Physically co-exist peacefully with mankind, philosophically exist on the road to truth, briefly exist on this cursed planet, but mostly: Forever-exist by placing your trust in Jesus Christ.
Are miracles arbitrary?
Imagine with me an ordinary guy named Bob. Nothing too exceptional ever happens to Bob, so far. Bob considers himself a bit unique as he is the proud owner of a MacBook. Yes, it was more expensive, but personally, Bob finds Mac more desirable than Windows. Then one day everything changed for ordinary Bob. It began on a Monday in August. Bob met what he assumed to be a Steve Jobs look-a-like. At his doorstep. First of all, it would be flattering but highly unlikely that Steve Jobs would drop by average Bob’s house. Secondly, this was shortly after the terribly sad news of Job’s death. Certainly this could not be the real Steve Jobs. Surprisingly, the man introduced himself as “Steve Jobs” and “pleased to meet” one of his greatest fans.
“B-b-but you can’t be Steve Jobs. He’s-”
“My death was highly exaggerated. Mind if I see your MacBook?”
“Maybe… but why?”
“Aren’t you just a tad curious?”
“Okay, sure. Just don’t break it.”
The man grew a smile that was ready to erupt into laughter. He brought up screens Bob had never seen before, and he sped through programming lines like a serious hacker. Just about the time Bob was able to move his limp jaw to interrupt, the man sat back with his arms folded up behind his head. He pushed away from the table where the new MacBook sat. Well, it may as well be brand new, for the improved programming put into it. The welcome screen had realistic jets flying crisscross until their jet-lines spelled WELCOME BOB in Bob’s favorite color and Bob’s favorite font, jets being Bob’s second favorite thing (His first favorite was Apple products). And the startup sound, well, that would be Bob’s favorite song, Stayin’ Alive. The MacBook started up faster than ever, and every one of Bob’s programs ran better than ever. In fact, his jet-fighter game had more definition and unlocked extras.
After looking through everything on the MacBook, Bob was impressed to say the least.
“How?! How did you even know what I like?”
“Well, that part was easy. It’s found in your computer’s memory. Besides, you are one of my biggest fans. Remember when you signed up to give feedback? Well, you certainly had a great deal of input, and I took notice.”
So goes the story of average Bob and Steve Jobs. Were this to actually happen to a real-life Bob, he might just believe that he had truly met Steve Jobs. Let’s temporarily work with the assumption that Steve Jobs did make this special visit, and let’s agree with Bob that it’s a miracle. If nothing else, Bob’s visitor has given strong proof of his identity as Steve Jobs.
Now let’s ask ourselves how a God who created the universe might prove His existence. Could He work through miracles? Wouldn’t that mean breaking His own laws, the physical laws of nature? Well, isn’t that what Steve Jobs did in our story? Bob’s MacBook came pre-programmed with the rules coded by Apple. But in order for Mr. Jobs to prove himself, he overwrote some original lines of code and set new rules. How else would he have proven himself? Even if there were some other way, doesn’t Mr. Jobs have the right to choose a personal touch?
What about the arbitrary factor of miracles? Doesn’t that fly in the face of a God of laws? How can we even know His works if He might just suspend all His own laws and do whatever He wants? Again, let’s ask the same of our Steve Jobs. Imagine Steve tried to prove himself as the founder of Apple by making a rabbit appear out of a hat. Although that might impress Bob, it wouldn’t help answer his pressing question. The apparent miracle of spontaneous appearance has nothing to do with MacBooks. Breaking Bob’s reality – the reality that rabbits only appear from holes in the ground – is arbitrary. However, breaking Bob’s preset coding in his MacBook is very meaningful (the opposite of arbitrary.) So why can’t God suspend His laws of natural law to prove His existence, so long as He does so in a meaningful way? Perhaps we are the arrogant ones, when we suppose that God should be firmly restricted to the laws with which we humans are comfortably knowledgeable.
So what then would be the non-arbitrary miracle that God would perform? The answer depends on the expressed nature of God. Just like our Steve Jobs candidate, where he would have to live up to the reputation of the man behind Apple. Now the God of the Bible expresses His power in many ways. Nevertheless, we find His attention focused on a humbling place – human life. As the Psalmist said, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:4 NKJV
Since the God of the Bible is focused on human life, we would expect to find His miracles focused on human life. Of course, God doesn’t have to meet our expectations, but this expectation would make the most sense. When we read the New Testament, we are reading about “Immanuel” meaning “God with us”. Jesus, if He were living up to the claim of being God in the flesh, should be performing miracles that reflect the intentions of God. What we find is no doubt consistent with this assumption. The majority of Jesus’ miracles involve healing, returning life to human limbs, human sight, human flesh, and so on. And then we find Him building up to the crescendo of resurrecting the life of His friend Lazarus. It’s very interesting to note what Jesus says in anticipation of this miracle. He does not say,” Well, I just feel like doing a resurrection today”, nor does He say, “I happen to do resurrections as a side gig.” Instead He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:23, 25 NLT. So Jesus actually defines Himself to be the source of life, just as Steve Jobs would define himself to be the man behind Apple.
Furthermore, there are a few occasions in the New Testament where Jesus refused the requests of religious leaders and His own disciples. Apparently these flash-in-the-sky miracles didn’t fit a pattern, a directive that Jesus sought to accomplish.
I encourage you to also study and consider the Anthropic Principle. If the God of the Bible did create the Universe, we could reasonably conclude that He is the engineer behind the Anthropic Principle. Since the Anthropic Principle is focused on human life, this would coalesce with the God of the Bible, and thus with the “non-arbitrary” premise. We could say there is a higher law, and it is non-arbitrary.
God being the Creator of the Universe, has the right to intervene in any way He chooses. If you read the whole Bible, you’ll see He does take lordship of His broader domain. Between God, life, and the entire Universe, things can get complicated. Furthermore, God is interested in our whole being, our spiritual life. But when we see God intervening by restoring physical life, the message is loud and clear. When Bob asked who the stranger was, the stranger showed himself as the author of Apple. When we ask God who He is, He showed Himself as the author of life. Perhaps the best way to find clarity and meaning is to see the personal interaction going on here. God has knocked on the door of your heart. You may not be sure He’s a real God, or even living God (His death has been highly exaggerated), but you’ll never know unless you let Him in. He knows all the comfortable rules you’ve set for your own life, but He wants to restore your life for the better. The pressing question is not whether God can break His own rules, but whether you’ll surrender yours.
Please pin. If America is not a Christian nation…
The Anthropic Principle holds that fundamental constants of the universe are finely-tuned for living observers. It’s as if someone built a television, then built a recliner ten feet away from it with a remote control on the arm of that chair. Add your favorite snack and drink on a coffee table beside the chair, and the coincidence is uncanny. Such a setup was apparently designed for a human being to be able to watch television programming.* This principle presents a problem for atheists, since it supports the teleological argument, the notion of God’s design evident in the universe.
In order to counter this idea of a specially-designed privilege, some have proposed the idea of a multiverse. At first glance, the multiverse seems to solve the problem. We are not in a specially-designed universe that is arranged just for us. Rather, we happen to have evolved in one of the many variant universes, all with varying constants. Some universes are hostile to life, while others are inhabitable but not necessarily inhabited. We just got lucky.
The teleological argument goes away, and so does any hope of an intelligent designer. Or does it? Can you diminish the Anthropic Principle and faith at the same time? Consider the results of the multiverse.
Let’s start with an infinite multiverse – a set of infinite universes. We may have to tone it down. Why, you ask? Well, let’s just say that an infinite set of universes gives us unlimited possibilities. First of all, we don’t know what happens to the universes we can’t see. What happens to universes where the constants are different from ours? Some won’t even get started. Another complication is that probability is also out the window. If there’s the slightest chance that an event can happen, then it will. That’s what infinity does to the event with even the infinitesimally small probability.
Consider a universe where rabbits have evolved differently from rabbits in our universe (assuming macroevolution). These rabbits, much like our universe’s platypus, lay eggs. Unfortunately, these hopping mammals have a predator. A species of a horned, carnivorous horse could capture the slowest of egg-laying hares. In time, natural selection gives this unicorn wings, as it did for the bat in our universe. No rabbit could hear its predator’s approach. While the unicorn had evolved into an alicorn, new generations of rabbits grew faster. Alicorns shifted their sights on the delicious orbs, the immobile rabbits’ eggs. Again, egg-laying rabbits were on the endangered list. Fortunately, the straw covering the planet could be woven into baskets, becoming the protective mechanism that evolution offered rabbits for their eggs. There you have it- a planet torn between Easter bunnies and winged unicorns. As ridiculous as this may sound, remember that there is a slight probability of this happening, given enough universes and enough time. The more amazing revelation is that infinite universes demand that it will happen, if it has not already.** The smallest of probabilities are inevitable in an infinite set of universes.
Mathematicians have already considered some of the possibilities of an untamed number of universes. Another inevitability is that your doppelganger exists somewhere out in a parallel universe, living a life identical to yours, even reading this very article in English. So let’s consider another improbable event within this multiverse. Instead of an exact replica of a slice of our history, let’s allow variance to taint the story. Somewhere on a planet much like Earth, a man named Rertrand Bussell is bothered by his contemporaries’ ideas of theism. The main argument posed by theists in that universe is the overwhelming presence of teapot-shaped meteorites. Before the invention of the telescope, teapots were only known by human design. It wasn’t until after a telescope was able to zoom in on the asteroid belt within their own star system, that observers were able to spot the meteorites. One after another, after another, large and small, the meteorites were either shaped exactly like teapots or else were shaped like broken teapots. Observers found more and more teapots in every direction in space. Scientists and philosophers wondered whether there was some universal law that forced every meteorite into the same uncanny shape, or if God simply loved teapots. It could be probable if there was just one meteorite that slightly resembled a teapot, but for every meteorite to be in this shape was just too much of a coincidence. It was during this period of deep thought that Rertrand Bussell seized the moment. “Imagine there is an unseen universe, parallel to ours, with one exception. In that universe, there is not a single teapot in space.” His contemporaries scoffed at the idea. He smugly replied, “Then prove that this teapotless universe doesn’t exist. That’s the problem with your God. He’s not falsifiable, but that’s because you can’t see Him. Indeed, the existence of God is as ridiculous as the existence of a universe without teapots floating in space.”
That piece of alternate history makes Bertrand Russell’s argument a moot point. In an infinite multiverse, there’s an inevitable event of a universe filled with teapot-shaped meteorites. (So Rertrand Bussell’s argument, inevitable though it may be, is also a moot point.)
If you think these examples of alternate universes are ridiculous, there is still hope. Perhaps the multiverse is not infinite. Rather than there being infinite universes, suppose there are instead a large number of alternate universes. Considering this scenario, our seemingly designed universe is just one of many. However, we still wonder if there is a possibility of one of our ridiculous universes rearing their ugly heads. What is the probability of an alicorn-Easter bunny universe, and how small should our count be in order to exclude it? Just assume the probability is 1 out of 10 to power of 1000, or 1:10^1000, then we need to make sure our universe count is less than that, actually, much less than that. Even if we have 5 x 10^999 universes (1/2 of 10^1000), there is a 50% chance of the alicorn-Easter bunny universe arising. And then add to that every other ridiculous scenario, every childish imagination, and you’ve got to lower your count in order to extinguish every preposterous universe. But wait a minute – I thought we were doing all this in order to escape the idea of a God who fine-tunes our universe. Instead, we find ourselves fine-tuning a set of universes until it fits perfectly into our acceptable logic.
So, although the multiverse seems to offer an escape from design, it creates philosophical problems that challenge atheism itself. The atheist who believes in infinite universes cannot mock the theist for believing in something akin to Easter bunnies and alicorns. Besides the consideration of the inevitable probabilities, there is the glaring problem of unseen universes. Even with finite universes, there’s a very large amount of stuff we can’t see. So why is a belief in something invisible and larger than our universe different than a belief in God? It goes against the standard operating procedures of science.*** If you can’t observe it, how do you prove its existence? Through a long chain of mathematical logic, or through a long chain of philosophical logic, or through a combination of mental processes, you could come to one or the other conclusion. Remember how I asked if we could diminish the Anthropic Principle and faith at the same time? I would have to say the answer is no. You may exclude the Anthropic Principle by means of a multiverse, but you’re going to believe in something else – ridiculous or unseen.
*Actually, the armchair-television scenario is a huge understatement. There’s just not enough room in this blog to describe the providence portrayed in the Anthropic Principle.
**”If it has not already…” This phrase becomes meaningless unless the multiverse had atleast one origin. How do you consider history if there is no beginning? Perhaps every possibility has already happened!
***Many scientists exclude the proposal of controversial Intelligent Design for the same reasons many scientists also exclude the multiverse. Although math and thought experiments support these theories, human rules oppose any considerations.
For furher reading on the multiverse, including views for and against, visit http://www.space.com/31465-is-our-universe-just-one-of-many-in-a-multiverse.html
Ancient peoples and some Eastern cultures practice idol worship. But why carry around extra weight when you can enjoy the convenience of a modern-day idol? With a few simple tools, you can make your very own, free, weightless idol.
Ingredients & Tools
You will need an untamed imagination, a dull conscience, a bucket of moral relativism, and a heaping measure of fleshly emotions.
Start by testing your conscience. If it matters who God is, or whether there’s right and wrong, your conscience is too sharp. Flip through TV channels or scroll through sites until your conscience dulls. Now take a blob of wild ideas and chip away anything that offends you. Mold the blob until it feels comfortable in your grasp. Avoid giving it eyes to watch you or a mouth to speak conmands. Give your idol a full belly to hold your carnal passions. If your idol looks a lot like you, that’s perfectly fine. Make as many idols as you please, of every shape, carving a blissful smile on every blank face.
If, for whatever reason, your idol seems alive, you’ve made a dreadful mistake. If your idol speaks to you, becoming concerned about your carnality, or promising higher dreams; then you do not have an idol – you may just have a living God. This can have dangerous results. A flowing fire will burn away your fleshly desires. Your conscience will destroy your blob of wild imagination and replace it with a higher plan. Rather than you shaping your god, your living God will shape you.
Remember, you make an idol to conform to your image, but a living God makes you to conform to his image.
This recipe for a modern-day idol will suit many modern-day folks, but some will sense a deeper longing, as this writer has. Some will submit to the “danger” of a living God. They will lay down their lives, only to find it returned abundantly. But everyone must make their choice. God is dangerous to our comfortable way of life, but even more dangerous is willing ignorance of a living God.
First, I’d like to thank my many followers for supporting this blog; whether it’s a simple follow or like or prayer, it’s all added up. I’ve added a new page – Why Jesus? and included a feed from Ravi Zacharias on this site. Please check it out and feedback is welcome.
Check out this animation presentation of the God-Stone paradox. Make sure you get parts 1 and 2 (Wideo restricts free usage to 45 seconds.)
Read the full article here.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to find a good free/ affordable animation site. If you know of any, please share.
An infamous challenge to God’s omnipotence is the paradox:
Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?
If I (the theist) answer “yes” then I am admitting that God cannot do something – He cannot lift a specific rock. If I answer “no” then I am saying there is something God cannot do – or am I? Let’s take a close look at the “no” response:
God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.
To this, the atheist comes back with, “Then you admit there is something God cannot do!”
But is the second part of the statement really “something?” A simple lesson in grammar will show us otherwise. Consider the question:
You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?
How do you respond to this question? If you answer “No, I haven’t” I could say, “Oh, so you haven’t been reading none of the books.” If you answer “Yes,” I could say, “So I am right in assuming you have been reading books about cooking bugs.” In order to clear up the confusion, we need to first resolve the grammatical error – the double negative. There are two ways to fix a double negative: either get rid of one negative, or remove both.
You haven’t been reading
nobooks on how to cook bugs, right?
OR Case 2: remove both.
n’tbeen reading nobooks on how to cook bugs, right?
You have been reading books on how to cook bugs, right?
So case 2 makes a strong positive because “not no” book means definitely a book. If you say, “No, I haven’t,” then it is clear that you have not been reading books on how to cook bugs. If you answer “Yes, I have,” then it is clear that you have been reading books on how to cook bugs.
So, if I answer the God question with the response:
God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.
Then the two “not’s” cancel each other out in the case of a strong positive. Bad grammar is resolved by saying:
notcreate a rock so heavy that He can notlift it.
God can create any rock, regardless of its weight, that He can lift.
Another way to view this cancellation effect is through a thought experiment. Let’s place all the rocks that God can lift on the right side of our hypothetical space. On the left side is the set of all the rocks God cannot lift. We are assuming an omnipotent God. On the right side, we can place every rock in existence. We can also place every hypothetical rock, for instance, a rock that fills the entire universe. If God is omnipotent, He can lift it. On the left side of our thought experiment, how many rocks do we have? No rocks. Nothing. So when we make the statement,
God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.
Then “a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it” belongs on the left side, the set of rocks God cannot lift. That set is empty, nothingness. To rephrase:
God cannot create nothingness.
This really is a conclusive definition of a God who creates. It is a double negative that implies a strong positive.
The best response to the skeptic asking the God-stone paradox is to reply “Not no.” This prevents the questioner from running away with an assumption of the word “cannot” and from assuming that an empty set is “something.”
“Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?”
“Not no. God can not create no such thing.”
From that point, the theist catches the atheist in his quick-witted game, and the atheist cannot run with the “cannot.” Or to correct myself, the atheist can run with the “can.”
There are other things besides nothingness that God assigns a negative value, as in worthless by His standards. One of these qualities is lying. Since God places such high value on truth, a lie is of no value to Him. Therefore, God cannot lie. This is what I call positive omnipotence. Humans place a positive value on lying because of their finite perspective. We cannot see that a lie will hurt in the long run, usually by opening the door to more lying. The real test of God’s omnipotence is to measure the value of the “God cannot” statements. “God cannot do nothing” is obviously different from “God cannot do something.” We test by focusing on the second part of the statement and asking whether God would assign it a positive value. If God approves, it is “something” and God can do it. If God disapproves, as in lying or creating nothingness, it is out of character and therefore not possible for a positive omnipotent God.
From Jesus and DNA: The Unseen Enemy
This is a huge question that carries within it more than mere words, and so the answer doesn’t come packaged in mere words. I have often asked this question while in the midst of my greatest sufferings or when hearing of sufferings far beyond my own. Someday God will have the complete answer for me. For now, I will turn to Lee Strobel, who has done a great job tackling the subject. Please follow the link below.