What I Believe: General Revelation

Modern people think that they know how everything works and do not find God in any of it. Post-moderns do not care how anything works—as long as the battery is charged. Both philosophies discard any idea of general revelation, which is God showing his power and nature to humanity.

 

I believe that God’s reveals his existence and purposes in such things as physical reality, history, and human nature. Paul wrote that nobody had any excuse for not acknowledging the existence of God because of what was revealed to us in his creation of physical reality. The Old Testament shows God working in human history to show us what we are to do collectively as members of nations. God reveals his framework for human communities by providing everyone (with a few possible exceptions) a sense of right and wrong.

 

Any or all of these three aspects of general revelation can be denied or ignored by individuals and/or societies. Proverbs 1:20-33 describes this very situation. Wisdom (God’s voice) calls out in public places and is rejected by people given various derogatory names by the writer of Proverbs. These will suffer great harm because of their foolishness. At the end of the passage, a blessing is pronounced on those who listen.

 

Sometime time ago Time magazine had a cover which asked the question, “Is God Dead?” The April 3, 2017 issue asks “Is Truth Dead?” I believe there is an inevitable trajectory between those two issues. A society that pushes God away cannot maintain its hold on truth. After all Jesus told us that he is truth and people who reject him are not only turning against him but all the blessings that come with belief in him.

 

General revelation is a great blessing to humanity but it is not sufficient to bring people to righteousness. People are given the ability to blind themselves to any learning from general revelation and to make their selves deaf to the voice of God, which is one aspect of special revelation. The possession of these abilities does not excuse them for making use of them to refuse to seek and obey God.

 

Electronic Christianity Four

With the Olympics coming in August it brought to my mind that we eChristians are citizens of the nation of God. (I prefer using nation rather than kingdom to enhance the present reality of our spiritual affiliation.) This status will not get us into the Olympics regardless of our athletic abilities; still I think a duality is something we should remember as we live out our Christian lives. Various athletes hold dual citizenship just as we do but their nations are worldly. Some of them may have difficulty at times deciding where to place their higher loyalty. We should not have that problem. Still we will need to decide how much allegiance and respect we should show to our earthly nation. To put the question in somewhat biblical terms: Each of us will have to decide how much we will give to Caesar and how much to the Lord. However, since we love most the nation of God and its ruler, we can be sure of having a way to arrive at the right overall allegiance and this will be demonstrated by our love for other Christians.

One outworking of our love in eChristianity will be to provide support with “likes,” and comments, and also in other ways encourage each other. And, thus we can help each other to a better understanding and expression of what we are thinking and writing. We should also be aware that God did not intend for us to all think alike. If he had we would not have anything to say to each other. Instead he made us each to have our own way of thinking while making it possible for us to be united in the nation of God.

There is another area in which we are all different. This is in how much we focus on the outward expression of our Christianity—whether in small acts of kindness or seeking to perfect the world—compared to the time and effort we put into our inward experience of the persons of the Trinity. Each of us should seek to find the balance of our commitments that God expects of us. And none of us will be exactly in the same place in regard to these things.

Perhaps, we should, like Mary, ponder these things in our hearts and hope to come to a fuller understanding of all that is involved in our choices of what we emphasize in our lives.

Electronic Christianity Three

My most humble apologies to any who may have read my post “Electronic Christianity Two” and thought I was trying to base eChristianity on the Nicene Creed. That was not my purpose at all. What I was trying to accomplish was to show there was something solid at the core of Christianity. What I wanted to point out was that just as there is a reality underlying mathematics, physics, and all other kinds of science so there is a reality to Christianity that cannot be ignored. Please forgive me if I was unclear.

Perhaps I should have used the concept of “mere Christianity” that was used by C.S. Lewis to describe his idea of the root reality of Christianity. In any case, at the heart of our belief is the actual reality of a new life that will endure forever. This is the sure promise and the ultimate certainty yet it is not all there is for us in Christianity. Although most of us have probably had our lives greatly changed through the work of the Godhead in us, what also matters is that we are a part of the body of Christ and the body needs all of us parts to be truly whole. This is why I thought up eChristianity. It is conceived as a way to bring together the many of us who are one-person churches; people who have never found their “fit” in conventional churches and provide us a unity with each other.

I am not sure how eChristianity will work but I think it can use what the Internet has made possible. It is meant to enable the coming together of many parts of the body of Christ so Christianity can better withstand the forces operating to reduce its influence in the world and in people’s lives.

Please let me know what you think.

Electronic Christianity Two

I think that eChristianity needs a solid foundation to build on. After all, Jesus told us we were to build on rock and not sand. The Nicene Creed is possibly the rock we should build on. It has stood as a basic statement of Christian belief for about fifteen centuries and during that time has withstood the assaults of many, many alternative opinions. A version from a contemporary prayer book follows.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

It is appropriate that the majority of the creed focuses on the person of Jesus Christ since he should be the center of all Christian expressions. In addition to giving due respect to the person of the Son of God, there are other things about the creed that we should note. It is meant to be a creed for all of Christianity. This, I think, includes eChristianity. It is sufficient. It is all we need to believe to count ourselves Christians.

We should also think some about what is not there. It speaks of one baptism for the forgiveness of sins but says nothing about how, when or for whom. The Lord’s Supper/Communion/Holy Eucharist (for this sacrament we do not have a common name and yet we all, presumably, participate) is not mentioned.

The creed also says nothing about our human attributes. What counts in the creed is our “We believe” so we can be part of the eternal world to come. It is good it is this way because just as none of us are in the same place physically, none of us are in the same place spiritually. Each of us has our own spiritual “About” yet we can be united in a common faith as presented in the creed.

Electronic Christianity

The secular dreams of those who thought the Internet might bring about a better world might be partially fulfilled if it is used by Christians to bring our religion into the electronic age in a way that unites us in a common purpose and hope.

I think the future of American Christianity should lie in what I would call electronic Christianity. What I would give as a name for this new form of Christianity is the term eChristianity. I was surprised when my Google search came up empty for the label. I would have thought someone would have already used it. Perhaps eChristianity is simply too obvious or, perhaps, rather too broad for people’s implementations of Christianity on the Internet. Of course, all of you who read this post are participating in some form of electronic Christianity.

What I hope eChristianity will do is provide a form of Christianity without the current limits of geography, institutions or traditions. This does not mean that it would be without a common core of belief centered on the person of Jesus Christ. The various beliefs of eChristians would be tested in the electronic community by standards of conformity to the Bible, objective truth, rationality, common sense, and reality. I would hope that the form eChristianity takes allows us freedom of faith and understanding in the areas where there is some latitude while restricting the spread of unhelpful concepts of Christianity.

An eChristianity community can bring into being a tangible presence of a people set apart from the rest of the Internet while at the same time providing an actual unity of Christ’s people. Our relationship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will have an actualization in the oneness of a Christian community joined in electronic communication.

There is further benefit to a form of Christianity imbedded in an electronic community. In our present culture it is far easier to interact with people electronically than it is face-to-face or in other physical ways. Also, almost anybody, Christian or not, is accessible to electronic communication. This fact allows for both a great enhancement of the activities currently conducted in churches and a far more widespread proclamation of the gospel (good news) of Jesus to unbelievers.

This new form of Christian community would not keep groups of Christians from coming together to participate in various activities helpful in their localities, and to join together in celebrations of what Christ has done for us.

The success of eChristianity will require a sacrifice of some part of our status quo from all us who participate. Though this is a small thing compared to the sacrifice of their lives required of some Christians, it is still no small thing. We like our freedom and independence, and our present situation. Unfortunately, unless we do something positive about the state of American Christianity what we like may not matter. Please let me know what you think about eChristianity.

Creation: Its Causes, Essence and End

“For myself I wanted to know nature after another fashion in its causes, in its essence, in its end.” (Cited in review of We Have Been Friends Together & Adventures in Grace by Raїssa Maritain, First Things, May 2016, p. 63)

What we call nature is the creation of God but only part of his creative activity. If we are to broaden the six days of creation to six stages, as it takes the complete Bible to tell us, we might say these are: (1) Conception of existence, (2) Physical creation, (3) Creation of minds, (4) Creation of human spirits, (5) Regeneration of our spirits (rebirth) and, (6) Re-creation of human bodies (resurrection). And then God presumably rests from creation for eternity, although there may be room in eternity for types of creation we have not been told about.

Causes of Creation

Creation is a product of both the mind and the power of an infinite being. It is so complex in its six manifestations that it requires not only an infinite deity to accomplish it but one that has three persons. The Father is the source of all creation. The Son is the active agent who serves the purposes of the Father and who both shapes creation and takes into own being a human person. The Holy Spirit accomplishes the spiritual parts of creation in accordance with the purposes of the Father and the Son.

Essence of Creation

The essence of creation is the bringing into existence of something that did not exist before. When we think about physical creation these can be objects as large as the universe or as small as the Higgs boson. We can note that none of these physical entities has either mind or spirit. This fact escapes the minds of the materialists who think their thoughts and everything else can be explained by what is only one part of creation.

Before there was any physical creation there was a planning session in heaven. This brought into being a literally cosmic plan for something that had never existed before. After physical creation came the creation of minds. This, of course, required the coming into existence of something else that was new—life.

There are various opinions about the role of the twenty-four elders described in the book of Revelation. They appear to be rather robotic but one of them does impart wisdom to John during one of his experiences in heaven. My own opinion is that they were created to advise the Trinity on what it is like to be finite. Before the Incarnation none of the Godhead had any experience with the limits of finite being. This may be why there appear to be some “kinks’ in the timeline of creation.

The wisdom of the elders is shown by their continual praise of the Father and Son. This is what our kind of finite beings would be doing if we were wise enough.

Back to our own reality, when our ancestors reached a certain level of physical and mental development they were ready to be given a living soul. This is something that had not existed before. It did not come from physical creation although its existence was part of God’s planning of creation. Since our souls are not part of physical creation they cannot be detected by physical means. This inability to be detected means that belief in their existence requires what is called faith. In other words, an action of our minds not our bodies.

End of Creation

The end of creation is not when the space-time continuum tears and time and space no longer exist. The ultimate end, meaning its defining purpose, is in the vast number of glorified humans who are to live with and praise their Creator forever. The end of creation would have been at the conclusion of a far straighter train of events if God had not introduced contingency and probability into his creative efforts. As it is, all the stages of creation involve vast complexities that continue to challenge the best of our human understanding.

What If Everything Is Quantum

When I use the word “quantum” I am not thinking of the miniscule aspects of quantum physics but of how it reveals a very “squirrelly” physical reality. I will start with a quite old, in physics, illustration of this.

The physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 created a famous thought experiment to illustrate the strangeness of quantum mechanics. The experiment involves a cat placed in a box, in a way it cannot be observed, along with a radiation source and a vial of poison. The radiation source has a 50% probability of emitting a particle during the time of the experiment. If it does emit a particle, the vial is broken and the cat dies. The emission or the non-emission of the radioactive particle represents potentialities for the cat. But the actuality of what happens to the cat cannot be determined until the event occurs and the state of the cat is observed.

The point of Schrödinger’s illustration was that the cat was in a state of quantum superposition, simultaneously dead and alive during the experiment, until the box is opened and the cat observed. At this point the cat is either dead or alive and thus back to being a part of the world we live in. It has not been noted by anyone I have read who described the experiment that it could have been an actual experiment. The only reason for it being a thought experiment is not to put a cat at risk just to illustrate a physical principle.

Superposition is a hard concept to grasp but what if it is the key to understanding all of physical reality. Let me explain my idea by presenting analogies to the objects in Schrödinger’s experiment. Think of the cat as any object, from the smallest subatomic particle to the universe itself. The radiation source and the vial represent the potentialities for the future state of the object. The object as it is seen when the box is opened is the extent of our available knowledge of physical events. The box represents the inability we have of knowing both the future outcomes and the available potentialities regarding all physical existence.

Schrödinger could have added other possible outcomes to his experiment. A mouse could have been released into the box or the cat could have been provided with food, water and kitty litter for a kinder, gentler outcome. The point here is that the potentialities in regard to a given event are always suited to the nature of the object but it cannot be known regarding any occurrence that the potentialities include all possible outcomes.

Where does this get us in regard to what happens in all of physical reality? If all of physical existence is the result of the actualization of potentialities, then we have to concede that if there could be something that controls the available potentialities then the physical reality we experience is the result of the generation and control of the potentialities available for any given event. This idea I have of everything being quantum invokes the principle of superposition developed by quantum physics and extends it to all events. What happens in Schrödinger’s box is unknowable until an event is observed. This uncertainty is not a lack of knowledge of potentialities that will someday be overcome by an advance in scientific knowledge. It is inherent in physical reality.

This idea of quantum everything is not a version of the God of the Gaps idea proposed by some Christians. It suggests that there is an uncertainty in our knowledge of physical events that is, to use a technical term, invincible.

To illustrate this let me turn to the world of sports. This is a good place to look for uncertainty because the essence of sports is uncertainty of outcome. There is an important figure, Chris Berman, at ESPN who does a swami routine to pick the weekly winners of NFL games. The funny part of it is not his shtick but that you or I could do as well in selecting winners by flipping a coin. This is not to say that the outcomes are random but that there are a large number of variables involved. Materialists would claim that the problem is lack of sufficient data and may think that in the era of Big Data the problem can be solved. This thinking brings in two levels of belief. One is that all the data can be known and properly used to arrive at knowledge of a certain outcome of a particular game, and two is that there are no relevant variables outside their knowledge. The reason this thinking involves faith is that Schrödinger’s box is opaque. What potentialities are in the box and what will certainly happen as a result of these potentialities are, scientifically, I think, unknowable.

It would be belaboring my point to go through every type of occurrence, not only physical but historical, economic, cultural and so forth, and show they all look quantum. It is remarkable that in their quest to get to the bottom of physical reality quantum physicists have become, as some will admit, philosophers. It may be even worse than that. I think string theory and M theory, and the mathematical need for 11 dimensions, has led physicists in the direction of becoming metaphysicists. This is dangerous ground for materialists because it brings them closer than many of them would like to theology.

Science can study the potentialities, although their origins are unknown, and their totality (for example dark energy and dark matter) still not established. Science can observe the actualizations that come out of the box. However, what is in the box and what occurs there must remain a mystery as far as scientific understanding is concerned. Thus it is not unreasonable or irrational to think there is a place in the box for God to act to accomplish his purposes for the universe he created by controlling the potentialities in the box. I think most times these potentialities consist of natural laws and probabilities. However, we cannot show whether this is always the case.

We are comfortable when we see a purpose to our lives and a solid connection between cause and effect but these do not always accurately describe our experience of life. The human condition, just like all the rest of physical reality, is far more complex than we can possibly understand. The quantum idea of everything, though, allows us to pursue science to its utmost limits while at the same time giving those who chose it a confidence in a higher reality—a divine reality beyond our understanding.