Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
As well as giving the talk I have been asked to prepare a white paper (due this friday), Is emergence the nature of physical reality? Consequently, I am wrestling with a chapter The Nature of Physical Reality, from Polkinhorne's 1991 book, Reason and Reality: The Relationship between Science and Theology, which was reprinted in the journal Zygon. Here are a few extracts I am trying to digest.
Abstract. This account of the dynamical theory of chaos leads to a metaphysical picture of a world with an open future, in which the laws of physics are emergent-downward approximations to a more subtle and supple reality and in which there is downward causation through information input as well as upward causation through energy input. Such a metaphysical picture can accommodate both human and divine agency.
Subatomic particles are not only not “more real” than a bacterial cell, they also have no greater privileged share in determining the nature of reality.
.... If apparently open behavior is associated with underlying apparently deterministic equations, which is to be taken to have the greater ontological seriousness—the behavior or the equations? Which is the approximation and which is the reality?
....epistemology and ontology are intimately connected. One can see how natural this view is for a scientist by considering the early history of quantum theory. Heisenberg’s famous discussion of thought experiments, such as the gamma-ray microscope, dealt with what can be measured. It was an epistemological analysis. Yet for the majority of physicists it led to ontological conclusions. They interpret the uncertainty principle as not being merely a principle of ignorance (as Bohm, for example, would interpret it) but as a principle of genuine indeterminacy. In an analogous way, it seems to me to be a coherent possibility to interpret the undoubted unpredictability of so much of physical process as indicating that process to be ontologically open.....
d’Espagnat [who discussed the philosophical implications of quantum theory] does not go all the way with Kant. He insists that independent reality is veiled rather than inaccessible; it is elusive rather than absolutely unknowable.
I am driven to greater metaphysical boldness .... I believe that his cautious invocation of veiledness is, at the least, not inconsistent with the kind of openness about the nature of reality that I am trying to explore.
.... such a world of intertwined order and novelty is just that which might be expected as the creation of a God both faithful and loving, who will endow God’s world with the twin gifts of reliability and freedom....
The correct lower-level description can only provide an envelope of possibility within which top-down causation will find its scope for realization.
..... God’s interaction with God’s own world can be expected to respect its freedom (including our own). God’s acts will be veiled within the unpredictability of complex process. They may be discernible by faith, but they will not be demonstrable by experiment.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
“If theology allows itself to be called .... a “science”, in so doing it declares:
1. that like all other so-called sciences it is a human concern with a definite object of knowledge,
2. that like all others it treads a definite and self-consistent path of knowledge, and
3. that like all others it must give an account of this path to itself and to all others who are capable of concern for this object and therefore of treading this path….
to the discharge of its own task it must absolutely subordinate and if necessary sacrifice all concern for what is called science elsewhere. The existence of other sciences, and the praiseworthy fidelity with which many of them at least pursue their own axioms and methods, can and must remind it that it must pursue its own task in due order and with the same fidelity”
Church Dogmatics 1.1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.7-8.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
1Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, "Come!" 2And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" 4And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
The world is a very violent place. Surely this is an undeniable reality. But, we seem to be often surprised and shocked by this. This should bring us back to Genesis 4, where Cain murders Abel and Lamech describes his bloodthirsty lust for vengeance:
23Lamech said to his wives:
"Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold."
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Revelation 7:14
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." 4And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,........9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The leading theologian of the early Christian church, Augustine of Hippo, argued against taking the Six-Day account of the creation literally (in our sense of that term) and proposed instead that the Creator implanted the seeds of all the living kinds in the original creation, each to mature when conditions were right. Aquinas later regarded this as a viable interpretation. Perhaps it was the turn to biblical literalism in the sixteenth century and the reliance on the literal Six-Day account in the natural theology of the seventeenth century that sent this alternative reading of Genesis into decline. In any event, it seems to have been almost forgotten, only to be recalled soon after the appearance of The Origin of Species, when its obvious consonance with the Darwinian account was noted by several Catholic writers, among them St. George Mivart. In the years that followed it was emphasized by a sequence of Catholic writers reflecting on the significance of the theory of evolution for the Christian view of creation. It was rarely noted outside the Catholic tradition and, quite surprisingly, has played hardly any role in the evolution/creation debates of recent years.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
At a time when many Christians were possibly quite literally running them for their lives he does not detain them with a closely argued theological treatise. Rather he draws from the familiar and fertile imagery of Jewish apocalyptic in order to paint vivid word pictures of the reality of the Kingdom of God. They are images that will stick in the mind and aid the recall of the basic truths of the Gospel.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
In what ways is a technology good or bad from a Christian perspective?How should we approach the development of technology?
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.1 Timothy 6:10
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I read Graeme Goldsworthy's first chapter in The Gospel and Revelation. He explains the nature of Jewish apocalyptic literature. Common features include writing the secrets of a revelation (apocalpyse) from God onto a scroll which is sealed until the time for it to be revealed. He then points out how this plays out in Revelation 7 (see below): it is expected the mighty Lion of Judah will open the seal. But, instead the slain Lamb does! This illustrates the central paradox of the Gospel: the victory of God was not won by power but by the humiliation of his own Son.
2And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
6And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying,
"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
The painting is Saint John of Pathmos by the Limburg brothers.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
I am back in Brisbane and at church we are working through the book of Revelation and so I am re-reading Graeme Goldsworthy's book The Gospel in Revelation: Gospel in Apocalypse. My previous post recommending this book generated some great discussion. Here I just list a few of the theses that Goldsworthy ends his chapters with:
The Lion-Lamb tension shows that the Gospel is the only key to the understanding of the book of Revelation.
The theme of the Lion and the Lamb points to the paradox of the normal suffering of Christians and the Victory of Christ
The doctrine of justification is basic to Revelation and woven throughout the book.The Old Testament perspective of the day of the Lord, which is contained in God's apocalyptic visions, is modified by the Gospel. The linear succession of the ages becomes the overlap of the ages between the first and second comings of Christ.I find the first two theses particularly helpful. The last one I am still to get my brain around.The painting is Michelangelo's The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
In the death of Jesus Christ the old has passed, but only in such a way that He Himself and His death and the whole witness of the Old Testament concerning Himself and His death are not just past but are still present and future. And in the resurrection of the same Jesus Christ something new has appeared, but in such a way that He Himself and His resurrection and the whole witness of the New Testament concerning Himself as the Resurrected are not only future but are also present and past.He does not extinguish time; He is "the first and the last and (so) he that liveth" ( Rev. 117). He normalises time. He heals its wounds. He fulfils and makes it real. And so He returns it to us in order that we might have it again as "our time," the time of the grace addressed to us, even when we had lost it as "our" time, the time of the sin committed by us. He thus invites us in faith in Him to become contemporaries of genuine time, so that in Him and by Him we, too, have real time. Really to have time is to live in Him and with Him, in virtue of His death and resurrection in the present which is the turning point in which the sin and servitude and condemnation and death of man (and with it also "our" lost time) lie behind us as the past...Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.1 Doctrine of Creation, p. 74
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The auto industry lives. Can we admit that government intervention worked?
by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.
Monday, August 2, 2010
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
to the embellished paraphrase of The Message:
4-5 The hangman's noose was tight at my throat;
devil waters rushed over me.
Hell's ropes cinched me tight;
death traps barred every exit.
6 A hostile world! I call to God,
I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
my cry brings me right into his presence—
a private audience!
I am not a big fan of The Message (my wife is). But, I think it is sometimes good to be jolted out of familiarity with the text.
Genesis and Revelation are the book ends of the library of the Bible. They can also be the most problematic in interpretation. Yet they can be used to understand each other. Several years ago I gave a sermon at church on Genesis 2 and I found it helpful to connect it to Revelation.
It is interesting to read Karl Barth's exegesis of Genesis 1:16-19:
16And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
It is not about astronomy or photons or twenty-four hour days or atomic clocks. Rather it is about the theological significance of time, history, and judgement. After discussing Job cursing the day of his birth, Barth concludes:
Job's wish that the day of his birth might never have been is equivalent to the wish that the light of the heavenly bodies might never have shone upon it. It is when there is no light of the heavenly bodies that there is no day, time or history. This then is the actual content of the threat of judgment but also of the corresponding promise of Is. 60 and Rev. 20-21. The wisdom and patience of God which has founded human history has a definite goal, and the finite time granted to man in relation to this history has actually an end.
As the death of Jesus is the goal of that history, it is also the end of time. As all prophecies point to Him, they necessarily speak of the last time this side of His resurrection and return, of the end of time this side of the dawn of the new creation. And they do so by uttering their terrifying warnings but also their friendly promises, not about the end and dissolution of the constellations, but about the end and dissolution of their shining and therefore of their ministry. This ministry of theirs reaches its boundary with the personal entry of God on behalf of His creation, with His own shining as the eternal light, with the resurrection and return of Jesus. Thus the meaning of the work of the fourth day, the meaning of the fact that God found it good (v. 18b), emerges clearly ..... For here again, but this time subjectively, we have to do with the material point at issue- the creation of day, time and history.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.1, Doctrine of Creation, p. 167-8.