“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Analogy involving God, Creation, Mathematics, and Physics

Let me ask another question to probe the relationship between God and creation: If creation is a reflection and expression of God's nature, is it something new, or merely a redundant copy of good things that are already there in God himself?

God, the "first thing," contains in his essence, his nature, all that is good and worthy in creation - its value is his value, its pattern an extension of the pattern of God's own nature. There is nothing created that does not derive its goodness or value or beauty from God. Every facet of creation is ultimately rooted and defined in God. Does not mean that creation is merely a copy of what was there first in God?

No. First of all, creation is something other than God, and that fact alone gives it a sort of newness. As an analogy, we might consider the laws of physics that describe our world. Many have argued that the mathematical truths expressed in physics have a reality of their own. That is, our world functions according to the language of mathematics, but the world does not need to exist for 1+1 to equal 2. All laws of physics are to some extent based on and dependent on mathematical truth(s) that are real apart from the physical world.

Perhaps it is similar with God and creation, in that there is no beauty or value in creation that is not rooted in the Maker and derived from him. Things that are eternally present as ideas in his mind, or even as part of his nature, are given actual reality in creation. They may have existed as God's ideas (like an artist's idea of his work), but they did not actually exist in their own right any more than the universe exists in the mathematics that describe it. Creation is still ex nihilo, a new thing made out of absolutely nothing.

It may even be that what I have used as an analogy here is an actual example of creation being rooted in God. The mathematical truths that form the foundation and structure for physics are, in my view, part of God's own nature. If God is three-in-one, then number is inherent to his very being - how then can any mathematical truth derived from basic numbers be separated from God? If this is so, then our physical world gives a new level of reality to that which is already true in God - a sort of creative fire is breathed into the divine equations, making them laws for a real world. In the same way, it may be that other facets of God's nature - moral truth, beauty, etc. - are given a new kind or degree of reality in creation.

No matter how extensively creation is rooted and grounded in the Creator, it is still something else, something new. Creation may be linked to God and dependent on God in every respect, but it remains a thing in its own right, with its own unique characteristics. God is able to give creation a distinct and unique identity, to help it stand alone on its own two feet, apart from him in a sense (for example, in the giving of free will to creatures). This is how he intended it to be.

At the same time, we must balance this affirmation of creation with a reaffirmation of God's all-encompassing supremacy. Creation comes into its own, yet it remains God's creation and cannot escape his design and purpose. As a branch must remain attached to the trunk of a tree, so must creation remain dependent on God. He is all in all, never lacking in himself any good which comes into being in his creation. He is ultimate reality, the overflowing fountain. Creation arises not to complete him, but because of who he is, because of the patterns and ways and perfections that are in him.

This is a difficult balance to keep because it is not clear exactly in what sense creation attains independence, or in what sense it remains dependent.*  As long as we are careful to affirm both creation's integrity and God's supremacy, I think we are on solid ground.
*At the very least, creation is utterly dependent on God in order to continue in its existence.

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