If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Josh:

It says in the Bible that God knows our every word before it even leaves our tongue. If God already knows what we’re going to do, then how could we have free will?

Thanks for the great—and classic—question, Josh. I’ll get right to the point, and then we’ll explore the question in a little more depth.

The most basic answer to this question is that knowing something is not the same as causing something.

If I hold a book up in the air and let go of it, I know that it will fall to the floor. But I do not cause it to fall to the floor. Gravity does that.

In the very same way, God knowing what we will do does not mean God causes us to do it.

Further, the very idea that God “already” knows what we “will” do in the future is human, time-bound thinking, and a misunderstanding of how God knows everything. God does not look into the future and see what’s going to happen. Rather, God sees everything from an eternal state of being outside of time and space. God simply sees and therefore knows everything that to us is past, present, and future.

In other words, just as you and I can survey an entire scene from the top of a hill or mountain, and see everything in it in one view, so God can survey the entirety of creation, not only taking in everything that exists everywhere in all of space all at once, but also taking in everything that exists in all of time all at once.

But just as our seeing a vast panorama from a mountaintop doesn’t cause that scene to be the way it is, so God’s seeing everything that exists in all of time and space does not cause all of those things to be the way they are.

View from a mountainWe’ll look at these things more closely in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the Bible passage Josh is referring to.

The Bible on God’s foreknowledge

Here is the relevant Bible verse, in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):

Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely. (Psalm 139:4)

However, this and similar translations are probably reading a little too much into it. In the original Hebrew, there is no “before.” Here it is in Young’s Literal Translation:

For there is not a word in my tongue,
Lo, O Jehovah, Thou hast known it all!

And in the traditional King James Version:

For there is not a word in my tongue,
but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether

In other words, the Hebrew is talking about God knowing everything about what we are saying, rather than God knowing ahead of time what we are going to say.

Yet a passage later on in the same Psalm suggests that God does know everything about us before it even happens:

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed. (Psalm 139:16, NRSV)

Though we could quibble about this translation as well, the general message is clear enough: God knows what we will be not only as we are forming, but before we have been formed.

And this is supported by a whole series of passages that speak of God knowing and declaring what will happen in the future. Here are three of them from the book of Isaiah:

See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9)

Remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My purpose shall stand,
and I will fulfill my intention.” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
let them declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be. (Isaiah 44:7)

Further, the first epistle of John in the New Testament states flatly:

God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20)

Everything includes . . . everything. If there were some future thing God didn’t know, then God would not know everything.

In short, though God’s foreknowledge is not a major theme in the Bible, the Bible does make it clear that God is omniscient, and that God’s omniscience includes knowing the future. Which brings us right back to Josh’s question: If God knows the future, how can we have free will?

Knowing is not the same as causing

Once again, knowing something is not the same as causing something. If I drop something, I know it’s going to fall, but it’s gravity, not my knowledge about gravity, that causes it to fall. My knowing how things work doesn’t cause them to work that way.

“Yes,” you say, “But you didn’t create gravity. God did!”

Good point. God did create the universe, and everything in it. So for God, unlike for us, isn’t knowing things the same as causing them? After all, it was God who made everything to exist the way it does, and caused everything to happen the way it happens!

Whoa there!

That’s really a whole different issue, and a whole different question. Let’s not get the two confused.

Is God’s knowledge the same as causation?

The question Josh asked is, basically, whether God’s knowledge of things that we think of as the future (more on that later) means that God, not us, causes them to happen, so that we don’t actually have free will.

And the simple answer to that question, once again, is: No. The fact that God knows things doesn’t necessarily mean God causes those things. Knowledge and causation are simply not the same thing. Just because God knows our future actions, that doesn’t mean God causes us to do those things. Only that God knows that’s the action we will take. (But once again, for God it is not in the future. We’ll get to that soon!)

The question this often gets all tangled up with in people’s minds is whether God determines everything, or whether God has created at least some of the universe—we humans—with the ability to decide and determine things for ourselves.

In other words, did God give us free will? And what about the rest of the created universe? Did God give some sort of free will to everything God created?

God created the universe with free will

On these questions, my belief is that everything God created has a certain level of free will, and that humans have the greatest level of free will. For an extended discussion and explanation of this, please see:

God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

Short version: God creates the universe in such a way that even though all of its power to exist and to act comes from God every moment, still created things act on their own initiative, with a certain level of randomness or free will, in doing the things they do.

This is especially true of human beings. We act by our own choice from the abilities and power that God gives us.

Specifically, God gave us the ability to make choices, otherwise known as free will. But we, not God, are the ones who actually make those choices.

For example: a car

Consider, for example, an automobile manufacturer and the cars it manufactures.

The auto manufacturer creates a car with an engine, a drive train, wheels, a body, and various controls.

But once the car rolls off the assembly line, does the auto manufacturer make it go?

No. The car itself does that, as controlled by its driver. The manufacturer doesn’t push the car along the road. Nor does the manufacturer inject the fuel and air mixture into the cylinders and send pulses of electricity from the battery to the spark plug to ignite it. The car does all of this on its own, based on its design by the manufacturer, and at the will of its human driver.

In short, once the car is made, it, not the manufacturer, causes itself to drive down the road when the driver turns the key, puts it in gear, and steps on the gas pedal.

Do the manufacturers know that the car will do this?

Yes.

Do the manufacturers cause the car to do this?

No. The car itself does it, based on the abilities the manufacturer gave it.

Our free will is real, and it is what makes us human

­We humans are, of course, far more complex than cars. But the principle is the same. God gives us certain equipment and capabilities. But we, not God, are the ones who actually do things with that equipment and those capabilities.

In other words, God doesn’t cause everything we do. Rather, God gives us the ability to do what we do. We act on our own initiative, using the abilities that God gives us, to do what we want to do.

That is why we have not only a sense of having free will, but we actually do have free will.

Sure, we’re not radically free. There are many things we wish we could do that we can’t do. And there are many things we do because it was drilled into us by our parents or teachers. But each of us does have the ability to make decisions about what we will and won’t do. And that includes deciding that even though Mom and Dad ingrained this habit into us, we’re going to break the habit and do that instead.

Our ability to make these decisions about our own life, our own actions, and our own character is what makes us human. And that’s especially true when we make ourselves work hard to change who we are and what direction we’re going. We are at our most human when we are doing the hard work to change our character and our life based on a decision we’ve made about who and what we want to be.

God does not “see the future”

Now let’s get back to the question Josh actually asked, and look at the second point I made at the beginning in response to it.

We humans live embedded in time and space. We are here and not there. We are in the present moment. The past has already happened. The future hasn’t happened yet. It is very difficult for us to think about anything without thinking in terms of space and time.

However, God exists outside of space and time.

Space and time, we now know, are properties of the physical universe. Modern physics tells us that space and time are not some external gridwork in which the universe exists and moves. Rather, space and time are simply two different attributes of the physical cosmos. Without the existence of the material universe and the physical entities that compose it, there would be no space and time.

This means that there is no such thing as “before the universe was created.” Before the universe was created, there was no before and after. Time simply didn’t exist. From a theological perspective, time came into existence with the creation of the physical universe. All of those questions about what God did before God created the universe have no meaning.

Instead, God exists in a state of being that is beyond and outside of space and time. In the being and consciousness of God, there is no time and space.

God does not have the limitations that we do of being in this space and at this time, and not in all of the other spaces and times. For God, all of space and time are a present reality in an eternal now. In other words, God sees everything everywhere, and all things in all time—what to us is past, present, and future—all at once.

From God’s perspective, there is no such thing as God “knowing the future.” For God, there is no future, and no past. It is all in the present to God. God simply sees everything, everywhere, in every time, just as we stand on a mountaintop and see the whole vista spread out before our eyes at once.

God does not know “what we’re going to do”

For us, living within the arrow of time, the future is still unknown and largely undetermined. We can have some ideas about what will happen, but we don’t know for sure what will happen.

A lot of what will happen to us depends upon the choices we make. If we decide to get drunk instead of going to work, we’re going to lose our job, and our life is going to fall apart. But if we then decide to get sober, we can rebuild a good life for ourselves. Sure, it will be hard work. But that is something we can decide to do, and thereby change the course of our life. And once again, the very decision to change our life, and the hard work we do to carry out that decision, is what makes us human.

God doesn’t “know what we’re going to do” in the usual sense. God isn’t looking into our future from the present and saying, “Josh is going to buy a new car.” Once again, God is not embedded in time the way we are. God looks at everything from outside of time.

In other words, for God, Josh is buying that new car, and Josh is being born, and Josh is dying and going to heaven. God sees the whole sweep of our life from the eternal present in which God lives. For God it’s not something that is going to happen. It’s something that is happening.

Who decides what we’re going to do?

Does this mean that God causes us to be born, or to buy a car, or to die, or to go to heaven?

No.

  • Our parents are the ones who caused us to be born.
  • We’re the ones who decide it’s time for a new car.
  • All sorts of factors go into determining the time of our death. Doing stupid things in a car could have something to do with it!
  • And we are the ones who decide whether we’d prefer to spend eternity in heaven or in hell.

In other words, even though God sees, from the timeless state in which God exists, everything we choose and everything we do throughout our entire lifetime, we are still the ones making those choices, and we are the ones actually doing the things we do.

That’s because God has created us with the crucial, human capability of free will, especially in the moral and spiritual course we will take. That free will is God’s most precious gift to us after God’s love and our life itself. And our free will is a gift that God will never violate or take away from us.

In short, we make the choices. God simply sees our choices.

God sees everything, and therefore knows everything. But God has created a universe, and us in it, so that we can decide for ourselves what we will do, and who we will be.

This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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24 comments on “If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?
  1. larryzb says:

    We also took up this issue some time back. God stands outside of time, thus He see what our future choices will be. It is such a stumbling block for so many, but His “foreknowledge” does not condition our free choices.

    • Lee says:

      Hi larryzb,

      Right. The main stumbling block is that it’s hard for us living here in the material world to think outside of space and time. God’s “knowing the future” strikes time-bound thinking as meaning that the future is already determined.

  2. Dave says:

    Excellent. Thank you.

  3. Jacob says:

    Hi,

    I just wanted to let you know that I think your writing style is fantastic. It’s clear, concise, and it’s explained a topic that I’ve had a hard time reconciling for a long time. Thank you for this site!

    Jacob

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words, which I appreciate very much. I’m glad this article was helpful to you.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  4. Griffin Bonnin Jones says:

    This article was a great deal of help, so thank you for writing it. But I was wondering, if God sees everything in all of time and space, then from his perspective, are events in his “life” (creating the universe, becoming Jesus, etc.) in the past, or is he always experiencing them?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Griffin,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. As mentioned in the article, it is hard for us earth-bound humans to think outside of time and space. But for God, who is outside of time and space, “past” and “future” have no meaning, because they are not how God experiences things. Rather, God experiences everything that to us is past, present, and future in an eternal present.

      So in a sense, yes, God is “always experiencing” everything. But that “always” is not something that progresses in time, as if God experiences everything in one moment, and then in the next moment, and then in the next moment as we humans would. Rather, it is a timeless “always” that is an eternal, unchanging state, above and beyond time. This is not something we can fully grasp because it simply isn’t part of our experience, which inevitably involves change taking place from one moment to the next.

  5. Seeking to understand says:

    Hi Lee,

    This post is of great interest to me… But I’m still confused about this subject…

    You said God’s foreknowledge doesn’t mean the future is already determined, but… if it’s not already determined, how can anything from the future exist for God to know?

    In the past I did some reading/studying on Open Theism, which holds that God’s omniscience means He knows everything there is to know, but that the future is not “settled” yet, so God knows it as a huge set of open possibilities, and since He knows what His own plans are, plus everything about the past and present including everyone’s character, thus He is able to declare the end from the beginning with great accuracy, even though the future is not settled yet.

    That made a lot of sense to me, and at the time felt like such an epiphany that it added layers of color to my understanding of God, but now I’m wondering if I need to back-track from that belief a bit, and if so, how far.

    I do understand and agree that God is outside of “time and space” as we understand it, with its measurements and limitations and so forth, but is God also beyond experiencing events in a sequence? Beyond cause and effect? If so, how can He have a true relationship with humans? Doesn’t relationship necessarily involve responding to each other in a back-and-forth manner?

    Back when I believed in the idea that God has exhaustive knowledge of every detail of the future the same way He does of the past, I still believed in free will, so I had figured that God had sort of “imagined out” all the possibilities and versions of how the history of the world could play out, depending on how He chose to respond to each human decision, and then instantiated the best version by acting on those pre-planned decisions. Thus it seemed like He had already done all of His responding to us, and sort of gotten it out of the way before He created us, haha…which seems silly looking back on it, and is the “black-and-white” version of the picture of color I alluded to earlier.

    It also made sense to me when the proponents of Open Theism said things like, if you’re holding an important letter in your hands and pray for it to be good news before you open it, isn’t it kind of too late for God to change it at that point? (Not to get off on a tangent about how inappropriate it might be to ask for something like that to begin with and expect God to be willing to change it…it’s just a simple illustration for the idea in question…which is whether God could, if He wanted to, go “back” in time, as seen from our perspective, and change His chosen action in response to something we just did.)

    So that’s the background I’m coming from as I try to understand your statement that God sees the whole human timeline as a panorama and that everything is “now” for Him… I’m trying to figure out how the whole panorama could *exist* for Him to see, if the future isn’t settled or determined…? Could one imagine part of the terrain in the analogy as being a bit blurry (the part that depends on what choices we humans are going to make but haven’t made yet)?

    At one point you said “All of those questions about what God did before God created the universe have no meaning.” This doesn’t ring true for me – those questions feel very meaningful. Extending the claim that God does not change to cover even His knowledge (as opposed to His character, which of course I agree does not change), would seem to imply that humankind has eternally existed for God to know about, just as God has eternally existed (if God’s knowledge of the whole history of the universe is as unchanging as you say). This just doesn’t make sense to me. Can you help clarify if I’ve misunderstood something you stated or if I’m just missing some important piece of the puzzle? Thanks!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Seeking to understand,

      As I said in the article, it is very difficult for us human beings to think outside of time and space. We are embedded in time and space from birth. Everything we experience in this material world takes place in time and space.

      For God, that simply isn’t the case. God is not a material being. God did not “grow up” in the physical universe. God exists above and beyond the entire physical universe. Yes, God does enter into the physical universe, especially as Jesus Christ. But that still doesn’t place any limitations on God’s knowledge or power. (For some further thoughts on this, see “If Jesus was God, How was God Still in Heaven?”)

      The reason questions about what God did before the universe was created have no meaning is that there is no such thing as “before the universe was created.” Before the universe was created, there was no time for there to be a “before” in. Time and space were created along with the material universe. They are properties of the material universe, and have no meaning outside of it.

      Consider how we perceive and measure time, and what time is.

      Time is a measure of the regular, cyclical passage of objects through space. The oldest and most basic units of time for us human beings here on earth are years, which are based on the earth’s regular orbit around the sun, and days, which are based on the earth’s rotation on its own axis. We have divided these basic units of time into seasons, hours, minutes, and seconds so that we can measure smaller units of time. And now we measure very tiny units of time with atomic clocks based on the motion of electrons around atomic nuclei.

      In every case, the principle is the same: time is measured by material objects moving through space. Where there are no material objects moving through space, there is no time. How can there be time “before the universe was created” when no objects existed that could move, there was no change, and there were no events whatsoever?

      Psychologically, we humans measure time by the changes we go through from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age. And on smaller psychological timescales, we measure it by the changes we go and the different things we do throughout the day. Psychological time involves changes in our life and character. But if God’s character does not change, how could time apply to God? God, the Bible tells us, is unchanging. This means that time simply doesn’t apply to God. Where there is no change, there is no time.

      I’m aware of Open Theism’s view of God knowing all of the possibilities for the future. But that still assumes that God is embedded in time, and experiences things as they unfold in time just as human beings do. The reality is that God sees time and space from outside of time and space. So just as we can see an entire scene from a mountaintop, while a person within that scene sees only a few trees and houses in the immediate surroundings, God sees the entire “scene” of time and space even while we humans see only the short span of the time and space in which we are living.

      However, as the article says, just as our seeing an entire scene laid out in front of us doesn’t cause the scene to be the way it is, so God’s seeing the entire scene of time and space laid out before God doesn’t cause things to unfold as they do. We, who are embedded in time, still make choices, and those choices affect the future and change it. God simply sees, from outside of time what those choices and their effects are.

      The trick is not to think of God as “seeing the future.” For God, there is no future, nor is there any past. It is all a present reality for God. So things are not “determined beforehand.” Cause and effect still play out within time, and still determine what the future will be when it has not yet happened.

      I know all of this is very hard for us time-bound humans to grasp. It is necessary to do something that is very unnatural to us: raise our minds out of time and space to see things from a timeless, spaceless perspective. As you bend your mind to accomplishing that challenging trick, you’ll be able to understand these things a little more clearly, even if they are still brain-benders.

      About God’s relationship with us, from God’s perspective, it is not an unfolding relationship, even if it is from our perspective. God has a living relationship with our entire being, past, present, and future. That is why God can provide things in our present that are calibrated to help us spiritually in the future.

      When we pray for things, God doesn’t change them according to our prayers. Rather, the prayer brings about an inner change and opening in us, both individually and as a community, making us better able to receive what God already wants to give us—and is giving us as much as we open ourselves to receive it. God doesn’t change what’s in the letter. But our openness to God in prayer helps us to better deal with and respond to whatever is in the letter.

      I hope all of this is at least somewhat helpful. Please feel free to continue the conversation if you wish.

      • Seeking to understand says:

        Hi again! Yes, I’ve been wanting to continue the conversation for months! But life got in the way, heh… I’ve finally managed to come back to this, and re-read the article and comments to refresh my memory, and here is my best effort to crystallize my thoughts as they currently stand:

        You said in regards to 1 John 3:20 that “Everything includes . . . everything. If there were some future thing God didn’t know, then God would not know everything.”
        But when I say that I’m not convinced God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge of the future, I’m not questioning His omniscience, but rather, the nature of the future – in terms of the panorama analogy, I’m questioning whether there is any landscape representing the future, existing there in the panorama for God to see. If God is letting us co-create this landscape with Him, it makes sense (to me at least) for Him to see it appear as it comes into being – plus He would know, of course, His own plans and designs for the parts He is going to create Himself (which fits with the Bible saying He can declare the end from the beginning).

        “God exists in a state of being that is beyond and outside of space and time. In the being and consciousness of God, there is no time and space.”
        I can agree with this and still wonder whether you’re also proposing that God exists outside of cause and effect – where the cause is logically anterior to the effect, even if it’s not “before” it in time. (Or, if God Himself *is* outside of the laws of cause and effect, on account of having created them, mightn’t His interactions with humans still have to occur within that framework?)

        It seems like you’re asserting that human choices *are* in fact logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them, right? As in, our choices are the cause and God’s knowledge of them is an effect?

        But at the same time…it seems like you’re also saying that God’s knowledge or experience cannot grow in response to our choices…that the statement that He cannot change refers not only to His character (which I agree does not change), but also even to His knowledge and experience…

        Am I right that you’re saying both of those things? Because they don’t seem compatible to me…unless perhaps you’re suggesting that humans and all of our relationships with God have existed from eternity past, alongside or inside of God…? Is that your position? That humans are eternal too, in some sense?

        “About God’s relationship with us, from God’s perspective, it is not an unfolding relationship, even if it is from our perspective. God has a living relationship with our entire being, past, present, and future.”
        Hm… How can it be a living relationship without being an unfolding relationship? It sounds as if you’re saying that all of that back-and-forth dialogue of responses between us and God – the heart of true relationship – simply exists eternally, but without God getting to experience it unfolding.

        “That is why God can provide things in our present that are calibrated to help us spiritually in the future.”
        I don’t see why exhaustive definite foreknowledge would be a prerequisite for God to be able to provide things in our present to help us in our future… Maybe it would be more of an art than a science, but I believe He could still do it very effectively, even if He only has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future possibilities, combined with definite foreknowledge about His own plans, and exhaustive knowledge of the past, present, every human’s inner mind/character, and the laws of how everything works.

        I’m very interested to hear your feedback on these thoughts… And please don’t hesitate to challenge my ideas – I enjoy the type of dialogue that helps me refine my worldview, and hopefully get it closer to the truth/reality. 🙂 Thanks!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Seeking to understand,

          Good to hear from you again. Glad you were able to carve out some time to continue the conversation. I hope this means your life has settled down a bit.

          In reading your latest comment, this passage from Isaiah came to mind:

          For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
          nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
          For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
          so are my ways higher than your ways
          and my thoughts than your thoughts.
          (Isaiah 58:8–9)

          God doesn’t think the way we humans do, nor do we humans think the way God does. Yes, there is a relationship between the two. But they are on entirely different levels. And that’s why it’s so difficult for us to conceive of how God conceives of the universe.

          It might be helpful to put a bit of cosmological context around this. The above article, and everything on this website, is written based on a cosmology in which there are three distinct levels of reality:

          1. Divine (God)
          2. Spiritual (the spiritual world and the human mind)
          3. Material (the physical universe and everything in it)

          While these three levels of reality are intimately and continually related to one another, they each exist in their own way, with their own set of rules. Those sets of rules aren’t arbitrarily different from one another. Rather, they are the way the divine order (the rules by which God operates, which are an essential component of God) expresses itself in each of the two lower levels of reality.

          Each lower level of reality, while depending upon the next higher, and the highest, for its ongoing existence (only the divine level is self-existing), also operates according to its own laws of cause and effect, as well as choice or randomness, within its own level. The human mind, which is the spiritual component of a human being, operates by the psycho-spiritual laws of the spiritual level of reality. The physical universe operates according to the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and so on, which are the laws of material reality. As in the analogy of the car in the above article, while God did determine and create those laws, God doesn’t make them do what they do. They do that by the force of their own substance and order. God simply holds all those laws, and the substance in which they act, in existence moment to moment, continually giving them the power to act of their own accord.

          In short, God does not cause everything that happens to happen, even if God is continually holding everything in existence and giving it the ability to do what it does. This is taken up to some extent in the above article, and in more detail in an article also linked in it:
          God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

          Though we humans cannot fully grasp the mind of God, I find that knowing and understanding these general principles about the nature of the multi-layered cosmos is helpful in gaining some grasp of how God thinks and how God perceives the created universe.

          Applying these principles to the issue of time:

          1. God exists beyond time. The eternity of God is not an eternity of time, but an eternity of unchanging state of being.
          2. The human mind, or spirit, exists in the spiritual analog of time, which is changing states of mind and heart as we progress through our days, years, and lives. Continually learning new things and growing wiser the longer we live is an example of these changing states of mind and heart.
          3. The physical universe, and everything in it, exists within time, marked by regular, cyclical changes such as the earth’s orbit around the sun and the earth’s rotation on its own axis, and the ongoing changes that all physical things go through, from the microscopic to the macroscopic level.

          In God, who is not only eternal, but infinite, all of what we think of as time and space is telescoped into a single eternal being. But a better way to think of it is that in God, everything exists eternally, and everything existing in the spiritual and material levels of reality is an expression on its own level of something that exists within the divine reality of God. (Evil and falsity, however, are distorted expressions of things that exist within the divine reality of God.)

          God does not create the universe sequentially from beginning to end, although that is a common way for us humans to think of it and express it—such as in the six days of Creation in Genesis 1. Rather, God creates things from the inside out, so to speak. In this way of understanding things, “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) does not mean in the beginning of time, but in the beginning of causality. God is the ultimate reality, the only self-existing reality, and the beginning of everything else ontologically. Time itself is an expansion outward in physical reality of the infinite state, or states, of being that exist simultaneously and in complete oneness in God.

          Though it is not really an accurate picture of God, an analogy is the center of a sphere, which expands out to the sphere itself by a radius remaining constant at the center (which is God) and tracing out a curving, spherical surface at a certain distance from the center. The potential for the entire sphere exists in the central point. The sphere is simply an expansion of the point into the surrounding space; and in the act of expanding it, it becomes extended in space. Even though the point itself is not extended in space, it has a constant relationship with every point of the sphere, which is extended in space. The point “sees” every part of the three-dimensional sphere even though the point itself is zero-dimensional. Not a perfect analogy (God would be infinite-dimensional rather than zero-dimensional), but it helps to form a picture in our mind of how God relates to both the spiritual universe and the physical universe.

          Applying this to time, though God is outside of time, and thus non-temporal, from that non-temporal eternity God has a direct relationship with every point in time and every progression of time in the physical universe, and with every point and progression of the spiritual analog of time that is our change and growth in mind and heart as human beings. If we think of that physical and psycho-spiritual time, or change of state, as an expansion outward into a three-dimensional surface of a sphere, we have an analogy in our mind of God having a relationship with every point in time even though God is a non-temporally eternal “point.”

          This also means that even though God is eternally unchanging, God has a different relationship with every point in time and space, and in the spiritual analogs of time and space. That difference in relationship is not based on any change or difference in God, but rather, in change and difference in the created beings that surround God like a vast sphere that is filled with changing entities in all different times and spaces. God has a unique relationship with every single thing within the spiritual and physical universes because every created thing is unique, and God relates to each one according to its own nature, and according to its changing nature as physical time and its spiritual analog flows forward.

          So yes, our relationship with God is a living one even though there is no change in God, and even though God sees all things, past, present, and future, from a single, eternal present. The relationship is living in the sense of “changing” because we are living, changing beings, and God’s relationship with us is different in every state of change and growth that we go through. God is constant, but we are changing, so our relationship with God is changing along with the changes that we ourselves go through. From God’s perspective, God’s relationship with us is living because God dynamically flows into us in precise relationship with exactly who we are at any given moment, and throughout the flow of our lives—in lesser measure when we are less receptive to God, and in greater measure when we are more receptive to God. So God is an eternally living, dynamic “point” that eternally flows into every part of the created universe in precise relationship with its ongoing state of being.

          Another analogy that can help us to grasp this is that of a power plant and all of the homes and businesses it serves. The power plant does one thing: generate power. But that power flows more or less strongly into the various homes and businesses depending upon how much they are doing at any given time, and therefore how much power they draw. If a manufacturing plant is shut down completely, it draws no power at all. But when it is at full production, it draws a great deal of power. Similarly, homes go through cycles in which they draw more or less power throughout the day and night. The power plant doesn’t “change” due to the greater or lesser draw. It simply provides exactly as much power as each recipient “asks” for. (Once again, not a perfect analogy. For one thing, power plants actually do go through their own cycles of change. But once again, it provides a way for our minds to grasp the relationship between God and the created universe.

          Drawing on that analogy, God is continually powering everything in the universe, but the recipients of that power are continually deciding how much power they want, and what they will do with it. The power itself is God’s infinite love, which is eternally the same, and contains all things. Each of us receives a portion of it appropriate to our own nature, and it enables us to be the particular person we are, and do the particular things we do. In relation to other human beings, we each express some finite aspect of the infinite nature of God.

          With this cosmological context in mind, I’ll move on to some of your more specific questions, but in a new comment later on in the day.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Seeking to understand,

          Now to respond more specifically to some of your specific statements:

          But when I say that I’m not convinced God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge of the future, I’m not questioning His omniscience, but rather, the nature of the future – in terms of the panorama analogy, I’m questioning whether there is any landscape representing the future, existing there in the panorama for God to see. If God is letting us co-create this landscape with Him, it makes sense (to me at least) for Him to see it appear as it comes into being – plus He would know, of course, His own plans and designs for the parts He is going to create Himself (which fits with the Bible saying He can declare the end from the beginning).

          “Foreknowledge” is a human, time-embedded concept. As I say in the article, God does not “see the future.” A future exists only in the realms where there is time, or its spiritual analog, which is change of state. We humans exist, and think, within that arrow of time, which moves from the past to the future. God, however, does not exist within the arrow of time. God is entirely outside of the arrow of time. The arrow of time simply doesn’t apply to God. So God is not seeing our future from our present. God is seeing our entire past, present, and future in a single view.

          God does, in a sense, see time unfold. But not from within time. God sees the entire sweep of time and space, which to us is unfolding and changing, from an unchanging position, or state, outside of both. What for us is unfolding progressively is fully and simultaneously visible to God. God is aware of what time is, and is aware that from the perspective of our consciousness, things happen in sequence. But God himself/herself does not experience them in that way. Not only God’s thoughts, but God’s very way of thinking is higher than our human way of thinking. It is on an entirely different level, just as the heavens are on an entirely different level than the earth.

          This means that God does not see the landscape of time “appear as it comes into being.” From God’s perspective, the entire sweep of time is a present reality, experienced, not sequentially, but simultaneously.

          And about our “co-creating” with God, though that is a popular idea in New Age circles, it’s not quite what it seems. Though we can loosely speak of humans creating things, in fact we don’t actually create anything in the same sense that God does. God creates all of existence out of God’s own self-existent being. We, on the other hand, take the materials and the patterns God gives us, and mold them into a particular form. This could be called “co-creating,” but on the part of humans it’s more like reshaping rather than actually creating anything new.

          Ultimately, God is the only one acting in any situation. Everything else reacts, taking the action that comes from God and turning it in a particular direction. And even our ability to do that comes from God. This leads to:

          I can agree with this and still wonder whether you’re also proposing that God exists outside of cause and effect – where the cause is logically anterior to the effect, even if it’s not “before” it in time. (Or, if God Himself *is* outside of the laws of cause and effect, on account of having created them, mightn’t His interactions with humans still have to occur within that framework?)

          No, God doesn’t exist outside of cause and effect. However, God is always on the cause side of the laws of cause and effect, and causation always flows downward through the levels. Another way of saying this is that the flow of power is uni-directional from God through the spiritual realm to the material realm.

          However, that form of top-down causation does not flow in or through time and space. Rather, it flows into time and space. Causation within the physical realm flows within time and space from one time and place to another, “horizontally,” so to speak. Ditto for cause and effect within the spiritual realm, in its analogs of time and space. But causation between levels flows vertically, not horizontally. It is therefore an entirely different dimension or axis of causation than the type of causation that flows from one point in time to the next. Divine causation is continually sustaining everything in both the spiritual and the material realms, at all times and in all places, from a state within and above time and space.

          It seems like you’re asserting that human choices *are* in fact logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them, right? As in, our choices are the cause and God’s knowledge of them is an effect?

          No, God’s knowledge isn’t an effect of our choices. As I just said above, causation always flows from God into all created reality.

          Knowledge is not caused by the things known. Knowledge is not a passive recipient of information. Rather, knowledge is an active process of seeking out information and actively incorporating it into one’s being.

          This is illustrated by the act of sensory perception. It is a popular misconception that seeing, for example, is a process of sensory data flowing into the eye and from there into the mind. But that’s not what happens at all. Rather, sensory data, in this case varying shades and intensities of light, flow into the eye and strike the retina at the back of the eye. There, the sensors of the rods and cones actively “grab” the incoming information and begin processing it into forms that the brain can further process. The brain, in turn, actively sends out nerve impulses to gather that pre-processed information, and engages in further processing to turn it into visual imagery in the brain. Or, as those who believe that the mind is distinct from the brain (as I do), the brain processes the incoming signals into a form that the mind can reach out and take into itself in the form of visual imagery.

          If a person is unconscious, most of this process does not happen even if the eyes are open. The light is still flowing into the eye, but the mind is not reaching out, taking it, and processing it. Therefore no vision occurs.

          A teacher can teach until he or she is blue in the face, but if the students aren’t actively listening, no learning takes place. Ultimately, the teacher doesn’t actually teach anything. Rather, the students, if they are learning anything at all, are actively reaching out with their minds, “grabbing” information from the teacher, and actively processing it and incorporating it into their sea of knowledge and understanding. Without this action on the part of the learner, no teaching or learning takes place. Learning is active, not passive.

          In the very same way, our choices don’t cause God’s knowledge of our choices and their effects. Rather, God’s mind actively reaches out, gathers, processes, and integrates all of the choices and events of our lives, making them a part of God. However, once again, this is not a process that happens through time, but rather from a state of infinite, eternal being outside of time. Which leads to:

          But at the same time…it seems like you’re also saying that God’s knowledge or experience cannot grow in response to our choices…that the statement that He cannot change refers not only to His character (which I agree does not change), but also even to His knowledge and experience…

          The reason God’s knowledge or experience cannot grow in response to our choices is that all of the knowledge of all of our choices is eternally present in God, in the state in which God exists outside of time and space. So in everything God is and does, all of that knowledge is a present reality. Everything God does takes into account all of that knowledge simultaneously. This is something that is not possible for created, finite humans, but it is possible for the uncreated, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent being of God.

          Saying that God’s knowledge grows implies that God exists in a state of time or its spiritual analog, change of state. But God does not exist in a state of time or change. God is eternally one and unchanging, and encompasses all knowledge of what to us is past, present, and future in a single eternal oneness.

          Am I right that you’re saying both of those things? Because they don’t seem compatible to me…unless perhaps you’re suggesting that humans and all of our relationships with God have existed from eternity past, alongside or inside of God…? Is that your position? That humans are eternal too, in some sense?

          So no, I’m not saying both of those things.

          And also, no, humans and all of our relationships with God have not existed from eternity past, alongside or inside of God. God’s eternity is not an eternity of time, so in God’s eternity there is no past and no future. That’s why humans and our relationships have not existed alongside or within God from “eternity past.” Humans are eternal into the future, but not into the past. We each have a starting point within time. We also have an ending point within material time, but no ending point within spiritual time.

          But more than that, humans do exist within the arrow of time, whereas God exists outside of the arrow of time, and flows into it. So on our human level of existence, time does exist, and things do happen sequentially. The future has not yet been entirely determined, because not all of the choices and random fluctuations have happened that will cause the future to be what it is. So in time, and in our ongoing changes of state, or psychological and spiritual growth as human beings, meaning in our human realms of consciousness, events are unfolding, and what happens in every present moment decides and determines what will happen in the next moment, and so on.

          But in God, those things don’t exist as past, present, and future events. Rather, they all exist in an eternally present divine knowledge and consciousness. So although in a sense you could say that the future exists in God, in God it is not the future, but the present, whereas in our lives it is the future until it becomes a present experience.

          I realize this sort of stuff can easily tie our human brains in knots. That, once again, is because we are ultimately incapable of thinking outside of time and change. We can only think about the state of God’s mind outside of time and change.

          Hm… How can it be a living relationship without being an unfolding relationship? It sounds as if you’re saying that all of that back-and-forth dialogue of responses between us and God – the heart of true relationship – simply exists eternally, but without God getting to experience it unfolding.

          It is a relationship between the temporal and the eternal. On the temporal side (our side), it goes through changes, and back-and-forth, as time and change unfold. On the non-temporal side (God’s side), it is an eternally present relationship that reaches into every time and place of our lives. For us, the relationship unfolds. For God, it is an eternally present relationship. Once again, God is aware that we experience it as unfolding over time. But for God the entire relationship is eternally present. This means that even in our present, God is relating to us according to the entire sweep of our existence, from conception and birth through all of our eternal life in the spiritual world.

          Once again, for us humans, the way God engages in relationships with God’s creations is impossible. We exist within the arrow of time and change, and they are part of the definition of our being. But for God, it is possible.

          I don’t see why exhaustive definite foreknowledge would be a prerequisite for God to be able to provide things in our present to help us in our future… Maybe it would be more of an art than a science, but I believe He could still do it very effectively, even if He only has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future possibilities, combined with definite foreknowledge about His own plans, and exhaustive knowledge of the past, present, every human’s inner mind/character, and the laws of how everything works.

          As I hope is at least somewhat clear from all the foregoing, my view and understanding is that “exhaustive definite foreknowledge” represents in its very expression a misconception about the nature of God’s knowledge. God’s knowledge is neither knowledge of the past nor knowledge of the future. It is simply knowledge in an eternal present of all things that to us are past, present, and future.

          It would therefore be impossible for God not to have exhaustive knowledge of all things because all things are perceptible to God in the eternal present in which God exists. Not knowing something that to us is a future event would be, not just seeing only possibilities, but an instance of actual blindness on God’s part. Past, present, and future are all the same to God, because God exists outside of time. God simply sees it all in one view.

          I’m not saying all of this is easy to understand. When I was younger, I thought along similar lines to what you are expressing here, even though I had in my hand the theology that showed that my thinking was limited and mistaken on these subjects because it was still bound and limited by time and space. Even now I can’t think entirely outside of at least ongoing changes of state. But several decades later, I have gradually come to realize and accept something like what I believe is the reality of God’s relationship to time and space, even though ultimately God’s state and God’s consciousness is not something I can experience for myself.

          It is, of course, your choice whether to even attempt to bend your brain to these things, and also whether you think there is any merit or truth to what I am saying. I am expressing as best I can, in a rather short space, what has taken me a good forty years to bend my mind around. So if it all seems strange and impossible now, I would only ask that you put it on file in your mind, consider it over time, and see if, as you move along in your thinking and your life, it comes to make some sort of sense to you.

          And I can promise you that if you can come to some understanding of these things, as enigmatic and paradoxical as they may seem at first glance, they will throw an entirely new light on our existence and our relationship to God, not to mention on the whole sweep of Scripture and on the past, present, and future history of humankind.

  6. Seeking to understand says:

    Hi Lee!

    Thank you so much for replying so quickly (I’m amazed at the timestamp on that first one – looks like you were up in the middle of the night too??) – I really appreciate how much time you’ve invested in explaining these things!

    I’ve been mulling it all over, and one point where I’m still wondering whether I’ve understood your position, is in regards to whether you would agree that (apart from cause and effect, which you did already discuss, and it was very interesting) that human choices are logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them?

    That would not require them to come first in time, or even sequence, really…just logically speaking, since you said “God simply sees everything, everywhere, in every time, just as we stand on a mountaintop and see the whole vista spread out before our eyes at once”, I think that means the humans making the choices give God something to reach out and actively “see” (in the way you described, where He actively takes it in).

    Is my understanding accurate yet? If not, I guess I might still be missing some important key to making sense of this paradigm for thinking about this subject, and I don’t want to just assume, since I was wrong in assuming you would agree that our actions “cause” God’s knowledge of them…but I wonder if you would at least agree they are logically anterior.

    Thanks!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Seeking to understand,

      You are most welcome. I enjoy answering questions and engaging in conversation on spiritual subjects. It not only helps others in their thinking and in their lives, but it helps me to clarify and develop my own understanding of things as well. And yes, I’m sometimes up at odd hours.

      If I understand your question correctly (and I’m not sure I do), then I would have to say no, I don’t think our choices and actions are logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them. It is not a case of “We make choices and take actions, therefore God sees and knows them.” God sees and knows our choices and actions not because we make and do them, but because God has the ability to see and know our choices and actions.

      Does this address your question?

      • Seeking to understand says:

        Haha…well…not exactly… Maybe this is the disconnect… I’ve been assuming that it goes without saying, that God has the ability to see and know our choices and actions, so I haven’t been explicitly saying so, but here is my *actual* position:

        – We make choices and take actions
        – *And* God has the ability to see and know our choices and actions
        — Therefore God does, in fact, see and know our choices and actions

        Is that your position also? I mean, you said that God’s knowledge of our actions is not what causes them; we decide freely… So…I’m having trouble figuring out what is the distinction between that assertion, and the idea that our decisions are logically anterior to God’s ability to actively reach out and see/know them…don’t they have to exist for God to have something to reach out and actively observe?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Seeking to understand,

          I’m still struggling a bit to understand the question, but I’ll take another shot at it, and see if I get a hit.

          First of all, there is no possibility of a universe or even a time or instance in which God has the ability to actively reach out, see, and observe things but there is nothing out there to observe, so that God’s ability is only theoretical, and not actual, unless there are observable objects.

          To see this, it is necessary to understand that God does not exist in time, but outside of time. Time is a property of the created universe. So for God, there is no time “before the universe was created.” For God, the entire universe, including its extension in time, is a present reality. So there is no such thing as God without objects to observe.

          Further, the various attributes of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence (being all-loving) do not and cannot exist separately from one another, but are in a continual union of oneness. This means that all of God is entirely present in everything God creates and does. It also means that the act of creation is a seamless whole originating in the love of God, being expressed through the wisdom of God, and being effected by the power of God.

          Further, God’s wisdom is fully one with God’s ability to see, perceive, and know everything in the universe. God doesn’t create something and then come to know it. God fully knows everything God creates in the very act of creating it. This is true even though, as the above article states and explores more fully, God has created us, and I believe also the rest of the universe, with freedom to act by our own choice, as if on our own, so that God does not determine everything in the universe. (For more on this, once again, please see: “God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?”)

          The reason God can know our choices and actions even while not actually causing them to be that way is not only that God is outside of time, but also that creation happens from a state outside of time, and is actually a continuous (from our perspective) creation of everything that exists from moment to moment. Even as we are making choices and taking actions that God doesn’t determine, God is creating both us (including our mind and our ability to make choices) and the reality in which our choices and actions unfold from within each moment. However for God it is not “each moment,” but a simultaneous creating of the entire unfolding universe and everything in it from a position within and above it, outside of its dimensions of time and space.

          This means that our choices and actions are not logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them because God is continually creating us, our choices, and our actions even while leaving us in freedom to be who we are, make the choices we will make, and take the actions we will take.

          I know this sounds paradoxical. But it is an illusion to think that we want, think, choose, and do things on our own, from our own power. Everything we do is done as if we are doing it by ourselves, when in fact we are doing it from God, both directly and as mediated through the various regions of the spiritual world, broadly including heaven, hell, and the intermediate state in between them called “the world of spirits.” We don’t do anything at all on our own, or from our own power, because on our own we do not exist, and we have no power that is really ours.

          Even evil exists as a corruption of God’s love and power, and can only exist because some amount of God’s love and power does flow into evil people, keeping them in existence and giving them the ability to be human. However, evil people and evil spirits take that love and power flowing in from God and twist it into something evil, contrary to its own intrinsic nature. This is the “spiritual physics” behind the biblical teaching that God loves even God’s enemies.

          Jesus stated very clearly that we have no power of our own:

          I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

          He even said to Pilate, who was about to execute him, and thus about to do a very evil act:

          You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above. (John 19:11)

          Even the power to do evil comes from God. But those who do evil twist that power into something contrary to God’s will, and thus divorce themselves from God—although they cannot completely separate themselves from God or they would cease to exist.

          It may seem as if the fact that we have no power of our own, and that even our freedom and ability to choose and act come continually from God, means that we are mere puppets, or that our existence is illusory and unreal. But that is not the case because we exist in the lower level of reality in which God has created us. We are not ultimate, self-existent reality. Only God is. But we are a secondary, derived and created reality. And in that level of reality, we are indeed real. We’re just not as real as God.

          Because reality itself is multi-leveled, we can exist and be real in our own level of reality even though the entirety of our reality is derived from and created by God.

          It would therefore be logically impossible for our choices and actions to be logically anterior to God’s knowledge of them. Without God’s creative mind creating us, our choices, and our actions moment-to-moment, those choices and actions would not exist. And as I said earlier, God knows all of these things in the act of creating them. God has simply chosen to give us the ability to, in a sense, decide what God will create in our own lives and level of reality.

          That also may sound paradoxical and contradictory, and as if we are in some way logically anterior to God’s creation of us. But keep in mind that even though we are making choices and taking actions, God is still creating the universe and everything in it from moment to moment. It’s just that as God’s power flows down into the created universe, the way it is received by the created beings determines how, and how much, of it will be expressed in those lower levels of reality.

          We loosely say things such as, “When I turn the spigot, it causes the water to flow.” But that is not correct. What’s causing the water to flow is the potential energy of the water itself where it is stored at a higher altitude, or the pressure within the air bubble in a pressurized water tank. Opening the spigot doesn’t cause the water to flow. It simply allows the water to flow.

          That is our position within creation in relation to God. We don’t actually cause anything. Rather, we allow one thing or another to happen based on our choices and our actions pursuant to them. It is power from God that actually causes these things to happen. (This form of causation is distinct from the temporal, sequential causation in which our choice results in a particular outcome. God’s causation of everything in the universe through power flowing into the universe from God is a prior form of causation, and flows into temporal and sequential causation, giving it existence.)

          This means that God is always the active force, and we are always passive recipients relative to God. Nothing we choose or do is logically anterior to God’s knowledge or power because we ourselves, our ability to make choices, our ability to act, and all of the consequences of our actions are flowing into us from God. We are simply allowing more or less of that inflow into ourselves, and directing it one way or another based on our choices. And in the very act of creating everything we are and do, and allowing us to direct that creation where it enters into our life and existence, God has full knowledge of everything we choose and do, and all of its consequences.

          I’ll stop here, and you can tell me whether any of this addresses the issue and question you are raising.

  7. Seeking to understand says:

    Hi Lee… I’m so sorry, I fear I must be driving you crazy… I must have been making this sound much more complicated than it really is… All I’m really trying to ask is whether it’s safe to assume you would agree that *one* of the requirements for God to believe/know that we made a choice is for us to actually make it…as opposed to the absurd idea that God could believe we made a choice we didn’t actually make, or the Calvinist idea that our choices are only illusions and God’s pre-determination is all that is required for anything to happen at all, at any level of reality (and that we don’t even open the spigot or direct the water or anything).

    I think it’s implicit in what you’ve been saying, that you would agree with the first statement – and I know you disagree with the latter two – but I guess I’m just trying to figure out what words could be used to express this idea, that accurately reflect position on this point.

    (By the way, I don’t mean to imply that it’s been a waste for you to write what you did – it’s all very fascinating, and I’m taken with the spigot analogy…very interesting stuff, I’m mulling it all over, and it’s very helpful to my understanding of all this…)

    Thanks!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Seeking to understand,

      It’s the “logically anterior” language that my mind bridles at. That doesn’t make sense to me. I do disagree with the idea that God could believe we made a choice we didn’t actually make, which is indeed absurd. And I not only disagree with the Calvinist idea that our choices are only an illusion, but I think it is the absolute nadir of horrible falsification of the teachings of the Bible and of the truth. Once Christian doctrine got to that low point, Christianity was at a complete end, and it was necessary for the Last Judgment and Second Coming to happen, and the New Jerusalem to begin its descent—all of which are spiritual events, not literal, physical ones.

      I suppose you could say that one of the requirements for God to know that we made a choice is that we actually made it. But that is almost tautological. God knows what happens and what exists, not what doesn’t happen and what doesn’t exist. Even if God knows that some alternative course of events could be a possibility, that is still accompanied with the knowledge of what actually happens. So God would never be unsure or unclear of how events unfold just because they could have unfolded in a different way.

      As for words to express that idea, I guess I just wouldn’t make it that complicated. I’d say, “God knows our choices and actions.” I don’t see the need to get it all tangled up in concepts of logical anteriority. But if you see some critical issue here, please feel free to keep driving me crazy! 😀

      • Seeking to understand says:

        Haha! I learned a new word when I looked up “nadir” 🙂
        What I’m working on mentally reconciling now, is the (paradoxical?) idea that God can know all of our choices and actions, without God’s knowledge ever changing, *and* without our choices being in any way eternally present inside of God, from God’s perspective outside of time, which I believe I now understand to be your position…but let me know if I misunderstood it.
        Thanks 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Seeking to understand,

          Vocabulary is good! 😀

          The knowledge of our choices and actions is eternally present in God. But the choices and actions themselves exist in the (created) spiritual and physical levels of reality, not in the divine level of reality. Creation is distinct from God, even if God is present in all of Creation, and perceives everything in all time and space that unfolds in Creation.

          Does this help?

  8. Seeking to understand says:

    Hi! Sorry it took so long to reply, things got really busy again…

    I think that helps, at least in the sense of making your position seem internally consistent rather than seemingly self-contradictory… So that does make it an option, for me to adopt it as well…it’s just that…it seems so flat and static, for God’s knowledge of our choices and everything to be eternally present in God and for God to literally be completely unchanging. I’m not really sure why people seem to consider that a compliment… I mean, unchanging in character, yes – I see that as a compliment. But to be completely unchanging even in one’s knowledge or experience? No offense, but…it seems so boring…

    If (since) God is Life itself, that seems to imply growth, and since God is Love itself, that seems to mean relationship is central, and if the whole history of a relationship is eternally present in God’s knowledge, somehow that just seems to take something away from it… I know, you’re probably going to say I’m just stuck in our human way of thinking, and that God isn’t static, because that implies staying the same from one moment in time to the next whereas God is actually completely outside of time… So maybe I do just need to mull this over some more and see if I can come to terms with it… But I’m just letting you know where I am at this point in my processing of this idea.

    If you feel like answering the thread further, one of the things I’m pondering is the idea, which I think Swedenborg espoused, that everything in this world is analogous to something in the spiritual world, and that everything in the spiritual level is analogous to something in the Divine level of existence, so if there is a spiritual analog to time (which you said is states), why wouldn’t there be a Divine analog to time/states?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Seeking to understand,

      Yes, from our position embedded in time and growing and changing through time, the idea of God not changing does seem static. However, God is dynamic in a different way, in that God is not only eternal love and wisdom, but also eternal action. That action creates and sustains the entirety of the spiritual and physical universes. From that perspective, God is the most dynamic reality, whereas the rest of the levels of reality are less dynamic and more static because a) they are, relatively speaking, passive recipients rather than active initiators, and b) they are “slowed down,” limited, and finite versions of the infinite activity that is God.

      Still, you may be happy to know that while God at God’s core is unchanging, when God enters into the universe, that eternal, unchanging nature of God is expressed in what we perceive as dynamic, changing realities. In a sense, what is eternal in God is “spread out” over time and space when it enters into physical reality, and also when it enters into the spiritual analogs of time and space (which are actually prior to and above the physical versions).

      In particular, when God entered into the spiritual and physical universe as Jesus Christ, God did, in a sense, change in a process that Swedenborg calls “glorification.” This was a process that took place progressively throughout Jesus’ earthly lifetime. It involved taking the finite and fallible humanity that he received from his human mother Mary and transforming it step by step into an infinite divine humanity that is the human presence and expression of God. In the Incarnation, when God entered into time and space, God partook of time and space and, from our perspective, developed as a human being.

      This is a vast topic, which I can’t do justice to here. But you can get a taste of it in this article:
      If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?

      Meanwhile, if you feel the human need to think of God as being dynamic in the sense of changing through time, you can look to the lifetime of Jesus Christ on earth, and see God expressed in what we humans can perceive as a dynamic, changing, and very human reality.

      About your last question, it would be most helpful to illustrate it with a chart, but I’m not sure I can do that in a comment. So here are two columns that you can put side-by-side in your mind to visualize the divine, spiritual, and physical versions of space and time:

      Space:

      1. Divine: God’s love
      2. Spiritual: Emotional changes of state
      3. Physical: Space

      Time:

      1. Divine: God’s wisdom
      2. Spiritual: Mental/intellectual changes of state
      3. Physical: Time

      The divine analog of space is God’s love. The divine analog of time is God’s wisdom, or divine truth.

      In the human mind, psyche, or spirit, which exists on the spiritual level of reality, the analog of space is changes of emotional state, or love. We are “located” in the spiritual world, and in human community, according to the current state of our loves, feelings, emotions, drives, motivations. These are what “move” us around in human society, closer to some people who share our loves and feelings, and farther away from other people who love and feel very differently than we do.

      Meanwhile, our psychological analog of time is in our mental and intellectual changes of state. Put more simply, spiritual time progresses for us as we learn more things and become more intelligent, understanding, and wise. Our thinking mind is especially what develops in us from infancy to childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to middle adulthood to our elder years. As we grow more and more in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we become more mature both physically and psychologically.

      At the divine level, God’s love encompasses infinite states of love, and God’s wisdom encompasses infinite states of wisdom and truth. However, since they are one in God, Swedenborg actually speaks of “infinite state” rather than of “infinite states.” All of the states that we experience spatially and sequentially, or in our emotions and in our thinking mind, are present in infinite completeness and form in their original divine versions in God.

      When that infinite state of divine love and wisdom expresses itself in the lower levels of reality, it becomes emotional and intellectual changes in human beings and human society, which is a spiritual reality, and it becomes space and time in the physical universe.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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