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LECTURE IV NOTE E.—P. 131.

ETERNITY AND TIME.

This difficult problem has exercised the minds of thinkers in all ages.

Augustine has profound thoughts on the subject in his De Civitate Dei. “For if eternity and time be well considered,” he says, “ 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 movable thing were created? . . . Seeing, therefore, that God, whose eternity alters not, created the world and time, how can He be said to have created the world in time, unless you will say there was something created before the world whose course time did follow? . . . Then, verily, the world was made with time and not in time (mundus non in tempore sed cum tempore factus est), for that which is made in time is made both before some time and after some. Before it is time past; after it is time to come; but no time passed before the world, because no creature was made by whose course it might pass.”—Book xi. 6.898898Augustine, however, in these remarks does little more than reproduce Plato in the Timaeus. See the striking passage, Jowett’s Plato, iii. p. 620 (2nd ed.).

Rothe goes deeply into the question in his Theologische Ethik, i. pp. 193–204 (2nd ed.); and Lotze discusses it with suggestiveness and subtlety in his Microcosmos, ii. pp. 708–713.

The following remarks in Dorner are in consonance with a suggestion in the text: “When, therefore, the world comes into actual existence, actual time comes into existence. The actual world is preceded by merely possible time; of course, not in a temporal sense, else must time have existed before time, but in a logical sense. From the point of view of actual time, merely possible time can only be mentally represented under the image of the past; and the same is true of the eternal world-idea, and God’s eternity in relation to the world’s actual existence.”—System of Doctrine, ii. p. 30 (Eng. trans.).

Dr. Hutcheson Stirling has also his thoughts on this difficulty. “It is easy,” he says, “to use the words, the predicates that describe what we conceive to be eternal; as, for example, in the terms of Plato to say that the eternal, ‘what is always unmoved, the same, can become by time neither older nor younger, nor has been made, nor appears now, nor will be in the future, nor can any of those things at all attach to it which mortal birth has grafted on the things of sense’; but how to bring into connection with this everlasting rest the never-resting movement of time—that is the difficulty.” I confess that his suggestion that “time may be no straight line, as we are apt to figure it, but a curve—a curve that eventually returns into itself,” does not seem to me greatly to relieve the difficulty.—Phil. and Theol. p. 105.

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