Thursday, October 22, 2015

[BTT000] Prologue: Free Will, Predistination, and the Limits of Understanding

A Brief Theology of Time Series Hub

As I will say many (many, many) times throughout the course of this series, I am not a theologian.

I have not attended a Bible College, let alone a seminary. My Bachelor's and Master's degrees are both in Japanese, not in Hebrew or Greek. In terms of academic credentials, I am as qualified to tell you about the Bible as your plumber (possibly less, depending on your plumber's curriculum vitae). I am also not a pastor, deacon, elder, priest, archbishop, lay minister, youth leader, or even a quiet yet deeply spiritual church janitor.
So why did I write this series? Good question.
I began wrestling with the issues raised in this series many years ago, after a discussion with a campus minister at my university. My younger brother and I were talking with this minister about sin. He told us that every time we were tempted to sin, we should think about Jesus on the Cross, and how our sins would make His burden all the heavier.

Now, my brothers and I were raised as strict Calvinists (and just as importantly, Science Fiction geeks), so this argument immediately rang false to both of us. This is not to say that we were unconcerned with the sufferings of Christ. We simply could not accept the idea that our sins would somehow travel backwards in time.

After all, God knows our futures before they happen – it is part of how He can promise that “all things work together for good.” The thought that the Father was up in Heaven with a pair of binoculars, watching us sin and saying “Darn it, that person just bore false witness. Tell Michael to go back in time to the Crucifixion and ratchet up the pain” felt silly, almost to the point of cheapening the sufferings of Christ.

At any rate, my family has never been one to back down from a good debate, so we raised our objections - much to the minister's surprise. He told us that he had counseled many students with that image, and that none of them had ever had an objection.

Now, this happened a good long time ago, and I may be remembering some of the details wrong, but I distinctly remember him saying something to the effect that my brother and I “don't see time like normal people.”

I'm still not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult, but I've never been able to forget that conversation. What exactly is the relationship between sin, redemption, and time? How does God relate to time? The angels? The fallen angels? Most importantly, what is the relationship between time and the New Heavens and New Earth described in Revelation?

I couldn't get these questions out of my head, and I couldn't find any books that answered them adequately. The only books on the subject of time in the Bible I could find dealt only with issues like Six-Day Creationism vs. Long-Day Creationism, chronos vs. kairos, or arguments over when the Millennial Reign of Christ would begin. Every now and then I would stumble across something enlightening, but these bits and pieces were long and far between - and I ended up with more questions than answers.

So, I wrote this series.

Now, I'm not going to claim that this series has the answers. Like I said, I'm not a theologian. But what it does have is some important questions and some theories on what the answers might be. My goal is to bring these questions together in one place so that we can start asking them together.

You may not agree with some of the conclusions that I come to in this book, but that's okay. I'm not 100% certain of my own conclusions. But I do think we need to start having this conversation.

In a sense, we are dealing with  concepts beyond the ability of any human to fully comprehend. What is eternity? What happens after the End of Time? That is why we are going to be examining theoretical models instead of asserting theological certainties. I am not asking you to agree with anything in this series - there are parts that I have serious reservations about - but I am asking that you read with an open Bible and an open mind.

I'm not trying to advance a perfect theory, but to set up multiple theories that can be disassembled and played around with. Don't like something I said? Don't agree with how I've interpreted a verse? I encourage you to take the argument apart and put together a new one.
Nothing discussed in here is essential to salvation. These are things that it is okay to disagree about. My hope is not that we will find definite answers to these questions, but rather that we might find a deeper understanding of the Scriptures by digging into what it says.

To that end, let's start by talking about what it means to argue.

Next: [BTT001] Genesis 1:1


  1. FWIW from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

    We celebrate our Liturgy, The Eucharist, as participating in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Not again, not a re-creation of older events, but timelessly with the once and for all.

    We also consider the Liturgy to be participating in worship with all of The Church, throughout all time, past, present and future.

    That is my understanding, I could be wrong. I don't share this to provoke debate about theology, but to share a concept of timelessness you may have not considered.

    1. " Not again, not a re-creation of older events, but timelessly with the once and for all."

      Is there a technical term for this timeless interaction? I have some stuff later on about how Atonement relates to time, and that seems to be along similar lines.

      "I don't share this to provoke debate about theology"


    2. "Is there a technical term for this timeless interaction? "

      I don't know, I'll ask someone likely to know and get back with what I learn.

  2. OT,

    Hey Rev,

    Anon here again. I had a misunderstanding of Regression to the Mean when I told you about it, so I inadvertently gave you some bad info on it. This is me correcting that mistake. You can read up on a better explanation of it here:

    I am putting it here as well as over on your KVD part 3 post to insure you see it.