God and Time: A New Perspective on the Different Roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit Hypostases with Respect to Time
Is God “Outside of Time” and Immutable, or “Inside of Time” and Responsive?
I (like many theologians) believe that God is outside time (their arguments have been described enough in books that I’m not going to rehash them here). I have not until recently thought that was incongruent with God’s ability to change, though, and I’m still not convinced it is. It seems a human definition to say that change can only happen over time, because that is how we experience it, and that if a being were “outside time” then change could not occur. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, but let’s look at facts. Here is what we do know:
1) Time has a definite beginning and will have a definite end. Science itself has shown this. Yet God is eternal and has no beginning and end. Therefore, God must have existed before time began and must continue to exist after time ends. It follows therefore that God must be outside time.
2) We know God’s character cannot change, yet he seems capable of changing his emotions, mind, etc. How can it be that he is immutable in some respects and not others? There are two possibilities I would propose:
The Constraints of Time, or Lack Thereof
A) God’s ability to change is not constrained by time. Support for this includes his decision to create the universe. At some point, he decided to do so. Yet decision implies a before and an after. Yet time did not exist before the universe (at least according to science). Therefore, God must be capable of changing/making decisions irrespective of the existence of time.
God Eternal and Lord Everlasting
B) The Trinity. God is one being in three hypostases, and those three aspects are very different and have different roles. Consider that the Son is “begotten” of the Father and that the Spirit “proceeds from” the Father. This is affirmed in all our creeds. This sounds like Jesus had a beginning, yet we know he’s eternal and was in the Beginning with God. This seems a contradiction, but consider this following (Proverbs 8:22-31):
“I, wisdom, was with the Lord when he began his work, long before he made anything else. I was created in the very beginning, even before the world began. … I was there when he laid the earth’s foundation. I was like a child by his side. I was delighted every day, enjoying his presence all the time, enjoying the whole world, and delighted with all its people.”
1 Corinthians 1:24 calls Jesus “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
So wisdom was with God in the very beginning, created before the world began. Jesus is the wisdom of God. He is shown to possess emotion, delight, etc. So far so interesting, but we’re not done yet.
I think that God the Father is outside time. I think his character is immutable and maybe even more. I think he can see all of time at once and knows exactly what is going to happen when. He is truly omniscient.
I think that when God created time, he placed an aspect/hypostasis of himself into time as well, and this hypostasis is what we call Jesus the Son, begotten at this moment by the Father. This is the hypostasis that walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. This Jesus knows what the Father tells him is going to happen, but he does not know all things the way the Father does because he is constrained in time, not outside it. We see this when he speaks of the End of Days, and how only the Father knows the exact moment it will happen. We see this throughout his ministry on Earth when he knew things were going to occur, but did not always seem to know the exact moment. We see this in the manifestation of God throughout history, where he appears to change his mind or experience great emotion or to sometimes not even know what is going to happen (the “mays” and the “mights” in the Bible). Jesus is power and wisdom precisely because he can respond to us, but he is not omniscient in the same way the Father is, but only through the Father. This is why it’s the Father’s will that shall be done, for only the Father can see the whole picture. We know the Spirit is here with us on Earth, yet the Spirit “searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), which means he’s also with the Father. He is the go-between. He had to settle on Jesus during his baptism in order for Jesus to be complete in his Father’s will. The Spirit is what connects us to God the Father, but it is Jesus who reigns over the world because he is the hypostasis that exists in time with us.
Thus I would say God is both “eternal” and “everlasting” as the one godhead, but respectively so in the different hypostases.
What do you think?