Dual Universe: Eternity | Spacetime

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2  Conflicting Religious Eternities

The approach I wish to follow involves two types of eternity that offer a challenge to science. The first is found in the ancient Hindu religion of India, which in Brahman posits an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendental entity as the origin of all existence. This carries over to Jainism and Buddhism. I interpret this eternal entity as existing before creation of spacetime, so it can be described as a potent atemporal-aspatial eternity, an eternity without space or time. A similar expression of this concept emerged in the Taoism of China. This describes the Tao as existing before creation of heaven and earth, as an un-nameable void containing within itself all potentialities.

An alternative form of eternity, sempiternity, envisages an endless continuation of time. The Abrahamic religions (Judeo-Christian and Muslim) make use of it in accounts of creation of the world by the deity. This occurs at a point in time, after which the deity exists in a continuing time for ever. Science offers a similar scenario. At a point in time, a Big Bang creates the universe, which then evolves. The universe continues for ever, although it may stop evolving. The question raised by such accounts is who or what created the time and space in which creation occurs. This led Christianity to turn to the theory that to create a world the deity needed to exist outside of time and space (as in an atemporal-aspatial eternity). In this case, all time – past, present, and future – exists simultaneously in his mind.

The proposition that all times are simultaneously present in the mind of a deity has been described as incoherent by temporalist theologians Anthony Kenny and Richard Swinburne. They echo a concern expressed by Augustine: “O Lord, since you are outside time in eternity, are you unaware of the things that I tell you?”. Their temporalist branch of theology insists that god exists in time, in contact with his followers. It may allow that god created the world out of eternity, but after that he turned to existing in this world, and has a past, present and future.

Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann have attempted to reconcile timeless eternity and temporalism by arguing that timelessness and temporality may exist simultaneously in two different inertial reference frames, comparable to those found in Einstein’s theory of special relativity. William Lane Craig disputes the concept of eternal-temporal simultaneity they put forward, remarking that such a concept relies on incoherent notions like atemporal duration or conceptually indivisible extension.

The incoherence he sees offers a challenge to science. Does it recognize the two types of eternity? Does one follow the other? How do their contents compare? In seeking an answer, I find that sempiternity and atemporal-aspatial eternity need not be treated in different reference frames. Rather, these two types of eternity can be viewed as occupying different universes that are intimately connected.

Updated 3/30/2017

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