Monday, December 6, 2021

Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped!

-- traditional prayer

Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.

-- the Dread Pirate Roberts

Just yesterday, I posted on how Tooth Fairy Chen (Taiwan's dentist-turned-health-dictator) had broken his promise of a month ago and decided to mandate birdemic pecks for people like me. This obviously prompted some pretty serious praying on my part, and promises of the same from some of my readers.

Well, lo and behold, the very next day, the Tooth Fairy, exhibiting the flightiness so characteristic of his species, changed his mind. I can now get pecked or continue with the weekly charade of an easy-to-fake* DIY test -- which is how things already stood anyway. Of course he could just as easily change his mind back again tomorrow, but for now things are  back as they were a few days ago.

And I am left feeling that I ought to feel absolutely certain that this was an intervention of God's in answer to my prayers and those of others, but in fact able to offer only the uncertain prayer, "Thanks -- if that was you, I mean." I have still not resolved to my satisfaction the issues raised in my post "Shining Buddha problems."

Anyway, my sincere thanks for the prayers of those who prayed, regardless of whether or not those petitions affected the outcome.

* Just sayin'. I would obviously never encourage my readers to do anything of which Google would disapprove.


Bruce Charlton said...

BTW - WRT The Shining Buddha problem. Maybe it is clarified if you consider asking an sort-of inversion of the question.

Is something a miracle Only when there is no material cause for it? In other words, is it correct that a miracle can only be an intended divine intervention in this reality, when it happens outwith the laws of nature: that a miracle just-is a deliberate suspension of the laws of nature.

That is certainly one way that some people define miracles. And it does lead to the usual problem of trying to prove any negative statement (e.g. That the Loch Ness monster does Not exist is still unproven).

But it is a definition at odds with the Mormon metaphysics which (I think) we both share; because it would entail a God outside of the world, who created from nothing, and who therefore can put something into creation from outside it.

But if God is as We believe he is, then All miracles Must work entirely by natural causes - the opposite of that traditionalist view described above.

I which case the Shining Buddha is a non-problem. All that is at issue is whether your friend's interpretation of what happened really was *intended* as a spiritually significant sign from God. That is a discernment only he could make - and which nobody else is obliged to accept (which is why it is best to keep quiet about miracles, IMO).

William Wildblood said...

I came here to offer my prayers along with those of others but I am very happy to see that they are not needed - yet. But you have them anyway.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, I certainly agree that "miracles" in the broad sense (i.e., divine interventions) can occur without being "miraculous" in the narrow sense (i.e., apparent violations of the laws of nature).

The question is not whether God sometimes intervenes, but whether everything that happens is in some way God's doing. It is my understanding that the "real" Christian confidently thanks God for everything good that occurs, whereas I often find myself only able to thank him provisionally, just in case it was his doing (acknowledging that some good things are the work of other free agents, or just occur by happenstance).

My attempts to understand how God could be specifically responsible for absolutely everything that happens have led me away from Mormon theology and toward the idea of a God who stands outside this world as the author of a work of fiction stands outside the "world" he has created. Not that this is a satisfying formulation, either. (See "No coincidences.")

Basically, I think this is a question that doesn't really bother most people, and that people will therefore generally misunderstand what I'm driving at. I just need to sort it out on my own.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm "I just need to sort it out on my own."

That's usually how it has to be.

I have long felt that you are more troubled than most about whether 'certainty' about anything is possible, and if certainty is not possible, then doesn't that mean inevitable nihilism? This seems like a threatening spectre behind your reasoning.

In other words you are perhaps spontaneously one who regards epistemology as the bottom line; which has indeed been the case for many or most philosophers for the past few hundred years.

For myself, I that way inclined for most of my life and consequently (as it now seems) I was stuck - until I came to believe that metaphysics (not epistemology) is the true bottom line for philosophy.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

No, no, that's not it at all. I've long since unasked the questions of epistemology.

The point is not my inability to answer with certainty the question of whether this or that specific event was God's doing, but rather the fact that I can ask the question at all. Most Christians take it for granted that every specific event is in some sense God's doing, and they routinely thank God for natural events in which there is no reason to suspect he specially intervened, and even for the freely chosen actions of other people. (This is the paradox so neatly formulated in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.")

My concern is that the attitude I have described above feels intuitively right -- I feel that I ought to give God credit for absolutely everything that happens -- but that I am unable to assimilate that into my (pluralist, "Mormon") metaphysics. It is very much a metaphysical, not an empistemological, problem.

Ben Pratt said...

Despite the unresolved metaphysical concerns, I am happy for you and grateful for the rollback.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - "the attitude I have described above feels intuitively right -- I feel that I ought to give God credit for absolutely everything that happens"

It is interesting that you say you ought to be giving God 'credit' for *everything* (i.e. the omni-God concept presumably); when this is more usually regarded in terms of the *opposite* problem - of Not wanting to 'blame' God (because he is wholly Good) for causing all (including the most extreme) suffering and evil.

So you want to give God credit for everything good, but not blame for everything bad - maybe.

My own view is that there as many potential beings to credit and blame as there are beings capable of agency.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"My own view is that there as many potential beings to credit and blame as there are beings capable of agency."

I agree -- but I am struggling to reconcile this belief with the practice of thanking God for everything.

John Goes said...

@Wm- Consider the man who thanks God that he scored a touchdown/goal/whatever. It is easy to mock such a man, because it seems ridiculous that God would arrange things so that this man might be given the chance to score a goal. If one believes in free will, it becomes even more difficult to accept.

But God created a world which enabled all of this to be possible, including the touchdown. He created the people, the grass, our hands, feet, etc. We are naturally thankful for specific things, and thanking God for the specifics is a way to thank him for everything that made those things possible (known and unknown) and bringing your joy back to him as a child would to his father.

I struggled with this question for a long time, and this was my resolution.

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