Theistic intervention in a closed universe

A: So then, your Physicalism is based on the causal closure thesis.

B: Right. Say some object moves. The energy or force that moves it suffices to explain why it moved, and that’s all one needs to say. Any additional supernatural agents are superfluous, if not unintelligible.

A: I believe God acts on the world – so I’m committed to saying that God is some sort of source of force.

B: Which makes him indistinguishable from an animal or a falling stone or a river, as far as I can tell. You might make him an invisible person, but then the only thing to conclude is that invisible persons are features of the universe. Such a thing has never been reliably observed or studied, but you never know – the universe is an odd place and we might come upon such a being someday.

A: But, even if you did, that isn’t the sort of being that I would call God at all!

B: Why not?

A: I can’t imagine ever worshiping an invisible person, for one thing. That seems positively sacrilegious to me.

B: But what is there to the God you believe in beyond this? He’s an invisible person who does things for human persons. If you can’t worship this, maybe worship just isn’t an appropriate feeling for a person to have.

A: But then all sacred music and art and devotion is inappropriate and even dehumanizing. But that can’t be right.

B: I’ve always liked it too. I’m as struck by Cathedrals, chant, and the Christmas Creche as anyone else. But what can you say about this?

A: It’s hard to account for it without saying there’s something true in it.

B: Maybe so, but we’d have to say that about all religious traditions. I love the Muslim call to prayer, the Japanese meditation garden, the Greek Bacchanalia, etc.

A: Sure, but I don’t have to deny the value of another’s spirituality in order to offer him something better.  In fact, most of the time I’d assume the goodness of what he had.

B: Sure

A: But I think we’ve lost sight of the idea of worship.

B: We did drift away from that.

A: Worship is something entirely inappropriate to direct to a person – invisible or not. It would be disgusting and blasphemous to fall down in adoration before some great hero or genius. In fact, if he were a genius, he would be disgusted by such an action. This is the sort of thing that tyrants demand of persons.

B: But now you’re making no sense. You want this God of yours to love the world and choose to do things in it. This is a description of a person.

A: He could be a person analogously.

B: Maybe so. But analogous naming has to follow some knowledge of something. What knowledge do you have of this person?

A: I know at least this – if he exists, God is (a) a person who (b) deserves to be worshiped. But we don’t add (b) as a specific difference, as though he were a special case of the genus “person”, but a characteristic that sets him utterly outside the genus.

B: But then how does “analogy” keep from being some glue holding together a contradiction? You want something to be made a person in virtue of intelligence, but to be so utterly different from the persons you know that he would be worthy of worship. How do we come to know such a being?

A: By experience of such a thing? By argument? By an attempt to find an object that would be appropriate to a Cathedral or chant?

B: Maybe so. As I think about it, this doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that could cause friction with the causal closure thesis. Questions like that don’t tend to arise in the field where it is relevant. Maybe I could be a theistic Physicalist!

A: I’m not sure of that either. But you never know – the universe is an odd place.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: