God is 'Timeless'?


#21

Yes, the God who created the universe is the same exact God at the time of Christ and will bring the world to fulfillment at the end of time. The God of the Old Testament has not changed. God changes people’s minds, changes the weather, causes kings to fall, and acts upon his creation but he himself does not change.

But he is unchangeable and who can turn him?
What he desires, that he does.

(Job 23:13)

For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)

God is perfect. God is complete. The only way for a perfect, complete being to change is to become less than perfect or less than complete.

An unchanging God is what we profess when we pray the Glory Be - as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. The monks say, “The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages.”

And, "Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of thy hands;
they will perish, but thou remainest;
they will all grow old like a garment,
like a mantle thou wilt roll them up,
and they will be changed.
But thou art the same,
and thy years will never end."

(Hebrews 1:10-12)

I think St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about an unchanging God in the Summa.

-Tim-


#22

St Augustine discusses time in his “Confessions”.
newadvent.org/fathers/110111.htm

C S Lewis had a good description of time something like:
If time is points on a line, we live them one at a time one after another, but God simply sees the whole line as one.
Here it is in “Mere Christianity”:
lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt_with-big-pictures.html#31
Go to book IV section 3 “Time and Beyond Time”

Eternity is not simply a very long time, like my day at work is “eternal”. Eternity is maybe best described as time-less-ness.

As a side note, dealing with God’s relationship with time might be the crucially misunderstood concept when struggling with things like suffering, salvation, predestination etc…
“Why didn’t God prevent such and such from happening if he knows all things…”,
as if God is bound by our conception of cause and effect in time.


#23

Implicitly, yes: timelessness is a product of omniscience, and the Bible (generally) represents God as omniscient. See also Aquinas’ Summa, 1.9-10.


#24

Mystophilus, from your reply should I infer that God being outside of time and/or being timeless is not explicitly part of doctrine?


#25

The catechism is a good place to find definitive statements of Catholic belief:

The living God

205 God calls Moses from the midst of a bush that burns without being consumed: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."9 God is the God of the fathers, the One who had called and guided the patriarchs in their wanderings. He is the faithful and compassionate God who remembers them and his promises; he comes to free their descendants from slavery. He is the God who, from beyond space and time, can do this and wills to do it, the God who will put his almighty power to work for this plan.

“I Am who I Am”

206 In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM HE WHO IS”, “I AM WHO AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is - infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the “hidden God”, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.11

207 By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past (“I am the God of your father”), as for the future (“I will be with you”).12 God, who reveals his name as “I AM”, reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them.

God alone IS

212 Over the centuries, Israel’s faith was able to manifest and deepen realization of the riches contained in the revelation of the divine name. God is unique; there are no other gods besides him.24 He transcends the world and history. He made heaven and earth: "They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. . . .but you are the same, and your years have no end."25 In God "there is no variation or shadow due to change."26 God is “HE WHO IS”, from everlasting to everlasting, and as such remains ever faithful to himself and to his promises.

213 The revelation of the ineffable name “I AM WHO AM” contains then the truth that God alone IS. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and following it the Church’s Tradition, understood the divine name in this sense: God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is.


#26

In so far as I am aware, no church has the doctrinal statement “God is timeless”, but that idea is so clearly and repeatedly implicit in the Bible and in Christian tradition (see also Clem456’s quotations from the Catholic catechism) as to be a wholly-orthodox concept.


#27

Clem456, thank you for suggesting certain parts of the catechism. However, I only find that one of the quotes you listed is directly relevant to the assertion that God is timeless or outside of time.

205 … He is the God who, from beyond space and time …

This could be an assertion that God is beyond the space-time that we inhabit, or that God is beyond any sort of space or time. It’s not clear to me, and there is no reference to the scripture from where it is derived.

Another part of the catechism asserts that God is changeless.

212 …In God "there is no variation or shadow due to change”

This is from James 1:17 in the New Testament. But in Exodus 4:14 God became angry with Moses, again in Exodus 32:9 he tells Moses to leave Him alone so that His anger with His people can grow, and in Exodus 32:14 God repented and changed his mind about punishing them. This does not seem to be a description of an unchanging God.


#28

I think the concept of God being outside of time is very well put in the Bible, in the opening of the Gospel of Saint John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Then:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

It expresses the fact that Christ (the Word) existed from the very beginning, is consubstantial with the Father and is with us now; however, when the Word became flesh, He existed with us in our frame of reference, in a specific period in time. But outside of the Incarnation, existed from the very beginning within/as part of God. Eternal, forever, unchangeable.


#29

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” -2 Peter 3:8


#30

OraLabora, where in these two quotes from the Gospel of John does it say anything about God being timeless, outside of time or unchanging? It eludes me.

A priori, your quote from the Second Epistle of Peter suggests to me that God is subject to time, but that it is a very different time to that which we experience in the physical world. Again, this is not an assertion that God is timeless, outside of time or unchanging.


#31

God is subject to nothing, other than His own nature. He existed before anything was created. Using human language words to parse the ultimate nature of God and His creation is a vain endeavor.


#32

You have to analyze the quote a bit. Here’s a quote from a presentation by Fr. Michael Casey (an Australian Trappist) at the last World Oblate’s Congress in 2013, which may help a bit:

Whenever we pray the Angelus, we recite that solemn verse from the
Prologue of the Fourth Gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.This refers, of course, to God’s eternal Word becoming human and thus beginning to exist and act through the human nature that had been assumed. That is to say, within the constraining limits of space and time. The Word was present and active, but immediate in one place only,
and existing from moment to moment. The life-giving Word, the image of the unseen God, became flesh at one era in history and in a single geographical location. The infinite and eternalWord who dwells in inaccessible light became accessible in space and time.

Looking at the verse from John, let’s look at each line in turn:

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. *

In the “beginning” was the Word who was God. Thus he preceded creation. He was outside of the created realm that we live in.

He was in the beginning with God.

Christ existed, consubstantial with God, from the very beginning; Christ therefore is God, the God of creation. But we know Christ from a very specific period in time, when the Incarnated Word dwelt among us. As Fr. Casey says *within the constraining limits of space and time. *. Therefore Christ, consubstantial with God, transcends time, but did acquire our human nature for some 33 years within the constraining limits of space and time some 2000 years ago.

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Everything came through Him. Everything includes time as time, as it was pointed out elsewhere on this thread, is intrinsically tied to matter and matter is part of creation.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,

In order to acquire our human condition and live among us, God became fully human while at the same time retaining his full divinity. However his humanity was constrained by time as it had to be; being human he had to obey the laws physics, biology, relativity, thermodynamics, etc. He lived among us in time. He was not a ghost or a spirit, but fully human living within and by the laws of nature. But the divine part of His nature preceded His human nature eternally and will continue eternally. He is God, so He existed prior to our material world as we know it, as He created it. This would include all the laws that govern our universe including time. He is the Supreme Lawmaker.

Since He was from before creation, He is eternal. He transcends time. Time is part of creation, and the human portion of His existence was constrained by time, with moment of birth, a moment of human death, and a life from moment to moment in between.

It’s hard to put it in words, because the Word transcends human words. As a priori says, He has his own nature. He existed before creation, and any attempt to elucidate that nature is impossible within the limitations of our human minds.


#33

[quote=OraLabora]…any attempt to elucidate that nature is impossible within the limitations of our human minds.
[/quote]

That I can agree with. We do not and cannot really understand the nature of God. I am quite prepared to accept that God is not subject to the time that exists in the physical universe because He exists outside of it. But to the question of whether God is subject to any sort of time, I think the true answer is ‘We don’t know’. But many people confidently assert that God is outside of time (all time, any sort of time) and is therefore unchanging. I don’t see the justification for that.

The God described in the Old Testament, in particular, does not seem to be ‘unchanging’ in any meaningful sense of the word.


#34

The justification for it is that God created all things visible and invisible, “ex-nihilo”, out of nothing. And since all that exists is his creation, he is subject to nothing.
It is not a complicated thing but it is a matter of faith. Since we cannot fully understand God we are asked to hear, to listen, to give our trust and assent. There is no convincing “evidence” for any of this. It’s a matter of faith, not proof.

The Old Testament gives us a very anthropomorphic conception of God. God’s revealing of himself is progressively understood by human beings. Understanding grows and develops. The Old Testament witness of God’s person is not complete or “full”.

In any event, because we understand him so poorly, God’s fullest revealing of himself is in a person, Jesus Christ. Christ is not a book or a logic proof, he is all things personified. Which gives us a good example of what God’s mystery is, since a person can never be fully understood and possessed, as if a physics text or math equation.


#35

God did not create all things visible and invisible, unless He created Himself, or unless we decide arbitrarily that God is not a thing. The limitations of human language, perhaps, or an error in logic.

[quote=clem456]God’s fullest revealing of himself is in a person, Jesus Christ.
[/quote]

If the best revelation of the timeless, unchanging nature of God is the life of Jesus Christ, who was subject to time in the physical world and thus was changing, then I still don’t see sufficient justification for these assertions.

[quote=clem456]There is no convincing “evidence” for any of this. It’s a matter of faith, not proof.
[/quote]

I don’t think that I’m expecting proof, but I was expecting some sort of evidence - scriptural, logical or otherwise. So far I’ve been disappointed.


#36

Evidence of the belief:
gotquestions.org/God-time.html

iep.utm.edu/god-time/

Google.


#37

Thank you, Mystophilus, for these links.

The first link to a website run by a non-denominational Christian organisation contains references to various verses from the Bible. The analogies given in Psalm 90:4 and in 2 Peter 3:8 both suggest to me that God experiences time, but very differently to way that we do. The other references from the Bible given in the article state that God is ‘everlasting’, which could suggest either temporality or timelessness depending on how you interpret that word, or else they do not directly say anything about the issue.

The second link that you kindly gave in your post was very useful. It is from the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, a non-faith based organisation. The article states that: “The traditional view has been that God is timeless in the sense of being outside time altogether; … What may be the dominant view of philosophers today is that he is temporal but everlasting; …”. It goes on to elaborate on these competing theories.

What I conclude from the discussions on this thread is that there seems to be no scriptural or doctrinal basis for asserting that God is timeless, outside of time or unchanging (at least, none has been offered so far). The honest answer about God’s temporality should therefore be ‘we don’t know’. Within philosophy there are several theories about God’s relationship to time.

Thanks again to all those who contributed to this thread.


#38

So what did you conclude about God and time? :slight_smile: The question to me is where did eternal time come from and what is it?


#39

Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea. Therefore, he had a beginning. Anything which has a beginning must exist inside of time.

In the vast collection of deities, Zeus is every bit as valid as Christian, Islamic, Judaic or Norse gods.

In Australian Aboriginal tradition, there is no single “god”. The spirit ancestors live in the trees, valleys, rivers, rocks - indeed, every part of nature, including animals. Because the land is not eternal, those spirit beings cannot be eternal, because they sprang from the earth.

Just to put a different perspective on the matter.


#40

Well Zeus, God, we haven’t defined them let alone time and then combined the two in the infinite universe.

I think time might be the easier to define and an infinite universe with time.


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