God is an Agilist

I saw a comment on a blog I am subscribed to today—on an old post I had cast from my mind. The comment irritated me beyond reason, and I mulled over why it bothered me so much. First, here is the post extract and the comment:

What if I told you that there is a program so complicated that is the source responsible for all other programs ever created? Give me your most complex program and I will trump it by presenting you with the program that was responsible for creating the human who created that program. If you haven’t figured […]

Brilliant. Praise God. The ultimate programmer.

The blog owner, John Somnez, is one of my favorite bloggers. If you are a developer and you don’t subscribe to this blog, well, what can I say? You are missing out on some great wisdom and a wealth of practical ideas and simple solutions to complex problems. There is only one post of John’s that I took umbrage with. The one quoted above, the full text of which can be read here: The Most Complex Program of All Time.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue that John strayed from practical solutions and developer-talk to more philosophical matters. I honor his desire to embrace the world in a holistic way, to deepen his understanding. I just happen to disagree with his analysis. It didn’t bother me though, the way this comment did.

Calling God “the ultimate programmer” is no praise at all. In fact, I’ll go as far as calling this comment blasphemous. The commenter is bringing God down to his own minimally-informed, myopic level, putting himself rather than his “creator” at the center of the universe. If God is anything at all He is an agilist, not a micro-manager. Let me explain.

Some years ago I had a conversation with my (then six-year-old) younger son about God and the universe. I told him about the Big Bang theory and emergent evolution, and I told him about Creationism. I said different people had different beliefs about how the universe began. he thought for a moment and then said. "I believe in the Big Bang theory [pause] …and I think God made the Big Bang". It takes a six-year-old, right?

Isn’t that what we do as Agilsts? We create a big bang, bringing together ideas and people, creating an environment for creativity… and then stepping aside, to lightly guide and encourgage, but never to control and manage the emergent process. Let’s release God from this bondage we have Him in—the bondage of mankind, and its limited way of seeing the world. God—again, if he is anything, and I am not arguing for or against this concept—is beyond our wildest imaginations. He is unknown and unknowable. To believe that God is managing each and every moment on this earth in a detailed, controlling way is to make a mockery of His proclaimed “infinite wisdom”. Wise beings release, they do not control. Wise beings trust, they respect, they love, they nurture, they allow failure, and they foster learning and the pursuit of knowledge. If God is the wisest being of all, then surely He does all this in spades.

Yes, I am an evolutionist, an emergentist, if you like. This doesn’t preclude me from having faith in a loving power outside of myself. It does preclude me from assuming to know what the motives of that power are, or indeed, if it has any at all, beyond love itself.

God is an agilist, and the universe, the earth, the creatures on it are all emergent. Those of us with reasoning ability are responsible for our own destinies. Giving credit to something or someone for that destiny goes hand in hand with blaming that entity when things don’t go according to our plans, or our desires. Too often we create God in our own image. Perhaps that’s why our workplaces, our industry, our world is such a mess. We praise our own self-righteousness, our intellect, and we assume to know the unknowable. True praise must come from embracing the mystery, and releasing into the unknown. 


Anonymous said: About your recent post “God is an Agilist”. I think you made a fairly valid point, and I do agree that we shouldn’t try to fit God into a man-made box, but your annoyance at the name “the Ulitimate Programmer” is a little uncalled for. I don’t think the names and metaphors we give God are meant to describe or contain the full glory of Him, but rather catch a glimpse of a small portion of His character. But other than that, the post was well written and well thought out. I enjoyed it.

Reply: Good point. It was rather a strong reaction. Still, it prompted the post, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Susanna Kaukinen said: The universe is like a bird that’s flown out of its nest. On its own trying to figure out what to be/come and hopefully to enjoy the ride. :-) Anyway, if you’ve seen the 10x/scales videos that have been around lately, you know - we never know. I don’t suppose we really know the scale of things. We could be missing something huge that’s too large for us to figure out - or vice versa. So it all remains a mystery - even though we won’t be around to see it. Our galaxy is on a collision course w/another, everything is expanding and stuff is going farther and farther away and eventually the sun will die out. So perhaps, just maybe - it really is a BDUF… ;-)