This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
In “God the Multitasker”, I pondered how God is able to simultaneously deal with every aspect of our universe and each one of us individually. I compared God’s multitasking ability with that of computers and our brains. When I consider the simplicity of those concepts my faith is strengthened. I’d like to think that perhaps your’s was too.
Today I’m going to challenge our faith by pushing the against the boundaries of our human reason and understanding as we delve into time and space and consider some ideas around time travel. (I thought this blog was about truth, you ask? Read on.)
We know that God created our universe. And if we believe what science teaches us, we know that time is merely a characteristic of our universe. It follows that anything existing outside of our universe may not be subject to time as we know it. (Get your head around that if you can).
So let’s talk about God and the space-time continuum.
If God created our universe, then God must exist outside of our universe. It follows that He isn’t subject to any of the limitations and constraints of our universe such as the laws of physics that we know are themselves operative only within space and time. This aligns with our belief that God is eternal. God’s own word puts it this way:
2 Peter 3:8 – But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Psalms 90:2 – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Job 36:26 – Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.
So in “God the Multitasker”, I was limiting God by suggesting that he is able to do many things all at once, which implies He is doing them all within an extremely short period of time. Whereas God actually need not concern Himself with time. We humans experience God’s activity in the context of time, but that’s the only way our minds are able to make sense of things. We’re seeing the results of God’s actions as they are manifested within the confines of our universe.
Now it might stretch our imaginations when we try to conceive of a plane of existence that doesn’t involve space, time and the laws of physics, but that is God’s reality, as is His ability to operate within space-time. In a nutshell, God exists outside of our own frame of reference, and we simply cannot comprehend that.
But when we consider Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity, we have no trouble believing that time and space are relative and that perhaps even time travel is possible. The mathematics show that if you were to take a journey into space travelling at 99.5% of the speed of light, returning after five years, 50 years would have passed here on Earth. You’d be five years older, but everyone you left back home would have aged 50 years! You would, in effect, have traveled through time. This has fascinated scientists and science-fiction writers alike ever since 1905 when Einstein first published this theory and rocked the world with his genius. As it turns out, we have yet to figure out how to travel at 99.5% of the speed of light, so time travel isn’t a reality for us.
Or is it?
One the problems with time travel into the past is that paradoxes could occur. The usual example of a time-travel paradox is a man travelling back to a time before he was conceived, and then killing his own father. So he wouldn’t be born, wouldn’t travel into the past to kill his father, and so on. But if we consider time travel from God’s perspective, obstacles such as high speeds and paradoxes go away.
If we acknowledge that God sees His creation, our universe, in its entirety then we must also acknowledge that He sees time in its entirety because we know that time is a characteristic of our universe. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, and I’m writing this stuff. But try to stay with me – we have an awesome God and His awesomeness can be fascinating when we dig deep into our imagination and take heed of Paul’s advice to Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
When we imagine time travel from our human perspective, we think of it in terms of how we could change the past, learn from the future and have greater control of how our lives impact humanity and the world. Perhaps we could kill Hitler. Maybe we could visit the future and learn how to cure cancer. The possibilities are unlimited. But from God’s perspective we would merely be moving back and forth along a timeline that He can see from end to end! In fact, the picture He would see would be abuzz with change after change after change. All these inept humans experiencing their past and future and then revising their actions over and over again! Talk about mayhem. Its likely one of the reasons God hasn’t permitted us to put our time travel theories into practice.
But here’s a thought. Throughout that entire span from the beginning of time to its very end, God can change anything He likes. He created it all, end to end. Christians know this to be true because we know that through prayer, we can ask God to influence the future. We can ask for strength and courage to help us deal with future challenges such as exams, surgical procedures, job interviews etc. We can ask God to remove our obstacles, heal our sickness and prepare our paths. All in the future.
But what about the past? Do we dare suggest that if God can change the future He can also change the past?
Most folks agree that asking God to change the past would present some challenges. Its not something we usually ask of Him. If we asked God to say, prevent an accident that occurred 2 years ago, and He prevented the accident, then every subsequent event that was impacted by that accident would need to be revised, and then the impacts of those events, and so on. This is described as the Butterfly Effect (Google it if you’re not familiar). Our lives would become very complex indeed if we had to remember multiple pasts that differed based on events that occurred before God prevented the past accident and after God prevented the past accident. You think you have memory issues now?
So what are we saying? Is God unable to change the past? If the answer to that question is yes, then we’re saying that God isn’t omnipotent. But we know that He is. And if God is omnipotent, then He is able to change the past. And if God is able to change the past, why doesn’t He?
Maybe He does. How would we know? Perhaps 10 minutes ago your memory of reality was completely different from what it became 5 minutes ago when God changed something in the past which in turn, changed humanity’s entire reality?
Think about that for a minute.
If God was willing to change the past, then we would be able to pray for God’s intervention in both the future and the past. And if God answered our prayers, we would effectively have the ability to ‘travel’ through time. Although we’d never be aware of the outcomes. How’s that for pushing the against the boundaries of our human reason and understanding? I warned you.
I’m not aware of there being any biblical record of God changing the past, so perhaps we’ve really wandered into left field here.
What do you think? Crazy talk or just more of God’s awesomeness?
Next time I might write about goldfish or how nature abhors a vacuum.
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