Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Divinity of Christ 1. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God: Communication is at the Heart of Reality

"Fifty years ago, the universe was generally looked on as a machine … When we pass to extremes of size in either direction --whether to the cosmos as a whole, or to the inner recesses of the atom--the mechanical interpretation of nature fails. We come to entities and phenomena which are in no sense mechanical. To me they seem less suggestive of mechanical than of mental processes; the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine." 

Astronomer James Jeans --
cited in Kowalski, Gary, Science and the Search for God. New York: Lantern Books, 2003. p 19.

Comments on the Divinity of Christ Creed

We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God.

The Scriptures declare:
His virgin birth
His sinless life
his miracles
His substitutionary work on the cross
His bodily resurrection from the dead
His exhalation at the right hand of God.

For centuries believers have affirmed these propositions concerning the divinity of Christ. We recite this creed at my church.

Why are these ideas profound? Let's look at each proposition in more detail.

1. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God:
Communication is at the Heart of Reality

We believe that God must have the powers of a person since only a person loves. Human love is something extraordinary in the universe. It is a clue that ultimate reality must be something like it. 

If God were a force or principle that would make him less than a human person -- less than yourself -- and thus unworthy of your attention. For example, wouldn't it be strange for someone to worship the force of gravity? Or to make an electrical field into a god. That would be like the ancient practice of idol worship when people built gods of material objects. 
God must be at least as special as a human person, aware of what is happening and able to experience relationships. Only a person can love. Whatever created us must be at least as good as a person.

It is much more likely to say that God is not only personal but more personal that we can understand. Divine personhood is of a different category than we observe in daily life because God is more personal than is imaginable. We could say that God is supra-personal. 

Christian teachers tell us that God is three persons in one being -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three co-equal persons in one nature. When first encountered, the trinity seems strange, but turns out to be essential for consciousnesses to exist. creed statement that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God affirms that communication and community is at the heart of reality -- or is the source of reality as the Ground of Being. There is communication within the nature of God. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit loves the Father and loves the Son and so on forever.

Or as scripture says, "God is love."  The communication going on within the nature of God is self sufficient. His love is with out reference to any created person. Even if God never chose to create a universe, he would still be love.

Everyone knows that love must be the meaning of human existence. In a letter to a woman who wrote asking for a word of inspiration for her son, physicists Richard Feynman near the end of his life replied: Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science — for to fill your heart with love is enough.

(Sykes, Christopher Simon, No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman, 1996, by, p 161.)

Christianity gives a rational source for this love in the ultimate love that goes on in the nature of God. The book of James states in 1: 17 that: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

Humans benefit from the outplaying of divine love when we share the gift of conscious awareness, enjoyment of relationships and contemplation of beauty and the experience of joy. doctrine of the trinity diverges from polytheism -- or belief in three gods -- since the three persons are of one substance. Rather the triune nature of God reflects the same semiotic processes that make any meaning possible in each mind. Semiotics is the study of how symbols produce meaning. All linguistic processes require a sort of trinity of the mind -- a connection between a person's thought, the objects observed and the symbols or words used to communicate.

Communication scholars Osgood and Richard's Triangle of Meaning uses the terms Reference, Referent and Symbol. Another theorist, Charles Sanders Peirce uses the terms Sign (words or symbols), Object (thing experienced) and Interpretant (person making observations).

A conscious person contemplates a referential object or idea and the meaning that is achieved in this process gives coherence to the subject and object as a unified whole. A person becomes aware of meaning when the referent that is sensed is understood by language. So, we have a person, a referent (idea, object, experience) and the language or imagery that connects them.

These semiotic models resemble the Christian doctrine of trinity explaining the communicative nature of God. Here there are three persons each playing a role in the Being of God. God the Father is like the Object or Referent. The Son of God is like the Sign and the Holy Spirit is the Interpretant. The parallels fit neatly since any kind of consciousness demands a triad of three in oneness.

It turns out that the connection mesh well because, as philosophers of religion have pointed out, these and other triads of the mind were inspired by the trinity as conceptualized by Augustine and then Hegel. Peirce is said to have been greatly influenced by Hegel. 

Moreover, the concept of three in one equal but distinct seems to provide a workable method for understanding how the mind works in creating meaning. There are crucial features which make the trinity the only candidate to explain how the conscious mind produces and shares meaning.

We do not think of the trinity as belief in three gods any more than we think of the triangle of meaning as three separate properties. All three are equal and necessary for meaning to be realized. Yet, each is unique and separate at the same time. There is a "three in oneness" in both the divine trinity and semiotic triangle. Perhaps we could say that God is a cosmic Triangle of Meaning, a fountain head of all meaning and real communication.

Notice also that meaning requires community -- or the coming together of persons in a common bond of shared language and culture. The individual person only gains the resources of language from the community. An isolated individual without a community would never acquire language or the power of semiotic thought. Child abuse cases demonstrate why community -- or at least three persons -- is required for language, love and meaning to exist. As a normal child grows up he or she acquires the third leg in the triangle by "borrowing the minds" of adults, taking on the perspective of parents or role models, mimicking their identities to achieve their own. In this way a child grows up as both an individual and a member of the collective community. This is called inter-subjectivity -- taking on the perspective of others to gain ones own. 

Without community -- or the three-in-oneness principle -- there can be no shared meaning, communication or love. Therefore viewing God as a single mind -- what is called monism --denies the possibility that God would have a consciousness required to love and be loved.

When we consider that the trinity is incomprehensible we are reminded of the mysteries of recent discoveries in quantum mechanics.  Paradoxical features of quantum reality have been proven by scientific investigation. Light for example is both a wave and a particle at the same time. This counter-intuitive property is known as the wave--particle duality. Just as strange, subatomic particles are able to exist in two (or more) places at the same time. These are not illusions or metaphors but physical realities on the microscopic scale.

The physicist Niels Bohr once said: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."  (Gribbin, John, Mary Gribbin, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and RealityUniversity Press, 1984.)

Richard Feynman, who understood the physics of quantum mechanics better than anyone, concluded that actually: "Nobody understands quantum mechanics." (Rosenblum, Bruce and Kuttner, Fred, Quantum Enigma, Oxford Press, 2006, p 80)

When Feynman made his famous diagram he said that there are some properties of quantum reality that are so strange that we don't even have a metaphor to contain them. We know by objective experiment that these paradoxes are real (not theory) but we are unable to intuitively conceive of them without great mental effort.

"Our imagination is stretched to the utmost," he said, "not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there. (Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, 1965. )

Here is the Feynman diagram which attempts to graphically illustrate quantum mysteries that take place on an unimaginably small microscopic scale.  The stuff that forms our world is made of positive and negative electrons interacting with packets of energy called quanta that travel forward and backward in time (could be what this means).
In the same way that certain realities about the physical universe are nearly impossible to conceptualize, the closest metaphor that a human mind might grasp about the divine nature is to say that God's consciousness is like the love between a father and a son in a family. Christ as the "Son of God" alludes to the inheritance rights of a first born son of ancient Hebrew culture, the one who has equal legal standing with the father and acts in his stead. Two persons with one substance.

In this sense, Christ the Son of God becomes the necessary intermediary between the wholly other God the Father and human beings in the material universe. Like the yellow light between a red and green light of a traffic signal, we now have the possibility to mediate our limited consciousness with divine meaning and know something about God through the person of Jesus Christ. 

World without End by GJ Gillespie
In fact, traditional Christian belief attributes the creation of the universe to Jesus Christ -- the one who is wholly God and wholly human at the same time. While this doctrine of the dual nature of Christ  -- who is the simultaneously divine and human Creator --  like the trinity seems strange at first, the divine-human dual natural may provide an explanation for how the information of the universe came into being. 
With the advent of Quantum Mechanics, especially the Copenhagen School which argues that reality requires conscious observation, physicists have introduced us to a strange world that at its core is, in the words of Shakespeare, made of the airy stuff of dreams. Rather than the hard stuff of everyday experience, reality most basically exists because information is being perceived by some kind of Interpretant.
So we might ask who dreamed up the universe? Who provided the informational scaffolding that holds up time, space, matter and fundamental forces?

Quantum theory argues that there must be a conscious observation of particles before those particles become reality. It takes conscious activity to "collapse the superpositions" of the virtual particles to physically make the universe real.  This observer can't be the all knowing God the Father exactly since he would presumably already be aware of all positions. It would take a mind that is limited, like a human-like mind to make these observations within the physical universe.

Theologians grappling with how an infinite personal Being might interact with the world say that when Christ became incarnate he did not lose any of his all knowing attributes since God is immutable or is incapable of changing. Instead the incarnate Christ took on human nature in addition to his divine nature. Theologians maintain that in order to act in the physical universe -- and interact with humans -- God "condescended' from the first moment of creation taking a "covenantal" or human like perspective in addition to his all-encompassing divine perspective.

Pehraps we can think of God in Christ "condesending" in the way that the author of a story "enters into the story" by imagining the perspective of his or her characters. The author is aware of his or her own world, but for the purposes of creative writing imagines that he or she is a body acting in the story. The author may even communicate with characters, telling them what to do in his mind. Similarity, characters sometimes "take over" a story and choose to act in ways independent of the author's initial will. 

Divine condescension -- God getting into the story -- explains how an omniscient mind would not collapse all positions in the universe at once.

Once a particle is observed its "wave function" become set for ever. For example if a photon is consciously viewed as a particle is becomes a particle forever. And, counter intuitively, the observation effect works backward in time. Once it is observed as a particle, it has always been a particle or always been a wave caused by the observation in our time.

All Fall Down by GJ Gillespie

The fact the consciousness forms reality is called the "quantum enigma" and suggests that the acts of a mind is necessary for physical reality to exist. Some physicists discount the enigma by assuring us that the effects only occur on a very small scale that is invisible to the macro world we live in. But, Rosenblum and Kuttner point out ignoring this proven feature of physics isn't enough since the macro world is made up of the microscopic world. "Quantum mechanics applies to everything", they argue. (Rosenblum and Kuttner, p 15)

If God is all knowing, then all of the positions would already be observed. But, if God limits his knowing, in the same way that my wife working on a painting for two hours limits her knowing what is going on with current events on the internet. An artist condescends by focusing attention on the artifact being created. It is a limiting of the mind that permits novel information or patterns to pop up. The nature of the final artifact, such as a story, poem or painting, is never quite what the creator imagined at the start. This is the mystery of creativity. The exciting effects of limiting a mind and letting the artifact take over.  The creative act requires discipline of a focused mind, wholly committed to seeing the vision for the art fulfilled.

Perhaps God is acting in the same way that the human artist, 
sculptor, poet, composer or painter "gets into" the created work, focuses on it intensely, sometimes so intensely that everything else in the world fades away. The artifact becomes the center of attention above all else, even sleep or eating. 

It could be that God chooses not to collapse all superpositions because he is playing along -- as if he were a human-like actor in the universe, limiting his all-knowing mind for a time to see what emerges.

While some have argued that the universe evolved to the stage of the first human who looked back on it to create it retroactively or that this first observer was Adam of biblical narrative, it seems more plausible to accept that the conscious observer is God the Son exactly as set forth by scripture such as the book of Colossians 1:15 -- 17. 

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ as the Word of God spoke the universe into being, providing the information that makes up the structure of reality. In addition, the semiotic-like mind of Christ holds all things together like grammar holds the meaning of a sentence together.  Christ is the universal "Logos" or underlining meaning behind all that we experience.

Or, put negatively, with out God we lack the grammar to understand meaningful patterns in the data of experience. Some non-Christians believe that the realization that there is no linguistic-like binding force behind phenomena is key to enlightenment. They will say that we need to extinguish this desire to see an encompassing oneness or nothingness. 

The Christian creeds offer a life affirming perspective. Ultimate reality isn't nothingness. But, is a Person. And all that we experience is a divine artifact. The creeds permit us to hear the rhythms of a celestial music. Behind reality rings the Music of the Spheres. The composer is an awesome, creative God. 

Unsurprisingly, string theory -- one of the newest candidates to explain cosmic origins -- also refers to  a musical metaphor. This proposal of theoretical physicists suggests that at the smallest scale -- 10 meters to the negative 33 (ten with 33 zeros after it) -- there are tiny "strings" that exist at the border of time of space. The vibration of the strings forms larger scale objects. When the string vibrate at one frequency, a carbon atom emerges. At another frequency, helium atoms or other material properties pop into existence. In this view, the "music of the spheres" literally forms reality.

The string is not really a physical object since it is so small even time and space break down. It appears more like an idea or a mathematical algorithm. Could these strings be the expression of thoughts of the communicative, triune God as laid out in the creed? Such a perspective would be an eloquent explanation. The mystery and beauty of universe is the outplaying of a musical score,

Physicist John Archibald Wheeler argued that the universe can be rendered down most basically to information. That everything -- it -- comes down to bits. This is the It from Bits theory.

"[I]t is not unreasonable to imagine that information sits at the core of physics, just as it sits at the core of a computer. It from bit. Otherwise put, every 'it'—every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits.

'It from bit' symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe.
 (John Archibald Wheeler 1990: 5)
What good is it to say that information exists without a mind to process and contemplate it? While Wheeler took a monist perspective of eastern religion that each person is really part of a divine consciousness without realizing it, the Christian will say that the observation of information that forms the bits that make up reality come from the mind of the Triune God. This mind is surpra-personal and capable of great love.

Could this mind that produced the cosmic information be a "Universal Consciousness"? Could the universe have a mind and we are simply part of that mind? That is unlikely. 

Think back to the triangle of meaning. For the perception of information to make sense, to produce meaning, there must be three in one. Three aspects are required for information to exist: We need information, perception of the information and an object that the information is about.

But, if "all is one" -- the expression of a single mind only -- then there would be no place for information and no need to communicate about it to anyone.

Usually artists and writers are interested in how their art form will be appreciated by others. Great artists or writers have large audiences of admirers. That is what makes them great.

Love requires communication -- first in the community that makes language possible, then between at least two persons. There must be interaction between persons. 

While the monist universe could not be the source of its own information since information requires the semiotic triad, the Christian perspective is that God is One, but God is also Three at the same time. Three in Oneness. It is from the communication within this Being that the information we see in the universe comes to exist. In fact, we are made up of this information.

All we know, including ourselves, are artifacts of a divine mind that stands far outside of the universe. We are made in God's image, able to participate in the appreciation of the beauty of universe and -- most important -- form loving relationships. To love and be loved. 

Traditional theology posits that humans also take part in the development of the universe since God chooses to use us in his restorative work. God loves each human being and has a plan for each person. We are God's handiwork created to enter into relationship with him and can know his plan for our lives.

When we accept that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God we are saying that our lives and the universe have meaning that is back-lit by an after glow of a love that is so great it forged the explosion of the Big Bang.  As astronomer James Jeans once suggested, the advent of quantum mechanics makes the universe appear more like a thought than a mechanical object.  Its the thought that counts.
There are beneficial philosophical implications to viewing the universe as a grand thought of a loving Being instead of a blind mechanistic object.

Our reality becomes an artifact of beauty and mystery that can be experienced meaningfully. Our world can be enjoyed like a work of art.

"And God said, 'Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good...'" Genesis 1: 3, 4a.

This passage supports the information theory basis for reality. God chooses to permit information to enter his consciousness. He then speaks this information meaningfully which results in the appearance of a world. Finally, he evaluates or experiences it.  Could this progression mean precisely that God's conscious conception of primordial-information is what led to the collapse the wave function and the birth of reality? 

At its core, matter, space, time and fundamental forces rest on divine algorithms that make up universal complexity. But, since the Creator is more like an artist than an engineer he observes that it is good. This is the inner information states of aesthetic experience. The universe as an artifact of the communicative Triune God is embedded with experiential meaning that can be enjoyed by persons. 

The mind of God is then able to contemplate the information as an artist might appreciate his or her handiwork, producing the phenomenological response of subjective knowledge that forms the basis for values and aesthetic appreciation.

Instead of mechanistic, digital processes we might expect in a dead, static cosmos, we find that the universe is a grand thought that rings with analogical information more like cosmic poetry or music than mathematical equations.  God's existential observation become a fountain for all beauty.  And we can drink from this fountain.

We do not confuse the universe for God. Nor do we think of ourselves are part of the divine mind unaware. Rather, the universe is like a house that is inhabited by a charismatic owner. The personality of this owner fills the physical house with immaterial joy. Our mind is like his, just as a child's mind is like a parents -- similar but not identical.

So on one hand there is the measurable information of objective science, physics and psychology, while on the other the subjective appreciation (phenomenology) of beauty, love, truth and religious meaning.  By knowing the mind of Christ, human beings now have a trustworthy path to enter into a knowledge of true values and beauty. This experiential appreciation of the cosmic information then forms the basis for arts and ethics and authentic religious experience. Reality exists because the Triune God speaks it into being in accord with information theory. Since it is highly valued by his omnipresent observation we know that it is a thing of beauty and love. Christ as the eternal Son of God and Creator of the Universe provides an infinite reference point upon which meaning can be realized. Instead of a "castle in the sky" without any firm foundation, language has a solid ground in the consciousness of the Creator. The Mind of Christ which exists at every point in space and time then experiences his creation, from the most minute micro level to the cosmic macro level, imbuing it with value. Likewise, God as our Creator knows each person fully, providing the possibility of knowing our true selves as well. We can join in the observations of this divine mind, thus experiencing eternal joy, love, acceptance and purpose.
Faith is turning toward God. Away from the absolute cold in the abyss of nothingness, and toward the warmth of God's love. We might turn just a little bit toward God. That may be enough. We can learn to hear the music of the spheres.

Why settle for knowing about God when knowing God is possible? 

An alternative universe is open to us when we say yes to Christ. Everything changes. We find peace, meaning, purpose, freedom from guilt and drink from the headwaters of all beauty. 

Exploring an Alternative Universe

One technique for developing faith is the experiment of "suspension of disbelief". This is a first step toward experiencing reality as a follower of Christ. 

For a set time you may choose to accept the perspective that you are an artifact of a loving, all knowing Being who wants to know and communicate with you. 

Try it out for a while and see if it makes sense. If a communicative God exists behind reality and at every point in time and space, it should be possible to tap into the lines of communication that is flowing in that Being.

Prayer is simply talking to God. Request that he help you believe and reveal himself to you. Then wait for the feedback in some event or inner knowledge to confirm your faith. 

Interaction with Christian friends during this experiment also helps if you know some believers.

An essential part of this experiment in faith is to read up on the Word of God in the bible to get acquainted with the mind of Christ as he interacted with people. Find a bible and read the Book of John and be open to hear the voice of God speak to your inner life.

NOTE: post a comment below and I will pray for you about your new faith journey. 

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