Last week we looked at how science has come to understand time, not only through Einsteins’ theory of relativity, but through other perspectives from theoretical physicists who create mathematical equations for the framework of reality. While fascinating, we don’t actually require a physics degree in order to gain a new and transformative perspective about time. In fact, time has been a subject of theology and philosophy long before it entered the science lab. Science seems to only find a mathematical way of saying the same thing that systems of faith have been saying for thousands of years.
When most of us think about time we are thinking of our clock and calendars. These are the manmade dividers of time which are based upon our present solar system and planetary orbits, but as we saw last week, this is only a linear framework for time and not the best way of understanding the bigger reality of timelessness. This week we will pull from biblical references to reveal how theology has long understood these deeper realities.
- Time is a framework which allows for every event to join experience.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Right now, all over the world, things are happening. What might be a significant event like a birth, or a death, or a marriage, a victory or a tragedy for someone else, it is not an event for us. All these events are happening right now. The only event for you right now is that you are reading or listening to this. That could change in the coming minutes. It is the framework of time, which we perceive, which creates a distinction between a big event and an ordinary event, without which all events merge together into a single moment, much like what is happening to all others in the world right now.
If all these events can happen within the same single moment, but are displayed in time so each can be discerned and experienced, it tells us that such a moment is latent with an unlimited amount of potential events and apart from placing them within a timeframe, we could not discern them nor experience them. The events of five minutes ago are not discernible from the events to happen in five minutes without a consciousness of time and how we use time to separate events of the past, present and future. The present moment is not merely now…now…now…now, it’s all of the events of time joined together.
CS Lewis said in his book “Mere Christianity”: “Well, He (God) knows your tomorrow’s actions in just the same way–because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but the moment at which you have done it is already ‘NOW’ for Him.”
This quote helps us gain a bit of perspective on how faith and time have been understood through the lens of an eternal God who is not bound by time. This is nearly always the case within every theology and spiritual tradition. A god who is bound by time is not much of a deity. As soon as an Eternal God emerges in human consciousness, a new framework for time must be reworked and as such, nearly all religions aim to bring us into a state of being or a state of “timeless being” or eternal moment, eternal union, the present moment or presence, a shared timelessness and a shared consciousness with that which is eternal. In science, eternity is depersonalized and framed as infinity. It faith traditions there is a consciousness that bears upon each moment.
2. We are not so much in time as time is within us.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
This verse is a great snapshot of the necessary reframing of time which comes from faith. Eternity is within each of us. Time is an inside job more than an outside job. The implications of this could fill libraries. Every single moment and every single event is within each of us. The framework of ultimate reality (God) is that of infinite possibility, or another way to say that is to believe that “all things are possible.” Once again the bible really works to reframe reality so that each of us can lay hold of those aspects which seem invisible.
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Even as we begin to understand that time is within us, we live, according to Solomon in the “YET SO.” He doesn’t diminish the ticking time linear framework with which is an aspect of our reality “under the sun“, but it is not what is ultimately real. The lasting part of humanity is not our bodies, our our legacies, but our soul, our truest self found in God in Christ. This allows us the ability to see within both dimensions, physical sight and spiritual sight as well.
3. Living is enhanced when we do so from a timeless perspective.
The most dismal, depressing worldview is that of the materialist. In this frame, all that is real and can ever exist for us is right now, so hedonism is the greatest satisfaction. This is the epitome of being land locked in time. This philosophy has always brought with it a diminishment of humanity. Meanwhile, religions for as long as they have existed, have worked to free humanity from seeing this life as all that there is.
When we sleep, our bodies remain fixed in time, but our minds are freed. We visit the past, future, we experience events simultaneously, the laws of physics and spacetime do not apply. The materialist says “Dreams are not real,’ but they are an aspect of timeless reality bearing upon all humanity. Life is not limited to our present ticking clock. It exists, like energy, in different forms without diminishment. Dreams reveal that “we” are not coextensive with our bodies. Perhaps dreams are the residue of a larger timeless existence and possess within them more reality than what our senses perceive.
In nearly every religious framework, the freeing of the mind to accept and perceive non-physical reality is called many things like: salvation, enlightenment, liberation, healing or transcendence. Since people are so variable in their understanding, this experience is also quite variable. As we break free from the death clock, life opens up incrementally until eternity dawns within us. Freeing ourself from the constraints of time is not difficult, and may actually be more in line with ultimate reality. Recognizing this perspective is only the portal which opens up the real world or what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God.” From there we begin a new life, whereby we are reborn into a place of awe and wonder and into exploration, discovery and spiritual awakening. Do any of us know the real boundaries of our potential?
One thing is for sure, death is not the end of life, only this aspect of our eternal life if Solomon is right and eternity lives within each of us.
Next week I will share some of my own exploration and the discoveries that have unfolded as I have applied this frame to living. I hope it inspires you to explore things as well. Whatever happens, it will be the beginning of a new way of seeing beyond everything.