Posts Tagged ‘Time’

No More Anno Domini?

The standard designation of time in Norway is to number it according to the birth of Jesus Christ. The Norwegians either write f.Kr. (B.C.) or e.Kr. (A.D.). Lately a new book to be introduced into the curricula of the religious studies of primary schools have chosen a new way “more inclusive” way of counting time, namely “før/etter vanlig tidsregning” (before/after common time, comparable to the English BCE/CE).

The designation has caused some commotion in Norway, and a member of the parliament for The Norwegian Christian Democrat Party wrote a letter to the Minister of Education demanding an explanation. The minister then replied that he sees no reason to change the standard designation of time, but at the same time he will not make the publisher change their way of designating time. Most politicians in Norway seems to agree with the minister. So what is the problem?

Some people seem to prefer this “more inclusive” way of counting time and others point to the obvious ambiguity of this way of numbering time.

First, what kind of designation should you choose? As the word “normal” in Norwegian means the same as in English, it denotes not only “standard”, but also “ordinary”. It’s unclear whether it refers to a normative statement or a statistical statement. At least in Norwegian, “common” in English means something like what we have in common. In Norwegian that would be better expressed with “felles”. That poses another problem, the question of inclusiveness.

Second, who is it common for? Supposedly the f.v.t./e.v.t. is seen as more inclusive. It is then interesting that a The Islamic Council of Norway has spoken against this way of designating time. Trying to make a “phony” common way of numbering time, that includes Muslims is not going to work. They have their own way of counting time, as does the Jews and other cultures. If you are too choose a way of designating time that does not impose inclusiveness, you would have to choose “før/etter vestlig tidsregning“ (according to western time). At least you would not hide the inner connectedness between our common western heritage and what the number 0 refer to.

And this is the so called hidden theological point to the whole debate. Whatever we change the standard designation of time to, the watershed in history still refers to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that Dennis the Short didn’t get it right when he put the watershed where it is, does not make it less a fact that it is this event the western culture refers to. And the hiddenness of God in history becomes clearer when the glory is veiled. And God is still at large in history, in our way of counting time.

So what’s the problem? There is no problem, as long as we find the better way of counting time. Cause the man for all seasons still lives in the dividend and beyond.

For Him I sing,
I raise the present on the past.
(As some perennial tree, out of its roots, the present on the past)
With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,
To make himself by them the law unto himself.
(Walt Whitman, 1889)


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