Soundness And Trinitarian Timelines

In any case, the Trinitarian parallel to my treatment of Jane is clear. On my account, God's life runs in three streams. In one stream, (1) is so. In another, (2) is so. In no stream are both so. So in no stream of God's life are (1)—(4) or the generation-argument sound. For this fact to matter, pastward time-travel need not be possible—though if it is, that of course is helpful. It need only be the case that as in my treatment of the time-travel case, facts about God's personal timeline(s) supersede facts about the public timeline. I now argue that if God is atemporal, they do, while if God is temporal, it is at least coherent to maintain that they do.

If God is atemporal, as the classic Latin Trinitarians held, His life is wholly independent of time, and so the public timeline does not constrain it. Facts about the order of events in His life supersede facts about the public timeline in almost the sense facts about Jane's timeline do. If time-travel can occur, "P at a point in one's life which coincides with public time t'' does not entail "P at t,'' nor viceversa. It's hard even to come up with a sense in which a timeless God's life would coincide with times.51 But just suppose that if God is timeless, then there is some sense in which (1) is so at a point in God's life coinciding with all times—after all, at every time, if one asserts (1), what one asserts is true. Even so, it does not follow from this that (1) is so at any t. For if God is timeless, no event in His life occurs at any time. But if (1) were the case at t, this would be because an event helping make it so occurred at t: what is true then is true then because part of what makes it so occurs then.52 So if God is timeless, it's not true in his case that for all P, if P at a point in His life coinciding with t, then P at t. If God is timeless, then even if P is true of Him and it is now t, it is not the case that P at t. Instead, P is so without temporal location.

5' Stump and Kretzmann's ET-simultaneity is one attempt (Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann, "Eternity," Journal of Philosophy 78 (1981), 429-58).

52 If P is present-tense and true, an improper part of its truthmaker is at t. If P is past-tensed and true, a proper part is: that Casesar crossed the Rubicon is true due to an event now over (the crossing) and one now going on, which makes it later now than the crossing and so makes it correct to use the past tense. The life is so if P is future-tense and true. If God is timeless, ''God knows that 2 + 2 = 4'' has no temporal tense at all. Its truthmaker thus lies entirely outside time.

The reverse entailment, from "P at t'' to "P at some point in God's life coinciding with t,'' seems to fail as well if God is timeless. For at t, all and only those events before t are such that their happening is in the past. But at no point in God's life is this so. If for God anything is in the past—over, done and gone— God has a past, and so is temporal. Even if we waive this and allow that somehow, things can have happened for a timeless God, still if only some of time has happened for Him, then for Him, time has reached only that point—and so the rest of it lies in His future, and so He has a future and is again temporal. Moreover, if God's life does not occur in time, no facts about public time are relevant to "when'' in His life claims are true. Events occur at different points in public time, but on any account of divine timelessness, they are given "all at once'' for God—that is, at the same point(s) in His life. So events' order for God differs from their order in public time—though of course God knows what their order in public time is.

One might think that the public timeline imposes itself on God's this way: if God is atemporal, at every moment of time t, it is timelessly so that (1) and (2). So (1) and (2) are the case at t timelessly, and so the case at one time timelessly. However, timeless facts obtain, but not at any time. So "at t, it's the case that timelessly P'' does not entail "it's the case at t timelessly that P.'' Further, suppose that (1) and (2) are the case at one time timelessly (whatever this might mean). This would not make (1) and (2) true at the same point in God's life. A parallel case can show this. Suppose God were temporal, but His personal time were simply a series of periods wholly discrete from our time—none before, during or after any period in our time. Then God's time would be related to ours just as the life of a timeless God would be, and it would be true that

A. for each public time of ours t, at t, somewhere in God's own time, (1) and somewhere in God's own time, (2).

But (A) would not entail that (1) and (2) are true at once in God's own time. Times discrete on God's own timeline would not be collapsed into one because there is a second time to each period of which each has exactly the same temporal relation, namely none at all. If this isn't clear intuitively, consider a spatial parallel: suppose that there is a second space, consisting of points with no spatial relations at all to ours. Then (let's say)

B. for each place of ours p, it is the case at p that in the second space, both a dog and a cat are located somewhere.

But (B) does not entail that the dog and the cat occupy the same place. So if God is timeless, facts about the public timeline and about God's life's relations to it cannot supersede facts about when within God's life (1) and (2) are true. If (1) and (2) are true only in discrete parts of God's timeless life, facts about our time cannot make them true "at once.''

Now if God is timeless, it is just timelessly the case that God's life has three "streams." That is, it consists of three aggregates of events each with the right internal relations to count as a single life and the right generation relations to set it off from events in the other sets.53 If there is no temporal relation between these streams, and facts about our time cannot make them true at one time, then it is not the case that (1) and (2) are true at one time-period. But this is not enough to show that (1)—(4) and the generation argument are never sound for God. For suppose that there were neither time nor God—that there was only a three-dimensional space. If there is no time, no claims are true at one time. But surely the argument "this is a space; any space has dimensions; so this space has dimensions'' would be sound. Again, plausibly mathematical truths are timeless. If so, none are true at one time. But even so, surely some mathematical arguments are sound. So the truth about soundness must be that an argument is sound only if none of its premises' being true is separate temporally or in some other relevant way from the rest's. In the case of mathematical truths, there is no relevant separation. In God's case, there is. (1) and (2) are true only in non-overlapping parts of God's life which are relevantly like temporal maximal episodes. This makes (1)'s and (2)'s being true relevantly separate, as does the parallel gap in Jane's life between (1a)'s and (2a)'s being true. The separation in Jane's case is discreteness along a private timeline. If God is timeless, the discreteness of episodes in His life is not along a timeline. But (I now suggest) it is enough like discreteness along a timeline in its causal aspects for Jane's case to be relevant to God's.

In Jane's case, the separation of what occurs all at once in public time into different segments of one life is there due to causal relations among the segments. These events' causal relations make them parts of one and the same life. They also account for the events' discreteness, for they include relations events cannot bear to their own parts. Events are discrete iff they have no parts in common. If event A causes all parts of event B, it follows that B and A share no parts, as no event causes the occurrence of its own proper parts, and so that A and B are discrete. By causing B, A accounts for B's existence and its having the parts it does. B's having just the parts it does establishes B's discreteness from A. So by causing B, A accounts for B's discreteness from A. Finally, these events' causal relations make them temporally ordered non-simultaneous parts of Jane's life (even though they are simultaneous parts of public time) if they include causation of a sort involving temporal precedence.

Now if a life is temporal, then if two of its segments are discrete, it follows that either one immediately succeeds the other or there is a temporal gap between them. Because of this, propositions can be true in one segment but not the other. So if a life is temporal and two of its segments are discrete, then due to this they

53 Talk of atemporal events may cause pain here; see ops. cit. n. 37.

stand in a relation which lets propositions be true in one but not the other. I now generalize from this, and say that if segments are discrete yet in one life, then due to this they stand in a relation which lets propositions be true in one but not the other, whether or not the life is temporal. I do so based on my brief rejection above of substantival time. For non-substantivalists about times, times just are sets or fusions of co-occurring events. If so, then if truths can differ at different times, they can equally differ at different sets or fusions of co-occurring events: to relativize truths to times is to relativize them to events. If relativizing to events is fine for temporal events, why would things differ for atemporal?

If this is true, then if causal relations account for the segments' discreteness and their being in one life, they also account for the fact that propositions can be true during one of these segments which are not true during the other. Nor does time play the essential role here. By starting something new of a temporal sort, A's causal powers make time pass. It's not that A places B at a later point in time and so lets B make true truths A did not. It's rather that A brings B about, and so makes things true which were not true before, and so makes B's time a later one. Facts about time are not basic but derivative. It's causation which makes the temporal facts about A and B what they are. The real story about the relations between segments of Jane's life, the one which lets them have different properties while we watch them all at once, is causal, not temporal.

In Jane's case, all the segments occurred in one public-temporal period, but causal relations between them made them discrete segments of one life, with truths unique to each. In a timeless God's case, all the segments occur at once in the eternal present, but causal relations between them make them discrete segments of one life. Here too, then, there are truths unique to each. There is no temporal separation along a private timeline in this case. But I've suggested that it is causal, not temporal features that matter here, and in any case there is a more profound temporal disconnect, in that there are no temporal relations at all between the segments—only causal ones. Causation, not time, accounts for the distinctive features of Jane's case. I've claimed that the causal relations involved in Trinitarian generation are enough like those involved in time-travel that the key features of Jane's case carry over. If this is correct, arguments sound in public time need not come out sound along the "time''line of the Trinitarian lives.

The remaining question, then, is whether there is some analogue to a public timeline within timeless eternity, which might make (1) and (2) true at once for God. The short answer is: there is, but it can't, any more than the fact that the many Janes all dance at once in public time can make the segments of Jane's life we see in the chorus line simultaneous in Jane's private time (which would be to collapse them all to a single segment). Causal relations between the lives of the Persons make them both discrete as lives and yet lives of one God. This is the mystery of the Trinitarian generations; I have not claimed to crack it. That there is one eternal present is the public timeline of eternity. That the events occur at one present does not eliminate the discreteness of the events whose one present this is any more than it did in Jane's case. Again: it is causal relations between events in Jane's life which both make them discrete—as effect from cause—and unite them into one individual's life, even if all these events are linked by timetravel and occurring at one present. So too, causal relations make the Persons' lives both discrete and the lives of one God, even if linked by Trinitarian generation and occurring at one eternal present. Causal relations so bind Janeevents that (1a)—(4a) fails, even if all the Rockettes kick at once in public time. So too, I suggest, causal relations among the atemporal events of an atemporal God's life block (1)—(4) even if the Persons share a single eternal present. If all of eternity is a single present and God's life has discrete parts, what follows is simply that God's life is relevantly like a time-traveler's, with discrete parts occurring at once in such a way as to respect the discreteness of the parts. I submit, then, that if God is timeless, (1)—(4) and the generation argument are not sound on His "time"—line. (1) and (2) are never true at the same points in God's life even if they share a single eternal present.

Each Rockette is Jane. But in terms of Jane's personal timeline, in the way just set out, each is not Jane while the others are Jane. Let "while*" be a connective relativized to a particular timeline, and making no reference to general, public time. Then Jane is not the leftmost Rockette while* she is the rightmost, though her being both coincides with the whole of the public time her number involves. In the same way, each Person is God, but God is not the Father while* He is the Son.


If God is temporal, facts about His timeline might equally well supersede facts about the public timeline. A temporalist could assert that they do without argument, making it simply part of his/her particular conception of God's eternality. But some temporalists, at least, could offer an argument that this is so. For some temporalists maintain that God has made time, or that it is as it is because He is as He is: that God's being has some sort of causal priority to time's existing or having its character.54 If either is true, then surely God gives time such a nature as permits Him to exist as His nature dictates. If God determines time's nature, then even if He is temporal, if God's nature is such that His life should consist of three streams related relevantly like streams of a time-traveler's life, nothing in the nature of time will preclude this.

54 See e.g. William Craig, "Timelessness and Omnitemporality,'' and Alan Padgett, ''God the Lord of Time,'' in Gregory Ganssle, ed., God and Time (Wheaton, 1ll.: Intervarsity Press, 2001).

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