Last night I was falling asleep and had a series of thoughts run through my mind regarding our perception of time and the implications it has on the general theology of the protestant religion base. Anyhow, as I had just finished watching a back episode of “Lost” on Netflix (I refused to watch the show when it aired as the plot was so diluted and I hate commercial time) my brain was mulling over the whole time line related issue that many sci-fi writers bring to the forefront of their medias. For those of you who aren’t avid sci-fi readers or watchers let me try to explain the problems usually presented.
The most popular plot device is an old time travel rule invented by a sci-fi writer in the early forties. It is called the “Grandfather Paradox” and is described as this: “suppose a man traveled back in time and killed his biological grandfather before the latter met the traveler’s grandmother. As a result, one of the traveler’s parents (and by extension the traveler himself) would never have been conceived. This would imply that he could not have traveled back in time after all, which in turn implies the grandfather would still be alive, and the traveler would have been conceived allowing him to travel back in time and kill his grandfather.” If that seems confusing to you don’t worry, it seems to have confused many people over the years as the theme and “ways around it” have been presented in many, many stories. The concept is simplified as: you can’t travel back in time and change anything because the fact that you want to do so means it doesn’t happen. Many people took affront to this predestined way of ruining their great ideas for cool stories about time travel so some dude (William James) coined the term “multiverse” to take care of any implication one’s influence on the past could have (actually, it was coined for general usage regarding a complex structure of inter-dimensional universes all diverging from each other to form a web or delta from whatever starting point of time there might have been). In effect the “multiverse” is a splitting of the universe based on decisions and their effects on events. It’s kind of like a giant choose-your-own-adventure book of life. This idea is very appealing to sci-fi fantasy writers in so much as it affords them a singular time line to follow; that of their primary decision making character.
I prefer in this venue not to breach the sci-fi to quantum mechanics dam as so many have done prior, but will simply state that those attributing unproven theories about origin, time, and relativity to current science are doing so only to prove themselves right instead of openly discovering unjaded facts.
In the sci-fi genre the multiverse theory allows the free flow of the story line starting from the end. The author knows the outcome and is capable of seeing the character’s development trail all the way back to the beginning without worrying about the time factor at all. Like following the trail of a rabbit from the burrow to the hunter, so too the writer sees all decisions made by the character as fluid and necessary. The end is known. Decisions made to reach that end must have been made the way they were or that end would not have been reached in the way it was.
Conversely, for us humans living in the real world, if someone in the future knew our outcome and could travel back and watch us make the decisions they already knew our answers to, then it would seem to them only right that we made those exact choices even if we may have been struggling to do so at the time. If the multiverse concept holds true then the time line could be crossed at any point and to any end progressively in the lifetime of the traveler without any adverse affects on his own existence beyond the duplication of himself. If however, the singular universe exists then the changes intended for the past will have no perceivable outcome in the future as the future has already been influenced by their outcome.
How does this time travel mumbo-jumbo tie in to protestant theology? The God of the Christian religion is described by three primary activity attributes: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Being all-powerful, aka omnipotent, seems an obvious choice to add as an attribute for a god, and the fact that so many other religions have non-omnipotent gods seems a goofy point to have been missed by whoever wrote the religion. I’ll not bother explaining how omnipotence could easily lend itself to physical time travel based on action alone.
Instead I’d like to focus on the other two action-God attributes: omniscience and omnipresence. If it could be taken as a given that anyone with the attribute of omnipresence is not only capable of being anywhere they want, but is actually everywhere all the time, then it could be postulated that using that attribute alone God could know the outcome of every decision ever made now or in the past due to his presence before, during, and after every event simultaneously. This idea about God is the easiest to comprehend as it ties directly to the author concept described above insomuch as the whole story can be viewed at once from the current outcome to the origin. Our finite perspective leads us to the conclusion that we’re just blindly stumbling about in space and the outcome is uncertain, but I think we’re probably the last to know.
The final God attribute that transcends the future time related barrier is omniscience. All-knowing is usually misconceived as simply knowing about everything. However, the true power in this attribute is that omniscience is knowing all; yes, all… (even that). The idea that someone knows your “secrets” can be frightening enough for some people. The idea that someone knows not only the outcomes, but the unspoken thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. of everything in the universes only begins to scratch the surface of this power. The past, present, future, inter-dimensional warped time anomaly, and even the infinity that is space before and after time is known all at once. All bits of the universe as a whole, the inner-workings of everything ever in existence anywhere is known. Can we be so foolhardy as to think that someone with this power of omniscience doesn’t really know how we’re feeling or what we should do with our lives? Can we really say that an omniscient being doesn’t already know our decisions before we make them? For your sake, I hope not. I realize my humanity. I may believe that my future is already written, but I don’t claim to know its outcome.
So, sci-fi timetravel and theology met in my brain last night to do battle, but the over-arching God-ttributes won before the battle started and sci-fi was left to spin its mad tales of adventure in peace knowing that no matter what was conceived, it was nothing new to someone.
p.s. Sorry it this post jumps the shark a bit.