September 25, 2012

Love and Special Relativity in the Atemporal and Temporal Trinity


Monotheists agree that God has always existed and will always exist. But what does that mean? Does God always exist atemporally (timelessly, apart from the succession of time)? Or has God always existed temporally (within the succession of time)? Or does God exist both atemporally and temporally? [1] My 2011 blog article "First Quasi-Cause: Uncaused Timeless Nature" argues against the possibility of past-infinite temporality while supporting original divine atemporality. [2] Also, original divine atemporailty could include God experiencing temporality since creation. [3] In any case, Trinitarian views of divine atemporality face challenges such as explaining the paradox of atemporal love between the three divine persons. This article briefly introduces how Einstein's theory for the special relativity of time helps to explain original atemporal love in the Trinity.

Classical monotheists such as Augustine and Aquinas say that God exists atemporally and never temporally. However, Scripture never addresses God's relationship to time in a philosophical discourse. This section briefly considers Psalm 90:2, John 17:5, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Psalm 90:4, and 2 Peter 3:9.

Psalm 90:2 says that before the creation of the world God is "from everlasting to everlasting." The Hebrew psalmist made a powerful statement about God's existence before the creation of the world. The phrase "from everlasting to everlasting" at first glance appears to suggest from past-infinite temporality to future-infinite temporality. But the verse says this existence from everlasting to everlasting occurred before the creation of the world, so this verse might describe an infinite atemporal existence. Also, John 17:5 describes the glorious relationship of the Father and Son before creation of the world and 1 Corinthians 2:7 says that God made a decree "before ages/aionon." Opponents of divine atemporality might appeal to formal logic and say that the concepts of "before" and "after" require temporality so these verses indicate that temporality has always existed in the past, which is past-infinite temporality. This appeal to logical deductions pushes this debate to merge biblical studies and philosophy.

Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 also say that God has extraordinary experiences of temporality. Psalm 90:4 says that God sees a thousand years as one night while 2 Peter 3:9 says that God sees a thousand years as a day and a day as a thousand years.

Disproving the possibility of past-infinite temporality is easy. For example, proposing past-infinite temporality for God or a mutliverse is as logical as proposing that never-ending temporality ends. God could never possibly complete an infinite succession of events while God can complete a finite succession of infinitely large events. Something occurred other than past-infinite temporality. This indicates that temporality requires a finite origin, which is called "temporal finitism." Likewise, temporal finitism indicates an uncaused atemporal nature while monotheists agree that the uncaused nature is God.

How could atemporal love exist within the Trinity? Humans typically develop loving relationships over time. I although experienced love at first sight on four occasions when I felt complete adoration and made a lifelong commitment of sacrificial love at the respective first sights of my children. But loving relationships typically develop with reciprocation over time. For example, when I met my now wife, I felt adoration at first sight but wisely proceeded with caution and developed a mutual friendship over time before making a lifelong commitment of sacrificial love. In the case of the love between the three divine persons, some Trinitarians doubt or reject that the divine persons could genuinely love each other in atemporal existence that by definition includes no succession of events.

The concept of Trinitarian atemporality possibly conjures frozen pictures of Zeno's motionless universe. However, the impossibility of past-infinite temporality for the three divine persons indicates that something else occurred between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But how could three motionless divine persons enjoy genuine mutual love? A resolution to this paradox involves Einstein's theory of special relativity that predicts relative simultaneity. Relative simultaneity means there is no absolute simultaneity of distant events, which indicates that there is no absolute time frame. This lack of absolute time frame from relative simultaneity ironically supports the radical simultaneity of all events in an infinite time dimension with no distinction between the past, present, and future. This means that all events in the past, present, and future have always existed without cause, which philosophers call "B-theory of time" or "eternalism." [4] This paper rejects unqualified eternalism in the physical universe and sees eternalism as an analogy for atemporality.

The prediction of relative simultaneity in special relativity has instigated many philosophers to imply that observations of causation and time's arrow in science and human experience are an illusion while the radical simultaneity of eternalism is the best paradigm for the observed universe. But such a position requires the rejection of all empirical causation that is the foundation of science, which eternalists typically ignore. I currently lack a resolution for the paradox of relative simultaneity and observations of causation and time's arrow, but in any case relative simultaneity indicates the possibility of a world with no causation and no time's arrow despite the existence of causation and time's arrow in this world.

The first world was God with no creation, which is the divine essence. God always self-existed with omnibenevolence, inexhaustible creative powers, exhaustive self-consciousness, knowledge of all possibilities (natural knowledge), and an infinite number of dimensions of infinite size without physical dynamics. In the context of Trinitarian doctrine, the three divine persons infinitely loved each other while exhaustively knowing each other. The love between the divine persons was omniscient and unlimited while there was no causation and no time's arrow. Also, when God began to exercise discretionary use of creative powers, the divine essence such as inexhaustible creative powers never internally changed while God entered into nonessential experiences.

God's first world qualities of self-existence, no causation, and no time's arrow have similarity to eternalism while God's first world's quality of potentiality to create has dissimilarity to eternalism. Likewise, eternalism helps to analogize the first world of God while all analogies by definition include similarity and dissimilarity.

The doctrine of divine atemporality and temporality implies that God has an essential atemporal experience and nonessential temporal experiences. The term "nonessential" in this context in no way implies unimportant or inadvertent, but God's nonessential experiences resulted from discretionary decrees.

The central nonessential experience of God in Christian doctrine is the Incarnation. Christ, the second person of God, remained one hundred percent God and also became one hundred percent human, the divine-human hypostatic union of the Incarnation. The hypostatic union was a manifestation of Christ who originally existed in essential mode, developed a nonessential mode at the beginning of temporality, and eventually developed into the Incarnation. Likewise, Christ had at least two nonessential modes while each mode was one hundred percent the second person of God.

Another divine nonessential mode in basic Christian doctrine is the outpouring and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the third person of God. The essential mode and nonessential mode of the Holy Spirit are completely God in the same way the essential mode and nonessential modes of Christ are completely God.

An example of a manifest nonessential mode of the Father is at the baptism of Christ when the Father audibly said: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22 NRSV). In fact, the baptism of Christ in Luke 3:21–22 shows respective manifest modes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time. Likewise, the three divine persons relate to each other both essentially and non-essentially.

Additionally, no created person can possibly perceive the atemporal essence of God, but God reveals himself in the divine manifestations to angels and humans.

This model of the atemporal and temporal Trinity works with various models of divine foreknowledge such as compatibilism, Molinism, simple foreknowledge, and open theism. In the case of compatibilism, God foreordained all of his temporal responses including the determinism for all events while free-will agents are mysteriously responsible to God for their decisions. In the case of Molinism, God foreordained all of his temporal responses including the determinism for the outcomes of all apparently stochastic events while God definitely foreknows all free-will responses of all free-will agents. In the case of simple foreknowledge, God from atemporailty without decree had mysteriously foreknown the outcome of all events and God foreordained all of his temporal responses. In the case of open theism, God foreordained his temporal responses to all possible events.

1. See a review various positions by Gregory E. Ganssle. 2007. "God and Time." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
2. James Goetz. 2011. "First Quasi-Cause: Uncaused Timeless Nature."
3. William Lane Craig ."God, Time, and Eternity." A lecture delivered at Oxbridge Conference, July 23, 2002.
4. Ned Markosian. 2008. "Time." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Copyright © 2012 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.