Feb 26

God and Time, Edited by Gregory Ganssle, with input from Paul Helm, Alan Padgett, William Lane Craig, and Nicholas Woltersdorff ★★★★

This book was a most fascinating read, though there were a few parts where the argument was not properly followed. Ganssle had assembled a very capable set of Christian scholars, all of them notably orthodox, yet all taking different views on the nature of time, and God’s relation to time. They vary from Helm claiming that God is entirely outside of time, to Woltersdorff, who asserts that God is a creature of time, with Padgett and Craig taking middle views, claiming that God in various ways inserted himself in time, or became a creature of time only during the creation episode, and otherwise is a timeless being. There are two main camps of thought regarding time. The A-series camp claims that time is “tensed”, or process theory of time, and God participates in time, though possibly not in the same manner in which we experience time. The B-series camp claims that time lacks true tenses, or, is “tenseless”, or static, and that God exists entirely outside of time. The B-series adherent would claim that for God, all moments in time in creation exist equally, thus, a million years ago is as real and “present” to God as “now” and as a million years from now. Arguments from each of the discussants point out the problems and tensions that occur with each view. I tend toward the most traditional formulation, as propounded by Paul Helm. I found it fascinating that the two most Reformed scholars (Helm and Woltersdorff) had the most opposite views – I would have thought otherwise.

I find that the greatest challenge is to comprehend the possibility of anything existing outside of space and time. As Emmanuel Kant correctly identified, it is impossible for the constructs of our mind to think outside of space and time. A similar puzzle in understanding God is to try to understand the nature of the trinity. Any explanation of the trinity falls short. Time is a concept with similar problems. Did God create time? Is time intrinsically tied to our concept of space? How can a God that is timeless interact with people that know nothing but existence in time? How do thought processes occur outside of time? Or, does God think? Does he have emotion? What exactly do we really mean by the impassibility of God? If God is the fullness of emotion, how does emotion happen in a timeless environment? How did the timeless being interact in time? How could the incarnation occur if God is timeless? Does a “piece” of Him enter time? Why would a God beyond time care for such insignificant “timed” creatures? Are you really forced to adhere to the concept that creation has no beginning or end if God is timeless and “events” thus do not occur with him?  Contrary, if God himself is characteristically in time, how does he know the future, and all things? Does time then become a “being” or entity that even God is subject to? I don’t think so. But, such questions are beyond comprehension and explanation to me, similar to trying to understand the trinity. After reading this book, I will leave the concept of time and space to remain an inexplainable mystery, not worth philosophizing over. I am left in ultimate awe, and will spend eternity in amazement over the goodness of God, the “other” beyond time and space who cared for us miserable sinners. Soli Deo Gloria.

 

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6 Responses to “God and Time – Four Views”

  1. Onkel Dennis says:

    Philosophers can complicate subjects that are not quite as mysterious as they leave them to be. The scriptures are the prime source for answering the question of God and time. (Or you can listen to guitarist John Fahey’s album, God, Time and Causality instead!)

    The scriptures very clearly come down on both sides of the eternity-history fence. God-in-eternity is not to be made identical to God-in-history but both are the same being, yet one travels along with us in time (in the OT with Israel, in the incarnation of the Messiah) and for the other, the whole of our space-time is a given fact. Philosophers who opt for one or the other are one-eyed Jacks who will (and do) have horrendous problems reconciling God’s sovereignty and human free-will. The logic used to deal with these subjects is too often the classic Aristotelian logic familiar in our culture, though it is inadequate. For more on this, see

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1999/PSCF9-99Feucht.html

    I once talked with Bill Craig, long ago.

  2. Dennis;
    Your answer is very consistent with Bill Craig’s position, which I think is lengthy but weak. Helm’s view of time as static is more consistent, yet allows for free-will, sovereignty, and Scriptural consistency. Helm’s response to Craig is quite insightful and worth reading. Regardless of one’s view on time, there will be difficulties, and explaining time is not possible for us, and probably never be possible, even on the other side of eternity.

  3. Dennis;
    A comment on your link. You speak mostly about Donald MacKay, who fails in his understanding of predestination, which is not a strict Reformed position. Jack Collins brings up the issue of MacKay in his book “Science and Faith”, and then repeatedly in the book I am now reading, “God of Miracles”. I agree more with the exegesis of Jack Collins (not the heretic Collins of the NIH) than with any writer so far dealing with science and faith. He is worth reading.

  4. Onkel Dennis says:

    “Jack Collins brings up the issue of MacKay in his book …” Issue? What is the “issue” with MacKay?

    I do not know what Bill Craig says about anything so I do not know where I stand relative to his views.

    What does Helm mean by a “static” view of time?

    How does he provide a better resolution of the tension between God’s sovereignty and human free-will than MacKay?

  5. Dennis;
    No issue with MacKay. If you read my most recent review on God and Miracles, MacKay fits the bill as a Providentialist, which I disagree with vehemently. You also seem to be a providentialist, according to Collins’ definitions.

    You said you met Bill Craig, so you must know something about what he has to say.

    Read my review again. The B series of time is defined as the static definition, or tenseless definition of time, as compared to the dynamic, or tensed time. By static, it is meant that time does not transpire except for how we perceive matters. We define time in relational terms, rather than seconds, hours, days, and years being a concrete entity. All events in time are equally existent, including the past, present and future. This is in contrast to the dynamic definition of time, where only the immediate moment exists. Philosophically, the lingo is fairly complex, and as I said in the review, I’m not sure I followed every argument fully.

    Regarding MacKay, it has been years since I’ve read him, but I’ve never been convinced that he offers any solution at all. His is more a psychological explanation, which can’t explain how God can foreordain yours and my responses, and yet not be morally complicit with our responses. I find his explanation to be crypto-Arminian, which suggests that God knows (how he knows, MacKay offers no explanation) but doesn’t ordain all that occurs. God remains passive in the events of history. Perhaps I have misinterpreted MacKay, but I probably won’t retrieve his book from my shelves and re-read his argument as there are better thinkers. Paul Helm’s book on Providence, I am convinced (as well as Collins) is the best book on providence from a philosophic perspective. Read it, then we can discuss those issues. Ken

  6. Onkel Dennis says:

    “By static, it is meant that time does not transpire except for how we perceive matters. We define time in relational terms, rather than seconds, hours, days, and years being a concrete entity. All events in time are equally existent, including the past, present and future. This is in contrast to the dynamic definition of time, where only the immediate moment exists. Philosophically, the lingo is fairly complex, and as I said in the review, I’m not sure I followed every argument fully.”

    I cannot blame you for not following philosophical blather about time “fully”. Most of the time the philosophers themselves do not know what they are talking about, though they know how to sound profound in saying it. It seems you have found an example of this.

    You have not recalled MacKay correctly. Labels do not help identify what people think either. Leave them to the bureaucrats to use to pigeon-hole people in their limited models of mental reality instead. MacKay’s main point has to do with the kind of logic people think in when trying to resolve the problem of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Few people can follow his argument because it involves a kind of logic that is unfamiliar generally in the culture, yet it shows up even in scripture.

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