Determinism and the Yawning Deity



The fictional dialogue in chapter one of Davis's Philosophy entitled "A Little Omniscience Goes a Long Way," portrays a yawning Deity overcome with boredom as a consequence of his foreknowledge and determination of all things in the universe. In the process of highlighting some heavyweight metaphysical issues, Davis' attempt at witticism has thrown a proverbial monkey wrench into the ontological pie. If Aristotle's law of non-contradiction is the foundation stone of philosophy, Davis has committed the unpardonable sin. He has involved the Supreme Being in a contradiction of his own Being. The irony of his error is that the telltale yawn occurs just as Davis' God affirms his own perfection.

Boredom in the Deity simply cannot co-exist with perfection which Plato himself regarded as inseparable from the Supreme Good. Boredom suggests (1) a lack of purpose; (2) a lack of interest; (3) a lack of involvement; and (4) a lack of fulfillment. Any being that would be so lacking would hardly qualify to be Supreme.

On the surface of things there might appear to be grounds for boredom for one who had everything in control, and for whom the outcome of all things was assured. A delayed telecast of a football game is not nearly as exciting as the actual game or a live telecast simply because the outcome of the game has already been determined. There are some special conditions, however, that, were they to be true, the spectator could conceivably transcend the boredom factor often associated with the delayed telecast of a football game: (1) if the spectator were the coach of the winning team; (2) if the spectator were the father of the star player on the winning team; or (3) if the spectator were the star player of the winning team.  In either case, the spectator could make a videotape of the game and enjoy it for the rest of his life, and never become bored! If Deity's viewing of history as it unfolds were to be compared to the telecast of a football game, all three of these conditions would be the reality of the situation.

For God, as Christians conceive of him (theistically), does not regard human history as a detached spectator, but as one with a redemptive purpose, a vital interest, direct involvement, and a glorious fulfillment. Boredom, accordingly, would be a metaphysical impossibility. And if the Son's followers had any say in the matter, they would probably divide history into B.C. and A.D.

Not everyone wants to view history in this way, however. Karl Marx, for example, viewed it as the story of class warfare based on a kind of dialectic materialism; Machiavelli, as the conquest of the weak by the mighty; Darwin, as the survival of the fittest, etc.. Whatever the case, one thing seems axiomatic: For God, as Christians have conceived of him, history would be His Story, and it would never be a boring story. To caricature Deity, therefore, as the God who yawns as he reflects on events which he has determined beforehand, is not only to introduce a metaphysical impossibility with respect to the very concept of Deity, it is to misrepresent that Deity in particular who is depicted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.