Food for thought: ScuzzaMan on Design Law Theory
|September 14, 2018||Posted by kairosfocus under Philosophy, Religion, theism, UD Guest Posts|
Here at UD, we often find food for thought in the comment box. The following by ScuzzaMan, is worth pondering as a particular, from the horse’s mouth philosophical-theological perspective within the Christian frame (and yes, it is Creationist-Biblical in focus rather than empirical-inferential on reliable signs of design). Here is a Christian voice, in his own words:
Design Law Theory.
Design Law Theory is the notion that the book of nature, being written by the same author who inspired scripture, and being properly understood, is an unerring guide to the nature and character of that author.
As such it is necessarily an equally unerring guide to the nature of his moral or spiritual laws, as demonstrated to physical mortal beings through the mechanism of his physical laws.
Design Law Theory (DLT) is a theological term but it relies on an understanding of how reality actually operates, i.e. it relies on a correct science of existence. The content of what I describe here implicitly supports the Intelligent Design concepts as they’ve been developed in the last several decades in contest with the darwinian and neo-darwinian propositions and their innately materialist foundations, but it is not necessarily implied by ID since it is a highly specific instantiation of what is a much more generic theory. The specifics rely heavily on Christian doctrine, and a quite narrowly specific version of Christian doctrine at that, and thus it possibly won’t be of interest to some who read and comment here and may violently perturb others, albeit for different reasons.
It also touches on a myriad of related theological issues, as any coherent theory of everything must necessarily do. (Yes, design law theory is a theory of everything, a really BIG ToE.) It implies a number of obvious and a number of unpalatable truths, to believers and unbelievers alike. It puts into theological context, attempting to do so in a scripturally consistent and robustly coherent manner, an insight that is not new but is nonetheless exceedingly rare. Both its rarity and its essence were most eloquently referenced by Emerson in his essay entitled “Compensation”. I highly recommend it.
(Normal caveats apply: recommending this essay so highly does not imply endorsement of every thought or sentiment in it or the rest of his body of work. Caveat emptor. Test all things; hold fast to that which is Good.)
That essence is that, as the designer and creator not only of Life but of the Existence in which Life is embedded, God’s character cannot avoid being expressed in the physical laws by which his will indirectly governs all of his creation. This principle follows one declared by Solomon long ago:
“Even a child is known by his doings.”
To fully appreciate this statement requires an understanding of how the scriptures use the verb “to know”. Knowing is deep and very intimate understanding. Hence, “Adam KNEW Eve, and she bare a son.” Hence, “the Man has become as one of us, to KNOW good and evil.”
Man had a daily experience of Good, being intimately acquainted with his maker. But lacking God’s capacities he had to do evil, and endure evil, to gain his knowledge of it; he had to experience it to gain his deep and intimate knowledge of it. Using the same verb, Jesus re-iterated Solomon’s principle in a more generic form:
“Wherefore by their fruits shall ye KNOW them.”
The import of these sayings is that we can learn of the inner motivations, the character, of an individual by observing their external actions and the consequences thereof. Thus, the physical laws, set by our designer and creator in an incomprehensibly complex choreography of countervailing and intertwining forces of staggeringly minute and utterly unforgiving tolerances, are a teaching device. They teach us not merely of the character and power of the designer but simultaneously, and arguably more directly, of the minutely exacting character of his moral or spiritual laws, of which they are merely necessary outworkings of the underlying reality. As Emerson summarised it:
“It would seem, there is always this vindictive circumstance stealing in at unawares, even into the wild poesy in which the human fancy attempted to make bold holiday, and to shake itself free of the old laws, — this back-stroke, this kick of the gun, certifying that the law is fatal; that in nature nothing can be given, all things are sold.”
The specific theological content on which this realisation about reality rests, is that the relationship between the spiritual and the physical is not what most people – even most believers – tend to think. Being flesh we tend to assume largely automatically – i.e. unthinkingly – that what is amenable to the senses of our flesh is real. Correspondingly, if it is not so amenable it is not real. Or at best, not as real. When engaged in theological debate and your opponent, a devout Christian, objects that “you’re spiritualising!” what he means to say is that you’re making a scriptural statement about (e.g.) Israel refer to ‘spiritual Israel’, a concept that is less real to him than the physical nation comprised of physical descendants of Abraham and Sarah and based in the middle east around Jerusalem.
Were God to fulfil his promises to Israel only to those spiritual descendants to whom Paul refers, saying “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed” and irrespective of their genetic inheritance, then the physically-focused believer thinks this is not a true fulfilment. There are honest devout Christians who believe God absolutely MUST restore the physical middle eastern nation of Israel to a position of global power, wealth and influence because … somehow materialism has seeped into Christianity without the Christians being aware of it. Such is the power of our environment and it isn’t as if they don’t know that Galatians 3: 29 exists or that they’re flatly contradicting Paul and, by extension, God himself.
DLT holds that things are and must be otherwise. DLT asserts that this ‘natural’ assumption about the nature of reality is totally upside-down from the reality of … reality. DLT asserts the exact opposite:
- The spiritual realm is fundamental, it is primary, it is cause. It is the ‘more real’.
- The physical realm is derivative, it is secondary, it is effect. It is the ‘less real’, if anything is.
Thus, spiritualising the promise’s fulfilment makes it more real, and defends God’s character at the same time from any implication he’s diluting his promises. No, he’s paying more than he owes.
When Jesus says that “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing”, he is not teaching dualism or the necessity of mortification, although you can read those into his words if you will. He’s making a statement about reality; the spirit is the prime mover, the physical does nothing of itself.
Dead material is no good to you. Only the spirit can move it, give it life.
As Emerson wrote, we see this in our every daily experience. We see this in ourselves. First the immaterial motive, then the physical speech. First the non-physical desire, then the physical act. Jesus put it slightly different terms, but the meaning is the same:
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
The physical cannot move itself. The idea of physical objects setting themselves in motion and then governing themselves is, ironically, primitive animism. To find it amongst the most educated scientists of the most materially powerful age of our history would be a shocking surprise to someone who didn’t know that they’d started with Christianity first but abandoned it. Consciously up-ended it.
The fruits of this poisoned tree have not only infected science. Christian theology too suffers even more grossly under the weight of this error. The target of this error is the very laws of which we’re speaking. Via them, of course, the ultimate target is the lawgiver himself. For DLT concludes from the above that Emerson was right and that those who break the laws of life itself cannot ever profit thereby, however much immediate appearances may suggest otherwise. Everything God has made obeys his laws because the things he has made are demonstrations OF those laws. Everything he has made is an instantiation of his laws.
Here’s what science believes about the physical laws:
- Universal in time
- Universal in space
- Inherent properties of matter
Here’s what DLT Christians believe about the moral / spiritual laws of life, aka “God’s laws”:
- Universal in time
- Universal in space
- Inherent properties of God’s character, or spirit
Men have gotten together in synods and councils and thought to change the laws of God because they’ve accepted the error that God’s laws are, like Men’s laws, the precise opposite:
- Arbitrary (i.e. imposed, NOT inherent)
To illustrate this dichotomy, ponder why nobody gathers a council or synod to deliberate on what the value of gravity or the weak nuclear force will be from midnight on the 31st of September and henceforward?
Because we know those laws are unchanging and unbreakable. We happily acknowledge that reality.
It gets worse.
Teaching that God’s laws can be changed is, ipso facto, teaching that God’s laws are local, temporary, and arbitrary. But the incredible fine-tuning of the physical laws argues most emphatically that this cannot be so. Teaching that they bear no inherent consequence is teaching that God is morally obliged to seek out and punish the offender against them. This demotes God from Designer and Creator to Policeman and renders him as a Roman Emperor – only with more power. In other words, this casts God as one of the many ancient pantheons. Like the Greek gods, you see he’s just a man, albeit with more power than the ordinary. He’s subject to all the same limitations and motivations. Teaching that God’s laws are like Men’s laws is teaching that God is like a Man. A powerful Man, but still a Man.
This is God made in Man’s image, and once again we’re at the full reversal of reality mentioned earlier.
By their fruits shall ye know them, right?
Finally, because the laws of life are inherent and necessary for life to exist and persist, so too are the physical laws. We know that if any one of many values governing the material realm was very subtly different, life could not exist as it does today. The existence of the laws, their universal ubiquity and unchanging nature as inherent properties of existence, is a logical and therefore moral necessity.
Thus, when Man attempts to break the law of gravity and plummets from a high rooftop, God is not killing him.
Equally, when Man attempts to break the sixth commandment and receives the wages of sin, God is not killing him.
Neither of these are punishment.
Both are consequence.
God does not need to intervene to kill us; he needs to intervene to keep us alive.
(And he does. Has. Will again.)
He does not seek out evildoers to punish them; we punish ourselves. He seeks out evildoers to bring us to repentance and salvation, which we cannot do ourselves.
Design Law Theory de-emphasises, but does not eliminate, the focus on legal penalties. It takes it as an accurate analogy of our circumstance with powerful didactic properties, but only as useful as understood within the wider framework of the proper order of reality. Get one of the major premises wrong and the conclusion must also be in question. Yet this entire essay is about law. DLT is not antinomian in intent or effect. Quite the opposite.
Design Law Theory re-emphasises, as being of equal accuracy and explanatory power, the medical analogy of which scripture also speaks. That we have a fatal spiritual condition, and this condition induces errant thinking, errant physical behaviours, and these have dire consequences.
These consequences cannot be magically waved away. To do so would be to change and thus break the inherent laws by which life is made and kept possible. To do so would make God a tyrant playing arbitrary favourites, like our modern political classes who excuse the destruction of nations as a policy blunder and execute a man for stealing the tax on a cigarette. That’s not a defence of theft; it’s an attack on arbitrary disproportionality. But to accuse God of it is to accuse him of permanently threatening all of existence. And some Christians do indeed worship such a God – but we do not.
Our God takes these consequences upon himself, so that we might live, and the law be preserved, and thus all life everywhere be preserved. All of creation is at stake in this controversy over the law.
For the Christian the death of Christ ought to be the most powerful argument for the unbreakable and unchangeable nature of the law. That the Father would change it for us but not for Christ is an horrific slur on his character, not to mention sanity, as is every error of doctrine.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
It has a different flavour in this context, doesn’t it? Saving the world isn’t solely an expression of redeeming repentant sinners; it’s also necessary to keep all of creation in existence, as a necessary consequence of the order of reality itself.
As announced, food for thought. END