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Ask Fr. Spitzer

Previous (Ask Fr. Spitzer) Questions


Can you describe what it must have been like right after the Big Bang?

What exactly is the Magis Center and what part of the Christian Bible do you deem as more important and what are your beliefs?

How do we know that the direct creator of the physical universe is the unrestricted intelligible reality and not a creation of the unrestricted reality?

What would be a good introduction to philosophy? A book or primer that you could recommend to the layman?

Is there a way to picture reality that’s not linked to time or space?

How do I reconcile an all-powerful creator with the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible?

If nothing can come from nothing, where did "God" come from?

Even if there's cosmological evidence for a creator, how do you make the leap from that to Christianity?

What is the difference between metaphysics and physics, and what are the limits of each?

Is Divine intervention possible?

Was the story of Jesus actually lifted from the Egyptian Horus myth?

Are the Bible and Darwinian evolution diametrically opposed?

What would be the Church reaction to aliens?

How can we believe the universe is billions of years old and still believe the Bible, too?

Can a regular person even understand physics and math?



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Can you describe what it must have been like right after the Big Bang?

Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe was exceedingly tiny, but if we had instruments to detect and magnify the effects of these first moments, we would see the following: first, assuming that the universe came into existence in a quantum cosmological state with gravity being unified with the other three universal forces (electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak forces), then what we would have seen first is the separation of gravity from the other three forces. When this separation occurred, a space-time field similar to the one described by the general theory of relativity (which is still present today) would have emerged to cause gravitational effects (instead of quantum gravity). If we could have seen into the very tiny universe, with a very slow-motion camera (because this was all happening very quickly), we would have seen a glorious, symmetrical transition of physics that is quite indescribable in terms of its complexity, yet simple emergence. This would have been followed by the separation of the strong nuclear force from the unified electro-weak force, which would have been similarly magnificent, complex and symmetrical. This would have led to an inflationary state where the universe would have expanded from a very tiny size (.0000000000000000000000000000001 cm) to about the size of a marble or larger in a very small fraction of time – far less than a single second. This would have led eventually to the separation of the weak force from the electromagnetic force, and then to the emergence of quarks, and then to hydrogen and helium nuclei. From them came stars which produced the other elements. It would have been orderly, complex, symmetrical – and above all, quite magnificent.

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What exactly is the Magis Center and what part of the Christian Bible do you deem as more important and what are your beliefs.

The Magis Center of Reason and Faith is dedicated to looking at the evidence for a transcendent being from the disciplines of physics, philosophy, mathematics and metaphysics. In order to clarify issues concerning the Bible, science, and evolution, we will sometimes answer questions about the Bible and Christianity. We believe that the New Testament is a broader, fuller revelation of God which emerged from the time of Abraham in 1800 BCE to the time of Jesus Christ and found its complete expression in the death and resurrection of Jesus, who revealed God to be unconditional love. Biblical exegesis is normally beyond our scope, however.

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How do we know that the direct creator of the physical universe is the unrestricted intelligible reality and not a creation of the unrestricted reality?

That’s an excellent question. Your question reveals that you have read Chapter 4 of "New Proofs," which deals with Lonergan’s proof for God’s existence, and your question logically flows from the possibility left open by Lonergan because an unrestricted intelligible reality (UIR) could have created a creator of our universe. Lonergan’s proof shows that the UIR must be the ultimate creator of all that is, however, it does not say that the UIR has to be the proximate creator of our universe. It only has to be the ultimate creator of our universe. Are there other creators in between? There could be, but if we operate by Occam’s Razor (the assumption that the most elegant solution with the least number of assumptions is the best one until proven otherwise) then we might assume that the UIR is both the ultimate and proximate creator of our universe. Longergan has shown that there has to be one and only one creator which is at once timeless, and unrestrictedly intelligible. I think Lonergan has proven this quite well in his book "Insight: A Study of Human Understanding," Chapter 19. He has asked anyone in the intellectual community to critique his reasoning and has been met mostly with silence.

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What would be a good introduction to philosophy? A book or primer that you could recommend to the layman?

There are several good books that can introduce you to philosophy on a rather serious level. First, I would recommend a book by Jacques Maritain titled "Introduction to Philosophy" (currently $29.95 at amazon.com). I would also recommend Joseph Owens’ "The Clarity of God’s Existence: The Ethics of Belief After the Enlightenment" (currently $25 at amazon.com). I would also recommend another little book by Josef Pieper called "Leisure: The Basis of Culture" ($9.99 at amazon.com). If you want additional books let me know.

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Is there a way to picture reality that’s not linked to time or space?

No. The word picture – or picture thinking – is a component of the imagination, which spacializes all constructs. Hence you can’t have a picture without space, therefore if a reality transcends space (and is not conditioned by space), then it can’t be imagined at all. However, one may have a concept of such a reality, and one does this in three ways. First, by means of the negative way, where one can think about a reality (or power) which is NOT conditioned by space. Second, by analogy, where one can say that God’s intelligence is LIKE our intelligence, but not limited by it spatial and temporal conditions. A third method is called hyperphatic, which is saying that God is MORE than can ever be imagined or sequenced, etc. But unfortunately, the transcendent God cannot be reduced to a picture…

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How do I reconcile an all-powerful creator with the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible?

Dear Fr. Spitzer,

Okay, suppose I accept your argument that there was a creator of some kind. How do I reconcile that creator with the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible, which is full of stories about vengeance, pain and suffering. Why would I believe in a deity who shows such cruelty and inconsistency?

Sincerely,
Matt

Dear Matt,

This is not a new question, and it’s one that many of our readers ask us. I can see why you might think the God of the Bible is not loving or caring, especially given that some Christians say you must believe the Bible literally – no matter how many different and seemingly contradictory views of God appear in it.

Now, before I get into your question, I need to point out that this is beyond the scope of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith. We exist to explore whether physics supports the idea of a creator. Having said that, there are so many people asking this same question that we feel it should be addressed regardless of our limited scope.

The second thing I need to point out is that to really answer this question, you have to start with the assumption that the Bible contains true revelation. Otherwise you’re entering into an entirely different conversation, which is whether or not the Bible is simply a collection of stories that have nothing to do with any kind of ultimate reality. That isn’t the question I mean to answer, however. Today I will examine how the different sections of the Bible can all be true, even as they appear to contradict each other.

Though it is fair to say that there are many passages of the Bible which seem to imply the Judeo-Christian God can look both irrational and tyrannical, it is important to be aware of the science of hermeneutics, which is a well-developed historical discipline in the employed by academics world-wide. To attempt to evaluate the Bible (or any other historical text) without knowing something about hermeneutics (the science of interpreting a text according to the concepts, categories, and mindsets of a particular time and culture) is like saying that you are going interpret modern physics without knowing any math or understanding the scientific method.

Garbage in, garbage out.

So what are some important, basic things to know about hermeneutics before you get started?

First, if you assume that God reveals himself to people according to their cultural concepts, categories and mindsets, then you will see that God’s revelation will have to develop along with the intellectual and cultural capacity of human beings. Throughout time, we have greatly expanded our understanding of the world, as well as our methods for understanding our world – and this is a good thing. But people who had much narrower approaches to the world also had a right to receive revelation from God according to what they understood. Thus, it would not be surprising to find that in 1800 BCE, polygamy was accepted – in the Bible! Then six hundred years later it is prohibited by Moses – in the same Bible!

Did God change his mind or did human beings develop to the point where they could understand monogamy?

There is an old expression in hermeneutics – "whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver." What that means is if you were just learning to add and subtract and I put a series of algebraic functions on the board, you would not be able to understand them because you do not have the categorical apparatus to understand the intricacies of algebraic equations. You’d be looking for the numbers and trying to figure out why there are letters like “x” in the middle of the math problem.

In the Bible, God has the same problem as the math teacher. The Bible records revelations that were made from 1800 BCE to about 90 CE. The Biblical authors’ view of the world (and I assure you, there were many different authors living in many different times) broadened tremendously during these eras. Israel moved from a warrior culture battling Philistines to a metropolitan culture interacting with ideas from Greece and Rome. Of course the theology of the prophets developed tremendously, until we get to the time of Jesus, who gives us the notion of God as Unconditional Love.

This love is illustrated in the character of the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15, 11-32), who unconditionally loves his son and forgives him even after the man commits every imaginable offense against family, country, people and the law – and rejoices in his return. What does this have to do with the hermeneutical method? We might say that it illustrates asymmetrical (one-directional) hermeneutics. What does that mean? It means that you can look at older (narrower) revelation through newer (broader and more comprehensive) revelation, but you can’t look at the newer, more comprehensive revelation through the lens of the older, narrower revelation. The narrowness of the older revelation is simply too constrained to allow the broader, more comprehensive revelation to have its full meaning.

If you try to fit the Unconditional Love of God into the categories of strict justice (appropriate to the Torah in 550 BCE), you are going to get a disconnect. In fact, you won’t be able to do it. It will seem like a contradiction – or, as some of you have suggested, that God changed mind, or even his identity altogether!

Jesus anticipated this, and indicated that you can’t pour new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the new wine will burst the old skins, and both the wine and the skins will be lost. To understand the unconditionally loving God of the New Testament, one has to allow the new, broad, comprehensive and full revelation to have its full meaning, which means freeing it from the constraints of a much narrower worldview. Such a worldview is to be expected from a people who have far less experience to draw upon.

If you look at it this way, God is not changing his identity every 200 years, but people are capable of receiving the revelation of God with ever-increasing depth of understanding and love every 200 years. One could argue that this is just my personal interpretation, but it actually corresponds with good hermeneutical practice – namely that one should never interpret an historical text outside of its historical and cultural framework.

If God has any common sense, then he would not give a revelation of himself that is outside of what is comprehensible to a given people at a given time.

What does this mean with respect to some of the questions that commonly come up about Biblical literalism? Two things – first, you cannot say "God in the Bible says," because the notion of God moves from the God of the armies in 1000 BCE (a warrior God with a strict law and a narrow notion of justice) to a God of unconditional love, compassion and mercy (reflected by the parable of the prodigal son in 30 BCE). Related to this, you can’t expect the Biblical author in 550 BCE to be writing about science. Even if God wanted to reveal science to the Biblical author, he wouldn’t have been able to understand, any more than your average five-year-old can teach calculus.

God had to wait until the categories of mathematics and method were appropriately broad and complex to accommodate a scientific worldview. When it came, his revelation was intrinsic to it. We don’t need twist that evidence to find God – he is writ large in the equations of the Big Bang, the physical evidence for a beginning of the universe (even if there were a pre-Big Bang period), the second law of thermo-dynamics (entropy), and other clues. Indeed, if we find that a multiverse requires as much fine-tuning as the phenomenon it is trying to explain (say, in the slow roll of bubble universes necessary to prevent collisions), then there will be even more clues about God’s super-calculating intelligence.

Secondly, if we respect one-directional hermeneutics, then we will want to first turn to the newest (broadest and comprehensive) revelation in the Bible, which would include the revelation of Jesus – that God is "Abba," our affectionate and trusted father. Just like the father in the prodigal son parable. Perhaps the easiest way of applying this hermeneutic is to first turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4, which I’m sure you have heard at weddings:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

If God truly is who Jesus says he is, then you should be able to replace the word "love" with the word "God," and you should be able to absolutize every adjective in the hymn:

"God is infinitely patient, God is infinitely kind. God never envies or boasts and he is not proud. God is never rude, God is never self-seeking, and God is not easily angered. God keeps no record of wrongs. God never delights in evil and always rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. God never fails."

If this is the starting point for a definition of God in the Bible, then all other previous definitions will have to conform to it – and not vice versa.

I hope this answers your question – next time we’ll move back to questions of physics and metaphysics.

Sincerely,
Father Spitzer

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If nothing can come from nothing, where did "God" come from?

If nothing can come from nothing, where did "God" come from?

J. Ray


Dear J. Ray,

The problem of something coming from nothing arises out of realities which require at least three kinds of realities which require a cause for their existence. One, realities that have a beginning; two, realities which are conditioned in their existence (dependent for their existence on something else – the fulfillment of other conditions); and three, realities that are conditioned by time.

I am restricting my comments here to realities which have a beginning. If you are interested in conditioned realities, read chapter three of my book "New Proofs for the Existence of God," and if you are interested in realities conditioned by time, read chapter five of the same book.

Returning to realities which have a beginning, if a reality – say, our universe – has a beginning, then that beginning point represents the point at which the universe came into existence (including its physical time). Prior to that point the physical universe did not exist – in other words, it was nothing – absolute nothing. Now HERE is where the problem of something coming from nothing appears on the scene. If the universe was truly nothing, and if from nothing only nothing can come, then the universe needs something beyond itself to cause it to exist – to bring it from nothing to something. Without this transcendent cause (Creator), the universe could not bring itself from nothing to something, because it was nothing.

If a reality doesn’t have a beginning, if it is not conditioned in its existence, and if it is not conditioned by time, that reality does not have to have a creator – it does not have to have a cause for its existence, because it was never nothing (as our universe was prior to its beginning) and it was not dependent on anything else for its existence. It is its own existence – indeed, it is existence or being itself. Such a reality is not contradictory – it is, in the words of many philosophers, necessary.

There is nothing in the world of logic that requires every being to have a creator or a cause. The only beings that require a creator or a cause, as I said above, are those which have a beginning, those which are dependent on something else for their existence, and those which are conditioned by time.

Now let’s return to your question. God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by time, and so God does not need a cause. Indeed, if you read chapters three and five of "New Proofs," you will see that God must exist, because there must exist at least one reality which has no beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.

The short reason for this (which is explained fully in the book) is as follows: if all beings have a beginning, then all beings will have been nothing prior to their beginning, but this means that nothing will ever come into existence. Why? Let’s say our universe is nothing without the existence of a prior reality, but that prior reality is nothing without the existence of another prior reality, and so forth ad infinitum. Then the whole of reality is nothing without prior realities, but we have no end to the prior realities (which are nothing).

In short, the sum total of all the realities which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing… is NOTHING. Zero added to itself an infinite number of times is zero.

You can read the full explanation in chapters three through five of the book. If you do not have at least one "reality which is NOT nothing prior to a beginning" (like God), then you have no reality at all.

Now it just so happens that there can be ONLY one reality that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time. The proofs for this are in the book, and it will take too long to explain them here. The ultimate conclusion is there has to be AT LEAST one "beginningless being" – and there can be ONLY one "beginningless being" – and this is what we mean by "God."

Now let’s return to your question – the reason we ask the question "why does the universe have a cause?" or "why do we have to explain how the universe came from nothing to something?" is because there is an increasing amount of evidence from physics, the philosophy of mathematics, and metaphysics that imply and even require that the universe has a BEGINNING. You can see some of this evidence on our Physics FAQ (or chapters one through five of "New Proofs") – the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth 2003 theorem, entropy, the Borde-Vilenkin 1993 theorem, etc. These questions don’t come up with respect to God because there is not only NO EVIDENCE that God had a beginning, or is dependent on something for its existence, or is conditioned by time. Indeed, as noted above, there must be at least one being – and only one being (i.e. God) – that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.

I hope this helps you with your query. If you want a more complete explanation, please read "New Proofs for the Existence of God" or our "Physics FAQ," available for download at www.magisreasonfaith.org.

Sincerely,
Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

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Even if there's cosmological evidence for a creator, how do you make the leap from that to Christianity?

Dear Father Spitzer,

So, I’ve read a lot of your arguments, and it sounds to me like you’re saying that there is cosmological evidence for a creator. I can understand that. What I don’t understand is how you make the leap from that to Christianity?

Lori


Dear Lori,

I was asked this very question on a retreat by a graduate student in chemistry when I was teaching at Georgetown University. I answered the question by means of six other questions which bridge the "leap" between the transcendent creator and Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – God with us). The answer is evidently concerned with love. Though one may pick up implications of love from the way in which the universe is created, evidence from physics really does not concern the unconditional love of God. This came to light through revelation – a revelation given to us by Jesus. Yet how do we ascertain that Jesus is "God With Us?" If you respond to the questions below in a way similar to the responses given here, the "leap" may be quite intelligible.

Six Questions Toward Emmanuel

When I was teaching at Georgetown University, I was privileged to direct a physics and philosophy student on an Ignatian retreat. He was exceptionally bright and good-willed, and had the capacity to express what was on his mind in a very straightforward way. At the beginning of our first conference he said, "Could I ask you something very elementary which has been bothering me for several years? I don’t have any real problem with the idea of a Creator, because I believe that finitude is intrinsic to time and the origin of the universe will ultimately have to have a cause beyond a universal singularity. God is not a question for me. But it’s this Jesus thing. I’m not sure I see the need for Jesus and I’m not sure I really get it. Can’t we just stick with a ‘Creator outside of space-time asymmetry’?"

I thought about it for a couple of minutes and said to him, "The ‘Jesus thing’ is about the unconditional Love of God. It is about God wanting to be with us in a perfect act of empathy; about God wanting to save us unconditionally and to bring us to His own life of unconditional Love. A Creator alone, indeed, even a Creator with infinite power, could be tantamount to Aristotle’s God. Once he has fulfilled His purpose of ultimate, efficient, and final causation, He is detached from the affairs of rather base and uninteresting human beings. The God of Jesus Christ is about the desire to be intimately involved in the affairs of human beings made in His image and destined for His eternity – and that makes all the difference."

He said in reply, "This all seems a bit too good to be true. I would like the Creator to be the God of Jesus Christ, but do you have any evidence that this is not just wishful thinking – evidence showing that this is really the way God is? Is there any reason why we would think that God is loving instead of indifferent?" I responded by noting that it would be better for him to answer six questions rather than have me give an extended discourse, because the six questions could reveal not only what was in his fine mind, but more importantly, what was in his heart – what he thought about love, life’s purpose, others, and His highest imaginable state of existence. If he answered these six questions (from his heart) in a manner commensurate with "the logic of love," then the unconditional Love and divinity of Christ (i.e., Jesus being Emmanuel – God with us) would be self-evident.

I give you, the reader, these six questions and some points to guide your reflection, so that you might be able to see more clearly the logic of love and its consequences for an "unrestricted Creator outside of space-time asymmetry" (God).

1) What is the most positive and creative power or capacity within me?

At first glance, one might want to respond that this power is intellect, or artistic creativity, but further reflection may show that the capacity to apprehend truth or knowledge, or to create beauty, in and of itself, is not necessarily positive. Knowledge and beauty can be misused, and therefore be negative, destructive, manipulative, inauthentic, and thus undermine both the individual and common good. There is but one human power that contains its own end of "positivity" within itself, one power that is directed toward the positive of itself, and therefore one power that directs intellect and artistic creativity to its proper, positive end. As may by now be evident, that power is love (agape – see Section I above). Love’s capacity for empathy, its ability to enter into a unity with others leading to a natural "giving of self," forms the fabric of the common good and the human community, and so seeks as its end the good of both individuals and that community.

As implied above (Section I), love by its very nature unifies, seeks the positive, orders things to their proper end, finds a harmony amidst diversity, and gives of itself in order to initiate and actualize this unifying purpose. This implies that love is naturally oriented toward perfect positivity and perfect fulfillment.

Furthermore, love would seem to be the one virtue that can be an end in itself. Other virtues do not necessarily culminate in a unity with others whereby doing the good for the other is just as easy if not easier than doing the good for oneself. Thus, courage, left to itself, might be mere bravado or might lead to the persecution of the weak. Self-discipline, left to itself, might lead to a disdain for the weak or a sense of self-sufficiency which is antithetical to empathy. Even humility can be overbearing and disdainful if it is not done out of love. Even though these virtues are necessary means for the actualization of love (i.e., authentic love cannot exist without courage, self-discipline, and humility), they cannot be ends in themselves, for they can be the instruments of unlove when they are not guided by the intrinsic goodness of love. Love seems to be the only virtue that can be an end in itself and therefore can stand by itself.

Now, if you, the reader, affirm the existence of this power within yourself and further affirm that it is the guiding light of both intellect and creativity, that its successful operation is the only way in which all your other powers can be guided to a positive end, that it is therefore the only way of guaranteeing positivity for both yourself and others, and that it therefore holds out the promise of authentic fulfillment, purpose in life, and happiness, then you will have acknowledged love to be the highest of all powers. You will then want to proceed to the next question.

2) If love is the one power that seeks the positive in itself, and we are made to find our purpose in life through love, could God (perfect Being), who created us with this loving nature, be devoid of love?

If the Creator were devoid of love, why would that Creator create human beings not only with the capacity for love, but to be fulfilled only when they are loving? If the Creator is devoid of love, why make love the actualization of all human powers and desires, and therefore of human nature? If the Creator is not loving, then the creation of "beings meant for love" seems absurd. However, if the Creator is love, then creating a loving creature (i.e., sharing His loving nature) would seem to be both intrinsically and extrinsically consistent with what (or perhaps better, "who") He is. Could the Creator be any less loving than the "loving nature" He has created? Furthermore, if a Creator were perfect Being, wouldn’t that perfect Being also be capable of the one power and virtue which can be an end in itself, that is, Love?

If you, the reader, can reasonably affirm the love of the Creator from the above, then you may want to proceed to the third question.

3) Is my desire to love and to be loved conditional or unconditional?

It may do well to pause for a moment here and give some background about our desire for love which has occupied the writings of many philosophers since the time of Plato.

We appear to have a desire for perfect and unconditional Love. Not only do we have the power to love (i.e., the power to be naturally connected to another human being in profound empathy, care, self-gift, concern, and acceptance), we have a "sense" of what this profound interpersonal connection would be like if it were perfect. This sense of perfect love has the positive effect of inciting us to pursue ever more perfect forms of love. However, it has the drawback of inciting us to expect ever more perfect love from other human beings. This generally leads to frustrated expectations of others and consequently to a decline of relationships that can never grow fast enough to match this expectation of perfect and unconditional Love.

The evidence of this desire for perfect and unconditional Love manifests itself in our frustrated expectations within relationships. Have you ever had this experience – where you thought a relationship (or friendship) with another was going quite well until little imperfections began to manifest themselves? In situations like these, there might be slight irritation, but one has hopes that the ideal will soon be recaptured. But as the fallibility of the beloved begins to be more acutely manifest (the other is not perfectly humble, gentle, kind, forgiving, self-giving, and concerned with me) the irritation becomes frustration, which, in turn, becomes dashed expectation: "I can’t believe I thought she was really the One." Of course, she wasn’t the One, because she is not perfect and unconditioned.

This gives rise to the question, "Why do we all too frequently expect our beloveds to be perfect and expect ourselves to be perfect to our beloveds if we did not have a desire for perfect and unconditional Love in the first place?" The reader must now apply this question to him or herself. If you did not have a desire for perfect and unconditional Love, why would you be so dissatisfied with imperfect and conditioned manifestations of love in others (even from the time of childhood)? If you sense within yourself an incapacity to be ultimately satisfied by any form of conditioned or finite love, then you will have also affirmed within yourself the intrinsic desire for unconditional Love, which leads to the next question.

4) If my desire for love can only be ultimately satisfied by unconditional Love, then could the Creator of this desire be anything less than Unconditional Love?

A simple response to this question might run as follows: if we assume that the Creator does not intend to frustrate this desire for unconditional Love within all of us, it would seem that His creation of the desire would imply an intention to fulfill it, which would, in turn, imply the very presence of this quality within Him. This would mean that the Creator of the desire for unconditional Love is (as the only possible fulfillment of that desire) Himself Unconditional Love. The reader here is only affirming the inconsistency of a "Creator incapable of unconditional Love" creating a being with the desire for perfect and unconditional Love. This is sufficient for affirming the presence of unconditional Love in the Creator.

A more complete explanation might begin with the origin of the desire for perfect and unconditional Love. The awareness of unconditional Love (which arouses the desire for unconditional Love) seems to be beyond any specifically known or concretely experienced love, for it seems to cause dissatisfaction with every conditioned love we have known or experienced. How can we have an awareness of love that we have neither known nor experienced? How can we even extrapolate to it if we do not know where we are going? The inability of philosophers to give a purely naturalistic answer to these questions has led them to associate the "tacit awareness of unconditional Love" with the "felt presence of Unconditional Love Itself." Unconditional Love Itself would therefore seem to be the cause of our awareness of It and also our desire for It. Inasmuch as Unconditional Love Itself transcends all conditioned (and human) manifestations of love, it might fairly be associated with the Creator. The Creator would then be associated with our human awareness of and desire for unconditional Love. Therefore, it seems that the Creator would have to be at least capable of unconditional Love.

5) If the Creator is Unconditional Love, would He want to enter into a relationship with us of intense empathy, that is, would He want to be Emmanuel ("God with us")?

If one did not attribute unconditional Love to God, then the idea of God wanting to be with us, or God being with us, would be preposterous. A God of stoic indifference would not want to bother with creatures, let alone actually be among them and enter into empathetic relationship with them. However, in the logic of love, or rather, in the logic of unconditional Love, all this changes.

If we attribute the various parts of the definition of agape (given above in Section I) to an unconditionally loving Creator, we might obtain the following result: God (as Unconditional Agape) would be unconditional empathy and care for others (even to the point of self-sacrificial care). As such, God would expect neither repayment for this care, nor any of the affective benefits of the other three kinds of love. Hence, God would not need the affection of storge in order to love us, though He would have unconditional affection for us; He would not need the mutual commitment and caring of philia, though He would be unconditionally committed to us in friendship; and He would not have need of our romantic feelings, even though He would grace such feelings in the human endeavor toward exclusive love. God would seek unconditionally to protect, defend, maintain, and enhance the intrinsic dignity, worth, lovability, unique goodness, transcendental mystery, and intrinsic eternity of every one of us.

Recall that love is empathizing with the other and entering into a unity with that other whereby doing the good for the other is just as easy, if not easier, than doing the good for oneself. This kind of love has the non-egocentricity, humility, self-gift, deep affection, and care which would make infinite power into infinite gentleness, and would incite an infinitely powerful Being to enter into a restrictive condition to empathize more fully with His beloveds. In this logic, "Emmanuel" would be typical of an unconditionally loving God. This would characterize the way that Unconditional Love would act – not being egocentrically conscious of the infinite distance between Creator and creature, but rather being infinitely desirous of bridging this gap in a perfect unity of perfect empathy and perfect care. It would be just like the unconditionally loving God to be "God with us."

The following consideration might help to clarify this. If God is truly Unconditional Love, then it would not be unreasonable to suspect that He would be unconditional empathy; and if He were unconditional empathy, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that He would want to enter into an empathetic relationship with us "face-to-face" ("peer-to-peer") where the Lover and beloved would have a parallel access to the uniquely good and lovable personhood and mystery of the other (through empathy). A truly unconditionally loving Being would want to give complete empathetic access to His heart and interior life in a way which was proportionate to the receiving apparatus of the weaker (creaturely) being. It would seem reasonable (according to the reasonings of the heart), then, that an unconditionally loving Creator would want to be Emmanuel in order to give us complete empathetic access to that unconditional Love through voice, face, touch, action, concrete relationship, and in every other way that love, care, affection, home, and felt response can be concretely manifest and appropriated by us. If God really is Unconditional Love, then we might be presumptuous enough to expect that He might be Emmanuel; and if Emmanuel, then concretely manifest in history. If this resonates with the reader’s thoughts and feelings, you will want to proceed to the next question.

6) If it would be typical of the unconditionally loving God to want to be fully with us, then is Jesus the One?

As reasonable and responsible as the answers to the above questions might be, they can be considerably strengthened through historical corroboration, that is, through experienceable data which concretizes the reasoning given immediately above. What kind of experienceable data could accomplish this corroboration? Data which at once manifests (1) God in our midst (Emmanuel) and (2) God as Unconditional Love. It so happens that a remarkably powerful experienceable event did at once manifest and synthesize these two corroborating data, and showed the above reasoning about the unconditional Love of God to be both reasonable and experienceable, and to be mutually corroboratable through concrete experience and the logic of love. This remarkable experienceable event is Jesus Christ.

So can this incredibly good news, this historical corroboration of our reasoning, this complete access to the heart of God be brought into focus so that it can be seen clearly to be at once the truth about God and our destiny? I believe it can, because the life of Jesus and the Church He initiated is filled with clues that synergistically connect the mind to the heart and the heart to the mind.

Lori, I hope this is helpful. There are many other people who have the same question.

Sincerely,
Father Spitzer

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What is the difference between metaphysics and physics, and what are the limits of each?

Dear Fr. Spitzer,

What is the difference between metaphysics and physics, and what are the limits of each?

Emily


Dear Emily,

You ask a very interesting question but it may involve some complexities which may, in turn, compel you to read this answer a few times and then consult a book like my new one – New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.

Physics is the study of nature, and more specifically, of matter, energy, change, motion, elementary constituents, space, and time within the universe. It proceeds from an empirical or observational starting point, and uses measurement and quantitative analysis to discover the equations of physical force and energy which describe the laws of nature. It is restricted to data from our universe, and specifically what can be observed and falsified in our universe. Since we cannot know whether we have discovered everything which would affect our theories of the universe, all such theories are perpetually subject to modification or change. Nevertheless, physics attempts to corroborate the evidence behind its various theories by discovering multiple data sources and evidence sets through mathematical correlation. When this correlation is found, the theory becomes more rigorously established, and carries with it considerable probative force (even though it may one day have to be modified). See Chapter One, Section II of my book New Proofs).

Metaphysics, on the other hand, is the study of ultimates – such as the ultimate grounds and causes of existence. It probes the whole of reality – not just reality in our universe or reality which can be observed. Thus, it seeks to discover whether there is a reality outside of our universe (such as a Creator) and whether there is an unconditioned reality, an infinite reality, an absolutely simple reality, a completely intelligible reality, and a spiritual reality.

In order to do this, metaphysics uses a methodology of proof which is distinct from that of physics. Physics proceeds from observation through hypothetical-deductive reasoning to a conclusion which can be modified. Alternatively, metaphysics uses a methodology called reduction to absurdity (which shows that a hypothetical proposition is equivalent to an impossible state of affairs, which means that the opposite proposition must be true). There are three general forms of reduction to absurdity:

1. Reduction to a contradiction (where one shows, for example, that a proposition such as "past time is infinite" implies "an achieved unachievable" which is a contradiction. This implies that past time is not infinite, and is therefore, finite – see Chapter Five of my book New Proofs);

2. "Reduction to the non-existence of everything" (where for example, one demonstrates that if everything in all reality is a conditioned existent, then nothing would exist – which is clearly not the case. This means that there must be at least one unconditioned existent in all reality – see Chapter Three of New Proofs); and

3. Reduction to an infinite regress (where, for example, one shows that an infinite number of conditions has to be fulfilled for something to exist – which means that it won’t exist because an infinite number of conditions – an unlimited number of conditions – is unfulfillable. See Chapter Three of New Proofs). These three proofs are explained in Chapter Six of New Proofs.

Physics is limited to the data of this universe – and specifically, to what can be empirically observed and falsified, but it does not specifically treat what is beyond our universe. It can, however, give considerable evidence for a limit to the universe (such as a beginning) which brings it to the threshold of metaphysics because a beginning marks a point at which the universe came into existence. At this point, physics passes the baton to metaphysics which considers the idea of absolute nothingness (physics does not do this because absolute nothingness does not exist in our universe or anywhere else). It is here that metaphysics reveals the need for a Creator because if the universe was nothing before its beginning, then it could not have created itself (because from nothing, only nothing comes); therefore, something other than the universe must have created the universe as a whole. This is what is meant by a "Creator."

Metaphysics can prove a series of absolute propositions through its specific methodology. For example, it can prove that there must be at least one unconditioned reality, and that this reality must be unrestricted and unique (see Chapter Three of New Proofs). It can also prove that there must be at least one completely intelligible reality, and that this reality must be unrestrictedly intelligible and unique (see Chapter Four of New Proofs). Metaphysics can also prove that aggregative structures (such as past time) cannot have an infinite number of constituent parts, and therefore, that past time must be finite (see Chapter Five of New Proofs).

Though metaphysics can demonstrate absolute and universal truths (which can be shown to be either impossible or necessarily true through the proofs described above), it cannot use those proofs to demonstrate the existence of particular, contingent, factual truths about our universe (e.g. the invariant speed of light in our universe is 300,000 kilometers per second). Contingent, factual truths are neither impossible nor necessary, and so they cannot be demonstrated by the above proofs; they can only be verified through observation and measurement.

Thus, physics has its domain of observable, contingent, factual truths about our universe and metaphysics has its proper domain concerned with absolute and universal truths which can be demonstrated through proofs which lead to the impossibility or necessity of those truths. These methodologies, though distinct, can be complementary and mutually corroborative, and when they are, they can reveal the richness, the beauty, and even the transcendent dimensions of reality.

Sincerely,
Fr. Spitzer

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Is Divine intervention possible?

Dear Father Spitzer,

Is it possible for there to be Divine intervention in our universe? I have seen what you had to say about Hawking’s theory of a self-creating universe. What I want to know is your response to the theory of Hawking’s that if God did create the universe that he doesn’t break the laws that govern it. And if that is true how can there be things like Divine intervention? (ex: Jesus walking on water defying the law of gravity, or the Resurrection). If such things occurred how does it not break those constants that you talk about that give us a life sustainable universe?

Sincerely,
Neil


Dear Neil,

You cannot disprove God or an attribute of God from anything within the universe. God is independent of the Universe, but can affect it any way he wishes. Thanks for your question.

God bless,
Fr. Spitzer

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Was the story of Jesus actually lifted from the Egyptian Horus myth?

Dear Father Spitzer,

The Jesus myth is almost entirely lifted from Horus, the Egyptian God of the sun. Born of a virgin on Dec. 25, had 12 disciples, healed the blind, raised a man from the dead, crucified, rose again three days later, and was …savior… all thousands of years before the New Testament (and a larger part of the Old, as I recall) was written. Although I have never doubted that a man named Jesus existed and taught, calling him the messiah seems extremely pretentious.

Brad (as commented on the Magis Center Facebook page)


Dear Brad,

Thank you for your question. I think you will eventually want to answer it in a much larger context taking into consideration some of the outstanding scholarly works of historical exegesis concerning Jesus Christ (see below). These works address the historical questions which have been raised by scholars who have extensive knowledge of the Semitic world and literature at the time of Jesus. I can give you a brief answer to your specific question. To be quite frank, the history of Jesus of Nazareth, is not derived from the myth of Horus. As you know, Horus is said to be the god of the sky (and therefore to contain the sun and the moon). His divine origin is from Isis, who is said to have been impregnated in various ways (she was by no means a virgin). Horus did not have a single incarnation (e.g. born on December 25 of a virgin), but rather multiple incarnations in all of the pharaohs, and is thought to be the source of Pharaonic power. When one Pharaoh died, Horus would assume a new incarnation in the next Pharaoh and the deceased Pharaoh would assume the presence of Osiris. To be honest with you the differences between Horus and Jesus are so vast that it does not seem reasonable to believe that a "Jesus myth" could have been developed from it.

As noted above, there is a vast literature of serious historical scholarship about Jesus. I would like to recommend to you two series which are both recent and rigorously peer reviewed. First, a four volume series by John P. Meier entitled, A Marginal Jew. The first volume addresses the historical apparatus and methodology used not only in Meier’s volumes but also in the vast literature of serious historical Jesus research that has been done in the last 100 years – particularly in the last 40 years. The other three volumes specifically address questions surrounding Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. Meier uses several well known techniques in historical method to ascertain the most primitive strands of the New Testament narratives and then applies historical criticism to them to derive the most probable historical conclusions. Each volume is about 800 pages of extensive research with hundreds of footnotes to outstanding scholarly journals.

I also recommend the three volume series of N.T. Wright, particularly the second volume, Jesus and the Victory of God, and the third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God. Though these titles indicate conclusions, Wright has used a rigorous exegetical and historical method to come to those conclusions, and his work is again heavily supported by hundreds of footnotes to outstanding scholarly journals.

Again, thank you so much for your question. I hope this is helpful.
Fr. Spitzer

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Are the Bible and Darwinian evolution diametrically opposed?

QUESTION: Are the Bible and Darwinian evolution diametrically opposed?

Chuck


ANSWER: Perhaps the best way of answering this question is to begin with the bible and evolution (without your important qualifier "Darwinian"). The Church has taught, since the time of Pius XII, in two encyclical letters that

(1) the bible is not a scientific document, but rather, a theological one (Divino Afflante Spiritu – 1943) and

(2) that evolution is compatible with both the bible and Church teaching (Humani Generis – 1950)

Let me briefly explain each of these. With respect to the first point, the Church has long recognized that divine inspiration is not divine dictation. When God inspires a biblical author, he does so through the biblical author’s human powers, capacities, and categories. This means that when God inspired the author of Genesis 1:1, He would have used categories familiar to a person about 2,800 years ago. These categories were decidedly not scientific. Empirical, mathematical science was initiated around the late 16th century by Francis Bacon and others and has developed since that time. The formal mathematics that we use in contemporary physics (the calculus in particular) was developed by Newton and Leibnitz after that time. This means that God could not have meaningfully given a scientific account of the creation or the development of the natural world to the biblical author, and therefore, we cannot try to make the biblical account be scientific in the strict sense.

So what was the biblical author doing? He was doing theology. He is inspired to respond to the accounts of creation implicit in the myths of his day (e.g. the Gilgamesh epic). These creation accounts speak about many gods, and associates natural objects (such as the sun and the moon) with gods. They also imply that the gods are capricious and frequently unjust and that creation can be intrinsically evil. The biblical author is inspired to redress these theological problems by creating a story which has one God. This one God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars, and all other natural objects (hence, they are merely creations). Furthermore, God is just and good (not capricious) and creates things that are good.

Therefore, the biblical author’s use of "seven days" is to be taken as a theological context for the story and not as an attempt by God to suggest scientific fact. The same holds true for the age of the universe which physics has very well established to be at least 13.7 billion years old (since the big bang). One cannot assert as scientific fact that the universe is a little over 5,000 years old (by summing the generations in the bible as if the creation of human beings is coincident with the creation of the universe itself), because the creation of human beings on the seventh day is part of the theological context of the story. This was never meant to be a scientific fact, and it should not be treated as one.

With respect to the point about evolution, "Humani Generis" allows Catholics to believe in natural evolutionary processes. This would allow for evolution on a large scale. However, "Humani Generis" is very careful to specify that the human soul is not a product of mere material evolution. Certain features of the human body may have evolved from other less developed species, but the human soul is not matter, and it therefore could not have arisen from a merely material process.

There is considerable evidence for the immateriality of human beings besides our Catholic and biblical belief in a human soul. For example, there are excellent scientific studies of near death experiences which indicate the survival of human self-consciousness after bodily death – E.G., in the prestigious British medical journal, "The Lancet," (see van Lommel, MD, van Wees, Ruud; Meyers, Vincent; and Elfferich, Ingrid. 2001. "Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands." The Lancet. Vol. 358, Issue 9298, pp. 2039-2045). There is also evidence of a soul from the transcendental nature of human understanding, conscience, love, beauty, and spiritual awareness (see for example, my book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. This kind of evidence (along with our belief in a soul) indicates that God created the human soul and that this creation of the soul cannot be explained by evolution (which is a material process). Even if the human body arose in its early, middle, and late stages from an evolutionary process, it would have been transformed by an infusion of the soul in its final state.

So what does this mean about "Darwinian evolution"? If this term means pure evolution implying those human beings are merely material (and therefore devoid of a soul and embodiment which is influenced by a soul) then it would be inconsistent with Catholic teaching and also the biblical account. However, if it means something else, then that "something else" would have to be judged according to the Christian beliefs elucidated above.

One final point — is the biblical account of creation diametrically opposed to the scientific account of creation? It is not. There are many parallels. Both accounts allow for a creator transcending our universe (and even transcending time itself); both accounts see stages in the unfolding of creation; both accounts recognize that the universe is fine-tuned for the development of life and even human beings; and both accounts see human beings (and human intelligence) as the highest development in the created order of the universe. There are many other parallels, but these are sufficient to show a general consistency between scientific and theological accounts. We would not want to make this general consistency into detailed, specific consistency because this would force the biblical author (writing 2800 years ago) to be giving a scientific account.

I hope this helps if you have other questions, please ask.
Fr. Spitzer

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What would be the Church reaction to aliens?

Father,

What would be the Church’s reaction/response if intelligent life was found on another planet in the universe?

John, 8th grade


Dear John,

Thank you. You have asked a very fine question.

There is certainly a possibility that other life forms could be discovered. These life forms could be intelligent. Some physicists believe that despite the large number of stars in our universe that the conditions necessary for life (including the right kind of stars, planets, abundance of water, left-spinning molecules, etc.) are so improbable that intelligent life forms besides our own are unlikely. In any case, if intelligent life were found, our obligation would be to tell them about Jesus Christ, and then, if they are willing, baptize them and start churches on the other planet. I am sure that is how the missionaries to the new world felt when they first arrived on our shores. My Christianity is the product of their efforts.

God Bless you.

Sincerely,
Father Spitzer

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How can we believe the universe is billions of years old and still believe the Bible, too?

Hi Father,

I have been watching yourself and Fr. Pacwa on EWTN discussing the Big Bang etc. (in England by the way). The truth is I didn’t really follow all of your arguments just the gist of them. What surprised me was a throw away comment of yours which was to the effect that the Universe is thirteen billion plus years, old. Well for reasons I won't go into I watch a lot of Christian TV and have tended to become convinced that Creationism and the Bibles account of it is true. This stance seems to be a more non Catholic view.

My concern is that we Catholics (and eminent intellectual Catholics like yourself) seem to accept creation as having occurred Billions of years ago? The reason I find this very concerning is because it undermines the very foundation of Our Christian Holy Scripture which says very definitely that the Creation took place approximately 6500 or so years ago and this is supported scientifically by such things as only 4500 or so years of accumulated silt at the mouths of the worlds major rivers (Amazon, Mississippi, Nile etc). That would support the Flood being True.

That of itself is not the important issue. What is important, is the undermining or contradicting of the Bible which we claim to be the inerrant WORD of GOD. How can we justify saying that Our Bible is GODS WORD but not all of it is True?

Sincerely,
Peter


Dear Peter,

Thank you for your letter. I can see why you are concerned about the scientific account undermining the biblical account, but the Catholic Church has not seen any problem with this since the writing of an encyclical entitled "Divino Afflante Spiritu" by Pope Pious XII in 1943. Essentially the Church holds that the Biblical author was not doing science, but rather theology. He was responding to theological errors that were manifest in the Gilgamesh Epic and other popular creation myths of the day. He wanted to tell his Israelite audience that God is one, that nature is not a god, but a creation of God, that God’s creation was good – not evil, and that God’s actions were just – not pernicious. The Israelite people in the seventh and eighth century BC were incapable of understanding the mathematical physics of today, and since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, the church has stated clearly that "whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver." In other words, God is not going to speak to a seventh century B.C. Israelite in 21st Century mathematical-physics terms. If one does not try to make the biblical author do science, the two accounts have striking parallels.

Thanks for your thoughts.

God Bless,
Fr. Spitzer

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Can a regular person even understand physics and math?

Hi all - my name is Anne Perrella. I teach science at a Catholic secondary school, and when it comes to the ability of physics to shed light on whether there is a God, the subject triggers many questions. I thought I’d share a few of them that popped up for me when I read the excerpt from “New Proofs”:

First - I would really like to understand whatever scientific evidence there is that leads scientists way smarter than me to the conclusion that there is a God. But how am I going to even understand all the mathematics involved? For me, space is here and there; time is now and then. What is space-time? Why is it all one thing, as the theory of relativity somehow says? Same thing for matter and energy: they’re interconvertible, according to Einstein’s formula E=mc squared, but what does that really mean? Do these things argue for or against the existence of a creator?

One big argument concerns whether time had a beginning or not, and the work of a mathematician named Hilbert is cited as evidence in favor of time having a beginning. This argument includes Hilbert’s assertion that infinities can’t be contained within finite structures (at least I think that’s what he said). How can I make sense of his argument if I don’t have a deep background in serious math? Should I just trust Hilbert’s statement, since others say that he’s the Father of Finite Mathematics? What about the physicists who say that time has no beginning, and therefore there can be no creator? Do they also have math to back up their assertions? If physicists disagree among themselves, then how do I know who to trust?

And while we’re at it, how do we know that there are ten-to-the-53rd kilograms of matter in the universe? How is it that we know that the universe’s expansion is accelerating? What did it look like way back at the beginning, if there was a beginning? If there was no beginning, then how did everything get here? Why is there a smallest amount of time? space? matter? Is it a mathematically-derived thing? An experimentally-seen thing? Why, when you zap an atom, do you get all those hundreds of wacky-named subatomic particles? Why is there no way to go faster than the speed of light? Why is light a particle and a wave at the same time? Is that some kind of contradiction? If I accept that seeming contradiction, am I also just somehow accepting other, fancier contradictions?
Do I then just have to have ‘faith’ in the power of reason to prove the existence of God?

The more questions I come up with, the more that seem to follow on them, so I think I’ll just stop here. This is plenty to think about for now. Any comments?



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