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Boethius' view on a 'Justified' God (Part 2)

Boethius' view on a 'Justified' God (Part 2)

Boethius' view on a justified God is so intriguing that there's room for another article! The following are further to the first article and discuss some of the terms included within it.

Middle knowledge supports a Boethian God that rewards and punishes justly because of aforementioned providence, but also solves Boethius’ dilemma that prayer is pointless with an omniscient God. In middle knowledge the limited omniscience means God knows all possible future paths but can still intervene in whichever one is taken as he does not know which will be taken and thus prayer is relevant. However, Middle knowledge leaves God mutable because as he travels alongside us in time, he must learn events as they happen which leaves him mutable. Also it questions God’s omniscience if he cannot be precise on the nature of future events.


Richard Swinburne disagreed with Boethius’ timeless model of God and suggested an everlasting God that moves through time alongside us, limiting himself (kenosis) with his back to the future. Swinburne’s reductio ad absurdum argument contests Boethius’ idea of God as absurd; for Swinburne, in a world governed by logic, a logical God is the only possible outcome thus he cannot see the future as that is illogical but knows all the past and present through his omniscience. Without this knowledge of the future humans may maintain freewill and therefore God can reward and punish justly. In his book ‘The God of Philosophers’ Anthony Kenny also countered Boethius’ idea of God arguing that it is incoherent to say all time passes at once for God because time, by definition, can only pass chronologically. Kenny mocked Boethius’ concept of God saying “The great fire of Rome is simultaneous with the whole of eternity. Therefore, while I type these very words, Nero fiddles heartlessly on.” He suggests that if Boethius’ timeless God were to exist then the great events of the past are happening as we are discussing them which is ludicrous; there would be no point in a time frame. Swinburne and Kenny disagree with Boethius but still solve his issue; freewill and omniscience are compatible if God doesn’t have foreknowledge and thus people have freewill to choose their actions then God may reward and punish justly.


Paul Helm entirely disagreed with Swinburne. He argued that God is timeless but acts eternally, only timeless in the sense that he is literally free from time. Swinburne’s reductio ad absurdum argument was used incorrectly therefore as it did not reduce Boethius’ argument to absurdity because God is free from time. This can be used to support Boethius’ conclusion that God does reward and punish justly. Kortabinksi then criticised Helm implying that he ignored the fact that existence implies duration, which does not sit comfortably with the notion of eternity. Therefore God is everlasting and the timeless God cannot exist so both Helm and Boethius are incorrect. However, this argument, similarly to Swinburne’s, can still allow for God to reward and punish justly because human action is caused by human freewill.


Based on the thoughts discussed, it is very hard to come to a final decision on Boethius’ concept of a God who rewards and punishes justly. His “addition of the condition” and Molina’s Middle Knowledge support the idea and though he did not speak explicitly on rewarding and punishing justly there is support for Boethius in Helm’s work. On the other hand it is largely criticised; Richard Swinburne, Anthony Kenny, Tadeusz Kortabinski (and as with most philosophical arguments on the nature of God - Richard Dawkins) all contest Boethius’ concept of a timeless God. Conclude for yourselves! As you can see Philosophy is, as I have said before, very complicated and there is no correct answer but decide for yourself!


IMAGE: - A man feeling confused, because Philosophy can be quite confusing! 


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