Monday, July 26, 2010

Trusting God’s Revelation

Steve Hayes at Triablogue wrote a great article recently where he makes an observation about miracles and applies it to some arguments against the “apparent age” theory of the creation of the universe.

“Take the case of Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9). The blind man had some congenital defect which left him blind all his life.

“When Jesus restores his sight, this doesn’t merely affect the future. It also, or so it seems to me, erases any physical trace of his past affliction. An ophthalmologist, examining the man after Jesus cured him, would be unable to detect the fact that this man ever had that particular birth defect. So it doesn’t merely change the present. It also changes the evidence of the past.”

He correctly notes that this isn’t an argument for Young Earth Creationism (YEC) per se:

“Critics object to mature creation (or “apparent age”) on the grounds that this would implicate God in a web of deception. Deceptive appearances.”

And, “I don’t cite this as a positive argument for YEC. I merely cite this to question a facile objection to YEC.”

To be sure, many good YEC-ists make the same argument. Ken Ham wrote as much and his Answers in Genesis organization holds the same position.

I have two observations to make regarding this matter. One is that Steve Hayes observation regarding miracles implies an understanding of Creation that has not been much investigated and the second is that this understanding of Creation is helpful in drawing our attention to a reason God may have for making things appear other than what they are.

Many Christians have not thought in depth about the nature of creation given that God is eternal and creation is not. It’s not too difficult to get the idea from Genesis 1 that God created everything and then left it to go on as it will without his interacting much with it.

God is here represented by the large red dot. His act of creation is represented by the red arrow. The large blue dot is creation. And subsequent blue dots are the progression of creation from event to event on into the future with the blue arrows representing causal relationships.

The problem is that other scripture revelas that God didn’t simply create once and from that point on allow natural cause and effect takes its logical course. Even if he did, God, being omniscient, would know what would happen given the details that he created initially. So he could easily fix the details to cause what he wanted to happen. But we know that God not only created “In the beginning” but he sustains his creation (Heb 1:3) and creates constantly (Psalm 139:13) and provides for his creation (Job 38:41). I suggest that Genesis 1 was given to us as a pattern to follow. God didn’t need a whole week to create. He could have created all things instantly. But not only did God create all things, he also created all causal relationships:

I present this as a more accurate understanding of God’s creation.

As a parenthetical, I often vilify existentialism as a false worldview. I do this because it speaks directly against God’s creation of this world. For a picture of existentialism, imagine each blue dot with a blue arrow going to a cloud of red dots. That’s existentialism. It’s the idea that the things of this world control the things of the spiritual which is backwards and opens up the door for the denial of absolute truth that pervades popular philosophy. Back to the discussion:

Steve Hayes observes that a miracle “doesn’t merely change the present. It also changes the evidence of the past.” In the terms that I am employing here, a miracle interrupts the causal relationship between events and replaces the history we remember with a history that never happened, and apparent history. The history that never happened was indeed created by God although it has no real place in time and space.

The green causal chain is the new one created by God. As it is, there is no “replacing” of a real time line with a new one since God creates even the causal relationships. It is a miracle precisely because he creates an event that is uncaused by anything in this world.

This is the point at which the argument can be made that God doesn’t deceive. I would agree that this is a very valid argument. God doesn’t deceive. In fact, he is clear in scripture that something miraculous has happened. But I suggest that God is up to something else.

We might expect unbelievers to pursue naturalistic causes to explain miraculous accounts. But here we have even creationists arguing that what the Bible indicates is a divinely caused event, when viewed naturalistically, would be a deception of God.

As one who has studied physics in some depth, I have long thought it strange that beginning of the universe cosmologies often fell short in calculating the effects of special relativity on the universe at large in the early stages. To be sure it has been considered to some degree, but temporal passage tends to get evened out on a macroscopic scale where extreme forces don’t warrant. That is to say that scientists talk about the universe aging relatively uniformly where there is reason to think it hasn’t. As far as YEC cosmology goes, Dr. D. Russell Humphreys has taken gone the direction I’ve always wondered about and provided a viable YEC cosmology, involving a “white hole” that produced the rest of the universe at a greatly accelerated rate compared to that of the earth, that aptly explains the history in starlight.

But as I have explained, while his cosmology requires an economy of the miraculous, it is largely dependent on natural physics. That is, in order to avoid calling the history already present in the light arriving to earth of the deep universe a practice in deception by God he has resorted to mostly natural explanation.

My final observation is to ask the question: If God tells us what he did and we observe something different using naturalistic assumptions, why do we think God is deceiving us? Rather, is it not an opportunity to trust what God has said regardless of whether he created the universe using a white hole or not? So I contend that perhaps it is possible that he has created a history that hasn’t happened in the natural course of our powers of observation. He has indeed created the stars as signs. Interestingly, the miracles Christ performed on earth were done to provide signs of his authority according to scripture (John 2:23; Acts 2:22,43).

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Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

1st Time visitor, Jim!

Great post! Love the diagrams and accompanying explanations. Very helpful.

And thanks for the sidebar on existentialism. I've long been confused by all the hoopla over existentialism and wondered why I see the term used all over the place. Especially in regards to Soren Kierkegaard. Everybody seems to love the guy.

Because when I think of existentialism, I think of Sartre and Camus. And both those guys were atheists.

Wed Aug 18, 12:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

Thanks for dropping by, TUAD. I haven't been great at always making myself very understandable, but sometimes a diagram or some other way of clarification comes to me.

Yes, existentialism actually started in the theological camp as theistic existentialism. The atheists took it to it's logical conclusion: namely that if existentialism is true, then there is no need for God.

There are some differences in the meaning of common terms from one philosopher to another, like what one means precisely by "essence" or "substance" but the general gist is the same. Where any terms detract from the truth, then often all one needs to do is apply the truth positively in order to dispel the deception in the philosophy.

Thu Aug 19, 07:00:00 AM GMT-5  

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