Friday, 18 September 2009

Who Made God?

From Professor Edgar Andrews’ forthcoming book Who made God?:

It’s a question commonly posed by those who would banish the very ideas of God and "creation". Richard Dawkins asks it repeatedly, in various ways, in his best-selling book The God Delusion. The logic runs something like this.

If God exists, then presumably he created everything (why else would we need him?) But if God exists, who made him? And since no one can answer that question, it does nothing to solve the riddle of the universe to say "God made it". We simply push the mystery one step further back and that is a pointless exercise.

No one can doubt that atheists regard their "unanswerable question" — "Who made God?" — as a formidable weapon in their war against faith, but there is more to the question than meets the eye and it crops up in a surprising variety of philosophical contexts.

So let’s look briefly at three such contexts — the "we made God" hypothesis, the "improbability of God" calculation, and the "unanswerable question" dilemma.

... missing out discussion about the first two ...

The third context in which "Who made God?" appears is the most obvious one. The question is deemed unanswerable because the only realistic reply is "no-one made God". And if no-one made God, then he can’t be there, can he? After all, for every effect there must be a cause. An effect that has no cause must be imaginary.

Once again, in their enthusiasm to prove their point, the proponents of this argument entangle physics with metaphysics. Cause and effect do indeed reign supreme in the physical realm — both science and normal life would be impossible unless they did. But why should they operate in the same manner in a spiritual realm (if such exists)?

We have a choice. Firstly, we can assert a priori that there is no such thing as a spiritual realm — that nothing exists that is not physical and open to scientific investigation. On this basis we can proceed to claim, with some logical justification, that every possible effect must have a cause, because that is how the physical world works.

But what we cannot do is use this claim to disprove the existence of God on the grounds that he doesn’t have a cause! Why not? Because our argument would be completely circular. We begin by assuming that no spiritual realm exists and conclude by "proving" our initial assumption. Big deal.

So let’s try to find a different route through the maze, this time without cheating. To avoid assuming at the outset what we want to prove, we must start by allowing that there might indeed be a spiritual realm.

Because cause and effect is only proven for the physical world, we can no longer insist that they are relevant to the origin of a spiritual entity like God. Therefore God doesn’t have to have a cause — he can be the ultimate uncaused cause, a being whom no-one made.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Don't Worry 13 - Get Your Thinking Straight (C)

13. Get your thinking straight: See the problem in perspective and be realistic

What’s the worst that can happen? And what is really likely to happen? I once prepared a Bible study about worrying — and then caught myself worrying about how it would be received! Whether it would be really boring and unhelpful for those attending, whether it would be too short or too long, and so on. Forcing myself to think realistically I realised that it would probably be at least of some use to them, because considering these things had helped me. It might be a bit boring, but I felt sure they could live with that! It didn't really matter how long it was. And even if I should completely dry up, or they found it too obvious or even completely wrong — I knew that they would be kind and supportive because we were brothers and sisters in Christ.

Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face. (Nelson DeMille)

I think Jacob fell into the trap of getting things out of perspective and losing a sense of reality, when he returned to meet Esau after 15 years or more with Laban. Perhaps there was some excuse for him because the last he’d heard from Esau were words of hate. Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Genesis 27:41)  But Jacob had God’s promise: Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." (Genesis 31:3)

We read in Genesis 32:7-8, In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape." At least he then prayed — but remember then how he sent his family and gifts of animals ahead of him to pacify Esau.

In the end, though, all his fears were unfounded. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. (Genesis 33:4)