If You Were Eternal, How Would You Know?

That may seem like a bizarre question, but it’s one I’ve thought about for a while. In the Bible, the Christian god claims to have always existed. Have you ever thought through what that would be like?

If you’ve spent much time around young children — say the 3 to 4 year old range — you’ll know that they have no concept of something happening before their existence. For instance, my middle child likes to watch old home movies from when she was a baby, and when she does, my youngest child always asks where he was during whatever event we’re watching. We tell him that he wasn’t born yet, but you can tell that doesn’t really register with him. He exists now… surely he existed then?

That got me thinking what it must be like to be God. If you’re the “first cause,” then before you created anything, there would be nothing (presumably). So if you’re simply an awareness surrounded by nothing, how do you know that nothing predates you? How can you mark the passage of eternity in a meaningful enough way to know that something didn’t cause you? It might be true — but how would you ever know?

It seems to me it’s the one thing God could not possibly know. To claim that nothing came before him would either be a lie, or it would be a display of the same kind of ignorance a child possesses when he’s incapable of imagining a time before his own existence.

Well, either that, or someone just made the whole thing up… ๐Ÿ™‚

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67 thoughts on “If You Were Eternal, How Would You Know?”

  1. Hmmm, I never thought about this concept quite this way. Nate, you are a master at stretching my brain WAY beyond what I normally think about (and amongst Evangelicals, I’m fairly box-less). Anyway, maybe the idea of God being eternal has more to do with His existence outside of what we are trapped in: forward linear time. The idea of God being the first cause can only be understood and interpreted in light of the existence of time. If God created time, then by being beyond, outside, above it (whatever you want to call it) makes Him eternal (from our perspective). Maybe this word is the only one that came close to describing the fact that God exists outside of the limitations of time?

    This is another one of those concepts that would be impossible for God to make us understand due to our 3-dimensional limitations.

    Hey, have you ever read The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis? He brings up a lot of the concepts you address (albeit couched in the format of science fiction – still quite cool).

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  2. I guess of there is not time, there is also no eternity… But I think as long as there is past, present and future, there is also time and I’m having a hard time seeing existence without past, present a future…

    this post certainly makes you think.

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  3. I’ve never heard of that trilogy — I’ll have to check it out! And thanks for the compliment, btw!

    You bring up a good point about God possibly being outside of time. That’s how I viewed it when I was a believer — it helped me think that God could know the future without causing the future. But since then, I’ve wondered if it’s even possible to really “be outside of time.”

    If time is just what we refer to in trying to describe changing or passing events, then it seems to me that God would be bound by time just as we are. If we go back to him being simply a consciousness surrounded by nothing, the moment he creates something, time has begun, because we now have the concepts “before” and “after.”

    Really, once he forms his first thought, time has begun.

    Maybe, as God, he can create different “bubbles” of time (can’t think of another way to describe it), just as the author of a book creates a timeline for his characters. So in that way, God might be outside our experience of time, but I don’t think he could truly be outside time itself.

    At least, that’s how it seems to me…

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  4. That Outside-of-Time loophole is always the one I fall back on with regard to mind-boggling questions such as this one. It seems to me that if memories exist, then certainly they exist because of time, and while God’s memory must be vastly different than ours (read: able to remember events *as they actually were*, not as one perceived them to be), it also views history as…history, especially in light of the biblical use of prophesy. (Because, really, without time, prophesy really isn’t that impressive.) One of God’s big points, as far proving His existence and credibility goes, is that whole prophesy thing. If He’s outside of time, then, really,prophesy is just Him manipulating the characters in His story, not actually correctly predicting “future” events.

    Using the idea that God is the creator and therefore outside of the control of time as an excuse does ring a bit hollow to me, almost like a cop-out or a cheat in a movie or story that leaves one feeling like Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s _Misery_: “It’s wrong! It’s a cheat! He didn’t get out of the cocka-doody car!”

    This comment illustrates how such questions leave me feeling all noodle-brained: it makes no sense whatsoever. Sigh.

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  5. Nate-
    You do come up with some really interesting thoughts. Kudos for that. However, you seem convinced that, in order for you to believe God exists, you must be able to understand and explain everything about him. I’m not sure where you got that idea, but I think it just doesn’t hold any water. I know we disagree there. That’s alright ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Hi Nate, I like a challenging question or two myself, even though I don’t think we have any real basis to answer this one! I think, like others do, that the nature of time and eternity are the keys to this. A few extra thoughts …..

    1. In the Bible, “eternal” doesn’t mean “forever”, but “in or of the age to come”. (The Jews saw this present age as tough and evil, but in the age to come, all things would be put right.) So eternity isn’t necessarily timeless, that’s just our assumption.

    2. CS Lewis offers an interesting insight. Imagine a 2 dimensional world (instead of our 4 space-time dimensions) on a table – the length of the table is time and the width of the table is space. We exist by moving along the table timeline (we have no choice about this) and roaming around in the spatial dimension. But God is sitting outside the table, and sees the lot. It’s not so much that he doesn’t exist in time, but he he isn’t restricted by time. Slight difference I think, and may “work” to answer your question.

    I like the opportunity to consider an idle question without having to “argue”! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Thanks for the comment, Rodalena! (And loved the Misery reference, by the way — creepy book!)

    Josh, thanks for weighing in.

    Unklee, great to hear from you! You bring up a great point about the word “eternal” in the Bible. I’ve done some reading on that before, but it’s been a long time. I’ll have to check it out again.

    I like Lewis’s analogy, though to me, it sounds kind of like the writer/book example I gave earlier. I think God would still be bound by some kind of time, just because he thinks and acts. That produces changes, which result in the concepts of “before” and “after.” Again, that’s just how it seems to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Nate, thanks for the food for thought. I don’t believe time exists at all. We create time in our minds to try to explain our memories. We call past what our minds tell us happened, and future what our minds tell us might happen. So, in a sense, we are not even constrained by time, we just believe we are. We are actually always living in the present, and I believe that God can be found in this “eternal present.” Perhaps this is what the phrase “I am” refers to in the Bible: being in the present, such as in “I am who I am” and “I am the resurrection” (the resurrection is already here)… etc. Anyways, I have to agree with Josh, not understanding everything there is to know about God does not He does not exist at all. Nice topic!

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  9. I thought it would be good to just lay all out my thoughts on the bible and God. I was a bit hesitant at first to do this, but I feel that laying out different considerations is a healthy thing.

    I have shared this via email to a friend, these thoughts have been informed, like all thoughts, on what I have read and heard and read from other people ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for the length.

    So here it is,

    I donโ€™t think there is any way we can prove that the author of the Bible was right in their beliefs, since they are no longer here to ask.

    I think though, that Jesus taught that Gods Spirit leads into all truth, and The Holy Spirit is not the Bible.

    I think Jesus teaches that if we ask God, He will give His Spirit. So the Bible is not the full stop to an interaction with God. John 14:15-21 expresses how God reveals Himself:

    _______________________________________________

    โ€œIf you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you foreverโ€” the Spirit of truth.
    The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

    Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

    Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.โ€

    _____________________________________________________________________

    Itโ€™s true that we canโ€™t verify from the authors of the bible what they believed, but Jesus taught that we can ask and seek God, and that He will give Himself as Comforter:

    But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).

    Even if the Bible in not infallible, the core message of Jesus and His teachings still continues through each translation of the books. I donโ€™t think the Bible does present itself to be a complete picture; I think it presents itself as more of an account pointing to truth.

    For example, the author of John expresses that there were many other signs Jesus did in the presence of his disciples. He also supposed that if every one of them were written down, that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

    The author of John goes on to express that these accounts are written so that people might believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 21:25-31).

    In John 16 Jesus talks about Gods Spirit, that whatsoever people ask the Father in Christโ€™s name He will give, and that Gods Spirit will guide people into all truth. John 16 also talks about Gods love and of the time when Christ no longer speaks in proverbs.

    Gods Spirit I donโ€™t think forces us to have any interaction with Him. Instead, I think God asks us to ask of Him, to invite Him in and to seek Him. I think the interaction of The Holy Spirit is a personal interaction, and this interaction is our choice to seek.

    Because of this, it may be a foundational truth to a person, but they cannot convince another person of this truth, because this interaction comes from each person themself seeking and asking.

    Itโ€™s not forced by God, but is instead an invitation by God. A decision is given to people to seek God, and then and to seek truth wherever it leads.

    I have it in my mind that itโ€™s important to seek God. I donโ€™t know where this will lead. I am inconsistent in many things, and I get angry at myself for that, but I think life (at least in this world) is too short to focus on mainly rhetoric and little action ๐Ÿ™‚

    Now expressed all this, I feel I can move on.

    I enjoy the discussions on this blog; I hope we all get closer to the truth. I donโ€™t know where the truth will lead, but Iโ€™m glad Iโ€™ve found a forum where thoughts can be respectfully expressed.

    Ryan.

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  10. I feel I should clarify myself – I donโ€™t believe God is just a thought, but that God is truth.

    When it comes to focusing on God, I think I should always be honest with myself and others. A truth cannot be expressed through a lie or deception, for then it is not truth.

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  11. Just to clarify further ๐Ÿ™‚ sorry I don’t want to be misunderstood.

    believing in God doesnโ€™t mean Iโ€™m going to close myself off to information, reading and discussion. If I did that with any belief, then I figure I would be forced to a conclusion based on ignoring other perspectives, rather than having truth defined from error.

    Thanks, Ryan

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  12. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Ryan. The way I see it, everyone that comments on this blog is undertaking his or her own journey toward truth. Hopefully, none of us has just plopped down on the road somewhere and decided we’ve found it. It should be an ongoing process that lasts as long as we live. So no matter where you are on your journey, I’m glad you feel like you can share it with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. Rephrase that- not truth defined from error. What I was trying to convey was the openness of information allows truth to be highlighted from error

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  14. Thanks, Nate

    I think the bible, like all texts, can be abused and mistranslated; I donโ€™t believe it is perfect, since language itself hangs on definitions that shift, since meaning in language develops over time.

    If there is a Perfect Bible -Then there is a Perfect translation,

    Which then means only some people have access to the perfect translation?

    However, because of the nature of language, translations might focus on one defining word instead of another.

    Jesus made emphasis on asking

    Luke 11:9-13 expresses that Jesus teaching:
    _____________________________________________

    โ€œSo I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

    โ€œWhich of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!โ€
    ______________________________________________

    My understanding is that Jesus is referring to His Spirit. He gives to those who follow his commandments and ask. In other passages, I think this can be misconstrued that God will grant โ€œanythingโ€ people ask – for that would things that are not according to His will. The Holy Spirit Himself guides people to truth and understanding. I think the Bible is a reference.

    The books themselves are a printed and bound collection, of a pattern of symbols, arranged to structure meanings. Thatโ€™s what written words are, as I understand it, meaning is attached to the symbols.

    If the Bible is perfect, then is salvation only available to those who can read? Or those who have the books read to them? If this is true, and God desires none to perish, then how is salvation and truth available to all?

    I believe The Holy Spirit Himself comforts, guides and helps people to truth and understanding. And I donโ€™t think His guidance is just confined to helping us understand the Bible. I believe that if we invite and follow, then God guides us.

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  15. And me writing before that “I think” Gods Spirit does not force us – what I mean to say is that I believe Gods Spirit does not force us. Its a choice that is given to us ๐Ÿ™‚

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  16. Sorry, one more thing to clarify ๐Ÿ™‚

    Iโ€™m not saying that a perfect translation of the Bible does not exist,

    But I do ask – how relevant is such a translation if it is only accessible to a few?

    Furthermore, what of those people in other countries that have no access to any translation of the Bible?

    I believe God interacts with humanity through His Spirit, and not just the bible.

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  17. The main difficulty I see is how do you tell the difference between the Holy Spirit and yourself? I knew a guy who once told me that he felt the Lord was leading him toward a new job opportunity. When I ran into him later, I asked how the new job was going, but he told me he never took it because it wasn’t enough money. Now, did he ignore the Holy Spirit? Or was he never influenced by it to begin with?

    Lots of people claim to be following the Holy Spirit, yet their beliefs diverge wildly from one another. Is the Holy Spirit a practical joker? Are only a few of them really hearing the Holy Spirit and the rest are deluded? Or have they all taken their own desires and attributed them to the Holy Spirit?

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  18. Nate, all of those are very GREAT questions regarding hearing the Holy Spirit. After 30+ years trying to do that, I’ve become a complete skeptic. I’m not even certain anymore that what people in the Bible thought they were hearing God say was really something He was saying! Whenever anyone tells me they heard something from the Holy Spirit, I just take it with a grain of salt, weigh it against the CLEAR teaching of the whole of Scripture, and move on (I don’t find myself much affected by all of that anymore).

    Now, back to the theme of this post … I wanted to just mention that my idea of eternal has more to do with dimensions than with time. Time is one aspect of dimension, in my thinking. But then, I’m not a scientist by ANY stretch… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  19. I also believe God is Love, but I don’t see love when people are stricken with disease or are killed for following strange idols. I see Jelousy, but love? but maybe its just me and my fallen nature.

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  20. Ok, I’ll rephrase that, I don’t see sometimes how the OT genocides are an expression of love. the NT, yes, Christ is love and sacrificed for us. So the clear teaching of the bible IS that God is love, but the NT and the OT seems to be very different expressions of that same God. Christ expressed He came to fufill the Law, referring to the OT. He also references the OT in His teachings. However, I find it hard to see how disease and killings are acts of love.

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  21. The overall message of the NT is more positive than the OT, that’s true. But Jesus taught about Hell probably more than anyone. He said if anyone put a loved one above him, they weren’t worthy. And he said that choosing him would sometimes mean creating divisions within a person’s family. So while he did teach things like forgiveness and selflessness, he could also be pretty harsh at times.

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  22. …Like the time he killed a fig tree because it didn’t have any figs… wouldn’t a merciful arborist help the tree produce, especially if you wanted its fruit?

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  23. Portal, I have come to believe that the O.T. was written by men trying to understand their world in light of a God who was working to reveal Himself over time as One *not like the pagan gods – thus Jesus was the ultimate ‘revelation’ of what God is really like. I no longer believe that God told the Israelites to wipe out anyone. I believe it was the writer’s understanding, though, in their limited view.

    I do not believe that God causes disease or kills anyone. WE do that (in both cases if you consider GMO’s and the horror of Monsanto). I read a great book recently called “Razing Hell” and in it Baker deals with the O.T. in a way few others are bold enough to do. The basic premise of the book is that we have to read everything in the Bible through the lens of Jesus. If He is the exact representation of the Father and something else in the Bible does not jive with Him, then that something else is wrong.

    As to fulfilling the Law, Jesus fulfilled only one Law: Love. He submitted to our murderous hatred and died at our hands to show us that God loves us so much He will die for us (not kill us). Christianity’s utter misinterpretation of Jesus’ death (penal substitutionary atonement) has done what I believe is irreparable damage to the character of God and I walked away from that view years ago because it does not begin to jive with anything that makes any sense.

    You are correct in this: spreading disease and death (and ultimately any view of eternal punishment) has absolutely NOTHING to do with love. And I believe those beliefs/actions have nothing to do with God and everything to do with man.

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  24. Nate, the phrase “Jesus taught about hell more than anyone” makes my blood boil. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Let’s define hell before we say who talked about it the most. And I really don’t have time to repeat the stuff I’ve already written about hell here – especially since I’ve done so extensively in my blog. If anyone is interested please visit there and see what you can glean.

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  25. I’ll check it out. I’ve written about Hell too, and those articles can be found through my About page, if anyone’s interested.

    And sorry for boiling your blood — how medieval of me! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  26. The difficult words of Jesus need to be looked at within the whole context of what He was trying to teach and who He was talking to. I also believe Jesus used parables and hyperbole a lot – to make a point. Very little (if anything) of what Jesus said was ever meant to be taken literally. Spiritual truths cannot be learned through literal interpretation.

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  27. JudahFirst, what about the book of revelation, seems pretty confronting to me, that doesn’t mean its not true though, but still its full on.

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  28. Portal, correct. This is why I have come to believe that the revelation of God as love is progressive and the O.T. writers simply didn’t have it yet. They didn’t get it and attributed their own violence to God all the time. Even the sacrificial system had less and less value as the O.T. prophets began to speak closer to the time of Jesus – God did not institute that system to show how things ARE, but to show how things are NOT. Jesus did not fulfill that system, He did away with it because it had nothing to do with God’s love.

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  29. Portal, IF the book of revelation is even valid (MUCH controversy over that throughout the centuries), then I believe everything except the last 2 chapters has already happened, and the last two chapters are but a picture of the openness of God beyond death. I do not believe in any of the end times nonsense. Nada.

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  30. JudahFirst, I say this respectfully, and I’m sorry if I offend,

    But aren’t you then just making Jesus into what you want Him to be?

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  31. Portal, no disrespect taken. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am using my brain to interpret a difficult book. Jesus does not make sense if the O.T. picture of God is true. Since mankind has been inventing gods since we began walking the earth, then what difference does it make if I am? ‘Cause I can tell you, if the god of the O.T. is the real God and if it’s true that people are going to eternal conscious torment for not believing in Jesus, then this is a god I refuse to follow anyway. I’m done with that. Further, I believe that there are some things in my heart which resonate with some of what I read in Scripture (no, I don’t think God is talking to me), and those things I follow. I certainly do not have answers for much of anything, but I believe if we love the people we come into contact with, we have done something good. That’s all.

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  32. it’s pretty convenient to be able to abandon what you don’t like and accept what you do like. Surely, the lord works in mysterious ways.

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  33. Portal, I believe there is life after death. What that looks like, I don’t know. I believe there are dimensions we cannot have access to until after our body dies. Kind of like what happens to a seed when it has been planted and then grows into a tree. An acorn has no concept of its future form as an oak just as a caterpillar has no idea he is turning into a butterfly.

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  34. I think Nate made a good point about us all being on a journey to truth.

    I could be very, very wrong about bible translations not being perfect, and if I am wrong I would very much like someone to point out my error so I can shift my belief to align with the truth ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m only human.

    Furthermore, All my beliefs could shift and change entirely depending on a revelation I recieve from God.

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  35. Is it? I’m pretty sure i dont hold parts of the bible as divine and others as refutable…

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  36. I’d like to offer some thoughts concerning the original post.

    To say that God exists outside of time really means that he is on a timeline of his own. If he did not have his own timeline he would be nothing. I’m using a definition of time that is metaphysical and is basically just a way of describing events in a chronological order. We all understand what it means to say that something happened BEFORE or AFTER something else. This is my definition of time.

    If NOTHING happens then time does not exist. If SOMETHING happens then time does exist. If God were alone in a vacuum and never did anything or thought anything then you could say he exists in a place without any time. I think most theists would reject this vacuum God because he does not do anything and does not even think. Most theists instead refer to God as a conscious being. This means God thinks… he is aware of himself (herself? itself?) and requires a stream of consciousness. In order to have “thoughts” you have to have time, with thoughts occurring one after the next.

    I say all this to reaffirm the original post. The “outside of time” loophole does not work. Since God is within time (perhaps his own timeline) then the original question stands: How does God know he is eternal? A great question Nate! I never considered this before. I think if there is a God he would be unable to know this. He could say that he is eternal relative to our timeline perhaps, but he could not say it for his own timeline.

    One person commented that not fully understanding God does not warrant disbelief. I disagree. The theist is making a positive claim that an eternal conscious being exists. This is a claim that needs to be examined. Does it make sense to say that a conscious being can be eternal? Does this being ever have a first thought? Does this being ever wonder why it exists? Does this being remember an infinity of prior thoughts and actions? How can it know that it will always exist in the future? Just some food for thought…

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  37. Thanks, JudahFirst,

    I don’t know for sure that there is life after death, but I would like God to help me understand, and I believe that if He wants to, He can if I genuinely seek Him. All the best ๐Ÿ™‚

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  38. Thanks Dave, my nose is bleeding…

    Just kidding. great point. I am really enjoying this entire riddle.

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  39. Thanks Dave! You said what I’ve been thinking in a much clearer way. I’m very glad you weighed in. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  40. Dave, what you are saying would be true if 4 dimensions were all there were. If that premise is true, then nothing can exist outside of time (what I am calling the 4th dimension), but if there are infinite dimensions, then whey could it not be true that a being could exist outside of any reference to time?

    Again, Rob Bell’s video comes to mind where he talks about quarks. There are atomic particles which do not seem to operate according to what we understand to be forward linear time (i.e. cause and effect). If there are particles which can be perceived within our limited dimensions, but obviously follow none of our dimensional rules, what does that say about the possibilities? For me, science proves the existence of God more than the Bible. There are just too many natural evidences of intelligent design for me to ignore (apparently, that’s true for Stephen King as well). ๐Ÿ™‚

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  41. William, why not? Just because we cannot perceive it does not mean it can’t exist. Consider how far science has taken us just in the last 50 years. People used to believe the world was flat, you know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  42. I was not referring to time as a dimension. I was referring to time as a metaphysical way of explaining the order of events. I realize that Einstein came up with “space-time” and that this form of time is relative to the speed you are traveling (something like that), but that subject is concerning physical “space-time”. I’m not really too familiar / well-versed with that topic. To speak of time as a 4th dimension would also be a physical version of time (right?). If you are talking about string theory than I’m going to be lost. Anyway, my comment was more or less a philosophical discussion of time. If there is no time (using the metaphysical definition) than NOTHING happens. If SOMETHING happens (like a thought produced by a conscious being) than time can be used to explain what takes place before and after that event.

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  43. Well, I’m certain I’m not explaining myself very well … seeing as I’m a secretary and not a scientist. ๐Ÿ˜‰ However, I am open to the possibility that things CAN happen outside of our limitation of forward linear time. I’m not saying I *understand how these events can be ordered or anything of the sort, but I just think we are SO limited by the dimensions we exist in that it is difficult to imagine anything beyond it. Still, many have and do imagine such, including me. Even in my imaginings, I realize I can only think so far beyond my box, and I wonder if this has been the real difficulty in God revealing Himself to us. If revelation is progressive, it stands to reason that more will be revealed as we progress beyond our current dimensional state. This is my hope and belief.

    As to string theory, no I cannot even begin to discuss such a thing coherently, else we will be lost together. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  44. William, for clarification, no, not dimensions where there is no action. Perhaps one where there is no past or future. Maybe what Einstein conceived of as the always now…? Hey, it’s all theoretical, so I can’t be more concrete than that.

    I wonder, sometimes, though, if one day I will be able to pop in and out of my past and watch it like a movie … or participate in it like Butterfly Effect. Who knows? I just *know there is more beyond what we can experience now. There simply has to be. For that argument, you’ll have to read my blog on believing the impossible. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  45. Judah First, i just read your bio page and I think get you a little better. You arent picking and choosing what to believe in the bible, you’re saying that much of the OT is parable, and not to be taken literally, such as the events detailing genocide, etc… same with the parts where Jesus is speaking of hell, it’s a figurative illustration to make a point…

    am I closer?

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  46. William, not exactly. I’m saying the *explanation of why Israel wiped out the other nations is suspect. I don’t think God “told” them to do that. I think they *thought He did… Because they *thought God was like all the pagan gods around them. It wasn’t supposed to be figurative, but the writings revealed where they were in their understanding (much as ours do). My blog itself could be seen to represent a portion of my journey. There are older posts on there I would likely completely disagree with at this point! lol But that was my understanding at the time. My thinking continues to evolve as I work through the problems I find in interpretation.

    Likely the biggest change for me was when I stopped believing the text was inerrant. I realized that the men who wrote the Scriptures were groping about in the dark to understand an invisible deity, much like we are doing. This is why Jesus is critical to the discussion. If He is the exact representation of God in human form, then it’s true that everything written before (and after) His coming MUST be interpreted through what His life taught. I don’t think He was kidding when He said “Philip, if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

    As to the N.T. writings, I *do believe much of what Jesus spoke (in teaching) was figurative and parable. I don’t think He did this to confuse as much as to help us understand what is beyond us to understand. How do you like THAT for a circle? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  47. this is not just a question for believers though Nate this is a question for anyone on Earth that is actually more unanswered in any belief outside Christianity than it is within Christianity.. Even if there was no God and we got here some other way, The Big Bang Theory or any other way, and it had to happen some way, the answer to what happened before that even if it was nothing makes no sense or the explanation of anything having been here forever makes no sense either. Time having a beginning and the fact that anything was never here at one point and how did it get here will make your head hurt. Thinking anything or anyone has been here forever will also make it hurt., The explanation of God and God is the only one who can understand because he created us is the only one that makes any sense to me. Still doesn’t answer it all for me but I just trust him and it at least makes my head stop hurting lol

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  48. Nate, I thought of another way of spinning the question you posed.

    “If you existed within a matrix, how would you know?”

    I just did a post on my blog that tries to explain this. I think it shows that assuming the existence of a god is not justified.

    In the previous comment Amanda says that “Thinking anything or anyone has been here forever will also make” your head hurt, but then she says that thinking God created us makes her head stop hurting. This is contradictory. If you really want to make your head hurt try imagining that there is a god, but he does not make this clear to you. Then imagine that he will hold you accountable for not believing in the correct version of himself. What a strange and awful thought. Just because something like cosmology is mysterious to us does not mean we should answer it with a non-answer. You are just answering a mystery with something even more unknown and mysterious.

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  49. I think you nailed it Dave — I couldn’t agree more! I’ll definitely check out your new post. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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  50. Dave: That last paragraph that you wrote is spot on. It is exactly how I would describe my own viewpoints. A God who does not come close to making himself clear to his creation but then holds them accountable also runs very much against what I would consider a caring and loving God. If the Christian wants to give up on either the omniscience, omnipotence, or all-loving attributes of the God they believe in then at least this concept might be more plausible, but without modifying one of those this main belief of the Christian worldview just doesn’t work inside my brain.

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