Category Archives: Jack Cottrell

God and Time

I ran across an interesting article by theologian Jack Cottrell: Understanding God: God and Time

The article speculates about God’s relation to time, and the nature and extent of his foreknowledge.  Is God timeless (outside of time)?  Or does God experience time in some sense (everlasting)?  Cottrell argues that God does experience time, but that he is metatemporal – God experiences his own time, and also created our time.

Relating to God’s foreknowledge of our universe, Cottrell argues for something that he calls the noetic “big bang”.  God foreknew what would happen in our universe when he decided to created it, but not before.

Just as the universe (supposedly) began at a single point of space and almost instantaneously exploded to form the massive universe we now observe, so did God’s foreknowledge of the entire history of the universe begin at a single point of time and then expand in a kind of noetic “big bang.” This noetic “big bang” or explosion of foreknowledge was an event in the life of God, an event that occupied “X” amount of time.   Before this event, God had no knowledge of this actual world; after this event he knows its entire history. Since the knowledge occurs prior to the actual creation of the world, it is true foreknowledge.

We should stress that what God foreknows is not the unfolding history of a self-contained universe, with God himself being just an observer of what created causal forces (e.g., free will) will bring about. Rather, this is the time when God makes his decisions and plans regarding his own intervention into the unfolding historical process, or else regarding his deliberate permission to allow the created causal forces to proceed unhindered. The history that unfolds in God’s mind is not just the world’s history; it is his own history too.

In this event of the noetic “big bang,” as God is determining when and how he will intervene in our history, in a sense he is thinking more new thoughts, i.e., making new decisions concerning his own actions. In another sense they are not really new, since from all eternity he has had a complete knowledge of all possible worlds and all possible contingencies, and has eternally known his own potential responses to whatever contingencies will ever arise. So during the “big bang” process God does not have to ponder or weigh possible.

So Cottrell largely agrees with the Open Theist – that God exists in time, but also with the Classical Theist – that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the world he created.

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