Posts tagged ‘God’

June 6th, 2011

The Blessings of Having a Disease

by Max Andrews

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in May 2004 at the end of my Junior year of high school. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease and mine happens to be in my terminal ileum at the end of my small intestine.  When I first went to the emergency room seven years ago I felt like someone had reached into my gut and started twisting my organs around while I was digesting glass.  It was, and is, extremely painful and nauseating.  It was about the sixth day in the hospital when the doctor diagnosed me.  I wept once he left the room because I knew that this had ruined my life dreams of serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst.  Well, seven years later I can look at this disease and honestly say that it has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.

I’ve had a flare up (reoccurrence) about once a year since I was first diagnosed.  I refused long-term medication for a while since it started out as a mild case and medication wouldn’t allow me to join the Army.  I graduated high school and took a year off before going to college so I could work with the Army and doctors so I could enlist.  My attempts fell short and I could not overturn or appeal my medical disqualification.  It had been my dream since I was a young child.  I have a very patriotic family and both of my grandfathers served.  My mother’s father was an NCO in the U.S. Air Force around the Korean War and worked with nuclear bombs.  My father’s father was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served on the U.S.S. Dauphin. I felt it was my duty to serve my country.  I excelled in J.R.O.T.C. in high school as the Battalion Commander, the leader of over 250 other cadets and I was one of the most decorated (if not the most decorated) cadets in the school’s history.  I studied government until my second semester sophomore year of college.  I knew then that I was called to something greater; I knew that God had a specific purpose for me and his purpose was greater than anything I could have planned for.  I then became an undergraduate biblical studies student and I’m now a philosophy graduate student.  However, these are peripheral details that resulted from my Crohn’s.  The blessing is so much greater than any classes I’ve ever taken.

June 4th, 2011

God and Darwinism

by Max Andrews

I have two primary objections to Darwinism.  My first objection is that the best [and only] known source of information is mind (a positive case) and nature’s inability to sufficiently account for the origin of information (a negative case).  My second objection is that everything, particularly humans, has a purpose and chance voids any initial intention and final intention.  My focus here will be Darwinism within a theistic context.  However, before I continue I would like to clarify one point.  I’m not referring to evolution being change over time, which I agree with, or evolution being common descent, which I don’t hold to but I’m open to.  These two forms of evolution are completely compatible with intelligent design.  By Darwinism I mean that natural selection/mutation is the mechanism capable of creating new life forms.

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Initial intent is something that allows for design to be a legitimate inference by material or efficient causation (i.e. what it’s made of or what produced it respectively).  This would include design being inferred by the origin of information within a cell, limits on population genetics, irreducible complexity, or epigenetic information and higher information processing in the cell [and an extrapolation of causes].  Theistic Darwinists would deny these as any purposeful acts or intentions by God because it’s an implicit contradiction to Darwinism by definition.  Let’s consider final intention. Final causation answers the question, “For what purpose was this caused?”  If the theistic Darwinist wants to maintain that humans have purpose then it’s only at best secondarily and a reaction of God’s [to give purpose to humans] in light of chance’s bringing about of humans.  Consider these quotes.

An evolutionary universe is theologically understood as a creation allowed to make itself. -John Polkinghorne

Not even God could know… with certainty that human life would come to be. -George Coyne

Mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained… we are here… as an after-thought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. -Ken Miller

It seems that once chance and nature bring about the existence of humans only then can God predicate any purpose.  My problem with that is how can this really be final causation?  How can there be final causation without material and efficient causes?  If God set up the universe’s initial conditions to bring about the elements and conditions needed for the evolution of life to take place then that is still design.  My favorite theistic Darwinist quote is Francis Collins’ when he says,

Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.  Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective… this would appear a random and undirected process.

How is this not intelligent design?  Even if ID proponents concede our ability to infer design by material and efficient causes that doesn’t mean Darwinism would then be true because God, as Collins points out, could be intimately involved in the creation of all species.

Digressing back to final causation, I suppose that God could have purpose for the universe by his initiative act of creation.  This is categorically broad and the could not be any particular or individual purpose for humans since they are mere happenstance in the broader purpose of the universe.  The universe’s purpose would be no different had humans [or anything] not existed.  The purpose of a rock and human or equivalent.  Each are accidental properties of the universe and thus, couldn’t really have any final causation predicated to accidental properties.  (Posterior to God’s endowment of the Imago Dei on humans they may possess a greater purpose than rocks; however, prior to that endowment, they are still accidental properties and categorically equivalent.)  The best inference would be that matter and energy exist for God’s purpose.  That is as categorically defined as we can get.  Any forms of the matter and energy are accidental properties, they were not originally intended. If God initially intended for the initial conditions of the universe to bring about any form is design.

This is my philosophical hurdle to Darwinism.  Humans are accidental properties of the universe and my best guess to answer the question, “Why does anything exist” would be to speculate that God loves and enjoys matter and energy as broad as that is.  The forms and byproducts of matter and energy were not originally intended because if they were, that would have been design.  Perhaps someone can work this one out for me.

December 26th, 2010

Romance and Philosophy

by Max Andrews

One of my professors mentioned this concept in class and I wanted to expound on it.  When you say “I love you” to your boyfriend or girlfriend, fiancé[e], or spouse the profundity behind that declaration is incredible.  So, if my beautiful wife asks, “Why do you love me?” what do I say?  Well, I give her my reasons of course… but at what point do I originate my reasons?  Yes, God has orchestrated the world that it be this way but what factors are involved in God’s providential molding?

I believe the question of love ultimately comes down to the individual’s agency, their free desire and choice to love.  If all my reasons to love are external then that would seem to imply that there could be external reasons for me to stop loving.  Here’s a few examples. I love my fiancée because:

  • She has a beautiful smile.
  • She is fun.
  • She has gorgeous eyes.
  • Her personality complements mine.
  • She is kind and gentle.
  • We had memorable moments.
  • Etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but I chose features and examples that a lot of people will say up front.  All of these are external features and reasons.  What if these change and

  • She is in a car accident and loses all of her teeth and half of a jaw.
  • She stops enjoying the same things as you.
  • She has glass eyes or loses her eyes due to a medical condition or accident.
  • She gets diagnosed with a condition that affects her personality and becomes violent or emotionally absent.
  • She becomes violent.
  • The recent bad times outweigh the good times.

If all my reasons for loving are countered would I still love?  You may be able to see the issue here.  I imagine everyone is saying, “Yes, of course I would still love!” But the question is, “Why?”  I love my fiancée because I choose to love her.  I may be completely content with adding external reasons (which normally are what attracts in the first place), but I love her because I choose to love her.  So, if Leah were to ask me, “Why do you love me?” it would come down to, “Because I do.”  Resting a series of cause and effect relationships (reasons for love) within a personal and free agency is a perfectly adequate explanation and stopping point.  An agent is the only point at which a series of cause and effect relationships can begin.  Yes, I could refrain from choosing to love, but being consistent, it wouldn’t be because of her.  It’s my love for her and that’s what makes it so valuable.

Perhaps this may assist you in understanding God’s love for us.  There’s nothing that we do to warrant God’s love because if there ever could be a reason, we messed it up.  God loves us because he chooses to love us.  God isn’t self-determined to love us, it’s an expression of his own freedom and desire to love.  God is under no obligation to love us.  He doesn’t owe us anything.  Remember, he did not have to create anything at all.  This also follows that there’s nothing that we can do to change God’s love for us.  We can never be too dirty or evil that will cease the divine flow of love over us.  So next time you say “I love you” to someone keep this in mind.