Table of Contents
Part I: The Nature of Time
TIME: THE SCIENTIFIC ACCOUNT
In the history
of science it has frequently been observed that every new theory
involving highly abstract ideas has to be discussed and argued
about for some time among the big brains, the egg-heads and the
boys with the bifocals before it can be understood by the educated
public in general. In the ordinary processes of conversation
the words and phrases and analogies essential for its verbalization
have to be generated and re-combined and hammered out in various
ways before the theory can be communicated meaningfully to a
At first the search for terms with which to convey the new idea
is slow and tedious and, for all but a few specialists, quite
inadequate. But in the course of time a form of literary 'natural
selection' operates to eliminate terms that prove inappropriate,
and to refine those that clarify the issues. Modes of expression
are standardized. Specialized vocabularies emerge, and acceptable
analogies find currency. More and more individuals come to attach
the same meanings to phrases that are commandeered as the particular
property of those who possess the new truth. A scientific jargon
grows up that facilitates expression and gives new freedom not
only to the exchange of ideas but even to the creation
of them. The more abstract and removed from common sense the
theory is, the longer it takes,for it to percolate down to the
lower levels. Occasionally the process is accelerated by the
appearance of some scientific genius who has a peculiar gift
for expressing the abstruse in remarkably appropriate common
terms, thus bridging the gap from the
specialist to the layman
more rapidly. Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans were men
of this type.
The Theory of Relativity is a case in point. The difficulty of
making the implications clear was increased by the fact that
the concepts being dealt with were common ones, like space and
time. This had the effect of misleading the public into supposing
that employing the terms themselves is equivalent to grasping
the special meanings now being attached to them. Since relativity
is applied to time, everybody knows what is meant because
we all experience apparent fluctuations when we are waiting
for somebody or when we are trying not to be late! And as far
as space is concerned, it is just an enormous empty box with
no top or bottom, and with the sides knocked out. All this is
plain common sense. . . .
The problem was further complicated by the fact that the novelty
of the idea stirred the imagination of popular science writers
who explained Relativity to their readers by the use of analogies
which at first appeared to give immediate insight into the new
mysteries but afterwards proved to be somewhat misleading. Those
whose thinking had taken the wrong road found it difficult to
escape from the insights supposedly gained. In order to achieve
the more profound understanding, they had to undo their thinking
and start again.
This chapter will suffer from both these difficulties: from the
fact that we must use terms which we already assume we understand,
and analogies which are bound to break down if they are pressed
too far. Undoubtedly much discussion and argument will be required
to generate the more precise terms and phrases needed to crystallize
the somewhat new application of the Theory of Relativity to the
biblical meaning of time and eternity and to the experience we
shall all face when we make the passage from the one to the other
as we pass out of this world into the next.
Time: an epiphenomenon of space
Now one of the basic tenets of Einstein's theory and one
which, as we have seen, he was by no means the first to enunciate
is that Time has no meaning or reality apart from the physical
universe, and it cannot be said to have existed prior to the
creation of it. This in itself is difficult enough for anyone
who has not reflected upon it before. But there is an equally
important corollary: namely, that in a purely spiritual world
(in which matter as presently constituted has no place) the same
situation would exist there would
be no passage of time
as commonly understood. This must have been true before creation
when only God existed. And when the present order of things is
over there will still be a real enough world but it will be a
world transformed in the same way that our physical bodies are
to be transformed, possessing characteristics and capabilities
entirely foreign to our present experience. The transformation
is analogous to that which occurred to the Lord's body after
the resurrection. Clearly his body no longer occupied space,
even though He could at will so materialize it that they could
hold Him by the feet, and Thomas could explore the wounds with
his finger. Such a real world in which things do not occupy space
has to be a world in which there is no time, or a world in which
there is an entirely new kind of time.
The Theory of Relativity has brought to light the fact that Time
does not exist in its own right, nor does it have a rate of flow
which is eternally fixed. I do not mean by this merely that time
is experienced by individuals differently while the rest of us
continue to observe its uniform passage at an absolute rate.
I mean that even if there was no one present at all, the flow
of time would still be different in different parts of the universe.
It has no universally sustained flow rate. Considered objectively,
there is no absolute rate at which time flows by, or will flow
by in the future, or has flowed by in the past. This is where
we have to rethink our concept of Time. It is something which
has been experimentally demonstrated in an entirely objective
way, and has nothing whatever to do with the private world of
the individual and his subjective experience of time.
Furthermore, Time turns out to be a kind of epiphenomenon of
space and is therefore eclipsed in the experience of all those
who escape from the confines of the natural world to which the
concept of space is wedded. The relativity of Time in this sense
is now part and parcel of the philosophy of modern physics, yet
it is really only understood apprehended, would be a better
word by something akin to spiritual insight. And the implications
of it are highly complex, particularly with respect to the experience
of the soul's passage from this life into the next when the journey
is made from time into eternity, from a world confined in space
into a world which is not confined in space. The light which
is thrown upon many portions of Scripture in this connection
fully justifies the effort which will be necessary to perceive
the implications of what we are going to talk about in the rest
of this volume an effort made particularly necessary because
we have first to abandon our common sense views of what Time
That Scripture explicitly
and repeatedly takes into account the fact that Time is wedded
to the material world but not to the spiritual world is by no
means a new discovery. As we have seen, philosophers like Philo
and theologians like Augustine saw it clearly enough. But a careful
exploration of those passages of Scripture which reflect this
wonderful truth reveals much more than has been hitherto suspected:
and the revelation is, to put it quite simply, a truly wonderful
one. But before examining these passages it will help somewhat
to review briefly the historical background of the events which
led up to Einstein's formulation of the essential principle of
the Theory of Relativity. It is, however, very important to observe
that the experiments which led to Einstein's formulation of the
concept of the relativity of time are not the basis upon which
our understanding of the New Testament view of time must be built,
although they have provided a stimulus to a more careful study
of the implications of what is said in the New
Testament on the matter. Even if the Theory of Relativity should
one day prove wrong, we can still be thankful that it was formulated
because it has led us to a more perceptive examination of what
the New Testament has been saying about the journey we shall
all make out of time into eternity when we pass to be forever
with the Lord.
It will be convenient in this study to consider the matter under
two headings: first, RELATIVITY of time; and second, its
coincidence with or dependence upon the physical world. In slightly
different terms these might be stated in the form of two questions:
How fast does time really go? and What kind of life shall we
live when it is independent of matter and therefore of space
and so also of time?
The first question involves us in a brief review of the experiments
which led Einstein to his formulation, and the second involves
us in what the Word of God has revealed about the nature of eternity
-- which, in the chapters which follow, will carry us away from
science and philosophy into the Scriptures themselves.
Measuring the speed of light
Now it was once thought that light was instantaneous. No sooner
did a man switch on his flashlight than the beam hit the wall.
The speed of a light beam was infinite. But in the seventeenth
century an astronomer
named Ole Roemer (16441710)
found that eclipses of the moons of Jupiter occurred sixteen
minutes earlier when Jupiter and the earth were on the same side
of the sun than when on opposite sides. After some reflection,
he rightly concluded that light was taking time to arrive
at the earth. Light was therefore not instantaneous after all.
The difference in distance between the earth and Jupiter in the
one case made the light late in arriving, so that the events
at Jupiter were seen later than expected. His predictions of
the timing of the eclipses of its moons thus needed correction.
By measuring the "error" in time and knowing the distances
involved in the two situations, he was able to calculate how
long it took for the light to cross the intervening distance.
The time measured was sixteen minutes and when this was divided
into the number of miles, he found that the speed of light must
be approximately 186,000 miles per second. His discovery was
published posthumously in 1735. Subsequent experiments have refined
his calculations, now showing the speed of light to be nearly
186,283 miles per second.
This discovery was quickly seen to be the possible answer to
a cosmological problem which had been interesting astronomers
for sometime. It was supposed that if a light beam from an object
in the heavens passed the earth at a known speed other than 186,283
miles per second, the difference would tell us whether that object
was drawing nearer to the earth or away from it and at
what actual speed. By making measurements of this difference
from various sources of light out there in the universe, we ought
to be able to construct an accurate picture of the relative speeds
of any object in space. We thus would have a meter for determining
the true motions of all other visible objects and could work
out what was going where and, equally importantly, what
the relative positions had been in the past. Thus by extrapolating
backwards there would finally emerge a complete picture of the
history of the universe, showing the precise positions of all
heavenly bodies at any point as the universe evolved. All these
bodies in space were viewed rather like blobs of material floating
around in some kind of cosmic ocean, the substance of which had
very special properties. It was not exactly like water, for obvious
reasons, but it was very real. It was called ether.
Now it is necessary to say a word or two by way of background
information regarding the concept of a supposed universal ether
in which everything floated and made its circular movements in
a smooth and orderly manner.
A beam of light behaves
in a peculiar way. Its behaviour has led to considerable controversy
as to its nature. Sometimes it is best explained by treating
it as corpuscular, in which the beam is represented by a kind
of shotgun explosion of small pellets called photons (particles
of light). These photons are believed to have mass and therefore
to impact any object against which the stream of photons is fired.
Isaac Newton strongly favoured the corpuscular theory. Sir James
Jeans speaks of the gain in weight which results when a photographic
plate is exposed to light, as though some of these particles
had adhered to it. And he speaks of a target that can be shown
to "flinch under the impact of radiation from a bright light,
just as though a bullet had been fired into it."(1)
Furthermore, a light beam is bent in passing an object, the particles
which compose it evidently being influenced by the magnetic field
of the near body. Such findings seemed to justify the concept
of some kind of material substance being involved.
But in the early nineteenth century, the work of Thomas Young
in England and Augustin Fresnel of France demonstrated that a
wave motion of some kind must also be involved since beams of
light which coalesce or cross each other seem to interfere with
each other or combine much as sound waves do. Since all other
kinds of waves, whether sound or water, can only be transmitted
through some physical medium such as air or water, it seemed
natural to postulate that light waves also require a similar
medium of transmission. However, this medium must be tenuous
enough that the earth does not burn up as it races through it
in its path around the sun, yet it must also have substance enough
to permit the transmission of these waves of light. So in 1818
Fresnel revived the concept of ether, a name which was really
only another word for some kind of medium with unique transmission
properties like nothing hitherto known experimentally.
The virtual impossibility of reconciling the two concepts of
the nature of light -- whether corpuscular or a form of wave
motion -- has stimulated unending debate since it is difficult
to see how it could be both. Stanley L. Jaki remarked:(2)
1. Jeans, Sir James, The Mysterious Universe,
Cambridge (England), Cambridge University Press, 1931, pp. 48
2. Jaki, Stanley L., The Relevance of Physics, University
of Chicago Press, 1966, p.92.
It is almost amusing to recall how often
either one or the other theory was declared to be definitely
and finally destroyed. For there could be no truce, no compromise,
between conflicting concepts like waves and corpuscles, because
it was of the very essence of mechanism that conceptual explanations
must reflect the unitary mode of existence of the real world,
which was taken to be mechanical.
The Cosmological Principle
Meanwhile, various schemes have been proposed for establishing
the absolute speed of the earth through this "ethereal ocean."
If the earth is moving through an ocean of some kind, it ought
to be possible to demonstrate it. It is essential to establish
the earth's motion as a basic reference point for all other extra-terrestrial
measurements of movement. If this is once done, it should then
be possible (using the speed of their light past the earth as
the tool) to determine the absolute motion of all other visible
bodies in the universe. But the prior question that has to be
answered is this, Does the ocean itself have a current of its
own or is it at absolute rest? If this can be established firmly,
and the speed of the earth through it, then on the basis of what
is known as the Cosmological Principle the movements of all other
distant galaxies might also be established. The Cosmological
Principle makes the assumption that the earth is not in any unique
place in the universe and therefore that what is observed of
the universe from the earth would also be observed of the universe
from any other galaxy. It assumes that we can safely extrapolate
from our local findings and gain information about what is going
on everywhere else in the universe. The important thing is to
find out what the earth's motion through space really is in order
to interpret the apparent motions of all other galaxies that
we can observe.
The situation is, however, further complicated by the fact that
we appear to be living in an expanding universe. The distance
between other galaxies out in space and our own seems to be increasing
as the perimeter of the universe is enlarged. This increase in
distance between us and them could mean that we are chasing these
remote galaxies but losing the race, like a dog chasing a car.
On the other hand, it could
mean that they are really
chasing us, while we are making our escape. A third
alternative is that we are all flying apart like fragments flung
out from some prior explosion in an ever widening circle. In
any case, both they and we are moving and the distance between
us seems to be increasing. But we don't know which of these three
possibilities is really occurring. If the ether exists and is
stationary, we should be able to discover the precise nature
of all these movements by trapping the light from any given star
as it passes the earth or as it impacts upon it and comparing
its velocity with our own known speed through the ether.
The Michelson-Morley experiment
Such in principle was the prospect up to the time of the second
(and more famous) Michelson-Morley experiment conducted in Cleveland,
Ohio, in 1887. It was a crucial experiment because it finally
disproved the hypothesis of a universal luminiferous (i.e., light
carrying) ether. And the problems it posed turned out to be the
pabulum for Einstein's theory regarding the relativity of Time.
The background of this experiment is, very briefly, as follows.
If we know that the velocity of a wind is 30 miles per hour and
we run towards it and find out by a wind meter that it has increased
to 36 mph, we know we ourselves are moving towards it at 6 mph.
If we run with the wind and the wind meter shows that it is now
passing us at only 24 mph, we know that we are still moving at
6 mph -- but in the opposite direction. If our meter shows
30 mph, we know we are either stationary or running across
its course, neither into it or away from it.
This is a principle which could be used to determine the speed
of the earth through the ocean of ether, especially if the ether
has a current of its own. If the ether is not stationary, the
movement of the earth through it is analogous to the individual
who runs into the wind or away from the wind or across the wind.
All we need is a meter that will read what our speed is in the
three situations. It is also a principle that could be used with
modifications to find the relative velocity of the stars, for
the velocity of the earth around the sun could be added to or
subtracted from the speed at which a beam of light from any particular
star is coming towards us. Knowing our own speed around the sun,
we could then determine whether the star was moving towards us
or away from us, and at what speed since we know
what the speed of light is. We
merely add or subtract
our own speed from that of the beam of light reaching us from
that star. The earth's velocity through space, detected by either
an addition or a subtraction of the speed of the beam of light,
would indeed be very small; but it was believed that with sufficiently
accurate instruments a useful measurement might be made. There
are other complicating factors, but the only object at the moment
is to demonstrate the basic principle involved.
Towards the end of the last century two men in particular became
involved in an attempt to settle the question of the earth's
speed of passage through the supposed ether. They were Albert
A. Michelson (18521931) and Edward Morley (18381923).
It is not necessary to describe here how they went about it:
what is important is to note one unexpected result from their
Their first experiment was undertaken in 1881. It seemed to demonstrate
that there was no ocean of ether through which the earth
was moving, but the results were challenged on the grounds that
their experimental procedure was faulty due to vibration from
local traffic. In 1887 with improved equipment, a location largely
free from such vibrations and with a sophisticated mounting for
the instrument that dampened any vibrations there might be, they
fully verified their previous findings and convinced the scientific
world that the earth was not moving through any kind of medium
such as the ether was supposed to be.
But they did discover something else. They found that a light
beam trapped in their instrument took the same time to traverse
the course whether the instrument was moving towards, or across,
or away from the source of light. This, of course, is theoretically
impossible! If light has a fixed speed (as was assumed) and we
move towards it at some measurable velocity, the light must impact
us at a velocity equal to the two speeds combined. But although
the instrument in its refined design was fully capable of detecting
the theoretical increment in speed that was predicted, no such
increment was observable. Writing in the British science journal,
Nature, R. S. Shankland summed up the experimental evidence
The work with this apparatus continued from 1886 until July
1887 and was conducted in buildings on the adjacent Case and
Western Reserve campuses. The definitive null result obtained
in these experiments led to profound changes in the development
of physics. . . . It is needless to say that the most direct
and now universally accepted explanation for the Michelson-Morley
experiment. . . is provided by the Special Theory of Relativity
given by Albert Einstein in 1905.
3. Shankland, R. S., "Michelson, A. A.,
1852-1931", Nature, vol. 171, 17 Jan., 1953, p. l02.
J. W. N. Sullivan commented
on the significance of what they had found regarding the uniform
speed of light in the following words:(4)
[The Michelson-Morley Experiment] has been repeated many times.
In principle it is very simple. If the earth is moving through
a stationary ether, it can be shown that two rays of light, the
one moving in the direction of the earth's motion and the other
at right angles to it, should take unequal times to cover the
same distance. But although the experiment has often been repeated,
no difference has ever been found, though in some of these experiments
the apparatus has been so delicate that a difference a hundred
times less than the difference expected could have been measured.
. . .
The dilemma thus created is a very real one and the way out,
which was shown by Einstein in 1907, is an effort of genius of
the highest order. . . . Einstein asserted that the
velocity of light is always the same whether we measure this
velocity from a system which is in motion or a system that is
this implies. If the light beam from a flashlight travels through
the air at 186,283 miles per second, the speed of the beam of
light is not accelerated one iota by switching the flashlight
on when it is in rapid movement in the same direction as the
beam. Were we to shoot the flashlight from a gun with a high
muzzle velocity and switch the flashlight on by remote control
in mid-flight and then measure the speed of the beam of light
emerging from it, we would find it still was traveling at 186,283
miles per second and no more! Even more surprising is the
finding that if the flashlight itself is stationary and we fly
into the beam as fast as we can possibly go, we shall still find
that the beam of light is coming towards us at precisely the
speed it does when we are not moving at all, namely, 186,283
miles per second!
William Hudgings put it this way.(5)
Einstein's declaration is that if two observers are on opposite
sides of the rotating earth, one revolving away from the sun
and the other towards it, the instruments of each observer will
indicate that the rays are
4. Sullivan, J. W. N., Limitations of Science,
Harmondsworth (Eng.), Pelican, 1938, p.69.
5. Hudgings, William, An Introduction to Einstein's Theory
of Relativity, Girard, Kansas (U.S.A.), Haldiman-Julius,
travelling past him at exactly the same
speed. . . regardless of whether he is traveling towards or away
from the sun. This phenomenon has been referred to as Einstein's
Principle of Constancy. It means simply that light impacts
an object at a uniform velocity regardless of whether the object
is moving away from or towards the source of light at any speed
less than the speed of light.
Let me repeat this once again by using an
analogy. If you stand up in an open car and are driven towards
me at 20 miles per hour and I throw a baseball towards you at
30 mph, the ball will meet your hands at 50 mph (the sum of the
two speeds) and the impact will be very painful! If you are driven
away from me at 20 mph and I throw a baseball to you at 30 mph,
it will strike your hand at only 10 mph (the difference between
the two speeds) and you'll feel no pain at all in catching it.
Thus your speed towards or away from the ball which is thrown
towards you always at the same speed makes a profound difference
on the force of the impact with your hand. But one of the results
of the Michelson-Morley Experiment was to demonstrate that this
is not true with a beam of light. Though it does have a measurable
velocity and does actually impact when it strikes something,
it makes no difference to the force of the impact -- no matter
what the speed of the receiver is, whether traveling towards
or away from the source of light. Nor does it make any difference
at what speed the object is moving that emits the beam of light
to begin with.
Time: the fourth dimension
Einstein offered a deceptively simple explanation. The speed
of anything has to be measured with a clock, and the clock which
is moving towards the source of light is ticking off one kind
of seconds-interval and the clock which is moving away from the
source of light is ticking off another kind of seconds-interval.
Each clock is actually running at a different rate. In the case
of Hudgings' two observers, one on each side of the globe, one
moving towards and one away from the sun, two clocks were involved
and they were keeping different time. They may have been
synchronized when the two observers met together on one side
of the globe before the experiment, but by the time they had
parted company and were standing on opposite sides of the globe,
each traveling at up to a thousand miles per hour in opposite
(depending on where
they were positioned), their clocks no longer kept the same time.
It is not that they were operating in a different time zone,
it is rather that the hands of their clocks were moving around
at different speeds. Accordingly, their measurements of the
speed of the impact of the light beams were different.
Taking into account the difference in the rate at which the two
clocks were running, the logical contradiction of any such experiment
can be resolved. Each clock marks the passage of time at a rate
dependent entirely upon its movement through space, and since
the observer travels with it he is quite unaware of this flow
rate of time. Time is not merely subjectively relative in its
rate of flow past the observer, but it is also objectively
different for the two observers.
The question then arises, Which of the two clocks is running
at the proper speed? Einstein's answer is, "Both" and
"Neither": there is no such thing as an absolute speed
for the passage of time. The passage of time is entirely relative
and its rate of flow is established by each observer in each
situation for himself. As soon as I take my clock into his particular
situation it promptly keeps his time, but I am not aware of any
speeding up or slowing down that has occurred because my clock
has now changed to his time rate. Since we are both in the same
situation, the clocks synchronize. It is therefore impossible
to discover the "error" in a clock, if one can speak
of an "error" in such a situation. In some way Nature
has contrived (sometimes the word conspired is used) to
make it impossible to discover any absolute rate of the passage
of Time. Until we state where the time is to be measured, in
what part of the universe and under what circumstances, we cannot
say with any certainty at what rate it is flowing. Thus Time
is bound up with movement through space, and it becomes
a fourth dimension.
The clock paradox
Experiments have since demonstrated that any clock which is moved
through space either at an accelerated rate or in an arc (and
this applies to the clocks held by Hudgings' two observers) will
slow up.(6) How
much it slows up depends upon the rate of acceleration. It thus
happens that if a man were to
6. On this see Robert Walgate, reviewing J.
G. Taylor, Special Relativity in New Scientist,
vol. 67, 24 July, 1975, p.223.
be shot into space in
a circular arc which would bring him back to his starting point,
and if when he began his journey he synchronized his watch with
his wife's who stayed at home, when he got home he would find
that he was younger than he ought to be by just the amount that
his watch had been slowed up in his journey. His wife, being
stationary, would have experienced "normal" time, while
he would have observed a slower passage of time and would accordingly
have aged less in the interval. It is believed that all the chemical
reactions in his body would also have been slowed up so that
his greater youthfulness would not merely be the result of the
difference in the two clocks.(7)
This slowing up with the right kind of
motion is a real effect and not merely a theoretical one. It
is born out by the fact that certain radioactive substances (whose
normal life is known) have an increased longevity when they are
moved at high rates of acceleration. J. Bronowski observed in
For example, we know by observation how long a meson of one
kind survives from the instant of its creation to its disintegration
if it remains at rest. We also know by observation how long the
same kind of meson survives when it is travelling at high speed.
The travelling meson lives longer, in our time, than the meson
at rest [my emphasis].
Now this "clock paradox," as it
is called, is not a conundrum dreamed up to intrigue the public
or challenge budding philosophers, but is a clearly predictable
and recently demonstrated fact. The universe really is so constituted
that clocks behave in this baffling way. A physicist (Joe C.
Hafele of Washington University in St. Louis) and an astronomer
(Richard Keating of the US Naval Observatory) have verified the
reality of the paradox.(9) In October of 1972, using four extremely precise
atomic clocks, they set off on two successive round-the-world
plane trips in opposite directions. On the east-bound trip they
travelled with the
7. Rothman, Milton A., "Recent Events
in Relativity" in Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institute,
1964, Publication No. 4613, p.397.
8. Bronowski, J., "The Clock Paradox," Scientific
American, vol. 208, no. 2, Feb., 1963, p.136.
9. See "Clocking Einstein," report in Science Section,
Time Magazine, 27 March, 1972. See also Milton A. Rothman,
"Recent Events in Relativity" in Annual Report of
the Smithsonian Institute, 1964, Publication No. 4613, p.397.
earth's rotation and
therefore added their airspeed to the earth's speed of rotation
relative to a "stationary" clock back in Washington
University. On the west-bound trip they subtracted the earth's
speed of rotation from their airspeed. Thus the difference in
speed along a circular path would be magnified between the two
planes with respect to the stationary clock in Washington University.
Since the clocks were synchronized at the start, certain divergencies
in time ahead of or behind the Washington University clock were
The results of the experiment bore out the predictions. According
to the theory, the clocks should have lost 40 billionths of a
second on the east-bound trip and gained 275 billionths of a
second on the west-bound. In actual fact the results were only
5% off the predicted value in the east-bound and 30% in the west-bound.(10)
Such discrepancies may seem far too small for validation, but
it was evident that there was a real difference in time in each
direction, and in the one case it was remarkably close to expectation.
Moreover, in both cases the divergence was in the predicted direction.
It may be wondered how such small divergencies could possibly
be measured accurately. But it is necessary to bear in mind that
the time-keepers were atomic clocks, governed not by the natural
frequency of a balance wheel with, say, four reversals per second,
but a cesium atom which when electrically excited vibrates precisely
with a resonance frequency of 9,192,631,770 cycles a second.
This frequency represents in effect nine billion ticks per second
or 540 billion ticks per minute, and therefore 32,400 billion
ticks per hour. Assuming the planes took several hours to make
the round trip, this could easily involve a total of half a million
billion ticks during the interval. It requires pretty sensitive
monitoring to detect such a tiny departure from expectation but
it is not by any means beyond present competence. Hafele said
afterwards, "The experiment was successful beyond our best
Time: no independent existence
So time has no set pace. Under different conditions it travels
more slowly or more quickly. There is no such thing as absolute
time. Moreover, time has no existence at all, independently of
matter, because it has no independent existence apart from motion.
Consider what would happen if all motion in the universe
10. For a fuller report on this, see Nigel Calder, Einstein's
Universe, New York, Viking Press, 1979, p.31.
were reduced to zero.
On this subject Thomson King makes the following observation:(11)
As the rapidity of movements were everywhere reduced, events
would occur more slowly compared with their present rate, but
not as compared with each other [my emphasis]: for I am assuming
that all motions would be reduced at the same rate. A "year"
would be longer than our year, but a clock would tick the same
number of beats as in normal years. Light would travel the same
distance in a second, for seconds would be longer. When all motion
was reduced to zero, time would disappear.
When the galaxies and the molecules ceased to move, when electrons
no longer spun, when radiation (losing both frequency and velocity)
ceased to be energy, nothing could happen; there would be no
change, no events. There could be no flow of time; everything
would be frozen in an eternal present.
In a spiritual world of which space was essentially
non-material, time would be non-extensible in some as yet unrealized
way. It would, in fact, become eternity. Everything would be
present. It would make reality more real, not less real; for
we recognize, even now, that in our world everything is constantly
changing, nothing abides unchanged. But in a world in which change
per se would no longer be necessary since everything is perfect,
then time can be no more. We slip out of time into eternity when
we pass out of this order of changing things into a new and perfect
order that is as unchanging in its perfection as God is. As Augustine
in his City of God expressed it: "If eternity and time were
rightly distinguished by this, that time does not exist without
some movement and transition, while in eternity there is no change,
who doesn't see. . . that God, in whose eternity. . . is no change
at all, is the Creator and Ordainer of time. . . ."(12) A truly remarkable anticipation.
A little later he wrote with profound insight:(13)
Not in our fashion does He look forward to what is future,
nor at what is present, nor back upon what is past; but in a
manner quite different, and far and profoundly remote from our
way of thinking. For He does not pass from this to that by transition
of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness.
. . .
11. King, Thomson, "On Time as a Product
of Motion", Scientific Monthly, vol. 67, October
1948, p. 290.
12. Augustine, City of God, Bk. XI. 6.
13. Augustine, City of God, Bk. XI. 21.
We really have no concept
of what a changeless world would be but we can usefully explore
some of the consequences of what timelessness might mean to us
when we leave this vale of tears. And meanwhile we can answer
the first question we asked, "How fast does time pass?"
by saying that time has no absolute rate of passage and is almost
certainly as transient a reality as the physical world in which
we live. The real world is the world which is just beyond our
vision, and it is an eternal world. In the present world, as
Henri Bergson said, the only thing that is unchanging is change
itself. Absolutely nothing is permanent. In the world which is
to come we shall discover permanence in a new way and in a new
form. Once we step outside this present world, the flow of time
as we now experience it will cease to exist for us, even as it
had not existed until God began his creative activities. There
will be no conscious waiting, no "marking" time, no
longing for that which is yet future, no wondering "if"
or "when." We shall dwell as God dwells, "in eternity,"
where the past or the future can all be experienced in the present
the moment we wish so to experience them -- for "time"
shall be no more (Revelation 10:6).(14)
When God became man, the eternal was somehow wedded to the temporal,
and time slipped easily in and out of eternity. In the next chapter
we shall explore one critical occasion upon which this occurred
for the Lord Jesus Christ.
14. I do not think it likely that the proposed
alternative rendering of the word time (chronos in Greek)
by the word delay is anything more than an attempt to
obviate the difficulty that the average reader has in comprehending
a "world without time." It
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next
is only rarely used in classical Greek in this secondary sense.
Certainly it is not the primary meaning for the word and only
comes to have this secondary meaning when the accompanying verb
specifically indicates it as, for instance, "begging
for time," or deliberately "causing a delay" to
serve one's purposes.