Ground of FaithThe Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism and Experience Together

June 2008

**Cyclone Nargis, China's earthquake and Theodicy**

Editors: The Rev. Michael Cocks and The Rev. Victor MacGill


Editor: “Theodicy”

The New York Times (2008/04/20) exposes the Hydra that is the Pentagon.

Nate Cull: The semiotics of the Cross

Light Relief

crème that egg


Nate Cull: The wonderful thought of Leibnitz on the Monad.

Celebrating Pentecost

Spirit as water, wind, fire and earth's healer

by Steve Taylor

The third act of an eternal play can be seen in the garden

David Round in The Christchurch Press. May 2008

Book Review by Sjoerd Bonting
Person, Grace, and God
by Philip A. Rolnick


Rev Rob Smith and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)

Nobel Prize Winner Discusses Mediumship Research

An “interview” with Dr Charles Richet

By Mike Tymn

Dead Pilot Tells How He Died: The Endeavor Mystery

Mike Tymn

Victor Zammit

Boundary Institute
for the Study of Foundations


TheodicyTheodicy: "A vindication of God's holiness and justice in countenancing the existence of evil in the established order of things" (Univ. Dictionary)

In this issue there is a discussion of a chapter in Leibnitz's Theodicy  called The Monadology [trans. Nigel Latta] where Leibnitz distinguishes between necessary truths (logical ones, like 2+2=4, by definition)  and contingent truths

"or truths of fact, that is to say, for the sequence or connexion of the things which are dispersed throughout the universe of created beings, in which the analyzing into particular reasons might go on into endless detail, because of the immense variety of things in nature and the infinite division of bodies. There is an infinity of present and past forms and motions which go to make up the efficient cause of my present writing; and there is an infinity of minute tendencies and dispositions of my  soul which go to make its final cause"
These words  sum up the complexity of what is  involved in thinking theologically.  One of the issues involves our understanding of the word "God".  To look at Leibnitz's understanding of God as a Monad: Nate Cull summarises,

"There’s also a huge lot of stuff here that links with the recurring philosophical worldview described by people with near-death and afterlife experiences: that God is intimately involved with the tiniest details of our lives, and is in fact somehow ‘wired in’ to the very fabric of the universe - a fabric which is not necessarily primarily physical but mental."

In this June issue, when we read David Round's beautiful writing about the garden, we will have no problem in accepting such intimate involvement of God, in accepting that all that is, is infused with his Spirit; similarly with Steve Taylor's piece on Spirit.  But when we consider the recent Chinese earthquake, or the plight of the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, or the article, "The hydra that is the Pentagon",  are we prepared to see the intimate involvement of God here, or in countless other examples of corporate evil from which individuals find it impossible to extricate themselves?

In his meditation on the Cross, Nate, focusing on such evil, sees the world as sharing in Christ's crucifixion.   But he agrees with Leibnitz, and sees all taking place within the Monad that is God. So he ends on a note of faith,

    (Christ) wanted to be present in the world in order to be present in our lives as a counterforce to that suffering. Which is a role He continues in today.  

No doubt he would agree with Leibnitz that with contingent truth that is multifaceted, and where there is lack of knowledge of all things, "the disposition of my soul" is also involved.  Nate chooses in all this to respond to the eternal presence of Christ.

In his review, Sjoerd Bonting represents Philip Rolnick as making a similar choice,
"The human personality is given in the imago Dei through the grace of God, which is the way God gives us himself."   "Each person is a history, being written in the unfolding actualization of their lives, which follows from the 'goodness' of creation".

Rolnick appears to mirror the optimism of  Leibnitz, or a belief in the eternal presence of Christ., perhaps with the faith, that out of apparent evil good may come.  Consider these words of Leibnitz:
    62. Thus, although each created Monad represents the whole universe, it represents more distinctly the body which specially pertains to it, and of which it is the entelechy; and as this body expresses the     whole  universe through the connexion of all matter in the plenum, the soul also represents the whole universe in representing this body, which belongs to it in a special way. (Theod. 400.)

We are reminded of William Blake's  "To see the World in a Grain of Sand,  And Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand, and Eternity in an hour" .  Leibnitz's Theodicy, his assertion of this being "the best of all possible worlds" (mocked by Voltaire in his Candide) has some weight when we look at reality from the point of view he shares with Blake... and Rolnick... and Nate, when he sees behind the evil and suffering of the world, Christ.

    What about  the fun with "crème that egg"? It is a reminder that lightheartedness and fun also have their place, in our learning to love and to be spiritual.

The New York Times (2008/04/20) exposes the Hydra that is the Pentagon.

[In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra (Greek: Λερναία Ὕδρα) was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast that possessed numerous heads— the poets mention more heads than the vase-painters could paint— and poisonous breath (Hyginus, 30). The Hydra of Lerna was killed by Hercules as one of his Twelve Labours – Wikipedia]

The following article is included not so much as a study of the rights and wrongs of the war in Iraq, but as one of countless examples of  the apparent evil in which we all share and cannot escape. We ask, where is God in this?

Interactive feature:

PentagonIn the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

Read the rest of this article

Black crossNate Cull: The semiotics of the Cross: a meditation

See Nate's blog:

Christ wanted to be present in the world in order to be present in our lives as a counterforce to that suffering. Which is a role He continues in today.      And somehow thinking of this - which is to say, thinking of us - was an antidote to the fear.”

What does the Cross mean?

The Cross is a terrifying thing to me: the symbol of everything that is broken, twisted, and wrong in the human heart, human society, and the universe in which we live. It is a human thing, the product of one specific culture, but the message it sends is universal. It is a made thing, a social construction, but it relies for its power on built-in weaknesses in the human body: our mortality, thrown up in our own face. This is the way the world is. It breaks you.

The Cross is the symbol of violent death. There is no way to make this pretty or attractive or healthy or life-giving. It would be like dressing a swastika up in roses. Crucifixion is a thing people used to do to one another in order to bring the roughest kind of ‘justice’ to the earth, and we still do much the same thing only with different methods.

. Read on...    

Light Relief

Rube Goldberg[Alarm clock by Rube Goldberg]

crème that egg

Joseph Herscher, an Auckland NZ student, has created a real life Rube Goldberg gadget. Here it is on YouTube as presented on New Zealand TV


LeibnitzNate Cull: The wonderful thought of Leibnitz on the Monad.

 Thoughts (in his blog In the Cult Lane) on a chapter entitled :The Monadology from The Theodicy by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz  and translated by Robert Latta .[Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal, 1710]  The chapter on The Monadology can be found at

There’s also a huge lot of stuff here that links with the recurring philosophical world-view described by people with near-death and afterlife experiences: that God is intimately involved with the tiniest details of our lives, and is in fact somehow ‘wired in’ to the very fabric of the universe - a fabric which is not necessarily primarily physical but mental. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and I have to fight the temptation to quote the entire thing, because I think Leibniz here came pretty close to cracking some fundamental ideas about cybernetics, biomechanics, complexity theory and spirituality which we still struggle with today:” Read the whole essay and its quotes from Leibnitz

 Steve TaylorCelebrating Pentecost

Spirit as water, wind, fire and earth's healer

by Steve Taylor

Senior pastor of the Opawa Baptist church, Christchurch NZ

Outside my window is a wooden fence. On wet winter mornings I wake to the steady drip of my overflowing gutter. One day, unable to sleep, I got up and went seeking the source of this noisy drip. I discovered that the gutter dripped onto my wooden fence. Climbing up, I saw a two centimetre hollow in the wood.

This is the power of water. A drop at a time, the hardness of our lives is eroded by the love of the Spirit of God.

The Bible has a number of images of Spirit as water. Nicodemus must be "born through water and the Holy Spirit" while in Isaiah and Joel, the Spirit is to be poured out on all. Like water, the Spirit is to immerse us in the grace of God.

The Spirit like water has also been a helpful image for Christian growth throughout church history. The early church cried:

Wash what is unclean

Water what is arid

Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) Read on . . . <>

The third act of an eternal play can be seen in the garden

  David RoundDavid Round in The Christchurch Press. May 2008

David Round is a sixth-generation South Islander, born and educated in Christchurch. He currently teaches environmental law and issues in legal philosophy at the University of Canterbury. He is also a keen tramper and amateur naturalist.

I have been rambling in my garden. The gingkoes are butter yellow, the pin oaks scarlet, the claret ash already half bare.

The garden is not tidy, but in the country one can get away with a little less discipline. Visitors tell me how beautiful it is, which is very kind of them, but I do not believe them. There is never enough time to garden thoroughly. Still, perhaps they have a point. Gardeners tend only to see weeds where guests see flowers.

No gardener, though, can live by weed-hatred alone. Gardening, like other pursuits, requires understanding. You have to commit yourself to this piece of land, to think what you would like it to be, to understand what the land itself wishes to become. You must love what you do. If you do not, then you only do the minimum; and, inevitably doing even less than that, without understanding or sympathy, and probably at the wrong time, the cultivated land “reels back into the beast”.

Gardeners would not be gardeners, then, unless they had known rewards and revelations. The vegetable garden fills us with solid satisfaction. We look at our shrubbery and suddenly realise that it is just as good as some of the photos we see in books. The growth of gardeners can be chartered around moments when the scales fall from our eyes and for the first time we see some plant we have ignored or despised for years in a completely new light – to see it, in fact, as it really is. Beyond that there are moments of pure simple beauty, when we catch a scent or look into a flower and see heaven.

Even atheists, surely, must have such moments, not, perhaps, exactly like the ecstatic rapture with which our stern ancestors became aware of their own sinfulness and the blessed abundance of saving grace, but some half-doubted glimpse of eternity.

A sunset, a line of poetry, a melody, and we sense there is so much more than we know, so tantalisingly close to us, but eluding all but the proper seeker. With youthful insensitivity I used to think that praise of autumn colours was a very shallow, hackneyed sentiment. It may be, but every year the woods' decay and fall seems more wonderful, just as the awakening of life after frozen months is wonderful.


  Photo: Geoff Hitchcock  

The astronomical and physical reasons for the seasons only put the mystery a step back. I looked at the shadbush in its autumn glory and thought that I had never seen such a thing before.

Autumn is the third act of an eternal play. The Shropshire lad walked under the wild cherries in bloom because he was already 20, and only 50 times more could he see the cherries hung with snow. How often will we again see the fall? The dying leaves are an end, but also the promise and price of a new beginning. The burning bush which Moses beheld was not consumed by the flames and the terrible indwelling presence.  Are autumn's flames a sign of the same spirit that suffuses the universe and promises hope beyond death?

Now the stars are coming out. The trite old sayings are true. What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? Even in our southern skies, some of the constellations swinging overhead were known to the Romans, the Britons and Chaldeans. Planets still have the divine names the Romans gave to them: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury. Before those gods were born other older gods gave their names to the bright wanderers, and sacrifices of men and maidens were made to appease their dark anger and seek their favour.

Saturn was the old Roman god of agriculture and the benign golden age. Later he was (inaccurately) identified with the Greek titan Kronos, son of Heaven and Earth, who devoured all his own children except the son who later sent him down to Tartarus. Jupiter was the all-seeing father of Heaven, guardian of the people, lord of justice. Mercury, the messenger, Mars, god of war; Venus, goddess of beauty and love. All human history is in those five names.

Dark days and cold nights are coming upon us. We tremble on the edge of a catastrophic economic depression. Vulture-size environmental chickens are coming home to roost. Just as Venus, loveliest goddess of all, is visible only at dawn and eve, so civilisations are most admirable in their springtime and just before they collapse. As the sun goes down, sweetness and beauty disappear from the Earth.

All we can do is soldier on. In Candide's famous phrase, we must all work in the garden. Our own native forests are evergreen. They endure winter, and so can we.

[Autumn photo: Geoff Hitchcock]


Person, Grace, and God
by Philip A. Rolnick
(Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 2007, 270 p., $28,00 pb)

bonting Review by Sjoerd L. Bonting  His web-page

One needs a taste for philosophical theology in order to feel at home in this extensive treatise on personhood. In reading through it, I was impressed with Rolnick's knowledge of the literature on this topic, not only theological, but also philosophical, psychological, and, to a lesser extent, scientific, from the patristic period to the present. The main purpose of the book, which is divided in three sctions, is to consider the theological concept of personhood in the light of the challenges from postmodernism and biology.
    The first section deals with the etymological and historical development of the concept of person. The discussion centers mainly on the Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit. This raises the question whether this can help us in understanding the human person, which is the major topic in the rest of the book. After all, the definition of the trinitarian Persons was based on the thinking about the human person. The author doesn't seem to take this into account.
    The second section begins with the challenge from biology to the concept of person. Rolnick raises the question: "Does evolutionary biology so thoroughly dissipate the concept of love that this highest mark and purpose of human personhood disappears from view?" Any biologist would answer that love is something that doesn't fall within his purview; he can at most study 'altruism' in animals. Neither can the biologist speak about personhood, but only about 'individuals' (in plural), either plants, animals or humans. There are, of course, some biologists, who do not hesitate to step beyond the boundaries of their discipline. E.g., Richard Dawkins, who with his 'selfish gene' idea claims that apparently altruistic behavior is merely a cover for serving the gene's selfish purpose. And E.O. Wilson (sociobiology), who contends that morality is no more than a useful evolutionary adaptation. Rolnick argues extensively against these views, but without sufficiently recognizing that altruism in animals is shown in the group, which strengthens kinship and thus may confer a reproductive advantage to the group. Likewise, the observance of the Law may have conferred some reproductive advantage to the Jews as a community. However, the story of the good Samaritan goes far beyond this: it is altruism outside the group. Neither can the sacrifices of the Christian martyrs through the ages be seen in terms of evolutionary advantages or selfish genes.
    The larger part of section II examines the challenge of postmodernism. Here, Rolnick clearly feels more at home. He presents excellent reviews of the ideas of Lyotard, Derrida, Caputo, Rorty, and their forerunner Nietzsche. And here personhood is a central topic, together with grace seen as divine gift but also as a human gift in friendship. His criticism of postmodernism is pertinent and substantive.
    In section III on 'Persons, divine and human' Rolnick presents his own views on divine and human personhood. In an elaborate discussion of the divine Persons he uses the term 'Trinitarian simplicity' to denote the unity, infinity, and perfection of God existing in three Persons. Grace, as the pure gift of self for the other, is seen as constitutive of the being of divine Personhood. Personal life of humans is possible owing to the grace that God has bestowed upon us.
    The human personality is given in the imago Dei through the grace of God, which is the way God gives us himself. Personality begins as the consciousness of selfinitiated thought, speech, and action. The modernist as well as postmodernist self is not just disoriented but not oriented at all. Wholehearted attention to the first of the great commandments (loving God) is the sure path to greater fulfilment of the second (love to neighbor). Personhood does not emerge apart from the Spirit, which is not our possession, but habitually to be received. Personality is optimally revealed in love, which is the self-communication of the good. It remains the same in spite of external and internal changes, but open to growth. Each person is a history, being written in the unfolding actualization of their lives, which follows from the 'goodness' of creation. In Judeo-Christian perspective transcendence and immanence are joined within the historical. "Purpose is the highest and most distinctive mark of personality" (William Temple). These are some valuable statements about the human person.
    Less satisfying is the concluding discussion of 'brain, mind, soul and Spirit', where the findings of neuroscience are brought in. In discussing the writings of Nancey Murphy and Philip Clayton, Rolnick rejects their abandoning of the soul, saying: "Mind can be conceived in strictly physicalist terms.... The distinctive possibility of the soul is that it can perceive something higher than its own life " Two questions arise, 1. Does Rolnick really want to see the mind in fully reductionist terms?; 2. Where would be the dividing line between mind and soul: solving an arithmetic problem, enjoying a Beethoven symphony, enjoying a Bach cantata, or singing this cantata in a worship service? Surprisingly, he thinks that the brain is silent during a religious experience, although brain scans of meditating monastics show that religious experiences activate similar neuronal circuits as mental activities do (which he doesn't mention). Later he attempts to bring mind and soul closer together in a 'twoness that is to be unified'. A bit confusing!
    All in all, a book worth reading, even if one doesn't agree with everything said.

See cover, index, and selected pages

Beyond the physical senses

Rob Smith

EVP and ITC in Australia, Evidence for life continuance
fascinating journal that will provide hours of interesting reading

Read the journal

It is edited by:

Rev Rob Smith and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)

Rob Smith B.Theol is a former Uniting Church clergyman and lives in Melbourne Australia, and has had considerable experience of EVP communication from the dead. His journal h

Wikipedia on EVP

Nobel Prize Winner Discusses Mediumship Research

Charles Richet

  An “interview” with Dr Charles Richet

By Mike Tymn

Editor for US Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies Inc. See

      Winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Dr. Charles Richet (1850-1935) was a physiologist, chemist, bacteriologist, pathologist, psychologist, aviation pioneer, poet, novelist, editor, author, and psychical researcher.  After receiving his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1869 and his Doctor of Science in 1878, he served as professor of physiology at the medical school of the University of Paris for 38 years.

       Richet was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance.  He also contributed much to research on the nervous system, anesthesia, serum therapy, and neuro-muscular stimuli.  He served as editor of the Revue Scientifique for 24 years and contributed to many other scientific publications.

      After attending experiments in Milan with medium Eusapia Palladino in 1884, Richet began taking an active interest in psychical research.  He befriended many of the top psychical researchers of the day, including Frederic W. H. Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing.   In addition to Palladino, he studied Marthe Bèraud (Eva C.), William Eglinton, Stephan Ossowiecki, Elisabeth D'Esperance, and others.  He served as president of the Society for Psychical Research of London in 1905.

      While clearly accepting the reality of mediumship and other psychic phenomena, Richet remained skeptical as to whether the evidence suggested spirits and survival.   "I oppose it (spirit hypothesis) half-heartedly, for I am quite unable to bring forward any wholly satisfactory counter-theory," he wrote.  Publicly, he leaned toward a physiological explanation, but privately, at least in his later years, he apparently accepted the spirit hypothesis as the best explanation,

 Read this "interview" which is based on Richet's 1923 book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research.



Dead Pilot Tells How He Died: The Endeavor Mystery

Mike Tymn

HinchcliffeOn March 13, 1928, nearly a year after Charles Lindbergh made history by flying across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris, Captain Raymond Hinchcliffe, a veteran fighter pilot, and Elsie Mackay, a British actress and pilot, took off from Cranwell aerodrome in England in their small plane, Endeavor, in an attempt to complete the first east-to-west transatlantic crossing, considered riskier than the west-to-east crossing of Lindbergh because of the head winds. They were not to be heard from again, at least in the flesh. Read the whole article


 Victor ZammitFrom Victor Zammit's weekly email

 Boundary Institute
for the Study of Foundations

Boundary Institute is a non-profit scientific research organization dedicated to the advancement of 21st-Century science. We are currently pursuing two major research themes, one concerning the foundations of physics, the other the foundations of mathematics and computer science.


Link Theory and new physics
Causality and randomness
Anomalies in randomness
Consciousness and physics
Experimental site - (aka

Mathematics and Computer Science

Boundary Math -
Sequential Constraints -
Indentity & Link Theory etc
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