Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Development of the Idea of God in the Bible

The purpose of this lecture is to inform Christians and non-Christians alike of the latest studies about God, the development of the idea of God in the Bible, and the points that we can conclude based on them. Of particular importance is bringing this knowledge to parents, educators, and pastors who in turn can help Children learn the great themes of the Bible as the Knights of Columbus started a few weeks ago a bi-weekly Bible competition among teenagers at Jesus the King parish in Toronto.

Summary for Christian parishioners
The idea of God is found in all ancient civilizations and still alive today in different forms of spirituality.

The Biblical literature reflects the development of the idea of God in the Hebrew tradition which is transformed in the New Testament by Christ and his followers to reach out to all nations since the first century AD. With Abraham a tribal local God is worshiped. Moses finds that God is in more than one territory. Hosea speaks of God in terms of love. In Jesus Christ, God becomes human so as to restore fallen humanity to his eternal love (Trinity in One God). Central to Christian thought is the idea that “God is Love” (1 John 4: 8).  

The Appearance of the Idea of God:
How has the idea of God come into human consciousness? Research in anthropology since the 19th century brought to light a number of discoveries in ancient Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Indian and Chinese cultures. Among the well known are James Fraser, Franz Boas, Mircea Eliade, and René Girard. In those authors and others we recognize the interaction and development of history, religion, psychology, and culture. Probably the most influential introduction of religion in the 21st century is Joseph Ratzinger’s “Truth and Tolerance” published in 2004. For thousands of years, in every region and country a polytheist, or pantheist plethora of gods were worshiped.  There were gods for every material or spiritual need; a god for rain to bring rain to farmers; a god for fertility to bring offspring to mothers; a goddess of love that inspired reflections and poetry, and the Sun as the source of fire and food as well as many other gods and goddesses. The need of humans for worship has never lacked.  In an interview in 2006, the Atheist biologist Richard Dawkins admitted that religion will remain an important human phenomenon.  Since in this lecture we wish to explore the development of the idea of God in the Bible, we will limit the discussion to the Biblical Revelation. The encyclopedic New Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Raymond Brown, S.S., Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. and Roland Murphy, O. Carm., was republished in 1990 with contributions by 74 Biblical scholars.  In an article on the “Early Church”, 3 of those scholars assert the idea that while Jesus preached his kingdom in Judea, the Apostles after his Resurrection took it to the entire known world. Their recent research shows that only after the Resurrection could the early Christians relate Jesus’ vision for the Gentiles to a structure of faithful under the leadership of the Apostles and their disciples who succeeded them as bishops and priests. Hence, guided by the Spirit, there is a gradual opening from a strictly Jewish community to an inclusive Church extending from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome and Alexandria as well as Greece and Asia Minor in the first century AD.   

A scientist’s perspective:
In 2000, "The God Experiment - Can Science Prove the Existence of God?" authored by Russell Stannard was published. The author was a professor of high-energy nuclear physics at the Open University in London. In the book, which discusses many scientific discoveries in relation to Christianity such as evolution and quantum physics, he delves into the development of the idea of God starting with the question "What is God like?" Given the assumption that God has some kind of personal nature, an important source of information in the Judaeo/Christian tradition is the Bible. We are assuming there to be just the one God. The Bible affirms God as the creator and ruler of the whole world. But elsewhere, in the Old Testament, it refers to other gods (for example the Canaanite baals). "The God of the Israelites was jealous when his people worshiped these other gods. God is supposed to be a God of love and mercy, but there is much in the Old Testament about a God of wrath and vengeance. His anger could be so great as to bring him to the verge of destroying his people. Then again, God is supposed to be the god of all peoples - loving them equally. In that case, how are we to account for what happened to the Egyptians? We can understand God wanting the Israelites to be freed from slavery, but killing off the Egyptians' first-born children and drowning their army seems somewhat extreme." This shows, Stannard explains, why we cannot interpret the Biblical literature in a static way, or - in most cases - literally. The Bible is not a precise scientific account of natural phenomena. In order to transmit God's revelation the authors of books in the Old Testament used figurative language as a literary device in such stories as the creation story of the world and the Garden of Eden.  The use of narrative language for history in the Bible makes it possible to transmit God’s message to nomads and settlers such as the ancient Israelites.

I should add here the question on the Biblical story of creation as some scholars think it has elements used from ancient Babylonian myths such as the myth known as Enuma Elish dated around the 7th century BC where Tiamat, a demiurge of ocean water, and Abzu, a god of fresh water, mingle together as the water on whose surface the Spirit of Yahweh hovers. Chaos too could refer to the formless state preceding the creation of the cosmos in ancient Greek mythology (See Genesis 1:1-3). However, the Biblical author inspired by God seems to have included such myths to trumpet the God of Israel over other gods. Yahweh (God) alone created the entire cosmos from nothing (ex-nihilo) and not from pre-existing matter (Cf. Terence Nichols, 2009, The Sacred Cosmos, Wipf & Stock Publishing – Reprint Edition).  The creation story illuminates us in the importance of knowledge of ancient cultures that Biblical scholars study along with the Biblical literary forms such as poetry, narrative history, wisdom literature, and figurative language as well as historical development of such cultures.

The Biblical witness can be divided into two phases:

Phase 1: From many gods to One God

By the 19th century B.C. Abram of Ur is transformed to Abraham (Giving him a new name indicated a mission). When Abraham followed God out of Ur in Chaldean territories, he was told to go and settle in the land of the Canaanites. Although TNK (pronounced Tanak short for Torah, Nebeim, Ketubim) was not written until 1000-800 B.C. it reflects earlier traditions: Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly.

From the many gods Abraham and his tribe follow the One God revealed to him. This is further illuminated in God's call to Moses to liberate the Israelites from the slavery of the Egyptians and their gods and to follow him in Sinai before settling in Palestine. Here God is seen not only as a tribal God limited to a certain territory but as a God who transcends many territories, defeats other deities with power.  The same is found in Elijah's call to Israelis to stop worshiping Baal who allegedly among many gods competed with God in Northern Israel. Elijah miraculously brings down rain after he had stopped it, and brings down fire when he challenges priests of Baal to a competition between his God and theirs. When the truth is revealed in the burning offering, God is again victorious. Many other events also show the unfaithfulness of the Jews to their covenant with God e.g. Solomon's decision to build altars for gods of the other nations which brings captivity to Persia and Babylonia in wars of defeat and the destruction of the Temple. This still does not exhaust God's attempts to bring back people to worship him in truth. Prophets such as Daniel and Ezekiel show that in the absence of the Temple, God can still be reached in the hearts. However the power of God as the liberator of his people from slavery to other gods gradually turns to the compassion and love of God towards Israel who in Hosea shows that He is faithful to his people even though they have been unfaithful.  

Phase 2: From One God to the Trinity in One God

According to Georges Farah “The Trinity was revealed in the Old Testament.” Based on ancient languages of the Hebrews, Elohim is a plural name of God. Mystical Jewish tradition known as Kabbalah professes the Trinity. Some other scholars refer to the Genesis account where God says “Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1: 26) which would imply the Trinity. The visit of the Lord God to Abraham as three men (Trinity?) is shown in Genesis 18. 

The Trinity is explicitly mentioned in Christ’s words to the Apostles “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28: 19), but it is also found in the Pauline Epistles mostly written in the 50s of the first century and the Johannine literature written in near the end of the first century. The early Fathers of the Church understood fire with which Christ would baptize as the Spirit of God. This is also the form in which the Spirit descended on the early disciples (tongues of fire Cf. Acts) The incarnation of the Son of God, his teachings, his outreach to the enemies of his people in Samaria and in Canaanite land, his authority with which he spoke and forgave sins, his passion, his forgiveness of those who crucified him, his acceptance of death, his death and then his Resurrection reveal the power of God's love that the apostles understood only after the Resurrection. Following the powerful descent of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and their companions preached the risen Christ and the good news first to the Jews in Jerusalem then to the rest of the cities going to Antioch, Minor Asia, Greece, Rome, and Alexandria and the rest of the world. Here we see how the God of Israel has extended his power rooted in love over the entire known world. The eternal self-giving love of God the Father to his Son is returned by the Son to his Father in the binding love of their Spirit. This eternal love is reflected in the act of creation which God continues to do every second and in the act of redemption in which God restores creation to him through his Son and his Holy Spirit (See Theosis, June 2013 by Henri Boulad, S.J. here). The Son reveals the Father, the Holy Spirit reveals the Son and this same Spirit guides the Church and works in all humans to help them come back to their Father.

Again there is a development of understanding doctrines by the Catholic Church in history as St. Paul refers to (2 Thess.  2:15 and 1 Cor 11: 12), St. Athanasius of Alexandria contributed to (See Athanasius here), Blessed John Henry Newman thought in the 19th century and the Second Vatican Council confirmed (Dei verbum, 8) (Cf. here).

Such a uniqueness of the God of Christianity has impressed and empowered many scientists and scholars over centuries. In his book, the Mystery of Being, Henri Boulad, S.J. says “God does not love us. He loves me. He loves me from conception as the only person who exists.”  Why would Augustine shout “Late have I found you O Most beautiful…”? Teresa of Avila in the 16th century, a great mystic and saint in the Church once fell off her ladder so she dared to tell God “You know why you do not have many lovers? It is because you let them suffer!” In spite of her great suffering, or probably through it, she loved God more. The mystical experience of this God is found in many religions. Rabia al-Adawiyya, a Muslim Sufi mystic in 8th century Iraq prayed “O God! If I worship You for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship You in hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise. But if I worship You for your own sake, grudge me not your everlasting beauty” (Cf. Margaret Smith, 1928, “Rabia The Mystic and Her Fellow Muslim Saints”, Cambridge Library Collection). Suffering seems to be the external condition of humans who truly love.  A man who truly loves a woman will suffer greatly and must die to himself as Christ loved and died for the Church, the bride he loves (Cf. The Epistle to Ephesians Chapter 5).

Additional Readings:
 If God risks so much that He becomes man to restore man, then He is not a calculating vengeful God. Game Theory which economists and strategists play to achieve their goals contains the elements of risk necessary for achievement and most of the time requires cooperation of those in the game.  Vulnerability, the study of which brought Professor Brown in sociology a transformative experience  as a mother and wife, is also a theme of the vulnerable love that God initiated (See here). Being is opening oneself to the other. Relationality is at the root of everything in the cosmos (Quantum physics; See here). Civilizations could not expand without trade between nations which spells benefits if they cooperate.  Neurologists and psychologists too have come to the conclusion that the body is well off when the mind is not stressed and thus is able to reshape itself and accommodate the others (Cf. Norman Doidge, 2007, “The Brain that Changes Itself…”, Penguin Books; Redford Williams, 1998, “Anger Kills – Seventeen strategies for controlling the hostility that can harm your health, Harper.)

Let me close with my own experience of God’s love. Why I am still alive in spite of many illnesses that should have caused my death can be read here.

More online resources:
Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.
St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology:
R. Girard in First Things:
U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Biblical Resources:

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Quantum Synthesis - An Introduction

In 2007, I gave a lecture on evidence in the cosmos for the God of Christians. It was precisely based on quantum physics. Nothing has changed since then other than the fact that we are now aware of many more facts in human behavior, the accelerating rate of the development and deployment of information technology, the development of life on earth for billions of years with its challenges, and more knowledge on the intricate nature of the expanding cosmos. Those who wish to remain in their simple faith and ignore scientific advances may well find themselves surrounded by questions from their friends, children or grandchildren: Why do you still believe?

In this post, I survey a number of human disciplines to show that the probabilities of quantum physics are at the core of every action in the cosmos. Cases in each discipline will be examined but due to space limitation only one publication will be referenced.

- Particle physics:
It has been proven that any two particles that were once together (say in an electron) and have been separated, will continue to instantly communicate information even when they are millions of miles away from each other. Amazingly they do that at a speed that exceeds the speed of light.
There is fundamentally an enduring relationship between particles that do not think like us. This is still a mystery for scientists.
They also exhibit a probabilistic nature due to the fact that a particle has a dual wave/matter character. This was found since the early 20th century. Much has been written on this by scientists but for space I will cite here one recent book: (Cf. Manfred Eigen, 2013, From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity, Published by Oxford University Press.)

- Chaotic systems:
Chaos Theory is a field of study of dynamic systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. It has applications in meteorology, physics, engineering, and economics. The so-called butterfly effect shows how a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a storm in America. Although these systems are called deterministic, they nevertheless exhibit unpredictability akin to the probabilistic nature in quantum physics.

- Evolution of biological organisms:
When the Atheist biologist Richard Dawkins published his book "The Selfish Gene" in 1976, evolutionary biology had not advanced to another understanding of evolution in which genes mutate to develop more adaptive organisms to the environment and organisms collaborate in order to spread their population. Still selfishly they want to propagate their genes, they nevertheless collaborate in order to survive together an adverse condition. Many examples have been cited. Here is one: Some birds that fly in groups may be faced with a predator. Since they know of the danger, they send one of them ahead to clear their way or inform them of the predator such as an eagle. If a predator eagle is approaching, the single bird will cry at a tune that  only the others in the group will recognize as a warning even if he becomes a victim of the eagle. Attempts to discredit this phenomenon have failed. But the whole picture introduces the concept of collaboration in other living species at the cost of losing life. (Cf. Russel Stannard, 2000, "The God Experiment. Can Science Prove the Existence of God?", Published by Hidden Spring).

- Recent findings in the use of collaborative information systems:
Collaboration is now globally recognized as the optimum way for streamlining processes and the efficient delivery and deployment of solutions in businesses. I developed and implemented applications in collaborative information systems such as IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Dynamics for nearly two decades. The Internet has facilitated the emergence of a global village and the transmission of information between centers of learning, academia, businesses, and networks of ordinary persons. Quantum computers are also based on the theory of probability but processes are executed at a very high speed. Nothing is certain. Trial and error in the development of systems is a process of probability.
(For MS Dynamics see:; For IBM Lotus see:; For Quantum Computing see:

- Recent findings in sociology:
Brené Brown, Professor of sociology at the University of Texas has shown and written on vulnerability which opens the individual to love and to achieve confidence that he is loved in society. (Cf. Brené Brown, 2012, "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead", Published by Gotham). See also how Brené Brown was transformed into the loving parent through her research:

- Recent findings in neuroscience:
Dr. Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, co-authored the popular book "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief" based on his research in which using brain imaging techniques and devices he observed Christian nuns in deep prayer and Buddhist monks in deep meditation.  His conclusions affirm the positive effect of meditation and prayer, but more to the point how these individuals achieve a sense of union with God (Cf. An interview by Robert Wright with Dr. Andrew Newberg can be seen here: or simply read the transcript at )

Dr. Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California wrote extensively about the role of emotions in arriving at decision making. He is well known for his somatic marker hypothesis which provides a contemporary scientific validation of the linkage between feelings and the body. Although he stops at the level of consciousness from a materialist view, his 21st century research into the effect of emotions on the body and the brain is a recognition shared by other professors such as Dr. Brian Baker at the University of Toronto who see communication, stability, anger management and love as important attributes for life (Cf. Antonio Damasio, 2005, "Decartes' Error, Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain", Penguin Books)

- Game Theory:
Game theory is used by economists to attempt to predict/guess the most likely outcome of an economic activity. Military strategists use it to increase security in the likelihood of an attack by the opponent force. But it can be applied to everyone with a mind. Consider a man and a woman who are starting to date each other. Both go through the probabilistic nature of the question: Is he fit for me? Is she fit for me? It is gambling for a good future in marriage.

In the end, out of the above observations, I offer a little attempt at an introduction of an interdisciplinary theory that would probably contribute to the human hope for eternal life with theological and spiritual insights.

Details of the Quantum Mystery in Particle Physics:

For many years, I have studied quantum physics starting with a formal course in university before graduation in electronic engineering in 1976. Although quantum physics has been used in numerous inventions since its discovery (such as transistors in electronic devices, lasers used in CDs, quantum cryptography, quantum computers and more), no scientist claims to fully understand it nearly 90 years after the formulation of Quantum Theory. Finding the Higgs boson in the past year at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, for which Peter Higgs and Francois Englert have been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics, has opened more questions than answers for scientists to explore. The elusive Higgs boson, dubbed the "God Particle" by Leon Lederman, reveals the quantum nature of everything from matter to antimatter and energy, calculated at almost the beginning of the Big Bang. In his 1993 book "The God Particle," Leon Lederman, who is also a Nobel Laureate, asks "If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?" Decades earlier, two brilliant minds, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, debated the nature of matter only to disagree.

Quantum theory is a theory for subatomic particles that impact the universe since the Big Bang. An electron that is fired through an electronic gun has a dual character. It is both a particle and a wave. In his encyclopedic book titled "From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity" and published in 2013 Professor Manfred Eigen, also a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, asks "How can something be spatially confined, like a particle, and at the same time non-confined like a wave? How can one explain the intrinsically probabilistic nature of all quantum processes which as such are deterministic?"  Eigen thinks "Explanation is based on experience; therefore explaining something is to a large extent a matter of getting used to it." (P. 43). According to Bohr (and his many disciples including Paul Dirac and Wolfgang Pauli and many other 20th century scientists following the Copenhagen school), only an observer mind can measure its coordinates including location, momentum and time. Since the electron can take multiple paths at the same time, it is not in one space and its path cannot be controlled, thus uncertainty arises. This uncertainly is governed by Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty. In other words, nothing exists until the observing mind determines it. The deterministic universe of Isaac Newton has lost its credibility to the open probabilistic indeterminate universe of quantum physics. Manfred Eigen brings to the reader's attention Schrodinger's Equation published in 1926 that describes in mathematical elegant form the relationship between matter and wave. But more surprises were to come. In his 1935 EPR thought experiment named after him and his colleagues Podolsky, and Rosen, Einstein wanted to challenge Bohr but found that communication between particles that were once part of a photon is instant even though they are hundreds of thousands of miles away from each other. In quantum physics, if one of the particles changes its spin, the other changes its spin immediately. Einstein remained convinced till the end of his life that there must be hidden variables that contribute to this strange phenomenon. Schrodinger wrote a letter to Einstein in which he referred to the phenomenon as quantum entanglement. He was, like Einstein, puzzled that communication of information between particles at distance seemed to exceed the speed of light because it violated the upper limit of speed of any body set by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Yet quantum entanglement was experimentally proved by Alain Aspect and his collaborators in 1982. Subsequent  experiments confirmed the validity of quantum entanglement. It is on this particular point that scientists seem to be puzzled.

Quantum Physics and Theology:
 John Polkinghorne, retired professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, wrote, in one of his latest books: Quantum Physics and Theology in 2008, about relationship as science is attempting to discover it at the subnuclear level: “Quantum theory brought to light a remarkable form of entanglement between subatomic particles that have once interacted with each other (the so-called EPR effect), which implies that they remain effectively a single system however far they may subsequently separate spatially- a counterintuitive togetherness-in-separation that has been abundantly confirmed experimentally as a property of nature. The physical world looks more and more like a universe that would be the fitting creation of the trinitarian God, the One whose deepest reality is relational.” (Cf. John Polkinghorne, 2008, "Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship" Published by Yale University Press). Dr. Stephen Barr has written extensively on the relationship of quantum physics and theology (See, for example, his article in First Things here).

The above findings support the 2 most important observations in quantum physics:
1. The probabilistic nature of particles which yields the Uncertainty Principle
2. The communication between particles at long distances (quantum entanglement)

From 2 above, everything must be in a relationship to live. In Christianity God is a relatedness or a relationship of selfless love. It is our belief that God the Father being Love (1 John 4: 8) abandons the fullness of divinity and gives all he has to his image the Son (John 10:30; Col 1: 15-19; Phil 2: 6-11 ) who in turn returns this  love in the Holy Spirit who is the binding love of Father and Son (John 15). The concept that God is relatedness or relational is found not only in Holy Scriptures but also in doctors of the Church including St. Thomas Aquinas and, in our days,  Joseph Ratzinger (Bishop of Rome Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI). 

If this is true, then we can say that the cosmos is signed by the stamp of the Triune God of Christians. 

From 1, we all live in a cosmos still  in development. Certainty is achieved beyond this life when we are in the togetherness of the family of the kingdom of God. Hell is reserved to those who never loved nor dared to explore the probability of opening themselves or being vulnerable to others or accepting the vulnerability of the other that in him God lives. According to St. Paul "For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face" (1 Cor. 13: 12).   

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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