Gene Callahan has an odd post where he writes:
It might seem that the doctrine of divine omniscience means that God knows the future. Many have so interpreted it.
I think that is wrong. God can only know what can be known. But the future is just a name we use for what has not yet happened and it does not, in fact, exist. What does not exist cannot be known.
God is surprised every moment, just like we are.
What’s even odder is that in the comments, Gene has no problem with viewing God as standing outside of time.
Well, I don’t have too much to say except, “I disagree with Gene on this one.” His whole argument rests on the premise that the future is, in principle, unknowable. But that’s sort of the thing under dispute. I claim that the future is, in principle, knowable–after all, God knows it!
My personal metaphor is that God is an author who wrote His story–history–and we are each one character in this amazing narrative. It’s not merely that we are in a certain chapter of a serial novel, where that author kinda sorta knows where things are heading. No, I think the novel is already written, and yet it seems to be unfolding in “real time” to us, just like Luke Skywalker really doesn’t know what he’s going to face at Cloud City. But those events are certainly “knowable”; George Lucas knew them for a while, and now so do those of us who have seen The Empire Strikes Back. (This is analogous to people who die and go to heaven. I think they become joined with God in some fashion, and suddenly see the whole divine plan. Among other things, now it is blindingly obvious why it was not only necessary, but a good thing for Awful Events XYZ to occur, even though we mortals, with our unimaginably small subset of the relevant information, get furious with God for allowing them to happen.)
In closing, here are some Biblical passages to show that Gene’s interpretation cannot be squared with standard Judaism or Christianity. (That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but just pointing out how unusual his stance is.)
Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Matthew 24:3 – 36 (with me editing out a lot):
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[a] these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[b] and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it[d] is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[e] but My Father only.”
And this final example is pretty crystal clear, from Mark 14: 27-30:
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’
28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”
30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
In that last example, not only does Jesus correctly predict what Peter will do in the near future–”correctly” of course if we are taking the Bible at face value in any way–but Jesus is giving one of many examples in the New Testament where He explains how He is fulfilling Old Testament prophesies.
I will stop here and let Gene speak for himself, because this obviously isn’t a matter of the weight of the evidence. In other words it’s not that Gene hasn’t come across passages in the Bible where the God of Moses or Jesus predict things that later come true. But, having given Gene the benefit of the doubt, I don’t know what else to do with his post. I cannot predict his response, that’s for sure…