Thursday, June 30, 2022

Backwards causation, the A-theory and God


  1. There are tensed facts.

  2. If F is a contingent fact solely about physical reality that does not depend on creaturely free choice, then God can effectually will an exact duplicate of F.

Assumption (1) is a central claim of the A-theory of time, in fact form. Assumption (2) is a hedged consequence of omnipotence, formulated to take into account the possibility of uncreatable Platonic entities and the essentiality of origins.


  1. Backwards causation is impossible.

We now have a problem. Let B be the tensed fact that the Big Bang occurred billions of years ago. This is a contingent fact solely about physical reality that does not depend on creaturely free choice. So, by (2), God can effectually will an exact duplicate of B. But an exact duplicate of B would still be a tensed fact about what happened billions of years ago. And to will such a fact about the past would be backwards causation, contrary to (3).

Note how the problem disappears if we don’t have tensed facts. For then all we have is an untensed fact such as that the Big Bang occurs at t0, and God can will that without backwards causation, whether God is in time (e.g., he can then will it at t0) or outside time.

I personally don’t have a problem with backwards causation. But a lot of A-theorists do.

I suppose what the A-theorist should do is to replace (2) with:

  1. If F is a contingent fact solely about physical reality that does not depend on creaturely free choice, then God can effectually will a perhaps re-tensed exact duplicate of F.


Don said...

Assuming there is no change in God, how is it backwards causation?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, God would be willing today that something happened yesterday.

Don said...

But the "today" and "yesterday" of God's will are only distinctions in reference to creatures. They're not distinctions in the actual will of God as that is outside of time. It's only causation in the since that it's eternally accounted for by God. I don't see how the temporal direction (in reference to creatures) of this type of causation matters to the A-theorist. For example, I don't see why an A-theorist would be okay with praying for some future intention but not okay with praying for the soul of someone who has long since died.

Amhar Iqbal said...


I apologize in advance this is a question irrelevant to the Topic. Iam teenager interested in Philosophy of Religion and Mind. Iam New to Philosophy

Does Essentiality of Origins Pose a Problem for The Leibiniz Cosmological Argument?

Walter Van den Acker said...

How van a timeless being do something 'today'?

Alexander R Pruss said...


God's point of view is the correct point of view. If from God's point of view, there is no objective present, then there is no objective present.


Despite some efforts to argue to the contrary, I don't think God can be a timeless being if the A-theory is correct.

Don said...

God's pov is outside of time so I don't see how it's relevant to temporality.

Don said...

Dr. Pruss,

I don't see how your last comment isn't different from saying: if from God's pov there is no change (meaning He is immutable) then there is no objective change. I don't see why the fact that God's mode of existence is not a creaturely mode of existence should dismiss the mode of existence of creatures as not objectively real.

Apologetics Squared said...

(2) seems strange to me. It states that God can effectually will an exact duplicate of a fact. If a fact here means a proposition, then that means God can will the duplicate of a proposition. What does that mean? That He creates another abstract object? Or that He wills an duplicated truthmaker of this proposition?

Alexander R Pruss said...


If God's point of view is outside temporality, in such a way that God doesn't know which time is objectively present, and if the A-theory is true so that some time IS objectively present, then God isn't omniscient, because there is some objective truth that he doesn't know.


Here, I am thinking of facts as concrete states of affairs, not as true propositions.

Don said...

Dr. Pruss,

Knowing time is a creaturely operation. It's the product of a creaturely mind since it's the measure of change. No mind experiencing change means no time. God not knowing the present, past, and future *as* present, past, and future (which can only happen by means of temporal experience) doesn't impinge his omniscience any more than does His not knowing the color red by means of sight.

Don said...

To clarify my last point: God knows the present, past, and future but not *as* present, past, and future--ie, not by temporal means.

Amhar Iqbal said...

Dr Pruss, I'd like to ask few questions. I will be happy if you reply.

Sir If we need to escape Modal Collapse Should we accept an indeterministic Link between God and his Effects?

If we Do, Does God Have no control over his effects? And Does it reduce God as an Intentional Agent?

Manuel said...

I have a question,

P1. Every fact has an explanation.
P2. It is a fact that God is necessary.

C1. The fact that God is necessary has an explanation

Doesn't God's necessity itself need an explanation?

James Reilly said...


Most philosophers who endorse the PSR favor a somewhat restricted formulation, according to which it is only contingent facts (or non-autonomous facts, etc.) which require explanation. On this view, the fact that God is necessary would not require any explanation, since it isn't a contingent fact. Of course, some philosophers do continue to endorse an unrestricted PSR, and the theists among them do try to give some kind of explanation for God's necessity. For a good example of this, see C.A. McIntosh's recent paper "Why Does God Exist":

Alexander R Pruss said...


It either is or is not an objective mind-independent fact that 2022 is present. If it is an objective mind-independent fact, God had better know it. If it is not an objective mind-independent fact, then we have a B-theory of time.

Alithea said...

Dr. Pruss, I agree that if A-theory is true, then God is in time. Dr. Craig uses the argument you do here. I'm Catholic like you, so I reject A-theory.

Accepting B-theory has implications for temporal versions of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. If time doesn't really exist, it seems like the Universe didn't begin to exist. Nothing, in fact, began to exist. There are no beginnings or endings.

Finally, there is an objection to God's timelessness that I've been thinking about. How can God be a personal being if he is outside of time? It seems like a person can't just be in an eternal, frozen, changeless state. It also loses one's ability to relate to God. A reply to this could be that we ourselves are actually timeless in a sense because B-theory is true. If God is not a person because he is timeless, then we are not persons. I would like to know your thoughts on this.

Zsolt Nagy said...

Since when does accepting B-theory of time have the implication of assuming there to be no time at all or time being non-existent?!?
If accepting of B-theory of time has any implications, then the implications are, that there is time or that time exist - the past and future events are as real as the current event and moment in time.

By the way accepting A-theory of time also has the implication of there being time or that time exists. But A-theory also implies, that only the current event or moment is real. Past and future events are not real or at least not as real as the current event or moment in time.

Does William Laine Craig really think, that accepting B-theory of time would imply there to be no time at all?!?
I don't think so, but if that's so, then I guess, that this is just a big misunderstanding of what each theory of time does or might imply from some non-particular persons here.

Alithea said...

Zsolt Nagy:

I was thinking of a block Universe. Time would be like the dimensions of space. So time would exist, I guess. It's just time itself would be timeless. There would be no change, only differences between points in time. I guess I went overboard in my thinking about people not being in time. That's like saying people aren't in space.

I only cited Craig for the argument that if A-theory is true, God is in time. He does say under B-theory, the Universe is co-eternal with God. He talks about his views on B-theory here:

Alexander R Pruss said...

"There would be no change, only differences between points in time": But differences between points in time ARE changes. :-)

Alithea said...

Alexander R Pruss:

I guess the differences between the points in time would be changes. I have problems understanding causation with eternalism. Did God eternally cause the Big Bang, which then eternally caused the next states in the Universe? Or did God cause the entire Universe eternally, while leaving humans free?

I also have some other questions. Is eternalism the only B-theory of time? Do you know of any other theories? Do you have any good resources on theories of time?

Nagy Zsolt said...

Of course, Alexander, time changes with time or to say, that the time derivative of time is 1 and not 0: dt/dt=1≠0 ⇒ t(t)≠const - Therefore, time as a function of time is not a constant function. Duh. ;v)

Yeah, I looked at that video from Craig here: "Doctrine of God Part 6: God's Relationship to Time" by ReasonableFaithOrg
Hm. I guess, the problem here is with that "divine timeless/atemporal(/without time)" being of yours.
Is that "divine" being inside of time or outside of it and, how does that being relate to time, if that being relates to it in any given way?
Maybe, if a "timeless" being, a being without any time, causes such problems for your doctrine, then I would rather suggest you to simply consider the possibility of that being to be omnitemporal, a being existing at any time or all the time. If that being supposed to be omnipresent, then why even consider him "spaceless"?
Really, time is time and either on A- or B-theory of time time exist or there is time, which can be measured by clocks: "What Is Time? | Professor Sean Carroll explains the theories of Presentism and Eternalism" by Wondrium

Is the sun already burned out? said...

Hey, I'm just trying to help Alithea out here.
I just want to make sure, that she knows exactly, what she is subscribing to by listening to the ideas of such a person like William Lane Craig.
That's all.

Alithea said...

I think William Lane Craig has a better understanding of relativity than you think. He has studied the concept of time for 11 years and has written academic books on the subject. The video seems to just mock Craig. I haven't read these books, but I think they are promising on the concepts of time. He has written the Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination and The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination. He has also edited a book by philosophers and scientists on Einsteinian time with Quentin Smith, called Einstein, Relativity and Absolute Simultaneity. I also think the book Relativity without Spacetime would be useful. Bell's Theorem might imply absolute simultaneity as well.

Is the sun already burned out? said...

Really? William Lane Craig studied the concept of time for 11 years and this is the result?
I also haven't read, those books of his on the matter of "time". But given what he has presented besides those books on the matter of "time", I simply cannot imagine those books having anything relevant in them.

Really it's quite disturbing, what William Lane Craig is actually presenting besides those book of his on the matter of "time":
"Why William Lane Craig Thinks Einstein Was Wrong" by TMM

By the way, why are comments disabled in most of his videos?!?

If you want to get the real idea about time in philosophy, then just rather listen to Sean Carroll or Sabine Hossenfelder than to the BS of "William Lane Craig":
"What Is Time? | Professor Sean Carroll explains the theories of Presentism and Eternalism" by Wondrium
"How We Perceive Time | Sean Carroll" by Wondrium
"What is Relativity? | Sean Carroll on Einstein's View of Time and Space" by Wondrium
"Does the Past Still Exist?" by Sabine Hossenfelder

Sean Carroll from 13:52 to 14:32 in :
"... For us the task is to take ourselves outside our everyday experience and imagine looking at this four-dimensional block universe - to treat the past present and future on an equal footing. This seems to be the right way of looking at things as suggested by the current laws of physics. I should be honest in saying, that it's a controversial point of view. Many philosophical stances are controversial. There are certainly philosophers out there, who don't believe in eternalism. To me it seems to be the logical consequences of the physicist's way of looking at the universe. But it should be kept in mind, that there are other ways to do it..."

Of course by disregarding empirical observations, measurements and evidence you can basically assume anything and that's, what William Lane Craig is basically doing: Ignoring the empirical evidence against time being absolute and for time being relative to all reference frames and observers.
This is not "Verificationism".
This is our current Theory_of_relativity and understanding of spacetime.

Alithea said...

You seem too quick to hand wave responses to your objections. First, William Lane Craig is not the author of the entire book Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity, he is the editor and an author of one of the essays in the book. The person he edited it with was Quentin Smith, who debated Craig on the existence of God, but agrees with him on this point. I think the essay by Antony Valentini, a quantum physicist, looks promising. Second, he does not think Einstein was wrong. He thinks that Mankowski was wrong. Relativity can be interpreted without reference to spacetime, as I have given you resources for. Third, Craig probably does not control his YouTube channel. I saw one comment on one of the animated videos where the channel said it was a mistake. You are too quick to assume hostility.

William Lane Craig does agrees with the observations made, he just likes to interpret the information differently. It seems like this is like the case of interpretations of quantum mechanics. He also appeals to Bell's Theorem which I said before. As for the quote by Sean Carroll, he himself says in the quote that this is a controversial observation.

I think you need to be less mocking. You have a very condescending tone, with words like BS. If you want to have a fruitful discussion, you have to be kind. (He wrote a book on relativity that I didn't know about until now.)

Is the sun already burned out? said...

From the current wiki article "B-theory of time":

In 'Presentism and the Space-Time Manifold', Dean Zimmerman notes that A-theory is 'almost certainly a minority view among philosophers', while B-theory has 'achieved broad acceptance'; despite this there are still a number of philosophers who oppose B-theory."

Sure. There are philosophers like William Lane Craig not capable of comprehending, how his current navigation system and GPS is working.
I don't deny that. But to state, that the "common sense view" and the "laymen's view" on time is supposed to the A-theory of time is at best preposterous and mistaken and at worst a lie considering William Lane Craig working on this subject matter over ten years.

Is the sun already burned out? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Is the sun already burned out? said...

Customer Review on "Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity (Philosophical Studies Series, 84)" by William Lane Craig
1.0 out of 5 stars Craig is nothing more than a crook.
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2013
"$200 price tag for a book making scientific claims by someone who doesn't understand the basics of science. I recommend trying to watch him debate before wasting your money on something like this."
9 people found this helpful

This says it all, really.

Alithea said...

You still don't seem to understand. Craig does not deny the effects of relativity theory. He does not deny the empirical evidence. He just interprets relativity in a different way. Chapter 4 in his book is about the empirical confirmation of relativity. He does not deny that GPS systems have to compensate for relativity. He has a chapter on time dilation and length contraction, which is why GPS systems have to be compensated for.

According to this survey, while more philosophers believe in B-theory, it is still only 38 percent, far from a consensus. In fact, the person you are quoting believes in A-theory!

Honestly, I think that that review captures your thought perfectly. You just say Craig misunderstands science while misunderstanding Craig himself. That person probably did not read the book. Look, I don't think you will change your mind, and more importantly, I don't think you're open to changing your mind. I don't see the point in debating then. If all you want to do is mock Craig, then I will let you do that, but don't talk to me about it. You think you know more about relativity theory than someone who has written and edited multiple books printed by academic publishers on the subject. If that's what you think, then so be it.


Nagy Zsolt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Is the sun already burned out? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Is the sun already burned out? said...

So then if more philosophers believe in B-theory than A-theory, then how can or could a philosopher ever state, that the current "common sense and layman's view" on time is the A-theory of time?!?

Sure. Dean Zimmerman is holding on to a belief of A-theory of time AND at same time is capable of acknowledging that position of his being not the most "common view" in the current environment and states of affairs.
Craig saidly isn't capable of such nobelty.
Dean Zimmern can also at least make a more convincing argument for his position than Craig is currently doing. It's rather easy to poke holes in Craig's arguments: "Unreasonable Faith Audiobook - Chapter Two: the Kalam Cosmological Argument Part 1" by James Fodor
The B-theory of time and Eternalism is only as "absurd" as actual infinities and the actual existence of Hilbert's Hotel is supposedly "absurd": "Hilbert's Hotel: A Comprehensive Response" by Joe Schmid alias Majesty of Reason
(I'm also winking with this at you, Alexander.)

Really, Craig and similar philosophers are trying to eat soup with a fork, wondering about why and how they cannot eat soup with a fork, and then conclude from that "absurdity", that soup couldn't exist, since if soup existed, then soup could be eaten and enjoyed with a fork. Yet, that is somehow not working or is "absurd". So "therefore", soup doesn't exist.

This is, how flat earthers are arguing against a globe, how creationists are arguing against evolution and how Craig and philosophers alike are arguing against a B-theory of time, eternalism and actual infinities.

So I guess, sorry for me not having the same "common sense" about such and such things as you and your illegitimate “authorities” on these subject matters.

Jeff said...

Hey Dr. Pruss, I think we have Zsolt's burner account here lol

Is the sun already burned out? said...

Of course I make another account. I'm not letting my done "work" be wasted. Duh.
And if the comments of this account will get hidden or deleted, then I make another one - and "another one" - and so on.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Zsolt: While the civility of your recent comments has improved significantly, this is not the forum for critique of Bill Craig, but for discussion of *my* arguments. Please don't make me have to waste time moving to a moderation system for comments.

Is the sun already burned out? said...

Who is "Bill Craig"?!?
Do you mean rather William Lane Craig?
Fine. Fair enough.
This is your blog, so then be it about your arguments, Alexander.

But one last note on this. Your and William Lane Craig's arguments against your oppositions are all kinda similar to Alvin Plantinga's arguments - an appeal to ignorance "there is no reason to think otherwise than my view..." and a big straw man making an appeal to irrelevant and antiquated "absurdities", which have most of the times already been solved or could easily be shown to be solvable. But you cannot have that for "reasons", I guess.
That's not "Love of Wisdom". That's not philosophy.
That's just arrogant and ignorant to do so and to be so arrogant and ignorant with one own's and other one's arguments.

"If Craig’s [or Pruss's or Plantinga's] thought experiments do not seem intuitively absurd to an individual, as seems to be the case with many philosophers, then he has not offered any independent reason for why that individual should believe the situation to be absurd. Presumably these absurdities are not so evident that one would have to be intentionally deceitful or significantly out of touch in order to lack the necessary intuitions. It seems reasonable to assume that someone familiar with the branch of trans-finite mathematics could view Craig’s thought experiments as merely drawing out intriguing implications of actual infinites in the real world."
"The Universe Began to Exist?" (published: 2011-09-12) by Blake McAllister

Besides that, I still don't, what the conditions are for being civil or being not civil?
The civility of my recent comments has improved significantly? Really?!?
How so?
I don't see a difference in my recent comments to any other of my comments.