Science in Christian Perspective
Eternity and the Personal God
Karl M. Busen*
505 Kingston Terrace
Deerfield, IL 60015
From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49.1 (March 1997): 40-49
Response: Drozdek Siemens
The Bible reveals that God is eternal and personal. Theologians and philosophical-minded scientists have suggested that this carries a conflict. If eternity is interpreted as having the property of timelessness, God cannot be personal because a real relationship between God and the world would require a temporal medium. The conflict can be resolved by reasoning that there are two types of time: One is linked to an idea (abstract time) and the other one to human experience (real time). Both times are related by the principle of complementarity, i.e., their concepts are simultaneously exclusive and yet tied together at a higher level of complexity. God as an eternal being would then combine the idea as well as the experience of time in his essence.
Any Christian theology must enunciate a concept of God which is compatible with the text of the Bible. Such a concept can be thought of as a set of attributes of the divine being. Ever since the Gospel of John conceived God as Spirit, Light, and Love, Christian theology has offered various concepts which, though based on Scripture, reflect the different views and interpretations of their times. The most notable set of attributes was established by scholasticism and later became dominant in theism which presumes that there is an absolute, personal God who created the world ex nihilo, maintains it, and is omnipotent, immutable, eternal, etc.
According to Herbert Vorgrimler, more recent debates stress that theism has failed because it does not conform with human experience and cannot withstand scrutiny by logical reasoning. But he sees no reason to either integrate the results of the debates into the concept of a revised theism or reject theism altogether unless the aporiae1 which have emerged, have been properly reflected upon or dealt with. He points out that, in particular, one must take special hermeneutical care when discussing the attributes of God.2
The Bible reveals God as a personal and eternal being. Though we find nothing which describes God directly as a person except passages intimating the Trinity, Scripture gives us enough examples of God as an individual who acts in history, is responsive to the needs of finite beings, and is approachable in prayer. Eternity is linked to the physical world by its association with either timelessness and/or time-related qualities and quantities. The question of what a person or a personal being is has been intensely debated since antiquity; it lies at the root of identity, the ultimate goal of a person's struggle for the inner self.3 In comparison with other attributes, these relate more clearly to the physical world and are, therefore, of more immediate interest to philosophy and science.
The concept of an eternal and a personal God is alleged by some to carry a conflict. After an incipient interpretation of God's eternity as having the property of timelessness, theology gradually found out that this is incompatible with the idea of a personal God. A real relationship between a personal God and the world would require a temporal medium for his actions. Those in the scientific community, who comment or elaborate on God or his nature, have uttered a similar line of reasoning. Many of them belong to the school of Bertrand Russell, the outspoken opponent of Christianity.
The conflict between the two attributes induced theologians to search for an interpretation of eternity which would allow them to reconcile their hermeneutical goals with the biblical pronouncement of God as a person. Correspondingly a number of philosophical-minded scientists also have come to an understanding of eternity which does not exclude the existence of a personal God.
Timeless and Personal?
St. Augustine opens the eleventh book in his Confessions with the words: "Lord, since eternity is yours ... " and continues in Chapter 11 with "... In eternity nothing passes by; everything is present, whereas time cannot be present all at once."4 God's immutable substance exists complete in the indivisible, perfect, and ever complete present of eternity5 and is conceived Platonically as immutable timelessness.6 A century later Boethius defines eternity as "interminabilis possessio vitae simul tota et perfecta." Here nothing is said about time. Eternity is timeless. St. Thomas states similarly that God's eternity has no connection with time. For him time is a quantity which can be divided into infinite intervals or expressed as "now," whereas eternity is not divisible and therefore is a quality unrelated to time.7
About the turn of the thirteenth century, the timelessness doctrine was challenged by the two powerful critics of scholasticism, Duns Scotus and William of Occam. They prefer to speak of an everlasting God and deem it a mistake to divorce God completely from the process of time.8 Among contemporary theologians, Nelson Pike discusses in detail how timelessness relates to the idea of a person.9 He observes that the mental activities of a person can be described by the temporal processes of reflecting, deliberating, anticipating, intending, and remembering. A timeless being neither could engage in these mental activities nor could it act purposefully, i.e., intentionally. Pike notes furthermore, that a timeless being could not be affected or prompted by another and its actions could not be interpreted as a response to something else. "Responses are located in time after that to which they are responses." He concludes that the concept of a timeless being contradicts the definition of a person. God also could hardly be understood as being omnipotent. Pike makes this clear when he writes that he has found "reason to think that a timeless being could not create or preserve a temporally extended universe."10 Brunner outrightly rejects the divinity of Platonism and proposes that God's eternity be a "sovereign rule over Time and the temporal sphere, the freedom of Him who creates and gives us Time" and that, accordingly, God takes part in temporal happenings; indeed reveals himself in historical time as man.11
It is not surprising that contemporary philosophers and scientists who reflect on man's fundamental religious apprehensions are joining the debates about the concept of God. After World War I, Alfred North Whitehead developed his metaphysical system of ideas "which brings the aesthetic, moral, and religious interests into relation with those concepts of the world which have their origin in natural science."12 The impact of his work on philosophy, theology, and the theory of science is still growing. Whitehead postulates that time and locations are a necessary part of every metaphysical situation. Therefore any reality, including the divine reality, must be related to at least one point somewhere in space and time. This relationship offers an understanding of God's action in the world but it also implies the ideas of a changing and developing God. The idea does not negate his perfection. His perfection is relative in the sense that he only can surpass himself at every stage of his development and can become more perfect than every other actuality, whose absolute perfection is compromised by temporalities.13 Whitehead's approach to the concept of God enables theologians to use personalistic language which expresses mutual communication and God's influence in the world, thus confirming the theistic principle of an individual God who is with us in time and space.14 The principle of immutability, however, can no longer be maintained.
It is important to mention Paul Davies whose books have found worldwide attention and have been referred to by many prominent authors who yoke science and religion. In his book, God and the New Physics, Davies examines all the traditional arguments for God's existence and attributes, and criticizes them for their inconsistency with the insights of modern physics. He concludes that an eternal God is timeless and cannot be personal.15 This would mean that we cannot approach God in prayer and that "... a number of important traditional attributes of God lose coherence and meaning ... "16
To say that this book is a challenge to conservative Christianity and Bible literalism is to be guilty of gross understatement. It could be more easily dismissed if its author were just another carping critic of Christianity and if he were using, say, geology or biology as a platform for launching his attack. But Davies cannot be categorized as an atheist or as anti-religious, and his platform is the foundation of all other sciences ...17
Time and Events
The concept of time seems to be simple, but closer examination reveals that from antiquity to the present attempts to define it have been intricate and tedious.18 For the following discussion, we select the concepts presented by David Park and Carl Friedrich von Weizs”cker. Park distinguishes between two types of time. He calls the time of physical theory which appears in the equations of dynamics and is registered by a clock, Time 1, and the time of human consciousness, Time 2.19 Time 1 is not tense-related. The equation x = vt, for example, where x is the distance a body having constant velocity v travels during time t, does not convey any information about the past, present, or future of the temporal process. It just tells us what the specific traveling distance is, when t is a certain number.20
Consciousness is the total content of our direct experiences. The latter give us a sense of temporal awareness which in turn leads to the abstract notion of Time 2. "We have no sensory apparatus which provides knowledge of temporal relationships as we do have senses which provide knowledge of spatial relationships. Our experience is always within the ... `present' and even our memories are present phenomena."21 Normally we don't even notice our state of self-absorption, characterized by the unawareness of moments. Only when we self-consciously examine our current sense impressions (direct experience) and our state of mind do we find that our memory "enables us to compare that which is to that which was." This discrimination, based on our memory, implies a "sense" of what we call past and constitutes a temporal awareness "or construction of time."22 Another element in this construction is anticipation and the awareness of a change within the present (as the moving hand of a clock). Park in particular looks at the process by which sense impressions are organized into a perception of objects and situations.
The kind of consciousness to which this leads is what I have called Time 2, the sense that objects move and situations develop: The flow of events, viewed always from the perspective "I, here, [presently]" ... In this state of consciousness we are not conscious of time at all; in fact, as soon as we focus attention on the experience of time, we begin to see events against a linear scale, marked off with hours or dates, on which the consciousness of a particular moment is registered as a point.23
Von Weizs”cker's approach to the nature of time is identical. He distinguishes between a time concept which is void of the "modes," present, past, and future, and a time concept which is characterized by modes. He notes that physicists prefer the use of the first concept for an "objective" description of nature over the use of the second concept for a "subjective" description of nature. There are circumstances, however, where the first time concept is not sufficient for the depiction of certain temporal relationships in physics. Probability, for example, implies a prediction or a statement about the future.24 Quantum theory can be thought of as a general theory of probability predictions for empirically determinable alternatives.25 We know today that the second law of thermodynamics tells us that everywhere in the past, where a reliable evaluation by humans took place, the entropy of a closed system either increased with time or stayed constant.26 We find here, that mind-dependent concepts (future, past) are involved in the formulation of two fundamental findings of physics.
...it is the
perception of external or internal events
by our consciousness which leads to what we call experience.
It is therefore primarily the event which conveys the notion of time.
It was noted earlier that direct experiences lead to temporal awareness. A more specific interpretation would state that it is the perception of external or internal events by our consciousness which leads to what we call experience. It is therefore primarily the event which conveys the notion of time. Von Weizs”cker defines an event as the cognizance of a contingent attribute of an object at a certain time.27 On the other hand, according to Einstein's preferred definition, an event is a point representing a specific set of values of the three dimensions of space and the time. It can also be, in a wider sense, something that occurs at such a point. Accepted terminology defines an occurrence at a given point in the space-time continuum as a "physical event." From the viewpoint of an observer, a physical event can either be experienced presently or be said (in good conscience) to have taken or going to take place.28 A physical event thus may be perceived as having the attributes, "simultaneous with," "earlier than," or "later than," and may be characterized by a time coordinate in the present, the past, or the future. This is obviously Park's Time 2. Synonymous with Park's Time 1 and Time 2 are von Weizs”cker's objective and subjective time respectively.
In March 1954, Einstein wrote in a letter: "For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one."29 Frank Tipler's Omega Point theory advances a similar thought. Tipler suggests that
in effect all the different instants of universal history are collapsed into the Omega point; "duration" for the Omega point can be regarded as equivalent to the collection of all experience of all life that did, does, and will exist in the whole of universal history, together with all non-living instants. This duration is very close to the idea of aeternitas of Thomist philosophy.30
Both quotations above are different versions of Augustine's thought at the beginning of "Timeless and Personal?" on page 2. God knows things "timelessly," all at once. For him the past, present, and future of the world are known instantly.
Eternity and Complementarity
In the section, "Timeless and Personal?" eternity was assumed to be "timeless." Closer examination shows that this characterization is problematic. The Platonic eternity of God (The Living Being) appears at first sight to be devoid of Time 2:
...He set out to make the universe resemble it in this way too as far as was possible. The nature of the living Being was eternal, and it was not possible to bestow this attribute fully on the created universe; but he determined to make a moving image of eternity, and so when he ordered the heavens he made in that which we call time an eternal moving image of the eternity which remains forever at one.31
It appears equally difficult to relate Augustine's concept of eternity to Time 2 because
we think of eternity in a temporal way, despite the fact that the perfect and immutable substance of God, whose duration is eternal, has no succession in itself and exists complete in the indivisible, perfect, and ever complete present of eternity. We can say that although eternity does not precede time in a temporal way, it is prior to time as its cause, and unless eternity existed, there would be no time, ..."32
God knows things "timelessly,"
all at once. For him the past, present, and future
of the world are known instantly.
The reason for the difficulty is that Augustine thinks of Time 2 in psychological terms and is not aware "of the dynamical laws [of physics] that find their natural expression in terms of Time ..."33 Boethius' definition of eternity suggests timelessness but he also concludes with Plato
that God ought not to be considered as older than the created world in extent of time, but rather in the property of the immediacy of his nature. The infinite changing of things in time is an attempt to imitate this state of the presence of unchanging life, but since it cannot portray or equal that state it falls from sameness into change, from the immediacy of the present into the infinite extent of past and future.34
These quotations suggest that (created) Time 2 proceeds from an eternity which is "timeless." How can this be understood? The question can be answered in two parts. First, we suggest that eternity, as comprehended by the ancient philosophers, is "timeless" in the sense of not comprising Time 2. "Timeless" is a word used by some writers to interpret eternity in the sense (as they think) of Plato's definition. Actually Plato "seems to have been the first to realize that there are two times and attempts to define the relations between them. ... [However] there is no obvious place for time in the theory of Ideas, since the Ideas ... are themselves as timeless as a mathematical theorem" (italics by this author).35 Because the equations of dynamics contain time as devoid of modes, the "timelessness" of eternity may be pictured alternatively as the idea of Time 1.
Secondly, we ask by what could created time be manifested? Plato's answer is that God can be the only eternal, perfect being but that the physical world strives to participate in and demonstrate God's perfection. The most perfect physical being
is the outermost heaven, i.e., the sphere of the fixed stars ... [which] is in a state of perpetual uniform rotation, since uniform rotation, inasmuch as it has no intrinsic beginning or end and no variation, is the nearest approach to an eternal activity which can characterize any created thing. Plato identified the rotation of this first heaven with time, which he called, [as we already know], the moving image of eternity.36
Park thinks that this train of thought bears implicitly the idea of two times. He refers to an analysis of Plato's text by Proclus and quotes the latter as follows:
As we have often remarked, things have a twofold nature: the one invisible, unique, simple, and unworldly, and the other visible, multiple, varied, and distributed throughout the world....If this is so, then time is also two fold. There is a time for heaven and one for earth. The one remains and at the same time proceeds; the other is borne along in motion,...the revolution of the planets... 37
The discussion above implies that eternity itself embraces the idea of Time 1, and relates in some way to Time 2. At this point it is obvious to ask: What lies at the root of the assumption that Time 2 of the physical world has its roots in eternity? From an abstract viewpoint, the question relates the idea of Time 1 to the experience of Time 2. What logic could tie the two together?
Classical physics uses ordinary logic and
that particles and waves have mutually exclusive properties indeed.
Quantum theory gives us logical permission to accept the
contradictions by means of an inherent principle, called complementarity.
For an answer we note that, according to the above, Time 1- which unlocks the mystery of physical processes for us and belongs to God's eternity - cannot be used (let alone explain) the experience or passage of time. If, on the other hand, we were to communicate the nature of Time 2, we cannot consider God in his eternal aspect. We have here a pair of ideas, each of which contributes to the understanding of the attributes of God, but both of which cannot be held at the same time.38 "Ordinary" logic, which goes back to Aristotle, does not suffice to link the ideas, because it assumes that any proposition has a unique negation and that either the negation or the proposition is wrong. There is no tertium quid. In our case, Aristotelian logic would permit the following statements only: God is eternal and impersonal. God is not eternal and personal. It seems, however, that a special type of logic provides a hint for a more resourceful handling of our problem.
Werner Heisenberg notes that according to von Weizs”cker "ordinary" logic can be expanded by "quantum logic" under the following presuppositions:
1. The content of a proposition is expressed by
two complex numbers.
2 The logical conclusion is expressed by truth-values according to the scheme:
0 <- Truth Values -> 1
Conclusion is wrong Conclusion is complementary Conclusion is right
3. Conclusions with truth values between 0 and 1 neither can be said to be right or wrong nor can they be expressed in terms of ordinary language.
This logic is adapted to the mathematical scheme of quantum theory which, among its many other successes, enables us to describe the smallest parts of matter by mutually contradicting models. Depending on the choice of the experiment, light or electrons, for example, manifest themselves either as particles or as waves. Actually the two models are indeterminate analogies and are used to describe the real world of light or atoms by a "word-picture." A precise statement can be obtained by the use of mathematical language only. Classical physics uses ordinary logic and concludes that particles and waves have mutually exclusive properties indeed. Quantum theory gives us logical permission to accept the contradictions by means of an inherent principle, called complementarity. Quantum logic thus is a means to interpret complementary conclusions free from the ambiguities of ordinary language, and is an example of reasoning which does not aim at the exclusive possibility of true or false, yes or no, etc.39
The principle of complementarity was articulated by Niels Bohr in 1927 when he and Heisenberg agreed that matter and light per se are neither particle nor wave. The principle appeared in many of Bohr's discussions. A favorite of his "was the definition of a `great truth' as a `truth whose opposite is also a great truth.'"40 This thought widens the scope of complementarity from scientific insight to a useful concept beyond the domain of physics. The generalization is illustrated by the remark that complementary aspects are often found in human situations: "... The nature of most human problems is such that universally valid answers do not exist, because there is more than one aspect to each of these problems."41 Park applies this principle to establish a relationship between the two times. He suggests that Time 1 and Time 2 are of complementary nature "which will be understood at a higher level of complexity, ... "42
God's "timeless" eternity and his
to the world [are] part of his essence.
We advance now the propositions that the biblical God is eternal and assumedly timeless (or better, in Time 1) and that the biblical God is personal and in Time 2. If Time 1 and Time 2 are complementary the two statements above can logically exist simultaneously. God's "timeless" eternity and his temporal relationship to the world would then be part of his essence.
Paul Tillich suggests that "eternity is neither timelessness nor the endlessness of time."43 Plato called time the moving image of eternity.
It would have been foolish to imply that time is the image of timelessness. ... And eternity is not the endlessness of time [from infinity to infinity because this would mean] the endless reiteration of temporality. To elevate the dissected moments of time to infinite significance by demanding their endless reduplication is idolatry in the most refined sense.44
Eternity also includes the quality of temporality. Tillich justifies this by observing that the meaning of olim in Hebrew and aiones in Greek "means the power of embracing all periods of time." But then one is still confronted with the question: How does eternity relate to "real" time and its modes?
An answer demands use of the only analogy to eternity found in human experience, that is, the unity of remembered past and anticipated future in an experienced present. Such an analogy implies a symbolic approach to the meaning of eternity. In accord with the predominance of the present in temporal experience, eternity must first be symbolized as an eternal present (nunc eternum). But this nunc eternum is not simultaneity or the negation of an independent meaning of past and future. The eternal present is moving from past to future but without ceasing to be present.45
Eternal and Personal!
The problem with the idea of God becoming personally involved with history or individuals, and thus with Time 2, arose from the assumption that his eternity is timeless or, more specifically, that his eternal presence does not embrace Time 2. "Time in Heaven is marked by numbers; that is Time 1."46 Compared to Time 2, Time 1 is without modes. Since human consciousness experiences time through its modes, an eternity without them is discerned psychologically as "timeless." The complementarity of the two times with Tillich's discourse permits the conclusion that God can be eternal and personal.
God is Being itself and as such is ultimate reality. When we say this we must note that any concrete
assertion about God must be symbolic, for a concrete assertion is one which uses a segment of our finite experience in order to say something about him. It transcends the content of this segment, although it includes it. ... [But] can a segment of finite reality become the basis for an assertion about that which is infinite? The answer is that it can, because that which is infinite is Being itself, and because everything participates in Being itself (italics by this author).47
It is this analogy which enables us to make an assertion and which "gives us our only justification of speaking at all about God. It is based on the fact that God must be understood as being-itself."48
The premise that Time 1 and Time 2 are complementary and the permissibility of inferring by an analogy that the (revelatory) eternity of God can be conceptualized based on our finite interpretation of his eternity allows us to develop the following thoughts:
1. There are attributes of God, eternal or personal, which are related to time implicitly or directly and thus correspond with Time 1 and Time 2. Therefore one must exercise caution if, for example, one were to undertake qualifying statements about omniscience or immutability. The situation is aptly articulated by Pike who writes:
that the interpretation one assigns to the predicate "eternal" has an important bearing on the doctrine of divine omniscience. Some traditional theologians have thought that if God is everlasting (rather than timeless), the doctrine of divine omniscience entails determinism. On the other hand, some contemporary philosophers have argued that if God is timeless (rather than everlasting), he cannot be omniscient at all. A corresponding set of problems and issues arises with respect to the logical relations between eternal and omnipotent and º between eternal and [personal]. In short the predicate "eternal" occupies something of a pivotal position within the logical-geography of traditional Christian thinking about the nature of God.49
A similar notion about the significance of eternity for faith in the biblical God has been given by Wolfhart Pannenberg:
...the fourth question refers to the relation between time and eternity: Is there any positive relation conceivable of the concept of eternity to the spatiotemporal structure of the physical universe? This is one of the most important questions in this dialogue between theology and science. It is unavoidable if the reality of God is to be related in a positive way to the mathematical structure of the spatiotemporal world of nature.50
2. To act as a person in Time 2 does not necessarily mean that God becomes tied to space in the sense that he is now "caught up in the operation of the universe" and suffers loss of his omnipotence. God's reality can neither be totally comprehended nor be partially limited by human cognition or reasoning. Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers contend that for many systems or objects there are languages and points of view which may be complementary.
They all deal with the same reality, but it is impossible to reduce them to one single description. The irreducible plurality of perspectives on the same reality expresses the impossibility [for man to get hold] of a divine point of view from which the whole of reality is visible....The real lesson to be learned from [this]...consists in emphasizing the wealth of reality, which overflows any single language, any single logical structure.51
Such wealth may suggest an ultimate reality which is personal and yet remains eternal.
3. There is no compelling reason to deny the idea that an eternal God can also be personal. God transcends the two times and combines them in his ultimate reality.
Davies' arguments about God's attributes are persuasive when we view eternity as "timeless" or void of time. But with a different understanding of time, we may say that God's personal involvement with the physical world does not necessarily pose the problems Davies has with some of God's attributes. To postulate that God is "timeless" and therefore unable to be personal reduces him to the God of a single description by physics. Yet, it must be granted that such an idea is more open-minded than the adamant atheism of say Friedrich Nietzsche or Karl Marx. Both identify eternity with "endless time." Their philosophies are untenable today because, according to Einstein, time appeared together with space when the universe came into being.
Since human consciousness experiences time
through its modes,
an eternity without them is discerned psychologically as "timeless."
4. The problem with a personal God entering into a relationship with finite beings, who do not match his actual being, has been highlighted in two recent publications. Raniero Cantalamessa contends that faith in the personal character of God as expressed within the realm of early monotheism is later replaced by faith in a triune God whose being comprises personal and impersonal aspects.52 Hans K¸ng expresses a similar view by suggesting that God is more than a person, but nothing less than a person. He notes that a physicist with all his creative intellect is not able to explain the totality of reality.53 But this is what the Bible says: The ultimate reality is more than a universal reason, more than a large anonymous conscience, more than the highest ideas, more than the beauty of the universe. The ultimate reality is something that is not indifferent to us or leaves us unmoved. God is not a neuter or "it" but a God who lets human beings decide to accept or reject him. He is spirit of creative freedom, the primary identity of justice and love. "But the wording is not determinate here. One also could possibly say according to the complementary principle of the physicist Niels Bohr: In the same way as it depends in quantum mechanics on the query whether upon an experiment the answer is wave or particle, so it depends in a philosophical/theological discussion on the query whether upon a definite question God is called personal or impersonal. It pertains to God's unbounded essence which transcends all categories that he is neither personal nor impersonal but both simultaneously. He is transpersonal.54
5. This paper is an apologetic answer to the reasoned denial of a personal God and not an attempt to describe him in terms of quantum theorems. There is a large inventory of revelatory insights which, for the faithful, constitutes an untouchable a priori. "Looking at God, we see that we do not have Him as an object of our knowledge, but that He has us as the subject of our existence."55
The author is grateful for the editorial help by J. W. Haas, Jr., Lyn Berg, and Don Ruegg. Also much appreciated are the constructive comments of the reviewers of this manuscript and the communications by Gerhard Weibel.
1Aporia, n. doubt, raising questions and objections without necessarily providing answers.
2Herbert Vorgrimler, "Neuere Kritik des Theismus," Concilium 13 (March 1977): 142, 147.
3The personal and impersonal attributes of God have been thoroughly discussed in the March 1977 issue of the international journal Concilium.
4St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, Trans. Rex Warner (New York: NY/Penguin Inc., 1963), 257.
5John F. Callahan, Four Views of Time in Ancient Philosophy (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), 183.
6Howard A. Slaatte, Time and its End (New York: Vantage Press, 1962), 104.
7Joseph Meurers, Metaphysik und Naturwissenschaft (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1976), 28.
8Ronald H. Nash, The Concept of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 73.
9Nelson Pike, God and Timelessness (New York: Schocken Books, 1970), chapters 5 and 7.
11Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950), 268-70.
12Allison Heartz Johnson, Whitehead's Theory of Reality (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1962), 5.
13Robert Mellert, "Die Prozesstheologie und das personale Sein Gottes," Concilium 13 (March 1977): 196-99.
15Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984). Davies notes that Christians believe in an eternal God. If "eternal means everlasting or existing without beginning or end for an infinite duration," God is in time and subject to change. "But what causes that change?" If, according to Genesis, God is the cause of all existing things, it does not make much sense to speak of an ultimate cause which itself changes. The special theory of relativity postulates that time is not independent, but forms with space an entity, the space-time continuum. Time and space are inseparably intertwined. A God who is in time is then tied to space and thus "in some sense caught up in the operation of the physical universe....Clearly, God cannot be omnipotent if he is subject to the physics of time, nor can he be considered the creator of the universe if he did not create time" (p. 133).
Davies concedes that the universe had a beginning because he sees "many strands of evidence to support this astonishing theory" (p. 10). But he is critical of the "cosmological argument" which states that the universe must have a cause, and that this cause is God. He deems this argument to be self-contradictory because it is founded on the assumption that everything has a cause "yet ends in the conclusion that at least one thing (God) does not require a cause." Davies notes also that cause and effect are "concepts that are firmly embedded in the notion of time" and that "causation is a temporal activity." But since time did not exist before creation, causation in the above sense could not apply and the idea of God existing "before" the universe came into being is meaningless because there was no "before" (pp. 37-39).
But how can the existence of the universe be explained if time did not exist before its materialization? Interpreting the word eternal as timeless, Davies thinks that Boethius' idea of a God who is free of temporal constraints allows for an acceptable concept of creation. A timeless God could "create" the universe in the "sense of holding it in being at every instant. Instead of God simply starting the universe off...a timeless God acts at all moments" (p. 45). But such God "could not be considered a `person' or individual in any sense that we know." Davies then continues "Misgivings on this score have led a number of modern theologians to review this view of an eternal God. Paul Tillich writes: 'If we call God a living God, we affirm that he includes temporality and with this a relation to the modes of time.' The same sentiment is echoed by Karl Barth: 'Without God's complete temporality the content of the Christian message has no shape'" (p. 134).
16Arthur Peacocke, "Science and God the Creator," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 28 (1993): 481.
17Robert L. Shaklett, "God and the New Physics," Book Review in Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (December 1984): 254-55.
18A few examples may serve as an illustration. Plato thinks of time as the moving image of eternity. For St. Augustine "time at best is something impermanent and its being, composed as it is of a series of indivisible moments, remains foreign, by definition, to the permanent immobility of the divine eternity" (Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, Transl. L. E. M. Lynch [New York: Random House, 1960], 193). Isaac Newton says that "absolute, true and mathematical time of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything eternal," whereas Albert Einstein postulates that time and space are interrelated. Richard Morris, who elaborates lucidly on the concept of time, discriminates even between five arrows of time (Richard Morris, Time's Arrows [New York: Simon & Schuster,  1986], chap. 8). And K. G. Denbigh's definitions for three types of time are rooted in theoretical physics, thermodynamics, and human consciousness (K. G. Denbigh, Three Concepts of Time [New York: Springer-Verlag, 1981], 168).
One cannot ignore Stephen Hawking's ideas on time (Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time [New York: Bantam Books, 1988], Chap. 9). But his views are criticized by Robert Deltete who holds that Hawking's concept of an imaginary and a real time "has no ontological import" (Robert J. Deltete, "Hawking on God and Creation," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 28 [December 1993]: 501). Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers devote an entire chapter of their book to various aspects of time (Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order out of Chaos [Boulder: New Science Library, Shambala Publications, 1984], Chap. VII). They discuss the static time of classical physics vs. existential time, Bergson's time in nature and subjective time, and Frazer's time understood and time felt (p. 214). For systems presenting an unidirectional process, they define an "arrow" of time, for example, the cosmological arrow (p. 259) and the intrinsic arrow of a "new" distribution function (p. 289).
The discussion above offers quite a variety of ideas about time. The question is: Which concept lends itself best to achieve the objective of this article? Its author concludes that the multiplicty of the definitions for time can be sufficiently reduced in the context of other explanations if one accepts the concepts of David Park and Carl Friedrich von Weizs”cker. Both identify two times only and do not define an arrow of time. Von Weizs”cker (Carl Friedrich von Weizs”cker, Aufbau der Physik [M¸nchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988], 49) thinks that it is difficult to find a clear description for the meaning of an "arrow of time" because the natural direction of the definition has been reversed, which leads to a circular argumentation.
19David Park, The Image of Eternity: Roots of Time in the Physical World (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1980), 100.
20Let us assume that an observer inspects a set of photographs spread out before him on a table. The pictures depict the position of a ball on a billiard table after one, two...and 10 seconds. The pictures also show a measuring stick which allows for an identification of the momentary ball position. If we ask the person how the pictures could possibily be related to each other he may say, that the position x of the ball can be expressed, say, by the product of a constant v times a variable t or by x = vt. Here t is an abstract quantity whose meaning so far has yet to be determined. Some time later the person attends a pool game and becomes conscious of the fact that t identifies with the time he can measure with a clock and that v is the velocity of the ball. It is therefore, reasonable to apply to t the predicate "time."
There are other equations where t appears as a variable which can be measured by a clock. Mathematically many laws of physics can be formulated mostly by hyperbolic differential equations with respect to t where the "time point" of a state or event is described by the value of the parameter t. Variation principles use time as an integration variable. In conservation laws the derivative with respect to time is assumed to be zero. All these equations do not carry any message about the passage of time as conceived by the mind. All values of t enter there at the same footing. Any value of t is always "now." There are no physical events in the realm of ideas. t is only marked by numbers. This is Time 1.
When watching the pool game the observer experiences a temporal awareness of presence and past or a consciousness of time. This is Time 2. The pictures do not convey any message about the passage of time; the pool game does. "The physical world is such that it can be described by the equations of dynamics" (Ibid., 110).
21K. G. Denbigh, Three Concepts of Time (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1981), 11.
23David Park, The Image of Eternity, 111-12.
24Carl Friedrich von Weizs”cker, Aufbau der Physik (M¸nchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988), 47-52.
29Banesh Hoffmann and Helen Dukas, Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel. (New York: The Viking Press,  1973), 258.
30Frank J. Tipler, "The Omega Point as Eschaton: Answers to Pannenberg's Questions for Scientists," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 24 (1989): 229. Tipler's Omega Point theory plays a central role in his recent book The Physics of Immortality. The reactions of commentators range from outrage to incredulity. Yet prominent reviewers such as Wolfhart Pannenberg (Wolfhart Pannenberg, "Breaking a Taboo: Frank Tipler's Physics of Immortality," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 30 [June 1995]: 309-14) and Frank Birtel (Frank T. Birtel, "Contributions to Tipler's Omega Point Theory," Zygon 30 [June 1995]: 315-27) conclude that his ideas are worthy of further exploration.
31Park, The Image of Eternity, 101. Park's version of Plato's discourse on time and eternity is supplemented by Cornford's translation and comments regarding Plato's original text (Cornford, Plato's Cosmology. 3rd printing. [New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co.], 97-98).
32John F. Callahan, Four Views of Time in Ancient Philosophy, 101.
33Park, The Image of Eternity, 103.
34Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Transl. V. E. Watts (London: Penguin Books, 1969), 165.
35Park, The Image of Eternity, 100-01
36J. L. Russell, in The Voices of Time. Ed. J.<|>T. Frazer. (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1981), 67.
37Park, The Image of Eternity, 103.
38See Park, The Image of Eternity, 112.
39Werner Heisenberg, Schritte ¸ber Grenzen (M¸chen: R. Piper & Co., 1971), 171-77.
40John Archibald Wheeler, "Niels Bohr, the Man." Physics Today 38 (October 1985): 67.
41V. F. Weisskopf, Physics in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972), 351.
42Park, The Image of Eternity, 113-14.
43Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967), 274.
45Ibid., 275. A nice allegory about the nunc eternum is the "eternal flash" (communication by William Russell, First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield).
46Park, The Image of Eternity, 107.
47Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, 239-40.
49Nelson Pike, God and Timelessness, x.
50Wolfhart Pannenberg, "Theological Questions to Scientists," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 16 (March 1981): 60-77.
51Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos, 225.
52Raniero Cantalamessa, "Die Entwicklung des pers–nlichen Gottesbegriffs in der Christlichen Spiritualit”t," Concilium: Internationale Zeitschrift f¸r Theologie 13 (March 1977): 165.
53Hans K¸ng, 24 Thesen zur Gottesfrage (M¸nchen: Piper, 1986), 81-82.
55Paul Tillich, The New Being (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955), 77.
*ASA Member, retired