Wednesday, January 04, 2006



Does Christianity teach that God created the beginning or that God created in the beginning? Genesis 1 begins with “In the beginning....” If we assume that this is the beginning of creation, then God created the beginning and not within the duration of a beginning. But what sort of beginning does this mean? It cannot mean the beginning of God, since God is beginningless, changeless (God does not get better with time) , and timeless. It must mean that God created the beginning of time.

Although it is possible that God takes time to create, God did not initially create in time because time was not yet created for it to have duration. However, once God created time itself, then from our perspective, it is possible to say that God created over some duration of time.

In the Scriptures, the Old Testament begins with the words, “In the beginning God created...” and in the New Testament, the Gospel according to John begins with “In the beginning was the Word (prior even to the beginning of creation), and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. How do we understand these two passages?

• Genesis 1:1 - God created the beginning in the beginning of time and space, i.e., God created.
• John 1:1 - the Word was divine and was with God from the beginning of beginnings.

Assuming the classical orthodox view that Jesus is equally divine with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, it must mean that the Word was not posterior to the Father even if he was begotten.

To solve the confusion of terms, I propose adopting a heuristic device to describe what I call

• Kairic time - the inexplicable, atemporality God ‘experiences’ or divine, uncreated time, and
• Chronic time - the temporal measure of ontological change or created time.

Under this rubric, God in kairic time, created chronic time from which space emerged to receive the ontological extension of creation that includes nature.

4.4.1 Synchronic and Diachronic Time
Chronic time, the type of time that we in creation experience, may be understood as either synchronic or diachronic. Synchronic means ‘same time’ so that two events happening at the same time are synchronous. However, synchronic time refers to an instant of time, say, 10.30 AM, December 25th, 2005 when an event happens. And diachronic time refers to an interval of time, sometimes called a duration, say from 10.30AM to 5.00PM during which an event takes place. When we ask, what time is it, we ask for synchronic time, the instant of time and when we ask how much time will it take, we refer to diachronic time, an interval of time, between two instants.

This becomes important when we speak of whether the origin of the universe as described by the BBM speaks of instant or of duration and whether it is possible to have an interval of time at a singularity when time seems to be at an instant. In fact, we might well ask, at the quantum foam, is there a distinction between instants and intervals of time if there is nothing to measure them by?

4.4.2 Synchronic and Diachronic Truths
The two types of chronic time give rise to their respective truths. The synchronic truth is that I am 45 years old today. Although I will still be 45 tomorrow, it is a different synchronic truth and not the same synchronic truth about my age today. It is a diachronic truth that “I am 45” from my last birthday until my next birthday. This will no longer be true at my next birthday. These two kinds of truth statements can be radically different as you can see and yet both are truth statements in the timeframe they refer to. Some statements are diachronically true with no finite duration, i.e., they are true eternally, as in, God exists. Your ability to determine whether any truth statement is synchronic or diachronic is helpful in deciding whether to believe it.

In any dialogue between science and theology, it is important to identify and affirm biblical statements as either synchronic or diachronic truth claims. The biblical teaching that Jesus will come again very soon, or that “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise”, or when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am”, or “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” In each case, our interpretation of what the statement means as a truth claim depends on what type of truth claim we assign the statement. We use this distinction all the time in everyday use. Thus when a mother tells her son, “I will buy you an iPod Nano,” whether she made a truth statement if she has not done so by the end of the day depends on whether her son understood that to be a synchronic or diachronic statement. She can always say, “But I did not say when I will buy you an iPod Nano.” Until the duration is exhausted, time has not run out yet for her to buy the iPod. One can only hope that her diachronic duration is not one of eternity.

In the previous two sections, we establish that Christianity teaches that God created time and in time, created stuff of which this universe is a part. The kinds of stuff that we find in this universe we call nature. This excludes non-natural stuff such as angels and spirits, which we have to assume exist in a realm of their own but apparently are able to invade our natural universe. One way to explain how God who transcends time is able to interact with us who are bound in time is to conceive of kairic time which we assign to a fiction we call divine time. This is merely to distinguish it from the temporality we mean when we speak of time. This natural experience of change we call chronic time.

The next question we ask if what sort of creation did God will. Did God create from existing stuff as the ancient Greeks believed or did God create out of nothing? If God created from nothing, does God continue to create? The answer was precisely what led Charles Darwin to turn away from the authority of the Bible. The Church in his time made their interpretation that divine creation had ceased so that no new species can come about, a litmus test of doctrinal orthodoxy. When biological evidence to the contrary presented itself, Darwin concluded that the Bible had to be in error.

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