Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eternity

Following on from a paper I've been writing for the past year (see previous posts under 'Theology'), the following MTh essay finds no good answers to the question Why should Christians believe that God is timeless? The essay glances at reasons given by Boethius, Helm and Mawson (and so forth), so I'm wondering what (if anything) I've overlooked?

5 comments:

Liosis said...

Isn't it that if God is changable he is imperfect and therefore not pure being? I think it's from Plato and Plotinus.

Jeff said...

I'm trying to wrap my brain around presentism.

What is going on now is incredibly dependent on what has occurred before. (E.G. If I had never learned to read, I could not understand what you wrote and then respond to it.)
Doesn't this truth fly in the face of the claim that the present is the only reality?

Enigman said...

Sorry for the delay replying. Liosis, why would God be imperfect if changable? Being fickle would be an imperfection, but the God of Open Theism is regarded as ethically immutable and perfect. Plato was not bad for an ancient Greek, and his speculations were less crazy than those of David Lewis (famous modern American philosopher), but still, I wonder if there could be an actual reason.

Jeff, no it doesn't, but I've got to rush off again at the moment, so I'll post on that question shortly (it was pure fluke that I checked cyber space today:)

Enigman said...

Jeff, that dependency is actually something that supports Presentism. The main alternative to Presentism is a 4-dimensional spacetime as, not just a way of speaking (especially in physics) but an objectively real thing. On that view we are not ultimately 3-D objects changing, but a 4-D collection of 3-D bits, a 4-D tube of 3-D slices. Suppose a bit or slice was removed. The other bits would remain just as before. Of course, no such removal is possible, as it would require time and change. But it is possible to do that experiment in thought. The inner connection between things at different times seems to be lost on the 4-D view (for a development of that Humean intuition, see David Lewis).

But on Presentism there is this one ultimate thing, you, that is changing, or moving through time, so to speak. What you are depends on what you were because you are the same object. Presentism is not the denial that there was a way things were. It is the claim that those are the same things, which have changed. That is how we naturally see the world. Russell suggested that we might (logically) have all come into existence a second ago, with false memories. That is not Presentism, and it is only much of a possibility on the 4-D view.

The main argument for moving from our quotidian Presentism to a 4-D view of spacetime is Relativistic physics, but that argument is not as strong as it looks (cf. the argument from evidence for evolution to the non-existence of a creator, or from evidence for the brain's importance to the non-existence of a soul). Time is a confusing things to thing about. I've been thinking about it ever since I was a schoolboy with an interest in physics, some 30 years ago, and I'm only just beginning to think that there could be anything sensible to say about it. I'd say more about dependency and Presentism, but I'd like it to depend on what you think of the above, as it is a confusing subject.

enigMan said...

Incidentally this post on Alexander Pruss's Blog addresses a similar worry about Presentism.