A Prayer of Jesus I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
PHYSICS AND METAPHYSICS
By Edgar Jones
"I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus, John 8:12
The Essential Metaphysical PredicateA metaphysical predicate is the essence of physics. This has been ever the case and remains so although many modern physicists are reluctant to acknowledge it. Stephen Hawking, though taking no firm position on the matter, writes in A Brief History of Time:So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (P.140,141).No creator then leads to no need for the explanation of any phenomena save those designated "physical" and thus no need of metaphysics, God, heaven, spirit and eternal life in a realm beyond the physical. The physicists, in this event, need only proceed in their relentless quest of the elusive TOE (Theory of Everything) until they have given a demonstrable and reasoned explanation of reality, one that will also demonstrate that in so far as we in this universe are concerned, God does not and need not exist.
My position, in sharp contrast to that of Hawking, is quite firm: the foundation of physics is to be found in metaphysics. Consequently, there can never be a demonstrably proven TOE, no reasonable explanation of everything that is not predicated on the unknowable, the unattainable, the indescribable other that is the beginning and the end of physics. How can I be so confident when brilliant men have their doubts?
First, let us acknowledge that many respected scientists also take a position similar to mine. Writing in On the Moral Nature of the Universe, p. 61, Nancy Murphy and George F. R. Ellis state:The foundations on which science rests cannot themselves be subject to purely scientific investigation (if they could, we would have an unsupported self-referential system). Thus, the heirarchy of natural sciences is incomplete; it needs further layers for its completion, layers of a metaphysical nature.So, I do not stand over against science in my view that the foundation of physics is to be found in metaphysics; only against some scientists. Science has in my view a very positive part to play in the quest for the meaning of our existence, and in the quest for God. Paul Davies may be right in his conviction, expressed in the conclusion of his book, God and the New Physics:It is my deep conviction that only by understanding the world in all its many aspects – reductionist and holist, mathematical and pietical, through forces, fields, and particles as well as through good and evil – that we will come to understand ourselves and the meaning behind this universe, our home.But my view is that there is a limit as to how far the physicists can take us, and it is wise for all of us, physicists included, to acknowledge this. Davis, to the contrary, seems to believe that physics alone can open the veil.
Definition of MetaphysicsBy metaphysics, I mean that part of reality that is absolutely beyond the reach of physics; thus I do not agree with Davies if he means that physics can actually lead us to a knowledge of God. I do agree with him if he means that physics can lead us closer to God than religion when the latter is conceived in terms of the presentations of the great body of preachers in Christendom or of the clerics in any realm. I believe God is truly beyond the reach of physics or of any investigation through natural means. I believe in the supernatural and its being "super" places it forever beyond the reach of the merely natural. Nevertheless, as I state at the outset, the natural, or the physical, is and must be predicated on the supernatural, or the metaphysical.
Asking the Right QuestionThe reason I feel so confident where brilliant men hesitate, is that I long ago came to realize that the scientists are asking the wrong questions if they want to get to the very bottom of the matter and to a clear understanding of the purpose of our existence. They are asking, and answering, the what and the how. The question that must be answered is rather the why. I believe that in producing so many answers to what and how questions, they are leading us closer to God in that they must ultimately acknowledge the futility of their- quest, which will give them leave to deal with the why. I have a strong conviction here because I have firm assurance that the why has been imparted to me, and in such a manner as simultaneously to reveal the futility of the what and the how as instruments of the ultimate quest of God. Hawking writes, again in A Brief History of Time:Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why.This is true, and it explains, to my mind, the futility of their entire discipline inasmuch as some see it as devoted to a quest for God. To be sure, their efforts have been very fruitful in explaining how, but as they probe ever further into the darkness of the unknown, they more and more are prompted to consider the why. Their problem then becomes acute because their craft has no way to deal with this question. In truth, however, the answer to why sits right under our noses and they – the physicists -- are too busy answering other questions to notice.
It is as close to us as the utterances of Jesus that are recorded in the Four Gospels of the New Testament . Few physicists would consider looking there because they assume, erroniously, that the theologians (who haven't a clue) have already exhausted that well in the quest for God. I propose, in what follows, to unveil Jesus’ answer to the why and to go on to state briefly, in the light of the why, certain prominent features of the world.
The Cosmos is a Means to an EndOur view is both causal and teleological. The kosmos is the means to an end that justifies it. Everything moves toward the fulfillment of the final purpose for which it was created. When one understands the purpose, the why, then the how and the what become much clearer also. I see that the world is metaphysically based because I see that its purpose is fulfilled in a goal that lies beyond it, and its origin is derived from a purpose that is conceived above it. I say above and beyond, rather than before and after, because there was no before and will be no after due to the fact that time, as we know it, is peculiar to the world. It will return to timeless eternity from whence it came, all inaccessible to physics, but bearing gifts, which is its fulfillment.
Therefore the world is not self-fulfilling. It contains within itself no goal towards which it moves purposefully, for its purpose lies all beyond it. There is no glorious society, no paradise in time, no state or condition of the world to be striven for as the goal of being. Therefore there is not and can never be a fulfillment of individual persons within the temporal realm, which is the realm of physics. Physics itself has taught us that by the unveiling of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, but perhaps King Solomon said it best:. . . it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:13,14),So, what is the purpose of the kosmos, and of mankind? What is our purpose? What is the answer to why?
. . .and He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
What is the Purpose of the World?Just this:The world exists for the sake of the resurrection.
It will fulfill its purpose, and itself, in those who are being saved through that miraculuous event beyond physics and beyond itself that is promised in the Gospels. This, said Jesus, is the will of God (John 6:38-40), therefore this is the purpose of God in the creation and sustenance of the world.
Repeatedly, Jesus presents the world as a field that is being planted with seed, which is the Word of God, and tended to the end that it might produce a rich harvest. Or, according to another of his metaphors, it is a sea designed to produce its product as the net is drawn through it (Matthew 13:47-48). It is this harvest of souls for which the world was made and toward which it moves, and beyond which it does not exist. As an olive or fig tree is planted for its fruit and as a vine is planted and tended for its sweet wine, so everything pertaining to this world exists for the sole end of the production of its harvest of souls, which will be consummated in the resurrection.
The World is Necessary to the Purpose of GodThen why the world, if its purpose is fulfilled beyond it? If God wants a harvest, why not plant and nurture it in heaven or wherever he resides?
Jesus has provided the answer to this question, if we can hear it. First, he plainly commanded us, saying that we should not lay up treasure on the earth, but should seek those things that are above. Then he addressed himself to the specifics when he said, in John 12:25:He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.This is the categorical Great Principle that enlightens everyone who can hear it. The one thing that stands between us and the blessed resurrection is this choice. It is universal in application, and it tells us why we are here, and why the here exists. The world exists that we might have a place to stand while we make the choice, and the choice is between this life and the life eternal. The world exists so that it may serve as one of the life-options, for without it we would have no choice due to no options.
But why is such a choice necessary?
It is necessary because the Father desires children with whom to share his eternal glory, and to be children of the Father, we must be in his likeness and have and exercise free will exactly as the Father exercises his free will. The Father wants us to be with him in his glory, but he cannot force us into that state, because then we would have no freedom. He must give us a choice, and he must give us the freedom to choose, and this he has done through the creation of the world and the evolution of humanity. We can go there only after we choose to do so, after it becomes the greatest desire of our hearts; therefore Jesus counseled that we lay up treasure only in heaven, so that our hearts would be set only on heaven, for only then can we qualify to go there.
Additionally, even a child can understand that the Father could not populate heaven with children of free will without introducing conflict to mar his glory. But by first placing us here in the world, making our options known through Jesus and making us responsible for the choice, he has created a workable situation. He has made it possible for those of us who freely choose to do so to submit ourselves to his will before we enter his glory. In that he only wants one thing of us, that we enter into his glory in willing submission to this will, that is the hurdle we must cross. That is, we must want this for ourselves exactly as he wants it for us. We disqualify ourselves when we want other things, such as to find fulfillment in this world.
The Essential ChoiceThis world and the life within it is one option. Eternal life in the glory of the Father is the other. Ours is the freedom to choose. Thus, the only reason that anyone does not participate in the resurrection to eternal life with the Father is that one does not choose to do so.
Some Essential Features of the WorldWith but a little thought, one can readily see that the kosmos and the world system is carefully designed to produce and protect this freedom of the will, and that The Father's efforts at redemption have been similarly planned so as to co-ordinate with the freedom of the will. This mandates the following features.
1. The world is a futile place. It is not glorious. It and its contents die, wear out, pass away.
2. There is no prospect of perfecting (or glorifying) the world. It will always be a futile place. It will never be glorified. This applies both to the physical elements of the world and to human society within the world – to its total structure and content. All material objects rust, break, wear out, melt, or get lost. All living things die. All dead things dissipate. Every peace ends in war.
3. We have the thirst for glory (eternity) in our hearts; it is of the essence of our being. Therefore we will never find fulfillment within the world (Ecclesiastes 3:11, above).
4. If this world is to be one of our options, it must have some basis of attraction. The Father preserves the world as an option, and protects us from despair while we are in ignorance of him by permitting, even inserting, hints of glory into the world. This encourages us so as to keep us from ruling out entirely the option of the life in this world. It invites us, entices us and tempts us; but always, in the end, it disappoints us.
5. Eternal Life in the Glory of the Father can be a valid alternative only if we are aware of it. Therefore the prophets and Jesus have been sent to enlighten us and show us the way.
6. The revelation of Eternal Glory is and must be a matter of faith, for it is so wonderful that any certain knowledge would, again, overwhelm the freedom of the will and destroy the choice. Therefore the freedom of the will is maintained by being balanced between despairing for the world, on the one hand, and being consumed by the Glory of the Father on the other hand, and we are truly free to choose. Had we too much hope for the world, we would not consider an uncertain Glory; were we overwhelmed by the Glory, we would not entertain the futile world. That is why it depends on faith, and that is why the physicists will never find God in their laboratories or their observatories.
7. There is therefore an absolute partition between the kosmos and the glory, between this life and the next. There is a curtain that we will never, in this life, be able to penetrate. Therefore the scientific discipline, so fruitful in time, is ultimately futile in the quest for eternity.
I have learned all of this by listening carefully to Jesus of Nazareth.
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