What's New?


HistoryOpen Theism

The theory of mental symmetry suggests that a mental image of God emerges whenever a sufficiently general theory explains personal identity. The theory of mental symmetry is a general theory that explains personal behavior. Therefore, following this theory will cause an image of God to form within the mind. The book, God, Theology & Cognitive Modules explores the type of concept of God that emerges and suggests that it is consistent with existing religious thought. Going further, if one follows a path of developing all cognitive modules so that they function in a cooperative manner, then one ends up deriving core doctrines of Christian theology.

In other words, the theory of mental symmetry connects Christian theology with the path of mental development and the concept of a rational God. There is a stream of thought within Christian theology, known as open theism, which contains the same combination. Open theology suggests that a rational God is cooperating with man in order to bring salvation to humanity. One of the key concepts of mental symmetry is that a person has some control over the type of image of God that will form within his mind. However, an image of God will eventually form, the type of God that emerges will fall into different categories—determined by mental structure, and the God that does emerge will end up controlling personal behavior.

Stating this in religious language, God will ultimately end up being sovereign over human affairs, but human free will does have some control over the details of how this process occurs. Similarly, open theology suggests that the plan of God is sovereign but that human free will has some control over the details of this plan.

I should emphasize that the following pages assume that a person has no working knowledge of the theory of mental symmetry. Thus, the concepts will be kept simple and details will be ignored. Also, this section will be written as if a certain type of God actually exists. I am not convinced that it is possible to either prove or disprove the existence of God. But I do suggest that it is possible to interpret history from the viewpoint of some image of God and see if it makes sense.

1) Universal versus Specific. God is, by definition, a universal being. Humans are finite creatures. Thus, human free will involves specific situations, whereas God’s plan is universal. One of the key concepts for bridging universal with specific is the idea of the variable. Suppose that I say ‘If John lets go of his piece of white bread, then it will fall to the kitchen floor’. I have made a prediction in specific terms, leaving no room for individual choice. But, suppose that I replace John, the white bread, and the kitchen floor with variables. My prediction then turns into the much more general statement ‘Any object that is released will fall to the ground’. A universal being would find such a statement far more attractive because it is stated in universal terms. Even if the universal being insisted that this universal statement be applied without exception, there would still be room for individual freedom, because who is holding the item, what he is holding, and where he drops it are all open to human choice. And that describes precisely how the law of gravity is formulated—as a general statement written using variables.

2) Platonic Forms versus Godly Equations. This comparison expands upon the previous point. I suggest that Platonic Forms are the result of object recognition combined with abstract thought. First, suppose that I see a number of chairs. Eventually, my mind will learn to recognize the object of chair by coming up with the category of chair. Instead of referring to ‘this chair’ or ‘that chair’, I can now talk in general terms about ‘a chair’. Putting this in terms of the first point, ‘a chair’ is a mental variable which represents many chairs but does not refer to any specific chair.

Second, I suggest that abstract thought is driven by a desire for order and generality. Thus, when faced with a category which contains a number of different chairs, abstract thought will attempt to bring order to this category by coming up with a simplified, idealized, generalized concept of a chair, leading to the Platonic Form of a chair. Thus, when a person thinks of ‘a chair’ he does not think of any chair, but rather the Form of a chair. For a more concrete example, think, for instance, of a sign used to indicate wheelchair access, or signs indicating Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms. Public signs such as these do not usually depict real pictures, but rather reduce an image down to its essential elements, in essence portraying the Form of that item.

So, what happens when one attempts to reduce life, the universe, and everything down to its essential elements? One ends up, not with 42, but rather the concept of God. However, when abstract thought is related to object recognition, then God will be viewed as the ultimate static object, a sort of ultra-überchair who sits there in immovable perfection. That summarizes people’s concept of God when Christian doctrine is viewed merely as a set of facts in which one believes. Everything is static, including God.

But, it is also possible to take a Platonic Form and use it as a variable within an equation. For instance, think of the letter ‘m’ which represents mass in the equation ‘F=ma’, the equation for Newton’s law of gravity. When the physicist represents the mass of an object, he will typically draw a dot, and he thinks of mass as a type of Platonic Form—a mathematical point with all of the mass of an object concentrated at that point. But, he does not confine his view of universality to the static variable ‘m’, but rather focuses upon the universal process described by the equation ‘F=ma’, which contains, among other things, the Platonic Form represented by the letter ‘m’. (Technically speaking, the Form is the image that emerges indirectly as a result of the theory. This relationship is explained in the book.)

In religious terms, I suggest that this corresponds to the relationship between truth and righteousness. Learning truth about God leads to a God of Platonic Forms; while learning how God behaves goes beyond truth to righteousness, which one could define as acting in a way that is consistent with the character of God. As the Lord’s Prayer says, “Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” But how does God do things in heaven? What processes are universal?

Now let us apply this to the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. I suggest that one can view prophecy as a set of mathematical equations. The equations have been divinely written, but they have been penned using variables. The specific people that will take the place of these variables remains to be determined, as well as the specific manner in which this divine equation will express itself. God, the supreme mathematician, knows which equations apply where, and he also knows that societal influences will produce individuals who can be used to fill the appropriate variables at the appropriate times. However, the particular person who fills each role has not yet been chosen. One sees this contrast in the account of Judas: “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!”

Open theism suggests that man can cooperate with God. I suggest that the concept of equation and variable clarifies what it means to cooperate with a universal being. In simple terms, whenever one enters a situation one asks what universal equations apply: “What is God doing in this situation?” One then attempts to fit in to this divine equation by taking the role of one of the variables and performing an action that is consistent with the equation: “I recognize what God is doing here. I will be the specific person who acts in accordance with God’s character in this specific situation.”

Notice the relationship between the sovereignty of a universal God and the freedom of individual humans. What matters primarily for God is the universal equation because God is a universal being. What matters primarily for humans is specific events and specific actions, because a human is a specific person. Thus, there can simultaneously be both divine sovereignty and personal freedom.

3) Testing, Nature, and Free Will. Suppose that God wants to implement some equation. He will then look for people—or groups—who can take the place of the variables and be depended upon to implement his equation. How does God evaluate a candidate? It appears that God will test a person or group in order to determine how that group responds under pressure.

In order to comprehend the concept of divine testing, we have to know the relationship between personal character and free will. We will first look at an illustration and then describe what is happening within the mind. Think of a probe traveling through space. Free will could be compared to the rockets on the probe. It is possible to change the direction of the probe by firing the rockets, but a probe only has a limited amount of rocket fuel, and thus its velocity can only be altered by a small amount. Similarly, free will appears to be real, but limited. A person can choose to change his responses, but only to a limited extent. Some people have more ‘rocket fuel’ than others, but no one has unlimited fuel. No one can alter his direction completely.

However, suppose that a probe encounters some planet. The gravity of that planet will change the path of the probe in a major way. This is known as a gravitational slingshot or a swing-by. When rocket scientists wish to send a probe on a certain course, they may swing that probe past a planet or moon several times in order to achieve the desired trajectory. Notice that free will is not being exercised when the probe is passing by the planet and having its course altered. Once the probe is caught within the gravity of the planet, then it is too late to exercise free will. Instead, the free will occurred before the planet was encountered, when the course was adjusted so that it would come into close contact with the planet. Notice also that even though a planetary flyby produces a major change in the course of the probe, this change is predictable; it can be calculated with great accuracy.

Thus, we see that effective free will requires some form of foreknowledge. The individual who floats through life passively responding to his current environment will follow a trajectory which is highly predictable, because he is simply being tossed from the ‘gravity’ of one ‘planet’ to another. In contrast, the individual who sees a ‘planet’ coming and chooses to alter his path before he encounters that ‘planet’ will be able to use free will to control his personal destiny.

Obviously, external ‘planets’ such as accident, trauma, or discovery can be used to alter the path of a person or group. And, it is possible for God to direct the course of a society purely through the use of physical opportunity and physical disaster. By introducing the appropriate ‘planet’ at the appropriate time, God can redirect the course of a society in predictable ways, with personal free will only affecting the outcome in minor ways. 9/11 provides a good example of this societal slingshot effect, because the events of that day had sufficient ‘gravity’ to deflect the course of an entire civilization, and looking back, we can see that the societal results were quite predictable. However, I suggest that the course of an individual can also be affected by mental ‘planets’, and that is where the matter of divine testing becomes significant. In order to understand this, we have to look at how a mental ‘planet’ is formed.

I suggest that the mental equivalent to the planet with its gravitational attraction is what I call the mental network. A mental network is simply a collection of emotional memories which functions as a unit. Think, for instance, of the formation of a habit such as ‘scratching my nose’. At first, I have to choose to scratch my nose. My natural tendency will be not to scratch my nose, but I can use free will to decide to perform the action. However, if I repeat this action enough times, then at some point a threshold will be crossed and my memories about scratching my chin will integrate to form a mental network. If these memories are not very emotional, then it will take many repetitions to cross this threshold; if the memories are emotionally intense, then one or two repetitions may suffice. Whenever a mental network is triggered, it will attempt to express itself, and it will respond with strong emotions if it is not permitted to express itself. For instance, if I have a habit of scratching my chin, then when I think about my chin, I will feel the urge to scratch my chin, and I will have to choose not to scratch it. If I suppress the urge to scratch, then it will get stronger. It is possible to suppress weak urges from small mental networks through effort of will. However, it appears that free will is not capable of suppressing strong urges from major mental networks. They can be deferred or expressed in oblique ways, but they will ultimately be expressed in some form or another. One sees this illustrated in extreme form in Tourette Syndrome.

Thus, in order to test a person, God simply has to look for the presence of the appropriate mental networks and then determine the emotional power of those mental networks. If a mental network has sufficient cohesiveness, then that person can be relied upon to respond in a predictable manner. Going further, when a group of people share similar mental networks, then the result is a culture or national identity which determines how the majority of that group of people will respond under crisis.

This means that both good and evil people (or groups) can fit into God’s plan. As long as a person is either hot or cold—as long as he has the appropriate infatuation, he can be used. Obviously, a person who is evil (like a pharaoh or a Judas) is being ‘used’ by God in the bad sense of the word and will not experience any personal benefit. On the other hand, a person who is good can be used by God and also experience personal benefits. Paul makes a similar comparison in I Corinthians: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”

Does this mean that God is evil? I suggest not. The overall plan of God is to lead both individuals and society to complete maturity. But, if a good person cannot be found to take the place of some variable in a divine equation, then God may have to choose an evil person. Does this mean that the evil person had no free will in the matter? Again, I suggest not. For that individual, the free will occurred earlier on, when his mental networks were in the process of being formed.

So far, we have looked at isolated mental networks. A very effective way of inducing change is through the interaction of mental networks. Major change will occur when one group with its mental networks encounters another. When one examines history from the viewpoint of mental networks, one sees that one society is continually being played against another, and one gets the impression that God is playing celestial billiards, getting a group to move in a desired direction by ‘bouncing it off’ another group. I suggest that this explains the purpose for the Tower of Babel. Humanity was divided into language groups so that each group could be guided to form its own set of mental networks and the course of history could then be determined through the use of divinely appointed encounters between these various collections of mental networks. It is interesting to note that no single group has ever been permitted to rule the entire world, suggesting that manipulating incompatible mental networks is a major weapon in the divine arsenal.

While divine sovereignty can choose how and when various groups will interact, it appears that human free will still has some control over the extent of such an encounter. One sees this illustrated in Zechariah: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.’” Thus, the encounter was divinely ordained, but the extend of the encounter was modified by free will.

4) Conscience versus Coercion. People often accuse the ‘God of the Old Testament’ of being a God of war and violence. Open theism suggests that man cooperates with God in order to implement God’s divine plan of salvation. I suggest that one can use the concept of mental networks to put some flesh on this general assertion. As we have seen, a person’s behavior is ultimately determined by the mental networks that ‘live’ within his mind. It appears that there are two basic ways of forming a mental network. One is the gradual method. One sees this in the formation of cultural standards. Normal life fills the mind of the child with emotional experiences, and these experiences naturally coalesce to form mental networks. One sees these mental networks illustrated during the first part of Piaget’s preoperational stage of development. The child who is at this stage will pretend to be mommy or daddy, or act like a fireman or an astronaut, indicating the presence of mental networks that represent these various role models.

However, it is also possible to use physical trauma or physical ecstasy to create mental networks suddenly. Suppose that someone holds a knife to my throat. What is happening mentally when this occurs? The potent emotions associated with that incident are causing a mental network to form suddenly within my mind, and that mental network will then affect my behavior. One can tell that a mental network has formed because the memory of that incident will continue to ‘live’ within my mind as a functioning entity. Similarly, when one person is punished ‘as an example’ to other people, the goal is to use violence to one individual to form mental networks within the minds of other individuals. Likewise, research indicates that sexual child abuse can lead to the formation of mental networks which literally express themselves as autonomous fragments of human identity, otherwise known as multiple personalities.

I suggest that these two methods of forming mental networks are epitomized in the priest and the king. A priest does not have physical power; he cannot use coercion. But, he has the power of conscience; he can appeal to existing mental networks, and he can use religious experiences to form mental networks. The ultimate power of a king, in contrast, does boil down to coercion, because he wields the sword, and historically speaking, the tool of the king has been the soldier who kills, rapes, and pillages.

Now let us examine this situation from the viewpoint of God attempting to save humanity. His primary method of influencing human society is through mental networks. However, in a tribal society where might makes right and the local king is worshipped as a god, the only way to form mental networks is through the use of physical force. In addition, because peoples’ mental networks are being imposed on their minds by their physical environment, individualism will not exist, and people will respond as groups and tribes. Thus God will be forced to function at the level of tribal violence. However, if he can get a group of people to be motivated by internal mental networks, then he can move beyond coercion to conscience, and he can stop interacting with tribes and start dealing with individuals. Summarizing, we see that God will have to start at the level of tribal warfare, because that describes the level of existing society, but his goal will be to form a tribe that is governed by priests and not by kings.

We see this process beginning in the book of Judges, in which the tribes of Israel have priests and judges, but no king. As it repeatedly says, ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’, indicating the presence of conscience and individuality. If Israel could learn to function at that level, then God could use Israel as a ‘light to the nations’. They would follow the method of conscience, and their example would act as a conscience to the surrounding nations.

In Samuel 8 we see the failure of this divine experiment, because the people tell Samuel that they want a king just like the surrounding nations. God sees this as a rejection of him, indicating that God is attempting to move beyond the method of physical coercion. God then tells Samuel to warn the people that a king will use physical coercion: “he will take your sons...he will appoint for himself...he will also take your daughters...he will take the best of your fields.” The people respond that they want to “be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” In other words, they don’t want mental networks that will cause them to stick out as individuals among the surrounding tribes. Instead, they want their mental networks to be formed by physical coercion, and they want to use physical coercion to impose mental networks on surrounding tribes.

Moving ahead a few chapters to I Samuel 13, we see king Saul, the first king, being tested by God. His army is dissipating because his personal hold on their mental networks is slipping: “As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him.” In response, he decides to take on the role of the priest and offer a sacrifice, and as a result, he is rejected by God. Why was he rejected? I suggest that when the method of coercion usurps the method of conscience, then it is only a matter of time before coercion replaces conscience. One sees this already occurring in the very next chapter, for Saul uses physical coercion as a reason for imposing conscience upon his people: “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.”

We have seen when the divine experiment in conscience and individuality failed. Let us move ahead now to when it succeeds. Here too we see an interaction between divine sovereignty and free will. It begins with Josiah deciding to meddle militarily in international affairs by opposing the army of Egypt on its way through Israel. The Bible tells us that Josiah is disobeying God: “However, Josiah would not...listen to the word of Neco from the mouth of God but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo.” Josiah is killed by the Egyptians, and his son is deposed by Egypt and replaced by Jehoiakim.

What follows is a confusing sequence of events and succession of kings, however the divine equation appears to be clear. Israel must give up political autonomy to Babylon in order to bring a halt to the Jewish path of physical coercion, consistent with the concept that God wants the Jews to submit to conscience and not use political force. If Israel submits politically, then God promises that they will be able to keep their religious and cultural autonomy. However, Israel insists upon maintaining political freedom and tries repeatedly to rebel physically from the political control of Babylon. Each time, God forces his plan back on track with a stronger ‘planetary encounter’. And, in the end, God’s experiment finally succeeds with the Jewish exiles. For, it is during this time that the Jews became a diaspora, able to function as an independent religion and culture guided by the words of Torah and not by political force.

It is interesting to note that in both Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 18 we find God pronouncing during the final stage of Zedekiah’s rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar that he will stop dealing with people tribally and start interacting with them as individuals, and Jeremiah 31 specifically states that a new covenant based in personal conscience will replace the old covenant rooted in tribal deliverance.

In conclusion, if we combine the concept of open theism with the mechanism of mental networks, we come to the following conclusions: God’s plan with the Jews was to move beyond the method of physical warfare to the method of conscience. We see here the presence of a divine equation. God’s plan ultimately succeeds with the Jews of the exile. However, God’s plan also experiences continual setbacks as a result of human rebellion—and God repeatedly tells the Jews that they are a ‘rebellious people’. In other words, God’s sovereignty and his knowledge guarantee that his plan will ultimately succeed. The final outcome is never in doubt. But, human free will is able to make this plan much more painful than God had intended and make it take much longer than God had hoped.

5) Mental Networks and Original Sin. So far, we have looked at mental networks in general terms. The real power to this concept emerges when one combines mental networks with the distinction between concrete thought and abstract thought. Concrete thought uses actions to change experiences, and it attaches emotional labels to memories of experiences. For instance, it tastes good to eat ice cream, bashing my toe feels bad, thinking of mother feels good, while thinking of the dentist feels bad. Because people live in physical bodies which use actions to alter experiences, mental networks that represent people reside within concrete thought. One sees this with the child pretending to be a fireman, the widow reminiscing about her husband after he has died, or the student thinking about his encounter with the school principal or the local bully. In each case, a collection of emotional experiences has coalesced within the mind to form a mental network within concrete thought and, as we have already seen, that mental network has the power to affect behavior. The most important mental network within concrete thought is the mental network—or collection of mental networks—that represents personal identity.

But, it appears that abstract thought is also capable of forming mental networks. We saw earlier that abstract thought uses words or symbols to build general theories. A general theory produces positive emotion; it feels good when ‘the light goes on’, everything fits together, and a person understands. If a general theory acquires sufficient emotion, then it will form an abstract mental network. This describes what happens when a scientist acquires a paradigm.

Thomas Kuhn says that the scientist who has a general theory is incapable of functioning without a general theory, and that he will only let go of one paradigm if he is given another one to take its place. I suggest that this possessiveness illustrates the behavior of a mental network. The thinking of a scientist can be guided by logic and free will. But, free will is not strong enough to allow a scientist to escape the power of an abstract mental network. However, free will can be used to choose between one abstract mental network and another.

Summarizing, the mind represents people and collections of emotional experiences as concrete mental networks, and it represents general structures such as institutions, paradigms, and systems of natural law as abstract mental networks. But, what happens when there is an overlap between these two forms of mental networks—when a verbal system of universal law comes into contact with personal identity? I suggest that this combination will lead to the formation of an image of God. In simple terms, an image of God forms when a universal theory explains personal identity—whether that concept of God corresponds to a real God or not.

This leads to a very interesting juxtaposition. We began by hypothesizing that a real God guides people by manipulating their mental networks. But, we have just seen that mental networks lead to a mental image of God. This means that one can view religion from either a physical viewpoint or a mental viewpoint. One can either examine how a real God interacts with mental networks, or one can study how an image of God interacts with mental networks. The conclusions, I suggest, are the same. In God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, I show how the core doctrines of Christianity can be derived by looking purely at how an image of God interacts with mental networks.

The interaction between abstract and concrete mental networks makes it possible to come up with an explanation for ‘being born in sin’, ‘being saved by God’, and ‘new birth’. Paul refers to the old nature as ‘the flesh’, and I suggest that it is specifically the influence which the physical body has upon the mind which leads to the formation of ‘the flesh’.

As far as I can tell, the structure of the mind itself is not inherently sinful. In fact, I suggest that it is possible to define moral perfection as all seven cognitive modules functioning together in harmony. However, the physical body causes the mind to develop in a way that is only partially functional: The childish mind takes shortcuts to physical pleasure, it attempts to walk away from painful consequences, it uses coercion to impose its way on others, it idolizes objects and experiences, and so on. In each of these cases, the physical body is making it possible for the mind to remain partially developed.

Saying this more succinctly, the physical body forces concrete thought to develop in a twisted way. Thus, one can literally say that a person is born in sin, because physical birth is responsible for producing the physical body that twists concrete thought. But, this twisting of concrete thought occurs over a number of years, as living within the physical body causes the mind to become twisted. Therefore, even though the newborn infant is ‘born in sin’, his mind has not yet become twisted, because he has not lived long enough within his physical body for this mental twisting to occur. So, why would God put the mind within a physical body which ends up twisting concrete thought? Because, that same physical body forces concrete thought to develop; it provides the initial content for the human mind. Thus, it may be that God originally created Adam with a physical body that interacted with the mind in a different manner. This is strongly implied by the fact that Adam and Eve became aware of their physical bodies in a new way after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, plus the fact that God provided coverings for their physical bodies.

So, how can one ‘untwist’ the human mind when the core mental networks that represent personal identity have become fundamentally warped? It appears that free will by itself is not sufficient. One could compare this to being physically trapped on a planet. A person can jump, but he cannot jump high enough to free himself from the gravity of the planet. Similarly, the natural person can exercise free will, but the power of his will is not great enough to free him from the behavior that is being driven by his twisted childish mental networks. In religious language, the unregenerate mind does have free will, but it is limited. A person can choose to ‘climb the mountain’ or he can decide to ‘descend to the depths’, but he cannot escape the planet altogether. Similarly, a culture which is ‘higher’ can help its citizens to build mental networks which are less twisted, leading to the concept of general grace. But, the fundamental problem of the physical body causing concrete mental networks to develop in a warped manner still remains.

So, how can one produce major change when free will is insufficient to overcome the behavior of existing mental networks? By using free will to build a new mental network and then using the interaction between this new mental network and existing mental networks to alter behavior. We saw this earlier when mentioning how God uses the interaction between societies to guide history. In this case, I suggest that it is possible to change a concrete mental network by building an abstract mental network that is not twisted and then having this new untwisted abstract mental network come into contact with the existing twisted concrete mental network. This occurs to a partial extent in the process of education. The child with his twisted personal identity enters school. He is then taught to use abstract thought. The understanding that he gains through education is supposed to replace his childish nature.

But, what happens when an abstract mental network comes into mental contact with a concrete mental network? An image of God will form within the mind. Thus, whether God saves people physically or not, reaching mental wholeness appears to require the presence of a mental concept of God. But, what happens when a childish mind attempts to develop abstract thought without any outside help? Instead of becoming rational, it will rationalize, which is what happens when the twisting of concrete thought spreads to abstract thought. Thus, not only does personal salvation require the development of abstract thought, but abstract thought must be seeded by some source which is not twisted.

This leads us to the concept of written revelation from God. The basic building block for abstract thought is words. Therefore what is needed to program abstract thought is words. But, when the natural mind attempts to develop abstract thought, it will rationalize. Thus, abstract thought must initially acquire its words from some other source—the words must be revealed. And, because these revealed words are needed to untwist personal concrete thought, these words will be seen as a revelation from God—because an image of God emerges when a general theory in abstract thought explains personal identity in concrete thought.

Does this mean that the unregenerate mind is totally depraved and incapable of rational thought? No. We saw in our examination of Platonic Forms that the combination of objection recognition and abstract thought will cause the mind to develop ideal concepts which are more perfect than real life. But, in order to remain untainted, these Platonic Forms will have to avoid the twisted mental networks of personal identity. In Greek times, this distinction expressed itself primarily in a form of gnosticism, in which a perfect God inhabits an invisible world of perfection which is distinct from the imperfect physical world of matter. Today, this combination expresses itself mainly in objective science and technology. When dealing with the objective world, human thought and activity tends to be rational. However, this rational thought does not extend to the realm of the subjective.

We looked earlier at the example of Israel and the relationship between king and priest. Let us look now at the birth of science. In simplest terms, science uses abstract thought to analyze concrete experiences. Thus, in order to discover science, one must use revealed words from God to develop abstract thought, and then one must use abstract thought to study concrete experiences. In terms of mental networks, what is required is a societal collision between two ‘planetary forces’: a religious society that focuses upon written revelation, and a secular society that studies concrete experiences. The religious society will provide the method of study, while the secular society will determine the topic of study.

It is possible to make these requirements more specific. Looking first at the religious side, we saw earlier that science is a study of natural processes; it uses equations to describe how the physical world acts. Thus, the discovery of science will be most likely if the written revelation from God contains formulae that tell people how they should act. Turning to the secular side, we saw that the equations of science do not deal with specific experiences but rather uses variables to represent these experiences. Thus, the secular society should be one that thinks in terms of Platonic Forms, because a variable is mentally related to a Platonic Form.

Much of the Jewish law consists of divinely ordained procedures which tell the Jewish people how they should act. And, we know that Greek thinkers developed the concept of Forms. Thus, if a Jewish society were transplanted into a Greek city, then one would predict that science would emerge. It was, and it didn’t.

This webpage contains a simple description of the city of Alexandria during the three centuries before the time of Christ. It contained the largest library in the ancient world, and it had the equivalent of a university. A large community of Jews lived in Alexandria, and they became so fully integrated that their first language was Greek. The Septuagint, a translation of the Jewish Bible into the Greek language, was commissioned here, and the earliest known Jewish synagogue is in Alexandria. But, the Jews of Alexandria remained a distinct community with their own culture and religion, and they were the first to use the word diaspora to describe their community. This divine experiment to give birth to science should have succeeded, but it was stillborn. Some science and technology emerged, and Euclid did manage to come up with geometry which was a major breakthrough, but modern science never came into being.

Within this context, it is interesting to note Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side.’” In other words, God did not want to use the method of coercion, but the window of opportunity for discovering a better method had now closed and all that remained for the Jews was the method of coercion.

Now let us move ahead to the time of the Renaissance when science did emerge. Medieval scholars studied both the Jewish scriptures and Greek philosophy as a form of written revelation. According to Thomas Aquinas, both Biblical theology and ‘natural theology’ are worthy topics of research and Aquinas taught that natural theology is consistent with special revelation. Thus, instead of God bringing Jews and Greeks together and hoping that they would cooperate, Jewish and Greek thought was actually interwoven mentally within the mind of the medieval scholar. This led to the form of abstract thought known as scholasticism. Once the thinking of abstract thought had been established, God then caused people to take their attention away from abstract thought and focus upon the real world and concrete thought. On the one hand, corruption in the Catholic Church caused people to question the supremacy of the church, while the downfall of Constantinople in 1453 signaled the demise of the Roman Empire and Greek thought. On the other hand, the discovery of the New World opened a new era of physical exploration.

As with the previous example of coercion versus conscience, we see a time when science could have emerged being followed many years later by a time in which science did emerge. In between these two periods an entire civilization fell and was replaced by a new civilization.

6) Revelation versus Paradigm. Let us turn our attention now to the present time. I suggest that we are currently in a time of opportunity, like the Jews in the time of the Judges, or like the Jews and Greeks of Alexandria. In order to understand today’s opportunity, we have to take a further look at mental networks.

I have suggested that the mind contains both concrete mental networks and abstract mental networks. Living in a physical body leads to twisted mental networks within concrete thought, which one could refer to as ‘the flesh’. The solution is to use written revelation to program abstract thought with rational thought, and then use abstract thought to rebuild concrete thought.

In Christian language, this is known as ‘new birth’ and ‘dying to self’. New birth occurs when abstract thought causes the seed of a rational mental network to form within concrete thought, which Paul refers to as ‘the spirit’. New birth is guided by the Holy Spirit: “when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” We see here a spirit of truth—indicating untwisted rational thought, being based in words—the basic building block of abstract thought, and guiding people into truth—untwisting the concrete mental networks of personal identity.

This result is a set of two incompatible mental networks within concrete thought, which Paul refers to as ‘the flesh’ and ‘the spirit’. I mentioned earlier that free will is not strong enough to overcome the twisted mental networks of concrete thought. But, it is possible to use free will to choose between one mental network and another. As one person put it, there are two dogs fighting to live within the mind of the Christian believer. The dog that is fed is the dog that will grow. In essence, we see here an internal version of the external collision between societies which we examined in the previous point. If a person chooses to ‘walk by the spirit’ and not ‘walk after the flesh’, then like a habit that is being broken, the twisted mental networks of childish identity will eventually fall apart. This process will feel like ‘dying to self’ for the simple reason that the mental networks which represent personal identity are dying.

However, if we look at the situation today, we see two incomplete versions of this transforming process. On the one hand, science uses rational thought to develop abstract thought, by teaching general theories about the natural world, and science leads to technology, which uses rational abstract thought to transform concrete thought. But, this process of salvation is limited to the realm of the objective. It transforms things and objects but not people. On the other hand, Christianity uses written revelation to teach abstract thought words and concepts about God, but this written revelation is only partially understood. In educational terms, the Christian method is still partially at the level of rote learning and has not yet fully reached the next stage of critical thinking.

Putting this more concisely, what is needed is a rational theory which applies to personal identity. Science has the rational theory but does not apply it to personal identity, while Christianity applies its theory to personal identity but does not understand the rational basis for this theory. But, what is the mental result of a general theory that applies to personal identity? A concept of God. Thus, what is needed is the concept of a rational God that interacts with personal identity. That is where open theism is significant, because it believes that God is a rational being who uses a rational plan to save personal identity. But, while open theism asserts that such a rational theory exists, it does not know the precise nature of this theory. Thus, I suggest that it is significant to come up with a single paradigm which can explain both Christian doctrine and scientific thought. As I mentioned at the beginning, this describes the essence of the book God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, which I just finished writing. My hope is that humans can cooperate with God during this present time of opportunity and avoid having to go through several hundred years of divine manipulation and human suffering while God arranges events to force us to learn the lesson.

7) Buddhism versus Incarnation. I should mention that this summary has not looked at Jesus or the concept of incarnation. That is because I have tried to keep the discussion simple by focusing merely upon the core concept of mental networks. Thus, I will only touch here upon the role played by incarnation. The concept of incarnation, as well as the mental mechanism behind the Christian prayer of salvation, is explored in my book.

I have suggested that a concept of God emerges when a general theory explains personal identity. In terms of mental networks, there is an overlap between an abstract mental network of understanding and the concrete mental network that represents personal identity. Remember that the emotions associated with a general theory cause an abstract mental network to form, while feelings and experiences from the physical body cause the concrete mental networks of personal identity to form. An abstract mental network is the result of universal understanding; a concrete mental network of personal identity is the result of specific experiences.

These two types of mental networks can be brought together in one of two main ways. First, they can be jammed together. This happens mentally when one asserts that ‘I am God’, or states that universality is contained within specific personal identity. This summarizes the path of mysticism as epitomized by Buddhism, which seeks to achieve emotional union with God. Because mental networks are composed of emotional memories, jamming these two mental networks together will lead to the feeling that ‘I am one with the universe’. But, specific is not universal; I am not everything. Thus, in order to assert that specific equals universal, one will have to deny logic, because logic says that specific is not the same as universal. This explains why the path of mysticism will assert that God is discovered by going ‘beyond logic’ and embracing some form of intuition. But, specific really is not the same as universal. Thus, the cosmic feeling of ‘being one with the universe’ will always be fleeting, and will never last. I suggest that open theism, by its very nature, is incompatible with the path of mysticism, because open theism asserts that a rational God is interacting with man in an intelligent manner, whereas mysticism asserts that an irrational God is becoming united with man in a way that cannot be comprehended by human intelligence.

Second, it is possible to use content to bridge abstract thought with concrete thought. I suggest that this corresponds to the path of incarnation, and if one examines how the mind ties these two together, it matches Christian doctrine regarding the incarnation. As I mentioned before, this analysis involves mental mechanisms which we have not introduced here, but I want to mention it for the sake of completeness.

8) Time versus Eternity. The traditional Christian view is to regard God as inhabiting some timeless realm outside of human time and to regard heaven as a sort of timeless existence. Open theism, in contrast, suggests that while God may have created time, he now works with time and inhabits time, and that heaven is a place of eternal time and not timeless eternity.

I suggest that a third alternative exists which lies between these two alternatives. While God appears to work in human time, I suggest that he is not restricted merely to human time. First, a distinction must be made between sequence and time. Sequence says that everything occurs in a certain order, while time also indicates how long everything takes. This distinction can be seen in Einstein’s theory of relativity, because time passes more slowly for a person who is traveling at great velocity or subject to intense gravity, but events still occur in the same sequence. Thus, I suggest that heaven is a realm where sequence occurs but not time. Putting this another way, everything in heaven is still guided by clocks, but the clocks do not always run at the same rate and the clock of one person or region does not run at the same rate as the clock of another person or region.

Second, evidence suggests that the angelic realm is not governed by time. Instead, it appears to be a domain where time takes the place of space and space takes the place of time. Grasping what this means is not straightforward, but these are the sorts of questions with which physicists grapple, and I explore this concept in my book. Thus, if God is working simultaneously within both the human and the angelic realms, then he may be functioning in time with humans while working in a different dimension with angels. And, it is possible that additional realms exist with other kinds of cosmic fabric. The bottom line is that God appears to be carrying out a multi-dimensional cosmic plan, and human time is only one of these dimensions.

In Summary. Let us conclude by making some general statements:

1) We see from our three historical examples that the plan of God appears to be divided into major segments. During each segment, God is attempting to introduce a new element to human thought and human society. These various segments must be carried out in a certain order, and this sequence of steps summarizes God’s sovereign plan for mankind. During each segment, it appears that God first attempts to bring about his desired transformation by making it possible for humans to achieve the desired breakthrough. If this divine experiment is not successful, then God will manipulate human society to ensure that the desired breakthrough will be achieved. Thus, God’s plan will always be achieved, even if free will opposes God’s plan, but it is possible for humans to avoid centuries of divine manipulation and personal suffering by cooperating with God’s plan.

2) Looking at each of these segments in more detail, there appears to be critical windows of opportunity when the details of God’s plan are open to being altered by either the presence or absence of human cooperation. During these windows of opportunity, God will look for individuals who can ‘stand in the gap’. However, once a window of opportunity passes, then it is too late to ask God to alter his plan. Notice that this window of opportunity occurs before a crisis. In order to ‘stand in the gap’, a person must use free will before a crisis occurs in order to become the type of person whom God can use during the crisis.

3) It is easiest to change the direction of a person or society during times of crisis. That is because existing mental networks crumble during times of crisis, and it is mental networks that determine the course of a person or society. Obviously, it will take less pressure to produce change when mental networks are weaker. Thus, it is easier for a person to ‘turn to Jesus’ when his life is falling apart, or for a society to ‘experience a revival’ when times are tough.

From the divine viewpoint, a time of crisis is a window of opportunity, because this is when colliding mental networks will have the greatest impact. Once society becomes stable and mental networks become strong again, then it will be more difficult for God to change the direction of society. However, for individual humans, the real window of opportunity occurs before a crisis, because that is when a person can use free will to build the mental networks that will determine how he responds in crisis, or can become the type of person that God can use during a crisis.

4) God’s plan is formulated as general equations. The overall process is defined, but the specific people who fill the role of the variables have not yet been determined. When God wishes to use a person, he will first test that individual to see which mental networks guide his behavior. God can use both evil and good people to carry out his plans, but being used by God is completely independent of being personally saved by God.

5) Free will is real but limited, and it interacts with mental networks. A person cannot use free will to override the behavior that is driven by his fundamental mental networks, but he can use free will to construct mental networks, he can use free will to lead himself into encounters with mental networks, and he can use free will to choose between competing mental networks.

6) God appears to guide both people and societies primarily through the use of mental networks. God can impose mental networks upon people and societies through traumatic physical events or through encounters with other people or societies. Even though the behavior of a person or society that encounters other mental networks may change in major ways, this change is predictable. Free will cannot alter the way that a person or society responds to a mental network, but it can adjust this response in minor ways.

7) Each segment of God’s plan focuses upon introducing a specific way of thinking to human society. Thus, one could refer to the ‘spirit of an age’, a covenant, or a dispensation. The behavior of each age is guided by a set of dominant mental networks. God does not seem to expect a person to go beyond the level of maturity that characterizes the spirit of his age. Thus, a new covenant with God does not indicate a change in the nature of God, but rather a new stage in the development of man, in which a new set of dominant mental networks makes it possible for God to influence humans in new ways.

8) It is possible for a person to go beyond the spirit of his age, but it is difficult. Remember that major change can only be achieved by using mental networks to alter a person’s direction. In order to go beyond his society, a person must use free will to construct internal mental networks which are different than the mental networks of his environment, and then use the interaction between internal mental networks to change his personal path. He will then find himself heading in a different direction than the society around him. If his new mental networks are sufficiently strong, then God could use this individual as a ‘planetoid’ to alter the path of society. Theoretically, this option could shorten a segment of God’s plan. Thus, it might be possible for a human individual to use free will to ask God to change a portion of the divine plan—if that person is willing to pay the personal price of following plan A, but God’s overall plan is sovereign and not open to human manipulation or discussion.

9) One could subdivide God’s plans into a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C. Plan C is the failsafe plan that occurs when individuals rebel against God and do not cooperate. Plan B occurs when individuals achieve the breakthrough that God desires during times of opportunity. Plan A could only occur if an individual manages to go beyond the spirit of his age.

However, in order to effect a plan A or avoid a plan C, the ‘planetary pull’ of godly individuals must be strong enough to overcome the combined ‘planetary pull’ of an entire society. Jeremiah 15 illustrates what happens when societal momentum is too great: “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! And it shall be that when they say to you, “Where should we go?” then you are to tell them, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Those destined for death, to death; And those destined for the sword, to the sword; And those destined for famine, to famine; And those destined for captivity, to captivity.’”’” In other words, Jewish society was about to enter a time of crisis and the rebellious nature of Israel was forcing God to choose plan C, and even the personal presence of Moses and Samuel would be insufficient to make a plan B possible.

Summing up, God’s sovereign plan of salvation is guided by the predictability of human nature. In order to lift individuals and societies up from primitive existence to total maturity, certain steps have to taken in a specific order. This makes it possible to subdivide the plan of God into segments. Using the analogy of a railroad network, the predictability of human nature determines the path of the ‘train of human progress’ as it traveling along each segment of this plan. Human willpower could be compared to remodeling the cars of the train or moving from one car to another while this train is heading implacably upon its divinely ordained journey. The end result is that God can give almost complete freedom to human individuals without threatening the success of his plan. That is because no matter what they do on the train, it will have no fundamental impact upon the path that is taken by that train.

However, there are also windows of opportunity during which God may alter the path of the train as a result of human free will, or else step in to ensure that the train heads in a desired direction. One could compare these windows of opportunity to branches on a railroad track where the track splits and takes an alternate route or goes through a detour. When a train takes a detour, it will still reach its destination—because God’s plan is sovereign, but it will take much longer to reach this destination—because human free will is real.

Finally, a technical note. Dr. Alan Rhoda discusses the various types of open theism from the viewpoint of rigorous logic and divides them into the four categories of voluntary nescience, involuntary nescience, non-bivalent omniscience, and bivalent omniscience.

I am not a logician, but from my reading of his paper it appears that mental symmetry effectively falls into a fifth category of open theism that he mentions but then rejects: "Regarding completeness, to my knowledge no one has seriously proposed that some but not all future world states exist. And, frankly, it’s hard to see what would motivate such a view. It would face all of the standard objections to dynamic theories of time without any of the standard advantages, and it would create new problems to boot: Why do only some future states of affairs exist? Why these and not others? Accordingly, I propose a no partial futures (NPF) thesis: It is not possibly the case that some but not all future world states exist."

I am not suggesting that some of the future is predetermined for logical reasons. Rhoda concludes that, logically speaking, the only two valid options are "a dynamic world of open-ended possibilities in which the shape of things to come is, in some respects at least, yet to be decided" and a world in which "the story is fully written; there remains only to play it out and to enjoy it along the way—assuming, one hopes, that is part of the script". Mental symmetry is consistent with the open-ended alternative.

I like the way that Rhoda describes this alternative: "Positing future world states does no explanatory work because it is only when the measurement occurs that the nature of the world state at t* [some time in the future] becomes settled. The direction in which the quantum system collapses is not explained by future world states; rather, it is the collapse of the quantum system that explains which possible future world state becomes actual.

However, if we examine the problem from a cognitive viewpoint, then even if the future has not yet been determined, only certain kinds of futures are possible because of the structure of the mind. In the same way that the topography of a landscape forces water to travel in certain channels, so it appears that the architecture of the mind forces personal and societal development to travel in certain channels. Therefore, even though the future may be logically open, for humans it is cognitively partially determined. And, it is this cognitive pre-determination which would allow God to form plans with totally certainty, based solely upon a knowledge of peoples' mental architecture combined a knowledge of their current mental networks.