Time and Eternity (∞)

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Trinity - God is the Alpha and the Omega, or Eternal (∞)

 

I think that it is within the context of Trinitarian Theology that the Personhood and Timelessness of God may be the most Satisfactorily Understood. For in the Eternal and Changeless Love Relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, we see how a Truly Personal God could exist Timelessly, Entirely Sufficient within Himself. Most writers who object to a Timeless, Personal God consider God only Subsequent-to Creation as He is Related to Human Persons, but Fail to consider God Prior-to Creation. . . . . . for if God is Tri-Personal, He has No-need of Temporal Persons with whom to Relate in order to Enjoy Personal Relationships -- the Three (3) Persons of the Godhead would experience Perfect and Eternal Communion and Love, with no Necessity to Create other Persons. Thus the Answer to the Question, 'What was God doing Prior to Creation? is rather, 'He was Enjoying the Fullness of Divine Personal Relationships, with an Eternal Determination for the Temporal Creation and Salvation of Human Persons'. Why did God so Determine? Perhaps to Share the Joy and Love of Divine Fellowship with Persons outside Himself, and so Glorify Himself. (Hackett, Theism, pp. 286-7)

 

CCC 231 - The God of our Faith has Revealed Himself as "He Who is"; and He has made Himself known as "Abounding in Steadfast Love and Faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). God's very Being is Truth and Love.

 

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When God became Man, Time, in its Sequence of Years, Centuries and Millenniums, was brought into the Dimension of Divine Eternity ; in fact, by Coming into the World through His Only-Begotten Son, God wanted to Unite the Dimensions of Time and Eternity. (John Paul II, Vespers on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1996.)

 

A Time for Eternity (∞)

by Mark Brumley
Managing Editor of The Catholic Faith Magazine.

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Eternity (∞) is not a Topic you hear much about these days. It is not regarded — what shall we say? — as Timely. And yet if Christianity is True, we shall all face Eternity — either an Eternity with Christ or without Him, an Eternity of Perfect Joy and Fulfillment, or One of Absolute Ruin and Emptiness. And we shall all find our Destiny according to the Path we have Chosen in this Life, this Very Brief Span of Years we call the Time-of-our-Lives. How, then, can we avoid Thinking-about Eternity in the Relatively Little Time we have?

Because there are any Number of Popular Misconceptions about Eternity, Catechists and other Religious Educators would do well to Think-through the Subject, Drawing-on Theology and Traditional Catholic Philosophy.

 

From Here to Eternity

Eternity and Time are Closely Related Terms; the Meaning of Each, Casts-light on the Other. We consider First, Eternity, then Time. Eternity can be Understood in Two (2) Ways:

First, as Endless or Infinite (∞) Time — either Endless or Infinite (∞) Past (Eternity Past), Endless or Infinite (∞) Future (Eternity Future) or both.

Second, Eternity can be thought of as Timelessness — without Timeno Beginning, no Succession, no Change, no End (Atemporality).

trinity6.jpg (11359 bytes) God alone, in the Christian view, is Eternal in the Second Sense, for He alone Transcends Time altogether. While other Beings Lose-part of their Existence into the Past and Gain-part of their Existence in the Future, God, the Supreme Being, Wholly Exists Tota Simul — without Past or Future — without Losing or Gaining anything. God is, as the Bible says, "The Father of Lights, with Whom there is no Alteration or Shadow Caused by Change" (James 1:17).

Nota Bene - At the Moment of Conception, Almighty God Creates our Immortal Soul and Fuses it to our Minute Body. There it remains as a Fountain/Receptacle of God's Love for us, until we Die and see Him Face-to-face.

The Human Soul is also Eternal, but Not-as God is. Unlike God, the Soul has a Beginning, and is Subject-to Change. Once Created, however, the Immortal Soul will Continue to Exist Forever. Its Fate will be either Eternal Life with God (Heaven) or the Eternal Death of Damnation without Him (Hell).

The same is True of Pure Spirits known as Angels. They too are Eternal, either Eternally Saved or Damned. But Angels also had a Beginning and are Subject-to Change, though in a Different Manner than Human Beings, who Constantly Undergo-Change due to their Physical Existence. Angels exist in what is known as Aeviternity, a State which Lies-between the Constant Change-of Time as we experience it, and Timelessness.

 

Time Enough

Obviously, both meanings of Eternity — Endless Time or Timelessness — involve the Notion of Time. What is Time? Saint Augustine is famous for quipping, "If you don't ask me, I know what it is. But if you ask me, I don't". If the Subject of Time gave his Great Intellect Pause, we should not Feel Bad about Scratching-our-Heads a bit over it. Time involves Change; it is the Measurement-of-Change. The Second-Hand on the Clock moves (i.e., Changes Position) Sixty (60) Times a Minute. The Earth Revolves on its Axis Once (1) every Twenty Four (24) Hours; it Circles the Sun, Once (1) every Three Hundred and Sixty Five (365) and One Quarter () Days, Etc.

Traditional Christian Theology — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant — affirms that Time itself is an Aspect of Creation. It is Meaningless, then, to Speak of the Time before Creation or ask, "What was God doing before He Created the Universe"? "Before" is a Time-Related Word, hence it is Meaningless without Time. How then can we hold that Time, like the Creation itself, had a Beginning? The Answer is: insofar as Time, like Creation as a Whole, is Finite. The Past is composed of a Finite Number of Events, hence the Time in which these Events occurred is Finite. There have been only so many things that have happened, however Staggering a Number that might be.

Interestingly, the Scientific Theory of Relativity also links Time to the Cosmos. This Scientific Notion of Time must be distinguished, however, from the Philosophical Understanding of Time. Science means by Time what is really "Measurable Time". If Time cannot, in a Given Circumstance be Measured, many Scientists argue it does not Exist. But our Inability to Measure Time Accurately in a Particular Circumstance, does not Automatically-mean there is no Time. It may only mean that our Instruments are Ineffective or, as is the case with Measurements at the Subatomic Level, that our Instruments affect what they are trying-to Measure, not that Time does not Exist there.

Timeless Theological Issues

A number of Important Theological Issues involve the Relationship between Eternity and Time. The most Prominent is probably the Question of God's Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. The Problem is thus: If God knows Today what I shall do Tomorrow, what happens to my Freedom? Must not I do Tomorrow what God knows Today I shall do? If not, then God's "Knowledge" of what I shall do, will have been Wrong — an Impossibility for an Omniscient Being. If, on the other hand, I must Act Tomorrow as God Knows I will, how can I be Free?

Of course we can not go into an Elaborate Response here. Suffice it to say that God, being Outside-Time, does not Foresee or Foreknow, in the Strictest Sense. For Foreseeing and Foreknowing, imply Seeing or Knowing in-Advance. And "in Advance" implies Ahead-of Time. Since God is beyond-Time, He simply "Sees" or "Knows" from His Vantage-Point in Eternity, so to speak, what you Are Doing, at All Points in your Existence, not what you Will Do. All Moments of your Life are Equally Present to God. Just as your Freedom is not Impeded by my Seeing or Knowing what you are Doing Now, neither is it Impeded by God's Seeing or Knowing it. The difference is, of course, that for God, all Moments of your Life are Equally-Available, whereas for me, Traveling along in Time with you, I experience only One (1) Moment at a Time.

 

- End of Article by Mark Brumley -

 

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A ten minute Audio Clip from EWTN by Father Leo Clifford, O.F.M.

 

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Q - If our Lives are already Planned Out by God, why do we try to Change our Lives through Prayer?
A - In your Question, it sounds as if you are Assuming that we do not have the Freedom to Alter our Lives. We do! In this sense, our Lives are not "Planned out by God", although He surely Knows in Advance what Choices we will make.

God is not "In Time"; He is Eternal (John 8:58; Revelation 1:8; CCC #1730, 1732). He is "Outside of" Time. To God, Time is One Big "Now". So, Strictly Speaking, there is no "Knowing in Advance" by God, Precisely-because He Knows Everything as the Present. Every Moment is Equally "Now" to the Eternal God - Past, Present and Future (1John 3:20).

God Knows what will Happen to us Tomorrow, but we do not. Our not Knowing, though, does not mean that what Happens Tomorrow is not Influenced by our Prayer. God Knows what our Prayer is (or will be), and can Allow it to Influence the Outcome of Things, just as He Allows your other Actions to Shape Events (Luke 18:1-7).

Prayer does help Determine Events. Prayer is like a Fork in the Road. If you Choose a Certain Path or Decision, you will have a Certain Outcome. If you do not Choose a Path (i.e., do not Pray), you may not have the Same Outcome. So, it is a Very Good Thing to Pray. Your Prayer will, in many cases, Change the Outcome of your Future (Mark 11:22-24; John 14:13-14, 15:7; Matthew 7:7-11; CCC #2610). We also Believe God Helps those who Turn-to Him more in Prayer.

Prayer Teaches us to Direct our Lives towards God and to Depend-on Him. Prayer helps us Trust-in "Providence", which is God's Plan for the World and our Interaction-with that Plan (CCC #2633).

 

Final Thought

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This Life is our only Opportunity to become what we Want to be for all Eternity. If we Want to Live with God in Heaven, we do what He Wants, because He alone knows how to Prepare-us for Heaven. He Teaches and Prepares us through the Catholic Church. If we Want to go to Hell, we do what we Want.