Wednesday, 29 April 2015

David Brandshaw: St. Maximus on Time, Eternity, and Divine Knowledge

There are a number of problems pertaining to the relationship between time, eternity, and divine knowledge.  First is the well-known problem of the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.  Second is the question of whether God knows temporally indexed propositions, such as what time it is now or that a given event occurred yesterday.  Third is a problem regarding the apparent diminishment of divine action: if God knows from all eternity the entire history of any world He might create, then it would appear that He in fact performs only one action, that of choosing to create a particular world with its history.

The options available for addressing these problems depend upon one’s view of the nature of time and eternity.  Beginning with Dionysius the Areopagite, the Eastern Christian tradition developed a distinctive view on this topic.  For Dionysius, both time and eternity are divine “processions”—that is, acts that manifest God but are not equivalent to the divine essence.  Dionysius’s early commentator, John of Scythopolis, added to this an understanding of time as the “shining forth” of that which is latent or implicit within eternity.  Building upon these starting points, Maximus the Confessor developed a subtle view in which the logoi of time return to their original unity within divine eternity through the free acts of creatures.  This paper will explore the implications of this Dionysian-Maximian view for the problems stated above.

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