The God of Time

I was wondering if anyone has insight into how both God and humans might relate to time. I’m attempting to write an article for a student publication at my school. Anything from comments to reading suggestions on the topic are welcome!

Some background/thoughts: If God is outside of time, how would he meaningfully interact with beings within time? How should people balance remembering the past, hoping for the future, and living meaningfully in the present? So far I’ve read some of Augustine’s thoughts from the Confessions, some of Meghan Sullivan’s thoughts, some T.S. Eliot, and just recently blundered into Smolin’s theories about time (not with respect to God but rather as a scientific concept). Speaking of Smolin, I’m a little bit confused about which current theories about time are held as being respectable within the scientific community, since Smolin has some interesting but very quirky ideas.

I’m new to the forum, so please let me know if I’m starting this thread right :slight_smile:

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Great question @shawn.pavey! Your question is great, and you are starting the thread just fine. This is a good question for the @physicists. You might also want to look at this:

What type of student are you?

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Welcome, @shawn.pavey!

So, there are (broadly speaking) two ways of answering the question of how God relates to time. One response is that God is outside of time. And the other is that he persists through every moment within time.

William Lane Craig is well known for having studied this question, and he says that the answer goes together with your theory about the nature of time, specifically, your theory about what times exist. If you go for eternalism (all times exist, on ontological par), you’ll want to say that God is outside of time. If you go for presentism (only the present exists, objectively distinguished from the past and future), you’ll want to say that God exists through every moment within time. (You can read a bit more about the metaphysics of time on this forum: Science and the Metaphysics of Time)

If God exists outside time, then he is literally timeless and changeless. He can literally see the future, because it is right there in front of him. Though this kind of foreknowledge is useless to him, because the fact that it exists at all must already be a result of God’s timeless decision about what reality to create.

If God exists within time, then he relates to time in much the same way as us, though his relationship to the beginning of time, if time has a beginning, is a little more difficult to explain. (But I think it can be done in a coherent way, though I’m afraid I don’t have time to go into it right now!) And his foreknowledge has to be explained as being conceptual rather than perceptual: rather than seeing the future, it is more like God just intuitively knows what the future holds.

Talk about God, and time, and foreknowledge should eventually find it’s way to Molinism, which I recommend looking up! I think it is the best way to explain God’s foreknowledge, though others disagree.

I hope that helps kick this thread off. :slight_smile:

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Thank you so much for this! I’m a Mechanical engineering student at WashU

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Since you are a Mechanical Engineering student, I’d suggest that you keep God outside of time and stick with methodological naturalism in your studies.

Thank you very much @structureoftruth! This is exactly the kind of content I was hoping for

Among philosophers something like eternalism is more popular than something like the A-theory of time:
https://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

And in science, especially physics, I think B-theory is favored as well. Because it lines up well with special relativity. There are a lot of physicists on this forum that can answer that.

But as Trent Dougherty would say, “B-Theory gets an “A” in being right.”

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Thanks for taking the time to consider my question. I’m curious if you would be able to expound a bit on why you think so?

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I appreciate the witty quote haha. I’m having a little bit of difficulting understanding why A theory or B theory line up better with the relativity side of things, but will keep looking into it!

@shawn.pavey Cant go wrong with the SEP:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/#TheBThe

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From the SEP article:
“The first of these is an argument from the special theory of relativity in physics. According to that theory (the argument goes), there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. But if there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity, then there cannot be objective facts of the form “ t is present” or “ t is 12 seconds past”. Thus, according to this line of argument, there cannot be objective facts about A properties, and so the passage of time cannot be an objective feature of the world.”

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Look at Noether’s theorem. It leads to all the conversation laws in physics. God has to be outside of time for conservation laws of energy to work.

There is no reason to think God cannot transcend conservation laws.

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God can transcend conversation of laws but cannot be part of four dimensional spacetime.

There is no reason think this true. You certainly are not speaking from evidence.

I am talking science. Science is neutral on the existence of God. Therefore when doing science under MN, God is and must be outside of four dimensional spacetime which is all that is or was or ever will be.

Sure, that is correct, but I’m pretty sure @shawn.pavey isn’t writing a science paper.

@shawn.pavey, is this for the Augustine Collective? I see you were invited by @TWReynolds

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@shawn.pavey is a Mechanical Engineering student at WashU. If he wants to graduate and work as a Mechanical Engineer, he will need to think like an engineer. And that requires the study of science under MN. Sure he can keep his faith in his “outside of spacetime” God but his work must be done using science under MN. Those are the rules. Now of course, he can change majors to Divinity or Theology studies but I wouldn’t recommend it as Mechanical Engineering is far more meaningful and beneficial to humankind than the study of theology. And as an engineer, he will be able to support yourself and your family in an increasing secular scientific society.

Yes this is for the Augustine Collective! That said I’m happy to learn more about the topic even if it doesn’t fall quite into the scope of the paper

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Yes, I would like to graduate haha, and I’m well on my way to doing so. I’m in a bit too deep to change majors to Divinity or Theology, though the thought had occurred to me back in the day. I think theology can be quite beneficial to humankind, if done right, as with MLK’s influence on civil rights

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