Another Problem with the Boethian Solution

This may be beating a dead horse, but some people are convinced the horse is alive and well. So here’s something else that's wrong with the Boethian attempt to escape theological determinism.

According to Boethians, God doesn’t have foreknowledge of one’s future actions because God is outside of time. He therefore does not foresee what we are going to do, he timelessly sees what we are going to do. And that, they claim, means that we remain free to choose among different possible courses of action.

I’ve already argued that this doesn’t solve the problem (see my blog post from 10/31/17, A Timeless God and Theological Determinism). But even if you disagree with my criticism in that earlier post, there's another reason for rejecting this Boethian solution. For even supposing God is timeless, it is still the case that as an omnipotent being, he ought to be able to make himself temporal. One must accept this as a possibility unless it is metaphysically impossible for God to exist in time — and that’s something the theist would have to argue for. Moreover, this would be especially difficult for a Christian to maintain, for obvious reasons. And yet, as a temporal being, it seems clear that God would be able to foresee the future if he so chose. After all, it would take nothing more out of the ordinary than remembering what he already knew during his timeless existence.

The problem here isn’t (as Linda Zagzebski implies in her Stanford Encyclopedia article whether or not Jesus actually had infallible foreknowledge. If it were, then this would be of concern only to Christians — and they could easily escape it by pointing out that there are reasons for denying Jesus had such knowledge. After all, he himself claimed he didn’t know exactly when the world would end. Moreover (though Christians will be less happy to admit this), he was way off when he predicted it would happen during the lifetime of some of his contemporaries.

No, the problem is wider than that. It is that God could be in time and know the future. It is important to realize that the problem of foreknowledge is not essentially a problem with there actually being such knowledge; it is a problem about it being possible for there to be such knowledge. So long as there is the possibility that someone could know the future infallibly, the future cannot be open to different possibilities. And the Boethian, it seems, must admit that God could have such foreknowledge.