Conceptualizing God’s Relationship to Time

by Max Andrews

Absolute Eternality (Timelessness):  This view is the traditional (Augustinian) view that God is absolutely timeless.  His timelessness is not affected by the temporality of the universe nor his interactions with it.  In the metaphysics of absolute eternality, God experiences all of his life and being in one eternal now.

Relative Eternality (Timelessness):  The relative eternality position acknowledges that God transcends time, which is a created thing and dependent upon God, but denies that he is absolutely atemporal because it sees God as actively sustaining a changing world in existence.  The relative eternalist therefore maintains that God is timeless relative to physical time but temporal relative to an uncreated metaphysical time that transcends the universe and is a pure duration that flows without change.  God’s being is ontologically prior to this temporal aspect of his life and serves as the ground of it.

Absolute Eternality and Divine Temporality:  Others maintain the mixed view that God is absolutely atemporal prior to creation and temporal since creation (this is William Lane Craig’s position).  If there had been no creation, God would have been timeless, otherwise he would have had to endure a beginningless series of longer and longer intervals, which is impossible (or so the kalam argument would contend).  Nonetheless, in view of the correctness of an A-theory of time and God’s interaction with a changing world, God has been temporal since his creation of time.

Absolute Divine Temporality:  The last position maintains that the A-theory of time is true, and since it is true, God is temporal without qualification.  God is temporal now because he knows what is happening now and responds to it, and he was temporal before creation because temporality is an intrinsic part of the divine life that flows from God’s being.

Information from Bruce Gordon’s lecture “Relativity Theory and the Nature of Time.”

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4 Comments to “Conceptualizing God’s Relationship to Time”

  1. I don’t understand the second option. I’ve been reading God and Time: Four Views and I can’t seem to grasp Padgett’s view. Would you mind breaking it down a bit more for me?

  2. I generally fall into category #1 myself…but like Ryan, I’m a little fuzzy on the second option.

  3. I definitely fall into category 1.

  4. I am a 3 (with WLC). 2 seems to elevate time over God, kind of like the Euthyphro places goodness over him. Just gussing.

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