On Free Will

Acts of God are acts of God. From time to time there are going to be things that can’t be prevented. (Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) regarding the gulf oil spill)

There are those who believe that the recent earthquake and hurricane along the US’s east coast is God’s sign that he disapproves Democrats in Washington. Then again, do the same people believe that the fires in Texas are God’s way of warning Americans about Texas Governor Rick Perry? At least he is out of the 2012 picture.

Last year I wrote this post about the burning of a large Jesus statue near Cincinnati. A friend of mine told me that it was God’s way of showing his disapproval of the statue; so, I respond of saying that is God’s way of wanting a newer and bigger statue. Of course, I could add numerous Rev. Pat Robertson examples to the above, but I will spare my readers. Interestingly, all this leads to the concept of free will.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Adam and Eve would be one of the first examples of free will in the Bible and Torah by demonstrating their free will by rejecting God’s will. To me, Adam represents all of humanity because of the free will we possess.

Life involving making choice – and no matter our choice – that choice leads to other choices. Regardless if the relationship is with a spouse, friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, managers, or stranger, our individual choices affect our relationships. No matter the relationship, every choice one makes leads one makes leads them toward or closer to that personal entity.

For those of us believing in God, each choice we make leads us toward or away from God. Sure God has a preference, but we have a choice. However, no matter our choices, we still sin, we remain selfish, people die, and some do horrible acts on humanity.

As God gives us a gift of choice our own path, free will has consequences because the greatest freedom also leads us to unacceptable behaviors as abuse, murder, greed, deceit, evil, hate, and others lead to suffering. Free will is a gift, an opportunity, and a curse – thus how each of use it is a matter of individual choice.

God’s free will gift also extends to nature and the universe for they operate within the parameters natural laws. As with human behavior, this free also leads to abuse and suffering – such as, natural disasters, diseases, genetic disorders, and handicaps to name a few. Although the natural laws are not the same as human behavior, the natural world’s free will allows it to operate with ever-changing forces that work to maintain a steady state with benefits and consequences. Yet, Pat Robertson wants to use natural disasters as a way of God punishing people.

Human creations are subject to disasters as Exxon’s Valdez, Union Carbide’s Bhopal, coal mine explosions, and post-tsunami meltdowns of a nuclear reactor. Yet, Gov. Perry refers to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an act of God that can’t be prevented.

Each of our lives are not pre-programmed with dates of birth and death, family information, interests, occupations, locations, and events; nor is God playing out the natural world as a video game. Just something to think about the next time someone makes a statement about God’s involvement in a natural disaster, a horrible highway accident, or a personal illness.

Other posts done here about free will:

On a Glorious Creation

Science does not threaten God, nor does it remove God. Scientific explanations as evolution or an old earth does not remove God, nor does it diminish his power, sovereignty, or creative accomplishment. Science merely shows an aspect of how God operates within His creation. Maybe we should look to remove the burden we place upon God who gave us creation and Scripture by trusting the tools he gave us, including our faith.

Christianity is not life in a straightjacket. God gave us good news for everlasting life through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection on the cross. God also gave as nature as a place for us to act in his behalf – and Scripture provides our expectations.

We are not Pharisees who used their feeling of superiority and self-righteousness to proclaim being right with God. We should not create a hostile wall with other Christians by confusing God’s kingdom with our own. As we accept weather reports through maps, data, and predictions based on natural cause-and-effect processes gathered through science, they reject evolution that the same mechanisms explain. We cannot adopt a rationale based on when all else fails, God did it. After all, on his Sermon on the Mount, isn’t Jesus criticizing the Pharisees?

Through the way I see science, evolution, creation, and theology, I have great joy in knowing that I’m glorifying God through a deeper understanding of His creation – our majestic, awesome, intricate, beautiful, continually growing universe.

In order to gain a great understanding and appreciation for God’s creation, we need to strengthen our understanding of science, theology, and the interchange between them. The interaction of our neurological network serves as our symphony of thought, reason, and understanding. Bringing science and theology together brings the greatest sense of awe. Maybe I too am a creationists – but not in the same sense as many typically use the term.

Many thanks to the United Church of Christ for this short, but excellent, summation.

Blessed is God the creator, who is also the light and life of all creation

On When Science Meets Religion: The Book

Of all the books and articles that I’ve read the past few years about the science and theology interchange, this book by Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? is one that I wish I would have read it relatively early in my journey.

Dr. Barbour, a professor emeritus of Science, Society, and Technology at Carlton College, is a well-known author and authority in the field. Early in this book, Barbour establishes four models/views for examining the complex relationship between science and theology: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. However, readers will also find variations of the models – thus more models.

In the majority of the book, Barbour reinforces the four models by examining important issues in light of each model. Chapters/issues are the following:

  • Astronomy and Creation
  • The Implications of Quantum Physics (yes, for you John)
  • Evolution and Continuing Creation
  • Genetics, Neuroscience, and Human Nature
  • God and Nature

I can say that this book is very readable, however, some foundation knowledge on both the broad topic and the individual topics is helpful. Otherwise, it may be a difficult read. For instance, I admit having very limit knowledge about quantum physics. Throughout the journey, Barbour cites numerous examples to support the model he is explaining within the given topic.

The science and religion interchange as a topic is complex, therefore writing a book on the topic would not be easy. However, for anyone interested in the topic, this is a good one encounter early in your process. By the way, check your local library or the library-share organization that it may be a member because that is where I found it.

On Creation Stories: A Book

I first heard about this book at least twenty years ago, but for whatever reason, my memory kept bringing it forward. I also recall hearing that it was a children’s book, which raised both concern and wonder. Not that long ago, I checked my local library – and there it was – so I had to get it.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World (Virginia Hamilton, 1988) is a children’s book – I would say fifth or sixth graders – but it is also a wonderful book for adults. It contains 25 short, easy-to-read creation stories from all inhabited continents and Oceania. Stories about origins, gods, humans, animals, plants, and all creation.

Reads may find it interesting to compare and contrast the stories, which can be done many ways. The stories will provide key roles for ravens, turtles, chameleon, and serpents while introducing us to gods and creators as Alatangana, Elohim, Karora, Marduk, Phan Ku, Quat, Ra, Ulgen, Wulbari, and Yahweh. These stories will also enlighten us about the roles of light, soul, water, moon, stars, sun, eggs, and oceans.

Regardless of the culture, people have wondered about the mystical questions as “How did we get here? Why are we here?” Most (if not ever) early cultures have a creation story, and who knows how many early cultures existed across the globe. Creation stories take us back to an unrecorded time with a sense of wonder and glory – or as the author writes about creation stories, “Go back beyond anything that ever was and begin before anything has happened.”

These stories are about human thinking and cultural perception. Whichever is your creation story, this book may be one to expand your understanding of that story.

On the Vast Universe

The earth is a very small stage in a vast comic arena. (Carl Sagan)

I know I asked the following more than once to a room of teenagers: “Although there is no scientific evidence to support your belief, raise your hand if you believe life can be found elsewhere in the universe.”

A third to a half of the students would respond to the affirmative, along with me. The general thought being since the universe is so big, the odds are in our favor. Then again, I imagine some are influenced by their Star Trek images of other civilizations.

A friend (Bill) enjoys reading about science and will occasionally philosophize. I recall (years ago) asking him the same question, and his answer has not only stuck with me, but I occasionally think about it. Bill simply said (and I paraphrase), “Nope, this is it because God gave all of this to us to enjoy and marvel.”

Over the past several years, I have read much about the science and theology relationship – and yes – I still wonder about that question and Bill’s answer. One thing is for sure; my opinion/thought isn’t as firm as when I first asked the question to the teenagers.

So what do you think? Do you believe life exists elsewhere in the universe, or is this just it just here for us to stand in awe? Please respond … and enjoy the video (one of my favorites).