2013-10-09

God of the Gaps or God as Singularity?



Many skeptics (and thoughtful Christians) find problems with the model of God as a "God of the Gaps". By this, they mean a God who periodically invades history to keep the universe running when the complexity of the physics gets beyond our current ability to model. I agree that "God of the gaps" is a bad idea, both because of what it does to our image of God and what it does to human learning. However, I would also caution against understanding the universe as such a closed-system that it rules out interactions with other dimensions in an "a priori" manner irrespective of the evidence.


Empiricism is a wonderful tool for many, many things. But it's a tool, not the totality of reality. It's a "trans-empirical" methodology to describe and interpret "empirical" dimensionality.

So, I think that some Singularity which is beyond empirical dimensionality is necessary to explain the starting conditions for the empirical universe as we know it. Such a Singularity, as far as I can tell, is posited by the majority of cosmologists today. I know some cosmologists posit an infinite cycle of "big bangs" and "big shrinks", but as far as I can tell the elasticity of space-time would not allow for that without a Singularity "outside of the system" providing energy to the system.

Now the question is whether or not that Singularity is Personal (among other things).

If the Singularity is personal, I would want an interpretation of the universe which keeps open the possibility that this Singularity could communicate with us "from the Void" beyond empirical reality.

This is different from positing the necessity of ongoing "supernatural intervention" to facilitate creation of different species. Yet, I want to posit the possibility, but not the necessity, of intervention "from the Void". Necessity leads to a "God of the gaps". Possibility does not.

The interesting thing about simple rule based systems giving rise to complexity (i.e. Fractals or the computer game "life") is that the simple rules come from someone. Once in place, the rules evolve their own kind of life and complexity. But the starting conditions, the basic fabric of rationality that allows for the system, was put in place by someone "in the Void" beyond the system itself.

To me, Transempirical Realities such as math, logic, and rationality seem to control and predict how empirical Realities work. I think aesthetic values and a certain symmetry would also be included in these Transempirical Realities, but these are more difficult to demonstrate. Anyway, these seem to form the underlying fabric of the empirical universe, and yet are not empirical. They describe the system but are not part of the system itself.

And since these Realities are grasped by Mind, and are more like Mind than they are like observable phenomena, this makes me think that the Singularity is more like Mind than other observable "things". And if- a big if, I know- If the Singularity is like Mind, then perhaps It has a Message for us.

I also think that a big part of what makes humans "spiritual" is that there is something about the development of our brains and the complexity of it's interconnections, that it allows us to somehow "tune into" the dimensionality of the Singularity. In fact, with the Ancient Greeks I would affirm that human rationality and mathematical ability is essentially spiritual. It is a grasping of the spiritual fabric of rationality for the material universe.

I also think that some (not all) interpretive experiences of the "meaning" or "plot" of the universe are our physiology intersecting with Transdimensional Reality. Likewise, some (not all) unitive or "mystical" experiences are also our physiology connecting at the level of the Singularity. So, it doesn't surprise me that certain parts of our brain "light up" during mystical experience, any more than that certain circuits "light up" when my radio is tuned in to my favorite radio station.

These are a few of the moves I would make in order to open an intellectual space where all types of human experience- from scientific to spiritual to historic to aesthetic to relational- are truly valued and taken seriously. Because I think a major problem in intellectual discourse is reductionism. And it does not matter if it is the reductionism of a Jerry Falwell saying that all things are "merely divine providence" or Christopher Hitchens saying that all things are "merely empirical" or Nietzche saying that all things are "merely will to power".

Reductionism may be a necessary tool within an academic discipline, but it does not do justice to all dimensions of human experience. An analysis of the chemical compounds and brush stroke trajectory of Picasso's paintings may tell us a lot of interesting things about Picasso, but it will not tell us what makes them beautiful or why they have captured the public imagination.

But I think what is so threatening about allowing a "Personal Singularity" (i.e. God) as a real "Object of knowledge" is the perceived consequences of being right or wrong about it. If someone believes themselves right about the Singularity it often becomes an ideological weapon to control or exclude others. Likewise, there is the fear that if one is wrong about the Singularity then eternal punishment awaits in some kind of "hell".

Both of these are truly serious consequences which do real harm to countless people. So, I am truly sympathetic to people who think the best course of action is to shelf the question altogether. Let's just examine science, history, aesthetics and psychology and ignore any systematic examination of spirituality.

But this strategy has two negative ramifications: First, if there is Someone "out there" and if that Someone has communicated with us, it ignores that Message and the relationship it offers. Second, it leaves Spirituality in the hands of those who will wield it as an ideological weapon. I believe people are irrevocably spiritual, and if we don't offer a rational, healing, holistic spirituality, others will fill the Void with a irrational, abusive, reductionistic spirituality.

Now, obviously part of this is admitted question-begging on my part, since I am previously persuaded that Someone is out there, and has communicated a Message to us in the historic life of a Jewish Carpenter from Nazareth. And it would be intellectually dishonest to not be up front about that. But even with that, I think most of this essay still stands.

However, what I see of "The Singularity" revealed in Christ is precisely what opens me up to Divine revelations in other spiritual traditions.  For me, Christ is paradigmatic of an Ultimate Reality that includes and embraces human particularity in Godself, so that all creation may be healed and made whole. And the narrative shape of Christ's Story of death and resurrection seems to indicate that whatever "hell" may result from our mistakes or malevolence, God takes part in it and brings us through it.

And while a great many Christian clergy would disagree with me, the logic of the Incarnation seems to imply the inclusion of all people in God's Love, a firm hope that God will eventually bring everyone in all creation out of all forms of "hell", and an open ear to hear God speaking Love and healing in all the Great Spiritual Traditions.

And if that Vision of Religion in general, and Christ in particular, is not presented to people, then I think we cede the ground of Spirituality to those who will promote a much narrower vision.
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.