francis-readingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 3 March 2017 to 19 April 2017.

Note: There are several General Audiences that have not yet been translated into English.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Prayers

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Hope helps believers to be open to the surprises God has in store for us.” @Pontifex 6 April 2017
  • “Lent is a period of repentance aimed at enabling ourselves to rise with Christ, to renew our baptismal identity.” @Pontifex 7 April 2017
  • “Dear young friends, don’t be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him!” @Pontifex 8 April 2017
  • “O Cross of Christ, inspire in us a desire for God, for goodness and for light.” @Pontifex 9 April 2017
  • “During this Holy Week let us focus our gaze on Jesus and ask for the grace to better understand the mystery of his sacrifice for our sake.” @Pontifex 10 April 2017
  • “Jesus comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves.” @Pontifex 11 April 2017
  • “While the mystery of evil is profound, the reality of God’s Love poured out through Jesus is infinite and victorious.” @Pontifex 12 April 2017
  • “It is good for us to break out of our set ways, because it is proper to the Heart of God to overflow with tenderness, with ever more to give” @Pontifex 13 April 2017
  • “O Cross of Christ, teach us that the rising of the sun is more powerful than the darkness of night, and God’s eternal love wins always.” @Pontifex 14 April 2017
  • “Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from God’s love.” @Pontifex 15 April 2017
  • “Happy Easter! May you bring to all the joy and hope of the Risen Christ!” @Pontifex 16 April 2017
  • “Yes, we are sure of it: Christ indeed from death is risen!” @Pontifex 17 April 2017
  • “During this week of Easter it would do us good every day to read a passage from the Gospel which speaks of the Resurrection of Christ.” @Pontifex 18 April 2017
  • “Let us meditate with wonder and gratitude on the great mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection.” @Pontifex 19 April 2017

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lenten-2In this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 14, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

1:10 What was happening at the Triumphal Entry?

4:50 What is happening with the mysterious incident where the disciples get the animal for Jesus to ride?

8:30 When was the cleansing of the Temple?

9:50 What is a “Markan sandwich”?

10:40 Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

12:00 Why is Jesus angry in the temple? Why did he cleanse it?

13:55 Why does John have the cleansing of the temple at a whole different point in Jesus’ ministry?

15:00 How did Jesus’ opponents challenge him and try to get him in trouble with the authorities?

19:00 How did Jesus respond to the challenge of the Sadducees?

21:50 How did Jesus use one of the same techniques that modern apologists use?

22:55 What are we missing about the story of the widow’s mite?

24:55 What does Jesus teach in his prophetic discourse?

27:35 Who anoints Jesus and why is he anointed?

28:50 Why are the identities of some people kept secret in the Synoptic Gospels but then revealed in John’s Gospel?

30:05 How do we explain the mysterious way Jesus arranges a place to celebrate the Last Supper? How did Jesus secretly thwart what Judas might have done?

32:40 Where is the garden of Gethsemane? How do we know what Jesus prayed there if the disciples fell asleep?

34:10 Why is the identity of the disciple who used a sword kept secret–until John’s Gospel?

35:25 What’s happening with the young man who runs away naked in Mark’s Gospel? If it’s not Mark himself, who might that be?

37:15 Was Jesus’ trial legal? Why did the Jerusalem authorities have to take him to Pontius Pilate?

39:15 Why is Jesus said to rise “on the third day” when it was only two days later? Could he have been crucified earlier than Good Friday?

41:15 How do we reconcile the different descriptions of the angels at the tomb? What about the women?

44:10 Did Jesus bodily rise from the dead?

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Holy weekIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 10, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

2:50 Why don’t Christians all celebrate Easter on the same day?

8:20 How is Easter related to Passover?

10:44 What date was Jesus crucified?

16:10 Why are the days of Holy Week given the names they are? (e.g., Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday)

21:22 Where does the word “Easter” come from? Is Easter pagan?

27:30 How do we know what Jesus prayed when he was alone in the garden of Gethsemane?

30:15 Where was Jesus held after he was arrested?

32:30 Why do we have an “interactive” reading of the Gospel in holy week?

34:50 What does “A.D.” mean? Is it “After Death”? Also, what’s the deal with “C.E.” and “B.C.E.”?

41:40 Do the Gospels contradict each other on when Jesus was crucified with respect to Passover?

49:40 Did Jesus and the apostles celebrate Passover on Wednesday? Do we need to propose that to allow time for all the events that happened after Jesus was arrested?

51:50 If Jesus “descended into hell,” how would he tell the good thief that he would be with him that day in paradise?

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crucifixionIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (April 6, 2017, 2nd hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

01:28 How did people understand the term “church” at the time of Jesus? Was there a pre-Christian use of this term?

05:23 Are people in purgatory aware they are in purgatory? Could they be released only when they acknowledge that their sins deserve hell but God is being gracious to them?

08:09 How culpable is a person who sins after having been poorly counselled by a priest?

11:10 Are there equivalents to high mass, low mass, etc., in the ordinary form of Mass?

17:58 Were there female deacons and bishops in the early Church?

27:45 How to respond to the claim that, in the Atonement, the Father “poured out his wrath” on Jesus?

32:35 Is there historical evidence that the early Church had a papacy?

38:30 What does the Greek mean when Jesus says he is the Son “of Man”? Should it be translated the Son “of God made Man/flesh”?

41:30 Can we be affected by the sins of our ancestors and by curses people speak against us?

44:45 Does the Old Testament promote slavery?

48:20 Does the Church teach that the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

50:35 Does the Church have a teaching on the meaning of death in Genesis? Does it refer to “spiritual death”?

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In this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 30, 2017, 1st hour), Jimmy answers the following questions:

00:12 What “polymath” and “autodidact” mean

03:35 How to respond to the claim that Peter isn’t the rock in Matt. 16.18 because Paul says no one can lay a foundation other than Christ

06:35 How to reconcile free will with John’s 6.44’s statement that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him

14:48 If a Catholic marries an unbaptized person, is the marriage valid?

17:30 If we’re supposed to bury cremated remains, why are saints’ relics put on display?

22:10 If one can use contraception to control hormones, why can’t you use them for contraceptive purposes?

28:15 How to explain to Protestants that at Christian can lose salvation

35:55 How does the Catholic Church explain the veneration of saints who were not in communion with the Church when they died?

42:25 How to evangelize someone who is ambivalent toward God and says they’re totally happy

46:30 How to defend the use of gendered pronouns to someone who is not Christian

51:40 How to dispose of remains after a miscarriage

Click the link to watch the video on YouTube.

Also, don’t miss our new mini-show, Catholic Answers MORE!

In this episode of Catholic Answers More (March 30, 2017), Cy and Jimmy do a relaxed, pre-show in which they:

* Explain what Catholic Answers More is

* Say hello to people watching and commenting

* Talk about heresies and which is Jimmy’s “favorite”

* Who Marcion was

* Why Pope Benedict resigned

* Whether the pope gets to order whatever kind of food he wants

* What kind of secular authority the pope has (can he order a Catholic president to do something?)

* What was the name of the Animaniacs’ pet fish?

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 23 March 2017 to 5 April 2017.

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “May the certainty of faith be the engine of our lives.” @Pontifex 23 March 2017
  • “Fasting is fruitful when accompanied by concrete expressions of love towards our neigbors, especially those in difficulty.” @Pontifex 24 March 2017
  • “Let us remember our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for their faith. May we be united with them.” @Pontifex 24 March 2017
  • “The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of bringing about the conversion of hearts.” @Pontifex 25 March 2017
  • “Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through fasting, prayer and almsgiving.” @Pontifex 26 March 2017
  • “Caring for the sacred gift of all human life, from conception to death, is the best way of preventing every type of violence.” @Pontifex 27 March 2017
  • “If we learn to read everything in the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace!” @Pontifex 28 March 2017
  • “The peace that springs from faith is a gift: it is the grace of feeling that God loves us and that he is always beside us.” @Pontifex 29 March 2017
  • “Prayer is powerful. Prayer conquers evil. Prayer brings peace.” @Pontifex 30 March 2017
  • “Fasting with a proud heart does more harm than good. The first fast is for humility.” @Pontifex 31 March 2017
  • “Even in the hardest and most disturbing moments, the Lord’s mercy and goodness are greater than every thing.” @Pontifex 1 April 2017
  • “https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/848965834865233920” @Pontifex 3 April 2017
  • “Today is the International Day of Mine Awareness. Let us please renew the commitment for a world without mines!” @Pontifex 4 April 2017
  • “Let us follow in the footsteps of Christ, especially by dedicating ourselves to our brothers and sisters in need.” @Pontifex 5 April 2017

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Akin-ETERNITY3Some people think that only the present is real and that the past and the future don’t exist.

This view—known as “presentism”—encounters problems if God exists changelessly, outside of time in an “eternal now” alongside the changing “temporal now” that we exist in.

We looked at some of these problems recently. For example:

  1. God’s changeless knowledge of what is real would seem to change if only the present is real and the current time changes from one moment to another. Thus, at one point God would know that 12:01 a.m. is the only real moment, but later he would know that 12:02 a.m. is the only real moment, and so on.
  2. God’s changeless knowledge of what is real also seems to change as the contents of the universe assume different configurations over time. Thus, at a point shortly after creation, God would know that stars and planets are not yet real, but later he would know that stars and planets are
  3. God’s creative/conserving action seems to change in that he must stop conserving one configuration of things in the universe to allow another to come to pass. Thus, he must first create/conserve the universe in one condition (such as before stars and planets exist) and then stop conserving it in this state so that a new condition (when stars and planets do exist) can come about.

None of these would be problems if God were inside of time like we are and thus capable of changing in his actions and his knowledge of what is real.

But the Church teaches that God is outside of time and changeless.

These aren’t the only problems with the idea only that the present exists. Here are two more . . .

 

New Creations from Nothing

Not only does God conserve everything in existence, it seems that God engages in a form of ongoing creation from nothing. In 1950, Pius XII taught that:

[T]he Catholic Faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God (Humani Generis 36).

Our souls thus are not inherited from our parents the way our bodies are. They are “immediately created by God.”

Furthermore, this teaching is understood to exclude the idea that our souls exist before conception.

If that’s the case, then for the vast majority of the history of the universe, God had not created your soul, or mine.

Then, all of a sudden, he started creating/conserving us, beginning at the moments of our conceptions.

Bang! New creations—apparently ex nihilo—long after the initial creation of the world.

But if the only moment that exists is the present, that would mean God accomplished our creation at a different time than he created the world.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be simultaneously creating/conserving both the physical world and our souls.

But if presentism is true and only the present moment of time exists then when God created the world there would be no other place in time to put our souls except its first moment, and our souls would have had to exist at the beginning of the universe.

 

The Incarnation

Now let’s consider the Incarnation of God’s Son.

If God is outside of time then he must, in the eternal now, be incarnating as Jesus Christ.

But when in time is he incarnating?

If only the present is real then, when God created the universe, God would have had to incarnate at that moment. There was no other time in which the Son could incarnate.

The Incarnation of Christ in Mary’s womb would thus have taken place before the stars were formed, before life was created, and before Mary herself was created.

The only way around this would be to say either that God is not outside of time—so that he could create the universe and then, long ages later, change his mode of action so that he became incarnate—or that there is more than one real moment of time.

 

The Growing Block Theory

We’ve seen that problems arise if only the present moment of time is real, but that isn’t the only view of time.

Another is the “growing block” theory of time, according to which both the past and the present (but not the future) are real. Time is like a block that grows with the course of events, with the present at the leading edge of the block.

What if this theory is true? Would it encounter similar problems?

We’d need to rephrase some of them, but the same fundamental problems would arise. For example, consider the initial puzzle about God’s knowledge of what times are real.

If we asked this question at the first moment of creation, it would turn out that:

  • In the eternal now, God knows that at the first moment of creation that 12:01 a.m. is real and 12:02 a.m. is not

But if we waited a minute and asked the same question, it would turn out that:

  • In the eternal now, God knows that both 12:01 a.m. and 12:02 a.m. are real.

Again, we’ve got a problem with God possessing changeless knowledge of what is real, because that knowledge would need to continually change as new moments arrive and get added to the “growing block” of real moments.

The same is true of all the other puzzles, such as God changelessly incarnating in Mary’s womb from the eternal now when only the first moment of time was real, long before Mary even existed.

Positing the growing block theory thus does not get us around the difficulties.

 

Eternalism

What about eternalism?—the view that all moments of history are real and the present (the temporal now) is simply the moment we are presently experiencing?

This view solves all of the puzzles:

  1. In the eternal now, God changelessly knows all of the moments of time he is creating. Thus he knows that 12:01 a.m., 12:02 a.m., 12:03 a.m., and all subsequent moments are real.
  2. In the eternal now, God changelessly knows the configuration of all of the matter and energy in the universe at every moment of its history—and he knows that these configurations are real at the different points in time he is creating.
  3. In the eternal now, God simultaneously creates/conserves everything in creation, including all of the different configurations of what the universe contains at different
  4. In the eternal now, God changelessly creates both the world and our individual souls, but because all times in history are real, he is able to put the creation of the world at one point and the creations of our souls at much later points.
  5. In the eternal now, God is changelessly incarnating as Jesus of Nazareth, but because all times in history are real, he is able to place the beginning of the world at one point and the moment of the Incarnation at a later point.

 

Conclusion

In view of the problems with presentism and the growing block theory, I find myself concluding that we have good theological reasons for saying that the past, present, and future are all real, and that God creates all of history all at once from his eternal perspective.

This view is also supported by modern physics and by various philosophical arguments.

I don’t agree with everything said by every eternalist. In particular, I reject the claim made by some—particularly among physicists and philosophers—that time is “an illusion” or that it doesn’t pass. Both of these claims are manifestly untrue, and eternalists shoot themselves in the foot when they say such things.

I also recognize that not all theologians, philosophers, and physicists agree with eternalism.

The Church doesn’t have an official teaching on this, and, as I’ve mentioned, orthodox Catholics have different positions on it.

However, I personally don’t see how to get around the puzzles I’ve mentioned here if only the present (or the present and the past) are real.

I thus conclude there are good theological reasons for eternalism.

(Go to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)

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Akin-ETERNITY2What is the nature of time?

Three views have been proposed:

  • Presentism holds that only the present is real (so the past and future are not)
  • The growing block theory holds that the past and the present are real (but the future is not)
  • Eternalism holds that the past, the present, and the future are all real

The Church does not have an official teaching on this, and orthodox Catholics take different views.

However, the Church does teach (as we recently saw) that God is eternal—outside of time—and this seems to have implications for the nature of time.

Let’s suppose that presentism is true and that only the present exists.

What would that mean for God’s eternity?

 

The Eternal Now and Presentism

In this case, we could speak of two moments that are actually real:

  • Outside of time, there is God’s “eternal now”
  • Inside of time, there is the present, which we may think of as the “temporal now”

The former is, by definition, changeless, while the latter changes constantly.

At one moment in the temporal now, it’s 8:00 a.m., but a minute later it’s 8:01 a.m., and so forth. At one moment, you’re waking up, at another moment you’re getting out of bed, etc.

How would an eternal, changeless God relate to a constantly changing temporal now, if that is the only moment of time that exists?

Here we run into what strike me as problems. We’ll look at several of them.

 

Getting the Universe Started

If presentism is true then, in the eternal now, God would create time—a single moment (the “temporal now”) which constantly changes, alongside his changelessness.

One of the things that is constantly changing about time is what the current time actually is. Suppose that God created the universe at 12:01 a.m. In that case:

  • At the moment of creation, the temporal now is 12:01 a.m.
  • One minute after creation, the temporal now is 12:02 a.m.
  • Two minutes after creation, the temporal now is 12:03 a.m.
  • And so on.

It follows that God knows all of these things in the eternal now. Thus:

  • In the eternal now, God knows that at the first moment of creation it is 12:01 a.m.
  • He also knows that a minute after creation it is 12:02 a.m.
  • And he knows that two minutes after creation is 12:03 a.m.
  • And so on.

By virtue of his omniscience, in the eternal now, God knows what time it will be at all moments after creation—even if those moments haven’t occurred yet.

Now let’s ask a question: Supposing that presentism is true and only the present moment is real, what does God know about what exists?

Notice that we’re not asking about what will exist or what did exist. We’re asking about what exists.

If we ask this question at the moment of creation then we will find the following:

  • God knows that he is real, and that he exists changelessly, outside of time.
  • God knows that the universe is real, and that in time it is currently 12:01 a.m.

But if we ask the same question a minute later, we will find these things:

  • God knows that he is real, and that he exists changelessly, outside of time.
  • God knows that the universe is real, and that in time it is currently 12:02 a.m.

We have a problem.

When we first asked the question, God eternally and changelessly knew that the moment 12:01 a.m. exists.

The second time we asked the question, God eternally and changelessly knew that the moment 12:02 a.m. exists.

We have a contradiction.

If only a single moment of time exists then 12:01 a.m. and 12:02 a.m. cannot simultaneously be real. Consequently, God can’t simultaneously know that they are real.

For God to first know that 12:01 a.m. is real and later know that 12:02 a.m. is real, God’s knowledge would have to be changeable, and God would have to be experiencing time.

He would not be timeless.

The same problem appears if we ask about what times God knows are not real. For example:

  • At the first moment of creation, 12:02 a.m. is not real because it is in the (unreal) future.
  • A minute after creation, 12:01 a.m. is not real because it is in the (unreal) past.

If we asked what God knows about the times that are not real then, when we first ask the question, God would know that 12:02 a.m. is not real (and that 12:01 a.m. is real), but when we next ask the question, he would know that 12:01 a.m. is not real (and that 12:02 a.m. is).

Again, God’s knowledge would be changing with time.

 

The Underlying Logical Problem

This contradiction happens because we are entertaining the following propositions:

  1. God is real.
  2. Time is real.
  3. God knows what is real.
  4. God is changeless.
  5. Time consists only of a single, changing moment.

These propositions are not all consistent with each other. Up to four of them can be true, but not all five.

If God knows what is real and what is real changes, then so must God’s knowledge, so God is not changeless.

If you want to accept propositions 1-3 then you must sacrifice either proposition 4 or proposition 5.

 

Ongoing Change

The same problem reappears when we consider other things God knows.

For example, the way the things in the universe are arranged constantly changes with time.

Even if the total amount of physical energy and mass in the universe stays the same, as modern physics holds, that matter and energy is constantly being rearranged.

Thus there was a time before matter and energy was arranged into stars, a time before it was arranged into living beings, a time before it was arranged into our bodies, etc.

We thus might consider the following:

  • At the first moment in time, the matter and energy in the universe was arranged in Configuration 1.
  • At the second moment in time, it was arranged in Configuration 2.
  • At the third moment in time, it was arranged in Configuration 3.
  • And so on.

If we ask our previous question about what God knows is real, it will turn out that—the first time we ask the question—he knows that Configuration 1 is real. But if we ask the same question again, he will know that Configuration 2 is real, etc.

This generates the same kind of problems that we saw above.

 

God’s Conserving Action

The problem is even worse, because it doesn’t apply just to God’s knowledge. It also applies to his actions.

The Church teaches that the world would not continue to exist unless God sustained it in existence. Thus John Paul II stated:

By creating, God called into being from nothing all that began to exist outside himself. But God’s creative act does not end here. What comes forth from nothing would return to nothing if it were left to itself and not conserved in being by the Creator. Having created the cosmos, God continues to create it, by maintaining it in existence. Conservation is a continuous creation (conservatio est continua creatio) (Audience, May 7, 1986).

This means that, at the first moment of creation, God would generate the universe , with all of the matter and energy in it in Configuration 1.

But then God would have to stop conserving Configuration 1 so that Configuration 2 could come about.

He would then have to stop conserving Configuration 2 so that Configuration 3 could arise.

This would also place God inside of time, since if he were simultaneously conserving all three configurations from outside of time, all three would exist simultaneously from the perspective of the eternal now.

That means all three would be real at once—three different moments of time would exist, contradicting the idea that only a single moment (the present, the “temporal now”) exists.

God would have to be in time if he were to initially create/conserve the moment containing Configuration 1 and then stop doing that to allow Configuration 1 to be replaced by Configuration 2 in the temporal now.

But the Church teaches that God is not in time, so we have another problem.

These aren’t the only problems with the idea that only the present exists. We’ll look at more next time.

(Go to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)

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Akin-ETERNITY1The fact that we live in time and God lives in eternity leads to all kinds of questions. For example:

  • If God is eternal and outside of time, does he create all of history all at once?
  • Does the fact that what is true in time changes mean that God’s knowledge changes?
  • How can God be eternal and yet incarnate as Jesus Christ at a specific moment in time?

To answer questions like this, we need to think about the nature of both time and eternity.

 

Three Views of Time

Philosophers sometimes talk about three views of time:

  1. The view that only the present is real (so the past and the future are not real)
  2. The view that the past and the present are real (but the future is not real)
  3. The view that the past, present, and future are all real.

The first view is sometimes called “presentism,” since it believes that there is only one moment that truly exists: right now, the present. On this view, the past and the future don’t exist. The moments in the past once existed, and the moments in the future will exist later on, but right now, the only thing that is real is the present.

The second view is sometimes called the “growing block” theory, since it presents time as a block that grows with the course of events. The events that are in the past are real, as are events occurring in the present, at the leading edge of the block, but future events do not yet exist.

The third view is sometimes called “eternalism.” On this view, the past, present, and future are all equally real. The present is the moment of time that we are experiencing right now. We no longer have access to moments in the past, and we do not yet have access to moments in the future, but they still exist.

Which of these theories is true?

 

Arguments from Physics

A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein proposed that time is essentially another dimension—a fourth dimension, alongside the three spatial dimensions we experience: height, width, and breadth.

He proposed that, together, these dimensions make up a reality physicists now call “spacetime.”

This concept has served physics extremely well. It makes it easy to describe physical phenomena using equations, and it has proved enormously useful to scientists.

Consequently, modern physicists lean heavily toward eternalism.

The idea of time as a dimension has proved so useful, in fact, that even physicists like Lee Smolin—who wants to revisit the idea—acknowledge it is very hard to imagine an alternative that would make sense. (Smolin talks about this in his book Time Reborn).

It thus seems safe to say that, to the extent contemporary physics is a guide, there is significant support for eternalism.

However, the findings of science are always provisional—never final—so they are not definitive for the question.

 

Arguments from Philosophy

If the results of physics are not definitive, neither are the results of philosophy.

The debate about the nature of time has been going on since the ancient Greeks began wrestling with the question, and no definitive solution has emerged.

An individual philosopher may find the arguments mounted for one position or another to be the most compelling, but—as on most subjects—there is no definitive consensus among philosophers.

 

Theology

What I’d like to do, rather than proposing an argument from physics or philosophy, is mount a theological case.

I want to point out right up front that the Church does not have an official teaching on the nature of time, and I know orthodox Catholics who take different positions on the matter.

However, I think that what the Church teaches about God has implications for the nature of time.

So let’s look at that.

 

God’s Eternity

The Church teaches that God is eternal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite (immensus), and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple (CCC 202).

In popular speech, saying that something is eternal means that it lasts for an unlimited amount of time. However, when applied to God, the term “eternal” means something else: It means he is outside of time altogether.

The classic theological explanation of eternity was provided in the sixth century by the Roman philosopher Boethius, who wrote:

Eternity . . . is the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life (On the Consolation of Philosophy 5:6).

This means that God’s life has no end (it’s interminable), and that he possesses all of that life all at once (in a simultaneously-whole manner). He does not experience it moment-by-moment, the way we do. God’s life thus is not spread out over time the way ours is, meaning that he is outside of time.

As St. John Paul II explained:

[H]is eternity . . . must be understood as the “indivisible, perfect, and simultaneous possession of an unending life,” and therefore as the attribute of being absolutely “beyond time” (John Paul II, Audience, Sept. 4, 1985).

He went on to teach:

God’s eternity does not go by with the time of the created world. “It does not coincide with the present.” It does not precede it or “prolong” it into infinity. . . .

He is eternal because he is the absolute fullness of being which cannot be understood as a sum of fragments or of “particles” of being which change with time. The texts quoted from the Bible clearly indicate this.

The absolute fullness of being can come to be understood only as eternity, which is, as the total and indivisible possession of that being, God’s own life.

In this sense God is eternal: a “Now,” a “Present,” subsisting and unchanging.

This mode of being is essentially distinguished from that of creatures, which are “contingent” beings (ibid.).

God therefore exists in what theologians refer to as an “eternal now” outside of time, a now where time does not pass from moment to moment. It is thus distinct from the “temporal now” we experience, where new moments arrive and then slip into the past.

A consequence of this is that there is no change in God. There is no progression from moment to moment in the eternal now, and so no change occurs in God.

This appears to have theological implications for the nature of time.

We’ll look at those next.

(Go to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 February 2017 to 22 March 2017.

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