Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comedy in Theology

“Because of piety’s penchant for taking itself too seriously, theology–more than literary, humanistic, and scientific studies–does well to nurture a modest, unguarded sense of comedy. Some comic sensibility is required to keep in due proportion the pompous pretensions of the study of divinity. I invite the kind of laughter that wells up not from cynicism about reflection on God but from the ironic contradictions accompanying such reflections. Theology is intrinsically funny. This comes from glimpsing the incongruity of humans thinking about God. I have often laughed at myself as these sentences went through their tortuous stages of formation. I invite you to look for the comic dimension of divinity that stalks every page. It is not blasphemy to grasp the human contradiction for what it is. The most enjoyable of all subjects has to be God, because God is the source of all joy.”

-- Thomas C. Oden quote from his three volume Systematic Theology

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Science & Technology: A False Hope

Human beings have an innate need to worship. Modern people are too sophisticated to worship idols of wood or stone. Instead, we idolize sex, self, security, power, money, and particularly science and technology. The sophistication of modern idolatry is quite high. Neither atheists nor Christians bow down to a statue or sacrifice animals on the altar of Science, but when you examine where people place their trust as an ultimate authority, even unaware Christians bow the knee to Science and its twin god, Technology. One of Satan's more heinous tricks is the subtlety of substituting science and technology as the ultimate authority over and above the authority and promises of God's Word.

Many people have written on the rise of scientific authority and technological progress in the modern and post-modern era, so there is no need to repeat that here. The bottom line is science is an unstable foundation for ultimate truth seeking, i.e. answering the "big questions" in life. Scientific progress is accomplished by adherence to an ethic of uncertainty. Technology will not lead us to utopia. The atom bomb proved that without doubt. Science is a shifting sand of doubt based on questioning the current paradigms of human understanding, and it is limited in its ability to answer the big questions in the domain of theology and philosophy. Technology is a false hope for ultimate human redemption.

Even something as apparently absolute as the law of gravity is subject to change with advancement in scientific understanding. For example, Newtonian gravity isn't as precise as Einstein's view, and who is to say that Einstein's description of gravity won't be replaced by some new understanding in the future? Such is the evolution of science, and this is a good evolution for understanding the universe around us. However, there is a not-so-good evolutionary mindset among scientists today called Darwinism. Darwinism often degrades into scientism which has taken control of science over the last century even through there are a few bright lights that things may be changing.

The unfortunate outcome of pitting science and technology against God as the ultimate authority is to is to build up a false dichotomy for truth seeking. I am disturbed by how many Christians allow the atheistic scientism driven out of Darwinism to be more authoritative in their thinking than the Word of God, but I've met relatively few people who chase down their assumptions to this level of consideration. Most people seem to be too caught up in the idolatry of consumerism, money, etc. to really consider the big questions at the root of their belief systems.

The good news is eventually true science will realign with God's Word, or errant understandings of God's Word will be corrected and realigned with true science. History shows this pattern. Human scientific understanding grows in fits and starts, and for periods of time science is sometimes at odds with Biblical truth. But, if God's Word is as important as Jesus claimed that it was, then ultimately human beings will discover there is no conflict between the Bible and science when both are correctly understood.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time

Did God create time? I used to think so. When studying physics many moons ago, I learned that time is a 4th dimension in addition to the three spatial dimensions. According to Genesis 1, God created space and matter, so I had assumed God created time too. That implies God is "outside" the space-time continuum. Now I'm not so sure about this implication. Here's why:

There are two ways to interpret the mathematical core of Special Relativity. On Einstein’s interpretation, there is no absolute “now” in the world; rather what is now is relative to different observers in motion. If you and I are moving with respect to each other, then what is now for me is not now for you. But on H. A. Lorentz’s interpretation, there is an absolute now in the world, but we just cannot be sure which events in the world are happening now because motion affects our measuring instruments. Moving clocks run slow and moving measuring rods contract. The Einsteinian and the Lorentzian interpretations are empirically equivalent; there is no experiment you could perform to decide between them. But I want to argue that if God exists, then Lorentz was right. Here is my argument:
1. If God exists, then God is in time.
This is true because God is really related to the world as cause to effect. But a cause of a temporal effect must exist either before or at the same time as its effect. So God must be in time.
2. If God is in time, then a privileged observer exists.
Since God transcends the world and is the cause of the existence of everything in the world, His perspective on the world is the true perspective.
3. If a privileged observer exists, then an absolute now exists.
Since God is a privileged observer, His “now” is privileged. Thus, there is an absolute now, just as Lorentz claimed.
This is a very startling conclusion, indeed. But I am firmly convinced that if God exists, then a Lorentzian, rather than Einsteinian, theory of relativity is correct. It is hard to imagine how religion could have any greater relevance to science than this, to show that one theory is wrong and another is right.
[Source: What is the Relation between Science and Religion? by William Lane Craig]

Perhaps time is not so much created in the manner of space and matter, but merely a result of creation being in relative motion compared to God, yet God is also transcendent and omnipresent "for in him we live and move and have our being." Maybe time simply ceases to exist at God's point of being as the privileged observer which could account for God's timelessness. Who knows? What I do know is I really don't know with any degree of certainty what I thought I used to know!

So, what about something like an absolute zero temperature region or a perfect vacuum where all molecular motion ceases or no matter is in motion? Does time stop there? Nope, not in relation to God since this region or vacuum has motion relative to the position of the privileged observer, i.e. God.

Even if this line of thought holds water in the context of Special Relativity, it has been 20 years since I gave much thought to General Relativity. And, even though I was a physics major in college I didn't fully grasp General Relativity even when I studied it. Someone much smarter than I will have to consider the ramifications in the context of GR.

This line of thought reminded me of Psalm 46:10a: "Be still, and know that I am God."