Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Augustine and Creatio Ex Nihilo (The Dynamic Energy of God)

Augustine of Hippo writes these words in reference to the creation of the heavens and the earth: "non de ipsa substantia dei sed ex nihilo" (Confessiones XII).

That is, God has not created the material world out of his own substance, but rather from nothing. While I believe that such talk of creation ex nihilo needs to be qualified, there is a fundamental insight contained in Augustine's observation: God does not create the universe from his own substance or being; the Judeo-Christian account of creation rules out pantheism. It thereby seems that the energy mentioned in Einstein's famous equation is not the same "dynamic energy" of Isa 40:26.

The energy that pervades our universe and which is interchangeable with mass can be quantified, measured or tested. Do we want to say that Jehovah's energy can be measured in a quantitative manner or that it is the flip side of mass?

The equation e=mc² means that energy is equal to mass
times the speed of light squared. Of course, we know
that the speed of light (c) is 300,000 km/sec.

Brian Greene writes: "From e=mc², we know that mass
and energy are interchangeable; like dollars and
euros, they are convertible currencies (but unlike
monetary currencies, they have a fixed exchange rate,
given by the speed of light times itself, c²" (The
Fabric of the Cosmos
, page 354).


Philip Fletcher said...

I see your point of view on this energy being measured. I believe the energy it took to create the universe can be measured, however the source of the energy is immeasurable. The amount of energy used isn't infinite, the source is.

Edgar Foster said...

Good points. My post is more of a question than statement, although it may initally seem that I'm staking out my position.

It just seems that Jehovah used his dynamic energy/power to create the material universe which contains a certain kind of energy/mass. I guess the weird part to me is thinking that we can measure or formulate a mathematical equation for Jehovah's energy or holy spirit (i.e., Einstein's equation). How do we measure/quantify something that is not material?


Duncan said...

"Energy" is conceptual, a way the scientists describe the world, behind the energy always stand some physical process. "Energy" is not a substance.. it's like a currency of inter process communications.

That which is defined as "entropy & disorder" is that which extends beyond the human capability to grasp - It is not disordered - Life systems rely on this complexity where it is usually labeled "Resilience through Diversity" & "Resilience through Redundancy".

To even state that we are only dealing with "one kind" or "a kind" of energy, is extremely simplistic.

Edgar Foster said...

Is energy simply/merely conceptual if it is = to mass (etc), per Einstein's theory? Is mass just a way of describing the world also?

Science has nothing to say about the divine energy that created "all things"--including the starry heavens above and the moral law within. :)

Scientists only deal with the energy referenced in Einstein's special relativity theory that is = to mass: they don't even deal with Jehovah's dynamic energy or any other kind, for that matter.

I'd like to talk about the 2nd law of thermodynamics later, but I want to make it clear that I'm not saying there's one kind of energy. To the contrary, it seems that Jehovah created energy of one knind by means of his (uncreated) eternal/everlasting energy.

Duncan said...

One problem is how to frame Isaiah 40:6 in scientific terms.

IMO, many lexicons gloss the meaning of און. Trying to be overly polite.

BDB Definition:
1) vigour, generative power

It's is more like.

Vigor: The power within the belly, or loins, for reproduction or creative work.

In modern Hebrew it usually equates to "reproductive".

Edgar Foster said...

Point granted about expressing ancient biblical language in modern scientific terms. But the Hebrew word doesn't necessarily refer to reproductive/generative power, does it?

Secondly, if we do have an example of generative language, it would appear to be used metaphorically.

Duncan said...

We seem to keep clashing over words but I try not to state the obvious.

Note his concluding comments regarding bdb but that work is being polite and he is not grasping the implications.

I keep trying to demonstrate that the lexicon methods that you prefer just do not work. Each word has a core concrete meaning. Do I really need to parade all the evidences that demonstrate that terms like vigor and power are based on it's core understanding whether it is to add or remove this power.

Metaphorical, absolutely.

Edgar Foster said...


I don't mind clashing over words if the exchange is respectful and productive. It doesn't mean we can't like one another b/c we disagree over some matters.

Lest I be misunderstood, let me first say that I'm not slavishly beholden to any lexicon (Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek-English or Latin). Lexica are tools that contain a wealth of research, but consulting a lexicon is only the beginning for me. I do respect the work that goes into lexicons, but they should be read critically.

In addition to lexica, I like commentaries, monographs, and journal articles that contain word studies. I do not believe that a lexicon is a sufficient condition for grasping the meaning of Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek words.

Do all words have a "core concrete meaning"? That idea has become quite suspect in our time. Words may have meaning potentials, and some terms apparently have no potential denotation at all (syncategorematic terms). Meaning arises from a community of speech users. I'm not too sure about the core meaning idea.

All I'm saying, Duncan, is that words have meanings within determinate contexts. Logos could mean word or reason depending on the context. We cannot just impose a core meaning on words, and ignore literary cotexts.

Edgar Foster said...

The website you reference calls BDB a "theological dictionary," which is wrong since BDB is a lexicon.

Edgar Foster said...

According to Scientific American, entropy quantifies "how dispersed the energy is among the particles in a system, and how diffuse those particles are throughout space. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated."


From another website: "Entropy is a measure of the disorder of a system. That disorder can be represented in terms of energy that is not available to be used. Natural processes will always proceed in the direction that increases the disorder of a system. When two objects are at different temperatures, the combined systems represent a higher sense of order than when they are in equilibrium with each other. The sense of order is associated with the atoms of system A and the atoms of system B being separated by average energy per atom - those of A being the higher energy atoms if system A is at a higher temperature. When they are put in thermal contact, energy flows from the higher average energy system to the lower average energy system to make the energy of the combined system more uniformly distributed - ie, less ordered. So the disorder of the system has increased - and we say the entropy has increased. But the process of increasing the disorder has removed the possibility that the energy that was transferred from A to B can be used for any other purpose - for example, work cannot be extracted from the energy by operating a heat engine between the two reservoirs of different temperatures. So although energy was conserved in the transfer (the first law), the entropy of the universe has increased in becoming more disordered (the second law) and consequently the availability of energy for doing work has decreased."

Killa Jules said...

2 points:

1) The fundamentals in the physical sciences can be notoriously tricky to define. That said, a widely-used and good working definition of energy is "the capacity to perform work" (work being defined as a force being applied over a distance). Recent research also suggests that information, although immaterial is inextricably entwined with the concept of energy,

IN conclusion, 'energy' is so broad a term that it cannot be used to exclude Jehovah or anything else that is normally thought of as being supernatural. The concept of performing work as described above fits Him perfectly. I don't think that there is a barrier between the 'divine' and the 'non-divine' or the 'super-natural' and the 'natural because such a distinction would be both undefined and arbitrary.

When atheists deny the divine and say that all there is is matter and energy, the problem for them is that energy is such a nebulous term that it can conceivably include anything.

2) Entropy is one of the trickiest concepts in all of science. I'm not an expert but the Scientific American's definition seems like the best of the 2 definitions above. Entropy and Disorder can be closely related but this isn't always the case. Entropy has to do with heat and temperature and so it has nothing to do with the disorder of e.g. a well-shuffled stack of cards. However, what complicates matters is the fact that there are concepts about informational and organizational entropy which have nothing to do with heat and are in fact related to 'disorder' as it is most commonly understood.

Edgar Foster said...

It is hard to define or grasp how scientific language is being used by some writers.

I can see how energy could be applicable to Jehovah, but it's difficult to understand how God's energy is what Einstein's formula has in mind, in view of the energy/mass connection there and the empirical focus of e=mc2. Secondly, how we measure (empirically) the work/energy of God is hard to understand. Is his work/energy physical or non-physical?

On the other hand, I've heard one lecturer apply scientific formulas to the work of God or to spiritual entities. His point was that "spiritual" energy is not necessarily excluded by these formulae, and he gives reasons that pretty much reflect yours.

I also looked up a definition for entropy in some of the books from my personal library, and found it defined as "disoder" (John Barrow) or as "probability" (Bolzmann). But we then have to define those terms in order to make sense of it all.


Duncan said...

Sorry about tone, not a good day & it spilled over into my comment.

If the set definition of entropy is as you have mentioned then it is the wrong word to use as it does not fit the facts of a universal closed system and can only be used within very narrow parameters along with the term, heat.

Without this broad spread of the transfer of energy life systems would collapse. It is a core component of resilience.

Philip Fletcher said...

Yes I agree with you about Einstein's equation. It is a lot of speculation, but we would not have a whole lot to go on if Jehovah hadn't spoken about his dynamic energy and what he accomplishes with it in Isaiah. Which brings me to a question to ponder, can we make the connection that his dynamic power is his holy spirit in action, his active force? His holy spirit is unlimited, as it emanates from him we can't measure it because it has no limits.

Edgar Foster said...


Thanks for the apology, but please know that I don't offend easily. I also have to make sure my tone does not cross the line. But as you were saying . . .

Two definitions for entropy that I have found--as stated above--are disorder and probability. But "disorder" has a technical meaning in this context as I understand matters. I should post Barrow and let you/others see how he explains it.

Edgar Foster said...


One advantage to Einstein's theory is that it has been throughly tested. Relativity is one of the best explanations that we have for gravity, space and time. Quantum physics has provided a challenge to classical mechanics, but Einstein's theory has much to commend it. However, I agree that all credit goes to Jehovah, who created all things (Rev. 4:10-11).

The reason I say that God's power is exerted/manifested through his spirit is because of what Acts 10:38; Ephesians 3:16 say. So I want to be clear that I'm not saying his power is his spirit, but that the divine power is exerted through God's pneuma. See also Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8.

All the best!

Edgar Foster said...


I'm not sure how disorder or probability clash with the actual state of a "universal closed system," because physicists do apply the law to the cosmos, though I guess one could debate whether the universe is closed or open.

Does understanding entropy as disorder prohibit a "broad spread of the transfer of energy"? If so, how?

"Definition: Entropy is the quantitative measure of disorder in a system. The concept comes out of thermodynamics, which deals with the transfer of heat energy within a system. Instead of talking about some form of 'absolute entropy,' physicists generally talk about the change in entropy that takes place in a specific thermodynamic process."


Philip Fletcher said...

Wanted to remind you of one of the older Publications. Holy Spirit the Force behind the Coming New Order. This publication really helps us to identify what the Holy Spirit is.

Edgar Foster said...


thank you. I've read that book many times, and used to stay immersed in it. I also loved having conversations with a close friend about that publication's content. Still an excellent work.

I hope my earlier comments were also clear when I cited the scriptures to demonstrate that God's power is exerted through his holy spirit. Of course, the organization defines God's holy spirit as his active force which is used to accomplish his will. That's a little different from Jehovah's power, but we receive his power by means of the holy spirit.