Is God in Time?

by Greg Koukl

The Scriptures seem to identify a God in time, yet a God that is somehow beyond time, not constrained by it the way we are (1 Peter 3).

Put your thinking caps on today. We’re going to talk about time.

It’s common for us to make the comment “The spaceless, timeless God” or “Then we’ll pass out of time, into eternity.” However, the Scripture is not clear about God’s timelessness. Most of the verses seem to indicate God is in time: Rev 1:4; Rev 4:8, Ps 90, Jude 25, 2 Pet 3:8.

Two popular books describe a picture of God as timeless. Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God and C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Lewis and Yancey both flounder because of theological and philosophical problems that both seem unaware of. 

Let’s define time and see if God qualifies as being in time.

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First, we need a definition or a description of time that seems to capture our basic sense of it. Second, we need to see if this definition applies in any way to God. Third, we need to address some of the misconceptions–philosophical and theological–that Yancey seems to have overlooked.

What is time? To put it most simply, time is duration. 

This is where clocks come in (any kind of clock). Clocks mark change or, more precisely, clocks are examples of change that seem to indicate the passage of time. One could say, then, that time is a necessary precondition for change and change is a sufficient condition to establish the passage of time. Maybe there can be time (duration) without change, but it doesn’t seem possible to have change without time.

Here’s why. If a certain state of affairs is followed by another state of affairs (a change in property exemplification, or relations, etc.) that had not already been contemporaneous–at the same “time”–with the first (as the sequence of numbers might be), then it seems a temporal change has taken place. In our normal way of speaking we say that the first state of affairs is past and the second is present. In other words, there is at least one true past-tensed fact.

It seems that if real change takes place then two entirely different conditions exist…

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