The Reality of Time

Dr. Craig,

You have played a vital role in my apologetic development, a long with other philosophers. I am puzzled by the fact that a lot of things are taken for granted although examining their legitimacy is the job of philosophy, thus I need to ask you, why do you believe in time in the first place? Isn't just an idea in our mind that helps us locate an event in relation to our experience? I do not get older because of time, but because of my biological development and entropic reality. These are physical constituents of the Universe that entail space and mass in a dynamical interaction. Moreover, the elements that shape events already exist in our universe, to say the time for x has not yet come, is strictly to say that the physical conditions for x to occur is not satisfied yet by the gathered factors. Can you help me identify what I could be missing here, please?

Guillermo

Nicaragua

Nice to get a question from someone with the same name as mine! Why do I believe in time? In a word, I experience time, and I have no defeater of the veridicality of that experience.

In my work on God and time, I argue at length for the reality of tensed time, which entails that time is real. I cannot think of any other belief which we have that is so fundamental and so powerfully warranted as the belief that time is real. Even the belief in the existence of the external world of physical objects can’t compare to it. For the external world is apprehended as a temporal world, but in addition to that we apprehend time in the inner life of the mind as we experience a temporal succession of states of consciousness. Even if I were a Boltzmann Brain with the illusion of a physical world about me, the experience of time would remain undiminished for me.

So I’ve argued that belief in the reality of tensed time is a properly basic belief grounded in our temporal experience. Here’s the argument as I state it:

1. Belief in the objective reality of the distinction between past, present, and future is properly basic.

2. If our belief in the objective reality of the distinction between past, present, and future is properly basic, then we are prima facie justified in holding this belief.

3. Therefore, we are prima facie justified in holding our belief in the objective reality of the distinction between past, present, and future.

Since premiss (2) is true by definition of “properly basic belief,” the premiss requiring defense is (1).

I offer several arguments in support of (1), pointing to such data as our experience of the presentness of our experiences, our differential attitudes toward the past and future, and our experience of temporal becoming. These examples show how basic, deeply ingrained, strongly held, and universal is our belief in the reality of tense and temporal becoming. On any view that time is unreal, we are all of us hopelessly mired in irrationality, prisoners to an illusion from which we are powerless to free ourselves. By contrast, if a tensed theory of time is correct, our experiences and beliefs are entirely rational and appropriate. Thus, insofar as we think that such experiences are justified, we should embrace a tensed theory of time.

It follows from the above argument that we are prima facie justified in holding our belief in the objective reality of the distinction between past, present, and future. Far from being controversial, such a conclusion could be accepted even by a proponent of a tenseless view of time. What he will argue is that our prima facie justification is defeated in some way. But by what? I argue that there are no successful defeaters, including McTaggart’s famous argument for time’s unreality, of such experiences. (By the way, almost nobody agrees with McTaggart’s argument: tensed and tenseless time theorists just fault it in different ways.)

You ask, “Isn't [time] just an idea in our mind that helps us locate an event in relation to our experience?” I see no reason to think so; but even if it were, as explained above, because that experience is tensed, any idea that locates us relative to that experience will give us a tensed, temporal location.

You say, “I do not get older because of time, but because of my biological development and entropic reality.” Well, yes and no. Time does not make your body run down and in that sense age. But everything in time is getting older in the sense that it has existed for a greater temporal duration than it used to, regardless of its physical appearance. As Sydney Shoemaker once showed in a famous article, even a universe frozen into immobility can still undergo temporal passage and so grow older over time.

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Q & A about the Historical Jesus

Question 1: Is it not true that we don't even know in what century Jesus lived? How come we only have a lot of references in the New Testament and no where else from that general time?

Answer 1: You will have to work pretty hard to find scholars who argue the thesis that Jesus never lived. Even most "liberals" dismiss these views as baseless. It has been refuted time and time again. Why? Because there are first century references to Jesus, several of which critical scholars date to within months to a couple of years after Jesus' death. I'm speaking here chiefly of the early creeds in the New Testament, like 1 Corinthians 15:3ff. Besides all of the New Testament writings, we have a few extra-biblical writings that date from the mid-first century to about 110 AD. Altogether, there are even about a dozen and a half non-Christian sources that mention Jesus within the first 150 years after his death. For all these sources plus a critique of views like those who question or deny Jesus' historical existence, see my book The Historical Jesus (College Press, 1996).

Question 2: Is it true that Josephus' statements about Jesus are in fact not his and were added later in history by those seeking to prove that Jesus was a historical figure?

Answer 2: The vast majority of scholars who address this issue think that although Josephus' longer statement about Jesus in Antiquities 18:3 has been altered a bit, the bulk of it was written by Josephus. This view means that Josephus supplies some very important material about Jesus. An even larger percentage of scholars accepts Josephus' second statement concerning Jesus being the brother of James (Antiquities 20:9). Further, we have to make sense of ancient non-Christian historians like Thallus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Lucian, who reported all sorts of facts about Jesus. In The Historical Jesus, pages 243-250, I provide a long list of well over 100 items that are reported about Jesus, many by non- Christians. So, to argue that Jesus never existed totally ignores a large body of historical data. That's why, of over a thousands recent publications on the subject of the historical Jesus, I am aware of less than five who doubt or question his existence.

Question 3: Why do you suppose Josephus does not discuss Jesus in even more detail? Assuming from his two passages that he was in fact aware of Jesus and the corresponding movement, isn't it a bit odd that he includes no other discussion on Christianity? There is plenty about John the Baptist, Pilate, Caiaphas, etc., but very little about Jesus.

Answer 3: I don't suppose anyone knows exactly why Josephus doesn't say more about Jesus than he does, or why, more generally, any writer doesn't say more about someone, especially in ancient times. One possibility could be that Josephus catered to his Roman patrons, and of course, they crucified Jesus. For instance, neither Tacitus, nor Suetonius, nor Pliny the Younger speak well of Christianity. All of them, by the way, along with Josephus, clearly place Jesus in the traditional time slot. But given this general reluctance not to laud Jesus (Pliny states that early Christians sang hymns to Jesus as to a god and even says that he killed Christians who failed to worship the gods), it's not terribly surprising that Josephus doesn't say more.

Of 10 highest IQ's on earth, at least 8 are Theists, at least 6 are Christians

Have you ever heard the claim "all smart people are atheists", or maybe its inverse: "people who believe in God are dumb"? It's quite a pervasive urban legend, and one which I've known is false for a long time, but I didn't realize just how false until the other day. I recently decided to do a quick cataloging of the ten highest IQ's on earth, and discovered that it's nearly the exact opposite of the truth!

Before reading the list, however, I want to remind you of the caveat that IQ test results are not in any sense the measure of a person's worth. They tend to favor folks who are good at hard "knowledge" things like mathematics and chess, and I think we all know very valuable people who are good at none of these. Moreover, I think the attribute of "wisdom" (valuing attributes like ethics and foresight) is a far better measure of whether or not a person will be happy. I'm not aware of any standardized test for measuring wisdom, however.

Another important point is that there are competing ideas on which tests most accurately measure intelligence. Not everyone takes the same IQ test, and there are enough claims, counterclaims, and disputes in this subject to drive a researcher bananas! All I could do was read everything I could find on it, and rank the candidates based both upon their scores and on who seemed to be the most unanimously agreed upon as worthy (ignoring many "fan clubs" along the way).

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The Founding Fathers on Jesus, Christianity and the Bible

A Few Declarations of Founding Fathers and Early Statesmen on Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible

(This list is by no means exhaustive; many other Founders could be included, and even with those who appear below, additional quotes could have been used.)

 

John Adams

SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; DIPLOMAT; ONE OF TWO SIGNERS OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

 

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.1

Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.2

The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.3

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!4

I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.5

 

John Quincy Adams

SIXTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; DIPLOMAT; SECRETARY OF STATE; U. S. SENATOR; U. S. REPRESENTATIVE; “OLD MAN ELOQUENT”; “HELL-HOUND OF ABOLITION”

My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ and I cannot cavil or quibble away [evade or object to]. . . . the whole tenor of His conduct by which He sometimes positively asserted and at others countenances [permits] His disciples in asserting that He was God.6

The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made “bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” [Isaiah 52:10].7

In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.8

 

Samuel Adams

SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; “FATHER OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION”; RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION; GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS

I . . . [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.9

The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe [Proverbs 18:10]. Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.10

I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world . . . that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by the promoting and speedily bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.11

He also called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that . . .

  • the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole family of mankind.12
  • we may with one heart and voice humbly implore His gracious and free pardon through Jesus Christ, supplicating His Divine aid . . . [and] above all to cause the religion of Jesus Christ, in its true spirit, to spread far and wide till the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.13
  • with true contrition of heart to confess their sins to God and implore forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior.14

 

Josiah Bartlett

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How Can Christ Be the Only Way to God?

William Lane Craig

A rigorous attempt to answer the problem of the fate of the unevangelized and the challenge of religious pluralism.

Introduction

I recently spoke at a major Canadian university on the existence of God. After my talk, one slightly irate co-ed wrote on her comment card, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

This attitude is pervasive in Western culture today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.

And yet this is exactly what the New Testament clearly teaches. Take the letters of the apostle Paul, for example. He invites his Gentile converts to recall their pre-Christian days: "Remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2.12). It is the burden of the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans to show that this desolate condition is the general situation of mankind. Paul explains that God’s power and deity are made known through the created order around us, so that men are without excuse (1.20), and that God has written His moral law upon all men's hearts, so that they are morally responsible before Him (2.15). Although God offers eternal life to all who will respond in an appropriate way to God's general revelation in nature and conscience (2.7), the sad fact is that rather than worship and serve their Creator, people ignore God and flout His moral law (1.21-32). The conclusion: All men are under the power of sin (3.9-12). Worse, Paul goes on to explain that no one can redeem himself by means of righteous living (3.19-20). Fortunately, however, God has provided a means of escape: Jesus Christ has died for the sins of mankind, thereby satisfying the demands of God's justice and enabling reconciliation with God (3.21-6). By means of his atoning death salvation is made available as a gift to be received by faith.

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5 Reasons to Believe Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead

What? Are you serious? Who’d believe this in our modern world? You’d have to think the gospels are inspired by God or something like that, and they’re a bunch of myths!”

To the contrary, I will assume nothing special about the New Testament writings whatsoever. I will use only the historical information that is accepted as historical by virtually all scholars who have studied this material today — no matter how skeptical or liberal they are. That means, for example, that I will only cite New Testament passages, ones that pass the customary skeptical standards and are recognized as such.

Using only these “minimal facts,” I will still maintain that Jesus’ resurrection is the most likely explanation for what we know.

Consider just the following details that the vast majority of skeptical scholars allow:

1. Most scholars agree that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty shortly afterwards.

With almost two dozen reasons favoring this report alone, what best explains this? Other hypotheses do not account for all the data.

2. Many eyewitnesses assert that they saw the risen Jesus, both individually and in groups.

Even apart from the Gospels, we can establish this totally from just two passages in Paul’s “undisputed writings”:

–Paul told the Corinthians that he had received the  resurrection report from others (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

–The consensus critical view is that Paul probably obtained this material in Jerusalem, when he visited the eyewitness apostles Peter and James, the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-24).

–Paul returned to Jerusalem 14 years later and specifically checked out the nature of the Gospel message, again with eyewitnesses Peter, James, and now John (Galatians 2:1-10).

–All the apostles agreed that Jesus appeared to them after his death (1 Corinthians 15:11).

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3. Scholars also agree that Paul received this material from the other apostles at an exceptionally early date — only about five years after the crucifixion.

But since the others knew the reports before Paul did, we are right back to the events themselves. Even one of the best-known critical scholars today, non-Christian specialist Bart Ehrman, dates several Christian traditions as early as just a year or two after the crucifixion!

4. But why should we believe that these eyewitnesses were being honest? We have first century sources that the three apostles mentioned above were all martyred: Paul, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus.

Of course, people die for all sorts of ideas, but only for what they are convinced is true. But unlike others, the apostles were in a position to know whether or not they had seen Jesus Christ alive after his death. By being willing to die, scholars agree that they were convinced that Jesus had indeed appeared to them. At the very least, this addresses their honesty and conviction.

5. Of these eyewitnesses, Paul was a persecutor of the early Christians, and James was an unbeliever.

Skeptical scholars accept this in both cases. But why did they become believers? Again, they were certainly in a position to know whether the risen Jesus had appeared to them.

But aren’t the gospels full of myths? I don’t think that claim can be substantiated at all, but that’s another subject. Notice that we didn’t use the gospels here. We only used texts that are accepted by virtually all scholars who have studied these events in detail. As Ehrman points out, the pagan dying and rising gods motif has many serious problems and cannot be used to argue some sort of copycat theory by the early Christian apostles.

Altogether, these five reasons are each based on a well-evidenced foundation, built on texts that are accepted as historical by virtually all scholars, whatever their religious persuasion. Readers who choose to reject them must consider whether they are doing so for other than factual reasons.

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