Compiled by Dave Armstrong (11-10-10)
[bolding throughout is my own. All citations are from Robert Sungenis]
Can the Immutable God Change His Mind?
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and in inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation of kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.Other passages which indicate that God "does not change" (e.g., Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 110:4; James 1:17) refer only to God's inability to lie, take back an oath He made, tempt one to sin, or reverse decisions based on a capricious whim, since these would be adverse to His divine character. God's immutability does not negate the possibility of a justifiable change of mind, especially in light of the contingencies created by man's free-will decisions (cf., Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Since God's immutability must necessarily include the possibility that He may change His mind due to the free-will decisions of men, then God is being consistent with His nature, and therefore remains immutable, when He consistently changes His mind for appropriate reasons. In light of this, we cite Aquinas' statement: ".. .God carries out the order of His providence through the intermediary of lower causes. Therefore some of the effects of divine providence will be contingent, in keeping with the condition of the lower causes . . ."
(Not By Bread Alone: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice , Queenship Publishing, pp. 351-352)
2) The next question concerns what must be done to appease God when He is so offended. Scripture gives us the answer in bold and detailed narratives. One of the best examples is the incident of the Golden Calf recorded in Exodus 32-33. While Moses was up in the mount for forty days receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites decided to create their own god and worship it. The text tells us that God was so angry that He decided to obliterate the whole nation. Moses pleaded with Him to relent, reasoning with God as even Abraham had done over Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:22-33). Exodus 32:14 reveals that, in a moment of compassion for Moses, God "changed His mind" about destroying Israel. But what Exodus 32 doesn't tell us is what else Moses had to do in order to get God even to listen to his pleas. Deut 9:18-21 adds that Moses had to lie prostrate on the ground for forty days with no food or water. That is what you call appeasement.
Moreover, although God relented, still, the insult from the sin was not completely healed. Exodus 33:1-5 tells us that God, because He thought He still might destroy the Israelites in His anger, decided not to go with them through the desert to Canaan. Moses pleaded with God and, because of the love He had for Moses, He changed His mind again.
("The Theological Underpinnings of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" Why Did Jesus Have to Undergo Such an Excruciating Death?" -- 2 March 2004)3) In the same way, someone could argue that, if God knew Israel was going to sin in the Sinai desert by making a golden calf, then why did he bother calling Moses up to the mountain to receive the ten commandments; why did he bother displaying such great anger when he saw the calf; and why did he bother telling us that he changed his mind when Moses pleaded with him not to destroy the people? You can see what problems you are going to have if you try to answer this passage strictly from the “God cannot be disturbed” angle. You end up making God look like an actor merely playing out a part, but with no real substance behind it. In other words, if one takes the position that “God cannot be disturbed,” then God is merely making it look like he is disturbed and makes it look like he didn’t know that Israel was going to sin. Someone else could argue that God is duplicitous, that is, in his being he is one way (e.g., doesn’t really get angry at Israel) but he displays himself in the very opposite (e.g., he does get angry, so much so that he decide not to travel with Israel through the desert until Moses changes his mind again – Ex 33:1-5).
("Question 42 - God's Evolving Emotion?" -- 13 February 2008)
4) . . . they worshiped the golden calf, an event which would have resulted in God totally destroying them save for the appeasement of Moses that changed His mind (cf. Exodus 32-33; Ezek. 20:1-49; Rom 11:5-10; Acts 7:1-53).
("Book Review of The Israel Test, by George Gilder," p. 5 )
5) Although I understand the analogy of the father and the child, I believe it is inadequate to help in this situation. In fact, I think in the end it actually works against you because you end up having to bring God down to the level of a human father, which is precisely the criticism I am given sometimes for making it appear that God gets angry and changes his mind – as a human father would do! In other words, your analogy can be made to support either hypothesis, depending on how one views the analogy. It doesn’t support or deny my thesis or yours. It only shows how complicated arriving at an answer may be to this thorny issue. Still, I find it hard to accept that God’s threat of destroying Israel for their sin of worshiping the golden calf is not a threat that he intended on carrying out. Call it what you will (perhaps “lie” may be too much here), but the fact is, if the threat carried no potentiality of actually destroying Israel unless repentance or appeasement occurred, then we not only call into question any passages that illustrates appeasement and repentance to alter God’s potential judgment, but we call into question that whole basis for the Atonement of Christ. If God’s threat to send someone to hell does not carry the full potentiality that God would send them to hell if there is no appeasement and repentance, then why have Christ go through the appeasement process? Likewise, why have Moses go through the appeasement process in Exodus 32 if God never intended on carrying out his threat? Once we bar ourselves from taking a face value perspective in these types of passages, it begins to create endless problems with trying to make sense out of the rest of Scripture. For example, in the next chapter, Exodus 33, God is still angry at the Jews for what they did in Exodus 32, so he tells Moses that he doesn’t want to go with the Jews through the desert. So Moses pleads with God once again, and then God changes his mind, but only does so because it is Moses who has appeased him. When we read further in the story we see why Moses had such appeal with God, for it tells us in verse 11 that God would speak to Moses face to face, as a friend speaks to a friend. Obviously, they had a very intimate relationship. In verse 14, after Moses appeased God, God changes his mind in verse 14 and decides to go with the Jews. To read this passage and interpret it such that God, even though he threatened not to go with the Jews did not really intend not to go is, to me, simply to empty this passage of the very thing it is trying to teach us about God, that is, that a righteous person, namely, Moses, can appeal to God from his already established intimate relationship, and persuade him to relent of his wrath and forgive. If not, then we turn Moses appeasement and friendship into mere story-filler, theatrics that have no real meaning. But that is not the Christianity I know. The whole basis of Christianity is that we can appease a wrathful God with propitiatory sacrifice, because he is not an immovable abstract entity but a personal being who listens to the pleas of his creatures and moves because of those pleas. I think you have to admit that, the only reason you have an objection to reading this passage at face value is because there is an overriding metaphysical issue that intrudes and says we cannot do so. But to me, Scripture takes precedence over metaphysics, especially when metaphysics begins to make Scripture contradict itself. To me it is plain that if God threatens and God cannot lie, then the threat MUST carry the potentiality of being exercised unless something equally important to God (i.e., appeasement) allows God to justifiably change the threat into forgiveness. If not, then as I said above, we disrupt the whole threat-appeasement-forgiveness economy of biblical history. . . . there are no passages of Scripture that prohibit us from taking Exodus 32-33 at face value and saying that God gets angry and that God can change is mind. The passages that are often appealed to in order to give at least some prohibition to God changing his mind (such as Malachi 3:6) are simply not speaking about whether God can change his mind when faced with the free will repentance of man, but only that God, in his divine essence, cannot change who He is. He will always do what God does, because God cannot change. But I would add, if always doing what God does includes the fact that He will change his mind from threat to forgiveness when confronted with the free will repentance of man, then so be it, God hasn’t changed. For me to say otherwise is to force my ideas upon God and Scripture rather than the other way around. . . . As regards potency and act, again, the Church has not dogmatized any of this. I could just as easily say that, if one wants to use the parameters of potency and act, then we can say that when God changes his mind in a temporal situation (Exodus 32-33) it is just as pure an act as anything else God does, since God knew from all eternity that he would change his mind in that particular situation. Changing his mind, then, is not a potency. It is no more a potency than God becoming man in Jesus Christ. God is doing as God has planned from all eternity. Nothing escapes his knowledge.
("Question 189 - On God Changing His Mind" -- 16 October 2009)
1) God is an intensely personal being. He loves, he hates, he has joy, he has sorrow, he sings, he laughs, he is jealous, he is kind, he has pity, he has anger . . . God's personality is not anthropomorphic. God really has these personal qualities and he consistently expresses them to us. His intense emotional and passionate qualities are not signs of impetuousness and capriciousness . . . God is not to be pictured as an unemotional courtroom judge who has no vested interest or has no personal feelings for or against the criminal brought before him.
(Not by Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification, , Queenship Publishing, pp. 13-14; Sungenis in footnote 20 on page 14 appears to believe that God the Father should be thought to be literally "singing for joy" according to Zeph 3:17 and Matthew 26:30)
2) According to Scripture, God is a very personal Being. As such, He is personally offended by those who sin against Him. As St. Thomas said, this offense is analogous to the way human beings are offended and insulted through the malicious actions of others. If one reads Scripture at face value, one simply cannot miss the vivid language describing how intensely sin offends God. In the very first pages of the Bible we see this. Just prior to the Great Flood, Genesis 6:6-7 records:
The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thought of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth...for I am grieved that I have made them.Here God is "grieved" and "His heart is filled with pain" over the sins of man. The most intense Hebrew verbs are used here. Whatever our theological persuasion regarding God's impassibility, we must at least agree that Scripture portrays Him as being emotively affected to the highest degree. Other Scriptures express the same truth. To King David who committed adultery and murder God interprets it as "you despised Me" (2 Sam 11:27; 12:10). King Saul's sin made "the Lord...grieved" (1 Sam 15:11,35; 1 Chr 21:15). To apostate Israel God says "you wearied me with your sins" (Is 43:24; 1:14; ), "you grieved His Holy Spirit" (Ps 78:40). God tells Israel that because of their sins "My heart would not go out to you" (Jer 15:1,14), that Israel was "unfaithful to Me as a woman to her husband" (Jer 3:20; 5:7-9; 6:20). So offended was God by their sins that He says "do not plead with Me" (Jer 7:16; Ez 14:14, 20), "I have withdrawn My love and pity" (Jer 16:5), "You prefer strangers to your own Husband!"(Ez 16:32; Hos 2:2-13); "She roars at me, therefore I hate her" (Jer 12:8). God's anger is described in the most realistic terms: "I declared on oath in My anger" (Ps 95:10-11; Heb 3:10-17; 4:3); "the Lord became exceedingly angry" (Num 11:1,10); "Do not provoke Me to anger" (Jer 25:6-7); "how long will they grumble against Me?" (Num 14:27); "you will know what it is like to have Me against you" (Num 14:34-35); "in furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them" (Deut 29:28; 32:19-21). When God's wrath is unleashed, Scripture describes it as being "complete" or "spent," appearing as such over 100 times in the Old Testament. Ez 7:8 states: "I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you." Lam 4:11 records: "The Lord has given full vent to His wrath; he has poured out His fierce anger" (See also Neh 9:31; Is 10:23; Ez 5:13; 6:12; 13:15; 20:8, 21). This is matched by Scripture's vivid language describing God's utter "hatred" of evildoers (Ps 5:5; cf., 11:5; Pro 11:20; 12:22; 15:8-9, 26; 16:5; 20:23; Ecclus 12:6; 16:8; 17:26; 20:15; 27:24; 36:8-11; Jer 12:8; Mal 2:16; Rom 9:13; Apoc 2:6). Added to this are the numerous references to God's "jealousy" (Ex 20:5; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15), such that He actually calls His name "Jealous" (Ex 34:14; cf., Ez 39:25). Because of His jealousy He will not forgive certain sinners (Jos 24:19; Deut 29:20). He takes vengeance because of His jealousy (Nah 1:2). He is jealous against the foreign gods that Israel worships (Deut 32:21; Ps 78:58). In the same way, St. Paul says to New Testament Christians who sin that they "insult the Spirit" (Heb 10:30), and "grieve the Holy Spirit" (Eph 4:30), and this is because "the Spirit envies intensely" (James 4:5). Suffice it to say, this is certainly a very dynamically personal God with whom we are dealing. This is not the ethereal and impersonal god of Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. This is a God who is so personal and "in your face," as it were, that it is absolutely frightening. Perhaps this is why Scripture says many times that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
("The Theological Underpinnings of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" Why Did Jesus Have to Undergo Such an Excruciating Death?" -- 2 March 2004)
3) So often I see Catholic apologists, due to some prejudice they have built up, become, shall we say, very emotionally distraught over saying that God can truly become angry. They read it in Scripture but at each glance they have conditioned themselves to say "Oh, but that doesn't mean that God has anger, even though Scripture says he does." And that, as you have pointed out, is due in part to a misreading of Thomas on this subject. Although I intended to cover that area (but forgot), it is essential to understand that Thomas never says God does not have anger, rather, Thomas is clear that his concern is the sensual appetites of man, as he put it. When we put all of Catholic theology together, we should understand that God, indeed, has anger, and not at metaphor for anger. As our Marian apparitions have repeatedly stated, God is "offended" by our sins. We can't offend Him if He has no affectation.
("Q & A, December 2004, Question 14")
4) First, the Catholic magisterium has never defined or even addressed whether God has emotions. The only time a Catholic could be in “outright heresy” is if he contradicts a defined dogma of the Catholic magisterium. Second, the very book in which I introduced the concept that the emotive expressions ascribed to God in the Bible are not anthropropathic but are genuine, was Not By Faith Alone (pages 12-15). But not only was Not By Faith Alone endorsed by all the top apologists in the country, it also received an imprimatur and nihil obstat from the archdiocese of Baltimore. Evidently, neither the censor librorum nor the bishop thought my views on divine emotion were “close to outright heresy.” So why is Mr. Douglass, who has no ecclesiastical credentials, going beyond what no one of ecclesiastical rank has rejected, much less called heresy? Third, by mixing the Jews with this issue, Mr. Douglass seems to be implying that I am singling out the Jews. If so, he is wrong. I have also said the same things about mankind in general. For example, I have used Genesis 6:5-6 as an example of how God could not tolerate the human race any longer and therefore decided to destroy them all in the Great Flood. The language of the Bible portrays God’s decision as quite emotive, and I take it at face value:
“And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’”Fourth, since the Catholic Church has never said God could not have emotions, then I am well within the pale of proposing that he might, as long as I do not infringe on any other defined dogma about God. As such, what I have argued is the following: Since we attribute real intelligence and will to God, why do we not attribute real emotion to God? Are not intelligence and will also human characteristics that could be as tainted as human emotion? Since they are tainted, then why are we not just as reticent to speak of God having intelligence and will? The reason is simple: we feel safe in attributing intelligence and will to God because we know that God’s intelligence and will are perfect and not tainted by any sin. As long as there is no deficiency in God’s intelligence and will, we have no problem assigning those human descriptions to him and regarding them as real attributes. So why don’t we do the same with emotion? Are not human beings (who are made in the image of God) a combination of intelligence, will and emotion? Yes, all the theology and psychology books tell us so. Hence, there shouldn’t be any problem describing God as having emotion, as long as the emotion we assign to him is as perfect and untainted by sin as the intelligence and will we assign to God. The reason people are sometimes reticent to describe God as having emotion is because they often picture emotion as a weakness, such as when someone irrationally loses his temper. Granted, those emotions are quite human and God does not have that kind of emotion. But human intelligence and will are also flawed, yet we have no problem saying that God has intelligence and will. We do so because we make the proper distinction between divine intelligence/will as opposed to human intelligence/will. And we can do the same with emotion. There is a vast difference between divine emotion and human emotion. God’s emotions are as perfect as his intelligence and will, without the slightest sin or fault. Fifth, emotion is not something we should disdain. Emotions are present in all higher-order creatures. Scripture portrays God as having emotions (Zeph 3:17). Angels have emotion (Lk 15:10). Jesus has emotion (Jn 11:35). Christians have emotion (2Jn 1:12). Certain higher order animals have rudiments of emotion (dog, cat, ape, monkey, etc). It is only the lower forms of creatures that do not have emotions (paramecium, viruses, bacteria, etc). Emotions are important because they not only give deep expression to life itself, but they also help us care about other beings, divine and human. We have compassion, pity and sorrow for the plight of another person because we have emotions so that we can feel their suffering. God also portrays himself as having these emotive traits. We read numerous times in Scripture about God’s compassion and pity on the destitute. Does God have real compassion or is he just playacting? Since there is no reason to deny him real emotions as long as we understand them correctly, then we should not be afraid of attributing them to God. We also read about his anger against man’s rebellion. And sometimes the anger of God is portrayed as an inner disposition without any punishment or retribution following (Ex 4:14-17). Sixth, the Fathers of the Church, as we would expect, were divided on the issue. Some said God had emotions, some said no. Obviously, there was no consensus. Unfortunately, the ones who denied God emotion did so because they failed to distinguish human emotion from divine emotion. In light of that, and because the Catholic magisterium has not even addressed the issue, much less declared a dogmatic stand on it, I have the right as a Catholic to offer a view that may help bring us to a closer understanding of God to the betterment of our Christian lives, and I should be able to do so without people such as Mr. Douglass waving the word “heresy” simply because I don’t measure up to his theological viewpoint.
("Issues on Soteriology and Atonement: A Response to Benjamin Douglass" -- 4 December 2007)
5) As for emotion in Christ, just as he has both a divine nature and a human nature; a divine will and a human will; and a divine spirit and a human soul, it stands to reason that he has both divine emotion and human emotion, as well as divine intellect and human intellect. Which one comes out depends on the situation at hand in the Gospels. In any case, the divine side of his emotion would be the same as God’s divine emotion in the Old Testament. The human side of his emotion is unique to Christ. What the precise distinctions would be between Christ’s human emotion and his divine emotion (since his human emotion is not tainted by any sin), I really don’t know at this point, although I would say that they are very similar, even as my emotion of joy or compassion is very similar to God’s, although God’s is infinitely superior.
Let me also make some other remarks on the whole notion of divine emotion. The Church Fathers were divided on the issue of God’s emotion, and there has been no dogmatic statement by the Church concerning God’s emotion, so we are entering an open area. The Father who spoke the most on the issue is Lactantius in his Divine Institutes. The truth is, very few, if any, have really done their homework on this topic. The best we see our one-line statements, many of which assume certain things that haven’t been proven or dogmatized. Of course, all of the above also means that what I am presenting is my opinion.
Second, I think the mistake many make before they start out on this road is that they assume God can’t have emotion because he is “immutable,” hence they don’t pursue their thinking any further. But there is a logical inconsistency in that stance.
“Immutability” only means that God cannot change from what He already is. But, if God already has emotion, he is not mutable if he displays it. In other words, if he already has emotion, then in expressing his emotion He remains immutable. If he did not have emotion and then displayed emotion, he would be mutable. All of this, as you will see below, gets back to the basic question of whether God is determined or free.
Third, it would be illogical for someone to argue the position that God can’t have emotion because he “cannot be disturbed” for the same reason that they could not argue that God does not have “divine will” because his will cannot be disturbed. Did Adam and Eve “disturb” the will of God when they sinned? Yes, on one level they did, otherwise, we would be forced to say that God wanted them to sin. On another level, of course, God knew they would sin, and had a greater plan to replace the former plan, so in that sense his will was “not disturbed.” . . .
So you see, all the talk about “cannot be disturbed” and “immutability” is conditioned by the subject matter. The real truth is, we don’t understand God. Is God a determined being or is he free. Is he determined to be free or freely decide to be determined, or somewhere between the two? How is it that God can have, on the one hand, what appears to be an immutable will (i.e., all the elect will be saved), and, on the other hand, what appears to be a mutable will (i.e., not all those God desires to be saved will be saved)? If we set out to take a passage like 1 Timothy 2:4 at face value and not add or delete words (e.g., lessen the meaning of the word “desire,”; or take out the word “all” or lessen the meaning of the word “all” or insert “the elect” for “all”), then we have a real conundrum. No one in history has been able to answer that conundrum, and the Church refused to answer it when it was presented to them. Augustine himself had four different answers to 1Timothy 2:4 in his career. The best the Church has been able to do is say that both dimensions of God are true, and one is not stronger than the other.
By the same token, the subject of God’s emotion is in the same difficult category, and unfortunately, throughout our Christian history, only glib answers have been given, including the ones that you quoted from Pius XII’s encyclical. As a result, people have been conditioned to dismiss passages of Scripture that speak of God’s emotion and as a result, I believe many people have a distorted view of God, as if he were just some ubiquitous intellect that only makes logical decisions and doesn’t really have any feeling (e.g., pity and compassion). It was my desire to open up this area of theology and think it through a bit more than what has been done in the past, which is why I was at one time doing my dissertation at Maryvale on this very subject, but then the geocentrism issue came up and I dropped it. Someday I’m going to go back to Maryvale and pick it up again.
I think it is essential to maintain, however, that whatever emotion we assign to God, although it is similar to human emotion, it is far above human emotion, for divine emotion can never be tainted by sin. In the same way, we must also protect God’s intellect and will from being tainted by sin. Someone could argue, for example, that if God knew Adam was going to fall and most of the human race would end up in hell, then why did he bother creating Adam in the first place? This question takes advantage of the dilemma above (1Tim 2:4) and uses it to put the blame on God, and essentially accuses him of intellectual sin. That can never be, of course, because in the hierarchy of truths, God cannot sin (Titus 1:2). . . .I believe that unless real contingency is placed in this narrative, and real emotion is ascribed to God (although perfect and untainted with sin), then we do run the risk of making God duplicitous. I further believe that to try to answer the dilemma by saying that God displays these characteristics merely to appeal to our human sensibilities can never really answer the question, since one is then admitting that God, indeed, does play-act instead of being himself. God is very real, and never play-acts to accommodate our sensibilities. Play-acting would be akin to a lie, because you are presenting yourself as one thing but you are not really that way in your own person. I would much prefer to rest in the dilemma of 1 Tim 2:4 than to say that God play-acts for our human sensibilities. In the former I leave the problem with God, in the latter I answer the question for him with the result that I make him duplicitous.
Hence, the usual answer, “God cannot have emotion because he is immutable” isn’t going to work, and actually gets us into more theological trouble than what we tried to avoid. What also will not work is saying, for example, that God’s “anger” refers only to the punishment he gives to men, as Ott does in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. The fact is, there are various places in the OT in which God displays anger yet there is no punishment following. Such is the case, for example, in Exodus 4:14, in which God was angry with Moses for complaining about his inability to speak, but the only thing God does afterward is tell Moses to get Aaron as his spokesman. The anger of God is just laying there, all by itself, and, as it were, is ontologically screaming to be attached to something real. There is no harm in attaching it directly to God as part of his nature, for then we don’t make him into an actor. In regards to human sensibilities, nothing is gained for us by adding “anger” to Exodus 4:14 if it isn’t put there because it describes a real emotion of God.
In fact, this situation just becomes fodder for those who deny biblical inspiration, for they would claim that, if God has no real emotion, then a human author merely inserted emotion in Ex 4:14 to make the narrative appeal to human sensibilities. He might also claim that, if we as biblical scholars insist that the anger was inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet, in fact, God really had no anger toward Moses, then we make the Holy Spirit guilty of fabricating an attribute of God that isn’t real. Hence, I believe it is very important to read the passage at face value, which is what Catholicism has always done with Scripture. We read the passage at face value, and THEN we form our theology around it, not vice-versa. You can imagine what would have happened if we decided not to read Matthew 26:26 (“This is my body”) at face value and instead formed our theology before we interpreted the verse, as Calvin did with 1Tim 2:4. I believe the same hermeneutic should be applied to passages concerning God’s emotion, provided all the conditions I described above are carefully considered; otherwise, we create more problems than we bargained for.
Moreover, reading the Bible at face value is the way it was meant to be read. By taking the descriptions of God’s emotion at face value we get a better picture of who God really is, and why he does the things he does. In this way, man can really come close to God, for now he discovers just what it means to be made in the image of God. We have joy, compassion, etc., because God has joy, compassion, etc. Scripture comes alive, and so does our relationship with God. We can get out of the “well, it doesn’t really mean that” syndrome when we read the Bible, something many liberals have succumbed when they read Scripture.
("Question 42 - God's Evolving Emotion?" -- 13 February 2008)
Is God "Part of" Time Rather Than Outside of It, and the Creator of Time?
1) There is no significance to postulating that God is an "Eternal Now," or there is no "time in eternity." All that we can conclude is that in eternity time is not calibrated in the same way it is on earth. In the existence of each eternal being, none of them can go back to the previous moment or ahead to the next moment while in the present moment. Whether we say God sees all things in their immediacy, or that all things are known to him simultaneously, does not negate that the Father, Son or Holy Spirit cannot exist in and/or go back to the past or ahead to the future, even though they thoroughly know the past and the future.
(Not By Bread Alone: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice , Queenship Publishing, pp. 392-393)
2) First, unlike the doctrine of Justification, the discussion of whether God exists “outside of time,” is: (a) not a cardinal doctrine of the Catholic Church, and (b) has hardly even been addressed by the magisterium, much less dogmatized. So there has been no “theological authority” to judge the matter despite Mr. Douglass’ attempt to make it appear as if there is.
Second, I have never said in my writings or lectures that the view that God exists in an “infinity of time” was: (a) the only view I entertained, or (b) that all other views were wrong. I merely presented it as one possible solution of how to understand the complex nature of God and creation. The reason I have done so is that I see many people using the phrase “outside of time” to describe God’s existence but they do not define what that phrase means. If time is defined as movement and change, we might be able to say that God is “outside of time” because, in his essence, he does not move or change. (But even then we will have problems, because during one epoch Christ was pure divine spirit; at another time he was a God-Man, and he will remain a God-Man for the rest of time. In that sense there was a change in the Second Person of the Trinity, and thus God is not “outside of time” in that sense). But if we define time as the duration of existence (as opposed to change and movement), then God is not “outside of time” but is part of time, only the time is infinite.
Likewise, some people say, “all moments are present to God,” but they don’t define what they mean or explain how a moment that has passed could be as real as a moment experienced in the present. If the phrase “all moments are present to God” merely means that God is cognizant of all moments of the past without distinction, then I have no objections. But to say that all moments of time exist at the same time is an absurdity. Until this is clarified the view will have its problems. I am trying to help people think out the problems and hopefully arrive at solutions. Since the Catholic Church has not dogmatized any view on this matter, I have the right to offer a view that helps answer the theological problem, and I should be able to do so without someone like Mr. Douglass making it sound as if I am some kind of extremist or radical theologian.
("Issues on Soteriology and Atonement: A Response to Benjamin Douglass" -- 4 December 2007)