Author Archives: Peter Kazmaier
In these days when, by government edict here in Canada, churches are deemed “non-essential services,” I find myself searching the internet for inspiring and thought-provoking messages. A few weeks ago, I listened to a 2004 message by Timothy Keller on guidance. See the link below:
For a transcription of the talk, check out the link below:
Keller talks about three forms of guidance:
“We’ll find out by answering, by looking at these proverbs and understanding first of the guidance God does, secondly the guidance God gives and thirdly the guidance God purchases for us.”
- Guidance God does
- Guidance God gives
- Guidance God purchases for us
He further subdivides “Guidance God does” into:
- Paradoxical guidance God does
- Non-obvious guidance God does
There is so much in this message that I can only talk today about what spoke to me about “Paradoxical guidance God does.” When I think of guidance I think of help in decision making. Keller points out there are two contradictory views about decisions. One view is a deterministic view that decision making is really an illusion. Our brain chemistry, our hormones, are appetites so completely determine our decisions (if you’re a Materialist) that our decisions don’t matter. There is also a theological version of this: God makes our decisions for us, so again they don’t matter.
The second, free-will view, is that our decisions completely determine everything. Keller astutely points out that both points of view, if thought through to their logical implications, can’t help but lead to despair. Absolute determinism logically leads to complete passivity. My decisions don’t matter, ever. But free will leads to paralysis since I know so many of my decisions will not only be wrong, but devastatingly wrong that second guessing and doubt will paralyze me.
Keller correctly points out that, not only Proverbs, but he New Testament itself asserts both individual Free Will and God’s Sovereignty (Determinism) simultaneously and the two together are essential for hope and confidence in the future.
Since Free Will exists and is operative, my decisions matter a lot, so I cannot be passive. Yet since the God who loves me still is sovereign, he can smooth over my many poor choices, so in the end I will be okay. Keller uses the Genesis historical account of Joseph where many people made terrible decisions with some good ones thrown in, but God, made everything work together to good purpose and save Jacob and his family from a killer famine.
How to Come to Terms with this Paradox
As a scientist, I am no stranger to paradoxes. The one that springs immediately to mind is the wave-particle duality that is particularly pronounced in small particles. One knows this paradox is intrinsic to particles. One also understands the quantum nature of very small particles is so different from what I encounter in the macroscopic world, that I should not be surprised the properties characteristic of the quantum realm appear as paradoxes to me.
The way a physicist handles these paradoxes is instructive. One knows when to treat an electron as a particle and when to treat it as a wave to solve a particular problem. For diffraction one treats an electron as a wave; for collisions as a particle.
Some years ago I read Roger Penrose’s book The Road to Reality. Much I did not understand but his explanation of the arrow of time always stayed with me. Of the four dimensions (x, y, z, t) only time is unidirectional, that is to say time always moves from the present to the future. Indeed, our world is what it is, because of time. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that for any process, the entropy of the universe must increase. To go back in time is to return to a lower entropic state of the universe and so contradicts this law. As a human being, I am remorselessly and relentlessly bound in time. At one point in time I am deciding cereal or eggs for breakfast. Twenty minutes later that decision is irrevocably set in the past. Within time I made a decision.
Yet if I believe that God created everything including time, then I have to believe he exists outside of time as well as within it. This to me is the whole explanation why Free Will and Determinism can co-exist. Within time (the only realm I comprehend), real decisions are being made and have consequences. Outside of time, in some way there is some multidimensional present where all of infinity is seen (I want tot say simultaneously, but that would be a symptom of my incurable compulsion to always drag time back into God’s timeless realm).
This brings me to my final point. I can’t understand God’s Sovereignty without dragging time into his timeless realm and so making him responsible for all actions and destroying Free Will. I can’t understand his sovereignty, but at least I know why I can’t understand it.
As Keller points out, having free, meaningful choices and a sovereign God superintending all is the only way of avoiding paralysis on the one hand and passivity on the other. Like the scientist, I apply my imperfect models to the problem at hand. When I am making a decision, I decide knowing that this is my responsibility. When I have second thoughts and wonder if I my decision has been a huge mistake, I am confident that God in his sovereignty will make it work out, despite my flawed choices.
I started writing Coventry 2091 in 2018, just when my last book, The Dragons of Sheol was in the final stages of editing. Since I was starting a new series I began by asking a number of “What if” questions to help flesh out the plot.
What if, in the year 2051, a sustained, peaceful protest took place in Canada that threatened the plans of our Federal Government and alarmed many urban voters? How might the government react? Answering these questions led to the story that became Coventry 2091.
As the plot developed, I realized that our legal system could not efficiently process and jail thirty thousand peaceful but determined protesters, so I imagined a extra-judiciary tribunal which I called the Peace, Order, and Good Government Tribunal which quietly and efficiently sent thirty thousand to a Canadian Penal Colony.
Imagine my surprise when I read the front page news last week in the National Post and in particular Colby Cosh’s article on a ruling in Ottawa’s favor on Carbon Taxes citing “Peace, Order, and Good Government” (POGG) from the British North America Act justifying this huge transfer of control over resources from the provinces to the Canadian Federal Government.
From the point of view of my novel’s story, I suppose this precedent which essentially is a Carte Blanche for enabling the Canadian Federal Government to override any explicit provisions of the British North America Act, with Canadian Supreme Court approval, makes my imaginative story line more plausible and in some senses disturbingly prophetic. The government, particularly if supported by a majority of a sympathetic electorate, could override any protections we currently enjoy by using the POGG card.
I’ve only had one other time when one of my story lines seemed disturbingly prophetic in this way. Check out a previous post in the link below.
Although I prefer holding a real book to reading a book on my smart phone, I have found e-books particularly useful for library borrowing. They allow waiting lists and automatic retrieval (no more pesky library fines).
I am gratified to point out to my friends in Calgary, that THE HALCYON CYCLE books are now available in e-book format at the Calgary Public Library … if you haven’t read, for example, THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL, why not check it out there for free?
For your convenience, here is a link to the Calgary Public library Halcyon Cycle e-books. Enjoy …. https://calgary.bibliocommons.com/v2/search?searchType=smart&query=Kazmaier
It is about the one year anniversary of our trip to Israel. I am grateful I had the opportunity to complete this trip of a lifetime. I would like to finish this series with a description and images from our trip to Scythopolis. After a year it remains a trip of a lifetime and I gladly remember the many wonderful people Kathyrn and I met in our group.
A Description of Scythopolis
At the junction of the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan Valley one finds the ruins of the ancient city of Scythopolis one of the towns of the Decapolis. These Greek settlements were founded after Alexander the Great’s conquests. Likely Pella and Dion were founded first, since they are Macedonian names.
Scythopolis is the only Decapolis town on the west side of the Jordan River and sits athwart one of the key access routes connecting the coastal region with the caravan routes skirting the fertile crescent.
According to E. M. Blaiklock, the presence of a Greek city in Palestine had a significant influence on Jewish culture and Jewish awareness of Greek culture. For example, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the far off land where he fed the swine may have been modeled on Scythopolis.
The presence of Scythopolis may also indicate that Jews and Galileans in biblical times had an understanding of Greek since they likely traded and interacted with these Greek cities.
Acknowledgment. The excellent article by E. M. Blaiklock in The Zondervan Pictorial Dictionary of the Bible on the Decapolis was most helpful in the writing of this article.