WHO IS GOD? (PART 1)
I will answer this in two parts. There are cosmic and personal elements to the definition, hence the two parts. Part one of my definition is:
God triune is the ineffable, timeless, uncaused creator of all.
But before you can believe in God, you must believe that God (the IS-ness of God) – that means there must be a defensible, reasonable basis for your view that there is a God.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex 3:14)
All decisions are based on subjective world views. Some people inherit their worldview and others develop them over time through though and discussion. I have a Theisticworldview. I have developed it over time, and I believe it is the view that makes the most sense; i.e. it is logical, coherent, complete and meaningful.
My definition of God is based on my worldview and I will therefore contrast the two worldviews on a number of criteria that are relevant to defend and explain my definition of God.
I consider your worldview to be Scientism. I am generalising and understand this is a diverse audience with various views, but my ‘opponents’ in this discussion are considered to be the people who believe in the centrality of science to construct meaning in our reality. (So please don’t attack me by accusing me of not knowing the difference between a paradigm and a worldview and an atheist or agnostic.) You may call your worldview anything, but the centrality of science to most of the comments made here suggests that science occupies its own little altar in your eyes, so I am addressing that as a generalised opposing position.
Cause & Effect
We can all agree we have a world. The whole natural world is right here in front of us and part of us. We call this the ‘reality’ because it is real.
When we look at the world, we see laws that describe how things work and how things happen. Everything we can detect and think about is found to be subject to these laws. Fundamentally all laws are a function of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’. When we constructed the theory of evolution, we observed an effect (Bird beaks/ Galapogos islands), and search the cause and we find one for it that seems to match the evidence. When we see electrons this way or that, we search for an explanation and we find it. We see a leaf appears to be green, and voila ‘chlorophyll’ and so we go.
Absolutely everything in the scientific realm is subject to these laws we postulate. If we don’t have an explanation yet, we fully expect one to emerge that will make sense of the observable facts. Something always causes something.
YET: According to Scientism, there is only one exception to all these countless variations of the law of nature: In the beginning, nothing causes something.
Of course you realise the ridiculousness of this and you attempt to redefine the nothing as a kinda something with a potentiality. Go to page 1 of this thread and read the definition of the quantum vacuum and the responses that followed. It is complete and utter logical detritus. (I know you will say it is because I substituted the word ‘god’ for ‘vacuum’ is what made it meaningless – but those are two equivalent concepts in that they are both Immaterial Potentialities and if you were intellectually honest, you will admit that the mere presence of the word ‘God’ clouds your judgment. (And yes, I am guilty of it too – let’s not have the same debate.) This does not change the fact that several cosmologists disagree with Krauss’s conceptualisation. Stephen Barr discusses several in his book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.
This is how Krauss articulates it:
The old idea that nothing might involve empty space, devoid of mass or energy, or anything material, for example, has now been replaced by a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles, popping in and out of existence in a time so short that we cannot detect them directly. I then go on to explain how other versions of “nothing”—beyond merely empty space—including the absence of space itself, and even the absence of physical laws, can morph into “something.” Indeed, in modern parlance, “nothing” is most often unstable. Not only can something arise from nothing, but most often the laws of physics require that to occur.
I dare you to read that honestly and objectively and tell me you agree that it corresponds with anyone’s definition of ‘nothing’. At best it is a different something, butIT.IS.NOT.NOTHING. (At the very least the laws that cause the ‘morphing’ to occur must exist in that ‘nothing’.)
And it is not just me being too stupid to understand it: Consider philosopher PS Williams on the same topic as why Krauss may be so keen to disprove the notion of a first cause.
Krauss admits that he is “not sympathetic to the conviction that creation requires a creator” (a conviction he states is “at the basis of all of the world’s religions” – although this would come as a surprise to Buddhists who don’t believe in God). It is of course true by definition that a creation requires a creator (to be a creator is to create a creation, and to be a creation is to be created by a creator).
What Krauss means to say is that he isn’t sympathetic to the idea that the cosmos is a creation, because that would entail a Creator: “I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist,” says Krauss, “but I’d much rather live in a universe without one.” This sort of definitional confusion is symptomatic of Krauss’ dismissive attitude to philosophy, a self-confessed “intellectual bias”
So science makes sense of the world. Except for why it was made, and who or (largely) what made it. On the other hand, for the theist this is perfectly logical and non-linear. We accept the LOGIC that if ALL THINGS are caused (technically the argument is about “whatever begins to exist” but since everything that science describes began to exist, this seems to be redundant qualification), then this ‘collection of all things’ (= our reality)is also caused.
The world as we know it began to exist. Everything that began to exist has a cause. Ergo… our reality has a cause.
This in and of itself does not prove God. Just that God as an ‘idea’ is logical IF it has the attribute of being Uncaused. All ‘caused’ things are material, so the cause can’t be since ‘in the beginning’ material matter did not exist, because if it was material itself would have to been caused. The concept of a God is the only explanation that stops this infinite regression. And we know it is not an infinite regression since there was a beginning.
Time & Eternity
There is a conceptual difference between infinity and eternity. Infinity is a concept that applies to things that cannot be counted or measured, and eternity relates only to the temporal dimension, this temporal dimension, it means all things that re eternal are infinite but all infinite things are not necessarily eternal.
Infinity is a mathematical construct needed to balance the equations of science. But eternity (infinite time) does not ‘really’ exist if you are a scientist. (And I mean ‘really’ – it obviously exists as an abstraction, but an abstraction of what?) ‘Infinity is the idea of something that has no end. In our world we don’t have anything like it.’
Eternity is defined as ‘unending time’ – but time had a beginning – because before the Big Bang the space/time fabric did not exist. How is ‘time’ eternal? It cannot be eternal in only one direction, right?
At the other end of the arrow of time, this ‘explosion must have an ‘edge’, so not only is there a beginning, there is also an end. (Cosmologists are divided on this, but this is my view.)
But if time ‘started at a point and exploded the time space fabric (we still observe the energy of it being underway (the red shift’) then I cannot understand how it can NOT have an edge. But something that ‘begins’ and something that is still happening does not sound like an ‘endless thing’.
I am told that on a material level:
Galaxies extend as far as we can detect… with no sign of diminishing. There is no evidence that the universe has an edge. The part of the universe we can observe from Earth is filled more or less uniformly with galaxies extending in every direction as far as we can see – more than 10 billion light-years, or about 6 billion trillion miles. We know that the galaxies must extend much further than we can see, but we do not know whether the universe is infinite or not.
Even when theists suggest God is eternal, they really mean a-temporal – or something like that -which is ‘outside of time’. A time-bound being cannot create time itself. I don’t understand the Hilbertian prohibition of ‘infinities hypothesised within finite structures’ or anything like that. But you don’t need a science degree to understand that ‘nothing’ can’t have properties (ala Krauss) and that something that begins is not eternal.
But science does not work without infinity. And I agree with science. There has to be something that existed before the beginning of time (as we know it) and that something is God. The logic works if God created the universe and science reveals the laws he used to structure the universe.
The arrow of time is a clear and undeniable simple fact of our reality. The past is different from the future. One of the most obvious features of the macroscopic world is irreversibility: heat doesn’t flow spontaneously from cold objects to hot ones. We remember the past, but not the future; we can take actions that affect the future, but not the past. The distinction between past and future seems to be consistent throughout the observable universe.
YET (he continues):
The first mystery of the arrow of time is that it’s nowhere to be found in the fundamental laws of physics. The puzzle is to reconcile microscopic reversibility with macroscopic irreversibility. (I won’t digress now, but is it a coincidence that microscopic evolution is uncontested but macroscopic evolution is?)
The physicist (Sean Carroll) resolves this conundrum as either:
- (We can) impose a boundary condition that enforces one end of time to be low-entropy, whetherby fiat or via some higher principle;
- (Or) show that reversibilty (sic) is violated spontaneously— even if the laws of physics are time-reversal invariant…
I will translate those two solutions into simple language that may sound awfully Biblical: The High God spoke (by fiat = from Latin, let it be done,) and the world came into being (spontaneously). Or to quote: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3
For the materialist, everything is relative. The honest ones admit that the only meaning that exists is the meaning you choose relatively. (Someone on the forum posted that whilst there is no cosmic meaning, I can still find personal meaning in many things – or words to that effect. This is an admission of a relativistic worldview.) If many people agree on the same thing, you may call that morality, I call it mutual agreement by the masses.
There are no absolutes for the naturalist whereas the Theist thinks there is such a thing as an ‘absolute’. An absolute cannot be proven with material tools, and all we can do is point to ideas and experiences that reflect ‘absoluteness.’ Theists point to aspects of morality as an example. We think there is an innate, universal morality that exists. Non-theists agree it is pervasive and that suggest it “just happens to be so”. (That happens a lot actually.) Some weak arguments attempt to find ‘moral’ behaviours and insist that evolution caused it in an attempt to rationalise it, or the honest deniers may say we don’t know completely, but it is probably psychological.
But, sincerely, can you think that evolution would have any ‘reason’ to form in human beings (alone) a sense of justice, an appreciation for beauty and love that transcends sex?
The supreme irony of the WWGHA site is that it expresses as its ‘charter’ concern God’s unkindness towards some humans (amputees) and an apparent refusal to heal or help them. I say ironic, because this ‘rage’ is exactly an example of the universal, moral concern for the less fortunate that proves the existence of an absolute truth.
Can and must an absolute truth exist? Logically it MUST. If you DENY that there is an absolute truth, that denial itself is an expression of an absolute truth; so there must be at least one. For anything/ any idea to be absolute it cannot (logically) be part of or generated by a transient, finite, changing entity.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
There are indescribable things. We can attempt to describe, but such descriptions will not be sufficient to make understanding free of ambiguity and remove all subjectivity. These ineffable things can be material manifestations or supernatural.
Beauty, for instance, is not an absolute in itself – it is a subjective experience. But the existence of beauty, love, morality etc. is evidence of absolute values that exist (even if we experience it differently – especially since us transients experience it differently).
You can choose to study Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, and you will see marble and angles and shapes that resemble the human form. You may even call it beautiful because it is pleasing to the eye, and you may appreciate the hand-eye coordination and dexterity that was required to create it. You can call it ‘art’ because everyone will understand what you mean. And that is the end of your ‘experience’.
And everything you see and experience is true. But it is not all there is.
A theist marvels at the sculpture and we see marble and angles and shapes that resemble the human form. But in addition, we also:
- Wonder about why we evenhave a sense of beauty since there is no (evolutionary) purpose to having developed a sense of aesthetics.
- We study that marble shape and wonder about its meaning. We consider it to have a meaning and message that transcends the marble and that we are duty-bound to explore that.
- We study the shape and realise and appreciate that it has creator for all things with form and purpose has been created – evidence abounds all around us – and this is no different.
Strangely, you impress upon me the need to explain why I find meaning in that work? You insist that it is illogical to attribute anything more to that piece of creation than that it is a piece of rock that resembles a human. AGAIN, ironically, you question why the creator would be so cruel as to make an amputee sculpture, not recognising your concern for the unfortunate for what it really is?
And when my explanation does not make sense or I don’t have one, you deny that it has been created. You insist that it is not beautiful – just angles and shapes that we have learned to find pleasing for some reason. (And we will one day know why, if we don’t know now.)
There are things that can‘t be explained by evolution; like altruism and caring for the poor. There are things that simply can’t be attributed to chemicals. Lust and sex is a function of chemicals, but love is more than chemicals. That is why rape is more than breach of a human law. Rape is a violation of a person’s identity.
Freedom cannot be reduced vibrating quarks. Humans have minds and we may formulate an understanding an agreement about what freedom is. But we can’t prove freedom. We can’t describe the innate sense of freedom.
Yes, I am talking about ‘qualia’. And to use the most physical example usually trotted out: how do you explain ‘redness’ of red? The mantis shrimp has four times the range of colour perception of humans. Red (as a colour) does not exist as such, except as a construct in the brain as it processes stimuli comprising wave lengths etc. How the shrimp sees the colour of blood and how a human sees it is not even on the same scale. Is it still the same colour? Does it change the object that reflects those particular wavelengths?
God is not colour, but the point I make is that we can all perceive the same thing and we have different abilities to perceive stimuli on different spectrums. (We all have the same muscles but we have different talents.)
Our experience and our thoughts of God are physically manifested. There are neurons firing in our brain when we think about God as much as when we think about dogs. Emotions are generated and expressed the same in all humans. But just some animals able to detect different colours that we cannot detect because they are (e.g.) pentachromatic as opposed to trichromatic, people who are filled with the spirit of God can perceive the word of God in their lives. Just because you can’t see it does not mean it is not true.
Because something is ineffable, indescribable, undefinable does not mean it does not exist.
Up until this point, I have only explained the ‘idea’ of a god. Something that exists outside of nature. You can call it anything – even a force or an energy.
Another world for ineffable would be hypothetical. (Not in the sense that it is ‘taboo’ but in the sense that it is inherently “too great”, complex, or abstract to be adequately communicated. One example of such a hypothetical, complex idea is that of ‘dark energy’.
Dark energy (is defined on Wikipedia as) a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. The evidence for dark energy is indirect. (Does it sound familiar if I say that we deduce its existence by the way it manifests itself in the natural world – it helps us make sense of the natural world, without being directly observable?)
There is a theoretical need for a type of additional energy that is not matter or dark matter. Read that again – it is NOT matter. How does your naturalistic/materialist (i.e. based on ‘matter’) worldview stack up against the fact that almost two thirds of the known universe is postulated to comprise of something that is an abstract concept?
I am not suggesting dark energy = God, but I am pointing out the logical inconsistency of what you demand of theism and allow for yourself.
CREATION & REALITY
I know that I risk your eyes glazing over at bible quotes, but humour me for a second.
I am the first one to say that the Bible is not a scientific text or even a history book. But if it is going to have any use, the words that it contains must somehow lead us closer to the Truth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5)
I read that and it blows my mind that some dude could write that in the Age he did. The explanatory power of those few lines is phenomenal. Think about this: “the life was the light of men” and then think energy/photons and the relationship with life.
People think the creation story is a just a story; but read Genesis 1 again:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Most people see the apparent contradiction of ‘light’ being made before the sun was made. But what is the sun made of? Is it not ‘energy’ and what is energy but photons? Light is made of particles (we discovered recently) and these ‘parts’ had to be made first before everything else can be made.
And yes I have read the theories (as much as I can understand without scientific training) of cosmology. For instance one common argument (Susskind I think?) is the notion of the multi-verse which seemingly refutes the argument from design which suggests the probabilities of this universe being what it is being very low. The multiverse suggests that if an infinite number of universes existed, then one like this would be possible.
Of course there is no mention that if there are infinite possibilities of ANY thing, there is also a possibility of GOD, so it does not seem to be an argument that favours a naturalistic one.
CLASH OF WORLDVIEWS
Theism: It requires a completely linear and logical thought process. As a world view, Theism is a complete and coherent view of the world:
… Eternal God à Creation à Natural World àHuman Experience à Death àEternity…
Scientism: Scientists then say; since we only have the tools to detect these types of things (natural) we will only admit evidence of these things into our worldview (naturalism/materialism).
Nothing à Uncaused Creation à Natural World à Human Experience à Death à Nothing!
I choose along with many others the Theistic worldview:
Why do I believe that the worldview of biblical Christianity is the best choice? Its teachings are logically consistent, they accurately (also) describe (physical) reality as it is, and they speak directly to the human condition. In addition, Christianity provides compelling and powerful answers to the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Finally, the theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology of the Christian worldview are expansively rich and deeply profound – unsurpassed by any other worldview. (See more.)
Naturally, I must add a caveat: FOR ME.
THE GREAT PERVERSIONS
A Reasonable God made Unreasonable
- There are many smart people in the world arguing both sides of the fence, and whilst every one picks a side, there are always powerful counter-arguments both ways.
- The arguments are so complex, that few lay people can be expected to really fully understand this.
Given these two observations, it would seem reasonable to conclude that if there was a God and he required us to resolve those scientific & philosophical argumentsdefinitively IN ORDER for us to accept his existence AND simultaneously did not equip most of us with the intellectual resources to do so, it would be (a) a cruel God and (b) not much we would be able to do about it anyway.
I would suggest that chasing the scientific answer to God is a perversion of the ultimate truth.
A perversion can be colloquially described as a ‘wrong version’ and whilst most perversions are anchored in a basic truth, it is twisted out of shape for whatever reason and not fit for purpose. Cults do this all the time. When a father commits filicide, they do it out a perversion of love, believing they are (e.g.) protecting the child from future harm. He is protecting them from future harm but can’t see that by killing his child in order to achieve that noble objective the truth is perverted.
God gave us science. (In fact science was largely founded and developed by theists ). It is for a specific purpose. To use science somehow to deny and disprove its creator is to pervert the truth. Science is a God-given pursuit when he gave us dominion over the world. His creatures developed it and use it to make life better and ‘rule’ over our material universe. He made us smart enough to continue to discover and to reason about the material dimension of our universe. For an atheist to use science as ‘proof’ of God’s non-existence is disingenuous because what science does as a discipline is systematically uncover the truth about what we have dominion over, and it is perfectly fit for that purpose. (I know technically you are saying the opposite argument lacks the ‘proof’ etc etc – but the practical effect is the same.)
There really is no point in discussing arcane scientific or philosophical constructs such as the various cosmological models for instance. There is a counter-argument for every argument and it is endless rabbit-hole. (See, I have learned something here…)
I know you have read the Kalam cosmological argument and I know you have dismissed it. (And we don’t have to have arguments for/against it). I am stating my case to define (one of the attributes) of) God. I know there are counter arguments, but I consider those arguments to require extreme mental contortions to even create a possibility that the basic argument is wrong.
There IS a possibility that the argument is wrong, but it seems to be a simpler argument. (And I know Ockam was a Theist, but I still like his principle. And I know you think ‘God’ is not a simple answer to the problem. But these things are a matter of belief. I want to ask you to consider the cumulative case.
As a general argument. I am not saying you are NOT right. Of course you are. Even if scientific theory is WRONG – at the time we hold that theory, it is the best fit for the evidence so it is ‘right’ as far as we can tell.
All I am saying there is MORE.
This ‘more’ is that bit that transcends the material. You have to trust me. Or call it belief if you will, but unless you open up to that possibility, you can’t experience the ‘more’. Just like you trust the idea that dark energy exists even though it is purely hypothetical.)
I believe I have a spirit. It is not a material thing, but it is the essential difference between me and an animal.
I am not asking you to change your life in accordance what I believe; I am asking you to test my beliefs for yourself and then make the decision.
Science is a truth-seeking discipline for the material universe and to elevate it to be something that is not and cannot be, is equally a perversion of a great truth.
Unreasonable Humans made Reasonable
But it is not as if God did not know that, with free will, he also gave us the capacity to destroy the bond between God and man. How we are elevating ‘science’ to be something that it isn’t is actually our ORIGINAL sin!
We really sin in one way only (at a fundamental level) that is why it is called the original sin (Gen 3:4):
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
So here we are today, still partaking of the fruit that will make us the god.
What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” John 7:36
Don’t forget that the earliest beliefs – like the earth was flat – was man’s attempt at SCIENCE, not religion. And there is nothing wrong with that and we don’t laugh at it, because it fit the available evidence. It just so happens that theists don’t think the available evidence is complete.
Scientist ‘believes’ in their theories despite the lack of evidence and the history of consistently having to be revised. For instance, if the earth is (approximately) 14Bn years old – there is not much of explanation for what happened between the Big Bang and maybe 10Bn years later when the first little tadpole coalesced from the primordial swamp. And not much thereafter.
Evolution has a fair crack at this, but kinda falls apart roughly in the Cambrian era, but lets’ ignore that for the moment and just keep using it because the rest of it works it theory.
So here is my ‘definition’:
God is the ineffable timeless, uncaused creator of all, who desires a personal relationship with his creation.
I could of course try and list all the attributes that are traditionally used (transcendent, omniscient etc etc).
Matt 11:27: No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
God the Son has already revealed HOW He chooses to reveal himself:
Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luke 13:25: When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’
Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
If you have faith in God, it will open a door that allows you to be with God.
This relationship is a Spiritual one, even though your behaviours and experiences will be manifested in the physical domain because you are a physical being. To equate ‘Spirituality’ (capital ‘S’) with ‘imaginary’ is insulting AND ignorant.
It is also at this point where the deist and the theist part company.