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St. Augustine famously said that God is outside of time. And it is said that Peter Damian thought that God can change the past (I did not find the original source for this. If anyone knows and can tell me, I would be very grateful.)

Are there any arguments for and against the view that God can change the past. And is there any biblical, patristic, theological, and philosophical texts on this issue?

Thank you very much!

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  • If any god did that, humans would not be able to experience that change as 'past'. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 11:44
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    It depends on what "change the past" is taken to mean. If you can come up with a coherent definition of that then yes, omnipotent God can do it. But it is much harder than it seems. What people usually mean by this phrase is muddled. It is some sort of fragmented scenario where revised "past" is imagined, but how the rest of time is supposed to function around that is either incoherent or implicates multiple timelines. God could surely produce the latter, but they dispel the whole sacrality "the past" is supposed to have.
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 12:03
  • The question is complicated. We can not argue without setting up the limits and the things we accept as concrete truth. That is how a religion works. You accept without a doubt or argument that something is true. Period. Without that, we can not set up a field to propose an argument, in order to discuss something, because someone will have infinite flexibility to argue against anything. Are you trying to make sense on what St. Augustine once said?
    – George Eco
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 12:09
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    Are you trying to find reason to this? If REASON is something you want to exist in this discussion, we can make a start, along with more or less things included in the discussion setting up the limits. This is important in order to give value to our time.
    – George Eco
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 12:09
  • @Conifold, I have always claimed that most time travel speculation (other than multiple timelines) is like a story about a round square. Just because you can write stories about it, doesn't make the concept coherent. Parts of the story talk about rolling the round square; other parts talk about using the corner as a wedge, but there is never a direct confrontation of he essential incoherence of the idea. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 15:53

2 Answers 2

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A God that can change the past, and a God that can't, are indistinguishible.

Presumably, a God that is omnipotent can change absolutely anything about the present, including making it appear as if something happened in the past that actually didn't. At least some Young-Earth-Creationists believe that God created the Earth 6000 years ago, oil and fossils included, looking as if it was much older.

As such, it's impossible to tell the difference, leading to the conclusion that there is no difference.

Since God knows the Future, he can also simply change the present in such a way that it will never, need to be changed after it has become the past. So not only is there no difference, there is also no need, ever, for God to change the past. He has already done everything that needed to be done / he wanted done. He has already set into motion whatever was needed to answer some future prayer, for example.

If, from the point of view of God, past, present, and future are one and the same (which is only reasonable if you consider God to be outside time), then there might not even be a difference from His POV.

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According to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the answer is no.

That's the equation: t = t0/(1-v^2/c^2)^(1/2). Which means if God speeds up, he is likely to stay forever. So practically if he can move at 99.999...% of the light speed C, he can stay always and everything else will get older and older very fast.

But, that's another problem. At the light speed, there is only one time, no past, no future, only today and now. God at light speed can't go to past to change things, he can't go to the future to make things, he should stay at the current time, and always there. At speed of light C always, all past and all future is just the current time, at least that is what the Einstein's formula is.

So can an all powerful God with infinite energy, go past?

The answer is no.

According to Einsteins formula E=Eo/(1-v^2/c^2)^(1/2), to stop the time, even for the smallest particle, even for the smallest Planck time (tp = 5.39 × 10^-44 s), infinite energy, which means infinite power is needed.

So the all powerful God should consume infinite energy, just to stop the time for a finite particle, for a finite period of time. And that is just a full stop, not going back.

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  • "That's the equation: t = t0/(1-v^2/c^2)^(1/2). Which means if God speeds up, he is likely to stay forever" I don't really undersnand this (or the rest) and how they relate to the question..
    – Nikos M.
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 15:51
  • The question was "Can God change the past?". That means God has to do something in a time smaller than t0 (which is the current time). According to the formula, this is impossible, because the term (v^2/c^2) is always less than 1 greater than 0. That means a particle cannot go to the past, the answer explains why.
    – Amon Ra
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 18:47
  • You're representing God by a particle traveling through space and subject to the laws of special relativity?
    – D. Halsey
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:47
  • No, it's not a claim about God, it's a claim about this universe, our reality. X in this universe, needs infinite power to stop the time for a particle with mass m0. And that is only a full stop, not going back. The term t cannot be minus, it can be 0, it can be +infinite, but it can not be minus. We know that this equation works in this universe, so if God or X will do something in this universe, this equation holds.
    – Amon Ra
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 6:40

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