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God and time II
Philosophical and theological perspectives on time

Time: Fri–Sat, 17–18 August 2018
Venue: Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Hollandstraße 11–13, 1020 Vienna, 2nd floor, seminar room 2.25
Organisation: Marcus Schmücker

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Friday, 17 August 2018

  • Time: 10:00–10:20
  • Speaker: Marcus Schmücker
  • Title: Introduction
  • Time: 10:30–11:30
  • Speaker: Martin Pickup
  • Title: Where is God? Divine presence and location
  • Time: 11:45-12:45
  • Speaker: John Hoover
  • Title: Ibn Taymiyya on God, time and creation
Lunch break
  • Time: 14:15-15:15
  • Speaker: Ryan Mullins
  • Title: From divine clockmaker to divine timemaker
  • Time: 15:45-16:45
  • Speaker: Panayiotis Tzamalikos
  • Title: God, essence, and time in Origen
  • Time: 17:00-18:00
  • Speaker: Michael Schulz
  • Title: Historical eternity: The approaches of Wolfhart Pannenberg and Hans Urs von Balthasar

Saturday, 18 August 2018

  • Time: 10:15-11:15
  • Speaker: Michael Williams
  • Title: New theories of time and God in sixteenth century India​
  • Time: 11:30-12:30
  • Speaker: Marcus Schmücker
  • Title: Veṅkaṭanātha on God and time
Lunch break
  • Time: 14:00-15:00
  • Speaker: Stephanie Rennick
  • Title: Divine providence and causal loops
  • Time: 15:15-16:15
  • Speaker: Masamichi Sakai
  • Title: Non-persistence in time? The Buddhist account of intrinsic nature
  • Time: 16:45-17:45
  • Speaker: Daniel Saudek
  • Title: Time's arrow, relativity and God's eternity: From the finitude of creatures to the asymmetric structure of the worldline
  • Time: 18:00-19:00
  • Speaker: Ze'ev Strauss
  • Title: God, eternity and time in Philo of Alexandria
Conference dinner 20:00


Ibn Taymiyya on God, time and creation

John Hoover (Nottingham University)

The Islamic tradition maintains that God is eternal. Within the tradition, kalām theologians of the Mu‘tazili and Ash‘ari traditions understand God’s eternity to be timeless. Temporal events cannot subsist in God because anything in which temporal events subsist is itself temporally originated. However, temporal events do evidently subsist in the world, and so the world as a whole is temporally originated. The temporally originated requires a cause, and kalām theologians argue that God created the world in time out of nothing. God is similarly timeless in the Islamic Aristotelian-Neoplatonic philosophical tradition of Avicenna (d. 1037) and his followers. From the eternal One emanates the eternal First Intellect, and from there flow a series of eternal intellects and souls down to sphere of the moon, below which is found the realm of temporality. The world as a whole is eternal. If the world were created in time out of nothing, the act of beginning to create would have involved change and imperfection in God. This paper will introduce the unique views of the Muslim theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) into this medieval Muslim discussion of God, creation, and time. Ibn Taymiyya agrees with the kalām theological tradition that everything caused or created must have a beginning in time, and he rejects the eternal emanation cosmology of the philosophers. However, he agrees with the philosophers that positing a beginning to God’s creative activity would introduce imperfection into God. Thus, it is of the very nature of God’s perfection to create one thing or another from everlasting to everlasting. No one created thing in the world is eternal, but the world as the genus of created things is eternal. Ibn Taymiyya moreover argues that the temporal cannot arise from the timelessly eternal. Instead, God’s power and will combine in God’s essence to create created things when they are created and not before. Ibn Taymiyya does not normally of time or originating events subsisting in God’s essence. He prefers instead to speak more scripturally of God’s voluntary attributes and acts. Nonetheless, he rejects that kalām premise that something in which temporal events subsist is itself temporal, and the upshot of his theology is a vision of a temporally dynamic God perpetually creating the world.

From divine clockmaker to divine timemaker

Ryan Mullins (University of St Andrews)

​In this paper I shall be addressing two questions. First, what is time? Second, does God create time, or is time an aspect of God's being? This paper shall explore several possible answers to these questions. I shall offer some defense of the view that time is an aspect of God's being.

Where is God? Divine presence and location

Martin Pickup (University of Oxford)

Recent developments in theories of location in the metaphysics literature can help us get clear on longstanding questions about where God is. Divine presence and location is an important part of Western theism, both in general claims about God being everywhere (omnipresent) and in specific claims about God being in certain places (in holy places, in the Real Presence of the Eucharist etc.). This paper will continue the work that has been done in applying the contemporary metaphysics to the philosophical/theological questions in the hope of throwing up new ways to understand God's presence in the world.

Divine providence and causal loops

Stephanie Rennick (University of Glasgow)

Time travel is commonly thought to give rise to the possibility of causal loops, and there is debate as to whether this makes it impossible or unintelligible. In this paper I consider two further sources of causal loops – self-fulfilling prophecies and divine providence – and argue that even the most problematic type of loop poses little threat to the possibility of either foreknowledge or time travel.

Non-persistence in time? The Buddhist account of intrinsic nature

Masamichi Sakai (Osaka University)

The task assigned to me in this workshop is to characterize the influential Indian Buddhist theory of time propounded by Dharmakīrti (ca. 600–660 A.D. / mid. 6th cent. A.D.), chief among early medieval Buddhist philosophers, and by his successors. This is namely the theory well known as momentariness (in Skt.: kṣaṇikatvavāda), the gist of which is that everything that exists is exclusively momentary, and thus that nothing exists in such a way that it persists in time. In my paper, I approach this characterization through questions about the change and identity of a thing, specifically those provided by the argumentative framework of contemporary metaphysics. My intention is to thereby help free this intriguing idea of momentariness from the relatively narrow context of Indian philosophy. Most interestingly, some contemporary metaphysicians concur with the Buddhist philosophers in saying that ordinary objects – such as bananas, books, tables, and people – exist only for an instant, and so the special task in the final part of this paper is to discern just how similar these two positions actually are.

Time's arrow, relativity and God's eternity: From the finitude of creatures to the asymmetric structure of the worldline

Daniel Saudek (Philosophical-theological Academy Brixen)

What relativity theory teaches us about time crucially affects how we think of the relationship between God and temporal being. The debate about time and relativity theory has for a long time been polarized between two models: 1. the block universe, by which there is no ontologically robust passage of time; 2. “cosmic A-theory”, whereby there is an absolute, global passage and therefore also privileged relations of simultaneity between spacelike-separated events. I will propose a third model: a local arrow of time, which can be derived non-circularly from simple metaphysical assumptions about substances and their states. This model has the advantage of accommodating a robust notion of the passage of time without positing absolute simultaneity. Two consequences for philosophical theology arise from it:

First, the derivation which I propose of both change and local time presupposes limited beings, since only such beings can exist in different states marked by different properties. By the same token, God as the unlimited ground of all being is changeless and timeless by his very nature.

Second, many problems currently debated in philosophical theology become greatly simplified: 1. Kretzmann’s problem of how God can know what time it is without himself being subject to the passage of time; 2. the problem of divine “foreknowledge” and free will. Since both problems presuppose a global passage of time, which itself is based on an unwarranted extrapolation of our local time onto the cosmos, I argue that they reveal themselves as pseudoproblems. Difficult problems on God’s relation to changing, temporal being remain, but these are of causal, not temporal nature.

Veṅkaṭanātha on God and time

Marcus Schmücker (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

“Wherever there is time, there is in every case the highest Self” (yatra kālas tatra sarvatra paramāt­mâsti). This short sentence was written by Veṅkaṭanātha in his auto-commentary, the Sarvārthasiddhi, on Tattvamuktākalāpa 1.69. It points to a central model in his philosophical theology. The iden­tification or relational unity of these two concepts, which at the first moment seem completely differ­ent, is nothing new in Indian religious traditions. But in the work of Veṅkaṭanātha the topic takes on an importance that it did not earlier have in the Viśiṣṭādvaita Ve­dānta tradition.

To introduce Veṅkaṭanātha’s philosophical and theological concepts, the paper starts with his fundamental teaching on substance (dravya) and its states (avasthā); I explain his viewpoint on how a substance can change by having alternating states that never give up their ontological status, and show its relation to time by thinking of it as a substance.

Three relevant points can be linked to the following central questions: How, in his own school, Veṅkaṭanātha establishes time as a separate substance, how he uses this as an argument in discussions with other philosophical schools, and finally how in his own work he expresses the relation of time to a Being that is timeless and eternal in its essence (svarūpa), but nevertheless as the Inner rule (antaryāmin) inseparably connected with time as an independent substance and those things caused by it?

Historical eternity: The approaches of Wolfhart Pannenberg and Hans Urs von Balthasar

Michael Schulz (University of Bonn)

In order to demonstrate the rationality of Christian faith, early Christianity “Hellenized” the biblical idea of God, emphasizing the attribute “eternity” (and even immutability, immobility, impassibility), understanding it as the opposite of temporality (mutability, mobility, possibility) and of finite and human reality. But, this “Greek” concept of God made it difficult to comprehend and conceptualize God’s activity in creation and history. God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ only seemed to change something for humans: the assumption of a human nature by the divine Logos concerns human nature alone; Christ’s passion and cross involves this assumed human nature, but the divine nature of the Logos does not suffer, as God is impassible.

Therefore, in the 20th century, theologians wanted to rethink God’s eternity. Often, they refer to G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophical conception of the becoming of the absolute Spirit through nature and history in order to justify a rational understanding of God’s historicity and temporality. This paper begins by presenting and discussing, the approach of the Lutheran theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014); he applied categories and insights of Hegel’s Science of Logic and Philosophy of Religion conceiving of both the eternal God’s dependency on history and its identity with future. Pannenberg argues that God’s dependency on history proceeds from a divine decision: God, the all-determining reality, determines himself to be determined by time and history. The idea of God’s self-determination saves the classic understanding of eternity, while the idea of God’s being determined by history breaks with the standard doctrine of God.

The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) ends his Christology, “Theodrama”, with the question “what does God gain from the world?” Without gain, world and history, Christ’s cross do not become crucial for God and God’s salving commitment loses its credibility. Therefore, eternity must depend on temporality. But, when seen in terms of gain, God seems to be ultimate perfection and absolute reality; due to time and history he grows more than before. Therefore, eternity cannot depend on temporality. In order to resolve this contradiction, Balthasar refers critically to Hegel’s trinitarian concept of the absolute: ince the rinitarian God is eternally grow and becoming-more in love, he can even grow temporally and gain without losing perfection depreciating finite reality and history.

The paper evaluates the two impressing approaches as legitimate forms rethink eternity as a historical eternity that corresponds to biblical testimony and rational requirements.

God, eternity and time in Philo of Alexandria

Ze'ev Strauss (University of Hamburg)

The Jewish ​Middle Platonist of the first century AD, Philo of Alexandria, tried to reconcile, by means of allegorical exegesis, Platonic and Stoic theories of time with Holy Scripture. His metaphysical conception of time occupies a very prominent role in his understanding of the creation account and of Judaism altogether. But what theory of time does he ultimately advocate for? The Platonic one or rather the Stoic one? We will set out to advance possible solutions to such queries.

God, essence, and time in Origen

Panayiotis Tzamalikos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

Although in philosophy the concept of ‘essence’ (οὐσία) had many meanings, the Nicene Creed employed this concept in order to adumbrate God’s Being proper as ὁμοούσιος. However, upon perusal of natural reality it is impossible to do away with the fact that the same notion is a fundamental one. This application of a cardinal term to both God and the things of the world invites the question of whether essence is associated with either temporal reality or timeless reality, or with them both.

Origen realised that this abstruseness stemmed from the fact that a pivotal philosophical term had become ambiguous because of its poly-semantic usage. He recognised that the theory about οὐσία is a doctrine so sublime that it is extremely hard to explain whether God is beyond οὐσία or He is οὐσία Himself. In other words, is οὐσία timeless or temporal?

Although οὐσία became a philosophical notion during the Classical period, the rich Greek tradition of the great schools did not help much: for example, Aristotle wavered as to whether it was matter or form, or both, that should be defined as the ‘essence of things’. However, Origen did not refrain from incorporating this into his own considerations, if sparingly. Since he was a Greek philosopher, his expositions implicitly yet decisively took into consideration Greek ideas, terms, and theories, particularly those of Anaxagoras, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics.

His meticulous usage of this subtle term distinguished between perusal of natural reality and cogitation about God Himself. However, what makes his exposition intriguing is the fact that his doctrine of creation is not simply based on the traditional idea of a God / Creator: the generative and cohesive causes (λόγοι) of things originate (and still exist) in what he called the ‘Body of Logos’. The real object of creation was the principles (initia) or λόγοι (rationes) or seeds (semina) or causes (causas), which make up this ‘Body of Christ’. These are called collectively ‘wisdom’. The specific essence of each thing is but the particular causes that concur in order to generate and maintain a certain thing or phenomenon or person.

However, the Logos is the Son, which makes this ‘essence’ exist in both temporal reality and timelessness; yet Origen took heed to emphasise that this created ‘wisdom’ should be distinguished from the Wisdom / Son as a Personal Hypostasis. In fact, he put to new use Anaxagoras’ theory of creation, and saw a generation of things stemming from immaterial causes according to an evolutionary theory.

This theory did not have a long run in Christian thought. It was only Gregory of Nyssa who grasped and seized on Origen’s inspiration. He spoke of the ‘object of creation’ in a similar way: this is the result of God having created ‘all at once’ ‘the starting points’, the ‘causes’, and the ‘forces’, which came to be ‘instantaneously’ in accordance with the divine will, giving rise to all things. Thus, reality is ‘always being created’. What God made ‘in the beginning of creation’ was establishing ‘instantly’ and ‘collectively’ the ‘starting points, causes, and powers’ ‘for all beings’ to come to be. These ‘starting points’ / ‘causes’ / ‘forces’ / ‘λόγοι’ are not the individual perceptible things: they constitute the realm of potentialities for perceptible things to come into existence in due course. In other words, Aristotle’s Anaxagorean notion of potential / actual being plays a pivotal role in his doctrine of creation. Those λόγοι are the essence of each thing. Hence, generation is but the transformation of Essence into Nature, whereas death is the transformation of Nature into Essence.

New theories of time and God in sixteenth century India​

Michael Williams (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

In this paper, I will show that during the sixteenth century, radical new ideas about the nature of time and its relationship to God emerged among philosophers in India. The two thinkers responsible for these new trajectories were the Bengali philosopher Raghunātha Śiromaṇi, and the South Indian theologian Vyāsatīrtha. These two intellectuals both expressed radically new ideas about the nature of time and its relationship to God.

I will give an overview about how both thinkers examine the relationship of time to God, the nature of causality and the notion of the universe’s origination, and their approaches to understanding the structure of time.

Raghunātha came from a tradition of rational theologians who argued that the existence of God can be established by formal philosophical arguments. However, in his critique of traditional metaphysics he defied earlier thinkers in his tradition and argued on the basis of scientific principles that time (and space) are both identical with “God” (Īśvara). He also argued that his tradition needed to profoundly revise their scientific ideas about how time is structured.

Vyāsatīrtha, on the other hand, defended the idea that time is in a meaningful sense “created” by God, but only in the sense that it is dependent on him for certain modifications. Vyāsatīrtha was also a vehement opponent of the tradition of rational theology from which Raghunātha came, and I will focus on his argument that the very structure of time points the way to the idea that the universe itself lacks a causal origination.

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