Robert Reymond: God Knows the Time

It is a non sequitur to conclude from the fact of God’s omniscience that God has no idea of succession, that is, that relative to his own existence he has no knowledge of a past, present, and future applicable to his own existence. This is to confuse the notion of the succession of ideas, which is surely not true of God if one means by this notion that God learns new facts, with the notion of the idea of succession which I submit God surely has.

Dabney observes:
If … the divine consciousness of its existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notion hence; that divines … infer: Since all God’s thoughts are ever equally present with Him, he can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. …

In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although God’s knowledge of these as it is subjective to Him, is unsuccessive [I take him to mean here that God does not first learn about them as the creature thinks and acts these changes — author], yet it [his knowledge] is doubtless correct, i.e. true to the objective facts. But these [the objective facts] have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in God’s thinking. Has He not all the ideas which we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time?”

I concur with Dabney’s analysis. Not to do so and to insist that God is timeless, that is to say, that the distinctives of time and hence existence with succession have no reference to him, lies behind much theological mischief.

For example, Charles Hodge writes that “with [God] there is no distinction between the present, past and future, but all things are equally and always present to Him. With Him duration is an eternal now,” that “to Him there is neither past nor future … the past and the future are always and equally present to Him [as an eternal now (or present)],” and that “to Him there is neither past nor future, neither before nor after.”

Such words seem to go too far, first, in that, if taken literally, they reduce to zero significance the temporal reference in every finite Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek verb form God employed in his revelational description to us of his thoughts, words, and actions, and virtually transform them all into timeless participles.

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14 Comments on “Robert Reymond: God Knows the Time”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Reymond continues: “as well as the significance of the proposition προ, pro, in “foreknew” (προγινωοσκω, proginosko) and “predestine” (προοριζω, proorizo) in Romans 8:29 and in the expresson, “He chose us in him before [προ, pro] the creation of the world” (Eph. 1:3; see also John 17:24).

    Does not God inform us in these verses that he had a plan (his “eternal purpose”) before he created the world? Does this data not mean that before the creation of the world God could have said, indeed, would have had to say as the God of truth if an angel had asked him about the “when” of the world’s creation: “I have not yet created the world. Its creation is still in the future”?

    And does he not now have to say as the God of truth: “I have created the world; its creation is no longer in the future, it is now in the past”? It would certainly seem that the past is past for God, the present is present for God, and the future is future for God as surely as they are for us! And while he certainly and infallibly knows the future because he ordained it, it is still as the future that he knows it.

    It is odd, to say the least, to argue as does E.L. Mascall that all of God’s acts are dipolar, and that a given act at the creature’s end is temporal (either past, present or future), while at the Creator’s end the same act is timeless. If God’s “time-words” to us respecting his plans and actions do not mean for God the same as they mean to us, then for him the creation of the world may not have actually occurred yet, for him Christ’s second coming may be a thing of the past, …

    In short, if God is timeless and if all of his acts are for him timeless acts, then we can have no true and certain knowledge of anything except pure mathematics.

    Third, there seems to be an inherent contradiction in saying that a timeless person lives in the “eternal present” because the referent of the word “present” has significance only in the ordering category which includes past and future as well.

    Nicholas Wolterstorff– If a being is truly timeless, it should be impossible for it to exist simultaneously with anything else, or before anything else, or after anything else. Ascriptions to God of timelessness (understood as the absence of a divine consciousness of successive duration with respect to his own existence) cannot be supported from Scripture nor is it self-consistent. It is a fallacious inference from Scripture.

    These reasons also suggest that the Christian should be willing to affirm that the ordering relationships (before, now, after) that are normally represented as relationships of time are true for God as well as for man.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    1. There’s a difference between the elect and those who have become Christians. Not all the elect have been justified yet. That is the basic point against “eternal justification”. They identify election and justification. They identify atonement and justification. But the elect in time receive the reconciliation by imputation. Romans 5:11.

    2. The justified elect (Christians) are actually righteous now, but not because of the new birth, but because of justification. Legally in Christ, they legally now share in His righteousness. The atonement (reconciliation) imputed really results in justification.

    3. Though Christ has already been glorified, and we are in Him (He is our “public person”, Rom 8:30), we have not yet been glorified. We have not yet been given immortality, not yet been raised. John 3:13 No one has ascended to heaven bu the one who came from there.

    Romans 5:10 “now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by His resurrection.” Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which now dwells in you.” Heb 11:39-40 “and all these did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

    One day, not yet, we will be together on that great Resurrection Day.


    Blocher, p 581, From Heaven He Came—Theology has run the risk of undermining the significance of the successive events which realize salvation in time. An emphasis on God’s sovereignty combined with a Platonic notion of “eternity” results in phrases like “pure present” and “for God, there is no before or after, neither past nor future. History became mere manifestation, only epistemology. One symptom of this Platonism was “eternal justification”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Leviticus 24:8 (King James Version)
    Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an eternal covenant.

    Exodus 40:15 (King James Version)
    15 And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an eternal priesthood throughout their generations.

    Jonah 2 (King James Version)
    2 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
    3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
    4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
    5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
    6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever

    Matthew 12: 39 no sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah.40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look—something greater than Jonah is here!

  5. markmcculley Says:

    John Owen. In his book the The Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance Explained and Confirmed Owen has a wonderful chapter (III) on the immutability of the divine purposes.

    “It is, then, of the decrees and purposes of God, with respect to the matters about which they are, whereof I speak: in which regard, also, they are absolute and immutable; – not that they work any essential change in the things themselves concerning which they are, making that to be immutable from thence which in its own nature is mutable; but only that themselves as acts of the infinite wisdom and will of God, are not liable to nor suspended on any condition whatever foreign to themselves, nor subject to any change or alteration….That the determining purposes or decrees of God’s will concerning any thing or things by him to be done or effected do not depend, as to their accomplishment, on any conditions that may be supposed in or about the things themselves whereof they are, and therefore are unchangeable, and shall certainly be brought forth unto the appointed issue, is that which we are to prove. (Works, XI 144).

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Sacramentalists want to say all times are one time.

    Hans Boersma’, Heavenly Participation— In sacramental time, past, present, and future can coincide. As a result, people from different historical eras can participate or share in the same event. Congar maintains that it was the Holy Spirit who effected this transcending of ordinary temporal limits….Modernity has made it difficult for us to acknowledge any kind of authoritative role for tradition. We look at history rather differently from the way people interpreted it throughout the millennium of the Platonist-Christian synthesis In nominalist fashion, we tend to look at time as a simple succession of distinct moments, unrelated to one another. We regard event X, which took place ten years ago, as no longer present, and thus in principle as unconnected to event Y, which is taking place today. This is not to say that we deny historical cause and effect. We realize quite well that, through a number of traceable historical causes, event X gives rise to event Y. The point, however, is that we regard the two events as separate. Going back to our discussion about analogy and univocity, we could say that we view the two events as univocal moments in time— they have the same kind of reality or being, and are not intertwined in any real sense.

    Boersma quotes Charles Taylor— “We have constructed an environment in which we live a uniform, univocal secular time, which we try to measure and control in order to get things done.” Univocal time gives us the control that we desire in the secularity of modernity.… Augustine’s conception of time was sacramental—time participates in the eternity of God’s life, and it is this participation that is able to gather past, present, and future together into one.

    Boersma: Evangelicals have largely abandoned a sacramental view of time (as have many Catholics), and this desacramentalizing has impacted the way we have decided on doctrinal issues. We tend to regard the time period of the biblical author and our own small moment under the sun as two distinct or separate moments, identical in kind. We believe that it is our job simply to find out what exactly the biblical author meant in any given biblical text in order then to proclaim it as authoritative. ..The widespread assumption that Christian beliefs and morals are to a significant degree malleable has its roots in a modern, desacralized view of time.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Eternal and everlasting are words also used for for the old temporary and provisional covenants, not only for the new covenant.
    As James Haldane suggests in his commentary on Hebrews (p 245, Newport Commentary Series, Particular Baptist Press), the solution to the problem of the first covenant is not to find a better mediator for that first covenant. If a former covenant is infringed by one of the parties, satisfaction is given by making a second covenant.
    If we are going to make distinctions within the Mosaic law-economy, why not be consistent in thinking about these distinctions when we think of Christ legally satisfying the Mosaic law? Was Christ keeping the ceremonial laws of Moses when He shed His blood? Were we Gentiles under the curse of the Mosaic law for our failure to keep the ceremonial law? Were we Gentile elect imputed with Christ’s keeping of the ceremonial laws of Moses?
    Hebrews 13:20—“the God of peace brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.”
    Leviticus 24: 8 The bread is to be set out before the Lord every Sabbath day as a perpetual covenant obligation on the part of the Israelites. 9 It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, for it is the holiest portion for him from the fire offerings to the Lord; this is a permanent rule.”
    Exodus 31:16 The Israelites must observe the Sabbath, celebrating it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.
    Exodus 40:15 And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an eternal priesthood throughout their generations.
    Numbers 25:13 It will be a covenant of perpetual priesthood for him and his future descendants, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”
    Exodus 12:17 “You are to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread because on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. You must observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent statute.
    Exodus 27:21 In the tent of meeting outside the veil that is in front of the testimony, Aaron and his sons are to tend the lamp from evening until morning before the Lord. This is to be a permanent statute for the Israelites throughout their generations.
    Leviticus 16: 29 “This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month you are to practice self-denial[f] and do no work, both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    If time has lasted as long as God has lasted, would this mean that God is not God? Would this mean that time is not time? Would this mean that time is God, and that God is not God? Why do you think God needed to create time in order to create space?

    “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from lasting to lasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

    One lasting by itself must not be everlasting.

    Augustine–“It is not in time that you precede all times, O Lord. You precede all past times in the sublimity of an ever-present reality. You have made all times and are before all times.”

    If you are using the words “before” and “precede”, you are talking about time. Time before time?

    Timothy George—Boethius defined eternity as “a perfect possession altogether of an endless life.” Such a definition, of course, applies to no one other than God. It has the advantage of transcending the purely negative connotations of nontemporality: Eternity is not simply the negation of time with reference to God,

    Barth’s bullshit. “God is not in time … time is really in him” (CD 3/1,68).

    Barth–“This is his time, the absolutely real time, the form of the divine being in its triunity, the beginning and ending which do not mean the limitation of him who begins and ends, a juxtaposition which does not mean any exclusion, a movement which does not signify the passing away of anything, a succession which in itself is also beginning and end. “(CD 2/1, 615)

  9. markmcculley Says:

    God has always been a Father (the Father)
    God has not always been a creator
    God has always loved the elect

    Christ is all God, but outside Christ God is still God

    the humanity which is in Christ is not everywhere present
    at two different places or two different times
    the divinity which is in Christ is not in Christ only

    the distinction between Creator and creature remains

    God did not send His Son to die for the elect in order to love the elect
    God sent His Son to die for the elect because God loved the elect

    in respect of love, God loves some and not others

    in respect of justice, God has no respect of persons, God justifies nobody who is not imputed with Christ’s death

    God has not yet justified any of the elect to whom God has not yet baptized into Christ’s death

    God’s legal imputation gives us Christ’s death and Christ’s death gives us Christ and then faith and access

    God does not change, but God’s external relation to the elect changes when the elect are justified

    there is no legal safety in Christ before an elect person legally shares in Christ’s death

    so there is order and priority here

    Christ was divinity before Christ was also humanity
    Christ’s divinity is not changed by Christ’s incarnation and humanity

    Christ’s divinity is everywhere present and still has priority when Christ’s humanity is present locally (or even dead)

    asymmetry, the divinity is greater than the added humanity

    i deny that we can have Christ’s (human gracious) presence before we are imputed with Christ’s death and legal access

    contra Barth and the “timeless justification” folks–who teach that God is not reconciled
    who teach that God is the subject, the one who reconciles, but never also the one reconciled

    Barthians teach that all sinners are already born reconciled but simply don’t know it yet
    Barthians who reduce God to a “nominalist” (sovereignty but not just, boss of you) revealing in which God has no character but is only whoever God now happens to say God is

    “The Atonement is not about a change in God, because God loves all humans from eternity. But there is a change in us when the Holy Spirit causes us to appropriate (hook up with) Christ’s work. The change is not in God from wrath to grace, because the change is only in our belief that we were under the wrath, because now we believe that we were never under the wrath, nobody was ever under the wrath.”

  10. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Paul Humber The problem may be that you somehow think “lasting” is less than “everlasting” and therefore an insult to God to say God is
    “lasting.” Both aionios words in the Mt 25 passage should be
    translated “lasting” because “aionios” (and “olam”) are indeterminate
    as to duration. There are many places where aionios simply cannot mean eternal. The major advantage of using lasting over eternal is that
    lasting preserves the durational integrity of the original Greek.
    Eternal is fixed to infinity

    Romans 16:25-26 “Lasting” works in both cases —“the mystery hidden for lasting ages past” and “lasting God.”

    Ezekial 26:21 says, “I will bring terrors on you and you will be no
    more; though you will be sought, you will not olam be found again,”
    declares the Lord God. Olam cannot mean never (i.e. not for ever)
    because Tyre today is the fourth largest city in Lebanon. The Lord had in mind lasting terrors. Let us not translate olam in such a way as to make God appear to be confused

    Jonah 2:6 says “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth
    with its bars was around me olam, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” This surely must be one of the shortest
    lastings in the Bible, for we know that Jonah was in the “pit”
    approximately three days. However, the KJV says for ever,

  11. Mark Mcculley Says:

    the timeless god is the deist god,

    Did God create once for all time create the world?
    Or is God still creating the world?
    Or was the world always created?

    ten minutes like this
    then repeat
    and REpeat
    in no specific sequence

    (REform, CONserve, no new creation)

    if God has no time
    there is no history in which God has listened to music

    and the incarnate Lord Jesus is neither here nor there
    neither everywhere nor anywhere

    how would you know that God knows something the rest of us don’t know?

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