What is God’s relationship to time?

I’m a junior in high school and, as you would expect, I’m confounded by God’s relation to time.

If God creates the universe, time comes into being with the universe and constituent of the universe. If God, in His atemporal state, should create the universe, the universe would have always existed eternally past (since atemporality would not permit seperate events at different moments; otherwise that would be temporality clearly), but (this considered) would/could this universe exist needless the act of God bringing the universe into existence?

How could an entity’s existence suddenly depend on another’s in an atemporal state? My point is basically how could one act in an atemporal state? And, if God creates the universe, time comes into being with and of the universe, meaning, in the atemporal state God stands in, the beginning and throughout to the end of time (or the beginning and throughout the time thereafter the creation of time) as a whole would be entirely, equally existent (which is how God sees the universe: knowing the past and future): How does this coincide with the tensed theory of time?

Would the universe stand in two relationships with itself in two different states (temporally and atemporally) just as God does atemporally without the universe and temporally with the universe (As one entity)?


You ask some very insightful questions!  Perhaps you would benefit from reading through Time and Eternity by Dr. William Lane Craig.  It is a difficult read, but you seem to be thinking about such difficult matters already.

I understood three topics around which your questions seem to relate.

1) How could God create the universe in his atemporal state?

2) How could the universe depend on God if it has always existed?

3) If God is atemporal, then does this mean the universe must exist in both an atemporal (in relation to God) and a temporal (in relation to us) state?

With respect to your first question, it is not obvious at all that God could create the universe and remain atemporal.  With the creation of the universe you begin to have “earlier than” and “later than” relations.  Namely God’s act of creating the universe is “earlier than” the present moment.  This is enough to put God on the timeline and thus describe God not as atemporal, but as temporal.  Here we have the conception that God existed in an atemporal state apart from the creation of the universe, and that God began to have temporal relations to events with his creation of the universe.  God did not change in his nature (intrinsic change) but rather God began to have changes in his relationship to other things (extrinsic change).  It is hard to see how God can create the universe without becoming the creator of the universe.  That is to say, in creating the universe God’s relationship to the universe changed (from not being its creator to being its creator).  This is an extrinsic change that involves an “earlier than” and “later than” relationship, which entails that God would no longer be atemporal but would be temporal.

Your second question is still important, however, as it may relate to the Argument from Contingency.  The argument from contingency does not depend on the universe having had a beginning.  Even if the universe was without beginning, it may still be the case that the explanation for why the universe exists rather than nothing is not found within the universe itself but from an external source.  Imagine a chandelier that has been hanging from a chain.  Obviously the chandelier is dependent on the chain.  We might imagine that the chandelier had always been hanging from the chain so that it never began to hang from the chain.  Even so, it would still be the case that the chandelier hangs from the chain.  So even if the universe has always existed, it will either hang on itself (exist by the necessity of its own nature) or it will depend on God for its existence.  Most scientists would not argue that the universe exists by the necessity of its own nature (that it is impossible that the universe could fail to exist or that it should exist with different components).  It follows that the universe exists contingently, and then would be contingent on God for its existence.

Finally, your last question entails a contradiction that helps us to understand God’s relationship to time.  One of the laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction.  This holds that something cannot be “A” and “Not A” at the same time and in the same way.  So the universe cannot be “temporal” and “atemporal”.  If it is temporal in its relationship to us (which seems obvious from our firsthand experience) then it follows logically that it must be temporal to God as well.

Sincerely,
Matt Bilyeu