Spiritual Realm

thesecret.jpgToday I started reading The Secret, and came across the following quote:

Quantum physicists tell us the Universe emerged from thought! (Page 15)

I admit my knowledge of quantum physics is sorely lacking … is this statement accurate? If so, what exactly does it mean? I know what it means in "The Secret" context, but what does it mean in the world of quantum physics (if anything)? (I'm not trying to be a smart-ass by the way, this is a serious question!)

I'll post some thoughts on the content of The Secret as I get farther in the book. For those who haven't heard of the book, it's basically the best-selling New Age repackaging of the 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking. Available via Amazon, eBook version from eBooks.com (this is the version I got) or your local bookseller. I'm reading it because I'm writing one of my research papers on it. My initial impression is that the power of positive thinking stuff is generally good, but the "thought magnet" stuff and the implication that thoughts create reality is simply unnecessary at best. [Edit: As I read further into the book, I'm becoming more increasingly concerned. I think this book could actually be harmful.]

Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?Lately I've been reading Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor And a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity, a book that chronicles an email discussion between Dr Preston Jones (Christian, history professor, PhD University of Ottawa) and Dr Greg Graffin (naturalist, singer from the punk band Bad Religion, PhD Cornell University). Overall, it's an interesting read. I'm glad their discussion never turned into a "debate" because, generally speaking, a debate is about "winning" at all costs, not honest discussion or learning about how others view things.

I'm slightly disappointed so far with some of Dr Jones' responses, though. One of the main things that annoys me so far is the logic given to assume a naturalistic worldview. [EDIT: As Preston himself (!) points out in the comments, he does not support Gaffin's view, and in fact does support a view similar to the one I expound later on in this post. Probably the format of the dialogue made it difficult to get his view out in the open fully in the book.]

Now, I'm probably oversimplifying this, and Dr Graffin could probably kick my ass (in both the physical and intellectual arenas) but nonetheless here's how I understand the argument:

  1. Empirical observation of the universe is the 'sum of all truth'. (cf p.43 of Jones and Gaffin's book)
  2. Therefore, the only way to know the truth about God is to use the same methods used to study naturalistic phenomena.
  3. Since there is no proof of God observable in this way, God does not exist.

Now, while I disagree with point #1 (this seems to be a self-refuting argument; how can you prove this statement is true by empirical observation?) and also with point #3 (see for example What about natural theology? which suggests that we can know some things about God via observation), I'd like to comment briefly on point #2.

The idea that the same methods used to study naturalistic phenomena (that is, the physical things in our own universe) can be used to study God (who is outside of, not limited to, our physical universe) is to me a faulty assumption. I'll try not to repeat what I've already posted on this blog, so see my post Knowing God for a fuller explanation, but the gist of it is this: "I am suggesting that rigidly applying the same methodology used for studying mundane things would be in some sense deficient when considering divine things." If God is in an entirely different category than physical things, we cannot "study" Him in the same way we study physical things, so therefore concluding that God does not exist because He cannot be empirically studied is a faulty assumption. This doesn't prove that God exists, it only suggests that the naturalistic reasoning like that given above is not sufficient to conclude that God does not exist.

Further reading:

  • Lessons from a Punker Ph.D. – Preston Jones reflects on his conversation with Greg Graffin.
  • Finding Faith – Brian McLaren's book (in particular pages 102-104) were the inspiration for my line of thinking on this subject.
  • Is Faith Just a Psychological Crutch? – I hear this all the time: "You may need God, but I don't." Implicit in the statement is "You believe in God because you're weak". Besides being fallacious reasoning, I don't think this charge is true.

I was pointed to this video by a post on the PyroManiacs blog. It's called "Just Stop and Think", created by Francis Chan and a whole team of videographers and so on. Note that it's about 15mins long so only watch if you have time right now; if you don't, bookmark this link and watch it later. If you do have time, click below to watch the video online (QuickTime format):

Just Stop and Think video

The reaction to the video in the PyroManiacs thread seems mixed, but generally positive. I thought the video was well-done, although it only presents part of the story; don't miss the Questions page on the same site.

Further reading:

Oh brother ...I was going to write up a commentary on Pat Robertson's most recent vague, eyeroll-worthy 'prediction', but fortunately Stand to Reason's Melinda Penner has already written up a brief commentary that expresses my own concerns about Mr. Robinson quite succinctly:

Robertson has given us no reason to believe that he is [a prophet] – especially given the poor track record of his past prophetic utterances. … When we use God's name, we should evaluate whether it will bring God honor or ridicule, whether we have the proper authority to use it.


This is really, IMHO, an example of using God's name in vain (Exodus 20:7), as Melinda also notes in her article. I don't doubt that prophecy is still possible, but that doesn't mean it is in any way frequent. Sometimes when we read the Bible (which by nature records uncommon, atypical events) we get the impression that miracles were, and should still be, happening on a continuous, almost daily basis. But that is not the case; the incidents of prophecy and miracles were recorded precisely because they were the exception to the norm.

(BTW, yeah that's me in the pic above; edited from an old picture taken about 3 years ago.)

Related reading:

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