Is a Timeless God Knowable?

Note: While I won’t be able to reply to everyone who comments/asks a return question in this conversation, I really do appreciate all the feedback. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, guys.
Lots of people say that God is not confined by time. If this is true, would he not also be free from the law of non-contradiction (the law that states that two contradictory statements cannot be true in the same way at the same time)? The law of non-contradiction is vital to human reasoning, yet it is not immediately clear how it would apply to a timeless being. How then can we use logic to learn about him? How can we be confident that, while one statement about God is true, the opposite statement is not also true? (e.g., God is love, God is not love)
Thank you for your time.

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Hi Ian! Excellent observations. Though I agree with the first premise God is out of the confines of time, I slighltly disagree on the second one. When we say that A cannot be both A and B at the same time, we are not merely speaking about the confines of minutes and seconds, but we are speaking about the conditions that contributed to the attributes of ‘A’ making it ‘A’ and the attributes of ‘B’ that actually allowed ‘B’ to be ‘B’ in relation to a certain point of time. In order for ‘A’ to be ‘B’ at some point, some changes must occur at the very nature of ‘A’ altering it to attain another nature that would qualify it to be a ‘B’. The way I see it, it can’t be possible in the case of the God declared in the Bible. Maybe in other worldviews that would be the case. James says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

So, I think that being a timeless being places God in a position where He exists simultaneously at past, present and future, and this would mean that He would be both A and B simultaneously! Love and not love. Not A ‘then’ B.
Some might argue that an inconsistent, incoherent,and illogical being is possible to exist, but I believe that even if it did, it’s impossible for us to call it the Creator of the World, the creator of all laws of logic and abstracts.
Thanks for the question Ian! Would love to hear your thoughts…

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@IanW Great question :slight_smile: Could you please provide an example of why a timeless being would violate the law of non-contradiction? I do not see any logical reason why God being timeless would automatically violate the law of non-contradiction. I also do not understand how God being timeless is related to whether or not God is love. Those appear to be two separate questions to me. Thanks!

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@IanW This is one of those questions that lead me to so many more questions! I call it a brain-twister. Thanks for giving us such an interesting question to grapple with.

First, let me ask you about how you are meaning “knowable.” Are you asking whether we can know that God is God, our creator? Do you mean knowable in the sense of having specific attributes that can be known to us, his created? Or, something more personal and relational?

I do believe that linear time is something only creation is bound to, but I also believe that the linear nature of time is how God has chosen for His plan for humanity to unfold. Though He is not bound by it, I don’t see Him as outside of it. (I have no idea if this is making sense).

It’s through this unfolding plan (of time, in time) that God has made Himself both knowable to us and present with us, through the incarnation–Jesus. So no matter what answer people come up with to your question, I believe that God is knowable. And knowable in all three ways I mention above. And though he is all-knowing, we are not–which clearly means we do not have the capacity to know him fully. But we can, and do, live in the fullness of His love and can know that.

Assuming one believes that God is God, the Creator of all the universe (all existence), then would not the sum of that creation be the truth that that world and laws would be based on? Could there be anything that was outside of that creation that would be greater than God? Could contradiction be possible?

Although time is more measurable and knowable in a physical sense, both time and love are very abstract concepts. We can know some things about them, but are they not too vast to know all things about them? Would it be possible that what we might think we know is contradictory, not because it actually is, but because the proof that it is not is outside our current knowledge/understanding?

Okay, so at this point my brain is hurting. I know I’ve only struggled here with the edges of your question and not your real question, but I’m curious how this question came about. Is it something that’s come up in conversation? Just a thought you are wondering about?

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Hey Sean! Sorry for the confusion. I’ll try to clarify what I meant. :grin:
Firstly, I didn’t mean to say that the proposition “God is love” is directly related to his relationship with time; I just picked it as a random example. Any proposition from the Bible would have served just as well.
I also didn’t mean to suggest that God being timeless contradicts the law of non-contradiction. I meant to suggest that it removes him from the jurisdiction of that law. Here’s how I understand it (and I would love it if you corrected any misconceptions I might have): the law of non-contradiction is what I use when I say, “Tom is sitting down. I guess that means he’s not standing up.” I know that the truth about Tom’s position may vary from moment to moment; but I also know that if he is sitting down in one instant, in the same instant he cannot be also standing up. So there may be various contradictory statements about Tom’s position, but they don’t coincide because time lays them all out in a line; only one can be true per instant. If Tom was outside of time, the orderliness would be removed and the contradictory statements might overlap (Tom might be standing and sitting at once). I wouldn’t be able to derive the falsity of one statement from the truth of its opposite.

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@IanW Thank you for that clarification. So, the law of non-contradiction means that two contradictory statements cannot be simultaneously true. For example, God cannot be both love and hate. God is love. God is not hate.

God being timeless does not violate the law of non-contradiction. God is not violating time - He is above or outside of time.

Think of a creature that only lived in two dimensions - x and y. Now, imagine this creature looking at a creature in the third dimension - the z dimension. The x and y bound creature might be forced to move along the z axis one step at a time and think the 3 dimensional creature is violating some fundamental law. In reality, the 3 dimensional creature just exist in more dimensions - it is not violating any laws.

In mathematics or physics, we think of time as a fourth dimension. If God truly created all things - including the universe - then He is in some way above time. Like the 3 dimensional creature to the two dimensional creature, God may seem to be violating some law to us. But in reality, God simply above or beyond or different than us.

I’m not saying that analogy is 100% correct - only God knows. But it can help us think through it.

Also, I think, if anything, we are dealing with an Antimony rather than a contradiction. See definition below.

Antimony

What is an “antinomy”? The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable, or necessary.”

For our purposes, however, this definition is not quite accurate; the opening words should read “an appearance of contradiction.” For the whole point of an antinomy — in theology, at any rate — is that it is not a real contradiction, though it looks like one. It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable. There are cogent reasons for believing each of them; each rests on clear and solid evidence; but it is a mystery to you how they can be squared with each other. You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they can both be true together.

Let me give an example. Modern physics faces an antinomy, in this sense, in its study of light. There is cogent evidence to show that light consists of waves, and equally cogent evidence to show that it consists of particles. It is not apparent how light can be both waves and particles; but the evidence is there, and so neither view can be ruled out in favor of the other. Neither, however, can be reduced to the other or explained in terms of the other; the two seemingly incompatible positions must be held together, and both must be treated as true. Such a necessity scandalizes our tidy minds, no doubt, but there is no help for it if we are to be loyal to the facts.

This timeless God will become completely knowable when Christ returns.
For now we trust that he loves us and guides us daily through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think that any of us can truly say that we know this timeless God completely or how he thinks, Abraham thought he was above, Moses thought he lived in a tent, David wanted to build him a temple and Paul tells us that he lives in all of us…God is love and when we accept that and change how we see ourselves, he will become a reality.

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Thank you for the reply, Sara. I didn’t fully understand what you said, but my first thought might be this: do the passages you quoted suggest a timeless God, or do they suggest a God who is within time, but different from us in other ways? Perhaps He is within time, but different from us in that He a.) never changes (he doesn’t have temporary attributes), or b.) is within every moment (time-full?) instead of being outside of every moment (timeless)? What do you think?

Not sure I am understanding the question fully so sorry if i am off, but to me in Genesis ‘In the beginning’ was when God created time, so not only is God not confined to time but He exist outside of time so this may not be applicable to God, but lets say it was i would agree with Sara who says for A to be A there will be certain attributes and for B to be B another set of attributes to make it be so, but yet God being God changes not, so even if different moments in time had different scenarios we cannot violate the law of “God’s nature which is the same yesterday, today forever”.
Not fooling myself to even think i kinda grasp it but its an interesting question,I enjoyed thinking about it.