Re: God and time

Don N Page (
Tue, 11 Nov 97 09:49:47 -0700

I found Garry DeWeese's points made Mon, 10 Nov 1997 10:13:08 -0700
interesting, but as a physicist trying to grapple with the the nature of time
within our universe, I found it hard to agree with much of what he wrote.
Since many of us now think that time is just an approximate concept that
applies only for part of our universe, I would be very loath to agree that God
is confined to time, because then He might exist only within part of the
universe. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to deny that God can be in time
in a way similar to the way in which He can be in a still small voice, or
Christ can be in us. Similarly, I wouldn't want to think of God as a "temporal
being" if that concept is supposed to restrict Him to temporality, though I
wouldn't object if it is being used as a metaphor, analogous to the metaphor
that God takes us under His wings---it's a nice picture of God's care, but we
wouldn't want to conclude that God literally has physical wings, and I would
not want to conclude that God literally lives in time.

I am highly sceptical of the statement, "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." Even for entities within this
universe, there are (partial) theories of quantum gravity (e.g., superstring
theory) in which there can be entities that transcend time. An example would
be the quantum state of the universe. It is postulated to exist, and yet some
components of this state may not have any quantity that can be identified with
time, whereas in other components (such as ours), there are quantities that
behave approximately rather like our ordinary notions of time. Thus the
quantum state transcends time and in that sense can be considered to be
timeless, even though it may describe within itself what we call time.

The statement, "An even stronger argument concludes that *if* God is
timeless, then time must be static, not dynamic" is analogous to the conclusion
that *if* God is spaceless, then space must be homogeneous, not inhomogeneous,
or the conclusion that *if* God is temperatureless, then temperature must be
uniform, not variable. In the part of the universe in which there is an
approximate concept rather like time, things can certainly vary with that time,
just as in the part of the universe in which there is an approximate concept of
space, things can certainly vary across space, and just as in the (smaller)
part of the universe in which there is an approximate concept of temperature,
it need not be uniform so that different things can have different

Saying, "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)," is analogous to saying concluding that God could not know what place
it is *here* or how hot it is at some *temperature*. Certainly there is not
any unique *now*, *here*, or *temperature* such that God knows only one value
for each, but God can know the situation at all existing times, places, and

It is true that time is such a basic part of our common knowledge of
the world that it is often hard to realize that it is most likely a contingent
part of our part of our universe and so presumably created by God if He indeed
created every contingent aspect of our universe. It reminds me of the incident
when I asked our older son, I think when he was 7 or 8, whether God created the
Earth. He replied, "Yes." Did He create space? "No, it's just air." Thus
for him at that level of experience, air was so fundamental that it did not
need to be created as the Earth did. Similarly, much of humankind, including
perhaps the Biblical writers, seem to think that time is so fundamental that it
did not need to be created, and that God exists within this uncreated entity.
(I'm not saying that I know that the Biblical writers explicitly say this,
except possibly in metaphorical passages, so I am not claiming that it is a
concept that God canonized in the Bible, but I'm conjecturing that the Biblical
writers may have had this idea, and that there wasn't sufficient reason for God
to show most of them, and have them explain in the Bible, that it was
otherwise. Similarly, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo may not be explicitly
spelled out in the Bible, and might not even have been believed by many of the
Biblical writers, but I don't think it was denied, and today we accept it as a
Christian theological concept. I do say these things with hesitation and would
be curious if there is significant evidence for or against these speculations
of mine on what the Biblical writers may or may not have believed on these

Don Page