Mar 03

Eternal God

By Kenneth Feucht books Add comments

EternalGodEternal God: A Study of God without Time, by Paul Helm ★★★★★

Almost exactly a year ago I reviewed the book God and Time-Four Views where Paul Helm was one of the contributors, and who argued for a classical interpretation from Augustine of a timeless God, who exists completely outside of time. This book is a further elaboration of his statements referred to in the four views text. Helm wrote an additional four chapters from the original edition to answer some of the criticisms of his work. Various criticisms still exist (e.g., see the review of this book at http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/review/eternal_god_a_study_of_god_without_time . The criticism that Helm remains aloof to new thinking on time is a poor argument; see my most recent review on the physics of time. The criticism of Helm lacking a philosophical grasp of time is completely unfounded. Though Helm prefers to remain biblical in his arguments, he seems to consider philosophy as a subset of theology, thus is entirely philosophical in his response. Helm realizes that he simply cannot provide a perfect answer as to how a being outside of space and time can think, move, act, create. Much of his argument is to show that answers other than his own do not make matters any more explainable. One could end up with a God that is not omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, but the sacrifice  leaves a god in man’s image and not the God of Scripture. William Lane Craig attempts to create a hybrid God, that can emerge from timeless existence and enter time. Helm adequately shows that this concept still leaves many philosophical inconsistencies. The book was a slow read, in that I am not used to endless philosophical terminology, yet it was easy enough to grasp where Helm was going, and thus is readable for those outside of the philosophic profession. It’s a wonderful read for those willing to venture into topics rarely ever addressed in sermons or devotional texts.

 

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10 Responses to “Eternal God”

  1. Onkel Dennis says:

    I recommend that you take a good look at Michael Heiser’s website,

    http://www.michaelsheiser,com

    He addresses the issue of God and time, but does not do it from a philosophical standpoint. Mike is an ancient Near-East (ANE) scholar and approaches it from the standpoint of a historical biblical perspective. He takes up the otherwise murky biblical topic of the divine council, the gods and angels, and that Jesus is the human incarnation of Yahweh.

    Some of the problem of God and eternity is that in dwelling upon ultimate issues that scripture does not address too clearly and sufficiently for the purposes of philosophers, much of what is happening that is above us yet within the universe is ignored or misunderstood. Heiser attempts to clarify some of this in his work as far as scripture has a bearing on it.

    One example of how the second heaven reality is ignored is that everything in scripture involving “heaven” is read into some ultimate mystical and murky third heaven beyond the universe. Most of what God is doing that falls within human cognizance (and therefore there is some point in scripture in telling us about it) involves the second heaven. When Christ ascended, most people assume he went to the third heaven, though there is reason to believe he is in some other star system preparing for his return – maybe the Pleiades.

    Some of the more interesting and yet unknown aspects of time and the universe are being revealed by angels themselves, and some of this can be found on the more hard-headed and reputable UFO-ET websites such as http://www.majesticdocuments.com or
    http://www.stantonfriedman.com or
    http://www.disclosureproject.,com

    In the transition of the ages that we are currently in, we are at the beginning of a new phase of interaction with the angels or gods (ETs) who are able to come here from light-years away, and therefore have technology based on an understanding of time that goes beyond the current human understanding. However, if you read the right physics, you can gain some glimpses into the unfolding physical meaning of time. Start with entanglement and quantum field theory.

  2. Dennis;
    Thank you for your comments.
    1) The link to Michael Heiser sends you to a memorial to a soldier who died in Iraq.
    2) I think you totally misunderstand Dr. Helm, and perhaps should read the book yourself.
    a) Helm prefers to remain biblical. Sci Fi doesn’t help. Neither does the issue of second, third, fourth, or gadzillionth heaven, since they all remain in space and time.
    b) I’m bewildered as to why you offer UFO’s as an explanation for the timelessness of God.
    c) I am quite aware of entanglement and quantum field theory and am at a loss as to how that allows one to resolve issues of a timeless/spaceless God. I am well aware of Feynman’s hypotheses, but even more aware that no physicist has yet been able to structure a timeless/spaceless entity or describe it. Time can have strange characteristics, but everything in the known universe is subject in one way or another to time and space, including black holes. We have no construct in our mind to even imagine something outside of time or space, something that does not have a history, that is tenseless in that there is no past, present or future.
    d) Helm does a superb job of arguing that the timeless/spaceless God is the God of scripture, as opposed to those who wish that God was just a little bigger and smarter extension of ourselves.
    e) Sounds like Heiser is a modalist. Such a person would have been thrown out of the church as a heretic, even in the pre-Constantinian church. Christ a human emanation of God? Really now Dennis, I think you need to return to basics in theology. I believe that you and I are speaking of two different Gods here, as what you say here has no connection with Scripture, unless you choose to believe that Scripture is failable and not trustworthy, having been assembled by a failable church. Is that your stand?

  3. Elizabeth of Virgina says:

    I need to go watch the cooking classes instead of reading about time and physic. This time stuff is too deep for me. And Dennis, your position surely sounds strange, even unbiblical, though I can’t say I really understand what you are saying, so I really shouldn’t make an accusation.

  4. Stephen Chambers says:

    Dennis,
    I’m shocked and confused by what you’re saying! It sounds like you’re into sci-fi sensationalism … a bit how Mormonism got off track. This smacks of blatant Gnosticism and Modalism to me at best, and unvarnished Anti-Trinitarianism at worst. I agree with Kenny that you should get back to basic theology, with the guiding premise that scripture is inerrant, sufficient, and supreme over all human philosophies.

    Stephen from Austin

  5. Onkel Dennis says:

    Ken,

    1. Mea culpa. I put a comma instead of a period in the Internet address. It should be

    http://www.michaelsheiser.com/

    2. I have said nothing about Helm other than what might be implied, that he is a philosopher, and that Heiser is dealing with the text of scripture as a theologian who is an Ancient Near_East (Hebrew language) scholar.

    “a) Helm prefers to remain biblical. Sci Fi doesn’t help. Neither does the issue of second, third, fourth, or gadzillionth heaven, since they all remain in space and time.”

    Helm appears from your comments about what he has written to prefer to remain philosophical, however in harmony with scripture he intends to be (and I am not questioning that). However, philosophy is not the best way to determine the meaning of divine revelation. A more direct approach is to determine the meaning of the biblical text itself, and this is where Heiser can be of some value.

    Second, scripture (the apostle Paul, at least) talks in terms of three heavens, so the concept is from the Bible itself. As for sci-fi, who said anything about sci-fi? I didn’t. Your own comments indicate that you make a critical distinction between the second and third heaven in talk about eternity, which is the biblical third heaven – beyond the creation itself. In scripture, the first heaven is the sky, the second, outer space (“the heavens”) and the third, beyond the first two (eternity).

    Some philosophers, like Wm Lane Craig, prefer to posit the third heaven within the universe by considering eternity to be “neverending time” instead of timeless (relative to the creation). The argument might be interesting but somewhat irrelevant to a Calvinist emphasizing transcendent reality. In that case, the option is that eternity = third heaven. Your comments, and the PCA tradition as strong Calvinists, suggests this as your option. It is my option too.

    Do you think angels are fictional? If not, are they some emanation of the being of God or are they, like us, beings created by God? If they are created beings (and I think this position has sound biblical footing; see the Psalms), then they are a part of the creation as we are, and are in principle scrutable by us. They were by Abraham, for instance. He could see them, talk with them, etc. But if they are “higher” or more advanced than we are, then they are not likely to be very subject to our scrutability. As human technological powers advance, we are now entering a time of reaching the steep knee of the knowledge curve and it is not unexpected that we human beings would have more interaction with higher beings. And where would those beings be? In some mythological Disneyland? Not if they are a part of the creation. The “creation” is the heavens and the earth, or what we call the universe. They are either here on earth or elsewhere in the universe. And what is elsewhere (second heaven – outer space)? Other star systems, other galaxies. So I do not find it strange at all to expect that the angels or the gods (the elohim – same thing in scripture – see Heiser) are from other places in the created universe. That means they are from other star systems.

    For those who want to get New Age (or ancient pagan) about it, they might say that they are from a different “dimension” or the “spirit world”, whatever that means. To me, that is saying that the angels (ETs), being more advanced than we are, have mastered science and technology that to us is only faintly visible in the distant future, if that. In a thousand years, if sci-tech continues to advance as it has, human understanding of space and time will undoubtedly be like New Age magic to us now. Yet it is but a further unfolding of the nature of the universe we live in, if only we knew it.

    “b) I’m bewildered as to why you offer UFO’s as an explanation for the timelessness of God.”

    I am not proposing that. I am proposing that the angels/gods (Hebrew elohim) in scripture are simply ETs. They are higher (more advanced) beings from out there somewhere. The Devil and his reptilians are included. By ancient legend, they are from the Alpha Draconis (Dragon) constellation. The biblical allusions are quite clear in this regard, and Jesus said that he saw Lucifer fall like lightning from heaven – to earth where he is now. If heaven is the third heaven and not the second, then this means created beings have access to a higher reality, the abode of God the Creator himself. Indeed there appears to be scriptural evidence for this in the “divine council” texts of scripture, but as Heiser has shown (and nobody has studied this like he has) this council of angels/gods is headed by Yahweh who in the OT clearly functions within the creation. Heiser makes the case that he is the NT Jesus, as humanly incarnated.

    “Time can have strange characteristics, but everything in the known universe is subject in one way or another to time and space, including black holes. We have no construct in our mind to even imagine something outside of time or space, something that does not have a history, that is tenseless in that there is no past, present or future.”

    I agree. All of our thinking, when examined, is in the context of spatial and temporal contexts. Yet the cutting edge of physics can give insights into the nature of the boundary of the universe and by inference, suggest some albeit vague ideas about eternity (third heaven).

    I view the situation as this: that within the universe (and without speculating on eternity which is inscrutable by us) there is much yet to be revealed about the nature of space and time that will clarify and refine our understanding of the divine council and the angels/gods including Yahweh/Jesus, who being incarnated is now within the creation and has gone to prepare a place for us. But where? To the third heaven, or elsewhere in the universe? The latter option makes far more sense of the biblical doctrine of the incarnation. Was the incarnation just a docetic conjuring trick or did Yahweh really mean to commit himself to human form, to that of a created being, both in the first century and in the future? Is the Jesus who returns a ghost from Disneyland or a flesh-and-blood human being (albeit a unique one)?

    “d) Helm does a superb job of arguing that the timeless/spaceless God is the God of scripture, as opposed to those who wish that God was just a little bigger and smarter extension of ourselves.”

    This is fine if his only point is to provide support for a Calvinist emphasis on the transcendence of God but it does nothing to support the biblical texts that clearly refer to God (Yahweh) as imminent in the universe, or the significance of the incarnation. Since the days of Calvin, the pendulum has swung too far to the transcendentalist extreme. To understand God with both eyes open, one needs to account for both the transcendent and the imminent aspects of God in scripture. It is easier to put him in either one category or the other but scripture does not really allow that.

    “{e) Sounds like Heiser is a modalist. ”

    As I said in a previous comment, labels (on people especially) are of limited intellectual value. It is easier to pidgeon-hole Heiser than to read him. How about trying the latter and find out for yourself?

  6. Dennis;
    I was able to get into Heiser’s site at last. He seems to be a distraction to the question of God’s timelessness. Angels and heavens are great topics but not the subject of this book discussion, and my comments were in question as to how they relate to God and time. Your answers persist with the thesis that time can be modified, but that God remains forever a subject of time as the rest of us. I don’t recall Helm ever bringing up the issue of transcendence/immenance, simply because that is NOT the topic, and simply doesn’t relate to the question of God’s relation to time. Clearly God created time, and God reacts to time, yet for God, as in Helm’s (as well as Calvin’s and Augustine’s) statements, the history of the universe is a singularity to God, with the past, present and future equally present to God. Helm cannot define how God can enter history, yet can more than adequately show that any other alternative explanation has as many if not more problems.
    Helm, by the way, is a first class theologian and sat as the JI Packer Chair of Theology for a number of years at Regent College. He has written a number of basic theology texts for Banner of Truth.
    Calling Heiser a modalist is not a means of pidgeon-holing. By similar argument, calling you a human would be pidgeon-holing. Modalism has a very distinct meaning, and is useful in explaining theological thoughts. Without such words that posses meaning, we would not be able to hold conversation.
    You seem quite enamored by the potential and prospects of science. Again, perhaps this is a product of you watching (and possibly believing) too much science fiction. Star Wars and Battleship Gallactica are just a little bit too real for you. When I refer to this universe, the universe consists of all the Carl Sagan thinks that there is, the billions upon billions of stars, the millions upon millions of galaxies. Another universe would be a “multi-verse”, i.e., something entirely outside of our detection through any possible scientific or non-scientific means, and thus both impossible to prove, but also forever impossible to make contact with or even know of its existence outside of hypothesis.
    I remain convinced that the timeless and spaceless God best fits that which we know of God from Scripture. The evidence need to be direct from Scripture that this is an erroneous way of viewing God, and nobody to date has been able to counter adequately the arguments that Helm brings up for a timeless God.

  7. Onkel Dennis says:

    Ken,

    ” I don’t recall Helm ever bringing up the issue of transcendence/immenance, simply because that is NOT the topic, and simply doesn’t relate to the question of God’s relation to time.”

    Maybe it is not Helm’s topic but it certainly relates to the question of God’s relation to time because on the one hand, a transcendent God is outside of time while an immanent God is within time.

    To be more precise about Heiser’s large website(s), here is where my interaction with him occurs:

    http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2008/05/predestination-and-free-will-a-summary-of-the-naked-bible%e2%80%99s-position/

    As you can see, I give my argument from the standpoint of having a God-in-eternity concept in it. Heiser refers me to the video of Wm Lane Craig’s lecture, and I respond that it does not affect the argument at hand.

    Now maybe Helm does not address the major consequences of his position, but it is certainly an important theological topic associated with his chosen topic to deal with incarnation and free-will-determinism. They have been major aspects of the topic of his book.

    The problem with labels like modalism is that because they have rigorous definitions, as you point out, they often do not fit well in defining the positions taken by people on issues. Such ill-fitting labels in the past have led to such categories as “semi-Arian” for instance. In other words, the position could not be fit into either Arian or non-Arian categories. I would not be inclined to try a force-fit of Heiser into modalism; it is too simplistic of a fit and leads to that common error of oversimplification and distortion.

    I do not quite grasp what your point is in the paragraph about Carl Sagan, and my believing too much sci-fi, etc. As humans we can only cognitively engage what is scrutable to us. If it is beyond our conception, whether in our out of the universe, we cannot know anything about it in terms that have any meaning to us. This also applies to God. If he is too far removed from us, we are left with a kind of deistic God who does not meaningfully interact with us in any way we are cognizant of. And this is the problem with extreme transcendentalism; it is tantamount to deism and atheism. This is also not the God who appears in history in scripture. Heiser (and I) consider it enough of a challenge to relate to God (Yahweh) as he interacts with us in space and time (history). This God revealed in scripture is neither timeless nor spaceless. The transcendent position that arose in Calvin and others was a correction – a reaction – to an extreme in the Catholic Church of bringing God down to human (or Greek god) level without recognizing his higher qualities. However, it is also possible to make the opposite error: to elevate God out of human life altogether!

    I gave you what I thought were reasonable grounds for accepting the notion that angels and gods (the elohim in Hebrew) are ETs. I have not made any detractive allusions to sci-fi; you have. Do you see any rational or biblical problems with the viewpoint that angels/gods are ETs?

  8. Dennis;
    I think this thread is sadly running a bit too long, but to end things, I would like to offer a brief rebuttal.
    1) I’m at a loss as to why you consider a God outside of time as necessarily entailing the absence of imminence. You can reversely argue that a God in time entails a God absent in transcendence. You get nowhere.
    2) I’m at a loss as to exactly why you like MS Heiser, save that he chooses to be non-creedal. I have serious disagreements with that, but creeds are not the topic of this discussion. The link you offered is full of horrid typos. True, you have to endure my typos, and there are many. But, if you wish a predestination/free will argument, Paul Helm wrote an even more superlative text called “The Providence of God” where he more than adequately deals with the logic of a God that predestines ALL things, yet in a manner that does not necessitate the loss of free will. His is neither the argument of MacKay (which he references) or Heiser (which he doesn’t need to reference). It’s not that Helm is the only source of convincing proof. Michael Horton, JI Packer, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Hodge, Herman Bavink, John Owens, John Calvin and many, many others have maintained a logical but consistent position on predestination and free will. Their arguments are freely available and need not be repeated here.
    Since Helm is the topic of the moment, you might linger a few moments on his webpage “Helms Deep” which always offer gems… http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com .
    3. Heiser is perhaps a touch offensive to your prior stated opinions, when he concludes… “He can invade “our world” with the miraculous if he wants in the course of influencing human beings to turn to him.” This would entail a disruption of the natural laws and natural events of the universe, but you have always insisted that God is bound by the natural laws of the universe (which He created). Heiser should have said that God would use “little green men from outer space” to influence the course of human beings. Yes?

  9. Onkel Dennis says:

    Ken,

    As a brief response in follow-up –

    1. God is both transcendent and immanent, but when one talks about him as being transcendent (or immanent) one is not talking about him being immanent (or transcendent). God, for instance, is not transcendent by being immanent, though he might very well also be transcendent.

    2. If Helm has some novel argument or concept to put forth about free-will and determinism, that would be significant. MacKay did, in showing how logical indeterminacy is a necessary aspect of the relationship. As far as I know, none of his predecessors recognized this. None of the theologians you name did, to my knowledge. Schaeffer certainly did not, nor did John Calvin.

    3. I am not suggesting Heiser because I agree with him on all points. He does not think the elohim are ETs but belong to some other “dimension”, “realm”, “world”, “what-have-you”. Heiser, as you astutely noted, seems to view certain of these doctrines from a Greek dualist (note label!) perspective. I do not, having been indoctrinated on them by people such as George Eldon Ladd. Where Heiser is useful is in his textual analysis of Hebrew. There he is interesting. Plus, he also is a UFO studier and I have done some via the Internet. To those who merely brush off the possibility of ETs being here, this added aspect of scriptural possibilities is lost.

  10. Stephen Chambers says:

    Ken, I’m impressed with Helm’s blog. It feeds the soul!

    Dennis, I cannot stomach the Heiser website. Do not lower God to an ET… or His holy angels! The Bible is not a sensational work of Steven Spielberg! Heiser might be able to use his higher knowledge in semetics and ANE religions to produce a twisted philosophy that makes him materially wealthy, but not rich toward God!

    Don’t let any theory about God or the world rob you of truth (Col. 2:8).

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