Is God in Time?

A skeptic has posed the following two logical statements as an attempt to refute God’s atemporality:

1.) God, an atemporal being, created the Universe.
2.) Creation is a temporal processes because X cannot cause Y to come into being unless X existed temporally prior to Y.
3.) If God existed prior to the creation of the Universe he is a temporal being.
4.) Since God is atemporal, God cannot be the creator the Universe.

Further:
A1)  A timeless being would be without the proposition of past and future.
A2.) But to be omniscient, God must know the past and future.
A3.) Hence a God that is atemporal and omniscient cannot logically exist.

 

Response: We must first realize how to define time. Time is not a state of being, as in something that one is in or out of. Neither man nor God is “in time” in the same sense as being in a shower or in a car. Rather, time is a measurement of change. “15 minutes” is only relevant when it measures a certain amount of movement of the earth in relation to the sun. So time measures change, and if there was a thing that never changed, it would be timeless. The concept “four” does not get older and has no before and after.

Therefore when we speak of God being timeless we mean that God does not change. He is the same; He knows everything, so he cannot observe things, get smarter, or figure out problems. He does not decay, so He does not get older. He had no beginning and was not created, so He does not age. Only things with beginnings that get older can be spoken of as aging. So God is timeless because He does not change. Time is a measurement of change, and God does not change.

The syllogism above is invalid for several reasons. First, it equivocates on what time is measuring. Premise 1 speaks of God being atemporal in being. This speaks of God’s essence; it does not speak of any creation He made. Premise 2 speaks of God’s actions, not His essence. Likewise, A1 again speaks of God’s essence, while A2 speaks not of God’s knowledge of Himself, but God’s knowledge of created things, for only created things have befores and afters. So both of the logical statements above make false conclusions, equivocating between statements about God’s nature and God’s actions or knowledge of His effects.

Second, both logical statements are not presented in formal logical syllogisms, which introduces the fallacies I am mentioning here.

Third, statement 3 mentions God’s existence and His creative act. If we say that God existed prior to the creation of the universe, we have only spoken of the causal relationship of God to the universe, not of God’s being. Statement 3 compares God’s relationship to the universe with God’s nature within Himself, which is an invalid comparison. It could be that God’s personal essence is timeless (unchanging) within His being, but He is still prior to the things He caused, the universe. God’s nature could be timeless, while He is still logically prior to the effect He generated. Therefore 3 is invalid, causing 4 to be invalid also.

In summary, there is no connection between God’s causing of creation and whether His essence experiences change. The universe experiences change, therefore it can be spoken of as before it was created and after it was created, but since God’s essence never changes, He cannot be spoken of as having a before or after in His nature. There is also no connection between God’s knowledge of a temporal thing and whether God’s nature experiences the change that is necessary to measure time. Neither statements above are presented in valid syllogisms.

 

 

 

 

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Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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12 Responses to Is God in Time?

  1. JoeC says:

    To a timeless God, past, present, and future would have no meaning. Relative to a timeless God, everything in this universe and beyond would be set and unchangeable at the moment of creation. Time would only have meaning in a physical world. Would it not follow logically that once you die, time would cease to have meaning? Would that make you all knowing or would you even have a concept that you exist?

    Obviously, no one can answer these questions, but it does seem to make concepts like free will seem much less plausible.

  2. humblesmith says:

    As mentioned in the post, there is a distinction between what God is in His essence and the relationship of created things to God. God is timeless, and as such, does not have a distinction between past, present, and future. So your first statement is correct as to how it relates to God’s essence (how He exists in being). However, just because God does not experience past and future does not mean that created things must exist in the same way. Unlike God, objects have a beginning and change over time. Created objects can experience past and present, and will experience a future, while God does not.

    Regarding your second sentence, God is set and unchangeable, and is therefore timeless. Creation is not set and is changeable, and therefore experiences time. There is no logical reason why God could not be changeless and the universe changeable; you have not presented any reason to the contrary, but merely make an unsupported assertion.

    Time has meaning for any being that has a beginning and experiences change. Dying would not change this, unless a person were to become unchanging.

    I do not see a connection between time and omniscience. This is the first time I have considered the question, but I can not think of a logical necessity preventing a person from being timeless yet finite in knowlege. God, of course, is both timeless and all-knowing. God does not think in discoursive, sequential thought, for this would mean that He figures out things by thinking about them in time, which would mean that prior to thinking about things, God is limited in knowledge, which is heresy.

  3. JoeC says:

    For God to be timeless how could he not know how everything will play out. He knew at creation what I was going to have for breakfast this morning, otherwise he has limits to his knowledge. He knew at creation that 9/11 would occur and it’s aftermath. If not, then God is not timeless and must wait as we do for things to happen and once again, he would have limits to his knowledge.

    Death is the end result of life, at least on earth. What is the result of eternal life? Why would time have any meaning in the after-life? Eternity is forever. If you are no longer restricted by time, then what is left to experience? What new knowledge can you gain without time?

  4. The problem is that “prior” to some point the universe did not exist. God had a timeless existence as far as we can imagine. There must have been a “point” where God decided to create. Then He spoke (or thought) creation into existence. This indicates change prior to the creation event. There is either a change in God’s mind-state (deciding to create) or a change in God’s activity (going from not creating to creating) which means there was some type of time, even if it is a sort of “hyper-time” essential to God’s nature.

  5. humblesmith says:

    Your first and third sentences seem to switch from the universe beginning to exist to God’s making a decision. If this is what you are implying, these two items should not be compared, since the universe needing a sequene in order to exist has no causal relation to God’s making a decision needing a sequence.

    Your explanation assumes that “there must have been a “point” where God decided to create.” Why must this be? It could be that from all eternity God intended to create. There is no logical reason this could not have been the case, and there is good reason to show that He does not have discoursive thought. Making a decision requires a thought process where one considers factors and makes a decision. Such a process would indicate that God did not know something prior to the decision (i.e., what He decided) that He knew after. God does not learn, for He knows all things. In any case, it is entirely reasonable to say that God did not go through a decision process regarding creation, but knew from eternity that He creates.

    To take this further, in God’s being there is not even a before and after in the creative act. God is act, and is act from eternity. The result happens in time since it is change, but the cause does not happen in time, since it does not change. An analogy, although perhaps a poor, limited one, is that of a doctor who makes a single prescription for a patient to take medicine three times a day for six weeks. The doc made one act which carried out several times over a lengthy period. With God, he is one unchanging act that always has been, but the effect of creation happened over a sequence.

    So this is a logical, reasonable explanation for God’s decision and act to have been unchanging from eternity.

    Fun, spacey stuff.

    • Perhaps a better way to put that would have been: there was a point where God acted on his intention. I did not mean that there was a point where God didn’t know he would create the universe and then at some other point thought it up.

      Unless you assert that the universe is co-eternal with God, your response does not hold up. You are also equivocating God’s intention to create with his actualization.

      So to put it in (hopefully) more clear terms: there was a sequence wherein God intended to create the universe, but had not actualized this intention by operating according to his will.

      It would seem that there must be some sense of temporality inherent to God’s existence, which is why I mentioned some sort of hyper time, beyond our complete understanding (as we should expect God’s existence to be).

      • humblesmith says:

        Again, temporality, or being in time, actually means the change between two things in relation to another. There can be change in creation, such as it’s coming into existence, without there being change in God.

        Eternity is not endless sequence, but rather a changeless existence. God can be in a changeless eternity and cause things in a changing sequence in the universe.

        • God went from a state of “not creating” to a state of “creating.” This is inescapable, as I said, unless you affirm that the universe is co-eternal with God. What would you call this progression from one state to another?

          • humblesmith says:

            I deny that God went from a state of not creating to a state of creating. I also deny that God went from a state of having not decided to create to a state of having decided to create. God is always in an unchanging state of commanding creation, and never changes. The only thing that has changed state was creation, and that only because it came into existence. The only progession of states is in the effect, not the cause. The universe changes, so it is not eternal.

            I have shown that it is logically possible for the nature of the cause to be eternally unchanging, while the effect be changing. You have shown no logical necessity that says that because there is sequence in the essence of the effect, there must be sequence in the essence of the cause. You have also shown no logical necessity that because the cause is unchanging (eternal), that the effect could not be changing (temporal). You have merely asserted these things.

            I suspect that you might be still thinking of time as a state of being that one is either “in” or “out” of, rather than a change in relation between things.

          • humblesmith says:

            Oh, and further: regarding the unchanging state of commanding creation: He can unchangingly command, from all eternity, that something happen next Tuesday. So just because the cause is eternal does not mean the effect necessarily has to be eternal.

          • You are still confusing God’s will or decision to create with his actualization.

  6. allen993 says:

    I Believe That God Always Existed Before Time Began!

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