Saturday, November 27, 2010

Theistic Presentism

This is the seventh of 17 posts, which are collectively Eternity, etc.
......The concept of time arises as we relate to the regular changes of such continuants as the earth, or a clock. A continuant is anything that is wholly present when it exists—e.g. you may lift up the whole clock—and which continues to be the same thing as its attributes change—you can put the same clock down later. Many of our quotidian beliefs concern such continuants as the ordinary objects around us. So our quotidian beliefs presuppose (and hence imply) something like Presentism [i]. And if you think about it, you can be justifiably certain that you are a continuant. And Presentist Theists take God to be the original continuant. So whether the Presentist Open God changes or not, He is bound to remain the same person, with the same essential attributes. He is not changeable, like a pagan god, but perfectly constant in His absolute power, and boundless love.
......Consequently He might know infallibly that He will—if He has decided that He will—sustain the earth, at least until tomorrow. It is His choice—He has the power not to—but if God determines to stay on some freely chosen course, then there being no real chance of Him deviating from it would surely confirm, rather than compromise, His perfect freedom, His omnipotence. (Cf. the classical distinction between absolute and ordained power.) Surely having the power to do X might cohere with there being no chance of X actually happening. We are, after all, regarding libertarian atemporalism as a prima facie logical possibility. So in short, it may well be false that, under Open Theism, and “given that the world’s having a future at all is dependent on God’s freely choosing to sustain it from moment to moment […] He does not have infallible knowledge of the future of the world in any respect at all[ii].
......The underlying problem appears to be how easily Presentism is misunderstood. As we try to understand time—to see more clearly what it is like—we very naturally focus upon its quasi-spatial representation, the temporal dimension. Consequently some philosophers think that Presentism faces the dilemma—the first of our three reasons—that the present is either temporally extended, as though earlier and later could possibly be simultaneous, or else it is only an instant, at which no one could be having such sensations as we clearly are having [iii]. In fact, the Presentist present is not extended (except spatially), but enduring. Nor is it thin—as though the future rained down upon the surface of the past but only that surface was real—because it includes the whole world (as a collective continuant) and, for Presentist Theists, the whole being of God.
......[i] Cf. Mawson, “Divine eternity,” p. 41 n. 4.
......[ii] Ibid, p. 38. Here “world” means the whole of creation; Mawson, Belief in God, p. 10.
......[iii] For more details, see H. Scott Hestevold, “Presentism: Through Thick and Thin,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2008): 325–47.

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