Re: impassibility

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Fri Dec 09 2005 - 16:01:33 EST

Mine also.

On Fri, 9 Dec 2005 13:08:01 -0500 "George Murphy" <>
Comments below.

----- Original Message -----
From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2005 11:19 PM
Subject: Re: impassibility

I know you don't recognize it, but you are moving from the Son entered
time to something like the deity was always in time. The problem with
your suggestion is that, if God is in any kind of time, it must be
infinite backward and the question of what God was doing before he
created the world is valid, but leads to a nonsense answer.

What God was doing before he created the world in God's temporality but
not in that of the world. & no "nonsense answer" results if one simply
says "I don't know."

Given this approach, I can get out of any problem. Like it or not, any
kind of temporality has a before and an after. It does not have to have
the physical changes of our space-time existence. An eternal "now" is
nontemporal, without before or after.

If you go for panentheism, you have a kind of answer. But I contend that,
since our world is only 13.7 Gy old, it must have been preceded by a
previous world that collapsed to provide material for this world, with
that world preceded by an infinite series of worlds--unless God has
multiplied his being-creation to accommodate the multiverse view.

Augustine, as you know, gave 2 answers to the question of what God was
doing before he created the world. The 2d, & serious one, is that there
was no "before": "God made the world with time, not in time." That is
true with respect to the world's time. It's a reasonable answer to a
questions which is reasonable because we experience the time of the world
& can ask sensible questions about it. Augustine's 1st jocular answer,
"Preparing hell for those who pry into mysteries," is, I think,
appropriate for those who insist on asking questions about things of
which we have no experience and can know about only by revelation. (I
think Luther's slightly gentler answer was that God was out in the woods
cutting switches for people who asked foolish questions. In either case,
beware :) )

If I recall correctly, the earlier answer was one Augustine noted was
given to which he did not subscribe. I take Augustine's serious answer to
claim that there was no time of any sort before creation. Luther's answer
requires both that there be time and the created world before creation,
so his utterance has to be tongue in cheek--unless God exists in a world
like ours, though perhaps with different dimensions. In this case, deity
inexorably exists with a before and after.

Your notion of creating worlds fails totally unless your created beings
communicate with you and you with them; in which case the question what
you did before you created them is valid. In your case we go back to a
beginning, though there could be a double beginning with transmigration
of souls. But you, or any "creator" who does not produce their own matter
/ex nihilo/, are in time with a temporal "before."

My analogy (for that was all it claimed to be) does not "fail" at all
because I didn't intend for it to illustrate any more than the
possibility of a temporal entity creating a world whose time had a
beginning. Whether or not that world has any intelligent inhabitants is

The beauty of analogies is that they only have to match a limited number
of parameters. I'm trying to avoid analogies on the basis that time is
time wherever encountered. If you want to claim that there is divine
temporality without before or after, you are claiming that time is not
time, which is nonsense. This gives me immediate proof that there is no
God, and that I do not exist. Consequentia mirabilis holds.

Your last paragraph is a near-perfect illustration that human beings
cannot imagine things except in time. It is built into our language as
well. /En arche en ho Logos, k.t.l./, taken literally, proves that there
was time before the beginning of space-time-matter. Are you going to cite
that to demonstrate that God is temporal, even though that requires that
the Almighty twiddle his thumbs for an infinite duration before
initiating this universe? What alternative besides hand-waving and
insistence do you offer to this consequence? God's time is indivisible?

Speaking of straw men - I referred to passages that speak of God changing
and you address not them but John 1:1. & still you avoid the fact that
any scriptural support for your view is feeble at best & the couple of
verses that can be cited by no means demand a maximal interpretation of

My point is that your citation of passages that indicate divine change
requires divine temporality, which necessarily requires either that there
was a state before and a state after, which extends infinitely unless God
was created, or that time is not time. The alternative is that these
statements are an adaptation to human limitations. This last fits your
interpretation of the six days of Genesis 1, for you accept neither that
yom applies to 24-hour history not to day-age sequence. If no literal or
quasi-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is necessary, why must a
literal interpretation of these other passages be demanded. Are God's
threats to be understood as absolute, or with unstated conditions? If
there are grounds for a different hermeneutic for the two sets of
passages, what are they, and how do they fail to produce contradiction?
"I don't know" is not an adequate response.


On Sat, 3 Dec 2005 17:58:03 -0500 "George Murphy" <>
Dave -

I deny that I am "imposing" anything except to the extent that I take
with utmost seriousness that the Son of God became a participant in human
history - i.e., time. That does not mean that he is limited to our time
but it suggests that there is a kind of time appropriate to God which
created time may be made a part of.

& while this by no means amounts to a proof, the ability of temporal
human beings to construct things like space-time diagrams, & in fact
novels and plays, which have their own internal histories, strongly
suggests that there can be a temporal creator who is not bound by the
times of the worlds he/she creates. E.g., I can draw a space-time
diagram with an expanding universe which has a beginning in time. For
imaginary creatures in that universe the question "What was the creator
doing before he made the world" would be meaningless in terms of their
time, as Augustine pointed out. But it would not be meaningless in my
time. N.B. This is not at all a claim that such human creators are in
any sense "timeless" or have the experience of timelessness - just the

My supposed "literal interpretation" of scripture is a straw man. But
metaphors, images &c aren't arbitrary, & the fact that so many of them
suggest God being affected by what happens in the world, "changing his
mind" (cf. Jonah) &c, should count for something. OTOH in order to get
any biblical support you must insist on a maximal & literal
interpretation of Jas.1:17 & Mal.3:6 - especially when it's realized that
passages referring to divine foreknowledge &/or predestination do not
require divine timelessness.

Received on Fri Dec 9 16:10:03 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Dec 09 2005 - 16:10:08 EST