January 2008

The Argument Ė Part I

Preamble

Ok so hereís the deal.

A few years back (ok more than a few), I had a philosophy professor tell my class that if anyone in the class could create an argument that he couldnít defeat he would give the creator of that argument an ďAĒ in his class.

There were a couple of attempts, but following this introduction is the first part of the only argument that ever got the ďAĒ that professor had been offering for 14 years before anyone came up with something indestructible.

So first, lets define some termsÖ

God

The big G. Not the little one. For the sake of this argument, weíre going to go with the standard Judeo Christian Definition. That Yahweh fellow whose name youíre not supposed to say out loud for some reason. This isnít to say that any god of any other religion doesnít deserve to be used in this example, this is just the God whose characteristics I happen to be most familiar. For the sake of the argument weíre going to work with the idea that God is an infinite ďbeingĒ who is all knowing and all seeing. Free of the restriction of time and space. He is in all things and aware of all things. All powerful really, and one hell of a bowler. Thatís a little lose in the translation but you get the idea. God can do or be anything, anytime, anywhere. He is perfect, without flaw and by the very nature of perfection, completely incapable of making a mistake. Thereís literally nothing that he can or cannot do. The key phrases are; all knowing, infinite and aware of all things in all ways.

Right. Any objections lemme know and Iíll get back to you.

Time

OK, now we have to define Time. Time is an abstract construct to measure the forward movement of the universe. Human beings experience life through a linear existence (linear being sequentially forward) and have no way to go back in time or skip forward. We also know that time is not as fixed a constant in the universe, as itís a matter of scientific fact that as an object accelerates it experiences time at a slightly slower rate until you reach the speed of light. With that in mind, time is the construct through which we measure our journey through our finite lives. In fact time is a necessity of us living a linear existence.

That was hard to read. I may have to redo that later.

Linear Existence

A sequential existence that moves forward only and is governed by the passage of time. We live, we die, linear is progressive and you canít go back.

Finite

So what is finite then? Well for the sake of this argument we are going to say that finite is limited. Thatís particularly key. Furthermore, finite must have a beginning and middle. Essentially being finite means you are limited. You are limited to your lifespan, you are limited to a linear existence, but most critically, you are limited in your capacity to understand things.

Infinite

The close but much cooler cousin of finite. Infinite is the polar opposite of finite. Infinite is free of all restraints. Infinite does not have a beginning or an end. It certainly doesnít have to worry about much, because itís always been there, there isnít anything that can make it go away (back to the all seeing, all powerful bit there, when youíre top dog and the only dog in the yard, there arenít to many people who will think they can take you down.)

Free Will

The idea that we make our own choices in life. We can choose good, neutral, or evil or a blueberry muffin from the corner store if we want to.

So here are a couple of basic premises to sum up.

God is an all seeing all knowing all-powerful infinite entity who, being infinite, isnít affected by time at all and living (?) a non-linear existence.

People, like you and me, and from what we know every form of life that weíve run intoí are finite beings, capable of only understanding finite things and living a forward moving linear finite lives. We believe that we have free will, which essentially means that we have control over our own lives or at least control over our own decisions.

Iím just trying to think if thereís anything I missed.

Iím sure there are a couple I may come back to add, but for the time being, those should at the very least

Let's Get This Party Started Right

Go get a piece of stringÖ

So lets think about how God sees the universe. Think of a one-way piece of string. Now youíre finite so try to imagine starting at one end of the string and starting to walk to the end while only being able to see the piece of string that you are standing on at that exact moment. You can remember what was behind you, but this is a one-way string so you canít take a step backwards. Eventually, when you reach the end of the string you disappear.

Ok, so the idea that Iím trying to get across is that you can only see or be in one part of the string at a time.

Now God takes a look at the string. When he looks he can see every aspect of it, backwards or forwards, any point he pleases. He knows (being all knowing) when the string will end, and being that time has no hold on him, he can visit that part of the string and then look back to the beginning and visit that point.

If you havenít figured it out yet, the string is the life of someone. Being finite, you can only perceive or be in one part of it at a time and you certainly canít see back or forth with any degree of true accuracy.

God can. Heís infinite, free from the bondage of time, all knowing and all seeing.

So God can know everything that is going to happen in your life. He knows everything that has happened and will ever happen. Heís good like that.

OK, go put the string away.

Now again, hereís the catch most people have trouble with and Iím going to say it a lot. Human beings with their finite limited view of the nature of god (who as I mentioned are is quite infinite) donít have the slightest chance of understanding the whyís of any of Godís actions or the experience of being infinite and how someone who is in that state would perceive the universe.

So no matter what happens in this argument, remember that weíre never going to fully get it. Weíre never going to understand the why of the whole thing.

But we can work off of what we know in order to have some fun.

Some Fun

So letís go back to the beginning. If you want to take Genesis literally, thatís your right I suppose, but this will work for anyone who believes in any faith. If youíre a scientist, take a walk down the evolution road with me.

OK, so if you want to go either route, but you do believe that god made it happen or that he simply provided the first spark of light.

Either way, if you take those verses literally, whether it was literal or a metaphor, there is one thing that both have inescapably in common.

Whichever of those two sequences of events that you believe in, they were both started by god. If you donít believe in God, thatís OK too. This argument should at the very least be somewhat entertaining for you.

So now, we have established for all the Christians in the world that whether or not you believe God created the Universe in a moment or over an extended period of time or if you believe he just jump started things and everything came from that start, you can agree on one thingÖ

God made everything and everyone.

Ok granted some of you believe that Genesis is a literal book and that all of humanity is derived from Adam and Eve, and some of you believe that thereís an evolutionary process stretching back millions of years (if not billions) that led us to where we are now.

That there is what we call semantics for the sake of this argument. Nonono, I know what you both are thinking, but weíll get to that later on.

MUCH later on. For the time being weíre just gonna keep to the basics.

So hereís a statement that all Christians and Jews and Mormons should be able to agree with as not only truth but as the very foundation of their respective faiths.

God is an all knowing, all-powerful, infinite being, the absolute definition of perfection and as I stated before incapable of ever doing anything in error. Being perfect and infinite in all ways, God knows the beginning middle and end of every symbolic piece of string that ever was. He knows the beginning and the end of everything in existence from rocks to trees to tigers to grass to a ship. God knows the entire story of existence for all of these things.

After all, he created them.

Anchors Away

Letís go back to that ship for our next example. Lets say theyíre a small passenger boat.

Seats eight.

Now God knows every imaginable and many unimaginable thing about every single person on that boat. Using the definition of God we just used earlier that is pretty much a given. Furthermore, we can say that god knows everything about the boat. In fact, we can go far as to say that God knows everything from the tiniest particles of matter to the main sail.

For the next step, letís go a little farther.

God created the universe (either through the creationist view or the scientific view) as we have taken as one of our assumptions. And, letís remember he is infinite in all ways, so back at the moment of creation (whenever that was) God knew that trees and minds would grow to the point where eight people would be riding on that boat.

Before time began, he knew that boat would be there with those people. The universe may have been less than atoms, or just a void, but God (again all knowing, all wise and free from the restraints of time) knew that when he created the universe one of the effects of it would be that these people would be out there on the boat having the time of their lives. He knew the near infinite series of events that would happen between the dawn of time and that day on the boat.

Letís try it another way with a bit of a metaphor. Think of God planning out all of creation. Now heís not just planning the beginning, because being free from time he knows the effect of everything that he creates.

So, for you creationists, God created Adam and Eve perfect and without flaw and he knew what they would do while in Eden and how they would leave Eden to create what we now know as humankind. He knew they would leave Eden before it was created. Because heís God and He knows everything that happens, happened and will happen.

For you Evolutionary Christians who believe that God started the Universe and it is as old as old can be. God would have known how the Universe would expand and how it would need to expand in order to eventually bring us to where we are today.

So no matter what belief system you approach the creation of the universe with, again, I think that bearing in mind God is flawless, infinite, timeless, and all knowing of all things at all times, you have to agree that God knew what would happen to everything in existence when he did the creating. If you disagree, you are saying that God could not know these things and by doing so are attempting to manage the concept by placing limits on Gods powers and knowledge.

Which you canít do to the infinite by the way.

Pretty simple right?

And what a comfortable idea that before the universe and time were created God (being all knowing, infinite, non linear and free from time) knew about this day on the boat and went ahead and created the universe knowing that this one event would be a direct result of an incalculable series of events that he was going to create and set in motion.

I mean, for those people at least, it would be a happy notion if the thought occurred to them that before the universe was created in the way that god wanted, he knew that they would end up on this boat, and since he created the universe so that this event would be a part of the incalculable number of events day to day, well that would be a pretty comforting thought.

We can say that because we know that God knows when the universe ends and when it began and how long it will last. We can say that because it God didnít want the people on the boat he could (again, all powerful) have changed how he started things to remove that as an event.

So once again for the cheap seats, If god is all powerful, all knowing, free from all restrictions and timeless and he doesnít make mistakes, he had to have known that these people would be on this boat on a beautifully sunny day before he actually got down to the creating part of the universe. He did however go ahead and create the universe with this little boating outing in mind and he since he launched his creation the way he wanted it is reasonably safe to assume that these people are on this boat because God wants them there.

I mean, he put them there, and God doesnít make mistakes.

Now why he wanted them there? There isnít even a point in asking that question.

Weíre finite and linear. It is impossible for us to understand the motivations of a being to whom time is irrelevant and who is aware of every consequence of every action of every size and scale before when and after those actions happen.

We donít get to know the entire why. Sometimes we may stumble across as much as we can understand but it is never the entirety of the picture.

So let go of that right now. No way youíre going to get an answer on that one and certainly not from me.

Thatís the first part of this argument, there are at the time, at least 5 more to follow, but this will do for now.

So to recap. God created the universe knowing how it would begin and end. God created the universe the way that he wanted it to be as God is perfect and to suggest that God can create something that he didnít want or was flawed is to suggest that God can make a mistake and is not all powerful, all knowing and perfect.

So hereís my argument for this section of the nutshell, and invite you all to show me where I am wrong or what in this is flawed:

God wants the people on the boat. The people being on the boat is all a part of Gods plan, because countless events in history that God set into motion at the time of creation all of which he knew about before creation would lead them to being on that boat and no other place.





You know where to find me.

Nate@natepike.com