Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour (February 2011) - Day Three

The God Hater, by Bill Myers.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster who kindly provided a copy of the book for review on the CSFF blog tour.

The success of the ‘project’ that Travis, Rebecca, and Hugh are involved in stands or falls on the preservation of free will. Whatever goes into the making of that world, or into a solution that addresses a problem, it must not influence the choice that a cyber-human may personally make and, by extension, what the collective community may agree to do.

It is curious that no one ever deduced that, given such a definition of free will, the programmer violated it with the first If..Then statement. A computer program of any complexity will have what are called conditional statements, that is, if a condition proves to be true then one course of action will follow; but if it is false, another course. It is decision-making at a very low level. Given the same set of information and conditions, a computer program will do exactly the same thing every time, without fail. It has no other choice because it has no mind of its own.

The cyber-world of Alpha at its innermost being is a complex of rote execution making every aspect of it a slave of unalterable habit. Yet, out of this rose characters who attained “emotions, pattern recognition, free will, the ability to hold contradictory views.” (p 45) Granted, they did not rise by a cyber-evolutionary mechanism; Travis says outright that he created them. But it is uncanny that such a versatile, intelligent, and freethinking cyber-entity could possibly come into being out of a make-up that is thoroughly bound to the will of another, regardless of how intelligent the ‘other’ is.

What exactly is free will? Must there be absolutely no outside influence in order for a decision to classify as having been made purely out of a free will? If that were so, there would be no such thing as free will.

A choice made out of free will does not mean it is a choice made blindly. My son may be considering three colleges to attend, and I may have a strong opinion about a certain one, offering argument after argument as to why that should be his choice. Even if those arguments prove effective, and my son chooses that college, his free will has not been violated. He freely chooses that college because, for whatever reason, that is the school that he wants to attend. It is his choice. I did not make the choice for him. Even if I threatened to disown him if he chose another, and as a result he chose contrary to what he would prefer, he is still exercising the choice freely. No one else is making the decision; it is his and his alone.

That’s why Adam’s deflection of blame to Eve is disingenuous, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate," Genesis 3:12. External influences did not absolve Adam’s guilt - he made the choice to listen to Eve and eat of the fruit. The same thing can be said for Eve - she listened to the serpent, was deceived by him, but it was her choice to eat in disobedience to what God had said. The serpent was unable to force Adam or Eve to eat against their will. It had to be the choice of each alone. Otherwise, they would not have been accountable, and man would not have fallen.

How heinous it is then, when we read of the King of Tyre (Lucifer/Satan): “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” Ezekiel 28:15. A being made perfect in every way and having nothing but the most advantageous external influences was found at a point in time to have iniquity within. Unfathomable mystery. No wonder there is no purpose of God for his recovery.

So then, free will does not exclude external influences.

Free will and the Sinner

The scriptures say that there is none who does good (Romans 3:12) and that the carnal mind (the mind devoid of the Spirit of God and therefore unregenerate and unconverted) “is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be,” Romans 8:7; and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” Romans 8:8.

If the sinner is unable to do good, then he has not the free will to do good. But he does have the free will to do evil. He can only sin, and the choice to sin and the manner of sin is out of his own free will. No one forces the sinner to sin; he does so freely of his own choice and not of another.

Free will and the Saint

The saint is truly free, that is, he has the ability to choose good and resist evil. As a sinner, one can only sin; as a saint, one has a choice, to resist the temptation to sin, and do the good; or to succumb to temptation, and do the wrong.

The Cyber-Incarnation

There may be some mystery about the transfer of Nicholas’s personality into a newly created cyber-human, but the mystery is only that of a limited understanding of what and how nanobots work. And when all is said and done, the real Nicholas is still a real human, and nothing of him or in him is united to the digital Nicholas.

The mystery of the incarnation of the Son is not resolved through a keen knowledge of physics. The union of God and man in one person defies explanation; it is comprehensible in that one can conceive of a unity of the divine and human, but it is incomprehensible in that the unity itself is inexplicable.

The apparently supernatural power that the digital Nicholas exercised was ad hoc, programmed to meet an unexpected exigency in the cyber-world. The power of the incarnate Christ was for the most part not his own as the Second Person of the Trinity. Part of the humility of the incarnation was the reliance upon God the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous works, just as any human miracle worker of God did. The Spirit’s attendance of Christ is well documented, and because Christ's extraordinary works of power had its source in the Holy Spirit (not his own), the accusation of the Jewish leaders that Christ performed his wonders by the power of Satan was an unforgiveable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The transfer of information to the cyber Nicholas explains his apparently instant knowledge about events and persons whom he had never met. In the New Testament, we have a peek into the nature of the communication between the Father and the Son. In John 12:28, Christ asks the Father to glorify his name, to which the Father responds audibly, in a voice some took for thunder, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Jesus explains that the voice was for their (the people who heard the voice) sakes. On that one occasion, it pleased the Father that others heard what Christ heard constantly.

The God Hater confronts the reader with some heavy philosophical and theological ideas. Whether these would be a challenge to the Atheist's faith, I'm not sure. But it may cause him to pause and think about some things that he never thought about before, and that could be the starting point of a journey to understanding.


  1. Having just read through all three of your posts, I'm putting my collective comments in this post. You have done a very thorough job of delineating your opinions of this book. Very succinct and well said.

    I didn't talk about it in my posts, but I agree that the writing style was not stellar, but I found it more than acceptable at the least. I've certainly found lots of other top CBA books that I think were not written as well as The God Hater. It seemed like a pretty quick read to me.

    I found your comments regarding cyber- versus Biblical incarnation. I found the similarities drawn by Myers fascinating as well as his philosophical and theological commentaries.

  2. Great concluding paragraph, Thomas. I quoted it in my review.

    I like your analogy of the free will issue. I'd add that the programmers' decision to create e-humans with free will was itself an external influence.

    I've appreciated your all your tour posts (especially because I know you're spending long hours writing extensive comments elsewhere ;-). Thanks for participating

  3. I'm honored to be quoted by you, a feather in my hat! I usually don't read what the others are posting during the tour so as not to be influenced. On the other hand, to do so might help clarify some ideas along the way.

    BTW, my son, Thomas F Booher does quite a bit of posting and you might be confusing his posts with mine, especially those comments he has written on your blog. They are his but I am in agreement wholeheartedly. Only until the sinner is stricken with a sense of the holiness of God and his own sinfulness can he truly believe and truly repent. Salvation is from our sins and sinfulness which results in our justification, sanctification, and glorification. How simple it is. We turn to Christ to save us from our sin, i.e., to forgive us, to save us from wrath, and to turn our hearts to him in daily repentance and trust. What great news! What freedom! What assurance! We can't do anything, but he does it all.

    Here is a quote from A. W. Pink about present-day evangelism (in his time, and as it is, not different from ours):

    The nature of Christ's salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day "evangelist." He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness. The very first thing said of Him in the New Testament is, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people (not "from the wrath to come," but) from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) Christ is a Savior for those realizing something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, who feel the awful burden of it on their conscience, who loathe themselves for it, who long to be freed from its terrible dominion; and He is a Savior for no others. Were He to "save from hell" those still in love with sin, He would be a Minister of sin, condoning their wickedness and siding with them against God. What an unspeakably horrible and blasphemous thing with which to charge the Holy One!

  4. Very interesting and well thought out review. :)