Collapsing the Temporal and Omniscient God [draft].

An argument for the Incompatibility of Omniscience, Divine Temporality, and Foreknowledge.

John Fisher 2.0
3 min readMay 13, 2021

The following is a rough sketch for a modal collapse argument against non-open theistic models of God, which admit divine temporality.

  1. If there is no time before T-0, where T-0 is the moment of creation, when God could be wrong about his believing that he would bring the universe into existence, then there is no possibility that he wouldn’t create the universe.
  2. At no time before T-0, where T-0 is at the moment of creation, God could be wrong about his believing he would bring the universe into existence.
  3. Therefore, there is no possibility that he wouldn’t create the universe.

The first premise seems reasonable; if God couldn’t be wrong about what he would create (given his omniscience), and there is only one right answer, there is only one possible world that could be created.

Some proponents of divine temporality would make a distinction between metaphysical and physical time and point out that moments in such a metaphysical time cannot be given any meaningful metric. As Ryan Mullins ably explains,

The claim often made is that in this unmetricated state prior to the act of creation there is no way to measure God’s metaphysical time, or what Dean Zimmerman calls “dead time.” According to Zimmerman, in order to measure a temporal series one will need temporal intervals “consisting of a nondenumerable set of durationless instants.” Further, one will need to have a set of coordinates that have the same “betweenness relations” or same length. Without an intrinsic metric this will be an arbitrary convention. The problem is that any such conventional metric could be devised to measure God’s life, and there is no way in principle to say which one is wrong because every instant of dead time is intrinsically alike and is the same number of instants away from each other (2016, p. 36).

I don’t believe this really affects the argument. I only need to affirm there is a period of time (no matter how immeasurable its “between relations” are) where God could have known he would not have brought the universe into existence before willing it into existence.

The second premise seems the more contentious, and I could foresee a few moves. The first one would be to affirm if God chose otherwise, then he would know otherwise. Since he has free will, he could choose otherwise. But this is to hold that God’s will could have some sort of retroactive effect on his knowledge.

Maybe his knowledge could assign no true-or-false value until he makes his decision. But this seems to give up on bivalence. Also, if this is the case, there are a lot of things God has yet to will, does God’s knowledge assign no true-or-false value to any future decisions? If so, this strikes me as open theism, albeit one with a limited scope. For those really concerned with this issue, I’d suggest adopting just open theism, if not timelessness (my own preferred solution).

Another move would be to affirm that God could have been wrong, but that he wasn’t. But this would make God only accidentally all-knowing, and that would seem to lower God to a being who is less than perfect. This would mean he is reliant on something outside of himself for his knowledge. If we want to limit this to that one action, then that would seem ad hoc.

Lastly, one could affirm that God could still indeterminately create, even if there were no other possibilities, but one possible world is still one possible world, whether or not he freely chose.


Mullins, R. T. (2016). The End of the Timeless God. Oxford University Press.



John Fisher 2.0

Catholic blogger, my views are not necessarily reflective of the Church’s. Please post corrections to help me avoid heresy.