Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning


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How could I break through this bondage? In the time that followed I continued to attend these meetings to learn more about what for me was a new understanding of Christianity.

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I heard more about the cause of many of my struggles: the lusts and desires that exist within me, or my own demands and expectations. As I sought to be accepted by others, for example, I saw that I was driven by my own expectations of how I thought they should behave. What really kept me bound was myself. Jesus experienced the same lusts and desires in His own nature during His days on earth.

As I wrestled with this, I began to realize that I was extremely weak. I found myself surrendering to my lusts again and again. How could it be that the more I tried, the further I came from overcoming that rottenness in my nature? For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

The more I gave in to my lusts the more I was bound by them. I was ashamed of myself, and I longed to overcome these lusts. Faith is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. It seemed like a direct contradiction to how science works, which is based on the foundation of logical proof and material evidence. How could I know that God was true, without logical proof or material evidence? It bothered me. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I was precisely that man, who was driven and tossed by the wind, unstable in all his ways, and not receiving the help I needed from God. That verse was a light for me; it showed me that there was great hypocrisy in my doubts. As a science student, I was taught to doubt, to ask questions, to examine claims by testing them, and to conduct experiments to see if they work!

But, what had I been doing? I realized that I was living the same hypocritical life that I scorned. I was using double standards when dealing with science and faith. What was worse, if I were to stagnate in doubt, and continue to rely on myself, I could never overcome my lusts. There was only one thing left that I had to do to know if God was real or not: to surrender and trust in Him completely, with no doubting, and see if His Word actually worked!

And when I was tempted to fulfill my lusts, I began to pray to God for strength to deny them again and again, until I started to overcome! Over time, I started to experience victory over the lusts that had bound me. I also realized that the source of my doubt came from my own high-mindedness. I studied and understood the scientific realm, which is one aspect of life, but I refused to try to test and understand the spiritual aspect. There is a spiritual realm that co-exists with the science realm that I had been studying about. God is spirit.

John We people also have a spirit. In this view, God's inner life is sequential and, therefore, temporal, but his relation to our temporal sequence is "all at once. He is not located at any point in our time line. On this view, God's time does not map onto our time at all.

His time is completely distinct from ours. Another view is that God is "omnitemporal. Our time is constituted by physical time. God's time metaphysical time has no intrinsic metric and is constituted purely by the divine life itself Padgett , ; DeWeese , If God is omnitemporal, his metaphysical time does map in some way onto our physical time. So there is a literal sense in which God knows now that I am typing this sentence now. Another view Craig, a, b is that God became temporal when time was created.

God's existence without creation is a timeless existence but once temporal reality comes into existence, God himself must change. If he changes, then he is, at least in some sense, temporal. Just as it is not quite accurate to talk about what happens before time comes into existence, we should not describe this view as one in which God used to be timeless, but he became temporal.

This language would imply that there was a time when God was timeless and then, later, there is another time when he is temporal. On this view, there was not a time when he was timeless. God's timelessness without creation is precisely due to the fact that time came into existence with creation. Many philosophers of religion think that the Scriptures do not teach definitively any one view concerning God and time Craig a, b; for a differing view, see Padgett, The Scriptures do provide some parameters for acceptable theories of God's relation to time, however.

For example, they teach that God never began to exist and he will never go out of existence. They also teach that God interacts with the world. He knows what is going on, he reveals himself to people, he acts in such a way that things happen in time. They also teach that God is the Lord of all creation. Everything is subject to him. Philosophers generally take claims such as these as parameters for their thinking because of their concern either to remain within historical, biblical orthodoxy themselves or, at least, to articulate a position about God and time that is consistent with orthodoxy.

Any departure from the broad outlines of orthodoxy, at least for many Christian philosophers of religion, is made as a last resort. These parameters, as has been noted, allow for a plurality of positions about how God is related to time. Determining which position is most adequate involves trying to fit what we think about other aspects of God's nature together with our thinking about God's relation to time.

What we want to say about God's power or knowledge or omnipresence will have some bearing on our understanding of how it is that God is eternal. In addition, we will try to fit our theories together with other issues besides what God himself is like.

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Some of the most obvious issues include the nature of time, the nature of change and the creation of the universe. Much of the contemporary discussion of timelessness begins with the article "Eternity" by Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann Stump and Kretzmann, Stump and Kretzmann take their cue from Boethius who articulated what became a standard understanding of divine timelessness: "Eternity, then, is the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of boundless life" Boethius, Stump and Kretzmann identify four ingredients that they claim are essential to an eternal timeless being.

Although they cast their discussion in terms of an "eternal being," this article will continue to use the term "timeless". First, any being that is timeless has life. Second, the life of a timeless thing is not able to be limited. Third, this life involves a special sort of duration. Anything that has life must have duration but the duration of a timeless being is not a temporal duration. Last, a timeless being possesses its entire life all at once.

It is this last element that implies that the timeless being is outside time because a temporal living thing only possesses one moment of its life at a time. The two aspects of divine timelessness that Stump and Kretzmann emphasize are that a timeless being has life and that this life has a duration, though not a temporal duration. The duration of the life of a timeless being puts the nature of such a being in stark contrast with the nature of abstract objects such as numbers or properties.

The picture of God that this view leaves us with is of a being whose life is too full to exist only at one moment at a time. The challenge for a defender of a timeless conception of God is to explain how such a God is related to temporal events. For example, God is directly conscious of each moment of time. The relation of his timeless cognition and the temporal objects of his cognition cannot be captured by using strictly temporal relations such as simultaneity because temporal simultaneity is a transitive relation.

God is timelessly aware of the fall of Rome and, in the same timeless now, he is aware of my spilling my coffee. The fall of Rome is not, however, occurring at the same time that my coffee spills. What is needed is some non-transitive notion of God's relation to the temporal world. To this end, Stump and Kretzmann introduce the notion of "ET eternal-temporal -simultaneity:". If x and y are ET-simultaneous, one is timeless and the other temporal. This fact preserves the non-symmetrical and non-transitive nature of the relation. If ET-simultaneity captures the truth about God's relation to a temporal world, then we do not have to worry about the fall of Rome occurring at the same time that I spill my coffee.

Unfortunately, there are numerous difficulties with ET-simultaneity. Philosophers have complained about obscurity of the use of "reference frame" terminology for example, Padgett There is clearly an analogy with relativity theory at work here. To put an analogy at the core of a technical definition is pedagogically suspect, at the least. It may be that it masks a deeper philosophical problem.

Furthermore, Delmas Lewis has argued that a temporal being can observe something only if that thing is itself temporal and a timeless being can observe only what is timeless. Therefore, the observation talk, as well as the reference frame talk, must be only analogous or metaphorical.

It has also been argued that the notion of atemporal duration, that Stump and Kretzmann hold to be required by the timeless view, is at bottom incoherent. Paul Fitzgerald has argued that for there to be duration in the life of God, it must be the case that two or more of God's thoughts, for example, will have either the same or different amounts of duration.

Different thoughts in God's mind can be individuated by their respective lengths of duration or at least by their locations within the duration. Fitzgerald argues that if a timeless duration does not have these analogues with temporal or spatial duration, it is hard to think of it as a case of bona fide duration.

On the other hand, if the duration in God's life has this sort of duration, it is difficult to see that it is not simply one more case of temporal duration. Stump and Kretzmann attempt to respond to such objections and have revised their analysis of ET-simultaneity accordingly. In their first response to Fitzgerald Stump and Kretzmann, , they make much of his analyzing timeless duration in a way that makes it incompatible with the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity. They will not accept any notion of God's life that requires them to give up on the simplicity of the divine nature.

For example, there cannot be any sort of sequence among distinct events or "moments" within the duration of God's life. There are no distinct events or moments at all within the life of a God who is metaphysically simple. Although the two positions are linked throughout medieval thought, there is a cost to holding that a timeless God must be metaphysically simple as well. Any independent argument against divine simplicity such as in Wolterstorff, will count against such a view of timelessness.

This version of the principle eliminates the observation difficulties but continues to use the notion of reference frames to describe the timeless and the temporal states. Alan Padgett has argued that Stump and Kretzmann cannot be defending anything more than a loose analogy with relativity theory here. He points out that they admit that the use of relativity theory is a heuristic device and nothing more. Yet their analysis of the relation between a timeless being and events in time requires more than a loose analogy.

As far as the Special Theory of Relativity is concerned, there is an absolute temporal simultaneity or an absolute temporal ordering between any two events within each other's light cones. The problems with holding that simultaneity is absolute only arise when two events each of which is outside the other's light cone are considered.

If two events are outside each other's light cones in this way, they cannot causally interact. This feature of Special Relativity makes the analogy of the relations between a timeless being and a temporal event on the one hand and the relations between events in different reference frames quite weak. Brian Leftow has defended timeless duration in the life of God in another way.

He holds that there are distinct moments within God's life. These moments stand in the successive relations of earlier and later to one another, although they are not temporally earlier or later than one another. A QTE being is timeless in that it lives all of its life at once. No moment of its life passes away and there is no moment at which some other moment has not yet been lived. Because the life of a QTE being has sequential moments, its duration is significantly like the duration or extension of the life of a temporal being.

Because it experiences all of these moments "at once," or in the same timeless now, it is a timeless being. One advantage Leftow thinks his view affords is that it can meet Fitzgerald's challenges while holding to the doctrine of divine simplicity. There can be the sort of duration that allows discrete moments to be individuated by location in the life of a metaphysically simple, timeless God. Leftow argues that there is a significant difference between a being that has spatial or material parts and a being that has a duration consisting of different moments or positions or points.

If the duration of God's life was made up of discrete parts, God could not be a metaphysically simple being. Points are not parts, however. A finite line segment is not made up of some finite number of points such that the addition or subtraction of a finite number of points will change its length. If the points or moments or positions in the duration of the life of God are not to count as parts of that life, they must be of zero finite length. Fitzgerald had criticized Stump and Kretzmann's notion of timeless duration by insisting that any duration must be made up of distinct positions.

This charge will not affect Leftow's position. Leftow allows that in the life of a timeless God and a metaphysically simple God there are distinct points. He insists that these points are not parts in the life of God. Therefore God is not a being whose life contains distinct parts.

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He is metaphysically simple. His life does contain points that are ordered sequentially, however. So the QTE God with its sequential points allows God to have the sort of duration that Fitzgerald wanted, yet be timeless. In this way, the QTE concept of timeless duration is more satisfactory than the one put forward by Stump and Kretzmann.

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Timeless duration, in Leftow's understanding, shares features with temporal duration. In a recent essay, he defends the idea that such features can be shared without rendering God temporal Leftow He distinguishes between those properties that make something temporal and those that are typically temporal. A typically temporal property TTP is a property that is typical of temporal events and which helps make them temporal. Having some TTP is not sufficient to make an event a temporal event, however. What will make an event temporal is having the right TTPs.

Leftow notes that nearly everyone who argues that God is timeless also holds that God's life has at least some TTPs. For example, being wholly future relative to some temporal event is a TTP; but God, even if he is temporal, does not have that property. God has no beginning. As a result his life is not wholly future to any temporal event. God's life, like any life, is an event, but it is one in which time does not pass and in which no change takes place. This description captures what is meant by a timeless duration. While having a duration and being an event are each cases of TTPs, Leftow has well-argued that they are not the sort of TTP that only temporal beings can have.

God's life, then, can be a timeless duration. Which other TTPs does God have if he is timeless? God's life also has a present, Leftow argues. Having a present is a TTP, but God's present is a non-temporal present. God's "now" is not a temporal now. Not all whens are times, however. Eternity, in the sense of being a timeless location, can also be a when see also Leftow Leftow's analysis of these typically temporal properties shows that some of the objections to timeless duration and a timeless God's relation to a temporal world are not decisive.

A timeless God can be present, though not temporally present, to the world. He can have a life which is an event having duration, though not temporal duration. So the critics of Stump and Kretzmann are correct in so far as they argue that these properties are the sort of things that make their bearers temporal. It may be that though things that have these properties are typically temporal, they are not necessarily so. Katherin Rogers , has argued that both Leftow and Stump and Kretzmann have not succeeded in articulating a compelling, or even coherent, notion of divine timeless duration.

She challenges their claims that the views of timelessness found in Boethius and other medieval thinkers include duration. These texts, she argues, are at best ambiguous. Given their background in Plotinus and Augustine, Rogers argues that it is better not to read these philosophers as attributing duration to the life of God. Augustine and Anselm especially express the notion of timelessness by the use of the notion of the present.

Even if the medieval thinkers did think of timelessness as involving duration, the more difficult question is whether we ought to think about it in this way. Rogers points out that both Stump and Kretzmann and Leftow, in defending the notion of divine timelessness against common objections do not make use of their distinctive notions of timeless duration at all. Furthermore, the explanations given of the coherence of timeless duration are not compelling. Stump and Kretzmann use the analogy of two parallel lines Stump and Kretzmann The higher one is completely illuminated all at once while the lower has illuminated a point at a time moving with uniform speed.

The light on each line represents the indivisible present. The entirety of the timeless line is one indivisible present while each point on the temporal line is a present one at a time. In this way the life of God is stretched out, so to speak, along side temporal reality. This analogy breaks down at crucial points. Rogers argues that the line representing timelessness call this line, "E" either is made of distinct points or it is not. It if is not, then timelessness has no duration. If it is, then these points must correspond in some way to the points on the temporal line called "T".

The geometric aspect of the analogy is strained considerably when it is seen that some point on T call it T1 is going to be much closer to a point on E E1 then the point T will be. Yet all of God's life must stand in the same relation to each point in time, if God is to be truly timeless. Rogers points out that such an analogy is never found in the medieval writers.

Their favorite geometric analogy is the circle and the point at the center. The circle represents all of time and the dot, timelessness. Timelessness stands in the same relation to each point along the temporal array. The point itself has no extension or parts. If God is a QTE being, then his timeless life does have earlier and later points. These are not experienced by God sequentially, however. They are experienced all at once in the one timeless now.

Rogers argues that Leftow has two options. Either he must argue for a principled distinction between there being moments in God's life and his experiencing these moments such that the moments can exist sequentially but be experienced all at once or he must grant that earlier and later moments of God's life can also be simultaneous. Neither alternative increases the plausibility or the clarity of the claim that God's life has timeless duration. Rogers offers a non-geometric analogy, found in Augustine , that captures the relation between a timeless God and temporal reality.

God's relation to the world is similar to human memory of the past. Just as in one present mental exercise, a human being can call to mind a whole series of events that are themselves sequential, God in his timeless state can know the whole sequence of temporal events non-sequentially. Rogers's position, then, is that God's timeless life does not involve duration. She does not think that denying duration to God's life reduces it to some kind of frozen or static existence.

These terms are temporal in nature. They each imply a motionless state through a period of time. She writes, "With the exception of lacking extension, God is nothing like a geometric point" Rogers, , p His life does, however, lack extension. Although there are many arguments for the claim that God is timeless, this essay will look at three of the most important.

These are arguments concerning God's knowledge of future free actions, the fullness of God's life, and God's creation of the universe. In addition, we will look at some responses to these arguments. The most prominent argument for divine timelessness is that this position offers a solution to the problem of God's foreknowledge of free actions.

The challenge of reconciling human freedom and divine omniscience is best seen if we presume that God is temporal. If God is omniscient and infallible, he knows every truth, and he is never mistaken. If human beings are free in a libertarian sense, then some actions a person performs are up to her in the sense that she can initiate or refrain from initiating the action.

The problem arises if it is supposed that someone will in the future choose freely some particular action. Suppose Jeanie will decide tomorrow to make a cup of tea at pm. If this is a free act on her part, it must be within her power to make the cup of tea or to refrain from making it.

If God is in time and knows everything, then hundreds of years ago, he already knew that Jeanie would make the cup of tea. When tomorrow comes, can Jeanie refrain from making the cup of tea? As Nelson Pike has argued, Pike she can do so only if it is within her power to change what it was that God believed from the beginning of time.


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So, although God has always believed that she would make the tea, she must have the power to change what it was that God believed. She has to be able to make it the case that God always believed that she would not make the cup of tea. Many philosophers have argued that no one has this kind of power over the past, so human freedom is not compatible with divine foreknowledge.

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If God is timeless, however, it seems that this problem does not arise. God does not believe things at points in time and Jeanie does not, therefore, have to have power over God's past beliefs. She does need power over his timeless beliefs. This power is not seen to be problematic because God's timeless knowledge of an event is thought to be strongly analogous to our present knowledge of an event.

It is the occurring of the event that determines the content of our knowledge of the event. So too, it is the occurring of the event that determines the content of God's knowledge. If Jeanie makes a cup of tea, God knows it timelessly. If she refrains, he knows that she refrains. God's knowledge is not past but it is timeless. One might argue that even if God is temporal, the content of his foreknowledge is determined by the occurring of the event in the same way.

This claim, of course, is true. There are two items which allow for difficulty here. First, it is only in the case of a temporal God foreknowing Jeanie's making tea that she needs to have counterfactual power over the past, Second, if God knew a hundred years ago that she was going to make tea, there is a sense in which she can "get in between" God's knowledge and the event. In other words, the fact that God knows what he knows is fixed before she initiated the event. If it is a free choice on her part, she can still refrain from making the tea.

Her decision to make tea or not stands temporally between the content of God's beliefs and the occurring of the event. The position that God is timeless is often cited as the best solution to the problem of reconciling God's knowledge of the future and human freedom. If God is timeless, after all, he does not fore know anything. Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas and many others have appealed to God's atemporality to solve this problem. While the proposal that God is timeless seems to offer a good strategy, at least one significant problem remains.

This problem is that of prophecy.


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Suppose God tells Moses, among other things, that Jeanie will make a cup of tea tomorrow. Now we have a different situation entirely. While God's knowledge that Jeanie will make a cup of tea is not temporally located, Moses' knowledge that Jeanie will make tea is temporally located.

Nature and significance

Furthermore, since the information came from God, Moses cannot be mistaken about the future event Widerker , Wierenga, The prophet problem is a problem, some will argue, only if God actually tells Moses what Jeanie will do. God, it seems, does not tell much to Moses or any other prophet. After all, why should God tell Moses? Moses certainly does not care about Jeanie's cup of tea.

Since prophecy of this sort is pretty rare, we can be confident that God's knowledge does not rule out our freedom. Just companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs. The climate crisis may be too complex for these people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start. Why a great education means engaging with controversy Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism. Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like — which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.

Big think's weekly newsletter. Get smarter faster from the comfort of your inbox. See our newsletter privacy policy here. Surprising Science. New research sheds light on a possible cause of autism: processed foods. Knowing the stages of neurological development can make you a better parent. Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists. How internet porn is changing the way men and women are having sex. Losing sleep over rude colleagues?

Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning
Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning
Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning
Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning
Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning
Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning Evidence of God: A Final Resolution of Meaning

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