Sunday, January 07, 2007

Time and free will

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite 'brain-buster' subjects to contemplate is God's concept of time. Personally, so far, I have not come across a better explanation than C.S. Lewis' term, "the ever-present Now". I find it a particularly useful thing to wrap my head around since it's something that people trying to come to grips with their faith (say, in RCIA) often run into - the seeming contradiction of God's perfect vision of all of time at once and His gift to us of free will. Lewis does a good job of un-tieing the (usually self-made) knot in Mere Christianity:

Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call 'tomorrow' is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call 'today'. All the days are 'Now' for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not foresee you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.