Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Eternal God and Time: Timeless or Everlasting?

Often one hears that because God is eternal that He is timeless, or that He is outside of time, or that He is looking 'in on time', or that all time is present to Him at once, or that if He wasn't timeless then He would be subject to something outside of Himself, or God has to be timeless because He created time, or because He can do many things at once or can do things instantaneously, then He must be timeless.

Stop and think: where does the Bible say any of this? Where does it present data that inevitably leads to such statements? I can't think of any. Can you? Isn't this just speculation?

Let us think about some of these statements. Is God presented as timeless in the Bible, or is He only presented as interacting with events in time? "Didn't God do certain things in eternity?" you may reply. Yes, He did do things in eternity, but what is eternity? We are all going to live in eternity future - are we going to be timeless? Eternity past is just that infinite period prior to the creation. That's all we know. Indeed, events within eternity past are given a time frame, e.g. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). The decree happened BEFORE the creation.

God is certainly omniscient; He knows all things, but that is not to say that He is timeless. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), but this is far different from being present at the beginning, middle and end all at the one time, which is what the "timeless" view is saying. If all things are actually present to Him at once (and not that He knows all of history from the beginning), then all things are present at once, i.e. all peoples, events, etc., have always been, or are eternal, and the Universe takes on a pantheistic quality. Surely this is irrational and utterly against Scriptural theology?

Also, what is time? Time is just a progression, or sequence, of events, or (in some cases) thoughts. This progression may indeed take place slower in certain parts of the Universe than others (as per Einstein), but this is not to say that God does not operate in His own time, to which all other time frames are relative to.

To Materialist, like Einstein (his fatal flaw), time is dependent on material things (hence the space-time continuum), but this neglects the immaterial. Time is not created. It isn't a force. It is merely the progression of material or immaterial events.

If God is not timeless, then this is not to say that He is subject to something outside Himself. To say that God is love, is not to say that He is subject to love outside Himself, is it? It is may be 'ultimate time' is an attribute of God Himself. He is the standard for all time events. If time is an attribute of God (albeit everlasting and incommunicable in that sense, just as God has infinite knowledge, but we have knowledge), then time isn't created. It isn't outside of God at all.

God can do many things at once, but that is just to say that He is almighty, not timeless. God can do things instantaneously, but that is just to say that He is again almighty, or infinitely fast.

A thousand years are as one day in His sight, but this is just to say that just as a grain of sand is nothing to us in comparion, due to our size, and yet it is huge to a virus, so also a thousands years is huge to us, but it seems like a day to Him (and in reality even less!). This is just a statement of relativity.

There is no Scriptural warrant for describing God's eternity as "timeless" as far as I can tell. All we know is that it is "everlasting":
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." (Psalm 90:1)
Anything else is man-made speculation. It is easy to make pious assertions and seem to exalt God, but is it pious to make assertions with no Biblical warrant? Is this bearing a witness to the truth, or is it exalting ourselves above what He has chosen to reveal to us. I don't know all about God and time, but I do know that God has not revealed that He is timeless.

(See also Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith on God's eternity, and R.L. Dabney as quoted by Reymond.)