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A common idea of God is that he exists outside of time. Does this make sense? Here are some objects. Do any of them work?

  • Impossibility of immutability: If God exists outside of time, then by definition he cannot change. If he cannot change, can he know what time it is now?
  • According to this SEP article, being outside of time implies the B-series of time, which that SEP article says is impossible.
  • Can there be any causation? If God "caused" the universe, he must have existed before it, but there is no before for God if he exists outside of time.
  • Can God be rational if he cannot think, which stems from him not existing in time? He cannot say "because X, I do Y", because that would imply X exists before Y.
  • Does it make sense for us to say God exists outside time? Discussed here.
  • Does God know what it is like to experience time like we do, if he exists outside it?
  • Isn't God fairly lifeless and disconnected if he cannot change at all?
  • Are there any other objections? Do any of the ones here or here (arguments are in previous section of article also) work?
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    I think this is unanswerable as written, but it's also flawed on several levels. In your immutability question, you're assuming time equals the possibility of change -- you're also assuming God changes. In your B-theory question, you have a "they" with no antecedent. (are "they" voices in your head? presumably no, "they" are particular philosophers). / several of your other questions aren't necessary for God to exist out of time (God needn't by any known definition have all human experiences nor be temporal to be causal on things in a world with time).
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 0:30
  • @virmaior OK, I edited the question with the B-series. With the immutability, I'm not necessarily assuming God changes, I'm just asking how it would be possible if he didn't change, because he would have no idea what time it is now. I'm not saying God does have human experiences, but I suppose I'm asking more if he knows what it feels like for humans to have those experiences. With the last thing, you've got a point there. Thanks for the feedback!
    – APCoding
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 2:34
  • @virmaior With the SEP article, it says "First, that eternalism depends upon a demonstrably false view of time, the B-series view."
    – APCoding
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 2:41
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    That seems to be really poor reading of the article; please reread it. The article says William Lane Craig says it's impossible. That's not quite identical to the article's author being convinced nor to do it actually being impossible. Similarly, the article does not say in an unqualified way that eternalism depends upon a demonstrably false view of time, the B-series view. Instead, it says temporalists maintain this as one of their arguments against divine eternalism. That's very different.
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 4:31
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    This still remains a really poor fit for the SE-model. There's far too many questions that are speculative rather than objectively answerable, there's far too many reasons that an answerer would have to give to have that answer. If you want to make it work, ask a much narrower question about an argument you're having trouble following in either pro or con.
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 4:33

6 Answers 6

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Time is widely expected to be emergent, for gravity and space-time to be reconciled with a quantum picture.

From Noether's theorem we know spatial & time-persistent properties like conservation of energy and momentum are directly equivalent to continuous symmetries under translation. We can think of our experience of dimensions as emergent sets of properties that stay the same between situations.

Quantum Loop gravity is an example of picturing space and time symmetries, and associated causality, as emergent from a more fundamental layer, in this case spin networks.

If our universe exists within a higher dimensional space, a higher dimensional being could act causally in a way we can't see, like a human could effect and observe the path of an ant over a 2D surface in ways the ant cannot. For more discussion of the problems with causality-as-fundamental, see Is the idea of a causal chain physical (or even scientific)?

See Kurzgesacht's video The Egg for a nice example of how this kind of thinking could build common grown between monotheistic and karma-based perspectives.

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  • Time may be partially or fully emergent, but that doesn't really address whether it would fundamentally make sense for something (in particular a thinking being that interacts with things "inside" time) to exist outside of time. If higher dimensional beings exist, that doesn't mean they aren't also bound by time (even if it's a different form of time).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:57
  • @NotThatGuy: Consider there might be a second dimension of time, eg discussed here: 'What's the purpose of a second dimension when we say that time is two-dimensional?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/79377/… Considering en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland can hp us jnderstand higher imensionl being could see everything & intervene anywhere, in just the way monotheists describe
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 8:07
  • That sounds rather contrived and highly speculative. One should come up with theories to explain the evidence, and test it with more evidence, not try to craft theories out of ideas some people came up with thousands of years ago. In any case, the "outside of time" thing is typically used as an assertion (based on no evidence) to try to solve the problem of the first cause, but God existing within a different dimension of time will just shift the problem back without solving anything, making God entirely unnecessary and unhelpful for this problem.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 9:57
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It’s not just possible...it IS SO.

“God” is not an entity that exists within the finite boundaries of the physical universe where “time” is an abstract perceptual construct that only exists within the material plane we call the “universe” for the singular purpose of defining more than one occurrence of ANY event as distinct from another event.

Time is necessary for the human brain to perceive events as separate from others.

1/6/2024: In response to the comment by NotThatGuy when he edited my answer to this question, I am adding more information that helps support my answer to this question, below. Thank you for your edits to my post and for your helpful comment and advice regarding my post. I am talking about NotThisGuy AND Frank Hubeny’s comment, both being very relevant, intelligent and helpful suggestions. So, read below my additional input based on their good points and advice.

“We live in a physical world with its four known space-time dimensions of length, width, height (or depth) and time. However, God dwells in a different realm—the spirit realm—beyond the perception of our physical senses. It’s not that God isn’t real; it’s a matter of His not being limited by the physical laws and dimensions that govern our world (Isaiah 57:15)…”

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-time.html

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  • I made an edit to remove your name since it is already listed and to break the text into paragraphs to emphasize the points. You may roll this back or continue editing. I would recommend adding one reference to someone who has a similar position to yours. This would strengthen your answer making it less of an opinion and more of a reporting of what others think. It would also give the reader a place to go for more information. Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 14:52
  • The question asks whether it's possible, and this merely asserts that it is true. This would be an answer if you could prove that, but merely asserting it doesn't really answer the question. You could say time is an "abstract perceptual construct", but this would still be a perception of causal sequences of events (separating time into perception vs what actually exists), which includes said perception itself. I can't see how you can have causation without some form of time, and how a thinking being can exist without causation. If human brains require time, why doesn't God also?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:06
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I feel like you need a more rigorous definition of what 'outside time' means. I can think of two different interpretations of the term which lead to different answers.

Omniscience - Has correct knowledge of the complete future
It is difficult to reconcile the existence of an omniscient being with the existence of human free will, but some people have attempted to do so. In my opinion, the three most interesting solutions are:

Molinist Solution: G-d knows the initial conditions of The Universe and They know all the rules governing The Universe, including how every creature will act in every possible situation. From this information G-d can calculate everything that will happen. Thus, G-d is omniscient without infringing on free will. This solution is interesting since it compatible with the A-Theory of Time and relies on the global hidden variable interpretation of quantum physics.

Aristotelian Solution: Regarding a different problem, Aristotle claimed that "no proposition about the contingent future has a truth value." If this claim were true, it has several implications for formal logic, one of which helps resolves the current issue. Unfortunately, it also implies that if G-d is infallible, then G-d is not omniscient in the strongest meaning of the word.

Boethian Solution: This is the solution I personally subscribe to. Basically, it says that any claim regarding when G-d knows something is false. Therefor, G-d can know something, without knowing it in the past. In other words, G-d has no temporal properties; They are "not in time". This solution may be the most appealing to you, as it appears to be in line with your current beliefs given how you describe "outside of time".

Atemporal - Does not vary with time
There are many things that are a temporal. The easiest to recognize examples are the fundamental constants of physics e.g. the speed at of light. However, recent work has challenged this notion. A more rigorous example would be abstract objects as described by platonism e.g. the number 4. It is worth noting that there is some issues regarding the existence of abstract objects and G-d. That debate mostly focuses on if G-d could have created abstract objects, so I do not think it prevents us from explaining G-d's relationship to time by analogy with abstract objects.

For the purposes of this answer, I am defining G-d as the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent creator of The Universe. Under this definition, I see no problems with the claim that G-d is atemporal. However, I also see no problems with the claim that G-d is temporal. I am not sure if you can form a more restrictive definition of G-d without your question becoming tied to a specific religion, in which case your question probably belongs on a different Stack Exchange site.

Non-Causal - Does not participate in causal relationships
If the existence of G-d implied anything regarding an important issue, then there must be a causal relationship between G-d and that issue. Therefor, the claim that Their existence is relevant to anything important is incompatible with the claim that G-d is non-causal. For this reason, I cannot imagine that anyone would claim that G-d is non-causal. Add on to this the fact that a reasonable argument can be made that no non-causal object exist, I do not feel the need to pursue the matter further.

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  • If abstract concepts are atemporal, it absolutely does not follow that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent thinking being can also be atemporal. Those things are so far separated from one another, that it comes across similar to "A red apple is a fruit, a green apple is a fruit, therefore my computer can also be a fruit". You're ignoring all the things between apples and computers (especially things that are similar to computers) which aren't fruits.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:12
  • Not just difficult, but impossible. The future is sometimes unwritten.
    – Corbin
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 5:36
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If one begins with the premise that A) God exists, followed by B) He (or It) is an Omnipotent Being who is NOT subject or subordinate to the laws of nature, including space and time, then arriving at the conclusion that God is independent from or outside of time, should not be so difficult to understand or acknowledge.

If one really believes that God is a truly Omnipotent Grand Being, then He (or It) would have the ability to do X. What is X? Well, X, COULD mean God's ability and willingness to do anything and everything regardless of the impossibilities and incomprehensibilities which limit and constrain the actions and abilities of humankind.

The problem though, begins with Point A), "God exists", which of course, is inherently unknowable, unaffirmable and ultimately, unprovable. And to continue with elaborate sounding arguments and epistemological theories would necessitate things, such as speculation, conjecture, faith, belief and circumstantial reasoning (at best).

So to ask whether or not God exists outside of time is "jumping way ahead" of the more important question, which is whether or not God exists. This age old question, of course, has been and is still, inherently unanswerable, because it is inherently unknowable.

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Your question is characterised by the fact that you are trying to use logic and concepts from human experience to argue against an idea that transcends both. The ideas of 'god' and 'existing out of time' are effectively meaningless, on the grounds that they are entirely imaginary concepts incapable of being defined in terms that can be tested. If you are prepared to abandon any necessity for proof or even merely consistency with what we can test to a degree of confidence, then anything is 'possible'. It is possible, in that sense of the word, that the Universe exists within a hair follicle of a giant eternal pink rabbit. If you have any sense, you will discount that possibility as utter nonsense; and I will ask you why do you not discount the idea of god on the same basis.

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    It's far worse than this. It's not just that God transcends logic and human concepts, it's that people purposefully put God beyond those things and outside of everything we're able to reason about, because according to reason, God doesn't exist (if we had good evidence of God existing transcendently, that would be one thing, but people appeal to those unproven properties to argue for God's existence). It's not just that something "existing out of time" is meaningless, it's that it's actively contradicted by that something being a thinking being that interacts with things "inside" of time.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:43
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If one reads the comments here, one may be led to believe they were made by people who are educated and intelligent. Except, they are 100% wrong. They have been, as have so many, been led astray, blinded by Ignorance and their thoughts clouded by the Evil One, Satan.

God exists outside of time and space, and He has been in existence for All Time. None of these explanations can apply to Him since He does exist this way.

It is because He existed first that He created All things and therefore All scenarios arose because of Him. God created Time itself as we now know it. He created the laws of physics, gravity, all laws that govern the universe since He created it.

God truly was Always there. He was living with His creation of Angels before desiring to create something more, including mankind to live abundantly on earth and to bring Him glory, and through stewardship, care for the natural world.

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    This is just a lot of assertions. What's your justification for any of this? As an aside, try replacing "God" with "Allah", "Zeus", "the Flying Spaghetti Monster", etc., and consider whether you'd find this answer compelling, and what it would take to convince you of this.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:17

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