gcp 2: god, infinity, and eternity
8/16/2006 11:25:00 PM
Before I can really delve off into a discussion about the Great Christian Paradoxes, I have to lay a foundation from which I will work. A foundation of any attempt to construct a logical argument is called a premise. A premise is something that is shown or assumed to be true, and can be axioms or conclusions from other logical constructs. An attempt to understand God requires a premise of God as revealed in Scripture. For the extent of this work, I will be talking about the orthodox Christian understanding of God.

All the attributes of God have a common thread, and that is that God is both infinite and eternal. No other attributes of can be exist without these two attributes. It is difficult to describe that which is infinite. Really the only thing I can do is describe what an infinite God is not. I can't say he is 6 feet tall or 120 pounds. I can't say he is 14 years old. I can't say he lives at 125 Maple Street. These types of attributes don't apply to God. Although we can't attach a number to God, we can get a understand how finite we are to him. The Bible attests to how God can count the stars and name each one of them (Isaiah 40:26, Psalm 147:7). Scientist can only estimate that there are 10 billion stars in the galaxy alone, and that are probably 10 billion galaxies in the universe .If you multiply 10 billion times 10 billion, you get ten followed by 20 zeros. At least this number is comprehendable and countable but it really has no practical application. Yet God can come up with that many names for each star. Naming the star means that God isn't merely assigning a number to the stars, but he has intimate knowledge about each star. Such concepts show the magnitude of God compared to that of man. This is just one way of showing how infinite God is to man. The psalmist and the writer of Isaiah appeal to the heavens as a comparison to God's greatness, and they didn't have the advanced telescopes and radios we have today to peer even deeper into space then these ancient observers could. The vastness of the universe still baffles astronomers, and God is still its maker and still yet greater.

By eternal, I mean that God has always existed, and will always exist. Eternity is an immeasurable about of time. I can't say when God was born, or when God will die. He existed in eternity past and will for eternity future. God's eternal existence is one of the most well founded doctrines in the Bible. We know that God existed before the foundation of the world. He would have had to in order to create it. The Bible opens in Genesis 1:1 with God. He then creates the heavens and the earth. Over and over primarily in Psalms, the Bible affirms he is everlasting. In Hebrew, the phrase we translate "Everlasting to Everlasting" (1Ch 16:36, Ps 41:13, 90:2, 103:17, 106:48) is a way of overemphasizing the point through repetition, like when we say "for ever and ever." The writers are going to great lengths to assure us that God is everlasting, or eternal. The New Testament is filled with the same sort of imagery of an eternal God. John 1:1 starts like Genesis affirming that in the beginning God existed. Revelation 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13 affirms that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last respectively. This is essentially saying God is the beginning of all things and the end of all things. He existed before all things began and he will exist beyond when this world will cease to exist. Isaiah 41:4 affirms that God was before all things and will be after all things. God's eternal existence is hardly refutable. What most people have problems with is not God's eternal existence, but God's knowledge of events to come. I bring this up here to that there is no confusion between God's eternal state and his knowledge of eternal events, which I will address under omniscience.

Eternity can manifest itself in many ways. First, there is the traditional way that eternity has been understood, and is typically attributed to Galileo as Galilean Relativity or presentism. He asserts that the only time that exists is present, and that the past and future do not. This makes time a progression: a succession of events with one event being preceded by another and followed by another. This is the position of St. Augustine, who proposed that the present is like a knife's edge that splits the past and the future. Another proposition is that all of eternity exists all the time all at once. This means that the events of yesterday (relatively speaking) are still happening and the events of tomorrow are happening at the same time. This, then, makes time constant, but seem fluid to the observer who is passing through. This theory of time is afforded in the modern theory of general relativity. It is difficult to see how events of yesterday to continually occur without ever changing. It's kind of like a film strip from a movie. To the observer, it is motion, but in reality it's a sequence of still frames that make something appear to be in motion. If this model of time is true, then God is still creating the world at the same time Jesus is dying on the cross and raising from the dead and coming back. This post is done and being started at the same time too. The problem with this thinking is there is no way to empirically prove it or deny it, thus making it where it cannot be falsified. This doesn't mean that it is wrong, but it is of little practical value. I don't know that I can reject it, but I certainly cannot do anything else with it.

Stemming from the same theory of relativity is that time slows down for a given object the faster that object moves through space. If one were to put a clock on rocket and accelerate the rocket, then the clock itself would tick slower than a clock on earth. This phenomenon has been shown to work and has been detected on satellites orbiting the earth at high speeds. Rather than view this as time ticking by, I think it is best to view this as a slowing of the second law of thermodynamics, which says things move from a higher state of entropy to a lower state of entropy over. It is in essences slows the aging process. Two identical events could occur, but one may take 1000 years (relative to earth) to complete if it were happening near the speed of light while another make take 10 seconds. In both events, the cosmological clock has been ticking at a steady rate. This cosmological time is a time table for the entire universe, so is in essence not bound to the universe or its effects, but rather the universe it bound to it.

St. Augustine proposed that God is not bound by time in that he exists outside the confines of time. We are part of a physical universe, and time is also part of that physical universe. God, being the author of that time, is not bound to time, but rather controls it. This means that the cosmological time table is a part of God's time table. We don't know if relativity works or if it how God chose to design the universe accordin to relativity. It may, but seems to create a problem with how we see the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus though. He is always dying, always dead, and always resurrecting. There is no biblical explanation for this view. The time table presented in scripture is one of the Galilean school, and that is that the only time that exists in the universe is the time at the present. Because of this, I accept it. In scripture though, we do know that God is still in control of time, has knowledge of the future, has always existed in the past, and will be there when time as we know it ends.

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