Time flows in one direction from past to present to future. Is eternity, on the other hand, essentially non-linear? Or is eternity simply time itself as we know it: linear, but with an infinite past and an infinite future?

Growing up in a Protestant, evangelical tradition, it was implied to me (though,  to be fair, never stated) that eternity is linear. With this view, eternity is simply the straight-line projection of time from infinity past to infinity future.

Yet, does not the Bible say that God created all things? Would this not include time? And if time is present from infinity to infinity, could it not be said that time contains God rather than God contains time? And if time contains God, can God really be said to be God?

As time has progressed, I’ve been introduced to other views about eternity. Views that are implied by biblical books such as Ecclesiastes. With non-linear views of “eternal time”, normal rules about cause and effect don’t necessarily apply. Time can ebb and flow and even loop back on itself again. With this, God could simultaneously touch two different circumstances on earth 1,000 years apart at the same time for him. Such a non-linear view of eternity might radically reshape views of predestination and prophecy. For example, the biblical picture of the Lamb of God being slain before the foundation of the world yet also being crucified on the cross at Calvary here on the earth about 2,000 years ago would only make sense with a non-linear view of eternal time, if that event was one and the same.

A recent movie that explores the possibilities of non-linear time is “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. In this film, a man is born with a genetic defect that makes him involuntarily travel through time. (Viewers of the film will have some issues with determining how old the time-traveler is at any given point in the film, by the way.) When he time-travels, usually to the past though sometimes to the future, he arrives naked without clothing (as per the Terminator movies and television series). So when he arrives, he has to resort to stealing clothes and then waiting for the next moment when he will travel through time again.

I see this as symbolizing the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. This time-traveler, like all of humanity, is forced again and again back to this terrible point in time: To the point where our progenitors recognized their own nakedness. Adam and Eve then felt compelled to make clothes for themselves (fig leaves). At that point, we feel compelled to resort to stealing and hurting others to provide for ourselves, rather than simply trusting in our heavenly Father for his constant provision, which was his original plan for all of us.

It is the daughter of Henry the time-traveler, Alba (which is a very rare name in the English-speaking world that means “sunrise” or “white”), who learns to control her time-traveling abilities by singing. After trying to sing, too, Henry gives up by saying tersely, “I can’t sing”. Yet, we know from the very beginning of the movie that he can sing, as he had sung with his mother, an excellent singer, when he was a young boy right before she died. Yet, like many of us, Henry (a common name that means “home ruler”) had lost the simplicity and innocence of childhood when he became an adult. After all, everything that can be spoken can also be sung. Yet to sing something requires reaching deeper into ourselves to something more emotional and primal. Singing speaks of love, joy, faith, and hope. And Henry’s and his mother’s deaths both come on Christmas Days, the day of the choir of angels in Bethlehem. So, the coming of Alba, who seems to be the only completely content character in the film, represents a new beginning for humanity (a new sunrise) where people can control their own destinies rather than be controlled by them.

The New Monasticism: The 12 Marks: Mark #5

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 21, 2009

“Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church”

To say that we are the body of Christ is to say that we are the ones that are inside of him. It is also to say that we are the visible expression of Christ Jesus on the earth. We, the body of Christ, are the conscious expression of Christ in this world.

The word “church” originally meant “called-out ones”. So, to be in the body of Christ means to be called out of the way of life of the world-systems of the kosmokrator and into the body of the Lord Jesus himself. To be his called-out ones, we are called out of …


… and into …


By saying that we are submitting ourselves to the body of Christ, we come into complete agreement with God’s plan for the world. A body submits itself to the direction of its head. Likewise, the body of Christ submits itself to the leading of its head, who is the Christ.

And God’s plan for the world is not for millions of individual but separate and disjointed relationships with him. Rather, his yearning is for a fully unified assembly of followers throughout the whole world. Yet this is something much more than a temporary meeting of people from time to time. Rather, it is a living and organic body of followers. It is a state of being where we are in him and he is in us. This is truly what it means to be bodily present.

Ultimately, this mark implies a radical coming-together of the body of Christ in love. This is where perfect love casts out all fear.

Too Hierarchical?

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 01, 2009

A small but growing movement of followers of Christ are beginning to form themselves into discipleship relationships known as spiritual fathers and spiritual sons. With these relationships, more mature men agree for some indefinite period of time to personally mentor and instruct less mature men, and even to provide discipline to them, in a loving and private way. These relationships usually exist outside of officially recognized church or denominational structures or organizations.

Those who favor this movement support it by saying:

  1. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul (St. Paul) called himself the father of the believers in Corinth and of Timothy. This was in spite of the fact that he apparently had had no natural children.
  2. Collections of spiritual fathers and sons demonstrate a picture (symbol) for the world around us: The relationship between God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. Yes, this can never be a perfect symbol. Yet marriage is also cited as being a symbol of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church. The heart-cry of the world around us is: “Show us the Father”. The invisible God cannot be seen. Yet his goodness and graciousness can be seen through spiritual fathers loving their spiritual sons.
  3. Only a trusted mentor (spiritual father) can provide loving discipline and spiritual direction to a protege (spiritual son) in a way that a committee or a formal church leader could not.
  4. When Jesus said to “call no man father”, he was only speaking of our ultimate progenitor, God the Father.
  5. The greatest issues of the world today all come down to one underlying issue: fatherlessness. What better way to address this issue than by having more mature men mentor younger men in groupings of spiritual fathers and spiritual sons.
  6. Spiritual fathers with their spiritual sons most closely matches the discipleship pattern of Jesus with his disciples. With Jesus, discipleship was not a class but a way of life. Jesus instructed his disciples gradually through time and circumstances and by living and traveling with them.
  7. Spiritual fathers with their spiritual sons is one of the most common patterns in all of human society, across all times and parts of the world.

Those who oppose or who question this movement as being too hierarchical say (and this is not an exhaustive list, by the way):

  1. “The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.”
  2. The priesthood of all believers. The New Testament only mentions one high priest, Jesus Christ. There is no ordering of leadership for this priesthood except for the headship of Jesus Christ himself.
  3. For Protestant Christians: One of the main things we were protesting about Roman Catholicism at the start of the Reformation was its hierarchy. How could we then countenance going back to anything that looks like a hierarchical system?
  4. Also for Protestant Christians: Jesus said to call no man father. So how can we have “spiritual fathers” or anything else like that?
  5. For Catholic and Orthodox Christians: We already have officially recognized spiritual fathers and they are our priests. Anyone else who calls themselves a spiritual father is clearly outside the teaching of the true Church.
  6. God has already designed natural, intact families for this purpose. Natural fathers should, where appropriate, provide spiritual care in their households for their children. After that, formal church structures should provide a measure of spiritual discipline.
  7. Spiritual fathers could abuse their positions of spiritual authority over their spiritual sons.
  8. God expresses himself through all of his children. How can any one of them be greater than any other?
  9. This movement is, on its face, anti-feminine because it only speaks of the male gender: fathers and sons.
  10. We need no earthly spiritual father because God the Father can now deal with each of us directly, including as per disciplinary issues.

Is this a movement that is too hierarchical or is it both a natural expression of human communities and of Christian theology?

I invite your comments.