Augustine's "Eternal Now" Exposed as Neo-platonist Syncretism by L. D. McCabe

In the following paragraphs, Augustine’s statement of God’s existence, putatively above and ontologically disconnected from time, is contrasted with Lorenzo Dow McCabe’s thoroughing repudiation and subsequent affirmation of the Scripture’s presentation of God’s true life.


The following was taken from an Appendix from the paper, “On the Meaning of KATABALLW and Cognate Forms In the LXX and the New Testament,” by W. Scott Taylor 1997

CONFESSIONS – AUGUSTINE, BOOK XI Translated with an Introduction by R. S. PineCoffin. Penguin Books pg. 263.

“Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. It is in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and after all future time. For what is now the future, once it comes, will become the past, whereas you are unchanging, your years can never fail. Your years neither go nor come, but our years pass and others come after them, so that they all may come in their turn, Your years are completely present to you all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill.

You are the Maker of all time. If, then, there was any time before you make heaven and earth, how can anyone say that you were ‘idle’. You must have made that time, for time could not elapse before you made it.

But if there was no time before heaven and earth were created, how can anyone ask what you were doing ‘then’? If there was not time, there was no ‘then’.

Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. It is in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and after all future time. For what is now the future, once it comes, will become the past, whereas you are unchanging, your years can never fail. Your years neither go nor come, but our years pass and others come after them, so that they all may come in their turn, Your years are completely present to you all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill.”

“FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND COGNATE THEMES IN THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY” L. D. McCabe D. D., LL. D., Ohio Wesleyan University. 

“But after all our condemnations of the pernicious philosophy of Kant, Hamilton, and Mansel as to the infinite, the absolute, and the unconditioned, we regretfully acknowledge that we find abundant excuses, if not ample defense, for them in the contradictory teachings of some of the ablest theologians relative to the doctrines of the Bible and the modes of the divine existence. The errors, the confusion, the dim and worthless speculations of those metaphysicians were very natural, if not, indeed, inevitable, upon the theories of some, yea of many, most accredited and gifted divines, who teach with all the confidence of demonstration and of unquestioned authority, that with God there can be neither foreknowledge nor after knowledge: that to him duration is not a progression, but merely a “nunc stans”: that an eternal now, a permanent present, is essential to his perfections: that relative to him, priority and subsequency can have no significance; that we must assume the simultaneity of the divine consciousness: that all God’s infinite and glorious existence is gathered up and collected and concentrated into a single moment: that eternal duration, infinite space, and the numberless objects, beings, and worlds that have ever filled the universe, and all truth and knowledge and himself also, are condensed into one infinitesimal point: that the resources of the Godhead are not sufficient to enable him to manage a moral universe without being able to foresee all the future choices of free spirits: that God sees that to be absolutely certain which is now absolutely contingent: and that God at the same instant actually beholds himself as thinking, doing, and saying things which are the most inconsistent, subversive, and destructive of his other thinkings, sayings, and doings, as making worlds, for example, and destroying them at the same instant; as lighting up the fires in the infinite depths, and then simultaneously blowing them out; as creating free, happy spirits in countless millions, offering to them his love, his protection, and himself, and yet, at the same instant, binding them in everlasting chains; as proclaiming to individual souls all the promises of the Gospel, and yet, at the same moment, bringing those same individuals forth to the resurrection of damnation; as publishing with the same breath, “Come, for all things are now ready,” and “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”

It certainly would be difficult, if not impossible, for those philosophers, under such presentation of the modes of the divine existence, to avoid the injurious conclusion that God is inconceivable, unthinkable, and never thought of without contradictions. But these glaring absurdities are all necessarily involved in the assumption of the divine foreknowledge of the future free choices of accountable agents. Admit universal prescience, and we can not escape any one of them. We must then acknowledge all these unthinkables. But if theologians had not insisted on this doctrine, probably none of these absurdities would have marred our systems of thought.

God’s feelings and perceptions, like our own, follow according to the law of cause and effect. And however much I may merit his love on account of my present obedience, he can not really love me if he foresees that I am to be numbered with the incorrigibles, with those who disobey and hate him, in outer darkness forever. How could one love another today, however worthy he now is of his love, if he were certain that that person on the morrow would murder his mother? I know that I have the divine favor now, but if God sees that I will eventually apostatize from the faith, deny the blood that bought me, count it an unholy thing, and crucify the Son of God afresh, he must shudder at and abhor the deep depravity, the fiendish wickedness, of my future character.

Are, then, all his present manifestations of love to my soul, all these hallowed communions, and all this sweet witness of the Holy Spirit bearing testimony to my spirit that I am a child of God, mere hollow pretenses? Manifestly, then, in guarding with such jealous care the perfection of divine foreknowledge, theologians overlook the equal necessity for perfection, appropriateness, and successiveness in the feelings and moral judgments of God respecting his intelligent subjects.

If God be such a being as the Christian really contemplates and adores, then universal prescience can not be true; for, as we have seen, that theory would compel us to confess to vast imperfections in his sensitive states and judgments. It would render it impossible for us to discover, to conceive as existing in him, the appropriate feelings and purposes toward the ever varying character of his free accountable subjects. But this constant appropriateness of feeling and conduct toward the struggling, self-determining subject, is one of the indispensable perfection’s of a righteous Ruler, which we must never surrender if we would escape distressing contradictions. Surely, then, this is another strong presumption, if not a proof, that God does not foreknow all the actions of accountable creatures.”

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