Question of the Week: Can Eternity have a Beginning?

On February 1, 2019, the Mentionables received this question from Seth F.:

The arguments is used for God's creation that creation had a beginning therefore it cannot be eternal. Scientists believe in the big bag so they believe the universe started, and Christians believe the universe started.  Because eternality is two directions past and future. How is it then that we humans each have a beginning of life, but also are going to live with God in eternity? If we are eternal beings them how did we have a beginning? Or are we not eternal beings?

Here are the responses from the Mentionables.

This answer is from Mentionable Wade Tisthammer. For the answers from Nick Peters, Marc Lambert and Randy Hroziencik, scroll below.

Living with God "in eternity" in this context means that we live with God for an endless duration.  It's conceivable for a human soul to have a beginning of existence without having an end of existence, and that's what's being referred to here.


This is the answer from Mentionable Nick Peters. For the answers from Marc Lambert and Randy Hroziencik, scroll below.

We will live forever, but we will not live eternally. Consider it as in your geometry. God is the line. He goes on without a beginning or an end. He creates us to be rays. We don't end then, but we do have a beginning at some point in time. Our existence reaches endlessly into the future, but not into the past.

The following answer is from Mentionable Marc Lambert. For the answer from Randy Hroziencik, scroll below.

This seems to me to just be a matter of equivocation or confusion on the definitions of words.

 

“Eternity” or “Eternal” is one of those terms that has a wide range of related but distinct uses. I think that in a more technical sense, it does generally refer to something that is without beginning or end. “God is eternal.” In this sense we mean that God’s existence has no beginning. He is the eternal, self-existent being.

 

However, we also use it to describe something that persists forever but did have a beginning. “I will be eternally grateful.” Obviously the gratitude is born out of a particular event and therefore has a beginning point. The more technical term that should apply in this kind of meaning is probably “infinite”.

 

While in the more technical sense we do tend to distinguish between “eternal” (without beginning or end) and “infinite” (which just means going on forever – but having a starting point), often times the two words get used interchangeably in the more common and less technical uses.

 

So I may stand in the pulpit and say, “We will live with God for eternity,” I do not mean to convey a technical sense of “without beginning or end”. In that sense, the word “eternity” refers to the unending, “infinite”, future stretching out before us.

 

However, “We will live with God for infinity,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “We will live with God for eternity.” However, in this instance, the meanings are the same. Our existence will continue on without end, but had a definite beginning at a particular point in time.

This is the answer from Mentionable Randy Hroziencik.

Randy.jpg

Great question.  Only God is truly eternal - without beginning or end.  Since God created the universe (natural realm) as well as the supernatural realm (heaven, hell, angels) everything other than God has a beginning.  Only God is timeless (Psalm 90:2; Revelation 1:8) and immutable, or changeless (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  Even the angels - supernatural beings who can somehow cross into the natural realm - were created at a definite point in the distant past, before the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7).  Therefore, our eternal souls - which will live on after death forever - were created at some point in the past.

I'll include an excerpt from my ordination paper on beliefs, which I think might help:

Some Christians are dichotomists, believing that every person is a duality: Material and immaterial, or body and soul.  Dichotomists appeal to 1 Corinthians 7:34 and James 2:26.  Other Christians are trichotomists, believing that every person is composed of body, soul, and spirit.  Trichotomists appeal to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12.  For many, including myself, it is not overly clear what distinguishes the soul from the spirit.  Although this is an interesting issue, I am not prepared to become a member of either camp, as there is scriptural evidence for both positions.  Ultimately, Scripture discusses both the temporary physical body and the indestructible immaterial being which survives death (soul or soul-spirit), and that is adequate for me.

Soul Creation versus Traducianism

Some believe that every human soul or soul-spirit has been created by God and placed within the physical body at some point between conception and birth.  Others believe that the whole human being, both the material and the immaterial components, are procreated naturally through the human parents.  These people are labeled “traducianists,” and they vary regarding the point at which the soul is adjoined to the physical body while in the womb.  Traducianists claim that their belief best explains the transmission of the human sin nature, although in reality this transmission is a mystery which neither camp can thoroughly explain.

Ultimately, God is responsible for the immaterial aspect of the human being (soul or soul-spirit), and this immaterial component of each person is joined to the physical body at the point of conception.  To believe that the soul or soul-spirit is joined to the physical body at any point after conception is a slippery slope that can lead to a defense of abortion.  I believe that abortion, whether naturally occurring or humanly-initiated, involves the death of a human being.

If traducianism is correct, how can “spiritual matter,” for lack of a better term, result from a physical act (sex)?  On the other hand, if soul-creationism is correct, then how are we to explain the transmission of the sin nature, which each of us is obviously born with?  Neither view has adequate explanatory power in this matter.  As with many of the deep theological issues, there are answers but more often great mystery involved.


Clear as mud, right?!  Don't know if that helps or not, but ultimately only God is truly eternal, whereas the soul or soul-spirit of men is created for eternity.