Chapter 4: Eternity as the Fullness of Time
In the last chapter we made an attempt to formulate the notion of God in terms of this-worldly categories, by seeing him as the Creator-Ground, the Ground of Growth, and the Ground-Omega. But we cannot hold on to these immanentistic categories while at the same time thinking of God’s eternity as the absence of time. For eternity’s timelessness implies that God is not really in time and history.
Many efforts at situating God in time and history have been made. Ogden summarizes some of these.1 Bonhoeffer speaks of the God of a secular faith, of a "suffering" God,2 a God who is radically different from the Absolute God of classic theism, but Bonhoeffer’s God requires conceptual clarification that he does not furnish. Tillich presents us with a God that tries to go beyond naturalism and supernaturalism by showing God as "self-transcendent" and as the ground of being of whatever exists.3 But Tillich is still very much bound by the categories of classical metaphysics, especially that of "being." Ogden, while paying tribute to the constructive efforts of Bultmann, Bonhoeffer and Tillich in the fight against supernaturalism, nevertheless notes a fundamental weakness in them, namely, that "the conceptuality these theologians employ is insufficiently developed, so that what they mean when they speak of God is left obscure or uncertain or else their conception of God is still determined by the same metaphysical-theological premises by which the supernaturalism they seek to transcend is itself determined."4
With regard to the efforts of the death-of-God theologians, Ogden observes that to base Christian theology on the secularistic premise that God is dead is to make an assessment of our cultural situation that is "completely undiscriminating in simply assuming that secularism is an essentially unified and internally consistent outlook."5 And while the attempts of the existential-phenomenological tradition in formulating the notion of God in terms of the historical and interpersonal do, to a certain extent, describe God’s presence in history, the result is often quite unreliable because it is overly subjectivistic, and hence unverifiable.
Ogden’s own view is to look upon God as Process, as a social reality that interacts with human persons in a relational way, and who is temporal and historical because he grows, matures, evolves and becomes, while at the same time being God because he is likewise infinite, eternal, unchanging and immutable.
An extreme view of God as Process is the Hegelian view which identifies God with history itself. The divine will is manifested through the laws of the state and through the great heroes that consciously or unconsciously carry it out. As a criticism of this view we might ask what evidence we have that God is history. Is this not an a prioristic interpretation of history? And is it not at the expense of human values, human freedom, in short, of man himself? As a reaction to the Hegelian view, the Marxistic view takes the other extreme by saying that all history is human history.7
Leslie Dewart8 criticizes both the Hegelian and Marxistic views of history in terms of his theory of the development of truth by saying that to reduce history to man or to reduce it to God would be nothing else but the self-actualization of an original potentiality: matter in the first case, Absolute Spirit in the second. But neither view is evolutionary; there is really no creativity and novelty. Dewart’s view is that "God does not dip his finger into history; he totally immerses himself in it." 9 God’s "temporality consists in being present to history. The fundamental relation between man and God is found in the reality of history. It consists in the mutual presence of God and man in the conscious creation of the world." 10 Again, Dewart says, "God is temporal in the same way that man is, namely, in the sense that he makes time. On the other hand, since God is not a being, his temporality does not create him. Unlike man, as he makes time God does not make himself; what he makes is being." 11 These are the "suggestions" that Dewart makes to dehellenize the eternity of God. 12
The path we are going to follow here in secularizing eternity is the one indicated in my first book13 which is based on the philosophy of process I have outlined.
The first step we are going to take to secularize eternity is to reflect on the historical basis for the view that eternity is timelessness. It would seem that there is no essential similarity at all between time and eternity since there is a chasm between God and creation. As Rudolf Otto so well observes, God is the wholly Other.14 But the paradox is that there has to be a similarity between them because omne agens agit sibi simili. In other words, if God created time, then time must somehow be in God. The traditional answer to the relation between time and eternity is that time is in God but not univocally as in creatures. It is claimed that just as all creaturely perfections are in God eminenter (in a more perfect way), so time is in God in a more perfect way. But what, precisely, is this more perfect way is not explained. Instead, it is confidently asserted that there is a similarity between time and eternity by virtue of the analogy of being. One wonders, however, whether there is any basis at all for the analogy if eternity is viewed as the complete absence of time. There would rather be total dissimilarity. If this is so, it is difficult to see how a timeless God can relate himself to the temporal. How can God be truly immanent in all things that evolve if his eternity situates him outside time? How can he be Lord of Time if he is not within time to control it? If he cannot know temporal human existence with all its cares and anxieties, how can he be truly compassionate and merciful?
On the part of man, if man’s goal is a participation in God, then to be with God is to participate in his eternity, but since eternity is timelessness, this implies a withdrawal from time. Now, for the medieval man for whom time was negative or at least neutral, there was neither theoretical difficulty nor spiritual tension in accepting this dialectic of withdrawal. But the modern Christian who sees time as creative, positive and humanizing finds the dialectic of withdrawal from time quite absurd, to say the least.
As long as we hold on to the traditional view of God’s eternity as timelessness, it is impossible, I believe, not only to show God’s immanence in time and history, but also to convince others that Christianity truly values the temporal and the secular.
What I would like to offer as a tentative solution, a solution that I offer here for comment and criticism, is to see God’s eternity, not as the absence of time, but as the Fullness of Time.
However, no sooner do we propose this notion than objections arise. For is not to speak of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time tantamount to saying that God is the fullness of contingency and of change, and to denying that God is the Immutable, the Unchanging? Is it not to identify God with Matter to call his eternity the Fullness of Time? And since matter is the highest form of contingency, transiency, and mutability, would not God then be equated with pure potency? And how could God be temporal like material creation? Is this not to destroy God’s transcendence and his Otherness and to land us into pantheism?
The objections are well made; consequently, we must accept as a necessary condition of a valid formulation of God’s eternity that it save and show God’s Otherness from creatures. However, the point I wish to make is that I do not think that God’s eternity must necessarily be seen as an absence of time to save the Otherness of God. The real crux of the matter is whether contingency is of the essence of time or not. For if contingency were essential, then to say that God is the Fullness of Time is also to say that he is the fullness of contingency.
The first step in our reflection is a reexamination of the Greek notion of time in order to get a better understanding of the right direction we should follow.
Greek thought saw time as essentially contingent in character. Time for Plato was unreal. By this he meant that it was not permanent like the immutable eternal forms in the otherworldly realm. Time is but the moving imitation of eternity.15 Things in time are impermanent because they are mere shadows and copies of the unchanging ideas. Plotinus elaborates on his master, Plato. Time, says Plotinus, is the measure of degradation which resulted from the fall of the sensible world from the One.16 The farther one went into the future, the greater the degradation. Time therefore as it moves into the future is negative. Where Plato merely observed the shadowy nature of time, Plotinus emphasized its destructive or negative nature. Aristotle also saw the destructive nature of time. For him time is the measure of motion which of its very nature is an undoing. As Aristotle says: "It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed. . . . One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than generation. . . . For change itself is an undoing; it is only by accident a cause of generation and existence." 17 Again he says: "For we are wont to say that time wears, that all things age in time, all is erased by time, but never that we have learnt or that we have grown young and handsome; for time in itself is more truly a cause of destruction, since time is the number of movement, and movement undoes that which is." 18
With this view of time as contingent and negative, God’s eternity could not be equated with time or have anything to do with time. In fact, as Louis Bouyer observes, "in Greek thought, eternity and time cannot possibly be reconciled. The two notions can be said to characterize two universes parallel to one another. Eternity is a characteristic not only of immutable, but of purely ideal realities. Time belongs exclusively to the world of matter and of change."19 Oscar Cullmann also makes the same observation:
For Greek thinking in its Platonic formulation there exists between time and eternity a qualitative difference, which is not completely expressed by speaking of a distinction between limited and unlimited duration of time. For Plato, eternity is not endlessly extended time, but something quite different; it is timelessness. Time in Plato’s view is only the copy of eternity thus understood.20
It was Plato who taught us to contrast time and eternity, although such an antithesis is alien to biblical thought.21 The result is that our spirituality has been infected with the Greek dichotomy between time and eternity. For the Greeks, the idea that
redemption is to take place through divine action in the course of events in time is impossible. Redemption in hellenism can consist only in the fact that we are transferred from existence in this world, an existence bound to the circular course of time, into that Beyond which is removed from time and is already and always available. The Greek conception of blessedness is thus spatial; it is determined by the contrast between this world and the timeless Beyond; it is not a time conception determined by the opposition between Now and Then.22
The Greek view of time and eternity has come down even to our day. As Cullmann observes "far and wide the Christian Church and Christian theology distinguish time and eternity in the Platonic-Greek manner." 23
Yet, in the Scriptures, God is closer to time than to timelessness. Time is a sacred category in salvation history, for it is in the Kairos or sacred time that God is present. In fact, in the New Testament, the divine epiphany in Christ is represented in terms of temporal categories: his incarnation or birth, his life, passion, death and rebirth or resurrection. And Christ himself is seen as God’s supreme Kairos or fullness of time. But with the Greek view of time as contingent and destructive, the early theologians who had to preach the faith to the Greeks could not very well speak of God as the Fullness of Time. Since for the Greeks the timeless was better than the temporal, God’s eternity had to be shown as timelessness. God had to be separated as far as possible from time, his abode represented as a heaven beyond this earth. He is allowed occasional forays into history, first in the instantaneous or non-temporal act of creation, and second in the physical premotion or concursus he gives for activities of secondary causes. But today, we are no longer in the Greek context. Time is no longer destructive but positive. It is incumbent on the Christian philosopher and theologian to reflect whether they should go on teaching that God’s eternity is timelessness.
As a result of biblical research we now realize that the Scriptures speak of God’s eternity in terms of time, not timelessness. Eternity is the time of God, which time is contrasted from our time:
The eternity of God is first manifested in the fact that he was and acted before all things and all life: before the individual life (Jer 1:5), before the people of Israel, before the created world (Ps 90:2). Likewise he is the one who will be after all created existence. He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev 21:6; cf. 22:13). His divine time overflows, holds together, and envelops all other times. . . The eternal life of God does not of course cease to have its specific dimension within the period between the creation and the last judgment, God is "he who is and who was and who is to come" (Rev 1:4; 4:8).24
Thus, God’s eternity is not so much timelessness as the Fullness of Time, for to speak of God as "he who is and who was and who is to come" implies time, not timelessness. Cullmann notes that primitive Christianity understood God’s eternity in terms of time:
Primitive Christianity knows nothing of a timeless God. The "eternal" God is he who was in the beginning, is now, and will be in all the future, "who is, who was, and who will be" (Rev. 1:4). Accordingly, his eternity can and must be expressed in this "naive" way, in terms of endless time.25
Thus, the Scriptures settle the question of the method of expressing God’s eternity in favor of the category of the temporal instead of the timeless. But this is not the end of the matter for us moderns; it is the beginning of theological reflection. How is God’s eternity to be expressed in terms of time? Must we accept that in God there is contingency? That he becomes? Some secularizers, accepting the view that time is of its essence contingent, logically predicate contingency of God’s eternity. Thus, God grows, becomes, evolves.
I am not ready to accept the view that God evolves because of my concern to safeguard what I believe is also quite biblical about God’s eternity, namely, its immutability. Ear God’s time remains the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).28 God is "not affected by the vicissitudes which mark the time of his creatures, for on the contrary he remains the absolute master of time: ‘With the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day’ (2 Pet 3:8; cf. Ps 90:4)." 27
The presupposition in the position that if God is temporal, then he becomes and grows, is that time of its very nature is contingent. It is this contingency of time that I wish to question, I believe that along with the Greek notion of eternity, the ‘hellenic notion of time as contingent should also be dehellenized. For as Gerhard Von Rad observes:
The attitude of Western man to linear time is, generally speaking, naive; time is seen as an infinitely long straight line on which the individual can mark such past and future events as he can ascertain. This time-span has a midpoint, which is our own present day. From it the past stretches back and the future forward. But today one of the few things of which we can be quite sure is that this concept of absolute time, independent of events, and, like the blanks of a questionnaire, only needing to be filled up with data which will give it content, was unknown to Israel.28
I believe that it is wrong to take this linear notion of time and apply it to God’s eternity, even if we make qualifications. If the Israelites had this view of time, then I do not think that they would have expressed God’s eternity in terms of the category of time.
It is within the context of an evolutionary view of time that I shall attempt to get a proper understanding of God’s time, first because our general purpose is to make God’s eternity relevant to our modern evolutionary world, and second because this seems to be the context in which the Scriptures thought of God’s time. I do not mean that they had a knowledge of scientific evolution but that they looked upon reality as a process of growth. Thus, according to the Vocabulary of the Bible, "just as the seed cast into the earth leads naturally to the full blossoming of the plant, so the work of God in the world holds within itself the promise of its fulfillment. Growth is characteristic of the work of God; it develops progressively from the imperfect to the perfect, from the inception to the completion." 29 Again: "The kingdom of heaven has taken root in the world, where it was sown as a tiny seed" (Mt 13:31-33, 44).30
My reflections on the nature of evolutionary time show that it is not essentially contingent and that it is possible to speak of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time without implying that God becomes or is contingent. Let me proceed to argue the point, first by a theoretical analysis of the nature of evolutionary time, contrasting it with the hellenic view of time, and second by a confirmation and verification of this analysis of evolutionary time as non-contingent and immanent by observing the actual process of evolution itself.
The view that time is essentially contingent is an untenable position if we accept the evolutionary law applicable to all things that evolve, namely, that a thing is not what it is, but what it shall be -- or as Teilhard expressed it, all growing magnitudes in the world must become different so as to remain themselves.31
In order to know in a negative way, at least, what time shall be, we must know what time is now. Obviously, time now is historical; it is also contingent. Everybody would agree with this observation. But I also presuppose that time now is evolutionary, that is, that it is tending toward maturation. This presupposition allows me to conclude that if time now is contingent, then at its maturation it would be non-contingent. If time remains contingent at the end as at the beginning, then there was really no evolutionary change. But my presupposition precisely is that time is evolutionary. If we accept this presupposition, then time cannot remain the same. It must change qualitatively, from contingency to non-contingency. This conclusion, of course, jolts us. How can this be? Such an assertion implies that time is destroyed, that there is no longer any time. But this is not evolution. The conclusion jolts us because we have identified the essence of time with contingency. So long has been the tradition behind the notion of time’s contingency that it has acquired the strength of an absolute truth. And even today when we have pretty much accepted evolution as universal, we still, unconsciously perhaps, exclude time from this universal law. But why? Why should not time itself evolve? Why must it forever be contingent? Is this not to look at time statically? We allow an oak to evolve from an acorn to a non-acorn (full grown oak), a non-living reality (matter) to evolve to the living, the nonsensitive (vegetative) to evolve to the sensitive, the sensitive to evolve toward the suprasensitive or self-conscious, and so on. We are able to see continuity in them, yet we do not allow time to evolve from contingency to non-contingency or from transiency to immanence.
The reason for our failure to see that time could evolve from contingency to non-contingency without being destroyed is perhaps due to the popular image we have of time as a straight line that goes on and on. With this view of time, the only type of change that would not destroy the nature of time would be for time to go on flowing interminably into the future. An evolution of time would be interpreted as a variation in the speed of the motion or perhaps in its direction. Given this view of time, a change that implied the cessation of contingency or of becoming would not be an evolution of time, obviously, but its destruction.
Regarding the popular view of time as a straight line stretching backward and forward, it should be observed that it is not only naive as Von Rad has mentioned,32 but also quite unreal and non-evolutionary. In other words, this popular view of time, paradoxically enough, is static. This statement again surprises us, for how can any view of time be described as static? The eternal as timeless is static, yes, but not time. In reply, let me observe that I am not using the term static and its correlative, dynamic, within the hellenic pattern of thought which applies the former to eternity and the latter to time. I am using the terms in an evolutionary context. Thus, within the evolutionary context, there is such a thing as a static view of time and a dynamic view. Let me explain what I mean, using the acorn as an illustration. Now, if the acorn were to go on growing in size without ever changing into an oak, but simply becoming bigger and bigger, all the while retaining its form as an acorn, then, the change of the original ordinary-sized acorn into a super-acorn is a change that should be properly called static, in order to contrast it with the real change in which the acorn qualitatively evolves into a non-acorn, i.e., into an oak. Where the original form remains the same throughout the change, then this change which is purely quantitative is considered static, as opposed to the other in which there is a change of form and which therefore is properly called dynamic or evolutionary. Similarly, a view of time that goes on and on without change of form is a static and naive view. The kind of time I am talking about is evolutionary.
Evolutionary time is not a succession of moments, each of which appears for a flitting instant and is lost forever. In evolutionary time, nothing is lost. The past is carried over into the present, so that it is false to imagine the present like a bead in a string of beads, or a drop from a dripping faucet, each bead or drop having equal value and weight as the others. No, the present is heavy with the past and is of greater ontological weight than the past, so that we can justly say that the present is fuller time than the past. And as the present tends toward the future, it attains the fullness of time. However, we must hasten to add that the fullness of time is not merely the quantitative sum of previous times, for this, too, would be no more than the case of an acorn becoming a super-acorn, or a bucket being filled by drops from the faucet. Rather, when the fullness of time is reached, there is a qualitative transformation, as in the case of the acorn becoming an oak, or water brought to boiling point becoming vapor, or instinct becoming reflection, or molecular increase becoming cellular.
The foregoing cases in which quantitative change evolved toward the qualitative are examples of evolutionary time. Now, what I would like to show is that evolutionary time evolves from the contingent to the non-contingent. This is a step to showing that to speak of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time is not to imply contingency.
To observe evolutionary time, it must not be seen as a container in which things that evolve are contained, for such a view of time is still basically hellenic; much less should it be considered as a succession of moments tending toward its term because this is non-evolutionary. Evolutionary time is one with the things that evolve, so it is the things themselves that must be observed, but from the point of view of a thing’s ability to possess and to gather time. For example, man as a given stage of the evolutionary process is able to gather the past, present and even part of the future in his consciousness. But let us start from the beginning in order to see the development of time from contingency to non-contingency, from transiency to immanence.
First, a brief definition of contingency and transiency, and their correlates non-contingency and immanence, is in order. Contingent time would be one that is chaotic, without direction, short-lived, unstable, whereas a non-contingent time is one that is ordered, directed and able to maintain itself for longer periods. Transient time is one that flows out, whereas immanent time is one that is able to get hold of itself, collect and possess itself; hence, it is present to itself or becomes interior to itself.
We observe that at the lowest level of the evolutionary process, time is contingent in the sense that electronic and atomic radiations are short-lived, measured in millionths of a second; the movement is chaotic, diffused, haphazard, indeterminate as shown in the cloud chamber or the Brownian movement of molecules; the time is transient because entropy takes over; the movements are lost instead of being collected in the thing and perfective of the thing.
As we go higher up, however, the entropy is counteracted by a higher form of movement -- life. Compared to the physical, transient random and fragile motions of the atoms and molecules, life is directed, better organized, longer-lived, more stable and immanent.33 As Teilhard notes there is an advance in interiority,34 and with this advance, time comes to a greater possession of itself. Where before, time was confined to the atomic and molecular zone, now it is possessed of a new dimension, the biosphere. This new space-time dimension not only contains itself but also the past history of cosmogenesis. Time evolved toward the cell, therefore, in order that entropy which is the flowing out of time and energy through chemical disintegration might be counteracted by cell reproduction so that time is able to prolong itself without crumbling.35 Through the association of one cell with another, cells build themselves in sufficient bulk so as to be able to ‘‘escape innumerable external obstacles (capillary attraction, osmotic pressure, chemical variation of the medium, etc.) which paralyze the microscopic organism." 36 Through association also, the organism "is able to find room inside itself to lodge the countless mechanisms added successively in the course of its differentiation." 37 Thus time does not flow out.
But the story of life itself as a higher manifestation of the evolution of time, though non-contingent and immanent compared to the lower stages of time, is, in terms of the higher stage of consciousness, quite contingent and unstable. For the story of the evolution of life is the story of innumerable chances, fumbling and gropings through countless ages.38 "Life advances by mass effects, by dint of multitudes flung into action without apparent plan. Milliards of germs and millions of adult growths jostling, shoving, and devouring one another, fight for elbow room and for the best and largest living space."39
Time manifested as life multiplies itself in countless individuals, species, genera, phyla, etc., in order to prolong itself, for it can maintain itself only by differentiating itself. The purpose of time is to conquer itself, that is, prevent any part of itself flowing out. So from one zoological group to another, time marched on in search of itself, by trying to be transparent to itself. In the phenomenon of memory, time is able to attain an inchoate form of reduplication, and thus for the first time can really be said to grasp part of itself. Where before in the unconscious level, time was gathered without being consciously grasped, now there is a conscious gathering of time, so that the past is able to coexist with the present reduplicatively. In the effort to attain full reduplication. memory multiplied in various individuals, but even this movement of memory is one-sided, or unidirectional. In order to fulfill itself, memory had to double itself by tending to the other direction -- forward -- and in the process a new space-time dimension was born, the noosphere, in which the future is attained by the foresight of reason.
In man, time has become human temporality, human history. Compared to the infrahuman level’s space-time dimension, human time is able to gather the past, the present and to a degree the future. In man, the past (pre-history and history) is gathered, not only because man is the product of the previous stages of the process, but also because he is able to attain it consciously through his memory. And through reflection, what is gathered by memory is able to coexist with the present, while through foresight, imagination, hope and belief, past and present are able to coexist with the future. Through human consciousness, then, time for the first time becomes consciously purposive, and hence non-contingent; time becomes transparent to itself, interior to itself, and hence immanent. Human temporality represents the fullness of time of the infrahuman space-time dimensions; toward it they tended as to their eschatological future or "eternity" in order to be.
At this point in our analysis we can fairly well establish that evolutionary time evolved from contingency to non-contingency, from transiency to immanence. However, we have not yet attained a true concept of the fullness of time because the non-contingency of human temporality is a relative one. Therefore let us consider the evolution of human temporality to see whether we could attain a true concept of the fullness of time that could serve as the basis for a concept of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time.
Human temporality, though immanent and non-contingent relative to the infrahuman levels, is still open toward the future. Because the dimension of the future, not only of present history but of the eschatological future, is not yet attained, human temporality does not possess the fullness of time. This lack of fullness of time is manifested in existential stages of insecurity, feelings of anxiety and fear about an uncertain future which it does not know and possess. In the effort to attain security and non-contingency, human temporality harks back to the past in an infantile way, dwelling on past accomplishments, or it busies itself with the affairs of the present. But true security is not to be found in time past or present but in future time. Human temporality therefore tries to divine what the future may bring; it takes the whole of itself (past, present and its future) and puts its whole destiny in an Absolute (ideology, deity, even the self) in the hope and belief that it may be reborn to a new space-time dimension, the eschatological, and thus possess the fullness of time.
What is the fullness of time that human temporality is searching for? This fullness of time coincides with the fullness of growth and maturation of humanity. Now, the meaning of the fullness of growth with respect to a given process is that the end is reached, there is no more becoming -- hence, the cessation of contingency. But we have to be careful in imagining properly what the cessation of becoming implies, for we could fall into the mistake of imagining it as the cessation of all movement, much like a moving line that suddenly comes to a stop. As we said earlier, this would not be the perfection of time but its destruction. The cessation of becoming which coincides with the fullness of growth implies the beginning of fullest activity, for when growth is finished, it also means the full possession and maturation of one’s powers. The fullness of growth as the cessation of becoming should be imagined after the example of a child that becomes an adult. The child is contingent in many ways -- its activity is not fully directed; it makes many mistakes; it also means that it may not reach adulthood. But the adult, relative to the child, is non-contingent -- that is, he has reached the fullness of growth, there is no longer any growing, for an adult qua adult does not become what he already is. Becoming in this case terminates in being; however, being must not be understood as the absence of activity, but rather the fullness of it.
There is the common but false impression that becoming is more dynamic than being. This is true when becoming is identified with temporality and change, while being is identified as in the case of Plato with the pure and immutable forms which are beyond time, or with essence, as in the case of Aristotle, which is secure from time and history. Because of this inherited context, come theists, in the effort to attain a dynamic concept of God, logically predicate becoming of him. For the only other alternative in the hellenic context is non-becoming or timelessness. To achieve dynamism in God, however, a great price is paid -- that of admitting becoming in God. Those who do not admit becoming in God are justly accused of having a static notion of God. But this accusation is valid as long as it is a discussion between theists of the hellenic tradition. What is forgotten, however, is that the hellenic context is not an absolute context. It is not necessarily the case that to deny becoming in God is to have a static notion of God. In the evolutionary context, being is more dynamic than becoming, for it coincides with the fullness of growth which means the fullness of activity, whereas becoming which implies the incompleteness of growth naturally lacks the fullness of activity. Paradoxically then, a becoming God is not as dynamic as a "non-becoming" God within the evolutionary context.
So far, we have analyzed the notion of the fullness of time as implying the fullness of being, of activity and the absence of contingency. But the notion needs further clarification before we can speak of God’s time as the Fullness of Time. For the fullness of time we have analyzed is the result of growth. To apply this notion to God would imply that God emerged, that he was born and matured.
It is necessary to distinguish the fullness of time of the universe which is the result of evolution and maturation from the Fullness of Time of God which is the source of evolutionary time. Perhaps the use of scriptural examples will help us see the distinction. Thus the Scriptures speak of God as the source of growth. The work of God is seen as a seed which evolves toward maturation 40 or as a tiny seed that takes root (Mt 13:31-33, 34). Again, Israel is seen in relation to God as a child, born of Yahweh, nurtured by him, etc. Therefore, guided by these examples, we can consider God metaphorically as Ground or as Womb and the universe as the seed or the fetus.
In the examples proposed, we can distinguish two senses of the term "fullness of time." Thus, there is the fullness of time of the fetus or the seed, and the fullness of time of the mother (womb) or of the ground. The fullness of time of the seed or of the fetus is apparent, for they are in process of growth. But it is not quite easy to see how the mother or the ground can be said to possess the fullness of time since they are not growing or becoming. But consider that without the mother or the ground, the fetus or the seed would not have any time in it. In other words, a seed left alone and apart from the ground has no time because it does not become; it does not possess its future; it does not even have its present. Nor can it give time to itself, since it is not its own ground. It is the ground that gives time to the seed. Again, a non-viable fetus apart from the womb is a dead fetus, and what is dead, obviously, has no time. It is the womb that gives time to the fetus. Thus, we can see that the womb or the ground can be said to be the fullness of time. They are the fullness of time in relation to the fetus or the seed in three ways: (1) as source of initial time by giving initial becoming or life to the seed or fetus; (2) as source of continued time or growth; and (3) as source of maturation -- hence, of fullness of time and growth of the seed or fetus.
With the analogy proposed, it is possible to understand in some way, at least, how God can be said to be the Fullness of Time. Thus, God as Creator-Ground is the source of the initial time of the universe; as Ground of growth, he is the source of present time; and as Ground-Omega, he is the source of maturation or fullness of time. Our analysis of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time seems to be confirmed by the Scriptures. Thus, God’s time is seen as overflowing, holding together and enveloping all other times.41 The imagery of God as Ground or as Womb explains how our time, which is like that of the growing seed or fetus, is enveloped or held together or suffused by God’s Time. God, as the source of time in the three ways we explained it, seems to conform to the scriptural view of God’s time as "he who was and who is and who is to come" (Rev 1:4; 4:8). Thus, God as source of past time is he who was, of present time as he who is, and of future or eschatological time as he who is to come.
But do not the classic and medieval formulations of God speak of him also as Creator, as Preserver (creatio continuata) and as Final Cause or End? That God is Creator and End of creation is a common datum of all formulations of the faith. However, the way this is explained is another thing. And here difficulty arises for the traditional formulation, since if God’s eternity is seen as the absence of time, it is difficult, to say the least, to see how he could possibly be the source of time. In fact, with a view of time as negative, as source of mutability and contingency, some other way has to be found to explain time’s origin in order to safeguard God’s causality, by saying, e.g., that time is the measure of the degradation resulting from the fall, or that God created a metaphysical and finished universe through an instantaneous creation in which every species, was present from the beginning, instead of a world of becoming and growth.
If God who created time also said that it was good, then a formulation of God’s eternity must show it to be the source of time, just as the traditional formulation of God as Perfect Good, Absolute Truth and Supreme Being clearly show God to be the source of all good, truth and being. Yet, eternity as the absence of time can in no way show how it is the source of time or how it is relevant to history at all. Furthermore, if time is good, it is difficult to see why we should be withdrawing from it and hankering for the timeless instead. These difficulties were not present in the Middle Ages because time was seen negatively so that life became an escape from time. But today, with our awareness of the positive value of time, tension is produced by the old formulation of eternity as the absence of time. To resolve the tension, God should no longer be seen as Actus Purus, timeless, a mere preserver of a finished universe, nor should Exodus 3:14 be pressed into the service of this static outlook to mean that God is he who is, that is, timeless existence. Rather, God should be seen in a dynamic way, as source of growth, as evolver of the evolving universe. Hence, for God to create is the same as for him to evolve, to mature, to unite to himself; evolution is God’s creative action expressed in time. And Exodus 3:14 should be interpreted in the light of the Apocalypse, for St. John purposely wrote this work as the fullness and recapitulation of the first book, Genesis, in which the first creation and the first earth are recapitulated and fulfilled in the New Creation and the New Earth, and the apocalyptic woman with child recapitulates the woman and child of Genesis. So, the "I will be who I will be" of Exodus is recapitulated in the Apocalypse as, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is coming" (1:8). Thus, God as Absolute Future contains all time; he is the Lord and Fullness of Time. If the traditional formulations of God show him to be the Perfect Good, Absolute Truth and Supreme Being, since goodness, truth and being are positive values, then there should not be too great a difficulty in accepting a formulation of God’s eternity as Absolute or Perfect Time, since time is now revealed to us as positive, thanks to the discovery of evolution.
There should be no fear that, in speaking of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time, we imply that he is contingent, that he becomes or evolves. For God’s Fullness of Time is like the fullness of time of the mother in relation to the child, or of the ground in relation to the seed. Thus, the mother does not grow or develop; the child does. Nor does the ground grow; the seed does. Similarly, though God is the Fullness of Time, he does not grow or become. It is when we begin to think abstractly and conceptually about God’s time that it becomes illogical to suppose that God does not become or evolve, or when we apply an unphiosophical view of time to the understanding of the notion of the Fullness of Time that we fall into all sorts of difficulties. There is no dogma or self-evident philosophic principle that says that time is essentially contingent, that becoming is more dynamic than being, defined as the fullness of growth and therefore of activity.
What has the reformulation of God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time gained for us? First of all, it produces a revolution in our Christian thinking. No longer need we represent the Christian life as a movement from time to timelessness, but quite the reverse -- from timelessness to time. We are thus able to align our theology with the scientific and philosophic disciplines which already have made the conversion to the modern dynamic world-view from the classic static world-view -- hence from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican, from the Aristotelian eternal species to the Darwinian evolution of species, from the metaphysical to the temporal or historical and evolutionary in philosophy and theology. In this specific case, the conversion must be from Theos as timeless to Theos as the Fullness of Time. God as the central category of theology, if thus temporalized, would require a restructuring of the other parts of theology.
If God is the Fullness of Time, then we have to accustom ourselves to seeing that our present time is not already time; rather, it is lack of time. Also, we have to accustom ourselves to seeing that to go beyond our time is not to go to the timeless, but toward the fullness of time. The conditioning of centuries of the static view, aided by our common-sense view of things, prevents us from being truly philosophical, that is, seeing beyond appearances which lead us astray into believing that time is already time. If time were already time, then it would not evolve. But if we accept time’s evolution, then it is not yet fully itself; it lacks itself. Our time is a lack of time, which, in relation to God’s Fullness of Time, is timelessness. Ironically, the timelessness that we attributed to God is really a projection of our infantile state of timelessness, and is an indication of the infantile state of our traditional theologies which see God’s eternity as timelessness.
Second, in terms of Christian practice, if God is the Fullness of Time, I find it possible now to explain to myself and to others why Christianity is not other-worldly. I no longer have to represent my going to God as a departure from time and history.42 In fact, to attain God as the Absolute Future who is also the Fullness of Time, I must perforce be occupied with the present and the tasks of the present, for it is only in and through the present that I can advance into the future. The Christian life is an incarnation in time, but this time is not ceaseless becoming; it is evolutionary, tending toward eschatological time. Hence, to be incarnational is to be eschatological and vice versa.
If God’s eternity were seen as the Fullness of Time, I can somehow understand how God is immanent in history and in my human temporality. God is the very source of my temporality, the Ground of my growth, and the fullness of it. I am thus able to reconcile my view of God with the modern view of man as his historicity.
That particularly vexing problem, whether to go to God is not to abandon the world, seems to find resolution here too. The difficulty for most Christians is caused by two false assumptions: (1) that the world is already itself, that is, finished, and (2) that God’s eternity is timelessness. We have to deny both to find a solution to our problem. We have to see that the world is evolving and that perfection is in the possession of the fullness of time. Consequently, for the world to tend to God is not for it to be other-worldly, but to be fully itself, since God is the source of its maturation. The world does not abandon time, because in attaining God, it attains the fullness of its own time. With God’s eternity as the Fullness of Time, it is possible now to bring back to our awareness the scriptural teaching, ignored by traditional theology, that the whole world is going to be redeemed. In the traditional view of God’s eternity as timelessness, enormous difficulty is created in explaining how essentially temporal things like the world and the body can participate in God’s timelessness without their ultimate destruction. As a consequence, the old theology de-emphasized or conveniently ignored the fact of the resurrection of the body and the redemption of material creation and spoke instead and almost exclusively of the salvation of the soul pictured as being supratemporal and metaphysical.
With God’s eternity shown as the Fullness of Time, Christian humanism becomes a true acceptance of the temporal. Christians can cooperate with the Marxists in transforming the world, for we are both interested in attaining the fullness of time for the world. The only difference in our outlooks is that we Christians expect the epiphany of God in the end; for the Marxists, there is only the epiphany of man.
1 Schubert Ogden, The Reality of God (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), ch. 1.
2 See Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge and trans. R. H. Fuller (London: SCM Press, 1953), p. 164.
3 See Systematic Theology, II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 5-10.
4 Ogden, op. cit., p. 53.
5 Ibid., p. 15.
7 See Roger Garaudy, From Anathema to Dialogue (New York: Herder & Herder, 1966), p. 95.
8 See his book, The Future of Belief (New York: Herder and Herder,
1966), pp. 197-98.
9 Ibid.. p.195.
10 Loc. cit.
11. Loc. cit.
12 Ibid., p. 194.
13 See Teilhard and the Supernatural (Helicon Press, 1966), pp. 153-58.
14 See his book, The Idea of the Holy, 2nd ed., trans. J. W. Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1950).
15 Timaeus, 37d.
16 Ennead. 3:7,7.
17 Physics, IV, 222b.
18 Ibid., 221a.
19 See his Dictionary of Theology, trans. C. Quinn (Desclee Co., Inc., l965), p.144.
20 See his Christ and Time, trans. F. V. Filson (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950), p. 144.
21 J. J. Von Allmen (ed.), Vocabulary of the Bible (London: Lutterworth Press, 1958), p. 423.
22 Cullmann Op. cit., p. 52.
23 Ibid. p. 61.
24 Vocabulary 01 the Bible, p. 424.
25 Cullmann, op. cit., p. 63.
26 Vocabulary of the Bible, p. 424.
27 Loc. cit.
28 See his Old Testament Theology, II, trans. D. M. G. Stalker (New York: Harper & Row, Publ., 1965), p. 99.
29 J J. Von Allmen (ed.), p. 160.
20 Loc. cit.
31 The Phenomenon of Man, p. 166.
32 See Von Rad, op. cit., p. 99.
33 The Phenomenon of Man, p. 88.
34 Loc. cit.
35 Ibid., p.105.
36 Ibid., p. 107.
37 Loc. cit.
38 Ibid., p. 106.
39 Loc. cit.
40 Vocabulary of the Bible, p. 160.
41 Ibid p. 424.
42 We must emphasize here that we are not absolutizing present time or just any future time. For our time is still lack of time. We do not celebrate twentieth-century forms and structures.