Re: God and time

Garry DeWeese (DeWeese@Colorado.edu)
Sat, 22 Nov 1997 10:00:51 -0700

Welcome, Grainge! Good to hear from points south!

At 10:27 AM 11/21/1997 +1100, Grainge Clarke wrote:
>
>
> The traditional Christian view expressed in the creed, “I believe in one
God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things
visible and invisible”, is Scripturally based and reasonable. The
problem lies in a failure to see the implications of the creed.

Creeds are, of course, products of a particular historical context,
addressing issues of concern at that time and using vocabulary and concepts
of that time. While some of the creeds (e.g. Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian
and Chalcedonian) may repesent fine ecumenical theological statements, they
should never be accorded the authority of Scripture itself.

> If God created “all things visible and invisible” then He designed and
created not only matter-energy but also time and space. Furthermore, God
can not consist of anything that He created, neither can He be limited by
them. He is independent of both time and space. He is omnipresent in both
space and time.

The "all things visible and invisible" statement must be read as a
reference to physical objects as well as spiritual beings (angels and
devils). Goodness, love, justice, mercy etc. are invisible things--did God
greate them? Why cannot time (more properly temporality) be an attribute
of God, just as love is?

I think (at least part of) the problem here is a spatialized concept of
time, as a realm or region or container or, nore philosophically, as a
substance (a la Newton). But if time is at its most basic a relation
between successive states of being, then talk of God's being "limited by
time" or (you did not use this phrase, but it is ratehr common) being
"confined to time" become meaningless.

> There is no question as to how God can know the future because past,
present and future are all the same to a God independent of His own
creation of time.

This is only coherent if the future already (at our "now") exists, that is,
if time is conceived as "static" or "B-theoretic."

>Likewise the Scripture teaches God to be changeless. This is reasonable
since change is related to time and God is not limited by His own creation.

Well, there are many passages in the OT which speak of God changing his
mind, etc. Of course we interpret these passages as anthropomorphisms or
anthropopathisms. But why is there any loss of orthodoxy if we allow God
to change in relational attribures while remaining immutable in intrinsic
or essential attributes?

> Our minds find it difficult to relate to a God “without parts. ”

This sounds like the medieval doctrine of divine simplicity, that God has
no proper parts. But surely the Godhead has proper parts--the three
Persons of the Trinity. And as George Murphy points out often, and you
allude to later on, the Incarnation makes a huge the difference in many
areas of our theological understanding, not least in the area of God's
temporal mode of being.

>but, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:14, ASV), so although “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only
begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
(John 1:18, ASV). While the Father has no physical form we can have a
reliable concept of His nature as it is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord
who is, in the words of Charles Wesley:
>Our God contracted to a span,
>Incomprehensibly made man.
>

Garry DeWeese