2/11/2009

Theology’s Implications - A Ramble

Some conversations I’ve recently had over at The Atheist Experience made me think about some implications of certain of God’s attributes, namely His knowledge and His immutability.

God is unchanging in His being, character (what theologians call His perfections), purposes, and promises. Yet God does act. He does feel emotions. And He acts and feels differently in response to different situations.

God’s unchanging nature means that His knowledge does not change. He never learns new things or forgets things. He knows all things past, present and future, actual and possible, and knows them all equally vividly.

This is why the universe follows logical laws. Logic helps us see how everything fits together (how facts interrelate). We can know it all fits together because God knows everything. There must be truth, and it must all logically inter-relate because it can be known in God’s mind vividly. In a sense, it can be know all at the same ‘time,’ so it must all be logical. God’s knowledge does not change, so we know the interrelatedness of facts must also be consistent.

I frankly have heard no explanation for universal, abstract concepts like the laws of logic that do not at least appeal to God’s design of the universe.

(Most of the wording for the definitions of God’s attributes given here comes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Of course, any miss-interpretations are all mine.)

4 comments:

Carolyn Ann said...

I hate to tell you, JK : your argument doesn't make logical sense.

Here it is, rephrased:
1. The universe follows logical laws
2. We can know those laws because God knows everything
3. There must be truth

Here's why your argument doesn't work:
1. The universe doesn't follow any laws. The physical laws describe how things behave.
2. It does not follow that if God knows something, we do, too. Once upon a time we didn't know about atoms, but these days we rely on the properties of those atoms. The argument that we're imperfect, God reveals things in due course, etc are not allowed on the basis of your words.
3. Define truth - and do it without reference to God. Truth is not required in a universe. If it is, prove it. (That's the greater claim, so it has the burden of being proved).

With the demand of "truth" you're probably getting too close to the good versus evil argument. It's no one that can be concluded, because good and evil can't be defined with adequate precision. That's why I never use it. Also, it can be turned against arguments about god's goodness with astonishing ease.

You haven't heard of an explanation for universal concepts such as logic because there isn't one. Bertrand Russell made a good effort, though. Other than that, you jump to the conclusion that there is a design to the universe. I haven't seen any evidence that there is! I have seen evidence of happenstance, though - it's embodied in the laws of entropy.

Basically, you impose a religious demand, and a personal prejudice, onto descriptions of how the universe works. The universe is impartial - it's not sentient, it can't "follow" anything.

I dropped by to see if you mentioned finding a job? You indicated that you'd been laid off, and I just wondered how you were doing. :-)

Carolyn Ann

J. K. Jones said...

Carolyn Ann,

“…I just wondered how you were doing. :-)”

Thanks! I found a job at the first of the year in environmental, health and safety for a fireplace manufacturer. Good job, but the business is tied to the new housing market (not much repeat business in fireplaces). Not the best market right now.



“I hate to tell you…”

I don’t take that kind of thing personally.



“…The physical laws describe how things behave.”

Exactly. I agree completely. Why / how does this happen? How do random events come to follow an order that can be identified?


“…It does not follow that if God knows something, we do, too.”

I agree. That is not what I mean. What I mean is that we can expect to be able to learn something about the world we live in using sense perception, logical analysis of facts, and expectation of the future behavior of our world being consistent with the past behavior. We can expect these things because we know how a little of how God’s knowledge works, and we assume (!) God designed us to know the world and the world to be know by us.

The question is, without assuming God’s existence and design of things, how could we expect perception, logic and past behavior to be reliable guides to knowledge of the future?


“…Truth is not required in a universe.”

I think I know what you mean, and I think, believe it or not, that we agree.

Truth is the correspondence of facts known in our minds with reality as it actually is. I don’t believe that truth, defined in this way, is knowable at all in a universe that is governed by chance and necessity.

But there are implications of this. We are left without knowledge or rationality. We can stop arguing with each other because arguments are useless. We can concentrate on survival, because that is all evolutionary developments guarantee us anyway.


“… the good versus evil argument...”

The two arguments are very much interrelated. Morality and logic are both abstract, universal concepts. If there is no ground for concepts like this, then we can’t depend on either.

If (!) I understand some of your points raised in our earlier discussions; you think that there is no reason to affirm universal morality, meaning, or purpose in the universe we live in. While we disagree, I do commend you for being logically consistent with your beliefs about the universe. I do agree that, if a material universe is all we live in, if there is no God, then we have no basis for those things.


“…it can be turned against arguments about god's goodness with astonishing ease.”

You might try the search label on my blog for “Moral Argument.” I do not approach that issue from the traditional direction.


“You haven't heard of an explanation for universal concepts such as logic because there isn't one…”

Again, if you are correct about the physical universe being all there is, then you are logically consistent with your position.


“…I have seen evidence of happenstance, though - it's embodied in the laws of entropy.”

But how do you recognize happenstance when you see it? Doesn’t that mean that you have recognized order in the universe that you compare it to? How do we explain this order?

Remember that if evidence of disorder avoids the need for an explanation of order, it does so at the expense of order itself. We are left with no reason to assume that the universe is ordered at all. We are probably just making up the order we see off the tops of our heads.


“…you impose a religious demand, and a personal prejudice, onto descriptions of how the universe works. The universe is impartial - it's not sentient, it can't "follow" anything.”

Agreed. But this impersonal universe does work that way. It does follow abstract, universal concepts.

Further agreed, in this argument, I am making a very big assumption. I am assuming God’s existence. The thing of it is, if I don’t assume God’s existence, I cannot assume that I am rational at all. Literally, if I don’t assume God’s existence, I can’t assume anything.



Also, this post is really a sub-argument. I am not expressing it well because I am just now trying to understand it. I may be, to a certain extent, breaking new ground with this post. I am certainly breaking new ground for me. This is my way of exposing my potentially heretical / fallacious concepts on the way God thinks to ‘pier-review.’ It’s good to repent of heresy, and I will do so quickly if someone points it out. Thanks for your input.


Again, good to hear from you.

Andy Crawford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Crawford said...

Carolyn...how much have you studied the concept of abstraction with respect to computer science?(The first chapter of "Introduction to Computing and Algorithms" by Russel L. Shackelford would be a good non-biblical read.)

As a believer in the resurection of Jesus, I find all the universe to be abstraction and God the real.

This is just another way of saying J.K.'s ending comments.

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