The Web of Time and The Permanent Now

I currently contribute a thought or two to a Facebook Discussion Group/Public Forum called A / THEISM: An ongoing discussion on religion, irreligion & morality”. One of the recent discussions centered around the relationship between humanity and the potential of divinity. While I would love to wax poetic about the nuances and finer points of this topic, I would be remiss to do so here, and recommend you visit the forum and read for yourself.

At some point during the discussion, a comment was made regarding the nature of time and the potentiality of God within/beyond/participating in time.

The Emergence of a Question

As I have had opportunity to reflect on this point, I’ve been struck by the incredibly limited understanding of time that I (and I assume others) operate with. I think of time as a single constant; a line if you will. Most of us have seen (probably in our Western Civ. textbooks) a timeline of history, whereon the noteworthy moments and advances are plotted. This is a helpful device for gaining a sense of one history, but not for understanding the unit of reference commonly called “time.”

Let me explain in a little more detail: there are many such histories with their own developments and recessions. While it may not be readily apparent while living in a single history, when our own history intersects or collides with another we are made (sometimes startlingly) aware of the divergences of history.
What if time were also this way? What if there are many times; a web perhaps?
This seems to interact with our notions of cause and effect and our preoccupation with “first causes” or singular results. We want there to be a single, identifiable cause for everything we encounter. This helps make life understandable. But the reality of life is not this way. There are many, many causes, and many, many effects. A single action will likely effect many other actions, and may in turn have been caused by many other such actions.

Time functions in this way also.

Since time is not an actual entity, but rather is an object of understanding; a means of tracking development, movement, etc, it then follows that the future of this point for each of us can be one of many possible paths.  Time therefore is not a single constant, but many intersecting constants that continually interact.

Think of it as the many strands in spider’s web.

Each strand represents a given sequence of events that emanate from any certain action or event. This is generally how we experience time; as a constant “now” that is ever changing, becoming the present from many direct or indirect points in history.

This helps us understand how God can be beyond yet within time.

Because time is not a governing force, but rather an attempt to track and understand what is happening, we do not need to construct an explanation of God’s relationship to it. Instead, we need to speak about that relationship in terms that work within the paradigm we are using to explain what is happening. So if this is our aim, then we can say that God is the presence of the experiential now, the eternal present. This is not a claim in conflict with science nor classical theism, but is rather a way of explaining how God can be what the bible claims God is. The Permanent Now.

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