“Help Wanted” (Books, Chapters, Articles Dealing with God and Physics)

“Help Wanted” (Books, Chapters, Articles Dealing with God and Physics) August 28, 2015

“Help Wanted” (Books, Chapters, Articles Dealing with God and Physics)

Several times here I have strongly indicated and endorsed my belief that the God of the Bible, Yahweh, the God of Jesus Christ, the only God, condescends to enter time with us. In brief: God is temporal. I base that on the biblical narrative which never, so far as I can see, indicates otherwise. There is no hint, that I can recognize, in Scripture of an “eternal now” in which for God all our times are simultaneously before his eyes. I’m not going to go over all that again here now. I have explained and defended my view of God’s temporality several times on this blog and you can use a search engine to find those posts using my name and key words. Or you can simply read the writings I have recommended: Nelson Pike, God and Timelessness (sans the process perspective), Nicholas Wolterstorff, “God Everlasting” (found in the book God and the Good and in a recent collection of Wolterstorff’s writings). I. A. Dorner, “Dogmatic Discussion of the Doctrine of the Immutability of God” (in God and Incarnation in Mid-Nineteenth Century German Theology and other places). Robert Jenson, God after God. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy. And, of course, Oscar Cullman, God and Time.

Recently I have been asked by several interlocutors how the temporal view of God is consistent with relativity theory in physics which, so it is said, makes time and space inseparable, the problem being that if God is temporal, then God cannot be omnipresent. (I have affirmed God’s omnipotence and omnipresence while being open to defining them differently than traditional philosophical theism has tended to define them.) Some have told me that, according to relativity theory, the future already exists on some plane or in some dimension—accessible, present, to an omnipresent being.

I don’t pretend to understand contemporary physics—relativity theory and quantum mechanics, etc. I’ve read in and about them but they seem so obscure, abstract and theoretical that (so it seems to me) one has to be a specialist, a trained theoretician, really to understand them. So, when I met and talked with theologian-physicist John Polkinghorne some years ago I asked him about this matter. He gently brushed it aside as not a serious problem for belief in a temporal God.

Whenever I read modern theoretical physics or listen to physicists talk I feel like Marty McFly in the movie “Back to the Future” when “Doc” Brown says to him (paraphrasing) “Your problem is that you don’t think fourth dimensionally!” McFly responds (again paraphrasing) “Yeah, I do have that trouble.” (Please don’t clutter up my comment box with exact wordings! It’s not that important.)

So I admit that this is an area where I am no expert and need and seek guidance. But I am not asking for you to post lengthy, complicated essays here. I’m specifically asking ONLY for recommendations of books, chapters, articles that specifically deal with the problem of God, time, and relativity theory. Is anyone aware of a specific book, chapter or article that addresses this theologically, metaphysically, physically (in terms of modern/contemporary physics especially relativity theory)?

Some of the questions I am seeking answers to are these: 1) Is it “settled fact” in modern/contemporary physics that am omnipresent being would also have to be simultaneous with all times past, present and future? 2) If so, does that mean the future is already in some way “real” (even if only to an omnipresent being if one existed)? 3) If so, how can determinism be avoided? Wouldn’t that mean the future cannot be altered by anything or anyone?

Now, I beg you, please (!) DO NOT post your own thoughts about this here; I am right now only looking for reading suggestions. I know for a fact there are others “out there” who would also like very much to know the answers to these questions.

I have access to almost anything published, so give me/us as detailed bibliographical information as possible: author, title, publisher, publication date, etc. In the case of articles, all that plus the journal title and, if possible, where it can be read on line (even if that requires some kind of payment). Also any information about the author would be helpful.

Another time, here, I may offer some thoughts about God’s omnipresence in implicit biblical metaphysics. Is it necessarily that God is extensively, equally present everywhere in the universe at once? I’m not sure about that, but before I give that some more thought I want to know what the best of modern/contemporary physics has to say about the subject. I do believe theology ought to take science into account and adjust itself to settled scientific fact—insofar as that can be discovered and known. That is, once I believe something is, indeed, settled scientific fact (or any kind of fact) I have to take it into account in my theological thinking. I do not believe in Siger of Brabant’s “two truths theory” in which he advocated belief in the eternality of the world (Aristotle) and that the world had a beginning (the Bible).

I agree with (among others) Emil Brunner who, in Philosophy of Religion (ET 1937), argued that “By its undreamed of progress science has forced faith to disencumber itself of certain relics of (primitive) science.” (171-172) He was thinking especially of Aristotelian cosmology. He also said that theology has no business intervening in the framing of scientific hypotheses. (172) And “It should never have entered the head of Christian theologians to intervene in the controversy over Darwinism, so long as the framing of evolutionary theories was confined in a strictly scientific manner to the domain of what is open to observation.” (172) Finally, according to Brunner, “Impossible it is that any essential position of Christian faith should be affected…by changes in the scientific view of the world.” (173) In other words, all the alleged conflicts between “the Bible and science” or “theology and science” are false, based on misunderstandings of one or both. The only real conflict appears when “science” becomes “scientific monism” (174) which he called “superstition.” By “scientific monism” he meant belief that science is the sole path to knowledge and capable alone of answering all important questions and operating on a purely naturalistic philosophical basis even outside the laboratory. Or, I might add (and I’m sure Brunner would agree), when theology pretends to be able by itself to answer all important questions about the physical universe and its beginnings and workings.

So my question is: Are there scholarly books, chapters, article, that specifically address the issue described above (God, time, space, etc.) in terms of modern/contemporary physics impinging on metaphysics and theology? Thank you for your suggestions.

Note to prospective commenters: Please do not waste your time or mine posting your own opinions about this there; I am only looking for recommendations of scholarly books, chapters, and articles that address the described issue and related questions. Thank you.

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