Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time

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Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time. By William Lane Craig. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 272 pp., $25.00 paper.

In Time and Eternity, Craig continues to provide philosophical arguments to support his enduring thesis: "God is timeless without creation and temporal since creation." The apparent dichotomy in this statement alone is intriguing enough to invite further investigation by scientists, theologians, and philosophers alike. As one would expect, the majority of the discussion and rationale relies heavily on philosophy rather than science or theology. The arguments presented require careful thought and consideration and can become tedious when the work is not viewed as a whole. Given the complexity of the subject matter, however, the necessity for a complete historical and analytical discourse is understood and appreciated.

The role of philosophy with respect to God's relationship to time is unabashedly presented in the preface of the book, in which Craig quotes from his previous work, The Only Wise God, "that someone desiring to learn more about God's attributes of omni-science would be better advised to read the works of Christian philosophers than of Christian theologians." He then states that "not only was that remark true, but the same holds for divine eternity" (p. 11). His insistence on philosophical deductive reasoning as the primary focus for understanding this subject matter is the major weakness of this book. This viewpoint stands in stark contrast to other popular authors on this topic, such as John Polkinghorne, who view the current debate as a useful forum for new insights and ideas and less as an academic pursuit of definitive conclusions.

Craig begins by providing two views of divine eternity along with his biblical and scientific bases. He quickly dismisses Stephen Hawking's concept of "imaginary time" or "quantum physical time" (p. 22) as not being time at all, but provides no explanation for this exclusion. Next, he nicely outlines the lack of biblical data available for a definitive understanding of divine eternity. Again, this is used to support the role of philosophical theology in the elucidation of a Christian doctrine of time. To answer the question of why this is important, he offers two reasons. First, he maintains that without a coherent doctrine of divine eternity, the biblical concept of God is open to attack. Second, he contends that there has been "a great deal of careless writing on this subject." In reality, very little has been written from a Christian viewpoint regarding either quantum mechanics or relativity, without question the major accomplishments of twentieth century physics and significant threats to biblical theism.

To highlight the first reason, Craig cites the opinions of two popular authors and celebrated theoretical physicists, Paul Davies and Stephen Hawking. Davies outlines the paradox of God's transcendence versus his immanence as a major question that requires an answer from a Christian perspective that presently offers no persuasive solution. On the other hand, Hawking's use of imaginary time is an apparent attempt to eliminate the singularity associated with the big bang, which also eliminates the need for a creator. Craig addresses Davies concerns directly, but the exclusion of "imaginary time" from his definition of time leaves Hawking's challenge unanswered. Admittedly, Hawking's arguments are somewhat peripheral to Craig's thesis and also remain highly speculative, even among physicists. Even atheists such as Quentin Smith argue that quantum gravity cosmology as promoted by Hawking does not eliminate the big bang singularity.

Returning to his second reason dealing with "careless writing on the subject," Craig cites two popular Christian authors, Philip Yancey and Hugh Ross. His analysis of both authors is condescending and unduly critical. His primary objection seems to be their use of extra dimensions in a biblical interpretation of time and eternity. …