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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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7. Plan of Approach

That there is a God, and that God is One, are the primary assumptions of a rational monotheism:

Postulate 1   God exists.

Postulate 2   God is One.

These are the postulates needed for further constructive work in theistic research.7.1Such a pair of postulates is not enough to generate deductions and is hence nowhere near enough to produce all the explanations that we seek. We need to combine it with further postulates. Each of the chapters in Part III will deal with one or two additional postulates. Each chapter will then build up deductions with the help of all previous chapters.

Discussions with friends have shown me that there are many differences and uncertainties concerning theism. Even within theology the question of the powers of natural objects has been commonly divorced from the question of how God sustains those objects in existence. Because I understand that the behavior of objects does depend on the details of theism and on how they are sustained in existence, I will now present expositions (from here through to Chapter 16) to elucidate the needed principles of theism. The primary function of these short chapters is to outline the core principles that will be needed as foundations for the later scientific theorizing. The postulates listed in subsequent chapters are not arbitrary but were carefully chosen from what I think of as ‘vanilla theism’. These are the core beliefs of the main theistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Those are the three ‘Religions of the Book’.7.2

The core beliefs of philosophical theism are typically that God is eternal, infinite, necessary, one, immutable, impassible, transcendent and immanent. Then, for religious purposes at least, we add that God is good, loving, a divine person, worthy of worship, worthy of praise, righteous, just, awe-inspiring, and always merciful and forgiving. However, it is not entirely clear how these last attributes are related together or even how they follow from the first (philosophical) group of attributes. A difficulty for many people is that the philosophical attributes above hardly allow that God be living. That is because it is doubtful that an ‘immutable, impassible One’ can be loving and merciful. God may well be both, we believe, but the rational understanding of the connection is weak.

The coming postulates are chosen, therefore, to emphasize the life and loving nature of God. They assert that God is eternal, infinite and transcendent, but insist, in addition, that God is living and that God is loving. These postulates about life and love are certainly not known a priori. The philosophical proofs of the existence of God never conclude by proving those particular hypotheses about the living nature of God. Nevertheless, they are core and central beliefs of religious theism. I strongly believe that they come come from revelations from God. I believe that God’s input into the religious books over the last several thousand years has lead to a general awareness that God is living and loving. He is living and loving in his Divine way, a way that we forever struggle to understand.

I am not going to discuss particular revelations or particular books because I believe that the core claims I make in this book can be distilled from religious thought. Let us therefore continue with introducing the core theistic postulates to see what can thereby be derived as a basis for the principles of our world.7.3

Here are some clarifications of terminology and approach. The first concerns the meaning of ‘natural’ and ‘physical’.

We rightly think that everything has a nature, namely a description of its substance and of all its essential properties and powers. In agreement with this general sense of the word ‘nature’, the original Greek meaning7.4 of ‘physical’ is ‘that which has its source of change within itself’. This is to distinguish it from what is artificial, which are those things that have sources of change outside themselves.7.5 If theism is true and God is the source of our life and therefore the only thing with life in itself, then, strictly speaking, only God is physical! All of the the rest of us beings are therefore ‘artificial’ (in some sense).7.6

However, this is not the everyday use of these terms. Since we commonly use the word ‘naturalistic’ or ‘physical’ to describe the basic sciences of today, we need to invent a new name such as ‘generalized-natural’ or ‘generalized-physical’ for the above sense of everything with a source of change within itself. A ‘generalized physics’ would be the study of those things, and, when theism is assumed true, it will coincide with our theistic science. Both will be the study of everything that has a causal influence on the things in our world. In another variation on definitions, some philosophers7.7 define “physical things [as] those things that are postulated by a complete physics.” Theists claim that this must refer to the generalized sense of ‘physical’ which includes minds and even God. Most often, however, I am not going to use such a generalized terminology, delightful though it may be.

This book therefore is going to use ‘nature’ to refer to what is currently known as physical, including all material things and also whatever virtual or pre-geometric processes may be surmised in quantum gravity. Then, everything natural may be taken as itself dead and not living, however active or ‘subtle’ it may be. We will later see that natural things are energized and enlivened by something spiritual within them, but we will never need to identify spiritual as the ‘inmost of the physical’ and hence itself essential natural. The term physical, as I and most people use it, excludes what is mental or spiritual.7.8

Can we know the nature of God? There is one well-established religious tradition--apophatic or ‘negative theology’--that refuses to make positive statements about Divinity. Aquinas uses this approach in part when he says that common terms such as ‘life’, ‘wisdom’, even ‘existence’ can only be applied to God analogically. According to him, God does not have wisdom but has something analogous to wisdom. This would make establishing a theistic science difficult. None of the terms we might want to use in our arguments actually refers properly to God under this tradition. I, therefore, do not follow it. I will instead attempt to form a cataphatic or positive theology. I want to start with whatever can be truly attributed to God and then use well-specified analogies and similarities to deduce what attributes can then be truthfully attributed to us. I believe we have sufficient concepts given to us via revelation that we can make statements about God that are mostly true. We do not, of course, claim to make statements about all of an infinite God. We only claim that our terms do properly refer to God and at least approximately describe the nature of God.

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