The Incoherence of God and Time.

Is God in time or is he timeless? Either stance a Christian takes leads to some kind of incoherence. Let me simply use Christian philosopher Paul Helm’s analysis of this in “God and Spacelessness,” Philosophy55 (1980).

Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.). A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as “It is raining now” is not equivalent in meaning to “It is raining on Tuesday,” and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former, and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.”

[These are pretty persuasive arguments, I might add].

But Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite--something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that “the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether”—this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors. And he claims, "if the timeless existence of God is incoherent then so is the spaceless existence of God."

[I happen to agree that they are both incoherent].

Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He’s only claiming that a denial of God’s timelessness is also a denial of God’s spacelessness.

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) "Theism is even more incoherent than was previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence." [To this I completely agree with him here.]

2)Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God "there must be something wrong" with the arguments against the timelessness of God." [However, it's far from the case that the Bible describes anything but God's activity in time, especially with the purported incarnation. Nicholas Wolterstroff's essay, "God Everlasting" has more than sufficiently shown this, as has Clark Pinnock's essays and books.] The Bible simply does not require that God is timeless. This view of God has been something fully adopted because of neo-Platonism and finally codified by Anselm's conception of the "greatest conceivable being."

3)These authors must "supply an argument against God’s timelessness that does not have a spatial parallel." [To date this challenge has not been sufficiently met].

That is, Helm argues that one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God, b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or, c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God’s spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).

Here is a Christian philosopher of some note who recognizes a very serious problem in reconciling God and time. He makes my case for me. On the one hand we have the Bible, which clearly shows God responds to us in time, along with the philosophical arguments of J.R. Lucas and A.N. Prior. On the other hand, a being in time also denies that God is spaceless. Which is it?

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