This wild post ends with this conclusion. But getting there is half the fun. What interesting and rational fellows those scientists are, huh?
Monthly Archives: April 2010
I need to come back to the two kinds of evidence for God I spoke about earlier (in part I)
Speaking to the second kind of evidence, particularly the part about “like effects proceeding from like causes” (argued by Newton – I understand William Paley used this in his arguments for a Designer around 1802 as well), the famous 18th century skeptic David Hume would have likely responded in the following way:
“Whether we infer any particular cause from an effect, we must proportion the one to the other, and can never be allowed to ascribe to the cause any qualities, but what are exactly sufficient to cause the effect. And if we ascribe to it farther qualities, or affirm it capable of producing any other effect, we only indulge the license of conjecture without reason or authority”.
Elsewhere, Hume writes: “There can be no demonstrative arguments to prove that those instances of which we have no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience.”
In other words, as one commentator says, “one cannot be confident in explaining what we do not know from what we do know, because we don’t know what it is we don’t know.”
It is true that we do not know – that is, we have not directly experienced – the Divine Nature directly bringing the world into existence. Big surprise. At the same time, we have directly experienced the Divine Nature creating new life day by day, and also that this Intelligence – this Mind – holds all things together. This is how we live, move, and have our being. The fact that we also may experience ourselves to live, move, and have our being among the advanced conceptual and technological structures that we as humans have made – i.e. that “technology is the ontology of our age”, as Heidegger put it – does not excuse us here, but in fact makes us more culpable!
In short, this is hardly a case of our not knowing what it is we don’t know. The agnostic and atheist do not have the principle of parsimony on their side. It is simply, flat out, a case of our knowing what we know, and suppressing that knowledge, whether we admit it or not (i.e., this connects with the first kind of evidence I spoke about – from direct our direct, innate, immediate awareness of the Divine). This is why, as persons like Richard Dawkins put it, we must constantly remind ourselves that what we see was not designed, i.e. there is no intelligence or purpose behind what we see. Again, in effect, they are saying that we have only received atmospheric noise, or static, although interestingly, this noise is constantly useful to us.
Yes, nevermind that scientists who decry belief in God consider the world “as if” it were a deliberate work of genius – having depth, harmony, precision, elegance, and beauty – i.e., an underlying order and arrangement. Nevermind that they seek for all this much like the careful reader of Shakespeare who searches diligently for layers of meaning. It is all atmospheric noise.
Given the premise that “science” “properly defined” can only allow for causes that are unguided and undirected, this whole situation is more than just a bit incoherent.
Again, the emperor has no clothes – and the child knows it, even if the rational adult does not.
Hume has other arguments as well. He posits that the cosmos could be the work of a God who has subsequently died. But if a person believes that the Divine Nature responsible for all things is not beyond “the system”, but is intertwined with it, this would imply the continual existence of the Divine Nature. And if a person believes, in more deistic fashion, that the Divine Nature is beyond the system, it seems impossible that a Beginner(s) that could create all that we see and experience (matter, motion, space and time) would be unable to overcome something as small as death. After all, many persons today believe man himself – despite the fact that he has not created life – can overcome this obstacle. In short, the first kind of evidence for the Divine Nature (from immediate experience) continues to inform the second kind of evidence (from reason and logic) – it can’t not.
Therefore, just as we must tell Mr. Hume that he is simply being foolish when he, for example, argues that miracles are impossible – or that we can’t be sure whether we have a true or enduring self – or that we can’t be sure whether the billiard balls will behave the same way tomorrow (in spite of our hitherto consistent experience) – we here to must tell this most skeptical of men that he is playing the fool.
Atheism, and even agnosticism, is not a rational position for any person to take. So the question: which God? See here.
When the You Tube videos of Barack Obama’s pastor saying “God damn America” went viral, many Americans were quick to condemn his harsh language. At the time, I thought: is there any conceivable way a true minister of God could think such a thing?
I actually thought there was, and is. Martin Luther talked about God “bringing us down to hell”, before lifting us up again. In the context of properly dividing God’s law and gospel, such language might indeed be appropriate (although not recommended for sermons!). God breaks individuals, groups, even nations – before lifting them up and binding their wounds. The real question is whether or not you believe God has redemptive purposes in mind, or if His condemnation is meant to be final.
Enter Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has been agitating to have the Pope arrested when he visits the UK on September 16. The crises of the Roman Catholic Church further deepened this past weekend reporters produced a letter written by Benedict in 1985 where, in considering the “defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys”, he mentions that “the ‘good of the universal church’ should be considered” as well. Dawkins, along with Christopher Hitchens, has seized on this.
Just like many Americans were quick to judge that Jeremiah Wright’s condemnation of America was final, many of us now judge Dawkins’ actions similarly, and in this case, I’m guessing that’s not too far off the mark.
As someone who has real sympathies with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Pope as well (I identify with this piece in many ways, even as I also do this piece), I nevertheless must say this: at least on the face of it, Dawkins is right. We should feel immense outrage here – and unfortunately when it comes to the sex-abuse scandals, it seems that it is Dawkin’s outrage – not the Churchs’ – that is the most deeply felt.
Yes, I realize this is Richard Dawkins we are talking about. And yes, I realize that there are political and rhetorical factors to consider here. Yes, I realize we despereately need more nuance and context for the Pope’s statements (see here)!
Still – children recognize when persons speak publicly about the importance of protecting them. After all, when it comes to the institution of God’s Church, it is God’s “first instinct” to protect the children in it, not the rational[izing] adults. And for these little ones, he does this in ways they can understand: appearances count. Making things clear counts.
So I think, in the case of abuse scandals: let the world exercise its Romans 13 function God has given it! Let the Church face judgment for its crimes as we all must! If Caesar deems fit, let its leaders be condemned to prison or even death! For truly, here, the world is in the right! Wonder of wonders, in their concern for the young and the weak they are acting like Christians, not pagans!
And yet, after the world has condemned them utterly for their crimes, we will still visit them! When in their brokenness and rejection they confess, we will still forgive and accept them, comfort them! They will not continue to serve as ministers, but indeed, there will be redemption! And the enemies of the cross will either act as one thief or the other. And then, there will be resurrection and final judgment.
Now, with all that wild-eyed idealism released, read this piece by Colleen Carol Cambell (or listen to her speak here), in order to restore yourself to balance. And again, make sure you read this one to. And keep reading. And praying. This is one for the times.
Remember: Christ has overcome the world.
UPDATE: This, of course, is hardly enough.
UPDATE 2: This is very interesting. However, just because Dawkins was previously wrong to underestimate the effects of abuse – and is perhaps acting hypocritically – does not change the fact that now he’s got a point.
A real-life conversation:
Mom: I have a meeting with the evangelism committee tonight.
5-year old son: What’s evangelism?
Mom: That’s when we share the good news about Jesus.
7-year old son: Vandalism? Like destroying things?
Mom: No, not vandalism. Evangelism. Well, I suppose we are destroying Satan’s Kingdom.
Over the past 3 years, here are some of the best I’ve gotten:
- Why did Satan fall?
- Does God still love Satan?
- In the new heavens and earth, will we have to try not to sin? (this one just this past weekend)
These questions really do get me thinking – and about related questions as well.
Of course Adam and Eve were created “very good”, or innocent, and I suspect many persons think that Satan was a large reason why they fell into sin. But with Satan – that most “perfect” of beings – there was evidently no one to tempt him! Also, regarding Satan and his fallen angels, where in Scripture do we read that they have now been completely confirmed in their apostasy? (not like we should dwell on this too long…). And finally, how is the pre-fall “very good” to be positively distinguished from the consummated “very good”? If we were perfect before the fall, how can we be sure, come new heavens and new earth, we won’t fall again? Do the Scriptures speak here?
Are these impertinent questions? Only if we keep coming back to them as we grow? Are we finally simply left with saying either “mystery”, or “we don’t know”? And if so, is it possible that in asserting all the things we often do about “new natures” and “free wills not able to sin” in the next life that we are already getting deeply into the realm of speculative theology? Do we really need to know these things – or to make them a matter of our concern – in order to comfort persons with the Gospel here and now?
And then of course, there are jokes about hell being made for persons who ask certain kinds of questions…