In this episode, Dr. Greg Ganssle joins Kurt on the show to discuss God’s relationship to time.Listen to “Episode 122: God and Time” on Spreaker.
Kurt: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. This is episode 122 and I’m very excited that we’re finally getting to talk about God and time, but before we get to that I should give you a caveat for today’s episode. I am running solo in studio. Chris is off today so you have to forgive me if they’re any technical hiccups and hopefully the sound and all of that stuff will be matching up. I’m managing two computers which is something I haven’t done before. When I’ve done it, it’s been one computer. This way we’re able hopefully to keep sound quality good and so it should be a fun show. Joining me on today’s program is Greg Ganssle. He is a professor of philosophy at BIOLA University there at the Talbot School of Theology. Great program there, highly recommended. I want everyone to check it out if they can. Greg’s been there for a few years now and I’m delighted that he’s on our program today and I will bring him over here. Greg. How are you today?
Greg: Doing fine, Kurt. How are you?
Kurt: I’m good. Thanks. We’ve been scheduling this out for a few weeks and for those that were listening last week, I’m actually on baby duty or baby watch I should say because my wife is quite pregnant and the baby has not arrived yet so here we are, we’re able to do this program today and we can finally talk about something that’s frequently on my mind, although it’s not an area that I specialize in and it’s not part of my doctoral research, but God and time is a very important theological and philosophical question that we should be asking ourselves and you’ve, of course, written, and you’re an editor for a couple books on the topic. I thought what a great guy to bring on because we’ve chatted, we’ve met in person, and I really appreciate when philosophers are so humble and they’re winsome as well and so I thought you can help bring on that attitude and approach to this topic which many Christians can be passionate about in the theological discourses, there are some that are very insistent, “No. God is outside of time and that’s how He orchestrates everything,” and others say “He’s in time. That’s how He relates to us.” I’ve got a few questions for you today, but let me first ask you what got you interested in thinking about God’s relationship to time?
Greg: It’s always in the back of your mind if you’re any kind of believer, if you think about God and His nature, and of course, before I began to do any actual research on this, I inherited the traditional view that God was in some sense, outside of time. That’s the traditional view in the West, and it’s still the dominant view among theologians I believe, but as I began as a philosopher to investigate this I saw that among Christian philosophers, that God is outside of time might be the minority position today, especially in the analytic tradition and so that got me interested. I took a seminar with Bill Austin when I was doing my doctoral work on the nature of God and this was one of the subjects and it was there that I decided I would write my dissertation on it. I spent a lot of time in that literature and it was a very fun, exciting, topic and it’s one I think that Christians can disagree about without calling our orthodoxy into question because I think the biblical texts are open to either God being temporal in some sense or God being non-temporal.
Kurt: Now you are a latecomer to philosophy, relatively speaking.
Greg: Relatively, yes.
Kurt: As I understand it you would ditch out on your college classes in order to read C.S. Lewis.
Greg: Exactly. I was a secondary education major in biology and I was a singularly unmotivated student as an undergrad. I was involved in campus ministry and then I started reading C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. I joined the staff of Campus Crusade. I was working on secular campuses and that’s what got me interested because I was trying to answer students’ questions and it dawned on me one day, I think I’m reading philosophy. I should take a philosophy class. I’d never taken philosophy. I started taking these classes one at a time over courses of years and it was a little bit like doing drugs, you just kept wanting more and more, at least so I’m told. I did my Master’s degree part-time while I was still directing one of the campus ministries and then we went to Syracuse where I did my PhD and then continued to integrate philosophy with campus ministry. I spent 20 years at Yale where we launched the Rivendell Institute and just four years ago came out here to Talbot to be part of the Master’s program. It is kind of a circuitous journey as they say.
Kurt: That’s great. Later on towards the end of the episode I want to talk to you about the Rivendell Institute. I think that’s a really neat thing, Christian studies centers, but we’ll put that towards the end of the program today. God and time. Again, it’s very important what someone believes about their, in theology, our beliefs are like a network, they’re a web, and so what we believe about divine sovereignty or divine foreknowledge and time, they’re interconnected. Sometimes, I’ve often said that theology is a pick your poison field because there’s no perfect view. Every view seems to have a weakness and I think for me, part of the reason why I like to think about God’s relationship to time is because I think this area, time and foreknowledge, maybe are my weaknesses on my view and so that’s why I like to think about it. As I do from time to time, if you’re following along, if you’re listening, if you’re watching the livestream or you’re listening on the podcast, I want to invite you to go grab a pen and paper, get ready to take some notes as I frequently do on the program. I’m here to learn and I hope you are too. Greg, let me first ask you these two questions. When Christians or when philosophers talk about God as temporal or God as timeless, what do they mean?
Greg: Okay. That’s a really good question. If God is temporal or in time we say, then God experiences time somewhat like we do. For example, we experience one moment at a time. We experience the present right now and, of course, we did experience the past and we will experience the future and that kind of relation to time is roughly the same with God if God is temporal. Some aspects of our relation to time will not transfer to God because our relationship to the past also includes forgetfulness and our relationship to the future involves a great deal of ignorance, but Christians on the both sides of the discussion of God and time want to assert that God knows everything that can be known and cashing that out of course, there’s going to be differences, but God doesn’t forget the past, and of course, we came into existence at a point of time and that’s not true for God. If God is temporal then at every moment in time, God exists and so there’s some differences, but the big thing is we experience the passage of time as God would experience the passage of time, so if God is not in time, but God in some sense atemporal or we used to use the word eternal for this position, then God does not experience the passage of time. God’s relation to each moment in time is the same. God has direct cognitive access. God knows directly in the same way the past, the present, and the future. He doesn’t have to remember the past because it’s not past to God and He doesn’t anticipate the future because it’s not future to God. In a sense, a lot of people use spatial metaphors for this. You might draw a line representing time and either you want to put God on that line so there’s a past and a future and a present relative to God, or you put God outside the line, so that God in a sense has a vantage point that sees everything on the line.
Kurt: Okay. So we’re talking about here how God can relate to time. Maybe we need to first ask the question again, what is time?
Greg: Good one. I’m sure you’re familiar with Augustine’s quote where he says something like, “I understand what time is until somebody asks me.” Time is fascinating because it’s very hard to analyze, to get a grip on. There is some relationship between time and space. There are some analogies between them, but then there are some significant differences, so space has, as far as our experience is concerned, we tend to experience space in three dimensions and there’s no privileged direction of space, whereas time, we tend to experience in one dimension and there is a privileged direction. We talk about the passage of time or the moving of time or the moving of the present, all these things are somewhat metaphorical[NP1] , Certain events are future to us. They will become present and they will become present and the direction so to speak of that process is fixed. Things don’t become past and then become future except in certain science fiction movies which don’t actually work very well, so there’s this privileged direction to time and there’s a real, this is one of the debates in philosophy of time is how do we understand the privileged direction. I actually didn’t answer your question, what time is.
Kurt: But that seems to be part of the debate. Why don’t we take a short break early here just to keep things rolling and so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor or a patron of our program, go to our website veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. We couldn’t do this program without your support, as you can see here, because I’m running solo, it’s a little bit more difficult. Chris was off today and we were unable to fill his seat and so we’ve encountered technical issues with our guest. We’re trying to get in touch with him. In the meantime we’re going to connect here with Seth Baker and put him on the phone and hopefully, you’ll be able to pick him up here. Seth can enlighten us on a number of the philosophical issues pertaining to God and time. Seth’s a smart guy. He enjoys thinking about philosophy and Christian theism and so we’ll load him up here momentarily here.
Kurt: Seth. You’re on Veracity Hill. How are you doing?
Seth: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Kurt: We’ll just patch the audio through here. We’re still going to try to connect with Greg. We’re not sure. We’re having trouble reaching him. I wonder if maybe his program crashed and he has to update or something like that so alright, we’re talking about God and time and I know this is something you’ve thought about and I appreciate you stumping in here temporarily, ha ha, get it, temporarily for Greg. So, tell us what has interested you with God and time?
Seth: I’m a Craig fanboy and William Lane Craig is my homeboy and this has been a serious topic of interest in his life. I think he spent over a decade studying the topic of God’s relationship to time. I’ve read quite a bit of his book, Time and Eternity and then I read his portion on the philosophy of time in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, but I’m not familiar with the other positions on time other than what Craig has referenced in his books. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes because some friends of mine are followers of Thomas Aquinas and they would differ greatly on Craig’s position.
Kurt: I’m going to try to load Greg in. He’s contacted me. Let’s see if I can get this back up. We’ll keep you on the line here Seth. It is ringing for those that can hear it. Greg. You there?
Greg: Yeah. What happened?
Kurt: I’m not sure what happened, but we’re back. We’ve got Seth Baker on the phone who’s been managing keeping us going here. We’ll bring you back here and see where did we leave off when we were talking about God and time?
Greg: I’m so sorry about that. We just finished talking about the nature of time and what it means that God would be temporal and that God would be non-temporal or timeless in some sense and trying to get the basic distinctions down. Does God experience the passage of time or is God’s relation to every moment somewhat the same?
Kurt: Gotcha. Seth is on the phone with us, Seth Baker, who’s one of our followers. He’s talked about how his interest and exposure to this comes from William Lane Craig’s view. WLC, as he’s commonly referred to, he believes, and correct me if I’m wrong, that God was outside of time until He created it.
Kurt: And as his colleague, and your colleague JP Moreland, I attended a seminar once with JP Moreland and he said time is like God creating a lake and jumping in. So now, God, is on their view, bound to time. What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this position?
Greg: It’s an interesting position because Bill has got two deep convictions that he’s navigating here. The first conviction has to do with his work on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Right? This is an argument that he is actually the contemporary philosopher who’s revived this argument. It has its roots in medieval Islamic theology and philosophy, but he’s the one who’s put it on the map. A big part of that is that the past cannot be infinite and the reason is is that an infinite series cannot, an actual infinite series cannot be completed by successive addition. We can unpack what that means if it will be helpful. He has this conviction that the past cannot be infinite, but he also has the conviction, he’s committed to what philosophers call the A-theory of time, which is not very descriptive, but this is the theory that the most fundamental reality about time is past, present, and future. Those relations are the most fundamental, therefore, there’s an objective present, there’s a now that’s happening and Bill thinks and many other philosophers that if that’s what is true about time, God has to be temporal because God has to know, for example, what time is it now, that there’s a real objective fact to the matter. What time is it now? Think about that question vs the question of the spatial question which is is there a privileged location in space and we think there’s not. Right? We use the word here and there, but we use those always relative to the speaker. It’s not like there’s an objective here and I’m getting closer to here. It’s just I say here when I’m talking about La Mirada and you say it when you’re talking about being near Chicago. It’s completely relative to the speaker. The A-theory of time says that that’s not the case with time. There’s an objective present and therefore, if God is going to know everything He has to know something like what happens now, but the answer to that question changes. What time is it now? It’s approximately 11:30 and if we ask the question in fifteen minutes the answer will be different, therefore the content of God’s mind has to change and if there is a change within God, then there’s a before and after within God, there’s a past, present, and future, and God is experiencing time. There’s two separate things going on with Bill’s position. The first one is the commitment to the claim that the past must be finite. The second one is more directly related to the philosophy of time and that is that the most fundamental aspect of time is past, present, and future, not before, after, and simultaneous. Notice that if my birth is before you birth, which I’m sure it is, the relation between those events never changes. Right? A year from now it’ll still be the case. Five years from now it’ll still be the case. If that’s the most fundamental structure of time, then the answer to what time is it now is relative to when that question is asked and God doesn’t have to change to know that. You want to jump in and help me unmuddle my discussion?
Kurt: So what you’re saying on the alternative view is that God doesn’t have a here or there because God is not spatially located and….
Greg: Is it the same with time is the big question?
Kurt: Yes. On the alternative view, there is no now for God because He’s outside of time. That might be a difficult concept to comprehend for us limited finite beings.
Greg: Exactly. Yes.
Kurt: On Craig’s view, when time began to exist, and I don’t know if this is a gotcha question, it’s kind of like can God make a rock too big He can’t lift….
Greg: The answer to that question is no, He can’t.
Kurt: Right. So here’s this question. What was God doing the moment, which is a time concept, the moment before He created time?
Greg: I think Bill’s going to say there was no moment before He created time. There was an eternal, you could use the word moment there, but we’re stretching the definition to it. God existed in His perfect self-sufficiency in a timeless state and the moment God creates time, then that’s the first moment that there’s a present. At that very moment, there’s no past. There’s the timeless state of God and the present moment and then, of course, in the next moment, or ten minutes later, then there is a past. Right? That’s Bill’s view. I think most analytic philosophers who believe God is inside of time don’t hold Bill’s view. They wind up rejecting the Kalam Cosmological Argument and they think God was everlastingly temporal and the past is infinite.
Kurt: So it seems odd though to say that God wasn’t doing anything before creating time. Is that an odd concept or?
Greg: I’m not sure we want to say that. God’s actions are not temporarily located. Eleanore Stump and Norm Kretzmann in their very important paper on eternity which came out in 1980 unpack a definition of eternity by Boethius and one of the aspects of that is timeless duration, that God’s eternal life, that’s non-temporal life still has a duration. It’s not a temporal duration. I think the challenge for us is not to think of a timeless God as having a life characterized by a mathematical point. That’s kind of a thin line. It takes the richness out of our picture of God’s light, but the traditional understanding in people like Boethius and Aquinas is that God’s life is so full that it cannot be contained by time. That’s why Boethius uses this term that there is a timeless duration. God has simultaneous possession of His entire duration of life at once, that’s a rough paraphrase of this definition from the Consolation of Philosophy. Far from God not doing anything, God’s action is one timeless action which has its effects throughout time so there’s a fullness of divine action on this view. It might be that I’m just being poetic and there’s really no substance to this. That could be the countercharge.
Kurt: Sure. We’ve got Seth Baker who’s been on the phone here. He’s been the backup of sorts. He’s a young fellow, likes to read a lot of Christian philosophy and he’s I think sympathetic to WLC’s view and I think Seth has a question for you here. There might be a little bit of a lag and hopefully, you can hear it. Seth. You there?
Seth: Yes, I am.
Kurt: Okay. Go ahead. Hopefully, Greg can hear the question and if not, I’ll repeat it for him.
Seth: Alright. Thank you for coming on the show Dr. Ganssle. I think the topic of God’s relationship to time is so interesting. I wanted to ask how, maybe two questions. One is how could somebody believe that God exists timelessly also hold to A-theory and then the second question is, how can one reconcile if they’re a B-theorist, God’s ultimate defeat of the evil because it seems like on B-theory that evil never really goes away because the past is just as real as the present and the future. Thank you, sir.
Greg: I can tell you’ve been doing your reading because these are some of the major objections both to the timeless view and the B-theory. On the B-theory question, is it really true that evil is not defeated? I know Bill makes this point. I actually don’t just see it. It might be that we understand the B-theory differently and I hesitate to disagree with Bill on philosophy of time because he’s done so much important work on it. When God reenters history and sorts out good and evil, right? The judgment that we actually long for so there can be justice finally in reality, that’s going to be a decisive act of God and the experience of everybody will be the experience of perfect justice. Even though the B-theory says in some sense the past is real, I’m not sure it’s present. It’s real, but it’s not present. On the B-theory, it’s a fact that it’s November 2018. I actually can’t remember what day it is…
Kurt: The 10th.
Greg: I just got back and my timelines are all crazy. It’s a fact that it’s November 2018 and it’s not October 2018. Right? The things that happened in October, even though they’re in some sense real, they aren’t happening now and I think sometimes the way Bill talks it sounds like he’s thinking that every event is happening at the same time, but that’s not true on the B-theory, so evil will not still be happening when God defeats evil because it will be past. It’s in some sense real. I don’t know what to make of that sense.
Kurt: Would it be past to God though if God is outside of time? Wouldn’t He still be experiencing the events that are past to us?
Greg: Yes. God will still be experiencing that. I think this helps explain why, now in Christian theology, specifically Christian theology, the atonement which happened a long time ago is ever-present to God and counts for even my sins because Jesus’s sacrifice is ever-present to God and there’s a sense in which I think God will be ever-conscious of evil and His access to that, but for us, that won’t be the case. Right? Because we will be experiencing, we still experience temporality even on the B-theory of time. I would like to give a little pushback on the claim that evil can’t be defeated on the B-theory. You’re going to have to remind me of your first question.
Kurt: Seth. You there?
Seth: Yes. I am.
Kurt: Okay. Greg has asked to be reminded of your favorite question and I guess if you have a follow-up to his answer about evil being defeated, feel free to. Maybe the first question you had first.
Seth: Okay. Yeah. Thank you, Dr. Ganssle so much. The first question was how can someone be a proponent of divine timelessness and hold to A-Theory, God holding to time what it is now and that would kind of introduce temporal relations to God and my follow-up….
Kurt: Seth. Why don’t we pause on the follow-up so he can answer this one?
Seth: That’s a big difficult question. This is why many philosophers believe God is temporal, because they’re convinced of the A-theory and they think it’s impossible for God to be outside of time on the A-theory. There’s some really good work done on this by Ed Wierenga at the University of Rochester. He’s written a couple of papers and one is in one of the books I edited and he says something like this. “Take the sentence, ‘I am sitting here’. Okay.?” At face value, there are two indexicals there. There’s actually three indexicals in the sentence, there’s I, which is a personal indexical. It picks out, the word I picks out different people in different contexts. When I uses it it picks out Ganssle and when Kurt uses it, it picks out Kurt, when Seth uses it it picks out Seth, and then there’s here which picks out the location of the speaker. There’s also the present tense word “am sitting” which picks out the time at which the action happens. In a sense, God can’t know I am sitting here. He can know Ganssle is sitting in his office in the building Talbot East, but because there’s no here for God. Only someone who’s spatial can access that sentence so you either have to reduce the sentence, take out the indexicals, and say that what that sentence is really saying is Ganssle sits at time 1 in Location 1. Then God could know that and then you could know it. You’re not Ganssle and you’re not located where I’m located. It might be that temporal things are similar, that the indexicality is such that only someone located at the time can know the sentence that we say when we say “Today is Saturday.” Only someone located at Saturday or it is now Saturday can know that. What God can know is it is, the sentence, Ganssle says, is simultaneous with it being Saturday. That’s a relation that’s a B-relation. We have to understand God’s omniscience is not knowing every sentence because we already have rejected that. God doesn’t know every true sentence. God knows every truth. The sentences that are tensed can be either recast, one person says it this way. God is not sentencially omniscient, but He’s factually omniscient. What makes the sentence true that I say are certain facts about the world and God can know those facts. I know something along that might work, but to be honest this is the stickiest problem for the non-temporal view and many philosophers believe that there hasn’t been a good solution. I think what Wierenga has done at least points in the direction of some things that might work.
Kurt: Before bringing Seth in to have his follow-up on evil and God’s experience of it, let me follow with you here. The analogy of space and time, you talked about how God would still know that Greg Ganssle is in Talbot East building. I’m asking this question as someone who I don’t know how to parse this stuff out and so this is a genuine question. Wouldn’t a spatial relation be required in order for God to know that you are there at Talbot East?
Greg: I think we think God knows all spatial relations. It depends how much weight you’re putting on the word there.
Kurt: Or here, if He’s omnipresent.
Greg: In order for God to know that I am here, God has to share that location, unless we unpack the word here to be pointing to, like a direct reference to, the spatial location of Talbot East. It’s like, when we consult a map, back when we used to use maps and we say, “Where are we trying to go? We’re trying to go to Starbucks is here” and you point to a place on the map, you’re using the word here differently then. You’re outside of the spatial grid and you’re identifying a location within the spatial grid.
Kurt: I see. Nice. Seth has this follow-up to God’s relationship to evil and experience. We also have a couple questions from those that have been tuning in to livestream. Seth, go ahead and ask your follow-up here.
Seth. Dr. Ganssle. I think I’ve been mispronouncing your name a couple years now so please forgive me.
Greg: That’s alright. I do it too.
Seth: If I can remember, I think my second question, my follow-up was, if in eternity, when we’re with God in heaven and the new heavens and the new Earth and we’re not experiencing evil which will then be now at that point, does that mean that there’s an objective perspective of consciousness? Does consciousness move throughout the timeline on B-theory and if that’s the case did that kind of collapse with the A-theory or is that only objective to us and not objective to God and if that’s not a very clear question I’m sorry about that.
Greg: Let me see if I’m getting at what you have in mind. There are a number of conscious beings in the world and we each have our own consciousness which brings with it our own perspective. I believe that we will be temporal throughout eternity, throughout our life with God in the new heavens and the new Earth. I think some people might disagree with that and so therefore, our conscious experience will always be temporal. We’ll always experience past, present, and future, and we’ll always experience certain events as happening now and I think that’s true whether we hold the A-theory or the B-theory. There’s a sense in which God’s consciousness is a privileged position. Hilary Putnam and others who are non-realists about metaphysics argue that there’s no God’s-eye point of view about seeing what’s true in the world, but of course, if God exists there is a God’s-eye point of view, which is God’s point of view. There’s a sense that God’s perspective trumps anyone else’s perspective and so we’re not going to be omniscient. We are going to still see the world through our own perspective which includes our first-person perspective. In other words, I see the world as related to myself and you see the world as related to yourself primarily, and I see the world from my vantage point. Remember, in eternity, we’re going to be embodied creatures. We’re still going to be spatial. It’s a new heaven and a new Earth, it’s not a non-spatial reality we’re going to, and I think this is part of the wonderful news of the gospel, so on one sense I think yes, there is a privileged consciousness, that’s God’s perspective but we will still know truly, but our perspective will still be limited. I don’t know if that’s helpful or if I’m getting at what you’re interested in.
Kurt: Seth. I want to thank you. I want to get to some of these other questions. Seth, again, thank you for your questions to Greg here. We’ll move along here. Jonathan is asking, I think he just wants a point of clarification here. He’s been following along with us. “From what I’m following is what the speaker is saying, God lives in a finite temporal state, but is not temporally bound. Every moment is now for Him depending upon when He is.” Greg, is that an accurate description of your view or someone else’s view we’re talking about?
Greg: I haven’t taken a view in the discussion yet.
Greg: To be honest, sometimes I’m a Monday-Wednesday-Friday outside and Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday inside and then the Sabbath I take off, but the two views are that if God is in time, then God’s being or His existence is, I hate to use the word limited, but God experiences now in a privileged way and indirectly experiences the past. He has to remember the past and He anticipates the future. His memory and His anticipation is exhaustively accurate. He doesn’t have the same problems we have wondering who’s going to win the game or where I left my keys, but He still has that indirect relation to those other points in time, whether that’s a limitation depends on how we cash these out. If God is outside of time, there’s a sense, and again this is going to be a little metaphorical, is that God’s now encompasses all of time. Just like I experience a microscopic slice of time as now, God experiences all of time as now and I wouldn’t consider that a limit in any sense. God has direct cognitive access to every moment in time and God can act on every moment of time directly. I’m not sure if that helps. I’m not sure if I’m just muddying the waters[NP3] .
Kurt: It is, yes. Hopefully, Jonathan, that helps. Let’s move along to Robert here. He says, “Kurt, I’ve heard the argument before that God must be in time because He has experienced and interacted in time along with us. The example a person pointed to that best illustrates this point is the incarnation which happened in the past and is still something that exists in the present. Is it possible for God to once exist within time and then not be within time at a later point?
Greg: There are two things going here. The last sentence is offering a possibility for understanding the incarnation, but the incarnation raises challenges to lots of attributes of God like God is not physical, but in the incarnation God was physical. God is not spatially located, but Jesus never went to Cincinatti.
Kurt: The Mormons think He came to America.
Greg: How about Buenos Aries? Pick somewhere else. We have to be careful to think every property of Jesus is a property of God. Jesus has two natures, a human nature and a divine nature. There’s a lot of complexities with the incarnation which are above my paygrade. That’s why I do philosophy and not theology. The first thing is we have to be careful not to assume that just because Jesus was in time historically, that means God has to be in time. Some people have argued, some philosophers, Tom Senor at the University of Arkansas has given some good papers on this, that the incarnation is a special problem with time. Others like Doug Blunt have argued that it’s not. Stump and Kretzmann, so this is an open debate, but we don’t want to just think just because was temporal, God has to be temporal, because then we start thinking that Jesus was hungry so therefore God was hungry. Jesus stubbed His toe, presumably, but the last thing you said is is it possible that God goes in a sense, is sometimes temporal and sometimes non-temporal?
Kurt: Is this Garry Deweese’s view, omnitemporality perhaps?
Greg: I think what Garry is doing and with omnitemporality is that…
Kurt: It’s concurrent. It’s not in and out of time, but it’s both.
Greg: I think God is fundamentally temporal on Gary’s view. I say this also with some fear and trembling because I’m sitting in what used to be his office. I asked him to leave a bunch of books when he moved out, but he didn’t do it. I think what Garry means is God is fundamentally temporal, but God has perfect knowledge of the past and future and God’s temporality is in what you could call a metaphysical time, not necessarily physical time. A lot of philosophers think this is the way to go because of the complexities of physical time we get from relativity theory, that each inertial reference frame as its own simultaneity and yet for God there has to be an objective simultaneity so God can’t be located in one physical inertial reference frame. I’m not sure this is really Garry’s view, that God in a sense pops in and out of time. I think it’s more difficult to think that God is temporal for a duration of time than becomes atemporal because it seems like there’s always going to be a past and future relation to that temporal part of God’s existence. I think that’s more difficult than Bill’s view, that God could be timeless and then at the moment of creation God is then temporal. I think there’s a problem with Bill’s view and I haven’t been able to quite articulate it. For example, we have to use this word in quotations, before God created.
Greg: God knows that we’re having this conversation now, but He doesn’t know the A fact because there is no A fact. He knows the B fact. God knows that on November 10, 2018, we’re having this conversation and He can only know the A fact once time has been created and it seems like there’s an a symmetry between the B facts and the A facts and the B facts turn out to be more fundamental than the A facts. I haven’t been able to articulate that argument crisply and I’m not sure how strong it is, but I think it puts some pressure on Bill’s position. God’s knowledge is perfectly accurate before time is created and perfectly adequate and yet He knows only B facts about time, so there seems to be, the argument of the A theory is that the A facts are more fundamental. That puts a little bit of tension on it. I’m not sure if it’s a defeater in any sense of the word.
Kurt: So for you, you sympathize more with the timeless position and your, at least with regard to Craig’s view, you’re basing your concern on divine foreknowledge.
Greg: Yeah, but not the normal divine foreknowledge question. It’s not how God can know future free actions, which is the normal divine foreknowledge worry. It’s God knows everything, so He knows we’re having this conversation, but He can only access with a B fact so doesn’t that seem to imply or at least suggest that B facts are more fundamental, which is more an argument against the A theory than it is that God is outside of time. It at least makes the A theory less immediately superior or it should get us to question it.
Kurt: I think my brain is fried on this God and time question. It has a way of doing that. Before I let you go, I have two things I want to ask you about. First, talk to me and us about the work of the Rivendell Institute, your former place of employment and work and more broadly speaking, the role of Christian study centers.
Greg: Okay. We started the Rivendell Institute in 1985 right after I finished my PhD and moved to Yale and the director of Rivendell, Rivendell’s still going on, Dave Mahan, had already been working in campus ministry at Yale and we started it with the idea that if we want to inhabit the university faithfully as followers of Christ, we have to pay more attention to what the university is, which is an institution of research and teaching. Most of our campus ministries work with undergraduate students and I’ve done this for years, but the undergraduates are a little bit like the people who shop at the mall. They come in and they go out and the Institution is run, so to speak, by the shop owners, or the faculty and administration, and if we’re going to help bring a Christian presence into the Institution those are the places we need to work, not just with the undergraduates. I think the undergraduate ministry’s really significant and important, so we thought let’s start working with graduate students who are the future faculty and faculty and so we went to Yale and began to do this, we began to meet with grad students and figure out where they are, whether they’re believers, those who are believers, what we can do to help them, and then we spent a lot of time thinking about how do we integrate our robust Christian worldview and theology with the work of research and teaching and that became part of our training for believers, how do you be faithful in the university as the faculty member of administrator, and at the same time we do our own work, it’s an interdisciplinary thing. Dave, our director, does theology and literature. Rick, another guy, is a political sociologist, and so they have kind of research centers where they’re trying to generate Christian thinking in these areas as well as the ongoing training of faculty and so[NP4] that’s kind of a snapshot. Now, there is a whole movement of Christian study centers around the country and I think this is very exciting. There’s a group called the Consortium for Christian Study Centers and that’s where you want to google if you’re interested in this, because that’s a loose network of these Christian study centers. It’s loose enough that every study center has its own identity and strategy and mission. Rivendell is probably the most highly academic of the study centers because the people there, we did research, we engaged at that level, some of us were part-time instructors at the university, and others do other kinds of integration and they might do training with undergraduates, with Christian worldview, and small group discussions. There’s all different ways to inhabit the university bringing together various academic interests with Christian ministry so the consortium is run by a guy named Drew Trotter and what he helps people do is strategize, think about their mission and interact with each other and encourage each other. I think this is one of the developing front lines of university ministry and it’s very exciting. A lot of these study centers work hand in hand with the ongoing ministries of Intervarsity or True or Veritas Forum and Ratio Christi and these kinds of groups. Anyway, that’s my pitch for that. I’m still on the Board of Directors at Rivendell and they’re doing amazing work, so I highly recommend thinking about, if you’re interested in academics and Christian thinking and ministry in the university, there are a lot of opportunities there.
Kurt: Yeah. That’s great. I’ve had some connection. I spoke at an event a few weeks ago put on by the Bradley Study Center located at Virginia Tech. Mike Weaver invited me to talk about perspectives on the supposed genocide commands which was the theme of our Defenders Conference and so it was quite easy for me to whip up a 30-minute talk on the different views.
Greg: That’s good. Charlie Trimm in Old Testament here has done some stuff on all the different views on that and it’s fantastic.
Kurt: Great. Final question for you today, and again thanks for sticking with us through some of these tech issues as well. Your most recent book put out in 2017 is, and I’ve got an image of it here, let me put it up here, Our Deepest Desires, how the Christian story fulfills human aspiration. It was published by IVP last year. You’ve done some work in apologetics and philosophy of religion. Tell us about Our Deepest Desires.
Greg: I wrote this book to be a conversation starter with people who are not yet believers, and I was thinking mostly of faculty, because I thought how do you start the conversation. One of the things I’ve noticed is that most people have this kind of an attitude, most people who are not believers. I’m pretty sure Christianity is false and it’s really good that it’s false. In this book I’m trying to tackle the second part of that. I’m not arguing that Christianity is true. I’m trying to illicit a sense in the reader that deep down, they really want it to be true because the Christian story captures the things we care most about. I illustrate this by trying to evoke a recognition of some deep values that are pretty widely shared. I don’t claim that they’re universally shared. Things like, I have four sections in the book. One is about persons. All of our deepest values are about human begins, other people, and ourselves, and so where do persons fit in in our story, and of course, in the Christian story God is personal, so persons are there from the beginning. God made us persons for reasons so it’s not an accident, these kinds of things, but goodness, I talk about how goodness is good for us. A morally good life is the humanly good life because flourishing requires that we engage in relationships in a certain way and this captures what the content of morality. I have a section on beauty and how it points to the fact that God is the master artist in two ways. He creates a beautiful world, but He also creates artists and our artistic drive finds its home in God’s own nature, and the last section’s on freedom and that’s where we talk about truth and about hope, and so what I’m trying to do is help people get an experience of recognition of things like yes, deep down that’s what I really care about, and then to say how these things fit so deeply into the Christian story and along the way I compare atheistic stories and how most of these things don’t fit very well with the atheistic story so the Christian story actually captures our aspirations much better and my hope is that we can prompt people to think, “Okay. I should look into whether this is true or not” because the Christian story actually is a good story. It’s a rich, humanly affirming story, but most people don’t think that nowadays. That’s kind of what I was doing with that and of course, I think believers get a lot out of it because it helps them see the gospel in different ways. It’s a new perspective on seeing what is the Christian story and how does it connect because I think to be honest, a lot of people who are wanting to be faithful believers have a disconnected view of how the gospel speaks to their humanity. That’s the story.
Kurt: A lot of folks just think we’re just here and we’re passing on through and we just need to stall until we get there.
Greg: Exactly. When you think about it from creation to new creation, there’s actually a different thread in the Scriptures.
Kurt: That’s great. I’ll tell you what. I’ll have to get a copy and we’ll bring you back on the topic in a few months and we’ll go more in-depth on that.
Greg: That sounds good, Kurt.
Kurt: Greg. Thank you for coming on the program today, for enlightening us about the issues of God and time. I know it’s complex, difficult, but it’s important nonetheless and stick with me here on Skype. I’m going to close out the program and we’ll chat afterward.
Greg: That’ll be great.
Kurt: That’s Greg Ganssle. He is professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. If you are interested in that, we’re going to learn more about his institution where he’s at, BIOLA is my alma mater, it’s a great school, highly encourage it. I was a philosophy undergrad and I was able to experience much of what is taught at Talbot there. We’re going to put a link on our website at this episode’s post, VeracityHill.com, so you can easily get to BIOLA. We’ll post a link to Greg’s book and the Consortium of Christian Study Centers. You can learn all about that. That does it for the program today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, and Fox Restoration. I want to thank our guest today, Greg Ganssle, again professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unclear around 12:00
[NP2]Inaudible at 15:30
[NP3]Unclear at 44:30
[NP4]Unclear at 54:35
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