The Time Independence of God

by pjamesbeardsley

I’m planning a series of posts in which I lay out Christian responses (though I won’t go as far as to say all-sufficient ‘answers,’ for those who reject the Bible, just Biblical ones) to Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy.  In rereading Russell’s classic yesterday, I was reminded of one attribute of God: His time independence.

Anyone remotely familiar with Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, and most of the other religions) knows that it is not beyond the God (or god) of those faiths to intervene or dwell in whatever universe in which we dwell.   The universe in which we dwell is one of space-time; a 3-dimensional space that combines with time to make a singular mathematical manifold.  What I want to make clear is that the God of Christianity doesn’t have to: His existence is not dependent upon the existence of time.

Some logic:

1. Time (which, for the sake of this will be the dimension of time in which we exist) exists. (axiomatic)
2. Time is either eternal  or time has origin.
3. God exists. (axiomatic)
4. God is either eternal  or God has origin.
5. If a set of events has a property of time ordered sequence, they must exist within time. (axiomatic)
6. If something exists and has origin, there exists a time-ordered sequence of events, at a minimum: the origin event, the event of its present existence.
7. God either must completely exist within time all the time or not, which is to say that either time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence or it’s not.
8.  If time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence, then either time is eternal or God has origin.
9.  If God is eternal, either time is eternal or time need not be a precondition for God’s existence.

Logically, we’re left with very few possibilities.  If God exists, we either have to believe in a created God (by which I mean a God with origin, be it some cosmic incident or actually created by some other ultra-mega god), in eternal time, or in the time independence of God: a God who, while by no means incapable of existing within time, need not necessarily.

Genesis 1:3-5:

 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

By that passage, there is no room to believe that time, again, by which I mean the dimension of time which in tandem with space, forms the space-time in which we exist, is eternal.  There was a first unit of time, meaning time has origin, meaning it is not eternal.

1 Timothy 1:17:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

By that passage (and many others), there is no room to believe that God has origin.  God is eternal.

Therefore the Christian is left with two necessary logical truths: God is time independent and there is existence outside of our space-time manifold.   Indeed, it is in these things that the Christian hopes: that by grace through faith one has union with God, and in that union one has access to eternal life.