Archive for August, 2011

August 25th, 2011

The Incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Libertarian Freedom

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Roger Turner, a Philosophy Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.

If you’re a Molinist—at any rate, if you believe that God has middle knowledge—you believe that God knows whether or not any given counterfactual, or subjunctive conditional is true.  What’s more, you probably believe this because you think it helps make clear how it is possible that humans can act freely even though God knows, before they act, how they’ll act.  And you probably want to have some grasp on how all that works because you’re a libertarian with respect to freedom.  That is, you think that determinism and free will are incompatible, but you believe that divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible.  If you are a libertarian, you think that indeterminism is true.  In other words, you think that the theses ‘the conjunction of the past and laws of nature entails a unique future’ and ‘nobody has a choice about the future because nobody has a choice about what God foreknows’ are false.  So, the idea of middle knowledge seems to be the best way to duck and dodge the relevant snares.  But there’s a puzzle here.  There appears to be a significant tension between one’s being a libertarian about freedom, and one’s being a Molinist.  In what follows, I hope to illuminate the problem.

Take your friend, Jones.  If you believe God has middle knowledge, you probably believe that, if you were to ask God what Jones would do in such and such a circumstance, God would know the answer to your question.  God would respond, so you think, with something like the following:  “If Jones were in C, he would freely A.”  And you’d feel pretty confident that God’s having answered this way fails to undermine Jones’s freedom because you think that God’s belief about whether or not Jones A’s in C depends on Jones and whether or not Jones A’s in C and not the other way around (i.e. Jones’s Aing in C doesn’t depend on God’s knowing that, if Jones were in C, he would A).

Quick question, though: what is the truth value of a subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?  Here’s why I ask.  If a particular event is an indeterminate event (that is, the event is undetermined) the odds of that event’s happening are something like 50/50.  So, take Jones again and his being in C and whether or not he A’s.  If Jones’s Aing is undertermined, then he’s just as likely to A as he is to not-A given his being in C and an identical past up to the point of his being in C.  This is what indeterminism implies.  Given Jones’s past from t0 to the present moment, the moment just before he acts, Jones is supposed to be just as free to refrain from Aing as he is to A.  It can’t be the case, for example, that, if Jones is libertarianly free, he’d be more likely to A, given his past (or other conditions beyond his control), than he would be to refrain from Aing.  Because if that’s the case, then he’s got factors that are out of his control which bear on whether or not he A’s.  And this would absolve Jones of (at least part of) his responsibility for Aing (or refraining from A).  If we’re libertarians (and we usually are if we believe God has middle knowledge), then we think Jones has just as much chance of Aing, given that he’s in C, as he does refraining from A.

Okay, back to the question about the truth value of a subjunctive conditional given the truth of indeterminism.  The subjunctive conditional (this thing:  €®) expresses what would happen in the closest-by, relevant possible worlds.  So, take Jones again.  And express the proposition ‘if Jones were in C, he would freely A’ as follows:

JC nec. €→ A

The way this is typically read is something like this: in all the closest-by C worlds (i.e. the worlds in which Jones is in C), Jones A’s.  But this implies that it’s not indeterminate what Jones would do in C.  It’s not indeterminate because we can “zoom-out” and see which C worlds are the closest to the actual world.  And, just by doing that, we can see that in any C world that is most closely related to the actual world, Jones A’s.  The odds aren’t 50/50 given the truth of the subjunctive conditional; the closest-by C worlds are such that Jones A’s.  So, if Jones is in C, though it’s not necessary that he A—there are, after all, possible worlds where he’s in C but doesn’t A; they’re just further off—he’ll A.  He’ll A because there is a group of possible C worlds—those closest-by to the actual world—where he A’s.  And whether or not Jones is in a closest-by C world has nothing to do with Jones!  It’s beyond Jones’s control as to whether or not he’s in one of the closest-by C worlds.

But, wait.  On the libertarian view, indeterminism is true; that is, determinism is false.  Jones must, to be libertarianly free, be just as likely to A, in C, as he is to refrain from A.  That is, Jones must be equally likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A in all C worlds.  It can’t be the case that the proximity of the C world to the actual world determines whether or not Jones A’s.  But, if the subjunctive conditional (this bit:  JC nec. €→A) is true, then it can’t be that Jones was just as likely to refrain from Aing in C as he was to A in C.

So, if indeterminism is true, the subjunctive conditional must be false.  The answer, then, to the above question ‘what is the truth value of the subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?’: the truth value of the subjunctive conditional, if indeterminism is true, is False.  But this means that it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A.  And what’s more, it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  And since God can’t have any false beliefs, he can’t believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A is true, nor can he believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  He can’t believe this because it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely A and it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely refrain from Aing.  It’s false because there is no would to it; indeterminism implies that the proximity of the worlds in which Jones is in C has no bearing on whether or not Jones A’s.  It has no bearing because, in all C worlds, Jones is just as likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A.

The upshot of all this is that if it’s true that if Jones were in C, he would freely A, then Jones was not libertarianly free to A.  Some factor that wasn’t up to Jones made it the case that his particular C world was closer to the actual world than some other C world, some other C world where he refrains from Aing.  And this implies that, if it’s true that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A, then libertarianism is false.  At any rate, it implies that if the subjunctive conditional is true, then God’s middle knowledge rules out our acting in a libertarianly free way.

So, either you are a Molinist—at any rate, you believe that God has middle knowledge—or you are a libertarian.  But you can’t be both.  So the argument goes, anyway.

August 22nd, 2011

Apologetics315 and Reasons to Believe in the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

I just wanted to share this interview conducted by Brian Auten with Apologetics315 and astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink with Reasons to Believe.  My graduate research is on fine-tuning and the multiverse so it’s hard for me to pass this up.

August 19th, 2011

The Wrath of God and its Theological Implications

by Max Andrews

Guest Post by Bryan Raszinski

The wrath of God is a truth that is rarely taught or proclaimed within the Church these days. The Church seems to display greatly the love of our God, the mercy of our God, and the grace of our God…but when His wrath is brought up we just shut down and move forward like it is nothing of any theological importance. J.I. Packer recognizes this problem and says:

“To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex and self-will, the church mumbles on about God’s kindness but says virtually nothing about his judgment…The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter…One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.”

The Bible is clear that the wrath of God plays an important role not only in the life of an unbeliever but also in the life of a believer; Israel and the other Gentile nations.

In Exodus 3:20 it reads: “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.” One theological implication of this text is divine justice. Moses was just commissioned to go before Pharaoh by YHWH and demand the release of his people. This is the promise YHWH gives Moses as a sign that Moses is not alone in this deliverance. Israel is being delivered and redeemed back into the land they are supposed to dwell in as was authorized by the Lord back in the Genesis account. YHWH is going to strike the Egyptian nation with His wonders and miracles and as the Exodus account continues it becomes clear that His wonders are divine judgments that go against the 10 major gods of the Egyptians as well as play a part in showing the glory of His power and His name to the nation of Egypt and use this as an example for other nations to see. His wrath on the Egyptians was divine deliverance for His people the Israelites.

As we move in the New Testament, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives important implications of the wrath of God. We read in Ephesians 2:1-3-“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to thecourse of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Ephesians 2:1-10 is a popular passage when it comes to sharing the gospel and for good reasons. The first three verses serve as a reminder of the state we were in prior to believing in the Lord and acknowledging Him as Lord. They place us in a place that is often not spoken of…a place we refuse to realize we were in in the first place before being saved and transferred from  kingdom to another (Col. 1:13-14). We were devil worshipers and by our very nature a stench that repelled us from our Lord. We were sons of disobedience and walked by the flesh. We were children of wrath. Paul is very clear that before verses 4-10 occurred we were not in a neutral spot ready and prepared to say yes to the Lord whenever we deemed it necessary. We were naturally against the Lord and our minds and bodies were embodied in the chains of sin and depravity. We understand verses 4-10. We tend to only read that section and then move on from that passage praising the Lord for His grace…but do we know why we are praising His grace? Do we understand the full extent of where our sin had us and what He did for us?

The wrath of God gives us this ability. We as believers and co-workers of Christ can rejoice in the wrath of God because of the grace that has covered us for our sins in the past, sin we commit now, and sin we will commit in the future. Believers should not ignore the truth that the wrath of God has ingrained in it. There are two places in eternity- Heaven and Hell. For His children who will reside with Him in heaven we are able to rejoice in both the grace of God and wrath of God for the grace of God, given to us by the act of propitiation that Christ performed on the cross, has covered us and made us holy and above reproach. We can rejoice in the wrath of God because we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always no matter what (Phil. 4:4) and because the wrath of God gives us deliverance from the sin of the world and separates us from the imperfections and distortions that sin has committed. It is the wrath of God that will eventually eradicate sin and temptation from the world and give us an imperishable place of residence free from such heavy chains (1 Corinthians 15:50-57) and allow us to be able to be what we were originally meant to be- the perfect and holy image of God.

August 17th, 2011

How to Get a Theological Education Through iTunes U

by Max Andrews

Guest Blog Post by Joshua W. Anderson (joshuaanderson<at>fuller.edu)

What if I told you it’s possible to get a free theological education online? It’s well known that one can get a degree online these days; more and more schools are making their courses available on “virtual campuses.” They include the same lectures you would hear in the classroom—just recorded and posted online. Applying for school online has become a viable option, especially for those whose current walk in life makes them unwilling or unable to move across country to be on campus.

But let’s say you don’t want to actually enroll in a program and dish out the money for a degree. (Maybe you already have another degree, or are in the workforce, or ministry). Can you still get a theological education for free? You sure can: many Christian colleges and seminaries have posted classes to download for free on iTunes U. So much so, you can build your own curriculum rivaling the amount of classroom time it would take to actually go to school. At the end of your studies you won’t get a piece of paper to hang on the wall and show your friends, but you will learn a lot that God will be able to use for your ministry.

If you’re feeling led to do this, I’d recommend downloading a flash card program like Anki http://ankisrs.net/ and building flash card decks full of only the information you hear in the lectures you want to stick in your brain. Don’t go crazy building a huge deck of cards you’ll feel overwhelmed with; just put stuff on there you actually want to be able to quote off the top of your head. Then incorporate a daily (or weekly) time of study into your life. Just listen to a lecture (taking notes or adding info to your Anki deck), and then go over your flashcards again for the day. Anki is really cool because it’s designed upon an algorithm that works with the way we learn—so you only have to designate a set amount of time you want to study each day and over time you will master large amounts of material.

The time is going to pass either way: a year from now either you will have absorbed the equivalent of a master’s degree of knowledge, or not. I’m just telling you that you can do it for free!

Check out the links below for schools that have courses online, and my own ideas for putting together a curriculum.

God bless you in your studies.

Christian Schools:

Fuller Theological Seminary:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/fuller-theological-seminary/id380159118

Reformed Theological Seminary:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/reformed-theological-seminary/id378878142

Biola University:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/biola-university/id389654288

Dallas Theological Seminary:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/dallas-theological-seminary/id386158137

Liberty University:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/liberty-university/id427898998

Westminster Theological Seminary:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/westminster-theological-seminary/id430331214

Concordia Seminary:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/concordia-seminary/id426790662

Christian History:

History of Christianity I (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/history-of-christianity-i/id378878676

History of Christianity II (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/history-of-christianity-ii/id378878708

History I (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=378878750

History II (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=378878755

History of the Christian Church I (Liberty University)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=427913072

History of the Christian Church II (Liberty University)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=431286200

Ancient and Medieval Church History (Covenant Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=418582066

Christian Philosophy and Apologetics:

Critical Reasoning for Beginners (Oxford University)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/critical-reasoning-for-beginners/id387875757

Ethics for Complete Beginners (Oxford University)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=438910219

History of Philosophy and Christian Thought (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/history-philosophy-christian/id378879176

Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (Notre Dame)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=382668779

Defenders Class by William Lane Craig (ReasonableFaith.org)

http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/defenders-podcast/id252618196

Apologetics and Outreach (Covenant Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=418582076

Introduction to Apologetics (Liberty University)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=427913229

Christian Apologetics as Taught by Ronald Nash (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=409829793

Christian Apologetics as Taught by John Frame (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=378879273

History and Nature of Apologetics (Westminster Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=430339495

Hermeneutics and Exegesis:

Biblical Hermeneutics (Fuller Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/ne505-biblical-hermeneutics/id380159148

Bible Study Methods (Dallas Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=386158693

Biblical Hermeneutics (Concordia Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=426809720

The Gospels as Histories taught by Richard Bauckham (Reformed Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=426936770

The Pentateuch (Fuller Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=380159249

The Prophets (Fuller Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=380159288

Textual Criticism:

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (Daniel Wallace)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/center-for-study-new-testament/id416966041

Biblical Languages:

Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/beginning-hebrew-ruth-class/id392738805

Elementary Hebrew (Concordia Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=426804337

Elementary Greek (Concordia Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=426804037

Elements of Greek I (Dallas Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=386159183

Elements of Greek II (Dallas Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=386159200

Preaching and Homiletics:

Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety (UC Davis)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/overcoming-public-speaking/id414117823

Expository Preaching I (Dallas Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=386159618

Homiletics II (Concordia Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=426816801

Systematic Theology:

Systematic Theology as Taught by Wayne Grudem

http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wayne-grudems-systematic-theology/id322844869

Intro to Theology (Dallas Theological Seminary)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=386159276

Some Notable Secular Institutions and Courses:

Oxford University:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/oxford-university/id381699182

Yale University:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/yale-university/id341649956

Harvard:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/harvard-university/id379060688

MIT:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/mit/id341593265

Stanford:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/stanford/id384228265

Philosophy of Mind as Taught by John Searle (UC Berkley)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=438307693

Science and Religion Lectures (Cambridge University)

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=418516646

*Note

I stuck with only links through iTunes U (except for William Lane Craig’s Defender’s class, and Dan Wallace’s material, because I couldn’t resist) but obviously you don’t have to limit yourself to this; there are also awesome podcasts that you could learn from that are not affiliated with a Christian university. Just go for it!

August 15th, 2011

A Philosophy of Tattoos

by Max Andrews

There are many stereotypes associated with tattoos and the underlying commonality is difference.  People with tattoos are generally different in many ways from those who do not have tattoos.  I got my first tattoo when I was 19 years old and I’m not sure how many tattoos I have now.  I’ve gotten some that have evolved into bigger projects and absorbed by later additions. I wanted to share my philosophy behind why I get tattoos, what they mean, and provide thoughts on what the Bible has to say about tattoos.

My tattoos are manifestation of my existential reflections of life.  I once heard someone say that you should be able to look at someone’s tattoos and be able to tell most of everything about their life.  Tattoos become an outward expression of who I am.  I don’t do it for the aesthetic so much as I do it for myself.  I don’t find it as hedonistic; rather, I find it to be an artistic expression.  Here are my stories.


This is my right arm, which is almost complete.  I have a little bit of empty space before my sleeve is complete.  What these tattoos depict is my place, and humanity’s place, in this universe taken from Psalm 8 (“When I consider the moon and the stars, that you have ordained, what is it that you give thought of the son of man, that you care for him [non-Messianic]).  The background is full of stars and planets and it fades in to DNA and a carbon atom.  When you imagine the vastness of our universe, how incredibly large it is and then you reflect on humanity, how incredibly tiny we are on this spec of cosmic dust we call earth, you’ll understand our privileged place in this universe.  You’ll understand our privileged place in God’s heart.  The intricate details God used in designing our existence from the cosmos to the DNA and atoms used to make us up.  The pinnacle of creation is the cross and God’s love for us (in Greek around the cross is Mt. 22.37, the greatest commandment).  Below the cross reads fides quaerens intellectum, which is Latin for faith seeking understanding.

This is my left arm.  The Jerusalem Cross, also known as the Crusader’s Cross, has personal meaning to me that I have only told to my wife.  So, the meaning behind that one remains a mystery to everyone else.  On the back of my left arm I have “Send Me,” which is from Isaiah’s commissioning.  It represents my obedience to God’s will for my life.  Just like Isaiah, he willingly submitted himself to what it was the God had him to do and he did so by his initiative willingly obedient to what God had for him to do (I’m not speaking theologically as in God shaped his will by Isaiah’s initiative).  It’s quite reflective of my testimony and the purpose that God has for me.  The semi-colon is my fun/Crohn’s disease tattoo.  I recently had a surgery and had 15 cm of my small intestine, my appendix, and a few inches of my colon removed.  Hence… I have a semi-colon.

My chest piece is from Ecclesiastes, Vanity of Vanities.  It’s a reflection of life in the absence of God.  If there is no God then life is utterly absurd, there is no meaning, purpose, or value to anything.  There is no hope.  Even for the Christian, if one’s motives, focus, or ends are not for God and his glory then it is in vain.  (Excuse the clear bandage and Hohn line, the IV line, in my neck; I took these photos during my surgical recovery).  On my right shoulder, just below my neck, I have a celtic butterfly.  This is in memory of my niece, Alyssa.  My brother was in Iraq and his pregnant wife, Jessica, died (for causes still unknown to us today).  This tattoo is for my brother, Jessica, and Alyssa.  There’s a lot of pain and suffering behind this tattoo.  There are still wounds that must continue to heal and some that have yet to be healed.  These wounds will eventually heal and bring a new perspective and new life to all of us.  The thing is, these wounds may not heal until our new life at the resurrection in the afterlife.

Tattoos are much more than cultural fads or aesthetic complements (at least to me).  Mine tells stories and are life expressions that can be told without words.  As you can see, I have a lot of meaning and existential expression behind my tattoos.  It becomes an integrated part of who I am.  Some have deep meaning and my most recent one has meaning, but it is more fun than serious.  Tattoos aren’t for everyone.  However, those who do have tattoos need to understand that people are going to judge you know matter what your personal philosophy behind tattoos is.  It just comes with the ink, you’ll just have to get thick skin and get over it (Get it? It’s a tattoo joke… Ha… Anyways…).

It’s not wrong to get tattoos and it’s not unbiblical.  Here’s and exegesis of the Levitical mention of tattoos.  You’ll be quite surprised as to what tattoos and the intent of the passage really is.  It’s amazing.  I would encourage those who do not have tattoos to not be judgmental of those who do (or for those who have any alternative means of self-expression such as piercings, hair styles, or clothing styles that are less mainstream.  Also, consider a means of expression whether it be artistic, vocal, or alternative.  For those who do have tattoos, consider and reflect on your philosophy of tattoos.  What do they mean to you?  Why did you get them or why do you want more?  For those who do not have tattoos but one or some, I ask the same questions.  Why do you want them? What meaning will it have?  Tattoos don’t have to have deep meaning, they can be fun and goofy too.  In the end, it’s a personal expression and you give it its value.  I would recommend giving it a lot of value because this value will last forever.

August 12th, 2011

Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?

by Max Andrews

Not too long ago I was reflecting on my recent wedding and I realized something I found hard to deal with.  Five years ago my brother was in Iraq, and his pregnant wife died (for reasons and causes still unknown to us).  I was talking about the wedding with my mother and we both made the same observation.  We thought that there should have been a five-year old girl running around at my wedding.  I should have had a five-year old niece dolled up in a cute dress and playing with the other children.  What was difficult for me, upon further reflection, was that God thought and willed that there should not be a five-year old girl running around at my wedding.  I was at a clash with God’s will.  I thought that things should have been different.  Apparently, God disagreed and willed the course of history to be different.  As a Molinist, I found this very discomforting at first.  Let me explain the details.

The Molinist concept of providence understands God as controlling everything that happens throughout the course of history.  Everything that happens is a result of God’s will.  God both strongly and weakly actualizes everything.  Strong actualization is where God directly causes or acts in the world, which directly produces the effect.  God weakly actualizes S if and only if there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” (Let S be a state of affairs).  Or, in other words, weak actualization is the means of actualization where God uses free agents to bring about his will (an indirect means).  So, if all that comes to pass in the course of history is the result of God’s will, how should I deal with this (or how should anyone deal with these types of situations)?

This problem is very closely related to the problem of evil.  Now, my first reaction was very discomforting knowing that everything that happens occurs because God willed it to happen.  My discomfort soon turned to comfort.  When I thought about this the more I realized my finitude.  God knew that taking my niece and sister-in-law home was the best course of action for him to take.  I’m in no spatiotemporal position to evaluate the effects their death produce.  I know that they have had tremendous influences and effects in my life since their passing, and I trust much more will come.  I don’t have to be able to explain why God chose the course of history that he chose, I just have to demonstrate that how he does it is the most coherent, biblical, and sound model.  Who am I to judge God in his providential course of action? I do not have the cognitive scope or holy intentions that he has.

Let’s consider a non-Molinist perspective.  If God causes all things (no weak actualizations) then there are tremendous problems with the problem of evil.  I’ve discusses this issue in previous posts so I’m not going to elaborate too much here.  Suppose the Molinist concept of providence is true and that God has every detailed moment and aspect of your life planned.  What about those who don’t have a “good life”?  What about the unemployed, starving, diseased, and homeless?  Is it God’s will for them to be like this?  Surely, God’s providential means is not that of the Molinist’s concept right?  This may sound harsh but I do believe it is the will of God for the starving to starve, the diseased to be diseased and the homeless to be homeless.  Let me qualify this.  There are different orders to God’s will.  It is not God’s will, antecedently, for the starving to starve, the diseased to be diseased, and the homeless to be homeless.  It is, however, God’s will, consequently, because of the decisions made by free agents, the good that will come of it, the factor it plays into the grand scheme of things (or the counterfactual role it plays in the feasible world God chose to actualize).  Now consider that this is not true, that God doesn’t will every detail in history.  Does God directly cause all these things to come to pass? If that’s the case then God antecedently wills the starving to starve and the diseased to be diseased.  The Molinist denies that, it is consequently (because of factor X, Y, and/or Z) that God wills circumstances like those mentioned.

Perhaps it is the case that God cannot prevent such circumstances?  If that’s the case then why should we trust God?  God has made so many promises to us in Scripture, what guarantee can I have that he will fulfill these promises if he cannot prevent other circumstances?  Another hidden premise I would have to reject in this discomforting aspect or rejection of the Molinist paradigm is that God wants us to be happy, healthy, and for us to have “good lives”.  It’s primarily and antecedently God’s will for us to know him and to love him.  Our measure of a “good life” is nowhere near God’s primary will for our lives.  We need to void our ideology that God just wants us to be happy and healthy all the time with a good job, spouse, and nice dinners at night.  God may provide what is necessary for us to live but he desires us to know him and to seek first his Kingdom (see Matthew 6).

My knee-jerk reaction upon this reflection was to feel a sense of discomfort.  When I really analyzed and thought through everything I found this to be quite comforting and the best model of divine providence.  I do understand that it may be a hard pill to swallow at times.  When I say that it is God’s will for me to struggle with my own disease, to be hospitalized over and over, to be in pain for extended periods of time, for me to say that this is the will of God is certainly difficult.  However, I’m not going to deny that it is because I trust God will make good of it and that he wants me to know him, love him, and seek his Kingdom above all else.  This certainly wasn’t meant to be exhaustive, just my initial thoughts and meanderings… To God be the glory in all things.

August 11th, 2011

Einstein on Free Will

by Max Andrews

After the First World War Einstein made contributions to the development of quantum theory, including Bose-Einstein statistics and the basics of stimulated emission of radiation from atoms (which was later used to develop lasers).  He gave the nod of approval that led to the rapid acceptance of Louis de Broglie’s ideas about matter waves but he never came to terms with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.[1] The Copenhagen has become the more popular and standard interpretation.[2]

According to the Heisenberg Principle, the moment at which a measurement takes place is the moment at which the randomness lying at the heart of quantum reality expresses itself.[3]  Up to that point, everything is fine.  Amplitudes change in a completely predictable, and more importantly, calculable way.  The observer changes the state of what is being observed.  Outcomes can be predicted according to governing probabilities, but the actual outcome cannot be known in advance.[4]

This was something Einstein could not live with.  Einstein, as a determinist, felt that the world is a structured and rigid web where effects follows cause and all things should be predictable, given the right information.  Einstein acknowledged that quantum theory works but he did not like the philosophy behind it.  If whether or not, for example, Niels Bohr, Einstein’s quantum physics counterpart, were to throw a book across the room Einstein would be able to predict the outcome of Bohr’s “choice.” Einstein would of course say that choice is the wrong word to use; rather, the brain is a complex machine with cogs whirring round to produce a predictable action.  The basis of Einstein’s view was a philosophical conviction that the world did not include random events:  an objection summed up in Einstein’s widely quoted saying, “God does not play dice.”[5]  Bohr is reported to have responded to Einstein with the witty reply, “Don’t tell God what to do.”

Strict [or hard] determinism may be the only way to avoid the implication from quantum mechanics and experiments such as the delayed choice experiment.[6]  This experiment suggests that quantum communications occur instantaneously across any distance, or even travel backwards in time.[7]  The determinist is not yet defeated, quantum mechanics comes with a state of collapse and that seems to be linked to measurement.  Whatever measurements are, they are very specific situations and probably linked to what happens when a particle bumps into a measuring device.[8]

Einstein played a prominent role in the early development of quantum mechanics, particular in his philosophical approach to it.  How one interprets quantum mechanics will shape the answer to the question of determinism and free will.  Empirical testing does not seem to be enough to provide a satisfactory answer; rather, it how the data is interpreted.  Einstein’s approach to the rejection of genuine random events has been an influence of the contemporary debate.  It has been argued that Einstein’s determinism is correct, but it may be a mistake for him to base it on random events.  Randomness is not sufficient for determinism to be true; a lack of causality would be sufficient.  Even with the delayed choice experiment there seems to be a lack of causality, if anything it would be backwards causality.  The free will proponent must be careful not to appeal to any ignorance for a lack of explanation of such quantum events.  Einstein’s reason for determinism (randomness) does nothing to advance his case.  If anything, quantum experiments such as the delayed choice experiment only show that there is randomness in the world, not that there is purposeful, free agency.  All quantum mechanics entails is that there are random events in the brain (or whatever) that yield unpredictable behavior, which the agent is not responsible.[9]  Thus, it seems to be the case that Einstein’s philosophy of determinism has persevered.[10]


[1] Kenneth William Ford, The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 117.

[2] At this time there are at least ten regularly cited interpretations of quantum physics varying in interpretation of wave collapse, determinacy/indeterminacy, superpositions, and Schrödinger’s equations.

[3]  The equation: (change in x multiplied by the change in px is greater than or equal to half of Planck’s constant). For a given state, the smaller the range of probable x values involved in a position expansion, the larger the range of probable px values involved in a momentum expansion, and vice versa.  The key to the expression is the greater than or equal to because it places a limit on how precise the two measurements can be.  The principle is relating and for the same state ( signifies change, h, h-bar, is the Planck constant).  Heisenberg’s target was causality. The Copenhagen interpretation adopted this principle.  Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 247-248.

[4] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 100-101.

[5] Allday, 101.

[6] If photons are fired through the experiment one at a time (firing photons at a wall with two holes and a photon detector on the other side of the holes), they will build up an interference patter on the other side, as if they had gone through both holes at once and interfered with themselves.  If the experiment is set up so that detectors monitor which hole the photo goes through, the photon is indeed observed to be going through only one hole, and there is no interference pattern.  If a detector is set up not at the holes but intermediate between the two holes and the back wall detector screen then it may be possible to see which route a particular photon took after it had passed the two holes before it arrived at the screen.  Quantum theory says that if we choose to turn this new detector off and not look at the photons, they will form an interference pattern.  But if we look at the photons to see which hole they went through, even if we look after they have gone through the hole, there will be no interference pattern.  The delayed choice comes into the story because we can make the decision whether or not too look at the photon after the photon has already passed through the hole[s].  The decision made seems to determine how the photon behaved at the time it was passing though the hole a tiny fraction of a second in the past.  It seems as though the photons have some precognition about how the set-up of the experiment will be before it sets out on its journey.  This has also provided credence to the metaphysical concept of backwards causation.  John R. Gribbin, Mary Gribbin, and Jonathan Gribbin (Q Is for Quantum: Particle Physics from A-Z. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998), 102-103.

[7] This is most notably accepted by the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. Gribbin, 104.

[8] Allday, 102.

[9] Predictability may be equivalent to randomness, not a lack of causality.  Louis Pojman, Philosophy: The Pursuit of Wisdom (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2006), 229-230.

[10] Recalling Einstein’s epistemic method, he based all of his philosophy and work on the ontological status of the universe.  He did not seem to indicate an immateriality to the mind.  Einstein’s influence is limited only to the physical aspect for the substance dualist.  Here is where the substance dualist and the scientific theologian must resume the dialogue.

August 10th, 2011

A Quick Note on Transcendence and Immanence

by Max Andrews

The Enlightenment restricted knowledge to experience and the phenomenal. Post-Enlightenment thought sought to progress in knowledge while considering the advances the Enlightenment had made.  The Christian faith attempted to develop a new relationship between transcendence and immanence.  Transcendence has to do with God’s being self-sufficient and beyond or above the universe.  Immanence corresponds with God being present and active in creation, intimately involved in human history.  Newtonian physics did not permit God to be immanent in the universe.  This came into question was brought into light by the unmistakable success of science.[1]

Einstein’s GTR permitted the possibility that God interacts with the created order without interrupting the physical cause and effect system.[2]  The most important task for scientific theologians was how to avoid de facto deism—not merely by calling it unorthodox and expressing a dislike for the Newtonian theistic system, but by actually showing why it is an unnecessary conclusion drawn from science.  Christian theologians must be in the position to say what they mean by God’s activity in the world and how God’s activity can be consistent with the belief that God has created a finite order with a goodness and perfection of its own.[3]


            [1] Clayton Philip, God and Contemporary Science (Edinburgh, Scotland:  Edinburgh University Press, 1997), 188.

            [2] See Thomas Torrance, Space, Time, and Incarnation (Edinburgh, Scotland:  T&T Clark, 1969).

            [3] Philip, 192.

August 10th, 2011

Einstein, The Big Bang, and Natural Theology

by Max Andrews

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GTR) had predicted that the universe was either expanding or contracting.  Einstein found the notion of a beginning to the universe so distasteful that he introduced a “fudge factor” to his field equation to keep a Steady State universe, an eternal equilibrium.[1]  Einstein introduced a term called the cosmological constant.  The cosmological constant was a force so weak, which factored into the geometric curvature of space, that it would make no difference on an eternal universe.

In the 1920’s Edwin Hubble was studying the Andromeda nebula.  At least since the time of Kant scientists wondered what these distant enormous objects were (galaxies).  Kant conjectured that they might be island universes in their own right.[2]  With further study, Hubble noticed that these galaxies had a red shift; the galaxies were appearing redder than they should have and Hubble postulated that these galaxies were moving away from one another.  What was being observed was the same thing that the Doppler effect has on sound.  The trajectory of an object has an effect on the wavelength of the sound, or in this case, light.

As a result of Hubble’s discovery and Einstein’s own equations the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgian priest and physicist Georges Édouard Lemaître suggested that the universe had a finite past and was not static and eternal.  There was now a problem with the cosmological constant; it cannot simply be deleted from Einstein’s equations. The cosmological constant could balance the equation from describing the geometric curvature (left hand side of the equation) to describing the energy momentum (right hand side of the equation).   If this expansion is extrapolated the equations of motion then (and even now) can only go but so far—until the universe comes to a singularity. With reluctance Einstein conceded the steady state model in the late 1920’s, though many scientists would not accept the implications of an expanding universe (its finitude).  One critic, Fred Hoyle, dubbed such an event the “Big Bang” in mockery and the name stuck.[3]

Einstein’s GTR [and aspects of STR] has made incredible contributions to natural theology.[4]  Given the fixed speed of light, that nothing can travel faster than light, and the billions of light-years separation between the earth and other stars, it follows that the universe is billions of years old.[5]  This has created a problem for young-earth creationists.[6] Current estimations for the age of the universe have been set at 13.73±2 billion years old.  Young-earth creationists have adopted three main approaches:  (1) embrace a fictitious history of the universe in the spirit of Philip Gosse’s 1857 work Omphalos; (2) view the speed of light as having decayed over time; and/or (3) interpret Einstein’s GTR so that during an “ordinary day as measured on earth, billions of years worth of physical processes take place in the distant cosmos.”[7]

Regarding a fictitious history of the universe, the argument states that all present light, which appears to be billions of light years away, was created in transit with an appearance of age.  So, when supernovae exploding in a galaxy millions or billions of light years away, the young-earth creationist [advocate of a fictitious history] must adopt the approach that no supernovae ever exploded.[8]  Einstein and the scientific theologian’s epistemic method reject such an interpretation.  Einstein’s method of inquiry based the natural order as having an ontological status of genuine reality and the discoveries are made a posteriori; no such method of inquiry is tenable under a fictitious history.  Einstein’s epistemology has influenced Big Bang theists and scientific theologians regarding GTR and the objectivity of the natural order.  It appears, objectively, that the universe really is billions of years old.

The second argument was a denial that the speed of light has been a constant [approximately] 300,000 km/s.  As previously discussed, Einstein’s E=mc2 states that energy is proportional to the mass of an object multiplied by the speed of light squared.  If c decays then that would imply that there has been a change in the quantity of energy in the universe.  This creates a problem for thermodynamics.  Thermodynamics would not be the only problem; many other constants would need to change as well to preserve the stability of a life-permitting cosmos such as Planck’s constant h (h-bar).  Suddenly the objection is not only with c because that would in turn change all of physics.[9]  All of this would be done to circumvent an old universe suggested by a constant speed of light.[10]  Before Einstein’s relativity theories, this would not have been a problem for the young-earth creationist.

The third foremost-misconstrued aspect of Einstein’s equations by natural theologians has been to misinterpret GTR and time dilation.  The mathematics of this theory shows that while God makes the universe in six days in the earth’s reference frame (“Earth Standard Time”), the light has ample time in the extra-terrestrial reference frame to travel the required distances.[11]  The problem with this theory is that there are mathematical errors in its use of Einstein’s GTR.

One misunderstanding is the theory’s use of the Cosmological Principle.  It wrongly assumes that the long-time-scale implications of Big Bang cosmology are crucially dependent on the global validity of the principle and that the relaxation of this assumption, through the introduction of a boundary to the matter of the universe, produces dramatic differences in the gravitational properties of the universe.[12]  A second misunderstanding is the nature of time.  The theory wrongly affirms that the physical clock synchronization properties, which occur in the standard Big Bang model are due to the boundary conditions implied by the Cosmological Principle and that modification of these boundary conditions can change the way physical clocks behave.  Clocks in either our bounded or unbounded universe will behave exactly the same way whether on earth or at a distant galaxy provided there are identical interior matter distributions.[13] The third misunderstanding to be discussed is how GTR relates to event horizons (the point where escaping a mass’s gravity becomes impossible).  The theory wrongly affirms that observers who pass through event horizons observe dramatic changes in the rate of time passage in distant parts of the universe when it is the case that no such changes occur.[14]  Einstein’s impact on young-earth creationism has been profound and, arguably, has overthrown the tenability of young-earth creationism altogether.[15]

Einstein’s impact on natural theology has not been completely negative, as in the case for young-earth creationists, but for scientific theologians [and old-earth creationists] he has been a catalyst for epistemic and religious advances.  It is important to understand that as a GTR-based theory, the model does not describe the expansion of the material content of the universe into preexisting, Newtonian space, but rather the expansion of space itself.  The standard Big Bang model, as the Friedman-Lemaître model came to be called, thus described a universe that is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a g finite time ago.  Moreover, the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo.[16]  Christian theologians and philosophers already had arguments for a beginning of the universe based on necessity, contingency, and the concept of an actual infinite, but Einstein’s equations, which led the Standard Model, gave a mathematical and physical description of the universe that supported the Christian doctrine of creation.  The metaphysical concept of creatio ex nihilo now had empirical evidence.

In the 1960’s there was a dramatic increase in a series of dialogue on the relationship between science and religion.[17]  Natural theology [by the tasks of primarily scientists and philosophers] has sought to demonstrate that God is a necessary element in any comprehensive explanation of the universe is a long tradition, one that the Darwinian crusade sought to eliminate.  It might be legitimate to say that this renewed relationship between science and religion is a return to normal if Einstein was right when he said that “science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”[18]


            [1] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004), 171.

            [2] Gonzalez and Richards, 169.

            [3] Gonzalez and Richards, 171.

            [4] Natural theology supposes that the belief in God must rest upon an evidential basis.  Belief in God is thus not a properly basic belief.  Through the development of Einstein’s work, natural theology was undergoing barrage of attack from theologians such as Karl Barth.  Barth’s polemic against natural theology can be seen as a principled attempt to safeguard the integrity of divine revelation against human attempts to construct their own notions of God, or undermine the necessity of revelation. Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 81-82.

            [5] It is worth noting that space itself can travel faster than the speed of light, Einstein’s STR permits this.  It is expected that space begin to exceed this cosmic speed limit relatively soon.  William Dembski, The End of Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2009), 65.

            [6] Young-earth creationists have an epistemic method that begins with the Bible and shapes the rest of nature and science according to that specific interpretation rendered.  Their conclusion is that the six days of creation are a literal 24-hour day period and the universe is roughly six to ten thousand years old.

            [7] These are the three primary approaches as they relate to Einstein’s work.  Young-earth creationists have certainly developed scores of other arguments, but these are the most relevant and most cited.  D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest, AR: Master, 1994), 37 quoted in Dembski, 65.

            [8] Dembski, 66-67.

            [9] Dembski, 67-68.

            [10] There are models consistent with a 13.7 billion year old universe that suggests a change in the speed of light.  Recent varying-speed-of-light (VSL) theories have been suggested as a possible alternative to cosmic inflation for solving the horizon problem, the problem of causality over long distances in initial inflation, suggesting that the speed of light was once much greater.  This is not a popular view since it is difficult to construct explicit models permitting such a suitable variation.  Other constants have been suggested to change (a theory of varying fundamental constants) in part due to superstring theory and eternal inflation.  Even so with these theories and cosmic models, there are still more-fundamental (in contrast to varying) constants in the parent universes (preceding universes in the multiverse models).  Even with a theory of varying fundamental constants Einstein’s equations [of STR] still stand in such models. Andrew R. Liddle, and Jon Loveday, The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009), 316.

            [11] Humphreys, 13.

            [12] Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, “Starlight and time is the Big Bang,” CEN Technical Journal 12 no. 2 (1998): 174.

            [13] Ibid.

            [14] Ibid.

            [15] In Conner and Page’s response to young-earth creationism’s cosmology they assume five mathematical and methodological points.  (1) GTR is an accurate description of gravity.  (2) Gravity is the most important force acting over cosmologically large distances, so that the conventional application of GTR to cosmology is valid.  (3) The fundamental parameters of nature, such as the gravitational constant G and the speed of light c, are invariant over the observable history of the universe.  (4) The visible region of the universe is approximately homogenous and isotropic on large distance scales.  Lastly, (5) the events which we witness by the light of distant galaxies and quasi-stellar objects are real events and not appearances impressed onto the universe by the intention of the Creator.  Ibid, 175.  The first two assumptions directly reinforce Einstein’s GTR equations.  The third assumption, as previously discussed, relates to Einstein’s STR equations.  The fourth assumption relates to the balancing of Einstein’s field equations and its adjustment after Hubble’s discovery of expansion.  The final assumption relates to Einstein’s epistemic method of reality having real ontological value in an epistemic inquiry.

            [16] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Leicester, England: Apollos, 2004), 222-223.

            [17] These efforts were predominately made by scientists and not theologians.  Such landmark works were Ian Barbour’s Issues in Science and Religion (1966) and later Paul Davies’ God and the New Physics (1983). Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 197.

            [18] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 46. Stark, 197.

August 7th, 2011

“Let the Dead to Bury Their Dead,” Jesus Claims to be God

by Max Andrews

Luke 9.57-62

 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  58And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  59And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”  60But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  61Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  62But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The passage in Luke is in reference to a problem passage where Jesus describes the costs to being His disciple by claiming that you must put Him at priority above all else.  In a culture completely different from first century Judaism, the words spoken by Jesus are incredibly problematic and make Jesus seem to be unsympathetic to a man in grief. The historical context to Jesus’ words serve to eliminate the problem of sympathy and goes to show that His words carry much further to a deeper and more profound meaning.

The key historical context that is needed is to understand is the Jewish thought and priority to the parents.  Parents were to always be shown favor.  In light of parents being due honor in the Ten Commandments, it was esteemed with more honor than many other commandments (Letter of Aristeas 228). Tobit [4.3-4; 6.14-5] gives further historical background on the priority and respect given to parents in the context of the death of a parent.

Josephus elaborated on the view of funerals and the dead from a [Jewish] legal perspective according to the law [Against Apion 2.27-28 §§205-206].  The death of anyone was an event that was highly respected.  During the funeral procession, anyone who passes by was to join with those who are mourning and lament.  Josephus adds that the death of a parent is honored immediately after God Himself and if anyone does not honor this law then that person is to be stoned.

The historical facts that make these words of Jesus so incredibly profound are that it involved the death of someone and the death was of the man’s father.  The question that immediately arises is whether or not Jesus broke the law by telling the man to follow Him.  The answer would simply be “no,” He did not break the law.  Jesus completely overrode that priority given to parents and in doing so actually made a claim of divinity.  Notice that Josephus pointed out that parents were a priority immediately after God Himself.  In Jesus saying that He had priority over the death of this man’s father was a claim, which would be understood to those who knew the law, that He was God.  Jesus [as God] has immediate priority over everything.