In Part 1 of this blog I argued that to view God as ‘outside of time’, in the way we usually imagine, effectively reduces God to the role of passive spectator, merely observing events unfold in exactly the way that he has always known that they would. Every relationship, every interaction and every conversation is simply played out in accordance with a script that he has already seen.
But we have industrial machines that do much the same, day in and day out.
The God revealed in Scripture, and supremely made tangible in Jesus, is not merely a passive observer, but a dynamic actor, choosing to engage with those he has created in order to move his loving purposes towards their intended goal.
But – some would say – doesn’t conceiving of God as necessarily operating within the framework of time, impose restraints and limits on him? Doesn’t this reduce God? What about some of the ‘omni’ words we apply to God: omnipotent and omniscient.
To which we could respond that there seems very little omnipotent about a God who, after having once launched creation, is now powerless to change or affect anything.
And if God is truly omniscient (all-knowing) then he must know everything as it truly is. And such knowledge must therefore include not only the things that will or will not take place, but also those things that may or may not occur. Especially those things that are contingent on the choices of free-will beings. And his wisdom, as well as his power, is surely displayed most clearly in the creative and resourceful ways that he works within the constraints that this imposes.
Constraints on God? Is that a valid thing? Surely by taking on flesh and blood in Jesus, our self-sacrificial God has revealed his willingness to limit himself. (Phil 2:6-11)
So does the creator then know nothing at all about the future, about what lies ahead? On the contrary, I would argue that he knows a great deal.
He knows the final outcome, precisely because he will work patiently and unrelentingly to bring all things to the fulfilment he intends. Just not coercively.
He knows a great deal about the processes that govern our daily lives, for he created the earth and fully understands the complex dynamics that he set in place (and without which life could not exist). Though he can and does intervene.
And he can foresee the likely choices that each and every person will make, and the intricate & interacting cascade that each decision initiates. For he knows our thoughts and intentions, our unconscious tendencies and our motivations. But he delights to allow space for our less predictable and more surprising choices.
And he invites our cooperation. especially in prayer, to play a part in determining the exact path ahead.
Personally I am convinced that, at least since the moment that he created ‘space/time’, God has chosen to operate ‘within time’, precisely in order to relate with creatures who can only exist within this framework. As the eternal one, his perspective is clearly different to ours; one day for him is indeed as a thousand years (2 Pet 3:8). But he knows what it is to live ‘just in time’. In Jesus he has embraced this.
“Father, today I want to delight you, even surprise you, with the Christlike choices I make and the sacrificial prayers that I offer; hastening the day of your coming. Maranatha.”