I had reason to revisit Clark’s essay Time and Eternity. I’ve read this piece a number of times over the years and love it if only for the sheer difficulty and subtly of the subject. Besides, in it, Clark presents a wonderful picture of our future blessed state. On a more practical level, the relation of this topic to things like the imagined age of the earth and the universe as a whole can’t be ignored. Since first reading the piece I’ve been convinced that time, correctly understood, is not what the pagan Aristotle and the “commonsense” of the scientist, along with most Christians, assumes. Consequently, the supposed evolutionary age of the universe is a figment of the pagan mind. It’s a myth on the level of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this selection Clark is dismantling Oscar Cullmann’s Christ and Time and along the way nicely contrasts the idea that time is the measure of a body in motion with Augustine’s view that time is the passing of thoughts in created minds that move and have their being in the immutable mind of God.
Can one confidently assert that time is unlimited in both directions without knowing what time is? Aristotle defined time and could so assert. For him time was the measure of motion, and since he explicitly agreed that motion could never have begun, he consistently asserted that the universe has always existed and that time is infinite. But a person who believes that God created the universe at a definite moment not infinitely remote cannot follow Aristotle. No doubt Cullmann would repudiate any dependence on Aristotle or Kant. His wish is to be Biblical. He aims to contrast primitive Christianity with Greek philosophy. But Barr in his Biblical Words for Time asserts that Cullmann’s vocabulary study fails to support his denial of a distinction between time and eternity.
The discussion here, however, cannot turn aside to word studies. Nonetheless, it may be acknowledged that even on Augustine’s definition—in fact, because of Augustine’s definition—the age to come is not eternity, but is endless temporal succession. Created beings, angels, and men, because of their created nature, will always have a succession of ideas. But it by no means follows that there is no “eternity” other than this. God has no succession of ideas. He is omniscient. He never receives from some other source or from his own inventive genius an idea he never previously had. Nor does he forget. His mind is completely immutable, for otherwise he would sometimes be ignorant. This then is eternity. Time came into operation with created minds. Eternity does not change. If, however, Cullmann or anyone else disagrees with this conclusion, he must tell us what time is before he can explain why he disagrees.