Re: God and time

Don Page (
Wed, 26 Nov 1997 07:18:10 -0700

At 04:56 PM 11/16/97 -0700, Garry DeWeese wrote:
>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.

I think I see that perhaps Garry sees time as somewhat like causal
relations, whereas I do see it more like space. Since Garry writes below,
"metaphysical time (God's time) is necessary, since God himself is
necessary," perhaps he sees causality as necessary. I must admit that I do
tend to see causality as fairly basic (more basic in my view than time,
which I spatialize), since otherwise I would not understand the meaning of
the doctrine that God created the universe. And it is true that our
understanding of causality seems to be largely based on our experience of
time. So I can see that it might be fairly natural to consider time as well
as causality as fairly basic.

The discussion with Garry is making me wonder whether time is indeed
more like causality than I have believed. However, since I see time as
merely a contingent aspect of part of our physical universe, I am led to
wonder whether causality also might be just a contingent aspect of part of
our world.

>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.

I was referring to the claim I have heard from string theorists,
which I am not competent to evaluate, that string theory (or M theory, or
whatever the theory is that used to be called string theory) includes
solutions with spacetime and also other solutions with no spacetime.
Although the relation between all the different solutions of string theory
is by no means clear (I think to anyone, but certainly not to me), I suspect
that in the ultimate string theory these solutions will correspond to
different components of the quantum state of the universe. If so, part of
this quantum state will give spacetime (in some approximation), and other
parts will give something without space or time at all.

>> [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.

I would agree that the quantum state would be timeless, but part of
the state would be our spacetime, so in some sense the timeless state would
include 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.

I agree that I was assuming the B theory, which you say makes time
static. I suppose that I was slightly objecting to saying that time is
static in the B theory, since even though all times exist in it, things are
different at different values of the time, and this I would regard as the
dynamic nature of the universe. It is analogous to saying that things are
different at different points of space, which is what makes the universe
inhomogeneous rather than homogeneous. So if "static" is analogous to
"homogeneous," I would deny that both are correct descriptions, but
presumably Garry means "static" in a different sense. Can you elucidate
what you mean by "static," Garry?

>> 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.

I'm not clear why temperature cannot be an indexical like spatial
and temporal location. Certain things can occur at a given location, at a
given time, and at a given temperature. So it would seem to me that
location, time, temperature, and many other things can be conditions under
which other properties occur. In other words, I don't see anything magical
about time as an indexical.

>> 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
>succession in 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.

Of course, even if metaphysical time were necessary, there would be
the question of how time within our universe is related to it.

>Garry DeWeese

Don Page