Thursday, November 02, 2006

Where is God? Where is Alan Rhoda? An inquiry from Hugh Chandler

In response to the link to Alan's post MikeD wrote: I find the proposition of God's timelessness to be unncecessary. It is beyond any Scriptural basis and causes a myriad of contradictions resulting only in distancing an understanding of a personal God.



Hugh Chandler responds: Anselm, as you probably know, treats God's relationship to time in a way analogous to his relationship to space. This seems to me, a good way to go (and nicely connects up with present-day thinking about space/time.)

In regard to space: Anselm in effect [Monologium ch. xxi] asks whether we ought to think that God is a spacial being. If so, is all of God in each region of space, r1, r2, etc. or is only a PART of God in each region. Both options seem absurd. (Do we really want to say that there is more of God in a big church than in a little church? If 'all' of God is in each of those places, doesn't it follow that there are lots of him?)

Of course Anselm, as usual, thinks that God has no parts. God isn't that kind of thing.
On Anselm's view, in some sense, God is everywhere at all times; but God is not a temporal or spacial being - doesn't have spacial or temporal parts, and is not totally at each time and place.

Perhaps you have some way of dealing with this matter that avoids the kinds of problems confronting Anselm? Or do you think we just shouldn't worry about this sort of thing?

Hugh


A good question. Christian theology doesn't want to say that God has a particular spatial location. Though we used to say in Sunday School that God is everywhere! Still, last I heard pantheism and panentheism were incompatible with Christianity. Of course space and time differ in that space is not an ordered succession, but time is: "going back in space" creates no paradoxes, but going back in time does.

3 comments:

Mike D said...

Hugh,
When you mention the present-day thinking about space/time and Anselm, it sounds like the relationship between matter and energy. I am inclined to think as Victor alludes to that space and time can be separate, not just different states of the same thing like matter <--> energy.

Even thou we can be fairly confident to say that God is not a spatial being (God is spirit), I am not as confident in saying He is not temporal. A temporal being may still be eternal. It is one thing to say that God has always existed and will always exist. It is another entirely to say God exists outside of time and experiences all of time simultaneously. This second thought seems entirely foreign to the biblical record. It tends to sacrifice a personal, imminent God in favor of a defendable logical position. I am suggesting that the timelessness theory may be unnecessary in the sense that it may be going to far to find a logical resting place. In trying to find a position that is defensable by logic, it sacrifices the information that we have about God who acts in time and space, changes his mind in resonse to prayer, and gives us the responsibility to act on his behalf (or not).

Alan Rhoda said...

Regarding God's respective relations to space and time, I think it's misleading to say that God "in" places or "in" times. The connotation is that of a box that surrounds and encloses God. But no self-respecting temporalist theist believes that.

Instead, theists who deny divine timelessness, like myself, prefer to say that God experiences temporal succession and that God is everlasting or omnitemporal because there is no time at which God does not exist.

As for God's relation to space, the doctrine of omnipresence is not the view that God is somehow extended throughout all of space without having spatial parts. Rather, it is the idea that God is immediately and fully present to all places by virtue of his direct activity of creating and sustaining. He is not spatially extended.

bharshman said...

Hugh,
Perhaps God's natural realm is out side of the universe, (which science tells us is ever expanding) and out side of time,(being times creator also).
If so God can view time as a panorama of event. He may then choose to act inside of time and space at will without being boxed in by time or space(much as you might dip your hand in a fish bowl)
We are the ones boxed in by time and space.
We do not even sense our own temporal existence in the same milisecond as it's occurance.
That is my concept at this time.