Where Is God: Are the Gaps Shrinking?

For the faithful, without doubt, the Christian God has operated in the earthly realm. God generated the famous burning bush of Moses, parted the Red Sea, created the virgin birth of Christ, turned water into wine, converted fishes and loaves to feed thousands, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

That presence continues today. Today, for the faithful, God touches our earthly realm as his listens to our prayers, sends his Spirit to guide and purify us, inspires the bishops at ecumenical councils, and enables modern day saints to perform miracles.

But where is this God?

Before the ascendancy of modern science, the Christian God could be present “out there” in nature. Humanity’s understanding of science was sufficiently limited that we could picture our God as residing in the skies above, wielding the forces of nature for his purposes. Ample gaps existed in our science to allow the earthly attributes of God, and his presence in our earthly realm, to slip in without contradiction of science.

But the God of earthly prowess is running out of room to hide. Physics over the last century has drilled down to the infinitesimally small, and the sister science of astronomy has peered out to the extraordinary distant. The “out there” is shrinking.

So where is God? One might have thought we would run into him, if he was “out there” in the physical realm.

One Approach, Denial of God – This contradiction, this incongruity, between the professed earthly presence and intervention of God, and the increasing scope and reach of science, leads many to a denial of God. If one takes our hard sciences, and adds in sociology, psychology and anthropology, one can readily create a convincing logic that God isn’t a reality but rather a figment of collective human need and imagination.

Many prominent authors have written books to that effect.

Believers, the faithful, would reject that rejection, and despite any contradictions maintain a conviction in God. I accept that as reasonable, that at the person-on-the-street level, faith can operate as such. In the myriad of inconsistencies in life, we cannot expect everyone to resolve them all with absolute philosophical and theological rigor. It is permissible to just believe.

But for truth, for that which would supersede all else, we cannot overlook such contradictions. If God is to remain a possibility within truth we must resolve the increasing tension between our personified and intervening God, and the lack of any physical indication of his presence or the mechanism of his intervention.

Why work so conscientiously to maintain what some would consider a mirage. Very simply, within our history, within our culture, and within our conceptual realm, God stands as too central of an idea to simply abandon it without due diligence.

Of God and Concepts – The origins of most religions occurred before the scientific age. That timing stands as a key insight into our dilemma. God could reveal himself only within the conceptual framework of pre-scientific mankind. This limitation extended to other spiritual concepts. Souls, heavens, salvation, grace, all became cast within the terminology and idioms of the times.

Our quandary of the shrinking gaps for God may rest not so much in the essence of God, but in our images of that essence. God is ineffable (let us assume he exists, and if he exists most theology posits God as ineffable, at least within current human intellectual capabilities). As such, we can grasp God only by images and analogies, and difficulties with God could readily be in those images and analogies, not in the nature of God himself.

To explore that hypothesis, let’s think about how God would design the method and content of revelation to match what mankind could most readily understand. How would he market himself, in a good sense, i.e. without attempting to deceive while maximizing his message?

Now without being presumptuous, I would posit God would want to achieve the following in a revelation:

– Show knowledge or abilities beyond mankind’s
– Maintain credibility
– Demonstrate his munificence, divinity and perfection
– Fit within the culture of the time
– Impart new understandings

In prior times, converting water-to-wine (or just a story of converting water to wine) worked within those parameters. Nature in those times contained numerous mysteries; the forces of nature brought both good fortune and calamity with a certain degree of arbitrariness. Water-to-wine fit into the general unexplainable phenomena encompassing life in general.

Today, water-to-wine might work, but I could readily conceive this event becoming swallowed within modern culture. The miracle could be demoted to just another Wikipedia article, with categories of description, scientific explanations, historic context, socio-political impacts, press coverage and book deals, all highly referenced. Our modern culture tends to chew up such physically bounded “miraculous” events.

Current prophet – If a revelation were to occur in current times, God would likely not use images, messages and approaches relevant for a prior time. The criteria for his revelation, as listed in the bullets above, would remain the same, but that criteria would dictate different approaches.

So how would a current prophet implement the criteria above with a current approach? Let me lay out how such a prophet might operate.

The prophet would appear first in a deep African village, to a small group of people, but including one person who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would proclaim “all gods are in God.” He would show a tattoo and a talisman, and provide a dental impression, suitably encased for sanitary and preservation purposes, then disappear.

Few would notice. The prophet the next day would appear at a vastly different location, at a great telescope in South America, to another small group of people, again including one who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would write down detailed co-ordinates for locating a planet, and proclaim “you will find life.” He would show his tattoo, his talisman, and leave a dental impression.

The prophet on the third day would again appear at a new and different location, at CERN, in a room with no other occupants at the time. He would gain access to the computer systems, enter an algorithm and write “with this you find an essence for time.” He would leave a dental impression.

The next day, the scientists of CERN discover the entered algorithm, and trigger a local press story. No one, however, can find a trace of how this person arrived or left the building or location.

The prophet on the fourth day arrives in a Southeast Asian village. He asks the local doctor to take a sample of blood, shows his tattoo and talisman, and leaves the now familiar dental sample. The doctor records a short video, and posts it. The prophet proclaims that the blood contains “a cure and revelations.” The prophet’s story begins to break across the news media in sporadic reports. His dental impressions begin to be collected.

On the fifth day, the prophet appears at the Antarctic South Pole station. A video is taken, with shots of the tattoo and talisman, and the dental impression provided. He proclaims, “maintain diligence, as five years will be required.” The prophet takes a small container of radioactive material used for experiments, steps outside into the cold, breaks open the radioactive container and douses himself. He then walks off.

The prophet is never seen again. No evidence of his means of transportation is ever found. No evidence of his body or the radioactivity is found in the Antarctic snow. The dental impressions all match, and the DNA on the impressions is found to be human.

Five year later, the planet at the telescope coordinates is found to contain plant-like life, the algorithm at CERN uncovers tachyon-like particles that revolutionize the concepts of time, and the blood sample contains cures to diseases, and proteins that when decoded provide divine sayings.

Discussion – What is this story? It is not an attempt to supplant God. Rather, the story indicates that the apparent closing of the gaps where God can exist is a closing of the God of the concepts available in the historic time of that revelation. The story points to possibilities for divine presence and revelation tuned to present culture.

We think science has closed the gaps. But the story shows many gaps exist. Mankind does not know if or where other life exists, physics has incomplete understanding of time, and medical science can not address major illness.

Some are skeptical of the resurrection of Christ. That skepticism could be considered culturally supported since the movie Sherlock Holmes showed how a mere human villain pulled off his own apparent resurrection. But in this story, teleportation replaces resurrection, with dental records as authentication, and though not iron clad we would not readily dismiss the power and reality of a prophet employing such a means of travel.

Teleportation vs. miracles shows how cultural appropriateness enables the credibility of revelation. Two millennium ago, communication and travel occurred so slow that the teleportation of the story here would hardly have been noticed. Today, that is of course much changed. The teleportation here is documented through internet technology and authenticated by scientific means not available in prior times. It receives credibility since science itself is exploring teleportation. Finally, the teleportation is sufficiently astounding to make explanation of it as a trick, or within know physics, difficult.

In today’s media-hyped environment, a prophet with a long duration could get exposed, destroyed, disputed, elevated, exploited, politicized or otherwise unable to stay on point. This story has a prophet of five days, with the revelation, not the prophet, extending over time.

And miracles are replaced by information. Our scientific age is skeptical of physically bounded miracles. Our belief in science is so strong that many would pick the now constancy of science over an isolated localized miracle of a prophet, if the two conflicted. Thus, while a physical miracle creates a contradiction with science, a prophet offering information does not. Information and science are conciliatory, and the information revealed here extends science.

Is the teleportation a similar physical miracle that would be discounted? Possibly, but I would argue it is sufficiently broad, and sufficiently beyond standard magician material, to set itself apart.

Where is God? – If he exists he is somewhere, I know not where. So I have asked a question which I can not answer. But I have offered that the continuing advances of science, and the expanding reach of modern culture, do not of necessity squeeze the “where” of God into a smaller and smaller gap.

Regarding God

Those philosophical concepts that surround the realms of theology and religions and the nature of deities, especially God, continue to be debated as they have been for thousands of years. Opinions proliferate here and there and in fact anywhere and everywhere where two or more humans are in close proximity. There’s the theist side; there’s the atheist side. There aren’t too many fence-sitters. I’m in the atheist camp as this helping of some of my religious thoughts regarding God demonstrate.

Regarding God’s Creation

*Fairy Tale #1: In The Beginning.

So if I get this right, God (Mr. Yahweh) created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago but eventually got tired and bored with it. Fast forward to some 4.5 billion years ago and He added to His real estate empire by creating The Earth (as well as the Sun and the rest of the solar system). Ultimately He got bored with this hunk of sterile rock and so some 4 billion years ago He created little microbes for His amusement, but ultimately after a few billion years He got bored with them too – they weren’t very good company or worshippers. So some 500 – 600 million years ago He upped the ante and created multi-cellular critters, and then other types of multi-cellular critters, etc., etc., etc, all of which also proved to be rather indifferent company and didn’t worship Him either. What a bummer! Then at long, long, long last comes His “Eureka” moment (several million years ago) and He created those primate ‘humans’ and ultimately evolved them into modern humans some 200,000 years ago. Bad mistake! To make a long temporal story even longer, He almost immediately thereafter regretted His creation of humans (and of multi-cellular critters too) and drowned nearly the whole lot of them. So much for His omniscience!

So it takes God a minimum of 13.8 billion years to get around to creating (and then nearly destroying) the alleged pinnacle of His creation (i.e. – us). How likely is that scenario? Damned unlikely for a real deity!

*Fairy Tale #2: Once Upon A Time.

So here we have anthropological / archaeological evidence of human religious and spiritual beliefs extending back at least 50,000 years as documented by evidence of actual grave goods buried along with humans suggestive of belief in an afterlife, among other lines of evidence. Fast forward now some 45,000 years later on down the track and all of a sudden Mr. Yahweh makes His grand entrance, albeit to a rather small and uneducated audience.

“So here I am folks, I’m Mr. Big” [at least in terms of ego]. “I’m your One True God and you will have no other gods before Me – or else!” Further, Mr. Yahweh only gives His big “I Exist” statement to a tiny band of rather primitive goat / sheep herders in just one tiny geographical part of the inhabited world instead of broadcasting His “I exist” to all peoples in all societies in all inhabited geographical areas (including the Americas, Australia and Asia). Of course at that time He made no mention of His soon to be sidekick and Right-Hand Man, Jesus. What utter pure bovine fertilizer derived nonsense! So come on, let’s get really real here – this is story-telling, just myths and fairy tales presented for humans by humans and at that time a very select group of humans at that.

Regarding God’s Variations On A Kalam Theme: Taking William Lane Craig To A Logical Conclusion!

Now according to William Lane Craig (oft featured in interviews and debates on YouTube) everything that has a beginning has a cause. The Universe had a beginning. Therefore the Universe had a cause. Therefore that cause was God! That’s the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Okay, let’s extend that series of premises and conclusions.

Everything that has a beginning has a cause. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemics, epidemics, blight, droughts, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, shark attacks, locust plagues, algae blooms, hail, sleet, blizzards, landslides, avalanches, even ice ages and asteroid impacts each have a beginning. Therefore each of these events have a cause. Ultimately that cause has to be traced back to God.

P.S. And God loves you!

P.P.S. Thanks be to JT Eberhard for the inspiration behind this revelation.

Regarding God Is Love

A common statement is that “God is love”. But that is either reducing God to just an emotion or to a statement of morality. Anyone who adopts God’s version of morality would find themselves arrested and jailed (if not executed) in any country in the world! God sure didn’t show much love to humanity or to the animal kingdom by bringing on The Flood. God didn’t show much love to the residents of Sodom & Gomorrah. God didn’t show much love to the ancient Egyptians as related in Exodus. God didn’t show much love to all of those cultures / societies that stood between His Chosen People and the Promised Land. The very fact that God had a Chosen People itself showed that God did not love everyone equally. And God didn’t show much love for Abraham or Job, and if I recall correctly He even tried to kill Moses!

As just one of numerous examples in the Bible, do have a look at 1 Samuel 15: 3.

Regarding the Hidden God Problem

It would seem that God, assuming a God of course, went to a lot of time and trouble, effort and energy, to establish His existence to a rather tiny band of quasi-illiterate goat / sheep herders in a rather restricted geographical region of the world thousands of years ago. Alas, there’s no evidence that survives all of His revelations regarding His existence. So, if God wants to obtain the faith of the multitudes in this more modern, global, and scientific age, He really needs to update His public relations and advertise His brand in such a way that there is no doubt as to His existence. Surely it is not logical to expect the multitudes thousands of years after-the-fact to have the same True Faith and Belief systems in place as did those semi-illiterate goat and sheep herders, based on evidence available to them then but which has evaporated in the fullness of time and is no longer available. So, if God exists, then yes, I’d expect Him to provide an update as to what He’s been up to for the last 3000+ years and thus instantly convert over seven billion people into accepting Him as the One True God. It shouldn’t be difficult. That God remains hidden speaks volumes IMHO.

Regarding the God of Economic Necessity

If the entire world immediately stopped believing in God there would be major economic consequences following on from that.

Probably the most central reason for the collective belief in God is a purely economic one. The entire concept of God has been and is today a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

Consider the value in buildings and in the land holdings held by religious institutions. What’s the value of the Vatican? What worth can be ascribed to all of the major cathedrals scattered around the world? Add to the value of those real estate collections the value of thousands of religious artworks of all kinds – paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, etc. It’s all a major and ever ongoing industry. The value of religious-themed an associated artefacts – gold, silver and jewels would have to amount to many millions of dollars too.

Religious publishing is a major division of the worldwide publishing industry considering all of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of pro-Christian books, pamphlets and articles collectively published in the past, today, and no doubt continuing well into the foreseeable future. There are also many Christian publishing houses publishing nothing but godly works and words.

Then there’s all of the other mass media outlets for expressing purely religious messages. Many are owned and operated by religious institutions like those Christian Internet sites as well as radio and TV stations broadcasting God’s message 24/7/52. The production of videos and independent films are a major part of this propaganda machine. Not to be left out of the picture, Hollywood (and similar other studios) has often jumped on the religious-themed bandwagon.

And how many millions of people worldwide are in the employment of religious institutions including all of the teachers employed by all of those religious-oriented schools and universities? Yes, millions of people depend on the belief in the existence of God for their paychecks.

Finally there are all of the armaments required by warring religious factions that’s got to be bought and paid for. Over the past several thousand years how many billions of dollars worth of weapons have been manufactured so that one infidel could kill another infidel? Lots of people get to be employed for that reason along.

So if one eliminates God (and company) from the world scene, you’d put a rather large dent in the economic engine that drives the world. So vested interests rule, and so rule that God stays relevant – for purely economic reasons.

Regarding The Mantra “Therefore God Exists”

Everyone already knows in their hearts that God exists, therefore God exists.

You cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, therefore God exists.

I assume that God exists, therefore God exists.

There is something rather than nothing, therefore God exists.

The rainbow was created by God (Genesis 9: 11-16) as God’s covenant that He wouldn’t drown the lot of humanity ever again. The rainbow obviously exists so therefore God exists.

Humans consider so highly of themselves that obviously an all-omni deity must have created us because we’re so super-special. Since we are the measure of all things and the apple of God’s eye, therefore God must exist. But then too we do have a talent for deceiving ourselves!

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, therefore God exists.

Regarding God’s Nonexistence

Presumably True Believers don’t believe in the actual existence of Achilles, Aphrodite, Apollo, Asgard, Astrology, Bigfoot (Sasquatch), Calvin & Hobbs, Centaurs, Cerberus, Chimera, Cinderella, Dick Tracy, Doctor Watson, Doctor Who, Dragons, the Easter Bunny, El Dorado, Elves, Fairies (at the bottom of the garden), Felix the Cat, Godzilla, Hades, Hansel & Gretel, Hel, Helen (of Troy), Hercules, Horus, King Kong, Leprechauns, the Loch Ness Monster, Loki, Mickey Mouse, the Minotaur, Moriarty, Mothman, Paladin, Paul Bunyan, Pegasus, Pinocchio, Professor Challenger, the Rainbow Serpent, Santa Claus, Shangri-La, Siegfried, Sleeping Beauty, Snoopy, Snow White, Spiderman, Superman, Thor, the Tooth Fairy, Turandot, Unicorns, Valhalla, Wizards, and Wonder Woman (among thousands of possibilities). Why don’t True Believers believe in the actual existence of these entities and geographies? The answer would appear to be fairly obvious. Reason dictates that these entities and geographies are non-existent; they have no independent really real reality. Now True Believers should apply that same reasoning to God & Satan, to other major Biblical players like say Adam & Eve, and to say places like Heaven & Hell. What then should True Believers conclude?

Just saying that God exists rolls off of the tongue very easily – now prove it! If I ask True Believers to prove to me that the Moon goes around the Earth; that salt water is a mixture; that beheading results in death; that cows eat grass; that Paris (France) is an actual geographical place; that Cleopatra was the Queen of the Nile; and that George Washington was the first president of the USA, True Believers wouldn’t be overly challenged. But True Believers can’t prove the existence of God (or any other deity).

So there’s no point in True Believers talking about God and God’s nature and traits and what God wants or doesn’t want or what He did or didn’t do UNLESS True Believers can first and foremost PROVE that their God actually exists – otherwise they are pontificating about a fictional / literary character. In other words, it’s like telling us all about Alice in Wonderland or about Zeus or about Santa Claus or about Superman*. And while it is perfectly A-OK for True Believers to express their belief or their faith in God, it is NOT A-OK to express God as an actual fact since there is no way for True Believers to know that ‘actual fact’. And by “know that” I mean True Believers cannot actually provide any independently verifiable observation or experimental evidence like having Him appear to an audience in person performing all sorts of hocus-pocus wand-waving supernatural magic. Even a photograph would be something, albeit not much in this modern era of CGI and photo-shop. Nor could True Believers even hand off the issue to someone else who can, since nobody else can either, unlike for example knowledge that an electron exists or that a distant galaxy exists because True Believers can have someone else – an expert in these things – demonstrate them to you. But not even The Pope can actually demonstrate the actual existence of God’s existence to you as an actual fact.

Can anyone prove that God doesn’t exist? Probably not on the grounds that you can’t prove a negative. BUT, you can prove the virtual improbability of God. The basic ways and means is to point out all of the contradictions and inconsistencies inherent when addressing the concept of God and His holy text, The Bible. Proving something is knowing something and for example, you know that there can’t be a round square or that two plus two doesn’t equal five (Big Brother notwithstanding) or that the future doesn’t precede the past. So one can gain knowledge through the application of logical contradictions. So, applying that sort of logic to God, it’s pretty obvious that God can’t be both omniscient AND possesses free will. It’s also obvious that either the Old Testament is incorrect / inaccurate OR God is really immoral. God cannot both exist outside of time and space AND yet also have a direct influence over time and space. The creation of something from nothing is a logical contradiction SO therefore God cannot have created a Cosmos out of pure nothing. From nothing, nothing comes. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Apparently between Biblical scholars and avid readers of the Bible, say the King James Version, have found over 800 contradictions and inconsistencies therein (and there’s apparently a website which lists or outlines the lot of them). For example, both accounts of the creation in Genesis cannot both be true (though both could be false); ditto the two different renderings of what the human lifespan will be; ditto dozens of other examples as for example exactly how many animals of each species would be brought onto the Ark. There are also lots of inconsistencies with established science. For example, either chemistry is true and therefore a human body cannot be turned into a pillar of salt, or else chemistry isn’t a valid science.

*It’s pretty meaningless to talk about the various traits and characteristics and superpowers that Superman has in the context of really real reality since Superman is just a fictional character. If you could somehow prove that Superman had a really real existence then it would be logical to talk about his mannerisms and superpowers and how they in turn can affect us.

Regarding God’s Christianity

I found the following definition of Christianity given by Dr. Richard Carrier on one of his many YouTube lectures so irresistible that I’m sure Dr. Carrier wouldn’t mind my sharing his wisdom with you. So here’s Dr. Carrier’s definition of Christianity:

“Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.”

Regarding God’s Inconsistencies

Say there are three churches in your community. There’s the Church of Santa Claus; the Church of the Easter Bunny; and the Church of the Tooth Fairy. Now presumably you could worship in True Faith and Belief at all three of these theological institutions since there are no discrepancies, inconsistencies or contradictions between the trinity.

Now say there are three other churches in your community. There’s a Jewish Synagogue*; a Muslim Mosque*; and a Christian House of Worship*. You cannot now in True Faith and Belief worship in all three because you know there are major discrepancies, inconsistencies or contradictions between this trinity. Now throw in multi-dozens more religious doctrines live Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Quakers, the Mormons, the Church of Scientology, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Hare Krishna sect, Satanism, Zoroastrianism, and even those Jedi Knights. There’s probably at least one house of worship dedicated to the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

*Each of which has at least a couple if not hundreds of denominational variations, often major, on their central theme.

Book Review – “Culture to Culture” by Nan Leaptrott

Culture to Culture: Mission Trip Do’s and Don’ts

by Nan Leaptrott

340 pages, $14.99

ISBN: 0-89957-156-5

Nonfiction – Practical Theology/Anthropology

Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

Nan Leaptrott, an internationally renowned speaker and founder of Global Business Consultants, has written an indispensible aid for those entertaining activities in global mission work. Her Culture to Culture should be required reading for anyone contemplating service on the mission field-it should be in all church libraries; a required part of the curriculum in Bible college and/or seminary; and given to all who are ordained as a missionary.

Why is this book indispensable? It cuts to the heart of what is the largest violation of intercultural etiquette-cultural insensitivity. Or, more to the point, the hubris and largesse which informs much of what Americans construe as mission work: the subtle belief that the American way is the only way things are done in this world. As Leaptrott is quick to point out, the fact of global westernization does not imply eradication of other cultures. Missionaries, therefore, should be very sensitive to the culture of any country to which they travel. When Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well (John 9), her question “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink? (NLT)” underlines the idea that cultural sensitivity matters.

Culture to Culture gives the missionary an encyclopedic reference to culture; whether it is surface culture (what you see on onset) or reference culture (the nuances of culture which are not seen right away). Since culture influences beliefs/values, etiquette/behavior, human relations, communication, and time, any cultural gaffe could be devastating to the missionary enterprise. Ethnocentric obstinacy not only proves a superiority mindset – it could ultimately undermine the building of God’s kingdom.

The book is divided into the following regions: Western Europe, Latin America, Arab Region, Asia/Pacific, Central/Eastern Europe, and Africa. Each region is subdivided into its respective country profiles. In each section, Leaptrott analyzes the country’s religious history and influential governing principles. The missionary-in-training will understand hierarchy, level of preparation needed, punctuality expected, level of formality, and dress/dining styles of the host country. Specific alerts, such as “transaction alerts,” or “interaction alerts,” are offset and in boldface for emphasis. After a thorough guide to international dining, the author provides an extensive alphabetical country-by-country summary for quick reference.

Culture to Culture is an excellent resource to communicate proper protocol for

missionaries. In essence, missionaries should:

· Be informed

· Have a plan

· Build bridges

· Reflect Christ

· And, if doubtful – ask questions.

If the objective of mission work is to demonstrate Jesus, then missionaries should walk in gracious objectivity – otherwise, wanton subjectivity may keep others from ever seeing Jesus.