Warning: I start with some arcane terms. Hang on, though because I will explain these terms simply enough.
Listening to a podcast by William Lane Craig recently, he
made the comment that the B-theory of time didn’t support the Kalam Cosmological argument and that was one reason that he was an A-theorist. (Please feel
free to listen to this podcast.) I haven’t spent much time mulling over all of the implications of the theories of time, but that comment was provocative because I at least knew that a full-blown A-theory supports a multi-verse. Interestingly, it also fuels Craig's Molinism.
So I considered the two theories of time against the ideas of time that I have developed from reading scripture and realized that the two theories were not mutually exclusive. On a whim, I posted as much to my Facebook timeline and got some virtual blank stares. So I apologize to my Facebook friends for just being me. The real me isn’t particularly socially acceptable. Therefore, herewith, I will endeavor to explain what I meant. Also, I have written on this some before and produced at that time some diagrams that might be helpful.
The A-theory of time, in simple terms is the idea that things stay the same as they go through time. When I look at a painting that my mom painted, for example, although it has changed hands a couple of times, it is still the same painting that my mom painted. This seems like common sense. It seems true to us because we can understand it intuitively. That’s why this is a prevalent idea of time.
This is the idea of time that classical apologists use to prove the existence of God. They often use some variation of what is known as the Cosmological Argument. William Lane Craig uses one called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It’s very persuasive. Cosmological arguments typically observe that everything has a cause. If you trace the cause of something backward through time you must find a cause that has no cause because you can just keep going back and never find a First Cause. And that’s what they call it: First Cause. Non-theistic scientists hold that the first cause was the Big Bang. The Big Bang happened and everything has progressed since then each causing the next thing to happen until you get to the present day.
The problem is that they have no scientific natural explanation for what caused the Big Bang. Cosmological arguments work because they demonstrate that the First Cause wasn’t natural. There had to have been an uncaused cause. That’s God. From that point on we can point out how the First Cause is necessarily personal and has endeavored to reveal himself to us. But the classical Christian apologist starts with the Cosmological argument.
The problem I find is that the Bible indicates that the B-theory is in some way in play also.
The B-theory is the idea that time is an illusion of sorts wrought by our ability to know the past, experience the present, and not know the future. But it holds that from one moment of time to another things that appear to be the same are really different. My mom’s painting is not the same one that she pained. The one she painted exists only at the time she painted it. It came into my possession because a family member gave it to me. That was a cause for the fact that it’s presently hanging on my wall. It stayed on my wall because I hung it on a nail there. That causes it to remain there from one moment to the next. But a pure B-theory holds that the cause may only be and illusion and that the painting that is there now is not the painting that was there a moment ago. The nail likewise is different. The wall, the house, the yard, and even me – nothing that is there now was there a moment ago and what was there a moment ago cannot be proven to actually have been there although we have some memory of it. If something were there in likeness to what is there now, it isn’t the same thing.
Now, I didn’t produce a diagram of that because I don’t believe in a pure B-theory. But the diagram I did produce marries the A-theory and the B-theory together as such:
The Biblical support I offered in passing in my original article still stands:
“…we know that God not only created “In the beginning” but he sustains his creation (Heb 1:3) and creates constantly (Psalm 139:13) and provides for his creation (Job 38:41).”
So non-Christian B-theorists use the B-theory to dispute Cosmological arguments. My realization was that neither the A-theory and B-theory are exclusively true. Now, I know that they are both in some way true because I have the revelation of scripture. However, it occurred to me that from a logical standpoint, only conclusions that did not necessarily follow from each theory were in conflict. Therefore, the theories are logically compatible.