I was out of town last week and things got a bit crazy, but I wanted to comment on the weekend we talked about complexity. I’ll ramble about this weekend’s subject of mystery in a few days.
When we decided to include complexity as an aspect of God that creates awe, the challenge for me was to not turn it into an apologetic for God. Part of me falls under the spell of Paley’s watchmaker analogy; that is, if you found a pocket watch in a field you would assume it didn’t just happen—it’s too complicated with interdependent parts. Pop über-atheist Dawkins counters this in The Blind Watchmaker. I think it still has street cred philosophically, but hey, I’m just a drummer from Kentucky.
I love books about biological and cosmological systems and complexities, at least to the degree I can understand them. I find it fascinating bedtime reading. I even try to read plebian stuff on quantum theory by accessible writers like Ferris and Greene.
But that’s still about natural complexity. That’s the pocket watch. I didn’t want to start there. The question I started thinking about was the problem of free will…and assume God’s existence and that He has a purpose. Now it gets interesting. Just those four words in the same sentence make things very complicated: free will and God’s purposes. How can that work?
Even if you’re a hardcore predeterminist, it’s still incredibly complex. You could argue (oddly) that predeterminism doesn’t necessarily rule out your ability to choose freely. If you lean that way theologically it just makes God a Boris Spassky on cosmic steroids…fifty gazillion moves ahead and able to checkmate you whenever He wants while all the time you think you’re choosing your own destiny with that cool move of your bishop. Is free will not free will if you’re unaware of the Chess Master? Okay, maybe not in the purest sense.
Anyway, I’m way too Wesleyan for that. Or at least this week. Admit it: there are compelling scriptures on either side of the fence.
But I wonder if this little illustration might be more accurate where the truth actually falls. Think of our brain capacity as the size of a bottle cap (now we’re getting honest…). Imagine two toothpicks placed across it. One of the toothpicks represents classic Calvinism; the other Arminianism—predestination versus free will—in their most primitive forms. Where the points of the toothpicks meet is the actual Big “T” Truth. I wonder if that particular Truth is simply outside of our capability to grasp?
It could be a cop-out.
But how many of us can really understand current theories in quantum mechanics? And do we find it particularly difficult thinking the best and brightest brains among us might not actually understand, uh, everything? Really?
It doesn’t mean we stay stupid. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t explore the edges of our gray matter. I was stunned recently when I visited Ford's Greenfield Village in Michigan and saw the bike shop where the Wright brothers built their airplane. Henry Ford moved the whole house from Dayton, Ohio (a pox upon you, Dayton city fathers…). It displayed a wing from the plane with a simple plaque expressing something to the effect of: “Sixty-five years later man walked on the moon.” Can you imagine the extremely complicated technical advances in just a handful of decades? Human beings are pretty impressive on some points.
But can we know everything…philosophically and ontologically?
Please. Give me a break. That one started in the garden: “You will be like God.”