And while we’re at it surveying opinions, how do you think of the afterlife/eternity? Does it, or does it not, include the dimension of time?
I must say that I have always thought of “eternity”, the realm of God beyond creation, as “non-temporal”. And I have usually thought that this was the realm that we entered in the next life (ie. “eternity” as external to time). After all, we do talk about “the end of time”, don’t we, and “The Last Day”?
But I was challenged in this view by listening to some recordings by William Lane Craig on the Cosmological Argument. In one of these lectures, Craig made the point that God “entered” time by his initial act of creation–arguing that an event, an action, requires time. He went on to say that time will continue in the afterlife because what we await is a “new creation”, in a bodily existence, a “new age”.
These considerations were then given extra fuel by the fact that I am currently preparing a presentation for the John Paul II Institute colloquium on Spe Salvi during the Days in the Diocese in the Melbourne lead up to World Youth Day (nb. the date is wrong on this link–I will be on the panel on Tuesday 8th, not Tuesday 9th). My topic is Benedict’s take on Purgatory, and I am, of course, coming at it from an ecumenical point of view.
Now a big issue with Purgatory–in both Catholic and Protestant writing–is the issue of the “intermediate state” and the question of whether it is appropriate to speak of “time” or “duration” in terms of those who have died. Have they not “entered eternity”? Are they not “free” from the space-time continuum? Some, indeed, posit the theory of “resurrection in death”, ie. that the moment you die you are “raised to life” because the “Day of the Last Judgement” and the “particular judgement at time of death” are in fact the one event in eternity beyond time.
Well, it seems that this may not be so. Creation–even the new Creation–doesn’t appear so eager to let go of the category of time, and there is a fair bit written in this regard. Personally, I am coming around to the biblical terminology of “this age” and “the age to come”. It is interesting that in this Jewish conception, the Messianic Age is precisely that, an “Age”, an “Era”, different from this age, but still in some sense a “time”. And given that we will have bodies in heaven, and thus there must be some spatial dimension to the afterlife, then it would follow that there must be some sort of temporality as well.
What do you think?