Divine causality

I have started reading a book by Rev Professor John Polkinghorne, “Exploring Reality” and reading the second chapter on Causality. Many may know Polkinghorne was a Physics professor before he became a priest in the Church of England.

In the chapter he enters into discussion about the nature of determined physical laws but also the new views of Quantum Physics that emerged in the 20th century and that we don’t have fully coherent view of how they all relate together. I have a view that lot of the old causality arguments for nature and evolution are possibly based on the deterministic views of force and response and do not take into account the quantum world of uncertainties. I am not a physicist but It raises for me questions of how the divine nature does interact with all the physical forces of nature and the uncertainties for His will to be fulfilled both in relation to evolution and ongoing activities in governing the world. Of course then, do we need to know the how or come up with explanations for atheists to consider?

I don’t know enough about the subject to really contribute anything on the argument side. Physics was never something I have dived into outside of perhaps a class in high school. But I’ve never been big into it.

I personally, as more time has went by, find arguments for process/open theology more appealing. We don’t understand how the mind of God works. His mind may be so alien to us that we could better understand how a jellyfish or slime mold understands and interacts with the world than with God. When it says his will, I don’t take it as this very personal, detailed thing hammered out where everyone’s life is predetermined.

So I guess for me, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think God had an actual drive for what abiogenesis and evolution would result in. I’m not even certain they knew for sure what would happen.

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Is the “they” there God?

If so, then you have ignored the statement in Genesis where God says quite specifically what he intended…“Let Us make man in our own image”.

That is a specific statement of intent with. very specific outcome.

I guess any answer will be underpinned by your view of God.

Clearly the early view of God(s) was superimposed humanity{ selfish, and powerful, with little regard for the humans under them. The Christian God is almost the opposite: still powerful but using that power for the benefit of His followers.

The point is whether God is in control of His Universe or whether He is an interested bystander… The truth is, we can only guess. Having overturned the traditional view of God how far can we go? The Bible would seem to indicate a manipulative God, but that changes with the New Testament.

The answers to all this will probably depend on your personal view of God. As i see it, God would naturally have a design in mind, but how precise i less certain. The Bible seems to suggest that man is a specific creation, but the section where i is stated is looked at as more human than Godly in construction. We like to thik we are special. We would like to think we are in the image of God. Perhaps that is ultimately all we can say with certainty?


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I’m a biologist, so quantum mechanics is outside my expertise. However, I did take higher level physics and chemistry classes (e.g. physical chemistry), so I have had more exposure to QM than the average Joe. I’ve also read up on physics in my spare time because I do find it fascinating.

If my understanding is correct, everything we see, touch, and experience in the physical world is the product of quantum mechanics once you burrow yourself down to the atomic scale. So there is this transition from the probabilistic to the deterministic at some scale. I don’t even pretend to understand how that works.

I do work as a molecular biologist, and at that scale QM effects are going to have an impact, even if I don’t understand them fully. I would strongly suspect that processes that cause many mutations are quantum in nature (but again, could be completely wrong on this one). Something as common as DNA base pairing is partially influenced by quantum effects related to the van der Waals interaction.

Speaking as an atheist, you don’t need to come up with an explanation. I fully respect honest answers, especially when those answers are “I don’t understand it”. All religions embrace a certain amount of mystery, so there’s nothing wrong with that. I find it much harder to respect answers that are essentially hot air. Honesty is always the best policy.


For a forum which bases its views on “the best evidence”, thats a rsther strange statement given our only knowledge of God comes from the bible and it evidences both his will and the outcome…which is redemption from the catastrophe we now experience with suffering and death as a result of the corruption of sin. The bible is very explicit on that and the fact in the New Testament God became incarnate, took on the form of humanity (ie became human) and died on the cross isnt enough “hands on for you” to know?

I am sorry, but that just is not true. Paul himself claimed that God could be found in creation and our knowledge of Him can also be found there. If Evolution could be proven so that humanity is a cosmic fluke then that would radically change the causality of God.

Is a reaction to the humanity that has emerged. It does not dictae anything that came before it including the precise nature of man. In fact the bible paints a very poor picture of the nature of man which would deny that god made us that way, if God is as clever as God should be (to be God). In fact that is one of the main objections to the garden story: it paints God in a very poor light, especially as a creator and nurturer… Christ is then looked on as a last ditch attempt to retrieve a grave mistake.
(NB a certain amount of Devil’s Advocate here)


Few things to consider.

What is the purpose of the Bible?

The next thing to consider is contextual analysis. Who was it written to? Why was it written? What genre is it and so on.

Genesis 1 is poetry. It’s ancient Jewish myths. It’s bit meant to be taken anymore literal than these verses from Genesis 3.

8 Now they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the [b]cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

Was God really not certain why told them they were naked? Does God really have legs and was he just walking around the garden looking for them?

5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of [f]their hearts was only evil continually. 6 So the Lord was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved [g]in His heart. 7 Then the Lord said, “I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Was God really surprised and regretted making them? Or was he aware, and not really sorry that he did it, since he already knew the outcome and chose to do it anyways?

Genesis 11.

5 Now the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the [f]men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have [g]the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be [h]impossible for them. 7 Come, [i]let Us go down and there confuse their [j]language, so that they will not understand one another’s [k]speech.”

Could God none without coming down? Where did he come down from? Is heaven literally up above our flat earth, above the dome and space waters? Does God really think if he does not scatter them they will be able to build a city that reaches heaven? I mean, we’ve been to the moon right? How far away is it? How many millions of miles tall is the tower needed to be?

I’ve noticed this. I don’t see the Bible saying God knows everything. Within discussing religious beliefs there is more than just book chapter verse, but the philosophical arguments that develop over things like the purpose of the Bible, accommodation versus concordism.

Most of us agree that God’s word is not just his word, but the words of men who were inspired, and then of men who collected and edited those inspired words, and then those that took these collections of inspirations and decided which ones were actually inspired. Many of us agree that God accommodated ancient Jewish people. The creation account for example matches general Mesopotamian writings. That’s why it’s a flat earth. That’s why it’s a week long creation in one account. Gods word just happened to correlate with understanding of those people. So maybe Yahweh is also just an accommodation. Maybe so is Vishnu. Maybe the same being accommodated ancient Indians as Vishnu in the same way they accommodated ancient Jews as Yahweh.

I think for me the actual purpose is just this.

Someone says to how do we love you God? And God says love me…… how you first you learn how to love your neighbors. Then learn how to love strangers. Then learn how to love those you consider your enemy. How about you learn how to be stewards of this planet and love wildlife. Once you are there, then you’ll see that you already are loving me.

As for the rest. No clue. The Bible is not any more magical of a text than any other book.

So does God know everything or not? We don’t know. The Bible never says. How exactly is Jesus connected to God? Is it an actual incarnation? How did the word becomes flesh? Did Mary sleep or get SA by a man? Who is the biological father of Jesus or does he have one? The Bible just does not really answer none of these questions anymore than it answers how Did David meet Saul for the first time.

I appreciate the entire comment, but I also recall a conversation where you couldn’t take me seriously regarding the possibility of something happening due to something that doesn’t happen.

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It is true that I find it difficult to take word salad seriously. It’s a personal issue I am working on.

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Things do happen… and they are sometimes caused by other things that happen, to which the same question applies

I would dispute both these assertions. David is the court musician, soothing Saul with his music…

The birth of Jesus is explicitly described by both Luke and Matthew. It is by the Holy Spirit and not a human union. Yes it is an incarnation. The tiny details might come under the umbrella of eroticism or at least the birds and the bees. We do not like to consider the precise way Mary was impregnated.


An easier one is David and Saul.

1 Samuel 16 and 1 Samuel 17 each have two completely separate stories on when and how they first met.

1 Samuel 16 says these things.

1 Samuel 16:14-23
New American Standard Bible
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrified him. 15 Saul’s servants then said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is terrifying you. 16 May our lord now command your servants who are before you. Have them search for a man who is a skillful musician on the harp; and it shall come about whenever the evil spirit from God is upon you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will become well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Now select for me a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” 18 Then one of the young men responded and said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a valiant mighty man, a warrior, skillful in speech, and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him.” 19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, who is with the flock.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine, and he took a young goat, and sent them to Saul by his son David. 21 Then David came to Saul and attended him; and Saul greatly loved him, and he became his armor bearer. 22 So Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Let David now be my attendant for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would feel relieved and become well, and the evil spirit would leave him.

  • so in this tradition we see that the Holy Spirit leaves Saul and God sends a spirit to torment him. Somehow music can calm down a spirit and it soothes Saul. The servants say that they know of some boy, somehow, off in the country who can play the harp or something really good. So they go out to find him. He’s also a man. Not a young boy. He’s a man who is a skilled fighter and has a silver tongue. Great speaker. All the qualities ( hint hint ) you want in a King. Handsome, can kill dozens of men in combat, can speak poetically and is a skilled musician. But this very skilled man is one of the younger sons and so he’s flock protector. When Saul meets David, he loves him. Thinks he is amazing and writes to Jesse ( David’s dad ) to let
    Saul live with him and be his armour bearer and he plays music to sooth the spirit. So we know they never met before this in the story. It’s the first time they all meet. Saul loves him and brings him i to the fold after “getting” permission from Jesse to do so.

Now for the next chapter. It’s two long to post. It’s 1 Samuel 17.

In this story Davis is now a young man. He’s a youth. No one knows who he is. Saul does not know who he is. Saul’s servants don’t know who he is. He’s a youth who watches over the flock of his dad. He’s bringing food for his three older brothers and going between them at Saul’s camp and his duty at his father’s pastures. He shows up one day while Goliath is threatening and everyone is scared and they tell him of the prize if he wins. So David talks boldly and the talk reaches the ears of David. Saul brings him before him, does not know who he is, and says, you can’t fight him you are a youth and this giant has been a fighter since his youth. So David is not known to be a skilled fighter here and David is a youth. Not a man anymore. Saul says, fine, may God be with you and puts David in all the armour. Something a armour bearer would be very use to. It’s too big for him. He’s just a small weak youth. So he goes out with a sling and hits the giant. Kill’s him. Uses the giants own sword to behead him. He comes back and Saul is amazing and asks…. Boy… who is your father and he responds with Jesse your servant. So Saul does not even know who David the youth is or who his father is.

So on chapter 16 he is known. In chapter 17 he is not known. We also can’t say well maybe chapter 16 should have been first becausesurely Saul would have known David was the kid who slew the gian
The stories simply cannot be harmonized. There is another clue to that there are two traditions at play.

2 Samuel 21:19-21
New American Standard Bible
19 And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 And there was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also had been born to the giant. 21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, struck and killed him.

In this story there is war with them again. It’s another battle against another giant with another large spear named Goliath. But in this story, someone else kills him. Seems like in one set of stories David never kills Goliath and meets Saul as a man whose a musician and in the other story David meets Saul and kills the giant called Goliath.

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It’s all probabilities; the more quantum particles you get together, the more the averages of their activities dominate.

And with a few other random details that’s about the sum of my knowledge of the quantum realm!

Actually that cannot be supported from the Bible! First there was the promise to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (which included things Jesus hadn’t had the opportunity to present to them), then there’s Paul’s exposition that the Holy Spirit gives teachers to the church.

What the church Fathers taught, which was the original version of sola scriptura, was that the scriptures are the final, ultimate arbiter, the referee that keeps theology on track. This was what the Wittenburg Reformers meant by the term sola scriptura as well – not the only source of knowledge about God, but the ultimate source. It’s also what prevailed in the canon development; it was acknowledged that there were other sources (within the church) of knowledge about God, but these affirmed books were the authorized source.

Interestingly, the process of settling the canon of scripture reveals that knowledge about God can come from outside those very scriptures; nothing in the scriptures tells us what constitutes the canon, rather we learned that as all the local churches traded lists of what they read in church (and traded copies of items one or the other lacked) in a process that amazingly rapidly converged on nineteen books that no one objected to (the seven that were objected to took a lot longer). In essence, the Spirit guided the churches, providing information about God that wasn’t in the scriptures by saying, “This is what has divine authority”.

Just because the central message is clear doesn’t mean everything is. God is under no obligation to satisfy our curiosity or settle our arguments.

I read an interesting article a while back, condensed from a scholarly journal, arguing that what Paul meant was that those with the wisdom to know what to look for would find (some) knowledge about God in nature. The primary example was how the wise men from the east “read” the birth of Christ in the stars, something ordinary people wouldn’t have been able to do (but would have understood it quite well once it was described for them) – the stars didn’t just indicate a king was going to be born, they indicated the king’s nature and nation, the nation of Judah/Israel and the nature divine.

Worth watching about how the wise men knew what they did –

At any rate, the point was that Paul wasn’t talking about seeing God all over in nature but about specific knowledge God showed in the heavens.
And yes, that would count as being outside the scriptures since the Old Testament writings don’t provide the astrological information needed.

Interestingly some have held that God literally was walking in the Garden, in the form of the pre-Incarnate Christ – which raises the question of whether He was naked too (at least on church Father says “yes”).

This is a fascinating passage since in the ancient near east the purpose of a ziggurat, which is certainly what the Tower was, was to establish a place where heavenly beings could “come down” to meet with (authorized) people. It’s irony in that they wanted the attention of heavenly beings, and ended up with what they would have considered the wrong kind of attention!

When read in the cosmic warfare motif that runs through the Old Testament, the scattering was to spread humanity out so that the rebel heavenly beings would have to scatter their attention as well – something Yahweh put added emphasis to by assigning each of them to a different people/nation. According to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, etc. it was those heavenly beings who provided knowledge that made their civilizations great, and the idea here seems to be that if the nations and their attendant ‘deities’ were scattered then the knowledge would be scattered, too, thus severely limiting what could be accomplished. In a way it was a “United we climb!” plan to which Yahweh responded “Divided you’ll fall, and fight among yourselves”.

High enough that it serves as a substitute mountain. A “tower with its top in the heavens” was a phrase for a place high enough that the gods would find it suitable as a place to meet with humans (or at least with official representatives). These were sometimes also decorated as rich gardens (think Hanging Gardens of Babylon), mountains and gardens being themes for where gods would live or visit.

If the Great Ziggurat at Eridu had been finished it would have been the highest point in Mesopotamia, thus the highest ‘high place’ in the known world, and thus with a claim to have its top “in the heavens”.

trivia: smoke and incense was used to form a cloud over the shrines at the tops of ziggurats, on the theme that the gods wouldn’t show themselves to just anyone but tended to wrap themselves in clouds, so the priests would provide ‘clouds’ that both hid the gods and smelled nice (or at least nicer than a city would have back then!).

= - = + = - = = - = + = - =

It says He knows the hearts of men and everything in them; for anything else, it says He can know anything He wants.

Heck, it follows the Egyptian creation story almost play by play!

Interestingly, the Egyptian and at least several other creation stories set forth a single day, even a single hour, not a whole week. Others provide no measure of time at all.

It’s really a question of whether these quantum events are uncaused… which could be word salad for an event that is caused by nothing

I do not know the Egyptian creation story but I am curious. I read that there were several ‘creation’ stories in Egypt and these were somewhat different. What was the creation story you are telling about?

David is Israel’s Robin Hood. A hero of magnificent proportions. Stories about him grow and change. It does not matter. What Maters is that Saul had lost God’s favour, blessing and Spirit and David now had it.
You are doing exactly what I claim @St.Roymond is doing. Delving into the details.

There is a saying “You can’t see the wood for the trees” but in the case of the Bible

“you can’t see the forest for the leaves”

Or to put it another way

“The Devil is in the details.”

It is not about the details. It is about the story(ies)

The Bible is not journalism. it is not (primarily) a history book. It is not a scientific journal. It is not even a theological treatise. It is Scripture. And Scripture has it’s own rules and methodology.