Monday, June 29, 2015

God, Time and Stephen T. Davis

Stephen T. Davis argues that God is temporal: "Time, perhaps, is an eternal aspect of God's nature rather than a reality independent of God" (Logic and the Nature of God, 23). He reasons that "time was not created" since it possibly exists in a manner analogous to numbers.

Nicholas Wolterstorff ("God Is Everlasting") also contends that God is temporal. He nevertheless apparently suspends judgment about whether God has always been "in time." But at the conclusion of his paper, Wolterstorff provides this summary:

This conclusion from our discussion turns out to be wholly in accord with that to be found in Oscar Cullmann's Christ and Time. From his study of the biblical words for time Cullmann concluded that, in the biblical picture, God's "eternity" is not qualitatively different from our temporality.

There are a number of technicalities that one could get into while discussing God and time. One might consider what others have said about the A-theory of time (tensed) versus the B-theory of time (tenseless) or one could possibly make
distinctions like "metaphysical time" versus space-time. But regardless of how we choose to understand divine temporality, it seems that we do not have to reject Einstein's view of time to believe that God is temporal (Ps 90:2). A theist like me would say that space-time was created, but the time wherein God has sempiternally existed need not have been made. We need to distinguish (I would humbly submit) between uncreated and created time.

Is metaphysical time (time simpliciter) merely a symbol or an abstraction of the mind? While it's clearly possible to articulate space-time in such terms, we must consider the noion that time seems to be objectively affected by gravity, suggesting that it's not just a mental abstraction. For a scientific treatment of the issue, I recommend
Paul Davies' God and the New Physics; in particular, see pp. 119-134.

Relativity theory has been empirically verified in many respects. There is no need, however, to reason that Einstein's theory of time discounts the existence of metaphysical time, since his theory only accounts for material phenomena that constitute the immense and awe-inspiring cosmos.

As a closing note, it is interesting that Einstein was greatly influenced by Kantian epistemology, but the "non-scientific" intuitions which Einstein derived from the Kant's theory of knowledge actually have proved to be capable of empirical verification.

On the other hand, I would agree with those who insist that God does not dwell within the space-time continuum. However, Jehovah may subsist in absolute metaphysical time as posited by William Lane Craig. Admittedly, the Biblical evidence for God's temporality or atemporality is meager. nevertheless, Witnesses believe (based on Ps 90:2) that God is from time indefinite to time indefinite (OLAM ADH OLAM).

Alan Padgett develops this point quite well in a recent book on God and temporality while Craig further contends that if the A-theory of time is correct, then God must be temporal. Finally, Nelson Pike (in his classic God and Timelessness) provides scholarly evidence and rigorous argumentation that points to the following possible conclusion: God "exists in the 'age of ages', He exists prior to and through measurable times" (186). But see Stephen T. Davis' Logic and the Nature of God (9-24).

William Lane Craig's work on God and time is also instructive. Here is one of his books about the subject:

No comments: