When is “Now”?

Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place.  Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth.  Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

  • 2 Chronicles 1:8-10

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.  The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches

  • Revelation 1:17-20

“Kant wants to demonstrate that there is an external, material world, and that its existence cannot be doubted.  His argument begins as follows: in order for something to exist, it must be determinable in time – that is, we must be able to say when it exists and for how long.  But how does this work in the case of my own consciousness?
“Although consciousness seems to be constantly changing with a continuous flow of sensations and thoughts, we can use the word ‘now’ to refer to what is currently happening in our consciousness.  But ‘now’ is not a determinate time or date.  Every time I say ‘now’, consciousness is different.
“Here lies the problem: what makes it possible to specify the ‘when’ of my existence?  We cannot experience time itself, directly; rather, we experience time through things that move, change, or stay the same.  Consider the hands of a clock, constantly moving slowly around.  The moving hands are useless for determining time on their own – they need something against which they change, such as the numbers on a clock face.  Every resource I have for measuring my constantly changing ‘now’ is found in material objects outside me in space (including my own physical body).  Saying that I exist requires a determinate point in time, and this, in turn, requires an actual outside existing world in which time takes place.  My level of certainty about the existence of the external world is thus precisely the same as my level of certainty about existence of consciousness, which Descartes believed was absolutely certain.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Thank you, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).  Ever since one group of philosophers argued that our consciousness exists, but they were not able to prove that their physical body existed, and a different group of philosophers could see their physical body and know it existed, but since thoughts are not visible, they could never prove they existed…  Now Kant wraps everything up with a nice bow.  Okay, we have had 200 years of philosophy since then and everything Kant came up with has been questioned, but the argument in the quote above sounds so much more like common sense than most of what I have written about in these philosophy discussions.

But 150 or so years later, C. S. Lewis expressed “now” in even more philosophical terms.  The present is the point at which time touches eternity.”  The quote comes from The Screwtape Letters, but even Screwtape can utter thought provoking truth – maybe only by accident.

In a weak moment, I started watching LEGO Masters with Will Arnett as the host.  Maybe it is because my grandchildren are into LEGOs.  The competition starts when Will says, “Get your brick on!”  But sometimes Will is being comical and the “get your brick on” emerges in the middle of a short monologue.  All the contestants are standing around laughing, and then Will Arnett will yell, “No!  I said, ‘Get your brick on!’”  Ten or twenty seconds passed before the contestants started moving, because the command for the clock to start ticking down had not registered in their brains.

I have heard it in past Olympics but not this year, “Ready.  Get set.  No…”  Someone may not have set properly or there was a false start or the starting gun misfired, but the “now” suddenly became later.

Let’s look at the two Scriptures above.  When is “now?”  In the 2 Chronicles passage, does God grant Solomon wisdom when he says “now” or is wisdom granted when he finishes his prayer?  Or does he sleep on the idea and then wakes up the following morning instantly wise.  Or was wisdom already within him?  Why else would he ask for wisdom?

In the second Scripture from Revelation, Jesus uses the words “what is now,” but He is not referring to this specific instance in time.  Oh wait, this specific instance when I say “Now!  …  No, Now!”  No, Jesus is referring to the present age.  Some of what Jesus says is happening as Jesus reveals it to the Apostle John.  After all, John is on Patmos and not at any of the seven churches, but other items of the “now” will happen soon, within the apostle’s lifetime.  As an old dear friend taught me in a Bible study, prophecies usually had three timeframes.  Some prophecies happened within the lifetime of those hearing the prophecies.  That confirms the prophet’s credentials, so to speak.  But then some of the prophecies will happen within a short period of time, a couple of generations or so.  Then, why is the prophecy in the Bible?  Some of the prophecy pertains to now or in the near future or the lessons learned pertain to us now.

But back to the quote, the first statement was welcome news.  The physical world must not be doubted.  I doubt is Voltaire liked that statement much, but then he would doubt that the statement existed.

And Kant’s argument that the physical world exists as proof that time exists is a much more cogent argument than George Berkeley’s idea that as soon as he fails to sense something, the something fails to exist.  No, the physical world is indeed substance that cannot be destroyed.

And what of God?  Just as Kant argues that the hands of the clock may constantly move, but the face stays the same, God is the same: yesterday, today, and forever.

Even outside this physical world, we will continue to exist using Kant’s argument.  Our souls, in a new body, will exist and proven to exist because God will be that constant that never changes.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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