Re: God and time

Jan de Koning (
Mon, 10 Nov 1997 17:07:29 -0500

At 10:13 AM 10/11/97 -0700, Garry Weese wrote (in reply to my posting of
>Well, let's not get involved in free will/fatalism again. Still, I am
>uncomfortable with the assertion that "God is outside time," as if it were
>a clear interpretation of Scripture. It is not.

I say, that it helps me to understand the controversies of free will as
human resposibility. I reject the term fatalism in this respect. We do
not know how God works, but God made us responsible for our acts: free
will; and says on the other hand that nothing happens outside His wiil.
God called nations to punish Israel, but then later these same nations are
punished for doing so. I cannot see how you can avoid talking about the
Free will issue. God makes it perfectly clear that we are responsible, and
at the same time that He is everywhere in charge. That is not fatalism,
but something we cannot understand. Pushing this problem away does not
help. If you want to call it "fore knowledge" you still have the same
trouble. We cannot understand God, and will never be able to do so. If we
are not carefull we are accusing God of playing games with us. I still
claim, that my arguments are more or less the same as were used between
Luther and Erasmus, as modified by John Calvin.

>I would argue the following:
>1. The modern terms "timeless," "atemporal," or "outside of time (or above
>time)" as synonyms of "eternal" as applied to God are due more to Greek
>philosophy than to any philosogical or exegetical arguments from wither the
>Old or the New Testament. (I find it ironic that Jan de Koning, who so
>often warns us against making facile assumptions based on Greek philosophy
>when doing Biblical interpretation, is the one who has several times made
>this claim.)

I would be very much interested in where you find that argument in Greek
Philosophy. I cannot remember having my arguments ever read in any Greek
philosophy work.

'>2. The claim that "God is outside of time" is often given no more support
>than the further claim that, "If not, he could not be the creator of time."
> But this doesn't follow. An analogous argument would claim that God is
>not spirit, for if he were, then he could not be the creator of spirit (or
>personhood, or being, or...). Properly we should not speak as God being
>"in time" (cf. "in spirit"), but rather as a "temporal being" (cf.
>"spiritual being"), or, more precisely, we should say that "God's temporal
>mode of being is omnitemporality."

If you had read my previous postings, you would have noticed that I do not
talk about God as creator of spirit in the sense you use it. Sorry, these
postings may have been on another listing. The words we read in the bible
as "spirit" are the same as the word translated as "wind" and "breath", see
for the OT Gesenius under "ruach.". In some texts in the NT Greek word
"pneuma" is translated in John 3:8 as "wind" and as "spirit." Here I
definitely have claimed and still claim a Greek influence, which made man a
body-spirit duality, contrary to the teachings of the OT. Man is a unit,
when we die, we die. At the resurrection we will become ready for the New
World, when the New heaven comes down to earth. I have definitely said,
that splitting man in "body" and "soul" derives from Greek philosophy, and
is anti-biblical. Most of the theological books I know on this are in
Dutch. Some may have been translated, but I don't know. At the spur of
the moment, the only one in English I can remember now is by John A.T.
Robinson: The Body, A study in Pauline Theology. By the way how does
"omnitemporality" differ from eternity? Note, that I never claimed that
God is not eternal. I only claim that eternity is not the same as
stretched out time.

>3. I think a sound argument can be offered to the effect that no concrete
>entity can be timeless, where "concrete" (as opposed to abstract) entity is
>understood as an entity which is possible the terminus of a causal relation.

How? In creation, I agree, but for the Creator I don't. Besides you can
never ever say that God is the terminus of a relation. At best that He is
in every action here in creation.

>4. An even stronger argument concludes that *if* God is timeless, then
>time must be static, not dynamic (B-theoretic, for those familiar with the
>philosophical jargon here). But there are significant problems with
>assuming static time, and good reasons to believe time is really dynamic.
>And if so, then God must be temporal.

"If God is timeless" is an expression I never used. I say God is "outside"
time, and even that does not describe the situation properly, because God
works in time too. This whole debate becomes blasphemous, if we want to
draw God into our definitions. No matter what you say, God is more than we
ever can define or comprehend. Here again I point to the fact, that God
makes us responsible and at the same time guides this whole world, and
gives me a new heart, without my asking for it. No matter how you argue,
you cannot philosophically argue about these issues without taking biblical
givens into account.

>5. The strongest support for God's timelessness comes from (i)
>immutability, strongly conceived, and (ii) simplicity. But as many have
>shown, if God is strongly immutable, then there can be no change in his
>knowledge, and God could not know what time it is *now* (as that obviously
>changes). I think a better understanding is to say that God is immutable
>in his essential attributes, including of course omniscience, but to deny
>that the *contents* of God's knowledge are essential to him. As for (ii), I
>think it is very difficult to make sense of the concept of simplicity
>without resorting to neo-Platonic metaphysical concepts which--as we should
>realize--are not necessarily Biblical concepts.

While I am, of course, interested in what others say, I am not willing to
defend philosophical arguments, which I don't hold and to my knowledge
never used. These arguments are probably medieval in origin, but I never
studied them in this connection. Here again we start talking as if we know
God's inner workings. That is again blasphemous. As you see I do not
underwrite this argument at all, and have never seen it in the theological
literature I read on this subject. Do not try to read in my postings more
than I say. Also, I will gladly acknowledge that I am possibly wrong, but
thus far I have not seen any arguments that convince me, nor any arguments
that answer the points I made.

>6. The strongest support for static time comes from relativity theory
>(specifically, the denial of absolute simultaneity), and frankly I find
>those objections much more significant than the objections from
>immutability and simplicity. But I believe they can be answered.

How? Thus far I am impressed with the arguments, though I have staid away
from using them in general discussions, I think. If I did not, forgive me.
I am not enough of a phycisist to dare to debate publicly on these issues.

Jan de Koning
Willowdale, Ont.