About the Book
Table of Contents
Part I: Time and Eternity:Creation
and the Theory of Relativity
Time and Relativity in Creation
BEFORE WE COME
to consider the spiritual aspects, it seems desirable to review
briefly the bearing which the Theory of Relativity has upon the
"time" taken for Creation. To begin with, the possibility
of a real acceleration or deceleration of Time in certain given
circumstances introduces the question of whether time was needed
for the Creation at all, or whether it might have been instantaneous.
It might be well to state clearly, first of all, that Scripture
does not demand the Universe to have been created instantly.
Its evidence of "age" is probably not a deception deliberately
introduced by the Creator for some unknown reason. The age is
real. (19) Whether
we argue for 4,000,000,000 years or twice or half this amount
-- it is not important at the moment -- it seems clear that the
Universe is very old.
But what does such a concept mean,
and was it necessary for God to work so "slowly"? Could
He have created it all, as was once supposed, in a moment of
time? Was there any fundamental advantage in establishing the
time-consuming process which seems to characterize geological
change, if such changes could actually have been in some way
vastly accelerated "to save time"?
First, we may ask whether the actual
age of the Universe has any meaning at all. Suppose all
the "clocks" by which we now "tell" geological
time are actually running fast ‹ would we be aware of it?
Is it not possible that all geological (and chemical) processes
at one time occurred much more rapidly? Could we discover the
fact if it were indeed the case? It seems doubtful. All the counting
devices in the world that give us an age of so many millions
of years are perhaps right -- in that they are being read correctly
and register consistently and in concordance with one another.
But we still do not know
19. This is considered in some detail in another Doorway
Paper, "The Preparation of the Earth for Man," Part
I in Evolution or Creation, vol.4 of The Doorway Papers
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whether the rates involved
are absolute and have always been what they now are. Just
as Nature conspires to conceal Absolute Time, so it may have
closed the door against any inquiry into the absolute rate of
the passage of time in the past. We are speaking, of course,
of geological time, and not the time since man appeared.
In any case, the appearance of
age could have a purpose, even if it were an appearance only.
Appearance or reality, we unconsciously derive considerable comfort
from it. This comfort is both of an intellectual and a psychological
‹ perhaps one might even say a spiritual ‹ nature.
Intellectually, there is
real satisfaction in being able to unravel the stages by which
something complex has come to be what it is. It is rather like
a mystery story or a detective novel. Sometimes it almost looks
as though God took delight in this process of unravelling, either
by leaving in the rocks some special link in the chain of evidence
‹ like a single specimen of Archaeopteryx, for example ‹
or by confounding the experts by preserving some remote form,
out of context as it were, like the Coelacanth. For some men,
the adventure takes on the form of a spiritual exercise, as when
Kepler in studying the starry heavens is said to have exclaimed
involuntarily, "O God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after
Thee." The thrill of being able to visualize what underlies
the countryside at one's feet, with its hills and valleys, cliffs
and plains, and occasionally to stoop down and pick up some small
but exquisite fossil of a shell or a leaf, is something experienced
universally by those who have sufficient training to recognize
what they see. And because imagination knows no bounds, it seems
to revel in the expanse of time in the past, as it does in the
mystery of space above.
Moreover, from a knowledge of the
order in which forms were introduced, we may draw a peculiar
satisfaction. We could, of course, be reading too much into the
"text"; but it does look as though some special forms
of life of particular delight to man ‹ perfumed flowering
plants, for example ‹ were introduced just in time to gain
profusion before his arrival. It is as though God put flowers
on the table shortly before His special guests were due. Had
they always been there, the effect would not have been the same.
Or again, as one studies paleontology,
one gains the strong impression that many, if not most, living
forms of more remote times would not have appeared particularly
beautiful in man's eyes, if he had been there. Possibly this
is the "fault" of those who attempt to reconstruct
them, but that does not seem too likely. They were on the whole
a rather terrifying or ungainly or frighteningly large
congregation of animals.
But as we approach the time of man's appearing, animals which
are more and more beautiful seem to crowd in upon the scene,
as though God knew what man's sense of beauty would require and
was pleased to prepare for it.
Of course, some may say, "But
there are many ugly animals still! Why didn't God finish the
job and convert them all?" The answer to this could possibly
be that He wanted to show that beauty was not necessarily an
aid to survival ‹ ugly animals have survived quite well.
Then it seems difficult to account for the appearance of beauty
other than by the supposition that God shares man's delight in
it. Again it may be said that much beauty in Creation is a sheer
waste, because man never sees it. I think Hugh Miller has the
answer to this. Speaking of the fossil shells and fishes that
characterize that segment of the rocks which is known as the
Old Red Sandstone, he says, (20)
Nor does it lessen the
wonder that their nicer ornaments should yield their beauty only
to the microscope. There is unity of character in every scale,
plate and fin . . . and yet the unassisted eye fails to discover
the finer evidences of this unity; it would seem as if the adorable
Architect had wrought it out in secret with reference to the
Divine idea alone. . .
There is a feeling which at times
grows upon the painter and the carver, as if the perception and
love of the beautiful has been sublimed into a kind of a moral
sense. Art comes to be pursued for its own sake; the exquisite
conception in the mind, or the elegant and elaborate model, becomes
all in all to the worker, and the dread of criticism or the appetite
for praise almost nothing. And thus, through the influence of
a power somewhat akin to conscience, but whose province is not
the just and the good, but the fair and the beautiful, works
prosecuted in solitude and never intended for the world have
been fraught with loveliness.
Sir Thomas Lawrence, who finished
with the most consummate care a picture intended for a semi-barbarous
foreign court, was asked why he took so much pains with a piece
destined, perhaps, never to come under the eye of a connoisseur.
"I cannot help it," he replied, "I do the best
I can, unable through a tyrant feeling that will not brook offense,
to do anything less." It would be perhaps over bold to attribute
any such over-mastering feeling to the Creator Himself. Yet it
is certain, that among His creatures well nigh all approximations
towards perfection owe their origin to this feeling, though God
in all His works is His own Master.
If in the course
of time their beauty is buried in the earth, God sees fit to
uncover these rocks so as to disclose them again for those who
search. And if He masks their beauty by their very minuteness,
He gives to man the power to build a microscope so that one day
he may discover it. The millions of flowers that bloom unseen,
and which thus appear to be entirely wasted until we find them,
give us the
20. Miller, Hugh, The Old Red Sandstone,
Nimmo, Hay and Mitchell. Edinburgh, 1889. p.113.
assurance that we shall
not find in God's universe ugliness where beauty can replace
All Nature interacts as an organic
whole, and its harmony seems always to have been there, awaiting
discovery, even in geological times. In each passing phase of
the earth's history certain forms of plant life and animal life,
each exactly suited to fulfill its purpose, were introduced in
the appropriate order, modifying their environment and being
modified in turn until little by little the stage was reached
where the setting was ready for the climax ‹ the coming of
man. Prior to this, one might suppose that beauty was not important,
only the suitability of the form for the function. But by now,
the necessary plant life, animal life, and mineral accumulations
(coal, oil, gas, etc.) which contribute to man's position as
dominant in the earth (Genesis 1:26) were all made ready.
The evidence of forethought in
Creation is intellectually reassuring. It depends upon a certain
deliberate and measured plan of operation on God's part which,
whether apparent or real, contributes greatly to our well-being
and would not be evident if all were done instantaneously. Part
of this satisfaction is derived from a recognition that God timed
the Creation for man's benefit by introducing those forms of
life which would delight him most or serve him best only a short
time before introducing man himself. If Creation had been instantaneous,
this kind of deliberate forethought could hardly have been apparent,
unless of course God had at the same time created the appearance
There is something rather frightening
in the thought that at one moment nothing whatever existed, and
then five minutes later everything existed and that this happened
only a few hours before man appeared on the scene. Such a situation
has all the features of the "sudden and unexpected"
‹ which we usually find disturbing. This is completely contrary
to our experience. What we do for others is to a large extent
evaluated by them in terms of the time taken, because for us
time and energy are equated. In this context time means forethought,
and forethought means a plan, and plans take time. If we discover
that no time at all was taken in preparing for us -- which could
mean either that there was no planned preparation, or that it
was effortless and immediate -- the impression we gain is that
our coming meant very little to the One who prepared for it.
Perhaps God was pleased to take the long course (or at least
to appear to have done so) in order that we might discover how
carefully He planned and made preparations for us.
Furthermore, age does something
to things, mellowing and
in a special way. The very age of the hills adds to their beauty,
because experience teaches us that few things in life achieve
real beauty without time. God's method of perfecting the saints
follows this rule. By slowing up the work which He might have
done far more rapidly, He has made it possible for us to perceive
something of His method in Creation, something of the meaning
of His title, the "Ancient of Days," and something
of His right to be called the "God of all patience."
These are some of the sources of our spiritual comfort. God will,
in time, perfect that which He has begun in us ‹ however
long it may take.
In summary then, perhaps the process
was slowed up so that we could separate out the events into a
meaningful pattern which would permit us to discover how God
was preparing for us. He could just as readily have made the
same complete preparation instantaneously ‹ but we would
then have been unable to sort it out and make the discovery.
And by this method God revealed
Himself to us in a way not unfamiliar to our experience. In Scripture,
angels are sometimes given wings (as in Isaiah 6). Why? Possibly
because it would be contrary to our experience for someone to
be suspended in the air without rational means of overcoming
gravity. To some people, this would be distracting and they might
not have heard the message. The wings are surely quite unnecessary,
but are an accommodation to our sense of normality. So also perhaps
was the time taken to prepare the earth for man.
We often expect God to do at once
for us what we feel we urgently require ‹ and are disappointed
when He delays. But we ought not to lose confidence in His power
to act in His own good time. God works slowly when He sees that
this is the better way for our sakes, and not because there are
limitations to His power to work instantly.
Undoubtedly God could have accelerated
the original process immensely, so greatly in fact as to perform
what would be called instantaneous Creation. In Scripture there
are numerous instances of this, and they appear to us as miracles.
Some tiny organism for whom a few minutes is a lifetime may have
seen some of these as long, slow, developmental processes.
For example, when Peter drew his
sword and cut off Malchus' ear (Luke 22:50,51), the Lord instantaneously
re-created it. Surely He did not stoop down to pick it up and
press it firmly back into place to make it stay! Even if He did,
there must still have been an instantaneous re-creation of the
joining tissue which made it a true
and living ear once more.
Rapid as the process was, some tiny microbe may have watched
that ear grow as we might watch a human ear grow from the embryonic
to the mature adult stage. But the process was more rapid ‹
immensely so ‹ from our point of view.
Then, in effect, our objection
to instantaneous Creation may actually be based on our size.
Philosophically, this is not surprising if time is the fourth
dimension. One might logically suppose that an object with large
physical dimensions might in some way have large time dimensions.
An object is relatively larger and larger as the observer becomes
smaller and smaller. Consequently the smaller the observer, the
longer might the time be, or appear to be, associated with the
larger object. As we are puny observers of a physically immense
Universe, the time element is correspondingly immense. But objects
which appear small to us, and are therefore associated in some
psychological fashion with short intervals of time, must ‹
to creatures small enough to look upon the same objects as very
large ‹ appear to be associated with large periods of time:
that is, if they have any time sense at all. If we were microbes,
perhaps the restoration of Malchus' severed ear would not strike
us as remarkable in any way.
However, being as large as we are,
we may reasonably ask, "How old actually was this new ear?"
The question is not a facetious one. The implications are far
reaching. This new ear was a man's ear, not a child's, yet in
point of time, it was but a few minutes old. Should it then have
been created as an embryonic ear first, and then allowed to grow
slowly in order not to deceive us? Was this, in other words,
a deliberate deception?
And here we touch upon a problem
of considerable importance. Does God ever create an object instantaneously
which, in all other cases, is known to have taken a long time
to reach a similar stage, and does He give to it a form that
makes it look as though it really has reached its present
character by a long process of development which in fact has
never taken place?
If God created a tree instantly,
would it have tree rings, for example, to show that it was, say,
fifty years old, when in fact it was only a few minutes old?
Well, the case again is not purely hypothetical. Moses carried
a staff cut from a tree (Exodus 4:2 f., and 7:10). Undoubtedly
it bore witness of its age in the number of annular growth rings
it showed in its cross section. In due time, it became a serpent
-- a real, live serpent that was as completely different from
a piece of wood as any such serpent always is. Within a matter
minutes, with considerable
trepidation Moses took it up by the tail and it was restored
to its original self, a piece of wood with annular rings. These
rings would have told its age, but their witness would have been
false, for a few minutes earlier that particular piece of wood
had not existed in the universe.
And what of the serpent? Like other
reptiles, snakes are normally as long as they are old. They grow
until they die. This particular snake had a certain length, but
did that length actually bear witness to its true age? Undoubtedly
it was a species of snake familiar to the locality and recognized
by Moses as dangerous, for he fled from it. Was this a deception,
as we understand the term? The issue can become very involved,
and it suggests that when God chooses to act in a special way,
the ordinary processes of logical reasoning may not necessarily
apply. As Augustine put it, such situations are not contrary
to Nature, but contrary to what we know of Nature.
The reader may be well aware of
the ancient controversy regarding Michelangelo's painting in
the Sistine Chapel of the creation of Adam. Adam is shown with
a navel. The question is, Would God create Adam with this physiological
feature if it would only be accounted for by assuming that he
was born by natural generation which in this instance we know
was not the case? But here, by our standards of logical reasoning,
we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma: if Adam did not
have a navel, then this physiological structure must have been
different at a deeper level also, and one might question whether
Adam was really a true man. Of course we shall never know the
answer till we meet the Lord, for now we see only darkly. But
there is no doubt that in the first two cases from Scripture
which have been cited, the rules of logic break down. God can,
and does, create instantaneously upon occasion; when He does,
the event inevitably has a quality of deception about it: but
it is a deception because of the way our minds work and not because
of the way God works.
There are many occasions in Scripture
when such a situation has occurred. Consider those instances
in which food was miraculously multiplied. This occurred not
only in the New Testament in the case of the loaves and fishes,
but also in the Old Testament. In 2 Kings 4:43 loaves were multiplied,
and in 1 Kings 17:14 the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal
were strangely replenished. In the New Testament we are told
that the fragments which remained were gathered up and found
to compose an even greater quantity of food than was originally
employed by the Lord (John 6:9,13). Consider
these fragments for a
moment and suppose oneself in a laboratory on some experimental
farm. It would not be difficult, probably, to identify the wheat
which had been used; chemical analysis might even give
some indication of where it was grown. Yet what would this tell
us in this particular case? Absolutely nothing. It is inconceivable
to suppose that these fragments of bread actually had any history
whatever other than that they were the tangible demonstration
of God's creative power. The scientist in the experimental laboratory
might complain that he was being deceived. Yet the basis of his
deception would not be the Lord's creative activity, but his
own insistence that God must work according to certain principles
which he has been able to derive from studies carried out in
some other areas of God's world.
The raising of Lazarus is another
illustration of this principle. The condition of the dead man's
body was such that decay had already begun (John 11:39); to set
that body vibrant with life required the direct creation of millions
of new cells of all kinds. There is a sense, in fact, in which
this was the instantaneous creation of a living man; why then
should we suppose that God could not create a body at the very
beginning of human history and call it forth to life as the first
Adam exactly as Lazarus was called to life? It would surely be
quibbling to argue that the task in Lazarus' case was easier
because some, at least, of Lazarus remained!
The reader will remember that after
the resurrection, the Lord entertained the disciples by the Sea
of Galilee (John 21:4-13) and invited them to partake of the
fish He had already prepared. Is it conceivable that the Lord
obtained the fish from the nearest marketplace? Or had He caught
them (with His own hands) from the sea? Surely such a supposition
is absurd. Yet one cannot doubt that they were real fishes of
a size and age and species which would in no sense be distasteful
to the disciples for whom they were prepared. These men were
fishermen. How old were these fish?
But this is by no means all that
may be said. In all these instances we have, it seems, undoubted
examples of what must be termed ‹ to use a current phrase
‹ "creation with a history," i.e., things brought
into being in such a way that they appear to have a history behind
them which in actual fact they do not have. However, there are
instances in which the reverse of creation took place, namely,
instantaneous annihilation. There is a sense in which these two
are fundamentally the same, both of them being completely outside
our ordinary experience, although atomic power appears to
depend on something analogous
to the very rapid annihilation of matter.
The Resurrection Body
In the New Testament we have an
example of instantaneous annihilation in one of the resurrection
scenes. The details are given in Luke 24:36-45. The Lord Jesus
invited the disciples to prove for themselves, tangibly, that
it was really He Himself who stood before them. And the record
says, "While they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,
He said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave Him a
piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it,
and did eat before them." Shortly thereafter He was taken
out of their sight for the last time.
If one may speak reverently of
such an event, what happened to the food which He had eaten with
the disciples the moment it entered His glorified body? In some
way, it was immediately transformed to something other than material
as we understand it. To all intents and purposes, it was annihilated.
Such cases must either be taken
as pure myth ‹ or, if they are fact, which we most certainly
believe they are, then creation with a history is also a fact,
indeed one might almost say a common one in certain circumstances.
me to one final point in this chapter. It is clear that the Lord's
resurrected constitution far transcended our present constitution
insofar as He manifestly possessed a real body which was yet
utterly different from ours. It was a clearly recognizable body
‹ since the disciples knew who He was, once they had overcome
their surprise ‹ and one that could accept food originally
prepared for bodies like ours (Luke 24:43), yet without being
in any need of it for sustenance. It was a body, too, that could
move through closed doors, the material world being no barrier
to it, and yet which could resist the pressure of an inquiring
finger in a wound still identifiable for what it was (John 20:27).
What a body this was!
Now, the important thing is that
we are to have bodies like that (Philippians 3:21)! How wonderful!.
. . . From childhood, we dream of bodies that are free of the
chains of gravity, that can pass through doors and walls, that
can vanish and re-appear at will. We do not
21. There is a further and perhaps even more
dramatic instance of this in Luke 24:28-31, the incident of the
journey to Emmaus. The only assumption we have to make is that
Christ did actually partake of their hospitality. This he surely
did, for it says, "He sat at meat with them." A few
moments later He vanished out of their sight. Once again we have
to suppose that the food eaten vanished also.
really look forward
to the prospect of being like angels; we would like some kind
of bodily existence: but it should ideally be free of the bonds
and limitations of the body we now have. And indeed it will be!
So we shall retain our contact
with the physical world somehow at will, while being recognizably
our own selves yet without the slightest burden of what we are:
subject to a "gravity" of some unique kind that will
allow us to walk with others as Jesus walked to Emmaus, yet entirely
free of the downward pull that prevents us now from soaring like
a bird, that binds us to the road.
But what kind of existence is this
in terms of time? Certainly it took time for the Lord to walk
to Emmaus. Does it not suggest the probability of a real ordering
of events and therefore of some kind of time sequence, but time
as sequence rather than as delay?
While we are in this body, we experience
the kind of time which constitutes the fourth dimension of our
physical world. When we are in our spirit body, we shall presumably
experience the kind of time which constitutes the fourth dimension
of that non-physical world. I suppose that between death and
the resurrection of the body we are without consciousness of
time of any kind, because we are not part of either our world
or that other world: but this does not make any difference, of
course, to the continuance of the reality of either world. It
is quite possible for a particular individual to have no experience
whatever of the passage of time while others are very much aware
of it. This is true when we are asleep or in a coma or unconscious
for any reason. The only thing we can say is that in some way
the eclipse of time under such conditions is not frightening,
and we almost at once pick up the threads again, so that the
possibility of an interval of time not experienced should not
be an occasion for any fear.
The Lord after His resurrection
evidently moved in a world which was constituted differently.
It was a real world, but a world with a different kind
of reality: a spatial world, but a world with a different kind
of space. Being a world with a different kind of space, it was
presumably a world with a different kind of time. It was a world
in which He could be seen, heard, and felt, walked beside, and
entertained at the table: and also a world from which He
could reach across some invisible threshold that makes it at
present inaccessible to us and act upon and handle the things
of this world and yet by-pass them at will (as, for instance,
when He entered rooms with doors barred from within or suddenly
vanished, taking the food He had just eaten along with Him out
of this world into that one). We speak of that world as the "next
world," but it is next only in the
sense of being next-door;
it is not next in the sense of waiting until the present order
disappears. It exists now.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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The world in which the resurrected
Lord was (and is) living evidently so corresponded in its arrangements
to our world that interaction was natural between the two. Yet
it was a world which transcended ours in that our world's limitations
were not its limitations. It involved a sequence of events,
and therefore some kind of time order also that corresponds to
what we experience and yet transcends the time frame of our world
because it transcends the spatial order of our world.
There is no doubt that we are to
have bodies. Does this, then, automatically involve us in the
occupation of space? It may be argued that a resurrected body
such as the Lord's need not have occupied any space. I think
this possibility has to be admitted: but I think it must also
be conceded that He did occupy position. If this is so,
then perhaps we must also agree that any dimensionless position
implies the possibility of shifts in position; and this at once
introduces the idea of sequence, of previous and subsequent
position, of present and future position. So if there is any
kind of time, it looks as though it would be the fourth dimension
of a frame marked off by the three dimensions of past, present,
and future rather than being the fourth dimension of a three-dimensional
space. Perhaps it is somewhere in this direction that
there will be a time-frame in heaven. Most assuredly conversation
will be possible, for though it occupies time, it need not occupy
space. Maybe space requires time, but time does not require space?