December 9, 2013

A Problem With Time

I've been dealing with a bit of an intellectual dilemma, and I want to get it out there. But this has to do with the technical ideas, so I have define some terms first.

First of all, there are considered to be two basic theories in regards to the nature of time: A-theory and B-theory. A-theory understands the past and the future to not truly exist. All that exists is the present moment which is a transition from the past moment to the future moment. B-theory views time as a dimension of space. Thus reality exists as a 4 dimensional block of space-time. 

Which theory of time one holds is important when understanding the nature of God's foreknowledge. First instance, if you have an A-theory of time, then how does God know the future, since the future does not exist? That would be like God knowing the anatomy of a unicorn. This is the fundamental reason why I have always held to a B-theory of time, visualizing God is basically existing apart from time, and being able to be in both the past and the future simultaneously.

Indeed, I have always seen God as omnitemporal. Seeing time as a dimension of space, His relationship to time would be the same as His relationship to space. Thus omnitemporality is nothing more than an extension of omnipresence. 

Now, I have been reading The Cosmological Argument by Dr. William Lane Craig. One of the consistent points that is made in the various forms cosmological argument is that a quantitative infinity cannot exist for it causes logical inconsistencies. This is the fundamental reason that philosophers have often given when arguing that the universe requires a beginning, since an infinite past is impossible since the past should be measurable. 

However, what I have recently realized is that the same goes for the future given a B-theory of time. If the full stretch of time already exists, and it cannot exist infinitely in the past, than it would have to relate to the future as well for from God's perspective the past would be equally measurable. If one end of a block can't be infinite, the other end can't be either. While some might not have a problem with this, it would be the end of eternal life on earth. I cannot be resurrected from the dead and exist forever on this earth if the B-theory of time is accurate.

I don't know how to escape the conundrum. If this is correct, then the B-theory of time is simply wrong. But if it is wrong, that leaves us with the A-theory of time. But I really don't like that option, for the concept of omnitemporality would no longer make sense. God couldn't exist both in the past and the future simultaneous since they do not exist. Thus He only exists in the present. This leaves us with determinism, Molinism, or Open-theism, none of which are options that I am particularly fond of (though if forced, I would go with Molinism). 

I can only see one option in terms of saving B-theory. I would call this the temporary temporal dimension. It would have to be that when Adam and Eve fell, the universe shifted into a different mode of time that is a B-theory organization. However, when God created the new Heavens and Earth, it would shift into a more A-theory of time. The fundamental problem with this is that it feels so ad-hoc.

Let me know if any one of you have a different way of salvaging B-theory considering the need to affirm an infinite future. I really do not want to shift to an A-theory of time, but I have to go with where reason and Scripture lead me. 


SLW said...

When death entered into the nature of everything, not just Adam and Eve but everything (entropy), a shift of some sort did occur. However, time mattered before that shift because creation's days were numbered sequentially, the heavenly bodies were made as time pieces, and Adam and Eve were just two.

In the recreation to come, death will be gone, the heavenly bodies won't necessarily exist (God will be our light), and we will neither marry nor be given in marriage (reproduce). Might that suggest that time will be inconsequential in that economy? It certainly points to a shift. Do you think this can this point to time having temporary dimensional quality in the Adamic Universe that it will not have in the eternal one to come?

Jc_Freak: said...

In order to maintain a B-theory of time, that is exactly what I am saying. That a B-Theory of time is, for lack of a better word, temporary. But the idea that time would be inconsequential seems to miss the point. The inconsequence of time has to do with our subjective experience of it. This question has to do with the objective fact of it. Thus, it's significance doesn't fade over time.

SLW said...

I did not refer to he inconsequence of time from the perspective of our experience of it, but to whether or not the objective markers (no death, no need for time keeping heavenly bodies, no need for reproduction) mentioned in the Bible can lead us to the conclusion that time itself is being rejiggered along with all of creation when Jesus makes all things new. It may well be that what time will be then will be very different from what time is now.

Jc_Freak: said...

That is very true.

Taylor Craig said...

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something, but it seems to me that B-theory eliminates the concept of the present. Maybe our consciousnesses only experience one moment at a time, but God would experience everything "at once," so to speak—in His state of being outside of time, the past, present, and future are all one to Him. I don't think this fits with the Biblical view of history culminating in the Second Coming and the New Creation. In B-theory, God would "currently" be experiencing victory, and our future consciousnesses would be as well, its just that our present consciousnesses haven't gotten there yet. That doesn't seem to fit with general Scriptural ideas of progression and such, but maybe that's just me.
Does it make sense to propose a combination of the two theories? One where time has a beginning but no end? I think it makes sense to compare time to the spatial dimensions, at least the modern scientific understanding of them (whatever your view on the Big Bang and New Earth-Old Earth). Anyhow, I believe scientists theorize today that the universe is expanding, but originated in one point. So space started out measurable and finite, but in theory has infinite capacity for expansion (aside from heat death and everything about matter, space itself would keep expanding). So time could start at a definite point, and is currently "expanding" or progressing, and the edge of that expansion/progression is what we experience and call the present.
This leaves the question of God's interaction with time. I think we can safely say that He created it, and then interacts with the present as we experience it. This implies some sort of waiting, which seems to say He is limited by time, but I think we can accept this to a degree. Any sort of interaction with the universe means stepping inside it for some period in some way, so I think we can say God is only limited by time to the extent that He condescends to interact with us time-bound creatures. Thus this is not a limitation on His absoluteness, but an act of love to us.
I should also point out that in a deterministic view A theory would not eliminate God;s foreknowledge because we would say that if God knows exactly how everything exists right now then He will be able to “predict” with absolute certainty the future.

Jc_Freak: said...

Well, I did say that A-theory is consistent with determinism in the third to the last paragraph, so I agree with you there. I was talking about this with my friend Brian from SEA. The idea of some yet to be considered C-theory is worth considering for the sake of affirming Biblical principles, since our understanding of time is grounded more in philosophy than in Scripture.
Your description of B-theory is accurate, but I don't really think that the Bible really touches on this subject since within the B-theory of time we still experience time as if it is flowing. This tells me that the issue is not very important, and is a secondary issue and speculative rather than something I need to have a definite conclusion on.