Saturday, May 30, 2015

God's Glory as a Function of Everything

What is the meaning of life?  Any Bible-believing Christian would say: "To bring God the most glory."  Okay.  Great.  The meaning of life, our purpose in this universe, the reason everything happens the way it does, is to bring the most glory possible to the God who created us.  I like that, I really do.  It makes sense, it provides a convenient and satisfying explanation to why confusing things happen, it establishes a greater good.  Perfect.
Now.  The most glory.  What does that mean?  Rather, what does that imply?  It's a truly profound question!  Including the word "most" implies a comparison.  This brings God this much glory, whereas that brings God that much glory, and this much is greater than that much.  It implies that glory is quantifiable-- if it wasn't, there would be no this much and that much, there would be no most.  But there is.  Therefore, if we accept that we exist to maximize glory, then we must accept that glory is some value that can be changed, increased or decreased-- it's a variable.  It's a variable in a function that takes into account everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen.  God's glory can be expressed as a function of everything.  Of course, we couldn't hope to solve this equation, but I deal with all kinds of functions that I can't solve.  It's not really about the solution-- we leave that to the computers.  It's about what the function says about the system it describes.

Okay.  Let's break this down.  We have an expression.  Our expression is "God's glory as a function of everything."  What are we trying to do?  We're trying to find a maximum.  This is no surprise!  Mathy people do this all the time.  I can't remember the last time I looked for anything other than a minimum or a maximum in an interesting equation.  This is because extrema imply a state of equilibrium, a static point where the function is happy.  I hope you're tracking.

How do we find a maximum?  We look at the rate of change (the derivative for you math nerds), and when that rate of change is zero, the function is at an extrema.  With some more mathematical voodoo, we can determine whether it's a minimum or a maximum, but I won't bore you with those details.  The point is that it's possible!

So where are we now?  The purpose of our existence is to bring God the most glory.  Glory is quantifiable.  God's glory can be expressed as a function of everything.  We can find the maximum of this function.  Good.  But what does this maximum represent?  It shows the discrete values of our independent variables at which our dependent variable, God's glory, reaches its greatest value.  In English, it describes a reality, a past, a present, and a future, in which God receives the most glory possible.  Now things are getting interesting.
What happens if we have multiple absolute maxima?  From a mathematical perspective, this means that there exist multiple values for our independent variables for which God's glory will be maximized.  That's straightforward enough, but what is our physical interpretation of this?  There can be multiple realities in which God receives a maximum amount of glory.  This might not seem that interesting at first, but this idea could go in two directions from here.  Theologically, it could be an exploration of free will manifested in mathematics.  Physically, it could be an explanation of the Multiverse Theory from a religious perspective.  We'll glance at both.

Free will.  Age old.  Often debated.  Never resolved.  My belief is that absolute sovereignty cannot coexist peacefully with free will the way most people define it.  However, the question of sovereignty aside, this whole maximization thing is a pretty elegant solution to a few of the other issues people have with free will.  How can God receive the most glory if we have any control over our destiny?  Wouldn't one shift in the independent variables cause a deviation from the maximum we talked about?  Well, anyone who has worked with differential equations knows that small perturbations about the extrema won't necessarily cause a shift from equilibrium, but the conclusion that we can draw from our exploration is that even a large deviation can drop us off at another absolute maximum, assuming the existence of multiple global extrema.  Long story short, if multiple absolute maxima exist in the function for God's glory, then it's possible that we could still bring God the most glory even with the flexibility to make our own decisions.
The second path relates to the theory of multiple universes, the Multiverse Theory.  Honestly, it doesn't quite fit, but perhaps many realities exist, each of which plays out to God's ultimate, maximum glory, and rather than making choices, all possible permutations of our decisions are played out on different stages.  I'm no supporter of the idea that multiple realities exist, and I'm pretty sure that the Multiverse Theory describes a system where all of the different universes have different physical laws.  It's the Multiverse Theory, after all, not the Parallel Universe Theory.  But it's still interesting to think about the theory as an explanation for multiple possible maxima of the function I described earlier.

Whew!  So a brief summary.  God's glory can be expressed as a function of everything, and reality is described by that function at its maximum.  This gets more complicated when multiple absolute maxima exist, but the implications of this complication provide some pretty convenient parallels to existing theories of both religion and physics.

And then I found five dollars.