The Divine Exception, Revisited

It occurs to me that we’ll need to take a short detour at this point.  We’ve been discussing the issues involved in freely made but irrevocable choices made by immortal beings.  We’ve already seen some philosophical issues.  On the one hand, it seems as if any such irrevocable choice would eventually have to be revoked.  On the other, if such a being were successful in carrying out such a choice, it seems as if this would indicate that it lacked free will in the first place.  Before we move on to examine these problems more, I think we need to revisit a previous post and consider how all this applies to God.

My argument there was that these issues do not apply to God, since He is eternal, properly so-called.  That is, He is outside of time altogether.  I’m essentially repeating that argument here, with slightly different nuance.  The last time I was making the argument in terms of probabilities.  The last two posts have been subtly different in their analysis, and I want to address that here.

First I contended that since according to the plenitude principle everything that can happen will happen, an immortal being (Connor MacLeod in our hypothetical) that had vowed never to do something (in this case, to eat a broccoli fudge sundae) would nevertheless do so eventually.  This is because the vow is an ongoing free choice; and to say that Connor freely chooses to forgo broccoli fudge sundaes implies that he could, in theory, change his mind and have one after all.  Since everything that can happen will happen, it seems to follow logically that Connor will someday, perhaps after an evening with way too much Scotch, cave in.

This cannot apply to God, though.  As I’ve discussed in the past, God is pure actuality.  That is, God manifests all possibilities, with no possibility or contingency.  Though he’s immortal, Connor MacLeod is otherwise limited; thus, no matter how long he lives, he always contains possibility or potentiality.  Connor could do this, or would do that if he felt like it, or should go there, or might feel a certain way.  For God, there is no “coulda, woulda, shoulda”.  He is what He is–which is in fact what His name means.  Thus, one can never say of God that He “could” be other than what He is, or do other than what He does.  With Him, everything that can happen is already happening.  Therefore, the plenitude principle is a manifestation of God, rather than a constraint on Him.

The second problem we looked at was future contingency.  If we say that a future event can be known to be true or false in advance, this seems to be equivalent to saying that it is pre-ordained.  After all, if it’s true that I will go to the movies tomorrow, then I cannot choose to do otherwise, since if that were so, our original premise–that it is true that I will go to a movie tomorrow.  In such a case, free will is impossible.

As I’ve discussed in the predecessor to this post, and elsewhere, as well, God exists outside time.  Time, in fact, is His creation.  Thus, past, present, and future are all “simultaneous” to God.  Future contingencies can have no present effect on God’s actions, since there is no “future” or “present” for Him.  Thus, in all situations God’s perfect freedom of will and action are preserved, with no contradictions or constraints.

Before moving back to Connor and his sundae, though, there is one more aspect of the issue of human free will in relation to the Divine.  That’s in the next post.

Part of the series “You Pays Your Money and Takes Your Chances: Free Will

Posted on 17/01/2014, in Christianity, metaphysics, music, philosophy, pop, religion, rock, theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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