Before the Mountains Were Brought Forth: A Defense of Divine Timelessness
By tradition, Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, the man of God. Its style could not be further from the swirling emotions and brilliant colors of the Davidic Psalms. Psalm 90 is an old man's meditation, full of the heaviness of years and the awe of the God who spoke on Sinai.
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.1
What is this "before" of which the Psalmist writes? What does it mean to say that God is from everlasting to everlasting before the mountains were?
Church Fathers, philosophers, and theologians ancient and modern have pondered the question of the relation of God to time. Is God in time? What would it mean for God to be in time? What would it mean for God to be outside of time?
In what follows I will defend the position that God is timeless--that He is strictly outside of time even in creating the world of time and performing miracles that occur in time.2 I will call this the Boethian view, though I make no claim that all the details of my own view are precisely what Boethius advocated.3 The alternatives, broadly speaking, to the Boethian view of divine timelessness are these:
1) God is timeless in some sense "apart from" creation but is in time in some sense "since" or "with" the creation of the temporal world.
2) God has always been in time; He has existed eternally in time and will exist in time for all eternity.
The first of these views has been advocated at length and with great sophistication by the prominent apologist and theologian William Lane Craig, and it is Craig's view that I will use most as a foil for my own view that God is timeless. Craig's view offers a via media between strict Boethian timelessness and what might seem to be the more anthropomorphic picture of an eternally temporal God, and perhaps this is one reason why it is quite popular among current students of the philosophy of religion. There is one objection (discussed at the end of this paper) to the position that God has always been in time which seems insuperable and which relies on Craig's own work in another area--the kalam cosmological argument; Craig's view, by allowing divine timelessness sans creation, avoids this objection. Craig's position also makes a good foil to divine timelessness because virtually all of the same objections to the Boethian view are made both by Craig and by defenders of the view that God has always been in time. Answering Craig's objections thus provides a broadscale defense of the Boethian position against its critics.
Divine timelessness: A prima facie theological and biblical case
A critic of Boethianism might well ask, before even making his own objections, why we should think that God is timeless. The Boethian can at least admit that God is easier to imagine and understand if we envisage Him as being in time. Whether this greater comprehensibility is an evidential advantage by itself for the view that God is in time is an issue I will take up later, but a timeless God is indeed difficult for us, timebound human beings that we are, to picture. To some this might make Divine timelessness a kind of burden, a needless complication, which we should be loathe to take on without evidence to support it. Is there any prima facie reason at all for thinking that God is outside of time?
The prima facie theological and biblical case for Divine timelessnes begins with God's transcendence. Biblical references to God's relation to creation are best explained by understanding God to be transcendent, beyond His creation, not simply a being like other beings. Transcendence should include, inter alia, having a mode of existence that is strongly unlike our own and that gives God a radically different perspective on the world of time. This biblical emphasis on God's transcendence is best explained if we take God to be timeless.
When talking with defenders of divine temporality, one often finds that they treat relevant biblical texts piecemeal. It is often possible to point out that this text or that need not be taken to require divine timelessness. This is true. I do not claim that there is any single proof-text that supplies an irrefutable argument for divine timelessness. But I do not grant that only irrefutable proof-texts can provide a prima facie evidential case. If Scripture teaches a strong notion of divine transcendence, and if our concept of the important, indeed, the absolutely crucial distinction between creature and Creator is to some degree compromised by placing God in time, this is an argument in and of itself for divine timelessness.
Consider, then, that many biblical passages imply God's transcendence vis a vis the created and temporal order. Psalm 90 (already quoted), does use the locution that God exists "before" the bringing forth of the mountains, and Nicholas Wolterstorff (2001, p. 190) takes this to mean that Psalm 90 prima facie places God in time--that is to say, a divine time that had moments that occurred literally before creation. But the more important thrust of the passage is not the literal idea that God existed in some timeline of His own prior to the creation of the world but that God's entire being and perspective is above and beyond our creaturely finitude. God is God before (beyond) the coming-to-be of the mountains. God does not see time as we do, for He is so much greater than the entirety of His puny creation that a thousand years are as nothing in His sight.
Perhaps the nearest thing to a direct biblical statement on the subject of God's relation to time is God's self-revelation to Moses. Moses asks what he should tell the children of Israel when they ask who sent him. What is the name of the One who has sent him? God replies,
I AM THAT I AM;...Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14)
The point is not that this self-naming by God constitutes a philosophical treatise on the relationship of God to time. Obviously, it does not. But we can certainly say that God is here distancing Himself from limitations. He is declaring Himself to be, unlike the gods of the heathens, not merely local, not merely one thing among other things. He is, in some sense which we find (unsurprisingly) difficult to grasp, ultimate, beyond all else, beyond all things. He simply exists in an unqualified present Now. It hardly seems an overly strong claim to say that this self-revelation of God is more consonant with the idea that God is timeless than with the idea that God, like ourselves, passes through an experiential timestream of His own from one moment to the next.
A verse that is similarly consonant with the Boethian view because of its emphasis on humanly incomprehensible divine transcendence is St. Paul's reference to "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:6) Similarly, God warns rather pointedly against any attempt to reduce His being and perspective to creaturely categories when He tells Isaiah,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Compare the assertion in Psalm 97:9, one among many in the Psalms, of God's "height," of God's being exalted above all else: "For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods." What is this if not an assertion of divine transcendence beyond the limitations of His creatures?
The book of Acts contains emphatic assertions that God is not limited by His own creation. Stephen reminds his Jewish audience,
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? (Acts 7:48-50)
The Apostle Paul makes the same point to the heathen philosophers in Acts 17:24-25.
The divine attribute of immutability, tightly bound up with divine transcendence, supports the conclusion that God is timeless. Philosophers of religion agree, rightly in my view, that a really strong concept of divine immutability is incompatible with the position that God is in time. If God is in time, God's life moves from one momentary "now" to the next and, in that sense, changes. If God is in time, God changes in the sense that God literally grows older. Not physically older, but older in that more and more moments of real or absolute time have already (in some absolute sense of "already") flowed over Him. Alan Padgett (2001, p. 97), an advocate of the view that God is always in time in at least some qualified sense, says that God waits for events to occur in the temporal creation.
Scripture does prima facie teach that God does not change. The Psalmist emphasizes God's immunity to time. He is the Creator of the things that change and grow older and, unlike the temporal creation, is always the same.
Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure. Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years have no end. (Ps. 102:25-27)
In Malachi, God says in so many words,
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
James also affirms that God is unchanging:
Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NASB)
In Numbers, we are told through a prophet,
God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)
As with all proof-texts, one can if necessary find another interpretation. If these statements were made about someone we knew to be a man or a finite creature, we would justifiably take them to refer to something more like integrity of character, trustworthiness, and firmness of purpose. The question, however, is whether they contribute to a prima facie case that God, whom we know not to be a finite being, is immutable. Why should we not conclude that God is literally immutable and therefore timeless? Scriptural references to the fact that God never changes are quite naturally taken to refer to literal immutability; we are justified in taking them as such unless some other considerations compel us to treat God as a temporal and to that extent mutable being.
Here it is only fair to acknowledge the existence of passages in which Scripture says that God "repented" or "relented," in what appears to be direct contradiction to the statement in Numbers 23. Three examples (of several) are Genesis 6:6, which says that God "regretted" or "repented" that He had made man, Exodus 32:14, where God threatens to destroy the people of Israel for worshiping the golden calf but "repents" after the prayer of Moses, and Isaiah 38:1-5, where Isaiah first foretells Hezekiah's death of sickness, but God adds fifteen years to the king's life after he prays.
The most important point to make here is that there are other reasons besides the desire to take God to be literally immutable for taking these passages to be anthropomorphic rather than literal. These passages and others like them are used by theologians belonging to the "open theist" school of thought, which holds that God's omniscience does not include perfect knowledge of the future. (See Craig's discussion, 2001, pp. 248ff.) It is easy to see why these passages are used in this way. If we take God's regrets for having made man with strict literalness, we seem to be attributing to God not only a change of mind but also some degree of surprise. The idea, taken literally, would be that God did not realize just how bad man would become and regretted having made man after realizing the depth of man's evil. Similarly, if God literally changed His mind after Moses and Hezekiah prayed, this seems to indicate that God did not know ahead of time that they would pray, what they would pray, or perhaps even how He would feel after they prayed. On the literal interpretation of these passages, God changed His mind after receiving new information. While space does not permit me to delve into the debate concerning open theism, the point is that the stakes here are much higher than the question of the immutability of God's experience or the temporality of God. Craig, who takes God to be in time since the creation but who is not an open theist and has written extensively against open theism, therefore takes the more traditional line on these passages: namely, that they are anthropomorphic descriptions of states of affairs compatible with divine foreknowledge. But such an interpretation also, as it happens, makes them reconcilable with divine immutability. For example, God's "regret" that He made man can be taken to refer to the offense to God's righteousness caused by man's sin and to God's plan to destroy most of mankind, except for righteous Noah and his family. God's "relenting" after the prayers of Moses and Hezekiah can be taken to be an instance of God's response to petitionary prayer (which can be seen as timeless from God's perspective), though God warned man of what would happen "all else being equal" (see Craig, p. 248).4 This approach does mean taking literally the passages referring to God's immutability but not taking literally the more obviously anthropomorphic passages about God's changing His mind, but this is justified by the fact that to take literally the passages about God's changing His mind is to abandon not merely atemporalism and immutability but foreknowledge as well--a much higher price to pay and one with major biblical problems.
Related to the issues of transcendence and immutability is the issue of divine perfection. The argument for the Boethian view from God's perfection is well stated by Craig himself, who admits that it has "some force and could motivate justifiably a doctrine of divine timelessness in the absence of countermanding arguments" (Craig 2001, p. 73).
[A] temporal being is unable to enjoy what is past or future for it. The past is gone forever, and the future is yet to come. The passage of time thus renders it impossible for any temporal being to possess all its life at once. Even God, if He is temporal, cannot reclaim the past. Leftow emphasizes that even perfect memory cannot substitute for reality....By contrast, a timeless God lives all His life at once because He literally has no past or future and so suffers no loss....The premises of the argument rest on very powerful intuitions about the irretrievable loss that arises through the experience of temporal passage, a loss which intuitively should not characterize the experience of a most perfect being. (Craig 2001, pp. 67-68)
Another way of seeing this argument is to ask whether a God who possesses all of His life at once (that is, who is timeless) would be a higher order of being than one who must experience His life only moment by moment, who has a personal "now" that encompasses only part of His own experience, and who therefore possesses His own past only by memory, rather than as presently real, and his future only by anticipation, rather than as presently real. If so, then it seems that God must be timeless, for God must be the highest and greatest sort of being that can exist. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann put the point like this:
No life, even a sempiternal life, that is imperfect in its being possessed with the radical incompleteness entailed by temporal existence could be the mode of existence of an absolutely perfect being. A perfectly possessed life must be devoid of any past, which would be no longer possessed, and of any future, which would be not yet possessed. The existence of an absolutely perfect being must be an indivisibly persistent present actuality. (Stump and Kretzmann 1991, p. 395).
Craig attempts to mitigate the force of this argument by precisely the move which Brian Leftow argues cannot work--i.e., by emphasizing God's omniscience. Craig says that perhaps, for a God who has perfect recall and a perfect knowledge of the future, "time's tooth is considerably dulled" (Craig 2001, p. 72). Brian Leftow has anticipated this argument and responds,
Even perfect memory of one's past is a far different thing than actually living it; the past itself is lost, and no memory, however complete, can take its place--for confirmation, ask a widower if his grief would be abated were his memory of his wife enhanced in vividness and detail. Further, whatever has unique, irreplaceable qualities is lost through time's passage, even if other things of value in turn arrive. (Leftow 1991, p. 278)
As an example of a thing that has "unique, irreplaceable qualitities," Leftow mentions a stage of a child's life. Even if the child is still present with his mother later, there is a sense in which the mother herself, as a being in time, has lost the earlier stage of the child's life, not because she does not have sufficiently perfect memory, but because, from her perspective as a timebound being, that stage of the child's life is no longer really present. Supposing that the mother had a type of memory that allowed her to "replay" any scene she wanted from the earlier part of her child's life, that would still not be the same as actually living through that stage, because she would know that her own relation to that earlier stage was merely as a spectator of a kind of movie. Similarly, even though God will have those persons who are eternally saved with Him throughout all eternity, a temporal God, going through time with His creatures, would in some sense lose the presentness of those earlier stages of His creatures' lives. In that sense He would not be a perfect being as a timeless God is perfect.
All of these considerations--God's transcendence, immutability, and perfection--mitigate against making God temporal and provide a prima facie case for divine timelessness. Christians, should, so to speak, want to be Boethians, because the Boethian position fits best with what both Scripture and philosophical reflection on Scripture tell us about God.
Replies to objections to Divine Timelessness
What, then, are the "countermanding arguments" to which Craig alludes and which allegedly force us to the conclusion that God is temporal? Space does not permit a consideration of all of these objections in full detail, but I shall consider two general categories of arguments, the latter including several specific objections.
The first type of objection is that, if God is timeless, He cannot be truly related to temporal creation. Sometimes this objection is made with regard to God's knowledge. If God is timeless, it is alleged, He cannot know what occurs in the temporal world. More often the problem is related to causality: How, it is asked, can a timeless being causally interact with a temporal world and cause temporal events? Scripture clearly teaches that God created the world and also that God has real causal effects in the world--bringing about miracles, for example. Therefore, the allegation that God cannot interact with the world if God is not temporal raises an important question for the Boethian.
Craig words this problem in terms of modes of existence:
[T]he problem of relating a timeless entity to a temporal entity is that there is no single mode of existence that would allow one to define Eternal-Temporal simultaneity as existence at one and the same _______. There is nothing to fill in the blank. So how can one relate two such disparate modes of existence as timelessness and temporality? (Craig 2001, pp. 89-90)
In responding to this objection it is important to remember that "how can" does not constitute an argument in itself. There are many cases, especially in the area of causation, where the "how can" objection would seem to make things impossible that are manifestly possible. How can my will to raise my arm cause my arm to rise? No one has ever provided, and I suspect no one ever will provide, a detailed and compelling "story" connecting the human will to human physical action. And yet we all go on, heedless of the alleged metaphysical impossibility, successfully willing our bodies to move. Similarly, at a more fundamental level, we can ask the "how can" question about two electrons. How, precisely, does one electron repel another? When it comes to causation, there will be an end, a bottom, to story-telling. At the most fundamental level where two entities causally interact, there will have to be a point at which we say, "They just do."
But the person making this objection can try to press it by alleging that a temporal relation is of the very essence of all causality, that a statement that x causes y means, necessarily, that x bears a temporal relation to y. Perhaps it is possible for causal relations to be truly simultaneous, so that God's willing the Red Sea to part could be allowed by this objector to be simultaneous with the parting of the Red Sea, but simultaneity itself is a temporal relation. To put God's willing the parting of the Red Sea into time is, plausibly, to put God in time. In that case, it seems that we must view God as having the perspective that the Israelites are now being chased by the Egyptians and that He must act now to part the Red Sea so that they can pass over. And that is to put God, at least insofar as He acts to save the Israelites from the Egyptians, into time. (Or, as Alan Padgett would say, it seems to mean that God must wait for the necessary moment to part the Red Sea.)
One attempted solution to this problem, advocated by Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann (1981), is to say that God is temporally simultaneous with all events in time. Space does not permit me to examine this view in detail, but both Craig (2001, p. 91), as an advocate of divine temporality, and Paul Helm (2010, pp. 32-33), an advocate of Boethianism, reject Stump and Kretzmann's solution on the grounds that it involves itself in unnecessary further obscurity without any real elucidation to show for the effort. What does it mean to say literally that two temporally distinct events are both present to God and to say that God's existence is literally "simultaneous with" those events while God Himself is not in time?
Helm argues instead that the advocate of divine timelessness should staunchly refuse to say that God's existence or acts are literally simultaneous with any event in time. This is the only way to be consistent with a strict Boethian view. The Boethian should insist rather that God is "time-free" and eternally and timelessly wills and causes all of His effects:
One objection to [divine timelessness] is that it might be supposed that it makes impossible any relation between God existing timelessly and his temporal creation. But why? Let us suppose that in creation God brings into being (timelessly) the whole temporal matrix. He knows (timelessly) all about it. In his mind all events are brought together, but they are not brought together at a time, but timelessly. God is time-free. (Helm 2010, p. 27)
Helm points out that, despite the fact that our usual use of the concept of causality has a temporal aspect, it is possible to tease apart that temporal element from other elements in the concept of a cause:
[W]hat the eternalist account of creation is maintaining is that the universe depends on God in that it has a relation of asymmetrical existential dependence upon the will of God....[S]ome events, such as miracles, may occur that have a direct eternal cause and a temporal effect. It is not obvious that in any of these cases 'cause' is being used in a purely figurative sense, or in some other illegitimate way....God eternally causes the existence of the universe, or some event within the universe, when for that event E (a) If God had not willed E, E would not have occurred, (b) God's willing E ensures that E occurs; and (c) E does not occur at the same time as God's willing it. No doubt such an account is using 'cause' in a somewhat unusual sense. But it is hard to see that this sense is meaningless....Why may ['cause'] not be defined in terms of the bringing about of effects? (Helm 2010, p. 241)
God's causal relationship to the universe and to specific events therein, then, can be understood in terms of the ontological dependence of those entities and events upon the eternal will of God, so that counterfactually we can say that, absent that eternal divine willing, these things would not be. The Boethian should simply deny that the divine temporalist has provided any reason to think that causality is, in all applications, essentially a temporal relation.
It is possible, moreover, to explain why our ordinary concept of causality is so closely bound up with the concept of temporal relations and perhaps even (partially) interdefined with temporal relations. Such an explanation shows, however, that the considerations that connect finite causation to time do not apply to a timeless God. Imagine any finite entity, such as a human being or an angel, or any finite state of that entity, such as a mental state. Between finite entities and events, there must (arguably) be a single-directional "arrow" of causality that orders them, such that there is a "backwards" and "forwards" and such that the arrow of causality cannot go backwards. Otherwise, something strictly incoherent (and therefore impossible) would be possible--namely, a loop of causation in which an entity causes itself never to have existed or an event causes itself never to have happened. A classic case of this kind is a time travel scenario in which a man goes back in time and prevents his grandparents from meeting, thus preventing himself from ever having come into existence, which is incoherent. Thus, temporal relations between finite entities that also have (even possible) causal connections with one another must be defined in such a way that no incoherence is possible. But, since a timeless God is not finite and has no finite states, no such consideration applies to Him. It is literally impossible for a timeless God or any of His "states" (none of which are finite and temporal) to cause themselves never to have occurred, for God does not come into existence, and a timeless God does not have discrete "states" that come into existence. Hence, there is not a reason for closely connecting divine causality with time, and we are free to say that God timelessly and eternally causes, by His timeless willing, events in the world to which He strictly speaking bears no temporalrelationship.
The second set of objections to Boethianism arises from a controversy over the nature of time itself. The question is whether there is such a thing as a "real now" which literally moves along. The view that there is such a thing as a real, universal now and that there are real, irreducible tensed facts is sometimes called the A Theory of time, or the tensed theory of time. The view that relations of time, like relations of space, are relative to individuals in time, so that there is no single, universal now any more than there is a single, universal "here," is sometimes called the B Theory of time, or the tenseless theory.
Craig places the greatest weight on the question of which theory of time is correct, holding that if a B Theory of time is correct, the Boethian "has a way out" of other objections (Craig 2001, p. 111). Why connect the theory of time itself so closely to the issue of divine timelessness? Briefly, the argument goes like this: Suppose that there is a real, objective, irreducible now in the temporal world, and that this objective now falls on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Then, God knows that it is now Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Therefore, in some sense, it is for God now Wednesday, April 1, 2014. Therefore, God is in time.
One attempted answer to this is to say that God can know that it is really now April 2, 2014, without being in time, much as a man can watch a movie and know that, in the movie, it is April 2, 2014, without being in the movie.5 The problem with this reply is that the very notion of a person's watching an unfolding series in such a way that he can say that "now" the series is at such-and-such a point does really place the watcher in time. It relates the watcher to some specific point in the series in a special way in which he is not related to other points, and it creates a series of such temporary relations to different "nows" in the series. To make the history of the universe like a movie that God is sequentially watching is to place God in some timestream, in the same sense that the man, though not in the movie, is nonetheless in his own timestream in the theater, sequentially watching the movie unfold before his eyes. I am therefore inclined to grant that, if there is a real and irreducible now that literally moves along in the finite creation, there is some sense in which God must be in time (at least in a time of His own) watching or knowing this irreducible sequential movement.
One of the best arguments for the conclusion that there really is an irreducible and absolute now is the apparent irreducibility of tensed facts in motivating human action. Suppose that I need to go to a meeting at 3 p.m. on a particular day. On that day, I know such differing facts as that it is not yet 3 p.m. and, finally, that it is now 3 p.m. This knowledge motivates me to get up out of my chair and go down the hall to the meeting. Craig argues (2001, pp. 118-119) that it is impossible to translate a fact such as, "It is now 3 p.m." into any satisfactory tenseless form. But if there is an irreducible fact of the matter that it really is now 3 p.m., a fact that cannot be explained in terms that make no even apparent reference to a real now, then, it seems, there must be a real now, and God must indeed know when that real now falls at 3 p.m. on a particular day.
Attempted answers to such objections have often involved translating the "now" in such statements into references to dates, which are explained in terms of relations among the items in the temporal series. So, just as we say that one location in space is north of another on the surface of the earth, we can say that one event is really before or after another in what the B theorist calls the B series of temporal events, without committing ourselves to a real now. And a date can be translated into relational terms--for example, into terms having to do with the movement of the earth on its axis and around the sun. But can we translate a belief such as, "It is now 3 p.m." solely into a belief about dates? It seems not, for when I need to go to the meeting, I need to know not simply that the meeting is at 3 p.m. on April 2, but that it is now 3 p.m. on April 2. It is indeed fairly easy to translate a belief like, "The meeting is today at 3 p.m." into "The meeting is on April 2, 2014, at 3 p.m.," provided that I know what day it is today. But it is much more difficult to make any such translation when what I believe is simply and solely something about what time or date it is right now.
A satisfactory B Theory solution to this question has been proposed by Maxwell Goss (2006, pp. 153ff, 2008).6 All that the B theorist needs to be granted is that it is possible to designate the individual mental states of finite conscious beings in a unique fashion. While having the experience, the person himself is able to refer directly (though without any necessary reference to an absolute and universal now) to "this experience." One of the phenomenal properties of that experience will be its quality of "presentness" to the subject, and the B theorist is not obligated to deny that our conscious experiences have this phenomenal "here-now" quality to them. The B theorist is only concerned to deny the existence of a non-subjectively real now that moves along, illuminating successive moments or even bringing successive moments into reality.7 I can refer to my own mental states as specific and unique events or entities without needing to invoke a real now, external to myself. God, being omniscient, presumably has many ways of referring to any particular mental state of any subject and can differentiate all mental states of all subjects from one another.8 Let us recall, too, that the B theorist is fully permitted to state that, within the temporal B series, events have relations of simultaneity or relations of before and after to one another, just as ordered points on a line are either before or after one another or "on top of" one another. Now, suggests Goss, the B theorist can say that, when I believe "It is now 3 p.m.," I believe that this unique mental state of mine is (tenselessly) simultaneous with 3 p.m.9 This translation makes no use of an absolute, real now, and it is a fact that God could timelessly know. The objection that a belief like "It is now 3 p.m." is not reducible to a tenseless fact can therefore be rebutted by the B theorist.10
Craig also argues that there must be a real now from the apparent reality of temporal becoming and change. He argues that, if the B Theory of time is true, nothing ever really changes, nothing comes into existence or ceases to exist. Temporal becoming is an illusion (Craig 2001, pp. 69, 142, 173, 197-199). This would indeed be a counterintuitive conclusion for the B theorist to be forced to.
The first reply to this objection is that both the A theorist and the B theorist need an account of what makes a specific entity itself rather than something else. This is especially important when it comes to personal identity for beings such as humans. There is no particular reason for a B theorist to be saddled with nominalism (for example) or for a B theorist to deny that I have a personal essence that is wholly present at every point in time when I exist. Even though the question of the essence of a non-personal item like a ball is both more trivial and more vexed (since, if every molecule in the ball is replaced, we might not want to say that it is the same ball), there is no reason to say that a person who has a B Theory of time has more trouble giving an account of the identity of a particular ball than someone who holds to the A Theory. Once this point is in place, it is quite easy for the B theorist to say that temporal becoming is not an illusion at all. I, the same person, with my own unique personal essence, really do have different properties (physical and mental) at different points in the temporal B series of moments. These points are really related to one another in an ordered series of "before" and "after." In this sense I really do change and grow. Similarly, the same ball really is green at one point in the B series of events and really is, once I paint it, blue at a different point in the B series, a point which bears a "later than" relation to the point at which it was green. So the ball really does change in color. Temporal change and becoming are therefore not illusory on a B Theory of time.
Perhaps this account of change will seem insufficiently robust for the A theorist's taste, but the A theorist can get no real traction by simply defining "non-illusory change" as involving a real now, or he loses the force of the objection. The challenge was for the B theorist to show that temporal change and becoming are not simply illusions on his view, and, so long as the B theorist is permitted to have some notion of what constitutes the "same entity" at different points in the B series, he can readily note that that entity has different properties at different points in the series and thus clear himself of the charge that he has no account of non-illusory temporal change. He can, moreover, note that some entity (say, a particular flower) does not exist at all at one point in the B series (the flower's existence is not simultaneous with the year 2000) but does exist at a later point (the flower's existence is simultaneous with the year 2014); hence, he has a perfect right to say that the flower's coming into existence is not an illusion. (Helm makes a similar response to this objection in Ganssle 2001, p. 114.)
But it may be that the objection can be pressed in a different direction, if the A theorist is a presentist, as Craig is. (See note 7.) According to Craig's presentism, the past and the future are strictly nonexistent. Only the present is real.11 On the B theory, the past and the future are not "less real," from a God's-eye view, than the present, because there is no objective now that, by its movement, literally brings the present moment into reality. The Boethian holds that, in creating, God tenselessly wills the existence of the entire spatial-temporal order. Perhaps the complaint, then, is that the B theory turns temporal and finite things into eternal things by making all of creation the product of God's eternal willing. Craig seems to be attributing to the Boethian B theorist the incoherent view that the temporal is eternal when he says, summarizing this view, "Nothing in the space-time block ever comes into or goes out of being, nor does the space-time block as a whole come into being or pass away. It simply exists timelessly along with God" (Craig 2001, p. 111).
The objection is fairly easy to answer for entities that come into existence after the first moment of the spatial-temporal order, as shown in the discussion of the ball and the flower, above: The Boethian is perfectly free to say that, pace Craig, the ball does indeed come into being because on one date there is no such ball and on a later date, after the factory has cranked it out, such a ball exists. Since the two dates are related on the timeline by the relation of before and after, we can readily see that there is indeed a point in time when the ball does not exist and a later point in time when the ball does exist. If the ball is later incinerated, we can also name a date on the B series line after which the ball does not exist anymore. The ball's existence is simultaneous with some points on the line but not with others. In this sense, the B theorist is entirely free to say that the ball comes into being and goes out of being within the scope of the temporal series.
The objection is more difficult to answer, however, when we are discussing the beginning of the universe itself, since, according to the Boethian, the universe does not begin in time and since the Boethian holds that God timelessly, eternally wills the beginning of the finite universe.
In answering this type of objection, Paul Helm says that it is a fallacy to argue from "the eternity of creation" to "the eternity of what is created" (Helm 2010, p. 250). A quotation from the Puritan Stephen Charnocke makes Helm's point here:
The decree itself was eternal and immutable, but the thing decreed was temporary and mutable. As a decree from eternity doth not make the thing decreed to be eternal, so neither doth the immutability of the decree render the thing so decreed to be immutable (Charnocke 1682 quoted in Helm 2010, p. 71 n. 19).
But simply to say that the objection embodies a fallacy is not very enlightening. To understand further why the Boethian is not making the finite universe eternal, we should remember that the distinction between the eternal God and the finite universe with a beginning is a distinction between metaphysical types of entities, not a distinction marked by time. Since the universe has a beginning, and since God is timeless, according to the Boethian, the beginning of the universe cannot be marked by a change within time. It may be that, without realizing it, those who make such an objection are tacitly thinking of creation in terms of some prior time in which God exists. In fact, as we shall see, that is not Craig's explicit view, for he holds that God is "timeless sans the universe" and comes to be in time only "with" the creation of the universe. Therefore, he does not actually picture God as existing for a long time before creating the universe. Such an image, however, is admittedly rather hard to resist when we try to picture God's existence without the universe. It is tempting for timebound humans to speak as if God literally existed for a long time before creating the universe, though Boethians (and Craig himself) must take all such language to be metaphoric. If we picture God in that way, we may think of the difference between God and the universe as a difference between a being who existed sempiternally for a long time first and an entity that came into existence at a later moment in God's infinite history when God willed it to begin. If that sort of picture is one's only way of distinguishing the finite from the eternal, then, when the Boethian says that God eternally wills the creation of the universe, it is tempting to take the Boethian to be saying that the universe really had no beginning but is co-eternal with God. But any such picture is firmly excluded from the Boethian view.
On the Boethian view, then, finite things are not eternal. Rather, finite things are (tenselessly) finite, temporal, and have a beginning because that is the kind of thing God tenselessly and eternally wills them to be, not because there is a larger timestream in which God exists and in which the beginning of our finite universe is embedded.
Here, even more than with the notion of a timeless cause, we are forced to an analogical use of language to refer to the beginning of the temporal universe. For suppose we take it that the beginning of the finite universe is also the beginning of time. What does it mean for the universe, including time, to have a beginning that did not occur in time, that is to say, that did not occur in a time which already existed before that beginning? We normally think of a beginning as something that is embedded in a timestream; a thing that begins did not exist before that time at which it begins. It is impossible to get a very clear idea of a beginning that had no "before." Yet the beginning of time must be just such an event. This problem, however, is endemic to any position that holds that time has a beginning, regardless of one's theory of time. The problem of saying what it means for time to have a beginning, since the beginning of time cannot be in time in the normal sense, is neither unique to the B Theory of time nor unique to Boethianism. It is not even unique to theism, for some atheist scientists and philosophers believe that time had a beginning. As I will argue later, there are problems with holding that time has no beginning. Craig himself argues (2001, pp. 220ff) that time had a beginning. Once one acknowledges that it is meaningful to speak of the universe of time as having a beginning which does not occur after some earlier moment in time, there is no special problem for the Boethian. The Boethian simply takes the idea of that type of entity and states that God tenselessly and eternally wills its creation.
Some degree of difficulty, even some degree of mystery, is inevitable in discussing the issues of God and time and even in discussing time itself. In this area, mystery is like a bump under the carpet. If one pushes it away in one place, it comes back up elsewhere; a further critique of the leading temporalist views of God and time will serve to illustrate this point.
Some Objections to William Lane Craig's View of God and Time
Space does not permit an exhaustive survey of all the objections that could be raised to Craig's own hybrid view of God and time. That view, briefly stated, is that God is timeless sans creation but is temporal with or since creation (Craig 2001, pp. 233-236, 241). On Craig's view, God would not be in time at all had He not chosen to create the universe. Creation was a free act of self-limitation on the part of God.
Any position that places God in time runs afoul of the prima facie case made in the first section. If there is no overriding philosophical or biblical reason that requires us to conclude that God is in time, the prima facie case is that God is timeless. Craig's specific temporalist view, moreover, has unique problems. First, it is a theologically problematic conclusion that creation itself is to be treated as an act of divine limitation and humbling. Craig even goes so far as to compare the creation to the Incarnation:
Like the incarnation, the creation of the world is an act of condescension on God's part for the sake of His creatures....He stooped to take on a mode of existence inessential to His being or happiness in order that we might have being and find supreme happiness in Him (Craig 2001, p. 241).
This incarnational view of creation is extremely dubious from a Scriptural point of view. In addition to the passages quoted earlier which specifically contrast God's own mode of being with that of His creation, Scripture consistently portrays creation as an act of divine power and a declaration of God's transcendence over nature. Never once does Scripture hint that creating the world was an act of divine submission to finite limitations. Such a notion of divine humbling is indeed part of the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation (Phil. 2:3-8), but of the creation, in contrast, we read,
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Col. 1:16-17)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev. 4:11)
Of the eternal Son, Hebrews tells us that He "uphold[s] all things by the word of his power." It is logically possible that an act of God can be both an act of power and an act of humbling; in fact, this is what Christians believe about the Incarnation. But the biblical teachings and emphasis simply do not portray creation in that way at all and in fact indicate a striking difference between the creation and the Incarnation.
Because Craig's view is that God humbled Himself and in some sense entered our universe's time in the act of creating it, his view seems to preclude God's making other parallel universes that have separate timestreams. This point provides a way of seeing how complete is the abrogation of divine transcendence implied in Craig's view. Intuitively it seems that there ought to be nothing to prevent an omnipotent God from creating and interacting with multiple universes which do not causally interact with one another and which each have their own times.12 But if God in some sense incarnated Himself into our world's time by creating it, this appears to be impossible. Given this consequence, it does not seem extreme to say that on Craig's view God trapped Himself in our time by creating. Craig's view implies that, as a result of creation, there is one absolute now and that it is both our now and God's now. Craig's position therefore attributes a unique loss of transcendence to God because of the creation alone.
Craig's view is also subject to a tu quoque when it comes to the causal objection to Boethianism discussed above. Recall that the objection to causal relationships between a timeless God and temporal creation rests on the claim that a cause and its effect must occupy the same "mode of existence." Put differently, this objection alleges that there must be a temporal relationship between any cause and its effect. But Craig resorts to a Boethian non-temporal relationship between a timeless God and the beginning of the world:
But now we are confronted with an extremely bizarre situation. God exists in time. Time had a beginning. God did not have a beginning. How can these three statements be reconciled? If time began to exist--say, for simplicity's sake, at the Big Bang--then in some difficult-to-articulate sense God must exist beyond the Big Bang, alone without the universe. He must be changeless in such a state; otherwise time would exist. And yet this state, strictly speaking, cannot exist before the Big Bang in a temporal sense, since time had a beginning. God must be causally, but not temporally, prior to the Big Bang. (Craig 2001, p. 233)
This is indeed finding the bump of mystery under the carpet. It seems that Craig is resorting to exactly the sort of claim the Boethian would make about all of God's relations to temporal things and events: God's timeless decrees, the Boethian says, are causally but not temporally prior to the universe and to all the entities and events that God wills within the universe. Why should the Boethian not be allowed to posit a causal relationship between a timeless God and temporal events, since Craig appears to be doing so himself for the beginning of the universe?
An advocate of Craig's view might attempt to block the tu quoque by saying that God's willing the beginning of the universe was really in time and was simultaneous with the Big Bang. But, given Craig's view of agent causation (which I share), such an answer will not do the trick. A free agent is the cause of his own willings. Hence, since God exists timelessly sans creation on Craig's view, a timeless God must be the cause of God's act of willing to create the temporal universe. (See Craig 2008, p. 154.) Craig is therefore required, like the Boethian, to postulate a causal relationship between a timeless being and an effect in time.
Another problem arises from the fact that Craig asserts that God underwent a change in the creation of the universe. This attribution of change to God at the creation of the universe produces an apparent incoherence.
[A]t the first moment of time, God stands in a new relation in which He did not stand before (since there was no "before")....[A]t the moment of creation, God comes into the relation of sustaining the universe or, at the very least, of co-existing with the universe, relations in which he did not stand before. Since He is free to refrain from creation, God could have never stood in those relations, had He so willed. But in virtue of His creating a temporal world, God comes into a relation with that world the moment it springs into being. Thus, even if it is not the case that God is temporal prior to His creation of the world, He nonetheless undergoes an extrinsic change at the moment of creation which draws Him into time in virtue of His real relation to the world. (Craig 2001, p. 87)
We have seen above that anyone who holds that time had a beginning must have a somewhat counterintuitive notion of "beginning." But what Craig says here goes well beyond that. At least when we say that time had a beginning we are not forced to say that an existing entity, the universe, changed from not existing to existing. What Craig here asserts is that God Himself underwent a change but that that change did not occur in any timestream whatsoever, since it was a change from not being in time to being in time. What could this mean? At a minimum, a change seems to require that an entity has existed at two different points in some timestream and has had one set of properties (though perhaps only relational properties) at one point and a different set of properties at a different point. But the change from being timeless to being in time cannot be of this sort, so what is the meaning of "change" as Craig is using it here?
The apparent incoherence is especially evident when Craig says, "[A]t the first moment of time, God stands in a new relation in which He did not stand before (since there was no 'before')." Since, as Craig says, there could be no "before" in this scenario, in what sense is the relation new? Craig says that God did not stand in this relation before, but he does not mean that claim in the sense that is necessary for a change or something new. We can argue from "God did not stand in this relation before" and "God stands in this relation now" to "this relation was new at some point" only if we are saying that there actually was a time before God stood in the present relation. To say that the very concept of "before" is meaningless in the scenario envisaged is to remove all the meaning from the claim that God entered into a new relation at the creation of the world and hence that the creation constituted a change in God. I can see no way for Craig consistently to maintain both that God is timeless sans creation and that God underwent a change at creation.
Based on all these considerations, I conclude that Craig's view of God and time suffers from insuperable difficulties, both biblical and philosophical.
The Sempiternal View of God and Time
The position that God has always been in time, that time itself is co-eternal with God (which I will call sempiternalism), is in many ways more straightforward than Craig's hybrid position. Craig attributes sempiternalism to the scientist Isaac Newton, who believed in absolute time (Craig 2001, p. 219). Contemporary advocates of some version of sempiternalism include Nicolas Wolterstorff (2001) and Alan Padgett (2001).
There are a number of advantages, conceptually speaking, of sempiternalism over Craig's position. Sempiternalism is not subject to a tu quoque as regards the causal interaction between a temporal and a timeless being, for the sempiternalist can insist consistently that a cause must always bear a temporal relation to its effect and that God, existing eternally in His own time (which one might call God-time), does indeed bear a temporal relationship to all of the events He wills. At a certain point in God-time, God wills the creation of the universe. At a later point in God-time, God wills the parting of the Red Sea, and so forth. God's existence and God's willings can all be either literally before or literally simultaneous with their effects, given sempiternalism. As we have seen, this position is not available to Craig as regards the beginning of time itself. Sempiternalism denies divine immutability, as does Craig's position, but it denies immutability in a more coherent fashion. (That is, it does so if we grant that a mutable God is a coherent notion at all, a question on which Thomists, for example, will have a strong negative opinion.) Given sempiternalism, God does indeed undergo what Craig calls an "extrinsic change" when He creates the universe. God really is at that point related to something to which He was not related before. But the sempiternalist can mean this quite literally. At one point in God-time, there was no universe for God to be related to, and at a later point there was.
It is more difficult to say whether sempiternalism presents a greater or a lesser denial of divine transcendence than Craig's view. The answer is that in some ways a sempiternal God is, or can be, more transcendent than God as Craig presents Him, but that in other ways He is less so. On the one hand, a sempiternal God is in no way incarnating Himself in creating the universe. Being in time is just part of who God is, or at least part of who He always has been.13 Sempiternalism thus disconnects God's temporality from the temporality of creation and need not claim that God is limited by creation. Because creation need not be like the Incarnation on this view, sempiternalism may even allow for the possibility of God's creating multiple, causally separate, universes with different timestreams, as long as the time of each universe can in some way be related to God's own overarching "now."
On the other hand, it is quite a strong position to hold that God has always been temporal. This takes us back to some of the initial considerations regarding divine transcendence and perfection. On the sempiternal view, it seems that God has always been moving through time, losing His past and gaining His future, growing older, and so forth.14 Craig's view at least presents us with what we might call a phase of God's existence in which He entirely transcends the limiting category of time. Here we encounter the question of whether making God more comprehensible is always a good thing. In some ways, the tensions and difficulties of Craig's view arise from his attempt to retain a measure of transcendence in God's own mode of existence. The sempiternalist envisages a God who is uncomfortably close to being more like a demigod, a God who is all too much like ourselves.
But there is a further and more decisive problem with sempiternalism, arising from some of Craig's own most influential work on the kalam cosmological argument. Briefly, the argument is that time must have a beginning. If time had no beginning, an infinite number of moments of time would have had to be traversed before getting either to the beginning of our own universe or to the present moment. It is, so goes the argument, impossible to cross an infinite number of equal intervals or equal things (sometimes called "traversing an actual infinity"). Hence, the fact that there is something happening now at all tells us that it is impossible for there to have been an infinite past time. As Helm puts it,
[S]uch a prospect requires that an infinite number of events must have elapsed before the present moment could arrive. And since it is impossible for an infinite number of events to have elapsed, and yet the present moment has arrived, the series of events cannot be infinite. (Helm 2010, p. 38)
Helm uses this argument to support divine timelessness overall. Craig (2001, pp. 220-229) uses the same argument to support divine timelessness sans creation. Since time must have had a beginning (on this argument), but God did not, Craig reasons that God must be timeless sans creation. The Boethian agrees that God is timeless sans creation but will also, of course, argue that God is timeless even given creation.
The sempiternalist may try to avoid the problem of traversing an infinite series by holding, as Padgett does (2001, pp. 108-109), that God's temporal experience prior to creation was changeless in quality and that God's time prior to creation was immeasurable by any metric. This might seem to mean that there was no infinite series of time intervals that had to be traversed before getting to the present moment. Padgett calls God's time prior to creation a "nonfinite temporal duration."
This raises the question as to what a "duration" could be that is not in any sense composed of temporal intervals and is strictly immeasurable. It is all very well to say that it is arbitary to choose a measure of time from among various possibilities, but it is quite another thing to say that there was a period of time that was not any amount of time and that a being exists in a type of time that is strictly immeasurable. (See Craig 2001, pp. 234-235 and Helm 2010, pp. 237-238.) In what sense is this duration? In what sense is it time? And since the time before creation must be infinite, then the problem of traversing an actual infinity does arise for the sempiternalist, even if the quality of God's experience is postulated to have been similar throughout the time period. If it is indeed impossible to traverse an infinity and arrive at some point after doing so, the sempiternalist position is ruled out by philosophical considerations alone.
Paul Helm (2010, p. 245) makes the mild and academic understatement that any positive account of God's timeless creation must have "elements of negativity about it." Behind this comment lies an important truth: We, His creatures, cannot fully understand God. This does not mean that God's intrinsic being is illogical or contradictory. No disparagement of logic follows from our own limitations; the eternal Son is the eternal Logos. What does follow is that we should not expect to obtain a perfect and complete comprehension even of all the theological truths to which we have been given access, such as the truths that God made the world and that He acts miraculously within its history.
While I cannot give, nor do I claim to have, a clear and distinct picture of God's timeless existence, I have endeavored to show that the traditional view that God is timeless is prima facie correct, that it has the resources to answer various criticisms that have been brought against it, and that the alternatives to it have severe problems of their own. On the basis of this argument, I conclude that all Christians, when thinking aright about God and time, should be Boethians.
Craig, William Lane (2001). Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Craig, William Lane (2008). Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Ganssle, Gregory, ed. (2001). God and Time: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
Goss, Maxwell (2006). Time and Human Nature: A Modest Defense of Eternalism. Doctoral dissertation. University of Texas, Austin, TX.
Goss, Maxwell (2008) "Temporal Belief: The Experiential View," in L. Nathan Oaklander, ed., The Philosophy of Time. New York: Routledge, pp. 3-51.
Helm, Paul (2010). Eternal God:A Study of God Without Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leftow, Brian (1991). Time and Eternity. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Padgett, Alan (2001). "Eternity as Relative Timelessness," in Gregory Ganssle, ed., God and Time: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, pp. 92-110.
Stump, Eleonore and Kretzmann, Norman (1981). "Eternity." The Journal of Philosophy 78:8, pp. 429-458.
Stump, Eleonore and Kretzmann, Norman (1991). "Prophecy, Past Truth, and Eternity" in Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5, Philosophy of Religion. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview Publishing Co., pp. 395-421.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas (2001). "Unqualified Divine Temporality," in Gregory Ganssle, ed., God and Time: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, pp. 187-213.
1 All biblical quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
2 Statements about divine timelessness in this paper are always tacitly qualified to mean "apart from the Incarnation." This qualification is similar to the tacit qualification of a statement like "God does not have ten toes" to mean "apart from the Incarnation." Of course in the Incarnation the eternal Son is in time. Jesus of Nazareth was a real man who existed in time. That is not controversial among modern philosophers of religion.
3 For example, Paul Helm (2010, p. 100) has warned of the possibly misleading nature of Boethius's picture of God as looking down upon all events in time from the top of a hill, if it is taken as literally meaning that God and the events in creation all occur "at the same time."
4 I will discuss later the question of God's acting causally in relation to temporal entities and will argue that the Boethian can give an account of God's interaction with the temporal world. There is no more difficulty with God's timelessly willing an event in response to a petitionary prayer than with God's timelessly willing the parting of the Red Sea at just the right moment to save the people of Israel from their pursuers.
5 I owe this example to Jon Meyer. Variants are fairly easy to generate; a man may know that it is now white's move in a chess game even though he is not one of the players.
6 I am indebted to Max Goss for pointing me to the work in which he develops this position. I had developed a nearly identical account before learning of his.
7 For the most part, for reasons of space, I am ignoring the differences among different A Theories of time. On Craig's own view, known as presentism, only the present "now" is real; neither the past nor the future exist in any sense. A different A Theory is that the future is unreal and the past and present real; time literally "grows" as the real now moves along. Yet another view, which perhaps might be regarded as a hybrid between a B Theory and an A Theory, is that in some sense past, present, and future are all real but that the real now is like a moving light successively illuminating the series.
8 Goss does not discuss the application of his position concerning tensed facts to divine timelessness.
9 By "unique," I mean as distinct tokens, not as types. It does not seem to me that anything turns on the question of whether two mental experiences could be type-identical, so long as they are distinct tokens.
10 This analysis also provides one answer to the criticism (Craig 2001, p. 214) that, on a B Theory of time, Jesus is "still on the cross," since the B theorist regards the past as real. (Craig, being a presentist, regards the past as nonexistent.) This mental experiential state of mine is not simultaneous with Jesus' crucifixion. In this sense, it is false that Jesus is now still hanging on the cross, and the B theorist can give an account of this falsity without being committed to an absolute now. There are other problems with this criticism which space does not permit me to address.
11 This creates serious difficulties for Craig when it comes to defining how long the present moment is. What is the duration of the real now? This is an urgent question for presentism, since the presentist holds that only what is here in the real now exists at all. It is therefore rather surprising that Craig states that the duration of the present is not objective but relative to the "universe of discourse" (Craig 2001, pp. 159-160). Prima facie this view is incompatible with the metaphysical significance his view gives to the present moment.
12 By the analysis given above, if different universes were to interact causally with one another, they would have to be in some sense within the same timestream (perhaps within some meta-timestream) or at least within comparable or intertranslatable timestreams, for otherwise the possibility of incoherent causal loops would arise. Technically, the different worlds portrayed in C.S. Lewis's Narnia books must therefore have some common timestream, or their timestreams must be intertranslatable, since they do have causal relations with one another via the children who travel back and forth between them. This must be the case despite the fact that our time and Narnian time are said to move at different rates. It is noteworthy that at no point in the Narnia series does any character in our world literally travel backwards in Narnian time, nor vice versa. In this sense, the different "worlds" in the books do not have strictly separate times.
13 Padget (2001, pp. 106-107) attempts to deny that temporality is an essential property of God even if God has always been in time. I think his argument is unconvincing. But even if temporality is not taken to be an essential property of a sempiternal God, it has always been one of His properties, given sempiternalism, which avoids attributing an incarnational aspect to the creation.
13 Padgett holds that God's experience did not change prior to creation (Padgett 2001, pp. 108-109), but it seems that, if God was in time prior to creation, God must have at least known that His own time was passing, and this would create some distinction among divine time intervals.