Beginning of the Beginning

We were talking theology the other day, and while trying to grasp the concept of time and eternity I had a burst of revelation, and it was grand. So here it is.

Time does not exist for God, since He has no beginning or end, and yet He created a world (ours) where time exists. To say that God knows the future or the past is not as accurate as saying that He is already in the future and still in the past, that God is present simultaneously in every moment this world passes through. God never grows older; without time it is impossible to be new or old. He is in a state of eternity. We often talk about eternity as if it is time without end (my childhood vision of Heaven was a very long game of checkers, very boring.), when in fact eternity can be thought of as a single unchanging point.

The concept that my little human mind cannot understand is how any sequential event can occur in a "dimension" where no time passes. For example, how do you sing a song in Heaven? It's one of those conundrums that rattles my head.

So God, who does not pass from moment to moment, sees our world and its time line in its entirety. His timeless existence and our time-bound one exist simultaneously... except that the whole idea of "simultaneous" depends on time, which sort of reduces that statement to "Choose Option A or Option Beef Medallions." Trying to reconcile the two is impossible, simply because we have no notion of what it means to have no time. We can't even imagine it, because there is absolutely nothing in all of the human experience that does not involve it. The best we can do is grasp at analogies (like a very long and boring checkers game.)

But the point is that God understood both time and eternity so well that He was able to create the passing of time within His eternal state. No small feat, if you ask me. Remember, eternity means no beginning. And yet something began.

That's when it struck me. The very first three words of the Bible embrace this fantastic, utterly unthinkable event. "In the beginning..." That's it, that right there is the appearance of time where it had not been before. It goes on to say that "this happened," and "that happened," but I had never before grasped how mind-blowing those first three words are. Time out of eternity. The beginning of all beginnings. Something new occurring in a state where everything has already occurred. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around it.

This is what makes me love the Bible so deeply. A child can read it and enjoy it and understand it, and yet a scholar can delve into a sentence and never find the bottom. There are meanings stacked upon meanings, plenty of soil to grow your roots into. And I, decades after first hearing those three words, can suddenly find myself absolutely blown out of the water by their significance. I guess that's why it's called the Living Word of God.

Now I've had my brain exercises for the day...


Monster Library Student said...

There is a book called "Our Lady of the Lost and Found," about a woman who is visited by Mary for a week. Not really a great read, but she tries to discuss this idea of time and touches on the futility of understanding something that is fathomless. In case you are ever hard up for something to read, check it out.

-W- said...

I like to think that time is the flip side of matter, and light is the pancake turner in God's hand. But when witticism fails me, I am content to sit and enjoy the wonder of it all...

Thanks for the reminder that they don't call it "the Good Book" for nothing. There are so many wonderful ideas and so much good language in the Bible! You can go back to it again and again and find something new and beautiful every time.

Or the extreme abuse of the word 'begat.' One of the two. =)