Just In Time

There is a tendency for human beings to create God in their own image. Many seem to picture him as an old man, like their grandfather with a white beard, sitting in a comfy chair somewhere. But the Bible never easily permits such anthropomorphizing. The author of Revelation and the author of Psalms, for instance, remind us in a profound way just how “other” God is. In Revelation, we learn that Jesus has been slain “from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) while in Psalm 90:4 the Psalmist informs us that “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Peter picks up on this thought in one of his letters, writing, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

God’s relationship to our universe, to us, is not quite how we might conceive it. While we exist in time, experiencing time linearly, God’s relationship is radically different. The passage of time does not affect him like it affects us. He does not experience it as we experience it. His perception of it is even not like ours. St. Augustine wrote that time is a part of this universe and had its “beginning” with the beginning of the universe, so that it is remarkably ignorant to ask what was going on before God made the universe. There’s no before there; time is something we live with, not something God lives with, or in. So for him, he sees the ends of the universe—the beginning of time and it’s furthest future, all in a glance. For him, the panorama of human history is like a painting on the wall: the creation of Adam, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Second Coming are all equally viewable and real, just like we can see any part of a painting.

Below is the link to a clip from the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 where Benjamin Sisko, the commander of the space station, first meets up with the “wormhole beings,” non-corporal, non-time-bound creatures who do not understand the concept of linear time. For them, various points in time are like different places; they can see it all at once. Unfortunately, the clip is incomplete; the entire segment is one of the best fictional presentations of the difference between God’s perspective and ours.

Sisko on Human Existence

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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