Saturday, January 15, 2011


Work over time.

We rightly acclaim that God is all-powerful, but how do we know?

This answer often given: “Because He can do all things,” and, while not being incorrect, it is not the best answer. Indeed, it is not entirely true. God cannot be Creature since He is Creator; His is not - and cannot be - Kelly who sits on the train to write this blog.

God is all-powerful because he acts outside of time. All of what God does He is doing now and has already done. Kind of. It is difficult to talk about God in the positive, St Thomas Aquinas explains this well, because He is completely Other to what we know and what we have the capability to understand. It is easy to say what God is not: He is not the Sun, since that is created; He is not air, nor is he the space between the electrons of an atom and the nucleus; He is not some particle waiting to be defined by physicists; He is not animal vegetable or mineral; He Is.

But we can say so much about God! We can say that He is merciful, kind and loving; we even say - correctly - that God is Love!
Yes, we can say so much about God, but that is not what God is. ‘God is merciful and kind’ can even be changed into ‘God is Mercy and Kindness’ which is not wrong - it is, instead, profoundly correct - but that too tells us precious little. What is mercy or kindness? You know what it is to be merciful and to receive mercy, but how do you say what mercy is, or kindness?

But Kelly! God is infinite and omnipotent, is that not two things that describe Him in the positive?
We are getting closer. To say God is infinite though, simply means that he’s not finite. God cannot be finite because the sum of the parts of a finite thing is greater than each of the parts on their own. In saying that God is infinite, we are still only describing him in a false-positive; we have yet to say something about God in the positive.

Thus, we turn to God’s omnipotence. Surely this is the thing, if any, that we can say about God using positive terminology. “God is all-powerful.” We know what power is. It is work done over a period of time. That is not a mere scientific definition, it is true when we speak of powerful people. The sooner something happens after the powerful person commands it, the more powerful we say they are. This is increasingly true when what they command is complex.

What could be more complex than creating the Universe with all that it hold and keeping it running according to your will? And then to do it without time? Surely this is all powerful.

But here we find a similar time of ambiguity we had with calling God Love or Mercy or Kindness. How does something exist outside of time?
Douglas Adams describes the experience of infinity similar to that which would allow us to experience out-of-time-ness. Adams says, “suddenly Arthur had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like…The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very very big, so ig that it gave in impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.”

What are we to make of this? I would like to suggest that, just as it is easier to get a clearer picture of infinity from something that is simply extremely large than it is from infinity itself, it is easier to understand out-of-time-ness by regarding an immensely small amount of time.
Think about your fastest reaction time, about 0.215 seconds. That is not small enough.
 Think about the amount of time between a ball hitting a bat and you hearing the sound if you’re 10 metres away, about 0.029387 seconds. That, too, is not small enough.
Think about seeing an office building’s lights turn off from about a kilometre away, about 0.0000333564 second. That’s still not close enough.
Consider, then, the amount of time between the ball hitting the bat and you seeing it from 10m. That’s about 3.3357 × 10^-8 seconds or 0.00000033357 seconds. We’re getting closer, now.
Think about sitting 10cm away from a light globe when it’s turned on. The difference in its lighting up and you seeing that is 0.000000003.333564 seconds (3.333564 x 10^-10).

 It seems instantaneous, but it’s not.
It’s like God does in an infinite amount of work in an infinitely small amount of time.
When God acts, it is instantaneous.

Power = Work/time
P = ∞
W = ∞
t = 0

God divides by zero.


Kelly said...

The quote from Douglas Adams can be found in The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy which was first published by Pan Books Ltd. in 1979.

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