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The hiddenness of God

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#41 Monk Herman

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:57 AM

Wow! Thanks for the link. That's very interesting.

Atheists usually suppose that infants are utterly mindless in the womb and that belief in God must be taught. I've always supposed it was the other way around. A person in the womb has hardly any stimuli that would distract the soul from the immediate experience of God.

Apropos of what you report Bishop Irenaeos as saying, I believe it was Blessed Augustine who said something like "we were made for Thee, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." I can't guarantee how well I'm remembering that, tho. Maybe someone can help us out here.

By the way, an Orthodox Christian by the name of Richard Swinburne teaches philosophy at Oxford. If anyone knows of any other Orthodox working in philosophy or physics, I'd appreciate a holler.

And by the grace of God we've made it through the holy Forty Days. Wishing all a blessed Great Week and Kalo Pascha.


#42 Monk Herman

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 08:42 PM

+ Brian:

You write:

If there is one white ball in a total collection of a million balls, what is the chance of drawing a white ball? … If a million draws are done, the chance of a "one in a million" event happening at least once is roughly 63%.

This is helpful. If we’re trying for one white ball out a million, our chances of success are only about 2/3 even with a million tries! If we get only one try, our chances must drop drastically.

Considering the Penrose number, philosopher Robin Collins puts it this way: he says that one try out of 10 10 (123) would be like trying to hit a single photon if the entire universe were a dartboard (The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe, in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, W L Craig & J P Moreland, eds. p 220).

So, as you say, we need to know what the sample size is.

… How many "failed" universes spontaneously arose before this one, from pure random space-time fluctuation?

("Failed" in this context means “life-prohibiting.”)

As you say, “ ‘Size’ [that is, 'extension' or 'space' --H] and ‘time’ are only valid within a single universe.” Fr Aidan, too, says that “It's not as if one can compare our cosmos over against other cosmoses. There is just our cosmos.” I agree. So since spacetime is a constituent part of the only physical reality we know or can know, since it would be meaningless to conceive of spacetime independently of some existing universe, answering the question How many "failed" universes spontaneously arose before this one is like trying to summarize John Kerry’s first State of the Union Address. Spacetime “unelected” (all on its own) has no executive powers or duties—not even the power to fluctuate (since it doesn’t exist “all on its own”). Multiverse theories (which we’ll criticize in the next paragraph) try to overcome this in various ways. But we can answer the question of how many (hypothetical) life-prohibiting universes spontaneously arose before the actual universe in one of two ways:

If we’re willing to settle for a purely speculative result, and if we have our hearts set on actualizing a life-sustaining universe just by chance, our best bet is to set the number as high as we can—let’s say at infinity. No actual number can beat infinity! Infinity is not any particular number, however great: infinity is number without end. With an infinite number of tries it is guaranteed that every possible combination of constants and quantities must be actualized an infinite number of times. If a viable multiverse or many-worlds theory should ever arise it would provide us with the numbers we need for this. But such theories are highly speculative; they’re inherently non-verifiable (since we have no way of peering beyond the observable universe); they violate the law of parsimony (“Occam’s razor”) on a monumental scale; and they’re beset by workability problems (see Robert J Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God).

Well, speculation works wonders. But if we wish to extend our knowledge of what is, we can't begin from fantasy: we have to begin from knowledge already acquired. And since at this time we have no reason to believe that there has ever been any universe other than our own beloved cosmos, we must assume the number of non-lifesustaining “failed” universes to be zero.


… let’s accept the unverifiable odds of 1:10^10^123 (really just a guess--is Mr. Penrose possessed of Omniscience?).

There must be some misunderstanding here. First, I’m sure there’s nothing as eminently verifiable as mathematics. Anyone correctly performing the same operations with the same numbers will infallibly arrive at the same result. Dr Penrose doesn’t need omniscience. He just needs math & numbers. Secondly, no scientist achieves the status of someone like “Mr” Penrose by publishing mere guesswork.

But I should correct a mistake I think I made earlier. The Penrose calculation is not based on all the various constants and quantities that constitute the fine-tuning problem. It's based on only one: the fact that our universe began in a low-entropy state. This allows time for stars, and consequently carbon, to form. An initial high-entropy state would have brought the universe to complete equilibrium long before stars could form, and hence would be life-prohibiting. If someone were to calculate based on the two dozen or so parameters I've seen mentioned in the literature I've come across, our result would be one part in some very much larger number than 10 10 (123).

The fine-tuning problem as I've tried (however poorly) to sketch it here is, as I said in an earlier post, in itself insufficient to allow the inference to a transcendent designer. What it does is to defeat the hypothesis of a life-sustaining universe arising by chance—a hypothesis that is pure guesswork.


#43 Mary Lanser

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 10:08 PM

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart will not rest, until it rests in you.

St. Augustine of Hippo

#44 IoanC


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Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:44 PM

Part of the reason God is "hidden" is actually a more profound reality that people either don't know about, or they erroneously overlook. And that is that God is Unseen Spirit. Whenever people invoke "why can't we see God?", we can answer "because God does not have a body, He is not some Old Guy sitting on a physical throne somewhere in the universe" (aside from Christ's human nature, which requires more theological knowledge to get into). Or we can answer, "you can see God everywhere, in every flower, tree, the sun, in people loving each other, in every affectionate and gentle act". Again, God is Spirit, and part of the reason we don't see Him is actually because we will never see Him in His Nature, but through Christs Human Nature (Body), His Creation, and Energies (Grace). I know many atheists fool themselves by asking this question so seriously; don't we know intuitively that God is not a human, that He is "supposed" to be Life, Love, Light and infinite?

#45 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:40 PM

As we approach Thomas Week, we can recall this:

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

According to the Pentecostarion, it was necessary for the disciples to see the Risen Christ that they might testify to the truth. Jesus 'tolerated' Thomas's unbelief since it led the hearts of the faithful to knowledge. The Orthodox Church professes the faith of the apostles which was based on their witness. We are called to believe in our hearts and are blessed for that according to Christ's word. 'Our eyes see Thee not, but our hearts' fervent longing doth see Thee' (Saturday small vespers of Thomas Sunday). As Bishop Irenaeos used to say, we see with the eyes of our undertsanding (cf Eph. 1:18).

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