Cullman’s Classic Work Christ and Time

Oscar Cullman:

Primitive Christianity knows nothing of a timeless God. The “eternal” God is he who was in the beginning, is now, and will be in all the future, “who is, who was, and who will be” (Rev. 1 :4) . Accordingly, his eternity can and must be expressed in this “naive” way, in terms of endless time.

Goetz on Semiclassical Theism and the Passage of Planck Times

A philosophically based paper on Open Theism, a paper which attempts to advocate . An abstract:

This paper models God and time in the framework of modern physics. God bridges and simultaneously exists in (1) a universe with infinite tenseless time and (2) a created parallel universe with tensed time and a point origin. The primary attributes of God are inexhaustible love, inexhaustible perception, and inexhaustible force. The model also incorporates modern physics theories that include relativity, the conservation of energy, quantum mechanics, and multiverse geometry. For example, creation out of nothing and divine intervention are subject to physical processes and likewise nomological possibility. I will call this model semiclassical theism.

From the paper:

This paper is a model of God bridging and simultaneously existing in (1) a universe with infinite tenseless time and (2) a created parallel universe with tensed time and a point origin. The model is framed by modern physics theories that include relativity, the conservation of energy, quantum mechanics, and multiverse geometry. The model also states that the primary attributes of God are (1) inexhaustible love, (2) inexhaustible perception, and (3) inexhaustible force. I will call this semiclassical theism. Furthermore, in the case of Trinitarian doctrine, I will call this semiclassical Christianity.

notesonthefoothills on Prophecy Paradoxes

notesonthefoothills offers this proof of prophecy not being based on future foreknowledge:

What I mean is this. Eternalists would say that God knows all truths in a single logical moment. They will say that this includes God knowing his giving of resistible grace, the free movements of his creatures themselves, and his response to their movements. Thus God knows in a single Now what happens at t1, t2, t3, etc.. From this it follows that it also true that God knows that what happens, say, at t3 happens in part due to times that come BEFORE t3. In other words, God knows that each moment in time is what it is in part because of times that come before it. I am married in part because at some time in the past I proposed to my wife, I was raised in a certain part of the world, and I was born from my two parents, etc. Now from this comes an important point: it seems undeniable that this temporal, causal relationship is only ONE WAY. That is to say, I was not raised in a certain part of the world because I later married my wife; nor was I born because one day I would propose to her. That sort of EFFICIENT causal relationship applied such to temporal sequence is nonsensical. Grasping this point is essential to understanding my overall point here about prophecy.

How the point ties in to prophecy is this. It seems to me that in an eternal Now, God’s causal interaction with moments of time would likewise have to follow this same one-way causal relation. That is, how he interacts with t3 would be “because” of what occurs at t3 and also because of what occurs before t3. But it doesn’t seem possible that how he interacts with t3 would be “because” of what occurs AFTER t3. Here is why. If God uses what is after t3 to interact with t3 – say for instance that what occurs at t9 is his “because” for interacting with t3 in a particular way – then that would involve a causal loop insofar as the t9 that God is interacting with ALREADY HAS the preceding t’s as part of its causal history. So, I say that to say, it seems to me that God could not “see what happens” at t9 and use that to give a prophecy at t3. (I.e. God could not use knowledge gained at t9 to effect t3, because t9 already contains t1-8.) Unfortunately this is the most common response from Eternalists that I have read regarding how God makes prophecies in time.

Therefore it seems to me 2 things follow from this idea combined with the doctrine of God’s mode of existence: a) that God’s causal interactions with us, which involves true responsiveness and God doing things “because” of what we do in time, would uphold this logical relation among themselves. That is, God’s interaction at each stage would be “decided” by previous t stages, but not vice versa. His interaction at t3 would involve his interaction at t1 and t2, but not t4, t5, etc. This is because later t stages represent OPEN POSSIBILITIES with respect to God’s causal relation to us. And b) it seems NO prophecy which temporally precedes the event of which it prophesies about could come about with absolute certainty without God taking away free will. That is, if a prophecy occurs at t3 about t9, then God’s interaction at t3 has not yet (logically speaking) “taken into account” what freely happens at t9 (again, because t9 itself already contains t’s 1-8). God could of course impose his will so that the prophesied event came about necessarily; or he could give a conditional prophecy. But it seems to me the logic of eternity would preclude the idea of God using what occurs at later logico-temporal points to effect prior logico-temporal points, for that would involve a causal loop/regress.

Torbeyns on the Hebrew Concept of Time

From Cross Theology:

The Open Theist does not agree with Augustine’s high view on Platonism and his low view on believing in the Bible (for example, Confessions, Book 6, chapter 6). Rather, the Open Theist takes very serious what the Bible truly says about the connection between God and time.

Dr J. Barton Payne put it in very clear words: “God’s eternity was first revealed in Genesis 21:33, where Abraham called on the name of ‘Yaweh, El Olam,’ the ‘everlasting God.’ The term olam, however, did not suggest to the Hebrews God’s transcendence of time, but rather His endless duration in time (cf. 6:4) – ‘everlasting.’… Moses’ closest approach to (God’s pre-existence) is to be found in his poetic comparison that a thousand years are but a day to God (Ps. 90:4) and in his exclamation that ‘before the mountains were brought forth, even from olam to olam Thou art God!’ (v.2). His words correspond to the expressions of Job (Job 10:5) and of his authoritative counselor Elihu (36:26) that God’s duration is limitless, reaching far beyond the years of man. These verses describe eternity, but again in the sense of continuation, not timelessness” (The Theology of the Older Testament, p. 152).

An Open Letter to William Lane Craig

Tim Stratton writes to WLC on the nature of time. An excerpt:

My disagreement with you is regarding the claim that if the B-theory of time is true, then causal determinism is NOT false. That is to say, if the B-theory is reality, then causal determinism is true. In fact, just as the shape and structure of a slide at the water park determines the movement of the person traveling down the slide, the shape and structure of the 4-D block of spacetime causally determines the beliefs and behaviors of the “illusion of self-consciousness” traveling down the frozen “worm” in the static block. My argument is that these “choices” are purely illusory on a naturalistic B-theory model.

Dr. Craig, you rightly bring up the issue of divine foreknowledge and future free choices; however, I think this analogy is dissimilar. As you have taught me, knowledge (possessed by God or not) does not stand in causal relation with anything. For example, an infallible weather barometer that knew with 100 percent certainty that it will rain in Spain tomorrow does not cause the rain in Spain tomorrow.

However, on the B-theory model, the shape and structure of the eternal and static block does causally determine the beliefs and behaviors of the “person” who is nothing more than a slice of a frozen worm in the static block. Consider my water park analogy again: if the shape of the slide veers to the left, you could not go to the right even if you wanted to. Similarly, if the frozen worm in the static block veers to the left, the illusion of self-consciousness goes to the left no matter what. Therefore, this “choice” is nothing but an illusion if the B-theory of time is true (this would include the so-called “choice” to believe the B-theory is true).

Boyd on the Difference Between Past and Future

From The Future is Not Like the Past for God or Us:

If we possess authentic self-determining freedom, then our future must be fundamentally different from our past. The past is unalterable. There are no options for us, which is why we are not free in relation to it. There are not “ifs” or “maybes.” Everything about the past is definitely this way and definitely not any other way. If we are free, however, our future must be different from this. It must in part consist of realities that are possibly this way or possibly that way. Our future must be, at least in part, a realm of possibilities. And the God who knows all of reality just as it is and not otherwise must know it as such. He is not only the God of what will certainly be, he is also the God of possibility.

Physicist Rejects that Time is an Illusion

From Is the Future Already Written?:

Ellis’ calculations show that the evolving block universe does not contradict relativity’s prediction that two people can disagree on the order of two events. In both Einstein’s and Ellis’ pictures, the time at which each person perceives both events to have occurred is based on the discrepancies between how long it takes light from each event to reach them. In Einstein’s view, these events — and all future events — coexist. But in Ellis’ picture, both events must lie in the portion of the evolving block that houses the past; they are fixed into reality before information about them reaches anyone. Similarly, in Ellis’ view, two observers can disagree on the duration of an event, but only if that event has already crystallized into the past. Thus, Ellis’ model of time retains enough of the block universe to match with relativity’s predictions, but without needing to take Einstein’s drastic last step of assuming that the fourth dimension is solidified into the infinite future.

Enyart on God Crossing Infinite Time

Link to the audio


Misconception 3: God cannot cross an actual infinity: (Send any comment to Bob@kgov.com.) God has existed through the “beginningless past” (Morriston, 2010, Faith and Philosophy, pp. 439-450). Christian theologians who object to this typically do so by being inconsistent, and thus, their objection is easily neutralized, and then answered. For example, William Lane Craig denies that God has existed throughout time immemorial, infinitely into the past, because he claims that even God cannot cross an actual infinity. (Aristotle, for example, claimed that the infinite is never actual; he however, did not know God.) Yet while Craig doesn’t admit it, he himself believes that God has crossed an actual infinity. His belief that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of a kingdom that never ends requires divine knowledge of an infinite future, with this knowledge comprised of actual thoughts in God’s mind. (This would be like God having counted to infinity.) Further, because Craig happens to hold the untenable and rather grotesque belief that God knows every possible future, that philosophical claim requires God to cross an infinite number of actual infinities. Instead, in actuality, God has crossed the single infinity of the beginningless past. Using a typically unstated assumption, an argument against God’s “beginningless past” insists that He could not have crossed an infinite past because regardless of how much time has actually passed, “infinity” would require passage of even more time to arrive at any given moment. The unstated assumption in this objection however is that it assumes its conclusion, namely, that this past period must have had a beginning (for this objection asserts that this past period is of finite duration). If there is a valid systematic theology against God crossing an actual infinity, it would not support a philosophical claim that contradicts its own system, and it will not merely assume its conclusion. Let’s consider an analogy from geometry and then an excuse from mathematics. Using an analogy, not as a proof but as an illustration, a geometrical line is infinite in both directions, whereas a ray has a terminal point yet is infinite in one direction. For our analogy, the ray extends through eternity past and is terminated in God’s present, which is where God lives (in the fullness of time, so to speak). Relatedly, perhaps there is an excuse for theologians who failed to understand all this, who lived prior to mathematician Georg Cantor (d. 1918), who taught the world that it was possible to form infinite sets greater than other infinite sets. So, if God had already existed for eternity past at the moment of creation (an infinite set of moments), by the time of the Incarnation, He had then existed for an even longer infinite set of moments. For, He must increase. (Prior to Cantor the world of mathematics never accepted the concept of greater infinity.) And finally, God put eternity into our hearts. Yet unlike God, our life is not endless in two directions but only in one, namely, into the future. So you are like a “ray” that begins at a point (of conception) and then proceeds forever (Eccl. 3:11). Therefore, our eternal soul provides for us a context in which we can develop a gut feel for what it means to live forever (throughout eternity future). Yet we lack the divine intestinal fortitude, so to speak, which we would need in order to relate to His beginningless past. Thus, by the Scriptural teachings regarding time (see above) and because time could not have been created (see above), therefore we teach that God’s goings forth are from of old, from everlasting, from ancient times, the everlasting God who continues forever, from before the ages of the ages, He who is and who was and who is to come, who remains forever, the everlasting Father, whose years never end, from everlasting to everlasting, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

Apologetics Thursday – Eternal v Everlasting

Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier writes:

Try to fathom this statement from John Sanders, one of the leading advocates of the New Theism: “God is everlasting through time rather than timelessly eternal” (http://www.opentheism.info/). If this statement does not conflict with the biblical doctrine of the eternality of God (cf. Psalm 90:2), I would not know what to make of it. In the same article Sanders says, “[T]he future is not entirely knowable, even for God” (emphasis added).

Jackson is confusing the meaning of the terms offered by John Sanders. Sanders is using “eternal” as a synonym with “timeless”. Modern Biblical translations might use the word “eternal”, but the authors definitely did not think God is “timeless”. Looking at Jackson’s prooftext:

Psa 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Notice the timeframes, God was from everlasting and will be to everlasting. This is not a “timeless” concept, but suggest God is everlasting in time. If the plain reading was not enough, the “Prayer of Moses” continues:

Psa 90:4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

The author of this psalm definitely believed God was in time and experienced duration. Maybe Sanders is too generous to grant that the term “eternal” will be used in conversation to be synonymous with “timeless”. His generosity confuses people like Jackson who fall for the old Equivocation Fallacy.

Answered Questions – Time and Sequence

Dale asks: Are time and sequence related? Are they synonymous? If so, how? If not please explain the differences.

Bob Enyart responds:

Time and sequence are related but need not be viewed or used as synonyms. It is time that enables sequence. For example, God has existed throughout eternity past, and the Incarnation occurred in a point in time in which God the Son took upon Himself a second (human) nature, and became flesh. That is a sequence of events. Human beings, perhaps reflecting God’s perspective, distinguish events from time (as do for various Christian philosophers).

Answered Questions – What is Time

Dale asks: What is time?

Bob Enyart writes:

Definition of time: As with a myriad of other things in the physical and spiritual worlds, we can describe time but a precise definition seems to elude mankind. Time is the aspect of God’s existence that provides for a continuum which enables states and events to pass in a non-spatial, unidirectional succession flowing from the future, through the present, and into the past. For thousands of years theologians, philosophers, and more recently, scientists, have widely confessed bewilderment about the nature of time. Einstein’s worldview omits God so of course any absolute time that flows from God’s nature was inherently excluded from his theories, whereas Isaac Newton acknowledged what appears to be relative time due to man’s finite abilities, but claimed that absolute time would flow from God. For more thoughts on these matters, consider rsr.org/time and rsr.org/time-and-the-incarnation.

Schaeffer on Before the Beginning

From the Genesis of Space and Time:

Although Genesis begins, ‘In the beginning.’ that does not mean that there was not anything before that.  In John 17:24 Jesus prays to God the Father, saying, ‘Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.’  Jesus says thy God the Father loved him prior to the creation of all else.  And in John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to glorify him, Jesus himself, ‘with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.’

There is, therefore, something that reaches back into eternity-back before the phrase ‘in the beginning.’ Christ existed, and he had glory with the Father, and he was loved by the Father before ‘in the beginning.’  … Thus, before ‘in the beginning’ something other than a static situation existed.  A choice was made and that choice shows forth thought and will. ‘ ….