Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Middle Knowledge and the Age of the Universe

Sometimes skeptics allege that, given the universe is 14.6 billion years old, God would not have used such lengthy amounts of time to produce creatures who bear his image (humans). They say such a thing is a colossal waste, and that God could have (and should have) made the universe with man already in it, instantaneously. This article is not going to quibble over the age of the universe. Rather, I’m going to try to show that regardless of the length of time it takes to “produce” humans in the history of the universe, God probably has very good reasons for doing so.

            What could those reasons be? First, the relative length or shortness of the history of the universe might have a profound effect on what kind of world humans create with their free choices. At first blush this seems crazy. How could the length or shortness of the history of the universe make any difference to my free choices now?

            Consider Pete. Pete lives in LongWorld, which is a world quite similar to ours (in which respects it differs is not important). In LongWorld, evolution over time is either true or very likely to be; this means evidence supports it strongly (whether it be the fossil record or what have you). Now Pete is a contrarian, and he likes being countercultural in a great many things. So he is dispositionally in a position to reject evolution, and does so. In considering the alternatives, Pete comes across the notion of God, and finds himself with a disposition to believe in God (with saving faith). Suppose this is the only world feasible for God to create in which Pete is saved, and it is part of God’s plan or choice that Pete be saved. Therefore, only in LongWorld, where evolution appears to be the case, will God’s plan be realized.

            The application is clear. Counterfactuals of Creaturely Freedom (CCFs) take the form, “If it were the case that P, then it would be the case that Q.” Fleshing it out a little more, it would be: “If it were the case that Pete were in LongWorld (his circumstances, abbreviated C, at a particular point in time), then Pete would freely believe and be saved.” The relative length or shortness of the history of the universe informs the background C of the antecedents of CCFs. This means that the counterfactual truth of one who believes will contain, as part of its non-causal conditions, the history of the universe!

            The age, or appearance of age, or the youth, or appearance of youth, of the universe, as it is perceived by varying people through various presuppositions and with varying amounts of evidence, could even have a profound effect on whether someone accepts or rejects God. A brief objection presents itself: but isn’t it the case that in this world people reject God because of the perceived evidence? Yes, of course. But many rightly see that God’s existence and Christianity’s truth hold irrespective of the age of the universe, or its appearance of age, and their faith is strengthened.[1]

Further, since just every action, event, and choice form the background C of CCFs, we just do not know what a world would look like, in terms of the number and balance of believers. Perhaps only in worlds appearing as this one does are the greatest number and balance saved. God will then create this world, with its attendant time length (whether long or short) and evidences (and their relative strengths), because God knows the relevant CCFs needed to accomplish the world he wishes to create. Logically prior to decreeing the creation of this world, God used his middle knowledge, which is just a logical subset of his omniscience, to know the CCFs of the world.

[1] Their faith is strengthened because they see examples of how science might be used to eliminate God, only to realize that science cannot do so even in principle. In short, the age or appearance of age of the universe shows a believer’s faith should not rely on science.

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