Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Time for eternity?

Years ago, a friend of mine said, 'at least we won't have to deal with time once the Last Day comes.'

Until that point, I'm not sure I'd ever really thought about time and eternity, or at least not in terms of time versus eternity. I'd always assumed there would still be time for time after the Last Day, after 'the end'. But apparently not. Apparently, "It is a firm belief of the Church that time will not be a part that existence," as a much-loved fellow blogger recently said. And then I looked, and behold, he was (more or less) right: for most of its history, much of the Church has been looking forward (or sideways, or upwards, or inwards, or something), for the dissolution of time, the defeat of transience through sneaking out of the whole equation into the realm of a timelessly eternal God.

Why is that? I've never felt the reason for it. Certainly Moltmann rejects any conception of a 'timeless eternity'. If time is part of God's good, very good creation (rather than part of the fall, as Augustine needs to end up saying, since he is the one who really introduced this time/eternity split), then won't it too be redeemed in the 'restoration of all things'? Moltmann develops the concept of 'the fullness of time' - at the end, every moment will be completed, summed up, gathered together, purified and transformed into redeemed time. God will have time for us, because he takes his time with us. Let's have a good time with God.
See also here for more.


Ben Myers said...

Well said, Byron.

Karl Barth argues (in CD III/2, §47) that temporal limitation is an essential part of what constitutes us as creatures. Thus the longing for freedom from time is actually a longing for annihilation, for the dissolution of my being as a creature. (Alternatively, it might be a longing for divinisation, which would amount to the same thing -- since my divinisation would also be the end of my existence as a creature!)

byron smith said...

Thanks for the reference, I look forward to finding it (III/2 is a volume I don't yet own, sadly).
That's certainly an important point, that our 'limitation' is also the enabling condition of our existence and identity. God gives us time to be and to become: time is a gift, as those facing death* know all-too-well.

* i.e. all of us, though some of us have our eyes tightly closed.

The Borg said...

Church has been looking forward ...for the dissolution of time... Why is that? I've never felt the reason for it.

Hi Byron.

It's funny that you've never felt the reason for a timeless eternity. It's always been my intuition that eternity needs to be timeless because time seems to be asscoiated with regret, free choice, aging, death and decay. It's possible that time doesn't necessitate any of these features.

On the otherhand, it seems that time is necessary to percieve, and necessary to percieve and enjoy God. Which we will do in eternity.

Hmmm, I'm not sure if that was at all helpful. Oh well.

byron smith said...

Borg, I've posted again a couple of times on this issue, and Patrik has also been replying on his blog. Time is certainly associated with decay and regret, but that is because it is a good gift that we have corrupted and which now corrupts us.