Is God Timeless?

Is God Timeless? February 23, 2015

Roger Olson, at the link here, opens up a good conversation on whether God is himself timeless:

In my immediately preceding post I argued that far too much Christian theology includes unwarranted speculation—especially about God. Under pressure from Greek ontology traditional, “classical theism” has generally agreed that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Yahweh of the Bible) is somehow (i.e., differently expressed) “outside of time” such that temporal sequence, the passage of past into present into future (or future into present into past) is known to God but not experienced by God. Put in other words, for this classical theistic view, God’s eternity means (in relation to time) “simultaneity with all times.” In other words, in this view, explained best (most scholars agree) by Boethius, God exists in an “eternal now.” For him, our future has already happened. In other words, this is not just a claim about God’s foreknowledge; it is a claim about God’s being. It is not merely epistemological; it is ontological.

I have taught Christian theology on both the undergraduate and graduate levels for thirty-four years. I can say without hesitation that the vast majority of my students think this is biblical theology and orthodoxy. They think this view of God’s eternity, timelessness, being “outside of time,” is part and parcel of Christianity, the Christian faith, even the gospel itself. Try questioning it and you will (I have) experience(d) strenuous push back. I suspect many people think two things about this traditional view of God’s eternity and time. First, it is necessary for God’s transcendence; if God is somehow “within time” or if time is “real for God,” then (God forbid!) God must be limited. Second, it undermines God’s power and sovereignty and makes God unreliable. The future, scary to us, becomes scary to God, too. As one theologian expressed it, denial of the classical view makes God a “pathetic, hand wringing God who has to wait fearfully to see what will happen.”

And yet…

Nowhere does the biblical story of God, the biblical narrative that identifies God for us, and upon which classical Christian theology claims to be based, say or even hint that God is “outside of time” or “timeless” or that all times are “simultaneously before the eyes of God.” This view of God’s eternity entered into Christian theology from Greek philosophy which regarded time as imperfection. …….

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