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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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Monday, October 01, 2007
An Eschatological Post? Part III
Do you have any idea how fast you were going ma'am?

We are all familiar with speed as a unit of measurement. Speed tells us how far we have gone in a given amount of time. In fact we give the measurement itself in terms of that space-time relationship: 100 mph (miles per hour).

Put on your philosopher's hat for a quick moment of deep thought. If the universe were utterly static - that is, if there was no movement in the universe at all - no people walking around, no talking, indeed no light moving around, no electrons orbiting, no quarks spinning, no movement at all - the concept of time would have no meaning.

To flesh that idea out, imagine if God simply stopped the universe in mid-flight. You wouldn't notice it because even having a thought requires electrical impulses to travel through your nervous system. If all things stopped, you would be utterly ignorant of them. In fact, if every five seconds God stopped the universe for ten trillion years, then let it "run" again for five seconds, only to stop it again for another ten trillion years - and has done so from the very start - we would be utterly ignorant of it, as we perceive time and space simultaneously or not at all.

Okay, philosophy hats off. Perhaps the most well known scientific formula came to us through Einstein:
E = mc2
We see in Einstein's formula how much energy we can expect to be released if we were to convert a given mass entirely into energy. Note that the governing factor in this formula is the speed of light?

The relationship we see between space and time is most often understood in terms of movement, since in order to move one must pass through both time and physical space. All the activity that has ever taken place in the universe has taken place in time and space together. We (inside of creation at least) that there are laws which govern creation - we cannot have space without having time, or time without having space - and that what we see as a formula is actually just the algebraic representation of the way the universe is designed. We see the order, and we can even measure to some degree the connection. Whatever else our philosophical and scientific musing may lead to, one thing we ought to conclude is that whatever the universe "is" - it is defined primarily as being both time and space together.

Said another more religious way - Whatever else God created, He certainly created both time and space.

But you ask, what does all that have to do with Romans 11? Didn't you say you would be discussing Romans 11? Yes, but not yet. Before I can even get to Romans 11 I have to lay out my own presuppositions or else if I err, it will be quite difficult to correct me, and if my opinion disagrees with anyone else's, at least they can see upon what I am resting my conclusions. So I feel it is good to address up front the baggage I will likely bring to my understanding of that text. I feel it is prudent for me to lay it out because in doing so I give myself opportunity to see if my bias is going to flavor my understanding of the text, and if so, whether that is a good, bad, or even unimportant thing.

If time and space are things that God created, then I must be careful not to regard as possible any limits that either aspect of creation might impose upon God. If God exists "outside" of creation, then I cannot soberly imagine that God who was at one time without any obligations has now come under certain obligations because His creation has imposed them upon Him. If God obligates himself to creation, it is certain that the obligation was not produced by creation, but rather originates in God who obligates Himself according to His own sovereign will.

You have heard some ask, "Can God make a rock so big that even he can't lift it up?"

The question rises out of that tired old categorical confusion about the nature of the relationship between God and his creation. God exists aside from His creation and is by no means governed by it, but rather governs it. God cannot create a sovereign creation - He cannot create a universe that controls Him or binds Him - or said another way, God cannot create anything that is more sovereign than He is.

We say all that in order to understand my first presumption that I take into the text of Romans 11. My first presumption is that God cannot be imposed upon by creation unless God ordains that creation make that imposition upon Him. If creation can impose itself upon God outside of God's sovereignty, then God has created something greater and more sovereign than Himself - a hypothetical condition that I must wholeheartedly reject as an abominable slandering of God's great name. My first presumption therefore is that God cannot create something more glorious and sovereign than Himself.

Time (for instance) isn't some "thing" that just happens, it is a thing that God has created, and that God is presently upholding. If time and space could be thought of as some giant cosmic ball, God would be able to hold that ball in his hands (I am of course anthropomorphizing God) and see all of it in a glance. It isn't that God is trapped inside the cosmic ball and waiting along with the rest of creation to see how it is all going to end - God is outside of creation! He is outside of its beginning, He is outside of its end, and He is by no means bound by any of the moments in between.

When scripture says that God sees the end from the beginning it isn't suggesting that God is looking forward in time from some static perspective. That is how a creature would see the end from the beginning - but God is no creature. I believe that what scripture is saying is that God sees in the same single glance both the beginning and the end. I cannot stress it more - God is not a fortune teller stuck in "the present" such as the remainder of creation, and peering into the future. That's open theism - that's garbage (IMO). I think scripture shows us that God is in every moment past, present, and future, and not in the way that we find ourselves in a moment (bounded by that laws of creation: time), rather I believe that God's presence in time and space is absolutely transcendent: His presence is not defined by those physical laws that govern the universe. God is everywhere all at once, in all times, and in all places, not because he is "really big" but because creation is physical, and God is spiritual, and whatever else it means to "inhabit eternity" it surely means that God is transcendent in creation. That is, God never learns anything through creation - God cannot be taught because he knows all already. He sees all of history in the same glance, and because he does the future (as we see it) is not some thing that God has to "look forward" to see. God is already there.

Make no mistake dear reader, if even the smallest quark could spin contrary to, or even outside the will of God - then God is by no means sovereign, and having created a universe that is not subject to Himself, he has shown Himself to be less than omnipotent and omniscient - that is, he has shown himself to be not God.

My presumption therefore is that God -is- sovereign, and that because He is sovereign He is not merely some inerrant fortune teller; such as some imagine when they think of God's omniscience; but rather that when scripture uses words like "foreknew" it by no means suggests that creation is dictating to God what the future is going to be. It is an error to imagine that God's foreknowledge is nothing more than the ability to see what a "runaway" creation is going to do later.

I believe therefore that when scripture speaks of election, it isn't that God took a hazy look into the future, and saw that I was going to choose Him, and therefore followed my lead and elected me because of some choice I made - that is, my understanding of God's sovereignty is definitely going to flavor my understanding of a text such as we find in Romans 11:2,
"...God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew..."

More later, but for now, I give this up front - I believe that election is not God looking forward in time and seeing who would chose to be in Christ, such that God becomes obligated by his creation to elect man according to man's sovereign choice. My God is truly sovereign - He elected me, and *that* is why I chose him. Not the other way around. That understanding of scripture is certainly going to flavor how I understanding the meaning of "foreknew" in this text - which in turn is going to flavor how I understand the olive trees of Romans 11.


posted by Daniel @ 9:40 AM  
  • At 4:43 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger jazzycat said…

    Excellent. God is not bound by time or space, nor is he bound by the physics of the universe. He could, for example, bring about speeds faster than the speed of light if he chose. I believe you are headed where I think Romans 11 carries us. I hope you can finish the dot connecting, as I have not reconciled it all yet.

  • At 7:55 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger Brad Williams said…

    I have never been able to figure out the space-time continuum no matter how many times I watch Star Trek.

    Seriously though, how can you say that God could stop the universe for 10 trillion years? There wouldn't be any years if God stopped the universe, right? Is time even a thing? And what does God move around in if He is totally outside of time? Or maybe you said He's in it and out of it, I'll have to look again. Jesus was certainly in time, and He's God, so God must be in time, I think.

    All of this really confuses me, I think that I need to read some more on the subject. I was watching "Heroes" the other night and "Hiro" stopped time to move a couple of arrows out of mid-air. I thought, "Hmmm....are they going really slow now, or is he going really fast? And if he's totally stopped time, then how does he move. And I wonder if he'll get old faster or what?" Anyway, if you clear all of this up for me along with my eschatology, I'll move to Canada and be your manservant.

  • At 8:00 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger Brad Williams said…

    Oh, the most important thing, I totally agree with you about foreknowledge. In fact, I just taught this very thing today at men's breakfast. I did not mention "Heroes" though.

  • At 8:32 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Brad - If you read carefully, I used the example of God stopping all "movement" in the universe every five seconds for ten trillion years. Not that he actually stopped time, but rather stopped all motion even at the quark level.

    Time -is- as much a thing as space is. Without space there could be no time, and without time no space. The two come bundled together, both are a part of creation, and God is not bound by either.

    Jesus -was- certainly "in" time, and in that sense God experienced time during the incarnation just as we experience it now, but it doesn't change the fact that time is part of creation, and as such, God is not ruled by, but in fact rules over - time as we know it.

    I don't watch television, but if I did I expect I would know who these people are you speak of.

    If I can clear up my own eschatology, I shall be happy enough to move south and be your manservant!

  • At 8:51 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger Even So... said…

    I will now clear up both Brad and Dan's eschatology with my own very clear, concise, and incontrovertible version, and thus also claim both as my new manservant's...get ready to pack your bags, boys...

    ...ahem, as to eschatology...

    I believe in future events...


    Guys, Margie is already making a list...see you soon...

  • At 7:50 AM, October 02, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    To be trumped like that... it makes me feel so ... small... ;-)

  • At 10:36 AM, October 02, 2007, Blogger Jim said…

    The idea that God can be present outside of time and space is almost too much for our finite minds to grasp.

    If you don't believe God desires to reveal the truth about His word then why study it? The fault lies not with God but in our own ignorance and blindness for not seeing it more clearly.

    I appreciate your efforts to approach the subject of eschatology openly and honestly. Obviously there are not three correct answers and therefore it behooves us to seek the truth, as truth brings unity not division. Truth is not an abstract notion or objective fact; rather truth is a person, the God-man Christ Jesus!

  • At 11:12 AM, October 02, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    The idea that God can be present outside of time and space is almost too much for our finite minds to grasp.

    Indeed. I think too few think about what creation is, and that is why many blur the lines between Creator and creation - allowing the rules of creation to fence in the Creator. They simply haven't thought about it, and so when they come to a text that says God foreknows a thing, their "apology" as to how such a thing could be, is never going to be rise above their anthropomorphic understanding of God. They approach the problem from a perspective that is entirely coupled to creation, instead of approach it from a perspective that allows for God to operate as He did "before" there was a creation. Granted words like "before" have no meaning when time was created - but we use that language because we lack the vocabulary to describe it any other way.

    I don't expect to get through this series quickly. ;-)

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