In the beginning... God and time


(Mitchell W McKain) #1

So the first question here is whether the phrase “in the beginning” means anything if God has no beginning (in particular what does it mean to say that Jesus was with the Father in the beginning). In fact this is a common atheist challenge to the idea of an uncaused God. If God always existed then how could there be a point when God decides to create the universe? Their argument is basically that this idea of an uncaused God means an always existing God for an infinite period of time and that this incoherent for a God who makes decisions and takes actions.

The traditional solution to this problem is to make God timeless and unchanging, though how this solves the problem of God making decisions and doing things is unclear. But I think this addition to a list of things God cannot do is even more troubling.

The changing understanding of time in science, however, introduces another possibility. For science no longer believes in absolute time. Instead time is simply one of the degrees of freedom in a geometrical structure of space-time which is the physical universe. Time is simply an ordering of events in a causally linked manner.

This changes things in theology because it is no longer simply a question of whether God is inside or outside of absolute time. God can be outside the temporal ordering of the physical universe but still have temporal ordering of His own personal events apart from that. Furthermore that temporal ordering is totally subject to God’s desire, and thus time becomes something which God can use as He chooses instead of being trapped in an eternity with a past about which we can ask what is He doing. Instead God can indeed have a first thought and follow that thought with others and with decisions in a temporal ordering of His own choosing and according to the modern understanding of time, it makes no sense to ask what God was doing before that, because there is no before, only God before He used time.

The upshot here is that the phrase “in the beginning” does have meaning in such a context. And when we say that Jesus was with the Father in the beginning, it mean He was there when God had that first thought in His own personal temporal sequence of events. He was there when God decided to create the angels and He was there when God decided to create the physical universe.


(Marvin Adams) #2

the first cause by definition has to be uncaused as it is the first event in a causality line of any particular object. It is also omnipotent to its effect as it allows anything that can happen to happen to this object. Prior to the creation of order there is chaos as there is no causality but more interesting also no consequence.
When we say that Jesus was with the father in the beginning we have to think about that first word, the word that God spoke, the rule to create reality and that turned flesh in Jesus, e.g. what he had in mind. It’s easy as it defines interconnectivity and therefore causes order.


(Mitchell W McKain) #3

That is not the usual Christian belief and it is not my belief, which is, prior to creation there is only God, for God created the universe ex-nihilo. This belief is facilitated by modern scientific concept of energy which erases the distinction between action and substance – both matter and motion are forms of energy, and one can be converted into the other. God’s action of creation is sufficient to produce the substance of creation.

As for the mythical descriptions of creation, even if you are inclined to take them seriously, chaos could simply describe some stage in the creation process, like the after the big bang and before the formation of stars and galaxies.

Jesus as a first creation is not a Christian belief.


(Marvin Adams) #4

God created matter from not matter, not ex nihilo, e.g. from nothing as he already existed. If absolute nothingness existed it would mean that there is a space God can not reach that would mean he is not omnipresent.
Causality is a consequence of order which in itself is the consequence of a law spoken into existence. A law is by definition a metaphysical element as it acts upon physical reality, as is logic.

The interesting thing about creation that might be understandable to us is that we can think until the cows go home and nothing happens. Only when the use the thought to move energy as a consequence of our thinking something happens. So only when God acted upon his thoughts he “willed”, e.g. became alive, as: “live is the movement of energy or matter at will” out of which the universe was born.


(Mitchell W McKain) #5

I repeat myself since you apparently didn’t get it the first time.

This speaking into existence comes from a comparing God with a human ruler, who does things by giving commands. But God does not require anyone to do things for Him. He is the one with all the knowledge and abilities and thus this idea doing things by giving commands is purely a product of human imagination and nothing more.

That is better. It only makes sense that God thought things through before He acted. But the point I made above is there there is no need of any pre-existing energy or chaos. God action is sufficient to provide what is needed.

Sounds like necromancy which I do not believe in. Life is a self-organizing process in a continuum from non-living to living. Life is not a product of will – will is a product of life.


(Shawn T Murphy) #6

There are two places in the Bible where it says: “In the beginning…” But since God is infinite, you have to ask, “which beginning are they referring to?” “What is present at these two beginnings?” “Are they the same beginning or the beginning of two separate epochs?”

When raising a child, you do not start teaching philosophy, you start with the simple rules and work your way up to the more complex concepts when they get older. This is the same with the Bible. God and the prophets did not start by explaining the reasons for creation, they started with rules, guidelines and suggestions on how to live.

For me, the beginning of the Old Testament is the beginning of restoration (Apocatastasis). At the beginning of this epoch, darkness already existed and since God is light, this happened after the creation of darkness - evil, after the Fall. This is when God separated the light from the dark and create a firmament to separate the two “waters” - darkness and light.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.And God called the firmament Heaven. (Genesis 1:7-8)

The beginning in John 1 is the beginning of God’s divine creation, where there was only light, no darkness. It is in the New Testament that Jesus reveals, to the now enlightened children of God, why the restoration needed to happen. It is now that He reveals what Heaven looked like before the Fall and gives us a vision of the original throne of Heaven (Rev 4).


(Mitchell W McKain) #7

That does not agree with John chapter 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

It does not say there is no darkness, quite the opposite. It says there is darkness and the light shines in it.


(Shawn T Murphy) #8

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

This is the beginning of the creation of Heaven, it continues in Revelations. Starting with John 1:4 is a much different time period, after the creation of everything, including man.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


(Mitchell W McKain) #9

I am not buying your additions to the text. But most of all, it only talks about light shining in the darkness. It never speaks of only light, which frankly doesn’t make sense anyway.


(Shawn T Murphy) #10

Why does it not make sense to you? When God lived alone in Heaven, do you really think He lived in the dark?


(Mitchell W McKain) #11

Light without darkness makes no sense because light exists as a contrast to darkness. I certainly don’t equate these with good and evil.

I don’t think God lived in anything. In the beginning there is only God – not God in a place or God in time, just God. I certainly don’t believe God has a body which depends on some kind of pre-existent world.

Many times in the Bible says that Heaven is something God created, just as He created the earth and the physical universe.


(Shawn T Murphy) #12

Hi Michell
Take a look at the translation differences of 1:5. “the darkness comprehended it not” in KJV vs yours. This is where we see the meaning of darkness - away from the light, lost from God. This meaning is lost in newer translations.


(Mitchell W McKain) #13

I guess that is a typo since there is no LJV translation. You must mean the KJV of which I have a number of reasons to disapprove. And in this passage I think the KJV translation is wrong. But more importantly this does not get you any closer to your claim about there being only light and no darkness.


(Marvin Adams) #14

so you believe in a dead God? Sounds like necromancy which I do not believe in :slight_smile:
Live is the movement of energy or matter at will. Therefore you can terminate the life of organisms in which the will is hardcoded by destroying the code or by removing their control over movement of matter or energy by destroying their cell wall / compartmentalization. In humans the will is transmitted metaphysically as in “thy will be done” thus granting life to the agent that makes us move energy or matter.

Creation ex nihilo is incoherent and is what atheists occasionally claim to be the origin of the universe by then declaring the nothing to be a not entirely nothing but a “quantum vacuum”


(Shawn T Murphy) #15

If God and Jesus were alone in the beginning of John 1 and Jesus is the light of the world, then why would be there any darkness? The reformist Zwingli translated John 1:5 in the same way that as the KJV, so I do not have any reason to question it.

Im Anfang war da Wort, und das Wort war bei Gott, und das Wort war ein göttliches Wesen. 2) Dieses war im Anfang bei Gott. 3) Alle Dinge sind durch dasselbe geworden, und ohne dasselbe ist auch nicht eines geworden, das geworden ist. 4) In ihm war Leben, und das Leben war das Licht für die Menschen. 5) Und das Licht scheint in der Finsternis, und die Finsternis hat es nicht angenommen.

Darkness is separation from God and in 1:5 John is saying that the darkness did not accept or comprehend the light - the Word of God. God cannot be in darkness because He is the source of all light.


(Mitchell W McKain) #16

God is spirit, not a living organism. It is not even correct to say that God is a living spirit, for He does not learn and grow (i.e. not a finite spirit becoming more by increasing His capabilities). Instead God is a life-giving spirit (an infinite spirit which can provide all that living spirits require for life eternally).

Incorrect. Creation ex-nihilo as I have described it is a scientific fact. In particle accelerators we convert motion into matter. It is creation of matter where there was no matter before. To be sure, it is not an appearance of matter from nothing at all because there is the machine providing energy for the motion from which matter is created. But this is exactly how I have described creation ex-nihilo. It is the creation of a universe made of matter where there was no matter before. There is still God whose action of creation provides the energy out of which all that matter is created.

Creation ex-nihilo is still creation which means there is a creator, whether it be God or the machine. And to be sure it requires power, which both God and the machine have in plenty.


(Phil) #17

I would agree, and feel it mistaken to get hung up on the electromagnetic waves we call light, and the absence of them we call darkness, as John ,First John, and Genesis I feel all describe spiritual darkness and spiritual light.


(Mitchell W McKain) #18

Well I certainly do not think that evil is required as a contrast to goodness. Though the reverse is probably true, since evil has a parasitical nature.

But I don’t know if spiritual light and dark is meant to refer to good and evil directly. Seems to be more of a metaphor for truth and seeing ones way to what is good and valuable – like Matthew 5:16 talking about letting your light shine before men.

I feel that Shawn has led us something of a greased pig chase from John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Probably more of a poetic intro from which it is probably pointless to try squeezing too much theology. Conclusions are far more believable when the scripture gives us the question which it is addressing.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19

Marvin, nothing is not a thing or a place. It is the absence of matter/energy and space/time. E = mc squared means the existence mass/energy and time/space are interdependent. Before God created mass/energy, there was no time/space, there was just God Who is independent of time and space.

First God created matter and anti-matter, which exploded and energy was created along with the matter that survives. The energy, heat, light, expansion created space and time, all in a nanosecond.

Order is built into the universe by God through the Logos, Jesus Christ. (John 1) It is the Spirit of Love that put these events into action.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #20

Before the Beginning there was no time, not even an infinite period of time. Before the Beginning there was no nothing which humans cannot really conceive because all of our experience is based on time, space, matter, and energy.

God is the Goo of Space and Time. God does not have to act in time and space, but God does. God IS WHO GOD IS. God is YHWH, God DOES WHAT GOD DOES. YHWH does not obey our rules and ideas. YHWH follows YHWH’s laws which God reveals to us through Jesus and science.

God is Creator, Logos, and Love. The Trinity is God over the universe. The Trinity is God over humanity and the biosphere. The Trinity is God over heaven, the spiritual world. .