God and Being

One of the big differences between our faith and traditional Christianity is over the question of Being. Being is one of those weird terms that confuses people studying philosophy. The idea is that “to be” whether within our conscious perception or out in the world has to have an origin. Within our materialist way of thinking about the world in contemporary western thought the issue is why is there matter and/or space. Sometimes well meaning physicists will trot out equations of basic physics and say that’s the answer. But that just pushes the question down a level. Where did those equations come from and why do they work? Asking these questions more or less pushes one into the traditional question of Being that often has strong theological overtones even when an atheist is asking them.

Historically the Christian God gets mixed in with Greek philosophical thinking of this origin in late antiquity. While the questions start before him, Augustine usually gets the blame for intrinsically tying Being as this ultimate origin with the God of the Bible. Much of the thought of Greek thought, especially within neoplatonism, merges with Christianity with one major difference. The pagan philosophers usually thought of existence (whether the outside world or the psychic inner existence) as a series of emanations from an ultimate source. Reality was a matter of degree as one gets further away from the origin. Within Christianity theologians rejected this aspect of neoplatonism. Instead we got creation ex nihilo which put an absolute gulf between God (now the Trinity) and creation. God creates, but he creates out of nothing rather than out of himself.

Sometimes philosophers refer to this as the God of Jerusalem — the interventionist personal God of the Bible — merging with the God of Athens — the abstract non-personal God as the ground of existence. The early Jewish conception of God finds him already within the world. These creation accounts talk of God amongst the primordial waters of chaos organizing them. Often this creation as organization was seen as repeated and ongoing. The abstract God as Being is prior to such things.

The Restoration typically is seen both in terms of modern materialism but also a rejection of this equating of God with Being. Rather than focusing on fundamental ontology and God as the source of all that is, we see God as the craftsman, organizer and literal father. He’s emphasized as a person the way we are persons with implications of limits on God. Salvation itself becomes seen as a kind of character development intrinsically required because of God’s limits on making us. Creation ex nihilo over time becomes the key characteristic of the apostasy along with the loss of pre-existence and a expansive more materialist conception of salvation. God as the very source of existence is largely forgotten.

A twofold problem with this conception emerges. First of some passages such as D&C 93:19-40 or D&C 88:5-13 have pretty clear neoplatonic overtones to the point some historians think Joseph was influence by neoplatonism. Secondly, even if we reject God the Father as being Being itself, the question of Being doesn’t go away anymore than it does for atheists. Both reject traditional Christianity albeit in different fashions. Both existence materially conceived and presence to our consciousness seem foundational. Yet both are strangely mostly absent from our thought.

They do pop up somewhat. Orson Pratt, for instance, reconceives the Trinity within an early modernist materialist cosmology. A fluid that permeates all things is pure divine intelligence. When any divine being, like the Father or Jesus, are divine it is due to their unity with this more foundational fluid that gives them the attributes of divinity. I suspect Pratt came up with this view after reading about the early Church Father Tertullian. Tertullian held an early view of the Trinity that was materialistic and based upon Stoicism. Stoic Spirit permeates the universe and is the origin of the universe. Reason itself is tied to this spirit as an ordering principle. For Pratt there are some differences. His fluids are atomistic fluids in terms of the science of his time. However fundamentally God’s ground — the ousia in the Trinity — becomes this fluid. Further this fluid organizes all things including the laws of physics. It’s a short jump from this to a question of Being.

An other place it pops up is in the Mormon appropriation of the neoplatonic chain of being. Sam Brown’s “The Early Mormon Chain of Belonging” is the classic paper on the chain of being. The idea is that intelligence and everything else emanates out from a pure source with each level being a slightly lower level of being or intelligence. Brown ties this to Thomas Dick’s writings that he sees influencing Joseph Smith. I’m a little more skeptical there although there definitely are some parallels. Sam really doesn’t get at the origin or Being itself though. I think a similar lack is just characteristic of Mormon thought in general.

The question ultimately is for the Restoration what the relationship between Being and God ultimately is. We might be deeply distrustful of a simple equating of God as Being with God as person. It’s not exactly clear though that we should adopt an ontology that atheists adopt regarding Being.

22 comments for “God and Being

  1. Clark, I’m really glad you brought this up! On a whim (after reading some his great “Story of Christianity” book), I recently picked up David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss,” which is where he lays out the classical conception of God, and I realized pretty quick (I don’t have much experience in philosophy) that Latter-day Saints do NOT believe in the God of classical theology. And I have to admit, I found Hart’s arguments about the classical God persuasive. It wasn’t faith shaking or anything, but definitely made me wonder what the LDS response is, because Hart was pretty dismissive of the “God as a being among beings” or “God as craftsman” view, which is (if I’m reading Restoration scriptures right, as you are) exactly what we believe.

    I perused Blake Ostler’s work on God (what little I could, without picking up his books), and he did point out that our conception of God allows God to be passible (a big emphasis in Terryl & Fiona Givens’ recent books), human-like, and relatable––as you point, opposite of the God of Athens. But it does seem like it creates problems. If God is one intelligence among many (even the most Supreme), where does Being come from? I’ve always taken recourse in the “eternalism” answer to where things came from, which is “well, intelligence is eternal.” But Hart (and seemingly Aristotle and Aquinas) seem to say, convincingly, there has to be a first cause. So what caused the universe that we live in? In other words, what caused God? And if there has to be a “Uncaused Mover” or “First Cause,” does God have a God? (Which admittedly, isn’t that weird of an idea given our theology, but definitely not a question we’ve explored much.)

    All of which is to say: yeah! I would love to see this explored more, lacking in philosophical training though I am. Do you know Blake Ostler’s works, or have his books? I don’t have them, but I feel like he’s the best candidate for someone whose thought about this problem. Hoping to pick one up soon. And thanks for the other links, look forward to reading those.

  2. A provocative post. Most of the time, it seems to me, our conceptions of God are prompted by personal or perhaps existential questions. Is there Someone who cares about me? Who hears my prayers? Who will guide and sustain me through life’s difficulties? When we are asking these kinds of questions, a personal conception of God provides the best response. God is our loving Father, embodied, wise, compassionate. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Occasionally, though, we ask more metaphysical questions. Why is there something rather than nothing? The world around us seems contingent: we can imagine it not existing, or not operating according to the regularities that we observe. So, how to account for the world? It seems that God ought to provide the answer to such questions, but in this mode we imagine a more metaphysical God. God as the ground of Being. The God of the philosophers.

    These two conceptions– of the personal God and the metaphysical God– are difficult to reconcile in a single overarching conception that our finite minds can grasp. Attempts to achieve that unifying conception are often unsatisfying, often merely verbal or semantic in character, sometimes almost comical. Might it not be better for a person of faith humbly to accept that there is truth in both conceptions, and that in our finitude we will probably be unable to put them together into a satisfying, unitary whole? And given our exquisitely finite understandings, is it reasonable to suppose that the Restoration will be able to solve this problem any more than the long tradition of Christian theological reflection has done?

  3. Bryan, Blake’s thought basically is a form of what is called process theology. While process thinking is a broad category that can encompass both neoplatonism and even Hegel, typically it’s tied to Alfred Whitehead and then the theological appropriation of Whitehead by Charles Hartshorne and David Ray Griffin. I have my problems with the particularly formulation of process thought that Blake makes use of even though I consider myself a process thinker via Heidegger and Peirce. The main issue ends up being the question of time. In particularly I think General Relativity ends up being the dividing line between Blake and myself. But that gets complicated and I’ve probably already bored everyone.

    What I’d say though is that there are ways to ask the question of being within process theology. However a common criticism of process thought is that it’s impossible to really ask the question due to the way time and god are conceived. I’m not sure how Blake views those things. A good primer on some of these issues is “The Development of Process Theology.” I know just enough about process theology to be dangerous. I’m sure process theology proponents would say I have misconceptions about it. From my perspective though the way time is conceived is just deeply problematic. I think this is true of Blake’s thought too. It’s one of the places I really break from his theology. (The other is that I accept the infinite regress of divine beings rather than the Father being the first father without a father)

    Regarding Hart, he was part of what came to be called the theological turn in continental philosophy. This post was actually inspired by a discussion going on at LDS-Herm mailing list. We were discussing the turn and the book Phenomenology and the Theological Turn. (The book presupposes a fair degree of familiarity with phenomenology I should add) From my perspective the theological turn is primarily about French atheists trying to ask these questions, albeit within phenomenology, and ending up turning to these traditional philosophical questions. Particularly within medieval philosophy and mysticism. While Hart isn’t an atheist, he’s still asking these basic questions of being. I’d say that by and large they’re all just rediscovering or appropriating a certain stance from within neoplatonism of antiquity. Not everyone necessarily agrees with that though. There’s different ways to think about neoplatonism. A common one is a kind of static “everything at the beginning” conception where everything is determined. An other, perhaps more accurate, way of thinking through it is to be very careful how one considers the ontology of time and to be very careful to distinguish between possibility and actuality. In that reading Being becomes the possibility of possibility or something close to it.

    Anon, I think the problem of reconciliation goes beyond our finite minds. I think there are intrinsic contradictions or at least strong tensions. It’s interesting to me that the intellectual theologies end up dropping the interventionist god aspects and focus on this question of being for the most part. I think that within the 19th century that was definitely the case. Indeed I’d go so far to say that Nietzsche’s death of God is really Nietzsche pointing this out. From this conception the atheist and the theist end up at the same place if the theist becomes skeptical of a personal interventionist god. Of course those of us who emphasize the personal God and devalue the philosophical god as really being god are arguably adopting the foundational ontology of the atheist as well.

    Your point about whether the Restoration will resolve this is of course the big question. I’d say no, but then there are those pesky scriptures I mentioned as well as the other elements Sam Brown mentions such as the Book of Abraham.

  4. I have spend a good portion of the last 15 years considering this question, and I believe I’ve come to the solution, and it is largely thanks to Joseph Smith’s theology of the co-eternal nature of intelligence or minds, I believe he got it right and that our current theology is our limited but best attempt to grasp some of those concepts, although in the grand scheme our theology is still in a pretty infant state

  5. “Of course those of us who emphasize the personal God and devalue the philosophical god as really being god are arguably adopting the foundational ontology of the atheist as well.”

    As a nearly infinite variety of either can be described I wonder if the word “god” has much utility.

  6. Michael, I think the word god comes up because Greek mythology is the origin of philosophical thinking. So God or Zeus is usually used for the origin even though it now bears almost no resemblance to the original Greek myths. There still are myth aspects in say Plato’s Timaeus but arguably the whole move is towards moving the gods into more abstract categories. Arguably with liberal Christianity the same thing happens. My sense is that liberal Mormon thought that rejects historicity will move more and more in that direction unavoidably.

    Steve, I think it’s fairly easy to come up with solutions. So Pratt’s is one approach, although the details of his philosophy are problematic due to his not really being that philosophically sophisticated. In contemporary Mormon philosophy you either have people adopting process theology – but that doesn’t typically resolve these problems but just dodges them. The other interesting way it is engaged is via the phenomenology tradition in Mormon thought. Levinas, the famous Jewish philosopher, more or less makes otherness as the ultimate ground of God. This has a long tradition in both elements of Judaism but also medieval Christian thought in figures like Duns Scotus. Levinas’ next move is to say not only is God completely other but so are all individual people. A common way to deal with this is to have no-thing as the ground. Duns Scotus has a lot to say there. I’ve seen many Mormon philosophers brush against this although few have wanted to engage with it rigorously. Arguably Adam Miller’s secular grace comes pretty close as well albeit not from a phenomenological perspective. There the basic unit of creativity is this grace that’s not God the Father’s grace. However I’ve not seen Adam again really engage with the relationship between God the Father (or the Son) and this more foundational grace. (I’ve brought this up in some of my readings of Adam’s books I’ve posted at this blog)

  7. Clark, thanks for broaching a topic that is interesting and important.You did it in an articulate and interesting way.

    A couple minor comments.
    First, I don’t think of Dick as the source of Smith’s reformulation of the Chain of Being. That line of argument strikes me as Brodie-level impressionism. I mentioned him just as one of many contemporaries and predecessors who were talking about the Chain of Being. I also don’t see in anyone else the genealogical reformulation as the Chain of Belonging. While I’m sure some will complain that the patriarchal family within the Chain of Being is a sufficient precedent, it feels to me like Smith is making a claim that differs in important and revelatory ways.
    Second, I do try to sketch out one Restoration approach to mediating the gap between the God of the Bible and the God of the philosophers in a Dialogue essay (not sure where the Dialogue link lives–https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P4-1992863662/mormons-probably-aren-t-materialists-1 ). I do think that the Restoration has the core of a solution in the multiple valences of the word Elohim, which I think I point toward in that Materialists essay.

    Third, a law professor friend introduced me to Eleonore Stump, whose Aquinas lectures I’m reading now. She argues that there are solutions to the split between the God of the Bible and God of the philosophers.

    Bryan, I also enjoyed Hart’s theology book. It’s lovely. While I’m juggling other priorities, I’m slowly working on some Restoration threads that can I think make productive use of Hart’s variant of the God of the philosophers and a specifically Restoration notion of communal incarnation that is a useful solution. Sorry for the teaser; the press of time keeps me from finishing all the writing projects I’m working on.

  8. Not sure what you mean by “it’s fairly easy to come up with a solutions”. Your post is basically a brief summary of why the leading candidates for the origin of being are all problematic. And if problematic, then they’re not solutions, maybe you mean easy to come up with a proposed solution? I’m not familiar with how otherness is supposed to resolve the origin of being, where can I find such an explanation? The idea of something from nothing is a nonsensical idea, the better question is why there is something rather than nothing, and I haven’t seen that question truly answered before.

  9. Steve,
    Can you point to this nothing? We know there’s something. The universe is filled with it. Yes, often with vast distances of nothing in between. But look at the night sky and we can get a feel with how much anti-nothing the universe is filled with.

    So the better question is why would anyone assume there was ever nothing? Isn’t that like arguing that we need to explain the impossible in order to accept the possible?

    There is no nothing. Only something.

  10. “why there is something rather than nothing?”

    The question itself seems as nonsensical as “something from nothing.” “Why” seems to question either (a) causation (when “why” acts as “how”) implying events prior to “something” and therefore not “nothing” or (b) purpose implying either (i) someone to have an intention and therefore not “nothing” or (ii) a concept of tending toward by nature of the something that came before “nothing.”

    Is there another meaning of “why”?

  11. Thcy,
    Yeah I don’t mean empty space, the fabric of spacetime is itself something. “Why would anyone assume there was ever nothing?” I guess it really depends on definitions. I think nothing is best defined as Void, the complete absence of anything real. Because we are in reality, ‘nothing’ is easily defined as a concept, it is that which is not reality or non-reality. I think an example of this is 1 + 1 = 3, or algebraically x = not x. In other words in my understanding another definition for void or non-reality, is paradox. I think a good question that then arises is whether this concept of ‘nothing’ could exist independently of something or whether it is dependent on reality, and perhaps to the heart of your question whether ‘nothing’ could therefore be a sensical starting point to begin with.

    Yes, those are the 2 definitions, and I think this question when asked is being posed as “What is the reason there is something rather than nothing?”. Your point (a) shows why something from nothing is nonsensical. “there is something” is an acknowledgment of the reality we are in, and yes the “why” is asking for the cause. I think the implication is that nothing on the other hand would not need a cause since it is defined as the absence of something. But if using the logic from my response to Thcy, perhaps ‘nothing’ is dependent on something in the first place. A similar question to the something/nothing question, if we start with the axiom that something exists eternally, is why is there cause and effect at all? Or why is that something not eternally static?

    In either of these cases (something from nothing, or a non-static something) if ‘being’ is defined as something that is not eternally static or a compound whole, the underlying primary question of the origin of being might be rephrased as, “What is the origin of cause and effect?”

  12. That last paragraph should have been started, “In either of these cases (something rather than nothing, or a non-static rather than static something)…”

  13. “What is the origin of cause and effect?” seems to be another nonsensical question. “Origin” itself seems to imply a cause. If that is so, then there cannot be an origin of cause and effect because “cause and effect” would be the effect of a prior cause. Otherwise, it seems the question itself presumes that something came into being after nothing and did so with being cause to do so.

  14. Sam, thanks for chiming in. I truly appreciate it. I probably should have written that more carefully. I took you to be seeing it as an influence but not the source. By contrast I suspect the common source for the shape of Joseph’s revelations and Dick’s cosmology is neoplatonism which influenced a lot of people of the time — including the American transcendentalists like Emerson.

    To your other point – the nominalist one where the difference is merely linguistic but often using the same noun – that’s definitely one way of dealing with it. And arguably has a long pedigree going back to Ockham vs. Duns Scotus. (Although if I recall most nominalists were careful not to be nominalist about the Trinity – I honestly don’t recall Ockham’s view here although he was in some key ways less nominalist than many assume) The usual approach, which I assume Stump goes after, is the ousia vs. hypostasis solution. That’s more or less what I was pointing towards with my comments on Mormon phenomenologists like Jim Faulconer. I think effectively Levinas is making a hypostasis vs. ousia distinction with his face metaphor. Not everyone agrees of course.

    Steve, more or less all I meant is that there’s lots of ways of solving the problem but little information to allow us to decide between them. I outlined a few. One is just that we adopt an atheistic ontology and make God the most perfect being within that ontology. (That’s probably the most popular solution) The other is the Levinas solution where there’s a kind of absolute alterity that is common to all intelligence beings. So we make a distinction between God the person and the depth of God (or any other person). I’d argue that Duns Scotus provides a fairly similar approach. There are obviously some changes one has to make due to our different ontology of the persons of the godhead but overall it works. An other solution is to simply de-stoicize Pratt’s cosmology and make his aether the divine Nous or common divine mind and then have a deeper layer below that. That’s pretty much the neoplatonic solution. (Neoplatonic cosmology was heavily influenced by Stoicism) There are other solutions. It’s just that we don’t have a good reason to pick any one of these.

    To why is there something rather than nothing, there are interesting answers in the history of philosophy. Indeed I’d say that drives the question of being whether in Plato or others. I’m rather partial to Heidegger here (who in large part is following the late platonists despite making Plato his nemesis). But there’s a huge divide on that point. Carnap famously thinks Heidegger is full of it for instance. As “confused former philosophy student” notes many see the very question as confused. Yet I’d argue that if we examine our experience carefully we can encounter the nothing. This just raises yet an other question about whether the phenomenological nothing Heidegger discusses is the same as the ground of the external world. (And many would at that point argue that distinguishing a “real word” from our “perceived world” is also nonsense)

    Regarding cause and effect, I should note that it’s not actually clear whether causality is fundamental. There’s three ways of formulating mechanics in physics. The first is the one most think of in terms of forces, masses and accelerations. That’s Newtons’ form although it’s tricky extending that one to quantum mechanics. The second form is called the Lagrangian and more or less says minimizing the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy is fundamental. The third is called the Hamiltonian and is what gives us our normal expression of quantum mechanics in the Dirac equation. That sees just an evolution of the entire system expressed typically in terms of energy in a deterministic fashion. You can then do manipulations to get out things like position or momentum or so forth. While mathematically all three formulations are equivalent, ontologically they express very different ideas even in classical mechanics. Cause and effect in the way we normally think of it really only applies to the Newtonian like formulations.

    I’m not saying we should (or can) pick one above the others. I’m just noting that it makes these questions much trickier – especially when we look at fundamental physics where our normal world intuitions don’t apply.

  15. still confused,
    That’s right, essentially a first cause, although I don’t really like the term, original or primal cause seems like a better descriptor. It can’t be an external cause, because either that too would be something that needs a cause description (why infinite regress is infinitely never the final answer), or it would be nothing and we’ve already gone over that. It can’t be a static something that exists that spontaneously has a cause, as by definition a static something does not change (unless externally acted upon). Therefore by process of elimination we are left with only one possibility, all reality itself must be atemporally self-caused. And finally we are left with the how and why (outside of just the process of elimination) of the mechanics of such a self-cause.

    Clark, haven’t been able to read through your full comment, will try to get to it later.

  16. Okay, I’ve been able to spend some time going through your comment, reading through the link, and looking up other parts I’m not as familiar with. Maybe I didn’t understand the original question being explored well enough, I thought the question of Being inherently included the question of the origin of Being. In that sense, I agree with you that there are many ways to propose what kind of being God might be, and there is little to go off of to distinguish which should be chosen given currently accepted knowledge.

    I think however, what would ultimately distinguish them in a way that we would be able to choose is to be able to answer what I thought was originally included in your question, that is the question of the origin of Being. As physics currently stands, true randomness seems like a genuine possibility, but at the same time causality is not ruled out, nobody from truly knows what is going on yet. And as I’m understanding it Newtonian, Lagrangian, and Hamiltonian mechanics don’t preclude the classical idea of determinism being at play. I believe I have found a logical solution to the origin of being that answers the hard questions, and therefore does offer something to decide between which types of Being are possible. Probably won’t go into that, but interestingly enough I believe Joseph Smith was approaching some of these very same ideas near the end of his life, I believe what he was trying to teach was far ahead what we’ve been able to comprehend about it so far.

  17. Steve LHJ, “atemporally self-caused” suggests a notion of “cause” that is so far from common usage that it doesn’t convey much different from “not caused at all, but rather existing without a cause” — essentially indistinguishable from efforts to describe a “first cause.” Except for the mental exercise or out of speculative curiosity, it is not clear to me why anyone would bother unless it were to support a preconceived concept of creation ex nihilo. That motivation, however, doesn’t seem applicable when the term is applied to “all reality” as you do. Of course, my reaction to the term might change substantially with a grasp of “mechanics of such a self-cause,” but my ignorance of modern physics is such that I probably can’t even begin to grasp an explanation of such mechanics.

    Clark, can you recommend any accessible writing summarizing the development and explanations of the Trinity doctrine? I wonder if there could be one that didn’t have either a Trinitarian or anti-Trinitarian ax to grind.

    When told by way of explanation years ago only that the Trinity was a “difficult concept” my response was that I didn’t think it was a concept at all, that instead it appeared to be a collection of words with various meanings, variously translated, designed primarily to create a creed that appeared to preserve strict monotheism (identified with “first cause”) and the divinity of Jesus, and creation ex nihilo all at once. That response was without any knowledge of the extent, if any, to which the writers of the Nicene creed actually had in mind the meaning(s) of their words in prior Greek philosophy. Of course, it’s another question how many members of the council accepting the creed actually understood the Greek philosophical underpinnings of the creed’s language. Obviously, I have no clear understanding of the prior Greek philosophy or ordinary meaning(s) of the words usually translated “person” and “substance” (or “being”) or the derived English word “consubstantial”.

  18. Steve, classical mechanics is deterministic. Quantum mechanics isn’t. The usual assumption is that randomness within constraints is ontological but not everyone accepts that. (Einstein famously rejected it) My point in raising the three formulations of mechanics was just to note that what seems fundamental is a complex question. Typically what happens is we have unexamined assumptions that bias us towards one answer there. If philosophy has a use, it’s in getting us to discover and examine our hidden assumptions.

    “Still Confused” there’s lots of good books. Unfortunately most of my library is packed away at the moment due to running out of room at my house. There’s a great multivolume history of Christian theology starting in antiquity, dealing with the break with eastern Christianity, the medieval era and the Protestant reformation. Alas despite it being a well known series I can’t for the life of me remember the author’s name. I’ll see if I can’t find it later.

    Regarding the Trinity not being a concept, I agree to a point. I used to point people to Cartwright’s “On the Logical Problem of the Trinity.” Cartwright is more or less formally making this same point. However I think Cartwright is a bit misleading as there are a lot of hidden nominalist assumptions there. A platonist would have far less trouble with the Trinity. To your other point, I think the people pushing the creed are using classic Greek terms in a new and novel fashion. This is partially why while I think most Mormons are technically fine with the Athanasian Creed our theology still tends to be at odds with most theology of the Trinity.

  19. still confused,
    Yes, I suppose it depends on how you look at it, from the permanently atemporal perspective you could say just that, and in that sense the Universe could be considered something that is static and never changing – things as they are, as the were, and as they will be, one great whole unchangeable and eternal. Yes, I do believe there is an explanation and reason why this is so, but won’t go into that here.

    I agree that examining that which seems obvious and seems fundamental often is far more complex than assumed. My personal belief is that the apparent randomness of quantum mechanics can be explained by more fundamental variables not yet discovered, and that the collapse of the wave function is deterministic. I think it would be hard to have a theology with a God that knows past, present, and future, and in that sense a God that we can have perfect faith in, if this were not the case.

  20. Bryan, highly recommend you check out Blake Osstler and his son’s podcast:

    His son pushes back and asks for clarification on some more technical philosophical arguments which makes it much more clear.

  21. I’ll also add that he does believe that God the father is the “original God”, not one in a chain, but still strongly makes logical arguments and support for a feeling, passable God.

  22. Steve, not sure of your technical background, but if you view the whole universe as a single Hamiltonian that collapses to a single state that is our actual universe then I think that allows for foreknowledge while still handling the issues you raise. Of course causality in such a scheme isn’t foundational and you’re stuck with a block universe model. But honestly that seems the most plausible to me given the physics. I’m not sure hidden variable models like Bohmian mechanics works as well. Although obviously at this stage we have no empirical reason to pick one above an other. Theologians like Blake would reject the block universe model since he wants a true open future for his conception of free will to function. I think that ends up leading to implausible ways of trying to deal with relativity though.

    I’d say that Blakes books on theology are a must read even if I think his views are a bit out of the mainstream. (Which is not to say in the least they’re unorthodox – just that I think a few of his views like the rejection of foreknowledge or the Father having a father are unusual)

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