Time and Eternity (William Lane Craig)

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The best tool for understanding what is meant by God’s being eternal is not poetry but analytic philosophy (Craig 11).

Divine eternity: God exists without beginning or end.  But is God temporal or timeless? We will come back to this question, as Craig himself revisits it at the very end of the book.  We see much about time and eternity, and the numerous tortured arguments from all sides, but little on (T/E’s) relation to God, per the book’s subtitle.  That shouldn’t detract from the fine scholarship, though.

Much of the book is a sustained analysis of Einstein and the various debates concerning relativity.  I’m going to skip those. The heart of Craig’s argument is setting forth two views of time

Tensed time (A).  This is the common-sense view of time (and the one Craig upholds).  We can speak of past, present, and future. However, if God is timeless, as he must be if we deny that time is eternal, then it’s hard to see how he can relate to time.

Tenseless time (B).  Time is an illusion, or at least speak of a past and a future is meaningless.  This fits well with some models of relativity. If time is actually space-time, and space is a 3-D coordinate, and if space isn’t tensed (and it isn’t), then time is tenseless.  While this is quite bizarre, and Craig offers a number of rebuttals, but its strength lies in its ability to comport with God’s eternity.

In conclusion, Craig argues that God is eternal before Creation but has a temporal dimension with respect to creation.  And that’s my problem with his conclusion. I think there is something to it, but he does very little to develop it (Craig, 217-235, and much of that discussion is a summary of his Kalam argument). He adds a fine discussion on God’s foreknowledge as an appendix.

Divine Timelessness

Simplicity:

  1. God is simple

Or

(1’) God is immutable.

(2) If God is simple or immutable, then he is not temporal.

(3) Therefore, God is not temporal.

(4) Therefore, God is timeless.

This argument, though, depends on certain Thomist formulations.  Craig doesn’t pursue this line of thought.

Relativity Theory

Newton

Absolute time: time without relation to anything external.

Absolute space: 

Relative time: time determined by clocks.

19th century experiments on speed of light.

Light’s measured velocity is the same in all inertial frames.

Einstein

Simultaneity becomes relative.  There is no absolute space.

What does this mean for God, Time, and Eternity?  If God is in time, then whose time is he in, for time is relative to the observer? The argument becomes thus:

  1. STR is correct in its description of time.
  2. If STR is correct in its description of time, then if God is temporal, He exists in either the time associated within a single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  3. Therefore, if God is temporal,He exists in either the time associated within a  single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  4. God does not exist in either the time associated witha  single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  5. Therefore, God is not temporal.

Craig is going to challenge (1).  Einstein’s relativity already presupposed that there couldn’t be Absolute Space.  But this was because Einstein held to verificationism, which has since been debunked.

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