Q and A: God’s Relationship To Time, Logic, And Old Earth Creationism




 
Tony asks

Yo, Evan, I got a question. I haven't read every single thing on your site yet, so I'll ask a few questions in the hope that you haven't covered it yet. 

1. What is God's relationship to time?

2. Do you believe Logic was created by God or Just is (I'm referring to the Clarkian model)

3. Being that you're OEC, what is your explanation of the YEC critique that OEC contradicts scripture, in being that OEC has to say there was death prior to the fall?

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Thanks for your questions Tony. I think these are very interesting topics to ponder. Remarkably, 2 out of 3 questions are topics I haven’t addressed on this site yet. Kudos to you. :-) Also, thanks for being the first person to ask a question in Cerebral Faith’s Q and A session. Anyway, let’s examine each of these questions one at a time.

1: What Is God’s Relationship To Time?

I myself am in line with William Lane Craig’s thinking on this topic. I believe that God was timeless prior to His creation of the world, but has been inside of time since the creation of the world. I say this on both scriptural grounds as well as philosophical grounds.

Firstly, the scriptural grounds. As I read through The Bible, I find that there are passages of scripture that seem to imply that God is a timeless entity and also that God is a temporal entity. For example, Titus 1:1-2 says “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” 2 Timothy 1:9 says He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, Both of these passages speak of God existing and doing things prior to time’s beginning. Time had a beginning, God existed prior to time’s beginning, and promised salvation to the elect. So, according to The Bible, God was timeless as least prior to creation. This is indisputable. Whether or not He’s still a timeless entity is what’s up for debate. Now, the scriptures that indicate that God is a temporal being would be passages like Psalm 90:2 which says Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” And Psalm 103:17 which says “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children—“ The phrase “from everlasting to everlasting” sounds like temporal language to me, like God has endured through the entire past and will endure throughout the entire future.

If scripture teaches both timelessness and temporality with respect to God’s existence, I think that a reasonable way to explain this is to assert that God existed without creation, but is in time since creation.

Secondly, the philosophical grounds. According to many philosophers of science; time is that realm in which cause and effect take place. There can be no cause and effect without time. If causes are producing effects, then that means that time is passing; there was a before and an after. There was a “time” “before” the cause produced the effect, and a “time” “after” the cause produced the effect. If that is the case, then how can God be actively causing effects throughout the universe’s entire history if He exists apart from time? Wouldn’t he be just a static, unchanging entity, sort of like a statue? And yet, both The Bible and our experience shows that God is very active! He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, He created the animals, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-2), He brought the animals to Adam so He could name them (Genesis 2:19), He called Abraham out of his homeland to travel to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-3), He leads Joseph and his family into Egypt (Genesis 37-50), He lead Moses and the Israelites out slavery to Pharoah in Egypt (Exodus), He became incarnate (John 1:4, Philippians 2:5-8), He died on the cross and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15), and He’s answering peoples’ prayers. This is not characteristic of a being outside of time. All of the events caused by God have a *before* and an *after* to them. If cause and effect cannot take place without time, and yet God has been constantly making things happen throughout history, it follows that God is inside of time.

Now, this does raise an obvious question; if cause and effect are impossible without time, and God once existed in a state of timelessness, then how could He decide to bring the physical world into being? Some atheists have argued against the doctrine of creation by saying that it postulates a contradiction; i.e that God could cause something to occur without the realm necessary for cause/effect relationships to be possible. Well, first off, these atheists need to realize that time having a beginning isn’t just a puzzle for theists, but atheists as well since it’s not just The Bible that says that time had a beginning, but science says it had a beginning too. Big Bang cosmology is a very firmly established fact of science vindicated by numerous strands of scientific evidence, and the theory entails that time had a beginning as well as space, matter and energy. Furthermore, I submit to you that God’s decision to create the world is simultaneous with the world’s coming into being. This proposition would relieve us from asserting the absurd notion that there was an event before the first event. The first event just was God’s decision to actualize the world. God was able to cause the effect of the universe because that decision was the first event.

2: Do you believe Logic was created by God or Just is (I'm referring to the Clarkian model)

I don’t think logic is a creation of God, but neither do I think logic is something that exists independent of God. Like objective morality, I believe that logic is a part of the very nature of God. I subscribe to St. Anselm’s view that God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being. Anselm said that if you could think of a being greater than God, then that would be God. As a Maximally Great Being God would have to be maximally excellent in all areas that go to make a person great. God would have all great making properties, and would have them to the greatest extent possible. Being powerful, knowledgable, present, existent, and morally good are great making properties, so God would have these. Since to be maximally great, He would have to have these properties to the greatest extent possible. This means God would be omnipotent (i.e all powerful), omniscient (i.e all knowing), omnipresent (i.e everywhere present), necessarily existent (i.e it would be impossible for Him to fail to exist), and He must be morally perfect. I go into this in more detail in my blog post “The Ontological Argument For God’s Existence”. Now, even though whenever I give a presentation on The Ontological Argument or write about it like in the post “The Ontological Argument For God’s Existence”, I only include the 5 aforementioned attributes, I would also argue that being rational is a great making property. It seems intuitively obvious to me that a person if greater if they are rational, logical individuals than if they were irrational, illogical individuals. In other words, coherency is better than incoherence. So if God were to be a maximally great being, He would have to be logical in addition to the 5 attributes already mentioned. If He were illogical, He would not be maximally great. Therefore, He could not be God.

Rationality is an essential attribute of God just as moral perfection is. You know, sometimes when I’m talking to atheists on the internet, they’ll try to argue against The Ontological Argument’s first premise (i.e “It is possible that a maximally great being exists) by appealing to a riddle that is supposed to demonstrate that the concept of omnipotence is incoherent. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?” No matter how you answer this question, it seems to imply that God is not omnipotent. If you say “Yes, God can create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it” then there is something God cannot do; namely lift the rock that He created. If you say “No” then there is something God cannot do; namely create a rock impossible for Him to move. God will either be unable to move the rock He created, or He’ll be unable to create such a rock in the first place.

One of the problems with this little riddle is that it misunderstands who God is. If God is inherently a logical being, then to ask Him to do something logically impossible would be similar to asking God to do evil things! God cannot do the logically impossible and neither can He sin because He is by His very nature logical and morally perfect. God will never do anything logically impossible like create a square circle, or a married bachelor, or a one ended stick because such things are logically absurd, but this shouldn’t make us think that God is omnipotent anymore than His inability to sin should make us doubt His omnipotence.

Moreover, the very fact that God is omnipotent is precisely why He cannot create a rock too heavy for Him to lift. It is because He is infinitely powerful that He would be able to move any rock that He might create. Only beings of finite power can create objects too heavy for them to move. This little riddle internet atheists often give is tantamount to asking “Can an unlimited Being limit Himself?” or “Can God think up a mathematical equation too difficult to solve?” It’s just nonsense, and God will have nothing to do with nonsense. Even if His power allowed Him to violate the laws of logic (which I don't it does), at the very least His nature would prevent Him from doing so.

3. Being that you're OEC, what is your explanation of the YEC critique that OEC contradicts scripture, in being that OEC has to say there was death prior to the fall?

For our readers who may not be familiar with these acronyms; OEC stands for “Old Earth Creationist”. YEC stands for “Young Earth Creationist”. Old Earth Creationists come in several different types, but the most common type (and the brand I fall into) are the day-agers. Day-Agers believe that the “days” in Genesis 1 are not 24 hour periods, but long periods of time. Young Earth Creationists believe that the days were 24 hours each, that God got done creating everything in 144 hours. For those interested, I go into several reasons I adhere to the old earth view in my blog posts “Several Reasons To Think The Creation Days Are Long Time Periods” and also in “Things Young Earth Creationists Need To Stop Saying”.

Tony’s question is what my response would be to our young earth brethren who argue that Old Earth Creationism (and also Theistic Evolution) contradict The Bible because they say that The Bible teaches that death is a consequence of sin. The scriptures they refer to are Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—“ 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 says For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

At first glance, this would seem to establish the young earth creationist’s case. Death came into the world because of sin. Adam and Eve sinned, death came into the world, that’s why things die. If death is the effect and sin the cause, then there could be no death until the first sin was committed. There are several responses I give whenever YECs use these scriptures on me. First, a close reading of Romans 5:12 reveals that Paul (the author of the epistle) is not referring to the death of all living creatures, but only human beings. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—“ Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, God barred us access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22). Because we can’t eat from the tree of life, we can’t live forever. We eventually grow old and die. If only Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, we could eat from that tree and live forever. Moreover, the last few words of this verse says that death comes to all people because all people sin. It specifically singles out human beings and states that we die because of our sins against God.

My friend Jt Perry from the Old Earth Creationists Facebook group once made a parody of Romans 5 to fit the YEC interpretation, and he worded it like this; 
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Rom 5:12, 14-21 NIV - Therefore, just as sin entered the world [of humans and animals] through one man, and death [of humans and animals] through sin, and in this way death came to all men [and animals], because all [humans and animals] sinned-- ...

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those [humans and animals] who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many [humans and animals] died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many [humans and animals]! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation [to humans and animals], but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification [to humans and animals]. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those [humans and animals] who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men [and animals], so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men [and animals]. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many [humans and animals] were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many [humans and animals] will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase [to humans and animals]. But where sin increased [in humans and animals], grace increased all the more [to humans and animals], so that, just as sin reigned in death [of humans and animals], so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life [to humans and animals] through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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This passage is clearly talking about human beings and only human beings. Including animals renders it absurd. If this were about animals in addition to humans, we’d have to conclude that animals die because they sin, and they sin because they inherited a sinful nature from Adam, and that through the obedience of one man (i.e Jesus Christ) animals will be made righteous. This is ridiculous. As for the 1 Corinthians 15 passage, since this is a parallel passage to Romans 5, it would make sense to conclude that this too is talking only about human beings.

Moreover, one need not deny that the reason animals die is because of sin. Some Old Earth Creationists (like William Dembski of the Intelligent Design movement) argue that while animals died prior to sin entering the world, it's still Adam and Eve's sin that is the reason they die. They say that since God knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve were going to rebel against Him God decided to curse creation ahead of time. That does make sense. After all, if you know the human creatures you create are going to choose to sin, it makes little sense to make a perfect world just to introduce parasites, carnivores, and natural disasters just a few days later. On this view, the Old Earth Creationist can agree with The Young Earth Creationist that the reason why natural evil exists is because of Adam and Eve’s sin, but where they disagree is on the chronological introduction of death into the world. On this view, their sin had a retroactive effect.