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According to the IEP,

The majority position today, at least among philosophers, is that God is everlasting but temporal.

How is the idea of divine temporality reconciled with special relativity? Special relativity says that space and time are deeply intertwined; one cannot exist without the other. How, then, can we have a presumably non-spatial God exist within time? It seems that special relativity requires God to exist within space to be temporal, but I assume that most philosophers reject this.

  • The majority position is based on what is called presentism, which is explicitly at odds with the prevailing interpretation of special (and general) relativity by physicists. Presentists do offer alternative interpretations of relativity that supply absolute time (e.g. Lorentz's theory of ether). Alternatively, one can adopt an eternalist position where God experiences what is called "duration", a timeless version of "temporality", see SEP Views on God and Time. – Conifold Aug 9 at 2:41
  • FWIW: arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1302/1302.2603.pdf : "If one endorsers a scientifically informed philosophy of time, it turns out, contrary to conventional wisdom, that presentism does not have to be seen at odds with the relativity of simultaneity." – Chris Degnen Aug 9 at 13:03
  • @Conifold I can't say I can grasp what exactly "duration" means here. Can duration be measured on a clock? Does our world have time and duration, just time, or something else? – user40443 Aug 10 at 17:37
  • @ChrisDegnen Thank you, that's an interesting read! – user40443 Aug 10 at 17:39
  • Certainly not. It is experiential, and does not mix with the physical concepts. Moreover, it is something other than our experience of succession, since "eternity […] is the whole, simultaneous, and perfect possession of boundless life", as Boethius said. God's "eternal present" is sometimes compared to our experience of specious present, which is not instantaneous and has extension, i.e. "endures", only encompassing the whole of time (or spacetime). There are still difficulties with relativity that durationists try to address. – Conifold Aug 10 at 19:33
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You have omitted the modality and are misrepresenting the quote. They are guessing that this may be the majority position.

Also, if you read the next sentence, there is not a conflict between that and relativity. Non-locality just requires God would have to be everywhere in space as well as everywhere in time. But why is that a problem?

It is already something most monotheists have assumed. After all, most of them assume prayer is immediately received by Him wherever it originates. We have churches, but not temples to which you need access to reach specific aspects of God.

If God is everywhere, then the nonlocality of quantum mechanics, and he interconnectedness of spacetime insist he automatically has to be present at all times. So an immanent God is temporal and perpetual one, 'aeternal' (one present for all time) but not 'eternal' one (outside time).

  • A few sentences after that, they say, "That is, God experiences some events (for example, the first century) before he experiences other events (for example, the twenty-first century.)" If I'm not mistaken, this is explicitly rejected by the popular interpretation of relativity. Here, "The B-theory of time has received support from the physics community.[17][18] This is likely due to its compatibility with physics and the fact that many theories such as special relativity..." – user40443 Aug 13 at 4:46
  • @user40443 Don't you experience some events before other events? Isn't our sense of time locally linear? If relativity doesn't prevent you from having this experience, why would it rule out God's having it? The B-theory of time is not really about individual experience, it is about succession as a whole. For time to be an illusion, it has to be an experience first. There is nothing preventing God from participating in that experience, knowing it is artificial, even if it comes down to the C.S. Lewis notion of having some version of all experiences in order to better judge mortals. – jobermark Aug 13 at 14:46
  • I see, that makes sense. This is a tangentially related question, but do you know of any sources where the effects of relativity are discussed on dualism? It seems that an additional assumption is needed to say that an immaterial soul can experience the material world like this (in a temporal fashion). – user40443 Aug 13 at 22:37
  • @user40443 Again, if you accept some form of dualism do you presume your immaterial soul cannot experience the material world? If so, what is the point of your dualism? I don't have a reference, but I don't think dualism itself is compatible with 'information' as an aspect of physics, which is a component of both relativity and quantum theory now. But other perspectives on God, like pan(hen)theism work. The related question becomes 'What is experience for a being who already knows everything? Shouldn't experience change the content of memory?' You get the rock lifting problem again. – jobermark Aug 14 at 2:35
  • The point of departure is that an immanent God is also not a dualist one. An immaterial God is not logically everywhere, but nowhere. But that makes miracles hard to deal with. The dualist notion of God is tied up a lot with the mechanical notion of physics. We are officially past the latter, we just can't really fathom that yet. – jobermark Aug 14 at 2:40
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I would want some evidence that the majority of philosophers place God in time eternally. The idea makes no sense. It places limits on what is defined as limitless and requires a fundamental space-time. I would have thought the majority of philosophers either reject the idea of God or assume He is fundamental and prior to space-time.

I would hope that the majority of philosophers have a more sophisticated view than the IEP suggests.

  • I think the majority of philosophers do reject God, and IEP is just saying that the majority of theist philosophers think that He exists in time. As for your suggestion "it places limits on what is defined as limitless," SEP discusses this here. – user40443 Aug 10 at 17:33

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