Time Out, Time In: The Divine Transcendence of Time (Part 1)

Alarm clock on wooden table

            For over two millennia, philosophers and theologians alike have debated the nature of God’s eternity and his relationship to time. While a consensus has not been reached, there are two main interpretive camps regarding the eternity of God. On the one hand, the vast majority of thinkers throughout church history have believed that God is timeless, that is, that God exists outside of and is unbound by time. On the other hand, a smaller few have thought of God as everlasting, existing within time. While both camps have exceptional reasons for their positions, both have logical and theological problems. Thus, in this paper, I will argue a new position, namely, that it is most plausible to perceive God as transcendent of time, existing outside of time while nevertheless acting and interacting with humans within time. Put simply, God transcends time yet acts within it. I will proceed henceforth by first underscoring the importance of the debate concerning one’s understanding of God’s eternity. Secondly, I will give my reasons why understanding God as transcendent is superior to viewing him is everlasting or timeless. Thirdly, I will discuss one possible objection to this thesis and attempt to give a solution. Lastly, I will conclude by stating the upshots of holding to the transcendent argument for God’s eternity.


            To begin, one cannot over underscore the immense importance of understanding God’s relationship to time. One reason why understanding God’s eternity is vital is due to the fact that many have discussed, studied, written, and debated this subject. This discussion is and has been vital to theology, philosophy, and the philosophy of religion for centuries from Boethius to Wolterstorff. Secondly, it is vital because God’s eternity intricately relates to the other attributes of God such as his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. For example, the claim that God is omnipotent means that God has power over all things. However, if God is bound and constrained to the realm of time, then he would not therefore also be omnipotent because time would have some sort of power over him. Thus, one can see from this example how understanding God’s eternity (whether he be timeless, everlasting, or transcendent) has vital implications pertaining to the other attributes of God.


            So in the next 3 Parts, I will defend my thesis of divine transcendence (1) by demonstrating the inadequacies of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s and Boethius’ arguments concerning God’s eternity and (2) by setting forth my own argument of God’s transcendence which is somewhat of a middle ground. In Parts 2 and 3, I will begin with asserting the strengths and contributions of their arguments followed by a critical examination of them showing why they are not plausible answers to the question of God’s eternity. Then, in the final Part 4, I will simply put forth my transcendent argument based upon classical theology, answer objections, and state the upshots of the argument.

Next time, in Part 2, I will look at Wolterstorff’s everlasting or Open Theism argument.

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