Originally posted by LemonJello
For theists on this site who hold that God is "eternal", could you please describe what exactly this means to you?
I was reading an essay by Alvin Plantinga, and here is how he describes it (or roughly outlines it):
[b]"Many theists, however, hold that God is eternal, and that this eternity involves at least the following two properties. F o reconcile the above -- for example, alternative accounts regarding causation.
[/b]It seems that theists (those who embrace what Plantinga rejects, anyway) have difficulty themselves, since they continually use temporal language--e.g., the universe began
at the moment when
God created it: “In the beginning…”.
What can it mean
to say that the beginning of the creation was not also a beginning for God: when God became
a creator? (This in addition to your comments about God acting in creation, of which time is a part.)
When someone says something like “God sees/does everything ‘all at once’”, I am not sure that they
know what they mean. Even the words “seeing” and “doing” seem to imply temporality. Even present tense does not seem “atemporal” to me (what would an “untensed” language be like?).
And, when people say that we can’t see things from God’s perspective, but only from our own (which is inescapably temporal), I agree. But that means, again, that we/they have no knowledge about God that is not warped by our human consciousness--no matter what the source. Trying to convey things about God that go beyond the limits of our (time-bound) consciousness can only result in saying things that are not coherent to that consciousness: yours, mine, theirs. And to say that such things are nevertheless coherent to such a God is not to say that we understand anything at all
In the end, I think some of this is what Wittgenstein meant about “bewitching” ourselves with our own language. Just because we can form a word--”atemporality”--and put it into a grammatical sentence, does not mean that we know
what such a word could possibly signify. What can we possibly grasp, within the context of the “grammar” of our consciousness, of what that word might signify? (I can only think that one would repeat the same problematic “concept” in different, equally problematic terms--such as, “Well, it signifies a state without time…”.)
A word about paradox: paradoxical language has long been used by many traditions to indicate precisely what cannot
be coherently said (or thought). But using paradox is not the same thing as affirming actual contradiction or incoherence (or at least it should not be used that way).
Note: Since I have used a lot of God references here, I hasten to add that I don’t believe there is such a God-being as theists assert; I remain a non-dualist.