Divine timelessness

I bring this topic up just for fun 🙂

In my post on divine simplicity, Matthew made note of some of the main reasons modern orthodox theologians don’t tend to like simplicity.

One of the reasons is a logical correlate of a strong view of simplicity: divine timelessness. As a classic proponent of the view defines it: God is eternal, and this means “the complete possession of an endless life enjoyed as one simultaneous whole.” (Boethius)

But I wonder if timelessness is really that problematic; in fact, I’m not sure it’s substantially more problematic than divine omnipresence, at least from an exegetical point of view.

Consider: God is apparently said to be locally present in many passages of Scripture (think of God in the Garden of Eden, for example); yet, on the other hand, you have passages like 1 Kings 8:27 or Acts 17:28 which state that God is omnipresent. What this implies is that we have to interpret the local-presence passages along the lines that divine-timelessness advocates have argued we should interpret God’s apparent temporal relations: they actually only describe real changes in the effects of God (i.e., creation), and are only logically/notionally changes in God (i.e., they are “Cambridge” properties for God, extrinsic accidental properties).

And it is not as if there is no plausible reason to affirm divine timelessness: John 8:58 (and by implication, Exodus 3:14) and the logic of Ockham’s razor (which leads to affirming divine simplicity with regards to essential attributes) seem to provide strong evidence in favour of divine timelessness.

There are further implications of timelessness which some theologians find problematic, as well: it seems to imply some kind of divine determinism (unless one thinks Boethius’ way around this works; I don’t), and it implies divine impassibility or apatheia. But not all orthodox theologians have found the former problematic (and it’s meaning is not entirely clear according to some advocates, who regard God’s mode of causation as sui generis), and the latter is a common assumption among most of patristics, medievals, Reformers and Counter-Reformers. It is only into the modern era when impassibility was called into question (which means that the central doctrines of the tradition were defined around it, not in contradiction to it).

So, even if it is incorrect, it’s not an unreasonable position, at least as far as I can tell.