Eternity and Time

This evening the Highland Astronomical Society had its collective mind stretched as our former chairman Paul Jenkins spoke on The Passing of Time, not in the sense of its demise, although one needs to face up to the fact that Time will come to an end, but as the website announced:

“As Earthlings we regard time as a constant – moving forward inexorably and leaving behind our memories of the past. But is it constant? Paul will explore the nature of time, and the implications of its true nature for us Astronomers.”

Paul Jenkins

Paul developed and distinguished Thermal Time (entropy increasing by the second law of thermodynamics), Events Time (the sequential ‘arrow of time’) and Internal Time (time as we experience it in our minds, because of the ability of our brain to retain memories and create expectations of the future).

On the latter point, Paul quoted the thoughts of an acquaintance of mine – Augustine of Hippo on the Nature of Time, that Time is a phenomenon of human consciousness.

We exist in the present, have memories of the past, which help us to anticipate the future. This is our experience of Time, sequentially from anticipated future, the present and into the past in our memory.

Secular science and self-consciousness

This interesting and important subject needs some Christian development beyond what a secular society provides. Augustine discussed not only the subjective but also the objective aspects of Time. While modern science and thought has made great strides regarding the objective aspects of space-time, the subjective aspects have been debated by theologians for millennia, as Augustine (354–430 AD) demonstrates. The scientific community is only recently catching up on millennia of Christian thought. Through the 1990s there was little scientific discussion of consciousness, far less self-consciousness. Only with the advent of artificial intelligence and PET scanning of the brain ‘in real time’ has consciousness arrived on the scientific agenda. Self-consciousness is being discussed only in recent times in the field of animal psychology and secular evolutionary thought. Christian theologians were here millennia ago.

We are human beings and not human becomings. We will become something different but we are always ‘be-ings’. “In Him we live, move and have our being” Acts 17:28. God sustains our being moment by moment and when He choses our spirit “returns to God Who gave it”.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it.”

Ecclesiastes 12:7

The eternity of God

God is outside time and space. We see and witness events in time and space in a sequential manner but God does not. He sees all events past, present and future as one eternal present – NOW – which one can illustrate by considering how we view cars coming round the side of a hill, that is, sequentially. However, a person at the top of the hill can see all the cars at once, making their way round the hill. Similarly, God sees all things at once which we see and experience sequentially.

For God, all things are one eternal present. This is what we mean by the eternity of God.

Eternity is more real than Time

God is the Creator and eternity is more real and substantial than evanescent Time. We are here today and gone tomorrow. We experience Time subjectively and sequentially, but it exists independently of human beings. It was here before us and it will exist after we die.

Time is a mere fluctuation in Eternity

Time, by definition, is temporary and is not eternal. Secular scientists imagine our Universe is but the budding out of another universe like bubbles of foam forming a multiverse, and that matter and antimatter is constantly being formed and annihilating itself. These concepts may be used to illustrate that Time is a product of eternity. We appear in Time for a short period and then disappear as far as our bodies are concerned. The creation of the human soul is a different topic. The human spirit does not go out of existence but exists in the spiritual and eternal realm. The relationship between these is another topic.

God, Eternity and Infinity

Mathematicians deal with infinity and an infinity of infinities. God is the ultimate Mathematician. God is both infinite (without boundaries) and eternal (outside Time and Space as their Creator). “Who made God?” is an oxymoron. God is the First Cause of all things and by definition He is self-existent and thus uncreated. Scientists define dark matter and dark energy in negative terms because they do not know what they are; similarly theologians define God not only by the positive attributes that we know but by negative attributes, such as ‘in-finite’, which we cannot comprehend rather like quantum physics!

Infinity

Infinity simply means ‘not finite’, ‘without limits’. The mathematical number line is endless and goes on for ever towards infinity.

The power and effects of God’s Spirit

Scientists describe dark matter and dark energy by their effects although they cannot see nor comprehend it. Similarly, Jesus Christ describes the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by His effects:

Jesus told Nicodemus not to marvel when He told him: “You must be born again.” Nicodemus could hear the sound of the wind (the same root word as ‘spirit’ in the Hebrew and Greek languages) but he could not tell from where it was coming and to where it was going – “so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Jesus explained that one sees the Holy Spirit’s work from its effects.

The Gospel of John 3:7-8.

Is it any wonder that God asks the questions?

“To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.

“To whom will you compare Me, and make Me equal?”

Isaiah 40:25 and Isaiah 46:5

The Being of God

The Westminster Shorter Catechism used to be taught in Scottish schools and in some of them into the late 1960s, but it was removed generally in the mid-20th century, more than two generations ago. Those privileged children who learned it would know the answer to Question 4.

Question 4: What is God?

Answer: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer No. 4.

There is more where this came from.

Links:

4 Nov 2015: Highland Astronomical Society has an honourable mention ‘in despatches’ here: ‘The Spiritual Dimension’.

8 Jan 2018: Galileo’s Moons: ‘Seven Days that Changed the Heavens’.

1 Oct 2019: the twitter link.

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