Br Paul and a Christian discuss God and time. Speakers Corner

This was filmed just a few hours ago at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London. The Christian, Josh, is doing his PhD in theology on the thought of renowned Oxford philosopher of religion Richard Swinburne. Our debate/discussion lasted over 3 hours and much of it was filmed by various cameras. We covered the nature of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples; the genre of the gospels; what New Testament scholarship is saying about the reliability of the gospels; the differences between the gospel of Jesus and the gospel of Paul, and much more. I particularly liked the fact that our conversation was characterised by mutual respect. We both agreed that we had learnt much from each other.  So here is just 9 short minutes of the debate. I’m sure other people will post their footage in due course. (There is a cameo appearance of my friend Saleem).

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, Debates, God, Islam, Speakers Corner

7 replies

  1. is it not true that if god enters into time and space then he becomes mutable and is subject to his own divine powers to exist in time? then why do these missionaries want separation between divine and human nature? why not have them both mix?

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  2. interesting, but I feel he was playing a semantic game and at “times” inconsistently

    Time and space can be looked at in three ways (well I can think of three , really should be two below?)

    A- Time and space are absolute realities. Isaac Newton sort of reasoning. No relativelty here. Tensed view of time

    B- Time and space are relational properties. Space can only exist when objects are around and time can only exist when there is are changing state of affairs. Think of it like this. I place 4 balls near each other and as an “artifact” of their existence I can “map” out the space between. That space does not exist per se but only as a relation between the balls. Similarly David Mellor(in his earlier writings) put forward a relational view of
    Time. We say something is earlier, simultaneous or later in relation to this or that event(“state of affairs”). Mellor holds onto a tenseless view of time the.

    We can’t talk about something being earlier per se. Leibniz is relationist when it comes to space . Aristotle believed that space is part of the object and not part of the “background” they are in.

    C- Space Time is a real part of the fabric of the Universe although we have a relative component that Einstein made famous

    Ok how does this relate to the conversation. Like Richard Swinburne he believes in a hybrid (or so it seems) view of time. Prior to our “clocks” or the Big Bang we have a “non metric” idea of time, “then” the universe came into being. God has innate unchanging attributes and relational(again timeless) properties that “interact” with this tensed (eternally tensed) universe.

    The debater does not even believe in the idea of “potentiality” because that has a ring of “tense” to it. Here he brings in “Divine simplicity”

    Now the errors

    A- Thomas Aquinas notion of Divine simplicity, Ibn Rushds notion of divine simplicity and Ghazzali’s notion are different. On the former account we do not even have the traditional substance and predicate relation. The attributes are literally not distinguishable from the essence. Ghazzali ,on the other hand, believed in the traditional Ashari formulae of لا هي هو ولا هي غيره. There are attributes that are distinct from the essence. That is why God is called the creator. Potentially fits very well in the Ashari creed. I also believe that divine simplicity on the level of this speaker (or so I assume) can lead to a difficult concept of God. If God is(is of identity) all powerful and he is (again identity) all knowing, can we (by one of Leibniz’s laws) claim that omnipotence is identical to omniscience ? If these attributes are different, how do we avoid the “composite” nature of God?

    B- His Kantian antimony against the creation of time comes back with a vengeance against his view of time. When did God decide to create the universe ? We can always think of a prior time and thus the infinite regress (infinite time before the “Big Bang”

    C- His objection to labelling God as a “creator” really is silly. Can God be described as omnipotent when he is not “doing anything”? Another problem of his understanding of simplicity. What do we say of God when we had “nothing” then? Saying “he is who he is” does not help.

    D- What about simultaneous causation ? William Lane Craig talks about it a lot. Maybe he addressed it in another clip ?

    E- Finally Islam is not unanimous on the Ashari creed. Ibn Taymiaah believes that God does engage in time literally. He does believe there is “Godly time” and “created time”. He is a strong advocate of a relative notion of time and space.

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    • very interesting points . will make a note of them.

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    • “E- Finally Islam is not unanimous on the Ashari creed. Ibn Taymiaah believes that God does engage in time literally. He does believe there is “Godly time” and “created time”. He is a strong advocate of a relative notion of time and space.”

      can you explain “Godly time” and what does it mean for God to engage IN TIME literally?

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  3. Sure,

    I suggest you read the works of Jon Hoover, an excellent scholar from the University of Nottingham.

    Ibn Taymiaah is quite simple about it. He divides attributes into those that are essential (sifaat dhatia) and attributes that are subject to free will.

    He believes Allah acts when he wills and how he wills so there is a tensed component to his acts. The Ashari school have objections to this because they this as a “hadath” in Allah. A hadath in Ashari Kalam (think of the occasionalist view of creation) is literally something originating out of nothing.

    As Craig says, anything that begins to exist must have a cause. The Ashari’s think this a problem if applied to Gods attributes.

    Ibn Taymiaah objects to the first premise. He, with force, claims that it does not follow. If God acts in time, it would lead to the conclusion that he essentially is different. What is important to Ibn Taymiaah is that the essential nature of Gods attributes are timeless. Interestingly, he does not like a substance theory of identity and prefers to talk about a cluster theory of identity. God is just the sum of his attributes. He is very harsh when it comes to divine simplicity (as per the philosophers view etc) because he thinks this deconstructs any notion of meaning.

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  4. Sorry “Godly time” means that God acts do not depend on any metric time. There are a sequence of before, simultaneous and after (with his actions) but they are not essentially relative to any inertial frame or (if future science proves this) some absolute metric clock.

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  5. “God acts in time, it would lead to the conclusion that he essentially is different.”

    Sorry meant it would not lead to…

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