Are the Past and the Future Real? [Akin]

http://jimmyakin.com/wp-content/uploads/Akin-ETERNITY3-300x228.jpgSome people think that only the present is real and that the past and the future don’t exist.

This view—known as “presentism”—encounters problems if God exists changelessly, outside of time in an “eternal now” alongside the changing “temporal now” that we exist in.

We looked at some of these problems recently. For example:

[LIST=1]
*]God’s changeless knowledge of what is real would seem to change if only the present is real and the current time changes from one moment to another. Thus, at one point God would know that 12:01 a.m. is the only real moment, but later he would know that 12:02 a.m. is the only real moment, and so on.
*]God’s changeless knowledge of what is real also seems to change as the contents of the universe assume different configurations over time. Thus, at a point shortly after creation, God would know that stars and planets are not yet real, but later he would know that stars and planets are
*]God’s creative/conserving action seems to change in that he must stop conserving one configuration of things in the universe to allow another to come to pass. Thus, he must first create/conserve the universe in one condition (such as before stars and planets exist) and then stop conserving it in this state so that a new condition (when stars and planets do exist) can come about.
[/LIST]
None of these would be problems if God were inside of time like we are and thus capable of changing in his actions and his knowledge of what is real.

But the Church teaches that God is outside of time and changeless.

These aren’t the only problems with the idea only that the present exists. Here are two more . . .

New Creations from Nothing

Not only does God conserve everything in existence, it seems that God engages in a form of ongoing creation from nothing. In 1950, Pius XII taught that:

[T]he Catholic Faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God (*Humani Generis *36).

Our souls thus are not inherited from our parents the way our bodies are. They are “immediately created by God.”

Furthermore, this teaching is understood to exclude the idea that our souls exist before conception.

If that’s the case, then for the vast majority of the history of the universe, God had not created your soul, or mine.

Then, all of a sudden, he started creating/conserving us, beginning at the moments of our conceptions.

Bang! New creations—apparently ex nihilo—long after the initial creation of the world.

But if the only moment that exists is the present, that would mean God accomplished *our *creation at a different time than he created the world.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be simultaneously creating/conserving both the physical world and our souls.

But if presentism is true and only the present moment of time exists then when God created the world there would be no other place in time to put our souls except its first moment, and our souls would have had to exist at the beginning of the universe.

The Incarnation

Now let’s consider the Incarnation of God’s Son.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be incarnating as Jesus Christ.

But when in time is he incarnating?

If only the present is real then, when God created the universe, God would have had to incarnate at that moment. There was no other time in which the Son could incarnate.

The Incarnation of Christ in Mary’s womb would thus have taken place before the stars were formed, before life was created, and before Mary herself was created.

The only way around this would be to say either that God is not outside of time—so that he could create the universe and then, long ages later, change his mode of action so that he became incarnate—or that there is more than one real moment of time.

The Growing Block Theory

We’ve seen that problems arise if only the present moment of time is real, but that isn’t the only view of time.

Another is the “growing block” theory of time, according to which both the past and the present (but not the future) are real. Time is like a block that grows with the course of events, with the present at the leading edge of the block.

What if this theory is true? Would it encounter similar problems?

We’d need to rephrase some of them, but the same fundamental problems would arise. For example, consider the initial puzzle about God’s knowledge of what times are real.

If we asked this question at the first moment of creation, it would turn out that:

[LIST]
*]In the eternal now, God knows that at the first moment of creation that 12:01 a.m. is real and 12:02 a.m. is not
[/LIST]
But if we waited a minute and asked the same question, it would turn out that:

[LIST]
*]In the eternal now, God knows that both 12:01 a.m. and 12:02 a.m. are real.
[/LIST]
Again, we’ve got a problem with God possessing changeless knowledge of what is real, because that knowledge would need to continually change as new moments arrive and get added to the “growing block” of real moments.

The same is true of all the other puzzles, such as God changelessly incarnating in Mary’s womb from the eternal now when only the first moment of time was real, long before Mary even existed.

Positing the growing block theory thus does not get us around the difficulties.

Eternalism

What about eternalism?—the view that all moments of history are real and the present (the temporal now) is simply the moment we are presently experiencing?

This view solves all of the puzzles:

[LIST=1]
*]In the eternal now, God changelessly knows all of the moments of time he is creating. Thus he knows that 12:01 a.m., 12:02 a.m., 12:03 a.m., and all subsequent moments are real.
*]In the eternal now, God changelessly knows the configuration of all of the matter and energy in the universe at every moment of its history—and he knows that these configurations are real at the different points in time he is creating.
*]In the eternal now, God simultaneously creates/conserves everything in creation, including all of the different configurations of what the universe contains at different
*]In the eternal now, God changelessly creates both the world and our individual souls, but because all times in history are real, he is able to put the creation of the world at one point and the creations of our souls at much later points.
*]In the eternal now, God is changelessly incarnating as Jesus of Nazareth, but because all times in history are real, he is able to place the beginning of the world at one point and the moment of the Incarnation at a later point.
[/LIST]

Conclusion

In view of the problems with presentism and the growing block theory, I find myself concluding that we have good theological reasons for saying that the past, present, and future are all real, and that God creates all of history all at once from his eternal perspective.

This view is also supported*by modern physics and by various philosophical arguments.

I don’t agree with everything said by every eternalist. In particular, I reject the claim made by some—particularly among physicists and philosophers—that time is “an illusion” or that it doesn’t pass. Both of these claims are manifestly untrue, and eternalists shoot themselves in the foot when they say such things.

I also recognize that not all theologians, philosophers, and physicists agree with eternalism.

The Church doesn’t have an official teaching on this, and, as I’ve mentioned, orthodox Catholics have different positions on it.

However, I personally don’t see how to get around the puzzles I’ve mentioned here if only the present (or the present and the past) are real.

I thus conclude there are good theological reasons for eternalism.

(Go to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)

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More…

We know that in His Nature/Essence and in His acts, God is immutable.
He IS in one eternal act of ISSING.
He’s infinitely dynamic.
He’s infinitely still.
From God’s perspective everything is eternal, including all of His creation; so what you call eternalism has to be the only answer.
He knows (everything) in one eternal act of knowing (everything). That has to include future as well as past and present.
He everythings in one eternal act of everythinging.
Anything else makes God subject to time. So He wouldn’t be immutable.

“Above my pay grade.”!!! :blush:
Thanks Obama!
Once bitten…

Hi. St. Augustine dealt with the subject of time, in Confessions.

He spoke about this exact subject.

This view—known as “presentism”—encounters problems if God exists changelessly, outside of time in an “eternal now” alongside the changing “temporal now” that we exist in.

I don’t see any you deem the concept of a changeless God outside of time to be a disconnect from the temporal existence of human life (from within time).

We looked at some of these problems recently. For example:

[LIST=1]
*]God’s changeless knowledge of what is real would seem to change if only the present is real and the current time changes from one moment to another. Thus, at one point God would know that 12:01 a.m. is the only real moment, but later he would know that 12:02 a.m. is the only real moment, and so on.

You need to counter the known truth that He doesn’t change, not the other way around.

The idea is to not think from human-perspective. Time is not so much linear, as we perceive, but rather a growing awareness that leads to a holy death, then new life. Think more in terms of the continuous present. Our souls do not only have one aspect to them. The intellect - the higher knowledge; the port, if you like, through which light is given - reaches to God, outside of time, and it has to, for our souls to reach beyond the temporal existence we are in. Therefore, we experience growth, as human beings, as a measurement of time, yet the eternal present resides in us, as a continuous state, through which we measure, subjectively, up against an objective supernatural, eternally present reality.

IOW, within each passing moment (in ‘time’) is God, ever present, ever still, each moment being of God.

Time passes as soon it reaches us. Because, how long is time? Is it a second, a millisecond, or is it ten seconds? Is time a milli-milli second? Time is merely a measurement of the passing present moment, through which we can experience the eternal present. And when time has passed, it has gone, only to remain as a part of the individual memory and collective memory. The future is just a hope of good tidings for the present, and as soon as it arrives - sometimes never as we thought because human estimation is to some degree in the abstract (without Wisdom) - it has already passed. Meaning that time itself, is for the most part just a sensation of the growing created world, which we use to measure our movement, with the only meaning to be found within (in our souls), that relates to the exterior world around us, and the eternal present in others, and so giving meaning to it, relationally. So the meaning from within our souls, from the eternal present, nourishes our experience of the temporal existence, in which we live in the created world…

Therefore, the created world - with us in it - is all in God via the eternal present (even vegetative life has one aspect of the human soul (‘vegatative’). The fact that life appears to be linear is only a meausurement to explain why it is that things move and grow, through and from and in the eternal present.

*God’s changeless knowledge of what is real also seems to change as the contents of the universe assume different configurations over time. Thus, at a point shortly after creation, God would know that stars and planets are not yet real, but later he would know that stars and planets are

If God is the eternal present, then He Willed everything in one go. So Creation seems to move and change, but it has already been created because it all exists through and within the eternal present.

God knows everything that is and has been, and will be, because He already created it, and it is all a reflection of Himself, to varying degrees. All movement to Him, has already been in Him, because, He is the Beginning and the End, of Creation (time). The only thing that remains after time, is Him, and those who are with and in Him, for eternity, in His eternal presence…

*]God’s creative/conserving action seems to change in that he must stop conserving one configuration of things in the universe to allow another to come to pass. Thus, he must first create/conserve the universe in one condition (such as before stars and planets exist) and then stop conserving it in this state so that a new condition (when stars and planets do exist) can come about.

He already willed it. He spoke The Word. And the Word was God. The Word was and IS life, that encompasses all things, and can found in them.

[/LIST]
None of these would be problems if God were inside of time like we are and thus capable of changing in his actions and his knowledge of what is real.

They would, because God cannot make changeable things to work out exactly as He has determined, if He Himself, is changeable. There needs to be an all-knowing, non-changing being, in order that chaos can turn to order eventually, with all things returning back to love.

But the Church teaches that God is outside of time and changeless.

This is correct. But remember the Holy Trinity is a mystery, and so what we perceive as movement, on this earth, cannot be properly understood when thinking about a supernatural identity, but only to say, that within the Trinity there is perfect unity. As if the very power of perfect and pure unity, itself, has created its own eternal accord within Himself, who IS, where movement is not time-based, but knowledge-based i.e:- Perfect Love - The Word.

…response to second part:

These aren’t the only problems with the idea only that the present exists. Here are two more . . .

New Creations from Nothing

Not only does God conserve everything in existence, it seems that God engages in a form of ongoing creation from nothing.

All things pass. In time. Already created. There is a passage in Scripture that speaks of God - who is God speaking through the Prophet - saying, that this very moment He has made something new happen, so that we can not say we made it up with our own stubborn minds. New things were created this very moment. It is in Isaiah. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that, if anything was made this very moment, that with God being the eternal present, it has already been made from within the eternal presence. All encompassing. It has come to pass, now, within time, from Him, in which time resides. In our temporal existence, we perceive this new thing, as having been made just this moment, in time. But the source of this new thing, is not itself changing although eternally dynamic. And so it is made and has been made. As a part of Christ.

In 1950, Pius XII taught that:

[T]he Catholic Faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God (*Humani Generis *36).

Our souls thus are not inherited from our parents the way our bodies are. They are “immediately created by God.”

The same applies. God is making said-new soul, from His eternal presence. He doesn’t change. He has already Willed Creation into being when He spoke the Word and through The Word all things came to be. In God, we have the Beginning and the End. So if He makes, He already made. There is no, unknowing. Nothing new for God. New for us. He is ALL-knowing. We are not.

Furthermore, this teaching is understood to exclude the idea that our souls exist before conception.

Our being existed in Christ, in the mind of God, as part of His Plan. Because God had His Church in Mind, from the Beginning. He willed once, and it came to be. And we are born at the time that is our time to live. This is a conversation in itself.

If that’s the case, then for the vast majority of the history of the universe, God had not created your soul, or mine.

Our soul in God, finds its existence in time, when it is that we are to exist, in Him, from His eternal presence. So while there is no change in what God knows, the perfect relational unity within Himself, comes to expression, through Christ, at a perceived given moment in Creation, as a new happening, which He has already created, through The Word. So He creates but has created. All-encompassing what we would see as the past, present and future. The supernatural dimension is not the same theory of measurement as time.

Then, all of a sudden, he started creating/conserving us, beginning at the moments of our conceptions.

The Church was in His Mind from the beginning. Think in terms of delivery. Whilst conception comes to be through Christ, as a part of Christ, in Him, into time, as parts of His Mystical Body, this does not affect in any way, any Person of the perfectly unified, Holy Trinity.

Bang! New creations—apparently ex nihilo—long after the initial creation of the world.

The initial creation and the ‘new creation’ with all parts included are from the same eternally present source.

But if the only moment that exists is the present, that would mean God accomplished *our *creation at a different time than he created the world.

God existed all things, in Him, not outside of Him.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be simultaneously creating/conserving both the physical world and our souls.

The physical world has been made and our souls are to be born from within Himself.

But if presentism is true and only the present moment of time exists then when God created the world there would be no other place in time to put our souls except its first moment, and our souls would have had to exist at the beginning of the universe.

The beginning of the universe is not the beginning of God. He is the Beginning and the End. Time is in Him. When we are born, we are born, in time, as an expression of God’s Love, through the Eternal Christ, which all of Creation reflects. And within time, we perceive our existence, as now. Our souls, however, are rooted to outside of time (think of the term ‘channel of grace’), from within. But this does not mean that our souls existed at the beginning of the universe; what it does mean, is that we were always meant to be born, as a part of Christ’s Mystical Body, at some point. So He creates, but has created. All knowing. All encompassing. Not linear.

The Second Person is in perfect relational unity, with the other two Persons, who through His resurrection, all life comes to find perfect relational unity. Think of God as knowing all possibilities that could come to pass and that already knew - for Him, time has already passed. In fact, there is no passing, for God. All change resides in Him, the unchanging God. Any manifestation already existed in His Will, because He is not subject to time. And His Will, IS God.

…response to last bit…

The Incarnation

Now let’s consider the Incarnation of God’s Son.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be incarnating as Jesus Christ.

God is Three Persons, in One God. Jesus’ Divine Will was not susceptible to change. But He was also human. So His humanity, fused with His Divine Will, was subject to growth, whilst Willed from the Beginning (preempting the Fall, to save mankind), and yet His Divine Will, was ever-present. So these wonders happened in the Eternal Present of the Divine Will, while in time as we see it, this was happening as expressions of…love, of the Divine Will. This is one reason we can say that Christ literally took our sins on His shoulders. Even after the events. This is why you can have a relationship with Jesus, actually in Scripture. Not just relate to Him, but be with Him, in Scripture, spiritually. Souls can unite to His Passion.

God IS, always, the Eternal Present. While Jesus Christ, He was still the Divine Person, outside of time. So in time He was born but outside of time

But when in time is he incarnating?

In the passing experience of growth, or deepening. which we interpret as time, He was the Eternal Present, in which all of history, before and after, is given its colour, from Incarnation to Resurrection. It is not so much about when was He born in time, because then we say that Christ took on flesh, The Word became Flesh, over two thousand years ago; rather, we can say, in the growing, and seemingly passing phenomena that we experience as life, that we lived amongst the very mystical reality, the meaning behind all of existence, God’s Son, who was born within His own Creation. He was the porthole (as a Dominican once preached). He was the underpinning of everything that was realized, from within Himself, the foundational layer to an otherwise dead existence.

If only the present is real then, when God created the universe, God would have had to incarnate at that moment. There was no other time in which the Son could incarnate.

If God is all-encompassing, then He spoke the Word, and all of Creation, that is a reflection of Him, came to be, until eventually, within our concept of time, the realisation of life came to fullness, in the Person of Christ.

The Incarnation of Christ in Mary’s womb would thus have taken place before the stars were formed, before life was created, and before Mary herself was created.

Christ was there in the Beginning, as the Second Person, and His birth as a Human-Divine Child was Willed from the Beginning (preempting the Fall), when the Word (Eternal Wisdom) was spoken (and also think infinite truths making up the One). Mary’s Immaculate Conception would also have to have been Willed, in order for Christ to come to us, in the most perfect way, meaning that her existence, as unique, also was spoken, but as part of the Word being spoken, whilst being the human Mother of The Word. I think what you are asking is: how does our concept of the movement of time relate to the eternal presence. And one would say that God, outside of time, does not need to move, in order for Creation to experience what is perceived as time. All of life is a reflection of God’s eternal presence that is eternal and forever. Christ, as a Person of the Trinity, could be in time while being outside, in the eternal presence of His Father. What came before Christ, or after, was subject to Him and through Him.

The only way around this would be to say either that God is not outside of time—so that he could create the universe and then, long ages later, change his mode of action so that he became incarnate—or that there is more than one real moment of time.

God encompasses infinite possibilities that would be known as truths within His whole, which is Truth, finding expression in His Son.

The Growing Block Theory

We’ve seen that problems arise if only the present moment of time is real, but that isn’t the only view of time.

Another is the “growing block” theory of time, according to which both the past and the present (but not the future) are real. Time is like a block that grows with the course of events, with the present at the leading edge of the block.

What if this theory is true? Would it encounter similar problems?

We’d need to rephrase some of them, but the same fundamental problems would arise. For example, consider the initial puzzle about God’s knowledge of what times are real.

If we asked this question at the first moment of creation, it would turn out that:

[LIST]
*]In the eternal now, God knows that at the first moment of creation that 12:01 a.m. is real and 12:02 a.m. is not
[/LIST]
But if we waited a minute and asked the same question, it would turn out that:

[LIST]
*]In the eternal now, God knows that both 12:01 a.m. and 12:02 a.m. are real.
[/LIST]
Again, we’ve got a problem with God possessing changeless knowledge of what is real, because that knowledge would need to continually change as new moments arrive and get added to the “growing block” of real moments.

The same is true of all the other puzzles, such as God changelessly incarnating in Mary’s womb from the eternal now when only the first moment of time was real, long before Mary even existed.

Positing the growing block theory thus does not get us around the difficulties.

The past exists in God alone because He is the God of History. The past is real to us as a consequence for the now, as far as our minds can compute, and so for recollection and growing purposes. We can’t live in the past temporally and so it does, now, only exist in God. The eternal present source.

Eternalism

What about eternalism?—the view that all moments of history are real and the present (the temporal now) is simply the moment we are presently experiencing?

How long is a moment? Is a moment a few seconds etc…the only reality is God and all of this is an expression of His Will.

This view solves all of the puzzles:

[LIST=1]
*]In the eternal now, God changelessly knows all of the moments of time he is creating. Thus he knows that 12:01 a.m., 12:02 a.m., 12:03 a.m., and all subsequent moments are real.

God IS the Eternal Now. And within Him, all of Creation unfolds. From within God, comes life from nothing. Think of God as a circle and life as a dot in the middle. As the apple of His eye.

*]In the eternal now, God changelessly knows the configuration of all of the matter and energy in the universe at every moment of its history—and he knows that these configurations are real at the different points in time he is creating.

In terms of creating, one can think of God as self-manifesting or manifested, which, because He IS God, means He is all-giving. From within the dynamic Trinity, life flows forth, though He remains unchanged, within Himself. But He already knows them because they came from Him. If He knew them just at that point, then that would mean He didn’t know them before, which He does.

*]In the eternal now, God simultaneously creates/conserves everything in creation, including all of the different configurations of what the universe contains at different

While I responded to you by saying that He creates and has created; ultimately, this means that all things come from His Perfect relational Unity of Eternal Presence.

*]In the eternal now, God changelessly creates both the world and our individual souls, but because all times in history are real, he is able to put the creation of the world at one point and the creations of our souls at much later points.

If God were to be continually creating, there would be multiple universes. Souls live when they are to live, within Creation, through Christ, already in the Will of God, as parts of Christ’s Body. Already spoken, in The Word. Time holds no eternal substance, in of itself. Other than the fact that there are souls, made in the image of God, and in God.

*]In the eternal now, God is changelessly incarnating as Jesus of Nazareth, but because all times in history are real, he is able to place the beginning of the world at one point and the moment of the Incarnation at a later point.
[/LIST]

Same answer. Think: Eternal Wisdom.

The creation of the world and the creation of the souls are all a refelction of l of Christ.

Conclusion

In view of the problems with presentism and the growing block theory, I find myself concluding that we have good theological reasons for saying that the past, present, and future are all real, and that God creates all of history all at once from his eternal perspective.

The past, present and future is always real, but to whom?

This view is also supported*by modern physics and by various philosophical arguments.

I don’t agree with everything said by every eternalist. In particular, I reject the claim made by some—particularly among physicists and philosophers—that time is “an illusion” or that it doesn’t pass. Both of these claims are manifestly untrue, and eternalists shoot themselves in the foot when they say such things.

I don’t think you are being specific in your terms here. Again, what is ‘time’?

And therefore, what is meant by ‘passing’?

What is meant by ‘illusion’? It can’t be an illusion while also stating that the present is all we have; yet still, what and how long, is the present? Is it, a minute, an hour, or a second only? Time is a measurement, not an illusion. Life is not an illusion but an living expression.

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