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Previous: 16. We Act Sequentially Up: 16. We Act Sequentially Next: 16.2 Foreknowledge

16.1 Time

The preceding chapters have spelled out what is (or should be) in core theism: that there is one eternal God who is Love itself and Wisdom itself. And then, that this God is the source of all the life and understanding and powers of living beings so that they have life as if from themselves. We now come to the discussions of what we are like, we who live in this derivative fashion. Surely the facts that our life continually derives from God and that we live in his image have many important consequences for the nature of what we are and how we act. That is the basis in scientific theism upon which we will rest our case for theistic science.

Seeing how we might act as if from ourselves is to see how it is that our actions are related to the enjoyment of feeling or delight that follows from doing them. We saw in Section 12.2 that our actions are what are most our own: those things for which we are responsible. These are responsible for building up our own individual character. Theism argues, however, that all the life we have still essentially belongs to God. The question now is how God arranges it so that we think that our actions are directly linked to the delights which might suitably correspond to them. This has to be done, in order that we live as if from ourselves. This is necessary, and even more important than that we have pleasant feelings, for if we did not live apparently from ourselves we would not even be inclined to make the effort to live at all.

This problem does not arise for God himself. His loving and thinking are both eternal and constant. As life itself, God’s own delights after action are automatically present. How can we be happy too? Even though we do not have life itself, how can we enjoy the delights of life? God would be much happier, as emphasized in Chapter 9, if we could be happy also.

To solve this problem, God has come up with a very clever idea: time. There is eternity in God by himself, but time is possible with us. The existence of time allows for two very important things which are largely responsible for us to live as if from ourselves. The first is that we can, by thinking, choose the time for action. The second is that there is a constant correlation between our actions and their resulting feelings and satisfactions.

In order to choose when we act, there obviously has to be the existence of time. By creating time, God allows events to be known sequentially instead of in the simultaneous or eternal way they are known by him. Given sequential processes, the order of thoughts and actions can be delegated to us. We can choose when we make our actions. As workers today know, the ability to order and pace our own work contributes enormously to our sense of freedom and individuality.

Another role of time is to allow our actions (our individual choices) and the corresponding delights (from God) to occur in a constant succession. Whenever we act, God can arrange that the feelings constantly follow. And, as David Hume has emphasized, whenever we see constant conjunctions we think that this is causation. Even if it starts as occasional causation, it is to us effectively a full, real causation. We then think that our own actions have caused or produced those feelings. We practically and hence uniformly think that we live from ourselves. That is the desired effect. Afterwards, as discussed in Section 12.3, we may reflect on where those feelings came from and give thanks. But this reflection is in our understanding and does not remove the feelings and delights themselves from our life.

We therefore see the reasons for God to have us acting in time, even though there is no such time essential to the eternal divine nature. Sequences require time to be present to our minds and bodies.


Previous: 16. We Act Sequentially Up: 16. We Act Sequentially Next: 16.2 Foreknowledge

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