Time in Eternity

Pannenberg, Physics, and Eschatology in Creative Mutual Interaction

Robert John Russell

According to Robert John Russell, one of the foremost scholars on relating Christian theology and science, the topic of “time and eternity” is central to the relation between God and the world in two ways. First, it involves the notion of the divine eternity as the supratemporal source of creaturely time. Second, it involves the eternity of the eschatological New Creation beginning with the bodily Resurrection of Jesus in relation to creaturely time. The key to Russell’s engagement with these issues, and the purpose of this book, is to explore Wolfhart Pannenberg’s treatment of time and eternity in relation to mathematics, physics, and cosmology.

Time in Eternity is the first book-length exposition of Russell’s unique method for relating Christian theology and the natural sciences, which he calls “creative mutual interaction” (CMI). This method first calls for a reformulation of theology in light of science and then for the delineation of possible topics for research in science drawing on this reformulated theology. Accordingly, Russell first reformulates Pannenberg’s discussion of the divine attributes—eternity and omnipresence—in light of the way time and space are treated in mathematics, physics, and cosmology. This leads him to construct a correlation of eternity and omnipresence in light of the spacetime framework of Einstein’s special relativity. In the process he proposes a new flowing time interpretation of relativity to counter the usual block universe interpretation supported by most physicists and philosophers of science. Russell also replaces Pannenberg’s use of Hegel’s concept of infinity in relation to the divine attributes with the concept of infinity drawn from the mathematics of Georg Cantor.

Russell then addresses the enormous challenge raised by Big Bang cosmology to Christian eschatology. In response, he draws on Pannenberg’s interpretation both of the Resurrection as a proleptic manifestation of the eschatological New Creation within history and the present as the arrival of the future. Russell shows how such a reformulated understanding of theology can shed light on possible directions for fundamental research in physics and cosmology. These lead him to explore preconditions in contemporary physics research for the possibility of duration, copresence, retroactive causality, and prolepsis in nature.

Robert John Russell is the Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science in residence at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He is the author or co-editor of seventeen books, including Cosmology From Alpha To Omega: Theology And Science In Creative Mutual Interaction and Resurrection: Theological And Scientific Assessments. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

“Using his distinctive method of relating science and theology by ‘Creative Mutual Interaction,’ Robert Russell explores an immense range of contemporary thought about the Big Bang, relativity, quantum physics, creation, and eschatology, leading to many intriguing suggestions for future research. This will be a model for future writers to emulate.” — Ian G. Barbour, author of When Science Meets Religion

“Time in Eternity bridges the fields of philosophical theology, systematic theology, and the science-religion debate. It makes a distinctive and original contribution to the field of theology and science, as well as being significant for scholars and students in the other two disciplines. The book not only meets high standards for scholarship in this field; it actually sets new standards for future work.” — Philip Clayton, Claremont School of Theology

“Robert Russell is the world’s leading scholar on relating issues surrounding the resurrection of Jesus, such as prolepsis and eschatology, to physics and cosmology, and I imagine this book will be well received throughout the science and religion community and beyond. In Time in Eternity, Russell engages more fully with Pannenberg than ever before. He has also expanded his work on the way physical cosmology can be enhanced by engaging theological issues. This is the most important book on Pannenberg, physics, and eschatology to date.” — LeRon Shults, University of Agder


“This is a solid work of scholarship that provides a creative and important contribution. The amount of learning, understanding, and depth of research in both theology and physics is impressive. Future scholars interested in God, time, and eternity, or looking for a solid example of theology and science in mutual interaction, will want to study it carefully.” — Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

“This book is impressive for its breadth as well as the author’s solid knowledge in both Pannenberg’s theology and science. . . . In illustrating theological concepts with scientific theories, it makes theology seem more sensible and credible in a scientific age.” — Reviews in Religion and Theology