According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Christian Apologetics in a Postmodern, Quantum Age

Introduction

Christian Apologetics is an area of theology that defends the Christian faith as that faith is understood by various Christian denominations, sects, and church organizations. It is popular precisely because it lends comfort to Christians caught in a vortex of God-skepticism and denial. Who long for helpful epistemological arguments that can resolve the paradox between faith, and reality's perception by other's not-of-the-Christian-faith. Especially when confronted by the agnostic college professor or disbelieving buddy at work who have all the right arguments for why a Christian should not have faith in a God who is hidden behind His creation, and hidden to the eyes of the world seeking for truth and knowledge.

However, for the seeking Christian believer, we know these agnostic or atheistic arguments to be specious. Whether we look up-and-around, or within-and-through, we everywhere see God's essence, or imprimatur, stamped throughout His creation. For some, seeking to prove God from nature, they have devised a Natural Theology that is biblically based to do just that.... Though the more preferred way of proving God's existence has been through His revealed revelation in the Bible: using biblical theology apprehended through the eyes of faith to tell of church doctrines steeped in biblical expose.

But for most, it has simply been the experience of God's grace and mercy that has confidently led to God's reality with the discover that in Jesus has God's grace and mercy been found at its highest zenith. Without Divine love's outreach the faithful of God would simply be sycophants worshipping a dead image of their own making (which is ever the fell temptation of godly followers commonly demonstrating a religious faith instead of a living faith).

And precisely because God is a God of faith and love is the very crux of the problem of Christian apologetics... one cannot objectively prove God's existence, much less God's presence in our lives. At least not scientifically. Nor by logical argumentation. It has to be seen with the "inner eye of faith" or felt by the "outer demonstration of God's love" in some fashion to us disbelieving masses of sinful cynics and skeptics. And when done, too often many think to approach God in a mystical, magical experience (through nature, cultic worship, dreams, deprivations, etc). Or to discover Him in what we do - by our good deeds, our self flagellations, our stoic lives of self-denial, or even in life's hedonistic excesses. But for the seeker of God we have best found God by His historic presence through Jesus, the Incarnate Messiah, who showed to us our Creator-Redeemer fully God, and fully come as man. The Lover of our Souls. The high and holy One who visited man in his sin and shame. This God - the God who is Jesus - is the God who best gives to us our faith, our love, our adoration and commitment. Who preferred the designate of "Son of Man" indicative of His divinity, even as he claimed the title "Son of God" indicative of His Kingship (in the line of David).

A Postmodern Witness

More recently, the church has come under the fire of postmodernism wishing for the church to abandon modernism's secularity and its modernist epistemologies for the proof of God. Though the church longs for a broader conversation with the world, the use of intellectual posturing by philosophical argument and scientific proofs, as its primary offense weapons aren't really God's way who leads out by our faith, by our good works in Jesus, by our love, mercy, forgiveness, humility, and reconciliation, even as He did in His own ministry as Jesus.

Apologetics as a discipline always has the goal of demonstrating God by logical validity and metaphysical certainty. But faith-and-love are not always logical enterprises, so that by concentrating the Christian witness on making apologetics more primary as an argument for the Christian faith can become a way to avoid spiritual demonstrations of the faith by not reaching out to others in God's love - pretending instead that we are witnessing to God's truth. But for many of us, we are challenged everyday by these spiritual enterprises of faith-and-love, and too often simply retreat to tell ourselves "no one is listening, and so I will prove God to them instead," rather than being willing to bear love's scars of burden-bearing, receptive listening, and true personal forgiveness. Or, faith's mercies of receiving at God's hand the ministrations of others into our desperate lives seeking forgiveness - whether coming from the world or from the church itself. These things are too difficult, and we would rather flee-and-hide-and-argue for God than to live out God before others in sacrificial love and service, or to receive ministrations of grace and mercy from His hand through the hands of others.

Succinctly, apologetical arguments only work to ease the doubts of people who already are believers. But if someone should come along to argue for a different view of the Bible (as we seem to be doing here at Relevancy22), or a different way of thinking about God (ditto), than too suddenly does that believer fall from his/her faith, filled with uncertainty and doubt, questioning God and themselves (which in my view is not at all counterproductive but perhaps quite helpful if conducted in the Spirit of God's strength and discernment, guidance and leadership). Too often we find our simple explanations for our God, our faith, our Bible, filled with holes... holes which we do not know how to stop-up. Nor plug and fill. Which cause us to slip in what we thought the Christian faith was all about. Though more often than not, we simply had listened to the wrong arguments from sincere followers of Jesus, but sincerely bounded within their enculturated church traditions, speaking to things that are not simply there, though they had supposed them to be there by many words spoken passionately and with heart-felt affection.

According to Myron Bradley Penner in his book The End of Apologetics, he wonders aloud "how useful Christian Apologetics might be for a Christian witness today within the postmodern context." Certainly, showing how belief in God can be reasonable is helpful, but mostly the Christian argument falls on the ears of fellow-believing Christians rather than on those non-Christians confused about Jesus' relevancy for our world today. Asking "Why God is worshipped through Jesus?" Or, "Why does Jesus' claims to be God really matter?" Or, "Why any of this might be meaningful to their worlds of toil and trouble, ecstasy or delight."

Penner goes on to state that modern apologetics unwittingly carries forward the very nihilism found in modernity's core... that by trying to reduce Christianity to a set of objective, universal, and neutral propositions, it subtly undermines the very gospel it seeks to defend. Nor does it offer a good alternative to the skepticism and ultimate meaninglessness of the modern secular condition (pg 49).

Ultimately, we end up with a Jesus-free apologetics that tells us of an anonymous Designer rather than of a Triune, Crucified, and Resurrected God. For some, yes, this might be a first step towards Jesus. But when arguments become the focus for God's existence it too easily ends up as a "God of the philosophers." At which point we are every bit as lost as a disbelieving atheist or pandering agnostic. Thus, trying to argue people into the faith in a postmodern era can be ineffective and counterproductive for most. It is far better to live Jesus out, and to tell who Jesus is, in a living, relevant witness by good works and deeds, faith and love.

Process Theology for a Quantum Age

Process theology tells of a Creator-Redeemer who speaks to us through a process of apprehension and report in our daily lives as we grow in maturity, acumen, experience, and delivery. And within this process we soon discover that even God Himself daily changes to His everyday experiences of the world. For both God and ourselves, we most richly experience this world through relationships to it, as to one-another. If we were not relational creatures than this world would hold no meaning. This theological aspect is known as Relational-Process Theology, and may be found on this blog's many sidebars under a variety of topics.

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Process Theology [Wikipedia]

"...It is an essential attribute of God to be fully involved in and affected by temporal processes, an idea that conflicts with traditional forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal, immutable, and impassible, but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.[2]

Process theology is unrelated to the Process Church.

Process theology is an internally diverse field and while there are general directions that they all take, there are many ongoing debates such as on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, immortality, and interreligious dialogue.

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Within a postmodern era, Process Theology does the best job of describing who God is, why He is, and what He is doing. In short, God is a personal God who is personally (and fully) involved in His creation. An involvement that is non-coercive (as respecting nature's indeterminate randomness, and humanity's free will); that is weak (He leads by example through the demonstrable weakness of the Cross when crucified by men); that is apocalyptic (it turns all worlds upside-down when entering in as Jesus converts); that is teleological (a paradox that tells of God's purposeful renewal into a world that lives on its own terms seemingly without God); that is interdependent and interconnected upon His own creation (where each party gives life, definition, and meaning, to the other).

This in no way lessens God's sovereignty, nor His mission via the Spirit and church, nor His own Being's essence. It simply broadens out the complexity of this life as we think we know it. However, it does show to us God's pervasive presence and mitigating essence blending into the frame-and-foundation of our cosmos and within our own lives. Rather than being an interventionist God exacting His divine will upon His minions (meticulous sovereignty), or a deterministic God who controls our lives' outcomes (determinism), God is a partnering God (relational theism) bringing His will, His being, His person, into the lifeblood of our own lives by our own will's submission without circumventing our freedom to believe, or to responsibly submit. Even so may we understand and so practice this type of Christian faith. Amen.

R.E. Slater
August 8, 2013
 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Arguing for God
 
by Scot McKnight
Aug 6, 2013
 
The field of Christian apologetics often forms arguments for the existence of God, and in doing so knows that God needs no defense though human minds are made to think and reason and what the human mind wants is a reasonable explanation for the existence of God. Many want belief in God to be reasonable.
 
Do you think argument from cause or origins is a compelling argument for God?
 
Perhaps the first and core argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. It goes back to Aristotle.
 
This can be called the “Classical cosmological argument”:
  • Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
  • The universe has a beginning of its existence;
Therefore:
  • The universe has a cause of its existence.
But there is a newer form of this classic argument called the Kalam argument, and it probably most connected to William Lane Craig. Bill Craig formulates the argument with an additional set of premises:
 
Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
  • An actual infinite cannot exist.
  • An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  • Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition.
  • A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
  • The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
  • Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

I am reading a splendid new book edited by J.P. Moreland, Chad Meiser, and Khaldoun Sweis, Debating Christian Theism, which isolates twenty separable issues in apologetics and Christian theism and arranges each into a positive case and a rebuttal by nothing short of experts in the field. This book can serve as a complete course in Christian apologetics for Christian theism. It must be on all seminary and theological college bookshelves and can serve well as required reading for theologically educated students.
 
In this book Craig orders his Kalam argument with a set of three basic questions, and this may be seen as a positive case for the existence of God:
 
1. Did the universe begin to exist? That is, did it have (a) a beginning or was it (b) beginningless?
  • Craig argues for (a): the earth began to exist. He confirms this through the Big Bang theory.
2. Was the beginning of the universe (c) caused or (d) uncaused?
  • Craig argues for (c). Thus, the earth began to exist and was caused.
3. Was the cause of the universe (e) personal or (f) impersonal?
  • Craig argues for (e). Person, so he proposes, flows from the conclusions that the cause is uncaused, changeless, immaterial, timeless — must “transcend both time and space” (16) — thus an “unembodied mind” (17). And there must be “personal, free agency” (17) that brings previously non-existing conditions into reality. This is what everyone means by “God.”

Thus, his kalam argument argues the universe began, its beginning was caused, and it was caused by a personal being, God.
 
In the next post I want to look at the argument for God from apparent design.
 
- Scot McKnight

 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
 
My Postmodern, Quantum Response:
to Craig's Modern Epistemic Apologetics
 
R.E. Slater
August 6, 2013
 

In Scot McKnight's article, "Arguing for God," I could as easily have argued for the opposite of each of William Lane Craig's terminus definitions for God's existence. At base, Craig is using a classical argument from a "cosmological cause of origins" to support his classical corollaries (steeped in convoluted sentences) which he uses as the basis for his philosophical assumptions. As said, I could just as easily have chosen the opposite of Craig's conjectures and still arrived at an amazing Creator-God that is less limited by His creation than if bound to it within classical theism's theological arguments.

What would these opposing arguments be? That our universe was beginningless, uncaused, and impersonal... at least this would be congruent with current atheistic evolutionary theory. However, within my preferred theological preference for a God-filled evolutionary creation, I would prefer a beginningless universe (contra Craig) while affirming God's necessary involvement as Creator (according to the Bible, not Christian apologetic argument) as both creation's cause, origin, meaning, end, purpose, and plan. Moreover, since God is a Trinitarian God we must expect a natural relational-ordering within creation even as God imparts Himself into His creation (as any artist would do by their artistry). But these have all been argued in past articles here at Relevancy22 under the various sidebars of "theism, science, creation, and such like."

From the outset, "creatio ex nihilo" (sic, Latin for "creation from nothing") becomes a moot point to the scientific discoveries of quantum physics.... Meaning that there is no "ex nihilo" to be created from because the universe has already been shown by quantum physics to have a beginningless mass where time was non-existent because of its dense gravitational forces (for more on this see, The Quantum Evolution of the Universe, amongst other articles). If anything, we might more accurately describe creation as "creatio continua" (creation from something that always was) as Wolfhart Pannenberg did in his theologic writings many years earlier.

Moreover, within our present cosmos' given space-time dimensionality, we may only surmise that the universe's originating mass had a quantum-like structure thus giving its chaotic nature a dense quantum-like order where time is liquefied into spatial constructs (that is, time was asymmetrical with no causal arrows of time until quantum symmetry was capable of being released). Consequently, there was no 4th dimension (3 of space and 1 of time), and perhaps not even 3 dimensions (where time is liquefied, or merged, into the spatial constructs under quantum gravity's intensity), just 2 (I've yet to read of 1 or 0... 0 presents some intriguing possibilities I think). Thus, with time's liquefied amalgamation into spatial mass we may more accurately speak of a beginningless time where time has gone to infinity.

In quantumtative terms, this means that God created from something, and not from nothing. Which doesn't mean that He didn't create this something from nothing. But because science cannot know this answer at present, if ever, given that its discipline is housed within our present form of universe... which is apparently one of an infinite many multi-universes mathematically speaking (10 to the 500 I once read). Only that for us, in our present universe, God had created from pre-existing materials (should we chose to follow the logic of multiverse-based physics). This is why "ex nihilo creation" becomes a moot point only important to theologians who wish to argue which side of the theistic fence they are on - whether from classic theism's perspective or from a process thought basis with its panentheistic corollaries (that I've modified to show God to be both independent and dependent upon this world of His determination).

Thus, God created using a current quantum structure that was pre-determinative to His divine efforts so that when He solidified its structure it became what we now experience it to be. And perhaps from a structure that held infinite possibilities (as a multi-universe structure must be supposed by mathematical inference; which structure we cannot know because its physics are unlike our own). Whichever way, from this dense gravitational, pre-inflationary state of beginningless mass evolved a state of intense chaos - but a chaos that had a chaotic quantum order within it (based upon our own universe's given present-state quantum structure). Meaning that God created from something - and not from nothing - within our universe. Even so, God created. And that is the key for any biblical study. And within that creation we find relational beginning-ness: supportive of Craig's last two arguments but generating perhaps from a differing basis than his logical, philosophical, arguments (which I suspect may be anti-evolutionary as well).

What Does This Mean for Hermeneutics Today?

Why? For myself, my philosophical hermeneutic is not based upon a classically-derived modern idealism for interpretive theological thought, but upon an evolving idea of an anthropological hermeneutic (sic, Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricoeur) that jettisons the Enlightenment era's logical arguments for one filled with a biblical narrative seeking to be free of modernistic, logical argumentation resulting in systematized creedal statements for faith's foundation. If anything, I wish to be a skeptic to all logical arguments preferring instead to analyze the reason for the necessity of those arguments within the church itself (even as we have done here). And wishing to be freed to investigate the meaning of language as a fluid, multi-vocal, linguistic series of expressions that are timeless, and timelessly bound (thus, the Word of God's timeless nature when unbounded from literal, inerrant biblical expression; but rather one as authoritative and infallible as pertaining to God's salvation irrespective to how we understand its history). Especially as God's Word is set within a historic, cultural critique from within the biblical pages themselves as found in their present Old and New Testament contexts written at the hands of men and women who themselves preferenced (or wrote within) their own existential and phenomenological events of their lives. Even so, I don't think it stops here so much as it begins here when thinking about God, His Incarnation, His life, ministry, passion death, and resurrection, which for me opens up the bible even as it opens up my faith lived in its temporal context.

Moreover, I wish to shade all meanings at present towards an apocalyptic faith couched within a weak theology that is both open and non-coercive. Hence, these investigations cannot be done within an analytic post-enlightened philosophical framework as I understand it. And if done, will get the church-of-tomorrow as embroiled in the same modernistic turmoil that it finds itself floundering in now within the flanks of today's dis-believing humanistic cultures. One requiring dualistic expression and less systematized creedal formulations - which in the past has forced the church to spend too much time maintaining its conventional thoughts, rather than in pursuing a progressive, postmodern orthodoxy more adept to philosophical/theological expression within our postmodern era. Especially as it is lived out and enacted in the lives of Jesus followers.

Finally, as an addendum, Homebrewed Christianity will soon present a "Science and Religion" discussion that probably won't get into the depth of quantum physics as we have examined here (nor in our past articles), but may be a good springboard from what I have been discussing above re a postmodern, anthropologic hermeneutic. It commences in September of 2013, and I hope to write several reviews from Homebrew's podcast discussions that might help broaden out our own, more mundane, earthy perspectives where they may now be presently too-shortened or disinclined. At least that is my hope in my continuing studies and prayers. As always, thank you for your consideration.
 
R.E. Slater
August 6, 2013

 

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