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Christianity &Islam &Rationals Thomas on 23 Aug 2010 12:59 am

A great question for both Christians/Muslims and atheists to ponder: What do you tell Christians when they say “God is outside of space and time.”

A very interesting thread:

What do you tell Christians when they say “God is outside of space and time.”

Three responses in particular are worth quoting:


“One reader of an early draft of this chapter complained at this point, saying that by treating the hypothesis of God as just one more scientific hypothesis, to be evaluated by the standards of science in particular and rational thought in general, Dawkins and I are ignoring the very widespread claim by believers in God that their faith is quite beyond reason, not a matter to which such mundane methods of testing applies. It is not just unsympathetic, he claimed, but strictly unwarranted for me simply to assume that the scientific method continues to apply with full force in this domain of truth.

Very well, let’s consider the objection. I doubt that the defender of religion will find it attractive, once we explore it carefully.

The philosopher Ronaldo de Souza once memorably described philosophical theology as “intellectual tennis without a net,” and I readily allow that I have indeed been assuming without comment or question up to now that the net of rational judgement was up. But we can lower it if you really want to.

It’s your serve.

Whatever you serve, suppose I return service rudely as follows: “What you say implies that God is a ham sandwich wrapped in tin foil. That’s not much of a God to worship!”. If you then volley back, demanding to know how I can logically justify my claim that your serve has such a preposterous implication, I will reply: “oh, do you want the net up for my returns, but not for your serves?

Either way the net stays up, or it stays down. If the net is down there are no rules and anybody can say anything, a mug’s game if there ever was one. I have been giving you the benefit of the assumption that you would not waste your own time or mine by playing with the net down.”

— Daniel C. Dennett (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life)


“If God exists outside of space and time, then how do you know anything about him?”

The problem is that even if that argument could somehow be true, God would have to step into space and time at some point in order to have an impact on things that exist entirely within spacetime (i.e. us). It is at that point that we can measure the impact God has on the universe and pretty much anything the theist gains form the whole “outside spacetime” argument is lost. If god exists outside of space and time he can’t answer prayers, because prayers originate within space and time. If he exists outside of space and time Jesus (or vishnu or whoever) coming to earth as a man-god makes no sense, and it makes no sense for people like Abraham or Mohammad to be able to talk to God.

TL;DR If someone wants to say that God exists outside of spacetime they can’t say God has an impact within spacetime.


About two years ago I had a debate in a Q&A session with Dr. Frank Turek, a professional apologist. A main part of his argument was that, “God is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.”

I pointed out to him, “Do you know what else is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial? Nothing. That’s right, nothing. In fact, that’s pretty much a dictionary-perfect definition of ‘Nothing.’ If you were doing a crossword puzzle and asked a scientist, ‘Hey Doc, what’s a seven letter word for something timeless, spaceless, and immaterial?’ He’d say, ‘Nothing,’ not ‘Creator.”

18 Responses to “A great question for both Christians/Muslims and atheists to ponder: What do you tell Christians when they say “God is outside of space and time.””

  1. on 23 Aug 2010 at 5:40 pm 1.Burebista said …

    “Do you know what else is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial? Nothing.”

    Really? Show me what nothing looks like? Can it create and sustain? No, I don’t think so. But since man cannot define “nothing” then maybe it is more of a force than it is given credit.

    God is beyond time ans space but He did come to earth as a man in the form of Jesus. He has taken on the material world just as we have. However God is a spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth.

  2. on 23 Aug 2010 at 7:11 pm 2.Anonymous said …

    >God is beyond time ans space but He did
    >come to earth as a man in the form of Jesus.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either he is beyond time and space or not. If he is beyond time and space, then your jesus is pure myth.

    “If someone wants to say that God exists outside of spacetime they can’t say God has an impact within spacetime.”

  3. on 23 Aug 2010 at 7:45 pm 3.Burebista said …

    :If someone wants to say that God exists outside of spacetime they can’t say God has an impact within spacetime.”


  4. on 24 Aug 2010 at 11:55 pm 4.Joe said …

    1. I think it is not illogical per se to claim that there exists a higher being that is not fully part of the 4-dimensional space-time we inhabit. Theoretical physics has come up with far more counterintuitive ideas.

    2. What is important here for criticising Christianity is that Christians claim that their higher being does have an impact on our 4-dimensional space-time (the history of Israel, Jesus as god’s incarnation, God answering prayers, etc). This is important because it turns claims about God into EMPIRICAL claims.

    3. These empirical claims give us the opportunity to falsify them, by studies about the impact of prayer on the process of healing, or by observing that our planet with earthquakes, hurricanes and suffering does not look like a planet that is taken care of (or has been created by) an omniscient, omnipotent, loving God.

    4. These empirical claims do not only give us the opportunity to criticise Christians, they also make it our duty to criticise Christians, for it is so obvious that many (if not all) of these empirical claims do not hold.

  5. on 25 Aug 2010 at 12:03 am 5.Joe said …

    5. It is precisely for these reasons that atheism can be practiced as (a) a scientific endevour that is (b) carried out in the spirit of the Enlightenment.

    (But I am not saying that all atheism is able to live up to this concept. Unfortunately, also on this blog, there are entries that are not substantial enough in quality and come to close to bashing religion by means of polemics. For me it does not provide comfort that 95% of the responses by Christians here are not better either.)

  6. on 25 Aug 2010 at 8:12 am 6.Severin said …

    1 Burebista
    “Show me what nothing looks like?”

    According to description, it looks exactly like god.

  7. on 25 Aug 2010 at 8:24 am 7.Severin said …

    1 Burebista
    “God is beyond time ans space but He did come to earth as a man in the form of Jesus.”

    Wasn’t he present on earth BEFORE Jesus? Or you deny the OT?

    Didn’t your “out of space and time” god sniff burnt meat and killed people if he did’t like the aroma?
    Didn’t he give detailed instructions about how to beat slaves?
    He did, according to the OT!

    It does not look much like an “out of space and time” god.
    It looks like more like Quetzalcoatl, no essential difference.
    In short, it looks like idiocy: a “out of space and time god” sniffs burnt meat!

  8. on 25 Aug 2010 at 8:34 am 8.Severin said …

    4 Joe
    “1. I think it is not illogical per se to claim that there exists a higher being that is not fully part of the 4-dimensional space-time we inhabit.”

    It IS illogical per se, if you follow the cause – effect logic.

    If you strictly follow it, it CAN NOT end with god without posing the question: who/what created god?

    If an answer could appear (as theists claim) that god existed “before” he created everything, without any cause, my question is:
    What makes matter/energy worse “candidate” for being existed “out of time and space”, without any cause, than god?
    Why a “god”, why not matter/energy?

    It “just existed” without cause, and changed forms according to natural laws.
    As simple as that.

  9. on 25 Aug 2010 at 4:52 pm 9.Joe said …

    1. I beg to disagree, Severin, because it is not illogical per se to imagine that there might be a reality (in whatever form) outside our well-known 4-dimensional space-time. (String theory, for example, works with 10 or more dimensions, and the universe might well be way more weird.)

    2. Regarding the cause-effect problem, you will always run into trouble, no matter if you assume there is a god or if you assume there is none. If you assume there is a god, you have the problem of explaining where god came from (unless you just say, s/he has always been there, which is not an answer). If you assume there is no god and follow the evidence that supports the big bang theory, you have the problem of explaining why a big bang was possible in the first instance (so the big bang theory is not a definite answer either).

    3. This is why the truly fundamental question is not creation versus big bang, but instead it is: WHY IS THERE SOMETHING AND NOT NOTHING? This question is open, no matter whether or not you believe in a higher being.

    4. From the point of LOGIC(!), this question cannot be answered using a cause-effect relationsship because a cause-effect relation never terminates and always needs a higher cause to lead to a lower cause. The only way I can see in which you stop a cause-effect chain is by assuming that the very first effect did not have a cause, i.e. came out of nothing. But neither the concept of god (how did god come out of nothing?) nor the concept of a reality that allows for a big bang (how did this reality come about out of nothing?) answers this question.

    5. I doubt that human beings will ever
    be able to answer the question of why there is something and not nothing.

    6. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasise that, while from the point of LOGIC both the concept of creation and the big bang theory leave open the same question and are therefore equivally disappointing, there are good reasons to assume that the universe was NOT created by a god, but developed via a big bang scenario. These reasons, however, are NOT logical reasons, but EMPIRICAL reasons. We have sufficient empirical evidence to assume that the big bang scenario is realistic.

    7. Finally, I hope that it has become clear one more time that we have to address the problem of religion as an empirical problem. And in this way it turns into a scientific problem.

  10. on 26 Aug 2010 at 10:15 am 10.Anonymous said …

    Hey joe, check out Stephen Hawking’s no boundary proposal.
    It is pretty interesting.

    this is also pretty interesting

  11. on 26 Aug 2010 at 10:18 am 11.Anonymous said …

    Oh, and string theory is a load of dingos kindneys

  12. on 26 Aug 2010 at 4:52 pm 12.saved and going to heaven said …

    all i can say is i hope you have been saving up on your sun block cause ya’ll are going to need a truck load!! iam praying for everyone who makes the very wrong choice in beliving all the junk on this sight it will be the choice that leads you to hell fire.but you can turn from this garbage and live in glory for ever,the choice is yours so please dont make the wrong one.think about this, if you live for GOD and die and there is no GOD you have lost nothing,BUT if you dont live for GOD and die and there is a GOD my friend you have lost everything. i love all of the people that belives the junk on this sight and ill be praying for you all.. take care and GOD bless…..saved and going to heaven.

  13. on 27 Aug 2010 at 12:50 am 13.3D said …

    How many dumbasses are going to come in here with Pascal’s Wager? Can we at least get some arguments in here that weren’t already debunked 300 years ago?

  14. on 27 Aug 2010 at 5:29 am 14.Joe said …

    I’ll come back to #10 when I have found the time to watch the videos. Looks interesting.

    Regarding #12:
    If I had lived for God and there was no God, I would have lost the one and only opportunity to understand and experience life as it is, without religious ideologies. In other words: your line of argument were correct only if believing in your God had no negative impact on my short life here on earth. But this is not the case.

  15. on 27 Aug 2010 at 12:21 pm 15.Xenon said …

    When Pascal’s wager is debunked then it will go away. Until then, the wager is solid from the Christian perspective.

    But I am always open to new information.

    3D, from the Christian POV, prove Blaise Pascal wrong.

  16. on 28 Aug 2010 at 11:27 am 16.Joe said …

    I have already shown (implicitly) in #14 why Pascal’s wager does not even make sense from a Christian POV. To make it more explicit:

    1. Every Christian would agree that believing in Jesus requires you to change your life. But what if someone does not want to change his life because he is happy with the way it is? Then believing in Jesus might mean to live a much less happy life now in exchange for a possibly happy life after you death.

    2. Every Christian has to admit that he is not 100% certain whether or not God exists. (Otherwise it would not be about faith and believing, but about knowing.) In fact, most honest Christians do know that there are times in life when it is difficult to believe and there are loads of doubts. Books by “great men of faith” are full of these experiences. So being an honest Christian implies acknowlediging that faith is not about being 100% sure.

    Conclusion from 1. and 2.: Also a Christian can see that (a) depending on how someone values the quality of his (possibly eternal) life as a Christian versus his current life, and (b) depending on the subjective probability that there is a God/no God, it might be a rational decision NOT to become a Christian.

    BTW: This is not just an academic exercise, but a real life thing. Imagine a gay person with a stable, long-term, monogamous, happy relationship who has found his one, true partner for life. Quite a few Christians would expect this person to give up his partner because of what they perceive as Christian believes. If this person thinks that the probability that there is a God is very low, how could they ever be so stupid to become a Christian? To exchange certain perfect happiness for certain unhappiness with an uncertain reward after death? For such a person, choosing this anti-gay Christianity would be outright irrational and stupid.

    To sum it up: Pascal’s wager is not a proper line of argument.

    (BTW2: I’d pity everyone who becomes a Christian because of Pascal’s wager. How can you have a loving(!) relationship with God if the reason why you believe in him is just being afraid of hell?)

  17. on 29 Nov 2010 at 10:10 pm 17.MYSELF said …

    Once I thought to myself atheists only exist to torture christians and act as a test of faith. Then I grew a sense of humor and thought, well if that’s true then christians exist only to give atheists some entertainment!

  18. on 29 Nov 2010 at 10:16 pm 18.A said …

    Joe said ”

    To sum it up: Pascal’s wager is not a proper line of argument. ”

    Wrong again Joe. Your point #1 would not be a Christian. Jesus changes a man’s wants and attitudes. If you change only to buy your way into heaven you are not a Christian. You should really do some study before taking on Pascal.

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