God’s Relation to Time
June 5, 2010 — 19:23

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 6

[Dean Zimmerman](http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/How-Does-God-Relate-to-Time-Dean-Zimmerman-/600) talks about God’s relation to time and a puzzling question (attributed to Leibniz, among others) about why God did not create the universe earlier. The answer to that question seems obvious. If God created the universe 14 billion years prior to time t then it is impossible that God should have created the universe earlier or later than 14 billion years before t. I’m not denying, of course, there are uninteresting ways in which God might have created the universe earlier, since there are universes in which the current time is more than 14 billion years after the big bang. But in that case, we are mistaken about what the current time is, not about when the universe began.

  • Yes, but I think Leibniz used that question in the context of a debate with the Newtonians about absolute space and time. (I believe he also asked: could God move the universe one foot to the right?) A Newtonian couldn’t give the seemingly obvious answer you give, because Newton denied that time was defined relationally, so it could have been that the event of my typing this comment was ‘moved’ (temporally) without any of the temporal relations being changed – that is, the whole universe could be shifted earlier or later, if time is absolute, i.e. non-relational. This is a good reason for thinking time is, in some sense, relational.

    June 5, 2010 — 21:52
  • Mike Almeida

    That’s an interesting point. But I guess I don’t see how we could move the whole universe temporally backward unless there is some time before the beginning of the universe to move it. But there isn’t one (well, there isn’t one if time begins when the universe begins).

    June 6, 2010 — 10:11
  • Newton thought that space and time were infinite in all directions. So as a reductio of Newton’s position, I would think that Leibniz’s argument was pretty good; it’s just that no one holds Newton’s positions any more. (It is probably partially because of Leibniz’s arguments, but more so because of relativity, that no one holds Newton’s position any more.)

    June 6, 2010 — 15:00
  • Mike Almeida

    Right, then you definitely have PSR problems, which had to have been Leibniz’s worry. Thanks Kenny.

    June 6, 2010 — 15:11
  • Jeremy Pierce

    If God is temporal and everlasting, then God existed for an infinite duration of time before the Big Bang. So the question is indeed meaningful on such a view, and on the Principle of Sufficient Reason there should be no non-arbitrary way of settling such questions. As an atemporalist, Leibniz wouldn’t face this problem. But those who accept something like PSR who also accept a temporal but everlasting God do need to have something to say about how those three claims are compatible.

    June 10, 2010 — 21:46
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I do think Leibniz addresses exactly this question somewhere or other, also, and not just the spatial variant. I remember it coming up in Jonathan Bennett’s last Locke-Leibniz seminar, and Bennett kept insisting that this is a problem for Leibniz, completely ignoring his acceptance of divine atemporality. Bill Alston and John Hawthorne were in the room agreeing with me on this, but Bennett just couldn’t see how an in-house issue in philosophical theology could affect this issue of real philosophy that he was raising.

    June 10, 2010 — 21:48