These thoughts were made some time ago before I was Orthodox. They don’t necessarily represent the Fathers or the Tradition of the Church but they are a take on the issue that I think may be within the Tradition. Any thoughts or critiques?
I will begin by defining time as a measure of change. Things that change have a past, present and future. Things that do not change are said to be timeless because the past, present and future are indistinct and also there is no change to measure. Also, I understand that the future does not exist, expect as a potential, the present is an instant and lacks any permanence and the past also does not exist except as a memory. (Only timeless things truly exist in permanence.)
God is unchanging hence He exists without time. Creation has time because it is changing. Time began with Creation and will continue until Creation ceases to change; before Creation there was no time. We cannot think of what happened before because there was no change and we cannot say why did not God create earlier because there is no earlier. The first moment of Creation is the earliest time.
Time does not, therefore, have an eternal existence. It came into being with Creation. Like the rest of Creation it only existed in potential before the beginning of Creation. God’s existence cannot be referenced to Time; He lives beyond time and is unaffected by it. Time only has consequence to His creatures.
God being immutable cannot change with the events of time. Hence, He must know all future potentialities as if they were actual before Creation. When those potentials become present for the creature, this cannot affect God and they also do not make a change for God when they become past memories. His knowledge of things does not know any such difference.
Being omniscient God knows the future because the future potentials are knowable when they become present to the creature. If a creature knows something then so must God. Being Immutable the knowledge cannot come to God over time; He must know all things eternally.
God has given mankind free will. This means that man is free to make his own decision about things. Therefore, man is able to freely change some aspect or action of his. Because the future exists only in potential and not in actuality then the free choice of a man can make one potential actual for the man while others remain not so. Another choice will make a different potential actual for the man. This does not affect God because His knowledge is unchanged by potentials becoming actual for a man and His knowledge of potentials as actuals. Man’s free will is therefore consistent with God’s immutability and omniscience.
What about predicting the future? God is omnipotent so he can affect all things as He wills. If He determines that such an event should take place then He can make it happen; He is free. This is God’s providence in Creation. Note: all determinations of God were made before time and He does not change His mind. An apparent change of mind can occur because free choices actions of an individual can “trigger” a predetermined decision of God. Hence, a man prays for God’s mercy and then God “changes His mind” and relents from the threatened punishment. God had already determined to do so before time when the man actualised the future potential for prayer for himself and meet the “requirements” for God’s relenting. God can predict the future trials of a man because these things are brought to a man through God’s providence. However, God cannot necessarily predict a man’s salvation because the man’s free will actualises for himself salvation or damnation. It does not affect God whether a man is saved or not because He knows all future potentials including salvation of the man. The choices of men only affect themselves and those of limited knowledge. If Saints are to share the energies of God, including omniscience then they also will know the future potential of everyone being saved as if they were actually saved and they also will not be affected by the loss of sinners.
Because God’s decisions are all predetermined before time then all things He does are predetermined including the call, justification and glorification of man. He foreknows the potential salvation of all men and He has willed that all be saved. He has also determined the means for all to be saved. However, man must choose the triggers for these predetermined actions of God. If man chooses not to then God cannot and will not force them upon a man because God has given us free will.