God and Time – Kretzmann and Immutability

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – blame the business. As far as projects go, I currently have two weddings in the pipeline, a church website, a political website, my own to redesign, a few redesigns for friends, not to mention my day job and (oh, yeah) class.

But I’m not one to complain about work. I enjoy work. I try to keep it so I enjoy all of it.

I’m taking a class right now – January term, they call it – called God and Time. It’s a 300 level course that has about fourteen class members right now – four of which are senior philosophy majors. At least they seem like it. Will I be that scary in three more years? The class isn’t actually all that bad; it should be interesting. We’re using a book that my philosophy professor co-edited called (you guessed it) God and Time.

I decided that since this is one of the first real courses I am taking in regard to my major (which I have been looking forward to for a long time) I figure I should write about it. Despite the fact that the class starts in eight hours, I’ve only read half of the essays I’m supposed to have (read: 1 of 2) and I’m dreading the lack of sleep I am about to receive, I still want to write about it.

Kretzmann has an interesting point, and one that I don’t necessarily disagree with. First, some background: Plantega pushed for God as an explanation out of necessity. The quote I have in my notes reads:

If it’s possible for God to exist than God must exist. – Plantega

At the very least it’s a strong statement to make. And if it’s true then it would seem like no problem at all for the Average Joe to believe in God – after all, if God is possible than God must exist. Surely you must agree that it is possible for God to exist?

Then again, look at it from the other side. Now all an atheist has to do is show that it is logically impossible to believe in God. If a philosopher can sit down and show that there are two characteristics of the “perfect” God of the theist that are logically contradictory (an antinomy) then God doesn’t exist. Technically if two characteristics are in disagreement with each other than there are only two options:

  1. One of the characteristics must either be removed or changed (not many are willing to accept this)
  2. God does not exist.

So Kretzmann sets out to show that there are antinomies which show that God (or weakly a certain interpretation of God) isn’t possible. In his “Omniscience and Immutability” Kretzmann focuses on the facts that God is unchanging and all knowing. He intends to show that these two things are logically contradictory, and I think he does a solid job. Kretzmann uses a form of the ontological argument called “reductio ad absurdum,” in which he will attempt to show that following logic from one statement to another will eventually result in a logical contradiction, in which case one of the premises must be rejected.

    1. A perfect being is not subject to change. (Immutability)
    2. A perfect being knows everything. (Omniscience)
    3. A being that knows everything always knows what time it is.
    4. A being that always knows what time it is is subject to change.
    5. A perfect being is subject to change.
    6. A perfect being is not a perfect being.
    7. There is no perfect being.

Kretzmann uses this as a launch pad to attacking the very idea of a perfect being – he brings up a number of arguments which would attempt to reconcile his argument with God’s perfect nature (that is, the truth of both omniscience and immutability. I don’t see a problem with what Kretzmann has concluded, though. In fact I agreed with every point on his argument – every point except for number one.

    1. A perfect being is not subject to change.

I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would stick to this true immutability until the end. It’s nice that Kretzmann does the idea justice – immutability truly means unchanging. It means unchanging in all ways. If there is a qualifier placed on it such as “his nature is immutable” – then God is no longer immutable.

But that isn’t a bad thing. I see it as exciting that we have a God who changes. Our God is a personal agent, something that has appeared throughout history in very real ways affecting people in real relationships. There is dialogue. There is action. There is time and there is change. God adapts. God reacts.

Kretzmann was right with his conclusion. If we are to affirm that our God never changes then we are to affirm a God that doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t bring up a problem in what Kretzmann suggested here. I would bring up a problem with the Christian who posits that God is unchanging. By unchanging I mean the true meaning of immutability – not the constant attitude of His nature.

And I won’t even go into the intricacies of omniscience. There are a lot of little nooks and crannies that interest and affect me in there. But I’m sure that will come up further into God and Time. Heck, I haven’t even read the second essay yet!

3 thoughts on “God and Time – Kretzmann and Immutability

  1. as pire, n. - » God and Time: An Analogy

  2. as pire, n. - » God and Time: Regarding the Incarnation

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