A Speculative Proposal: Divine Time to Explain the Days of Creation

This view seems to be grasping at straws to preserve the 24-hour duration of each “day”. But your post motivated me to speculate the following crazy theory: the days of creation are not actually days in time, but more like “literary days” or “logical days” which explain the functional order (to imitate a term from John Walton) of different elements of the galaxy. In this theory, we make use of the belief that God transcends time, so he can see past, present, and future all at once. This assumes a B-theory of time, where past, present and future exist together as a continuous block of spacetime. In the course of seven “days” of “divine time”, God creates this continuous block of spacetime and all that is in it.

Genesis 1 could be interpreted as God forming the contents of this continuous block piece by piece in “divine time”. Think of God as looking on a timeline of cosmic history stretching from 13.5 billion years ago to the distant future. On “day” 3, God creates vegetation and puts them at t = -470 million years BCE. On “day” 4, God creates the sun and puts it at t = -4.7 billion BCE. This explains the problem of how there could be vegetation on day 3 without there being a sun yet: days 3 and 4 refer to the temporal ordering in “divine time”, not regular time.

Now why did God choose to create in this sequence of “divine days” instead of just creating all at once? We don’t know for sure, but perhaps it is to demonstrate something about functional order or hierarchy in the regular universe that God intended. For example, people have interpreted humans being created on the last day to show that the rest of the universe was being prepared for them by God, as special creations. In this view, we would no longer use the creation sequence of Genesis 1 to speculate about science (for that only concerns events in the regular time), but to speculate about what theological point God wanted to teach us.

What is “Divine Time”?

What is the nature of this “divine time”? The first thing is that humans, as creatures living in regular time, can’t experience it at all. One way to think of it is that it is similar to a 2nd dimension of time that is only visible to God, similar to how the 2D creatures in Edwin Abbott’s Flatland could not comprehend the 3rd space dimension, but someone who exists in 3D could see the whole of Flatland. Similarly, God, as a being living in “divine time”, can “instantly” see the whole of regular time including past, present, and future. He can change events in this spacetime block as he likes. From our perspective it would not look like the past in regular time has changed at all.

Is this like Last Thursday-ism? Yes, I can see the similarities, but again, it’s a philosophical theory, not a scientific one. This is not a theory that could be scientifically verified or disproven, and that’s not the point. All humans including scientists live inside the regular (3+1)D universe, and they can endlessly investigate the contents (including spacetime structure) of this universe without being affected by anything happening outside in “divine time” or “divine space”.

This proposal of divine time is not my own; I was inspired after reading Eleonore Stump’s lecture called The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers. She uses this divine time idea to explain how God, despite conceived of as an immutable and eternal (i.e. timeless) being, can still be personal and responsive to our prayers and so on. However, reading @r_speir’s post inspired me to apply this idea to the days of creation. Personally, I don’t think at this point my understanding of hermeneutics demands me to hold this view, this is just fun speculation.

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Kudos to you for thinking and not just reacting. I am reading and re-reading your idea. See, here is what reactionaries don’t know. “Do I emphatically believe every single proposal I imagine and pen on paper?” Answer is no. Neither do you, I am sure.

But what we are doing is allowing our current 21st century body of knowledge about God and philosophy and the physical universe to converge in such a manner to give every available possibility to even a creation account that is several millenia old. We are simply asking basic honest questions like: “If I am wrong and that old account turns out to be right, how in the Sam-hill would that even be possible given our current knowledge?” “Well, maybe…”, or “What if…”, and so we proceed.

[and by the way, I am not naive enough to hold you to your idea]

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That is what this is supposed to be, fun speculation.

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Taken literally I believe there are philosophical and theological problems with hyper-time ideas like this one. For example, is the hyper-time A-theoretical or B-theoretical? If A-theoretical, then hyper-time would be the true time, and time in our universe would be illusory (or, if hyper-time joins to our time after the creation week, this would be a kind of Omphalos theory). If B-theoretical, God would have to stand outside hyper-time as well, making it a redundant construct (or at least, so it seems to me).

Perhaps it could be a way of thinking about the creation week in a non-literal sense.

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