Sunday, January 23, 2022

"God and the Nature of Time" by Garrett J. DeWeese--A Discussion (Part III)

In my last post about this book by Garrett DeWeese, I dealt with personal identity and time. As we learned, DeWeese is not impressed with the project by Schlesinger to define time and make sense of personal identity, but what about how other thinkers approach the question of God in relation to time or time itself? And, most importantly, does the Bible help to resolve these questions? These two questions are my focus in this last post about God and the Nature of Time.

Pages 212-213 discuss Nicholas Wolterstorff's argument for God being in time, that is, being infected by temporality. I will summarize Wolterstorff's line of reasoning this way:

(1) No one can know about some temporal event (E) that it is occurring except when it is occurring.

(2) Before E begins to occur, one cannot know that E is occurring, for it is not.

(3) After E ceases to occur, one cannot know that it is occurring, for it is not.

(4) Every case of knowing that E is occurring therefore seems to be infected by the temporality of E.

(5) Therefore, the act of knowing about E that it was occurring and that it is occurring and the act of knowing about E that it will be occurring are all infected by the temporality of E.

(6) God (according to Scripture) performs all of these acts of knowing since he knows what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. Hence, some of God's acts (his acts of knowing) are themselves temporal events. Consequently, God is not timeless.

DeWeese thinks Wolterstorff's argument is strongly plausible prima facie, but he suggests that an atemporalist (one who does not believe God is temporal) might counter with an offer to render the tensed propositions of Wolterstorff into tenseless statements. However, since this strategy might not work for reasons stated heretofore, DeWeese categorizes Wolterstorff's argument as "weak."

However, while characterizing Wolterstorff's argument as weak, he indicates that there might be a way to make it stronger. Maybe it is the case that God's redemptive acts are "infected with temporality." For instance, if God is first wrathful toward a sinner but then subsequently adopts the sinner as his child, Wolterstorff's argument might be salvaged. Such divine actions might be temporal and not merely relational changes (so-called Cambridge changes). It is possible that God likewise has a genuinely personal relationship with his rational creatures and being in a personal relationship with humans might necessitate that God be temporal. DeWeese concludes: "If such an argument from personality could be mounted, it would certainly be in the spirit of Wolterstorff's article" (page 213).

The book then turns toward another philosopher who thinks God is temporal, Stephen T. Davis.

He argues:

1. God creates x.
2. x first exists at T.
3. Therefore, God creates x at T.

DeWeese finds 3) to be ambiguous between 3a) God, at T, creates x and 3b) which is God creates x, and x first exists at T. I think it can readily be seen that 3b) is nothing more than the collocation of inferences from 1) and 2) above.

Ultimately, DeWeese decides that Davis' argument might need to be patched up before it's accepted, but he is basically sympathetic to the view of Davis regarding God's actions. However, any evaluative remarks directed toward Davis are postponed until later in the book.

On the other hand, Edward Wierenga launches some criticisms at Davis' argument in The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes, pages 196-198. Do his objections have probative force? The answer to that question will end up being in the beholder's eyes.

Pages 258-259 discuss the potential implications of affirming divine temporality. If God is temporal, then God is not absolutely simple: neither is God strongly immutable. DeWeese thinks these divine attributes owe much to Neoplatonism. Therefore, he does not think giving up these attributes for the sake of divine temporality fatally wounds Christian theology.

On page 273, three options concerning God's temporal status before creation are posited: 1) God's existence could have been one amorphous and temporal moment, 2) his existence could have been divided into a timeless and temporal existence (before and after creation) or 3) God could have existed from the infinite past sans creation. To really understand these distinctions, one must introduce the distinction between metaphysical and physical time. In any event, DeWeese professes that each one of these views have their own problems, but he rules in favor of divine temporality, mutatis mutandis by reckoning that it is possible for the divine temporalist to bite a smaller bullet than the divine atemporalist: DeWeese himself adopts omnitemporality which is a modification of other divine temporalist accounts.

Like William Lane Craig, DeWeese concludes that the Bible does not give a definitive answer to whether God is atemporal or temporal, and if so, in what way God might be temporal. He accordingly opts for omnitemporality, choosing to believe that God is present at all times but somehow transcends ordinary physical time. A book reviewer and academic, Marcel Sarot, summed up DeWeese's work this way though he highly praised it:

"While this book does not develop a major new theory, it is an excellent survey of the field. For a reviewer that is, in a sense, a pity: summarizing an excellent survey provides less opportunities for original arguments than criticizing a flawed survey or a highly original new theory. If, however, he has been able to convey that this is an outstanding introduction to the field, this particular reviewer is more than content."

Sarot, M. (2007). "Review of the book God and the nature of time, G.J. DeWeese, 2004, 075463518X." Ars Disputandi: The Online Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 7(7).

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Brian Tabb on Revelation 11:1-2 (Screenshots)


Revelation 11:1 and the Temple of God

Greek: Καὶ ἐδόθη μοι κάλαμος ὅμοιος ῥάβδῳ, λέγων Ἔγειρε καὶ μέτρησον τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας ἐν αὐτῷ.

Analysis: ἐδόθη is aorist indicative passive 3rd person singular of  δίδωμι (compare Revelation 6:4, 8, 11; 11:2; 13:5-7); the comments made by Grant Osborne are worth consulting in his work Revelation, BENTC.

The noun κάλαμος ("a reed, measuring rod") is nominative singular masculine. See Ezekiel 40:3b, 5 (LXX): "It was about ten feet four inches in length" (Osborne). Cf. Revelation 21:15.

The reed is
ὅμοιος ῥάβδῳ ("like a staff"). λέγων is the present active participle, nominative masculine singular of λέγω : the participle applies to the angel being used in the revelatory disclosure (see Revelation 10:11). Aune observes that the antecedent of the participle is not clear but the angel is the most likely candidate.

William Webster and William Francis Wilkinson think the accusatival noun phrase τὸν ναὸν signifies the Christian ecclesia (see 2 Thessalonians 2:4). They submit that τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας applies to the "true and spiritual Christians, real Christians" (The Greek Testament, page 795).

Period of Application: John is bidden to measure the temple of God and the altar and the ones worshiping in the temple sanctuary. If Revelation was written circa 96 CE (the so-called late date for the book), then the temple in Jerusalem would have been destroyed at the time of writing. This raises a question about how the words of Revelation 11:1 might apply and when.

Some writers argue that John wrote Revelation circa 68-69 CE right before the Jerusalem temple's destruction in 70 CE. If that were the case, how would Revelation 11:1 then undergo fulfillment? Preterists contend that the temple of God in this account refers to the Second Temple built in Jerusalem or Herod's temple. Hence, they insist that Revelation 11:1-2 underwent fulfillment before 70 CE when there still was a Jewish temple standing in Jerusalem or during that fateful year.

The difficulties with preterism and Revelation 11 have been addressed in other studies, and the objections set forth by scholars seem fatal to preterism in my opinion. This account simply does not refer to the temple in Jerusalem.

Stephen S. Smalley approaches Revelation, not with a preterist template, but with a "modified idealist" hermeneutic instead. This means that he understands the temple of Revelation 11:1 to be symbolic:

"The temple, worshippers and altar of verse 1 must signify the Christian community and its faithful members; just as the concept of ‘measuring’ symbolizes the preservation of the servants of God who have been sealed from danger of every kind. The outer court and holy city then represent the Church in its vulnerability. Its adherents, the Johannine circle included, remain subject to physical oppression from imperial and Jewish sources, and to the possibility of martyrdom (2.13; 6.10–11; 20.4).

See Smalley, Revelation to John, page 270.

Other Scholarly Observations:

Ernst W. Hengstenberg (Revelation):
"The church appears under the symbol of the temple, which for so many centuries was the seat and external representation of the kingdom of God, and hence occurs, otherwise than in vision, in a series of passages in the New Testament as the designation of the church, John 2:19; Mark 14:58; Ephesians 2:21-22; Tim. Revelation 3:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Hebrews 3:6. The temple proper denotes those, who are deeply filled and penetrated by the spirit of the church, the outer court those, who are only superficially affected"

Craig R. Koester (Revelation, page 495):