is going to exist, it already exists. Things can’t exist and not exist.

If you start trying to “explain” it as though it used to exist and now it doesn’t, you’ve unwittingly put your explanation in a temporal construct. So, in principle, hypothetically if time travel was possible, you could “destroy” a timeline *from a relative frame of reference*. In other words, on a *5th* dimensional axis (which would be a *second* axis of time), an entire timeline can change from one state to another. In other words, if we had magic powers we could take a chunk of history from 1980-1990 and paint it all blue. It used to not be blue, but then we painted it according to a second perpendicular axis of change. Five minutes ago, on the 5th dimension of history, 1982 had a full spectrum of colors. Then five minutes later on our new timeline, we unleashed the painter gnomes and the canvased it all blue. And from the frame of reference of everyone on the 4th dimension of time, they would only notice their particular *constant* tint of blue. No one would say, “hey, we’re turning blue.” They’d say, “hey, did anyone else notice the world suddenly took on a tint of blue on January 1st, 1980?” Different points on the 5th dimension of time would report different constant tints of blue as of 1980.

Not sure if any of that makes sense to you, but it’s fun to think about anyway.

It’s always curious to see what people’s “default” settings are on the issue. I don’t recall having any. Although upon any consideration, A-theory has never made any more sense to me than fading limbs in polaroids of relatives in the Back to the Future series. We’ve grown up in a scientific age where virtually all appearances have been overturned counter-intuitively to the point we expect it. It’s just a matter of whatever reasoning is presented. I’m honestly surprised anyone embraces a-theory since it only explains immediate appearances.

Ben

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Ben December 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

I might also mention that I’m skeptical that time travel is possible. On b-theory, going back into the past doesn’t actually interfere with your own past. It creates an alternate reality no matter how trivial a change you make. You could stick your little toe in the past for only an instant, and doing that creates an entire universe! That’s practically a second insta-big bang. How much energy would be required to do that? It sounds impossible. Of course, who knows how time works at that level of things. Maybe it is possible for reasons we aren’t even touching on yet in physics. But as is, it seems unlikely.

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Michael February 5, 2010 at 9:51 am

Ben: It seems to me that “tensed facts” are just regular facts even on the A theory of time. Why is it not just a rhetorical twist on regular facts? I don’t understand why a God on A theory would be unable to know tensed facts if he knows any facts at all. It seems the mistaken belief is that only people located in time can know these things, and that’s just an assertion that can’t be defended. It might never make grammatical sense for an a god who is looking at our whole timeline to use tensed grammar, but so what? What does that have to do with knowledge?

I’ve been doing some research and more discussion, and here’s where I am now:
Tenses facts can only be known on an A theory, at least “tense” as it refers to a single-place relationships, like 2 days past rather than two days earlier (which is not “tensed” as it is in two-space relation). Having said this, there is not tense of this kind on B theory, which you seem to agree to as you say that something cannot “be” and not “be” but must simply “be” if it ever “was.” To this, I must say that the A theory is not claiming that any moment in time presently is past, present, and future, but rather “was” past, “is” present, and “will be” in the future. We have to take the verb tense of “to be” very seriously here. So no moment “is” all of these things at once.

Ben: For a moment in the past to simultaneously exist and not exist is a logical impossibility. Maybe we can’t go there practically today, but it is incoherent to say the past no longer exists in an absolute sense. If it ever existed, it still exists. Likewise, if it is going to exist, it already exists. Things can’t exist and not exist.

This I must respectfully disagree with, or at least in part. I do not think that future events can exist now, for they have not yet happened. I can see how one could argue that past events exist presently in an ontological sense, but I don’t think one can do the same for future events, as if that were the case, it would seem that one would have to hold to modal reality as well, that is, that all possible worlds exist, because the future seems to be open, rather than closed, so there are possibly different futures based on what happens between now and then. So you would have to affirm the existence of possible futures as well as the real future. However, I don’t think I am currently a presentist A theorist, but rather an A theorist who supports the Growing Universe Theory (past events are ontologically existent, but not temporally existent). I guess its kind of a middle ground between pure presentism A theory and pure eternalism B Theory.

So where does this leave God? Good question! Answer: I ain’t sure. I guess He could know tensed facts (given A theory), and possibly, since the past events are ontologically real, be “present” in those moments as well. This prevents me from having to affirm an actual infinite to say that He exists in all future moments.

my biggest problem with B theory is eternalism. This would mean that all events exist eternally, and then the universe has existed eternally, which is contrary to the Big Bang, and negates the Cosmological Argument and Argument from Contingency. It also seems to affirm fatalism in that the future already “is” and can’t be changed, eliminating our seeming free will, as we don’t really have a choice in what the future will be.

So I guess let me know what you think of my new stance and whether it seems plausible. I would love some more kind hearted critique.

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Michael February 5, 2010 at 9:52 am

I have a new website now that I plan on posting more of my time searching ideas as I go.

Also, here is the site that helped me abandon presentism.
http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2009/10/theory.html
He explains A theory in pretty good detail, and shows some problems with presentism that seem unanswered, although I believe he is an A theorist as well.

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