The imagination spontaneously connects ruling dignity and knowledge through the metaphor of height. The one who rules oversees and supervises. It is this metaphor that places God in heaven since the one who rules all and knows all must be in the highest place. Right?
The metaphor collapses into nonsense as soon as we take a straight look at it, but imagination does most of its damage to our theologies and philosophies when we don’t look at it straight on. These spontaneously formed metaphors do their damage when, for example, we visualize omnipotence and providence as looking down from the standpoint of eternity on all time, which is laid out and perfectly actual. If this is what omnipotence is, then time is simply the process of encountering ones future self. Walking to the future should feel like chasing after a ghost and gradually filling in his shade. Why even make him a ghost? If the future is “laid out” under the divine gaze, then my future self-at-the-fridge is just as real and the one who sets out now to meet him. But it is not like this. Action is not encountering it’s, well, acting.
Isn’t this an argument against what we usually think of as predestination or reprobation? Whatever being infallibly ordered to heaven or hell means, it can’t mean encountering one’s “heaven-self” upon death, since this idea is as incoherent as the thought that going into a restaurant is an encounter with ones eating self. Our doctrines of omniscience and omnipotence (and the corresponding doctrines of the sovereignty of God and predestination/reprobation) are fatally marred by imagining that going into a place in space or time means going into an event in space or time.
But the simple negation of our imagination of omniscience is also problematic. It won’t do to say “there is no encounter of a future self, therefore God does not know the future since there is nothing to know.” This is simply another way of making the same mistake. Whereas we first imagine that for God to know the future is to know some imagined set of future events, we now think that because there is no future set of events to imagine, that there is nothing to know.
I do not know if there is any way out of this thicket. Perhaps imagination is such a deadweight on our thought that we can’t say much about the problem except to recognize that we know we can’t know the answer except by paradox and negation. But I’m convinced that much of our thought about these things requires confronting the metaphors we spontaneously and unknowingly form to understand them.