How Necessary World Theology Solves the Problems of Time and Eternity

The topic or origins is a subject of perennial debate within Christian circles, to say nothing of those outside Christianity looking in upon it.

The primary conflict is related to the subject of time. How long did the universe take to get made? Should the creation story be taken as read, or interpreted through some other light? What does one make of scientific consensus concerning the age of the universe?

Atheist such as Thomas Swan of Hubpages go further by tying the creation tale into God’s nature. Swan and other atheists question why an all-powerful God would choose to take any time at all to create - six days or 13 million years. Why not instantly?

Undoubtedly without actually realizing it, these atheists have stumbled upon the key question here. That question being, what is God’s relationship with the mechanism of time?

Historically, theologians have opted for one of two options. Either God is temporal, meaning he exists within time and experiences the passage of past, present and future like any other human, or God is a-temporal, meaning he exists external to time - in eternity. Eternity being defined as a state of timelessness.

Each of these options presents its own challenge:

It is self-evident that the mechanic of time did not always exist. One cannot have a past eternity without some deep logical problems. Also, all evidence - scientifically or otherwise - suggests that time itself did have a point of beginning.

Since time hasn’t been around forever, it must be a created mechanic external to God and his nature. This would mean that God created time, then entered time, and restricts his perception and actions to the flow of past, present and future. In other words, God appears to place restraints on himself.

It also leaves the question of God’s foreknowledge on the table. How can God know the future if the future doesn’t yet exist? Is this some kind of mystical knowledge that one must attribute to God on the basis that he is God?

Positing that God is eternal tends to solve these problems. However, theologians and philosophers such as Dr. William Lane Craig suggest that placing God in a state of eternity causes some problems of its own.

Craig suggests that one of these problems is a certain limit to God’s omniscience. God, says Craig, would lack “tensed knowledge,” should he exist external to time. He would, from his perspective, not be able to know that “it is currently 3 o’clock” the way that a human within time would. It would also place certain constraints on God’s ability to act freely if God existed within a static state external to the flow of events in time.

So it may be seen that there are issues at hand for both concepts of God’s relationship to time.

Necessary World Theology (NWT) suggests a third option which resolves both of these dilemmas. According to NWT, God’s relationship to time my be described in terms of his omnipresence.

When theologians consider omnipresence, the issue at hand is this: is God physically present everywhere in creation simultaneously? Does this limit God to the three dimensions of space and force him to live within his own creation?

To resolve this, theologians describe God as being both transcendent (above his universe) and imminent (exerting direction and will on all places within the physical universe).

NWT simply takes God’s transcendence and imminence and extends it to the dimension of time.

In stating that God is present and active on each moment of time simultaneously resolves the problem of tensed knowledge - God is consciously inside every moment and therefore recognizes the moment for what it is. Regarding foreknowledge - God is consciously inside every moment of time simultaneously; so he doesn’t really look forward in time to things which have not yet happened, rather he exists in the future as much as he does in the present, such that he is consciously experiencing those things which are taking place.

If the two other options are God being either temporal or a-temporal, NWT suggests a third option: God is pan-temporal.

It is the prospect of God’s perfect knowledge which delivers the full force of this argument. Consider a person remembering an event which occured in the past. One may remember the day of one’s wedding - and thus be said to have knowledge of his or her wedding. However, the memory of the wedding is not as robust in terms of knowledge as the immediate experience of the wedding while it is happening. God may be said to have the advantage not merely of remembering or foreknowing every event - but rather to be consciously experiencing every moment of time even as he is fully aware of what happened in that moment and how it relates to every other moment. It is this ability to know every event immediately which demonstrates how perfect God’s knowledge truly is.

So one may see that God is not merely above time looking down upon it, nor is he within time remembering things and foreknowing things. Rather, he is interacting in his nature with every moment of time simultaneously.