Thursday, June 30, 2022

Divine temporalism once again

I’m thinking about my recent argument against divine temporalism, the idea that God has no timeless existence but is instead in time, and time extends infinitely pastwards.

Here’s perhaps a simple way to make my argument go (I am grateful to Dean Zimmerman for suggestions that helped in this reformulation). If infinite time is a central feature of reality, as the temporalist says, then one of the most fundamental things for God to decide about the structure of creation is which of these three is to be true:

  1. Nothing gets created.

  2. There is creation going infinitely far back in time.

  3. There is creation but it doesn’t go infinitely far back in time.

But without backwards causation, a temporal God cannot decide between (2) and (3). For at any given time, it’s already settled whether (2) or (3) is the case.

Now, it seems that the temporalist’s best answer is to deny the possibility of (2). We don’t expect God to choose whether to create square circles, and so if we deny the possibility of (2), God only needs to choose between (1) and (3).

But there are two issues with that. First, creation going infinitely far back in time is the temporalist’s best answer to the Augustinian question of why God waited as long as he did before creating—on this answer (admittedly contrary to Christian doctrine), God didn’t wait.

Second, and perhaps more seriously, there is the question of justifying the claim that (2) is impossible. There are four reasons in the literature for thinking that in fact creation has a finite past:

  1. Big Bang cosmology

  2. Arguments against actual infinity

  3. Arguments against traversing an actually infinite time

  4. Causal finitism.

None of these allow the temporalist to justify the impossibility of creation going infinitely far back in time. Big Bang cosmology is contingent, and does not establish impossibility. And if the arguments (ii) and (iii)
are good reasons for rejecting an infinite past of creation, they are also good reasons for rejecting divine temporalism, since divine temporalism would require God to have lived through an actually infinite time. And (iv) also seems to rule out divine temporalism. For suppose that in fact creation follows an infinite number of days without creation. During that infinite number of days without creation, on any day we could ask why nothing exists. And the answer is that God didn’t decide to create anything. So the emptiness of the empty day causally depends on God’s infinitely many decisions in days past not to start creating yet, contrary to causal finitism.

1 comment:

William said...

Consider the assertions in this paper: by Nicolas Gisin. In it, Gisin states that allowing real numbers to actually be a part of the physical universe would imply infinite information at the start of the universe (information being present in the real number's decimal expansion's nonterminating nature).

Would this mean that your "no infinite causal chains principle" would also keep any typical real number (of the type that is unstructured in its decimal expansion) from having any causal role in its full value?