by Bob Enyart
Most Christian theologians join countless philosophers of the last 2,500 years in saying that God is outside of time. However, if the Scriptures teach that God Himself experiences change in sequence, that would indicate that God exists in time, in the present, with a past, and looking forward to a future. This would demonstrate that atemporality, that is, timelessness, is not a necessary attribute of deity. So here is an example of a biblical proof demonstrating that God has a "past" and therefore falsifying the claim that God is outside of time:
Before the foundation of the world (as the Bible puts it), God the Son was not also the Son of Man; but then He "became" flesh (John 1:14) as "the Son of Man" (Mat. 12:8), and so God the Son remains eternally "the Man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim 2:5).
God Has a Past
This overtly biblical statement shows that God has a past, and therefore exists in time. The Incarnation has eternally changed God the Son, and therefore, also His relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Father. Hermeneutics are techniques, that is, they are tools for interpreting the Bible (and for interpreting most communication for that matter). All valid hermeneutics will reinforce that the Incarnation is a fundamental teaching of Scripture, and that the Incarnation demonstrates unequivocally that God, in this case, in the person of the Son, has undergone change. This is a biblical proof that God exists in time. Let's consider further the relationship between God and time.
- is timeless
- in an eternal now
- without sequence or succession
- without moment or duration
- atemporal and outside of time
- not was, nor will be, but only is
- has no past
- has no future.
Of course NOT ONE of these phrases is in the Bible. They're from Plato. And the Platonists. For the Reformation broke with Rome, but not with Greece. (See this in Post 5B of Bob's debate with D. James Kennedy's Professor of New Testament.) So these philosophical terms are uncritically repeated by the Christian authors of typical systematic theology textbooks, and therefore, taught to young ministers in seminary.
In the section heading just above, the word Greek does not refer, as many would assume, to the text of the New Testament that was originally written in Greek. Rather, it was used to refer to pagan Greek philosophy, which insisted that God exists outside of time. In contrast, the Hebrew and Greek terms in the Bible about God and time are TOTALLY different and refer not to timelessness but to unending duration. The phrases in the Scriptures all speak of God existing through unending time and an everlasting duration. The above timelessness terms are foreign to the reader of God's Word, whereas the Bible's many terms, as listed below, are all so very familiar from our reading of Scripture.
is - and was - and is to come - Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting - Forever and ever - The Ancient of Days - From before the ages of the ages - From ancient times - the everlasting God - He continues forever - From of old - Remains forever - Eternal - Immortal - The Lord shall endure forever - Who lives forever - yesterday, today, and forever - God’s years - manifest in His own time - Everlasting Father - Alive forevermore - Always lives - Forever - Continually - the eternal God - God’s years never end - From everlasting to everlasting - From that time forward, even forever - And of His kingdom there will be no end.
Of course ALL THESE are verbatim phrases from Scripture, some being repeated many times. NOT ONE MEANS TIMELESSNESS. Rather, they mean unending duration. So the Bible teaches the opposite of pagan Greek philosophy. (This is not surprising seeing, for example, that in Plato's Republic he says the state should decide when a woman can have a baby; that at birth the state should permanently take away babies from their parents; and that a baby born without the state's consent should be killed.)
Those many phrases above, from the Old and New Testaments, that show God existing in an unending duration of time, are of course translations from words in the original languages. And the Bible of course is translated by human beings. Indications though are that most of those translators themselves have been convinced that God is outside of time. Yet regardless, the truth shines through the pages of the Word as so many descriptions present God as existing in a never-ending sequence of time! Thus, scores of verses use these phrases which teach the opposite of Plato's pagan Greek philosophical claim that God has "no past" and "no future."
It was a bit of a trick, above, to use "Greek" to refer to philosophy rather than to the New Testament. But interestingly, the Bible uses the term "Greeks" also to refer to the unbelieving nations of the world generally. And above it can refer not only to those committed to the philosophy of Plato, but also, to the Hindus, Muslims, and non-Christians of countless persuasions, for many unbelievers share a belief that God, if He exists at all, exists outside of time. Thus, such a belief is not necessarily an indication of true spiritual insight.
Time is a Prerequisite of Creation: Many have been told that time was created by God, and that it is not an aspect of His existence. Please consider though that time cannot be created. Why not? Because creation means going from non-existence to existence, which itself is a sequence, a before and after. And any before and after sequence requires time. Time therefore is a precondition of creating. Thus time itself cannot be created. Scripture describes God's creation of matter and space, light and life, but not of time. And even the secular BBC begins their Before the Big Bang program acknowledging that the notion of time coming into existence, "may be a logical contradiction." The scientific fad, with its ubiquitous acceptance, of claiming that time came into existence with the big bang, could effortlessly disappear if not needed by the next fad, the multiverse. For although the statement that "time came into existence" launched a million words in its defense, men have no way of even thinking about the notion. Why not? Because it is meaningless. (Similarly, men have no way of even thinking about the evolutionary notion of how a merely physical system could give rise to a biological information system, let alone, achieve consciousness. So in the alleged materialist evolution of information, and of consciousness, and in the claim that time came into existence, meaninglessness reveals itself through this inability even to think about such things.) If God indeed were atemporal and could experience no sequence and hence, no change, He could never decide to create time, nor could He ever move from a decision to the actual act of creating time. If such an irrationality were plausible, God would have had to always have created time, and all of creation, from eternity past. Yet this is all gibberish. Further, because time does exist, even if that time had been created, an atemporal deity who experiences no succession and no change in His knowledge could therefore only know Himself as co-existing with time. Thus for theologians to say that God exists apart from time would be positing something of Him that He Himself could not know. Instead, the simple truth is that a timeless God could not create time and does not exist.
Can't God Think a New Thought? Yes, of course He can. Open Theism claims that the future is open (and not settled) because God is free and eternally creative and can always think new thoughts. The Settled View claims that the future is exhaustively settled and its advocates include virtually all Calvinist and Arminian theologians. Claiming that the future is settled means that they believe that God cannot think a new thought, write a new song, or design a new flower, for according to their theological traditions, God has exhausted His creativity. These Settled View adherents interpret countless scriptures about God and time as figures of speech. But they take Plato literally. Why?
Should We Take Plato Literally and the Bible Figuratively? No. Seeking wider acceptance of their own ideas, Greek philosophers became apologists for the widespread pagan belief in unchangeable fate. For even though the Fates were the daughters of Zeus, he himself could be caught up in their inexorable, immutable providence. This ultimate "set up to fail" victim mentality permeated ancient political correctness. Yet the most influential Christian theologian Augustine admitted that he integrated Christian theology into this very aspect of Hellenistic philosophy. Plato wrongly concluded that anything perfect cannot change even though a perfect acorn becomes an oak tree. (It's the imperfect acorns that can't change as much.) And the perfect Christ child changed incalculably. Plato's error was not random but originated through his bias to then conclude that the future was could not change. For if the future could change, then divine knowledge would change, and the deity would not be perfect. Thus was born the humanist "Christian" doctrine of exhaustive foreknowledge, humanist because of its origin and because it entails that God has never existed apart from having the knowledge of Augustine (and every man) eternally in his mind. Instead, biblically, God changes immeasurably, including by God the Son taking upon Himself a human nature. Again, the Reformation broke with Rome but not with Greece. So when Protestant theologians submit to their own tradition, they repeat that God must exist outside of time. Yet the language of Scripture could easily have presented atemporality if that were God's intention.
The Above Proof By Proof Texts: Let's demonstrate the above proof again this time using only Bible excerpts. Those who claim that God is outside of time also frequently use the unbiblical phrase, "the eternal state." Actually, every moment is in the eternal state, including those moments before creation, all those since, and including those that will follow the New Creation. The following purely scriptural phrases show that in the "eternal state," WHO GOD WAS in eternity past differs from WHO GOD IS now and in eternity future. The differences do not include anything like an abandonment of His fundamental attributes (which are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving), but rather, they are divine expressions of these attributes. For:
"The Father… is Spirit" and "invisible," "from of old, from everlasting," just "like the Son of God." He "loved [the Son] before the foundation of the world." Yet "God was manifested in the flesh" for "the Word BECAME flesh," having "partaken of flesh and blood," and "coming in the likeness of men" "to be made like His brethren." So "He is the SON OF MAN," "from the seed of David," "Jesus Christ… the Son of Abraham." And "this MAN, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." And "He ever lives to make intercession," for "the Mediator between God and men" is "the MAN Christ Jesus." So "God… will judge the world… by the MAN whom He has ordained," and "in the regeneration… the SON OF MAN sits on the throne of His glory."
The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was not OF MAN through eternity past. Neither David, nor Adam, nor any of us, were necessary for God to be God. But the second person of the Trinity is now Jesus, the SON OF MAN. But willing to trade away God's freedom, holiness, and a thousand literal Bible verses, many theologians will sacrifice the greatest truths of Scripture for Platonic utter immutability. (Some Christians even say that they would reject Christ if God had actual freedom.) As we've seen in the "comment thread" to Bob Enyart's Open Theism Debate with the president of The North American Reformed Seminary, a reader responding to our own BEL producer Will, wrote:
"Jesus Christ is God and man, he is both, he has eternally existed as both."
This is heretical. (At BEL we don't use "heresy" flippantly.) Christians desperate to win an argument that God is outside of time will even flirt with the unbiblical claim that God the Son was always a man, from eternity past. However, regarding God the Son taking humanity upon Himself through the Incarnation, there is a divine chronological order. For:
"...the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth… the second Man is the Lord from heaven." 1 Cor. 15:46
But theologians committed to the Settled View handle this verse like they do a thousand others. They turn it into a figure of speech meaning the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the passage naturally states. If they were correct in this, then of course Christians could safely ignore the evident teaching of this and many other such passages. But in truth, Jesus was the Son of God from eternity past, and He became forever the Son of Man only at the Incarnation. For remember that, writing in Genesis, Moses introduced Melchizedek without parents making it appear that He had no beginning, "like the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3).
The Son of Man: As men, we probably would never pick the same title for Jesus as is His favorite title for Himself, "the Son of Man." That title seems almost common to us, because we are all sons of man. But He took that title for Himself after much humbling and lowering and emptying of Himself. That title, the Son of Man, is precious to Him because it cost Him so much. But many theologians reject that the Incarnation shows change in God, as demonstrated in the TNARS Open Theism debate (mentioned above). This also happened in our debate with James White on Is the Future Settled or Open? as Enyart began cross examining White:
Enyart: "So you agree that eternally past, God the Son only had one nature?
JW: Of course.
BE: And today God the Son has two natures?
JW: That’s correct.
BE: And so, you don’t think that’s a change?
In defending their claim that the Incarnation was not a change in God, such theologians claim that Open Theists confuse Christ's humanity with His divinity. However, there are not four persons of the trinity, as is implied by such objections. His humanity did not become human. It is the eternal God the Son who became flesh.
The Son of Man and the James White Debate Aftermath: Responding to the debate, R.C. Sproul Jr. and James White both, startlingly, denied that God the Son took upon Himself a human nature. Sproul wrote: "God the Son does not now nor has He ever had two natures." White wrote: "God the Son does not have two natures. I did not 'admit' that He did/does/will etc." Comparing those shocking statements with this 2-minute video from the debate helps to illustrate that the Incarnation, which is the central doctrine of the Christian faith, is a doctrine that does not fit easily into the claim that God is immutable (utterly unchangeable) and exists outside of time (and thus, without sequence):
Undoubtedly, these men are currently denying this central doctrine of Christianity (hopefully only temporarily, and hopefully, they will simply retract their comments) because they are trying to defend the claim from Plato devotee Augustine that God is timeless (thus without sequence) and that He is utterly immutable. Please pray for these men who clearly love the Lord but who are subordinating the biblical Incarnate Son of God to Platonic utter immutability. See more at opentheism.org/james-white#aftermath and you can view the entire debate right here:
To defend Platonic utter immutability those who hold the Settled View will deny that God has the freedom even to think new thoughts. So what do they get in trade for God's freedom? They can claim that before the criminal was ever born, God decided how often to rape that child (Hear James White admit this, and see the transcript, in Bob's Second Rebuttal at 53:40 into the above debate.). God would also have decreed then how filthy each time would be, and "all for His glory and pleasure" including the rapist being beat to death in prison. The fact that God says, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezek. 33:11) is irrelevant because it's all a double figure of speech meaning the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the text says, as we can see from the sad reality that many theologians believe that God did ordain the rape, and the beating death, "for His pleasure." And they even claim that God is impassible, that is, that He can have no emotion or passion, for in contrast to a hundred verses in Scripture, John Calvin wrote that God is, "incapable of every feeling." So when God says He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, they claim really that He can have NO pleasure whatsoever. Yes, God's ways are higher than our ways. But they're not lower. He doesn't take pleasure from adultery.
When pressed, as in the in the TNARS debate, some theologians will admit that Sovereignty is NOT an eternal attribute of God. That is a valid position, for otherwise, God's very existence would be dependent upon the creation. Just as Adam is not necessary for God to be God (as he would have been if the Son of God were also eternally the Son of Man) so too if the quantitative attribute of exhaustive foreknowledge is an essential attribute of deity, required for God to be God, then the one reading this sentence at this very moment would also be a necessary prerequisite for God to be God, for God could not then exist apart from each and every one of us being and doing and thinking everything in fact that we've been and done and thought. For if our existence is necessary in His mind eternally for Him to be God, then in a fundamental way He could not be self-existent for we would be eternally necessary for God's very existence, and He then could not be God without me. This is a twisted theological perversion. Such notions diminish God and would falsify the valid theological doctrines of God's aseity and self-sufficiency. And further, they bring the Christian into absurdities like praying to change the past. After all, if God is outside of time, then there is no difference to God in prayers for the future and those for the past, in praying for those living today and for those who died yesterday. Christians find themselves battling the same absurdities as time-traveling science fiction characters. Coming back to reality though, even in sovereignty we see God changing. For in eternity past He was not sovereign. Yet after He returns "in His own time" as "the King of kings" (1 Tim. 6:15) He will reign Sovereign in His kingdom that will never end (Isaiah 9:7).
Does God Ever Show His Power By Intervening? Yes. The Bible records 343 miraculous events in which God supernaturally, miraculously intervenes by superseding physical and spiritual laws. Influential theologians including Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, and Anselm, wrongly claimed that God exists atemporally and so He could do nothing in sequence. That would include His supposed inability to perform separate acts of creation, to act in sequence through any intervention, or even Himself from a burning bush to speak with sequential words.
Did God Ever Show His Power By Intervening to Change the Past? No. Changing the past is irrational and contradicts reality itself. Praying for a change to the past is asking for the impossible, like asking God to create an exact duplicate of Himself. An argument from silence, consistent with God existing in time and not out of it, observes that none of the Bible's miracles change the past. That argument becomes compelling when factoring in Jesus' statement, which is inclusive of all the realm of possibility, when He was praying in Gethsemane. Consider the kinds of miracles that could be performed, conceptually, if God had power over time itself. He could have demonstrated His omnipotence after the first Passover by telling the Egyptians that He was going to supernaturally change the past, enabling Pharaoh and all of Egypt to remember the horror of the ten plagues while backing up history to when Moses poured Nile water out onto the ground, giving the nation another chance. Another of the innumerable possible examples of intervening by changing the past is that God could have enabled King David to remember the decades of devastating consequences when his family and even his nation were torn apart, and then back up history to before he looked upon Uriah's nakedness, giving him another chance. A sufficient investigation can validate an argument from silence and even resolve an argument from ignorance. Thus, the sufficiency of Scripture aids such an investigation because unlike most public records, the Bible includes every single demonstration of God's power that He wanted recorded. Further, regarding salvation, a request from Jesus had the effect of summing up every conceivable possibility of changing the past. God permitted Adam and Eve to bring into existence eternal beings, men and women who all inherited Adam's "flesh", that is, his tendency to sin. These descendants thus had no ability to avoid eternal separation from God unless the Lord was willing to sacrifice His life to pay for our sin. Then, when imminently He faced the excruciation of the crucifixion, He cried out, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me." The Father's love for the Son is unsurpassed among all His commitments. Thus, if there were any possible way to answer the Son's prayer by undoing the commitment that God had brought upon Himself, He would have done so. Obviously, just as the Bible never recorded God intervening to change the past, here too, when needed more than in any other conceivable circumstance, God did not rewind human history to just before Adam and Eve fell. If He had power over time, He could have brought them back to before they conceived their first child, or even further back, to that first Friday and before they sinned. He could have preserved their memory of being exiled from the Garden, of one son murdering another, of all their children, grandchildren, and so on, hating God and one another. So not only is there no biblical evidence that God has the power to intervene to change past history, additionally, there is positive evidence, from Gethsemane, that no such power exists, which brings us by another route to the same truth required by the Incarnation. God exists in time.
Predestination and Foreknowledge: Which theological camp believes that God's foreknowledge is literal? Which camps believe that it is a figure of speech? FOREknowledge means to know something BEFORE it happens. However, for a deity who exists outside of time, there is no past to remember and there is no future to know nor to plan for. Yet Peter wrote that God's plan to save the lost was "foreordained before the foundation of the world." Jesus could say to the Father, "You loved Me before the foundation of the world." The many theologians promoting atemporality though will claim it is impossible for God even to plan for the future (because they claim there is no future for God). On the other hand, those who accept as literal the Bible's repeated descriptions of God as everlasting (rather than timeless) can also accept the biblical doctrines of predestination and foreknowledge as being literally true of God. However, Calvinists and Arminians, like all those who take the Bible's descriptions of God's relationship to time as figurative, also take only as figures of speech the Bible's teachings on foreknowledge and predestination. So, ironically, it is the believer who accepts the Scripture's presentation as God existing in time who takes the Bible's teaching on these two doctrines literally. Contrariwise, both the Calvinist and the Arminian (who accept as actual the atemporality of Greek philosophy) think that PREdestination and FOREknowledge are figures of speech used to describe deity only from our own perspective, but that these do not actually describe God as He is. For if God is outside of time, then nothing can be known or done before anything else, thus the "pre" and the "fore" would be mere figures of speech for our benefit (or confusion) and not actually real. So the theologian attempting to justify such a non-literal interpretation by saying that God is communicating to us in a way that we can understand it, should acknowledge that he is taking a meaning that refutes what the Bible repeatedly says. Instead of all that, we can accept here that the Bible means literally what it says, and in doing so we recover the literal doctrines of foreknowledge and predestination. Afterall, why can't God PREdestine something, from His own perspective? Why can't He truly FOREknow something? For He claims to do these exact things a hundred times over. It is limiting God and putting Him into a peculiar kind of box to reject His ability to know before, and to decree before. The absolute divine timelessness (atemporality; non-sequence; no past; etc.) of Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas claims that God lives in an eternal now, existing, experiencing, doing, and knowing everything in an instantaneous simultaneity, having no past, and no future, no "was", and no "will be", but only "is". Thus by prioritizing the Greek and Latin philosophical "quantitative attributes" of how much, and how little (the OMNIs and the IMs) above the five biblical "qualitative attributes" of the everlasting God (that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving), that would rob God of His ability to actually foreknow and to actually predestine. Only by acknowledging that God exists in time can one restore the doctrines of predestination and foreknowledge to their literal status of actually describing God as He is.
Bad Translations: "Before time began" (2 Tim. 1:9 & Titus 1:2) is widely quoted yet in the Greek text of the New Testament there is no verb "began" in the original language. And the singular word "time" does not appear. Instead, Paul wrote, "before the times of the ages," which is very different from the way many of our Bible versions render this phrase, which translations do not flow from the grammar but from the translators' commitment to Greek philosophy.
- "Time shall be no more" (Rev. 10:6; hymns) is corrected even by Calvinist translators in virtually all modern versions as is also made overtly clear from the text and the context, "There will be no more delay!"
- "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" at Revelation 13:8 can be corrected (as at the NIV footnote) by cross-referencing the passage with Revelation 17:8. For the Bible teaches that "only those written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Rev. 21:27) shall be saved, and that God could save Old Testament believers because He looked forward to the cross, and He can save believers now because He looks backward to the cross. So in the Old Testament God looked forward and in the last two millennia He looks backward to that wonderful and yet terrible time. However, if Christ had been slain previously, before the foundation of the world, then there would have been no need for the righteous dead to wait in Abraham's Bosom "until the death of the one who is high priest in those days" (symbolizing Christ). The parallel passage at Revelation 17:8 shows that the qualifier does not apply to the slaying of Christ but to the wicked, "whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world." This means that these evil men were not believers who had fallen away, but that their names were NEVER written in the book. (See a similar construct in Jeremiah 2:32.) Revelation 13:8 can even be seen as giving the title and sub-title of The Book of Life – Of the Lamb Slain.
Good Translations; Bad Interpretations: "And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them" (Ps. 139:16). This verse is almost always quoted completely out of context. The complete passage, Psalm 139:13-16 refers strictly to the development of the baby in the womb. God's "book" here is not the Bible, and it is not the Book of Life, but it is the genetic code that God wrote with His finger and enabled us to inherit from our parents. Thus the last day written in that book is not the day of one's death, but the day of one's birth. See this more fully exegeted at AmericanRTL.org/Bible#fetology.
- "...with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8). Rather than implying that God is outside of time, the passage means that God is patient, and extraordinarily capable. He is patient, as stated in the very next verse, that God "is longsuffering toward us" (2 Pet. 3:9), for God is love, and love is patient. God has wonderful qualities that can only be had if He exists in time, including patience, being slow to anger, and hope. If God were outside of time He Himself could not even exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) nor love (1 Cor. 13:4-7). If atemporal, He could not have expectation or hope, but He does have expectations (e.g., Isa. 5:1-4) and He is a God of hope (Rom. 15:13). The "thousand years" passage shows that God is extraordinarily capable and can do in a single day what men may think would take eons. It is not that God is able to do anything, for He can only do that which is doable. Regardless of how much time was available, He could not make another God just like Himself, nor could He make it a virtue to worship the devil. These are logical and moral impossibilities, and God is good, and rational. For He is truth. On the other hand, a thousand years are not as one day to those of us living on this Earth, because we face death, and we have severe limits to what we can accomplish in a day. (Although in a brief moment we can gain eternal life, by trusting in Jesus Christ.) Consider one example though of what God can do in a single day. Eleven times the Bible says that God stretched out the heavens. Looking at the stars then, it appears that the light of the universe has been traveling for eons, yet God stretched out the heavens in a single day (Gen. 1:14-19). In fact, it was on a Wednesday. :)
Liberty University's Richard Holland's God, Time, and the Incarnation: Dr. Holland, assistant professor of theology at Liberty University, wrote one of the two definitive works on the intersection, or lack thereof, in the church's teaching on atemporality and the Incarnation. (The other is Ryan Mullin's The End of the Timeless God.) Holland's research, in God, Time and the Incarnation demonstrates that when leading theologians from Augustine and Boethius to Anselm and Aquinas defend their doctrine on atemporality, they tend to avoid the direct implications of the Incarnation. Hear Richard Holland interviewed right here on KGOV in a major broadcast event as Bob Enyart and the author talk through the book's major findings including regarding Oscar Cullmann's "detailed analysis of the terminology found in the Greek New Testament used to refer to time" where Cullmann concluded that "the words themselves reveal what the early Christian conception of time was, and he argues that... The terminology of the New Testament teaches us that... time [is an] unending extension..."
Is There Time in Heaven? Yes. When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about HALF AN HOUR (Rev. 8:1).
- When He opened the fifth seal [martyrs in heaven said]: "HOW LONG, O Lord… until You… avenge our blood…" [I]t was said to them... a little while longer, until... (Rev. 6:10-11; 11:17-18).
- …the tree of life… bore twelve fruits [a different one] EVERY MONTH (Rev. 22:2).
- But this Man, AFTER He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down [on His throne in heaven] FROM THAT TIME WAITING TILL His enemies are [defeated] (Heb. 10:12-13).
- As the LORD says, "I have held My peace A LONG TIME" (Isa. 42:14).
- And [God will not punish demons] "before [their] time" (Mat. 8:29).
Atemporality Would Invalidate the Burning Bush: Timelessness invalidates one of the Lord's most wonderful arguments. For Jesus asked, "concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living." And as Jesus concluded for the Sadducees, we can conclude for classical theologians. "You are therefore greatly mistaken." (Mark 12:24-27) For if timelessness were correct, then a change in the creation could result in no change to the deity imagined by a theologian beholden to pagan Greek philosophy's atemporality and immutable foreknowledge. If God is outside of time, then the first weed that grew in Eden is still alive, to Him, even though He is not the God of the Weeds. Though it be dead, yet the weed' be alive to a timeless diety. However, Jesus argument was not unsound, but valid and true, as it could be only if God exists in time, as He does.
Timelessness Invalidates Conversion and Every Victory: If the TRUE perspective is God's ETERNAL NOW, then David is now killing Bathsheba’s husband, each believer is still in his sin, and the Father is right now pouring out wrath on His Son, right now. But this is false for Hebrews says that Jesus suffered "once for all."
Neither men nor angels can be omnipresent, even in heaven, for they would thereby have to be divine. The same limitation would apply with timelessness. If God existed outside of time the angels before His throne ("who do not rest… saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come'") and the men ministering to Him forever would also have to be timeless, which would mean that they were divine also. And Jesus said we shall receive much "in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life" (Luke 18:30), and as for things that can happen, as He said in a parable, some things happen "by chance" (Luke 10:31). And "In the beginning" in Genesis 1 does not mean in the beginning of time, for that's Augustine's interpretation based on Plato, but we have the Lord's interpretation based on Mark, for as Jesus said, the phrase means in "the beginning of creation" (Mk. 10:6; Mat. 19:4).
God did many things before creation (John 17:24, 5; Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:20; Eph. 1:4) and His children shall "endure forever" (Ps. 89:36) enjoying God eternally through an "everlasting covenant" (Gen. 17:7), "established forever." So the Bible teaches that God is in time. And a foundation of the Settled View is seen to be heavily based on human philosophy and contradicted by the entirety of the relevant biblical material.
By Bob Enyart, KGOV.com &
Pastor, Denver Bible Church
For more information, see:
- Bob Enyart's open theism debates with theologian James White and with Dr. Samuel Lamerson, D. James Kennedy's professor of New Testament
- Bob's interview with Richard Holland, ass't professor at Liberty University on God, Time, and the Incarnation
- Bob Enyart's Summit Clock Experiment 2.0: Time is Absolute -- A Layman Questions Gravitational Time Dilation. Related: Is time really a dimension of space? See phys.org 2012, Physics Essays 2012, and ResearchGate 2015. Also, if entangled particles instantaneously experience a quantum effect, as is widely held, that indicates absolute time and a preferred reference frame. Likewise in classical physics, cause must always preceed effect in all reference frames.
- See rsr.org/starlight-and-time#speed-of-light for thoughts on a photon's innate frequency.
- Stand To Reason's Greg Koukl, in a great article, Is God In Time? wrote that, "The Scriptures seem to identify a God in time..."
- KGOV producer Will Duffy's fast-moving Open Theism Debate with Jaltus
- Bob Enyart's debates with Dr. Larry Bray, president of The North American Reformed Seminary: Is Calvinism Biblical? and Is the Future Settled or Open? (The host for both of these, David New, removed these debates from his site so they've recently been made available again by TheologyOnline.com and opentheism.org.)
- Check out these DVD/downloads at our KGOV Store: Chosen, Open Theism, Predestination & Free Will (or audio), and a P&FW Debate.
- Call 1-800-8Enyart (836-9278) and talk to us about which of our DVDs, books, or audio teachings may interest you!
Addendum: We human beings have difficulty thinking even about simple aspects of time. Consider these corrections to six other popular misconceptions.
Misconception 2: Measurement of time equals time itself. It doesn't. Simply pointing out this nearly ubiquitous error should suffice to correct it. Secular folks and believers alike frequently assume this non-sequitur with Christians suggesting that there could be no time prior to the Earth's orbit or its rotation. Their confusion equates to the claim that if man possessed no ruler then there could be no length, or no scale there could be no gravity, or no speedometer then no velocity, so no clock, no time. Thoughtlessness abounds. The measurement of something does not equate to the thing itself and (as pointed out since at least 1885 by the Rev. J. J. Smith's Duration as Applied to God) neither does the ability or lack thereof to measure something equate to the thing itself.
Misconception 3: Time flows toward the future. Time's arrow is almost universally described as pointing from the past to the future such that the current of time flows forward. Of course this is a metaphor, yet the direction of this arrow is wrong. The truth is the reverse. For to whatever extent we may speak of time flowing, say, as a river, then to that extent time flows from the future into the past, from its source into the depths. The current of time brings the future into the present and the present into the past. For, which is more likely to be flowing suspended perfectly in time, a fjord or the future? A pebble or the past? Regarding rivers, men build anchors and docks to resist their flow. Other objects though, like bubbles and twigs, readily float along with the current. Regarding time, what is it that resists its flow, and what rides in its current? Dates, for example, ride the current of time keeping pace perfectly with its flow. Tomorrow's date, yielding no resistance, suspended perfectly in time, readily moves with the current and will eventually arrive not at a point further into the future but being carried by time will eventually arrive at the present and then recede into the past. An entire book written on the topic, Coveney and Highfield's atheistic Arrow of Time, inaccurately speaks of "time's forward movement." Christian philosopher Ryan Mullins in his fascinating book, The End of the Timeless God, published in 2016 by Oxford University Press, describes the "A-Theory" writing that time "is constantly moving forward." Merriam-Webster defines time as a continuum "from past through present to future". Incorrectly men assume that the current of time sweeps us from birth to death, which would be moving us toward the future. But more accurately, the current of time eventually sweeps our entire earthly lives into the past. Time does not carry our birth forward into the future, nor (as it might if time flowed forward) does it forever postpone our physical death pushing it later and later. Rather, "I" am like a floating buoy anchored to the river bed bobbing and resisting the flow of time. Mullins writes of "endurantism" and uses the common phrase, "persist through time". An astronaut does not persist through his spaceship but he persists through space, which, as he travels is gradually receding behind him. Thus time is not carrying us, but we are persisting through it. The carrying capacity of a river's current, how much sediment it can transport in suspension, depends upon the current's speed. Considering everything that exists, both physical and spiritual, the incorrect view of time flowing forward suggests an absurdity. For if time were actually flowing forward, it would need to have its own carrying capacity. Time would then have to possess whatever features were necessary to transport every physical particle and every spiritual entity, temporally forward. Or, every physical particle and spiritual entity would have to possess whatever features were necessary to hold onto time as it carried them. Either way, that's quite an onus to put on something as ethereal as time. Rather, the passage of time pleases Ockham. No carrying or latching required, time simply flows backward, bypassing all. Contrast then "events" to people and objects anchored to resist the flow. Events are not similarly anchored. Defenseless to the flow of time, as so much sediment suspended in a current, events are whisked into the past. An event belongs first to the future, then to the present, and finally to the past. In this sense, things can resist the flow of time but events cannot. Consider also markers to moments in time. Temporal markers lack physical mass and spiritual existence. So they flow perfectly with the current of time. Thus on the day of this writing, the date of January 1, 2020 is in the future, floating toward the present, caught up as it is perfectly in the current of time. That date will eventually reach the present and then, as age piles on top of age, greatly recede with the flow of time carrying it forever further and further into the distant past. Though nearly ubiquitous, the misperception that "times flows forward" bringing us into the future is not harmless. Here tautologies abound. The murkier the water the less transparent it is. And the less accurately we think about time the more erroneous our understanding. For those who unwittingly view time as having a carrying capacity (bringing us into the future) may be hindered from perceiving the impossibility of time travel, may resist presentism (that the present is all that exists), and may harbor other confusions about the nature of time itself. In reality, we resist the flow of time and live forever and only, as does God, in the present. Which brings us to the best definition: Time is the beginningless, endless, present, continuous, irreversible future to past dimension of change.
Misconception 4: God cannot cross an actual infinity: Because it would take infinitely long to cross an infinity, many philosophers claim that not even God could cross an infinity. Thus, they claim if He lived "in time", then regardless of how long He has existed, the Lord Himself could never reach any particular point in time, let alone reach "the present", because He would have to cross an infinity to arrive at this (or that) moment.
On How to Cross an Infinity: However, consider the relationship between two valid arguments: everything that has a beginning has a cause and likewise, nothing that has a beginning can cross an infinity. God, however, has existed through the "beginningless past". Though we reject much of Wes Morriston's reasoning in his paper Beginningless Past, Endless Future, and the Actual Infinite published in 2010 by the journal Faith and Philosophy (Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 439-450), we agree with his biblical conclusion, that God has existed through the beginningless past. The vast majority of Christian theologians though, who reject that God has existed through the beginningless past, typically do so by being inconsistent. Therefore their objection is easily neutralized and then answered. For example, William Lane Craig rejects the possibility of an actual infinity. (See his reformulated medieval Islamic Kalam cosmological argument.) So along with many theologians he disagrees with the biblical argument presented above of: "from everlasting to everlasting", and thus he denies that God has existed throughout time immemorial, infinitely into the past. For if an actual infinity cannot exist, Craig argues, then even God cannot cross one. (Aristotle, for example, claimed that the infinite is never actual; he, however, did not know God.)
Inconsistency: Yet while Craig doesn't admit it, he himself believes that God has crossed an actual infinity. For God's thoughts are actual. They are not merely theoretical. They are actual. They are His thoughts. And Craig believes that God has had exhaustive foreknowledge of a kingdom that never ends. That of course would require divine knowledge of an infinite future, with this knowledge comprised of actual thoughts in God's mind. (This would be like God having counted to infinity.) Further, because Craig happens to hold the untenable and rather grotesque belief that God knows every possible future, that philosophical claim requires God to cross an infinite number of actual infinities. (This is because there are an infinite number of possible futures. Forget about Chuck Norris doing so twice, this amounts to a claim that God counted to infinity an infinite number of times.) Instead, in actuality, God has once crossed the single infinity of the beginningless past.
Assuming the Conclusion: Using a typically unstated assumption, an argument against God's "beginningless past" insists that He could not have crossed an infinite past because regardless of how much time has actually passed, "infinity" would require passage of even more time to arrive at any given moment. The unstated assumption in this objection however is that it assumes its conclusion, namely, that this past period must have had a beginning. For this objection essentially asserts that this past period that God has existed through is of finite duration. Theologians mishandle this issue the way that atheists mishandle the argument that everything that has a beginning has a cause. Bertrand Russell, by asking "Who made God?", assumes he has either falsified Christianity or disproved the argument. Of course, on its face, Russell has done neither because his application falsifies only the pagan cosmogonies that originate their gods, but he leaves untouched the eternal God of Scripture. Likewise, theologians (inherently) take the valid argument that nothing that has a beginning can cross an infinity and misuse it by claiming, "God can't cross an infinity." If there is a valid theological system that denies God's ability to cross an actual infinity, then it would not support a philosophical claim that contradicts its own system (see Inconsistency, just above), and neither will it merely assume its conclusion.
Mathematics 101: Let's consider an analogy, from geometry, and then an excuse, from mathematics. As an illustration, a geometrical line is infinite in both directions whereas a ray has a terminal point yet is infinite in one direction. For our analogy, consider the ray as extending through eternity past and being terminated in God's present. For the present is where God lives, in the fullness of time so to speak, with God's past illustrated by that ray. Consider also that Georg Cantor died only in 1918. Perhaps there is a (weak) excuse then for theologians who failed to understand God existing in time, partly because they lived prior to this mathematician who taught the world so much about infinity. (Remember that mathematicians had problems even with the concept of negative numbers until the 17th and 18th centuries, let alone with infinity.) So Craig's Islamic theologians and countless Christian theologians (including Augustine, even though he was right to apply the concept of infinity to God), could hardly have comprehended the concept that God could have existed for an infinite time and that daily He also could add more time to that same infinity. God has done this however. For He must increase! So the terminal point on that divine ray has moved, for example, more than two thousand years since the moment of the Incarnation, something that few could have conceived of throughout much of human history.
Forward Looking: Finally, as Solomon wrote, God put eternity into our hearts. Yet unlike God, our life is not endless in two directions but only in one, namely, into the future. So to use our analogy again, in reverse, you are like a "ray" that begins at a point (of conception) and then proceeds forever (Eccl. 3:11). Thus, a man does not "enter eternity" at his death, but at the moment of conception. (Likewise, King David wrote that, "in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." This passage did not refer to the days till his death but to the days till his brith, that is, to fetology. Regarding the developmental biology that God designed for the human fetus, Psalm 139 refers not to the days of an entire life but to the days in the womb.) Therefore, our eternal soul provides for us a context in which we can develop a gut feel for what it means to live forever (throughout eternity future). Yet we lack the divine intestinal fortitude, so to speak, that we would need in order to relate to His beginningless past. So because the above arguments falsify atemporality, one realizes that if God could not cross infinity, then He could not have existed for eternity. But He has. In summary, by the Scriptural teachings regarding time (see above) and because time could not have been created (see above), we therefore teach that God's goings forth are from of old, from everlasting, from ancient times, the everlasting God who continues forever, from before the ages of the ages, He who is and who was and who is to come, who remains forever, the everlasting Father, whose years never end, from everlasting to everlasting, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
Misconception 5: Eternity means timelessness: It does not. Moses wrote, "from everlasting to everlasting You are God" (Ps. 90:2). And as R.T. Mullins of course correctly observes, "Jesus grants an everlasting life, not a timeless life." In Christianity's first three centuries, its leaders taught free will. See kgov.com/300. Yet many of those early Christians undermined that biblical teaching by also holding a non-biblical one, atemporality. And though Mullins, the philospher, disagrees, the doctrine of timelessness entered Christianity through a widespread commitment to Greek philosophy. So Christianity's divine timelessness arose not from Scripture but from the teachings of Plato, most fundamentally, on immutability. See tiny.cc/immutability-from-plato. On that crooked foundation, many theologians of both Arminian and Augustinian/Calvinist perspectives eventually slid into the false teaching that God's creatures could neith decide nor do anything other than what had been eternally foreknown.
Misconception 6: Unchanging omniscience could tell time: Unchanging omniscience is a contradiction. Some knowledge cannot be held statically, including something as simple as the current date and time. Even if such a deity knew Earth's entire history moment by moment, He would have no way of knowing what time it is right now to us creatures, including what day it is, the month and year. The concept of divine static knowledge is defective. One can know the script of a stage show, but to know at what point the cast is at in a performance requires a different kind of knowledge that cannot even theoretically be held statically. It is a trivial matter for created human beings to know which acts and scene a performance is at in a play, or what is the date. The absurdity though of atemporality is demonstrated in that such trivial information is unattainable for an unchanging omniscience. This realization enables theologians to build a list of things that our dynamic and free God can know but that an unchanging deity could never know. For example, if the classical description of God held by Calvinists and Arminians were true, that He has unchanging knowledge, here is a tiny list of the almost infinite things that such a God could not know:
- What time it is. What day it is. What month it is.
- What year it is. If it's the 21st century. Whether it's AD or BC.
- How long has it been since creation and since the flood.
- How long has it been since the cross (or, is the cross yet future?).
- How long until the Second Coming.
- How many people are in your family.
- How many people have died.
- How many people are living currently on the Earth.
- How many miles on your car and how full its gas tank is.