God’s relationship to time is a topic of vast philosophical import. I can honestly say I didn’t even know it was so hotly debated until very recently. The topic has served to show me once again that the more I read, the more I learn, the more I will realize I have so much more to learn.
So why the heated debate? What are the sides? How do we research such a topic?
The sides of the debate are (probably not limited to):
1. God is timeless- on this view, God transcends time altogether (Craig, 29). It is also defined by saying, “God… exists, but exists at no time” (Leftow, xi)
2. God is temporal (or, keeping with the trend of listing God’s attributes as the omni-‘s–omnitemporal)- on this view (usually), God existed timelessly before the creation of the world, but is temporal once time and the world have come into being. “God co-exists only with the present moment or ‘now.’ He is eternal in the sense that He endures forever” (Craig, 77).
Why the heated debate? Again, it may be surprising that I have never been attuned to this debate once the implications of God’s relationship with time become clear. Indeed, God’s relationship with time is almost basic to any understanding of God’s attributes. God’s omnipotence, omniscience, etc. will be entirely different if God is temporal as opposed to timeless and vice-versa. How so? Let’s look at just one example. Take the conjunction “God is omniscient and omnipotent” (hereafter O). Now, if God is temporal, O seems to have a few problems that need working through. For if God is omniscient and temporal, then He knows in advance what He is going to do, which seems to limit God’s power, thus making O seem unlikely. However, if God is timeless, then He doesn’t really know anything in advance, He just knows all things tenselessly (in other words, He knows things in advance from our, temporal view, but because God is outside of time, such temporal terms simply do not apply to God). This means there is no limit on God’s omnipotence because such a problem relies on a tensed, temporal view of God (there is much more to be said on this issue, but I am simplifying it for the sake of an example). Further, any view on God’s relationship with time will also involve God’s relationship with His creation.
Thus, it seems extremely important to develop a view on God and time, which is exactly what I intend to do in this series of posts. I will be exploring the issue by looking through Bible passages which discuss God and time, by reading books and articles on the subject, and by condensing my studies into posts.
Craig, William Lane. Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. Crossway. 2001.
Leftow, Brian. Time and Eternity. Cornell University Press. 1991.