Don Paez tagged my name in an FB thread where he was discussing with some theists concerning our oral debate last year. The specific topic was about whether the future is an actual infinite in the mind of God.
There is good reason why Don is confident to talk about this topic since during our oral debate, I seemingly failed to addressed this particular objection. Don asked the question whether the future is infinite or not. I said that it cannot be infinite since it is impossible for time, being a series, to traverse infinity; hence, the future will always remain to be finite. In the mind of God, the future will always be finite. Then, Don objected that if the future is finite, then God’s knowledge will also be finite.
During our debate, I was unaware that Don was considering this point in the debate as his best moment. It was only after I watched the video that I realized that that moment was a critical point for me. Don (and one of audiences), as seen in the video, is nodding and appeared happy at the turn of the events, thinking that I stumbled upon a contradiction when I was trying to explain that the future is finite in the mind of God. Unfortunately, I was not facing at Don did not noticed him nodding, and I was not paying attention to the reactions of the audience (this is actually a defect on my personality – I’m always inside myself).
But the thing is, during the debate, I didn’t consider Don’s objection as a serious one and assumed that Don and the audience have seen the obvious fallacy in his follow up objection. My disposition during the debate was not contentious. I was there for friendly discussion, and I was too condescending and never thought of seizing moments where I can humiliate Don. I never took advantage of the many fallacies (obviously wrong and superficial arguments) Don committed during the debate.
But now, I’d like to repeat and emphasize here that during the debate, I didn’t consider Don’s objection serious. It was actually, in my mind that time, another of atheists’ “should-be-ignored-mistake-due-to-their-misunderstanding-of-theism.” Atheists have many of this kind of mistaken beliefs about theism and religion. And the professional should forgo them as something trivial because they are just products of atheists’ excusable ignorance.
But since Don and many of his mates think that his point was not trivial, I decided to elaborate here.
First, Don concluded that if the future is finite in the mind of God, then this will make God’s knowledge also finite or limited. To be honest to Don, I really find this objection unserious, since I never expected that he, being educated in philosophy at UST, should fail to see the simple idea about God is the principle of knowledge and being. Classical theism, which I believe is as basic as 1+1 for UST philosophers, says that God is knowledge Himself so that the existence of creatures do not really add anything to the knowledge of God. God’s knowledge is absolute, complete, and perfect, simply because He is the principle of knowing and being. Even before God created anything, He knows everything, that is, every being. He knows every being because He is the source of all beings. By knowing Himself, everything is known. Only nothingness is unknowable to God, precisely because nothingness is not being.
God’s Essence is the origin of all essences (beings), His knowledge is commensurate or identical to His Essence, that is, whatever His Essence is, He knows; and whatever He knows, is also His essence. So whatever has an essence (being) is known by God by knowing His very own Essence. Unlike us, we know things because they are. But in God, things are because God knows Himself. Only nothingness is not known by God because it has no essence.
Is Don saying that before God created anything, God knows nothing? Don could not say this, given his UST philosophy background. Hence, I could not believe he was serious when he objected that God’s knowledge will be made finite if the future is finite.
Going back to the Kalam
The Kalam argument succeeds in leading us to logically infer the existence of God as a necessary Being to explain the contingency or finitude of the physical order. So the conclusion of the Kalam is a necessary Being as the cause of the existence of contingent physical order. God is the unconditioned explanation of the conditioned reality. We cannot escape inferring the unconditioned Reality because conditioned reality exists; otherwise, we fall into the absurdity of believing that the conditioned reality is caused by nothing or into believing the equally absurd idea that the conditioned reality is eternal in time. There is no escape for the above conclusion except irrationality or skepticism about reason (Don Paez and some of his mates have actually come to this point).
Now, part of the idea of unconditioned or necessary Reality (God) is that this Reality (God) is the source or principle of being and knowing. If this is not the case, then this reality would not be necessary and unconditioned. If we will not conceived God as the principle and source of being and knowing, then we have not met the requirement of the conclusion of the Kalam. If God is not the principle of being and knowing, then he is also a contingent being. But the Kalam logically concludes that God is the necessary Being, hence, God is also the principle of being and knowing.
This means that God does not know reality as something external, as if reality is the cause of His knowledge. Our knowledge is increased because there are realities (beings/things) outside. But the creation things and their indefinite existence in the future do not really add anything to the knowledge of God. God does not comprehend things by intuiting reality. Rather, He knows beings because He is Being and Knowing Himself. In God, to know is to exists. While we exist and we know, the nature of God’s existence is knowing. He knows therefore He exists; and He knows His own self, and by this, He knows everything thing. The laws of nature and all the details of contingent things are understood by God because He is the principle of knowledge and being. He is knowledge and being Himself. These are all implied in the idea that God is the necessary being to explain the universe' conditioned being.
So the future is finite, but whether things exist or not, God’s knowledge is infinite because He knows Himself who is infinite.
For by Him all things were created.., all things have been created through Him and for Him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1: 16-17)
For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17: 28)
For further reading on the nature of Divine knowing, read my article.
In what follows is my recent conversation with Don. Minor editions are made.
RD: This means that whatever is in the future is known by God, because whatever that is an “is” (being) has being only in so far as God is Being. Hence, God does not know the future by knowing the future in themselves. This is an imperfect type of knowledge. As I have explained in my debate with Don Paez (which no one in the audience really understood), God knows all things even the possible by knowing Himself. By comprehending Himself, He knows everything. This is not an actualized infinity of the future in the mind of God. In Don's argument, he starts with a premise that God's mode of knowing is like human knowing, that is, we know things because they are. That is why he objected that if the future is always finite, then it will mean that God's knowledge is also finite. But this is false since even before God created anything, His knowledge is infinite simply because He is the principle of knowing and being.
DP: So Red, you are saying that god's knowledge of eternity is an actual infinite?
RD: It is an actual infinity because God is an actual infinity. But this is not the same with the actual infinity negated by the Kalam. The Kalam negates an actually infinite sequence. But God's knowledge of the future or His knowledge of His creatures are not accumulations but a simple comprehension of His very own Being.
DP: Remember that the reason why the kalam rejects an actual infinite sequence is because an actual infinite is impossible. The point still stands whether the actual infinite is a sequence of events or not.
RD: That's not correct. What is impossible is to traverse infinite sequence.
DP: Is that so? Maybe it would be nice if we could post the justification for premise #2...
*Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite.
-An actual infinite cannot exist.
-An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
.:Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
*Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition
-A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
-The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
.:Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
Notice that the two impossibilities are derived from the unqualified premise that an actual infinite is impossible. This means that an actual infinite is impossible regardless of the kind of infinity.
It ought to be noted that the kalam does not distinguish between qualitative and quantitative infinity. It just says that an actual infinite cannot exist. So if we pair that with Red's claim...
An actual infinite cannot exist (kalam)
God is an actual infinite (Red)
.: Therefore God cannot exist.
RD: //-An actual infinite cannot exist
-An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
.:Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.//
Don, the meaning of "actual infinite" in premise 1, which is the justification for premise 2 is actual infinite sequence. One example of this “impossible actual infinite sequence” is the subject in premise 2. In other words, actual infinite in premise 1 is the generic term for all types of infinite sequence. It does not include the idea that God is an actual infinite.
DP: Nope, that's not true Red. Otherwise Craig would have simply stated that an actual infinite series of events cannot exist, instead of deriving it from "an actual infinite cannot exist" and "an infinite sequence of events is an actual infinite." As it stands, the unqualified statement "an actual infinite cannot exist" forms part of the premises, and any conclusion involving an actual infinite, whether a sequence of events or not, would conflict with it.
Were we to take it further, we could even derive:
An actual infinite cannot exist
God's attributes imply the existence of an actual infinite
God's attributes cannot exist.
RD: Well, for me there's no other meaning for "actual infinite cannot exist" except infinite series. Craig knows that, of course, unless we say that he doesn’t understand what he is saying after all years of study and research. God's attributes are infinite not because they amount to infinite number of things. But because these attributes are the unconditioned principle of conditioned realities.
If contingent creatures (us) are capable of knowledge, then being the creator of human intelligence, we ought to attribute intelligence to God. And since His essence is the origin of all essences/beings, His knowledge is commensurate or identical to His essence, that is, whatever His essence is, He knows; and whatever He knows, is also His essence. So whatever has an essence is known by God by knowing His very own Essence. Only nothingness is not known by God because it has no essence.
DP: For you, yes. But that's not what the argument logically implies. I suggest that he could simply reword it to cover only quantitative actual infinities.
RD: //to cover only quantitative actual infinities.//
Actually, It cannot cover anything other than quantitative infinities simply because only “actual infinite series” are impossible. When you put "impossible" to it, you limit the extension. "Impossible actual infinities" obviously only cover quantities.
DP: "Obviously" does not compute. A statement is universally applicable unless qualified and/or quantified.
RD: Yes it's universally applicable. But the what is meant by universal application refers only only to the correct application of the term used in a proposition. The universal application of the term, “impossible infinites,” are only those subjects falling under series or quantities because they are the only correct extension of the term. Universally applicability does not include what is outside, so don’t include God.
DP: Then it should have been specified from the start. As it is right now it isn't, so logically it also applies to non quantitative actual infinities.
RD: Yes, it's better to specify it. But I didn't find it necessary until now.
DP: Ok, so you're saying that the kalam argument as it is classically written is flawed?
RD: No. there's nothing wrong with it. The Kalam starts with what is supposedly uncontroversial. That “infinite series is impossible” is uncontroversial. So what the kalam really meant by impossible actual infinite is nothing else than infinite series. If premise 1 could mean more than infinite series, then there's no point using it as a principle for deduction.
DP: It seems that you're just unnecessarily interpreting a term and qualifying it for the sake of convenience. If the premise could mean all actual infinities whether infinite series or not, then it would conflict with even a qualitatively infinite god. Sorry man, that's just how logic works. On the other hand, if you try to edit it, it may be improved, but that wouldn't be the kalam anymore, just as the kalam is distinct from the classical cosmological argument.
RD: It only includes series. Period. You can interpret it in your own way but then, you'll be just attacking a straw man.
DP: Perhaps. But then again by limiting an explicit universal statement and replacing it with a qualified version, you'd be guilty of shifting goalposts. There is quite a big difference in logical distribution between "an actual infinite cannot exist" and "an actual infinite series of events" cannot exist. The former is distributed far more than the latter, and even encompasses all actual infinites which are not series of events, such as qualitative infinities.
RD: //But then again by limiting an explicit universal statement and replacing it with a qualified version, you'd be guilty of shifting goalposts.//
Your understanding of universal applicability is wrong Don. The subject "actual infinity" is universally applicable to its logical extension. The logical extension depends according to the meaning it is used in a proposition. The meaning of "actual infinity" in the proposition (premise 1 of Kalam) is actual infinite series. So the proposition applies universally to all series. To extend the application to God is going beyond its universal logical extension. Example, If I say "the Paez clan are good," and if the meaning of "Paez clan" in my proposition refers only to the clan where you directly descended, then its universal extension applies only to all members of your clan. You don't include all individuals in the Philippines just because their surname is Paez.