Once upon a time, in college, I took a course about religion. It wasn’t so much a comparative study of different religions as it was a glossary of terminology with which to discuss religion. I’ve forgotten most of the material but one concept stands out to this day.
The question of whether God is eternal or everlasting is a key one as how you answer determines whether or not you have free will. There is also a problem with the idea of God being all-knowing.
Eternal was defined as outside of time, no beginning and no ending, and no sense of now. If God were eternal, s/he would know everything that had ever happened, and s/he would also know everything that is ever going to happen.
Everlasting was defined as being inside of time, a beginning and existence up to now, and continued existence forever. If God were everlasting s/he would have knowledge of everything that had ever happened in the past, but s/he would have no more knowledge of the future than you or I.
God can’t be all-knowing if s/he is everlasting, since everlasting doesn’t allow for knowledge of the future. On the other hand, God can be all-knowing if s/he is eternal; you just have to give up free will.
Or do you?
Since the time I took this course, more than two decades ago, I have come to believe that my essence ( soul if you will ) has many, many lifetimes on the physical plane. I believe that all of us have an essence and further, that we all came from a central source. God, or the Tao. The purpose of each essence is the same: to learn and grow from experiences on the physical plane of existence. Each lifetime, each incarnation, contains new bits of information the essence needs on its journey back to God.
Our essence doesn’t die when the current physical body dies. It continues on, it is everlasting. Contained within my essence, and yours, is all the knowledge from all the incarnations you’ve had before. Call it instinct, call it genetic memory, call it voodoo, it is there. Some of us are better at tapping into this reservoir of knowledge than others, but the knowledge is there. We don’t know what the future will be, but we do know our entire past at some deep level. This fits the definition of everlasting.
Which, in a epiphany I had this morning talking to Michele, leaves God free to be eternal and all knowing. S/he knows every possible future for every one of us. No one set future that robs us of free will, but each and every possible future from this point forward.
We are all part of the Tao, part of God, on a journey through a multitude of incarnations as human beings. Each of us is everlasting, and we are each tied to a common eternal being.