Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We Can't Reach God, but God Can Reach Us

I just had the image of man as a kind of whirlpool produced by currents emanating from heaven and earth -- horizontal and vertical, celestial and terrestrial -- circling around a personal center. 

It's not that farfetched if you think about it; indeed, it is even a little near-fetched, since -- according the theories of Ilya Prigogine -- any biological system is a dissipative structure that exchanges matter, energy, or information with the environment.

If we could cleanse our windows of perception -- or at least take enough LSD -- then living things might appear as fantastically whirling process structures, or dynamic tornadoes of information. We're not in Kansas anymore! 

That image popped into my head upon reading this passage from Clarke regarding the soul, i.e., our mysteriously embodied spirit:

Unlike any animal or lower being on earth, it derives from the direct collaboration of both heaven and earth, so to speak. On the one hand, the human body results from the long slow evolution of life on our planet from the tiniest one-cell creature to the highest, most complex body that nature has so far been able to produce.  

But then evolution runs into a wall, which is revealed by the fact that Homo sapiens is genetically complete as long ago as 200,000 years, and yet, there is no evidence for the human soul until much later, around 70,000 years ago. Wha' happened? Or failed to happen?

In principle we can rule out any notion that material evolution can produce an immaterial soul. As mentioned a post or two back, there's not even a theory of how that theory could be possible. Perhaps, since material nature "can go no further," the Creator infuses 

a spiritual soul directly into this long-prepared living body, to take over and make its own, to live out its unique new mode of life as an embodied spirit -- a human person, a unique fusion of the two great domains of reality in our universe, the spiritual and the material -- "man the microcosm," a single being summing up all the levels of being in the universe itself, and so pointing to the unity of its Creator...

Hmm. I don't know. It still sounds a little ad hocky or God-of-the-gapsish to me. Can we do better? Or is it one of those things whereby if we were capable of comprehending it, it would be too simplistic to give rise to beings capable of comprehending it? In other words, above our praygrade, and that's all there is to it. 

As if God tells us: Best I can do is offer you a mythopoetic vision. Take it or leave it.

Perhaps our friend Nicolás has some ideas. Can't hurt to ask. Let's start with myth. What can you tell us, Nick?

The bridge between nature and man is not science, but myth.

Whoever does not believe in myths believes in fables.

Myths, like the aesthetic presentation, can be truths without being realities.

Every mythology is true in a certain way, whereas every philosophy is false in a certain way.
What about what we said above about man's ideas being too simplistic to give rise to man?

Happily, the world is inexplicable. (What kind of world would it be if it could be explained by man?)

Touché. More generally, man's intellectual systems can never climb over Gödel's wall:

“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism.

Therefore,

There are truths that can only be expressed in formulas that are evidently false.

In other words, we can know the truth even if we can never reduce it to a formula.

And there is no reason whatsoever to feel inferior to the scientist when discussing these lofty matters:

When it comes to knowledge of man, there is no Christian (provided he is not a progressive Christian) who anyone has anything to teach.

Besides, 

Man calls “absurd” what escapes his secret pretensions to omnipotence.

Now, I'm a pretty skeptical if not cynical if not totally disillusioned guy. Is that bad? No, not necessarily, for

There is some collusion between skepticism and faith: both undermine human presumptuousness.

Indeed, 

Two skeptics fit into every great Christian with space left over for Christianity.

We can try to account for the soul without revelation, but the bottom line is that

He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary.

Concur. You can't reduce it to science, for

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

This post didn't actually end, we just ran out of time.

17 comments:

John Venelt said...

Two skeptics fit into every great Christian with space left over for Christianity.

Indeed, but recall, even the apostles asked The Messiah to "increase our faith."

julie said...

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!; Amen.

In principle we can rule out any notion that material evolution can produce an immaterial soul.

Indeed, even if our bodies somehow became better or more perfect, how would it be possible to know truth better or more perfectly?

julie said...

When it comes to knowledge of man, there is no Christian (provided he is not a progressive Christian) who anyone has anything to teach.

Progressive Christians also can't be taught, but that has nothing to do with being Christian and everything to do with being progressive.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it sucks that Christianity begot science and then science forgot Christianity.

It's shame there isn't a branch of science that intentionally leaves open the Christian door, with all the mysteriousness that goes on out there. But then all the Buddhists, Hindus, and Zoroastrians would want to get involved.

Nicolás said...

The Church’s function is not to adapt Christianity to the world, nor even to adapt the world to Christianity; her function is to maintain a counterworld in the world.

John Venlet said...

Yeah, it sucks that Christianity begot science and then science forgot Christianity.

Too simplistic. It's not science that forgot Christianity, it is men that forgot Christianity. Your statement is akin to blaming capitalism for greed. It's always man where the blame should be leveled, not the systems which man has brought into use.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one... Who is telling the truth??

Trump, in a statement Tuesday morning, said that Bowers “told me that the election was rigged and that I won Arizona.”

Rusty Bowers conservative Republican Speaker of the House who voted for Trump twice: Thank you very much. It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor. I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their vision or convictions, but I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner, or a vengeful manner.
I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God's will, as I believe he led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach Him in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take.

Cousin Dupree said...

Tater?

Dan T said...

"Two skeptics fit into every great Christian with space left over for Christianity."

Love this one!

Anonymous said...

Too simplistic. It's not science that forgot Christianity, it is men that forgot Christianity. Your statement is akin to blaming capitalism for greed. It's always man where the blame should be leveled, not the systems which man has brought into use.

Yes, without men a gun is just a mechanism and a car just a machine.

So we revise:

"It sucks that Christians begot scientists and then scientists forgot Christianity. But not all scientists. So who are these scientists?"

I just saw Tucker Carlson decrying more power for corporate politicians and media, because it means less power for you. Ten years ago I saw Bill O’Reilly saying that more power for corporate politicians and media meant more power for you. Ten years before that I saw Hannity debating Colmes about how much power we should be giving to corporations and media.

If corporations, politics, and the media are just things, then why all the wide variety of opinions?

Nicolás said...

Agreement is eventually possible between intelligent men because intelligence is a conviction they share.

Anonymous said...

anon @6/22/2022 02:11:00 PM,

Politics is the art of men. Rusty Bowers, conservative Republican Speaker of the House who voted for Trump twice, is not going to be cancelled the way Liz Cheney will be. He's going to achieve this by loudly dissing Trump, then proudly proclaiming that he'll vote for him again because of everything he did for the country. Before that last bit where Trump turned screwy.

So is Rusty a staunch believer in mulligans? Or is he being as arty as Fox News has been for the last 20 years when describing how "men" should be dealing with corporations and media?

Nicolás said...

No one is important for long without becoming an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Or powerful. That's why I've said that greed is far more powerful than envy. Envy is easy to slap down with shame. Or reason. Or diversion. And envy usually subsides with acquisition.

But greed is like gravity. At modest levels it's by far the weakest of all the forces. At star ignition levels it asserts itself. At black holes it commands. At supermassive black hole levels gravity dominates everything around itself, and there's not a damned thing you can do about it.

Greed is why communism fails. Or any authoritarianism for that matter. And capitalism or democracy or republicanism too, if they're not properly maintained.

But this isn't about that. Is God greedy? Doubtful if that'd even be possible, since we're all a part of God. But our God is said to be a jealous god.

Petey said...

Disagree. Greed is why communism fails. But envy is why it -- and leftism in general -- exists, and will always exist.

Petey said...

To be perfectly accurate, communism fails because it -- like any form of socialism -- is impossible.

Anonymous said...

Disagree. Greed is why communism fails. But envy is why it -- and leftism in general -- exists, and will always exist.

One can also just as easily say that greed is why communism exists.

As for any form of socialism being impossible, there's all the mixed economy nations ranging from Norway to China to Japan to New Zealand which seem to be doing better than the USA in many aspects, which incidentally, itself also has "socialist" components. You'd need to explain this reasoning further.