God and the Universe: Before, After or With?

January 31, 2010    By: Blake @ 1:03 pm   Category: Theology

There are at least three different views that Mormons have of God’s relation to the universe and its physical laws. How we approach what is possible for God and how we go about determining responses to a number of issues depends on the prior view of God’s relation to the universe. The three primary views (there are others) of God’s relation the universe are these: (1) God ‘s creative will is logically and explanatorily prior to the universe or any other reality; (2) God is subsequent to the universe and arose to godhood within the confines of its laws and physical constraints; (3) God is with the universe and there is a co-dependence relation between them. Exactly what the co-dependence relation is between God and the universe in the third option is variously explained as God being the mind of the universe or the basis for order in the universe.

A great deal turns on which of these views is adopted. Those who argue what is possible for God based on the laws of physics assume the second view – god is a being who became God by following the physical and moral laws of the universe in which god exists. Such arguments make no sense if one assumes the view that God is prior to physical and moral laws. Such arguments have only limited application if one adopts the third view that God is with the universe.

The first option I believe is accepted by many Latter-day Saints rather naively. The problem is that it seems to require creation ex nihilo which is rejected by any sound view of Joseph Smith’s revelations and Nauvoo discourses. If God is the source of all laws physical and moral, then arguing that God cannot exceed the speed of light makes no sense. Arguing that the laws of entropy or gravity apply to God makes no sense. Of course one could still hold that God, in the human nature of one of the persons of the Trinity, voluntarily assumed a human form and physical body. Such a physical body would seem to be bound by laws of entropy and physics – except there is that slight problem of the body reorganizing itself and floating above the ground and passing through walls and that sort of stuff. Just how God could be equated with such an embodied person (or part of a person) is a big question. I think that this view is incoherent from the get go.

The view that God became divine only after an eternity of attempting to get it right entails that God is subject to physical and moral laws essential to become God. I suppose that God is something like a very adept scientist with lots of resources on this view. However, such a God is clearly at the mercy of natural laws. If it is physically impossible for death to be reversed, then it seems very difficult to explain how God could pull off anything like the resurrection on this view. If there is going to be a big crunch of the universe, God cannot deal with it because gravity is the ultimate law on such a view. One would hope that the big crunch comes much later rather than sooner on such a view. Further, God is stuck within whatever pocket universe we’re in. God is the God of merely the local pocket universe rather than the multi-verse – at least given any present plausible view of the multiverse. Further, if God has a body and is stuck to light speed, then he cannot really visit us very often from Kolob – certainly not within our lifetime.

The final view is that God is with the universe. This view requires something like process philosophy where God is the emergent concomitant of the universe – or perhaps the ideal pole of the physical reality of the universe. God is eternally divine and just as eternal as the universe itself (speaking in the sense of a universe that truly is all that there is). God is the co-source of natural laws on such a view. The natural laws are an expression of the order that God draws from the universe as he lures it with his love and persuasive power to bend to his will over eons of time. Given such a view, God’s power in the universe is concurrent power – the natural order expresses itself because God’s power urges it to do so (put crudely). God cannot have just any universe that he wants, but he can insure that the natural laws reflect his persuasive influence. The view that I have adopted differs from process thought in asserting that God can suspend the natural laws because they require his concurrence to manifest their inherent natural tendencies.

Because I adopt the third view, I don’t accept the arguments from physics that define what is possible for God – at least not at face value. God is not subject to the big crunch; but God cannot have just any universe with any natural laws that he wants either. He is limited by the inherent potentialities of the natural order on such a view. The universe reflects his persuasive love in its order; but it also reflects a natural tendency to disorder and chaos. I believe that the third view is much more adequate to the Mormon scriptures and requirements of faith. But of course it requires rejecting a certain reading of the King Follett Discourse as well. Happily, it’s a reading that I reject anyway.

137 Comments »

  1. Clarifying question: How does the God you describe deal with the Big Crunch?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  2. Jacob: He withdraws his concurring power so that wave-particles don’t merely follow their relativized course and persuades it to expand by using its inherent natural capacity. It requires a rather complex discussion of the nature of the general theory of relativity and the nature of natural laws given both GTR and STR. I discuss it at length in ch. 4 of my 1st vol.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  3. I agree with you that a lot turns on the position one takes on this subject. And I join you in preferring the “With” model. (Though I still have a great deal of difficulty wrapping my mind around process philosophy and thus I am not convinced the process thinkers must be right for the With model to work)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 31, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  4. Geoff: I’m tentative about how much of process thought it serves to imbibe in the discussion of the with-model as well. Pantheism would also be a with-model (as opposed to panentheism). The view of divine concurrence of power is the way I have expressed it that differs quite significantly in many respects from process thought.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  5. I tend to think of it as a combination of 2 and 3. A god may be able to transcend the universe into the multiverse at some point similarly to the way man transcends immortality from mortality.

    Comment by Steve G. — January 31, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  6. I don’t think “both” works here Steve G. I think Blake using the word universe in its traditional sense — all that exists.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 31, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  7. Blake: Pantheism would also be a with-model (as opposed to panentheism)

    I can certainly see pantheism working in the With model. Is there some reason panentheism wouldn’t work?

    Further, is there any reason why the “God as beginningless scientist” couldn’t work?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 31, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  8. Geoff: Panentheism does work as a model of God being just as eternal and necessary to (if emergent from or supervenient on) the material universe. I just think that process thought (panentheism) leaves God too weak to be the object of our work and faith.

    God as a beginningless scientist, if I grasp what you are getting at, is still at the mercy of the natural laws of the universe and can only manipulate what is available. The problem is that such a scientist doesn’t seem to insure anything like the kind of power or comprehensive access to the universe needed. He couldn’t communicate with vast portions of the universe at all — not merely not within billions of light years. He couldn’t stop fire from burning flesh or bring back persons from the dead. Further, the scientist him-her-self would seem to be an organized being in need of an organizer to be that kind of being. If the order of the universe depends on God, then the scientist ain’t God.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  9. So does the “with” idea deny then that the universe is governed by self-existent principles of cause and effect? What about those things which God cannot do without ceasing to be God. Most of your examples denying the second order of things seem to imply there is not a higher understanding of natural law which God could use to achieve those items but that it beyond our natural understanding.

    I tend to think the the universe, being everything, and thus full of an infinite amount of sentient beings, can not be in some sort of dualist relationship with God. While I can see that there is God, who as Abraham notes is “greater than they all”, and he is separate from everyone else, and I can understand how he is co-eternal with everyone else, but I do not see the universe as a living element outside of that, so thus it can only be acted upon by those sentient forces and otherwise is just matter, moving about as it is moved upon. To Say God is co-dependent with everything suggests to me this other has some sort of choice in the matter. It does not.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 31, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  10. I enjoyed reading this as my research is directly related to inflation and early universe physics in general.

    I am a firm believer that if God exists He would have to have learned to become such. Your #2. God being defined as someone who has mastered all the laws of the universe and knows how to use them at His disposal.

    That said, I think your arguments against #2 are based on really speculative statements. For example: “God is not subject to the big crunch”. I don’t think we know either way.

    “If it is physically impossible for death to be reversed” I’m not sure this actually violates any physical laws.

    Anyways, I enjoyed reading your post. I really did. I just think your statements against #2 are far too speculative.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — January 31, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  11. I also enjoyed here an overview of various LDS conceptions of God.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — January 31, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

  12. Matt: The notion that God concurs with inherent natural tendencies of eternal realities entails that there are inherent but not self-sufficient laws of cause and effect. The laws hold only if God concurs. However, there eternal laws in the sense that if God lends his concurrence, then God cannot determine which laws or natural tendencies arise since these are inherent in natural tendencies of eternal realities.

    Moreover, the view that I have suggested doesn’t entail any kind of dualism as if God is one kind of thing and we are another. Like God we are light and truth. Like God we are eternally with the universe. What is different is the scope of our influence, power and knowledge because we have not freely chosen to be in the relationship that gives rise to such scope of influence, power and knowledge. We could have been just as God in every respect; we just weren’t because we made different choices.

    Joseph: I don’t know if bringing people back from death is contrary to natural law either. I just cannot see any way that it could be done within natural law given the kinds of irreversible decay that a dead body undergoes — but maybe there is some way to reverse this natural process. It just doesn’t seem likely and we certainly don’t know of any such natural ways within natural law. What is absolutely clear is that God couldn’t communicate with us given the light years necessary for any 2-way responsiveness. Prayer would be out of the question.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  13. Blake (#2),

    It seems like you are framing the problem of the Big Crunch in such a way as to suggest that it would be a showstopper problem if the universe crunched down to a singularity. You seem to be ignoring the fact that this already happened a mere 14 billion years ago, just before the Big Bang. That seems to undercut your Big Crunch argument pretty definitely.

    As to your analysis of God as a scientist, I think you are not really taking that theory seriously. You think God necessarily couldn’t keep flesh from burning in fire if he is subsequent to the universe? C’mon, that’s something we can do given our current knowledge. It seems like your argument against God being subsequent to the universe is that a) there is something s/he couldn’t do that s/he needs to be able to do to be God and b) that s/he would be organized and in need of an organizer.

    As to a) I am still waiting for a good example of something God couldn’t do that s/he needs to be able to do. For b), I don’t see why we can so quickly discount self-organization.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  14. Jacob: Assuming that there was big crunch some time ago, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem if it did happen or if it could happen again. The scientist cannot survive it. I fail to see how it undercuts the argument at all. It is like arguing that if a catastrophe occurred in the past it doesn’t matter if it could occur again. The point is that such a view isn’t tenable given that such things are merely possible.

    You’re right, I don’t believe a mere advanced scientist can qualify as God. If we trivialize our theology that way, then it really is rather objectionable. So let’s get really, really basic. How could hear prayers if he has (is) a body and is located some several million light years away? Even if he were as near as Alpha Centauri, having causal influence every 4.3 light-years just doesn’t wok, does it? It takes 9.7 years for a response to prayer on such a view.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  15. Oh, and the skin isn’t really on fire, the gel is and it burns away from the skins as an evaporative. Care to step into an inferno of 1000 degree F. and see how you fare?

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  16. Blake: The Laws of the Universe are not then co-eternal with God in your view, as they are subject to his concurrence. Is God subject then also to the concurrence of these laws? For the Law to be with God, it would need to be equal with God. I am accepting of the notion that the Law is equal with God and eternal, (which in your view puts me in #2) but I don’t really see any distinction between your with and the problems of God before the universe. You are still left with the problem of Evil where God concurs with all evil occurring in the universe. You are left with the problem of determinism, where individuals can only act freely when God concurs with their free action. I understand your desire for immanence, but It seems that your disbelief that a God within the universe could (and thus of the universe) could be immanent in spiritual instances such as prayer just seems to lack imagination.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 31, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  17. Matt: I have no idea what you mean when you say that God is “equal with laws.” To me that sounds like God somehow has the same status or is the same kind as natural law. God is a sentient being with a volition and will. Laws are not.

    The problem of evil is actually mitigated on the second view that God is after the universe because God has so little control over anything. That is also the primary problem with that view.

    However, God doesn’t cause evils on the view that God is with the universe. Concurrence is not the same as being an efficient cause. God merely grants his generals concurrence to the universe by which it can then exercise its natural tendencies and become organized. If God didn’t do this, we would have only chaos. So God’s choice is between chaos and an ordered universe in which laws of regularity obtain. However, such an organized universe is preferable because laws are necessary to our moral and spiritual growth toward Godhood. God doesn’t concur in any particular evil, he concurs in the natural tendencies of what I call “natural intelligences.” That is, God doesn’t cause evils, he sustains a natural order in which natural evils are a possibility because such an environment is also necessary to soul-building.

    In addition, I make a distinction between intelligences that act of a natural propensity (in a more or less deterministic fashion) and intelligences that are free to act for themselves out of their own self-determination (intelligences that are the essences of persons). Thus, there isn’t determinism in this respect. Persons are agent causes on my view.

    You really should read ch. 4 of the 1st vol. for a more complete exposition.

    Could you explain to me how it is possible that a scientist becomes “immanent” and thus present to all things even removed at billions of light years of distance given that: (1) the speed of light represents an upper limit; (2) the scientist has a physical body and physical location; and (3) the scientist is subject to the laws of the universe because he became immanent by obeying/following those laws? I’m open to any suggestion showing that such a view is even possible (let alone plausible).

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  18. So, everything that has ever happened has happened during the last 14 billion years? If not, there is no reason to suppose God needs to be able to stop the Big Crunch given that the Big Bang didn’t destroy him. Obviously this leads to something like a multi-verse, or some theory by which we can imagine God (and all resurrected beings) being independent of the universe as we know it. In the end, options 2 and 3 both have to assume that God can continue to exist even when the universe as we know it is crunched up in a singularity. I don’t see any reason to think option 3 has an advantage on this front.

    Any limitation on God is viewed by the people who don’t accept that limitation as a trivialization. I don’t agree with your characterization of option 2 as a trivialization, even if it turns out to be wrong it seems unobjectionable to me on that front.

    As to speed of light travel, you have a good point. This is a sticky issue that requires either a) greater than speed of light travel is not ultimately impossible, b) God can suspend the laws of the universe and do whatever he wants, or c) God empowers lots of helpers to carry out pretty much everything done in his name in far away places.

    The point about fire stunts was not to say that skin was in fire without burning, but that if Hollywood can make it look like a person is engulfed in flames without their skin actually burning then you can’t in good faith say it is beyond the capacity of God to accomplish the same feat just because he works within natural laws.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  19. Jacob: I think that you’re right that we are stuck with a view of a multi-verse or a view that allows God to avoid the singularity and collapse. I’m not sold that there was such a singularity — and much of recent astrophysics is aimed at avoiding what is obviously an absurd view of an infinitely dense point.

    I think that view 3 is much better at addressing how God can avoid the big crunch. We know nothing of any force that can trump gravity. If God is a scientist who happens to be really smart and has lots of resources, he still cannot avoid the effects of gravity using technology. On the other hand, a God who is with the universe has an immanence and presence and power inherent in the order of the universe that allows him to suspend the effects of gravity. He merely withdraws his concurrence.

    The problem of the speed of light seems quite intractable on the view that God is after the universe. He is stuck in a very limited locality with very limited ability to communicate — or even stop cosmic events it seems to me. If God is envisioned as physically localized on some planet other than our own, then I don’t see how God could possibly be anything like omnipresent or immanent in the universe if God is after the universe and has to rely on technology. It just seems to me that faith in such a being is misplaced — and for the very reasons stated in the Lectures on Faith.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  20. Blake: Who says God is billions of miles away? Have we been billions of miles away to even test such a possibility? Further, How can we ultimately prove the speed of light is an upper limit?

    We’ve broken sound barriers.

    As far as immanence, Bushman discusses this 2nd way as you call it, and discusses how Smith totally came down on the side of immanence. (This in his simple and handy very short introduction)

    I don’t think “God the scientist” is as weak as you make him out to be. I’ve discussed this before here.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 31, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

  21. Matt: You’re the one who said he became god by growing up to be god on some other planet. How close could another planet be.

    Who says light speed is an upper limit? Albert Einstein and every competent physicist in the world. I of course agree that it is logically possible that God could travel faster than light, but we’re talking about what is possible given the physical limitations inherent in naturals laws for a being that is after the universe and thus subject to its laws.

    Matt: I don’t think “God the scientist” is as weak as you make him out to be.

    You’re right, it is actually much worse than I make it out to be.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  22. Just to clear things up:

    1. There is no evidence there was a big crunch just before ~13.7 billion years ago. (See below.)
    2. There was no singularity for sure. (The singularity in GR only exists because it isn’t a proper quantum theory. You will not find me one legitimate cosmologist that believes there was actually a singularity.)

    So what happened just before 13.7 billion years ago? The correct answer is we don’t know. The well motivated answer given all we do know in science is that this universe inflated from some pre-existing material that probably came from a pre-existing universe.

    There is no direct proof of that either, but like I said, given all we know it appears to be the most likely. I blog on these very issues from time to time.

    Could there have been a big crunch? Yes but not only is there no evidence for it, it is hard to get working models that allow for it given everything else we understand. (The ekpyrotic universe is a good example. It has a big bounce, similar to te big crunch, but is extremely complicated and has troubles getting basic issues in cosmology right without ad hoc tinkering.)

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — January 31, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

  23. Joseph Smidt,

    I appreciate the correction, but doesn’t it become a moot point with respect to the current argument? I have noted in the past that we don’t really know what happened at the beginning of the Big Bang so all we have are the various theories about what might have come before, but even if we restrict ourselves to the universe just after the Big Bang it is clear that it wouldn’t jibe well with an corporeal God living in the universe at that time.

    My point is that the Gods in option 2 and 3 are both doomed during that time. Blake argues that the God of option 3 can prevent a Big Crunch by removing his concurrence, but this doesn’t help because

    1) the time moments after the Big Bang is a matter of history and he apparently made it through that (so there is obviously no need to prevent the Big Crunch)

    2) if he removed his concurrence to prevent the Big Crunch that would send the universe back into chaos, so the solution is no better than the problem.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

  24. Blake,

    I want to ask you about a different angle of what you’ve said here in #12, #17, and #19. You said that:

    if God lends his concurrence, then God cannot determine which laws or natural tendencies arise since these are inherent in natural tendencies of eternal realities.

    What is the basis for positing this restriction that God’s only options are chaos and eternal natural law which simply is what it is? Why is this any more plausible than saying God creates the natural laws? It seems like a fairly arbitrary and ad hoc restriction that God can’t control the natural laws since they simply exist eternally.

    Further, I am trying to figure out how God could use the power you’ve described. You said:

    a God who is with the universe has an immanence and presence and power inherent in the order of the universe that allows him to suspend the effects of gravity. He merely withdraws his concurrence.

    By your own description, the only choice is between chaos and eternal natural law obtaining (#17). So, when God “merely” withdraws his concurrence, the universe reverts to total chaos, right? I would think so from your first description, but not from your description of what God can do with this power of withdrawing his concurrence.

    It would seem you have in mind the idea that he can suspend the effects of gravity without the rest of the physical universe turning chaotic. Like a line item veto for physical law. How does that work? Further, your view requires that God removes this concurrence rather frequently in order to move around the universe at faster than speed-of-light speeds. However, we don’t see the law of gravity turning on and off. Is he able to turn off gravity’s effects locally so that only he is free to move about the universe? Maybe he does it really fast?

    Let’s assume he does it really fast. I’m trying to imagine how this works. He needs to go somewhere far away. He withdraws his concurrence and the universe reverts to chaos for a moment. While the universe is in chaos, he shoots from one side of the universe to the other since no laws apply, then he begins to concur again and everything pops back into place. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

  25. Jacob: Your argument doesn’t hold because the God who is with the universe is in the multi-verse, not our current pocket universe (or so I argue). See here: http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/TNMC05.html

    The solution to the problem –sending the universe into chaos — isn’t the same kind of problem. The big crunch kills God. End of story. In contrast, God can overcome the chaos again or allow only limited or local chaos. The story of the flood is basically the tale of God sending the universe back to chaos (that is indeed what the breakthrough of the flood water represented in Near Eastern cultures).

    Further I think that it does matter whether the universe began in a singularity (we have no idea if there was a preceding crunch). If the universe has not undergone the crunch, there is no reason to believe that God would allow it to revert to one ever. And Joseph Smidt is clearly correct — no physicists actually believe in the singularity. It is a mathematical place-holder for where our theories break down.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  26. Jacob J.

    What is the basis for positing this restriction that God’s only options are chaos and eternal natural law which simply is what it is? Why is this any more plausible than saying God creates the natural laws? It seems like a fairly arbitrary and ad hoc restriction that God can’t control the natural laws since they simply exist eternally.

    I explain in my book that if we begin with eternal realities that have eternal natural tendencies that are dependent on God’s concurrence, then these options logically follow. Either the natural tendencies are expressed and there is lawlike order to our world or there is no such lawlike expression and we have chaos.

    I can see no reason why God couldn’t withdraw concurrence from regions of a universe rather the the whole darn thing at once. Can you?

    jacob:

    Let’s assume he does it really fast. I’m trying to imagine how this works. He needs to go somewhere far away. He withdraws his concurrence and the universe reverts to chaos for a moment. While the universe is in chaos, he shoots from one side of the universe to the other since no laws apply, then he begins to concur again and everything pops back into place. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    No. God can determine whether the the laws apply to individual atoms, molecules and so forth. So he can control the expression of natural laws on a micro basis as I see it. God doesn’t have to shoot from anywhere to anywhere else. Further, of course you don’t see it. God is a lot trickier than that. He can momentarily cause the laws to not apply and have them take effect again.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  27. Blake #2 – Sorry to jump way back. If God withdraws his concurring power how can he communicate with them if they will then slip back into chaos.

    If he withdraws his power and then provides it again in a fashion that overrides, why would not the universe revert back to the place it was in before (i.e. moving toward the big crunch)?

    Further seeing that these are natural intelligences, is God comfortable with a form of coercion that he would not use with humans. I guess I see no logical reason why God would somehow be coercive to lower life-forms purely on the basis that they are not like him.

    #16 I agree that concurrence still leaves the problem of evil, but it must be posited in a different way. The problem becomes a utiliatarian one, is the amount of suffering justified for the outcome.

    Comment by Rico — February 1, 2010 @ 4:55 am

  28. I like this post a lot and view my perspective as a combination of 2 and 3.

    Yet, I think you strawman the views you do not hold a bit too much. The last sentance about view 2 about God travelling from Kolob seems a bit silly to me. There is no need to confine God to one particular location in space-time just because God has a physical presence. We have hundreds of temples in the world and consider the spirit of God to be in all of them and not just the SLC one. Thus, I view the presence of God as existing in multiple places (perhaps all?- which would be closer to view three) in the same sense that scrodingers cat could be said to have simultaneously existed or the way a subatomic partical can co-exist. Likewise, with our advancing knowledge of regenerative tissue and telomere DNA for instance… Is the concept of a natural resurrection really that hard to fathom.

    The multi-verse is interesting to speculate about. I always viewed it’s existence as a possible reconcillation of science and the king follet sermon in the sense that god could have been god of this universe for all eternity and yet also have once been like man.

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — February 1, 2010 @ 7:12 am

  29. I’m not so sure why there is much discussion about the Big Crunch. While it certainly is a God killer for view #2, but it is also not at all current cosmology. Gravity is not king of our universe by a long shot – dark energy dominates. Indeed, our universe is almost as bad for eternal life as we can think of (Fate of Life – Krauss and Starkmann).

    The speed of light is a very tricky subject. Our temporal phase of existence seems very much bound by an upper limit (which just happens to coincide with the speed of light in vacuum – no real fundamental reason for the two to be the same). But if we are willing to posit causal agents – things which defy Newton’s 1st Law, then we can certainly posit matter or phases of matter (e.g. celestialized matter) that obey a different speed limit. It’s still very tricky because then one has to formulate some form of allowable interaction between two object obeying different speed limits that doesn’t result in causal paradox for the slower stuff (us).

    Comment by A. Davis — February 1, 2010 @ 7:35 am

  30. Blake:

    You’re the one who said he became god by growing up to be god on some other planet.

    While I am not sure I said this, let’s assume I did.

    How close could another planet be.

    This by no means follows. I was born and grew up in Indiana. I now live in Texas.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 1, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  31. Perhaps God is within the universe, but an aspect of God (the priesthood, perhaps?) is either with or before the universe.

    This would allow God to grow up and be affected by physical laws, but not entirely within those laws.

    As for issues such as the limit of speed to the speed of light, we are speaking in terms of known physical laws. Yet, there are particles that have been shown to travel backwards in time (essentially faster than light), as well as experiments that show sister-particles being equally affected as they travel away from one another.

    While some consider these parlor tricks, it does suggest that there are higher physical laws that can trump GRT and SRT.

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 1, 2010 @ 9:37 am

  32. Rameumptom: Yet, there are particles that have been shown to travel backwards in time (essentially faster than light)…

    While there are theoretical concepts for such, no such particle has been observed.

    Rameumptom: …as well as experiments that show sister-particles being equally affected as they travel away from one another.

    There are indeed several experiments which violate either locality or counterfactual definiteness (CFD). Non-locality is inherently problematic with special relativity, but violation of CFD isn’t necessarily so. Personally, I prefer interpretations which violate locality but physics hasn’t determined which way to go yet.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 1, 2010 @ 10:01 am

  33. Blake: Another problem I have with this discussion is that you seem to be arguing that God with the universe is better than God in the Universe because God with is not beholden to the eternal laws of the Universe, however, there seem to be some very clear rules in your mind by which God is bound, and thus those rules simple become the eternal law of the universe which leaves “God with” in essentially the same state, it’s just that the eternal laws have changed. This view can ultimately be take by a person who goes with the “God in” approach just as well.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 1, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  34. The story of the flood is basically the tale of God sending the universe back to chaos (that is indeed what the breakthrough of the flood water represented in Near Eastern cultures).

    Either I’m misunderstanding this comment, or this is a wildly equivocal use of the word chaos. Previously you were using chaos to mean the disorganized state of eternally existing energy/matter when the laws of physics are not in force. The story of the flood is not remotely the story of God sending the universe back to a place where the laws of physics are not in force.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  35. A. Davis,

    I’m not so sure why there is much discussion about the Big Crunch.

    The reason is that it was raised as an example of the kinds of physical possibilities that God could have no control over as a being who came to power within the confines of physical laws. For the purpose of this discussion it is just an example and it doesn’t really matter if the Big Crunch is likely to happen based on today’s best cosmological models.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2010 @ 11:11 am

  36. Matt (#33), very good point.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2010 @ 11:11 am

  37. Jacob: I’m not stupid enough to equate an old testament story of the flood with modern cosmology. It is a story about God’s battle with chaos. It is not a story about the quantum vacuum that existed before the big bang. My point is simply that your suggested that the problem for my a view of God with the universe is that everything returns to chaos. I suggested that the scriptures in fact suggest such a mode of activity by God — the world is chaotic because God unleashes the chaos above the vault (firmament) of the world and opens the windows of heaven to flood the world, kill the evil and start all over again. Now does that sound like modern physics to you?

    Further, on my view God doesn’t have to throw the entire universe into chaos or even just let it continue into chaos if the laws of nature defined as inherent natural tendencies of wave-particles are momentarily suspended in a very local region. God has all kinds of options. He cold let it lapse for a few moments (if that will do the trick) and then reassert his concurrence before it is totally disabled and in total chaos. I admit that it makes the problem of evil more intractable than the view that God is just a really good scientist doing the best that he can.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2010 @ 11:37 am

  38. Matt: those rules simple become the eternal law of the universe which leaves “God with” in essentially the same state, it’s just that the eternal laws have changed.

    It is just false that a change in the eternal laws leaves God in the same state. The laws have no effect on the “with” view unless concurs. The laws override and bind god on the “after” view. The Big Crunch (at least the logical possibility) kills god on the after view. It doesn’t on the “with” view. God cannot communicate beyond a very localized region of space on the after view; God can communicate throughout the universe and be truly immanent on the with view. So your assertion that the “with” view collapses into the “after” view is false.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  39. Jacob J: The reason is that it was raised as an example of the kinds of physical possibilities that God could have no control over as a being who came to power within the confines of physical laws. For the purpose of this discussion it is just an example and it doesn’t really matter if the Big Crunch is likely to happen based on today’s best cosmological models.

    I’m all for thought experiments where appropriately used. If we posit a universe with Big Crunch and a God with properties incompatible with that universe we can conclude 1) that kind of God doesn’t exist or 2) that kind of universe doesn’t exist.

    Because it seems “that kind of universe doesn’t exist” the thought experiment offers up no relevant speculative footing about God’s properties. That is why I wonder why a Big Crunch universe is discussed at all.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 1, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  40. Blake: It seems that your response to my objection to your thesis is to simply restate your thesis. I am willing to believe you did not understand my objection, so I shall attempt to clarify. First however, I want you to clarify a bit for me. Am I correct in saying:

    Eternal Law is the set of rules which govern the Universe (cause and effect)

    God is the divine being or beings who are all loving and have maximal knowledge and ability

    The Universe is either everything or everything except God. Thus it it not a “pocket universe” and not a subset of a “multi-verse”

    The Question we are discussing is whether God has always been God or whether he came to be God.

    You argue if he came to be God, then he is weaker than the the law and thus unable to do anything worthwhile, whereas if he has always been God he can because the laws of the universe require that he concurs.

    Thus you are saying there is a law which says that the first law can not occur without God’s concurrence.

    Therefore, this second law is the true eternal Law, rather than the first law. It would be impossible for God to break this second law, as it would be absurd for this law requiring God to concur to also require the God concurs, as this would eventually create an infinite loop of concurrence sub-routines.

    Thus God is bound by the Second Law.

    Thus God can be after the Universe.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 1, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  41. Matt: First, eternal laws are not the set of rules which merely govern the universe tout court. They are the expressed natural tendencies of basic realities that cannot be expressed unless God concurs (at least on the model I’m dealing with).

    God is extremely equivocal. In this context, as I use it with the “with the universe” model, we can say that “God” is the conjointly shared power in unity of a number of persons who share maximal knowledge, power and presence. There are variations of what “God” means in the other two models. Franky, on the god is after the universe model and cannot see why it couldn’t just be a solitary individual who is very technologically adept.

    The question we are discussing is not whether God has always been God. It is God’s relationship with the universe.

    I argue that if God became God within an existing universe with already governing natural laws then it follows that: (1) God didn’t create and doesn’t control the applicability or expression of such laws; (2) he (or she) is subject to such laws because status as “god” is dependent on proper use of physical laws and compliance with whatever moral laws there are that are essential to the status as god.

    So I am not saying anything you say I am in the rest of your post.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  42. A. Davis: Because it seems “that kind of universe doesn’t exist” the thought experiment offers up no relevant speculative footing about God’s properties. That is why I wonder why a Big Crunch universe is discussed at all.

    I agree that the big crunch is not (currently) probable. However, the thought experiment about the big crunch is relevant because if it is even possible that God could be killed by physical forces, then God is not the kind of being discussed as the object of our ultimate trust and faith in the Lectures on Faith. Further, how do we know that our theories won’t change and make the big crunch viable? Further, just replace the big crunch with the big wimper and heat death of the universe and you get the same argument and same theological concern.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  43. The Big Crunch wouldn’t be anything normal physical force from a physics point of view. It is possible the cosmology views will change to a Big Crunch scenario… but I am quite skeptical. As you suggest, we can replace the problems with more contemporary views. An example would be those given by my link in post #29. But the arguments therein are somewhat heady and not approachable by many.

    So, why not go less cosmological – more straight to the point and imaginable? Instead of destroying the whole universe, let’s just destroy God’s physical body. What happens to the physical body of God if he were to go past the event horizon of a black hole? Or, in general, what happens to God if his physical body is subject to destruction?

    Can we even conceive of a body for God which is possible to be destroyed in any of the frameworks you propose above? If yes, what happens to God if such a destruction takes place? Would such a God be worthy of faith, trust, and worship?

    Comment by A. Davis — February 1, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  44. Is the ‘God worthy of worship’ issue something that must be dealt with if God is non-absolute in any way? It seems to me that it is. My current way of dealing with this is – where else am I going to go (He has the words of eternal life). What better options are there?

    Also, is it not possible that there are local gods who can represent God the Father in many prayer cases (as a possible explanation)?

    I guess at some level every view of God probably has a God as magician (or can go beyond our understanding of science). I am still a #2.

    But if God can suspend these laws, why not become omnitemporal? Where does this suspension end? Has it any boudaries of time/space? This seems like a method to further any view of God one cares to promote.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — February 1, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  45. Blake: He couldn’t communicate with vast portions of the universe at all — not merely not within billions of light years. He couldn’t stop fire from burning flesh or bring back persons from the dead

    This is an incredibly naive view of natural laws. Basically, you are making an unwarranted assumption that confuses ontology and epistemology. Or rather, you are assuming that what scientists suspect now is the same thing as the laws of nature as they really are.

    Who says light speed is an upper limit? Albert Einstein and every competent physicist in the world. I of course agree that it is logically possible that God could travel faster than light, but we’re talking about what is possible given the physical limitations inherent in naturals laws for a being that is after the universe and thus subject to its laws.

    Here you go again, making exactly the same mistake. Epistemological confusion aside, there is actually *far* better evidence that influences travel faster than the speed of light than there is for general relativity. Which do you think the computer (or whatever) you are typing on depends on? QM not GR.

    GR could be *radically* wrong in its basic assumptions about the way the universe really is, and *no one* would notice. If QM were wrong in its basic assumptions on the other hand, you would be a puddle on the floor, hardly sentient at all.

    Or to put it another way, GR is not adequately established by the evidence to rule out a number of viable alternatives. It still lies in the domain of the consensus “best guess” for cosmology. That doesn’t mean it is *better*, it just means that the alternatives have not been shown to have greater predictive power, so the consensus carries on by inertia.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 1, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  46. Mark: Your assertion that I confuse ontology and epistemology is way off. I’ve argued that GTR is simply the best theory we have and we are, after all, talking about whether we should give weight to arguments from physics. That GTR is just wrong as you suggest will be news to every competent physicist in the world.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  47. Much of this argument here depends on the idea that there might just possibly be some sort of threat from the laws of nature out there that condemn us to most unpleasant circumstances, at least temporarily.

    Suppose we consider the alternative, that God is absolutely omnipotent in every conceivable way. Then we immediately face the Euthyphro dilemma, i.e. does God command things because they are good, or are they good because they are commanded by God?

    Suppose God, for reasons known only to himself, decides that from henceforth the most supernal joy can only be experienced by adulterers, liars, and thieves. Is there anything that can stop him? On the contrary, per assumption he is absolutely omnipotent, and he therefore can grant not only the experience by the *reality* of supernal joy to anyone he feels like. He could well say that you have to be willing to be resurrected as a frog to inherit the kingdom, or murder ten of your friends and neighbors, and so on and so forth.

    Supposing then, that God made such a determination, would we have any basis to accuse him of inconstancy, infidelity, or untrustworthiness? On the contrary, per assumption he is the ultimate arbiter of what is good, and anything he does, including swapping good for evil is *by definition* the highest expression of goodness. Such a swap would be the highest expression of fidelity, loyalty, and friendship, simply because God so declared.

    That therefore is why it is necessary for God to either be strictly timeless or to be embedded in a reality with fundamental constraints he is unable to alter for him to be worthy of any trust at all.

    The third way, that God is to be trusted no matter what he does, is what I call “Stockholm Syndrome theology”. In other words, every thing that happens, good, bad, and ugly from the Holocaust to recent events in Haiti is an expression of his divine will (or non-will as the case may be) and we haven’t the slightest basis to complain.

    Whatever happens is good, because it happens. God didn’t prevent it from happening, did he? It was indeed according to his will and pleasure that 50,000 some odd people died in Haiti recently, was it not? He has absolute power and didn’t lift a finger to intervene, so it must be according to his divine will and pleasure that uncountable children suffocated and died under the rubble? Indeed, the earthquake was the greatest expression of divine righteousness imaginable, was it not? No doubt some mysterious purpose is served thereby.

    And if not, if God was just on vacation that day, who are we to judge. Whatever God does, or doesn’t do is right, just because he does or doesn’t do it. That is what a world without natural law and natural laws is like.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 1, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  48. Blake: The problem is you are giving all arguments from physics the same weight. That is about as valid as giving all speculations of historians the same weight. For some historical events and assertions there is incontrovertible evidence, for others, not so much. Same way with science.

    The must fundamental assumption of history is that the past actually happened. Know any historians who believe otherwise?

    The most fundamental assumption of science, on the other hand, is that there are natural laws. Know any scientists who believe otherwise?

    Likewise, the most fundamental assumption of morality is that the fundamentals of right and wrong do not change from day to day? Do you know any moralists who believe otherwise?

    And yet if God is absolutely omnipotent, all these beliefs are idle speculation, the expression of a frenzied mind. God after all can make the past cease to exist, or rewrite it at is leisure can he not? Make good evil, and evil good? Feed the poor, clothe the hungry, end suffering and misery without compromising the least one of his purposes? Will each and every one of us into his eternal kingdom tommorrow? Change our hearts, our desires, even our wills to match? Or maybe just grant us eternal joy without any such transformation?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 1, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  49. So by eternal law you don’t mean eternal law, but physical law as we currently understand it, and by God after the universe you mean a God restricted by those laws. In that context, sure.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 1, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  50. (I haven’t read the myriad of comments yet – so forgive me if I repeat someone else)

    It seems to me the most interesting model makes a distinction between God the community of gods and God the individual. So it could well be that god the Father we have to deal with wasn’t always god but that there always was a god and that thus God persists through time. This is the normal reading of the KFD. Of course it’s not the only view and, given the influx of Protestant and Catholic converts along with not emphasizing the KFD, there certainly are many who don’t even know of such views.

    I’m not saying such views are correct. And even within the view there are many variations. (So few of us here would accept Orson Pratt’s take on this for instance)

    Comment by Clark — February 1, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

  51. (OK, reading the comments)

    Mark D (#48) I think the debate is ultimately what the ultimate universal laws of the universe. Many assume that there is some “grand unified theory” that has physical laws that applies fully to the universe (meaning the term in the broadest sense and not just the present observable universe). However occasionalists will think that ultimately there is no ultimate law. I think both positions are found within Mormonism but that occasionalists are very much the minority.

    My own view tends to get confused by many. I think can’t really decide between all these positions. There’s simply insufficient evidence. So we ought think through the implications of all of them. I find occasionalism problematic for a variety of reasons. I think Blake’s discussion of the Euthyphro dilemma is one great criticism. But there are others. In my experience even those embracing occasionalism within Mormonism have a weak form of it and allow for some ultimate meta-bounds on God beyond mere logic.

    Blake (#8) I agree that the God of process theology is too weak to be interesting. I also think that from a Mormon point of view there are other problems (such as the nature of such a being’s embodiment) I’m not sure we ought assume panentheism is exhausted by how the process theologians have thought about it though. It’s precisely here that I find Pratt interesting, despite his many problems.

    I do agree though that the speed of light is an interesting issue. However if the speed of light depends upon the topology of the particular “universe” in question then this becomes less of an issue. The problem here is that this way out poses many problems for Libertarian Free Will as we’ve discussed may times. I think that a lot of Mormon thought will be lead to such a view. But of course the alternative is to simply assume that our physics isn’t just incomplete but wildly wrong.

    Blake (#12) There’s a famous quote by Gell-Mann which says concerning physical law, “that which is not forbidden is compulsory.” I think that, acknowledging fallibilism, we ought say that which is not forbidden by our understanding of physical law is most probably allowable. Given that I don’t see any particular problem with resurrection or the like. It’s just reassembling the functional structures of our body. It might be hard, but hardly inconceivable.

    So it’s hard to see decay as irreversible. All you need is to recreate a body functionally equivalent. If one thinks the body is made out of regular cells and so forth I don’t see the problem. (Heck, I even think we’ll be able to do it as a technological matter within a few centuries – although then the problem of the spirit/body connection will become an empirical matter)

    Joseph (#22) the theological problem of the big bang isn’t just the era where quantum effects dominate. There’s a large period after this where the universe is so compressed as to render life in any sense meaningless. The way out is suggested by multiverse models, even though they are going out of style in physics at the moment. But that’s primarily because they explain too much such that physics within M-theory can’t really say too much interesting. As I’ve said, I think that many of the various Mormon theologies will end up requiring a multiverse unless they just reject physicalism as an essential component of God through eternity or reject an infinite past. i.e. they move more towards a Thomist, Cartesian or Platonic model of spirit. In such a scheme the problem of the early universe simply doesn’t matter. If there has always been an embodied being then of course it does matter.

    Blake (#25), the problem is reconciling a multiverse with Libertarian Free Will. There are some ways such as suggesting an “absolute time.” (And of course as you’ve noted in the past some physics such as Bell tend to think the absolute background of QM will ultimately be correct – I think most think it impossible to really explain GR satisfactorily in such a scheme)

    I think the problem of time is a huge problem and not one adequately dealt with in Mormon theology. (It’s interesting since I think it is precisely over time where Mormons break with traditional Christian theology)

    Comment by Clark — February 1, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

  52. Epistemological confusion aside, there is actually *far* better evidence that influences travel faster than the speed of light than there is for general relativity. Which do you think the computer (or whatever) you are typing on depends on? QM not GR.

    Whoa! Holy invocation of hidden variables as the correct interpretation of Bell’s inequality, Batman!

    Let’s ease up there. In standard QM while phase velocity can exceed the speed of light, group velocity (i.e. information flow) can’t. And while hidden variables plus FTL travel (i.e. backwards causality) is one way to reconcile Bell’s inequality I think non-locality is the more interesting one.

    Comment by Clark — February 1, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

  53. I think Orson Pratt was essentially correct, except where he wandered into onto-theology, a concept for which I think he was rightly rebuked. The idea of the highest God as a collection of perfections is a two track model without a second track.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 1, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

  54. In standard QM while phase velocity can exceed the speed of light, group velocity (i.e. information flow) can’t

    Clark, I am not speaking of spatial flow of energy or information per se, but rather the non-local coupling of particles in the multi-particle form of Schroedinger’s equation, a non-local coupling which in any realistic interpretation of quantum mechanics implies actual communication at a distance, and which in non-realistic interpretations implies much the same, except without the added value of being able to (in principle) control the channel.

    Bell’s theorem says that “no physical theory of local hidden variables can reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.” GR is a physical theory of local hidden variables. It cannot reproduce the results of quantum mechanics – results that uniquely underlie our entire modern technological base – because it is fundamentally flawed, the modern equivalent of the theory Ptolemaic epicycles, an enormity of added complexity with no added value.

    It is a good thing too, because I don’t see how God could effectively govern the local cluster, let alone the universe at large if GR was the law of the land, to say nothing about the implications for causality and free will.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 1, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

  55. “by multiverse models, even though they are going out of style in physics at the moment.”

    Are you sure about this?

    I have not observed this to be the case. I was just at a physics conference full of cosmologists where they played a game asking: how many of you think dark energy is a cosmological constant? How many of you think…

    The majority of cosmologists at the conference believed we live in a multiverse. This does not make it true, but it does seem to run counter to the idea that the idea is falling out of style.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — February 1, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

  56. Right, I think I addressed both aspects. As you say there are big implications for free will.

    I think there’s big debate about which is more fundamental GR, QM or something else. I’m pretty skeptical about those who think QM trumps GR. (I just think background dependence problematic though – so I’ll admit my biases)

    Comment by Clark — February 1, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

  57. Bye the way, I shouldn’t label it as a game. People wanted to know where cosmologists as a whole stand on many speculative topics.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — February 1, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

  58. “I’m pretty skeptical about those who think QM trumps GR.”

    There’s no trumping. The issue is GR, being a classical theory contains singularities just as all other classical field theory like electrodynamics. Singularities represent points where the classical theory breaks down.

    But just like electrodynamics, once it is properly quantized the singularities, or places it breaks down, will go away and GR will be able to describe gravity at all energy/length scales.

    There’s no competing or trumping. GR just suffers from the same issues all other classical field theories suffer from.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — February 1, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

  59. By the way, I said singularities but the deeper issue is it’s non-renormalizability but that is way to much to go into.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — February 1, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

  60. Clark, (Sorry to take up space for personal reasons)

    We need you back making comments on my blog. I’m sure you have gone away because you disagree with us.

    But Clark, we really need someone to carry the loop quantum gravity flag. You do it better than any LDS person I know. :) (And I wouldn’t be posting this if I didn’t think you make a very valuable contribution over there.)

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — February 2, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  61. This interesting tangent aside, the question is: “Does the state of the current empirical evidence incontrovertibly rule out divine inspiration that operates either non-locally or at speeds much greater than the speed of light?”

    Blake’s position, as I understand it, is that divine concurrence is sufficient to suspend the law like tendencies of anything at any distance with no temporal restriction.

    My position, on the other hand, is that the laws of nature, as they are in actual fact, allows non-local divine influences such as inspiration to similarly operate at any distance with no temporal restriction.

    Superficially, these are identical positions. The only difference is that I claim that God does not need to violate any law or law-like tendency of nature to do this and Blake claims God does in actual fact violate the law-like tendencies of nature to do essentially anything.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 2, 2010 @ 8:23 am

  62. I haven’t had time to read all of the MANY comments yet so I won’t jump into this fascinating discussion right now. Just wanted to say this is a great post Blake. And I really enjoy reading this discussion. Keep it up.

    Comment by Todd — February 2, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  63. The issue of classical problems of continuity and singularities really isn’t the problem. Everyone agrees GR isn’t the theory of everything and that renormalization doesn’t solve everything. The bigger question is whether we can just throw out the topologically insights GR provides and replace it with a bizzare hypothetical graviton particle. I also think the issue of background independence is a huge issue especially with respect to time. And more QM approaches to that have been no more successful than renormalization was for singularities back in the 80s.

    But this is all a bit afield. Ultimately the theological issue is that the ontology of time will have huge ramifications.

    Comment by Clark — February 2, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  64. Mark there is a bigger difference. Nonlocality of the sort you provide plays havoc with the kinds of causality Blakes notion of free will demands. I think you’ll find that Blakes position on physicality ends up being thatcintuitions of freedom and responsibility trump science.

    Comment by Clark — February 2, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  65. Mark D.’s post #61 is correct. There are indeed laws of nature which are non-local (at least under certain interpretations – see post #32). But… and this a is a big but, all the currently known non-local interactions only accommodate a flow of information which cannot result in causal paradoxes. Once we allow the kind of flow of superluminal information such as a divine being would use, I can serve up for you a causal paradox, if I as a mortal being, am constrained by relativity.

    This conflict arises for both God-models.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 2, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  66. Brief note. I’m not advocating QM, GR, M-theory, or loop quantum gravity. I like Smolin’s approach purely on aesthetically ground and because I think Maxwell’s laws are a thing of sublime beauty. I think Smolin’s approach has that E&M beauty whereas to me what little I understand of string theory seems a mess. (supersymmetry on the other hand has it’s own internal beauty). Call me old fashion but I think when we discover the right answer to quantum gravity it’ll have an austere beauty like all basic discoveries in theoretical physics. The ugliness of the current situation is to me a sign we’re on the wrong track.

    As for QM and background dependence I think Smolin’s fantastic little paper on background independence is key there. Admittedly it is more philosophical but I think the basic insights are correct. (Which isn’t to say other avenues shouldn’t be considered as well – we should never put all our eggs in one basket)

    Comment by Clark — February 2, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  67. Mark, A Davis made the point I was going to way back in 32. You’re just making too many assumptions about how to interpret experiment here. Just for the record I personally favor the reading you are taking. But I recognize the problematic implications for free will. I also recognize that the physics is much more I’ll defined here than we’d like.

    Comment by Clark — February 2, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  68. Sorry for all the typos – I’m on my iPhone which also keeps being too helpful with guesses at times.

    Comment by Clark — February 2, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  69. Clark: It’s just good to have you back in the land of the living. I generally agree with your points here. The fact is that the physics is less than definite and it is almost certain, as Mark says, that we’ll see changes in the future in our most basic theories given the conflict between GTR and QT. We also have the problem of the small fact that scripture vastly underdetermines which position is warranted.

    I disagree with Mark that the only difference between us is that on his view god doesn’t violate natural laws and on my view he suspends them. As I see it, the problem of nonlocality and limited speed of light pose major problems. He is right (as is Clark) that the issue is a very large discussion of the natural of laws and what constitutes sufficient warrant given our present knowledge.

    Further, Jacob is also correct that the scriptural accounts really shouldn’t be read to address physics — in a way that is the entire point of mhy post. However, on my view God doesn’t “violate” or even “suspend” natural laws since God’s concurrence just is an essential part of the natural itself. Put another way, God is “with” natural law as an essential part of what natural laws function.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  70. Blake

    So according to option #3 which you presented, am I going to be able to physically hug my God (Most High) and thank Him for His relentless guiding love?

    Anyone,

    On a lighter note, how would a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” between Jesus and the Father work out?

    Comment by Riley — February 2, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  71. Also,

    I had read somewhere that physicists had successfully completed experiments where they sent two entangled photons through an fiber optic some 7 miles apart into a two way mirror where the photons would randomly bounce off. When one of the photons went through or bounced off, it’s twin did the exact same thing 7 miles away . They concluded that the two photons somehow communicated some 10,000 times faster than the speed of light. In fact it was almost instantaneously.

    Maybe the Crazy smart Scientist can tap into this near instantaneous communication thus providing Him with divine immanence where He can be in all things, through all things, and by all things… Just a thought.

    Comment by Riley — February 2, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  72. In the experiment above, it has already been proven that this kind of setup cannot be used as an ftl communication signal.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 2, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  73. Blake: As I see it, the problem of nonlocality and limited speed of light pose major problems

    Here you are using the proposition that GR is strictly correct (and that quantum mechanical realism is wrong) as an argument in favor of the proposition that GR is completely wrong. That doesn’t sound legitimate to me.

    You cannot use the argument that GR is a law in favor of the proposition that it isn’t.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 2, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

  74. In the experiment above, it has already been proven that this kind of setup cannot be used as an ftl communication signal.

    Proven? How so? Can anything in science, and more particularly a negative proposition be proven? We can demonstrate with high degree of confidence that energy is conserved. But how would we prove that there are no exceptions, not any time or anywhere?

    Unless Bohmian mechanics has been shown to be defective, or inconsistent with experimental results, it seems that (unlike a hypothetical violation of the conservation of energy) we have a live theory in favor of the real possibility of non-local FTL communication.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 2, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

  75. While reading the first chapter of the Book of Moses in the P of G P last Sunday with this blog in the back of my mind, an interesting possible subtext for the Lord’s remarks in verses 35 and 38 hit me. In those verses He mentions to Moses that worlds are continually passing away and that He is continually organizing new ones for the children of men.

    The thought hit me that the creation of new worlds is not just to provide testing grounds for spirits, but is in response to the fact of nature that habitable planets tend to remain habitable for only a few billions of years due to stellar burnout, explosions, crunches, etc.

    In other words, we are space gypsies, always on the move, never staying in one place for more than a few hundred billion years. God is always on the look out for chaotic matter that is amenable to organization, and the migrations of Jared and Lehi are just miniature types of the vast migrations of the children of God … migrations on a scale of space and time that makes our currently observable universe (COU) seem like a tiny bubble in a vast ocean of existence.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — February 2, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

  76. A thought on resurrection. Even in our limited science we can clone bodies. If we could control which spirit entered the cloned body, then we would have a form of resurrection. I’m not saying that is how God does it, I’m just saying that if we can do it, then He can do it better.

    Some people have reported that Joseph Smith said that our resurrected bodies will be composed of the exact elements that form them now. If he said such a thing, it must have been to reassure his listeners that we will recognize each other, that our bodies will be as solid as they are now, and that we will retain our individual identities, etc.

    Since the elements that we are composed of get more or less recycled throughout the biosphere every few decades, there would be a great competition for the individual atoms if the reported words of Joseph were literally true.

    Furthermore, quantum physics assures us that it is impossible to distinguish between two electrons, for example. This feature of quantum mechanics once prompted Richard Feynman to speculate that there is really only one electron, which appears to be many because it has bounced forward and backward in time so many times. [In that theory a positron is just an electron moving backwards in time.]

    It reminds me of “I am alpha and omega … in all things and through all things …”

    Feynman’s electron could almost claim that much. If all photons were one, they, or rather it, would literally be the entire light of the universe.

    On the other hand, if the COU (currently observable universe) is just a virtual reality of some kind, then resurrection could be done from back ups, just like you resurrect your word document from after a power failure.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — February 2, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

  77. A. Davis: In the experiment above, it has already been proven that this kind of setup cannot be used as an ftl communication signal.

    Mark D.: Proven? How so? Can anything in science, and more particularly a negative proposition be proven? We can demonstrate with high degree of confidence that energy is conserved. But how would we prove that there are no exceptions, not any time or anywhere?

    I use the word prove because it is a mathematical objection, not an experimental condition (albeit there are several experiments as well). This objection, as far as I can tell, is independent of the quantum interpretation. One can read some about it here: The no-signaling condition and quantum dynamics. That said, there are also several articles which claim work arounds to the no-signaling theorems. In all those cases, they are scenarios different from “the experiment above” I commented on.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 3, 2010 @ 7:28 am

  78. A good popular book that deals with A. Davis’ point is Einstein’s Moon. It’s a bit old but does a pretty good job explaining to the lay public the relationship between information and Bell’s inequality. There may be some good newer ones but I kind of stopped following physics popularizations not long after college.

    Comment by Clark — February 3, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  79. Blake, would it be fair to call your position occasionalism, but merely occasionalism with a limited God? What are the limits on how God can “redefine laws”?

    Comment by Clark — February 4, 2010 @ 12:07 am

  80. A. Davis: Mathematical proof, assuming that the underlying theory is complete, absolutely. I am not convinced that the underlying theory is complete, and in principle we cannot know when it is, and that is what I was referring to with regard to the term “proven”.

    Clark: I understand that Blake’s position is that natural laws are not natural laws, but rather natural tendencies, and that God has the power to override the natural tendency of anything at any time.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 4, 2010 @ 7:42 am

  81. Clark: Actually concurrence was developed in opposition to occasionalism to emphasize that natural entities have an unduplicated causal contribution to make in nature. In occasionalism God is the only efficient cause. In concurrence the natural entities have their own causal efficacy even if not a wholly sufficient efficacy. Think of it this way: I am a cause. However, the energy in my body to act is derived from another source, the food I eat. That energy is derived from animals and plants largely. Animals derive their energy from the same source I do, plants or other animals. Ultimately, all bio-energy is derived from plants and the plants derive their energy from the sun. The sun is thus the source of all bio-energy on our planet.

    According to D&C 84 and 88, God is the source of energy of the sun. Ultimately, God’s concurring energy is the necessary condition of any action. Now imagine that God can control the flow of energy at all level (and if he has maximal power he certainly can) — and that gets us to a close approximation to concurrence.

    Mark: I fail to see how natural tendencies are different than natural laws. There are numerous theories of natural law as I am sure you are probably better aware than I. This post is really about the theory of natural law that we can adopt given that God acts in our world. He acts without delays associated with limitations of light speed. He organizes in ways that don’t seem natural at all. He is able to do things like organize, be immanent in and present to, and act upon all at once an entire universe. A God who comes after the organization of the universe is already in place, or who is located in a particular location physically and also limited by the speed of light and law of gravity would not seem to be the kind of being who can do these kinds of things. At the very least the person who adopts something like the god-after-the-universe has a lot of explaining to do to make such a view tenable.

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  82. Mark D. Mathematical proof, assuming that the underlying theory is complete, absolutely. I am not convinced that the underlying theory is complete, and in principle we cannot know when it is, and that is what I was referring to with regard to the term “proven”.
    Ok, your fine with the term “proven” so long as the term applies only the context of that theory of physics. I have no disagreement with that — indeed, you may interpret any future comments of mine like that in similar context. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — February 4, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  83. Blake: I fail to see how natural tendencies are different than natural laws.

    I agree with this statement.

    Blake: This post is really about the theory of natural law that we can adopt given that God acts in our world. He acts without delays associated with limitations of light speed. He organizes in ways that don’t seem natural at all. He is able to do things like organize, be immanent in and present to, and act upon all at once an entire universe.

    I also agree that God does this (though I am agnostic as to his relation to the “entire universe”).

    Blake: A God who comes after the organization of the universe is already in place, or who is located in a particular location physically and also limited by the speed of light and law of gravity would not seem to be the kind of being who can do these kinds of things. At the very least the person who adopts something like the god-after-the-universe has a lot of explaining to do to make such a view tenable.

    I strongly disagree with the argument that a God-before-law solves the problems proposed. We can’t just say, “I believe God isn’t bound by the same restrictions of relativity we are bound by — problem solved!” I personally believe that it is certainly true that God isn’t bound by relativity. But, the statement doesn’t solve the problem that a being who is capable of interacting non-locally with relativity-bound entities can create behavior which results in causal paradox.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 4, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  84. Blake: I fail to see how natural tendencies are different than natural laws

    Other viewpoints notwithstanding, the only reason laws of nature are called laws because the classical scientific view is that they are exceptionless (or closely approximate underlying laws which are).

    This goes for statistical laws as well. Any macroscopic departure from the predicted statistics would indicate that the purported law was not a law at all. If the nature departed from ordinary quantum statistics to any measurable degree the world would melt.

    That is the reason why “tendencies” are not good enough – quantum particles don’t have tendencies – the statistics roll out like clockwork. Unless there is some sort of conspiracy between quantum particles there is no way for tendencies to even out so perfectly. And such perfection is what is required so that we don’t fall through the floor.

    In addition, the whole idea of “tendencies” as a fundamental mode of causation violates the principle of sufficient reason. The idea of fundamental natural tendencies is equivalent to the claim that most events turn out the way they do in a manner largely independent of any actual causes.

    Now of course it is conceivable that God could intervene, but even allowing for tendencies, God would have to do something to cause those tendencies to be suspended temporarily. In order for God to do this in a manner independent of those laws or tendencies themselves, he would indeed have to be in the position of being a concurrent cause of every event in the universe.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 4, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  85. I have to say I reject the idea that God is a concurrent cause of every event in the universe because:

    1. It is otiose
    2. It is difficult to see how so much as a sneeze wouldn’t have world shattering consequences
    3. It is difficult to see how three divine persons could jointly be such a concurrent cause
    4. It is hard to see why such a being would even be a person, or have any but the most incidental need for a body, let alone a glorified resurrected body.
    5. It is difficult to reconcile the problem of evil with the idea that God is a concurrent cause of every natural event.

    If God allows actual evils in furtherance of other purposes, what are the constraints that require such forebearance? Would not such constraints be laws or tendencies of nature that he could dispense with at will? Or is the proposal that God is a concurrent cause of all physical events, but not all spiritual events? Why the distinction?

    And if there are inviolable constraints on spiritual events, wouldn’t such constraints rightly be termed “laws of nature”?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 5, 2010 @ 12:14 am

  86. Mark: Your condition on natural law that there are no exception will eviscerate your notion of natural law. There is always a certeris parbus clause in every expression, proposition or formulation of natural law.

    As for your reason #1 in #85, it is just name calling.

    As for #2, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    As for #3, I think that there is an issue there. I have addressed and so has Timothy Bartel in an article in Faith and Philosophy. Are you suggesting that the divine persons act separately or that their acts aren’t in unison? That is a really strange position.

    As for #4, I am mystified as to what your argument is that an embodied person whose light and influence are in a all things wouldn’t be considered a person. (See D&D 88)

    As for #5, it is difficult to reconcile evil with any view of God. However, given that the natural entities like natural intelligences and personal intelligences have an unduplicated secondary cause in nature and God cannot control what that cause is or how it is exercised (as opposed to whether it is exercised), and given that it is better that there are such free acts and secondary causes, the problem of evil is much less a challenge than for traditional theology. Note well: if God has anything like maximal power, then God allows (apparent) evils in furtherance of a greater good (like death, and disease and so forth to accomplish his plan).

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  87. Whoops, make that a certeris peribus clause.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  88. Blake, It is difficult to distinguish the claim that God is the concurrent cause of every event in the universe with the Calvinist doctrine of “God’s Eternal Decree”, namely:

    God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established

    Drop the “from all eternity” part, and it sounds like the doctrine of concurrent causation – nothing happens unless God wills it to happen. Or as Amos put it: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?”

    The only way to avoid that conclusion is to drop the whole idea of “joint” or “concurrent” causation in favor of some sort of policy of discretionary intervention, e.g. where the world keeps turning on its axis when God isn’t paying attention.

    Otherwise God, as a joint cause, is strictly responsible for everything that occurs. Not only tolerating evil as some sort of temporary expedient, but actually *manufacturing* it.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 6, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  89. A few other comments:

    (0) The “ceteris paribus” thing is just wrong. Does 2 + 2 sometimes need to equal something other than 4? Do divine persons have to occasionally appear and disappear for the proposition that the number of divine persons is a small fixed integer to be coherent?

    (1) “otiose” is a reference to the apparent rampant violation of the law of parsimony.

    (2) “sneeze” refers to the objection that the internal operations whereby God jointly causes every event in the universe to occur could not have the slightest malfunction or excess without cosmic level consequences.

    (3) Real time deliberation by three divine persons with regard to approving the emission of every photon in the universe seems like an enormously superficial burden.

    (4) There is an enormous distinction between a divine person (or persons) whose spiritual light shines like the sun to all corners of the universe, making the world better thereby and such persons who must be involved in every event for that event to occur at all. If God approves of the character of a persons actions, does he have to evaluate how to intervene with each one of the 10^28 atoms per person, or can he simply shine his light a little brighter in that person’s direction?

    (5) It is not hard to reconcile evil with a view that that the spiritual or physical power that God can exercise at any moment in time is finite and increasing, i.e. that he has an actual work on his hands, and operates within an economy of time, space, and effort. Such an economy, spiritual, physical, or otherwise, is the *only* way to explain the level of intervention in any number of natural and man-made evils. The only question is what natural laws (including natural spiritual laws) cause such an economy to exist?

    You yourself imply the existence of such an economy when you state: “if God has anything like maximal power, then God allows (apparent) evils in furtherance of a greater good (like death, and disease and so forth to accomplish his plan).”

    Would anyone take a party on a journey through the swamp if a journey through the plain were readily available? So why isn’t the journey through the plain readily available?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 6, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  90. Mark: I have a few comments as well:

    1. Your example of 2+2=4 is either inane or just misinformed. Such a formula is nothing like a natural law. I don’t know how to address this without just seeming like an ass — but read the entry on natural law in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy before discussing this topic again. To equate a mathematical equation with a statement of natural law is like equating a grain of sand with the explanation for ocean currents.

    2. Otiose is a judgment of ick factor. It has nothing to do with parsimony — and neither does concurrence. You’re going to have to do a lot more than just waive your hand at the notion of parsimony to explain how it could even apply.

    3. Why would the divine persons have to deliberate about any photon emission? What they deliberate about is when to withdraw their general concurrence, not when to make it work — so your question is bass ackwards. However, the notion that they notice the fall of every sparrow is more to the point. Are you suggesting that they just couldn’t deliberate about photon emissions? Or don’t know enough to do so? Or just don’t care enough to do so? Or it just take too much of their energy to do so? Any suggestion that it is just too taxing or beyond God’s capacity for God to notice or be able to do such things makes me wonder at wimpy “god” you are suggesting.

    4. The answer to your absurd question in (4) is simply “no.” The additional answer is that there is no distinction between God’s light being in and through all things and God’s power of general concurrence (read D&C 88 again). And the answer is also that the light shining in every event of the universe “being in and through all things” (D&C 88) is no different than shining in every corner of the universe.

    5. You’re right, the notion of god being unable to stop any evil that occurs if god is as limited as you suggest is not hard. What is hard is to explain why anyone would be interested in such an impotent “god.” The notion that God can’t stop evils because he is so finite is no basis for faith. In fact, the notion of god you express makes god even less able to stop evil than a mere human being — given that we have power and ability to stop many evils that we fail to stop.

    I admit that I have no idea what your reference to a journey thru a swamp is about. Could you get any more vague?

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2010 @ 12:21 am

  91. Mark: The only way to avoid that conclusion is to drop the whole idea of “joint” or “concurrent” causation in favor of some sort of policy of discretionary intervention, e.g. where the world keeps turning on its axis when God isn’t paying attention.

    What in the hades kind of god are you talking about? A god who isn’t payitng attention just isn’t worthy of the exalted title “God”. Your “god” sounds like a negligent baby sitter (and about as powerless) to me.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  92. Blake, Lots of names, but no actual points, which is how you usually respond whenever someone brings up an objection. To put it bluntly, your conception of God is distinctively pre-Mormon. Not that such a conception isn’t popular these days.

    Like I said, it is the two track theory without a second track. The three divine persons in your view are persons in name only. They have absolutely *nothing* in common with us and we shall *never* be like them in any way shape or form. They are of an entirely different species that no man will ever be the palest shadow of.

    And yes, my conception of God is relatively “wimpy” to the “greatest conceivable being” doctrine of God that has dominated Western thought for about 2400 years, but I happen to believe theological finitism it is far more in accord with reality, as in I don’t have to spend night and day dreaming up clever excuses for the endless inanities of theological absolutism, like a God who furthers his purposes by subsidizing the murder of millions.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 7, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

  93. With regard to more specific points, I did suggest that the proposition that the number of divine persons is a conserved quantity does not require exceptions to be coherent. Do you disagree?

    What about conservation of energy? Does that require exceptions to be coherent? What about the apparent impossibility of time travel? Does that require exceptions to be coherent, is it is one of these ceteris paribus kind of things?

    Granting the manifest distaste in Western culture for anything less, surely the ides that the Godhead must exhibit even general concurrence with regard to the emission of every photon falls well within the classical concern for the virtues of explanatory parsimony. Surely it would be a lot simpler to assume that this “general concurrence” is entirely non-existent, and that specific intervention on purposeful occasions is all that is required?

    As to your general objection that a God who is not infinitely powerful is not worship worthy, that is just a cultural tic in my opinion. I have the opposite view – namely that worship of a being with infinite power is not worship at all, but rather an extreme case of the Stockholm Syndrome. And by that I mean that it is strictly impossible to distinguish between a benevolent being with infinite power and a malevolent one.

    I have made my argument on that point above – namely that in a world dominated by a being with temporally unrestricted absolute power “righteousness” is whatever he says it is, therefore there is no objective basis for the conclusion that he is righteous at all. Nothing more than “might makes right” from beginning to end. Whatever he ordains is right and that is the end of it.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 7, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  94. Mark: Blake, Lots of names, but no actual points, which is how you usually respond whenever someone brings up an objection.

    Mark, this is not merely an ad hominem but a personal insult — and untrue. I expected much better from you. I don’t believe that further dialog will be worthwhile.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  95. Blake, you are right, that remark was intemperate. The problem is it seems to me that your responses are similarly intemperate and insulting as a matter of habit. I don’t appreciate your use of terms like “ass” and “hades”, your constant use of unsupported pejoratives as well as your general dismissive and condescending attitude with regard to anyone who disagrees with you.

    If I use a pejorative with regard to a position, I do my best to make an argument with respect to why such a characterization is justified.

    So, yes, you did make some points, but the problem is you were so dismissive that you didn’t make much in the way of any arguments, just subjective and unsupported characterizations like “absurd” and “negligent baby sitter”.

    You claim that a God without *infinite* power is not worship worthy when your own position implies that in many respects God does not have infinite power. You claim that God allows evil in furtherance of other purposes. Clearly a God with infinite power is subject to no such constraints.

    The “swamp” consists of the (apparently) gratuitous evils in the world. The “plain” is a route around such evils. So tell me, why doesn’t a God with infinite power take the world on a route around the swamp, i.e. by preventing evils such as the recent earthquake in Haiti?

    If you say he doesn’t eliminate such evils because they are necessary, my question is what could *possibly* make such evils necessary except an inviolable constraint that prevents the alternative from gaining the purpose. Clearly a God with infinite power is subject to no such constraints.

    If you say he doesn’t eliminate such evils strictly as a matter of preference, I would say that a God with infinite power who doesn’t do so is negligent in the worst possible way.

    You claim that for a God with finite (albeit extremely great) power to fail to prevent such an evil is negligent. If God is subject to an economy such that other objectives would be compromised by massive physical intervention, the choice of how, where, and what extent to intervene is a matter of optimal resource allocation.

    Clearly God inspires people to go to the assistance of those that suffer in Haiti. And yet the fact that he did not prevent the earthquake in the first place is extraordinary evidence that his power is finite by one measure or another. Either he is constrained such that earthquakes and comparable natural evils are *necessary*, or he is constrained such that prevention of such earthquakes is not the *optimal* way to gain his objective.

    What is not remotely tenable is the suggestion that he can prevent such earthquakes without any compromise to any objective whatsoever. That would imply that God is amoral, negligent, or sadistic.

    I have made this argument half a dozen times so far in this thread, no answer yet. Please tell us why a God with infinite power who allows such evils when he can trivially prevent them is worship worthy while a God with finite and increasing power who allows such evils can command no such respect?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 8, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  96. Mark D: I don’t appreciate your use of terms like “ass” and “hades”, your constant use of unsupported pejoratives as well as your general dismissive and condescending attitude with regard to anyone who disagrees with you.

    Mark, come on. I used the term ass to refer to myself; not you! What in the hades is wrong with using hades?

    I’ve answered your charge from the problem of evil at least a half-dozen times. God cannot have just any ordered universe he chooses and order is preferable to disorder. He cannot dictate what the natural tendencies of natural entities are given that they are expressed. Thus, these natural entities, not God, determine what the expression of their natural tendencies will be and thus what free acts will be and what natural laws will be. Thus, God has constraints on the kind of world he may have and the nature of free creatures whose freedom he cannot override because they are inherently free and their freedom cannot simply obliterated. That is a solution to the problem of evil.

    I don’t see any difference between your view of god and a very resourceful scientist. But that just isn’t the kind of being we can rationally pray to in order to assuage the evils that occur. The reason evils occur as they do, as you explain it, is that god just cannot have it any other way. He just can’t stop any of the evils that occur from occurring. That isn’t nearly the kind of divine power disclosed in the scriptures.

    So I’ll tell you what. Give me some logical argument for the problem of evil and I’ll show how my view resolves it and that your view not only doesn’t solve it any better, but it leaves us without the possibility of hope that God could make it any better than it is.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

  97. Blake, You assert that that God furthers some purpose by not preventing natural disasters. I also claim that God furthers some purpose by not preventing natural disasters.

    You claim that God finds it providential to allow hundreds of thousands of people to die in natural disasters despite having arbitrary power to prevent such disasters at no cost whatsoever.

    I claim that God doesn’t prevent natural disasters because he operates in an economy of time, space, and effort and the resources necessary to prevent every natural disaster would seriously impair his other objectives.

    Either way, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes still happen and kill hundreds of thousands almost every year. I can appreciate the non-interference with free will argument up to a point. But what about non-interference with a bunch of rocks at the bottom of the ocean?

    What divine purpose is served by such non-intervention and why are there not means of accomplishing such purposes that do not require killing large numbers of people?

    I am not saying that God can’t move mountains, or part seas, and so on and so forth, but rather that he manifestly does not find it economical to do so on a regular basis. So I want to hear why you think it is in accordance with the providence of a
    God with essentially infinite power to neglect to do what every civilized nation would do if they possessed adequate resources to bring to bear on the problem. What divine purpose is served by the slaughter of multitudes, not by man or malice, but by run of the mill natural forces?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 9, 2010 @ 2:11 am

  98. By the way, I find comparing God to a “scientist” to be a uniquely pathetic comparison. How about king, general, president, architect, designer, or engineer? Scientists don’t actually *do* anything.

    In any case, by all appearances the basic operations of spiritual things are as natural a part of living things as ordinary biology. No science required. Statesmanship, planning, persuasion, deliberation, law making, organization, administration, sure.

    But are there scientists doing actual “science” in heaven? I suppose its possible, but I imagine scientific research ranks so far down the list of anything remotely relevant to the operations of heaven that it is a footnote at best. I believe spiritual things are natural not technological. No scientists required.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 9, 2010 @ 2:30 am

  99. Mark,

    On the problem of evil, I get that you are proposing a solution in which God is resource limited and unable to prevent evils like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes without giving up something more important. That solution has some problems, but leaving those aside, you can’t possibly be suggesting that is the only possible solution, can you? If not, then Blake is still free to adopting any other answer to the problem of evil. It seems like your attack on this point rests on yours being the only tenable solution to the problem of evil. You keep saying things that boil down to: “If its not due to a resource constraint, what else could *possibly* explain it.” Thus, your argument rests on the strength and obviousness of your own solution when I don’t think either has been established.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 9, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  100. Blake: I sincerely want to understand this. In your 41 you said “God After” is bound by rules he must obey in order to be God. Is your “God With” not bound by any rules at all? I ask because why must your “God with” suffer the atonement? Could he simply just not concur with the rules of the universe which require that he take our “sin energy” on?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 9, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  101. Matt: A “God with the universe” must deal with an eternal universe consisting of various forms of uncreated matter. However, God is Lord over whether natural laws obtain — he is the one who gives the laws and makes them operable; but he doesn’t determine what the laws of nature are. D&C 88 puts it this way:

    7 Which truth hineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
    8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
    9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
    10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
    11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who nlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
    12 Which alight proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
    13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the osom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

    ***
    38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
    39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
    ***
    41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.
    ***
    42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;
    43 And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.
    ***
    45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

    As I read this scripture, God is the source of natural law and the very basis of life and consciousness. He is literally the power in all things which gives their law to them by which they operate and move. God is the source of that power. That is why I adopted concurrence.

    Matt: I ask because why must your “God with” suffer the atonement? Could he simply just not concur with the rules of the universe which require that he take our “sin energy” on?

    The answer is simply that God doesn’t determine what the “rules” are. He cannot make it so that free beings are not free. God cannot make it so that we can repent without opening to him and letting go of the energy of the past to be shared in relationship and thereby healed. Far too much has been made of this “sin energy,” it is actually just the various degrees of light that give life to our bodies (read D&C 88). Our light must be “quickened” by his faster and brighter light and his light must come down into darkness where it can shine and dissipate the darkness.

    Comment by Blake — February 9, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  102. Let me ask Mark: does the architect or engineer god you propose sound anything like the God who governs the entire universe because he is in and through all things as the power by which they move?

    Comment by Blake — February 9, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

  103. Blake, that is a reasonable objection and the answer is in the question that you either refuse to or are unable to answer.

    Some rightly believe in simple foreknowledge as well, and for similar reasons, but that doesn’t mean the concept is virtually impossible to reconcile with reality on the ground, let alone numerous other scriptures.

    Jacob, I can’t strictly rule out other options of course, but I would like to hear at least one that doesn’t reduce to absolutist absurdity.

    A verse here or there not withstanding, I claim the *entire* plan of salvation is incomprehensible if God has infinite power. The question is not whether God has infinite power or not, it is in what ways his power is limited, and why?

    The whole idea of the Atonement revolves around the concept of divine suffering. Why in the world would a God possessed of infinite power suffer at all? What possible objective could be accomplished thereby that would not trivially be achievable by other means?

    The same goes for most human suffering, and gratuitous human suffering in particular. The most common claim is it strengthens character. So why doesn’t God turn up the character per suffering dial and allow us to achieve the same character with a fraction of the suffering that many experience now?

    “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” You mean God actually has to *work*? No being possessed of infinite power requires “work” to do anything.

    These and other similar considerations are why the Christian world at large is not possessed of a single theory of the atonement that doesn’t immediately reduce to shadow play, slumming, and triviality.

    In short, if God has infinite power, the being depicted in the scriptures is not a God, but rather a monster.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 10, 2010 @ 6:28 am

  104. That is not to say that individuals cannot of course bracket the proposition of infinite divine power in any number of ways that allow the more basic ideas of faith, repentance, and baptism to remain intact.

    Or believers can resort to an appeal to divine mystery and irrationality, the way eastern Christianity did more than 1600 years ago, or simply decide to avoid such questions.

    Theologically speaking though, the idea of infinite divine power is more responsible for theological absurdities than every other dubious theological proposition put together. It, more than anything else, is why classical theism makes no sense.

    Certainly the dominant trend in Mormon theology for about a century now is a return to classical theism. The problem is, as a rational theology, Mormonism can’t go there without giving up most of what makes it theologically distinct in the first place. You can have non-theologically-systematic Mormonism or you can have rationally-systematic (but anomalous) Mormonism, but you really cannot have rational-systematic-classical-theistic Mormonism unless one really wants Mormonism to be Protestantism with a temple.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 10, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  105. Blake: (101)- You say God can not change the rules and does not determine what they are. But you also say that God must concur for the rules to apply. Isn’t non-concurrence changing the rule? If God permanently chose not to concur with the big crunch, for example, the rule would not apply and thus be changed.

    You say: “God cannot make it so that we can repent without opening to him and letting go of the energy of the past to be shared in relationship and thereby healed.

    So from your view, God can not choose non-concurrence on this point. If God can not choose non-concurrence on this point, I would say this is an eternal law of the universe. If this is such an eternal law, is God after these laws, or is God with these laws, but yet they do not require his concurrence, but are self-evident?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 10, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  106. Mark: Your claims about God having absolutist power on my view are simply inaccurate. God has power to do what is possible given the eternal natures of the constituents or free intelligences with which he is working. That is a far cry from the absolutist claim that you make and that we both reject.

    Matt: read above. God cannot change the rules but he can suspend their operation. However, he cannot play the game without rules (this is an analogy BTW).

    Comment by Blake — February 10, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  107. Mark: Blake, that is a reasonable objection and the answer is in the question that you either refuse to or are unable to answer.

    Really? How on earth (I would have said hades but I know that you’ll choose to take offense at that) could asking a question answer my question about how an engineer/architect god is anything like the God who revealed D&C section 88? And what is the question you say I cannot or refuse to answer?

    Comment by Blake — February 10, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  108. Ok, if we must go to analogy, if I suspend the rule in football of holding, this changes the rules of the game, as it changes how the game is played.

    Suspending rules does change rules. Also, you say “God has power to do what is possible given the eternal natures of the constituents or free intelligences with which he is working”. Are not these constituents part of the universe?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 10, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  109. Matt: Are not these constituents part of the universe?

    of course. Where else would they be?

    Comment by Blake — February 10, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  110. But if they are part of the universe, and in a “God with” scenario, you are saying the universe can only do what God concurs with, I ask can we only act when God concurs with our actions? Does this then conflict with Libertarian Free Will?

    Comment by Matt W. — February 10, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  111. Blake, D&C 88:13 states that the light of Christ is the “the law by which all things are governed”.

    I readily agree that the light or spiritual influence of God extends to all corners of the universe. I disagree with two propositions:

    (1) The suggestion the laws of nature are an artifact of the light of Christ, i.e. if it was withdrawn, the laws of physics would cease to exist.

    (2) The suggestion that effective spiritual governance of all things requires or implies infinite physical power. I think the operations of the Spirit are generally much more subtle than that. I don’t see any reason why infinite physical power is required to accomplish the plan of salvation, and plenty of empirical and scriptural evidence that suggests that such power does not exist.

    I could go on and on about the absurdities of both of these two propositions, and more especially with regard to what the scriptures teach on any number of subjects. Granting natural tendencies, I don’t see why your view requires *infinite* physical power either.

    I simply claim that nature is constrained by natural laws, that spiritual things are part of nature, and that the spiritual influence emanating from the presence of God to all corners of the universe is adequate for him to have “power unto the fulfilling of all his words”.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 10, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  112. Mark: I have no idea where you get the idea that anyone has promoted “infinite physical power” as your second suggestion asserts. I agree that God generally works by persuasion. So I’m not going to respond to (2) in # 111 because it isn’t accurate. If you could show me just one place where I ever refer to “infinite physical power” I’d be obliged to respond. The good thing about these kinds of posts is that we can go back and immediately look at what is said. Not only have I never used the terms “infinite physical power” in this post, I did a search of my book and I have never used it in these books once to refer to anything that I assert as either possible Mormon beliefs or my own beliefs.

    However, (1) is a far different matter. D&C 88 is clear that God gives laws that empower the natural motions of the physical bodies like sun, moon and stars:

    38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions . . . 42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons.

    God is in these bodies and is the empowerment by which they move and by which they were made (i.e., organized):

    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
    8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
    9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
    10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

    He is also the light that is in us and which quickens us with the kind of divine glory we in fact enjoy (88:21-24; 28-32). More importantly, he is a co-cause of our very understanding or whatever aspect of consciousness the understanding represents:

    11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who nlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

    The term used repeatedly in D&C 88 “quickened” is the term used in 19th century law refer to the moment that life enters the body and the baby is “quickened” with life. In addition, D&C 88 is clear that even our ability to continue in life is based on his co-light or power that is in us:

    50 Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.

    So if the light is withdrawn, we cannot “abound”. I don’t disagree that all things are governed by natural law — but these laws are given by God, an expression of his power, and in the absence of his light these laws and power are not manifest. That just is a form of concurrence.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 7:49 am

  113. Matt: If God doesn’t give us his light as the basis of our shared consciousness we cannot “abound”, which I take to mean we could not even be conscious without the gift of light given to us by God as a grace. If God withdraws his prevenient grace of light to us, we are not free. I have argued at length that God’s prevenient gift of light to us as a grace is the basis of our free will — it is a gift of atonement and in this way the atonement makes us free to choose for ourselves, to act and to not merely be acted upon. (see 2 Ne. 2)

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 7:53 am

  114. Mark: Can you explain to me how it is even physically possible that a person who was less than divine co-constituted the cause of the power by which the sun, moon and stars were organized? How could god grow up in a universe and become God in a universe that depends on his ordering power as God in order to follow the laws necessary to become God? Can you see that is viciously circular?

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 7:55 am

  115. Blake: So if the light is withdrawn, we cannot “abound”. I don’t disagree that all things are governed by natural law — but these laws are given by God, an expression of his power, and in the absence of his light these laws and power are not manifest. That just is a form of concurrence.

    Pragmatically, what difference do you see between these two options?

    1. God is ultimate source of all law — he created all natural law.

    2. God did not make natural law, but natural law does not function if God does not actively concur/manage/agree with it.

    Comment by A. Davis — February 11, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  116. A. Davis: As you are undoubtedly aware, pragmatically there is a great difference. 1. entails that God can choose any natural laws which he wants and can change them any time he wants so that, say, water could have the property of exploding at 32 degree F. instead of freezing. He could choose any initial constants he wants or just make them up as he goes. God could make people act of necessity.

    On 2, God must work with the inherent natural tendencies that eternal realities actually have. E.g., He cannot make it so that water explodes or does a dance at 32 degrees F., if he has water at all then it freezes at 32 degrees F. He cannot choose initial conditions or constants. He is stuck with the eternal freedom of intelligences and cannot make them act of necessity. His power is limited by the capacities of eternal natural tendencies and free agents. That is just a huge difference not only logically but pragmatically.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 8:58 am

  117. So if I understand you, your propose that God can’t make up new laws, but he can “destroy” (i.e. remove their influence everywhere and indefinitely) them freely. For example,

    1. Can’t reverse the polarity of gravity and cause the earth to repel from the sun.

    2. Can “turn off” gravity and let the earth just fly off into space (it’d be a different trajectory than being repelled).

    Comment by A. Davis — February 11, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  118. Blake #116,

    Just to make sure I’m understanding, would you still assert that God could not concur so that the natural law of water freezing doesn’t occur at 32 degrees F when He wants it to?

    I’m trying to understand which natural laws He can not concur with and which ones He can, and what examples you have in mind.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Riley — February 11, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  119. A. Davis- But of course can God turn off the requirement that the earth fly off into space as well.

    Blake: If we are not Conscious without God’s willing it to be so, then do we Reject Joseph’s “eternal mind” of man? For a spirit without consciousness is merely matter, I would say. Do you then fall into the Brigham Young concept that we are not eternal? (Nothing Wrong with that, I had just thought otherwise.) OR do you fall back to saying God has always willed us to have free wills?

    I agree with A. Davis- I think your God with does not escape being fundamentally the same as God Before. Unless of course you added the balancing effect, which would be that God can also do nothing save the universe concurs.

    The options would then be:

    1. God trumps universe “God before”
    2. Universe trumps God “God after”
    3. God and Universe both trump one another. “God With”

    What you have proposed seems to say God trumps universe only, so God before. I can pick nits at that all day.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 11, 2010 @ 9:24 am

  120. Good questions all around.

    A. Davis reL # 117: God can determine whether gravity is operative (travel of light in an inertial frame follows a straight line given the topography of space). He cannot determine what gravity does if it is operative — it will simply be gravity with his concurrence. Gravity on, then natural universe. Gravity off, then disorder and chaos. So I basically agree with your 1 and 2.

    Riley: If God has water (H2O ordered into molecules), then that water freezes at 32 F. If he does not concur, then there is no H2O and there is nothing to freeze. There would be disordered
    “prime matter” or whatever the state of hydrogen and oxygen would be without any concurrence so taht natural tendencies are expressed.

    Matt: There are indications that intelligences are inherently free and conscious. If so, then God cannot prevent such consciousness and freedom in intelligences. They just are inherently free. I suspect that what D&C 88 means is that we could not carry on life functions as an embodied mortal but for God’s light dwelling within us and “quickening” us so that we abound as living things. Remember, humans are not always conscious and free. Intelligences may be except when embodied and the body is in a state that won’t support consciousness. (The mind-body problem looms large here).

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  121. Blake: I agree that God generally works by persuasion.

    To the degree that God works by persuasion, I maintain that it is a secondary effect of “physical” causation of spiritual influences, as much as I might speak to you by modulating audio waves according to a pattern or context you understand and sending them in your general direction.

    If you could show me just one place where I ever refer to “infinite physical power” I’d be obliged to respond.

    I am using “infinite physical power” as short hand for such things as suspending the laws of nature, dictating the laws of nature everywhere, or causally determining the behavior of matter and energy in a manner that would require an infinite amount of power to accomplish by ordinary means.

    For example, causing the earth to reform in the shape of a violin on the other side of the galaxy in an infinitesimal time is certainly the sort of thing that would appear to require effectively unlimited physical power. So would making all the electrons in the universe congregate in one place, dance a little jig, and return to their former positions.

    Although I concede that D&C 88:7-11 does indeed suggest this level of power, I don’t have a lot of confidence that it is correct on this point.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 11, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  122. Blake: More importantly, he is a co-cause of our very understanding or whatever aspect of consciousness the understanding represents

    That is a remarkable conclusion to draw from D&C 88:11. The verse only fairly implies that he aids our consciousness and understanding (a point with which I resoundingly concur, by the way):

    And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

    Since when do people cease to be conscious because the sun goes down? That they may be in darkness and have their vision impaired to the point of blindness is certain, but they stumble their way through the night just the same.

    Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.

    This verse is even more clear. “Abound” means to have lots of. It doesn’t mean “think”.

    Now I would like to re-raise a particularly fundamental objection about the idea that both natural law and consciousness exist only by God’s good will and pleasure. Namely, that it puts him in the position of subsidizing not only natural evils of all sorts, but the operations of the devil himself. Is outer darkness really on a divine welfare plan? Food stamps? Housing vouchers? The analogy is exact, and I shudder at the thought.

    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (James 1:13)

    If the devil relies on a divine subsidy to so much as ponder his next move, this isn’t exactly true, is it?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 11, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  123. Mark: I presume that you have children. Did you enable them to commit evil by giving them life? Of course not. You enable them by feeding them and giving them sustenance, but that hardly means that you make their choices for them. God chooses to give us free will through prevenient grace as a gift. Would you suggest that no freedom and no individual possibility of choice is better than empowering free choice though evils may occur. That of course is what the fundamental primeval story of the war in heaven is all about. I choose freedom even though evils may occur.

    Further, a world of natural law is necessary to any environment in which we make morally responsible choices. Yeah, God underwrites the order of the universe; he just doesn’t determine how individual natural tendencies or free choices will be expressed. That seems to be a fine theodicy to me.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  124. Mark D: Although I concede that D&C 88:7-11 does indeed suggest this level of power, I don’t have a lot of confidence that it is correct on this point.

    That’s the basic difference, isn’t it? I trust this revelation. You don’t. But don’t dare suggest that I have a pre-Mormon view of things.

    BTW you still haven’t responded to my observation that the engineer deity logically entails a vicious circle of explanation.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

  125. I am completely with Matt W. on #119, by the way. The difference between arbitrary control, determination, or suspension of natural law and creating the universe out of nothing is a pretty small one.

    According to D&C 93, “the elements are eternal”. Is this eternal as in “according to inviolable natural constraint” or eternal as in “as long as God feels like it”? Sounds like the former to me.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 11, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

  126. Mark: What is eternal is unformed matter and intelligences. The “elements” I believe refers to the most basic constituents of matter — what the scholastics called “prime matter” perhaps. Of course there is a huge difference between merely creating out of nothing and concurrence. See #116. On the other hand, you seem to be allergic to the kind of maximal power that God revealed in D&C 88. That revelation makes a great deal of sense in terms of concurrence and none in terms of an engineer/architect who is too wimpy to to inspire faith. I’ll go with Joseph Smith’s revelations every time.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

  127. Blake, I rather suggest that D&C 88:7-11 reflects a pre-Mormon, or at least pre King Follett Discourse view of things. I am sure you are well aware of how radically the D&C was revised from the revelations as originally published in the Book of Commandments. No doubt this passage slipped through the cracks.

    I happen to believe scriptures that indicate that the Atonement requires divine suffering, by the way. I have yet to here an explanation of how a being with complete control over natural law needs to suffer in any way.

    In addition, the idea of any divine person needing or having a glorified body seems entirely superfluous under such a proposition. Remember Philip. 3:21:

    Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

    I believe this passage. However, it is completely irrelevant, if not utterly wrong if God’s power is logically prior to his body, or the principles which govern its basic operation. More like an intelligence in a void. Body, body, who needs a body?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 11, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

  128. Blake, you will have to explain the vicious circle thing, by the way. If you are suggesting the question of how God came to have a body in the first place, I answered extensive questions about my ideas about that here.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 11, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

  129. Mark: Your comments are worthy of response. However, I have decided to take a permanent leave from blogging. All the best to you and yours and thanks to all who have commented here.

    Comment by Blake — February 12, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

  130. Bummer.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 12, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  131. Yea, double bummer. He will be sorely missed.

    Comment by CEF — February 13, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  132. Best Wishes, Blake. I have to say that even when I disagree for whatever reason, I am impressed by the effort to make any approach to the subject as bulletproof as possible. I have changed my position and understanding of at least two major issues based upon your writings.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 13, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  133. Shoot Mark D., I’d still be a penal substitutionist without Blake chewing me out on this blog!

    Comment by Matt W. — February 13, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  134. Blogging can be very time consuming, and can easily reach a point of diminishing returns, so I can understand Blake’s decision. I hope the word “permanent” to be an example of hyperbole (think D&C 19) used to express that frustration.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — February 15, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  135. Good point Forest. Perhaps it was more express than other comments that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for this blog’s glory. Let’s hope that’s it.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 15, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  136. How about the Lord’s glory (and the coolness of the thang).

    Comment by Forest Simmons — February 16, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

  137. Hehe. Niiice Jacob.

    I always love to see the Section 19 principle in action.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 16, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

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