How is it possible that God knows the future?


The Catholic understanding is that He knows both. With perfect knowledge He can intellectually predict all possible futures, but He also knows the one actual future because He sees it happening, unencunbered by our limitations of only experiencing one moment at a time.


Actually, this part isn’t doctrine; in fact, it’s a debated topic whether God knows counter-factuals. :wink:

Not precisely. The way you’ve stated it implies that His knowledge is gained through observation – that is, that He learns. God doesn’t learn; He simply knows. So, no ‘observation’ is necessary for His knowledge. :+1:


I see your point. I would say that He certainly doesn’t know counterfactuals in the same way He knows reality, but He presumably knows more than we do about the variables that go into things that could happen but don’t.

Hmm, perhaps I have misunderstood the use of “the knowledge of vision” to describe God’s knowledge of the actual future, then. I definitely agree that God doesn’t need to learn or gain knowledge, but I think it’s important to distinguish between “He knows all things, even those that to us have yet to happen” and the common misconception of “If He knows before I do it, then that forces me to do it.” My understanding was that the solution is to say that he knows what we, in fact, do, analogously (though not necessarily identically) to a time traveler watching us tomorrow, rather than a puppetmaster arranging things so that we do what he foresaw.


Right. But, knowing my mind and its workings, in terms of whether I marry or not, is different than knowing the color of the eyes of the child that I never have. :wink:

The reason that this is a ‘problem’ is that it’s a single statement that’s attempting to encompass two radically different frames of reference. On one hand, we have humans, who experience reality from within the universe and therefore within its temporal framework. On the other hand, we have God, who experiences everything eternally, and is not bound by the temporal framework of the universe. So, when we attempt to say that God knows something “before”… well, we’re talking gibberish. (The problem is that, for some folks, there’s not the realization that it’s gibberish.) It’s nonsensical because we’re attempting to talk about God’s perspective as if it exists within the temporal framework. It doesn’t.

So, one approach is the one you’ve adopted – trying to explain, by analogy and imperfectly, how we might explain things within the temporal framework and make sense of it.

Another approach might be to refuse to describe God in terms of the temporal framework, and only describe Him in terms of His framework – that is, Eternity. God knows all things, eternally. We learn things temporally, by experience. What we learn in time, He knows eternally. (That’s why there’s no logical contradiction here.)

The question of “already” – and with it, the claim of ‘no free will’ – doesn’t come into play, because we get to choose, and He has knowledge of the choice (but not control of it). (When we try to say that He ‘learns’ our choices, in an attempt to pacify the ‘no free will’ crowd, we give the ‘no omniscience’ crowd something to crow about. So – no learning, no forcing.)


God is the alpha and the omega. What was, what is, and what will be. Enough said.


While your above statement is correct, yet hides the crux of the matter and can confuse those who are not familiar with Catholic Soteriology and may erroneously believe people sometimes reject efficacious graces which is never happen.
I reformulate your above statement as follows according to Catholic Soteriology:

When God wills to permit us an act of sin for the reason to convert our act of sin into a greater good God provides us a sufficient grace to resist sin and we every time INFALLIBLY and FREELY reject His sufficient grace and we every time FREELY commit the act of sin and God converts our sins into a greater good.

When God wills not to permit us an act of sin, God provides us an efficacious grace to resist sin and we every time INFALLIBLY and FREELY reject the temptation of sin.

302 The universe was created in a state of journeying (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.
God protects and governs all things which he has made.
307 God thus enables men to be intelligent and free, causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors.
Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA Divine Providence explains.

He directs all, even evil and sin itself, to the final end for which the universe was created.

Evil He converts into good and suffering He uses as an instrument whereby to train men up as a father traineth up his child

Nor would God permit evil at all, unless He could draw good out of evil (St. Augustine, Enchir, xi in P.L. LX, 236; Serm.

As we see above; God directs all, even evil and sin itself.

At the point when God permits evil and sin, that is the point when God needs sufficient graces and He provides us sufficient graces to resist sin and we every time FREELY reject sufficient grace and we every time FREELY commit the act of sin.


Page 121; Fr. Most identifies the metaphysical issue as follows:
Sufficient grace gives man the potency to do good, but do not give the application.

For the application efficacious grace is required to move him from potency to act.

Therefore, sufficient grace is insufficient to move him to act. End quote.
As we see above, as long as God wants to convert our sins into a greater good God has to provide us sufficient graces to resist sin.

If God would provide us only efficacious graces to resist sin, would be no sin committed in the world.
God bless


There are many references here to God being “outside of time” meaning the past and the future are readily known by Him. Who first dreamed this up? I doubt if even a small percent of believers know what this means.


And yet it has always been a concept in the Catholic tradition and religious philosophy, and while the bible itself presents an amphomorphic expression of God, the Catholic idea of God implicitly presents a being that transcends space-time and is the cause of it.

One only has to look at the history of religious philosophy to realise that Catholics have a well defined ontological concept of God that can be argued for or against.


There are several simple possible answers to this question:

  1. We are thinking of God and binding God along the lines of our human limitations. If we have no problem with thinking that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and transcendent, how is it we are suddenly stuck with limiting God with time? We aren’t stuck with how God overcomes the problems of space, with listening to everyone’s prayers at once, with resurrecting the billions and billions of dead that ever lived and judging them all for the good and bad deeds, but we’re stuck with the problem of time? We believe that God never had a beginning and have no problem with that one, but the question of how God knows the future gets to us? That’s shows we like to pick and choose God’s attributes. It’s like idolatry. Instead of letting God be what God is, we want to design God a certain a way. That’s molding a deity to fit our needs. I know you aren’t intending on doing that, but it’s a bit of tantamount to doing that when we do that.

  2. If God is unaffected by time, then God doesn’t know the future. There is no future for God. There is no past. There is no present. There just “is.” The past, present, and future are all before God at once. So when God “foretells” the future, God is merely letting us know what God can see a possible outcoming playing out. We have free will, but God “knows” the end of our actions because God transcends time. Our free actions and time it took to do them are all there before God at the same moment in time.

  3. Lastly, it may also be that the ancients spoke of God in this manner due to the fact that we are all recipients of God’s providential care. God may not “know” the future as much as be “prepared” for it in nature and for our eternal resting. This last one I am not too sure of myself, but it is reasonable to take into account that the ancient authors of the Scriptures did tend to humanize God just a bit too much in order to try to make God more conceivable to us. The physical and spiritual universe is prepared for us, and we tend to worry a lot more about things than we need to. So even this “natural” take on things might have some merit. It’s not that God abandoned us to the Universe, but that there’s greater providential control naturally built in to our lives than we realize.


These are all anthropomorphic concepts. Human existence and saying I am is a human perception of what it means to exist in time. To create something requires time and God is outside of time. The idea of eternal life is an anthropomorphism also, because first of all it is not eternal, since eternity has no beginning and no end. And to use the word life implies what we know as life on earth.
None of your statemets exclusively uses concepts which are completely non-anthropomorphic. The concepts you have used relate to what humans know about existence on earth within time.


That’s a nice retort, to try and save face, but I’m not seeing it.

“I AM” == “to exist in time”? C’mon… :wink:

God Himself asserts that He created all of the universe; that’s not a human concept. Nor does it it “require time”. God spoke… and it simply was.

So… ‘eternal life’ is a human concept because… it’s not human. Uhh… right. :roll_eyes:

You misunderstand what ‘anthropomorphic’ means, then. :man_shrugging:


God is beyond human comprehension. Your description of God comes from human concepts of power, love, existence, time, speaking and wisdom and therefore may be said to be anthropomorphic in some sense.

What did God say? What language did God use when He spoke and thereby created the universe? Do you claim that God - speaking words 13.8 billion years ago in a language that did not even exist at that time - is not an anthropomorphism?


Yes God knows the future because He is God and as said in the book of Revelation-

I am the Alpha and Omega the first and the last the beginning and the end Revelation 22:13


Surely you know that Genesis is inspired poetry, and when we say God spoke we are not talking about literalist human language. You know that right?


God. :wink:

Actually, you’re conflating ‘anthropomorphism’ with ‘analogical speech’. Aquinas would say that everything we say about God is ‘analogical’ – it doesn’t precisely describe Him (since, after all, He transcends our understanding), but it comes as close as we can do. And, it does it by analogy. But, that doesn’t mean that perceive of God as if He were a human (which is what anthropomorphism means, in this context); it means that we use human language to aid in an understand of God (that is, analogical speech).

I get the distinction you’re attempting to make, but if you equate “giving God human qualities” with “describing God in terms of things we comprehend”, you’re taking two distinct notions and treating them as if they were the same. They’re not. :wink:

sigh. :man_facepalming: It’s figurative language, not anthropomorphism. I’m not saying that God literally caused words to form from a mouth He doesn’t have.


You are defining words differently from how the dictionary defines the word. Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human form or behaviour to a deity…
You are attributing speaking, which is human behavior, to God. According to the dictionary this is an example of an anthropomorphism. That is not to deny that sometimes
anthropomorphisms are to be taken in a figurative sense.



Let’s see, then, if what you tell me is ‘anthropomorphism’ is really so, according to the definition you want to use:


  • Is “I AM WHO AM” a “human behavior”?
  • Is creation ex nihilo something that humans do, or something that only God can do?
  • Is ‘eternal life’ a concept that proceeds from humans, as a human behavior, or is it rather a divine characteristic?

On the other hand, let’s look at the examples you provided, which I called ‘anthropomorphism’ and which you denied as such:

  • Is “repenting” a human behavior?
  • Is “changing one’s mind” something that humans do?
  • Is “threatening” and then “relenting” a human behavior?

Why yes… they are! Therefore, it’s pretty clear that the original notions you mentioned actually are examples of ‘anthropomorphism’, as I claimed upthread, while the ones I provided you are examples of divine, not human, behavior.

Thanks for proving the point. :wink:


I thought that speaking was an example of human behavior.


Sorry… where do you see ‘speaking’ in these examples that I provided to you? :thinking:


How did God create the universe?

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