Thanks for your thoughtful response!
“It doesn’t exist in a physical way. It “exists” as a concept, but as a necessary concept.”
Right…I would agree with this statement; I think for man to effectively organize his environment, “time” is extremely important. It allows for the exceptionally effective interaction among people. Dividing the “day” into “points” of contact has obvious positive implications. Definitely. But the fact that it isn’t “physical” has HUGE implications. If we can correctly identify it as an abstract concept that exists as a function of man’s mind, then we will stop rooting our understanding of God and physics and metaphysics on the assumption that it not only is helpful to man, but that God, and the Universe are actually a direct FUNCTION of it. That they are FORCED to submit to it as a matter of course. If we can understand it is a concept, and nothing more, then we can begin to look beyond it for proper TRUTH.
“Time is real but not physical. The now is the set of positions of all physical objects and thoughts as the exist now. The past is the set of all physical objects and thoughts as they existed then. You can’t go back to the past, because this isn’t finite state machine. Nor can you go to the future. You are always in the now, but the now is not always the same now.”
From my perspective, it seems as though you rightly proclaim time as “not real” (which I describe as not “actual”), but then you proceed to argue as to why it is, in fact, real. My posit is that if something is not physical, then it cannot be real (there is simply no evidence, physical or metaphysical, to defend the idea that the non-physical actually exists). It is a concept…a concept is only real in that it occupies an area of biological brain space. But the things the concept “denotes” still exist regardless of whether the concept is formulated in man’s mind or not. The “concept” doesn’t create anything or destroy anything. It merely describes it. It cannot EFFECT anything. It can only describe it, because it is only theoretical. It has NO actual power. Because it is not a real, physical thing.
“I don’t believe it is possible to live in a timeless moment where everything past, present, and future is the Now.”
James, by your own concession of time as “not real/not physical”, this is precisely what you must believe. If time doesn’t actually exist, then as I said, it cannot effect the physical. And as such, then, we must acknowledge that the reality of everything does, indeed, exist “now”. The reason you struggle to accept my argument, I submit, is because you have spent your whole life assuming that the timeline actually has some kind of POWER to effect your world. As you said, “denoting, something real”. But again, time denotes nothing except in your MIND…because it isn’t actual. And so, the real argument is that MAN denotes, not TIME. Time is purely a conceptual tool. So the reality of existence then MUST be that both WHERE and WHEN are purely the abstraction of time being extended cognitively to objects. So, if YOU, the object, are the constant, and you are always WHERE and WHEN you are, then by definition, literally speaking, all must be NOW.
And further, movement does NOT imply time. Because you see yourself move, and other things move, does not mean that time is REAL. You are quantifying this RELATIVE movement by “time”. The same way you do it by “speed”, or “distance”, or “dimension” or any other purely cognitive, theoretical abstraction.
“For one thing, if God had no sense of time, if everything was now to him, I don’t think he would have created anything, nor perhaps could he create anything if that were the case. If everything is now to God, in the sense you seem to be suggesting, then God can’t do anything. God becomes a prisoner of the future he foresees. He can only do in the now what he foresaw he would do, which means there must be some all-powerful fate determining God’s actions, and that all-powerful fate would then be God. So you end up with an infinite regress.”
Yes…I see what you are saying here. You are clearly using excellent discursive argument and inductive reasoning. I LOVE to see this in people. Occasionally I see this on the blogs…but usually these are the people who get booted pretty quick, because once they start thinking like this, it becomes increasingly easier to see the logical flaws in the arguments, even when the arguments are from “nice” Calvinists, like Wade Burleson. And this really pisses people off, and they tell you that you are full of pride and want to force your ideas on others. But the truth is that people don’t like having their long-held assumptions sacrificed up to rational scrutiny when they know they lack the tools to defend it. And this has very little to do with intellect, and almost everything to do with two things: they are lackadaisical and complacent thinkers, and the ideas are just plain bad.
But I digress.
James, the problem I see in your perspective is that you are still conceding that time is actual…in effect, anyway. You are proclaiming that God is beholden to a “future” He sees, but the point is that since time is not actual, then He cannot, by definition, SEE a FUTURE. He may be able to conceptualize a “future” in a theoretical sense, like man does, but that does not mean that He can create a future, because that would mean creating time, and then, you are right, HE would indeed be beholden to TIME. HIS actions would be as determined and thus as obsolete as anyone else’s. Which is precisely why I DENY that God can “know” the future, because if He knows a future then He MUST have determined it, and then time becomes the all determining Force and we wind up with the self-destructing metaphysical conclusions which doom the whole darn thing, as you rightly point out. But since everything is, in fact, NOW, and all movement relative, then there is NO future for God to “foreknow”. He operates as man operates in man’s existential reality…using conceptual tools within the machinations of RELATIVE movement “like time and space and distance and love and hate, etc., etc.” in order to truly RELATE to man.
So IF we acknowledge that time is merely a concept, then we can actually concede a REAL and truly free-willed relationship with God without inexorably running into the impossibly irreconcilable determinism where ACTUAL time MUST eventually arrive.
By the way, I applaud you and everyone else that comes here to talk about this stuff. Make no mistake, WE are the only ones doing it. NO ONE else wants anything to do with this stuff. I have engaged physicists, philosophers, etc., etc…they don’t touch it. Time and Space are sacred cows. I have brought up these questions on physics sites several times…it is surreal. They don’t answer my observations about the subject, but they run me out of town on a rocket propelled rail.
Because they have no answer. And their curse is that they are smart enough to KNOW they have no answer. They aren’t merely lazy thinkers clinging to long-held assumptions because they just don’t feel like moving their minds. They understand that the entire science hangs on ideas that are ultimately impossible to reconcile rationally (which is why so many, like Hawking, hate philosophers…philosophy, at least GOOD philosophy, like Aristotelian-type thinking, is their kryptonite). I promise you, they have NO way to ever mathematically “prove” that nothing equals something.
For example, they laud the “big bang” and yet they understand that according to their own centuries of physics they cannot describe “where” or “when” it occurred, because, by definition, it can have NO time or space…because it “created them”. Their silence is a mask for their “intellect”. They love being the smartest people in the room…they will not suffer questions from philosopher types like us. As such, I have begun to question a LOT of what I assume.
Oh…one final thing: There is NO beginning, for the very reason that a beginning for the “big bang” can never be concluded (there is no where or when, because space and time were “created” then). “Beginning’ is a function of “time”. Thus, even beginning is simply relative.
Think about that. 🙂
“Again, since it doesn’t move, the timeline is static…so then the only ‘value’ you can give an object on a timeline that is static is ZERO, because you can never by definition know WHEN an object can exist on the timeline because the timeline itself is is NOT a function of time.”
My attempt to put that in English results in: “The only time that really exists is the present. The past is gone and the future does not yet exist.” I don’t know if I captured what you’re trying to say there or not.
“Time” in the sense we think of it has a beginning, the creation, and an end, the end of this planet. But “time” to God is infinite. So we are dealing with two sets of “time.” This is the only sense in which I will allow that God “exists outside of time” — his timeline is longer, even infinite. But that doesn’t mean he sees everything, past, present, and future as present, as the sophists allege. Saying that time “is not real” I think could result in bolstering the claims of the sophists who believe God exists in a kind of timeless moment in which he sees all time at once. I don’t like that. Time to me is “Real” but only real as an abstract idea is real. Love is real, but it isn’t a physical existence. Anger is real, but also not a physical existence. So, time is real, but it doesn’t really exist. The only time that exists is now, and the past is past (hence the name), and the future hasn’t happened yet and so cannot be exhaustively known.
As for space, it is the very definition of non-existence. When nothing exists, what do you have? Empty space.”
Here is my response:
Your translation of my post in English (LOL!) was pretty good. I only (of course) have a small issue with it…which, may be a big issue depending on your point of view, but anyway…
Yes…the “present” as being the only thing that exists is a relatively fair assertion, and very astute. Still…I struggle to leave it there, the reason being that “present”, like future or past, denotes a value of “time”–the NOW moment, so to speak–and as such, for me, denying that ANY such value is actual, but that ALL temporal values must be abstract, forms the core of my belief on the matter.
“Present” is not really any different from “past” or “future” in that it places man someWHERE on a timeline. But since no such timeline actually exists, you cannot remove “future” and “past” without also removing “present”. For according to the definition of time, and timeline, if you do not have a “future” or “past” you cannot have a “present”. Why?
Because, again, it cannot have a value. If the timeline doesn’t move, as I said in my last post, then any value on it is referenced to ZERO (meaning the timeline starts at 0 time…then, by definition, its initial value is zero, so then you cannot ADD to it; meaning time itself is nothing, and adding MORE nothing to nothing still gives you NOTHING). This is no different for “present”. For even NOW can only actually be valued at ZERO if we are to look at the timeline as anything other than a theoretical abstraction.
The fact is that there is no “past”, “future”, OR “present”. The only thing that is constant (i.e. ACTUAL) is YOU (or whatever object we are discussing…but we’ll just say YOU, for the sake of this post). Thus, no matter “where” you are (space) or “when” you are (time), your location can only ACTUALLY (that is, non-theoretically) be described as YOU. YOU are “when” you are; and YOU are “where” you are. ANYTHING else is a relative abstraction.
Not that abstractions are bad. Not at all. The ability to abstract is precisely why we are at the top of the food chain (or is it “food pyramid” now?). But it is also why we destroy ourselves in the name of Primacy of Consciousness. We come to the weird conclusion that these abstractions are somehow the REAL “laws” which govern us. And thus we kill ourselves in service to the external-to-man “truth” which guides humanity.
It is just so silly. And so ghastly.
But you can thank Plato and his “forms”. That peculiar philosopher is the greatest destroyer of humanity I can think of. I submit that practically ALL wars are fought in service to an idea of the supremacy of a particular Primary Consciousness.
Let’s move on to man’s “time” versus God’s “time”.
This is my take…the (partial) conclusion upon which my thinking has been deposited. The ideas may sound hokey…but, for my money, they are the only rational explanation which allows truly FREE interaction between God and man, ultimately. Any other explanation, I believe, is determinism.
The truth is that time, being purely an abstraction, is no more real for us than it is for God. And not only is this true for time, but it is also PRECISELY the same for any other abstract idea we wish to consider: time, space, love, hate, anger, sadness, good, evil, up, down, language, run, walk, distance, length, width, and on and on. I submit that ALL of these ideas are merely abstract qualifications and quantifications used by man to organize and express the many variations of the RELATIVE MOVEMENT of all objects outside of SELF. And among these objects is God, Himself, who man also organizes according to abstraction, and who willingly submits to such organization because it is within MAN’S cognitive and physical frame of reference that God MUST operate due to the obvious and massive existential differences.
But even more than this, it is also the very way in which man observes HIMSELF.
As an aside, have you ever noticed that man’s consciousness can never look INWARD? In other words, you cannot observe yourself from directly INSIDE yourself. That all of what you know of YOU has come from the sensory input you derive from looking BACK upon yourself, from the outside. And that you cannot look directly upon your own SELF from the same place you observe outwardly…that is, from your own consciousness. I find this absolutely fascinating.
The primary temporal difference between man and God is:
God’s ability to “think” (engage in the self-aware oriented cognitive process), to “sense” and act (manipulate and effect creation towards a given objective) is found at the root subatomic particle level…that is, at the level of the basic, dimensionless (and thus INFINITE) particles of subatomics which under girds ALL of the physical universe. And by this I am suggesting that God not only EXISTS at this level, but that He IS such a particle in root bodily form. This works for me because it can be effectively argued that this would allow Him to be ACTUAL, and INFINITE. A part of the universe, and in it and of it and around it, while at the same time maintaining His categorical integrity as the infinite I AM. Able to be “anywhere’ and “anywhen”, and yet wholly observed by man to be, in fact, a separate causal power, capable of manipulating man’s world and environment without actually POSSESSING it. This idea does away with all the metaphysical contradictions of a God whose existence is mutually exclusive to Creation.
At any rate, the main point is that God is not a “prisoner”–for lack of a better word–of a wholly relativistic, finite, existential reality. God is able to somehow observe, act and think on a level which is essentially boundless…that is, bound only by the very self-derived and self-generated ABILITY to BE of the Creation which exists apart from Him.
He operates from an infinite–and thus, by definition, NON relative–place where He observes everything as HERE and everything as NOW in relation to Himself. He is somehow able to bridge the gap between His infinite Self and the infinite selves of ALL of the infinite (dimensionless) subatomic particles that make up all that exists in the universe. Nothing is relatively “near” or “far” from God in either space or time. Everything is NOW to God.
It is from this vantage point and in this way that He does everything, which is why He is, and we observe Him, as purely an infinite I AM. And we describe Him as “all powerful” because of the non-relative nature of EVERYTHING around Him. His control is unlimited in this sense: that He can manipulate everything “now” at will (and according to a conscious objective).
He is able to manipulate everything in Creation from the reference location of ZERO DISTANCE. To God, everything, according to His conscious and self-aware Will, is immediately accessible and wholly able to be effected by Him…again, as long as the boundary between what is God and what is NOT God is not breached; not violated. And this is never a problem because God cannot violate that which exists as a SELF wholly apart from God. Breaching this boundary means breaching His own Self’s integrity. For God cannot be an infinite Self AND also ANOTHER self simultaneously. This would irrevocably create a metaphysical schism He cannot survive, having made Him and all He is and does utterly redundant. Because if He IS that which He effects, then this completely destroys the OTHER which He is supposedly manipulating.
And the problem with this of course is that if there is no other by which God can be defined AS God, then you CANNOT define God at all; and He cannot define Himself. Because God does not functionally EXIST apart from that which OBSERVES Him to be God…namely Creation. (I hear the cries of “heretic” and smell the fumes of the burning stake as I type.)
Remember this metaphysical axiom; Argo’s Universal Truth Number Eight:
The existence of SELF is always predicated on the actual existence of OTHER.
But this is for another post…