by Arnold Jagt – written in response to George Gilder’s statements in First Glimpses of the Book After Telecosm in Speaking of George Gilder by Frank Gregorsky.
- What makes a scientist or inventor or innovator shout “Eureka!” and what is the theological significance of it?
- What do math and Scripture have in common?
The theology of science has its center in eucatastrophic presuppositionalism.
Eucatastrophe had its etymological genesis with J.R.R. Tolkien – no friend of science and technology (turn of the century industrialism did not recommend itself to him) but a great subcreator. He appreciated the “creator” aspect of God and saw man’s highest calling as emulating this aspect of God. It is a great thing, of course, and beyond our comprehension in many ways. However Tolkien did discover a crucial characteristic of the “theme” of creation, of the creator (Illuvator in his book The Silmarillion) as the purpose for it. As a philologist, since there was not an adequate word to describe it, he synthesized “eucatastrophe” – the good, unlooked for, complete overturning of everything.
The Greeks were great connoisseurs of dyscatastrophe as expressed in their Tragedies (the true form of Drama) – especially Oedipus Rex. Tolkien countered with his Middle Earth fairy story. Tolkien explains this all in an essay, “On Fairy-Stories” to Charles Williams in a hard to find book of Essays Presented to Charles Williams edited by C.S. Lewis with contributions by each of the “Inklings.” There are also clues in the Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien. I quote from “On Fairy-Stories” (where he says fairy-story or fantasy think discovery or the act of invention):
The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’ (for there is not true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce extremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist’ or ‘ fugitive’. In its fairy-tale – or otherworld – setting, it is sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give a child or man that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of breath, a beat and lifting of he heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality…..In such stories when the sudden ‘turn’ comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.
Seven long years I served for thee,
The glassy hill I clamb for thee,
The bluidy shirt I wrang for thee,
And wilt thou not wauken and turn to me?
He heard and turned to her.
[The Black Bull of Norroway]
In the Epilogue he continues:
This ‘joy’ which I have selected as the mark of the true fairy-story (or romance), or as the seal upon it, merits more consideration…. in the ‘eucatastrophe’ we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater – it may be a far off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. I am a Christian, and so at least should not be suspected of wilful irreverence. Knowing my own ignorance and dullness, it is perhaps presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling ( a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels – peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality’. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find is true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or wrath.It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement ands joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try to conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard in unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. Because this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends: it has hallowed them, especially the ‘happy ending’. The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know. p.81-84
Tolkien spent his whole life creating the second greatest story ever told – The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion with all kinds of gems strewn along the way in the Unfinished Tales and the series edited by his son Christopher Tolkien.
The eucatastrophe is expressed in three main ways:
- in creation and its ongoing history
- in the life of Christ
- in your own personal life as a Christian
with the eucatastrophic event in all three being the resurrection of Christ.
So there are two themes vying for men’s hearts: the dyscatastrophe with its highest role being that of the tragic queen (aka Oedipus Rex) and the eucatastrophe with its role of joyous creator and savior (Christ).
In order to create successfully, Tolkien first invented or resurrected and extended old Nordic languages and then wrote stories (really epics) around them. Thus vocabularies, lexicons, and language in general are crucial to successful subcreation. But the heart of it is the eucatastrophe, which is close to the heart of the character of God.
This is what made Christianity give rise to invention and innovation once it was freed at the Reformation. Gutenberg invented the press to publish the Bible. Of course without Gutenberg’s press the reformation would not have gotten off he ground. The first reformers where just hanging on by their finger nails in England and a bunch took refuge in Switzerland which, thanks to its topology, could tell Rome where to go. The English speaking Calvinists at Geneva translated (although not from original sources) the Bible into English with the Geneva Bible of 1599 – with not very tyrant friendly margin notes. This gave the pervert James II fits in England so he commissioned a more tyrant friendly version to be translated and thus we have the Authorized King James version of the Bible and thus Christians who are tolerant of high taxes and tyranny. The answer to this is national covenanting (aka the “Covenanters”) where a nation or jurisdiction pledges its allegiance to Christ as King. You know this has happened when you have theonomy, the rule of God’s law (highly decentralized of course).
[Calvin was driven from France which later killed all the Calvinists (Huguenot’s) there which is why they are still in the death grip of socialism/Muslim takeover today, turning over their kids to state institutions at age 3!]
But I have to explain presuppositionalism first and for that I have to go back to topology in history.
The indolent cultures can be found where you have a kind of “natural” welfare system: the climate is warm and the food grows on the trees without cultivation, etc.. The opposite would be a place where you have to constantly exercise dominion over nature in order to live.
In Bangladesh, whenever a cyclone hits millions of people die due to the sea coming in over the low land. In the Netherlands they said, “No way” to the sea and built dikes to keep it out. But it took constant effort and vigilance to maintain them. This created a fertile mindset for an anti-welfare attitude to grow in. So Calvinism flourished in Holland. They were also recipients of lots persecuted reformers from England and France. Eventually, just as France evolved into socialism and perfected it (giving rise to most of the truly vicious tyrants in modern history from Lenin to Pol Pot as well as exporting it to the US via emigration) so Holland evolved its Calvinism to the point where they attempted to create a distinctly Christian government at the turn of the century with Abraham Kuyper.
This effort was brought down by the same ball and chain that has dogged Christendom since the beginning: the myth of neutrality. The myth of neutrality has the non-Christian saying to the Christian, “We are both reasonable people, let us find common ground, and go from there.” The trick is that there is no common ground between them so the Christian ends up compromised.
But lots of Dutch immigrated to America where they where more free to develop their theology without the deadly influences eviscerating it in Holland. So Cornelius Van Til (A Christian Theory of Knowledge) was able to develop presuppositionalism which he coined to say,
Man cannot think apart from assuming the existence of God; he can only suppress this assumption, he cannot escape it.
In reading Van Til, R.J. Rushdoony (he wrote The Messianic Character of American Education among many other things and helped start the homeschool movement) developed Christian Reconstruction which gave rise to theonomy and Dr. Greg Bahnsen who best understood and articulated the implications of presuppositionalism. One of the most thrilling articulations of that understanding that I know of can be found in his recorded debate [The Great Debate: Does God Exist? with Dr. Gordon Stein, formerly America’s greatest atheist apologist and supposed rationalist. It would be best to listen to it. I will do my best to articulate some of the thought it gave rise to.
Math, logic, and Scripture share many of the same attributes. All are absolutely true everywhere and always. They do not need to be tested in different times and places in order to be depended on or proven. They all are rigorous and absolute. [The evolutionist faith in the speed of light as a constant – an absolute – is false. The speed of light was formerly many orders of magnitude faster than it is now and it is probably still slowing down. It may speed up again in the future – we do not know. This is why the light from distance stars is arriving at the same time as light from much closer stars (the light from each is the same age). Neither is time a constant but is relative to gravity. Thus creation is 6,000 to 10,000 years old relative to the Earth (were revelation took place) – not relative to stars millions of light years away.] The only difference between math and scripture is that one is revealed in creation where we have to dig it out and the other is revealed to us and delivered in words straight from the Creator. Both require the assumption of the existence of the God of the Bible.
So, eucatastrophic presuppositionalism gives rise to God glorifying, life-giving science and innovation. The point of it all is to reflect God’s glory back to Him by working to roll back the Adamic curse on creation by the power of Christ’s resurrection.
So, the fact that:
- a kernel of corn is born and then matures, then is buried in the cold, dark, wet ground to be reborn as a whole plant with hundreds of kernels growing in the warm sun
- a child will only tolerate (love) a story with a happy (eucatastrophic) ending
- a scientist/innovator shouts “Eureka!” when he makes his discovery
all share the same reflection of God’s character we have in Christ’s resurrection.