William Lane Craig has said that it is tremendously difficult to be a Christian and not be an A theorist, since it poses significant theological problems for the Christian. I have wondered what such theological problems he has in mind, and I think the most powerful may be the following: God must have ‘real’ relations with the world – that he must really be the world’s creator and so forth. Thomas Aquinas argued that although the world had real relations to God, God had no ‘real’ relations to the world, and we just represent God’s relations to the world to ourselves in our minds. While I agree with Aquinas, I find that many evangelical Christians, and more orthodox/traditional Christians, are being tempted to agree with Dr. Craig about the A-theory of Time. Here, then, are some theological reasons for being sceptical of A-theory.
The first and most significant for traditional Christians who are sacramentally oriented, will be the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Christ is supposed to transport the communicant to the event of calvary, along with the resurrection, and more broadly the creation of the world along with the eschaton. In the Eucharist, the communicant is re-presented with Christ himself, making both past events and future events really present realities. This poses a problem, however, if events in the future are in no sense real, which is what the A theorist is committed to. Although perhaps God could somehow re-present what was in the past as present, he could not present us with what is in the future, and is in no sense real. Imagine how the Eucharist at the Last supper looks if we admit that Christ had in no sense yet died for his Church.
Another, perhaps greater difficulty with A-theory is simply that it violates the doctrine of Divine Simplicity, which Catholics are bound to believe by the fourth Lateran council, along with Vatican I. God’s being would be fractured into ‘past’ ‘present’ and ‘future’ in such a way that his future is in no way accessible to him any more than his past, and he has lost his past in just as real a sense as we have lost ours. Yet, as C.S. Lewis objects:
“But God has no history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one.”
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.169
Finally, there are a number of oddities which follow on A theory. For instance, it means that the saints in heaven can hardly keep up with us when we ask them for prayers, since they must respond in ‘real-time’ (unless they are outside of time and God is simply reporting to them how many times various people ask them for prayer – but for the prayers to be efficacious those prayers still have to be heard by God who is in time). It also makes prayers for the dead seem meaningless, since those dead are already either in Heaven or in Hell, and prayer itself, then, cannot have causal effects from the future to the past (unless God responds not to the act of prayer, but merely to the knowledge that the act will occur). So that, where a pastor may pray to receive money for his/her ministry, and then receives it, but also notices that the causal chain which inevitably ended in her/him receiving the money was begun before the prayer for the money, that pastor would be in her/his right mind to suppose that they received the money not because God was answering their prayer, but just as a matter of coincidence. This is all profoundly counter-intuitive to Christian piety.