What does the Bible say about time? What is God’s relationship with time? What about people’s? In this series, based on chapter 7 of Ken Boa’s first book, God, I Don’t Understand, we’ll explore the Scriptures’ teaching on time and how it relates to our understanding of the world, human history, eternity, and God. We’ll close with some implications for everyday life.
Time is a great mystery.All of us interact with it and talk about it, but time is something that defies real definition. It flows along like a silent river carrying the movement of events and experiences.
What do clocks and watches really measure? In some ways time is the measure of motion, but in other ways motion seems to measure time. Since everything in our universe is in motion, we must pick something (usually the sun) as a point of reference and measure our time in relation to it.
Since everything in our universe is in motion, we must pick something (usually the sun) as a point of reference and measure our time in relation to it.
But time deals with more than events, experiences, and motion. It also relates to different states of being. Each of us has a past, present, and future through which we’re constantly changing. And we all share time in common, even though we often do not experience the passing of time in the same way. One’s experience of how time passes depends on each situation.
Most of us naturally think of time in one dimension, moving in a linear way from past to present to future. This abstraction fits well with most experiences, but many evidences argue that there is more to time than this. Time is a relative thing, and there may be different kinds of time. The whole subject is difficult to approach because human perception of time is faulty and limited.
The whole subject is difficult to approach because human perception of time is faulty and limited.
Seconds, Nanoseconds, and Even Smaller
Scientific techniques and fields of exploration have become so sophisticated that it’s become necessary to break time and space into smaller and smaller units. Hours were long since broken into minutes and minutes into seconds. But even the second became much too large for many purposes, so scientists developed laser clocks, measuring pulses of light as short as three-tenths of a trillionth of a second.1
But in spite of this technical progress, science has been discovering that the universe is more puzzling and mysterious than we ever could have imagined. Quasars, black holes, antimatter, neutrinos, and related subjects continue to fascinate physicists and astronomers, often defying definition and understanding. Even light itself can’t really be comprehended because of its dual nature, consisting of waves and yet particles.
The more we examine the universe, the more we begin to see what a strange and complex wonderland it is.
The reality is, the more we examine the universe, the more we begin to see what a strange and complex wonderland it is. Consider the greatness of the God who created all this out of nothing, and then try to imagine what creation will be like when it’s released from slavery to the Adamic curse!
Although time, as part of the created order, is a great mystery, it doesn’t mean we can’t understand some things about it, based on evidence in both God’s general revelation (the universe) and His special revelation (the Bible). In the next part, we’ll discuss time as it relates to the study of matter (physics).
- Scientists are always striving for an ever more precise time-keeping instrument. The latest of these inventions (as of 2017) is an atomic clock made of quantum gas. Its error rate is lower than previously possible: for every 10 quintillion ticks, only 3.5 are out of sync.