The purpose of time in our understanding of God’s love
Patrick Henry Reardon is a Senior Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
Said He Who Is, let us make man according to our image. There is no need to do so, but let us do it anyway. And since we do it freely, let a free creature be the object of our act.
This creature must be free, but his freedom should have some purpose beyond simply being free. This is likewise true, after all, of our own freedom. In choosing to make man according to our image, we do not choose for the sake of choosing, but for the sake of love. We freely make man in order to love him.
More than this, we make man in such a way that he will know himself to be the object of our love. For this reason, we will endow him with a heart, an impulsive principle that will find no rest except in the discovery of this love.
Slowly unfolding revelation
Let us make man in such a way that we will grow’ on him. We shall reveal ourself to him bit by bit, not all at once. Thus, we shall place time as a component of his existence. Man will learn to love us through a new experience that he will call chronology, and this sense of chronology will be a component of his existence. Man’s chronological sense will teach him the significance of time.
Because events happening in time will be the medium for the revelation of our love, we will take steps to make certain that mans attention is drawn to the sequence involved in his existence. We will construct man’s world in such a way that he will be encouraged to observe the passage of time, to record its periods, to measure its course, and to reflect on his own consciousness of it.
To make this easier for man to do, let us place him on a ball that spins at some distance from a source of light, which he will call the sun. As the ball spins, half of it will always be in the
light, half in the darkness. Man will observe the regular transitions between light and darkness, and in due course he will start counting these transitions. This arrangement will provide him with an elementary chronology.
Let us make this arrangement more interesting, however. In addition to the ball’s spinning in the presence of the sun, let us also set it on a course rotating around the sun. Because this rotation will be more gradual than the ball’s spinning, it will escape man’s attention for a while, but he will eventually observe the thing. Indeed, we will place other balls out in space, each with its own spin and orbit. These complications will encourage man to measure time more completely.
Making the world more interesting
In due course man will work out mathematical equations involving all of these observations, thus refining his ways of recording time.
In fact, while we are doing this, let us give this spinning ball just a wee flip of the finger, so that it will spin with a slight wobble. Thus, the transitions between light and darkness will be marked by variations, and the ball’s rotation of the earth will have seasonal characteristics. These variations will have no effect on the measurement of time, except to make the whole process more interesting. Because the passage of time will thus be adorned with variety, man will notice it all the more.
We calculate that six days should be enough time to accomplish all these preparations and to provide the physical setting in which man will spend his life. After that, we should really put in a day to rest from our labours. Once man begins his journey through history, after all, it is unlikely that we shall either slumber or sleep, because man will need our constant attention.
For now, however, let us begin. Let there be light!