Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

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… πŸ™‚

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

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. …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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  5. 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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  6. Nate, the phrase “Jesus taught about hell more than anyone” makes my blood boil. πŸ™‚

    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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  7. 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! πŸ™‚

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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. Portal, no disrespect taken. πŸ™‚ 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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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. 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 πŸ™‚ 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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  17. Is it? I’m pretty sure i dont hold parts of the bible as divine and others as refutable…

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  18. 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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