A couple of weeks ago Kaimi posted a question about God’s perfection and eternal progress. That led to various discussions, including discussions of foreknowledge and what it means for him to forget the past. I don’t want to resurrect that whole thread, but I’ve got some more or less random responses to some of the issues that I wanted to post and only now have time to do so.
1. In part of his original post, Kaimi said “the progress of God may explain the apparent change in God’s behavior between the Old and New Testaments.” I see two related problems here. First, the idea that the God of the OT is different than the God of the NT is, I think, much more a matter of a Christian tradition about how to understand the two Testaments than it is a matter of what the texts actually say. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the difference owes at least something to anti-Semitism. Second, if you accept the Book of Mormon, then you have to accept that OT people didn’t have a conception of God that differed so much from that of NT people.
2. Kaimi mentioned Ostler’s notion that God knows the future by knowing its possibilities. As those who were at last weekend’s meetings of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology know, besides his work, there are several Protestant theologians who go by the name of “openness theologians” who’ve laid out arguments in support of this position, e.g. Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. I think those interested in following up on their work will find that their positions, though different than LDS perspectives in important way, are for the most part compatible with our beliefs.
3. The term “all-knowing” came up a couple of times. I don’t have anything to offer along the lines I will suggest, but I wonder if there might be any profit in understanding omniscience in terms of knowledge of the things there are rather than knowledge of states of affairs, thinking of knowledge in more Hebraic terms, as fundamentally intimate acquaintance rather than knowledge-that. To know everything there is by intimate acquaintance would be to be all-knowing, whatever the case with regards to whether one could accurately describe all the possible states of affairs.
4. Clark addressed this before and I said “amen” (though I don’t remember where either occurred), but I’ll repeat it here because it fits in the discussion: If one thinks of the moments of time as one understands beats in a rhythm, then it isn’t difficult at all to understand the present as changing the past. If the past can change, and if God knows it accurately as it has become, then he has forgotten the old past because he remembers the new. Because it would take far too much space to say what I have to say about that here, you can go here to read some notes I’ve made on time. Sections III and V are particularly relevant to this question.