I'm been thinking about the issue of God and time recently especially whether as a (Christian) theist
one ought to subscribe to the tensed or the tenseless view of time (A series or B). Generally in time
arguments I support the tenseless theory and I suspect that it will solve some of the problems
regarding time and God. It allows for God to be outside of time and yet know what happens at all
times, but causes problems with his knowledge of the 'present'. It also allows us to have God in time
without compromising his eternal existence. I was hoping that I could get some ideas of the key
issues here and responses to them.
For the uninitiated, the 'A-series' (as defined by the Cambridge metaphysician John McTaggart in his
famous proof of the unreality of time in Nature of Existence) consists in the difference between past,
present, and future. Every present event was once in the future and will be in the past. McTaggart
defines the B-series as the series of historical events ordered by the relation of 'before-and-after'. It
was, is and always will be true, for example, that the historical event of the Battle of Agincourt took
place before the Battle of Waterloo and after the Battle of Hastings.
Hugh Mellor, in his book Real Time(Cambridge) is one of a number of contemporary philosophers
who believe that the B-series is sufficient to capture the concept of time. There is no extra
metaphysical 'fact' that (as I write) the time nowis, say, 15.01 GMT on 5th March 2003, in addition to
the fact that the event of GK writing 'the time nowis, say, 15.01 GMT on 5th March 2003' timelessly
occupies the place that it does in the objective before-and-after historical order of events.
You do not just want to say that God exists at all historical times. What you need to claim in addition
is that God, unlike his finite creations (ourselves) is not subject to the illusionthat there is 'an extra
metaphysical fact that...the time is now...'. That is the least that is required to capture the notion of a
God who exists 'outside time'. God actually occupies the vantage point that our B-series philosopher
would liketo occupy, or imagines occupying.
I see a difficulty for this claim, however. Mellor, and other philosophers of his persuasion, are fully
convinced that they are not subject to this illusion either! In other words, they have succeeded in
grasping time as God grasps it. So the only difference between God and his creations lies in God's
longevity. Not a very satisfactory conclusion.
I assume that you do not like the A-series view. There is a neat way to capture the idea of a God
existing 'outside of time' in terms of the A-series, which does not require the notion of a vantage point
from which the flow of time is seen as an illusion. This is to hold that, just as one can imagine alien
beings whose specious present — the period of time where things are grasped as happening 'now' —
is of longer duration than our own, so there could, in principle, be a being whose specious present
encompassed all historical time. I believe that the A.N. Whitehead (author of Process and Realityand
Russell's collaborator on Principia Mathematica) held such a view.
I am one of those who do not accept that B-series is sufficient for time. However, unlike others who
have resisted McTaggart's conclusions, I am prepared to grasp the consequence that a complete
description of reality entails an inescapable contradiction, in the form of a clash between subjective
and objective views which cannot be resolved by any 'theory' (see my book Naive Metaphysics).
What that might imply for God's view of time I should not care to say.
The formulation of your question implies an anthropomorphic god. A god who has human limitations.
According to the apophatic theology, God is not outside of time nor inside time. God is beyond the
human concept of time.
Mainstream trinitarian Christians (all Roman Catholics, all Eastern Orthodox, many Anglicans and
Protestants) hold that God (Holy Trinity) is both transcendent and immanent. According to the
Christian Eastern Orthodox theology, we know nothing of the essence of God (Holy Trinity). We know
only of His/Her energies.