Emily Paul

Emily Paul

PhD Student

Summary: An examination of God's relation to time through the metaphysics of the Incarnation

PhD Research

Thesis title

A God of our time? - A critical Assessment of God’s Relation to Time


There have traditionally been two contrasting views about God's relation to time. The first is that He is atemporal, that He exists 'outside' of time and views all events in time as if in one 'simultaneous present.' There are no temporal stages in an atemporal God's life. The rival view is that He is temporal, that He exists in time as we do, experiencing each moment as it passes. Although (unlike us) a temporal God would be backwardly and forwardly everlasting, moments of His life can be said to have passed, with other moments still to come. Typically, philosophers working within the Christian tradition have argued for one or other of these views and then later, if at all, suggested how their chosen account can be squared with the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son of God. However, due to the centrality of this doctrine to the Christian faith, I maintain that we should prioritise the Incarnation, and use it as the initial lens for examining the coherence of different accounts of God's relation to time.

My thesis examines the metaphysics of different aspects of the Incarnation (the Son's 'becoming' incarnate, the 'incoherence problem' and the exaltation) respectively, to evaluate whether these best fit with a temporal or an atemporal conception of God. It seems true on the face of it that these conceptions of God's relation to time are exhaustive. I explain, however, that they rest on a substantivalist assumption about the nature of time: that time is something fundamental which it is possible to exist inside or outside of, a container which can exist independently of its contents. In the final chapter, therefore, I examine a plausible alternative: a relationist construal of time; the view that times are constructions out of events. This emerges as an intermediate position, given that it retains aspects from each of the temporal and atemporal accounts. I investigate how this coheres with the doctrine of the Incarnation. Whichever (if any) of the accounts of God's relation to time best explains the different aspects of the Incarnation without straying into unorthodoxy ought, I argue, to be the preferred account of how a Christian God relates to time.


Dr Mikel Burley and Professor Helen Steward

Research Interests

  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Time
  • Philosophy of Mind

Academic History

MSc Philosophy (with distinction) – University of Edinburgh (2013)

BA (Hons) Philosophy & Politics - University of Leeds- with Erasmus year at University College Utrecht (2012)


I am extremely grateful to the Leeds University Philosophy Department and Cambridge University Press for awarding me funding to support me throughout my PhD.

In July 2015, I was awarded a Leeds For Life Conference Grant of £243, to attend the Metaphysics of Science Summer School in Helsinki.  


Book Reviews

  • Bradford Skow's Objective BecomingThe British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, (2016) Vol. 67, No. 4 doi: 10.1093/bjps/axw011  
  • James Harrington's Time: A Philosophical Introduction, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science (2016) Vol. 30, No. 1 


Awarded the Inter-Varsity Press "Young Philosopher of Religion 2014" Essay Prize, which was on God, Time and Human Freedom (October 2014)

Awarded runner up in the University of Leeds Theology Department photography competition, entitled "Religion in Leeds." (November 2012)


Internal Talks

  • 'Can a Timeless God 'become' Incarnate?' Centre for Philosophy of Religion Seminar, University of Leeds, 28th April 2016
  • 'Can a Timeless God 'become' Incarnate?' PG Seminar, University of Leeds, 15th April 2016
  • 'No Time For Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom?' PG Seminar, University of Leeds, 27th March 2015

External Talks

  • 'Can a Timeless God 'become' Incarnate?' 4th Biennial Glasgow Philosophy of Religion Seminar, University of Glasgow, 27th May 2016
  • 'How might backward Time Travel affect the Traveller's Freedom?' Metaphysics of Science Summer School, University of Helsinki, 25th July 2015
  • 'No Time For Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom?' Tyndale Fellowship Philosophy of Religion Study Group, University of Cambridge, 2nd July 2015

Teaching Experience

I have tutored on the following modules: 

  • PHIL 1007 Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion 
  • PHIL 1090 Knowledge, Self & Reality
  • PHIL 1105 The Mind
  • PHIL 1250 How to Think Clearly & Argue Well
  • PHIL 3010 Proctoring
  • PHIL 3542 Advanced Topics in Metaphysics

Other Roles

  • October 2014-present: I am Editorial Assistant for the Journal Religious Studies
  • October 2014-present: I have been involved with the setting up and running of a Minorities and Philosophy chapter at the University of Leeds. I have helped to organise two workshops and numerous reading groups for the chapter, as well as a conference on Implicit Bias that took place in October 2015.
  • September 2016-present: I am the Assistant to the Head of First Year. 
  • September 2016-present: I am a co-director for Minorities and Philosophy UK
  • October 2014-May 2015: I ran the Philosophy department’s postgraduate reading group, which takes place on a fortnightly basis.