REVIEWING TIME AND ETERNITY: A TIMELESS CLASSIC IN A TEMPORAL WORLD
Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. William Lane Craig. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001. 272 pp. $25.00. ISBN: 1-58134-241-1.
One of the most difficult questions that Christian theologians and philosophers need to deal with is the relationship of God to time. What might sound like a relatively unimportant question that is easily resolved, upon further consideration, is seen to be immensely complex. Any consideration of the relationship of God to time must necessarily answer questions concerning God’s knowledge (of the present, the past and the future, as well as how he knows), of the creation of the world (in time or before time), and of God’s action within time (one eternal action, or many diverse actions as time proceeds). Of course, in order to respond to these questions we must first of all know what we mean when we talk about time and eternity. None of these questions are easy to answer, and though the Bible does not seem to give a decisive answer on these issues, the answers that we give to these issues drastically change how we interpret the Bible. William Lane Craig has already published a number of books, and articles, on problems related to the time and eternity, and this book is his effort at explaining the issues to those who have not spent their lives studying these problems, yet who wish to understand, and delve deeper into, the related issues. As such, Craig has attempted, in this book, the very difficult task of translating the very technical philosophical and scientific language, which is related to questions concerning time, into terms that the man on the street can understand.
The book is well organized, and, due to a robust general index and an index of scripture references, it will be a helpful reference tool to anyone who is beginning to study the subject. Craig has divided the book into 7 chapters, and 1 appendix. In the first chapter Craig introduces us to the problems that we run into when we begin exploring the relationship between God and time. He goes over what the Bible teaches on the subject, and points out that the Bible doesn’t seem to point conclusively to any one position. He takes time to point out that the two main views on God’s relationship to time – divine timelessness and divine temporality – both find support in scriptures. In chapters 2 and 3 Craig introduces the two main views – timelessness and temporality – and takes the time to explain each of the arguments for and against these views, along with the counter arguments that the proponents of each view use to show that the other position is wrong. By the end of the second chapter Craig has already begun hinting at his own position on the problem – which is somewhat of a hybrid of both views. At the beginning of chapter 2, Craig notes that if we adhere to divine simplicity and/or divine immutability, then we have a knockdown argument for divine timelessness, however, in his usual fashion, he rejects both doctrines as being much too controversial to be used as premises in an argument for divine timelessness (for similar arguments against these doctrines see his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, co-authored with J. P. Moreland). One cannot help wondering why he thinks that it is necessary to defend the traditional doctrine of divine omniscience, but does not seem to think that it is necessary to give more than a cursory glance at the traditional doctrines of divine simplicity and divine immutability. He concludes that though it is entirely possible that God was timeless prior to creation, it is necessary to conclude that in creating a temporal world God necessarily entered into time.
In chapters 4 and 5 Craig considers to two principle conceptions of time – the tense-less and the tensed theories – and spends a great deal of time considering the many scientific (such as relativity theory, Newton’s position, etc.) and philosophical arguments in favor of, and against these two positions. Craig finds that the tense-less theory lacks sufficient evidence, and compelling arguments, and, with a barrage of counter-arguments, rejects it as untenable. He therefore concludes that the only tenable theory of time is the tensed theory.
In chapter 6 and the conclusion Craig addresses some important questions concerning God and time, arguing that Time did indeed have a beginning, and that God was indeed timeless prior to creation. We are finally treated to a summary exposition of Craig’s personal theory, in which God is timeless prior to creation, and that he has been temporal from the beginning of time to now. In the conclusion Craig summarizes what we have gone through in the 6 preceding chapters and gives a summary explanation of his theory concerning God’s relationship to time.
The book finishes with a short appendix concerning the question of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Though it is only a summary of some of the issues, and does not go into great detail, it is still quite interesting.
This book is an excellent resource for amateur philosophers and apologists, and anybody who is interested in exploring the relationship between God and time. Regardless of the great effort that Craig put into vulgarization, this book is still going to be a difficult read for someone who is new to this type of philosophical study. It is, however, worth the time that it will take to fully grasp the concepts that Craig is presenting in the book. This book is also valuable for the wealth of references that the reader will find in the footnotes. What is more, at the end of each chapter Craig lists a number of important articles and books that discuss the subjects that were touched upon in each chapter. This book will be a great addition to any library.