Thursday, July 13, 2017

God and Nature: Above Reason, Not Against Reason

Both science and theology use evidence to formulate models of what we think the world is like and what we think God is like. Often what the evidence shows us is that nature and God are beyond our comprehension! The evidence leads to mysteries that we cannot fully comprehend; many times reality must be described in a way that doesn’t make sense. In theology, the trinity and the dual nature of Christ are both paradoxes that cannot be totally understood by our human mind. In science, quantum mechanics and the nature of light have the same issues of mental obscurity.
The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that one God is three persons.  This is not illogical nor is it contradictory; but it certainly is a paradox! God is three “whos” and one “what”; this is not a logical contradiction. It is stated well in the Athanasian Creed from the fourth century.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.[1]

Our minds cannot comprehend the Trinity, but this is what is described by the writers of the eyewitness accounts of what Jesus taught. This evidence leads us to the conclusion that one God is also three persons. The Trinity may be above reason, but it is not against reason.
Evidence from the Apostolic Writings also lead us to the conclusion that Jesus was God and a human at the same time.  Comprehending this doctrine is a bit easier than the trinity, but still a mystery!  How can something be two different things at once?  Here is a description from the Council of Chalcedon:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.[2]

These mysteries are not limited to Christianity!  Paradoxes also are forced by the evidence when studying the natural world. Take light and electrons for example.  Under one set of conditions they will do exactly the same thing as water waves and sound waves.  Change the situation and they will act as if they are little tiny baseballs.  Try to come up with a mental picture of that!  Light and electrons acting as if they are both particles and waves is a paradox, but is a major doctrine of science.
Paradoxes abound in the world of the very small. We must use quantum mechanics to describe really tiny things.  The evidence forces us to believe realities like an electron can be anywhere in the universe at any given moment and can even go back in time.  Richard Feynman, who definitely understood quantum mechanics better than almost anyone on the planet during his lifetime, remarked, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Quantum mechanics and light may both be above reason, but they are not against reason.
In order to understand and explain reality we need to compare our theories, models, and explanations with something familiar.  Since we don’t have much experience with God or with very tiny things, so we have a tough time imagining what they are like!  The data we have on God and much of the data we get about light and sub-atomic particles is unlike anything we have ever experienced before! 

The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, "But how can it be like that?" which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. [3]

The same difficulty occurs when attempting to understand God.

Objections to the Trinity break down in the fact that they insist on interpreting the Creator in terms of the creature.[4]

            One attempt to explain quantum mechanics is the Many World’s Interpretation.  On this explanation, every time a decision is made, the universe actually “splits” into both possibilities.  This creates an almost infinite number of “parallel” universes with every possible world represented.  This is similar to how we explain the theology of God’s Middle Knowledge.  In this view, God can know all possible worlds; He knows all future possibilities and knows how we would respond (choose) given any set of circumstances.  In our attempt to understand reality, we must resort to the use of descriptions and explanations that often sound impossible; this happens when trying to understand both the natural world and when trying to understand God.
It should be expected that God and nature are both a mystery. Since God created the universe, we should not be surprised that we see a reflection of the creator when we study nature.  Light is two things that are one. God is three things that are one. No one truly understands quantum mechanics. No one truly understands the nature of God. God’s creation and revelation are both hard to understand fully, but neither are illogical.

If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could
make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.[5]

[1] Athanasian Creed
[2] Chalcedonian Creed
[3] Richard P. Feynman, The Messenger Lectures, 1964
[4] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker, 1984
[5] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Simon & Schuster, 1952

Monday, July 10, 2017

Multiverse Data Points to a Designer

Dr. John Gribbin, Cambridge University graduate, astrophysicist, and Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at University of Sussex, as well as author of the very popular book, In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, concludes that an intelligence outside of our universe created the universe in which we live.  Here is his argument, summarized from his book, In Search of the Multiverse[1]

The book begins with an introduction to quantum mechanics, leading to the claim that the only way to reconcile quantum mechanics with the Big Bang is through the Many World’s Interpretation; Gribbin uses the fact that quantum computing works as a proof of the Many Worlds Hypothesis being the best interpretation of quantum mechanics.  Dr. Gribbin recognizes that our universe is exceedingly fine-tuned for life and provides several examples, which he calls “cosmic coincidences.”  He even mentions, “Invoking a Designer to explain the energy levels in carbon and oxygen” may seems reasonable today.[2]  The middle of the book includes a discussion about time and thermodynamics, spatially infinite universes, other universe models and inflation; all leading to string theory as the organizing model that brings all of these things together.

Dr. Gribbin concludes the book with a discussion about whether our universe is simply a computer simulation or perhaps an artificial construct of beings from another universe. His conclusion is that superior beings created our universe because they could; creating for the same reasons that we paint a picture or climb a mountain.

The very fact that we exist seems to be the best evidence available that we do indeed live in a Multiverse. The best mathematical description of that Multiverse that we have today is the string landscape, which Leonard Susskind has shown to be essentially the same as the Many Worlds ‘landscape’ of Hugh Everett, an idea expressed most clearly in recent times by David Deutsch. From either perspective, Ted Harrison’s refinement of Lee Smolin’s idea of the evolution of universe to include the role of intelligent designers of universes completes the picture. There is no puzzle about the cosmic coincidences after all. The Universe was indeed set up to provide home for life; but once the universe got started, life evolved through a process of natural selection with no need for outside interference. It isn’t so much that Man was created in God’s image, but that the Universe was created in the image, more or less, of the universe of the Designers.[3]

After a thorough explanation of all the current cosmological science, Dr. Gribbin concludes that our universe was created by an intelligence outside our universe that chose to create in their image. Some classic “proofs for God” are contained here; framed instead in a naturalist’s world view. 

The Cosmological Argument: Our universe did have a beginning and was “created” by an intelligence outside our universe.

The Teleological Argument: The fact that the universe is fine-tuned for life to exist is simply because another intelligence planed it to be that way. 

The Argument from Math, Science and Logic: The fact that the universe is intelligible to us is because an intelligent mind created it; we are created in the image of the creators.

Dr. Gribbin goes out of his way to make sure the reader understands that the “intelligence” outside our universe is not God and that after these intelligent beings create, life will naturally emerge through evolutionary processes.  

Nature’s evidence points us to a Designer.  Approaching this data with a naturalistic world view forces you into a conclusion such as Dr. Gribbin’s.  Looking at the same data with an openness to all possible conclusions can point you to a God that is able to answer not only the scientific questions, but can provide an explanation for the more important concepts such as morality, justice, human value, and love.

[1] John and Mary Gribbin, In Search of the Multiverse, John Wiley & Sons, 2009
[2] ibid page 41
[3] ibid pages 199-200