Interesting conversations abound at dinner tables. One day, my older son told us that his science teacher told the class that ‘God could not have created the universe because before the universe began to exist, there was no time.’ He smirked because he knew (we’d had conversations about such topics), even at 14 years old, that this was a foolish thing for anyone to say, let along a science teacher. Is time a problem for God? So how could God create the universe before time began?
If God could not have created the universe because supposedly there was no time prior to the beginning, why is there suddenly some time granted to a cause other than God? If God had no time to create the universe, neither did any other cause, but here we are.
It seems to me that the one objecting is merely cherry-picking the choice of the cause so as to apply one set of (unfavorable) standards to the less desired option – God, and a completely liberal (favorable) standard to the more desirable option- anything else naturalistic. The game is rigged.
When many modern skeptical physicists and cosmologists speak, they often say things like, “the universe created itself.” When they describe the role of time in all of it, they seem to describe a reality before the universe began to exist, a sort of supposed spaciotemporal reality before the spacetime of the universe. Ironically, the same people who give themselves the privilege of creating a realm with time before the universe began to exist, while at the same time claiming that God could not have created the universe because there was no time before the beginning.
Space and time are interrelated. This is the reason why the universe is sometimes described as “spacetime.” Without time, there’d be no way for matter and energy to interact and no way for the universe to expand from its initial singularity. And a reality without matter and energy but with time would be the sort of reality that is more like a purely spiritual realm.
It is theoretically possible to have time without matter and energy, but impossible to conceive of a world with matter and energy but without time. The universe, from its singularity on, is expanding and counting its cosmic time. However, what came before the beginning, doesn’t make sense from the perspective of cosmic time because cosmic time itself began to exist.
As I alluded to earlier, we can conceive of a world without matter and energy but with time. If we can conceive of a reality in which nothing but a single mind exists (ironically a being like God), the mental events of that being could conceivably be within what we call metaphysical time without that realm having any correlation to cosmic time. This distinction is significant.
The moment the universe came into existence so did cosmic time. However, there’s no reason why there could not have been metaphysical time prior or since. Even now, for potentially non-corporeal beings (God, angels), metaphysical time could be ongoing as a parallel arrow of time with cosmic time. What’s more is that if God is one who created the universe and with it, cosmic time, then he’s not really bound by this clock he’s created.
It should be clear that the beginning of cosmic time is not binding to the God who created it. If we consider how metaphysical time works, we can easily understand God’s relation to cosmic time. Unfortunately, many of today’s teachers and even world-class scientists don’t seem to appreciate the nuance of time, creation, universe, and metaphysics.
It should not be understated that a challenge such as this often bites itself. Ironically, it’s far more plausible for God operating in metaphysical time to create the universe and cosmic time itself than it is for a purely speculative spaciotemporal time prior to the universe. Alas, while the metaphysical time during which an omnipotent being may quite capably create the universe, a speculative spaciotemporal realm that has its own cosmic time needs an explanation of the creation of that time before its own cosmic time. See the problem? An infinite regress of time epochs and causes would be imminent, hardly a more reasonable position than the one offered by Theism.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.