Have You Ever Heard Of Simulation Theory?

One of the things I’ve heard the more academic atheist types discuss occasionally is simulation theory, specifically the idea that we’re all in a simulation of some sort. The amusing thing to me about this idea is that it’s almost a scientific theory way of ending up at Christianity – in fact, I’ve written about Christianity’s view on cosmology here, and it’s pretty close. Of course, what Christianity has that simulation theory is lacking is an understanding of who is running the simulation, and what the purpose of the whole experiment is – and here’s the answer: we’re the entire reason for the simulation. This whole grand reality we all live in is an experiment in trying to raise up people who seek and love God.

That also raises up the interesting question of what happens when the simulation ends – for any or for all of us, it’s the same thing. At a certain point, our run in the simulation is done – and the Bible also promises that at a certain point the simulation will be done for everyone. What happens then? Well, what we’re promised is that we don’t end – God brings an immortal part of us out of this simulation into his higher level reality. And what happens then to that immortal part of us that he’s preserved is up to us. In our simulation, he is letting evil exist, but in his reality, everything impure and evil is not tolerated, and is cast out. So the choice is really with you: do you choose to embrace God’s reality, or not?

John Wesley’s 250 Year Old Advice On How Christians Should Vote:

“October 6, 1774
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them

  1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
  2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
  3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

― John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley

On number 2: realize we’re all sinners. You’re voting for a sinner, and you’re voting against a sinner. And on number 3: we’re all made in the image of God. Don’t let politics put up a wall against connecting with other people.

I think it’s legitimate to criticize policies and actions, but one should refrain from attacking the person. And even the criticisms should be done in a Christian manner.

The Psalm For Our Time

This struck me in a recent day’s reading as being incredibly apt for our situation:

Psalm 55

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.

Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
    hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
    because of what my enemy is saying,
    because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
    and assail me in their anger.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
    and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
    far from the tempest and storm.”

Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
    malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
    threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
as we walked about
    among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
    for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
    will not live out half their days.

But as for me, I trust in you.

Life Lessons From A Lizard

For the past 10 years we’ve had an Australian water dragon as a pet. He passed away this week, and the resulting sadness has left me with some reflective thoughts about various spiritual topics that I decided to capture here.

  • It’s amazing the personality even a small creature can have. The grief we have of the loss of his individuality must be similar to what God feels when, as Jesus says, God knows every sparrow that falls to the ground. He’s simultaneously feeling the joy and excitement of each of the living creatures in his garden, and the loss when it goes, and that’s part of the beauty of his creation that he’s decided is good. Not that the loss is good, but he’s decided the loss is worth the joy.
  • The main thing our pet meant to us most of the time was a sort of comfortable companionship. He would sit out with us, happy to enjoy our company as we enjoyed his. Neither us nor him wanting or needing extra attention from the other, just contentment with being present with the other. I think there are times when God enjoys the same from us – when we’re comfortable and happy just to be aware of his presence.
  • One of the most exciting and happiest days of all of our time with him was a few years ago. We had always paid attention to his behaviors, and would happily give him some of his favorite treats whenever he seemed to be in the mood, and we’d gotten him comfortable with eating those treats out of our hands. He’d developed a particular behavior involving opening his mouth in a certain way, which we’ve never found mentioned on any reptile forums or anywhere else. This one day, as he was out and I passed him, he opened his mouth in this way and I gave him a treat – and he suddenly realized that, yes, we were watching him and could understand his signals. From that very moment on he was constantly signaling us, about all sorts of things – he would run up to us and ask for a treat, he would ask to be let out of his cage, he would just signal that he was happy, or thankful. Nothing had changed regarding our behavior toward him, but he now understood that we did pay attention to him and could “hear” him. In many ways, I think this is what prayer is like, with us towards God. He’s always there and is paying attention to us, but we don’t often understand that until we see God answer our prayers in the most obvious ways.

American Nationalism And Christianity

I’ve been goaded a bit by a recent sermon to think about the tendency of many, including myself, to conflate patriotism/American nationalism with Christianity.

Point taken – our allegiance is to Christ, first and foremost, and we shouldn’t let any notions of nationalism hinder that.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

With that important point made, I feel like there’s also an important counterpoint to be made, in the interests of standing up for truth and history, and that is America’s unique relationship with God. It is a heritage that we shouldn’t just discard. (Just a bit of warning, if you try searching for some of the rest of this stuff online, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit-hole of Mormonism, they’re heavily into this stuff – but as with my opinion on the rest of Mormon beliefs, I think it’s a mix of things that are true with some weird things layered on top.)

America, unlike any other country in history I am aware of through back to ancient Israel, is based on covenants of fellow citizens to each other before God. I will give just a few examples:

In addition, there are numerous times when God has shown his faithfulness strongly to these covenants, especially at some our most important crux points:

All of this is to say that America’s foundations are specifically built in covenant with God and the people and causes of our founding were supported by God. Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America discussed how religion was intertwined with everything in the country, and the founding fathers themselves wrote constantly that the key to preserving a Republic would be the morality of our people. Currently, we live in an era post-sexual-revolution, of mass-abortion, and where society is not only increasingly secular, but oftentimes blatantly hostile to the very notion of religion. I am not so certain God’s favor still rests with us, and I don’t think we should repeat the Israelites’ mistakes of assuming that the prior favor with our country would carry over forever despite our sins.

Christianity’s Take On The Cosmology Of The Universe

One of the things I’ve been thinking about for a while is the perspective of how Christianity puts the universe together – what’s the grand cosmological view of the universe that Christianity takes? Here’s my attempt at summarizing:

Before the universe existed there was God – and he’s a God with several notable qualities to this view: He’s perfect, and he fully embodies both love and justice. Also, he’s a community of beings. And he desired/desires a people who will fully love him, who can enter into his community. Here’s the catch though: axiomatic to love is free will, and the capability to choose something or someone else. Love without free will is not a thing – that’s like The Stepford Wives. And even more complicated is that, because he is perfect, giving people the choice to choose to love something other than him requires giving them the choice and chance to be less than perfect, and to do less than perfect things, including to each other, which will also require that they face the justice due for their actions.

So this is what God did: he created a universe that could be a neutral, imperfect stage to allow humans the free choice to learn to love him or not. And then, to resolve the issue that humans would not be perfect, he chose for one of the beings in his community to come down and live as one of us, and volunteer for the punishment due to each of us for the wrongs we commit. It not only fills the justice requirement, but it allows him to express his perfect love, and overcomes our inevitable imperfections that separate us from him.

There are several items I like about this lens on Christianity and the universe. For one thing, the attributes of God that are fundamental to this worldview are very different than the attributes that different religions try and claim to God, which sets Christianity as clearly apart from other religions, and puts to rest the argument that “all religions are basically the same”. Also, it clearly calls out and explains one of the main questions people typically struggle with: how could God let evil and natural disasters happen? Perhaps the thing I like the most, however, is the extent to which it informs worldview about individual purpose as well as the shape of society – when God created the universe he specifically wanted so many things (such as marriage or the justice system, for example) within it to serve as metaphors for us to learn to understand the relationship he wanted us to have with him. I find there’s a feedback loop of understanding how these systems should be idealized through the Bible as well as understanding aspects of the Bible through these systems.

In The Image Of God

Genesis 1:27 says that humanity was created in God’s image.

For me, the key revelation here is in which definition is used for “man”. Just like in English, “man” can be the singular, the species, the male gender, or the collective members of any of those other definitions. But the reading I find epiphanous is “man” referring to the collective members of the group. The scripture isn’t informing us so much that God has 10 fingers and toes and all that so he made us that way (i.e. the “species” reading, although I’m sure that reading is also valid), but that God is a community of beings working together in perfect harmony, and so he always intended for mankind to be the same way.