Temporality is Not a Contrary to Eternity
The difference between Creator and creatures is Jesus
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Of late and in light of his early summer death, I have begun to reread the work of my favorite writer of fiction, Cormac McCarthy. Suttree, the last and most ambitious of his southern quartet of novels, takes place among the least, the lost, and the left behind of 1950’s Knoxville. In it, the titular character, whose twin brother died stillborn, is haunted by the brevity of life and angry over the world’s brute contingency.
The theme runs like a seam throughout McCarthy’s work, “Given a time-bound world of chance, is belief in the Good/God intelligible?”
At the beginning of Suttree, Sut is trolling for fish from his ramshackle skiff when he floats past a rescue crew doing likewise for man who had jumped from the bridge in to the Tennessee River the night before. Having watched them pull the suicide from the water, a hook in his pale jowl, Suttree and Joe later walk past the dead man’s body on the riverbank.
“They stood looking at the dead man. The squad workers were coiling their ropes and seeing to their tackle. The crowd had come to press about like mourners and the fisherman and his friend found themselves going past the dead man as if they’d pay respects. He lay there in his yellow socks with the flies crawling on the blanket and one hand stretched out on the grass. He wore his watch on the inside of his wrist as some folks do or used to and as Suttree passed he noticed with a feeling he could not name that the dead man’s watch was still running.”
Time marches on, and its dread momentum is its monument to the fact we do not.
Life is made up of minutes not moments.
Time takes hostages of all and brokers negotiations with none.
That creatures are time bound, their distinction from the Creator must be a difference of finitude, or so the religion of Plato has long assumed. Thus, both common sense and philosophical discourse map the Creation/creature distinction according to pairings relatively foreign to the scriptures of Israel and the church— Infinite/Finite, Eternal/Temporal, Transcendent/Immanent. The biblical narrative, and the Christology it demands, however, display a distinction between Creator and creature that the pagan pairings attempt to avoid.