Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Sufficiency of Minimalism

Would you  be satisfied with a nearly deistic God? That's not saying He is, but considering how you'd react to a very minimally involved deity is an important thought exercise that can help you evaluate and strengthen your faith.

The Sufficiency of Minimalism

                What if God doesn’t intervene in earthly affairs? What if, after the conclusion of Acts, God neither acts through human nor supernatural agents of change, instead letting everything proceed according to physical laws and human decisions alone? What if every change in a person’s mind, from contrition to conversion to sanctification, is not the result of an active alteration of their mental substrate by the Holy Spirit, but merely a deterministic inevitability resulting from contemplating the truths of the Scriptures? What if God’s irresistible grace, as well as His sanctification, was accomplished not by an act of His in the present, but an act of His in the deep past, which continually effects salvation throughout all time, so that He is still the author of it all, despite no supernatural behavior on the individual or subatomic level?

                Would you still attribute every good thing to God? Would you still give Him the credit? Give Him the glory? Or would it cheapen your understanding of His goodness? Is your faith dependent on a belief in God supernaturally intervening to manipulate world events, subliminally, all of the time and everywhere? As if, perhaps, this is the only way that you can conceptualize Him being in control of everything, or deserving credit for the outcome? If your idea that God plays ‘cellular train conductor’ in people’s brains, or ‘atomic pool shark’ in the particles of earth and sky and sea, were challenged or undermined, would your faith fall apart? This is worth seriously considering.

                I’ll confess: my conception of God’s involvement does include the idea that He bumps this atom here, increasesthat action potential there, annihilates this positron here, raises the thermal energy of that molecule, breaks that peptide bond, induces magnetism in some metal somewhere, alters the velocity of some photon, pulls, shifts, breaks, combines, removes, replaces, diverts, and orchestrates an endless undetectable masterpiece of butterfly effects all over the world to minutely influence world events and accomplish personal and national histories without transgressing the boundary of personal autonomy that He intentionally limits Himself not to.

                But suppose this notion is incorrect? What if He doesn’t make a billion tiny interventions every second? What if He makes none? Or one every year, utilizing much more extended butterfly effects? Does my belief in God’s sovereignty and intimate care for human lives and world events rise and fall with this romantic view of Him as a maestro? No, it does not, and should not. It is my own idea, based on what I know about God’s power and wisdom, but my own idea, nonetheless. Him sovereignly ordaining everything that occurs does not need to mean that he flips a switch every time something happens. He could have planned it out a thousand years earlier, and being infinitely intelligent, perfectly predicted everything that would happen over that time period that led up to that moment. Or, He could have intervened the Planck-second immediately preceding. Whichever is the case, it changes nothing about the fact that it is entirely within His power to do either.

                In the interest of developing a satisfied faith in God, I’ve contemplated ideas like this from time to time, and considered that though God is probably very active—and must, on some level, be, because of His promise of the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers—I should be able to find contentment with the possibility that He’s minimally involved in human affairs, and much more is due to chance and human agency than even I believe.

                When it comes to the bedrock of my faith, I know from the witness of history that He really did come in our likeness to die for our sins in our stead, so that justice could be served and I can be free from His wrath and reconciled to Him as a forgiven, redeemed and beloved son. That is ALL that is necessary to come to an unshakable faith in Him. Everything else is a splendid, wonderful continuation of His grace toward us, sanctifying us from now until the day of His return. But even without this, I have everything I need in order to be accountable to Him, to believe in Him, and to trustingly persevere to be obedient from this point on until the future consummation, even if, hypothetically, my faith received no further encouragement whatsoever, and life was one big struggle to resist despair from constant flaming arrows and assorted spiritual anguish.

                This is being content with as little as possible. When you are content with the least, you will be ever more grateful, the more you receive. The sufficiency of minimalism is not something that should characterize your faith—as resisting more than the essential doctrines of Christianity—but is something that should support your faith, being something in the back of your mind that tells you that no matter how your faith might be shaken as you go along, no matter how much it may be attacked, and how strong the temptation to despair, you know with full confidence that the core of your belief is stronger still, and no matter how wrong everything else you believe may be, no matter how effective the attempts to destroy your faith, nothing will ever be able to change the root facts of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Death Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and on this hinges everything else, so hold on to it no matter what!

                The most minimal truth is the most sufficient. Contentedness with this leads to a lifetime of confidence and overflowing gratefulness at whatever more you receive from God than this knowledge, to strengthen your faith. And when we’re in eternity, and God reveals to us just what the extent of His interaction with physical reality was, we’ll have an endless number of reasons to be awed, thankful and filled with an attitude of worship toward Him for everything He did that we never knew while we walked in the valley.

~ Rak Chazak 

Further reading (very interesting): The Expansion of Space--A Dark Science. Keeping in mind the link above to electron-positron (anti-electron) annihilation, these two excerpts stood out: 
Vacuum energy comes from the spontaneous emission of virtual particle/anti-particle pairs that appear momentarily from small quanta of energy from the vacuum, sort of a quantum foamy stuff, and then these particle pairs self-annihilate releasing the same quanta of energy back into the vacuum. Its energy density is non-zero, in fact, if you estimate it from electron/anti-electron pairs filling a volume on the scale of their Compton wavelength you get an energy density about 48 magnitudes higher than the estimated average mass density of the universe. From this it follows that the matter content of the universe is only a tiny fraction of the total energy, when compared to the vacuum energy. The particular choice of the wavelength one uses for the cut-off energy in the calculation of its energy density has led to a figure as high as 10,120 times the average mass density of the universe.
The quantum vacuum impedes the progress of photons through space to the speed, c, and hence it introduces the first “clock” and the forward arrow of time. Empty space would have meant unimpeded photons with infinite speed.
This last sentence is intriguing because of its relevance to Dr. Jason Lisle's Anisotropic Synchrony Convention, a model he lays out where the one-way speed of light is postulated to be infinite, in order to explain why we can observe distant starlight in a young universe. This might be worth devoting a whole article to, itself, some time. 

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