Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New blog locations

So obviously this blog has not been updated in a long time.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't replace it with not one, but two new blogs!

Most of the content of this blog has moved to Propellerhead Musings, where I will try to write opinionated, personal, and theological topics.  If you were hoping to find something interesting on Notes, they this will be the blog for you.

Technical topics will be posted to Toddworks, where you will also find my web site for my consulting and teaching activities.  Geeks might check this out occasionally, but most normal people will probably find it boring.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Computer

Behind me is our new computer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Is Schrödinger's Cat a Calvinist or an Arminian?

Romans 9 presents us with a bit of a paradox. Paul clearly teaches in verse 18 that God has mercy on whomever He will, and hardens the hearts of whomever He will. Yet verses 19–24 teach us that we are still responsible for our actions. Election is never presented in Scripture in a fatalistic manner; we retain at least some measure of "free will."

So how do we reconcile God's election with Man's responsibility? One way is to suggest that God's election is based on His knowledge of the choices we will make. In particular, God elects those whom He knows will ultimately choose to follow Christ. Possible evidence comes from Romans 8:29:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

It certainly seems that foreknowledge precedes predestination! Yet there is a snag in the very next verse:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Here the calling, so effectual that it precedes justification, is contingent upon the predestination. So the only ones that God could possibly foreknow are those whom He first predestined, then called.

I think there might be another way to reconcile predestination with free will, but before we explore it, let us become acquainted with Schrödinger's cat. This classic thought experiment has been described in a variety of ways, but the general scenario is the same. A radioactive atom is placed in front of a particle detector. Over the course of an hour, there is a 50% probability that the atom will decay, emitting a particle and triggering the detector. A cat is placed in a box, along with a canister of cyanide gas, and the detector is connected to the the canister in such a way that if the atom decays, the gas is released, killing the cat. We wait one hour, don a gas mask, and open the box to see whether the cat has survived the experiment. It will either be dead or alive.

The question before us is: what was the condition of the cat before we opened the box? This is not as simple a question as it seems! The cat was dead or alive, depending on whether or not the atom decayed. But the state of the atom is actually a superposition of states of both having decayed, and having not decayed, until an observation pins it one way or the other—many experiments have established this result. The state of the cat depends on the state of the atom, so it too apparently is both dead, and not dead, until an observation is made.

As far as I know, no one has every really conducted this experiment with a cat. But while it is an established physical reality that the atom must be described, prior to observation, as a superposition of states, few people are willing to allow the cat to remain in this condition. And does the cat have a free will in the box?

The Copenhagen interpretation essentially says the state of the cat is unknowable until we make an observation, at which point the "wave equation" collapses. The many worlds interpretation says that alternate universes arise when an observation is made, one with a living cat and one with a dead cat. Then there is the alternate histories interpretation, which is essentially the many worlds interpretation, except that only one actually exists, the "real world." Other interpretations are possible, but the alternate histories interpretation gives us a new way to look at the paradox of predestination and free will.

Suppose, at any point in which we may make a free will decision, multiple universes arise, one for each alternative we may have chosen. Of course, other people are making other decisions, and still other people are experimenting with Schrödinger's cat, so we very quickly get a huge tangled mess of alternate universes. But suppose God gets to choose which one of these is "real." Then the "real" universe has a couple of interesting properties. First, at any given time, its state can be said to have been determined by God. Second, at any given time, it state can be said to have been determined by human free will (to the extent that human free will can affect the universe). For any given person, his or her actions can be said to be the result of his or her own free will, and simultaneously said to be determined by God.

We do not wish to rule out that God can have further interventions with His universe beyond creating it and choosing which of many possible histories is true history. We read in Hebrews 1:3 that:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

God is involved in His world, both in the breathtakingly mundane aspect of keeping us existent, and in sometimes spectacular miraculous interventions, often as answers to prayer.

Nor has this article touched upon His role in bringing people to have faith in Christ. But beyond such questions, there are a couple of consequences that come from understanding that God can be sovereign over all things, while we retain at least some measure of free will.

First, we grasp the great promise of Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Whatever happens to the Christian, whether good or seemingly bad, can be seen as the hand of God working our ultimate good. This includes the actions of other people. If someone blesses me, it is the hand of God. If someone curses me or hurts me, that too is ordained by God, though not caused by God, and I learn from this verse that even that hurt will ultimately prove beneficial to me.

Second, we have no ground for passivity. In some way, my future does depend on my decision. Our prayers do make a difference, because God has ordained they will, though the answers may not always be what we are looking for. Our labors are important.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Meditation on the Word of God

"One of the most underrated benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When you have memeorized a verse of Scripture, you can meditate on it anywhere at anytime during the day or night. If you love God's Word enough to memorize it, you can become like the writer of Psalm 119:97, who exclaimed,
"Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long."
Whether you're driving the car, riding the train, waiting at the airport, standing in line, rocking a baby or eating a meal, you can benefit from the Spiritual Discipline of meditation if you have made the deposits of memorization."

"Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" by Donald S. Whitney, p. 40 - Bible Intake (part 2)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

...They shall mount up with wings....

"He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:29-31 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dangers of Blogging: Honor code 42+4

Having been tagged by Karen, I guess it is only proper etiquette to respond.

Four Jobs You've Had

  1. Teacher's aide
  2. Adjunct professor
  3. Consultant
  4. Systems Programmer

Four Places You've Lived

  1. Milton, New York
  2. High Falls, New York
  3. High Bridge, New Jersey
  4. Troy, New York

Four Vacations You've Taken

  1. Walt Disney World, Florida
  2. Nova Scotia
  3. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
  4. Williamsburg, Virginia

Four Vehicles You've Owned

  1. Bicycle
  2. Chevy Celebrity
  3. Ford Escort
  4. Honda Accord Wagon

Four Blogs I Visit and Want to Tag

Here is where the honor code part comes. If you are one of the first four bloggers to see this, then I tag you! Be sure to leave a comment, so that later bloggers know that they are home free. Oh yes, I'll visit (at least once).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Already, not yet: Justification and Sanctification

One important principle for correctly interpreting many Bible passages is to recognize the "already, not yet" tension. Already, the Kingdom of God has come in Christ. Yet, while we are already "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6), yet we dwell in "the present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). It isn't that the fulfillment is slowly coming. Rather, it is the overlap of the ages, brought about by the resurrection of Christ. As long as the present evil age remains, we will have this tension.

This tension is often brought forth in discussions of eschatology, the doctrine of "last things". But it has important applicability to our daily Christian lives as well! For instance, we read in Hebrews 10:10:
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Now sanctified means to be set apart for service to God. Since God is holy, one who is sanctified must also be holy.

Yet a few verses later, in Hebrews 10:14, we read:
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Being sanctified? Yes, I realize that not all translations carry this sense the sanctification being a continuing processes, but several commentaries indicate that the Greek tenses do convey this sense, so the ESV tranlation is reasonable. We see here that we are being made fully holy, more fully able to please God. So which is it? Are we already sanctified, or are we being sanctified? The answer is that both are true. From the point of view of the Kingdom, our sanctification has already been perfected, through Christ's offering. Before God, we stand in Christ's righteousness. This is the truth of justification: we have already been
declared righteous before the court of Heaven! This righteousness is the gracious gift of God, earned by the work of Christ alone, and applied to us by faith alone.

Yet, in the present age, from the perspective that most captures our awareness, we have a long way to go! As we read in Hebrews 12:14:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which
no one will see the Lord.
This pursuit of holiness is what theologians call growing in sanctification. The great truth that the "already, not yet" paradigm brings is the understanding that while we strive to grow in sanctification, yet from God's perspective our ultimate success is already a certainty!