If time is relative according to the theory of relativity, and that means it’s a contingent thing, not a necessary thing, then that leads to the conclusion that it’s not an absolute framework for all existence. I’m wondering if that Einsteinian principle gives us a clue about Divine eternality?
In the movie Interstellar the characters find themselves, at one point, deliberating whether or not to do an exploratory mission to find out if a given planet is habitable. The trick is that this particular mission would put them in a sort of time-stretching perimeter where one hour there would be 7 years back on earth. Wild thought! But, lets suppose that Einstein was right–I’m in no position to question him. And suppose, further still, that the movie’s premise is at least someone close to how time could work–where time really is stretched and shrunk as just another contingency in this vast complicated universe. If time does not frame everything absolutely, like some changeless immortal foundation for existence, then there could be things which have a relation to time which has no duration while others have a long duration.
It’s not as if God would have to “feel” a temporal change so he could exist. Nor doe he have to endure changes or act within time so that he is subject to measurable changes. God could possess all knowledge of time, even the felt sense of “experiencing” time so long as he is not literally subject to time. God could know from his timeless eternality–say, a “temporal” point of no duration–exactly what day it is on earth, what it “feels” like to be late for work on a monday, or what it “feels” like to be old. As long as he doesn’t experience these through mediated things like a body or through time. If time is a contingency, then putting God in time potentially subjects him to something else, and that suffers allegations of subjugating the Sovereign and Self-existent God. Moreover, if God is in time, then that could only happen if there is something of Him that can be measured in terms of “befores” and “afters.” But an unchanging God has no changes whereby a “before” could be distinguished from an “after.”
Sometimes it’s objected that God is eternal but his acts are temporal, God acts in time therefore God is in time. This objection rightly distinguishes the nature of God from the acts of God. God might create the world but that doesn’t mean He is the world. The world is an effect of God’s creative causality. However, God could act for all of time and history from a logical point of no temporal duration in such a way that all of history would be experiencing the linear temporal effects of his action. And if we don’t have to dispose of the doctrine of (timeless) eternality, then it should be kept–at least since it coheres with the hard-fought vindications of classical theism. God’s relation to time is that of inventor to invention. God has created the very temporal framework and all that populates it. God is the cause of time, an effect. Therefore, God’s “temporal” position would be one of zero duration, where a backwards analysis of time unveils a singularity of infinite and zero time, likewise, it would be infinite density with zero space. God occupies no time yet is present to all time. God’s singular causal activity from within atemporal eternity could manifest as the linear reverberations across all of history.
The relativity of time may also shed light on the nature of purgatory, heaven, and hell. But that would be another blog post. But Interstellar does have a few landscapes akin to each of those too. I recommend the movie. Maybe it inspires you to think as it inspired me.