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God and Time

God and Time

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Published by Ben
A paper done for a Philosophy of Religion class, Spring 2010, that explores the nature of God in relation to time. In this paper, I support the theory that God is atemporal, or outside of time.
A paper done for a Philosophy of Religion class, Spring 2010, that explores the nature of God in relation to time. In this paper, I support the theory that God is atemporal, or outside of time.

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Published by: Ben on Aug 03, 2010
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1In this paper I will defend the claim that God is a being that exists in atemporal eternity. Sinceatemporality is difficult for us to grasp within our temporal reality, I will partly explain it through logicalreasoning, but mostly by defending against the objections of its counterpart, the concept of temporaleternity, in order to try and define atemporal eternity by negation. Gods relation to time has a lot of bearing on his relation to creation (namely, us), and his role as a Creator and personal God, so it is animportant topic for us to consider.To begin, we will look at the definition of eternity as laid out by Boethius, a medievalphilosopher who, although not the first to define eternity, created one of the soundest definitions wehave for it. Boethius defines eternity as
the complete possession all at once of illimitable life.
From thiswe can draw four main ingredients of his definition:1.
 
A
nything that is eternal has life.2.
 
Illimitability: the life of an eternal being cannot be limited, and cannot have a beginning or anend. The life of an eternal entity is characterized by beginningless, endless, infinite duration.3.
 
Duration: it must be pointed out that anything that has life must have duration, but illimitablelife entails a special sort of duration.4.
 
The complete possession all at once: all beings possess life, but it is impossible for a temporalbeing to possess all its life
at once
. Whatever has complete possession of all its life cannot betemporal.From this definition, we can infer two separate modes of real existence: temporal reality and atemporalreality.
1
 The conception of God as atemporal, or timelessly eternal, means that He exists in this othermode of reality called eternity which is atemporal. On this view, God, unlike you and I, is not locatedwithin time, and tense and related temporal conceptions have no application to him whatever.
2
Godexists timelessly, and his life experience of our temporal reality is timeless and unchanging. It is true tosay that God knows timelessly that I am writing this paper far too late at night. God knows this, andeverything else as well, in a single, timeless act of awareness that encompasses all of heaven and earth,
1
Stump, Eleanore and Norman Kretzmann. Eternity. From
Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions
. Ed. byStump, Eleanore and Michael J. Murray. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, M
A
, 1999, p. 43-44.
2
McCann, Hugh J. The God Beyond Time. Class handout of a revised version excerpted from his anthology, p.
231
.
 
2in its complete history.
3
One of the characteristics of divine timelessness is that the whole of eternity issimultaneous with every single moment in time, from beginning to end. Every moment in our historyand future, for God, is lived in his present. This eternal present is not just instantaneous, but it must beof some duration, since eternity necessarily entails duration. The eternal presentis by definition aninfinitely extended, pastless, futureless duration.
4
 For this view to make sense, we must hold to a B-series conception of time: time, rather thanflowing like a river from past to present to future and being governed by those tenses (this is the
A
-series conception of time), is rather laid out like points on a map. There are no tenses, but only beforeand after, or earlier than and later than. Point
A
, 11:35pm on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, occursbefore Point B, 11:36pm on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, but the way God views them is simultaneous.
5
 One of the easiest and most common objections to this view of time and the simultaneity of eternitywith time is one as stated, for example, by
A
nthony Kenny: On St. Thomas view [of timelessness], mytyping of this paper is simultaneous with the whole of eternity.
A
gain on this view, the great fire of Rome is simultaneous with the whole of eternity. Therefore, while I type these words, Nero fiddlesheartlessly on.
6
With this objection, divine timelessness seems incoherent. McCann responds to thisobjection thusly: God creates and is aware of all of history neither simultaneously nor at differenttimes, but eternally. His activity as Creator and Knower is unified and unchanging, but it does not occurat any present moment, not even a supposed eternal one. It simply is.
7
 
A
nother way to rebut this objection is to look at the principle of GWK (Gods Way of Knowing).This is a line of reasoning that states that if God knows something non-temporally, then what he knows
3
Ibid.
4
Stump, Eleanore and Norman Kretzmann. Eternity. From
Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions
. Ed. byStump, Eleanore and Michael J. Murray. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, M
A
, 1999, p. 45.
5
Class notes, February 19, 2010
6
Quote from Hasker, William. Excerpt from
God, Time, and Knowledge
. From
Philosophy of Religion: The BigQuestions
. Ed. by Stump, Eleanore and Michael J. Murray. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, M
A
, 1999.
7
McCann, Hugh J. The God Beyond Time. Class handout of a revised version excerpted from his anthology, p.
235
.
 
3is non-temporal. Thus, if God knows all true-p non-temporally, then it must be the case that all true-p isnon-temporal. This can be reduced to the formula if God knows p in way W, then p is W.
8
Obviously,this assertion is false. We could make it say that, if God knows something non-spatially, then that whichhe knows is non-spatial. Or, God knows me sinlessly, therefore I am sinless. What GWK does is moves,fallaciously, from a characterization of Gods way of knowing to a characterization of what God knows.
9
 Kennys objection falls under this fallacy. He assumes that, because God knows the events of historysimultaneously, then the separate events of history are in fact simultaneous. This is false, and should notbe considered seriously as an objection to the atemporal nature of God.If God is atemporal, we must also look at his relation to our world as Causer of change. Thequestion here is if it is possible for a timeless unchanging entity to be the cause of temporal change.Davis for example, doesnt think that the concept of atemporal causation makes any sense. He says thatno temporal term like at T can meaningfully be applied to a being or to the actions of a being thatlacks temporal location and temporal extension.
10
Davis argues that timelessness is incompatible withthe claim that God is the creator of the universe. His argument is as follows:1.
 
God creates x2.
 
X first exists at T3.
 
Therefore, God creates x at TDavis says that (3) cannot be true if God lacks temporal location. But we must notice the ambiguitywithin premise (3) and break it down into two readings:3a.
A
t T (God creates x)3b. God creates (x at T)3a is governed, in a sense, by at T. So God creates x is a feature of at T, and Gods act of creating isgoverned by, and within, time. 3b is the opposite, the premise being governed by God creates, andthus the premise becomes a feature of Gods creation, and the whole action is governed by Gods act of 
8
Class notes, February 19, 2010
9
Ibid.
10
Davis, Stephen T. Temporal Eternity. Class handout from
L
ogic and the Nature of God 
, p. 225.

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