Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

BIBLICAL ONTOLOGY AND TIME TRAVEL


A TRANSCENDENTAL ANALYSIS OF TIME TRAVEL:

WHAT REALITY MUST BE LIKE FOR TIME TRAVEL TO BE POSSIBLE

By Forrest Wayne Schultz

I have been a science fiction fan for a very long time, I was the President of a local science fiction club for a while, and I have spoken at many science fiction conventions. One of my favorite kinds of science fiction is time travel stories. I do not know if time travel by means of a chrononautical device has ever happened, ever will happen, or if it is even possible for man to be able to do so. One thing I am sure of, however, is the main feature reality must have for time travel to be possible. Most theoretical discussions of time travel have focussed on the technological factors and the "paradoxes". I shall discuss neither of these here. I shall be discussing the relevant features of that branch of philosophy known as ontology, which means the most fundamental nature of things.
One of the most interesting of all topics about a thing is a study of what conditions are necessary in order for that thing to to be able to exist. Such a study of the necessary conditions for a thing's existence is technically known as a transcendental study. Whenever you start with the thing and then move in thought toward learning what is necessary for that thing to exist, you are engaging in a transcendental analysis of the thing. This is what I shall do here with respect to time travel -- I shall seek to set forth the conditions that are necessary for time travel to be possible. Or, to say it philosophically, I shall discuss what kind of ontology reality must have in order for time travel to be a possibility.
I shall begin by noting an objection to time travel. This objection says very simply that time travel to the past is impossible because the past is not there any more, and time travel to the future is impossible because the future is not here yet. Now, we must grant that if reality is indeed the way this person supposes, then, indeed, time travel would be impossible. This position provides a good foil against which to contrast the ontological structure reality must have in order for time travel to be possible.
The ontology which I believe to be true of reality is the ontology of the Biblical philosophy. This ontology has a structure in which time travel is possible. In this ontology the relationship between God and history is analogous to that of the relationship of a novelist to his story. The novelist lives in his own time which is above that of the time in his story. The time in his story is only there because he made it. Before he imagined the story, the time in the story did not exist. God looking at different times in history is like that of a story writer looking at different times in his story. The story of the novelist is a coherent thing in which all the times in the story have their place, because that is the way the story was imagined and written. Thus it is with history. God imagined all of the various creatures, the creation system as a whole which is their context, and the entire history of all these creatures and the creation system as a whole. This system and this history is a coherent thing because God is an orderly God.
So, we must regard God as being in His own time which is above our time, just as the storyteller's time is above the time of the story he writes. It is not like God is sitting back there before history and looking ahead. No; He is above history -- the history He created -- and He is looking down on it. We must remember that time is not "just there". It was not there until God created it, just as the time of the novelist's story was not there until he imagined it.
This is what I mean by the kind of coherence that time must have in order to even conceive of time travel. Just like you cannot move in thought back and forth in the time of a novel unless it is a coherent thing, so you cannot conceive of moving back and forth in time unless there is a fixed framework -- unless the past, present, and future are all embedded in an unchanging framework. When you read a novel, the past of the novel, i.e. the part you have already read, does not disappear -- it is still there and you can go back and re-read past chapters if you wish. The book is a fixed book. Thus it is with history -- the past does not disappear after we have lived through it anymore than the chapter of a book disappears after we are done reading it. And, just as the chapters of the book you have not yet read are already there (because already written by the novelist) so the future you will live in is already there in the mind of God, who is the storywriter of history.
Now this Biblical ontology not only sets forth a reality-structure in which time travel is possible, it also establishes a reality structure which places limitations upon time travel. Since God is the author of the drama of history, nothing can occur in this drama of history unless God has decided it will occur, and nothing can occur to change or undo anything in His story. For example, consider those stories in which the time traveler decides to go back into history and prevent the Crucifixion of Christ from happening. Now all such stories are indeed fictional -- in fact, they are not only fictional but impossible. Therefore, due to the principle of Authorial Sovereignty, it is clear that no time travel can happen which will undo something God has decreed as part of His story.
However, this principle does not rule out time travel, it places limitations on it. In fact, it is clear that God Himself did time travel when He brought Moses and Elijah back into history to meet with Jesus and Peter and James and John on the Mount of Tranfiguration. And, according to certain eschatological views, God will do time travel when He brings the saints of former ages back to Earth to live in the Millennium. And, if ever men invent any chrononautical gadget and do any time travel it will only be because God has allowed and decreed it to serve His wise purposes. Amen!

3 Comments:

  • At Friday, January 02, 2009, Anonymous Tim Harris said…

    Interesting. However, I don't see why you say Moses and Elijah went "back" in history. If after death they remained in our time, then they would only need to "re-enter" the earthly sphere at the right time; unless their appearance included their own body "prior to" (in our time) the resurrection, then I suppose you would be able to say they "went back" after receiving their resurrection body, but only then would it follow it seems to me.

     
  • At Thursday, January 22, 2009, Blogger Forrest Schultz said…

    What I meant to say was that Moses and Elijah were no longer in history, i.e. our history. Therefore in bringing them to the Mount, God in so doing brought them back into our history. So, it was time travel in that sense.

    Forrest

     
  • At Tuesday, January 27, 2009, Blogger Awesome Wells said…

    I found this clip on You Tube, apparently its a real 'Time Machine'?

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ALUq4AKggsU

     

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