Within the context of his post, William touches upon the implications of eternally existing beings and the unrealized potential of Christianity:
Central to Christianity is the idea that we have the potential to become like God, but that at present we are obviously very, very far from having realized that potential.
How long will it take us to realize our divine potential? A billion years?
This is an important question that deserves serious consideration, but I am unsure if the question of time or beginning is the key factor here.
At the risk of oversimplifying the matter, I posit that the central Christian idea of having the potential to become like God is barely older than Christianity itself. More to the point, the central idea is rooted in Jesus, which means it is about two thousand years old.
Two thousand years is, undeniably, a lot of time -- certainly enough to realize the potential to become like God, especially when we consider that Jesus Himself serves as our guide.
So, why haven't we realized our divine potential yet? Moreover, how much longer will it take?
I am of the view that we should have realized our divine potential at some point in the past two or three centuries but missed the opportunity to do so. I am also of the view that this missed opportunity does not negate present and future possibilities to realize our divine potential, but recognizing present and future possibilities depends more on a change in consciousness than it does on time factors. If the shift in consciousness happened en masse tomorrow, the divine potential would be fulfilled.
Does this mean I believe in a shift in mass consciousness in the very near term? No. Unfortunately, not. Nevertheless, I do believe shifts in consciousness will occur at the level of the individual in the very near future (decades), and that these individual shifts will, eventually, expand to the larger group level (centuries). Concerning exact time frames, well, I couldn't tell you. All I can tell you is that if it doesn't happen soon, the central idea of Christianity may very well remain in the category of unrealized potential.
Among other things, this change in consciousness requires a renewed understanding of freedom and its relation to the dignity and divine potential of man.
It's no accident that the global totalitarianism we are currently experiencing is a direct assault on both. It's also no accident that traditional Christian doctrine cannot supply the means the shift in consciousness requires.
The renewed understanding of freedom and the divine potential of man is still, largely, uncharted territory in need of a revelation. What has complicated matters the most thus far is the incomprehension that the much-needed revelation will not emanate from God -- but from man.
Atheists and most traditional Christians alike scoff at the suggestion of man's unrealized divine potential, and it is exactly there, within this scoffing, that the core of the problem lies, a problem the Christian existentialist philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev dedicated the bulk of his work to reveal, a bulk of work I generally consider to be on point when it comes the central ideal of Christianity:
Christianity has always taught of the weakness and fall of man, of the sinfulness and weakness of human nature. At the same time, Christian anthropology recognizes the absolute and royal significance of man, since it teaches the incarnation of God and the divine possibilities in man, the mutual inter-penetration of divine and human natures. But for some deep reason, hidden in the secret of times and seasons, Christianity never revealed in its fullest what one might venture to call a Christology of man, that is the secret of man's divine nature, a dogma of man, analogous to the dogma of Christ. Christianity has revealed the nature of the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ, but very little of the nature of man. ... And yet in Christian revelation the truth about man's divine nature is really only the reverse of the medal of truth about Christ's human nature. The Christology of man is inseparable from that of the Son of God: Christ's self-consciousness is inseparable from that of man. The Christological revelation is also an anthropological revelation. And the task of humanity's religious consciousness is to reveal the Christological consciousness of man.
- The Meaning of the Creative Act
Religious discussion centers upon the possibility of new revelation and a new spiritual epoch. All other questions are secondary. The new revelation is not at all a new religion, distinct from Christianity, but rather the fulfilment and completion of the Christian revelation, bringing it to a true universality. This we do not have as yet. But we cannot simply wait for the revelation of the spirit. It depends upon man's creative activity as well. It is not to be understood as only a new revelation of God to man: it is also the revelation of man to God. This means that it will be a divine-human revelation. In the Spirit, the divisions and contradictions of the divine and the human will be overcome, while the distinction between them will be maintained. This will be the crowning of the mystical dialectic of the divine and the human.
- The Divine and The Human
The world is passing through three epochs of divine revelation: the revelation of the law (the Father), the revelation of redemption (the Son) and the revelation of creativity (the Spirit). These epochs correspond to certain signs in the heavens. It is not given us to know the definite chronological limits of these three epochs: they are all co-existent. Today we have not fully lived out the law, and redemption from sin has not yet been completed, although the world is entering a new religious epoch. ... The three epochs of divine revelation in the world are the three epochs of the revelation about man. In the first epoch man's sin is brought to light and a natural divine force is revealed; in the second epoch man is made a son of God and redemption from sin appears; in the third epoch the divinity of man's creative nature is finally revealed and divine power becomes human power. ... The final mystery is hidden in this, that the divine mystery and the human mystery are one, that in God there is hidden the mystery of man and in man the mystery of God. God is born in man and man is born in God. The ultimate revelation of man means the revelation of God.
- The Meaning of The Creative Act