When God Puts Himself in a Box

Anselm’s Theology of the Possible, part 18

The vindication of the temporality of time resulting from this picture is indicated in Anselm’s further statement that, although there is a sense in which God does not exist in the ephemeral past, present, and future of our experience, “yet they can in some sense be said of him, since he is present to all circumscribed and changeable things just as if he were circumscribed by the same places and changed by the same times.” Indeed, Anselm could just as well say that God is more present to time than his creatures, inasmuch as his presence has proven to be the very possibility of time. For Anselm, accordingly, God’s eternality is not the acid bath in which the inherent temporality of time is flatened or dissolved, but (properly understood) brings into even deeper relief and sharper focus the texture and angularities of a real creaturely, temporal difference.[1] If anything, time is more rather than less real for God than it is for his creatures. In this way, Anselm arguably achieves a more dialectically uniform and stable doctrine of divine eternity, one that was presaged in such formative predecessors as Augustine, Boethius, and Damian, and yet arguably not worked out in quite the considered and consistent degree as that achieved by Anselm.

[1] Leftow is again helpful here: “For Anselm, God is simultaneously present at discrete, non-simultaneous times, without wiping out their temporal distinction… God, temporal things and times are literally at the same location, and so simultaneous, but are not at the same temporal lcoation, so that times remain temporally discrete.” Leftow, “Anselm: Eternity and Dimensionality,” 183-4.


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