Omniscience or Spontaneity

The disjunction forming the title of this post is true because both its operands are true. Prima facie, it seems impossible that it should be so: for, how can any creaturely event happen spontaneously – that is to say, as a result of the free operation of a creaturely will[1] – if Omniscience has known from before all time that the event will occur? God cannot know of a fact that is not indeed a fact; if he knows what I will do, it would seem then that I have no alternative but to do it, and am not therefore the least bit free. If on the other hand I am anywise free, then it would seem that God cannot know what I will do before I have done it.

The solution to this conundrum, as with so many theological difficulties, lies in the recollection that in the eternity that is the only coherently conceivable perspective of Omniscience, there is no before or after. Thus Omniscience and creaturely spontaneity are reconciled by means of the same method that reconciles the doctrines of salvation by election and by faith. God’s knowledge of the contingent acts of his creatures is accomplished by that same motion by which those contingent acts are effected. Thus contingent creaturely acts and God’s knowledge thereof are the same motion considered from different perspectives. The creature is what it knows it does; and God knows what the creature is.

Because in the final analysis all things take place in eternity, the creative actus purus of God, in which his own being subsists, is coterminous with the contingent acts of creatures. Note that this is to say that Divine and creaturely acts share the same ultimate terminus ad quem, the completion and integration of all things. That terminus is the Omega, toward which all beings tend, at which in their completion they arrive and are joined.


Post Scriptum: the argument of this post would work to similar effect if the operands of the disjunction that forms its seed were Omnipotence and spontaneity.

[1] Spontaneous comes from the Latin (sua) sponte “of one’s own accord, willingly.”

3 thoughts on “Omniscience or Spontaneity

  1. I clicked and read “Election or faith.” This as an issue confuses me. It seems simple to me that God opens, and is immutable, while we exist within time, and get swallowed up in Him. Same thing here. God knows all, God is God, and we act within time. Him knowing what we will do isn’t the same thing as Him forcing us to do it.

    I don’t know; perhaps I have only internalized this over time. I remember before my conversion a few years ago, I told my grandfather, a deacon, that I didn’t understand the point of praying if God already knew everything. But now I actually understand prayer (to some extent).

    What confuses me in both of your explanations is this idea of “same motion.” This sentence in particular turns my brain into spaghetti: “God’s knowledge of the contingent acts of his creatures is accomplished by that same motion by which those contingent acts are effected.” My mind quits at “God’s knowledge . . . is accomplished.” (And, hey, I can comprehend Kant! What’s going on here?!)

    • Your difficulty may lie in how you are visualizing eternity, the clue being your use of the term ‘immutable’ in reference to God. He is indeed immutable, but this should not connote to you, as it once did for me, the notion that God is not active, not dynamic – that he just sits there like a rock while creatures change around him. Scripture, the Fathers, the saints and theologians all agree that God is active; that he is an act.

      Being eternal, God is an act of being that has no particular temporal (or, ergo, spatial) address. His temporal address is ‘everywhere.’ All moments are now to him. But since God’s understanding of things is necessarily the most perfect and accurate understanding, so that however things are to him is how they most truly are, the fact that all moments are now to him means that in truth all creaturely moments are now. All the moments of all the histories of all the worlds are happening in the now of eternity. As they come into being, they take up their temporal (ergo, spatial and causal) loci. These loci are real enough, as registers of relations between entities that obtain between them in eternity. But it is not the temporal relations of events that form their basic matrix – history cannot form the context of history – but eternity.

      And eternity is not static, it is dynamic. The dynamism of this moment of your life, which is occurring in the matrix of eternity, shows this. And this is true of all moments of all beings, including the actus purus of the life of God.

      That act is (among other things) an act of knowledge. Thus contingent creaturely acts and God’s actus purus, in which he knows of them, are happening at the same eternal now.

  2. Pingback: A Coincidence and Omniscience: Section I | The Orthodome


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