God is 'Timeless'?


#1

I’m intrigued by what several posters have said about God being ‘outside of time’ and/or of being ‘timeless’. Is this a part of doctrine?

I can understand that God, as the Creator of all things, is deemed to be outside of the flow of time that we experience in the physical world. But how do we know anything about how, or even if, time is experienced by God? Just because something is outside our time does not necessarily make it timeless, to my way of thinking…Where does this idea of being timeless come from? Could someone please enlighten me?

Many thanks.


#2

Time is a measure of change. God does not change.

I believe St. Augustine first formulated the idea but am open to correction.

-Tim-


#3

God created everything from nothing (the whole universe and all matter), time was created at the beginning moment of this creation. Since God created time he is not subject to it, he is outside of it.


#4

God is Eternal without beginning or end.


#5

Creation is an action that happens in time. Can a period be described when God exists and our universe didn’t? If the answer is yes, then there is something akin to time in which God exists and creates. If the answer is no, then it can be said that there was never a time when our universe didn’t exist.

One cannot say that God is eternal if he is outside of time because eternality denotes time.


#6

This seems like something the human brain is unable to comprehend.


#7

Its a tough concept.

God is imeless in the sense that he is outside time. Time was created as a constructed for the limited intellectual ability of man.

We see everything in a linear fashion, with a starting point, and an ending point.

If we were to apply God on a graphed line of time, he resides (as does everything) not on any one given point on the slope, but entirely in any given single point (the “now”).

This concept of the “eternal now” is why we actually re-present the sacrifice of Jesus, and not merely “represent” it in the Holy Mass…For we are truly standing at the foot of the cross at the time of his passion, and not merely “remembering”

Peace and all good!


#8

As God said to Moses, “I am who am”. If in time, God would have to say, “I am who I was”.


#9

For something the human brain cannot comprehend, I hear a lot of humans speaking quite definitively about it.

If the human brain cannot comprehend a concept then how can we honestly accept it?


#10

The human brain CAN comprehend it, but admittedly it is a difficult concept. Stephen Hawking (of all people - an atheist) helped me to understand. He has a book called “A Brief History of Time” that explains according to the laws of physics that “time” is in fact a “variable”, not a constant. It runs much more slowly in proximity to massive objects and more quickly in the vaccuum of space. This being so, at the beginning (he postulates based on the big bang theory -the concept not the TV show) all matter was in a massive single object. It was so massive that time could not move at all near it. It was not until the big bang i.e. creation, that time began to run.

The First Mover (God) would have existed before the big bang, and would have been the source of the big bang, so he would be outside of time. He remains removed from the physical universe (outside time) because time is extant only in the physical universe, it is in fact a function of matter.

This is consistent with Einsteinian physics which also postulates that time and matter are directly related: E = mc2


#11

No, the human mind cannot fully comprehend it, which is why it’s called a mystery.

As Saint Augustine said, “If you can comprehend it, it’s not God.”

Surely we can contemplate and ponder these mysteries but part of our enjoyment of God as finite beings, is continually exploring God for all eternity.

Surely we can “grasp” certain concepts, like God existing outside of time, but we cannot comprehend eternity fully.


#12

I guess it can come down to a definition of time you are using.

1 indefinite, unlimited duration in which things are considered as happening in the past, present, or future; every moment there has ever been or ever will be

**2 a) 'the entire period of existence of the known universe; finite duration, as distinguished from infinity b) the entire period of existence of the world or of humanity; earthly duration as distinguished from eternity ** **(Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
**
‘Since God is not material, he is not spatially limited. That must be true, for God is the Creator of space and all the constantly changing material things that occupy it. Now, the measure of that change is what we call “time”. Is God in time? Can he be temporally limited?..
God can not be subject to time. For God is the creator of everything that changes, everything that raises a question about its own being. All beings subject to time raise that that question. God cannot be like that.
This unboundedness by time is called “eternity”. Boethius’ famous definition of eternity goes like this: life without limits, possessed perfectly and as a simultaneous whole. His words are very suggestive. But they clearly convey one essential thing: God is not bound by the kind of changing being that time measures. That is what we mean in the first place when we say that God is eternal (nontemporal).
(‘Handbook of Catholic Apologetics’ Peter J. Kreeft, Ronald K.Tacelli, page 99)


#13

From the Angelic Doctor:

Article 4. Whether eternity differs from time?

**Objection 1. **It seems that eternity does not differ from time. For two measures of duration cannot exist together, unless one is part of the other; for instance two days or two hours cannot be together; nevertheless, we may say that a day or an hour are together, considering hour as part of a day. But eternity and time occur together, each of which imports a certain measure of duration. Since therefore eternity is not a part of time, forasmuch as eternity exceeds time, and includes it, it seems that time is a part of eternity, and is not a different thing from eternity.

**Objection 2. **Further, according to the Philosopher (Phys. iv), the “now” of time remains the same in the whole of time. But the nature of eternity seems to be that it is the same indivisible thing in the whole space of time. Therefore eternity is the “now” of time. But the “now” of time is not substantially different from time. Therefore eternity is not substantially different from time.

**Objection 3. **Further, as the measure of the first movement is the measure of every movement, as said in Phys. iv, it thus appears that the measure of the first being is that of every being. But eternity is the measure of the first being–that is, of the divine being. Therefore eternity is the measure of every being. But the being of things corruptible is measured by time. Time therefore is either eternity or is a part of eternity.

On the contrary, Eternity is simultaneously whole. But time has a “before” and an “after.” Therefore time and eternity are not the same thing.

I answer that, It is manifest that time and eternity are not the same. Some have founded this difference on the fact that eternity has neither beginning nor an end; whereas time has a beginning and an end. This, however, makes a merely accidental, and not an absolute difference because, granted that time always was and always will be, according to the idea of those who think the movement of the heavens goes on for ever, there would yet remain a difference between eternity and time, as Boethius says (De Consol. v), arising from the fact that eternity is simultaneously whole; which cannot be applied to time: for eternity is the measure of a permanent being; while time is a measure of movement. Supposing, however, that the aforesaid difference be considered on the part of the things measured, and not as regards the measures, then there is some reason for it, inasmuch as that alone is measured by time which has beginning and end in time. Hence, if the movement of the heavens lasted always, time would not be of its measure as regards the whole of its duration, since the infinite is not measurable; but it would be the measure of that part of its revolution which has beginning and end in time.

Another reason for the same can be taken from these measures in themselves, if we consider the end and the beginning as potentialities; because, granted also that time always goes on, yet it is possible to note in time both the beginning and the end, by considering its parts: thus we speak of the beginning and the end of a day or of a year; which cannot be applied to eternity. Still these differences follow upon the essential and primary differences, that eternity is simultaneously whole, but that time is not so.

**Reply to Objection 1. **Such a reason would be a valid one if time and eternity were the same kind of measure; but this is seen not to be the case when we consider those things of which the respective measures are time and eternity.

**Reply to Objection 2. **The “now” of time is the same as regards its subject in the whole course of time, but it differs in aspect; for inasmuch as time corresponds to movement, its “now” corresponds to what is movable; and the thing movable has the same one subject in all time, but differs in aspect a being here and there; and such alteration is movement. Likewise the flow of the “now” as alternating in aspect is time. But eternity remains the same according to both subject and aspect; and hence eternity is not the same as the “now” of time.

**Reply to Objection 3. **As eternity is the proper measure of permanent being, so time is the proper measure of movement; and hence, according as any being recedes from permanence of being, and is subject to change, it recedes from eternity, and is subject to time. Therefore the being of things corruptible, because it is changeable, is not measured by eternity, but by time; for time measures not only things actually changed, but also things changeable; hence it not only measures movement but it also measures repose, which belongs to whatever is naturally movable, but is not actually in motion.

Summa, I, Q.10, art. 4.


#14

Here’s an interesting article illustrating **Chronos time vs. Kairos **time with regard to the Mass:

ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/REALLYSC.htm


#15

No; time is a characteristic of the created universe. ‘Creation’ – that is, the act of creating the universe – is ‘ex nihilo’ (“from nothing”), according to Catholic teaching. In other words, no created thing preceded the creation of the universe.

Time begins because of creation; it does not precede it.

Can a period be described when God exists and our universe didn’t? If the answer is yes, then there is something akin to time in which God exists and creates.

This seems like your most reasonable argument – that there’s something akin or ‘in place of’ time in eternity. The analogue you’re looking for, though, is ‘eternity’, which has no time.

If the answer is no, then it can be said that there was never a time when our universe didn’t exist.

If the answer is ‘no’, are you asserting that God and the universe are both eternal – that the universe has no beginning? If so, then your definition of ‘God’ is vastly different than the Catholic understanding of Him.

One cannot say that God is eternal if he is outside of time because eternality denotes time.

‘Eternality’ denotes the absence of time.


#16

I disagree with most of your points. But we may have different ideas of what time means. What is your definition of time.

My understanding of eternity, on the other hand, is a timeline that extends in one or more directions infinitely. But it involves the movement of time.


#17

Yep; judging from your definition of eternity – as a timeline – we definitely have different understandings of what ‘time’ is!

What is your definition of time.

I’ll go with Aristotle’s definition, from the Physics: time is the ‘number’ of change, with respect to ‘before’ and ‘after’.

In other words, ‘time’ is explicitly bound up in this material universe; it’s the way we measure change in physical objects.

Therefore, in eternity, when there will be no change, there will likewise be no ‘time’. (I think it was Jeff Cavins who joked, “What did God do before the creation of the universe? Nothing – He didn’t have any Time!” :wink: )

My understanding of eternity, on the other hand, is a timeline that extends in one or more directions infinitely. But it involves the movement of time.

Right – one way to think about eternity is the fact that it is infinite. Yet, it’s timeless, and not countable. Eternity isn’t about counting the years, minutes, or seconds – it’s about being in a perfect eternal ‘now’.


#18

The part in red is well put.

-Tim-


#19

Disclaimer: I cannot read nor write… so I cannot contribute to this thread.


#20

Thank you to all the contributors so far. Only TimothyH has suggested where the idea of God’s timelessness comes from - namely St Augustine, on the basis that God does not change. Is that all we have? This begs the question of where the assertion that God does not change comes from? When God manifests in the physical world, is He not subject to change from our point of view? To our time-bound senses, is the God of today unchanged from the God of the time of the life of Jesus and unchanged from the God of Old Testament times?

SMOM’s response confuses me a bit:

[quote=SMOM]The First Mover (God) would have existed before the big bang, . . . time is extant only in the physical universe, it is in fact a function of matter.
[/quote]

By your own logic, God cannot be said to have existed before the Big Bang. There was no ‘before’. But maybe this is just a limitation of human language.

Furthermore, how do we know that “time is extant only in the physical universe”? Are you asserting that time, by definition, can only exist in a physical universe? Or that time, as we perceive and measure it, only exists in our physical universe and nowhere else? If there was a non-material realm/universe/dimension, if there was change, could there not also be some sort of time?

For example, dreams are a physical phenomenon, but an imaginary world in which a dream occurs is not physical. In a dream there is a sort of time. Events happen in sequence. I can therefore postulate a non-physical state of pure thought in which some sort of time would operate.

Perhaps I can formulate my underlying question in this way: Just because God is not subject to the same sort of time as we are in the physical world, what justification do we have for believing that God is not ever subject to any sort of time? If it is just that God does not change, what is the justification for that assertion?


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