Hard Going and Simply Rational discuss whether judgement is built into temporal reality and other issues.
Aquilegia seed heads
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Judgement built into temporal reality?
SR: A couple of weeks ago, you said something strange, you said, ‘Judgement is built into temporal reality’. What on earth did you mean by that? Did you mean karma?
HG: Classical Hinduism believes in reincarnation. So, karma is a ‘law which governs the effects of deeds both in this life and in subsequent lives'(Smart, 1989). Neither Judaism nor Christianity has reincarnation as part of their beliefs but, of course, there are statements to the effect that what you do in this life has consequences. Job’s friend Eliphaz, for example, tells him ‘those who plough evil and those who sow trouble reap it’. Or in Galatians, ‘A man reaps what he sows.’

The case of Job
SR: You’ve chosen a good example, Job! He was a good guy who really didn’t get what he deserved. So how can you you say, ‘Judgement is built into temporal reality’?
HG: You’ve touched on a very important point. With Job, the bottom line is that judgement is outside temporal reality. ‘Where then does wisdom come from?’ Job asks. His reply,’It is hidden from every living thing.’ God’s first words to Job were, ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?’ In other words, we don’t really know enough to question God about anything. Complete knowledge is in eternity.
SR: You can’t have it both ways, ‘Judgement is built into temporal reality’ and ‘… judgement is outside temporal reality.’ Both can’t be true.
autumn leaf
(Photo: Scott Murray)

HG: It depends on your world-view.
SR: Meaning?
HG: Correct me if I’m wrong. I take it that you believe in philosophical naturalism, that is, that the world of nature is a single whole which can be studied scientifically. There are no souls or spirits, divine or human.
SR: Yes, that’s more or less correct, although I would class myself as an agnostic. I don’t really know for sure. I have an open mind on these matters. You know my name; I tend to treat things rationally and accept the evidence of my senses and the evidence of science, just as you accept the evidence of the Bible …
HG: Yes, of course, the Bible is tremendously important if you believe that it is God’s message for the world, as I do. But you have to believe in a God who can give messages before you can believe his message.
SR: And that’s not easy for a sceptic like me.
HG: Like yourself I was an agnostic for years. In fact, I was very like you, very sceptical, everything had to be rational and evidence-based.

The pillar of nature or temporal reality
SR: Okay, what made you change your mind?
HG: A whole load of things, but things which I couldn’t have engineered myself. There are what, for brevity, I call the three pillars, personal experience, temporal reality (or nature if you like) and the Bible. It was an accumulation of evidence from these three.
SR: I see and you place the Bible last …
HG: Not intentional … . Obviously, for the Christian the Bible is by far the most important pillar because it’s God’s communication with the human race. It tells of God coming in human form and the way of salvation. But let’s not underestimate the other two pillars. If God created reality in the first place and declared it good, we should expect to find his fingerprints everywhere, and we do. Elihu, the youngest of Job’s counsellors, could praise the gloriousness and power of nature despite having very limited scientific knowledge. Now that knowledge has increased a thousandfold. Has that diminished our wonder? Even a cursory knowledge of the sciences can only increase our amazement at how everything fits together from the atomic to the galactic level. Even in nature God reveals himself to be much greater than we could have imagined.
Spider trails on twig
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The human a creation of God or God a creation of the human
SR: Nature is indeed wonderful; I agree. But does it need a creator? Is that not just reading the human and human characteristics into nature and projecting them on to nature; on to blind inanimate nature? Nature just does its thing, that’s it. There is no need for further explanation.
HG: And where is God in all that?
SR: He is an anthropomorphic projection coming from the human mind. We create him in our image.
HG: Aye, that’s the question. Did God create us in his image, or do we create God? To me, it’s inconceivable that life as we know it could arise by itself from inanimate ‘matter’. Even atheists like the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle and the philosopher Antony Flew were forced to the conclusion that an intelligence was at work at the stellar and the molecular level. It’s much more logical to conclude that things come from an intelligent source, including, and especially, the human being. As it says in Genesis 1:27 ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’.
SR: You almost persuade me, for I also know quite a lot about recent discoveries in science. But what about the other pillar that supports your beliefs, the personal pillar. Where does that come in? How important is it?
HG: Vitally important. Obviously, without a self there would be no knowledge of the Bible and no knowledge of nature, no knowledge at all. Human consciousness and human experience is central to the whole debate … we can discuss it next time, if you want …
SR: Okay, let’s do that.
Jamaican flower
(Photo: Scott Murray)