Re: God and time

Garry DeWeese (
Sun, 16 Nov 1997 16:56:50 -0700

At 09:49 AM 11/11/1997 -0700, Don N Page 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
>is confined to time, because then He might exist only within part of the

This may start to sound like a broken record, but I do not want to say that
"God is confined to time." This seems to spatialize time, to treat it as
some kind of "realm" which God inhabits. Rather, I would say that God is
temporal, in that he experiences succession in his being. But that is just
the way concrete beings are, whether physical or spiritual.

As to whether time applies only to part of the universe, I would like to
hear more from you. If you are referring to singularities, then I would
reply that they are on the boundary of space-time and not it. If you are
refering to something else, please enlighten me.

> [snip]
> 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.,
>theory) in which there can be entities that transcend time. An example
>be the quantum state of the universe. It is postulated to exist, and yet
>components of this state may not have any quantity that can be identified
>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.

Well, this sounds impressive. But you need to make clear whay you mean
when you say that such things as superstrings or the quantum state of the
universe can "transcend time." It seems that, conceptualy, temporal and
timeless are exclusive and exhaustive categories, so I am not at all clear
what you mean by something being in time and still transcending time and so
being timeless. Any mathematical equation is timeless, and if by the
quantum state of the universe you mean some immensely complex version of
Schroedinger's equation, of course that is timeless. And any solution to
it might "describe time" but it would not be time.

> The statement, "An even stronger argument concludes that *if* God is
>timeless, then time must be static, not dynamic" is analogous to the
>that *if* God is spaceless, then space must be homogeneous, not
>or the conclusion that *if* God is temperatureless, then temperature must
>uniform, not variable. [snip]

The analogy fails. If you hold that God is spaceless, then you need to
explain how God can be omnipresent, or related to *all* of space (however
it is constituted). This could not be done if all of space did not exist
for him to be related to. Similarly, if God is timeless, then you need to
explain how he can be related to *all* of time, and that can only be done
if time is static or B-theoretic in nature, that is, if the future is real
as well as the past and the present.

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

"Here" and "now" are indexicals and so are relative to the spatial and
temporal position of the speaker. Temperature is not an indexical, so it
is irrelevant.

> 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
>part of our part of our universe and so presumably created by God if He
>created every contingent aspect of our universe.

I too assume that the physical time of our universe is contingent, simply
because our universe itself is contingent. But if God experiences
successioni n his being--if for example the members of the Trinity
communicate or share their love in successive stages--then metaphysical
time (God's time) is necessary, since God himself is necessary.

Garry DeWeese