Reply to John ZuHone

I had a talk with John ZuHone over divine timelessness on Roger E. Olson’s blog. Olson then decided, for whatever reason, that the conversation had run its course and removed my reply to John, effectively ending the discussion on John’s last post.

The conversation so far.

Here’s the post that Olson removed:

My apologies for misunderstanding! In an effort to understand what’s going on, I’m going to summarize what I’ve seen so far, and you can tell me where I’m confused (if you still think I am).

You said, “If we are prepared to argue the divine being possesses time, then we are forced to admit he possesses space as well [and, I assume, all the other baggage to which we’d prefer not to anchor God].”

This is in the form of an argumentum ad absurdum; if we admit X, then unsavory thing Y pops out.

But you then caught yourself, recognizing that there are senses in which he could possess time — for instance, having a property G-Timeness which is like timeness in some ways, unlike in other ways (perhaps, conveniently and by way of special pleading, unlike in all ‘Y’ ways) — which would break the bridge between antecedent-and-consequent in the conditional put forth by that a.a.a. argument.

This is what prompted you to say, “Perhaps you can say God has a time that isn’t the same as our own [as a solution to the a.a.a. dilemma put forth].”

You hedged against this “out” by saying that a different kind of time would be for all practical purposes the same as being timeless — that is, while it works as a solution to this a.a.a., there are a whole pile of potential a.a.a.s for which this would not be a solution. (So, I wouldn’t call this a “throwaway line”; something like this is necessary to preserve the dilemma of your original a.a.a.)

But then your clarification entailed something much weaker (than the brazen inference of which I wrongly accused you): that G-Timeness is ambiguous. G-Timeness becomes as much of a hand-wave as “timelessness.” In both cases, we cannot build positive, coherent theological arguments thereupon. The most we could do, like with most sacred mysteries, is act with quietude: If Excitable Ed decides that “God is timeless” entails reckless claim A, B, and C, we can say, “Calm down, Ed,” and “A, B, and C contradict our shared dogmas !A, !B, and !C.”

If (and this is a big “if”) my summary here is correct, then we can agree on that last paragraph. But if we agree on that last paragraph, then I’m a happy armchair theologian who doesn’t see any remaining problem at play, regarding physics or revelation or anything else.

In other words, relativity theory precludes many possible proposals, but also fails to preclude many possible proposals, and in the latter set, there are some that could be called “timelessness” and others “G-Timeness.” Many of these proposals are consonant with shared dogma (by which I mean creedal consensus in revelation and science). Our job is to prune the list of proposals to that which are consonant in that way, and then remain content with “more than one possible proposal remains” under quietude.

John, if you’re interested in continuing our conversation, we can do so here (or not!).


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