Friday, March 30, 2018

Augustine, Anselm, and the Divine OLAM

Augustine of Hippo writes:

"Let them see than [sic] that there can be no time apart from creation, and let them cease to talk such nonsense. Let them stretch forth to the things that are before,and let them realize that before all times You are the Eternal Creator of all times, and that no times are co-eternal with You, nor is any creature, even if there were a creature above time" (Augustine, Confessiones 11.XXX).

We also have these words from Anselm of Canterbury:

"Thou wast not, then, yesterday, nor wilt thou be tomorrow; but yesterday and today and tomorrow thou art; or, rather, neither yesterday, nor today nor tomorrow thou art; but, simply, thou art, outside all time. For yesterday and today and tomorrow have no existence, except in time; but thou, although nothing exists without thee, nevertheless dost not exist in space and time, but all things exist in thee" (qt. in Stephen T. Davis' Logic and the Nature of God, p. 9).

But I am inclined to believe that God exists from OLAM to OLAM (Psalm 90:2) in that he exists sempiternally, that is, always in time. The verse found in Psalms indicates that God possibly exists in boundless time. If time has existed forever, then it is possible that God has existed for a temporal eternity: time might be an inherent feature or aspect of God's nature. As Garrett Deweese says, it may be the case that time resides in God.

Furthermore, it is possible that God's time-strand is not exactly conterminous with ours. Our time-strand is part of the created order. Yet it seems that time is ultimately time qua tempus. If the views I have set forth here are correct, then it is possible that "before" and "after" (two successive temporal states) occur in God. Conversely, if God does not somehow work in human history, then it would seem that he is not the Redeemer God. However, I am not espousing some pantheistic or panentheistic vision of Almighty God.

Yet does one want to say that God exists in the space-time continuum which he created? Let us suppose that time is everlasting (it has always existed and always will exist) but was not capable of being counted prior to God's creation of the material universe or his creation of humanity (a suggestion discussed by Stephen T. Davies). That is to say, there could have been a point at which time became discrete or countable. Given these assumptions, it might be said that the same deity is able to act in the now discrete form of time that has been created without being adversely affected by the vicissitudes of time (i.e., the divine experience of time does not result in God's growing old or becoming decrepit). I humbly submit these ideas without being overly dogmatic about any of them.


Philip Fletcher said...

It could be that time is intrinsic with the Almighty. He is definitely King of Eternity, just like him time is something we have to be aware of to know it exist. But it could have always existed with God.

Edgar Foster said...

Yes, this is one of those questions that may have no answer until the new system. One hard thing is understanding how time can be tenseless, but the B theory of time advocates that very thing. I tend to like the idea that time is tensed, but that doesn't mean it always has been.

Philip Fletcher said...

To me time could be a lot more than we know it to be. It seems the lesser creature (animals) may not even be aware of it. We may only have limited understanding of it, the angels more and Jehovah and Jesus a full understanding of it. I think once we reach perfection we will understand it more fully. I tend to steer clear of the thinking of men like Augustine and Anselm. But, at least they cause us to think on the subject.

Edgar Foster said...

Old WT articles allude to Augustine's remark where he said he knew what time was, until someone asked him. I sometimes use that line in my classes to illustrate how elusive a definition for time can be. The Creation book also quotes Eccl 3:11 to show that animals likely don't have a concept of time like we do.

I agree that time won't be more fully understood until we reach perfection. I disagree with the bulk of what Augustine and Anselm wrote, but I've studied their writings for years due to my interest in the Trinity and Jehovah's relation to time. Furthermore, history was my focus in school. As with many things in the world, one has to be cautious. But one thing of value in Anselm's work is the cosmological argument for God's existence--even if it's logically problematic. At the very least, as you said, these men cause us to think and they did get some things right. Thanks for your input.

Edgar Foster said...


Just got fun, I checked the online library for references to Augustine and found a number of articles. Only one result came back for Anselm.

Philip Fletcher said...

Thanks Edgar;
My thinking on the subject, has been mostly what I've learned as a witness, the all Scriptures Inspired book does a nice job explaining time, still I would not realize that Christendom has such a different line of thinking if I didn't read about the things you and others like Jason BeDuhn (but not only him) have written. Theologians have really gone off the deep end because they put to much weight in what tradition says, that is there undoing. Still it is good to learn another point of view. Not only that for me it the concept of the fact that there is another viewpoint that was surprising, weird but Educational. Finally, does time really matter if we are going to live forever or will it sunset into insignificance as forever continues?

Edgar Foster said...

I agree with you about the all Scriptures Inspired book. I have read that part before and it's quite interesting and clear. But one thing that surprised me about theologians (generally speaking) when I started studying theology and church history is that most of them are interested in "being creative," and only secondarily aim for truth about God. Most also stick to the party line instead of parting from the chief doctrines of Christendom although some do wind up rejecting the Trinity or the torments of Hell concept.

On whether time will be important in the new system, that's a good question. It will probably matter less and less with each passing millennium. :)