So I was thinking about time travel and discussing my reasoning’s when someone posed the question to me: “well then can God change the past?”. My initial reply is that such a statement is nonsense, which he didn’t like so let me expand on why such a thing like God changing the past or future for that matter is nonsense.
The reason for me thinking it so, is because I believe that time and existence flows out of God rather than being something apart from God. Let me put it this way: if time is something apart from God which He has set on its course, but it is now created and built upon by some one other than God namely men. It is like He started creation on its process but gave it over to men to complete, thus its substance is created by men ultimately and not Himself. In this view, God is the one reaching down and affecting things, changing things as they happen, he cannot change the past because in any view to change what has happened to something that has not happened is a contradiction. If you have problems with understanding how God cannot change the past, because to do so is to create a contradiction, well let me know and we can dive deeper into that, but for now just take my word for it. In this view God is reacting to what men do, making changes after a man does something, as to affect its outcome to God’s favor. I do not think this view is the correct view of reality. Time isn’t something separate from God, it isn’t something that is created by men ultimately where God reacts to what men do, God decrees what will happen, and it happens.
The view I hold is the one where God not only created Time and the beginning, but He also created the End and all the points in between. God is not reacting to us, we react to Him ultimately. In this view, neither God nor man can change the past, or future. I like to say “you cannot change your future any more than you can change your past, and you are no more responsible for your future than you are your past”. Which is to say, your past is created from what you did, you are responsible for it, and it couldn’t have been anything different, because it is what it is. That like saying that someone who murders someone, can be called not a murderer at the same time he is a murderer just because the judge acquitted him. Although he may not be punished for his crime, he is and will always be a murderer. So in the same way your past is your past, and by definition cannot change and you cannot claim to have no responsibility for it for it was you who acted and it became what it is.
In the same way you cannot change your future, because like your past, it already exists and it too is created by your actions, so you are just as responsible for them as you are for the ones you did in the past. I say that your future is already existing, because God has decreed it so. God sees the beginning and the end, He prophesies and tells us what will happen. If we existed in the previous reality where God is outside of Time and only steps in once and a while, and it is being currently created by men, and the future isn’t determined, well one might be able to argue either God will have to “make people against their will” do things or somethings that He predicted would happen wouldn’t happen. But we know that God cannot lie, and He has the power to do what He says He will, and He does not act in a way that negates our responsibility for our actions, so I would argue that this cannot be how our reality is.
Rather our reality is one where God sees the beginning from the end, because He said it must be so. When He created Adam, He already planned for Jesus, and the destruction of the world, He wasn’t surprised by the fall, it was part of His plan. Yes Adam was responsible for it, but God planned it. You see God has already said what will happen, He knows what will happen, He has decreed it, and we know that God cannot lie. So if God says that He will return, He will return, no matter what you do you cannot change that. Satan who is more powerful than any human, and probably more powerful than all humans put together, that if there was a war and 8 billion humans vs Satan, Satan would win, this Satan couldn’t stop God’s plan’s nor decrees. He tried to temp Jesus, destroy Israel, and even killed Jesus, none of them stopped what God said would happen, if Satan cannot change the future, we definitely cannot.
In other words this is a nonsense statement, because the future in a small sense is being created by our actions here and now in this time, thus how can you change something that you haven’t done yet? What you do, is what will happen, so from Man’s perspective the future cannot change because we are the ones writing it, and from God’s perspective it cannot change because He has already decreed what will happen though man’s actions.
Now when we get to this point people will start to say “well if God cannot change the past or the future because He is the one decreeing it and cannot lie, and nor can men change the past or the future because they are the agents creating it, where then is man’s free will? How can God hold people responsible for their actions if they cannot change their future?”
To this I will give the on-the-surface-seemingly-unacceptable answer of “you are as responsible for your future (although unchangeable) as you are your past”. Think about that statement a minute…keep thinking c’mon don’t stop give it a minute to sink in ask yourself “what is he saying?” Ok if you still are not convinced let me help you out more. How responsible are you for your past? Were those actions done by you? Would you claim that you are not responsible for how you acted, or that in some way you acted against your will and desires, and did things you didnt want to do or had any control over doing them? If you said yes, lets talk more, but I will assume that you are like everyone else and said, “no of course I take full responsibility for my past actions I did them, no matter if I like them or not, it was I who ultimately did them”.
Ok so you were responsible for your past, well think about it, at one point your past was your future. Your present actions become past actions one second from now, but two seconds earlier they were your future actions. In all the cases it is you acting, no one is acting for you. Thus I would argue, that since both your past and future actions are infact done by you, you are responsible for them. You would not claim to be a robot, you do not feel anyone acting for you? Do you not have reasons why you did everything, even if those reasons come from other people, you had reasons, and you had an option to not do such a thing, but to not do what you did, didn’t appeal to you as much as what you did, did, or else you wouldn’t have done it, but the other thing. In other words, you only did what you most wanted to do in that circumstance considering all the options at the time. Because you did what you most wanted to do, you are responsible ultimately for them.
So in conclusion I believe that time is linear in that there is a beginning and an end of our history, we may enter another when we get to heaven, but I believe that this one is like a line. We are at one point on that line, even if we travel back in time, we cannot change anything because at that point in the line we had already gone back in time so that what was changed was already changed before we went back, so in reality, we did nothing different but what we have always and already done. Time is not being created as we speak, it has already been created and we are on the path. We are responsible for our actions, non the less we cannot change the future just as much as we cannot change our past. This does not mean we do not attempt to do our best, or to change things as they are, but that we can rest assured of the outcomes because God has already promised what He will do, and what will ultimately happen. Jesus will come back, and we will all stand before Him. Even so come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen
I found a helpful article on this subject, although I do not agree fully with his position, I do agree with the part that he says, we create our future. http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5261
I would argue that God in fact has determined the future, it is set, it cannot be changed, however, you are still responsible. I take my arguments farther than Greg, because he only says that some things are already determined by God, but others are yet to be made by us, although God knows what they are. I think he is unclear on this, because I do believe that God has completely set the future, however, He is absolved of creating sin, because He allowed sin to happen, He didn’t cause it to happen. You see God can cause, or allow things, some things He just says “Be thus” and it is, others He says “thus far you shall come”. God could stop us from sinning, but sometimes He doesn’t. He doesn’t cause us to sin, but allows us to. He could persuade us to not sin, entice us so to say, but neither does He “force” us to sin, or not to sin, for He works with our wills. We are like clay in His hands, He may mold one of us to be really strong at resisting a certain sin, and thus we do, but then He allows us to be weak in another sin, and thus we struggle. He could make us strong, or persuade us not to sin, but sometimes that isn’t His purpose. God is our creator, He knows how to get us to do whatever, and can stop us any time, without violating our moral responsibility. I think it is time I write on Free Will, and so I shall soon.