Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Idolatry: The Present Style
Are there such things as natural laws? Not according to Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Vern Poythress, who argues that our laws of physics possess the same qualities as does our God, thereby pointing to their other-world-ness. Here are some of his observations:
1. “The law, if it really is law and is correctly formulated and qualified, holds for all times and all places. The classic terms are omnipresence (all places) and eternity (all times). Law has these two attributes that are classically attributed to God.”
Whenever we move away from a temporal non-transcendent source of energy, like a bonfire, its energy becomes less. Instead, it seems that our laws seamlessly surround us, exercising the same influence in any location. This would argue for transcendence.
2. “The law does not change with time. It is immutable. A supposed ‘law’ that did change with time would not really be ‘the law.’”
This is in contrast to everything within our universe. We are told that every atom is in motion and subject to change. Not so our laws! They act upon the universe, but the universe does not act upon them!
3. “Laws are at bottom ideational in character. We do not literally see a law, but only the effects of the law on the material world…Real laws, as opposed to scientists’ approximation of them, are also absolutely, infallibly true. Truthfulness is also an attribute of God.”
4. “The universe…conforms to laws already there, laws that are discovered rather than invented…If they are truly universal, they are not violated. No event escapes their ‘hold’ or dominion. The power of these real laws is absolute, in fact, infinite. In classical language, the law is omnipotent (‘all-powerful’). If law is omnipotent and universal, there are truly no exceptions.”
How peculiar that our mighty universe does not act upon the laws, but the laws act upon it, without exception. The powerful and uniform exercise of the laws points to a reality beyond this universe.
5. “The law is both transcendent and immanent. It transcends the creatures of the world by exercising power over them, conforming them to its dictates…Transcendence and immanence are characteristics of God.”
If our laws do not show the usual characteristics of our universe and even act independently and authoritatively over it, it seems like they transcend our universe.
6. “Law implies a law-giver. Someone must think the law and enforce it, if it is to be effective….Rationality is a sine qua non for scientific law. But, as we know, rationality belongs to persons, not to rocks, trees, and subpersonal creatures. If the law is rational, which scientists assume it is, then it is also personal.”
There is no evidence that natural un-intelligent forces create order from disorder, functionality from chaos, knowledge from chance, unguided events. Only intelligent persons do that.
7. “Law does not play tricks, deliberately hiding itself and giving anomalous results simply to confound the researcher. ‘Nature’ plays fair. Or, to put it more deeply. God ‘plays fair.’ All scientists, to continue with sanity in their research, must believe that the laws of the universe ‘play fair with them.’”
Our laws seem as if they are begging to be discovered and known, as is our God.
8. “The beauty of God is reflected in what He has made…Beauty is also displayed in the harmony among the different areas of science, and the harmony between mathematics and science that scientists rely on whenever they use a mathematical formula to describe a physical process.”
Their elegance is truly profound. A few numbers and letters – E = MC squared or F (force) = ma – are able to capture complex phenomena in a wink. This is an indication of intelligence.
Understandably, Poythress believes that those who refuse to recognize the divine nature of our laws are guilty of a modern variety of idolatry – a willful substitution of the creation (laws of nature) for the Creator:
• “Modern people may no longer make idols in the form of physical images, but their very idea of ‘scientific law’ is an idolatrous twisting of their knowledge of God.” (All the quotations are taken from Redeeming Science, 17-27.)
If he is right – and I think he is – the West has succumbed to a new variety of a very old religion. Philosophical naturalism (PN) has won over the classroom and the media, to the extent that it exercises a virtual monopoly over thought, speech and education. Consequently, anyone who tries to introduce God into a discussion is guilty of trying to impose his faith on others. Ironically, it is this new idolatry that is exercising monopolistic thought-control.
PN usually retorts, “Well, we might not have a natural answer now for the origin and exercise of the natural laws, but we will have one. Just look at all science has accomplished. It’s just a matter of time!”
Blind faith or science? Science and its accomplishments are one thing, but PN is entirely another. While science has done nothing to prove PN, science points ever more strenuously to the Transcendent, as Poythress has pointed out.
This however, is only the beginning of PN’s problems. To be a credible theory, it must also explain the origins of life, DNA, the cell, consciousness, freewill, the fine-tuning of the universe, and logic. It attempts to do this by invoking a different incredible explanation for each. It seems that it might just be easier to give God a second look.