This post is the first of two parts, dealing with the metaphysical boundaries of God’s knowledge as compared to man’s. This kind of discussion cannot be limited to merely an analysis of the “cognition” of God, as it were; but also most take a deep look at both tangible and abstract realities of Him. Time and space, for instance.
Man’s existential reality and necessary attributes makes man’s knowledge and attaining of it fundamentally different than that of God’s. Explaining these differences is the point of the proceeding two posts. As usual, my posits will be challenging…that is, they will challenge our assumptions of and make distinctions between theoretical reality (abstract) and the visceral reality (tangible). It is in finding the clear distinction between these two things, and understanding our assumptions and biases and where we almost constantly, instinctively and automatically blur of the lines between the two that we will be able to come to a truer knowledge of God, and how His omnipotence explicitly means that He cannot function like us, or think like us, or exist like us. Once this is done, we can permanently and forever dismantle the false and tyrannical philosophical underpinnings of the neo-Reformed movement and its narcissistic father, the theology of John Calvin.
Of course, I am under no illusions that this will happen anytime particularly soon. To assume so is to be obtuse. But the fact is that someone must start somewhere. We must begin to rethink and reinterpret some of the most basic understandings of our reality if we can ever, ever hope to undo a thousand years of non-Christian (actually…a better description would be non-Jewish) philosophical integration within our understanding of God, ourselves, and the Universe. This of course will take a long, long time…not so much to explain, or even prove (if you’ll excuse the arrogant nature of THAT statement), but I hope that you and I, and those that we acknowledge and respect–our co-rebels of the Faith–can be that someone.
What Does God Really Know? What CAN God Really Know?
Christians I think can agree that it is axiomatic that God is the Creator of everything that is not God. By “create”, I mean–as a resolute and indefatigable freewill-ist—all things in Creation which act according to themselves…all of man and everything ; that is, God is not the decision-maker of man, or the controller of the laws of nature. Instead, He is the Creator of man and the Author of man’s ability to Reason, and is the Creator of the natural world and universe which acts according to the law of itself, which is nature’s ability to be, also Authored by God. God creates things to do this or that, and they do it (e.g. God commanded them how they should build the Tabernacle, and they did it (Exodus). That is, God is not Creation FOR Creation…this would constitute a metaphysical impossibility. God cannot possess a created thing in order to do something He can better do alone; which is everything–by the very definition of “omnipotence”. And since the perfect purpose and objective of God is to exist–to BE Himself–He would not create Creation in order to possess it. Obviously, He can better be Himself by Himself rather than by or through Creation.
So, let’s say that again: Everything that is not God, God created.
I think we should all take a moment to let the profundity of that statement sink in a bit.
Okay. That’s probably good. But…then again, maybe not. For far too many of us do not grasp the gravity of this truth, even though we have been Christians a very long time. The philosophical implications of such a statement do not seem to guide us to the interpretive places that we need to go in order to practice our faith within the bounds of necessary, existential reason. This weakens, if not outright destroys, the Christian’s witness to the secular world, who understand enough what even young children do not deny: that it is wise to accept what our senses tell us; for they are tools we use to apprehend our world).
There is nothing which exists that God did not first make. In one sense He is the first cause. Although, as an aside, I should say that I would dispute that assertion on one level: For I submit that God is the Creator of the ability of nature and man to be their OWN causes; to move according to themselves. God has given them the ability to do what they do according to themselves apart from God. For if you declare that God is the first (literal) cause, then He is akin to the first link in a chain, and it then is upon this link that the direction of the rest of the chain relies (which, incidentally, is a Jonathon Edwards argument for his Calvinism), and I would utterly dispute this, because this is nothing more than determinism, which must ALWAYS be false if we proclaim that God exists. I would defend my idea that God is not in fact the first “cause” by explaining that God needs only to create objects and space, and that once this is done, the ability to exist apart from God, of their own ability, is thus automatically implied. In other words, ability to be and do and act apart from God doesn’t have to be created, per se, but it is implicit when God creates anything NOT Himself. Since God cannot duplicate Himself, anything that exists that is NOT Him, must be able to exist on its own, by definition. The fact that you are not God, for example, is the very proof that God is not in “direct control” of you, but that you must be able to exist on your own, apart from God. And further, if God creates a you that thinks, then thinking, since it is NOT God, must be itself; and thinking that is itself is, by definition, YOU thinking. YOU being conscious. YOU being YOU. Your thoughts must be YOUR thoughts, not God’s thoughts, because the thoughts and the thinking are not God.
At any rate, there is no thing and no law and no ability which He did not first “cause” (sticking with that term for the sake of clarity) and purposefully design to BE what it IS. He has the ability to create by Himself, and out of NOTHING (or, perhaps into nothing), because, by definition, it if is not part of God, it is literally Created from absolutely nothing at all.
This is a profound idea to behold. And difficult to apprehend, because we really have no frame of reference by which to fathom “nothing”. “Nothing” might be the most difficult of ALL concepts to grasp, because, by definition, there is nothing in the universe which we can compare nothing to. Because the Universe, is, of course, a giant collection of somethings. And if we are to speak of what might be outside of the Universe, well…there may be nothing outside the universe, but if we could see it, or imagine it, it would no longer be nothing; it would be something. Even the very idea and concept of nothing is really and technically something.
See…kind of hard to grasp, huh?
Anyway…the truth of God’s creative power is profound to the point of affecting how we understand everything of ourselves; and affecting how we contrast what we are with what God is; which is, logically, cannot be according to the truths and laws of our existence. The fact that He is NOT US on a fundamental, root and basic existential level, is almost as profound a truth as He is the Creator of everything.
As the Creator of everything, and also as One who is everywhere at once–and everywhen at once–God Almighty is the preeminent IS. His name is I AM. There is no before or after with God, no future or past. There is no right or wrong with God (for His morality is merely a function of Himself; whatever He does is GOOD, by virtue of HIM doing it…it is as simple as that; in a sense, God is a-moral), there is no up or down, or left or right, or backward or forward, for He is His own SPACE, with no boundaries, because He is not within anything. His space is Him, with no direction, because He IS (I AM); He moves in Himself, which is to say that He does not move at all in the sense that man moves and exists within a space that is not himself. There is nothing–literally and utterly nothing–that can exist beyond or outside of His omnipotence and omniscience; outside His very being.
For example, I maintain that He cannot know the “future”, because future is purely a theoretical/abstract construct of man needing to move in a space not himself. As such, God cannot know man’s choices until man makes them, because all things happen “now”. And since God is His own space, there is no “movement” to His existence whereby He must thus apply the abstract concept of “time”. Man makes his choices and performs his actions “now”, and “now” is when God knows it. Thus, any declaration of God as to what He “will (future) do”, is merely a nod to His ability to create, not the implication that he needs to control/determine (and thus “know perfectly”) every “future” event leading up to His declared action. In other words, God’s doing is always a function of his omnipotent power, and not the idea that He must somehow control or work within or submit Himself to the existential laws and truths which govern man’s reality. Or, better said, He cannot control our reality to create an event in the “future”, He simply needs to create. To BE omnipotent. To declare something out of nothing. To say that God must control “the future” in order to bring about an act of His limits God to the confines of OUR existence.
This is indicative of a fundamental lack of proper acknowledgment of God’s power. And yet, it forms the basis for many people’s understanding of God; and is the ROOT premise of all determinist theologies, especially Calvinism and neo-Reformism.
Again, at the risk of being repetitive, I maintain that God cannot know the future, because there is no “future” for God to know because there is no circumstance in the “future” that can exist without Him being their already. There can be nothing beyond God, and thus, there can be no future to Him. If there is a “future” (e.g. man’s future “choices” or “actions”) and He creates everything that is not Him, then, by definition, this “future” must have been created and determined by Him.
If the future is not real to us, then it also cannot be real to God. Something is either theoretical or it is physical. If the future is purely theoretical, that is, a product of man’s mind, then the future doesn’t really exist, because man is thinking NOW. And wherever YOU are, THAT is where God is. Wherever Creation is, that is where God is; not behind, nor ahead in “time”, because time is nothing to God. Meaning it is a concept of man’s ability to create abstract cognitive constructs as a means of quantifying attributes of his existence, and as such, it is utterly irrelevant to God; inapplicable by him…unusable. An abstract concept, by definition, is not real…well, it is not real in the visceral sense, purely in the theoretical sense…and God, being God, being all time and in all places can never operate by the un-reality of the non-visceral. He needs NO abstract truths to quantify His existence; to rule and subdue, because HE is God. He is the very apogee of reality. HE is His OWN measure of Himself. He cannot think or act theoretically. Everything God thinks and does is utterly REAL in the visceral, tangible, actual sense. It IS God. All that exists is the following: God, and whatever is NOT God. Theories are a function of man; they are not God. Thus, there is nothing theoretical which can be ascribed to God. And this includes time, which includes the future. So, yes, I submit that God cannot know the future.
In other words, man cannot create a tangible REALITY by the power of his mind, a real place—that is, the “future”—which then God, by his omnipotence, is obligated to know. This is a supreme arrogance of man, actually; man becomes the Creator, and God is thus obligated to man’s creation. Now, He can certainly know of the abstract concept, as a function of man, but He cannot know a real future, or a real past, because, again they are not, in a visceral sense, real. There is no REAL future to know; there is only man’s conceptualization of “time” to know. But this conceptualization is not a tangible reality where God can BE. Man realizes the future when it becomes present, and never before. It is the same for God. It is impossible for a perfect, omnipotent Being to know something that isn’t there. If it doesn’t exist, it is metaphysically redundant that God can know it, having not created it, nor BEING it. So, wherever and whenever the created thing goes, that is where God is, and no further…insofar as Creation is concerned (God of course can be in Himself, where there is NOT Creation, by definition). There is no created thing…no event or circumstance, choice or situation, volition or desire, act or movement that can go before God. As such, God has no future. And as such, WE have no future. We have movement, implicit in our existence in space, and the future is an abstract quantification of this movement. It is not a real place; and thus, God cannot be there to KNOW it.
Nothing is real until it comes to pass; until it is REAL; until it exists in the visceral. No act is an act before the MOVEMENT occurs. And further, to say the “future” is real for God to perfectly know is to say that something that does not exist NOW to man or God, actually exists later. How can this be? It is impossible…an utter contradiction in terms. How can the “later” be real NOW? It is, again, impossible. It is complete nonsense. It is man attempting to create something out of nothing, and then arrogantly demand God acknowledge man’s theoretical, mental construct as an ACTUAL place and thing. Again, impossible.
How can man declare something to exist out of nothing like God does? Does man possess the same creative power as God. No…the fact is that the only thing man can create is movement, and the only thing that nature can do is move. And again, no act is an act before the movement occurs. Movement from one location to another is the function of our existence; past and future is a measurement of motion, nothing more. The “future” can be a prediction of “might”, or “could be”, or even “will be based on what we have observed in the “past”” (a natural law), but that doesn’t make it literally so before it is literally so. An act that comes as a result of a cause is simply the outcome of a movement in the “now”, and the result is in the “now”. Everything in Creation does what it does now. Not then, not later…all reality is the function of now. Existence IS. Again, all time is, is movement.
The object in Creation does not exist through its “own future acts”. That thinking is completely antithetical to the idea of any freewill or real choice…meaning, to believe this way is to be a determinist, whether you think you are or not. Think of it this way: If the future is acts of objects which are real before they exist, then the object merely moves through time, moving through it like cars on a roller coaster, having NO say in how or what they do in any sense, doing what it MUST have been determined by God to do. There is no other way to explain it. To concede a real, non-abstract, non-theoretical future, you concede determinism, which means you are not you, but merely an extension of God.
And what is an extension of God?
An extension of God is God. And what we say when we declare that God knows the future is that WE are God.
Is this really what we would consider “sound doctrine”? Is this anywhere hinted at in our faith? In our scriptures?
I doubt it.
End part I
2 thoughts on “What Does God Really Know? What CAN God Really Know?”
Right on. I would modify some of this logic a bit because I believe that God created us with the ability to create. I can paint a painting or mold clay in my own self-willed way so…I would say that everything that is not God originated from God but everything that is not God was either created by God or created by those whom he gave the ability to create. If the future exists (which I agree it does not) then it would either have to have been created/determined by God or created by us. Since we are not time travelers and are not able to travel into the future to create it then to believe the future exists is to believe that it was determined by God. This is why Calvinists come to there conclusions because they start from a false presupposition that God knows the future. People who believe that God is outside of time and is somehow interacting with our future self and that is how He knows the future, not because He determined it, have to believe that we as humans are also outside of time in order to be interacting with God in the future. Sillyness. The hard part is that not everybody you talk to cares about logic. I run into Christians who when presented with logic, respond with, “Well, I don’t care, that’s just what I believe.” Love reading your blog. I have some different strings of logic that lead me to similar conclusions so it is fun.
Welcome! Thanks so much for reading.
You and I may differ slightly in how we would define man’s own creative process, but I will say that I do agree with you that man does, in fact, create. I submit he creates his own reality via the very tools he uses to organize it: his ability to devise conceptual abstractions for what he observes and then define his environment accordingly. This sets in motion the very meaning of ALL man and his environment is and does. Thus, action is driven by belief; indeed, man’s volition is always the catalyst for action, to the point where it is impossible to separate man’s actions from man’s assumptions (conceptual meanings) which drive those actions. Thus, it is impossible to say that man does not create…he creates all the time! But I don’t mean simply in how he may structure a form of something into something else (like, take a bunch of trees and make it a house). It is more than that. How man defines his very reality is a direct function of the concepts he CREATES in order to exist. Thus, you WILL organize your environment and your subsequent interaction with that environment by what you believe. My friend John Immel has a great saying: If you see a group of people taking the same destructive action, find the assumptions and you will find the cause. In other words, people will define their world according to their conceptual beliefs and act accordingly, even if those actions are not in service to a rational standard (like, human LIFE). Why, because man creates his own reality by his own assumptions. That is why it is so important to get the standard of TRUTH right. The standard of TRUTH his how you are going to be able to properly identify the moral and value implications of your actions. If you standard is life, you will create a reality according to that standard and pursue it. If death, then the opposite. There is no belief, idea, or assumption which can exist in a vacuum of TRUTH. It all must be judged according to a standard so that its efficacy can be verified. To me, the only rational standard one can argue is human LIFE, because ALL we think, know, do, or believe is a direct function of LIFE. YOU must exist FIRST, before YOU can know or do anything. This makes YOU the end of all you are and know. Thus, YOU (and humanity in general) are the only legitimate standard of TRUTH. In other words, if you define reality around the standard of: my existence is its own end, and my job is to exist…to pursue my own LIFE. And who better to understand what that looks like than YOU. Obviously, this TRUTH would apply to all human beings as well…all of us, and God, have an inherent right to life and liberty; the only moral imperative then is to NEVER violate another human being, for in doing so, you violate yourSELF.
Okay…I’ve said a lot. When I get going it’s hard to for me to stop. LOL
I’ll let you digest that a bit. 🙂
” People who believe that God is outside of time and is somehow interacting with our future self and that is how He knows the future, not because He determined it, have to believe that we as humans are also outside of time in order to be interacting with God in the future. Sillyness.”
Now you’re talking! Exactly. The very notion is absurd…and yet, people concede the actuality of “time” and “determinism” constantly. It is frustrating to debate. I am glad you get it! That makes you a rare one indeed!