Recently, I had a public debate with a good friend of mine on "Does God know future-free will decisions with certainty." I think he must, and my friend (and awesome Missionary) think that God just knows the future as possibilities and not certainty's. After the debate we answered questions on livestream and in person. We missed one question which was directed toward me and below is my reply.
The link to the debate is here Debate: DOES GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE INCLUDE FUTURE FREE WILL DECISIONS WITH CERTAINTY? - YouTube
Here is the question asked and my reply.
Can the pastor please explain why it is logically NECESSARY for God to be changeless? Is it not conceivable that God is infinite in an attribute (i.e. knowledge), but then still grow in that area?
Hello Chris the Missionary,
Thanks for your question. I did not claim that it is strictly logically necessary for just any God to be changeless, I claim here that it is logically necessary for a self-existing God to be changeless. Thus, logical necessity only entails once we have certain reality to work with. For instance, it is logically impossible for there to be a married bachelor. Why? Because once we know what those terms mean, then they cannot co-exist at the same time in the same sense. They are contradictory. The same is true for a self-existing being. Self-existence implies existence that non-reliant (upon anything). To say that a self-existent being can change is a contradiction, because it would no longer be self-existence. It would be contingent existence. It would receive something to its existence that was not their before and that would defy self-existence. This is where Tim’s position itself is contradictory. He has a married bachelor. If Tim wants a non-contradictory way of holding to God being able to grow, he will have to give up self-existence.
Ontological Necessity – My position is also arguing for ontological necessity. Once we have the nature of being of the universe, then we can illicit certain characteristics of the being that created universe. The nature of the universe is contingent. Literally, it is reliant upon other things for its existence. Sometimes we can say this in a simpler manner. Children are contingent upon their parents, and their parents are contingent upon their parents. We could go back to the earliest cells for this, but they too would be contingent. We could go back to the oceans and the rocks, but they too are contingent. We could go to the planet itself, but that too is contingent. We could go to the earlier universe, but that too relies on something else for its existence. We could go to the Big Bang, but that too relies on something else for its existence. The entirety of universe it contingent. But, that implies that there has to be more reality than just the universe. Why? Because to say, “All reality is contingent reality” is literally a contradiction. Even Atheist Philosophers like J.L. Mackie (and others) agree with this. There has to be something that is necessary…which is another way of saying “There has to be something that is non-contingent reality. Namely, something that self-exists, and cannot be acted upon by outside forces to bring about change in it. It is the thing that can cause change, but it is not something that can be changed. If we find that there are more universe that birthed our own, we will still need to have something that is necessary. We need self-existent (non-contingent reality).
Thus, the Contingency Argument for God’s existence proves that whatever brought “contingent being” into existence, is non-contingent being. That being must be changeless, because it is necessary, and a necessary being self-exists, and as self-existence being does not change.
In the debate I went into further detail on this in reference to potentiality and actuality. A self-existent being is fully actually…always. A potential being can be acted upon from the outside in order to fulfill more of itself of develop itself. God is not a potential being. Therefore, God cannot change. In the Debate, Tim never offered an argument either the implications of the arguments for God’s existence, or everything about potential. I am hoping he is reading this and see the difficulty of his view clearly (and thus I am probably writing longer to you knowing that I am sending this through Tim’s hands 😊 )
Moreover, I pointed out how the God of Scripture (in more final statements of his being) is the self-existing God. Once we understand self-existence then we will see how this is so.
I claimed that it was necessary for the God that does exist to be necessarily changeless, based on the reality of the world/universe that we live in. For instance, it is logically possible that there are unicorns. But, in reality there are none. It is logically possible that leprechauns are really ruling the world or the illuminati. But, both of those are non-real things. The universe is real however, and God is real. Both of those realities are how I grounded my argument that God is changeless. This was based both on the contingency of the universe as the beginning of the universe/time. I will get to that in a bit, but first a bit more on this first part of your question.
There is a difference between logical necessity and ontological necessity. For instance, we is logically impossible for there to be a married bachelor (once you understand what those terms mean). in the sense that a concept must be, and necessity in general, in the sense that the real world must be. It is always logically possible for there to be something other than what is, namely a God who is always changing or growing. Again, that is strictly speaking logically possible. However, it is not possible that the God who exists, namely the real, (not just some concept of a God) to be necessarily changeless. This is ontological necessity, and not strictly logical necessity. Ontology is in reference to being, the kind of being that could create the stuff of this world. Once we combine the concepts of ontology with logic, then we find a God who is changeless. Without ontology, one could imagine a billion different possibilities of what God could be like that seemingly offer no contradictions. Who could systematically torturing billions of universes as we speak (it is logically possible). But once we know something of his beneficence, then it is ruled out that he could in fact be doing that.
Let me explain why reality dictates this to us. I will go into a bit more detail about the arguments I shared in brief during the debate.
Although since I am going through tim with this email, he is welcome to respond to both of us.
The contingency argument is basically drawn from the fact of the reality of the universe before us. All that the universe contains is contingent. That means it is reliant in some sense. Namely, that it did not and does not self-exist. Even atheists agree with this principle, that the universe does not self-exist. Which means, there are has to be something else, outside of contingent reality, that has caused or is causing the universe to exist. Let’s get a little deeper into the fact of contingency. If I say, “that rock over there will fall, IF the wind blows.” I am saying that the rocks falling is contingent on wind blowing. Contingency, presupposes change or changes. Wind blowing is a change, and the rock falling is a change. We could add the rock getting crushed or slowly dissolving as well. The point is that the universe we live in is the realm of contingency, which also means it is the realm of change. Contingent things are not self-existing things, and when acted upon they can change.
To place God in the realm of change, makes his being subject to the things that act upon him. It confuses a potential with an actual. God is actually totally himself all of the time. To say that there are portions or parts of God that can grow or develop is to basically make God non-God, and subject to the created order around us. I mentioned this in the debate at least twice and Tim did not address either the arguments for God’s existence that imply certain attributes of God or the arguments about potentiality and actuality. I am hoping this makes some good sense to you though. God is a self-existing being. That means he is totally himself all of the time. To say he is not is to portion God out or make him have parts. That too is a large mistake, considering God has no parts, and his considered divinely simple (divine simplicity). Therefore, when say that God’s knowledge is something that can be acted upon by contingent things, we are saying that there is a portion/part of God (namely his knowledge) that relies upon something else for its fullness. Saying that God can be acted upon, is saying that there are portions of himself that are in the realm of potential, and hence are not existing as fully God all of the time. We are in the realm of contingency and potentiality, but God is not. As a necessary being, everything else relies on him for their existence, and not the other way around.
God however is not contingent. He relies on nothing for his existence. That means (in reality), God is necessary. He is necessary in at least two sense. He is necessary in the sense that he self-exists and holds the entirety of his being all of the time (which also means he does not change), and it also means he is necessary for contingent reality to exist.
Moreover, if say that God is in the realm of contingent things, or is somehow contingent himself, we run into an impossibility, (unless we want to posit a greater God, greater than Yahweh). To saying, “all of reality is contingent” is a contradiction. It is impossible to have all of reality contingent upon something else. Instead, we need to say that there is something necessary. Again, Atheists agree with this, and try to posit things that could in theory be non-contingent, but they have not been getting much ground, because the things they posit are also contingent.
Can the pastor please explain why it is logically NECESSARY for God to be changeless? Is it no conceivable that God is infinite in an attribute (i.e. knowledge), but then still grow in that area?
Moreover, the you asked the question, also implies a contradiction, or at least a confusion. To say that God is “infinite in an attribute” is to say there is no room for growth. Let’s think about this with numbers for a second (even though I am skeptical of their being an actual infinite in numbers). If we actually have an infinite, it is implying that we have reached the peak or totality of something that can be counted. Which would mean that “1 more” cannot be added to it, because that would imply that it was not actually infinite. If we ask, “Can you add 1 more to your infinite count?” We are stuck. If we say “no” we cannot add 1 more, then we are in agreement that we have reached an infinite and that settles it. But, if we say that “yes we can add one more” we are then saying that we never had infinity in the first place. Therefore, your question confuses what an infinite is. To say the infinite God can be growing in an attribute implies
1. That he never was infinite in that attribute in the first place.
2. That some parts/portion of God is to be portioned out from the rest of his being, which again will lead us into God having parts, which again messes up divine simplicity.
Infinity of being is something different though than an infinity of numbers. Thus, in reference to being, we would run into the same problem. To add “being” to an infinite being, implies that he was not infinite. So, the answer to your question is actually no. God cannot be infinite and add to himself.