God and Time – DeWeese and Atemporality

God and Time is a lot to chew on. The bright side is that there are plenty of slightly off track comments and questions to keep the conversation trailing and away from the reading material for the day’s class. Unfortunately the down side is that there are plenty of slightly off track comments and questions to keep the conversation trailing and away from the reading material for the day’s class.

Funny how that works, eh?

I wasn’t sure I was going to post anything about the day’s reading, but this particular chapter – Atemporal, Sempiternal, and Omnitemporal: God’s Temporal Mode of Being by G DeWeese had an interesting section. Actually I’m sure there are many interesting sections, so let me rephrase – one interesting section I think I understand.

DeWeese defined atemporality as the following:

Atemporal entities do not exist at any time.

This seems fairly straighforward. He goes on to make further statements concerning the nature of an atemporal thing – it must be abstract, it must exist necessarily, they must be immutable, and so forth. I think these properties would come to mind with enough dreaming on the topic of atemporality. That’s not the exciting part to me; what excites me is what he says next.

Given that atemporal beings are necessary, changeless things, it is clear why many philosophical theologians have wanted to say that God is atemporal. An atemporal God would be immutable, immaterial, and necessary. All seem to be attributes of God that a traditional theist would want to maintain. The tradition goes back at least as far as Augustine and includes Boethius, Anselm, and Aquinas. Contemporary philosophers of religion who argue for God’s timelessness or atemporality include Paul Helm, Eleonore Stump, Norman Kretzmann, and Brian Leftow. But surely none of these would want to say that God was an abstract entity! So if my argument is correct, there is good reason to suspect that God is not atemporal.

Awesome! I have found an explanation (in complex philosophy jargon, of course) for something I have felt and argued for a long time. It does seem to be that God is not atemporal; it seems rather that God is somehow within time. This seems necessary to explain things like petitionary prayer (asking God to change your life now), the crucifixion, prophecy, or any other time God interacts with humans in time to bring about His will. These things – obviously argued from the stance of a theist rather than a theory of the idea of God – seem to scream for a temporal being.

DeWeese describes two ways of accepting, let’s say, the best of both worlds. He proposes sempiternality and omnitemporality as two ways in which God can both be a part of time and yet still retain all of the attributes (mentioned in the quote above) that traditional theists want Him to have. While I think there may be something for me in omnitemporality, I don’t want to dig myself into that hole until I hear it talked through in class. I had a tough time with all three discussions, especially omnitemporality. Now off to bed with me.

3 thoughts on “God and Time – DeWeese and Atemporality

  1. Time seems to me to be terribly difficult to separate from consciousness. Sounds weird, I know. So, I’ll try to explain what I mean.

    Consciousness is by its nature dualistic. For instance, I know myself as a thing. A thing as distinct from nothing, and also distinct from other things. The simple ability to reflect on self and non-self is in fact temporal, even when that other thing is nothingness.

    In addition, Consciousness is evidenced in other things, including single-celled organisms, by reaction to stimulus – which is to say PREFERENCE (this over that). Again, dualistic. Preference boils down to desire toward a particular change – a future possibility.

    I touch an earthworm. It pulls away. It has a preference. The action is not arbitrary. The worm does not simply contract. It doesn’t accidentally oull toward me either. It pulls AWAY. It willfully creates a future circumstance where a human is not fucking with it. This simple conscious act, though performed virtually by a nervous system sans brain, is all about moving into a particular future.

    On a larger scale, my own consciousness is always connected to bodies in motion, which is to say “time”.
    T = D/R

    Any clarifications or criticisms would be appreciated.

    • I think I follow what you’re describing.

      My thoughts now (I wrote this post a couple of years ago) are that time can’t be understood, ontologically, by us. We’re within time, essentially, and can’t step outside of it to examine it.

      Because we can’t step outside of time, we can only benefit in limited ways by examining it’s nature. But it’s still fun to do 🙂

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