Friday, May 26, 2006

Is God outside of Time?

This is a link to the famous Time chapter of Mere Christianity, in which Lewis argues that God is outside of time. I was surprised to discover, when I reread it, that Lewis is using the Boethian outside-of-time theory of God to explain how God can listen to all our prayers at once. This seems patently unnecesary: a simple explanation of the term omnipotent would do that trick. He does offer it as a solution to the problem of foreknowledge and free will. It sounded good when I read it, but those philosophically inclined should read the two chapters on divine timelessness in William Hasker's God, Time and Knowledge. Also for a statement of the opposing view, that God is in time, see Nicholas Wolterstorff 'God Everlasting' in God and the Good eds. Orlebeke & Smedes, Grand Rapids, 1975.


Alethes Ginosko said...

There are also some hints and allusions to this argument in Lewis' "The Great Divorce," which is probably my favorite book of his.

Jason Pratt said...

It explicitly factors as a key part to Appendix B (on "Special Providence") of MaPS as well. (2nd edition at least.) Much better put than in MC.

It's also put explicitly, though more shortly than in MaPS, in _The Screwtape Letters_. (Screwtape calls Boethius "that pestilent fellow"... {g})

Haven't read William Hasker's chapters, so can't comment on those. But polishings aside, I think Lewis is exactly right. And it makes a huge difference in one's theology. The open-theism vs. traditionalist debate, for instance, are both revealed to be faulty. Arminian vs. (hardline) Calvinist, too--though Arminians can import the Boethian notion pretty easily I think.


Edwardtbabinski said...

"Outside of time?" Exactly how can a person understand what "outside of time" means without raising just as many new questions as answers?

Jason Pratt said...

There's a very significant difference between an answer opening up more questions, and any of those questions counting as a good reason to doubt the truth of the answer.

I'm certainly familiar enough with that distinction in my various vocations. For every answer arrived at in a design (whether of a story or of a building or of an accounting tally or of the visual composition of a camera shot, as much as for a metaphysical or historical argument), plenty more questions _could_ be asked. But if we simply threw up our hands at the mere fact that any answer opens up new questions, and tried to avoid accepting the answer (or any answer) on that ground, then no practical work would ever be done.

To which I will add that you yourself have a long and clear history with Victor and I, of making no effort at all to hold to such a ridiculous universal-solvent dubiousness, when it comes to answers you yourself decide to accept and promote.

If the reasons for accepting something are bad, then fine. Don't accept it. If the reasons for accepting something else instead are good, then fine. Accept the something else instead. But don't give some foggy poof of fiddlefaddle about an answer leading to more questions, as if that mere fact is a ground in itself for rejecting the answer.

(I have a difficult time imagining any of the sceptics here, including yourself, accepting that tactic for a single second, if it was given by, say, a young-earth creationist against some answer from a proponent of gradualistic biological evolution. Such a reply by the y-e-c would be laughable at best, if not risible.)


Vera Nika Vanted said...

Hi Victor, since God is outside of time. The Bible talks about predestination or foreknowledge.
Meaning God predestined some for something.
How would you explain this? Since for God time is always present.

Thank you. Would really like to know your thought.

Anonymous said...

Interesting subject huh?

If God is outside of time then time has to exist in the first place right?

Does the fact that events occur necessitate an existence of "time"?
Someone might say "Well you need 'time' for the events to occur IN" but isn't that begging the question?

Personally I think the idea of God experiencing events chronologically suggests and requires a much more powerful God than one who derives omnipotence through some vague dimensional transcendence.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that God could be bound by something (time) that He created. I "concur" with Lewis' explanation.

Simon said...

Surely the answer is "both"?
God created time, sure. But some observations:
- In Christ he entered time.
- Time existed before the Fall, so it was part of the plan.
- We will be with God in eternity, in a restored Creation that has the attributes of the original Creation (i.e. it contains sequential time)
- So in that sense God will be inside time.
- But that doesn't exclude God also being outside time and able to observe all of it at once (from the sidelines so to speak). Maybe he can step in and out, or maybe he simultaneously holds both perspectives. (Photons seem to exhibit an echo of this ability)
- To claim that he is either one or the other (inside or outside time) is to limit him unreasonably.
- Revelation includes a reference to there being silence IN HEAVEN "for about half an hour" ! So heaven (or some aspect of it) includes sequential time?

Howie Simon said...

2 Peter 3:8
New International Version
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."