C. S. Lewis, among others, argued that God was outside of time. Some have argued that God exists entirely within time, and that he must exist within time because there can be no meaningful concept of a being without fixed temporality. However, Lewis and others argued that if God was a temporal being, then God would be beholden to and controlled by temporality, which would make him something other than God, and thus Lewis argued that God must have a sort of timeless existence. Aquinas put forth the same idea in somewhat more philosophical terminology by arguing that God, if he was God, must exist in a true eternity which had no beginning, end, or progression. Man has all three: we begin at birth and progress through life to our end at death. Angels have two of the three, because though their existence is apparently indefinite, they had a clear beginning when they were created, and thus mark a progression from that beginning. God, however, has none of the three: he had no beginning and he will have no end, and thus he cannot progress from anything or to anything. Thus, for God all of eternity must be simultaneous, which can explain how God could know the future and how the distant past could be as yesterday for him. However, others have argued that such an existence is nonsensical, that any being that interacts with creation must interact with it in some form of meaningful progression, otherwise how could God distinguish between creation, crucifixion, and judgment. They argue that though God is not ‘beholden’ to time (i.e. trapped within it’s dauntless progress), he must meaningfully progress from point to point in order to distinguish them in a meaningful way. So this is my question for you today: assuming that a perfect, monotheistic God exists, how would such a being interact with time? I’ve given you three meaningful interpretations to work with, but if you have other ideas feel free to present your own.

As always, write me a story of 1000 words that presents and defends your answer to the question.

3 thoughts on “Philosophy Challenge of the Week

  1. Edward put down the pen. His story was far from finished, but it was finished. Meaning that he had gotten to the end, but as an author he wasn’t satisfied with the product. It would take weeks more of revision, editing, re-reading, maybe even completely changing key points. He wasn’t really satisfied with how Cedric had died yet. Maybe he could make it more meaningful, have longer-lasting impacts.

    Regardless, though, now was a time for sleep. He’d tackle Cedric and the rest in the morning. As he lay down for the night and his consciousness drifted off, his dreams formed around his work. Soon, he found himself in the world he had made, journeying with the adventurers he had crafted. There was Ayla the Unbroken. There was Verseran of Mana. There was Salamandora in all his fiery glory. And he… he was Cedric, the Noble, the Pure, the Glorious. He knew everything that was happening in the story, and he knew that a great author had put it all together for a glorious purpose. He began to tell his companions about this. He told them how the Author had created their world, crafting it from nothing and pulling it into being. He told them how the Author had created their history. Shaping and refining it so that it would produce just this moment. He told them how the Author had created them, each one carefully and lovingly crafted, and how every moment of this journey was shaping them into something wonderful and perfect.

    And then he told them that he had to die. That his death was required for their victory. He assured them that his death wasn’t the end, and they would all be with him again, but they were still afraid. And finally, nobly, as the Promised Hero, Cedric went out and gave his life. His death enacted ancient magic that had been prepared just for this. That magic robbed the enemy of much of their power. The battle was not only winnable, it was easy so long as the others relied on the ancient magic. And Cedric watched on in anticipation, waiting for the moment of his return.

    Edward awoke with a start, but also with ideas. He knew how to make Cedric’s death more meaningful, now. And yes, it would change everything. He’d have to set up a whole other conflict in the ancient past to get the ancient magic into place, but that would add even more flavor to the story! This would be wonderful.

    Ok, no, I don’t really think God is a person writing a story, that He has to eat and sleep and such, just in a different time than ours, but the comparison is useful. When an author writes a story, he writes the story with a timeline. But the author’s perspective of time is completely separate from the story’s. It’s like their perpendicular, that any point in our time can intersect any point in the story’s time, and we can move back and forth as we wish, even understanding the whole story at the very beginning. If we simple, frail, limited humans can do this, what can God do?

    1. Colin, I like the story, and I think that the comparison is very useful. I do think that it’s worth pointing out that the story itself also implies that God is constantly editing the story to fix problems, which implies that his story (and thus he) are continually striving after perfection. However, for the point that you intend to make, I think the comparison is extremely useful.

      1. Yes, I see that implication, but I think that’s mainly down to my own limited imagination as a human. Given the blindingly deep complexity of the universe as we understand it today, and the many mysteries that science has yet to solve directly related to it, I have to imagine that any God that could create this must be beyond all human comprehension in His intelligence, wisdom, and capacity to hold a billion things together in His mind perfectly. So, trying to force such a being into our finite human imaginations is sure to break the accuracy of the image from time to time.

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