C.H. Spurgeon

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Would a World with God or Without God Look the Same?

In my latest blog post [Faith vs. Unbelief], a commenter posed this statement, “A world with a deistic "god" looks exactly the same as a world without one.”

I have pondered this thought, and even posed the question, “What do you base this thought on?”

I received no answer from the original commenter, but another commenter added to the same thought, “A universe with a deistic god is indistinguishable from one with no god at all; that being the case, the deistic god can neither be proven nor disproven, nor is it useful in any way for explaining why the universe is the way it is.”

So now we have the idea from two persons that:
1. A world [universe] with God would look [be indistinguishable] like a world [universe] without God.
2. God can not be proven or disproven, and is not useful to explain why the universe is the way it is.

I would just like to consider this thought here, and there is a lot of other thoughts left waiting on that post that I would like to get to this week, hopefully.

As a Christian, it is no secret that I believe the Scriptures when it comes to things such as God and creation. As a Christian, I must conclude that God is the Creator of all that is. I understand that there are Christians that believe in the literal account of Genesis, young earth, old earth, and some that hold to evolution. Though there are some differences, the common theme is that God is the Creator. So, for a Christian, there is no way to think or speak of the current thought, “A world with a deistic "god" looks exactly the same as a world without one.” For if there is no God, there is no world; therefore, there would be no world without God to compare to a world with God.

As an Atheist (I believe the commenters to be), I can’t help but ask what point or logic does this statement mean to them? What I mean is, if one does not believe in God (or gods) and that this world simply is by itself (by whatever means it has come about, but without a Creator), how can it be compared to what a world would be if created by God?

Since two different commenters made the same claim, I can’t help but ask for more insight to the thoughts of such a claim.

Also, I ponder the second commenter’s addition, in that “the deistic god can neither be proven nor disproven, nor is it useful in any way for explaining why the universe is the way it is.”

Does this mean that, if accepted, there is indeed a Creator (God), that He would be unimportant concerning our thoughts surrounding creation, or that just acknowledging Him as Creator would not in and of itself answer all of the questions regarding all there is to know about how the entirety of everything works?

Honestly, this statement, “A world with a deistic "god" looks exactly the same as a world without one” means little to a Christian, since we believe without God there would be nothing created.

As an Atheist, or the two original authors, please help me understand what you mean by the statements and how a comparison could ever be made, if we are actually living in either a world [universe] created by God or we are not, and have no way to experiencing the other.

Again, I hope to slowly, but surely cover the other points raised in the other posts, so let’s try to stay on this one thought here.

13 comments:

BEAST said...

I think I know what the atheists mean here, Tim.

Let me post these possibilities here:

1. God creates the Universe and everything else, and pretty much leaves everything to their own devices (Deistic God)

2. The Universe exists on its own, without an external anthropomorphic God.

Both cases are similar because:

1. Both can neither be proved nor disproved.

2. In the first case, God simply left everything to its own devices, while in the second, got has no part to play. In short, we need neither to grovel nor attend to this frivolous deity who plays a tiny part towards our existence.
Either way, praying to deities are not necessary, since he does not exist, and if he does,he doesn't give a damn.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

But if it is true that God created all there is, wouldn’t that mean that we are bound by whatever laws He chooses, whether we agree or disagree with them? Even if it were the case that God created all then set down to simply watch it transpire in and of itself, would we still not be accountable to our Creator and His wishes, whether deemed, to us, as just or unjust?

As a Christian, I believe Scripture shows that in Christ Jesus, we have both God in the flesh and God’s interaction and care for man’s eternal well being in the forgiveness of sin and eternal life after death.

This is why I don’t quite follow the logic behind saying that a world [universe] with God is the same as one without. It seems that a world [universe] created by a Creator would deem accountability to the Creator at least somewhat important, whereas no Creator would leave one with no accountability.

Despite the ability or inability to prove God is or not, if God does not exist, then we are free from any and all accountability except to fellow man, concerning laws, but if God is true, then doesn’t it seem logical that there is a reason to our existence and that reason somehow correspond with the will of the Creator, whereby we are accountable to that which He decides?

I just fail to see how one (on either side) can claim a world with God and a world without God would be the same. Thanks for your thoughts.

Steve Martin said...

I am a Christian but I think I agree with the other commenters that atheism & deism are functionally equivelent. The God of the Bible is a God that is intimately involved with the lives of his people. A view of creation and divine action that involves only an initial act is no better (in my opinion) than a view that the universe came into being without any divine involvement.

BEAST said...

A hypothetical deistic God is a different kind of God.

He may have set up physical and natural scientific laws, but he does not bound us with unnecessary religious conundrums.

A deistic god can simply be ignored because he or she has done nothing other than ignite the motion of the universe and its mechanisms.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

I believe I can agree with what you have written Steve Martin, so it appears that maybe, as Beast has written, the two previous commenters were speaking of a Creator in a deistic form, which does not interact with His creation but simply started it and walked off, whereas Christians, as you have said, do not believe that this describes the God of the Scriptures.

But even with a deistic Creator, it would seem that accountability could very well be possible, whereas no Creator leaves no accountability.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

After rereading all of the other comments in the other post, even though it is there, I believe I may have been reading over the "deistic" before God.

My bad. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I don't know if any of these comments have actually answered your original question, so I thought I'd try my hand. When atheists say that "a world with God and a world without God would be the same.", we just mean that because we can't see God, or hear God, or communicate with God, or find one shred of credible empirical evidence for God, that were we to remove the possibility of there BEING a God, the world would look exactly the same. Because we don't believe He created it, there's nothing that would physically change by removing Him from the equation.
Hope that helped! :)

BT Murtagh said...

Would it perhaps have been clearer, or at least more obvious, if I'd capitalized Deist? There are differing schools of thought on that; I tend to only capitalize proper names or words derived from them, e.g. "Manichaeism" but "logical positivism". I also only capitalize God as a proper name for the Christian god.

In any case, the god postulated in deism is, as described, one which does not intervene in any way in the operation of the universe according to natural law. Most specifically, the deist god does not reveal itself to humans in any way, other than (arguably) in the observable qualities of the universe itself. No apparitions, no miracles, no scriptures.

I suppose it's possible that a god of that type might have built a discernable copyright notice into the zillionth decimal place on of the Planck constant or something like that, assuming that constant could have a range of values. No one's found anything of the sort yet, of course, but it can't be ruled out a priori.

Finding a notice of that sort would kill atheism stone dead, but it still wouldn't address the veracity of any particular scripture, since none of them predict such a thing, or indeed show any awareness of the existence of universal physical constants.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

bt murtagh,

I don’t think of the God of the Scriptures in a deistic way, so I think when I read deist, I mentally still associated it as the God I believe the Scriptures shows, which didn’t just start everything off and walk away.

But the possibility that even a deistic God could hold His creation accountable for their actions, even if He had not revealed such, still would exist. Yet as a Christian, we believe that Scripture reveals what we need to know of God and man, and also believe that God does interact with creation and that through Christ Jesus, eternal life waits on the other side. I also acknowledge and realize that this is where faith comes in to play.

I am in training here in a few all day, but hope to review some more of your comments in the other post this week. Thanks.


Bdawg,

I got you personal thought. I appreciate it. Thanks.

BT Murtagh said...

Timothy Waldrop,

If you don't mind I'd like to dispose of a little protocol first.

I invite you to call me BT, unless you prefer formal address. If your culture finds initials overly formal then you can call me Brian as a second choice, but I prefer BT. If you're willing to be familiar, please let me know how you would like me to address you.

If you prefer formality I assure you I take no offense at that either, I would just like to clarify modes of address.

Now, on to substance.

I expected that you were not a deist; I raised this aspect of belief in a god more or less in order to dismiss it. Quite often in such discussions there is a lack of definition of what we mean by "god" and the worst blurring seems to occur between a deistic god and a scriptural, or at least revelatory god.

I'm happy to see that the deistic god, as I expected, is entirely as useless and redundant to you as it is to me, albeit for reasons which philosophically could not differ more sharply; me because my view of the universe requires no god's involvement however limited, and you because your view of the universe requires a god entirely more involved than the deist's.

Shall we agree, then, for the sake of a more focussed discussion, that we are discussing the Abrahamic god? (As an aside, if you have any insight into why that god is not referred to as the Mosaic or Adamic god I would genuinely appreciate your sharing it!)

If you prefer we can even exclude (or not, your choice) the Islamic view of that shared deity; I don't know your background but I will freely admit that I am far less familiar with the Koran and Hadith than with the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash, and less familiar with any of those than with the Christian versions of the Old and New Testaments.

Since we are agreed that the non-revelatory deist god is not relevant to our conversation, we have to speak of oral or written religious traditions. I don't think either of us is heir to a predominantly oral tradition; you are a Christian, and I am an atheist of Christian (specifically Roman Catholic) extraction.

Even where there are unwritten 'grace notes' such as the Catholic Assumption of Mary heading straight into Heaven, the Christian faith like its Judaic forebears is primarily based on a written scripture. The only question, especially if we're relying on translations, is which undeniable literal written word of God we're to go by.

I'm not a linguist or archaeologist either, and I'm only truly familiar with the English translations. My greatest lack is the gift of tongues, alas... I do have a number of English translations of the Holy Bible, though, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as several of the apocryphal gospels.

What I don't have is access to the mind of your god to let me know which translation to use. If you could please pray and ask your god which one we should work with I'd be grateful. Should your god have a preferred version I don't already own I'll be happy to purchase a copy so that we'll be conversing about the same text.

Just let me know which one you and He likes. Oh, and not to be forward or anything, but while you're discussing the subject I wonder if you'd suggest he actually straighten that issue out for everybody else as well? It certainly would help tone down the violence due to misunderstandings in a number of places around the world.

Cheers, BT

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

A most interesting tone seems to glimpse in your comments BT, but I could be wrong, noting that writing is sometimes hard to tell the intent and emotions of the writer.

I am in class and only have a few minutes for a break, so I thought I would just say that I really have no idea what you are talking about in the first part of your write about names and formal verses informal. I usually put the name that is shown by blogger as to when I write to a certain commenter. As when you write, blogger, in blue, puts: bt murtagh. This is simply why I replied with the same. Just thought this was an odd point to mention since I had never thought about it before. Notice I did the same for Beast and Steve Martin.

On the surface, I can’t help but wonder, that this is merely filled with sarcasm, but for the sake of incorrectly assuming on my part, I shall take a further look at your comments and hope to post something by tomorrow.

BT Murtagh said...

Well, that wasn't one of my better attempts at communication, then. I'll try again with a bit less rambling:

--
Call me BT. May I call you Tim?

Did my not capitalizing deism cause the confusion?

I think we're agreed that the deist god is not the one in your scriptures, whichever ones you're using.
--

There. Now why couldn't I just say that in the first place?

Oh, and I apologize for the tone; I was aiming for funny but I think I hit offensive instead. The problem's in the writer, not the reader, and I'll try not to do it again.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

No problem. Tim is fine. nah, I just read "deistic", but wasn't thinking "deistic". My bad. I am working a little on your discussion here and the other now. Hope to finish by tomorrow.

John Bunyan

To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved 'are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.' (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul…. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.