It is worth noting that both ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ are translated from the same Greek word, “aionios” so the origins of these terms are one of the same, hence the use of these words in the Bible, there are no clear distinctions.
There are two possibilities regarding God and time:
- Eternal/Timeless – God is outside time and independent of it.
- Everlasting – God is in time and subjected to the forces of time
According to this view, God is outside of time and therefore he has no beginning or end. God can see our past, present and future simultaneously and perhaps he even created time himself. Thomas Aquinas likened this to standing at the top of a mountain looking down and viewing a road where he can see all people on it at different places in their journeys. God is omniscient, omnipresent and immutable because he is not subjected to the constrains of time. This view is based on the logic that the passage of time is the product of change. If God is outside time, he is witnessing me updating my website (like being on the mountain) but there will come a moment when this page will be complete. For me, time has passed and surely for God there will be at least an acknowledge that change has occurred to my site. It is difficult to believe that God has not been subjected by time in his acknowledgement that a certain point of history has passed for a particular stage of history. Yet further, this timelessness suggests that life, the universe and everything (thanks Douglas Adams) is pre-designed and where we are mere puppets created by a sadistic on-looking master with no autonomy over our own destinies. Some people were designed to have carefree happy lives and others are designed to live in “continual fear, and danger of violent death; [where] the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan) The problem of predestination is that some people are designed to go to hell/sheol and others are designed to go to heaven. This cannot be compatible with the Christian view of an all-loving father who picks and chooses the destinies of his people who are in fact innocent of all wrong doing if it is pre-programmed. As such, God cannot be said to be outside time because freewill is non-existent and sentencing people to eternal damnation before they are even born makes God no better than the evils he claims to renounce.
The other option is that God is everlasting and had a starting point based on the linear nature of time. This is further supported by God’s interaction with the social actors within the Bible such as Moses and St. Paul. God cannot know the future as it has not yet happened and he moves along with time with the universe but at least freewill exists. This is because the future does not exist until it becomes the present. However, God knows the past and the present since he was there from the beginning of time. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. As he is also omniscient in the sense that he can know everything that is logically possible but knowing the future is not logically possible as it has yet to occur. (Descartes – Noting that you cannot square a triangle without making the square no longer a square) Yet, God can predict the future to a amazing degree of accuracy, since as our creator, he knows our every move before it has happened. At the same time, freewill is upheld and predestination does not exist. To quote one of my all time favourite film series, The Terminator: “The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Terminator 2: Judgment Day. At least with this view that God is subject to the constraints of time, we are free to do as we will. We are free to pick our own paths and make a rational choice to behave badly or morally. In this way, we are personally responsible for going to either Heaven or Hell. However, there is a fallacy in this argument.
This raises the difficulty of what created time and when God began. Christians talk of everlasting life in heaven and it is obvious that mortal beings have a beginning and therefore it leads to what I call the “Highlander model” of being born and going on forever. Yet does this not mean God had a beginning? Who created God? Time must have existed before God? What existed before God? Nothing? All these questions make it so philosophically difficult that only one conclusion can be deduced and that is God does not exist but is a product of bourgeois social control.
I support the Marxist belief that religion is a form of social control. Just take a look at the Bible: “the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard.” Matthew 7:14. This indoctrinates us with the belief that suffering is a necessary process of life to create well-behaved proletariat and yet rewards will be received in heaven to offset the daily struggles of many people. But as attributed to Marx, religion is the opiate of the masses even if it is no longer Christian God-centred. Money is the new religion. With opium’s ability to turn reality into a dreamlike state, no wonder religion acts as an antidote to the harshness of life to teach us that hard work will be rewarded (yet not necessarily until after death). Marx stated that “my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life.”Religion is one tool in maintaining this status quo. Whether God is in time or outside time is a distraction to the real truth, in fact the one espoused by the New Testament itself, “the truth sets you free“. John 8:32