Thursday, April 30, 2015

Praying to a Non-physical God (PrayerLife)

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Physicalism is the belief that all facts are physical facts. Most intellectual atheists are physicalists. 

Physicalism has its problems. It is unable to account for consciousness and free will. On physicalism, free will does not exist, which I find absurd. (See, e.g., J.P. Moreland's critique of physicalism here, and here.) 

Not all atheists are physicalists. See, for example, NYU philosopher Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel's point regarding consciousness is that a physicalist (materialist) view of the natural world does not only not account for consciousness, but positively excludes consciousness. Nagel sums his book up by saying that the physical sciences, as wonderful as they are, cannot - even in principle - "provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality as well — that physics can aspire finally to be a theory of everything."

I believe (and reason) that non-physical realities (like consciousness and free will) exist. Among them include God. God is an immaterial, therefore non-physical, Being. This has implications, and affects how I pray.

I am made in God's image. There are things about me that are God-like. John Calvin, at the beginning of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, wrote:

"No man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts 
towards the God in whom he lives and moves; 
because it is perfectly obvious, 
that the endowments which we possess 
cannot possibly be from ourselves."

(Quoted in J.P. Moreland, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism, 4)

I have a soul, a mind, consciousness, and free will. I am not a purely physical thing. In this sense I am like God. This is the point of contact between me and God. Just as God transcends physical reality, so do I. When I pray, I do so as an image-bearer. This is where I stand in relation to God. Moreland writes: "An entity can stand in certain relations and not others depending on the sort of thing it is." (Ib.)

I, and you, and all human beings, are a certain sort of thing that is inherently non-physical. "I" cannot be reduced to mere matter. When I pray, my non-physical spirit interacts with Non-physical God. God is not limited by physical constraints, therefore neither am I (think of Paul, praying while in prison chains). 

God is present to me now as I pray. 

See also:

Praying to an Everlasting God (Prayer Summer 2014)