Clark Quick Quote

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.

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43 Comments on “Clark Quick Quote”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Beautiful quote. Thanks, Sean.

    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.


  2. How does a proper understanding of time result in

    “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?”

    BTW, eternity is to be distinguished from “eternal” and “immortal.” For our eternal life in our immortal bodies will be lived in the coming age, not in a timeless way, but in “endless temporal succession.” In fact, “eternal” and “immortal” refer not to timelessness but having no end.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    Since time is not measure of a body in motion, then the age of earth cannot be determined by the speed of light. As Clark argues:

    To complete the identification, Augustine first rules out the Aristotelian theory. Time is not the motion of any body. The argument is somewhat as follows: When a body is moved, we measure how long it moves by time. We cannot measure how long, unless we know when it started and when it stopped. Therefore time is distinct from any motion, since we cannot measure a motion unless we first measure time.[emphasis mine]

    I mean, science cannot establish the truth of even one conclusion so this is just a feather in the cap for Christianity. 🙂


  4. I didn’t realize that “the evolutionary age of the universe” or “the age of the earth” has otherwise been claimed to be derived by motion, i.e., the speed of light.

    Not for anything, but not being able to establish the truth of a conclusion does not make the conclusion false (or a myth).

  5. Steve M Says:

    LT
    “not being able to establish the truth of a conclusion does not make the conclusion false”

    As I understand it, you are saying that your inability to establish the truth of the above conclusion does not make it false. You, however, are the one who is proposing that it its true. How do you know?


  6. Steve M, I never proposed such to be true. I strongly agree with Clark regarding the nature of time and I believe that evolutionary claims as to the age of the earth are absolutely false.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    I didn’t realize that “the evolutionary age of the universe” or “the age of the earth” has otherwise been claimed to be derived by motion, i.e., the speed of light.

    There are plenty of resources, but the speed of light is considered to be the constant. Here’s one article from a creationist website:

    http://www.icr.org/article/starlight-age-universe/


  8. Well, the article claims that the speed of light does not per se determine the age of the earth, and certainly not “the evolutionary age of the universe.” Again, although I agree that “Since time is not measure of a body in motion, then the age of earth cannot be determined by the speed of light,” this does not mean that “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?”

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    You’re unbelievable Pat. How do you think they came up with the estimated age of the universe as 13.75 billion years?

  10. Steve M Says:

    LT
    You wrote: “Steve M, I never proposed such to be true.”

    You made the statement “not being able to establish the truth of a conclusion does not make the conclusion false”, but were not proposing it was a true statement? Should I assume you do the same thing with all the statements you make? If not, how should I determine when you intend a statement you make to be taken as true and when you do not?


  11. Sean, who is the “they?” The evolutionists? That may be so, but one is not an evolutionist because one thinks the speed of light determines that the earth is that old.

    Steve, I do believe that “not being able to establish the truth of a conclusion does not make the conclusion false” is indeed a true statement. I was not speaking of MY not being able to do so, but proclaiming a principle. A statement isn’t false simply because it cannot be established to be true. Science cannot establish the truth of its claims, but that in itself does not make its claims false. The speed of light, or other evolutionary ideas, does not establish that the earth is very old (billions), but that per se does not mean that the earth is not very old. The Bible seems to indicate a young earth, and that does make the claim false.

  12. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Pat,
    The story is: Time is measured by motion … the motion of light waves or photons. 1 second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 waves of the light produced by the caesium-133 atom in a transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom at a temperature of zero degrees Kelvin.
    This definition was derived by taking a certain fraction, 1/31,556,925.9747 of the tropical year 1900, which is the duration of one orbit of the motion of the earth around the sun(1 year). And so, any age, Pat’s or the evolutionist’s age of the universe or earth is literally measured in terms of motion.
    Then came relativity! According to Einstein’s theory, the time you measure depends on your frame of reference. This leads to very interesting results. If you leave your dashing young thing at 18 and travel to the nearest star(4 light years away) travelling at near the speed of light, it will take you nearly 9 years to be back, at 27, ready to marry your young thing. But, alas, she will be more than 84 years old, back on earth. Which one is the “true” age? As that song says, “Who is fooling who?”


  13. Could someone smarter than me tell me the answer to my childlike question: If Clark is right, then does that explain or have anything to do with why “time flies when you’re having fun”? Or how some work shifts drag on, and others seem to be moving too fast? Is it because time is purely subjective?


  14. Denson, I don’t know the point of your post is. Are you saying that time can be measured by the speed of light?

    Pat T, I think all of us humans process time the same way, though are thinking of our experience of it varies from person to person.

  15. Tim Harris Says:

    So is it a consequence of Clark’s view that angels MUST have been created before “day 1” of Genesis 1, and that indeed no creation of the material universe involving a succession of time would have been possible without the prior creation of minds?

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    That time is a function of a created being—not a
    created body, but a created mind—is supported also
    by references to the City of God and the
    Commentary on Psalm 105. The City of God says,
    “For if eternity and time be rightly distinguished,
    time never to be extant without motion, and eternity
    to admit no change, who would not see that time
    could not have being before some variable creature
    had come into existence?” (XI, vi). This means that
    there could have been no time before the creation of
    the world. It also means that eternity is different
    from time because time is a function of change and
    God is immutable


  17. Edit: “our” for ‘are” in my last post.

    I’m not sure Clark’s view necessitates the creation of angels before the First Day. It’s not that there had to be a created mind to experience the Days of Creation, but rather that the Creation Days are related with men in view. Certainly God wasn’t experiencing an elapse of time, for, again, that would suggest change with God. Things were changing, but not God. And man would have perceived the changes according to his mind’s operation. Thus, “evening and morning” is something Moses and us would understand and Adam would be the first to experience.

    I know this seems a bit difficult to handle/grasp, that we would like to think of time as an independent reality (even apart from God!), but Clark is quite brilliant in this area (and also Augustine).

  18. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    The duration of that humongous number of waves in the definition of the second depends on the speed at which those waves are produced, which is the speed of light. The speed of light is a constant of nature, hence it can be used as a reference or standard for measurement of time.

    Since age(of the universe or earth) is a measure of time, it is dependent on the definition of a time standard derived from the speed of light, hence the speed of light is being used to measure age(of the universe or earth).


  19. Denson, your claim is refuted by Clark and Augustine:

    To complete the identification, Augustine first rules out the Aristotelian theory. Time is not the motion of any body. The argument is somewhat as follows: When a body is moved, we measure how long it moves by time. We cannot measure how long, unless we know when it started and when it stopped. Therefore time is distinct from any motion, since we cannot measure a motion unless we first measure time.

  20. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    You are confating two different things here, time and the measurement of time. The measurement of time, which is what I am talking about, is a matter of convention. Time is referenced to the speed of light or the motion of the earth around the sun. When the earth completes one orbit around the sun, the duration of that event is called one year. Any periodic motion can be used as a reference to measure time. Ironically, it is precisely because motion is independent of time as you point out, that makes it possible to use motion to measure time. This is a mapping of time to motion. Because reproducibility is important, atomic clocks are now used to measure time, instead of the position of stars relative to the earth.

  21. Denson Dube Says:

    OOps, “conflating”


  22. Denson, it seems you are making my original point. Using the speed of light to calculate/measure time (even the age of the earth) is not invalid nor deduced to be invalid by Clark or Augustine’s view of time as Sean claims:

    “Since time is not measure of a body in motion, then the age of earth cannot be determined by the speed of light.”

    But again, the age of the earth is simply how we measure time, not what time actually is.

    And calculating the age of the earth is impossible because we don’t have a convention of measuring time from the beginning of man, or have lost continuity with the past and/or beginning of that conventional counting. Thus, we can only theorize or apply some science that could never tell us for sure how old the earth is by our accounting of years. But we know from the Scriptures that man did not evolve from apes, and that the earth/univers is not a billion or even a million years old.

  23. Tim Harris Says:

    Well perhaps there is an ambiguity in Clark’s statement “Time came into operation with created minds,” particularly the word “operation.”

    If there cannot be time apart from created minds, and if succession implies time, then there could not be the succession of the first 5 days of creation without the contemplation of angels or some other created minds other than men. I believe Augustine did posit that creation was instantaneous but “revealed” to the angels in six successive images, but I’m wondering if Clark follows him in that speculation, and if indeed he is not required to by the definitions given.

    Augustine’s speculation is interesting, but it certainly does not follow directly from the text. A good bit of metaphysical speculation must be injected into the stew.


  24. No, there was no succession of the first five days, except for angels, had they been already created. Indeed, creation was instantaneous, as are all of God’s acts and thoughts, being eternal.

    I don’t find this a matter of metaphysical speculation but of logical deduction. Also, the language of “evening and morning” is how we humans view the experience of darkness to light or light to darkness which we view as a “day.” Simply a change from darkness to light took place which God called “Day” and “Night” not evening and morning.

  25. Tim Harris Says:

    Well sorry l.t. but that is a denial of creation and would not be accepted even in the PCA as a valid view. There is not just one succession of evening and morning but five that you must account for prior to the appearance of man.


  26. No Tim, it is not a denial of creation. It is properly understanding who we are and who God is. The six days of creation are literally six days (consistent with the WCF) as we would have experienced them, which God expressed to us so that we would conduct ourselves in accordance with a sabbath’s day rest. Again, things don’t happen with God in time (in succesion), but all things are present to him as having occurred. Note for example Rev.13:8 where Christ is spoken of as having been slain from the foundation of the world.

  27. Sean Gerety Says:

    The fact that time is as much a part of creation as “Let there be light” and is not so much the measure of a body in motion, but rather the result of a created mind moving and living in the immutable mind of God, would support creation ex-nihilo. Further, the objections to the Aristotelian “commonsense” view of time as a measurement of a body in motion implies that the idea that the earth is 13+ billion years old is begging the question. I think if Christians took epistemology more seriously, the prevailing opinions of evolutionary scientists would not be taken so seriously by ersatz-conservative Christian men who ought to know better.


  28. “Further, the objections to the Aristotelian “commonsense” view of time as a measurement of a body in motion implies that the idea that the earth is 13+ billion years old is begging the question.”

    I still don’t see the implication. Bodies in motion or the speed of itself does not per se determine any supposed/proposed age of the earth. Something else besides is needed, such as knowing how far away the stars are.

  29. Tim Harris Says:

    LawyerGnosticTheologian — Either there were a minimum of five successive events prior to the appearance of man, listed and named ordinally — in which case succession can occur without a created mind — or there were not — in which case Gen. 1 as interpreted by WCF is false.
    (Again, leaving aside Augustine’s speculation about angels.)

  30. Denson Dube Says:

    Sean’s point, that the conventional measurement of time by motion(the speed of light) leads to begging the question when it comes to questions of origins, such as dating the age of the universe or earth is a good point. The scientific “age of the universe” is meaningless. Scientific conventions are just that, conventions, and are not truth or knowledge. One would need some kind of universal time, “outside” the created order, to date the universe. Perhaps angels could do that, assuming that they are what the scriptures refers to as “sons of God” being present at creation?
    JOB 38:
    4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    6 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
    7 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?


  31. Tim: “LawyerGnosticTheologian — Either there were a minimum of five successive events prior to the appearance of man, listed and named ordinally — in which case succession can occur without a created mind — or there were not — in which case Gen. 1 as interpreted by WCF is false.”

    Tim, I think you’re reading into the WCF to say that it means succession of events apart from man. All it says, as I mentioned, is that God created all things “in the space of six days” as the Bible indicates. The issue, again, is how do we properly understand God acting (and thinking) in creation and in all things. And not for anything, but, as Denson showed, there is good biblical support for the creation of angels prior to the creation of man.

    Denson: Sean’s point, that the conventional measurement of time by motion(the speed of light) leads to begging the question when it comes to questions of origins, such as dating the age of the universe or earth is a good point.

    The dating of the universe or earth is not a question of origins.

    Denosn: “Scientific conventions are just that, conventions, and are not truth or knowledge.”

    Scientific conventions seems like a contradiction in terms. Conventions are not scientific. They’re simply chosen methods.

    Denson: The scientific “age of the universe” is meaningless.

    A theory of “age of the universe” based on science is not meaningless, but simply a theory, and as such, can’t be known to be true.

    Denson: One would need some kind of universal time, “outside” the created order, to date the universe.

    No, all one would need is a convention that has been used since the beginning of creation.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    “The dating of the universe or earth is not a question of origins. ”

    The dating of the universe is central to the question of origins as a young earth fails to provide enough theoretical time (time measured as a body in motion) for life to evolve.

  33. Tim Harris Says:

    Gnostic – “prior to” is the language of succession!


  34. Sean, “central” to the question of origins is not the same as being a question of origins. And of course, “The dating of the universe is central to the question of origins as a young earth fails to provide enough theoretical time (time measured as a body in motion) for life to evolve.” But you seemed to be arguing all along that “theoretical time (time measured as a body in motion)was an evolutionary myth.

    Really Tim? You are acusing Clark and myself of being Gnostics because we believe God’s thoughts are eternal? Where are you getting “prior to?” Is that your quote? It may imply succesion, but to whom? Is ther a “prior to” to God? Not if He is eternal, which you seem to deny.

  35. Sean Gerety Says:

    So, Pat, you don’t think evolution and the imagined age of the universe is a myth? You are one strange cat.


  36. Sean, what is wrong with you? Can’t you read clearly? Evolution is not about theoretical time. As you mentioned, even a youg earth view holds to theoretical time, simply not enough to account for evolution’s old earth view. Again, measuring time by motion (speed of light) is not an evolutionary theory, but a convention of man to calculate the passage of time.


  37. BTW Sean, did you mean “their” imagined age of the universe, referring to evolutionists, or were you saying that any idea as to the aga of the universe is an imagined one?

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    Nope. I meant “the”.

  39. Denson Dube Says:

    It seems there is quite a bit of talking past each other going on. Evolution is a myth. Evolution is not even science, by science’s own standards of what constitues a credible scientific model. Evolution is not observable. No one will ever observe a monkey crawling out of the bacteria in those petri dishes, since it requires billions of years to do so, we are told. Further, simple probablistic calculations show that biological complexity makes it improbable to have biological molecules such as DNA evolve, let alone complex organisms, in the envisaged billions of years.The billions of years required for the myth of evolution to occur are a myth, since no evolution could even occur in those billions of years. Mutation is observed to be deleterious to living organisms, and not beneficial. Blind mechanism alone does not produce complexity but destroys it. Cars did not evolve, as an example, why not? if blind mechanism is responsible for the observed complexity in the universe, all things imaginable should have evolved! But, even a simple teaspoon will not evolve into a tablespoon, you have to make it! It quickly becomes evident that the monkeys are the atheistic scientists. That is not a myth!
    One could go on with these ad hominem arguments, but, as the apostle Peter says, “… we have a more sure word of prophecy..”
    Pat.
    I gave an example of the so-called “twin paradox”, in which one calculates an age of 27 years for the travelling twin and 84 years for the earth bound one. Which is the “true” age? This simple illustration was meant to draw your attention to some of the difficulties of talking about age in the universe using the present scientific models, let alone the age of the universe.

    Pat: “The dating of the universe or earth is not a question of origins.”
    The age of the universe will depend on its origins. If it was created, it need not be that old, whilst if it evolved through blind mechanism, it certainly needs quite a bit of time to attain to its present complexity.
    Pat: “Scientific conventions seems like a contradiction in terms. Conventions are not scientific. They’re simply chosen methods.”
    So you do not think the conventional scientific definition of the second using atomic clocks is not scientific? The complex science of atomic clocks is not scientific?
    Pat: “A theory of “age of the universe” based on science is not meaningless, but simply a theory, and as such, can’t be known to be true.”
    Pat: “No, all one would need is a convention that has been used since the beginning of creation.”
    What is required to measure the age of the universe is “universal” time, which requires a frame of reference independent of the universe itself, such as what angels who were present at creation would use.


  40. “The age of the universe will depend on its origins.”

    No, it does not “depend” on its origins, but its origin(s) does effect its age. Even a created world could be very old, as old as evolutionary one. Sorry if I’m nitpicking, but on a Clarkian blog, precision/accuracy ought to be fostered/maintained.

    “So you do not think the conventional scientific definition of the second using atomic clocks is not scientific? The complex science of atomic clocks is not scientific?”

    What is conventional about this definition? That science uses it? Again, conventional time is a method of counting/measuring time. Eg., seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades, centuries, etc. Yes, it relates to our common experience due to the speed of light, the rotation of the earth.

    “What is required to measure the age of the universe is “universal” time, which requires a frame of reference independent of the universe itself, such as what angels who were present at creation would use.”

    Again, I have shown why this is not so: “No, all one would need is a convention that has been used since the beginning of creation.” Why do you repeat your
    assertion? Why do you think it necessary that some other mind beings like angels need to do the measuring? Would not man, or a particular man like Adam, be able to calculate/measure the date of the earth/universe had they/he continued to live to this date?

  41. Steve M Says:

    lawyertheologian

    You said, “Steve, I do believe that “not being able to establish the truth of a conclusion does not make the conclusion false” is indeed a true statement. I was not speaking of MY not being able to do so, but proclaiming a principle. A statement isn’t false simply because it cannot be established to be true.”

    Though “not being able to establish” and “cannot be established” are both a bit vague, it appears you believe this to be a universal principle. Did you arrive at this conclusion from Scripture or experience?

    If from Scripture, which passages? If from experience, is it your belief that we can validly deduce universals empirically?

  42. Steve M Says:

    lawyertheologian

    There is this Beatle song going through my mind for some reason: No Reply.

  43. Steve M Says:

    LT

    Known by whom?


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