Archive for September, 2011

September 28th, 2011

The Relationship Between Science and Philosophy

by Max Andrews

How far can science take us and at what point does philosophy and metaphysics take over?  Here is the general process of science and philosophy.

  1. METHOD. Science’s modus operandi is to observe the data while philosophy is examining the data and reasoning through it.
  2. MATERIAL. Science’s materials are facts. There are certain data that provide empirical fact to work with.  Philosophy’s material are conceptual–concepts that are the basis for the rest of the process.
  3. PURPOSE. Science is descriptive.  Empirical investigation can only observe what happens and the purpose of it is to describe the mechanism or process taking place.  The purpose, in relation to philosophy, is to be able to construct an argument.
  4. GOAL.  The goal of science is prediction.  We will see this in the strength of a theory by principle of verification and falsification.  The philosophical role is providing an explanation of the data.  Explanation is philosophical and not scientific.
  5. OUTCOME. The end of science is the production of technology. The general history of science runs in the direction of greater efficiency in its function.  Likewise, in the history of science, philosophy’s outcome is developing a worldview system.  Consider the historical development of science with Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton.  Copernicus changed the worldview system with the Copernican revolution as did Newton.  I would actually argue that Newtonian physics may have made a greater philosophical impact than Copernicus in light of Kant (thanks Kant…).
  6. REASON.  We’ve already touched on this briefly, but the reason for why one does science is for efficiency.  The reason for philosophy is a search and understanding for meaning.
September 22nd, 2011

Gamers Crack AIDS Enzyme Puzzle

by Max Andrews

It’s quite an interesting read. You’ll see the interesting twist on the role of persons and intelligence in science.  Here’s my favorite except:

“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release. “The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”

September 20th, 2011

Divine Simplicity and the Multiverse–Thomas Aquinas Approved

by Max Andrews

For Thomas, there are four identity claims for God and simplicity.

  1. God is not distinct from his nature.
  2. God’s properties are not distinct from one another.
  3. God’s nature is not distinct from his existence.
  4. God has not properties distinct from his nature.

Now, I’m not a proponent of the doctrine of simplicity, I think it has its problems.  However, I want to consider the fourth claim.  The problem with the fourth claim is that it claims God is immutable and possesses no accidental properties.  Consider the actual world.  I’m currently wearing khakis, a dress shirt, tie, sweater vest, and glasses.  Suppose in another possible world, W, I am wearing jeans.  In world W2 I am not wearing glasses and I’ve got perfect eyesight.  In world W3 I don’t even exist.  In these worlds no obvious contradiction obtains.  I think it would be quite difficult to deny these worlds as being possible.  Given these possibilities it seems that God does have accidental properties when considering worlds W-W3 as they relate to the actual world since God’s knowledge and relation to me in these worlds would very (accidentally).

Perhaps, if the physical reality does exist in a manner of some form of the multiverse (at least Level 2 or greater) then God may perhaps be simple and this objection may not hold.  Thomas’ lack of distinction between properties may hold true and what appears to be accidental may just be a form of the actualization of the whole essence of God.  Perhaps all worlds W-W3 are actualized, either previously, presently, or in the future.  This, of course, doesn’t necessarily suggest that every possible state of affairs are actualized, it merely commits to the actualization of God’s essential desires/nature.

 

September 19th, 2011

Middle Knowledge and Eternal Omniscience

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Ryan Hedrich. Ryan is an undergraduate Public Policy major at Georgia Tech with an interest in epistemology and theology, subjects he writes about at his blog unapologetica.blogspot.com.

__________

“If God did not determine [an act], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God.”[1]

This argument, stated simply, has been and continues to be the crux upon which the legitimacy of Molinism is hinged. Can the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God be harmonized with a theory that human choices [in particular] are self-determined?

The Molinist claims that God possesses middle knowledge, “…non-determinative knowledge of the realm of creaturely possibility, a foreknowledge of events which depend not on his decree but on the liberty or free choice of the creature.”[2] It is referred to as “middle” knowledge because it is said to logically reside in between – so to speak – God’s knowledge of both possibilities and logical necessities and God’s knowledge of what will be due to His free instantiation of a particular possible world.

In other words, although God’s knowledge is eternal, His “natural” knowledge of that which must and could be can be said to be a precondition for or logically prior to His middle knowledge of what one would freely choose – in the libertarian sense[3] – given individuating conditions of a possible world. In turn, God’s middle knowledge functions as the precondition for or logically prior to God’s “free” knowledge of that which will occur based on His unconditional decree by which He effects the conditions for a particular possible world.

The important idea is that divine middle knowledge as believed by Molinists is with respect to self-determined human choices which would be exercised given the conditions of a particular possible world (including this one). The important question, again, is whether or not an adequate explanation can be provided as to how God could from eternity know what humans would choose in a given possible world by means other than His own determination.

The “grounding objection” to Molinism has consistently been cited as the greatest obstacle to its acceptance. The issue is this: God doesn’t determine what humans freely choose; what possible conditions God could instantiate would not themselves determine what humans would freely choose, though they may limit what could be chosen. It is clear that if one possesses a libertarian free will, nothing extrinsic to him would cause what he would choose in a given possible world.

Hence, on the assumption that humans possess libertarian free will, the question is begged as to how a contingent object of divine middle knowledge – i.e. that person X would choose Y given particular antecedent conditions Z – is certain. An answer was provided by the father of Molinism, who wrote that middle knowledge is:

…the knowledge through which God, before he decides to create a being endowed with free choice, foresees what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.[4]

Human choices are self-determined. Thus, free choices to which God’s middle knowledge corresponds are the grounds for God’s middle knowledge itself. But this has an interesting implication:

…for Molina’s concept to function, the conditions standing prior to the contingent event must be understood as not merely possible, but as having some sort of actuality or quasi-actuality apart from the divine willing – inasmuch as the point is… that God knows what will occur contingently upon certain conditions lying outside of his will: these conditions are not mere possibility nor divinely will actuality, but foreknown conditions, foreknown as actual apart from the decree, at least for the sake of stating the contingency.[5]

That is, if a person’s choices are the result of libertarian free will, God knows what X would choose “on the hypothesis” of Z only if God quasi-instantiates Z such that X is in a position to, after deliberating possible alternatives, choose Y. [That God would quasi-instantiate Z rather than actually instantiate Z follows when it is remembered that God’s middle knowledge is under consideration, not His free knowledge]. Because Molinists believe in a doctrine of libertarian free will, man’s choice is naturally to be considered the means by which it becomes evident what X would choose from the sphere of what it would be possible for X to choose.

Perhaps the reader may think the grounding objection has now been defeated, since an account has been offered as to how God can know the truth value of a counter-factual of creaturely freedom. Parenthetically, it might even be relevant to the possibility of a multiverse, which is (from what I have read) a hot topic on this blog.

However, the explanation comes at an unaffordable price: “…things contingent, till they are determined to come to passe, or not to come to passe, are not knowable that they shall come to passe, nor are knowable that they shall not come to passe.”[6] It is trivial to observe that God’s middle knowledge is not natural knowledge, and one cannot argue that what a man would freely choose in a given possible world could be necessitated by factors external to the exercise of his own will. But on Molinism,

…there are two phases, as it were, of the divine knowing of an event prior to his willing it – namely, that God first knows an entire possible world in an indeterminate way, as containing (possibly!) both an event and its contrary (scientia necessaria), and then knows by scientia media the outcome of the contingency or free choice were he to actualize that world, with the result that God in (or, indeed, temporally subsequent to) his actualization can also introduce other factors into that world order that are consequent on his knowing of the particular outcome.[7]

The problem, then, is that prior to the point in quasi-instantiated Z at which it can be discerned that X would actually choose Y – viz. when X chooses Y – it can legitimately be claimed X could have chosen not-Y, for that is what libertarian free will entails. Arguing that God’s knowledge is predicated upon the outcome of what a person would choose in quasi-instantiated Z is just a roundabout way of saying that the purpose of the quasi-instantiation of Z is that God can observe and thereby learn that X would, in fact, determine to choose Y. This is, of course, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God.

On the other hand, to insist God knew X would choose Y at the point it was possible that X could have chosen not-Y is intuitively untenable and can be quickly demonstrated. “There must be a causal determination that moves any future contingent from the realm of mere possibility into the realm of actuality…”[8] On Molinism, this causal determination is the free choice of X. What possibilities X could choose are eliminated only when X chooses Y given [quasi-]instantiated Z. Only at that point is it certain X would choose Y in Z.

This is why Molina recognized that the way in which God possesses determinate middle knowledge would be by “foresee[ing] what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.” These points are wholly contrary to the suggestion that God could know X would choose Y given Z apart from foreseeing the self-determination of such, as that would mean God’s knowledge is not dependent on anything external to Himself.

To conclude, there can be no middle knowledge, no human indeterminacy, and no eternal priority of contingencies to any facet of God’s knowledge.


[1] Gordon Clark, Predestination, pg. 39.

[2] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 417.

[3] cf. Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 2.

[4] Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 52.10.

[5] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 421.

[6] William Twisse, A Discovery of D. Jackson’s Vanity, pg. 338.

[7] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 430.

[8] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 424.

September 12th, 2011

The Law’s Relation to Sin

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Bryan Razinski.  Bryan is a Religion undergraduate at Liberty University.

__________

“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:13-14, ESV).

Since the creation of the human race has sin been the problem in our lives. In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul is trying to clear up some misconceptions of how the Law and sin are intertwined and yet set apart from each other. Paul takes the Law and sin and explains how they are in fact intertwined without ever actually intertwining.

Being a roman citizen, Paul knew that society ran on a tight political level and had particular laws that citizens had to follow in order to be able to freely live within the community. Paul takes this familiar knowledge of Roman law and in Romans chapter 7 gets to the point of the Law. All throughout Romans Paul makes mention of the law but here is where he brings it to a climax. In the first part of the chapter, Paul starts off by reminding those who know the law the bind the law has on them and uses one of the most sacred practices among his Jewish culture- marriage. Paul uses a sacred law to provide a vivid example of how the Law what they were originally under until they were released from the law by death, which was completed on the cross. Christ is brought in to serve as the one who died to the law and then reborn brand new. We who are his sons and daughters share in this new inheritance.

The next section is a look into how sin interacted with the Law. “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” (Romans 7:5, ESV). From the time of creation when Adam and Eve sinned our flesh has been infected with a disease-sin- and it has spread to our very soul and nature. While the Holy Spirit dwells in our body, our flesh remains sinful and we see that the Spirit and the flesh constantly make war with each other, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17, ESV). The Law did not cause us to sin; it manifested the glory and holiness of God. The holiness of the Law aroused our sinful desire because sin is the manifest of our glory at the cost of stealing Gods. The Law was created to make known to us that what we naturally desire is no longer the same thing God desires. Sin took the Law and distorted it just like it did at the time of creation when it invaded the mind and soul of Adam and Eve. While God is punishing them He is also telling them the effects of sin will have on what has been created. Sin is not more powerful than God… for it births itself from within us, “[l]et no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15, ESV). James and Paul seem to say similar things. James says “enticed by our own desires” and Paul says “living in the flesh, our sinful passions”. Sin and the Law are opposed to each other. We sin because that is now our natural inclination. Paul ends this with a point, those who are in Christ are no longer under the written code. In the previous chapter Paul ends with a note on how Grace has abounded over sin and has beaten it. The clutches of sin have been broken and the Law, which sin took and distorted in our minds, we are no longer under. We are now under grace.

Paul makes a clear and emphatic statement. The Law is not sin, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” (Romans 7:7, ESV).  The Law gives us the knowledge that sin is present in the world. Without it we would be ignorant forever. The Law was given as a way for us to see our sin for what it is- sin. The Laws given were used by sin to distort and ruin our holy view of it and do exactly what it says not to do. The Law was never meant to be fulfilled by us…it was meant to bring sin into the light and show it in its terrible and horrendous splendor. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” (Romans 7:13, ESV). Sin has her own agenda and she strikes at the very things God creates so that they are not what they originally were to begin with. (I am referring to sin in the feminine gender because the original Greek word is in the feminine gender). The command was given by the Lord for the purpose of teaching His people- and through His people the entire world- that sin had blinded them to the truth. We sin because our natural self has been corrupted to the core and are no longer naturally godly in body and mind (Romans 8:7). The Law revealed the evil of sin and brought it out to show what it really was and how sinful sin is and a distinction is made between the Law and us- while the Law is spiritual at its core without flesh and sin, we are bound to sin because of our flesh. The Law is the expectations directly from the Lord without any distortion or tainted message which, when clashed against sin, brings out the evil sin is and the control it has on our lives. The Law should want to make us change and leave our sin. For this very reason every time we sin we see that the Law is good because it is doing its job and we see how sinful we really are. The core issue for Christians is brought to light- sin. The devil is not named. The demons are not mentioned. Only sin is. They are not directly responsible for our doom, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:20, ESV). WE are the problem. Our own self was the issue and it is our own natural desire to sin (ref. Galatians 5:17b).

It is now clear that when we want to do the right thing in the eyes of God it is certain that we will have to fight a natural inclination to do evil. We will always want to do the opposite of what the Lord wants us to do. We are fighting between two laws- one of the flesh and one of the mind. While we delight in the Lord’s statues in our mind we find ourselves delighting in our own sinful desires with our flesh. Until the day we are with the Lord in heaven for eternity we will continually fight our own flesh because while our mind wants to serve the Lord our flesh does not. The Law affected our minds- it made us aware of our sin, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:22-23, ESV).  While our mind is captivated and loyal to the Lord because we are saved, our flesh is not. We will still physically die one day. The Lord has plans to replace our sinful flesh with new flesh, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, ESV).

Paul ends this portion of his letter to the Roman church with a realization- he is wretched. But there is hope, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25, ESV). Jesus Christ has given us new life and with it we have a clear understanding- We are to serve the law of God with our minds, which from it flows transformation, and the decision to get up every morning and decide to fight sin. We are to daily pick up our cross and follow Him (ref. Luke 9:23) and continue to fight against our flesh which will still serve the law of sin.

In light of this here is Romans 8:1-8. I pray you see the beauty of it in light of the chapter before it and how wonderful salvation is.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Or the law of the Spirit of life has set you, free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:1-8, ESV).

Soli Deo Gloria!

September 9th, 2011

From Ground Zero to Ten Years Later–September 11, 2001

by Max Andrews

We all remember where we were.  I was running the mile from P.E. class my Freshman year in high school.  My mother worked at the high school and I saw her as I walked back in to the school from the track.  I wasn’t able to talk to her but I saw on her face that something didn’t seem right.  By the time I got to the locker room someone had said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  I’m thinking a little Piper Cub.  I was wrong.

There weren’t any loiterers in the hall, everyone went straight to the next class, mine was history.  We watched the news for the rest of the day.  I saw the second tower fall. It was hard for me to grasp what was happening.  This was something you see in movies. Buildings don’t fall down like that.  The hardest part was watching people jump to their death… suicide.  Consider their thought process… “It’s better for me to jump to my death than to be in this burning building.”  Consider the hell.  Consider the peril.  Consider their subliminal existential reflection… “I’m over.”

The next day the whole school gathered in the hallways as we sat and listened to the boys chorus sing “I’m Proud to be an American.”  It’s hard not to get emotional about reflecting about that now.  I was sitting with my JROTC class at the time.  I tried to hide it.  I wept in that hallway.  I didn’t even know anyone that was directly effected by this, but how can you not weep over such murder, evil, suicide, and devastation on human life?

Last year I delivered a lecture on the problem of evil.  I spent the first hour trying to emphasize the importance of this discussion and how God can still be good and loving given such evil and suffering.  It was difficult for me to keep my composure giving the example of September 11th.  We may have forgotten the direct impact we have had but we cannot forget the value of human life and the evil that seeks perilous ends.  Yes, nationalism plays a role in most Americans… It’s the nature of being American. However, the existential value and purpose of human life far exceeds any national empathy. That’s not to note that I don’t want my nation to protect me, I do.  There are many evils I cannot protect myself from and I am thankful for that protection.

I stood where the towers once were a few years ago.  I saw some of the damage in surrounding buildings and a firehouse where they didn’t want to replace the damaged bricks.  It was haunting.  Here I am ten years later…  Where were you?

September 7th, 2011

The Theological Attraction of the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

I find the multiverse to be quite beautiful.  The multiverse doesn’t negate any cosmological or teleological argument and I believe that it may actually be used to strengthen the fine-tuning argument (my current area of research).  Most objections I hear in regards to whether or not it exists are usually scientific with a few philosophical reasons.  I’d argue that there are some good scientific reasons* for believing that we live in a multiverse but I’d like to provide some philosophical and theological reasons for why the multiverse is attractive to and compatible with Christianity.  (For a refresher in the types of multiverse models see Max Tegmark’s paper on the Multiverse Hierarchy).

My first point of attraction to the multiverse is that it expresses the infinite creativity of God. Some argue (i.e. Salem) that there is an infinite ensemble of universes (or what we know as our own Hubble volume) within the CDL (Coleman and De Luccia) landscape.  Others have argued (i.e. Linde and Vilenkin) that the multiverse is not infinite but finite.  Andrei Linde suggests that from what we know about slow-roll inflation there must be a number close to 10^10^10^7 (that’s three exponents) universes.  I tend to agree with Linde and Vilenkin for obvious philosophical reasons and the impossibility of an actual infinite (however, it is nice to have supporting scientific data). So, even with a finite set of universes that may currently exist there is still a possibility of a potential infinite, that is, more universes that will naturally come into existence in the future.  I don’t believe this would contradict Genesis 1 with God resting on the seventh day because I don’t believe he is still creating today, the continual process of universes coming into existence is by natural means (just as planet formation, star formation, and the creation of human beings today is natural).  I believe we are still in the seventh day of creation.  While reading through the Bible, especially Job, we see that God enjoys and delights in the very act of creating.  His creation varies in sizes, purposes, shapes, and other physical descriptions (God loves the platypus!). What else could be such a reflection of God’s love for creating other than the multiverse?  Imagine the joy and aesthetic beauty in the creating process!

My second point is that despite is prima facie complexity, the concept of the multiverse is quite simple.  Ockham’s razor isn’t a very good objection to the multiverse because certain facets are required of an explanation in order for it to be a good explanation. In this case, simplicity doesn’t necessitate a smaller number of universes.  In his book, Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics, Paul Davies has argued in his essay “Universe from Bit” that the concept of infinity is actually quite simple and may be just as preferable to one.

My third point is that the concept of and the models of the multiverse are simple and elegant.  What I mean by this is that the mathematics behind the multiverse correspond to the empirical evidence and that it neatly explains the known facts.  Not only is it mathematically and scientifically simple and elegant but, as I’ve already argued, the philosophical aesthetic of the multiverse is quite beautiful as well.

Finally, I want to provide a compatibility argument.  This isn’t really meant to support my position but to demonstrate that there aren’t any crucial Christological problems with the multiverse (problems of explanation may arise but there aren’t any heretical issues at hand).  No matter which level of the multiverse we want to consider, God’s sovereignty and providential role in the course of history is not compromised.  Let’s consider the most extreme cases such as the level three and level four multiverse models (especially in light of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics).  Let’s say that everything that can happen does happen on the physical level.  Presupposing God’s sovereignty and providential action in the course of any history such a physical interpretation doesn’t mean that all states of affairs are actualized.  What I mean by this is that we don’t have a multiverse where physics are running amok and God is reacting to the physics.  For God to have a reaction to physical states of affairs would place the states of affairs logically prior to God’s knowledge of such states of affairs occurring (let’s disregard the multilayered middle knowledge hermeneutic for the moment).  So, if the purpose of creation is for God to glorify himself and to redeem a particular people, that doesn’t mean it still cannot be accomplished because what’s going to happen is going to happen according to God’s desires and plans, even if there are other me’s out there (now I’ll address such Christological questions in another post, but for this post I’ll provide my position that there aren’t any problems with it).

The early Church Father Origen provided some interesting insight on this very issue (I find it interesting I’m using Origen here…).  Here are a few sections from De Principiis:

Bk. 2, Ch. 3.

4.  And now I do not understand by what proofs they can maintain their position, who assert that worlds sometimes come into existence which are not dissimilar to each other, but in all respects equal.  For if there is said to be a world similar in all respects (to the present), then it will come to pass that Adam and Eve will do the same things which they did before:  there will be a second time the same deluge, and the same Moses will again lead a nation numbering nearly six hundred thousand out of Egypt; Judas will also a second time betray the Lord; Paul will a second time keep the garments of those who stoned Stephen; and everything which has been done in this life will be said to be repeated,—a state of things which I think cannot be established by any reasoning, if souls are actuated by freedom of will, and maintain either their advance or retrogression according to the power of their will.  For souls are 273not driven on in a cycle which returns after many ages to the same round, so as either to do or desire this or that; but at whatever point the freedom of their own will aims, thither do they direct the course of their actions.  For what these persons say is much the same as if one were to assert that if a medimnus of grain were to be poured out on the ground, the fall of the grain would be on the second occasion identically the same as on the first, so that every individual grain would lie for the second time close beside that grain where it had been thrown before, and so the medimnus would be scattered in the same order, and with the same marks as formerly; which certainly is an impossible result with the countless grains of a medimnus, even if they were to be poured out without ceasing for many ages.  So therefore it seems to me impossible for a world to be restored for the second time, with the same order and with the same amount of births, and deaths, and actions; but that a diversity of worlds may exist with changes of no unimportant kind, so that the state of another world may be for some unmistakeable reasons better (than this), and for others worse, and for others again intermediate.  But what may be the number or measure of this I confess myself ignorant, although, if any one can tell it, I would gladly learn.

5.  But this world, which is itself called an age, is said to be the conclusion of many ages.  Now the holy apostle teaches that in that age which preceded this, Christ did not suffer, nor even in the age which preceded that again; and I know not that I am able to enumerate the number of anterior ages in which He did not suffer.  I will show, however, from what statements of Paul I have arrived at this understanding.  He says, “But now once in the consummation of ages, He was manifested to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”20822082    Heb. ix. 26.  For He says that He was once made a victim, and in the consummation of ages was manifested to take away sin.  Now that after this age, which is said to be formed for the consummation of other ages, there will be other ages again to follow, we have clearly learned from Paul himself, who says, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us.”20832083    Eph. ii. 7.  He has not said, “in the age to come,” nor “in the two ages to come,” whence I infer that by his language many ages are indicated.  Now if there is something greater than ages, so that among created beings certain ages may be understood, but among other beings which exceed and surpass visible creatures, (ages still greater) (which perhaps will be the case at the restitution of all things, when the whole universe will come to a perfect termination), perhaps that period in which the consummation of all things will take place is to be understood as something more than an age.  But here the authority of holy Scripture moves me, which says, “For an age and more.”20842084    In sæculum et adhuc.  Now this word “more” undoubtedly means something greater than an age; and see if that expression of the Saviour, “I will that where I am, these also may be with Me; and as I and Thou are one, these also may be one in Us,”20852085    Cf. John xvii. 24, 21, 22. may not seem to convey something more than an age and ages, perhaps even more than ages of ages,—that period, viz., when all things are now no longer in an age, but when God is in all.

Bk.1, Ch.1, #7

Moreover, in confirmation and explanation of what we have already advanced regarding the mind or soul—to the effect that it is better than the whole bodily nature—the following remarks may be added.  There underlies every bodily sense a certain peculiar sensible substance,19481948    “Substantia quædam sensibilis propria.” on which the bodily sense exerts itself.  For example, colours, form, size, underlie vision; voices and sound, the sense of hearing; odours, good or bad, that of smell; savours, that of taste; heat or cold, hardness or softness, roughness or smoothness, that of touch.  Now, of those senses enumerated above, it is manifest to all that the sense of mind is much the best.  How, then, should it not appear absurd, that under 245those senses which are inferior, substances should have been placed on which to exert their powers, but that under this power, which is far better than any other, i.e., the sense of mind, nothing at all of the nature of a substance should be placed, but that a power of an intellectual nature should be an accident, or consequent upon bodies?  Those who assert this, doubtless do so to the disparagement of that better substance which is within them; nay, by so doing, they even do wrong to God Himself, when they imagine He may be understood by means of a bodily nature, so that according to their view He is a body, and that which may be understood or perceived by means of a body; and they are unwilling to have it understood that the mind bears a certain relationship to God, of whom the mind itself is an intellectual image, and that by means of this it may come to some knowledge of the nature of divinity, especially if it be purified and separated from bodily matter.

In conclusion, I find the multiverse to be scientifically warranted in light of certain measurements and empirical evidence. I also find the multiverse to be philosophically and theologically attractive and compatible with all Christian doctrines.  The multiverse may certainly raise metaphysical questions of personal identity, identity over spatiotemporal duration/transition, and Christology (if and only if other moral agents exist other than ourselves).  However, I don’t find the questions it raises to be incompatible or contradictory to the Christian faith.  The multiverse is a beautiful reflection of God’s love, power, intelligence, and character just as we find in the doctrine of natural revelation.

For more information on the Christian faith and the multiverse (concerning issues raised here) I would encourage you to read Don Page’s essay “Does God So Love the Multiverse?“.  Page is a notable physicist having worked under and with Stephen Hawking.

*Here are a few of my blog posts and scientific papers on the science behind the multiverse.

September 7th, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed – or Has It? Obvious Hoaxes Part One

by Max Andrews

This is a guest blog post by Greg West.  Greg is an apologist and founder of The Poached Egg, a Christian worldview and apologetics journal where theology, science, philosophy, history, and pop culture collide.

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On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. Hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the lunar surface. Or did he? You see, I personally don’t believe that man has ever been to, or let alone walked on the moon, because there is no proof and very little evidence in support of it.

As a matter of fact, there is every reason to believe that the whole thing was a hoax, and that Neil Armstrong probably never even actually existed (I know you’re thinking, “Uh, Greg, Neil Armstrong is still alive”, but I’ll get back to that later). The cold war was in full swing back in 1969 and we were in a race with the Soviet Union to see who could get to the moon first, and it was starting to look like the Soviets were going to win.

This is why the President, congress, NASA, and the news media got together and decided to fake the whole thing. After all, our national pride was at stake! I realize that many of you think you saw the whole thing on TV and that millions of other people did too; it even made Walter Cronkite cry while he was doing live coverage of the alleged moon landing. What you saw on TV was actually taking place at a secret soundstage made to look like the surface of the moon, and special effects were used to make it look like the astronauts were semi-weightless. This was all done because the perpetrators of the conspiracy knew that we were not going to beat the Soviets to the moon, so they wanted you to believe that we did to save face.

Also, did it ever occur to you that maybe you just believe that we’ve actually been to the moon because you were brought up in the U.S. where you have been culturally indoctrinated and raised to accept the moon landing on faith? If you were to visit the remote tribal people of the Amazon Jungle, point at the moon and tell them that men have walked on it, they would probably look at you like you were nuts. They might also consider having you for dinner.

Some of you young people may have heard your parents or grandparents talk about how they saw the moon landing on TV and go on and on about how awesome and inspiring it was; but have you ever seen this so-called “actual” footage? It is so grainy and scratchy that it’s really hard to tell what you’re supposed to be seeing, and it is hardly convincing.

When speaking with these alleged eyewitnesses, they will tell you what a moving moment it was and how it changed their lives, but you know as well as I do that this kind of experience is 100% percent subjective and not empirically provable by science. Everyone just wanted to believe so much that a man could walk on the moon, that they bought the lie hook line and sinker, and have convinced themselves that they actually witnessed a man walking on the moon.

As I mentioned before, Neil Armstrong probably never even actually existed. He was a person that the conspirators “made up” to help people feel good, sort of like Captain Tuttle in that one episode of M*A*S*H*. I know that there is a living person who believes that he is the-first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong, but this person was actually born in a laboratory, raised in a bubble, and was brainwashed and hypnotized to believe that he actually walked on the moon. An alternate theory, which has some credible evidence, but not as much as the former theory, is that the real Neal Armstrong was paid a large sum of money by the government to keep quiet, went into the witness relocation program, and eventually ran off to Istanbul where he married a belly dancer named Maggie.

One final piece of evidence that proves the moon landing was a hoax is that the cable television show Myth Busters did an episode were they supposedly busted the “myth” that the moon landing was a hoax. I saw that episode and they really didn’t prove anything, not to mention the fact that they were paid a lot of money by the government, and were given access by NASA to super-secret technology to help them pull it off.

In Obvious Hoaxes Part Two we’ll examine why some people are so gullible as to believe that the Bible is actually true.

Greg’s Note: The above article is satire at best or pure sarcasm at worst. It might be a little of both, but I can’t prove it either way.

September 7th, 2011

Christological Implications of The Multiverse Theory

by Max Andrews

This is a guest blog post by JT Turner. JT holds an M.A. in Religious Studies (Philosophy of Religion) and is working on a Master of Theology (Historical Theology).  He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy with Liberty University Online.

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Disclaimer: I am not well-studied on the science behind the multiverse, nor have I done much research on the subject. I am simply putting forward what seem to be, at least prima facie, some possible difficulties with the prospect of a multiversed cosmos.

To begin, I suppose it’s only fair to say that this title needs a little tweaking.  First, it seems obvious to me that, if by ‘multiverse’ we only mean additional closed cosmic systems like the one in which we find ourselves, a multiverse doesn’t appear problematic for Christology, in particular, or Christianity in general. That is, if we are still housing these additional closed-systems under the heading of the one Creation (proper noun), then there isn’t, so far as my limited knowledge of the subject goes, any particular reason why a Christian ought to reject a reality that contains a multiverse.  I don’t see how a multiversed χοσμος negates anything in the creation account of Scripture, any prophecies concerning the eschaton or any other scriptural attestations.  This, however, is contingent upon these additional closed-systems not containing any moral beings.  If they do, it seems there could be acute christological and soteriological problems. Allow me to offer some explanations.

Christian theism takes it as a given that moral agents (i.e. creatures that can exercise a will for right and wrong actions) who perform wrong actions break their relationship with a perfectly holy and righteous God.  The God of Christian theism requires atonement for the breaking of His moral code (sin) in particular ways.  In this universe, at least, he requires blood atonement.  Without going too far afield, suffice it to say that God instituted the blood sacrifice (that is, the very life) of animals under an old covenant with His people as a type of coming archetype.  That archetype finds its fulfillment in the new covenant poured out through the blood of an individual, namely God the Son, Jesus Christ.  So, God the Father killed Jesus, His Son, on the behalf of morally debased human beings (moral agents) to bring humans back into His fellowship.  Christians take it that atonement is thus required to cover the sins of any wayward moral agent in order that she be brought back into the fold of God’s people.  I suppose the multiverse option raises this question: what do we say if moral agents exist in some other universe? Moral agency does not necessarily imply the existence of human beings; perhaps it is the case that some other alien life outside of our universe-system exercises a will and mind in a fashion morally equivalent to ours. That is to say, what if there are other creatures beyond our closed system that can do right and wrong actions, actions that a morally perfect and holy God finds either good or evil? How might God provide atonement, if, in fact, He does require it from them?

I think there may be a few answers to the last question that might provide answers for the former ones (answers that give us a reason to believe that there probably do not exist any moral agents outside of our universe).  The first answer might be something like “he doesn’t require atonement for their sins.” But this causes a weird set of theological problems.  The most important of which, it seems to me, is that God behaves a lot differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1 (Universe 1 is our universe).  If God behaves differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1, it follows that our beliefs about God’s nature (e.g. that He requires atonement for sin) in this universe are contingent aspects of God, at best, or false, at worst. God, in other words, isn’t necessarily opposed to living in fellowship with sinful moral agents for which no atonement has been provided.  But if that’s the case, then we don’t know much about God’s justice either.  After all, most Christians believe that God is going to assign some unrepentant unatoned for sinners to the confines of an eternal Hell (in whatever form that takes). Why throw unatoned for sinners from Universe 1 into an eternal Hell and not any of the ones in Universe 2? How does that demonstrate a recognizable form of justice?  If this first answer is how God interacts with the multiverse, then maybe Occam is right.  Eww…

The first option seems silly.  I think a stronger option, one that keeps God the same in all of Creation, is that God is still going to require atonement for sin in Universe 2. God, necessarily, requires atonement for sin.  There are, as I see it, two possibilities for sinful creatures in Universe 2. Either God requires atonement and doesn’t provide it, or God requires atonement and does provide it, just as he does in Universe 1.  The first possibility runs us into at least one aspect of the problem of evil.  If God can save at least some of these moral creatures in Universe 2, why doesn’t He?  I’m a Calvinist, so I think this objection really sides up next to the more common “if God can determine to save all people, why doesn’t He?” question to which I can respond “God will do what God will do” and the like.  However, while I can at least point to the eschaton and cry “O Felix Culpa!” in this universe, it strikes against my moral intuitions to posit another universe where God simply creates moral beings in order to throw all of them into Hell.  I might be wrong about this, and forgive me if I am, but I’m not sure how a God that does that demonstrates any recognizable good to his “other” creation (little ‘c’ here).  I say this knowing full well that my compatibilist Calvinistic theology does run me against similar questions in this universe.  So, I’m going to move on to the next possibility. God does, in fact, provide atonement for his sinful creatures in Universe 2.

How does he provide atonement in Universe 2? This is, I think, an important question.  Is it possible that God, instead of sending His Son, atones for sins by means of the offering of burnt grasses?  I suppose it’s possible in a broadly logical sense, but does it make sense given the extreme price God requires in Universe 1?  Perhaps this isn’t similar enough of a paradigm. After all, when I say “the offering of burnt grasses” I might mean a continuous offering or a numerous offering or the like.  God, in Universe 1, provides a once and for all offering.  I think something like this is also possible in Universe 2.  Suppose that, like the old covenant in Universe 1, Universe 2 foreshadows the coming of their “Christ” by offering their many grass sacrifices.  The archetype to this type is Messiah Plant, a very large and very green (does it matter?) plant that God has grown for the once and for all atonement of sin in Universe 2. Its sole purpose is to grow and be burned. This plant, just like a plant in Universe 1, does not feel pain, isn’t sentient, and is completely physical (i.e. lacks any metaphysical component, including a mind). To provide for atonement, it is burned as a final offering to God and appeases God’s wrath.  This, as I say, is broadly logically possible (as far as I know, anyway. Perhaps there is something intrinsic to God’s character that says that the blood of sentient beings is necessary).  But doesn’t this raise some interesting questions? For example, why doesn’t God require an extremely painful sacrifice in Universe 2? Doesn’t it seem that God is going the extra mile in Universe 1 to provide atonement? I mean, after all, God does sacrifice His own Son in this universe.  It seems, at least from my perspective, that the consequence of sin in Universe 2 isn’t all that severe.  Is there something about Universe 2 and the types of sin possible in Universe 2 that make God less angry with them? I’m with Augustine on this; the root of sin is undo exaltation—that is to say, idolatry. So, if idolatry is an essential component of sin, then there isn’t a possible world (modally, physically, or metaphysically) that includes idolatryless-sin.  God seems to hate idolatry. His hate sure looks a lot different in Universe 1 than in 2 in this picture.

For sake of space, let’s skip ahead. Let’s suppose that God does, just like in Universe 1, require the death of a living sentient creature to atone for sin.  So, God requires that blood (or whatever the life force of a sentient creature is in Universe 2) be shed to atone for the sins of his moral agents.  Further, let’s suppose that He provides another Messiah such that, in one heroic act, God saves His people.  Just here are the Christological implications.  Again, let’s suppose that in order to save His people, God must provide a moral agent who lives perfectly and is of such a magnitude that His death will cover all sin.  I take it that not just any perfect creature will do; God must again humble Himself and take on the form of His creation in order to die on their behalf (I’m supposing, for brevity’s sake, that it is impossible for an ordinary moral agent in Universe 2 to live a perfect life, just as in our universe).

This is where it gets really sticky in a multiverse with moral agents outside of our system.  Just who is their Messiah?  If it is God, Himself, and it seems that it must be, then the Messiah must be, again, God the Son.  Unless we’ve totally erred in our theological understanding of the Trinity, the self-revelation of the Father is the Son—He is the Word, the Λογος and all that it represents. So, it isn’t possible for God the Father to incarnate; that is only possible for the person of the Son. So, this means that the person of the Trinity that is, yet again, humbling himself to the stature of His creation is God the Son, who is Jesus Christ. Do you begin to see how this is getting muddy?  It was hard enough for the Cappidocian Fathers to figure out how it is metaphysically possible for God the Son to unite with a human nature, it would be something else entirely to figure out how he would unite with two creaturely natures.  Heck, if two is possible, why not three, or four, or five, ad infinitum? Let’s try a thought experiment.  Since, on the multiverse view, it might be possible for God the Son to be united to more than one creaturely nature (one in Universe 1 and so on), let’s suppose that, in Universe 2, God the Son is united to three creature-natures (I say ‘creature-nature’ in the event that the moral agents in Universe 2 aren’t human).  Let’s call these three creatures Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus.  God the Son is, of course, also Jesus in Universe 1 provided that Christianity is truthful in its claim that Jesus rose from the dead and is now, in human form, residing in Heaven (where might this be? Hmm… :) ). Let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are disciples of Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus and they have come to believe that Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus are the Son of God.  Further, let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are reclining at some version of a table eating (or whatever they do for sustenance in Universe 2) with Jebus, but Jefus and Jenus are off working miracles.  Doesn’t it follow that Peper and Mohn can, in a meaningful way, say: “God the Son is both here and not here”? Doesn’t that violate the law of non-contradiction? How can a person both be in location L and not be in a location L at the same time?

A further problem is God the Son’s conquering death in Universe 1.  If it is true that these moral agents in Universe 2 can both live and die, then their death is probably an identical thing to ours. That is to say, their death is the end of their life such that they are no longer alive in Universe 2 when they die. So, closed system or not, I take it that when we say that a sentient being must be killed to atone for the sins of moral creatures in Universe 2 that ‘death’ has the same meaning there as it does here.  But, doesn’t Scripture indicate that Jesus conquered death never to die again?  If Jesus is identical with God the Son, then it follows that God the Son, no matter what other nature He might add to Himself, can no longer die.  I suppose it’s possible that they might have experienced simultaneous deaths and simultaneous resurrections, but then we would have to suppose that their space-time continuum is exactly like ours.  I don’t know the science behind the multiverse, but that seems problematic if we’re going to insist that this universe is a “closed system.”

There are a host of other problems here, problems that would take a mountain of additional prose to explicate.  The foremost of these problems is trying to unite two (or more) creaturely natures to the one divine nature in one hypostasis and still call the combination “one person.”  Physically speaking, it seems to stretch credulity to think that Jebus, Jenus, Jefus, and Jesus aren’t different people.  If they are, then God the Son isn’t one person, but four (or more).  Here is where Occam is correct: let’s let the simplest hypothesis win the day. But, I digress…

September 5th, 2011

Living in the Multiverse–Is it Science?

by Max Andrews

Is the multiverse hypothesis a legitimate scientific theory?  That is, are there regularities that illuminate and reflect underlying laws of nature by testing these laws and making predictions that can be either verified or refuted by experimentation and observation?  Generally, these are the guidelines for something to be scientific, can it be verified and falsified?  Before I continue, we need to make a distinction in two fundamental philosophies of science: instrumentalism and realism.

Instrumentalism:  Scientific theories are not intended to be literally true and accepting a theory requires us to believe only that its observational consequences are true.  Observation statements are literally true and science is only about these statements and the observations that verify them.  A few strengths of this philosophy is that it doesn’t conflict with common sense realism; we can believe in straightforward observations.  Plus, it’s more modest and non-commital than scientific realism.  A few weaknesses are that scientists seem to assume the realist view of the world in their “un-thinking” moments.  The instrumentalist should be able to draw a clear cut distinction between what is and what is not observable, which creates limitations on what really is observable (i.e. naked eye, magnifying glass, microscope, electron microscope, cloud chamber, etc.). This also raises the question, at what point is the objecting being observed really being observed, and so real, but then one bit smaller is not observable and thus not really existent?

Scientific Realism:  Scientific theories are intended to be literally true, and accepting a theory involves believing that it gives a true description of reality, “as it really is.”  A few strengths of this is that it makes the aspect of explanatory power superior to instrumentalism because explanation requires real things that cause the chain of causality.  Explanation by means of fictitious entity is not explanation at all.  Instrumentalism cannot explain the actual success of science, especially science’s making predictions, which are empirically adequate (i.e. Boyles-Charles Law, pv=k).

I’m going to argue that we should adopt the realist position partly because it is common sense and because it means and ends in explanation provide a robust sense of explanatory power that lacks instrumentalism and the metaphysical baggage it may carry is less deleterious than instrumentalism.