Re: impassibility

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Fri Dec 02 2005 - 23:03:59 EST

I think the idea of sequence was mentioned a couple of months ago in
this context (perhaps by you?). If one introduces the idea of sequence,
in one sense there might be ambiguous directionality to it, drawn of
course to a bidirectional numerical example such as
...,-3,-2,-1,0,1,2,3,.... But in another, like the terms of binomial
expansions, there is a sense of direction. But if one then moves to
causality, it seems to me then that we are definitely talking about
something with the nature of contingency, or if/then, which do have a
direction. I don't have an drop dead answer to this matter, but it does
not trouble me to think of God experiencing something at least in some
way analogous to time as we know it, perhaps incorporating time as only
a subset of a larger "property".

My persuasion (today) is that He created the universe with a time
attribute, so it must be something known, something in His bag of
tricks, and therefore some part in some way of His existence. We can
make the assertion (for that is surely all we can do) that God has no
spatial or temporal limitations, but at the end of the day those are our
own models of a greater freedom or power than our own, free of what we
perceive of as constraints in our plane of existence. But the former
observation has more power of persuasion to me than an otherwise fairly
baseless claim that God "is" completely outside of time (whatever that
means). Perhaps temporarality is not even the right way to think of the
experience of God; perhaps "our" time is some shadow or
lower-dimensioned attribute of that which is experienced by the
divinity. We really cannot know, but it strikes me that we might be a
little more reserved in our certainties about what God's existence is or
is not (or is or is not "outside of", whatever "outside of" might mean
from God's perspective).

Just thinking out loud again......

Peter Cook wrote:

> I wonder if the notion - and that's all it is to me right now - of
> "sequence" might be better than temporality. This was the term
> Schaeffer used to use about what happened "in" the Trinity before
> creation and hence "before" time. And I see in the latest issue of
> perspectives an article that tries to move from temporal chain to
> causal chain, which might be somehow related.
> Pete C
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: George Murphy <>
> To: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
> Cc: <>
> Sent: Friday, December 02, 2005 8:40 AM
> Subject: Re: impassibility
> Dave et al. (belatedly)
> 1st, what I've been talking about can't realistically be described
> as "my problems" as if they were just the personal hangups of
> George Murphy. They are issues that have to be faced by anyone
> who wants to take seriously that the one who is God Incarnate
> suffered under Pontius Pilate.
> "A clear explanation of the communication between the eternal
> Father and the incarnate Son, and among the Trinity" is of course
> exactly what doctrines of the Trinity are supposed to be. Again I
> would refer to Ted Peters book for a survey of modern trinitarian
> theology, & point out that most attempts to do more than repeat
> old formulae do recognize that there is some temporality
> appropriate to God - a temporality which is not simply identified
> with the world's time.
> There are difficulties with trinitarian theology connected with
> the fact that we're trying to speak of the inner life of God &
> have only limited information. But trying to explain how 1 equals
> 3 isn't a problem. No serious theologian has ever made such a
> claim. The doctrine of the Trinity isn't about algebra.
> I don't think you take seriously the possibility - discussed my a
> number of the theologians I've referred to - that there is a time
> appropriate to God's own life which transcends created time & of
> which created time is a subset. I noted, e.g., the possibility of
> 2 dimensional time, which would not be simply linear or cyclic. &
> you don't answer the question I posed in my 1st paragraph below:
> Are you talking about some kind of eternal & timeless suffering of
> the Father?
> Shalom
> George
> <>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
> To: <>
> Cc: <>
> Sent: Friday, November 25, 2005 5:51 PM
> Subject: Re: impassibility
> George,
> I sympathize with your problems, but I will not give you a
> resolution until you present a clear explanation of the
> communication between the eternal Father and the incarnate
> Son, and among the Trinity. The problem of the Incarnation is
> such that nonChristian philosophers often say it is impossible
> because it leads to self-contradiction. They also say this of
> the Trinity, for one is not three. The simplest attempt to
> deal with the problem seems to be modalism, which is not
> adequate. More sophisticated approaches are not, as I see
> them, totally without problems. Being finite and temporal, we
> cannot imagine the infinite and eternal. Indeed, when we try.
> the eternal becomes extended time rather than timelessness, as
> in your fourth paragraph. There are, in any kind of
> temporality, a cyclical and a linear option. Hinduism adopts
> the former, but it does not fit the notion of creation. The
> linear option may be limited in extent or unlimited. The
> former fits the notion of a beginning to space-time. However,
> we cannot have a new Genesis with "In the beginning God was
> created," though Plotinus and Gnostics would go back through
> several generations of deities. So, from any Christian view,
> if there is some kind of temporality with the deity, it must
> be open at both ends, unconditionally infinite. So one is
> faced with the question, "What was God doing before he created
> the heavens and the earth?" Augustine recognized this as a
> nonsense question. Craig (if I recall correctly) tries to
> bridge the gap by positing that God became temporal with
> creating the world, something I find incoherent unless one
> denies omniscience and produces a strange kind of deity as
> well. I don't see how a time switch makes any kind of sense.
> These considerations seem to me to demand a nontemporal deity,
> eternal without time. Further, as a minimum requirement,
> change demands time. So redemption is the eternal approach of
> the Father, not something he scratched his head over when Adam
> fell. This much fits your insistence that the staurocentric
> approach involves evolution from the time of creation. So this
> is the Father's eternal state. Jesus, the Son of God, lived
> and died in time, so he felt the nails and abandonment in
> time. Our Lord said that there were things he did not know, so
> omniscience must be part of what was left behind as he emptied
> himself. So I infer that he had temporal restrictions like the
> ones we face in what he know. Put together, I do not know how
> the temporal knowledge of the Son and the eternal knowledge of
> the Father jibed. I think it incomprehensible to us, part of
> the mystery of the Trinity. I'll revise this when you give the
> clear explanation I indicated at the start.
> Dave
> On Thu, 24 Nov 2005 21:34:53 -0500 "George Murphy"
> < <>> writes:
> Dave -
> The full statement that I made, which you say you don't
> hold, was, "you have the strange result that the divine
> person suffers but the divine nature of which that person
> is one hypostasis doesn't." Do I understand you to be
> saying below that the the divine nature suffers eternally
> - i.e., timelessly? If so, this seems like a strange
> claim. One common objection to the idea of a genuine
> suffering of God is that it would require God to be
> mutable. & while with your view it's reasonable to say
> that the eternal God y takes into account things that
> happen in the world (e.g., prayer) without himself
> changing, to say that God in any sense suffers seems to
> have no connection with the sense of the word that we use
> when we say, e.g., "Jesus suffered."
> & if the divine nature can suffer in some way in your
> view, why the objection to the idea that the Father suffers?
> Or am I misunderstanding you?
> In any case, you seem to hold that the only choices are
> that God is utterly timeless or that God is subject to the
> temporality of creration. But this is not true. There
> are certainly ways of speaking about an eternity which is
> temporal & which includes but transcends the world's time,
> as a number of modern theologians have argued. Just as
> one crude analogy from my own physics background, one can
> imagine a world with two temporal dimensions (e.g., with a
> line element having the signature + + + - -
> instead of the + + + - of Minkowski space-time.) Saying
> that there is divine temporality then need not have the
> terrible consequences you suggest of essentially making
> God into a creature.
> The critical question again, however, is christological.
> Is the Incarnation a merely "external work of the
> Trinity," like all the ordinary things God does in the
> world, or is it something "internal," having to do
> with God's own life? If the latter then the earthly
> history of Jesus of Nazareth, from ~4 B.C. to ~30 A.D., is
> part of God's experience as history. It is not simply as
> something God is eternally aware of on the "outside." &
> this only makes sense if God has a history of which that
> earthly history is part.
> (Note to Janice: Please note my quote marks around
> "internal" & "external" above. Of course these are
> spatial metaphors but they are well established in the
> theological tradition, as in the phrase operara trinitatis
> ad extra indivisa sunt.)
> Shalom
> George
> <>
Received on Fri Dec 2 23:05:39 2005

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