How does an eternal act turn into temporal acts?


To elaborate, eternal act, how God sustains the creation, is timeless and is performed at eternal now whereas temporal acts, how the creation is sustained, are temporal and are performed at a specific time.


I’m not quite sure what you mean here


Could we agree that eternal act is one act? Could we agree that temporal acts are a set of acts? The question of this thread is how one act turns into different acts?


Ah I see, I think, in an analogous way, it could be the same way as when I push a table with multiple things on it. I pushed one table in one act but the things ontop of it are multiple and have also moved.

I could be mistaken but a timeless act that includes sustaining the existence of time itself doesn’t seem mutually exclusive with things within space-time


Yes, but for doing that you need a medium, table, which allows you to convert one act to multiple acts. The question then is what is that media in case of eternal act?

I cannot follow you here.


Again, it is analogous. I could also say by moving my arm in a single act I have also displaced the air around it which is composed of multiple molecules. It’s only an analogy and not meant to be equivocal.

Basically you’re asking how Existence itself/Being itself/Actus Purus which is outside of time and space (thus already out of our realm of comprehension and imagination as we only think within time and space) can do multiple things within time by doing an eternal timeless act. It sounds like you’re trying to find “the connection” with outside of time and space and inside of time and space which is something extremely difficult to pinpoint considering our own human limitations


That which transcends something is not just opposed to it, but possess all the perfections that something has. Eternity is more temporal than temporality. Eternity must be conceived in paradox, that it is both without temporality and with more temporality than the temporality which we experience.

God is superphysical in that he is both opposed to the physical (he lacks a body, he is immobile, etc.), and he is everything perfect about the physical (he is present in space, he can act with the physical, etc,). In a similar way, God is eternal in that he is both opposed to the temporal (he doesn’t obtain his perfection, he doesn’t lose his perfection, etc,), and he is everything perfect about the temporal (he is present in all moments, each with the fixation of the past and the contingency of the future, he act act with the temporary, etc.).

But we already know of acts that are both one act and many acts (building a cabinet is one action, but it is also composed of many different actions, like framing the wood, or screwing). And it doesn’t really make sense to talk about a medium here either.


Eternity is difficult to touch upon because of our human limitations. Eternity is not a special kind of time opposed to other moments like all moments are opposed to all other moments, just as spirit isn’t a special kind of “ghostly” matter. Eternity isn’t a moment at all, but it isn’t opposed to any moment. Similar to how the soul transcends body but is not opposed to it, eternity transcends time but is not opposed to it.

The problem is that we understand things by grasping them through the imagination, and many things are not imaginable. A useful rule of thumb I was taught is that things that are contradictory from the kinds to beings we encounter in our level of existence can be unified and one in higher levels of existing. We actually already know about this from our own transcendence: on the level of substance, two cats are contradictory, but on the level of intellect, two cats are the same thing.

So, even though we draw an opposition between the inside and outside of time, but we don’t realize that such oppositions do not exist in God, and so looking for the place where time and eternity “interacts” is a fool’s errand.

I find that our understanding of eternity is largely based on our experience of transcending time through memory. We must learn that we have to negate much of our experience with our memory if we want to understand what is analogical to eternity in it. This is very difficult, and very easily prone to error, which is why theology is the most difficult science. I know I don’t really understand half of what I just wrote.


I completely agree


to begin with, time is relative, not absolute. The title question is not expressed well. Perhaps for “eternal” you meant “supernatural.”

Well, either way, the Bible is saying that there’s really no sharp division, perhaps no division at all.

If I hit a home run, is that finite or eternal? Anything that happens has an eternal quality about it. The Earth moves so quickly that when I’ve rounded the bases I’m not really where I was when I hit the ball. “Home plate” has moved, too. Not just the Earth, but the sun and the galaxy, also.

As G.K.Chesterton might have quipped, you’ve misunderstood the question. You’ve built a false dichotomy into the question.


And yet you understand it completely.


I began to grasp the idea of eternity when I realized time is nothing more than change.

Since God is the Unchanging Perfect Act, He just needs to be in order to provoque change in creatures that are changeable.

From His perspective, He probably sees all at once, whereas we perceive things step by step, change by change, in an orderly way.


Let me embarrass myself with a stab at this.

Eternity is outside of time and space. Eternity has no duration, no beginning or end. Eternal reality encompasses all time and history.

The Christ Event, is eternity entering time and human history. It happened 2000 years ago and is an event in time. It is an event that happened on earth in time and an event that is central in eternity . That being the case it is an event that encompasses all time and human history. All creation all events in time and space is directed towards and finds it’s true end in that eternal event that entered time and space. In time it happened 2000 years ago. Being an eternal event all events in time and human history before it are a preparation looking foreward to it’s beginning and all history after it, is a looking back to it in preparation for it’s end.


Yes. But we understand the problem well so what is the human limitation?


What you are saying doesn’t make any sense. We either have a temporal phenomena or timeless phenomena. There is no other option.

I am afraid that your example doesn’t fit with the problem that we are dealing with right now. There is of course a medium needed to convert one act to multiple act.


Eternity is timeless. Isn’t it?


Yes. God see things at once and hold things in existence by one act. I am afraid that I cannot see how you answer the question of this thread.


The created universe.

We have a timeless phenomenon, whose effects are felt in temporal phenomena.


No. The created universe is created and sustained by timeless act. The universe is sustained at any given time. You need something which convert the timeless act to multiple temporal act.


No. Look at it this way, without even considering the notion of God sustaining the universe:

  • God creates the universe timelessly
  • The universe is filled with multiple temporal acts
  • If “you need something which converts the timeless act to multiple temporal acts”, then the universe itself could not exist (as it is a container of multiple temporal acts, created timelessly by God).
  • The universe exists.
  • Therefore, your assertion is false.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit