In LeRon Shults’ book, Reforming the Doctrine of God, the 4th chp takes on “God as First Cause,” and once again puts the way this has been understood to the test of whether it measures up to the biblical concept of eschatology and time and whether or not it is the imposition of alien categories.
A big issue is time, or force and action in time, as a machine as a development in modernity. Was God, as Newton suggested, a “distant designer”? The problem, once again, for the theories that have shaped our understanding of time and causation, is that God is a single subject with an intellect and will who, as an immaterial substance, is the first efficient cause.
Developments in philosophy, theology and science have all shaken the concept of God as the first efficient cause. What these have argued is that time is less related to a first cause than to a being drawn into God’s future — that is, they pave the way for a thoroughly thought-out eschatology as the shape of how we are to understand time.
This leads Shults to a sketch of the biblical understanding of time and eschatology — both in prophetic mode and in the apocalyptic mode — for the NT writers see the eschaton already at work in the redemptive experience in Jesus Christ.
Let us consider what Shults is intimating, and which he will develop later: Is our theory of God’s relationship to time one of first cause with an ongoing (and yet unknown and — according to some — unknowable) future or a God into whose future we are being drawn? (I’m not sure this is what he will argue, but it seems it is.) Is time linear? Is cause part of the linear motion? Or is cause God’s futurity? (I’m not sure where he is in all this, but — again — this seems to be the direction of his thoughts.)
These first few chps have deconstructed the ideas of God as immaterial substance, single subject, and efficient first cause. It is time now to move into his positive construction.