autopsies The Adjustment Bureau
, directed and written by George Nolfi
(Universal Pictures: March 4, 2011).
nto the ever-expanding catalog1
of films predicated on our anxiety about the extent of our free will, enter The Adjustment Bureau
, perhaps the most cerebral and ambivalent of the lot. The film envisions a world in which human action is directed, though not quite determined, by a confluence of chance, free will, and the nearly ubiquitous superintendency of "The Chairman", a quasi-religious, mysterious power that influences human actions through the intervention of a minion of "clerks" who alter circumstances (and occasionally thought patterns) in order to keep the course of human events in line with "The Plan". This is not
, as some have supposed, a film about human pawns and a grandmaster who determines their fate. Rather, The Adjustment Bureau
explores how the course of human events might be guided
by such a master when the chess pieces themselves are free agents pursuing their own ends. As it turns out, this decidedly more difficult endeavor requires constant "caretaking" or "meddling", depending on how you judge such interventions. The film itself remains surprisingly ambivalent toward this state of affairs and offers a provocative and nuanced picture of human agency, of our wills as simultaneously malleable and free. Indeed, the various kinds of interventions in The Adjustment Bureau
provide a backdrop for considering just what should and should not be considered a violation of the will. Finally, though it wisely avoids any explicit religious references, the film portrays a world that bears a striking resemblance to a particular theological proposal
regarding the relationship between God's sovereignty and human free
will, namely open theism.
Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (Macmillan: 2007), pp. 180, 185.
The concept of a universe materializing out of nothing boggles the mind. What exactly is meant by "nothing"? If this "nothing" could tunnel into something, what could have caused the primary tunneling event? And what about energy conservaton? ... The initial state prior to the tunneling is a universe of vanishing radius, that is, no universe at all. There is no matter and no space in this very peculiar state. Also, there is no time. Time has meaning only if something is happening in the universe. We measure time using periodic processes, like the rotation of the Earth about its axis, or its motion around the Sun. In the absence of space and matter, time is impossible to define. ¶ And yet the state of "nothing" cannot be identified with absolute nothingness. The tunneling is described by the laws of quantum mechanics, and thus "nothing" should be subjected to these laws. The laws must have existed, even though there was no universe. ... A quantum fluctuation of the vacuum assumes that there was a vacuum of some pre-existing space. And we now know that the "vacuum" is very different from "nothing". Vacuum, or empty space, has energy and tension, it can bend a warp, so it is unquestionably something. As Alan Guth wrote, “In this context, a proposal that the universe was created from empty space is no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one would still want to ask where the piece of rubber came from."
The Realm of the Nebulae (Yale University Press: 1936), pp. 6, 202.
Research men attempt to satisfy their curiosity, and are accustomed to use any reasonable means that may assist them toward the receding goal. One of the few universal characteristics is a healthy skepticism toward unverified speculations. These are regarded as topics for conversation until tests can be devised. Only then do they attain the dignity of subjects for investigation. ... With increasing distance our knowledge fades and fades rapidly. Eventually we reach the dim boundary, the utmost limits of our telescope. There we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurements for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation.
Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe (Basic Books: 2000), p. 145.
Cosmologists sometimes claim that the universe can arise "from nothing". But they should watch their language, especially when addressing philosophers. We've realised ever since Einstein that empty space can have a structure such that it can be warped and distorted. Even if shrunk down to a "point", it is latent with particles and forces — still a far richer construct than the philosopher's "nothing". Theorists may, some day, be able to write down fundamental equations governing physical reality. But physics can never explain what "breathes fire" into the equations, and actualised them into a real cosmos. The fundamental question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?" remains the province of philosophers
William Hayes Ward, "What i Believe and Why — Eleventh Paper", in The Independent, Volume 79 (Independent Publications, Inc.: July 27, 1914), pp. 126-7.
We know the world of existences and forces under three forms, that of
matter, that of life, and that of thought. In preceding articles I have
indicated how the world of matter and the world of life appear to me
to bear witness to a superior Intelligence which has created or guided
them. I now come to consider whether the world of thought has a similar
origin, or has merely grown, in an evolutionary way, out of the worlds
of matter and life. ¶ The forces of matter, life and thought are totally diverse from each
other. Life is a phenomenon of tremendous significance. It marks an
absolutely different stage in the operation of nature. Physical forces
can give us rocks, mountains, continents, rivers, oceans, winds,
lightning and rain, and their continued operation would reduce the
earth to a degradation of morass and sea. But life brings a new force
which fights physical forces, produces forms vegetable and animal,
which operate and direct to their own ends all physical forces and
exercize a dominance over them. But there is a third stage in the
operations of nature. As organic life is of a different order from
inert matter, so mind is of yet another order from either, and vastly
higher than they. With the animal kingdom there came in mind, not
possest by the physical elements, and no more by the vegetable kingdom.
It is, in some degree, a characteristic of all animal life. The lowest
forms have intelligence enough to feel for their food. As higher forms
appear they learn to avoid danger, to search abroad for their
sustenance, to swim, to fly, to run, till conscious reason appears in
man and is supreme over the course of nature.
A practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians In the Higher and Middle Classes in this country Contrasted with Real Christianity, paraphrase (William Collins: 1833, orig. 1829), pp. 10-11.
In an age wherein it is confessed and lamented that infidelity abounds,
do we observe in them any remarkable care to instruct their children in
the principles of the faith which they profess, and to furnish them
with arguments for the defence of it? They would blush, on their
child's coming out into the world, to think him defective in any branch
of that knowledge, or of those accomplishments which belong to his
station in life, and accordingly these are cultivated with becoming
assiduity. But he is left to collect his religion as he may; the study
of Christianity has formed no part of his education, and his attachment
to it (where any attachment to it exists at all) is, too often, not the
preference of sober reason, but merely the result of early prejudice
and groundless prepossession. He was born in a Christian country, of
course he is a Christian; his father was a member of the church of
England, so is he. When such is the hereditary religion handed down
from generation to generation, it cannot surprise us to observe young
men of sense and spirit beginning to doubt altogether of the truth of
the system in which they have been brought up, and ready to abandon a
station which they are unable to defend. Knowing Christianity chiefly
in the difficulties which it contains, and in the impossibilities,
which are falsely imputed to it, they fall perhaps into the company of
infidels; and, as might be expected, they are shaken by frivolous
objections and profane cavils, which, had they been grounded and
bottomed in reason and argument, would have passed by them "as the idle
wind," and scarcely have seemed worthy of serious notice.
N.T. Wright (HarperOne: March 1, 2011), 224 pages.
But what does scripture say?” That question has echoed through a thousand debates in the life of the worldwide church. All churches have officially endorsed strong statements about the centrality of scripture and its authority in their mission, life, doctrine, and discipline. But there is no agreement on what this might mean or how it might work in practice. Individuals and churches struggle with how to respond to issues such as war, homosexuality, and abortion, and especially how to interpret biblical passages that discuss these topics. These disagreements often serve to undermine our confidence in the authority of the Bible. Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on how to read the Bible today, restoring scripture as a place to find God’s voice. In this revised and expanded edition of the previously titled book The Last Word, Wright provides two case studies that delve into what it means to keep Sabbath and how Christians can defend marital monogamy. These studies offer not only bold biblical insights but also showcase Wright’s new model for how to interpret scripture and restore its role as the church’s main resource for teaching and guidance. Removing the baggage that the last 100 years of controversy and confusion have placed on this doctrine, Wright renews our confidence in the Bible and shows how it can once again serve as the living Word of God for our lives. ~ Product Description
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 93-95, 96.
I confess to you, Sir, I never liked this continual talk of resistance and revolution, or the practice of making the extreme medicine of the constitution its daily bread. It renders the habit of society dangerously valetudinary: it is taking periodical doses of mercury sublimate, and swallowing down repeated provocatives of cantharides to our love of liberty. ¶
This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, relaxes and wears out, by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring of that spirit which is to be exerted on great occasions. ... In the ordinary state of things, it produces in a country like ours the worst effects, even on the cause of that liberty which it abuses with the dissoluteness of an extravagant speculation. Almost all the high-bred republicans of my time have, after a short space, become the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers; they soon left the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical resistance to those of us whom, in the pride and intoxication of their theories, they have slighted, as not much better than tories. Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. But even in cases where rather levity than fraud was to be suspected in these ranting speculations, the issue has been much the same. These professors, finding their extreme principles not applicable to cases which, call only for a qualified, or, as I may say, civil, and legal resistance, in such cases employ no resistance at all. It is with them a war or a revolution, or it is nothing. Finding their schemes of politics not adapted to the state of the world in which they live, they often come to think lightly of all public principle; and are ready, on their part, to abandon for a very trivial interest what they find of very trivial value. Some indeed are of more steady and persevering natures; but these are eager politicians out of parliamient, who have little to tempt them to abandon their favourite projects. They have some change in the church or state, or both, constantly in their view. When that is the case, they are always bad citizens, and perfectly unsure connexions. For, considering their speculative designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement of the state as of no estimation, they are at best indifferent about it. They see no merit in the good, and no fault in the vicious management of public affairs; they rather rejoice in the latter, as more propitious to revolution. They see no merit or demerit in any man, or any action, or any political principle, any further than as they may forward or retard their design of change: they therefore take up, one day, the most violent stretched prerogative, and another the wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from the one to the other without any sort of regard to cause, to person, or to party. ... Plots, massacres, assassinations, seem to some people a trivial price for obtaining a revolution. A cheap, bloodless reformation, a guiltless liberty appear flat and vapid to their taste. There must be a great change of scene; there must be a magnificent stage effect; there must be a grand spectacle to rouze the imagination, grown torpid with the lazy enjoyment of sixty years security, and the still unanimating repose of public prosperity.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 88-92.
One of the first motives to civil society, and which becomes one of its fundamental rules, is, that no man should be judge in his own cause. By this each person has at once divested himself of the first fundamental right of uncovenanted man, that is, to judge for himself, and to assert his own cause. He abdicates all right to be his own governor. He inclusively, in a great measure, abandons the right of self-defence, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain justice he gives up his right of determining what it is in points the most essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it. ¶ Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do
exist in total independence of it; and exist in much greater clearness,
and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract
perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to every thing
they want every thing. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to
provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be
provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the
want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their
passions. Society requires not only that the passions of
individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body as
well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently
be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into
subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves; and
not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those
passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the
restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among
their rights. But as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times
and circumstances, and admit of infinite modifications, they cannot be
settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss
them upon that principle.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 86-87.
Whilst they are possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed form of a constitution, whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience, and an increasing public strength and national prosperity. They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men; and as for the rest, they have wrought underground a mine that will blow up at one grand explosion all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have "the rights of men". Against these there can be no prescription; against these no agreement is binding: these admit no temperament, and no compromise: any thing withheld from their full demand is so much of fraud and injustice. Against these their rights of men let no government look for security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice and lenity of its administration. The objections of these speculatists, if its forms do not quadrate with their theories, Are as valid against such an old and beneficent government as against the most violent tyranny, or the greenest usurpation. They are always at issue with governments, not on a question of abuse, but a question of competency, and a question of title. I have nothing to say to the clumsy subtilty of their political metaphysics. Let them be their amusement in the schools. — "Ilia se jactet in aula — Æolus, et "clauso ventorum carcere regnet." — But let them not break prison to burst like a Levanter, to sweep the earth with their hurricane, and to break up the fountains of the great deep to overwhelm us. ¶ Far am I from denying in theory; full as far is my heart from
withholding in practice (if I were of power to give or to withhold) the
real rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those which are real, and are such as
their pretended rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made;
for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made
become his right. It is an institution of beneficence; and law itself
is only beneficence acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that
rule; they have a right to justice; as between their fellows, whether
their fellows are in politic function or in ordinary occupation. They
have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of
making, their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions
of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their
offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death.
Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others,
he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion
of all which society, with all its combinations of skill, and force,
can do in his favour. But as to the share of power, authority, and
direction which, each individual ought to have in the management of
the state, that I must deny to be amongst the direct original rights of
man in civil society; for I have in my contemplation the civil social
man, and no other.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 43-4.
The speculative line of demarcation, where obedience ought to end, and resistance must begin, is faint, obscure, and not easily definable. It is not a single act, or a single event, which determines it. Governments must be abused and deranged indeed, before it can be thought of; and the prospect of the future must be as bad as the experience of the past. When things are in that lamentable condition, the nature of the disease is to indicate the remedy to those whom nature has qualified to administer in extremities this critical, ambiguous, bitter potion to a distempered state. Times, and occasions, and provocations, will teach their own lessons. The wise will determine from the gravity of the case; the irritable from sensibility to oppression; the high-minded from disdain and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands; the brave and bold from the love of honourable danger in a generous cause : but, with or without right, a revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 49-54, 72-74.
Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts, to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences,
and titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on the
principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men; on
account of their age; and on account of those from whom they are
descended. All your sophisters cannot produce any thing better adapted
to preserve a rational and manly freedom than the course that we have
pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our
breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and
magazines of our rights and privileges.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 29-30.
A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risque the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve. The two principles of conservation and correction operated strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and Revolution, when England found itself without a king. At both those periods the nation had lost the bond of union in their antient edifice; they did not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On the contrary, in both cases they regenerated the deficient part of the old constitution through the parts which were not impaired. They kept these old parts exactly as they were, that the part recovered might be suited to them. They acted by the ancient organized states in the shape of their old organization, and not by the organic moleculæ of a disbanded people.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 13-14.
Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in this political sermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character, to assume what does not belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave, and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 11-12.
All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every thing seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies. In viewing this monstrous tragi-comic scene, the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror. ¶ It cannot however be denied, that to some this strange scene appeared in quite another point of view. Into them it inspired no other sentiments than those of exultation and rapture. They saw nothing in what has been done in France, but a firm and temperate exertion of freedom; so consistent, on the whole, with morals and with piety, as to make it deserving not only of the secular applause of dashing Machiavelian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for all the devout effusions of sacred eloquence.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 15-6.
It is somewhat remarkable that this reverend divine should be so earnest for setting up new churches, and so perfectly indifferent concerning the doctrine which may be taught in them. His zeal is of a curious character. It is not for the propagation of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for the diffusion of truth, but for the spreading of contradiction. Let the noble teachers but dissent, it is no matter from whom or from what.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 112-8.
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, — glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and splendor, and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what an heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream that, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. — But the age of chivalry is gone. — That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprize is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 7-9.
I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that society, be he who he will ... But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good; yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without enquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon its freedom? Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to congratulate an highwayman and murderer, who has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the scene of, the criminals condemned to the gallies, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphysic Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.
There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves (E.P. Dutton: 1970), Introduction.
I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know — unless it be to share our laughter. ¶ We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love. ¶ For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.
Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace, ed. Robert Stewart (Augsburg Fortress: February 2011), 224 pages.
This volume highlights points of agreement and disagreement between two leading scholars on the subject of the textual reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of the best-selling book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, and Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. This conversation between Ehrman and Wallace allows the reader to see in print how each presents his position in light of the other's. Contributions follow from an interdisciplinary team featuring specialists in biblical studies, philosophy, and theology. The textual reliability of the New Testament is logically prior to its interpretation and thus important for the Christian religion. This book provides interested readers a fair and balanced case for both sides and allows them to decide for themselves: What does it mean for a text to be textually reliable? How reliable is the New Testament? How reliable is reliable enough? ~ Product Description