The God Puzzle

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Are there clues to God’s existence hidden in plain sight? What picture emerges when we begin to pick them up and piece them together? I took some time recently to look at myself and the world around me and jot down a few thoughts in the form of a new website. I don’t expect everyone to see what I see as its very subjective but here is the thing: there is a shared subjectivity so solidly unassailable that I would be surprised if you didn’t at least catch a fleeting glimpse of God.

 

 

Could I stop being a Christian?

cross_in_sunset_my2I have been thinking about why I am a Christian recently, and whether I might one day be persuaded or compelled to stop being one. There are lots of reasons that come together to give me confidence in the person of Jesus such that I identify myself as one of his followers. They include the evidence for the existence of God (as a personal, good, eternal creator etc see my thoughts here), the reliability of the Bible, the evidence for the resurrection and so on. I guess that might be enough, but there is a deeper root of conviction and certainty in my heart, and it’s this: “grace”. Not just the idea of grace, but its perfection, origin and embodiment in the person of Jesus Christ.

Grace is “giving someone something good that they do not deserve”. Some distinguish mercy from grace, defining it is as “not giving someone what they do deserve”, but for me, when I use the word grace, I usually include this too. Grace is person A blessing person B and showing them favour in a way that is not determined by person B’s actions. Rather, grace finds its origin and source in the one being gracious. Here is Packer’s classic expression of this:

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me, and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment therefore, when His care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. There is, certainly , great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience, is enough).

There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

– JI Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, 1973), pages 41-42.

Grace is anchored and has its source, its motivation, in the one being gracious. Their grace is grounded in them being “gracious”, not me being worthy of grace. Being worthy of grace is an oxymoron if ever there was one.

I can’t hope to get close to Packer’s eloquence with words, but I’ll try to give a short explanation of God’s grace. The gospel is the good news about Jesus. It is a gospel of grace. Though we have sinned (done evil), forfeiting God’s love and goodness and earning his wrath and rejection, God has freely given us his Son, Jesus. Jesus lived as we should have lived, died the death we deserved and is now risen and ruling at his Father’s side. Simply by trusting in him as our Lord and Saviour, we get his good life credited to us in exchange for our bad life. Our sin having been punished in Christ on the cross, and us being now in possession of Jesus’ life of obedience, we have an eternal, unhindered, unbreakable relationship with God as our Father – just like Jesus does. I was destined to a deserved hell of separation from God, the source of love and joy and life, yet I find myself, without there being any minuscule of merit in myself, as an adopted and dearly loved child of God. It’s simply stunning. Simply stunning.

If I, in any way, earn my way into some good situation, I might have cause to congratulate myself and even begin to revere and worship ‘yours truly’. But I find the thought of worshipping me, wearisome. My petty achievements, such as they are, do not particularly impress me. Nor could I see that they ever would. In fact, daily my deeds pile up in disappointment. But I have something far better. I have Jesus!

If the gospel of grace is a fabrication, an imagining, and Jesus is not its personal, knowable epicentre, then we live in a dull, shabby universe. Reality is a depressing disappointment. There is an idea, a possible glorious reality, that could have been but wasn’t, and we are left in the darkness to make the best of it. If there is some sort of other god in this sad, second-rate world then he, or she, or it, is also, to be frank, going to be a bit of a disappointment. How could one summon up the enthusiasm to worship such a god when all the time the idea of this other (all be it unrealised) one blinds us with his dazzling glory?

I can, I guess see, that if a person has not had such a life changing view of grace as I see in the gospel, that they could perhaps be content casting their eye about this world without knowing the God of the Bible. The God of Jesus Christ. They may well entertain and serve other gods and ideas, with deep commitment and sincerity. But for me, having caught a glimpse of his glory, I cannot entertain a lesser reality.

If you are going to live, live and give your life for the best conceivable reality. To do anything else is to live with a sense of “Oh well, that’s a shame”. Like going to your favourite restaurant and finding it shut for the night. I cannot do that. I will not do that. I want, and will give myself to, a God of infinite grace and goodness.

I guess this line of reasoning, if you can call it that, is akin to the Ontological argument. The grace of God revealed in the person of Jesus, his sacrificial death in our place, and our subsequent forgiveness and adoption through faith alone, seems so glorious that it must be true. Necessarily true. It is so perfect in every respect that to not exist would be a lone lack sticking out like a sore thumb. I know you could pick holes in that argument, but that’s the way it seems to me. Let the gospel be true and everything else a lie. I take my stand on the most glorious truth and judge all else by it. I am sure you would not pretend to me that you do not also stand upon a pile of presuppositions. Forgive me if I just happen to choose the grandest pile upon which to build my life and view the world.

This grace of God seems also to have about it something eternally sustaining. What’s the point of everlasting life, for it seems to me there must be such a thing, if it becomes an eternal tedium? I find it hard to describe God’s grace, but that’s not all down to my limited communication skills. Part of it is due to the fact that it’s so infinitely glorious. Take a million views and there will be a million more angles from which to appreciate it, a billion more perspectives to perceive it. The Bible itself is full of stories, and analogies, and metaphors, and poetry, and letters, and apocalyptic literature, all expressing various aspects of God’s grace. When we’ve had 10,000 years to appreciate and explore and enjoy the atonement, we will still need an infinite many more before we can even scratch the surface of it.

It’s not just that this grace benefits me so much, though it does more than I will ever know. That is not what captivates me most about it. It’s the very act of God in being gracious in such an astounding way, that captivates me. His grace to me is wonderfully beneficial, but since grace has its origin in the giver, it tells me less about me than it does about God. His grace draws me to gaze upon him and marvel at what it is in him that caused him to act in such a way towards me.

So if you ask me why I am a Christian, I might talk about various historical and philosophical arguments and I hope they would be helpful. But probe a bit deeper and I would begin to talk about the grace of God in the person of Jesus. This truth (I cannot call it anything else, for if this is false then all else is fiction), is everything to me. I have heard of something so wonderful, so glorious, that it has gripped my heart and my heart has gripped it in return in an unbreakable embrace.

Maybe I don’t know exactly how Genesis 1 is to be interpreted. Maybe I don’t know the best way of aligning the kings of Judah with the latest archaeological evidence. Maybe I don’t understand why there is so much seemingly unnecessary suffering in the world. But I’ll tell you what – nothing could persuade me now to give up the priceless treasure I have in Jesus. That would be like taking out my eyes in order to see better without them getting in the way.

 

 

The Beauty of Art

A really interesting and thought provoking conversation between the Four Horsemen. You can see Christopher candidly talking about a bit of it (1:09:00, 1:15:10, 1:30:58 ) here. Larry Taunton’s biography on Christopher Hitchens also sheds light on some of his comments in this discussion, and why he seems to sit apart at times from the others in his opinions. Anyway, here is a bit of a transcript starting sometime before 1:28:00 I think:

Sam Harris: There is this domain of the sacred that is not easily captured by science, and scientific discourse has really seeded it to religious discourse.

Dennet suggests art, but Harris counters: I would argue that it’s not fully captured by art. You can’t go into a museum and see compassion in its purest form. And I think there is something about the way we, as atheists, merely dismiss the bogus claims of religious people that convinces religious people that there is something we are missing. And I think we have to be sensitive to this.

Talking about the beauty of religious art Sam Harris says that it’s just the way things were; that all artists and their patrons were religious, so it was therefore all religious.

Hitchens: I can’t hear myself say “If only he [Michaelangelo] had a secular patron he would have done just as good work”.

Dawkins “that Michealangelo, if he was commissioned to do the ceiling of a museum of science, would not have come up with something quite as wonderful?”

Hitchens “In some way, I am reluctant to affirm that, yes.”

Dawkins “I find it very, very easy to believe that”.

Hitchens “that could be a difference between us”.

Hitchens “with devotional poetry I find it very hard to believe that it is fake. Or done for a patron…My favourite devotional poem is Philip Larkin’s the church goer… I wouldn’t trust anyone who felt any more or any less than Larkin does when he goes through a wayside Gothic church in the English countryside. He felt, I dare not say believed …,he is an atheist, …. there is something serious about this, and something written into the human personality as well as the landscape… ([about Dunn’s poetry] There is an X factor involved that I am quite happy to assume will persist and will need to be confronted (me-I think that is what he said)?

I think we are about here now 1:30:00.

Here is the poem btw

 

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new –
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for which was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

That poem seems to me to be someone standing at a place he somehow knows means something, yet he can’t put his finger on it. He knows its deep significance, but the memory of what it is is lost to him. It’s just cold stone and empty pews. But still he keeps returning. Standing there, hoping for the penny to drop. Is it just a place for marriages and deaths? Surely there is nothing of worth here, yet he is drawn back there. I think this poem describes Hitchen to a T. He as much says so.

“I wouldn’t trust anyone who felt any more or any less than Larkin”

Harris: “I think there is place for the sacred in our lives, but under some construal that does not presuppose any (expletive deleted). There is a usefulness for seeking profundity as a matter of our attention. And our neglect of this area as atheists at times makes even our craziest opponents seem wiser than we are”.

Dawkins “I would like to see churches empty but I would not like to see ignorance of the Bible because you cannot understand literature without knowing the Bible, you can’t understand art, you can’t understand music, there are all sorts of things you can’t understand for historical reasons. But those historical reasons you can’t wipe out. So even if you can’t go to church to pray, you need to understand what it meant to people to pray. And why they did it. And what these verses in the Bible mean.”

Sam “Is that all that is in it, a historical perspective?”

Dawkins “you could lose yourself in it, just as you could lose yourself in a work of fiction without actually believing that the characters are real”.

Dennet : “Can’t you imagine a church where you have rituals and loyalty and songs but no irrationality?”

Dawkins “Oh, yes, where you have the music and poetry and go to those places for funerals and weddings and beautiful poetry and music group solidarity.”

Hitchens is arguing that a secular world view should welcome the persistence of faith which he defines, upon being pressed, as “Something like the belief that there must be more than we can know”. Which they all heartily agree with. But Hitchens is saying or at least thinking and exploring more than they imagine I think. “if we could find a way of forcing the distinction between the numinous and the superstitious we would be doing something culturally quite important”.

He means, I think, that there is a lot about religion that he finds repellent. Stupid. But that there is something there that is substantive and true. Again, he is like the man standing in the church seeing nothing, yet knowing there is something there.

Dawkins “You can read fiction and be totally moved to tears, but you don’t have to believe that it actually happened”.

Me – but you must, at some level, believe that it is touching and expressing something real. Anyway, I found the whole conversation very interesting in all sorts of ways.

Here are some of my thoughts on beauty.

 

But what if you are wrong?

I was asked this recently “what if you are wrong and when you die it turns out that you believed in the wrong religion?”

My response was the one people usually give when presented with a hypothetical question loaded with the assumption that you are wrong. “That will not happen”. So convinced am I that my life is safe through faith in Jesus that it is a struggle to answer the question at face value. Jesus is the truth. Assuming that he is not, even for a moment, is like being asked what you would see if you turned the lights off. As Psalm 36 says “In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Its hard to ask someone to imagine that something so basic to their thinking that it has come to colour everything they think, it wrong. It’s like asking “where would you live if the earth didn’t exist”? That’s a massive question.

But of course the obvious and sought after answer to the original question is “that would be awful. If it turned out that Jesus was not who he said he was and that he could not be trusted to bring me into a relationship with God as my loving heavenly Father, and safely through death into eternal life with him in the new heavens and new earth then that would be a terrible loss, at least from the perspective of the here and now.”

Its interesting that answering in such  a way seems to give some credence to the assumption in the question that Jesus may not be trustworthy. It’s made worse because Christianity is a relationship. Your asking about a person that I know and love.

How would you feel if someone said “how would you feel if your husband or wife murdered you in your sleep to get the insurance money?”. Before saying “Oh that would be simply awful” would you not say “But that would never happen. I know them. We love each other. Such a thought is inconceivable”. The questioner would have to ask the question many more times with much force, stressing the hypothetical nature of their inquiry, before you gave in and reluctantly, to humour them, or get the off your back, said “Ok, yes that would be awful. But it is not going to happen. Where are you going with this dark line of questioning?”

I know God the Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. These are not just theoretical beliefs, they are tangible relationships. God loves me and does not lie to me.

A better question would be “what evidence can you give me that Christianity is true”. It places the discussion in a more appropriate unbiased context. Interestingly enough that was the second question that I was then asked.

My answer to that was not the subjective experience of knowing God, but something that I felt would be more helpful for someone genuinely exploring the truth of Christianity. Now at some stage we need to take a step of faith and enter into a relationship with God but before then of course there are many things that we can helpfully consider in our quest for truth.

Christianity is an historical religion, grounded in history. Jesus really did live and die and rise again. For me the strongest evidence for this is the disciples being willing to die for their testimony that they saw Jesus physically after he died. They even had breakfast with him! They died, not just because someone had told them that Jesus was the son of God, who died and rose again (people die for that belief, and others, quite often).

No, I think their confidence in who Jesus was, and therefore their willingness to die for him, was largely on the strength of that breakfast. They saw him nailed to a cross and die. They saw him put in a sealed tomb. And then he appeared to them. Many times. And cooked them breakfast.

I wonder if they thought about that when they were arrested for  telling people about him. I wonder if as their hands were held down on wooden cross beams, they thought about that meal by the sea. I wonder if as they nails were hammered through their writes whether they had flash backs to Jesus taking up the fish he had just cooked and eating it with them. They died for what they had seen and touched. John, the disciples the Jesus loved, wrote about that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” 1 John 1:1.

 

PS. I Forgot how good Ravi is:

 

 

John Lennox on science and faith

Just watched John Lennox lecturing on science and faith.

“Science has buried God, but atheism is on its way to bury science, because it undermines the very rationality that we need to do science”.

Science is something our brains do when looking at the world, and so if our brain is the product of random mutation then why should we (whoever that is) trust it? I guess one answer would be that its development/survival necessitated a linked between it’s representation of reality and the way things really are. To be totally wrong about reality, would seem to be detrimental to survival. Could a deluded brain be the fittest organism? Could a brain that saw a cube and thought a sphere survive for very long? To be wrong about the truthfulness of inference and deduction would not be very advantageous to reproduction.

But I think the argument is saying how can we trust “our conscious thoughts”, rather than whether the representation of the world in the synaptic connections of our brain is right. And that question is hard to answer because we don’t know what our consciousness actually is, at least in material terms.

In any case, as he says, any scientist must “believe” that the universe is rationally intelligent before they can get started.

I love the point he makes about contrasting two world views.

  • Mater and energy is fundamental (or nothing is fundamental, or a quantum vacuum is fundamental) ie everything is made of and comes from and is reducible to these things.
  • The word (information, meaning, morality etc in a person) is fundamental (and I would add “with” is also fundamental. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God”).

It makes so much more sense having a personal relational being behind everything than nothing, or mater or any sort of vacuum, quantum or otherwise.

Now, some Q&A:

Q: “Doesn’t our knowledge of the laws of nature make belief in miracles impossible.”

A: “NO…this is one of the biggest issues [of our time?]”

Miracle = “something to be wondered at”

CS Lewis gave a helpful example here : “if I put a hundred dollars in the draw of my hotel bedroom and then after dinner come back up and find it has gone, do I conclude that the laws of arithmetic have been broken or that the laws of Texas have been broken”. I’ve heard that before but I’m still not quite sure what it means…I think it’s just saying that natural laws are very different from government laws. You can’t break a natural law as it’s just a description. The fact that the money is gone means that someone from outside the system (the draw) entered it and took it out. Jesus rose form the dead because God reached into the world he created and exerted a massive amount of energy (and information etc). The laws are not being broken because they describe what normally happens.

In fact we wouldn’t know that it was a thief unless we knew the laws of arithmetic… “the only way you can recognise the supernatural is by knowing the natural laws”.

Joseph was not a gullible fool. When he found out that Mary was pregnant he was going to divorce her. He knew where babies came from. It took a massive supernatural phenomena to convince him that a miracle had taken place. Same with the blind man. “since the beginning of the world it has never been known that  a man born blind has got his eyesight back”. He knew the law. Jesus was not raised from the dead by natural processes. It was an injection into the system of colossal power. A hand reaching into our world and raised him from the dead . The natural laws were not being broken. An outside influences was being exerted.

Antony Flew who was (according to Lennox) the world’s greatest interpreter of Hume (Mr Anti-Miracles), towards the end of his life, converted to deism. When John Lennox asked him about his books on Hume he said

“I was wrong about Hume. I’d love to write those books again. I will never be able to do it though. I was simply wrong”.

Why does the universe exist?

“Why does the universe exist…. Why is there something rather than nothing at all? This is the super ultimate why question?”

“The philosopher (Aror Scribner? – didn’t quite get his name) said “those who don’t wonder about the contingency of their existence and the contingency of the world’s existence are mentally deficient”.

That’s a little harsh but still. It’s an important thing to think about.

“This has been called the most sublime and awesome mystery. The deepest and most far reaching question man can pose.”

“it’s not how things are that is the mystical, it’s that the world exists [at all]” Ludwig Wittgenstein

Leibnitz, who was one of the guys who invented calculus, said there is no mystery. It’s obvious. God created the universe out of nothing. (He was “or pretended to be” as the speaker says, an orthodox Christian. He goes on

“This is what most Americans believe today. God + nothing = the world”

He then says there is a problem with that, even if you do believe in God.  The problem is “why does God exist”

This objection keeps coming up but I just don’t get it. God exists eternally. Why is that a problem? Why can’t there be some ultimate thing that is the own reason for its existence. Why can’t there be an “I [just] am”. More to the point what if there is not? Is that more philosophically coherent? No, it leads to an infinite regress. But then someone says why can’t the universe have in itself the reason for its existence. Well, for one did it always exist? There is a jolly good argument that time and space didn’t always exist. For two,  meaning (it seems to me) is personal, and as inanimate objects have no meaning in themselves, there needs to be a personal meaning giver outside of the physical universe. So we come back to an eternal personal being whose meaning for existence lies in itself. That’s a big part of what God is.

The speaker jokes that God might ask himself in the king’s James English old fashioned dialect “whence didst I come from?”. People in the audience laughed but what is the point of that remark? Why would God wonder that? It seems at this point in the talk that he (and many in the audience) are just mocking God. Why would you mock a view point when you are examining it?

Ah but now he gets interesting. He says the theory that things popped into existence out of nothing or out of a quantum vacuum, is not plausible because the equations that would describe such a thing have no existence in themselves. Those that go down that line (Stephen Hawkins is one I think having read his book which asked the why question) give equations a God like existence. The laws of quantum physics just are. But as this chap says:

“laws do not exist outside the world, they just describe what happens in the word. They can’t call a world into existence out of nothing”.

Ah, apparently Stephen Hawkins after proposing this kind of solution was still puzzled and asked

“what breaths fire into these equations and creates a world for them to describe?”

And Jim (the speaker) goes on

“we could also ask why this particular set of laws rather than a totally different set… or no laws at all”.

Some solve that by getting metaphysical and saying that all possible worlds exist. To me it sounds a bit platonic. Oh, he says that’s what it is. I feel cleaver about having noticed that for some reason.

He points out that in-between nothing and all possible worlds existing, are other options. There may be the most mathematically elegant world, or ethical world, but, he says, there could also be lots of random nothing special realities too.

Ok, here is it. Here is his view. That we live in is a “nothing special” sort of universe (and I guess he feels there is no need to assume others exist). Its’ not nothing, and its not perfect in any way. And because its nothing special it needs no reason for its existence. I don’t quite see why that is the case but he just says it. I would say that something rather than nothing is special. And isn’t the question he is addressing “why is there something”. I think he has done some slight of hand here. Or I have not been quick enough to follow his argument. Didn’t he just slip the question into his pocket while he was making funny remarks and distracting us with that multi-universe stuff?

Anyway, he goes on that its good we are in a nothing special sort of universe because we don’t have the pressure of living up to a perfect one. We can’t spoil it. It’s like when the street is full of rubbish it’s ok to drop litter. That way of thinking seems to get rid of sin nicely, and our responsibility to do good and any punishment from a perfect creator.  The truth is of course that God made the world good, and then we started throwing litter around but anyway…. He goes on that the fact that there are not an infinite number of versions of us doing the right and wrong thing in other universes does not undermine the meaning in our choices.

Now he’s saying that we can find purpose in making the nice bits of our generic universe nicer and the nasty bits smaller. Were on earth did he get “nice” and “nasty” from? It’s like a cup and ball game. He has lifted a cup were there was nothing and now there is a ball there. “we can construct a purpose and that is a pretty good one”. Argggg. How can you say “that’s a pretty good one”. Who says? Another cup lifted and a ball magically appears. Not only is he making up meaning and purpose he is judging it good or bad by some means. He is tugging at his boot straps! Playing God.

Now he is saying we all secretly think we are mediocre. “the mediocrity in reality resonates with the mediocrity we all feel in the core of our being”. I would agree that we do often have a sense of mediocrity, failure even, not being perfect at least. But that is not simply because we live in a mediocre universe, it;s because we have a sense that it should be perfect. That we should be perfect. We have an awareness of goodness and perfection, “like a half remembered dream” (Inception quote) because God created the universe, including mankind, good, but we fell morally.

I am left wondering how much of this was supposed to be sincere and how much comedy. There were cleaver bits but when he gets to the heart of the matter I wasn’t able to follow him.

The reason there is a universe is because God, who exists because he does (and something must), made it. If you take away the actual answer you are left with just the wrong ones and it seems, to me at least, that none of them make sense.

The universe does not seem to have always existed (Philosophical argument ie no real infinite series of moments can actually exist, + scientific observation)  plus how can inanimate objects have intrinsic meaning? Surely (I remember reading that when someone uses this word they are buttressing a week argument but anyway…) it’s obvious (Oh dear another word used instead of an argument) that we can’t make up meaning (Ok – let me try to argue for it…I can not make up meaning as that is patently false, ie at least one of the following is wrong :”the meaning for my existence is to do good”, and “the meaning for my existence is to do evil”.  They can’t both be true in any objective sense, even at different times. Yet, at different times, someone could hold those views. This shows that meaning cannot be made simply by making it up. Plus, meaning comes from outside a system. Something that gives things in the system meaning. God is such a being outside of time and space who gives meaning to things.  What’s more he is not making up meaning. Meaning comes from who he eternally is. It’s not as if he decides one day that the meaning of life is X and then the next it’s Y. When he created something out of nothing, it’s meaning was in his reasons for creating it. In this sense meaning is write-once. It’s burnt in at creation. It’s not something he or us can re-write whenever we want. )

Anyway, back to the talk – Mathematical descriptions of the universe cannot bring a universe into existence

There cannot be an infinite regress of objects or beings that are the reason for subsequent objects.

To me at least, the Christian word view seems the best fit. It accounts, in the best way,  for the available data, for the good we see, for the evil we see, for the sense of  meaning and purpose we seek, for the mediocrity we feel, the existence of the universe and us. For the specialness of the universe and the random chaotic nature of it. God created perfect, it out of nothing, it fell, and he will bring it to a glorious perfection (in his son Jesus).

The Magic of Libertarianism

Pen, the larger and louder half of magicians Pen and Teller, speaks about why he is a libertarian:

Libertarianism is the view that freedom should be maximised. Or, in softer form as Pen says:

“at least consider [the possibility that] more freedom [will solve the problem]”

He is happy to passionately tell the truth as he sees it, but not to the extent that the goal is to convince the other person to your way of thinking. He wants to, at least in theory, hold open the possibility that he is wrong. He is happy being preached to, I guess because he wants to know if there is anything he has missed or is wrong about, but not preaching to others.

But what if you know you are right about something? For example “taking that pill will kill you so don’t do it”. Presumably love for someone means that there are situations where you desperately want to change their mind about something. That is precisely the goal.

Jesus was a Libertarian. He came so that we could be free. I was with an elderly lady recently and on the wall was this:

“If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed”. John 8:36

Jesus came to set us free in a very deep way. Not just free to do what we want unconstrained by external restraints, but free at the level of our wills and desires. You see, our wills are enslaved to sin. We desire to reject God, the source of life and goodness and joy and healing. In a sense we freely choose anything else over God, but in another sense our wills are enslaved to sin and we make self destructive choices. They may make life easier in the short term but long term, especially in view of eternity, they are deadly. Through his death and resurrection Jesus made it possible for us to freely choose him once again. Like the old hymn goes, when we hear the gospel chains (of the will) fall off, our heart is set free to desire what is good, and we rise, go forth and follow him. The gospel is the means by which we are set free and as we hear it it’s not just our minds that are changed, it’s our desires. We are being set free to love God with 0ur whole heart and mind and soul and love others as ourselves.