Monday, 2 July 2018

God as a Time Traveller

I love Time Travel stories, especially when they involve convoluted paradoxes, and changes made in the past that affect the present. Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder” is the quintessential time travel story, about a man that travels back in time to hunt dinosaurs, steps off the path and kills a butterfly, and then travels back to the present and finds changes, big and small all from a dead butterfly 66 million years ago.
My granddaughter and I watch the current TV show “Timeless” together, which is about a group that chases a rogue time traveler, trying to keep him from changing the past.  As they return at the end of each show, little things have changed in the present due to their interacting with the past.
I often wonder if God can travel in time. It would explain how he can know the future! There is not a lot written in LDS theology about God and time.  Going back over a hundred years, both Orson Pratt and B. H. Roberts affirmed that God is in time, and has a past, present and future. Pratt wrote:  “The true God exists both in time and space. He has extension, and form, and dimensions, as well as man. He occupies space; has a body, parts, and passions; can go from place to place—can eat, drink, and talk, as well as man.” [1] Roberts said that God the son “became man,” that there was for him a “before and after,” and that “here there is a succession of time with God—a before and after; here is being and becoming.”[2]
More recently Apostle Neal A. Maxwell spoke of a different position: “Once the believer acknowledges that the past, present, and future are before God simultaneously—even though we do not understand how, then the doctrine of fore-ordination may be seen somewhat more clearly” (emphasis in original).[3] Elder Maxwell also suggested that God could not know what is in our future unless he is outside of time and knows all things simultaneously, so that God actually sees rather than foresees the future and is never surprised by what happens, although we often are. [4]
So what do you think?  Is God outside of time, and able to travel to and fro through the eons? Can he drop in on any time in history, or is he governed by time like us mortals, with a before, present and future?
(Full disclosure: The idea for this post and references cited were taken from Line Upon Line, Essays on Mormon Doctrine, chapter six “Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience in Mormon Theology”  by Kent E. Robson)
[1]  Orson Pratt, The Kingdom of God (Liverpool), 31 Oct. 1848, 48.
[2]  B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (Salt Lake City, 1903), 95-96.
[3] See Neal A. Maxwell, “A More Determined Discipleship,” Ensign 9 (Feb. 1979), 2:69-73; and All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979).
[4] See Maxwell, “Discipleship,” 70-71; see also Maxwell, Experience, 37.

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