God, Time and Freedom
Cook (Robert R.)
Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Mar., 1987), pp. 81-94
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Author’s Introduction: There seems to be a growing consensus amongst both theologians and philosophers that the classical doctrine of God as a simple, eternal (atemporal) being is untenable. Worries are expressed about the very notion of atemporal existence and when the examples of numbers and universals1 are offered, attention is drawn to the uncertain ontological status of such entities. Further, some of the traditional expressions of divine eternity are strictly speaking incoherent, bearing in mind that eternity means having neither temporal location nor duration. For example, it is clearly self-contradictory to assert that atemporal deity enjoys the 'Eternal Now' since this would entail temporal location, and similarly Boethius' famous definition of eternity as 'unending life existing as a complete whole all at once' is suspect, for it suggests that God has both infinite duration ('unending life') and also no duration ('all at once'). Of course, the traditionalist will hasten to point out that God's magnum mysterium is forcing him to employ language analogically, but the critics suspect they are rather in the presence of the fog of unknowing and just plain woolly thinking. However, the problems really begin for the classical theist
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  2. Author’s Conclusion: It may be concluded that the doctrine of divine eternity does face insuperable problems when it seeks to embrace such fundamental Christian doctrines as God's omnipotence and omniscience, not to mention his full personhood. As J. R. Lucas points out, 'A timeless Deity may be the Truth; it may possibly provide us with the Way, or at least with a Goal; but it cannot ever be the Life. It remains necessarily to theion not ho theos’. There have been some valiant recent attempts to avoid this conclusion by the advancement of such ingenious arguments as here reviewed but they fail to convince. It is tempting, therefore, for the Christian theist to espouse the alternative sempiternal doctrine of God found, for example, in Process Theology but Alladin's lesson should be borne in mind: it is not always a wise deal to exchange new lamps for old.

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