Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A problem for some views of a temporal God

Among those who think that God is in time, there are two views:

  1. God has existed for an infinite amount of time

  2. God came into time a finite amount of time ago when he created the world.

The second view is held by William Lane Craig. On this view, God isn’t essentially temporal: he wouldn’t have been in time if he didn’t create time or temporal beings.

It’s occurred to me that those who accept the first view have the serious problem of getting out of the time-of-creation problems: Why did God create the world when he did, instead of earlier or later? And why did he wait an infinite amount of time before creating?

St Augustine’s answer that time starts with creation doesn’t work for those who accept (1).

Supposing creation itself to be omnitemporally eternal only solves the problem with (1) if one additionally accepts a relationalist B-theory of time. For otherwise there is still the question why God’s omnitemporally eternal creation process isn’t all shifted temporally by a year forward or backward in time.


Ron Krumpos said...

The divine is neither “up there” nor “down here”; it is not outside nor is it inside; it is at the infinite here. The divine is neither before birth nor after death; it is not yesterday, today nor tomorrow; it is in the eternal now. There is no place where the divine is not, there is no time when the divine is not, because the divine is not related to space or time. The divine 'is'; all other words are insufficient.

 James A. Gibson said...


From the conclusion: 'The question "Why did God not create the world sooner?" is unanswerable given the infinitude of the past. Since we have good reason to think that the physical universe began to exist and it is implausible to think that it came into existence without a supernatural cause, we therefore have good reason to believe that the past is finite.'

WLC also pushes this arbitrariness objection (if my memory about a decade ago is correct) against Wolterstorff in one of those 4 views books.

Michael Gonzalez said...

For what it's worth (though I'm inclined to agree with you and with Craig on this), Swinburne has a response. Actually, you probably remember that he mentioned it at that Baylor conference in honor of Plantinga, after Craig's presentation of the Kalam argument; namely: The usual arguments against the infinitude of the past apply to equal and distinct units of time, which don't have meaning if there is no creation, because there is no "metric time" in such a situation. And the question "why didn't He create sooner" doesn't have meaning without metric time, since it's not as though any particular amount of time had passed prior to that point.

It's kind of like having "timelessness" in the metric sense, but without lacking what Newton would call "pure duration".

I'm not sure how well that will work, though. And, I prefer Craig's view that God exists at the eternal, timeless boundary of time, but His creation of time (and everything else) would mark the first instant of time and He would enter time at that point.

Ron Krumpos said...

In the cyclical theory the Universe itself is infinite and eternal, a continuum of expansion and contraction.

E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Love, Grace, Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

Dark matter is 25%, and dark energy about 70%, of the critical density of this Universe. These widely accepted theories imply that science can now study only 5% of this Universe.

Ron Krumpos said...

On the Internet search for science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy

A quotation from that website:
"The rest - everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter - adds up to less than 5% of the universe."

If we can know so little about the Universe how can we know so much about God?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Yeah, I had forgotten these discussions between Bill Craig and Richard Swinburne.

Michael Gonzalez said...


Anything we know about God is because He has chosen to reveal it, and because He gave us minds capable of understanding. I'm not sure what to say about your hierarchy of consciousness, except that there are lots of meanings of the term "conscious" (examples: "he felt self-conscious about his weight", "she was conscious of buzzing sound in the room", "he regained consciousness the next morning...", "she always tried to be very conscious of social norms...", etc). The deployments usually mean either intransitively conscious (awake?) or transitively conscious of something, but even then there are lots of variations.

To bring it back to the specific topic of this blog post, God is said to have created the whole world and to have kicked off the very first event in time. It seems more conceptually safe to say that He is timeless without the world, and entered into time since that "kick-off" moment, rather than to say He existed for infinite time "and then" did something (which seems to contradict the meaning of "infinite").

Ron Krumpos said...

Michael, you misunderstood my (3) posts, but it would be unfair to Alexander to belabor that discussion. I believe that God preceded the 'Big Bsng and will continue after the 'Big Crunch.'

You said "He gave us minds capable of understanding." The ineffability of the divine precludes any explanation which rational thought can understand. Spiritual 'knowing,' mystical gnosis, is independent of reason, logic or images. It is suprarational.

Our approaches are different. Let's just agree to disagree.