If God is in time, how can he know the future?

I received a question asking if divine temporality leads to open theism. Divine temporality is the view that God is not outside of time (in opposition to Divine Timelessness). The questioner said that it seems that if God exists in the timeline and there is a before and after for him, then the future is in some sense “open”. This seems to mean that, in principle, God might change his mind.

My response is below:

Great question!  What I think may not be in view is that all future events entail future tense propositional truths that have their truth-values in the present.  So, for example, there is some truth-value to the statement, “George will go to the mall on May 31st, 2022.”  That statement doesn’t become true when you do or don’t go to the mall on the 31st, it is either true or false now.  You and I must observe what choice you make in 2022, but God knows all propositional truths and thus knows the truth value of the statement above.  In the same way God knows the truth of all future tensed propositional truths, and thus knows the truth about all future facts.

When you and I change our minds it is because we encounter new information.  Since God knows everything, he will never encounter new information.  As such, he will never be compelled to change his mind.

The sense in which the future is open for God is that the future does not yet exist.  As such God doesn’t “see” the future because there is nothing there to see.  He knows the future by virtue of his knowledge of future tense propositional truths.  That’s quite a mouthful, however, and so conventionally it is easier to talk about God’s knowledge of the future as his “seeing” the future even though this is not literally true.

Does that help?

Sincerely,

Matt Bilyeu


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