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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Created Time?

It is argued from “time to time” that if time was not created then history could never have reached any point in time. In other words, if there has always been time then an infinite amount of time must elapse in order to reach any point in time, which is seemingly impossible to us. Defenders of the Cosmological argument often use this argument to avoid a problem of infinite regress. Apologists who don’t employ Thomistic arguments do so as well.

Although I believe time is part of creation, I think such a defense of the creation of time could possibly undermine God’s infinite attributes, such as omniscience, or at the very least require that we think about omniscience a bit differently. After all, isn’t such a defense for the creation of time predicated upon the premise that nothing infinite can be exhausted by God? Yet wouldn’t that mean God has not thought every number? Does omniscience imply that he has and if so, then can’t God place creation in “the middle” of time, which would imply that infinite time has elapsed?

I don’t believe that time is self-existent nor do I believe it to be a divine attribute. Also, I have no reason to believe that God has eternally willed that he always be accompanied by time (i.e. “prior” to the first day). I believe time is created, but I’m not terribly comfortable with the argument that is used from “time to time."

My books are all in boxes because I'm relocating my study, but if memory serves John Frame in "The Doctrine of God" makes a passing comment on this created-time argument to which I refer and although he finds it somewhat persuasive, I believe he had a reservation or two, maybe that the argument goes beyond the bounds of Scripture alone. If someone reading along can locate the quote, please post what you find.

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Ryan said...

It may depends on what one defines as time. Gordon Clark said time was change, in which case God is obviously timeless. I think most people probably think of an operational definition of time - time is a measurement of the number of ticks of a clock. Some think of time in relation to space. In these cases too God would be timeless.

Incidentally, Clark denied God['s knowledge] was infinite. I'm not sure I agree with him. I think Scripturally defining numbers is as complex a task as Scripturally defining time.

Reformed Apologist said...

Ryan, I think time is necessary and sufficient for change but I would not equate time to change.

Regarding the denial of knowledge being infinite, that's what I'm talking about w/ respect to re-thinking common conceptions of omniscience if we're to affirm that time cannot be eternal by any means, such as by way of the divine will. Does omniscience require One know what it is for himself to deny himself, to sin, be finite etc.? This notion of omnisicence, e.g. that God cannot be omniscient because he doesn't know what it would be like to be a bat or sinful, was used against Mike Butler in a debate several years ago. Mike fielded the Arkansas philospher's objections well.

Does omniscience require having thought about infinite possibilities, or does it merely require knowing the formula for the infinite?

Joshua Butcher said...

I'm still pondering on this, so I don't have really coherent thoughts, but I can make a comment on Clark's view of time.

He didn't equate it with change, but rather followed Augustine's definition that time is a succession of thoughts in a created mind. Here's the relevant quote from his lecture on Time and Eternity (available as a free PDF transcript from

"Perhaps Augustine is not so clear as he might have been, but he clearly locates time in the mind or soul. Past time exists in our memory; future time is our present anticipation. When we measure time, therefore, we are measuring the passing ideas in our mind. To quote, "It is in thee, my mind, that I measure times.... The impression, which things as they pass by cause in thee [the mind] remains even when they are gone. This is it which, still present, I measure.... Either then this is time, or I do not measure times" (XI, xxvii, 36). Such is the basis for Augustine’s answer to the question, What was God doing before he did anything. The question is poor because there is no before in eternity.

That time is a function of a created being—not a created body, but a created mind—is supported also by references to the City of God and the Commentary on Psalm 105. The City of God says, "For if eternity and time be rightly distinguished, time never to be extant without motion, and eternity to admit no change, who would not see that time could not have being before some variable creature had come into existence?" (XI, vi). This means that there could have been no time before the creation of the world. It also means that eternity is different from time because time is a function of change and God is immutable."


Joshua Butcher said...

One of the problems seems to be with the way in which "infinite" is defined in relation to time.

In one sense, time can be considered infinite, and yet not eternal--in the same way that anything measurable can be considered infinite, yet not eternal. It is essentially Zeno's paradox: take one unit of time, say, one second. Now divide it in half. Now half, again. And so on infinitely. Now you've got an infinite quantity of time within a finite lapse of time (one second).

I don't know enough about mathematics to discuss the applications of the concept of infinity, but it does seem to have bearing on the discussion, at least.

I don't see why we need to affirm that God has counted all the members of Plato's infinite regress of the Forms, for example, to affirm His omniscience. Since they are all false and have no individual existence, why should not knowing them as a class (i.e. "infinite regress") be sufficient knowledge?

Ryan said...

Well, Clark's solution to Plato's forms was to modify it to universal propositions in the mind. A form isn't an image, because knowledge [of forms] is propositional. It's a genus, and a genus is not one of its members. So I don't think there's any infinite regress argument to be made here.

Thanks for the refresher on Clark's view of time. I remember writing that it makes more sense than the idea time is dependent on motion (e.g. Joshua 10:12-13). I'm not sure that an operational understanding of time works either for the reason that nothing was physically being measured in that case.

Regarding mathematics, Clark was made aware of the difference between countable and uncountable infinities. From Gordon H. Clark: Personal Reflections (pg. 117):

"Once at a luncheon, he was pointing out that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the members of the series of even integers and all the integers, and concluded that there was only one infinity. I mentioned Cantor's diagonal proof that the number of decimals between 0 and 1 [i.e. rational numbers] is an infinity larger than can be brought into such a correspondence with the integers. Clark replied: "I am silenced, but not convinced.""

The thing is, I'm not sure if his rejection of God's infinitude is because of or in spite of uncountable infinities. I recall Steve Hays answered a question I had about the Cantor set (an uncountable but bounded set) as it related to the coherency of an infinitely omniscient God in the affirmative.

It's all interesting but over my head at this point, especially when I consider that these questions presuppose a geometry (Euclidean) which is incompatible with other geometries which appear equally internally consistent.

Angels said...

REading this post I remembered movie "Inception", where director tried to understand the magic of time,which passes always, and I didn't understand this film to the end. We just must cherish every second of our life, cause time moves always..