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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

     

Part I: Time and Eternity:Creation and the Theory of Relativity

Chapter 3

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 Series.

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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

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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.

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assurance that we shall not find in God's universe ugliness where beauty can replace it.
     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 of age.
     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

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beautifying 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

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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 of  

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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 

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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

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depend on something analogous to the very rapid annihilation of matter.
     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.
(21)

The Resurrection Body

     This brings 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.

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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  

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sense of being next-door; it is not next in the sense of waiting until the present order disappears. It exists now.
     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?

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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