Archive for June, 2009
Book soon to be published

As of recently I have relocated to a more serene and inspirational landscape, where my writing will come with much more ease and increased realizations concerning quantum reality. For those of you who don’t know, the book I am currently working on is centered around creating a consciousness shift within individuals who will then, by doing so, create a consciousness shift within humanity, since we are all interconnected in a global consciousness.

It is my humble hope that this book will be able to enlighten those who contemplate on its words and transmit thoughts thought-forms into actions, both within and outwardly, for the betterment of all. For a small preview of what may be in store for you all in my upcoming book, here are some of the topics I will be addressing:

Consciousness Creating Reality
Spirituality
Empathy
Interconnectedness
Oneness
Belief
Childhood Bliss
Meditation
Transcending Lower States
Unconditional Love
Joy
Peace
Attaining Higher Levels of Consciousness in a Fast Paced Society
Aphorisms and Musings
Knowing the Infinite Unknowing
Being and Becoming…Through Experience

I am attempting to write along the lines of transpersonal psychology and Self-realization but may step outside such boundaries if the need arises. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the contents of this book and I will post further updates, as their needs arise. It is my hope that this book, above all else, does its share in creating a consciousness shift within humanity.

Peace and Love

Hasta la vista!

Well, I thought I was going to squeeze in a couple more days of blogging, but it looks now like that’s not going to happen. This is the year that my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, my son turned 18 and graduated from high school, and my daughter turned 16, and we are going to Mexico for a grand one-trip-celebrates-all. Yay vacation! So that’s going to leave me incommunicado for a while.

Y’all take care and be good while I’m gone, k?

Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 14

Having spent a good few paragraphs presenting some really excellent arguments for why time cannot extend infinitely far into the past, and having completely failed to grasp the fact that this implies that material reality only needs to exist for a finite history, William Lane Craig continues his Cosmological Argument with two rather brief paragraphs intended to prove its third point, that the universe has a cause.

We thus have good philosophical and scientific grounds for affirming the second premiss of the cosmological argument. It is noteworthy that this premiss is a religiously neutral statement which can be found in any textbook on astrophysical cosmology, so that facile accusations of “God-of-the gaps” theology find no purchase. Moreover, since a being which exists by a necessity of its own nature must exist either timelessly or sempiternally (otherwise its coming into being or ceasing to be would make it evident that its existence is not necessary), it follows that the universe cannot be metaphysically necessary, which fact closes the final loophole in the contingency argument above.

It follows logically that the universe has a cause. Conceptual analysis of what properties must be possessed by such an ultra-mundane cause enables us to recover a striking number of the traditional divine attributes, revealing that if the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.

And that’s it! The next paragraph starts a completely different argument. After spending the bulk of his argument belaboring the point—which virtually no skeptic disputes—that the history of the cosmos goes back to a Big Bang, he wraps up his argument by tossing in a breathless “therefore goddidit kthxbai!” and he’s outa here. And just when he was getting to the good part too!

So let’s review. The fulcrum on which the lever of his argument rests is the second point, that the universe began to exist. Since time, however, is an intrinsic property of material reality, his argument isn’t quite accurate. It would be more correct to say that time has a minimum absolute value. But that guts his whole argument, because either time began with the Big Bang (in which case there has never been a time in which the material universe did not exist), or the Big Bang has antecedent natural causes in some larger material context, in which case it is God-of-the-gaps theology to decide that whatever-it-is in that unknown multiverse must necessarily be a sentient, individual, Biblical deity. And even then, we have no reason to conclude that there was ever a time when the larger universe did not exist. It’s time that’s necessarily finite. There’s no reason to believe that the existence of the material cosmos/multiverse cannot be of equal duration.

There is consequently no basis for concluding that the cosmos must have a cause, let alone a supernatural, immaterial one. We may eventually discover, through some advanced inquiry of physics, that this particular space-time continuum arose through the consequences of some larger material context. For such a discovery to be made, however, the properties of that larger n-dimensional context would have to be accessible to material investigation and exploration, since that’s the kind of tools science has to work with. By the time we have a reason to suspect that time extends before the Big Bang, we also have reason to believe that material reality does so also, which moves the “creation” point (so to speak) before the Big Bang as well.

Plus, we already know that this larger material cosmos contains an uncreatable material property (time) without which it cannot chronologically precede the Big Bang. Thus, even if we want to postulate a supernatural Creator to superstitiously attibute things to, we already know there’s at least one aspect of the material cosmos that He could not have created. Thus, He would necessarily be an inadequate explanation for the cosmos as a whole.

None of this, of course, prevents Craig from leaping breathlessly to the conclusion that if the universe has a cause, and scientists aren’t able to spell it out in complete, exhaustive detail, then a Biblical creator God exists, period. Not that it’s a God-of-the-gaps kind of thing. We can tell, because Craig says so himself. “[F]acile accusations of ‘God-of-the gaps’ theology find no purchase,” he says, and if he says so, then it must be true, no matter what it would mean for his conclusion if science were to find a natural process in the n-dimensional metaverse that routinely spits out singularities that Bang into complex life-sustaining space-time continua.

Ah well. It’s a shame really, considering how well he did with his review of the arguments proving that time is finite. If only he weren’t burdened with the superstitious necessity of turning his knowledge into an apologetic, he might have had some interesting insights into what it means that “eternity” isn’t really infinite (as far as the past is concerned, anyway). Instead, he wastes his time trying to make a god-of-the-gaps argument sound like it’s not a god-of-the-gaps argument, and trying to get to his predetermined conclusion without sounding like it’s a predetermined conclusion.

I don’t know who wins this one, because as far as I can see we all lose whenever a good mind is bent to twisted purposes.

Literally Confused

 According to the Reformers, literal interpretation is understanding scripture in its plain sense. Mr. Snapp seems to think that literal interpretation is taking words in their normative sense.

The people who come out of the Catholic, or what we call the Reformed, or Amillennial tradition they take these passages and they say, “you know what, as long as it was about Christ” in other words, here’s all these prophetic things about Christ and so forth - or even prophetic things about Israel, and they say, “ok, so yeah, we see that that’s been fulfilled” so they believe in the literal fulfillment of these passages. But if it comes to the passages that clearly have not been fulfilled yet, they go off in a totally different direction and they say, “but these things are not literal.” I am a literalist when it comes to interpretation of the Bible except obviously in cases of poetry and clear symbols and that sort of thing. Did we have the chapters where we see all these winged creatures and all these the bear and all this kind of stuff, yes we did. When Daniel interpreted that and told us what it meant, did he say these were all symbolic and had no literal meaning? No. He pointed them right straight into history, history we can look at and that the Jews would be able to look at and say, ‘look, there it is.’…Why in the world would he go from that to then later in the book now of course it doesn’t mean anything but something spiritual.”

To Mr. Snapp “literally” means “normative.” For example, consider the phrase “It is raining cats and dogs.” The term “cat” normally refers to felines, and the term “dog” normally refers to K-9s. Thus a literal (normative) interpretaion would be “Felines and K-9s are actually falling from the sky.” As he mentioned, however, he is a literalist except in cases of poetry or clear symbol. Thus Mr. Snapp would abandon the literal interpretation and adopt (what I would presume he would call) a metaphorical interpretation (i.e. “It is raining really hard”).

To the Reformers, on the other hand, “literal” meant “the plain sense.” To interpret something literally is to interpret it according to the literary device employed. For example, the phrase, “It is raining cats and dogs” employs a literary device known as metaphor. Thus the literal meaning is “Its raining really hard.”

Both parties ended at the same meaning: Its raining really hard. So while this cannot account for differing interpretations, hopefully this example helps to clarify the methodology and terminology. Both parties hold to a grammatical-historical method of interpretation. They may use the term “literal” in a slightly different way, but ultimately they both try to account for the genre and literary devices.

If the Dispensationalists and Covenant theologians both hold to a literal hermeneutic, then how do they arrive at different interpretations? There are two answers I can give:  Consistency and difference of opinion. One group or the other is more consistent in the application of that hermeneutic. There are obviously underlying factors for why it is employed inconsistently, but I want to just focus upon the fact of it here. Below are some examples of inconsistencies in Mr. Snapp’s introduction:

  1. He chides Amillennialists for A) adopting a non-literal (read non-normative) interpretation and B) for treating one part of scripture different from another. Yet, he admits that he himself abandons a literal (normative) hermeneutic in certain cases. This leaves him open to both of his own charges. Moreover, it should be clear that the Reformed camp does employ a literal (plain sense) that can be consistently applied across all of scripture.
  2. Talking specifically about prophecy, he chides the Amillennialists for not treating it literally. Yet, by his own admission, A) he is a non-literalist in the case of clear symbols B) the beasts in Daniel are symbols. Ergo he fail to treat prophecy literally (normatively).
  3. Lets assume (despite the contradiction of 1 and 2) that he is interpreting the prophecies of Daniel literally. This new definition of literal means the ability to point to something in history and say, “Look, there it is.” But why this arbitrary limitation? A literal interpretation does not need to be historical. “God is all-powerful” is a statement that is literally true and completely independent of history. Even so, what he objects most strongly to is the notion that these prophecies would find fulfillment in the church. Granting his arbitrary limitation of “literal” to “historical” why can I not point to the church in history and say, “Look, there it is”?
  4. The goal posts shift one more time when he mentions that a literal interpretation cannot be something spiritual. But the opposite of spiritual is physical, not literal. There can be a literal interpretation that is spiritual. “Your love is sweeter than honey.” What is the literal interpretation of that? Or, “Your love is precious to me,” what is the literal interpretation? How can love be physical? It is completely arbitrary to say that in order for an interpretation to be literal it has to be physical.
  5. Exploring this further, how does he see the reign of Christ coming into fruition? If he is a good Dispensationalist, he sees Christ, in body, ruling his people from Jerusalem for 1000 yrs. But ruling is an abstract concept. Decrees and authority are not physical things. How can it be physical? Perhaps he will answer that Jesus is physically in a certain geography while he reigns. But we affirm that Christ has ascended into heaven with a body. Therefore he is bodily reigning from a certain geography now. Why does this not count? Moreover, Amillennialists affirm that at his second coming he will create a new heaven and new earth on which he will reign for eternity. Why does this eternal earthly rule not count but a 1000 yr earthly rule does?

It is hard to track with exactly what Mr. Snapp believes literal interpretation is. Can a literal interpretation be given for symbolic writing? He seems to affirm both “Yes” and “No.” Is it bad to change ones hermeneutic or not? Again we get conflicting answers. Why the arbitrary restrictions of “literal interpretation” to only that which is historical and physical? Even so, why does the historical, physical church not count?

J.I. Packer states:

But to read all Scripture narratives as if they were eye-witness reports in a modern newspaper, and to ignore the poetic and imaginative form in which they are sometimes couched, would be no less a violation of the canons of evangelical ‘literalism’ than the allegorizing of the Scholastics was; and this sort of ‘literalism’ Evangelicals repudiate. It would be better to call such exegesis ‘literalistic’ rather than ‘literal’, so as to avoid confusing two very different things.

Packer recognizes that many (in this case the Dispensatioal types like Hal Lindsey) are less consistent in their application. When Lindsey reads Revelation, he insists on reading it in a literalistic manner, and not according to its genres. Thus the locusts of Revelation are actually attack helicopters that John saw but didn’t know how to describe. Revelation, however, is arguably the most symbolic book in the Bible. Why would he read that as if it were a 1st century newspaper report of a 21st century war? He has left his genre-specific hermeneutic at the door and embarked on one fanciful, non-literal, reading.

This brings me to the second reason for interpretive differences: Difference of opinion. Even if we utilize the same grammatical-historical method of interpretation, there can be difference of opinion as to whether or not something is metaphorical or normative. For example, when Jesus says of the bread, “Take; this is my body” the Catholics think he is speaking normatively, but Protestants believe he is speaking metaphorically. This post is long already, so I will continue my review of some specific examples of disagreements in the next few posts.

Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 13

Continuing our look at William Lane Craig’s article on “Theistic Critiques of Atheism,” let’s see the next point he makes in regard to his Cosmological Argument.

Premiss (2), the more controversial premiss [that the universe began to exist], may be supported by both deductive, philosophical arguments and inductive, scientific arguments. Classical proponents of the argument contended that an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist, since the existence of an actually infinite, as opposed to merely potentially infinite, number of things leads to intolerable absurdities. The best way to support this claim is still by way of thought experiments, like the famous Hilbert’s Hotel, which illustrate the various absurdities that would result if an actual infinite were to be instantiated in the real world.

Unfortunately, this argument does more harm to God than to materialism.

The problem with Craig’s argument is that, while physics seems to indicate that time itself has an absolute minimum value, time is a property of the material universe. The fact that time has an absolute minimum value simply means that there’s a finite amount of time in the past. If you travel to the south pole, you can go no farther south. If you come to an absolute stop, you can no longer slow down. If you travel back in time to the minimum possible value for time, you can go no earlier. It’s not that there’s some barrier between where you are and where you want to go, it’s that the place you want to go does not exist, even conceptually.

This conclusion is supported both by the inductive results of scientific research (e.g. Big Bang theory) and by philosophical deduction. As an example of the latter, consider what it would mean if time extended infinitely far into the past. That which is infinite is that which has no end, by definition. If time extends infinitely far backwards before the Big Bang, therefore, that means that the Big Bang lies at the end of an infinite period of time. An infinite period of time, however, has no end. If an infinite amount of time must pass before the creation of the universe can happen, then the universe can never be created, because an infinite amount of time takes literally forever to pass. Yet in order for there to be an infinite amount of time before creation, that infinite amount of time must pass before the universe can be created, because that’s what it means for infinite time to come before creation. And this is just one of the philosophical examples Craig alludes to.

The problem for Christian apologetics is that this alleged infinite amount of time before creation is not the domain of the material world, but rather is the domain in which God is supposed to have existed and acted before creation. For God to have existed for all eternity, there must have been a prior eternity in which His existence could have taken place. Such an eternity would have the effect of postponing creation for, well, all eternity. If there’s not a whole eternity before creation, then God Himself has not existed for all eternity, since there is no prior eternity in which He could have had this “eternal” existence.

There is thus a finite minimum absolute chronological value for the period of God’s existence as well. To the extent that the material universe has a “beginning,” God must also have a beginning, since there’s a point in time beyond which no earlier divine existence is possible. This brings Him under Craig’s point #1, “Whatever begins to exist has a cause,” and thus eliminates God as a contender for the role of First Cause. Or, alternately, we can admit that since time itself is a property of the material universe, the universe neither needs nor allows any prior cause, which also eliminates God as the First Cause.

We could speculate about some other property, let’s call it “tyme,” which measures some other dimension of some other n-dimensional space. And we could suppose, as some physicists are wondering, that our 3+1 dimensional space-time continuum might be the emergent property of some larger material context which would transcend the absolute minimums implied by the Big Bang. It makes for an interesting hypothesis and some very dense mathematical equations, but ultimately it’s irrelevant to the questions Craig is addressing here.

The mechanisms of cause and effect, as we observe them here and now, are dependent upon the chronological order imposed by material time. If some abstract dimension of “tyme” also exists in some larger n-dimensional continuum, it’s a moot point, since it plays no known role in the material cause-and-effect relationships that apologists are trying to exploit as an argument for a Creator. Indeed, it rather defuses the whole apologetic point: if we postulate a larger n-dimensional material context in which dimensions like our unknown “tyme” serve to produce phenomena like the original Big Bang, we have not made God more likely, we’ve made Him less necessary, by proposing contextual conditions sufficient to produce the creation of our cosmos spontaneously, without the need for what we perceive as material cause and effect.

Craig goes on to list a number of really very excellent arguments for why time cannot extend infinitely into the past, and it’s actually worth reading. There’s quite a lot that he gets right here, which makes it all the more ironic that his arguments deprive God of the opportunity to be Creator, without demonstrating any need for the cosmos to be created. The finite duration of Time Past merely makes it easier for the material universe to have existed for all of it. But, as we’ll see tomorrow, Craig is going to have a go at it anyway.

Bonnaroo – Today’s Woodstock

Many know of Woodstock, the 3 day music and arts festival that marketed itself as an aquarian exposition that included three days of peace, love, and music. Comprised of mostly teens and 20-somethings, there was a sea of love that engulfed the 600 acre farm in Bethel Woods on that weekend in August of 1969. It was heralded as a defining moment in not only music history, but cultural as well. Many believed such an event could not be replicated. Many believed it was a one-time occurrence that signified current socio-political issues. However, the good news is they were wrong.

Bonnaroo 2009

Enter Bonnaroo, a 4 day music and arts festival held annually since 2002 on a 700 acre farm in beautiful south Tennessee. I had the wonderful pleasure to go to this year’s Bonnaroo and I must say that I was blown away. It was far out. All my expectations were exceeded and in such a manner that I am making it imperative to come back next year. The amazing quality of this festival is that it is the closest event in this 21st century to the original 1969 Woodstock that exists. There was a feeling of oneness and interconnectedness of everyone and anyone there, swimming in a sea of peace, love, and happiness.

During the Phish show on Sunday, for example, I had experienced something that I had not felt since my past life regression at Woodstock. A feeling of resonating at the same high level as everyone else around me. There was no need for words, since it was collectively understood that everyone was in a state of harmonic bliss and ecstasy. Becoming so high on the energy of those around me and, likewise, me radiating higher energy fields towards others, created an environment of sensational enlightenment. A realization was found within me that saw how wonderful the higher Self, that true self, is.

There was very little ego at the festival. People would give and receive freely. Personally, I was given many free gifts and I likewise returned the favor, even though none usually asked for anything but if they did, I would gladly assist them in any way I could. Such an exchange of energies demonstrated the oneness that exists in the global consciousness of humanity. It was the most wonder-filled experience I have had in this life and revitalized my will to continue my life goal of giving individuals the tools to create a consciousness shift within themselves, since this would ultimately create a global consciousness shift within humanity.

Bonnaroo 2009 2

The weather at this wonderful event was great. The only time it rained was the first night and everyday after that, it was either sunny or overcast. This was radically different than the forecasted weather of showers and thunderstorms. I see this as being conscious co-creation at work. As one of the theories of quantum reality is that consciousness creates reality, which is also an ancient truth that mystics and sages had talked about since time immemorial, it was demonstrated to work at Bonnaroo. I feel that the 80,000 souls that were there had willed it to not rain and for sunshine to manifest itself in order to have a beautiful weekend filled with peace, love, and music.

Peace and Love. These words were echoed by many of the musical acts playing at the festival, including Al Green, Snoop Dogg, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more. In the words of Snoop Dogg, “All you need is a little bit of peace and a little bit of love.” How true. As with Woodstock, peace and love are fundamental to the vibe that exists at Bonnaroo. Because of this, there is no violence, hate, or animosity. As of writing this, there was only one confirmed death this year, which is significantly less than if one were to look at the statistics of any city the size of the Bonnaroo audience. Keeping with spirit of the original festival centered around peace and love, Bonnaroo showed that it is possible, just give peace a chance.

This year’s biggest musical group was definitely Phish. As I mentioned before, the ultra high energy field that existed during the Phish show was something that cannot be explained in words, but is something that must be experienced directly and personally. It has been said that without Phish, there is no Bonnaroo. This is quite true. In the words of Jonathan Mayers, president of Superfly Productions (the people behind creating Bonnaroo), “Phish was definitely one of the inspirations for the festival and all the great events that they did, so we really wanted to do something special with them and we’re going to.”The only band with 2 shows at Bonnaroo, Phish was definitely the highlight of my ‘roo and I’m sure it was for many others. I had never liked Phished prior to seeing them live at Bonnaroo but after that experience, I could not declare that statement and not be lying.

Bonnaroo

Peace, Love, and Music. Bonnaroo was and is all of these. Following in the legacy of Woodstock and becoming the “aquarian exposition” of the 21st century, it is a continued demonstration that a better society can exist when everyone treats everyone else as they would like to be treated. A better society can exist when everyone feels connected with everyone else. A better society can exist when everyone radiates peace, love, and joy into the global consciousness. This was my first Bonnaroo experience and I fully encourage everyone to go next year. If you are interested in this, drop by the forums and we can all get a massive Peace and Loveism camp going.

Peace, Love, and Music…forever.

Schools of Interpretation

I am continuing my review of Mr. Snapps sermon on Daniel 12, and thus far I am still in his preliminary remarks. I want to take this post to focus upon his method of interpretation, specifically his comment regarding the allegorical interpretation of which he accuses the Reformed tradition. Subsequent posts will tease out, in a more nuanced way, the difference between the traditional Reformed hermeneutic and that of dispensationalism (and Mr. Snapp in particular).

The people who come out of the Catholic, or what we call the Reformed, or Amillennial tradition they take these passages and they say, “you know what, as long as it was about Christ” in other words, here’s all these prophetic things about Christ and so forth - or even prophetic things about Israel, and they say, “ok, so yeah, we see that that’s been fulfilled” so they believe in the literal fulfillment of these passagesBut if it comes to the passages that clearly have not been fulfilled yet, they go off in a totally different direction and they say, “but these things are not literal.”

As a good dispensationalist, Mr. Snapp is proud of his literal hermeneutic. At that bare level, I have no objections. We need to have a solid method of Bible interpretation, and on a surface level, the “literal” method is a good one. However, what is meant by literal? This is a word that has been too abused top remain unqualified. Mr. Snapp seems to set the Dispensationalists in the “literal” camp and the Reformers in some non-literal camp.

To provide some contrast, it may be helpful to look at how hermeneutics have changed over time. The rabbinic method of interpretation involved four categories: Peshat (or the simple interpretation) Remez (allusions to other things), Derash (interpretive), and Sod (a secret or mystical method).

The method of interpretation that reigned in the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation was very similar to the rabbinic method, and it was called the quadriga. This hermeneutic entailed four things: the literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. Thus, every passage had these four levels of interpretation.

Against this kind of interpretation, the Reformers insisted on interpreting scripture literally. Thus when Mr. Snapp identifies the Reformers as people who engage in wild allegorizing, he has it exactly backward. They are the ones who recovered literal interpretation as the proper method. As an example, William Tyndale writes:

Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the scripture hath but one sense, which is but the literal sense. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Nevertheless, the scripture uses proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle or allegory signifieth, is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently.

R.C. Sproul affirms this when he writes, “Both the analogy of faith and the principle of seeking the literal sense are necessary safeguards against unbridled speculation and subjectivistic interpretation. As defined, the literal sense is not meant to indicate a crass, rigid forcing of the whole Bible into historical narrative.”

During and after the Enlightenment, many in the liberal schools (which Mr. Snapp also parallels with the Reformed interpretation) viewed scripture from a critical/humanistic perspective. Their worldview prohibited believing in miracles and so they engaged in “de-mythologizing” scripture. This is obviously a vastly different method than the Reformers used.

Other schools of interpretation are existential and insist that the text only has meaning when the reader engages it. Thus the reader, not the author, provides the meaning. “What does it mean to me?” This also found great acceptance in the interpretation of modern art. Still others view scripture as a living document that every changes its meaning with the culture that reads it (obviously related to the previous).

However, none of these things is even close to what the Reformers employed. They insisted on the sensus literalis, the literal sense of scripture. For those who have studied hermeneutics, this is akin to the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. It seeks to discover what the author intended to convey by examining the writing in its literary context as well as its historical or cultural context. It aims to discover the plain meaning of the text. There is, therefore, a bit of hitorical revisionism afoot when Mr. Snapp places the Reformers in the non-literal camp.

Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 12

Ok, so that was a nice little 6-month diversion from the topic which we were originally considering, which was William Lane Craig’s article on “Theistic Critiques of Atheism. As you may recall, Craig posted a two-pronged argument: the arguments against atheism, and the arguments for theism. We’re up to the second argument of the second prong, the cosmological argument for God.

Cosmological Argument. A simple version of this argument might go:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then helps to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being.

As with his first argument for God, the Cosmological Argument suffers from a number of flaws, not the least of which is his naïve assumption that there was once a time when the universe (including time itself) did not exist.

Let’s look at Craig’s detailed analysis.

Premiss (1) seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation. It is rooted in the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing. If things could really come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing. Moreover, the conviction that an origin of the universe requires a causal explanation seems quite reasonable, for on the atheistic view, if the universe began at the Big Bang, there was not even the potentiality of the universe’s existence prior to the Big Bang, since nothing is prior to the Big Bang. But then how could the universe become actual if there was not even the potentiality of its existence? It makes much more sense to say that the potentiality of the universe lay in the power of God to create it. Finally, the first premiss is constantly confirmed in our experience. Atheists who are scientific naturalists thus have the strongest of motivations to accept it.

His first premise “seems obviously true”—at least to our naïve experience. It’s certainly the most consistent observation we can make at the macroscopic level, even if it’s not necessarily true at the quantum level. Personally, I prefer to state this observation in terms of the truth being consistent with itself. We see certain factors in operation, and we see certain phenomena consistently produced as a result, and therefore we say that the observed factors are the causes of the observed phenomena. This does not guarantee that all phenomena will have observable prior factors in operation beforehand, but our observations (at the non-quantum level) definitely support this overwhelmingly.

Where Craig gets into trouble is when he starts trying apply this line of reasoning to the very atypical case of the entire cosmos, including time itself, coming into being. He assumes that the phrase “origin of the universe” refers to a temporal sequence in which, at time X, no universe exists, and then at time X+1, the universe does exist, because of some factor that was in operation at time X. Since time itself is a property of the material universe, however, the “origin” of the universe is not a reference to a chronological beginning, but more like a geographical term, like the “origin” of a Cartesian graph—a location in space-time, not a process of transformation.

Craig’s math is off by one. The origin of the universe, and of time itself, is X0, the original moment of time. There is no moment of time X0 – 1 prior to the beginning of time at X0. Thus, there has never been any point in time at which the universe did not exist, and therefore it is simply nonsense to argue about whether or not “potentiality” existed during the time prior to the existence of time. Such nonsense can only lead to credulously superstitious conclusions, like saying “it makes more sense that the potential lay in the power of God to create it.” Such thinking makes no sense at all, since it simultaneously asserts that time existed for God to create in, even though time did not exist, because God had not created it yet.

We’ll continue with points 2 and 3 tomorrow.

Aside: spam

Yes, comment spam is a nuisance, but every now and then it does provide a certain surreal entertainment. Like this:

[Spammer's Service] is a assemblage of get rid of pore toed crush people whose objective is to be dressed a upholster expand profits making investments.

Um, yeah, sounds like just the sort of people I’ve been wanting to do business with.

XFiles Friday: So who cares?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)

Back in Chapter 12, Geisler and Turek had this to say about the significance of prophecy, in the context of a hypothetical case of the trees in your back yard moving 5 feet overnight.

[L]et’s suppose that [the] tree moving event occurred in the following context: Two hundred years in advance, someone claiming to be a prophet of God writes down a prediction that all of the trees in one area of Jerusalem would indeed move five feet one night during a particular year. Two hundred years later, a man arrives to tell the townspeople that the tree moving miracle will occur shortly…

Then one morning numerous eyewitnesses claim that the trees…actually moved five feet during the night.

That would certainly be a remarkable prediction, because how could someone 200 years ago have such detailed and specific knowledge about a remarkable event that didn’t occur until a couple centuries after his lifetime, especially when the event in question is not predictable by any known principles of science? Such evidence would indeed be difficult to account for in naturalistic terms. But is that in fact what we are actually dealing with when we look at the “Messianic” prophecies that Christians claim Jesus fulfilled?

We’ve come to the portion of Chapter 13 that Geisler and Turek call “The Box Top of Prophecy,” referring to their earlier analogy of life as a giant jigsaw puzzle and the Bible as (allegedly) the top of the box the puzzle came in, showing the whole picture so we can tell how to put the pieces together. As we’ve seen in preceding weeks, it’s a rather misleading analogy, since they have to rather mangle a lot of the pieces in order to put them together into the picture Geisler and Turek want us to see.

The mangling continues in this week’s episode, as Geisler and Turek invite us to consider three possible interpretations of Psalm 22, traditionally attributed to King David and taken by many as a prediction of Jesus’ crucifixion.

First, some Christian scholars agree with the skeptics on verses like this. They say Psalm 22 is not intended to be predictive…

Second, other Christian scholars point out that some biblical prophecies may apply to two different people at two different times. Both David and Jesus certainly had enemies and difficulties in their lives…

The third option—which is the one that seems most plausible to us—is that Psalm 22 is solely predictive of Jesus. After all, the psalm contains several distinct references to Christ’s crucifixion experience. It begins with his cry from the cross…and then describes…the scorn, mocking, and insults of his accusers…his thirst…his pierced hands and feet…his unbroken bones…his divided garments…the fact that his enemies cast lots for his garments…his ultimate rescue by the Lord…and even his public praise of God to his fellow Israelites after his rescue.

There are, of course, a number of problems with this interpretation, even overlooking the fact that we don’t normally apply the term “rescue” to a situation where the “rescuer’s” inaction results in the death of the victim.

Is David speaking of Jesus’ experiences, or are latter-day Christians incorporating the details of Psalm 22 into their narrative about the crucifixion? David doesn’t mention crucifixion, or any of the uniquely distinctive characteristics of death by crucifixion. He speaks in more general terms about persecution, and being forsaken by God, and suffering mistreatment and ridicule at their hands. Christians associate these emotion-laden descriptions with the emotion-laden descriptions of the crucifixion, but the association is sufficiently vague that, as Geisler and Turek admit, even some Christian theologians doubt that Psalm 22 is predicting the cross.

Then there are the inconsistencies. The Hebrew text, as revised by the Masoretes, has verse 16 as “they have pierced my hands and my feet,” but not all ancient texts have the same reading. (If you click on the link above, you’ll see a footnote stating that some texts have “like a lion” instead.) And the text nowhere says anything about all his bones being “unbroken.” The verse says, “I can count all my bones,” a clear reference to the advanced emaciation that comes from extreme and prolonged suffering. Breaking a bone does not render it uncountable!

The psalmist speaks of a man abandoned by God over a long enough period of time that he can complain about how God does not answer even though the psalmist beseeches Him “by day and by night.” Again, this is perfectly consistent with a period of suffering long enough to emaciate someone to the point where they can count all their bones, but not at all consistent with the relatively swift death of crucifixion. If you count the midnight arrest as part of the experience, you could squeeze in one “day” and one “night,” but that’s hardly enough to justify the psalmist’s complaint. Certainly, Christians don’t regard God as having “forsaken” them after less than 24 hours with no answer to their prayers.

Notice too that the psalmist cries out for mercy and for deliverance from the sword, and then ends with the exultant expectation that God will indeed deliver his life from those who seek to kill him. But God did not deliver Jesus—he died at the hands of his enemies (or more precisely, at the hands of the Romans, who weren’t particularly his enemies, but were just carrying out an execution for political expediency). There’s no indication in Psalm 22 of God allowing the psalmist to actually die, and certainly none of Him doing anything so astonishing as bringing anyone back from the dead; the psalmist’s prayer and expectation is that God will step in and rescue him so that his enemies don’t kill him in the first place.

The similarities to crucifixion are vague, superficial, and in some cases coincidental. There is no indication that David had any concept of what death by crucifixion would be like, or that he intended to express the idea that some important future personage would ever experience it, and then subsequently be resurrected from the dead. David’s description of himself as a man who finds himself far from God, and who has trusted in God from his earliest days, at his mother’s breast, is a far cry from the Trinitarian view of God the Son Who can never be separated from God because that would mean being separated from Himself.

So why do Geisler and Turek prefer the interpretation that Psalm 22 refers only to the crucifixion of Jesus? How do they answer all the skeptical criticisms of the Messianic interpretation of this Psalm?

The skeptic may say, “But you’re only interpreting Psalm 22 that way because you now know what happened to Christ. It probably wouldn’t have been apparent to someone living in Old Testament times that Psalm 22 was about Christ.”

To which we reply: even if that is true, so what? It may be true that certain messianic prophecies in the Old Testament become clear only in the light of Christ’s life. But that doesn’t mean those prophecies are any less amazing.

Did you catch that? David, the author of Psalm 22, was an Old Testament king. If you have to know the events of Jesus life in order to interpret Psalm 22 as a Messianic prophecy, and David clearly did not do that, then he never intended his psalm to be taken as a prediction of death by crucifixion. That would certainly explain the nagging inconsistencies between what Psalm 22 says and the events that actually happened in Jesus life. But notice the breathtaking response of Doctor Geisler and Doctor Turek to this problem: “So what? It doesn’t make the prophecies any less amazing.”

Isn’t that mind-boggling? Geisler and Turek don’t care whether their interpretation of Psalm 22 matches what the author was actually trying to say. All that matters is whether they can get an “amazing” prophecy they can use to bolster their claim that Jesus accomplished something remarkable by having his followers report that this, that, and the other unverifiable claim somehow matched, or nearly matched, specific verses and phrases from Psalm 22.

Compare that to the tree-moving event discussed in Chapter 12. The prophet in their scenario clearly knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew specifically what was going to happen, he knew where it was going to happen, he knew when it was going to happen, 200 years in advance, and he wrote down specific, measurable, verifiable details about what the result of the event was going to be. The whole point of issuing the prophecy was to demonstrate that he did indeed know exactly what he was talking about, and that what he wrote was what he meant and what he understood about it, when it was not naturally possible for him to have such accurate foreknowledge.

That’s the kind of standard Geisler and Turek want us to think their interpretation of prophecy lives up to, but if in fact the evidence fails to support the conclusion that David had any clue what their interpretation would someday be, their response is just a shrug and a “Who cares?”.

These guys are doctors of theology. They’re professional, trained apologists. And they don’t care whether or not their interpretation accurately reflects the author’s intended meaning. In their superstitious world view, the fact that they can twist and adapt Psalm 22 to suit a Christian agenda is proof enough that God always meant for them to do so. They’re not distorting the meaning of the texts, they’re revealing its “true,” secret, retroactive meaning, which coincidentally happens to be just what they want it to be, even if the words don’t all quite fit.

And they named their book I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. And neither one has been struck by lightning. Need we any further proof that their God does not exist?