Who Am I? Part 8

I study the Bible for my own benefit primarily.  I’ve been on a work binge lately, long days with no time or energy to study.  The sin in my flesh obtrudes, wanting dominion over my thoughts and motives.  Both ʽâbar and nâsâh await my attention, holding out the promise of deeper access and new insights into the mind of Christ.  I’ve had more than enough of the uncertain gossip on my newsfeed.  I crave the word of God.  But I’m putting that on hold to write this essay.

I woke up the morning I began studying for the previous essay with a philosophical insight.  I typed it into my phone before it faded away.  I’ve written before about the philosophical bent[1] of my mind.  I still have philosophical thoughts and insights but usually keep them to myself.  I assume they are the Holy Spirit working out my own particular flavor of ἀσέβεια.  This one seems relevant somehow:

The primary frustration of being a materialist is that the science based on that materialism never discovers any matter, only ideas obeying laws.  It’s absurd, utterly irrational, unless: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I offer a couple of corroborating testimonies from the “Criticism and alternatives” section of Materialism on Wikipedia for those who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between science and materialism:

In 1991, Gribbin and Davies released their book The Matter Myth, the first chapter of which, “The Death of Materialism”, contained the following passage:

Then came our Quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter.  The old assumption that the microscopic world of atoms was simply a scaled-down version of the everyday world had to be abandoned.  Newton’s deterministic machine was replaced by a shadowy and paradoxical conjunction of waves and particles, governed by the laws of chance, rather than the rigid rules of causality.  An extension of the quantum theory goes beyond even this; it paints a picture in which solid matter dissolves away, to be replaced by weird excitations and vibrations of invisible field energy.  Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less “substance” than we might believe.  But another development goes even further by demolishing Newton’s image of matter as inert lumps.  This development is the theory of chaos, which has recently gained widespread attention.

— Paul Davies and John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, Chapter 1

Their objections were also shared by some founders of quantum theory, such as Max Planck, who wrote:

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such.  All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together.  We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind.  This Mind is the matrix of all matter.

— Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie, 1944

My own insight continued:

Though materialism purports to be the idea that posits all of this lawful behavior within matter itself, it is entirely dependent upon the existence of One with the power and patience to keep all of these ideas obeying all of these laws, lest science collapse into a local observation of immediate phenomena: Adam naming the animals.  Instead of establishing the paramount reality of everyday life, science based on materialism transforms everyday life into an illusion.  

Still, I persist perceiving all of this material around me.  I walk on the floor rather than blending insensibly with it.  I breathe the air rather than dissolving amidst it. Likewise I shower in water and soap, and leave the shower distinct from them as they wash away down the drain.  I put on clothes and take them off without the least confusion between them and me.

I also recalled the event that led me to work on The Tripartite Rationality Index.[2]  I had set Psalm 121 to music for a children’s Sunday school class.  The line—He will not allow your foot to slip—had filled me with hope that I was not on my own with my sin problem, until a child dashed that hope.  As I taught the song he raised his hand at the fateful line.  “I fell down yesterday, how come?” he asked.

I told him I would need a week to think about it.  It was a bad week, arguing within myself about how true the Bible was ultimately.  I had thought childlike faith was naïve and gullible.  But I was the naïve and gullible one, getting all excited about the potential “spiritual truth” of an ancient song even as I had ignored the literal meaning of the words.  That was my life at that time, brief moments of faith and hope swallowed up again in a boiling cauldron of doubt.  Fortunately, that child didn’t confront me a week later demanding an answer I didn’t have.

I worked a straight 6 to 2 shift at the time.  I left work one afternoon, waved to a couple of buddies staring out the second floor window of the factory and stepped into an oil slick from a leaky fifty-five gallon drum.  I was going down, my legs doing a split.  Then I threw my left elbow up into the air and stepped out of the oil.

I was embarrassed at the spectacle I made of myself but didn’t turn to see if my buddies were laughing at me.  As I walked on toward the parking lot I began to wonder how I didn’t fall in that oil slick.

I must have lifted myself out by throwing my elbow up in the air, I thought.  Newton’s third law of motion came to mind: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.”  Throwing my elbow into the air should have pushed me downward, faster and harder.

I must have lifted myself by pulling my legs back together with my thigh muscles, I surmised, throwing my arm in the air stabilized my balance somehow.  As I walked on I realized my thigh muscles didn’t feel like they had done that kind of work.  My left shoulder, however, was killing me.

Only after I stuck my key in the car door did I turn again, look back at the scene and question aloud, “God?”  Only then did the words of the psalm return to my mind: He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.[3]  As I drove home I argued that I wasn’t worth his time and trouble.

As I think about it now, recalling that I had no sensation of being touched[4] by an unseen hand, it seems more efficient to imagine that God—if God intervened at all—switched off Newton’s third law of motion for the time and space I was in that oil slick.  But even that doesn’t account for the crazy thing I did with my left elbow.