Thanks to everyone for their comments so far. Keep them coming. There's some interesting and challenging stuff there, which I will reply to as soon as I've had time to think deeply enough about it.
Meanwhile, Adair in his comment to the last post highlighted the difficulty of conceptualising existence outside of time. This is something I have thought about before, and I'd like to present my thoughts on the matter for general dissection.
The first point I should make is that our ability to imagine or conceptualise something to any degree of success is independent of its actually being true. For instance, in physics, String Theory requires space to have 9 dimensions (I think the latest development, M theory, requires 10 space dimensions). Now, I find it incredibly difficult to imagine there being more than three dimensions of space. However, it is obvious that if String Theory is proven to be true, this will be independent of, and in spite of, my ability to visualise it.
Now it is important to draw the distinction between something that is hard to visualise and something that is just nonsense. I also find it extremely difficult to visualise a four-sided triangle, but more detailed analysis of that concept will reveal its self-contradictory nature. The point I'm making is that there are many things that are hard to conceptualise in theology, but we must work hard to elucidate which of these things can be consistently held, if not visualised, and which are self-contradictory. Most importantly, when we discover an idea that is self-contradictory, we must discard it, no matter what theological edifices are resting on its foundations.
Now, although I find it hard to understand, I find nothing inherently inconsistent with the idea of something existing outside of time. What I do have a problem with is conscious beings existing outside of time. That is to say, for the purposes of this argument I will admit to the possibility of a person existing outside of time in either Heaven or Hell (although whether these places are outside of space is another matter). What I take issue with is the idea that they can know anything about it one way or the other. I aim to show in this post that this is inconsistent.
You see, consciousness is a process. Whatever the ancients thought about the soul or mind being separate from the body, the more we study consciousness, the more inseparably linked it appears to be with a physical brain, and thus a physical process.
Consciousness involves at least three things: perception, memory of the perception, and the connection of the memory of the perception with ourselves in some conceptual way. Perception need not necessarily be of an external stimulus, it could also be of a mental state or process. Memory is the key here - without memory (whether long- or short-term) it is impossible to be aware of anything. Without memory, everything is static, stationary, time-instances; there is no ability to connect any arbitrary instant of time with any other - this can only be done with memory to string them together and make sense of them. And finally, it is only once we have the memory of the perception that we are in any way able to relate it to ourselves, in other words, exhibit consciousness. (Note that although here the three stages, perception, memory and relation, are each separated by a time gap, this gap is so small that we are unaware of the stages themselves. In fact, since these three stages define awareness, we can never actually be aware of them taking place)
So after having established memory as being essential to consciousness, we can now go on to see how time is essential to memory. Memory is storing information. The act of storing information is the arrangement of something into a meaningful state. But this is a process. It happens. It is an event. Events happen in time. It is meaningless to talk of an event outside of time: this is the definition of an event. At time t0 something is arranged in less meaningful state s0. At time t1 something is arranged in more meaningful state s1.
In sum, consciousness requires memory, memory is storing information, storing information is an event in time; therefore consciousness requires time. Therefore, to speak of consciousness outside of time is meaningless.
This applies not only to humans, but to any supposedly conscious being, including God. Without time, consciousness does not exist, because consciousness happens, and things only happen in time. Therefore, God is either not conscious, or needs time as much as you or I do. Also, any idea of eternity which involves us consciously experiencing it must take the form of an infinite length of time.
Man, it's 4:03. I'm going to bed.