Wednesday, January 28, 2009
If God Forgets to Wind His Watch, Does Existence Stop?
God showed me His watch.
No hands. No mechanism.
The standard apologetic concerning God’s nature as regarding time, is that God is a timeless being. That is, God stands apart from time, and is not subject to it. By way of analogy, let us consider the perceptions of an ant’s trek across a garbage can lid in relation to a human being’s perception of the same event. To the ant, the field of perception is basically limited to what’s right in front of it. One step at a time, as it were. But from the human’s exalted POV, one can take in all of the terrain with a single glance. An imprecise analogy (as all analogies are, to one extent or another), but good enough to serve my limited purposes, I think.
Of course, the origin of this particular doctrine surely lies in the need to justify certain enigmatic characteristics of the Divine as laid out in Church tradition and scripture. For instance, how else can God know the details of future events- a knowledge that’s necessitated by the acceptance of prophetic utterances? There’s also the problem of time-limiting arguments used to bolster the ‘logical necessity’ of creation doctrines, aka the Kalam argument and its derivatives. There’s been a lot of criticism as to how a timeless being can interact with a timebound universe. It seems to be a classic example of God’s having His cake, and eating it too. Various hypotheses have been offered in trying to get around the problems, including the idea that God somehow became timebound with the creation of the universe, but that somehow...He...isn’t??? Arghhh! Another argument is that God exists in His own personal ‘MetaTime’, paralleling yet transcending our own. Ugh! This is what comes with positing magical creatures with powers which supersede natural laws, and at the same time do not. Double arghhh!! And of course, there’s the somewhat mysterious nature of time itself, which takes us off on another dozen tangents. Triple arghhh!!!
For the purpose of this article, I’d just like to zone in on an implicit aspect of time, the nature of which often seems to get lost in all the mathematical proofs, modal constructs, and other philobabble. The feature I’m talking about is ‘sequence’. Firstly, I’d remind the reader that the theistic God, for all His elevated status, still seems to operate within two parameters which we as human beings are familiar with. Oh, his transcendent girth may stretch them into almost unrecognizable shape, but the constraints are still there.
1. God thinks. Does anyone not completely unhinged from the vaguest of theistic orthodoxy doubt this? Yeah, God supposedly thinks about things. He ruminates. He plans. He discovers. He makes decisions. Hell, He even has a few regrets! However, thinking is an unfolding process of consciousness-EVEN supernatant consciousness-THROUGH TIME! The most basic constituent of thinking is the fact that ‘one thought follows another’, and THERE’S that implied sequence I mentioned earlier. What would it even mean to ‘think’ in a situation where every though exists simultaneously? It would be like trying to play domino fall where all the dominoes are glued together.
2. God acts. Another undeniable fact of theistic theology. Some have tried to get around this hurdle by positing the idea that God somehow became temporal WITH the creation of the world (and yet, He still ISN’T temporal...yeesh!). But this argument is a cheat, and a rather easily revealed one. Consider: what was God doing before He created the world? Nothing? And what prompted Him to create the world? Again...nothing? No thoughts? No motivations? And for anyone who would argue that asking about God’s thoughts or actions before the Creation is a fallacious question, on the grounds that ‘before’ only makes sense in terms of time, which was created ‘after’, I’d simply assert that the idea of creation itself implicitly assumes that God existed prior to the event, along with His decision to create in the first place. In other words, there is a sequence of events tying the Actor, the act, and the result together which cannot reasonably be denied.
In the end, the most reasonable of the various unreasonable explanations seems to be that God exists in MetaTime, from which our time can be seen as derivative. This is probably the way most theists imagine God in their mostly unexamined little noggins, as the alternative is to picture God as sort of a steel beam stretched across infinity, unable to perform the simplest temporal gesture without getting in His own way. Problem is, the moment apologists allow for ‘God’s time’, the same arguments they wield against the possibility of actual temporal infinities (Kalam argument, fr’instance) turn around and bite them in their collective butts- and kneelers are easy targets. I mean, if God can stretch backwards through time forever and ever, why not an existence without God?
“But that’s different!” apologists proclaim. “We also have the Kalam Cosmological Argument!” To which I’d say, yes, that IS a different argument. I just wish you guys could keep them separate, instead of playing bait and switch as convenience arises.
Swish (or, should that be...Swiss?).
FURTHER READING HERE.
Posted by metamorphhh at 12:58 PM