This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
I was thinking about God in terms of Him being an eternal and a timeless being. But I came to a question that I struggled to answer by myself, so I immediately thought of asking you (because of your work on time and eternity).So my question is, since God is eternal (timeless), how did He have a moment to create the universe? When I was a kid, I used to think that eternity was an infinite number of finite days - because I was only thinking about eternity regarding the duration of time. So it did not raise the question that I asked. But as I got older and got more sophisticated in my thinking (though not enough to answer this question), I realized that eternity is not the extension of time but the extinction of time. But this raised the question that I mentioned earlier. As I understand, a moment needs time. A timeless being cannot have a moment. So how did God have a moment? Thanks, Dr.Craig for your time.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
It seems to me that the answer to your question, Daniel, is to be found in one’s theory of time. Which is more fundamental: time or events? Do events need time in order to occur or is time a concomitant of the occurrence of events? The question is not whether, as you put it, “a moment needs time,” for a moment just is a point or interval of time. The question is whether events need time in order to happen.
Now obviously an event cannot happen without time; but that does not imply that time is foundational for the occurrence of events. On a relational view of time, which I prefer, events are foundational to time. In the absence of any events, time would not exist. So an empty time cannot be foundational for the occurrence of events. Rather the occurrence of an event immediately generates time.
Now if this is right, then time automatically comes into existence with the occurrence of the first event. All a timelessly existing God has to do to produce time is to cause the first event. Time is just a concomitant of the first event.
Now “a timeless being cannot,” as you say, “have a moment.” So at what moment does God cause the first event? Why, at the moment of creation, of course, at the very first moment! I’m therefore inclined to say that in virtue of His causal relationship with the world, God enters time at the moment of creation. God is timeless sans creation and in time since the moment of creation.