sábado, 7 de agosto de 2010

God as a Timeless Being

Querido Deus,

Louvado seja o seu filho Jesus Cristo.

Eu quero compartilhar como Senhor o primeiro trabalho do meu curso de teologia. Fiquei feliz por ter tirado uma boa nota.

É interessante que seja a seu respeito e que uma das maneiras de conseguir material para ideias seja através da Bíblia. Digo interessante, porque não existem outros textos com autoridade além da própria Bíblia, não é?

Que tudo seja sempre para a sua honra e glória.

God as a Timeless Being

Amongst the subjects in theology that have been discussed recently is God's relation to time. Although the position held during centuries from Augustine through Aquinas is one where God is atemporal, most present day philosophers disagree. While affirming that God is eternal, they understand Him to be everlasting in time. Rather than being outside time, God, in this view, exists through all times at all times, therefore He experiences time.

The other view is one where God is atemporal, He does not experience time at all, he is completely outside time, He is a timeless being and does not exist at any temporal location or at any time at all. God is beyond time altogether and does not experience temporal succession. The relation of God with past or future events is the same as His relation to any other event. There is no before or after for God in this view. He sees all events at once from an "eternal now".

Another possibility has been suggested by Dr. William Lane Craig, where God would be a timeless being before the creation of the universe and then became a temporal being after the creation of the universe in order to interact with the universe inside time.

I intend to show that although God has created the universe and at the same time space-time, the idea of God as a timeless being does not prevent God from interacting with the universe from His timeless stage. God would be timeless and personal simultaneously, before and after the creation.


In order to present the argument for God's timelessness we need to establish the ground for our reasoning. God being timeless means that for God time does not elapse, He is in a changeless state where there is no past, present or future. In this state time does not exist in the same sense it exists for us inside our universe.

No matter which theory we are going to create about the timeless nature of God, some assumptions concerning God's attributes need to be maintained:

1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is omniscient.
3. God is omnipresent.
4. God is sovereign. He acts as He so pleases, according to His own will, independent of any other factors.
5. God is the only uncaused cause, changeless and that has always existed.
6. God is infinite and not constrained by time or space.

Is God Timeless?

God decided to create our universe. It was when all matter, space and time began to exist, at t=0. At some point in time we came into the scene as modern human beings that perceive what we call time as a sequence of events, thus we have also created concepts such as past, present and future in order to establish our position in time. The notion of time is very real to us and it is clear that whatever is in our past is gone and cannot be brought to existence again, not even through the most detailed memories one might have about a past event. That “time” is gone. The future, in turn, is yet to come and there is no way we can predict what is yet to come. So, the present is the only place in the time-continuum we can really grasp and modify, even if the present itself is constrained to a brief subjective lapse of time.

The problem we are faced with is when God created our universe creating also time. That, in conjunction with the fact that God is a personal being, thus He relating to His creatures in a personal way: we can pray to God and He can respond, He can intervene in the way nature takes its course. These are examples of God interacting with us, human temporal beings. If God has created the universe and time, and if God also interacts with this temporal universe, than God must be inside time, God must be a temporal being.

This is what Dr. Craig suggests in his book Time and Eternity – Exploring God’s Relationship to Time – Crossway. He writes on page 241:

“It therefore follows from our arguments that God is (present tense) in time. He exists now. But on the Christian doctrine of creation, the world had a beginning though God did not. Did time exist before the moment of creation? Is God, existing alone without creation, timeless or temporal in such a state? I presented three arguments to show that (metric) time is finite in the past, so God existing without the world must exist either in an amorphous time or, more plausibly, timelessly. In short, given the reality of tense and temporal becoming, the most plausible construal of divine eternity is the God is timeless without creation and temporal since creation”

The challenges I see in this argumentation are as follows:

1. God being in a timeless stage would have to, at some point, create our universe, at least one universe, and that alone would imply temporality inside a timeless stage. God would have to pick up the right time according to His plan to make our universe come into being.
2. God, by creating our universe, creates at t=0 the space-time continuum as well and “enters” it becoming a temporal being. Wouldn’t God be bound by time in this new arrangement? Would not time constraint God?
3. God becoming temporal in our universe would not prevent Him becoming temporal in other universes parallel to ours that He might have decided to create in His timeless stage? Could He be temporal inside our universe and temporal inside other universes as well? Could God experience time in more than one universe simultaneously?

Let’s analyze these challenges to see if we can arrive at any conclusions about them.

It is my suggestion that if God is timeless, the decision He has made to create any universes has been done in eternity. So, even the word “decided”, I have used before, is just for us, humans beings to better understand the flow of this reasoning. There are no facts before God “decided” to do anything in His timeless stage, every fact about the history of any universes, any beings in these universes and any intervention of God in these universes have been defined in eternity.
Even before the creation of our universe at t=0, God already knew the entire history of our universe, even if this history extends to infinity, in the case our universe will expand forever in time.

In order to avoid the problems caused by a temporal God and also to defend the position that God can deal with temporal events in our universe without having to experience time, or in any universe for that matter, it is my intention to introduce the idea that in this timeless stage God has the knowledge of all the events, the entire history of our universe and others, not in a temporal way, but in a timeless way. God knows all the events, but can look at them from a timeless perspective not needing to experience time the way we do in order to interact with these events. And for that, I will use a simple analogy of a set that is not ordered in time. First: a computer database.

A computer database is a set of records that store information. This can be information about a certain individual, object or fact. Every database has an index that allows users of the database to retrieve its records in order to view or modify them. Although the records are numbered they are not related in time necessarily. So, if the user wants to look at record number 1024, the database application looks the record up in the index, finds the record and displays it to the user on a computer screen.

Making the analogy work for our timeless God, He would have a database of the entire history of all His universes and all the facts that took place in these universes including His own interventions, like answering prayers, dealing with natural disasters, sending missionaries to proclaim the gospel and so on; these would be analogous to the records. Like in the database, these events are not timely ordered from God’s timeless perspective but because of His omniscience and omnipotence He knows what event comes in succession or precedes another and can access them at any time. Not because He needs to experience time to know that, but because of his attributes of omnipotence and omniscience.

At this point I would like to introduce an illustration that although very simple is suitable to give us more insight into this matter: the jukebox illustration.

In and old Jukebox, the records are lined-up, indexed according to a list of albums and tracks. The pick-up arm actuates choosing a record according to instructions from a user. The arm must first find the appropriate record and them play the corresponding track.

Figure 1. Jukebox Schema

Similar to the Jukebox Schema, we can think about events in the timeless realm as records. These records are the actual occurrences that have "taken place" (depending where one wants to put the vantage point: future or past). They are the result of our own choices, acts, but also related to God's intervention, may He so desire. Examples would be "On December 31st of 2009 John said a prayer asking for a new job in 2010", or "Mary has thanked God for the blessings she received in 2009", or yet "Susan is going to school in 10 minutes".

God can address these records at His discretion; they have been decided from the eternity.

When looked at from a timeless perspective, these events, although ordered in time in our universe, are individual events in the timeless realm. The relationship among them is maintained because of God's omniscience, but God doesn't need to experience time to establish the time relationship for these events. On the other hand, we are time bound and that's the only way for us, to go through the events on a timely manner.

Figure 2. GOD in the timeless realm

Notice that this view doesn’t interfere with our freewill or our capacity to make free choices. God, in His omniscience, knows all that facts in our future, but that doesn’t mean that God determines all of these facts, but only those that are essential to His plans to be carried out in our lives. In other words, we are not constrained because God knows the facts in our future, we are free to make our own choices, but God knows every choice we make; He has always known.


The proposition alone that God is a temporal being having to experience time, therefore subject to laws that govern time such as special relativity seems to constrain the infinitude of God and also limit Him to exist only inside our universe.
The notion that God might have created other universes is very possible, therefore suppositions that relate God and time need to take that into consideration.
By creating the notion of time-independent events in the timeless realm, we can accept the concept of a timeless God without evoking the need for God to experience time, or enter time after the creation of our universe.

"And Jesus looking upon them said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible." Mt 19:26


The Net Bible - First Edition - www.bible.org

William Lane Craig, Time and Eternity - Exploring God´s Relationship to Time - Crossway

William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God - The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom - Wipf and Stock Publishers

William Lane Craig Debates on the Internet

Typed on a Macintosh Colour Classic running Apple System 7.1

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