God’s Eternity

The other day, I was discussing God’s eternity with my good friend, Chris. The most difficult aspect of the concept is determining how to speak coherently of God’s eternity while also confessing our faith in the Incarnation. Below are two paragraphs from Boethius that help us define God’s eternity in the first place. I read Boethius in undergrad, but I hadn’t thought about these passages until I was reminded of them by Eleonore Stump in her book on the thought of Thomas Aquinas:

(Consolation of Philosophy) That God is eternal, then, is the common judgment of all who live by reason. Let us therefore consider what eternity is, for this makes plain to us both the divine nature and knowledge. Eternity, then, is the complete possession all at once (totum simul) of illimitable life. This becomes clearer by comparison with temporal things. For whatever lives in time proceeds as something present from the past into the future, and there is nothing placed in time that can embrace the whole extent of its life equally. Indeed, on the contrary, it does not yet grasp tomorrow but yesterday it has already lost; and even in the life of today you live no more fully than in a mobile, transitory moment … Therefore, whatever includes and possesses the whole fullness of illimitable life at once and is such that nothing future is absent from it and nothing past has flowed away, this is rightly judged to be eternal, and of this it is necessary both that being in full possession of itself it be always present to itself and that it have the infinity of mobile time present [to it].

(On the Trinity) What is said of God, [namely, that] he is always, indeed signifies a unity, as if he had been in all the past, is in all the present – however that might be – [and] will be in all the future. That can be said, according to the philosophers, of the heaven and of the imperishable bodies; but it cannot be said of God in the same way. For he is always in that for him always has to do with present time. And there is this great difference between the present of our affairs, which is now, and that of the divine: our now makes time and sempiternity, as it were, running along; but the divine now, remaining, and not moving, and standing still, makes eternity. If you add ‘semper’ to ‘eternity’, you get sempiternity, the perpetual running resulting from the flowing, tireless now.

So, God’s eternity is that God’s limitless life is possessed by God all at once without the passing of the past or the anticipation of the future. This was the common definition in the medieval era.

One of the claims Stump makes elsewhere is that God’s eternity means that there is a sense in which Christ is eternally incarnate (see the last section of the review) for us.

Who Should Evangelize?

I saw this quote online today:

It raised an interesting point that I think needs brief elaboration. Here’s the great commission from Matthew 28:18-20:

Matthew 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them [the eleven disciples], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, in the quote above, he mentions that evangelism was the job of the disciples. And I agree, the great commission was originally given to the remaining disciples. Here are three points:

  1. The disciples are told that making disciples includes, “teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you.”
  2. This means that making new disciples is one of the skills Jesus commands them to obtain.
  3. The word for all Christians by the time the book of Acts was written was, “disciples.” “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1 ESV)

So, I think that all Christians are supposed to evangelize at some point (raising up children in the faith, sharing the gospel with somebody who asks a question, or initiating a conversation with a friend, family member or stranger).

Now, the individual who made this point made a few interesting points that deserve consideration because they were intelligently and honestly made:

  1. God doesn’t need evangelists. This is a fact. God needs literally nothing.
  2. God doesn’t want evangelists. This doesn’t hold if it’s true that Jesus represents God’s will and commands people to become disciples who make disciples. If God wants you to obey Jesus’ commands, then he wants you to be an evangelist.
  3. Ask God what he wants you to do. While I think God can supernaturally make his will apparent, God’s will for our lives is clearly taught in the four gospels, the book of Proverbs, and frankly the rest of Scripture. Waiting for specific, personal words from God when God has made clear what we should do in public revelation might leave us waiting too long.
  4. Unless your life is his will it takes some pain. I think that pain can come from doing good or evil. Not all pain is bad and some pain exists precisely to tell us to repent. It all depends.
  5. Unless we rise to his level, we are servants. Jesus makes clear that even among those who are saved, some people know his business and some don’t. Here’s what Jesus said about the matter, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. (15) No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15 ESV)


James Chastek nails it on Being as such

How can God not be a being among beings?

In one sense first member of a causal series is a part of the series, but in another sense it isn’t. If ABCD causes something, then A is obviously 1/4 of all the causes you have, but we don’t think about it that way. We don’t say that George Bush played a part in the Iraq War, or even a crucial part in it – it was just his war. Truman wasn’t a part of the system that dropped the bomb – the system was brought int existence by his choice. This is true in every genus of causes. Winning isn’t one part of an athlete’s goals, even if one can isolate other goals than this in the game or in training. A fire hydrant is red and a light wave in the right spectrum is red, but the “is” is not said in the same way. The two things “are red” but not in a way that the one is a part of the whole.

James’ blog on Thomism is one of the best philosophy blogs on the internet. I really appreciate his succinct explanations of complicated topics. In this case he hits the nail on the head. Many Christians accidentally see God as a figure within the cosmos. This is right and good as far as such images support Christian piety because the are the models utilized in Scripture. But insofar as they are mistaken for giving precise expression concerning God’s reality, such ideas (God is a part of the furniture of the universe) tend toward treating God as a creature. The Bible, in its more literal moments, treats God as the being in whom all things live and move and have their being. Similarly, God is the cause of all non-God reality in Genesis 1, John 1, and Hebrews 1. I’ve written elsewhere about how open theism and forms of Calvinism both take anthropomorphic language about God (preordaining and being surprised) too literally.