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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"

 

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32.3 Theology

32.3.1 Is this theory Bible based? Or, does it contradict the Bible in places?
The theism here is admittedly not based directly on the interpretation of specific verses in the Bible, Torah, or the Qu’ran, but, I claim, is based on the principles by means of which those sacred scriptures may be understood as the product of a Loving God. I admit that those texts sometimes appear to contradict such a nature of God, but I claim that those contradictions arise because it is us who are angry, not God, and, in that case, we think that God is angry.

Furthermore, we now know that we have to take into account the existence of internal or spiritual meanings of those texts. It may be (even if we do not all agree with this) that God’s intended meaning of various parts of the texts reside in the internal sense rather than in the literal sense. On the basis of understanding the various texts as ‘multilayered’ or ‘thick’ documents, I confess that I take those books that have multiple levels of meaning as indeed the Word of God.

32.3.2 Is this view an ex nihilo creation?
Traditionally, creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing, is taken to mean that, prior to the first creation, nothing existed. God did not make the universe from pre-existing building blocks but started from scratch. Creation ex nihilo refers thus to a supernatural event which was the beginning of the universe. The theism of this book is strictly in accordance with all these requirements, so the term should be appropriate.

However, the philosopher in me queries the correctness of the term ‘creation ex nihilo’. Since, as we know, nothing comes from nothing, how can there be creation out of nothing? It does not make sense, and Parmenides would strongly object to non-being changing to being. How is this query usually responded to in theology? I should think that theologians insist that before the universe, it was not the case that ‘nothing existed’, since in fact God existed. That is, there was the being of God even before the being of the universe. The correct significance of the phrase ‘creation ex nihilo’, therefore, must be to deny ‘creation not out of previous ingredients’ but still to affirm ‘creation from God’. It should insist on creation that proceeds from an immaterial source without being constructed or assembled out of pieces of that source. The ‘being’ of creation is new, and it derives from the being of God, not from previous materials. This should be the standard meaning within theism.

32.3.3 Do you deduce scientific conclusions from religious doctrine? Is this not a kind of fundamentalism?
If religious doctrine is to fully agree with scientific theory, then one or both of them has to be changed. They certainly do not fully harmonize with each other at present! So the answer to the first question is yes, but we must specify which religious doctrines are being used as the basis.

However much scientists declaim against ‘fundamentalists’, we should note that scientists are themselves very much in favor of a fundamentalism of their own: the one that bases scientific knowledge on a unified theory of everything. They say, of course, that this is the good kind and admit it is their wonderful dream to produce such a fundamental theory. So fundamentalism, as such, is not the problem.

32.3.4 Are you not bringing God in to solve even the simplest interpretation problems in quantum mechanics? Even maybe in classical physics?
It may indeed seem like this, but most often I am not bringing in God to solve problems in physics, but using principles derived from God to make theories in terms of which those problems are solved.

And I admit indeed that, sometimes, there may be direct or indirect influences from God, souls and/or minds that influence outcomes in quantum mechanics, so even those derived theories are only valid within a larger picture. Maybe physicists are unhappy with this, but they should remember that, according to theism, even the smallest particles of nature are sustained in their being and their interactions by God, and that happens not abstractly but by the real presence of God.

32.3.5 Theist and dualist traditions say that minds and God are without parts, simple and indivisible. Here also?
I do note that many traditional philosophical views of minds and God take those beings as purely simple. This was the view of Aquinas and his followers and was used by Descartes with respect to his rational soul. It continues to be used today by those who argue, for example, from the incorrigibility of introspective knowledge. God, they insist, must not be made out of parts, but must be simple, since there is no other being to assemble any parts. According to Descartes, thought is the essence of minds or souls and is the entirety of that essence. A soul simply is thinking, and that is all it is, they say.

My response to this query concerning God is given in Chapter 13, and concerning minds in Section 27.1.

32.3.6 Are we humans not now living ourselves? Is my life not my own? Can I not have some privacy?
The whole theism here is built on the basis that we at least appear to ourselves to be living from ourselves, that my life is my own, and that the mental contents of humans are private to themselves. It is on that basis that we enjoy life, love to live, and hence can grow to love what good and true. Nevertheless, we must admit that truth tells us that God is life itself, and that (in reflection) we must acknowledge that fact if we want to avoid serious mistakes in our spiritual development. Even if we follow theistic science and believe that minds are objectively real, our everyday thoughts are not automatically broadcast to our neighbors. Telepathy may be theoretically possible, but in practice it will be no more frequent than before.

32.3.7 Is the world now a part of God (panentheism)?
You can certainly argue that the substance of the world flows from the substance of God, and that hence we are really part of God, which is panentheism or even pantheism. However, the ‘flowing’ is not continuous, but a serious of discrete steps, and the discreteness of those steps means that, in the end, we have a life that is distinct from God (see Section 18.2). In fact, we can even use our life to turn away from God and to act against God. Since God is one and is unselfish love, that implies we are certainly not part of God.

32.3.8 Only humans are said to be an ‘image and likeness of God’, not even animals. But you apply it to everything: atoms and all!
The verses of Genesis 1:26-27 certainly only use the ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ in connection to humans, and not in connection to the plants and animals that were previously created. I argue at some length in Chapter 10, however, that even a very preliminary inspection shows some similarities between plants, animals and humans. Recent results in molecular biology and genetics show very many even deeper similarities. I conclude that as long as we pay attention to the limits of the similarities, we can find new levels of meaning for ‘image and likeness’. In Islam, for example in Unal (2007), it is equivalently claimed that the universe is “the realm where God’s Names are manifested”.

32.3.9 Could you say more about the trinity? It appears everywhere in this book!

I agree that the concepts here of Love, Wisdom and Action within the being of God are very similar to the concept of the Christian Trinity (see Section 14.7). It may be possible for Christians to extend the ideas here, using them as a model for how their Trinity may be understood. They may take the Father as referring to the Divine Love that is the original source, the Son as the Wisdom that is the human face of God, and the Holy Spirit as the Action or Proceeding which goes out into the world. However, in order to focus on core or generic theism, I can neither confirm nor deny this interpretation of the triad nature within God.

This issue is complicated by some theologians who insist that the Trinity is only to be accepted, not to be understood. If someone claims to understand what it means, those theologians are immediately suspicious that some serious error has been (thereby) made. That complication seems to make a mockery of serious intellectual effort towards comprehension of what really is the case.

32.3.10 I am not religious (or, not a monotheist, or Buddhist), so how can I believe what you say?
It must be clear that the entire derivation presented has been based on theism. If, however, it points to anything true about spiritual reality, then we must expect that previously enlightened teachers will have come across similar views, in part if not as a whole.

It is relevant to examine the Buddhist concept of Sunyata, taken to mean ‘emptiness’ or ‘voidness’ with respect to the inner being of humans. It asserts that nothing possesses an essential or enduring identity and that the realization of this fact leads to wisdom and inner peace. This is clearly related to the theistic claim that we humans have no life or being that belongs to ourselves since all Life and Being strictly belong only to God. Our reflection that this is true is, within theism, part of the path towards wisdom.

32.3.11 What about the problem of evil (natural and/or man-made)? Now God does not just create the universe at the beginning, but is involved with every step, so is He not more responsible for evil of all kinds?
The problem of evil is discussed in Chapter 29, but not in the sense of explaining how all evils are created in a world controlled by God. Rather, I explain from general principles that God is not willing to be omnipotent and to remove from existence all those people who have made selfish, dominating, possessive or evil loves as an non-negotiable part of their own life, as part of the their own principal love. This means that many evils in the world have to be managed, rather than eliminated, by God.


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