CAUSES AND EFFECTS

T. PIERCE BROWN

Those of us who have had discussions with agnostics or others about the universe may have used the argument that every effect must have a cause sufficient to produce the effect. A watch did not simply evolve from molecules in motion, nor could it. Logically, therefore, the universe had to be produced by some cause that had the power and wisdom to bring into being that which is so vast and interconnected that no accident or human power could have done it.

This is a good basic argument, and we have never seen it met with any degree of success, for it is so plain that even a little child recognizes its validity. However, there is one aspect of it that, in my judgment, may produce a blind spot that may have serious consequences. That is, when we say every effect has A cause, we are implying or stating that every effect has ONE cause. We know of no situation where this is true, for it is our observation and experience that every effect has a multiplicity of causes.

If we were to put the matter in a mathematical formula that could easily be seen, it might be: Every effect has a cause, or E=f(C). The actual truth is: E=f(A,B,C,D, etc.), or every effect is a function of many causes. Let us examine some situations in which the awareness of the truth about this might have some serious consequences.

The religious world takes the position that Salvation (An Effect) is produced by faith alone. That is, S=f(F). That is not true philosophically, historically, scientifically, pragmatically, theologically or otherwise. The truth is that salvation is a function of many causes that are specifically mentioned in God’s word. We are said to be saved by grace, faith, obedience, the gospel, ourselves, baptism, and various other things. The formula is S=F(A,B,C,D,E, etc.). Probably no gospel preacher has ever preached very long without emphasizing those things.

My emphasis today is therefore in another direction. Elders, parents, preachers and others need to be aware of that principle when they try to find the reason(s) for absenteeism, delinquency, lack of spiritual or numerical growth, or any other problem. It is easy to fall into the trap of saying something like “That person does not attend because he has lost interest” if we are thinking in terms of “every effect has A cause.” However, if we recognize that every effect has a number of causes, we will not be satisfied with a simple answer to a complex problem, but will try to determine what might be other causes, perhaps even more significant than the one easily observed or assumed.

There are different levels of causes that need to be examined. For example, if we determine (or assume) that the primary cause for his not attending is that he has lost interest, we may need to try to discover the cause(s) of his having lost interest. Is it because the preacher is not coherent, convincing, Biblical, long-winded or otherwise incompetent? Is it because his wife or some other member who seems so religious is really a hypocrite, and he therefore sees no validity in the claims that are being made of the value of attendance?

This is only touching the hem of the garment, but if this short article helps you to see the value of changing your thought and language pattern to fit reality as you think of causes and effects, it will have accomplished its purpose.

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