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Spacetime and the Trinity

Published: 25 May 2013 (GMT+10)

Is Jesus intrinsically bound in spacetime? Robert B. from the United States writes in response to Modern science in creationist thinking:

Wow!! John Hartnett. You and Russell Humphreys solved the longstanding dilemma of how the Bible could be true in spite of the apparent age of the cosmos. Thanks.

In “Starlight, Time and the New Physics” you gave a nod to Humphreys momentous contribution and said:

“We needed to be reminded that Relativity has long taught us that time and space are not universal absolutes…”

Which brings me to why I’m writing here. I’ve stumbled upon something similar and believe you might be someone equipped to understand.

We need to be reminded of the theological implications of God creating space and time. He is transcendent and not contained by space and time. Heaven and the Universe are created, temporal realms that as it states at the end of Revelation, will “Pass Away” to be replaced by a New Heaven and New Earth.

A scriptural case for the following can be made:

The Father is the I AM of God dwelling beyond spacetime.
Jesus is the I AM of God within spacetime.

The Father and Son can exist in different places and do different things at the same time because IT ISN’T THE SAME TIME!!!

Time related concepts don’t apply to the Father, the do apply to Jesus. The scripture “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” relates to His constancy to character not whether He experiences the flow of time.

There is some really cool understanding that spring from this, but the best is that it was really God who gave up His life on the cross. Skeptics have characterized the crucifixion as a cruel and capricious tyrant venting His wrath at me against a hapless third party: Jesus.

The reality of God’s Love is more apparent to me with this understanding than ever before.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your encouraging words. It is great to hear when our work helps somebody grasp the truth of the Bible.

Concerning your ideas about Jesus and the Father, I unfortunately cannot be as enthusiastic. Your case rests on these statements:

The Father is the I AM of God dwelling beyond spacetime.
Jesus is the I AM of God within spacetime.

However, the statements by themselves raise a crucial question: is Jesus intrinsically bound or contained in spacetime? If the answer is yes, as the direction of some of your subsequent reasoning seems to indicate, then we deny that Jesus is God because God as the creator of spacetime is not bound in or by it, as you said before these premises. However, Jesus is the eternal creator of all things: John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:2, 10–12. Please see Jesus Christ our Creator and Our Triune God.

Now, Jesus as a person does indeed experience the flow of time. He is human, after all. But it is only as a human that He is subject to the flow of time. Jesus is not subject to time as God. Jesus is one person with two distinct natures: divine and human (see The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?). Jesus is fully God and fully human (Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 2:17). There is no contradiction here because we are talking about the same referent (Jesus) in two different senses (his humanity and his deity).

Moreover, we can’t say the Father is never bound by time in anything He does. Consider Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). The voice that spoke from the cloud (v. 35) is clearly implied to be the Father—not the Son, the Spirit, nor any created person. For the Father to speak to humans, He must make His words audible and give them a chronological sequence, and they must be acts done by Him personally. This does not make the Father intrinsically bound by time; it just means that He must act in time to have any personal/relational interaction with us. This doesn’t contradict John 1:18 either because that talks of seeing the Father, not hearing the Father. Jesus is not intrinsically bound by spacetime, and the Father is not forbidden from personally acting in spacetime.

Note also that I have referred to Jesus and the Father as distinct persons, each capable of their own distinct personal agency. This is always in the context of God’s indivisible unity (Deuteronomy 6:4), but the personal distinctions are real (Jesus prayed to the Father—John 17), irreducible (only the Son became a man—2 Timothy 2:5), necessary (the persons are distinct even in single name of God by which He identifies himself—Matthew 28:19), and eternal (the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14) and the Son (Hebrews 1:10-12) are eternal). The Father is not just the manifestation of the eternal God and Jesus is not just the manifestation of God in time, as if they are just two modes of God’s existence. The divine persons are distinct but not divided in essence.

With regard to the Cross, this all means that Jesus as the divine-human person gave up His human life on the Cross. God in himself is indestructible—Jesus can’t give up His divine life (John 5:26). And it wasn’t the divine life that had to be offered up for sin; it was the human life. Why? It was human life that had been ruined by sin and subject to death which Jesus came to redeem. Jesus can save through His human life and death as many as will come because His human life has a divine dignity, since He is a naturally divine person. This makes Jesus not a third party but our mediator because He is a genuine (and legitimate) representative of both parties. He is one with the Father in His deity (John 10:30), and one with us in His humanity (Hebrews 2:17). The argument here mirrors Hebrews 1-2; Jesus’ deity is first established in chapter 1 so that when his humanity is established in chapter 2 we recognize that Jesus’ genuine human life has a divine dignity (and thus divine power to save) because Jesus is God.

The Trinity and the Incarnation can be difficult doctrines. That is why we need to stick very closely to Scripture in expounding them.

I hope this helps,

Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover