As we come to the end of another calendar year we all think about time, at least to some extent. Time has passed and time is ahead of us, or so we think. Most of us give thanks for the end of 2009. For many it was not a great year at all. But for most of you who read this blog you are likely to be grateful to God for so many things as you come to the end of 2009. I am and my health and finances both declined in 2009 to varying degrees.
But what really is this thing we call time? Since Aristotle philosophers have tried to understand the nature of time. After the work of Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) many came to believe that time was something that had many parts to it. By this understanding philosophers meant that time had several parts to it. And by this they were saying that a particular time and event filled that part, or unit, of what we call time.
But other philosophers argued against Newton's idea. For Leibnitz (164601716) there were events which happen before, after or simultaneously with one another. Time, for him, was the way to organize these relations in our minds. It is not, in other words, an additional thing that was distinct from the things that stand within these relationships. Kant argued that time was only a way in which our minds organized our experiences. Hum, that has some ring of truth to it as well.
We often say "time moves on." By this philosophers thought of time as flowing. For the Christian worldview time must be understood as sequential. One event follows another. It is also linear, not circular. Sometimes Christians debate whether or not time will exist, in some sense, in eternity (whatever eternity is once you define it too). Some will thus say that all times—past, present and future—exist simultaneously. That means Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Barack Obama all exist now, just not in the same "where." That is intriguing but almost impossible to grasp. Yet for a Christian it is true since all people still exist in some place right now, at this time.
There was a time (there is that word again) when I believed that following the resurrection we would all be timeless. We would live in eternity and thus we would live outside of time as we know it. I no longer believe this to be the case. As creatures we will still experience actions, presence and other beings distinct from us. We will live in a state called the "new heavens and new earth" but I cannot understand how this state would be timeless in a meaningful sense. I actually think the Bible speaks rather differently about the future.
One thing is for sure. Time, as we all know it, has passed by in 2009. We now enter a new time, a time we call 2010. What the future holds belongs only to the Lord our God (Deuteronomy 29:29) but we can all enter 2010 with great hope and confidence that our God, who is always good, will show his goodness to us in the New Year even if the clouds are dark and the trials become great.