Time and God - RR100A1

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Time and God
Course: Course - Classroom Lectures - Jackson Seminary
Subject: Subject:Philosophy
Lesson#: 1
Length: 0:45:46
TapeCode: RR100A1
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Classroom Lectures - Jackson Seminary.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

[Other] Dr. Rushdoony, we were talking about that question, would you like to have just that question, if I just mention it, they’ll all know what we’re talking about, the time problem, whether time is in God and so forth, and he’s just been reviewing, Dr. Buswell’s article about this, and we could just turn the floor over to you and let you go from there and they can feel free to ask other questions as we move along.

[Dr. Rushdoony] I think we can understand Dr. Buswell’s position on time, when we realize, first of all, something of the background of his position. A generation ago, one of the major theological conflicts in this country was the so called Clark controversy. And Dr. Buswell was definitely on the side of Clark in the entire issue. Now what was the issue? It was simply this, was God exhaustively knowable. And the thesis of Dr. Gordon Clark, who in other respects was Reformed, who theologically holds rather strictly to the Reformed faith, but philosophically at this point, had definitely gone astray, was that God was exhaustively knowable. And that the universe, of course, was also exhaustively knowable. On the other hand, the position of Dr. Van Til, like that of John Calvin, was, that while God is truly knowable, He is not exhaustively knowable. God is consistent to Himself. Therefore, while we would have to have the mind of God to know God, which we have not, what God reveals of Himself is true to the whole of His being. Thus there are no surprises for us in God. If we know Him in terms of His revelation and His word, then we know Him truly, although not exhaustively. Now, Buswell says that he cannot understand a timeless God. And he says, if God is timeless, than it is impossible for Christ to have died for our sins, and we are still in our sin. In other words, there is a gap that cannot be bridged. There is an impossible world of eternity here, which is above and beyond time, and it cannot come into any meaningful contact with our world. [00:03:13]

There’s to radical a discontinuity, he said...[edit]

There’s to radical a discontinuity, he said. Well, Buswell here, is a good Greek, rather than a Christian. He is a Thomist who has gone much further than St. Thomas Aquinas, because, incidentally, Arminianism is a form of Thomism. It was the Protestant version of scholastic philosophy. And it has become, in some respects, much more radical than Thomas Aquinas. Now, in terms of a Christian perspective, we must say that there are two kinds of beings. God, who is uncreated being, and then there is man and the whole world of creation, which must be called created being. Man lives in the world of time, in a world of before and after, he is born, he dies. Whereas God lives in eternity and is timeless. I am the Lord, I change not. Time is the world of change, of progression, of development. But God, being uncreated being, lives in eternity, beyond change. He is changeless, I am the Lord, I change not, He says. Whereas here, we have change, we have development, maturity, progress. Now, in terms of a non-Christian concept of God, you have both God and man equally working in the world of time. And God is trying to develop himself and try to capture control of this objective world of matter, because then you have implicitly, two kinds of, well, you have, not two kinds of being, but you have being, which is classifiable into three groups. God, man, and the world of matter. And God and man are together trying to act on matter and somehow bring it under control. They are both working, trying to mature, trying to develop themselves. They both have a plan which is a plan in progress, a work in progress, rather than a finished plan, which from all eternity decrees what will happen. [00:06:27]

Now in Revelation, we were just reading Revelation...[edit]

Now in Revelation, we were just reading Revelation, there’s quite a remarkable chapter, which speaks about this matter. It is the fourth chapter of Revelation. It is a vision of the throne set in Heaven and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. The sign of the covenant of grace. Then out of the throne proceeded lightening’s, the fifth verse, and thundering’s and voices. Judgment, as it proceeds from eternity in the throne of God to the creation. But then the sixth verse is the key one. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes, before and behind. Now the vision of the sea, and we are told that the sea, subsequently we are told that the sea is the world. It is the whole of creation. It is as glass, clear as crystal. So that from the throne of God, the whole of creation in its totality, in its before and after, in its entire progression, is naked and open before God’s sight. Now from the standpoint of history, sub sequentially, we see the sea as wild and murky and out of it beasts developing, so that as we look at time, as we look at history, we see it as darkness, we cannot penetrate it. We are not able to predict the future, more than roughly, in terms of the Law of God. We know that the wages of sin are always death, we know that what a man sows, that shall he reap, we have a form of predication through the Law of God. This is general, in terms of specifics we cannot say that, I know precisely what will happen in history tomorrow. But the world, which is a dark and turbulent sea to us, is portrayed as clear as crystal to God. So that the whole of the world, and the whole of time is open to Him. Known unto God is all His works, from the foundation of the world. [00:09:32]

You see, if God were in time and if there were before...[edit]

You see, if God were in time and if there were before and after for God, God could have a plan, but it would not be an infallible and perfect and unerring and inescapable plan of predestination. It would be the kind of plan that you and I have when we say, I plan to be in seminary so long and after that I would like to get a country church and I would like to do this and that and the other thing. Now to a degree you’re going to put that plan into operation. So to a degree you have your own little plan of predestination. And if you haven’t taken unto yourself a wife that’s a part of your plan. Or if you don’t have any children yet, that’s a part of your plan. But that plan is not foolproof, you see. And if Buswell were right, God does not have an absolute plan, an absolute predestination operative. But our Lord said the very hairs of your head are all numbered. He was emphatic that not a sparrow falls but your Father in Heaven knows it. It is a total plan. This is what happens, you see, when you confuse being, created and uncreated being. Now Buswell might be ready to admit there is a distinction here, but to all practical intent, he has wiped out, by wiping out the distinction between eternity and time, and saying eternity is just endless time. So the Gospel has really been forfeited by Buswell. And we would have to say to Buswell, if what you say is true, then we are still in our sin. Because Christ is not our Savior then. Because He does not have absolute control of all creation. And only one who has total control of all of creation also can be our Savior. Because if there are unforeseen potentialities or contingencies in this time, the succession of events, and both God and man are equally open to the potentiality of time, then how in the world can we say, God has saved us for tomorrow. Oh yes, He saved us for yesterday and today, but there’s no way of knowing that He’s our Savior for tomorrow, because there can be some unforeseen potentiality that will develop, that God does not know about. If time is not a creation of God. [00:12:47]


[Audience] What do you with the idea that time is not a succession of moments but rather possibilities?

[Dr. Rushdoony] Well, the two ideas are essentially one, you see. Time is the area of possibility because it is a succession of events, but if you say it is a possibility unforeseen by God, then you are saying God is in time and all the potentiality of time is apart from His decree.


[Audience] Then, what do you do if I say that with God He is in the eternal realm and that everything that is going on with time and creation is present with God.

[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes, that’s true.

[Audience] That is correct.

[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes. Of course, you say He is in eternity, so now is a time concept. But in a sense you can say, all things are open and naked to His sight.

[Audience] Then His decrees, His counsels, His plan before the creation of the earth, how do you, meld that with time?

[Dr. Rushdoony] Well, time is a product of the eternal decree. Now, Buswell, you see, says he doesn’t like Calvin’s objection to the whole question, as a prying, improper one. This is because he’s on the Clark side, you see. Everything is open. Exhaustively open to the mind of man. Whereas Calvin says, after St. Paul who said, nay, but oh man, who art thou to raise questions like this? Can the clay ask of the potter, why hast thou made me thus? Can the clay enter into the mind of the potter? And so Calvin says of the questions about eternity and its relationship to time, or what was God doing before the creation of the world, are entirely improper. Because we are trying to know what we cannot know, we are saying, my mind is on the same level as God’s, and therefore what is understandable to God has to be understandable to me. And that’s Buswell’s point, to the core. [00:15:24]

This is why he has to be termed a heretic...[edit]

This is why he has to be termed a heretic. He has out-Thomas-ed St. Thomas. You see, St. Thomas, although he had adopted the premises of Aristotle, and Aristotle did not yet have the epistemological self-consciousness that Buswell has, did not carry this point to the same degree. The idea of something resembling a first cause was still necessary to Aristotle and so he had a God and eternity as a limiting concept, just to provide him with a beginning, after that he did not need God. So deism which said God started things and then He’s no longer on the scene, was a natural implication of Aristotle. But now the existentialist says I don’t need the idea of creation. Well, Buswell still needs it because he is formally a Christian, but intellectually he has abandoned God when he says God is here in this world of time. So that God, like man, is working to know the future, and He may have a plan just as I do, I have a plan for the next year or two years or five years, but whether I can put it into operation is another question.


[Audience] Would you make a distinction between the person of God and the {?} power of God. …{?}…

[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes. But you see if God is in time…

[Audience] {?}

[Dr. Rushdoony] Then God is enmeshed in the processes of time, and you have really made time God. So time is the big question mark and God and man are alike struggling with time. Now this is the implication, Buswell will not say this, let me make that clear, but this is the logical thing. If God and man are both in time and before and after, then time is the area of potentiality. So that the possibilities are not in God. We say with God all things are possible, but what does the evolutionist say? He says with time all things are possible, all we need are enough millions of years and every miracle that you attribute to the Creator God, is possible. All possibilities ascribed to time. Now this is exactly what happens with Buswell. All possibility is transferred implicitly to time, and the sad fact is he doesn’t realize what he has done. He still thinks he’s an evangelical Christian, but in effect he has sold God out to time.

Yes. [00:18:26]

[Audience] …{?}…

[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes. But since the being of God is subject to time you have to say time has swallowed God up. You see. In other words, if there is something in the being of God to which God Himself is subject, then that is determinative of God rather than God determinative of that.


[Dr. Rushdoony] No, God is not subject to love. What God does is love. What God does is judgment, what God does is, you see.

[Audience] Is God not a composite of all of His entities?

[Dr. Rushdoony] No. no. you see, what the Greek position is, is simply this. That there are these things such as love and justice and truth, and these, while they are in the being of the first {?} are somehow above him, so that he is bound by them. But God is. And therefore what He does is what He declares it to be. So that if God clobbers us with severe chastisement, and God says this is my love for you as your Father in Heaven, and to my adopted son, then it’s love, and we take it as such. And He says so in Hebrews, in the twelfth chapter. So you see, what God says is what He says it is. What God does is precisely what he defines it to be.


[Audience] ..{?}…

[Dr. Rushdoony] Right. And those attributes are essentially what man defines them to be, you see. So in a sense you have put yourself above God, or at least on equality, you say I have an idea of love, I have an idea of justice, I will proceed to define this idea and therefore having defined it, I say that is in God. I end up with an idol, do I not, that I have created.

Yes. [00:21:15]

[Audience] ..{?}…

[Dr. Rushdoony] Well, I don’t know how to tackle that question, there’s some very serious problems in Luther. Luther, when it came to predestination, made the great statement of it in his ‘Bondage of the Will’ as against Erasmus, and that was his greatest and clearest theological statement. The root of the problem, I think, and this is what Van til has pointed out, in Luther was that there was a confusion of uncreated and created being in him, and this came out in his doctrine of transubstantiation. Because here very practically it was set forth in the elements. They were somehow consubstantiated so that it was a modification of the Catholic doctrine, which in itself came from St. Thomas you did not have transubstantiation before St. Thomas. The council of Ephesus in the early Church had condemned it, the whole idea of transubstantiation, as a Greek idea of the confusion of the two beings. And the council of Chalcedon then went on to say that the two natures are united in Christ, in perfect union, without confusion. Well, Luther has a confusion of the two natures. And as a result, he introduces into the being of God an arbitrariness which comes from an unrealized potentiality. To illustrate. In me, potentiality and actuality are not one. I have, as you do, many potentialities that I will never realize in this life. In Heaven I shall. But even there it will be a realization of the potentialities and actualities of created being, which are limited. [00:24:30]

I had a pastorate some years ago, my last pastorate...[edit]

I had a pastorate some years ago, my last pastorate, it was over ten years ago, in a community with a great many retired people. And the thing that amazed me was that many of these men who retired there were business men and farmers who, when they were bored, took up various activities to while away the time, because, (I don’t believe in retirement, incidentally. I think it’s a abomination. A person should only retire if he’s bedridden. Apart from that I believe in work, six days shalt thou labor, until you can no longer labor. And let me add one thing further, on an average, men die three years after they retire. They were not meant for retirement) But a few of these men would manage to live longer than the two or three years by finding some kind of meaningful work. A few of them would become artists, and it would be amazing the talents they would develop in painting or sculpture that they never knew they had. You see, we are a bundle of unrealized potentialities. So that we are capable, sometimes, of rather arbitrary actions, you see. Because we don’t realize our potentialities. And things don’t work in us systematically and logically. We can have a systematic theology, and I’ll be coming to this in the epistemology course in the afternoon a little later. We have a systematic theology, because God was uncreated being, in Him, potentiality and actuality are one. There is no arbitrariness in God. He is absolute rationality. Therefore when Luther had an arbitrariness in God, it was because potentiality and actuality were not one in God, and there was a confusion of being in him at some critical points. Luther did not have the systematic in his thinking that Calvin did, and when you see some of the things that influenced him, like the mystical work ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ which had a profound influence on him, you realize that, great as Luther was, he was not the systematic thinker that Calvin was. [00:27:22]

And you can only have the schematics if you have this...[edit]

And you can only have the schematics if you have this position. As I’ll be showing in the apologetics class, at one Presbyterian seminary when the new professor of systematic theology was inducted into his chair, his opening address, which was one of the big events of the early nineteen forties was, to pronounce the death of systematics. And his address was freely and openly done, although not openly so stated in the death of God schools. Because when you proclaim the death of systematics, you proclaim the death of God. And I feel that Buswell actually, without realizing he has any relationship to that school because he believes he is evangelical, has in effect proclaimed the death of systematics and ultimately the death of God.


[Audience] Right here you have perhaps his, well it starts with {?} having dealt with {?} and Aristotle. His suggestion of redefining of time.

[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes. My suggestion that a more fruitful and workable definition of time, literal mathematical timeline, not to deny the other definitions which are well established in usage, would be the mere entity abstract possibility of relationships in sequence. In other words, time becomes the area of possibility, so that now it is not with God that all things are possible, it’s with time that all things are possible. Well, you couldn’t sell out the faith more thoroughly than that. And he doesn’t know he’s doing it. This is why it is so important to understand epistemology and apologetics. Because you will not have a systematic theology otherwise, and this is the great problem in the churches today, men do not have a firm grounding in systematics. And they sell themselves out at critical points and they don’t realize it. I saw this in the USA Presbyterian Church. Because I went into it only a few years after the break in nineteen thirty-six, that is, I began as a seminary student just a short time thereafter. And to me the thing that was most impressive at that time was, well, the possibilities here for turning the tide are just enormous. Because most of the men in the church are evangelical. And they were at that time. They did affirm the confession of faith, and especially in the West. We had presbyteries in the West where men were rejected if they were not infralapsarian and they would get into debates on infralapsarianism versus supralapsarianism, and I know one young man who was the son of a Christian Reform minister, ultra-conservative, who was rejected because he couldn’t answer the questions on infra and supralapsarianism and give a history of it, in his theological examination, to the proper degree. And, so I tried to organize a resistance to take over that area. After all, the Senate of California was the biggest most powerful in the Church. We did come, at one time, within a hairsbreadth of taking it over; we lost because there was some dishonesty in the voting. [00:31:14]

But the thing fell apart...[edit]

But the thing fell apart. Why? Very soon after that. Simply because the men did not have a real systematic sense, and they could be very readily confused. And some of the worst were some of the old Princetonians who were pupils of Warfield, old men who were pupil of Warfield, and they’d been a good many years away from it, and the implicit rationalism of some aspects of the old Princetonian teaching, had gone to full flower in them. And they would come up with the most amazing statements. So that they were just a hairsbreadth away, in fact, the critical point I was sold out by an old Princetonian who did not know what the score was. This is why you have to have a sound systematics, and a sound grounding in epistemology.


[Audience] ..{?}…

[Dr. Rushdoony] The answer to that is this. Karl Barth speaks of God as wholly hidden, entirely hidden, and entirely revealed. So that in Christ, God is totally revealed, but God is also the absolutely other, the wholly hidden one. Now, this is a fantastic concept. Our thesis is that God cannot be hidden because God is the creator of Heaven and Earth. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showed His handy work, day after day and so on the Psalmist goes on, everything manifests God, every atom, every fiber of your being and mine, is revelational of God. So that at every point, wherever we turn, we have the revelation of God. And St. Paul says that men do not need the Word of God, it is open and obvious to them all. And in the first chapter of Romans he declares, and this is in terms of the Song of Moses, because it is in Revelation, I mean in Deuteronomy thirty, I think nine through fourteen that the same statement is made by Moses. In Romans 1:18,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, everyone who hold the truth, who hold down, who suppress, who keeps down the truth in unrighteousness, so that the witness of God, that He is, and of His law, is inescapable knowledge in every man, and they simply hold it down in unrighteousness. [00:35:09]

Now the point I am going to be making of course, in...[edit]

Now the point I am going to be making of course, in epistemology, and started yesterday, is, that men willfully blind themselves lest seeing they see God. So they work themselves into a epistemological bind, so that they cannot see. Now, if you have a God like Karl Barth, that is wholly hidden, you’re saying God is not the Creator of all things, and He is not for Barth. The idea of creation in Barth is just a limiting concept, so God can hide Himself. Now it’s possible for me to go and hide myself in this building, so that you might have to hunt a long time to find me. But if ever brick, every atom in this building is crying out my name, you could not say I can be hidden. Since every atom of all creation bears the imprint of God as its maker and witnesses to God, you cannot have a hidden God. Therefore anyone who makes that statement doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


[Audience] ..{?}..

[Dr. Rushdoony] You see, what Karl Barth does is to use the language of Scripture as a limiting concept. Barth does talk about the Virgin Birth. But he doesn’t believe in it, does he? He talks about the Resurrection as Neebor{?} does, and I’ve heard Neebor{?} give a most eloquent sermon on the Resurrection, in fact he sounded, he outdid Billy Sunday in the sermon I hear him, really just was an old-fashioned revivalist, preaching on the Resurrection and how we must believe in the Resurrection, only he sneaked in the word about, which indicated it was not a literal bodily resurrection, you see. So when Barth speaks that way, it’s like everything else, it’s as a limiting concept. Now you see Barth knows the end of the road. Barth knows that man, to pursue the existentialist dialectical premises that he holds to, knows nothing. And man is intellectually, religiously bankrupt. So what Barth does to take the entire framework of Orthodox theology, this is why he claims, Tillich did, in fact one of the finest lecture I ever heard on Calvin was delivered by Paul Tillich at Union Theological Seminary. [00:38:24]

The trouble was, of course, that Tillich didn’t believe...[edit]

The trouble was, of course, that Tillich didn’t believe a word of what he was saying. So, in order to say we have some content, they take the façade, but they still wind up with nothing. And so as either Barth or Tillich, the death of God theologians have said, we are simply pressing home the implications that Barth and Tillich were unable and unwilling to press. It’s interesting that one of the death of God theologians is very proud of his son, why? Because, having brought up his son in his kind of thinking, in which man is god, at the time of the space-flights and Sputnik and so forth, he was out in the backyard with his son, little boy, and the boy looked up at the stars and said, Daddy, how many of those did we, (meaning the United States) put up there? And he was so proud of his son. So very proud of him. Well why not? After all, Kenneth Huyer{?}, a British astrophysicist has said that in time to come we will overcome the need for a body, the sun will die but we’re going to create a new sun, and we’re going to create a new world, and a new universe, when this one that we have wears out. Ours is going to be better.



[Dr. Rushdoony] Yes. You’ve stated it beautifully. Exactly, that’s exactly his predicament. And he is saying that unless Bane{?} is down here in this time, he can’t have it. But when we hold that the uncreated, unchanging being of God has created time, and that all possibility is in God rather than in time, as he says, than what’s the problem? You see, he cannot see God as this. And he says, God can only know time if He is in time. Then you’d have to say, well God Himself may be as a product of time, like all creation as the evolutionists say. Because possibility has been transferred from God to time. [00:42:28]


[Dr. Rushdoony] Well the difference is you see, I have a uncreated, unchanging God according to Scripture, who is not in the world of possibility. He can enter into it, through His only begotten Son, because He absolutely controls it. Now Buswell doesn’t feel that if God is up here, He can absolutely control what’s down here. But since He made all things, including time, He controls it absolutely. In other words, his God has to be here on the same level, or He can do nothing. And he says so.



[Dr. Rushdoony] Well very well put. Very well put. Yes, you put your finger on it. Now I’m not saying that Buswell does not believe in the evangelical doctrines, St. Thomas Aquinas did. In fact, I have a very great affection for St. Thomas as a person. He strives so eloquently in terms of his very alien premises to establish God’s predestination, all the evangelical doctrines. But the net result is that in spite of himself, he’s selling out the faith. Now the same is true of Buswell.


[Dr. Rushdoony] Well, I’m very happy to say that those decisions are not in my hands, and there’s so many other people I’m expecting to see there, I’m not worried about some of these people, that’s their concern, or it was their concern. But we have to say anything that departs from the faith, is heresy. And I think one of our problems today is that we’re too afraid to use the word. I think we should. There’s so much heresy around us and we’re not ready to call it what it is. I think Buswell would have been a lot better off years ago if people had called him heretic. And certainly, if some of the things he’s said in class that I’ve gotten from his pupils is true, he, because he’s been unchallenged so long, has really gotten extravagant at times. Course, it’s harder for a student to tell, I’m sure, but any rate, I think it is a heretical idea, because God says I change not, and time is the world of change. [00:45:33]