Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fusion: Randomness and Creation

In this sometimes series, we are exploring the "fusion" of science and theology. Many Christian sites are responding to apparent contradictions between science and faith. My purpose in this series is to step beyond these problems to ask the question, "If science and the Bible are both revealing truth, what happens when we combine them? What new insights result from the fusion of growing natural revelation and special revelation?”



Einstein once declared that God does not play dice. His statement was less about theology and more about his initial distaste for quantum physics, but it serves as a backdrop to today’s post. Does God roll the dice? Did he create a universe regulated by chance, randomness? We Christians have difficulty with this idea of chance happenings. We prefer to think of God as the “Blessed Controller of all things” (J.B. Phillips translation of 1 Timothy 5:16). But physicists and biologists alike insist that all reality, from subatomic mechanics to genetic mutations, can only be understood as a flow of random events. Are they correct? Consider with me two contrasting theological frameworks:

1) God governs all creation with a “hands-on” approach, creating and then managing and superintending every detail, carefully orchestrating events to accomplish his purposes. If he did not special create each species, he at least intervened from time to time to guide the development of “irreducibly complex” biological systems. His directive influence extends not only over cosmic and biological evolution, but also over all human activity. He sovereignly guides every detail of the believer’s life, holds sway over the course of human history, even setting governments in place. In this way, the flow of creation moves unalterably toward the culmination of his over-all plan and purpose.


2) God initiates the cosmos, but then essentially leaves his hands off. He allows evolution to take its wandering course, and rarely intervenes in the affairs of human beings. But he is not the disengaged god of the deist; he is deeply interested and invested in the flow of human history (even entering into it in the person of Jesus) and interacts personally with people of faith. However he seldom exerts his directive influence; instead he chooses to let his creation take its natural course. His purposes are accomplish not by the force of his will and manipulations, but by the natural outplay of physical and spiritual laws.

In my previous Fusion post, I turned to the concept of evolutionary convergence to suggest that God might have created humankind “in his own image” using an entirely random evolutionary process. If this hypothesis were correct, it would mean that the second framework is no mere role of the dice. Rather, it would lead to this possible scenario: God created a vast cosmos, one of sufficient size to ensure the eventual emergence of planet capable of hosting life; he infused the cosmos with just the right chemistry to ensure that life could and would emerge and evolve upon that planet; and he waited patiently for nearly 14 billion years for these eventualities to transpire. After creating a universe capable of hosting and evolving humankind, despite its entropic nature, little or no direct divine intervention would have been required.


Such a scenario gives answer to the riddles posed by Richard Dawkins and others about the oddity of Christians assigning cosmic significance to human beings when we occupy an infinitesimal corner of an immense cosmos, and have been on the scene for a mere eyeblink of cosmic time. If, in fact, it best served the purposes of the Creator to allow his creation to develop according to natural laws, the scope of time and space may have been necessary.


But more importantly, such a scenario completely changes the playing field for theodicy, or the problem of evil. Under the first theological framework above, God must, in some answer for malaria, animal pain, millions of species extinctions, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and indirectly responsible for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, 9/11, and every other imaginable human ill. However, if God’s purposes are best served by leaving his hands off of creation, all such ills are seen in a different light, assuming that God’s choice of modus operandi was one of necessity, not of whim.


While this scenario may help to solve some problems for belief, for many it raises other problems and questions. Among them,

1) What considerations might prompt God to create and govern his universe in this way? What might compel him to leave his hands off of creation even when it is assailed by catastrophic horrors and unthinkable atrocities?


2) Does randomness presuppose Open Theology, or the idea that God does not possess perfect knowledge of the future? This question was raised by a reader in response to the earlier post on randomness.


3) Can such a view of randomness be integrated into the teachings of the Bible, which might seem to favor the hands-on God?

In upcoming posts, I will offer my perspective on these and other questions.

150 comments:

Steve Douglas said...

Great, Cliff. Should be interesting!

1) What considerations might prompt God to create and govern his universe in this way? What might compel him to leave his hands off of creation even when it is assailed by catastrophic horrors and unthinkable atrocities?

Would it be a pat answer to say, "That's just the way He is?"

In other words, I think the Scripture writers were not simply waxing rhetorical when they said things like, "Who is man, that You are mindful of him?" and (putting this in God's own mouth) "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The miracle is that our transcendent God has made any effort at immanence at all, and what it took for God to be with us as Immanuel was no trifle; the Incarnation was no mere day-trip.

That's where I'd start, anyway.

2) Does randomness presuppose Open Theology, or the idea that God does not possess perfect knowledge of the future? This question was raised by a reader in response to the earlier post on randomness.

They are certainly compatible, but I wouldn't say one is dependent on the other. My own view is that God has foreknowledge, and knowing all possible outcomes from random chances, chose this one.

3) Can such a view of randomness be integrated into the teachings of the Bible, which might seem to favor the hands-on God?

I believe so, but not without a recognition of accommodation: they had a simplified view of this complex "fusion".

Cliff Martin said...

Steve,

Thank you for your contributions. A few responses of my own ...

1) Would it be a pat answer to say, "That's just the way He is?"

I think it is too pat an answer. You may be right: maybe it is that simple. But your position does not impact theodicy favorably. It would suggest that God cares enough to be immanent, and even to incarnate himself, but that he doesn’t care enough to shield innocents from unthinkable horrors. My own thought (which I will develop in a future post) is that God is compelled, by reason of his overall purpose in the cosmos, to restrain his hand.


2) ... knowing all possible outcomes from random chances, chose this one.
Spoken like a true Reformed thinker. I agree that God would know every possible contingent pathway, even though such possible outcomes must number in the trillions of trillions and beyond. In terms of evolution, the principle of convergence would bring these contingent pathways ever toward predictable outcomes, so that (in may respects, at least) “this one” (as you refer to it) would not need to be “chosen”.

3) ... but not without a recognition of accommodation ...

I agree.

Steve Douglas said...

But your position does not impact theodicy favorably. It would suggest that God cares enough to be immanent, and even to incarnate himself, but that he doesn’t care enough to shield innocents from unthinkable horrors.

I must say, if your goal in theodicy is to make what He does seem in every way like what a really, really smart human would do, perhaps. But my point is that maybe God is not just a really, really smart human, that He has thought processes which, even if plainly laid out before us, would confuse the heck out of us. Even aspects such as His "caring" might be in need of a little de-accomodating (new term, there); it's not really disputed among scholars that our notions of "caring" and "love" are much more romantic and less tough than the ancients held when they talked about those notions.

Spoken like a true Reformed thinker.

Ha! I have never been accused of being "Reformed". And I like it that way. ;-)

In terms of evolution, the principle of convergence would bring these contingent pathways ever toward predictable outcomes, so that (in may respects, at least) “this one” (as you refer to it) would not need to be “chosen”.

Not sure I follow. Are you suggesting there were no other possible outcomes? I doubt it - so if there were other possible outcomes, then my belief that it was no surprise to God that this is the one that occurred (i.e., He allowed/chose it).

Cliff Martin said...

Steve,

Did you see my earlier post on convergence? If not, that comment of mine would not make much sense. Are you familiar with the work Simon Conway Morris is doing? He believes there is evidence that human beings (or something very similar to humans) were an inevitable outcome of evolution.

Just what do you mean by "this one"? (when you say "he chose this one")?

Steve Douglas said...

Yes, I read your post about Simon Conway Morris's views. But evolutionary convergence only touches biology. It doesn't touch facts like the earth's distance from the sun being optimal, the conditions for life having to have been just as they were, etc.

I meant that He chose this outcome of the many possible outcomes. He could have chosen an outcome in which life didn't begin until 3 trillion years from now, or never at all for that matter. Do you see what I mean?

Cliff Martin said...

Steve,

Yes, I do see what you mean. But consider the alternative. Some have estimated that there is roughly a one in one, or maybe two in one chance that, unlikely as planet earth is, one such planet would occur in a cosmos of this size. No special planning or choosing on the part of the Creator would be necessary. Given enough time (and given the right conditions, both physical and chemical, at the Big Bang), planet earth happens somewhere in this universe. And that provides us with some understanding of how it is that man is so significant in such a vast universe. If God were relying upon random occurrences (assuming he had some underlying reason for doing so), he would have created a universe of this size to ensure human beings would emerge.

In your scheme, we have no explanation for the vastness of the universe, or the 13.7 billions year lead-up. To some extent, at least, the rational argument of the materialist stands.

Isaac Gouy said...

Steve Douglas > Would it be a pat answer to say, "That's just the way He is?"

Cliff will say that.

Cliff will say that after supposing a heap of extraneous speculation.

Cliff will phrase it like this - "...God is compelled, by reason of his overall purpose..."

(Predicting the past is so much easier than predicting the future.)


Steve Douglas > ... if your goal in theodicy is to make what He does seem in every way like what a really, really smart human would do ...

God as engineer - wouldn't that be idolatry?


Steve Douglas > But my point is that maybe God is not just a really, really smart human ...

"We can then, I think, say that whatever accounts for the existence of the universe cannot be limited in the way that impersonal unintelligent things and forces are, but this does not justify us in attributing to God our own particular mode of intelligence. If we do speak of God as making up his mind or changing his mind or deciding or cogitating or reasoning, it can only be by metaphor as when we speak of his strong right arm or his all-seeing eye." God Matters

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > And that provides us with some understanding of how it is that man is so significant in such a vast universe.

Or that provides us with some understanding of just how much God enjoys supernova.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

God may well enjoy supernovae. No doubt he does! But exactly how does the lead-up to my assertion which you quote provide us with such an understanding?

You missed the point entirely.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > You missed the point entirely.

You started off with charitable inquiry but apparently were to impatient to wait for a reply and rushed into dismissive accusation.

Supernova take time and space, and after the enjoyment of one or two there's all that stardust spreading around getting in the way!

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Okay, more gently then. I think you missed the point. I am not suggesting that the significance of man is the only or even the best explanation for the size and age of the universe. I am suggesting that the Creator's chosen dependence upon randomness, as a principle of his creative process, may help explain how man could be significant in a universe of this size and age.

David McMaster said...

Cliff,

Perhaps I missed it somewhere in a post, but how does God choosing randomness as His means of creation get Him off the hook for what we call evil? If in His foreknowledge He knew that evil would arise from a random creation process isn't He still ultimately responsible for it?

My apologies if you've already covered this.

Cliff Martin said...

Hi David,

No need to apologize, yours is an excellent question. I have addressed this in earlier posts, particularly in Post #6: "Entropy, the Implications", the entire "Problem of Evil" series (links for these are in the sidebar), and also in the "Evolution, Red in Tooth and Claw" Part 1 and Part 2.

It is the concept of randomness coupled with the implications of entropy beginning at the Creation Moment that suggest to me that the out-workings of evil were necessary elements of Creation and God's overarching purpose.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

Supernova take time and space, and after the enjoyment of one or two there's all that stardust spreading around getting in the way!

I thought "all that stardust" became the source material for our planet and the life that developed here. I wouldn't call that "getting in the way".

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > I thought "all that stardust" became the source material for our planet and the life that developed here. I wouldn't call that "getting in the way".

Dust that finds itself fascinating while getting in the way of the main event.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I am suggesting that the Creator's chosen dependence upon randomness, as a principle of his creative process, may help explain how man could be significant in a universe of this size and age.

Firstly you haven't been suggesting a chosen dependence upon randomness - you've been suggesting randomness plus ad hoc intervention.

And then you speak as though The Creator is a thing tinkering together a stochastic mechanism - not the would be answer to the question "Why is there anything instead of nothing?"


Cliff > ... suggest to me that the out-workings of evil were necessary elements of Creation and God's overarching purpose.

With more humility, others cut to the chase and straightforwardly acknowledge the mystery of His purpose.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Oh, please ...

"With more humility, others cut to the chase and straightforwardly acknowledge the mystery of His purpose.

I have spoken and written of the mystery which necessarily envelops God and his purposes. I have never purported to know what his purpose is. In an earlier comment, you derided me for my "supposing a heap of extraneous speculation."

While I might use different language, I did not take exception to your derision. Everything in this series of posts is suppositional.

What I am searching for here is one possible scenario which fits the data that science and biblical theology provide for me. I've never purported to be claiming anything more.

So, because I am openly searching for answers, I now fall short on your humility scale?

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

Dust that finds itself fascinating while getting in the way of the main event.

Far from "getting in the way", it is essential. BTW, what are you calling the "main event"?

Anonymous said...

Hi Cliff,
I was just catching up on your blog. Thank you for your thoughts. I do want to engage with your conversations but feel ignorant on the science side of these facts. Understanding the science of things exhaustively does not hinder my curiosity which asks the question, "if evolution is true, what consequence is that to my reading of scripture."I finished The Language of God as well as McLaren's "The Story We Find Ourselves In." I am just checking in to encouage you that your discussions are reaching to this side of the mountains.
-nick watts

Cliff Martin said...

Nick,

What difference does evolution make in how we read scripture? Good question. I think I'd like to respond in a full post, and broaden it a bit. Evolution impacts theology; how we read scripture is just one of the ways it impacts theology. I will think about this a few days and post on the topic, "What difference does evolution make to the Christian?"

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > Far from "getting in the way", it is essential. BTW, what are you calling the "main event"?

The "main event" is a bright background which silhouettes the narcissism of the dust.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > What I am searching for here is one possible scenario which fits the data that science and biblical theology provide for me.

Steve Douglas straight away pointed to the traditional answer.


Cliff > So, because I am openly searching for answers, I now fall short on your humility scale?

When mystery "necessarily envelops God and his purposes" then necessarily the only answer is mystery.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

I see your point.

Quick! Quick! Since mystery envelops multidimensionality and string theory, someone should let the physicists of the world to stop searching for greater clarity!

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Please accept that last comment with its intended tongue-in-cheek.

But more seriously ...
Do you really object to a theist trying to gain a clearer picture of God and his purposes that better fits the data? And if so, why?

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Since mystery envelops multidimensionality and string theory...

Where's the mystery?

Those are mathematical models of the universe, which will either be worked into a form with predictable observations or will slide into the dustbin of science.


Cliff > Do you really object to a theist trying to gain a clearer picture of God and his purposes that better fits the data?

When you speak of "the mystery which necessarily envelops God and his purposes" you put "a clearer picture of God and his purposes" out of reach behind that veil of mystery by necessity not by accident.

As mystery necessarily envelops God "openly searching for answers" will necessarily be futile.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Well, quite obviously I disagree, or I would not continue to search for clarity. Because God is ultimately mysterious does not preclude man from learning all he can about God. I don't get your logic at all. I do not propose to wipe away all the mystery. I do propose to search for more understanding. It is what people of faith have been doing since Abraham.

I have been asking questions about God, origins, and the universe since I was a teenager. Much that was mystery to me back then is coming into focus for me now. That is not to say all my conclusions are true. It is to say that entropy, relativity, quantum physics, and cosmic and biological evolution (and various other insights) have helped me paint a possible picture of the past that fits the data, makes sense of many Biblical passages, and provides plausible answers to many of those questions (for me!). You can go on calling what I am doing "futile". But saying it is futile will not change the fact that I have found it richly rewarding and quite fruitful.

Oh, and by the way ... multidimensionality is enshrouded in mystery. Yes, mathematical formula's suggest multidimensionality, and physicists are striving to understand it. I hope they make considerable progress. But I doubt they will ever lift the mystery off of multidimensionality ... and so do they!

Rich G. said...

Isaac:


Where's the mystery?

Those are mathematical models of the universe, which will either be worked into a form with predictable observations or will slide into the dustbin of science.


I would suggest you read "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene, then come back and try to make that statement.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > I would suggest you read...

I have, so we're also past the point where I "come back and try to make that statement".

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

Good. But knowing that, how can you assert there is no mystery in the nature and structure of the universe - that everything is solvable?

At least that's how your statements sound to me.

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > At least that's how your statements sound to me.


You have put words in my mouth.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I don't get your logic at all. ... You can go on calling what I am doing "futile".

Do you believe mystery necessarily envelops God and his purposes?

If you do then you have told us there can never be an answer which penetrates that mystery, so because of what you say you believe "openly searching for answers" will necessarily be futile.

I'm just spelling out the consequences of your words.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Look up "mystery" in any standard dictionary. If you still want to carry on with your line of reasoning after you acquaint yourself with the meaning of the word, then we can discuss it further.

Isaac Gouy said...

The question as usual is what you mean when you say "mystery".

Perhaps you don't mean inexplicable, perhaps you just mean currently unknown?

What do you mean by mystery in this context?

Cliff Martin said...

I mean nothing more nor less than the dictionary definition of the word. From the dictionary on my Mac:

mystery. something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

iow, mystery does not mean "unsolvable". While I harbor no illusions that I will fully unwrap the mystery surrounding God, "mystery" does not imply that we are without hope of understanding more than we presently do. Straighforward English. Any reader of Sherlock Holmes would know: mysteries are for solving!

This issue is apparently very important to you. Why is that? and what do you think mystery means?

It occurs to me that "mystery" may not be the problem word in what I said. Perhaps it was the word "necessarily" that lead you so far astray. Yes, God (who is a spirit being living in extra-dimensions) is mysterious, and some things may never be fully known by us in this life. I did not intend to imply that our efforts to unlock as much mystery as possible is futile. But I would think you could have figured that out yourself. Why would I declare that my efforts are completely hopeless and futile? Why would you even think I would imply such a thing?

Tom said...

In the post you said, "...by the natural outplay of physical and spiritual laws."

What is a "spiritual law"?

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,

What is a "spiritual law"?

Good Question.

I can assure you that I am not speaking of the 4 famous ones from Campus Crusade. Rather, I have in mind laws that govern the spiritual realm, about which we know but a little. Presuming that we are caught up in an ages long battle between good and evil, I further presume that such a battle is governed by laws ... rules of engagement, if you will.

But more to the point, we learn of several spiritual laws or principles, in the Bible. Evil can be overcome by good, for example. Love is more powerful than hatred. The intrinsic power of life is greater than the power of death. These are laws, or principles, that believers are instructed to put into use by Jesus. They are the laws by which evil will, in the end be annihilated.

This is an incomplete answer to your question. As I continue to write, study, and think, it is these "laws" and how they play out in the spiritual realm that I hope to address in greater detail.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > ... "mystery" does not imply that we are without hope of understanding more than we presently do.

One of the plain meanings given in the dictionary definition you chose is that mystery is something that is "impossible to understand or explain".

Seeking to understand or explain something that by definition is impossible to understand or explain must by definition be futile.

Instead did you mean by "the mystery which necessarily envelops God and his purposes" that "God and his purposes" are difficult to understand but in principal are possible to understand in this life?


Cliff > ... God (who is a spirit being living in extra-dimensions) is mysterious

Again you seem to be saying that God is a thing ("a spirit being") in the universe ("extra-dimensions" of the universe) - is that what you believe?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Well, let's take another run at this and try to make this as clear as possible ....

One of the plain meanings given in the dictionary definition you chose is that mystery is something that is "impossible to understand or explain"

Yes. And the other plain meaning given in the dictionary definition I chose is that mystery is something "difficult to understand or explain." Difficult or impossible.

Seeking to understand or explain something that by definition is impossible to understand or explain must by definition be futile.

Yes. However, Seeking to understand or explain something that by definition is difficult to understand or explain must not by definition be futile.

Isaac, why are we doing this??? I thought by now all of this was way beyond obvious. Did you actually not know that I gave you that definition because it included things that are "difficult", and not just "impossible" to understand? And did you actually not know all along that "mystery" often implies things that are difficult to understand???

Instead did you mean by "the mystery which necessarily envelops God and his purposes" that "God and his purposes" are difficult to understand but in principal are possible to understand in this life?

Uh, yeah. But I do not believe we have any chance of solving all the mystery that surrounds God. Hence, my original statement: "... the mystery which necessarily envelops God and his purposes."

... you seem to be saying that God is a thing ("a spirit being") in the universe ("extra-dimensions" of the universe) - is that what you believe?

No. I believe that God is a person, not a "thing", who lives in but is not confined to our universe.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > But I do not believe we have any chance of solving all the mystery that surrounds God.

But you believe that simply as practical matter, not as a belief that in this life it is impossible to understand God and his purposes?



Cliff > I believe that God is a person, not a "thing"...

I meant "thing" in the most general sense which includes "person".

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

Cliff asked this;

"What difference does evolution make to the Christian?"

Not a lot other than taking away your best "chat up line" i.e. the argument from design.

Regards,

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

Psi,

Well, you have never been impressed by any argument from design. I am! And for me, acceptance of evolution only serves to ratchet up the force of the argument several notches!

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff, I think your recent comments are clear enough to say that contrary to your earlier guess (July 2) your views are quite different from those of Thomas Aquinas and later Thomists.

"... I hope it will be clear that this whole position involves a false and idolatrous picture of God. The 'God' here is an inhabitant of the universe, existing alongside his creatures, interfering with some but not with others."

"God cannot share a world with us - if he did he would have created himself. God cannot be outside, or alongside, what he has made." God Matters


Your recent comments seem to describe the character Q from Star Trek rather than "an unanswered question about the universe: the question 'How come the whole thing instead of nothing?'"

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Well, you’ve done it again. To your own satisfaction (apparently) you have prompted, queried, and strung me along with various strands of questionings until you get me to say something with which somebody inside Christendom disagrees.

Duh. I could have made your life much easier by simply giving you a list of my beliefs with which a myriad of other Christians disagree. So what?

You argument that I have set myself apart from Thomas Aquinas would be more cogent if

1) you had actually done as I asked you to do in this comment: produce some evidence that Aquinas would disagree with me.

2) you actually quoted Aquinas at all. Instead, you quote a 20th Century Catholic who was not only outside the mainstream of Christianity (McCabe was a Marxist) but outside the mainstream of his own Catholic Church in many of his views.

So, am I supposed to shriek in dismay that you quote-mined a somewhat obscure writer who (apparently) believes that God does not inhabit his own Creation?

Do you want me to present the hundreds of Bible verses, and quotes from thousands of Christians throughout the church age, that substantiate belief that God does inhabit his own Creation ... that (as I said clearly a few comments back) he “lives in but is not confined to our universe”? That is mainstream Christianity. Emmanuel! But I’m sure you already knew that.

I mean no disrespect, Isaac. You are obviously well-read. But if this is the best you can do in your efforts to marginalize me, I suggest you get a life! Because if you really have time for this nonsense, you must not have one.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > until you get me to say something with which somebody inside Christendom disagrees

If you misspoke simply express what you mean in different words.

Since you're talking about theology it's a very ordinary step to compare your words with the words of a theologian.


Cliff > You argument that I have set myself apart from Thomas Aquinas...

Why would it matter to you if you had?


Cliff > ... if you had actually done as I asked you to do in this comment

I replied by asking you to make clear what you mean by "Creation" because it seemed that you meant something different to the distinction the Thomists draw "between creation and making or causing in our familiar sense". Still waiting for your answer.


Cliff > McCabe was a Marxist

As you think of contrasts between what you say and what others say as "efforts to marginalize me" it shouldn't be too surprising that your response is an attempt to marginalize the other person, rather than considering the argument they presented.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

I don't mind you "comparing my words" to McCabe. I do mind when you claim that my guess (that Thomas of Aquinas would agree: God created the universe) was mistaken, and your McCabe quote somehow prove that.

The reason I mentioned that McCabe was something of a renegade Catholic and a Marxist is because, whether by your intention or not, a casual reader of our comments might presume that you were quoting the eminent Thomas of Aquinas.

This whole matter goes back to your contention that when I state my belief that God created the universe, I set myself outside of the beliefs of Aquinas and (in your words) "a whole Christian tradition." I asked you then for any evidence that Aquinas believed otherwise, and you have never produced it. You just keep quoting McCabe. McCabe dissects the word "create" almost beyond recognition. When I use the word, I intend the straightforward dictionary definition: "to bring (something) into existence"

You must surely know that the question of whether McCabe truly represents Thomas is a controversial. McCabe, many feel, was more influenced by 20th century existentialism than by Aquinas.

So please ... If you are going to continue your claim that I am, somehow, at odds with Thomas of Aquinas (something I would be genuinely interested in knowing), tell me about Thomas of Aquinas.

I could not care less if my views run afoul of McCabe.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > The reason I mentioned that McCabe was something of a renegade Catholic and a Marxist is because, whether by your intention or not, a casual reader of our comments might presume that you were quoting the eminent Thomas of Aquinas.

Denigrating McCabe does nothing to make clear whether the words were those of McCabe or Aquinas.

The source URL I provided already made clear whose words were quoted.



Cliff > McCabe dissects the word "create" almost beyond recognition. When I use the word, I intend the straightforward dictionary definition: "to bring (something) into existence"

Do you mean bringing the universe into existence involves more stuff but is otherwise just the same as a man does when he brings his morning cup of coffee into existence?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Yes, you did provide a URL which identifies that the quote is from McCabe. That is precisely why I referred to “the casual reader”, who might not trace back to the original source. I stand by my reasoning that such a reader might reasonably presume from your comment you were quoting Aquinas. (I think I made this point quite clearly in my previous comment. Did you not notice?)

I mention McCabe’s religious and political views also for the benefit of other readers who might, from your comments, presume that McCabe fairly represents Aquinas. It is my opinion (and that of many others) that he does not, and that he qualifies neither as a mainstream Christian nor a mainstream Thomist.

I’ll stand by the ambiguous definition of “create” because I do not know if creation was ex nihilo or not. The Biblical words used most often to describe creation (Hebrew bara and Greek ktidzo) are likewise non-specific. They can describe both the concept of creation ex nihilo, or shaping, forming, or transforming.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I mention McCabe’s religious and political views also for the benefit of other readers who might, from your comments, presume that McCabe fairly represents Aquinas. It is my opinion (and that of many others) that he does not...

Instead of denigrating McCabe please provide specific examples of what some specific individuals among those nameless "many others" find objectionable in McCabe's representation of Aquinas.


Cliff > I’ll stand by the ambiguous definition of “create” because I do not know if creation was ex nihilo or not.

What is to prevent you giving an unambiguous answer for each of those clear alternatives?

If creation was ex nihilo ...

If creation was not ex nihilo do you mean bringing the universe into existence involves more stuff but is otherwise just the same as a man does when he brings his morning cup of coffee into existence?

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

Instead of denigrating McCabe please provide specific examples of what some specific individuals among those nameless "many others" find objectionable in McCabe's representation of Aquinas.

I read your citation - and all I would say is: quote Aquinas himself, not someone else's comments that may or may not be attributed Aquinas.

Rich G.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Instead of denigrating McCabe please provide specific examples of what some specific individuals among those nameless "many others" find objectionable in McCabe's representation of Aquinas.

I was about to respond to this statement, then read Rich's comment and found that he had already responded with the obvious.

If you wish to claim that I am at odds with Aquinas (which you have done), the onus is upon you to demonstrate that with citations from Aquinas.

... the same as a man does when he brings his morning cup of coffee into existence?

There would be many better analogies than someone running a coffee machine! Rembrandt, Frank Llloyd Wright, and Wolfgang Puck come to mind.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I was about to respond to this statement...

I hope you do take the opportunity to show that there are "many others" who've stated genuine disagreements with McCabe's representation of Aquinas - as you've claimed.


Cliff > If you wish to claim that I am at odds with Aquinas (which you have done), the onus is upon you to demonstrate that with citations from Aquinas.

Sed quia de Deo scire non possumus quid sit, sed quid non sit, non possumus considerare de Deo quomodo sit, sed potius quomodo non sit.


As once again you've not tried to answer, it seems that for reasons of your own you prefer to be ambiguous about what you mean by bringing the universe into existence.

If you want to keep it a secret that's up to you.


Cliff @ July 30, 6:07 PM > I believe that God is a person, not a "thing", who lives in but is not confined to our universe.

If a person "lives in" a universe then that person must be part of that universe - or when you say "lives in" you mean something quite different to what we might ordinarily understand by lives in.

If a person created a universe of which they are part, then by creating that whole universe they must have created themselves.

Do you believe God created Himself in creating the universe?

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

If a person "lives in" a universe then that person must be part of that universe - or when you say "lives in" you mean something quite different to what we might ordinarily understand by lives in.

I'm glad to know that I am actually a part of my house.

Cliff Martin said...

Rich,

I was thinking the same thing, but I didn't know if it was even worth mentioning. My son is currently building (creating?) a house in which he and his family will live. As he builds it, sometimes he is inside, sometimes he crawling around the outside. After it is finished, he will live in it. But he will never be a part of it. He did not create himself. And at times, he will actually be outside the house. Sometimes, he will be miles away!

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I was thinking the same thing, but I didn't know if it was even worth mentioning.

Did you say you believed in a God "who lives in but is not confined to" a house?

Is "our universe" a house?

No? So just a red herring intended to distract rather than enlighten.


In the theological context you raised - "Why is there something instead of nothing?" - the universe is everything ("thing") that exists, the counterpoint to nothing ("no thing").

To be included in "everything that exists" is to be part of "everything that exists" - you live in the universe, are you not part of the universe?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Is "our universe" a house?

Yes, of sorts. So the house analogy is no red herring.

I'm sure you are trying to make a point here, and I know you to be an intelligent person. But Isaac, all this is senseless gibberish to me. Maybe I'm just to simple to track with you.

As I have said repeatedly, God dwells inside and outside the created universe. He is not a created thing. He preexists the universe. "Why is there something instead of nothing?" is a simple concept, not intended (at least by me) to be pressed into some strict syllogism as you are attempting to do. The "something" that exists is limited to our perceptual field, the physical universe we know by experience. There may be other universes like this one. The "something" that exists is thus limited to material things. God is not a material thing (only), he is first and foremost a spirit. When I ask "Why is there something instead of nothing?" I do not have in mind spiritual reality. Thus the universe is most definitely not "everything that exists."

When I use the question "why is there something instead of nothing?" this is what I have in mind: the atheist lacks a reasonable explanation for the existence of anything. The theist, on the other hand, posits an eternal God, other spiritual beings, perhaps many universes, and definitely the universe we inhabit. Despite your efforts, God moving in and out of his own created universe, existing in it and along side it, creates no logical problem for me.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

Is "our universe" a house?

I introduced the house analogy to illustrate the absurdity of your statement:

If a person "lives in" a universe then that person must be part of that universe - or when you say "lives in" you mean something quite different to what we might ordinarily understand by lives in.

by using an example of what can be ordinarily understood by 'lives in'.

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Thus the universe is most definitely not "everything that exists."

noun [U]
everything that exists, esp. all physical matter, including all the stars and planets in space


It's fine with me if you want to use narrow definitions or even definitions of your own - as long as you first make clear you are using a narrow definition or a definition of your own.



Cliff > When I use the question "why is there something instead of nothing?" this is what I have in mind: the atheist lacks a reasonable explanation for the existence of anything.

Even to a theologian there's something wrong with that question - "It must be admitted that, from a logical point of view, the question: 'How come that there is something, rather than nothing?' is very curious. (How does the comparative 'rather than' work, except by smuggling in a notion of 'nothing' as a kind of thing?)"

p87 "Holiness, Speech, and Silence" Nicholas Lash

Philosophers will likely be more blunt - "The question itself is ill conceived: the proposition 'there is nothing' cannot be given a coherent sense, and therefore there is no need to ask why it is false."

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

My dictionary defines “universe” as “all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.”

That definition works for me. Do you need me to explain the difference between “everything” and “all existing matter”?

“Why is there something instead of nothing?” implies that without a God, or a First Cause, it seems (at least) unlikely that matter would self-create, self-manifest, self-organize. From my perspective, you, Mr. Lash, and the philosopher (?) you quoted are reading too much into the simple question.

Let’s rework it a little. If we presume no God, no “omnipotent mind” (to quote Hume), no First Cause, how might one propose the universe would come into existence at all? What explanation can there be for the existence of matter? Indeed, what explanation can there be for existence?

The question is not intended to close the case. Asking it does not prove that God exists. But from my point of view, as a theist, existence itself is one piece of evidence for God. If you reject it as such, you are free to do so. But I am not interested in continuing to engage in a semantic struggle over the meaning of the question.

wtanksley said...

The dictionary is usually not the right place to go for philosophical definitions. The dictionary lists common uses, not philosophical distinctions.

In this case the definition of "universe" as "all that exists" is simply useless to the discussion; it begs the question, because if you assume it's correct you require that God could not have created the universe.

But I don't see anything aside from word games in this discussion. Are you actually trying to make a point?

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > In this case the definition of "universe" as "all that exists" is simply useless to the discussion; it begs the question, because if you assume it's correct you require that God could not have created the universe.

No, that ain't necessarily so.

You can choose to require meanings for "exists" and "God" that will make it so, but that would be your choice.

What logic would prevent a God who transcends existence from creating everything that exists?


wtanksley > But I don't see anything aside from word games in this discussion. Are you actually trying to make a point?

When the words don't add up we short change ourselves.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > My dictionary defines “universe” as “all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.”

That definition works for me.


How does it work when we add it to what you say about God?

Cliff @ August 7, 9:31 PM > God is not a material thing (only), he is first and foremost a spirit.

Do you mean God is a material thing and also and firstly and foremost a spirit?

That seems to be what the qualifier "(only)" does to the meaning.



Cliff > “Why is there something instead of nothing?” implies that...

If "'there is nothing' cannot be given a coherent sense" the question doesn't imply anything.

Just as "Is 7 green?" doesn't imply anything - it's an incoherent question.

wtanksley said...

You can choose to require meanings for "exists" and "God" that will make it so, but that would be your choice.

If this were your blog, I would cheerfully read your definitions charitably, so that your posts would not contain contradictions. As this is not your blog, you have a responsibility to dialogue on the author's terms (even when you seek to question them); if your comments fail to make sense on those terms, they do not contribute to the blog.

What logic would prevent a God who transcends existence from creating everything that exists?

I don't know. What does it mean to "transcend existence"? I know what it might mean informally, but you're being extremely picky about other people's words above, so you must have some specific meaning in mind... But formally, "transcends existence" simply means "doesn't exist". Obviously, a deity which doesn't exist is utterly "prevented" from creating anything.

When the words don't add up we short change ourselves.

Oh, I agree. Do you have a point?

-Wm

wtanksley said...

Spoken like a true Reformed thinker.

By the way, I'm a little late to the table with this, but I wanted to say that this reasoning is Molinist (Jesuit), not Reformed. Some Reformed (Arminians) have adopted it as well; I suspect SOME Calvinists might accept it too, but they have no reason to, by and large.

This is irrelevant to your point, but hey, knowledge is fun.

I agree that God would know every possible contingent pathway, even though such possible outcomes must number in the trillions of trillions and beyond. In terms of evolution, the principle of convergence would bring these contingent pathways ever toward predictable outcomes, so that (in may respects, at least) “this one” (as you refer to it) would not need to be “chosen”.

Let's suppose the "principle of convergence" actually exists, and there truly is more convergence than the known laws can possibly account for (why not? I've got no problem with that). Thus, there is at least one more scientific law which mathematically describes the causation of this, let's call it the "law of convergence". So do you believe that the "law of convergence" is:

1. Entirely arbitrary, it just happened to work out that way;
2. Necessary to any kind of universe, so speculating on a universe without it is a contradiction in terms;
3. A product of design.

If the law came about arbitrarily, I don't see how you've explained anything; you've just pushed off the coincidence to another level we know even less about.

If the law is necessary you've explained a lot, but you'll have to show that it's necessary first.

If the law is a product of design, then it seems a process of design is required, and surely God can control that process just as well as He could control the rest of the process.

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

wtanksley,

So do you believe that the "law of convergence" is:
...
2. Necessary to any kind of universe, so speculating on a universe without it is a contradiction in terms


Yes, necessary. Those who are defining and building the case for convergence use the term "inevitable". I could never submit the proofs you say would be necessary, but that is what the work of Conway Morris (and others) is all about. Convergence says that "ecological niches" naturally draw evolutionary processes into certain predictable outcomes.

wtanksley said...

Yes, necessary.

Thank you. Yes, I think there's something interesting to discuss here, then.

Those who are defining and building the case for convergence use the term "inevitable". I could never submit the proofs you say would be necessary,

I'm sorry to imply any proofs; the "show"ing I called for would occur at a level appropriate to the level of the conversation. Your brief and thoughtful answer to my brief and thoughtless question ;-) was entirely sufficient.

but that is what the work of Conway Morris (and others) is all about. Convergence says that "ecological niches" naturally draw evolutionary processes into certain predictable outcomes.

I think I get what you're talking about. One of the truisms of biology is that organisms create new environments which then drive their future evolution. This creates a feedback loop, so it seems logical evolution will either be extremely unstable or will find islands of stability.

It's not clear to me, though, that convergence to those islands of stability is actually beneficial to the individuals/species being evolved. I'd need to be assured that someone saw a specific evolutionary benefit before I could accept convergence as a possible law rather than a mere coincidence. For the sake of the argument you're making I don't think this is crucial.

More crucial, however, is that it seems to me that the locations of these islands would seem to be extremely sensitive to initial conditions. Although you might be able to show that convergence is necessary, it doesn't seem to me that you could say that there would necessarily be (say) beings with octopus/mammal eyes; any specific convergences seem to be unlikely at best. So if God had wanted us to have long white beards just like His (wink, I'm kidding), I don't see how invoking convergence solves anything -- He'd have to steer the evolution anyhow to get the desired convergence.

I look forward to hearing more about this in future blogposts.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > As this is not your blog, you have a responsibility to dialogue on the author's terms (even when you seek to question them); if your comments fail to make sense on those terms, they do not contribute to the blog.

Thank you for noticing that so many of my comments just ask Cliff what he means by a particular phrase.

Currently the definition of "universe" that works for Cliff "all existing matter..." would seem to include the "... is not a material thing (only)" god matter, and it's back to God creates God with the universe (on the author's terms).


wtanksley > I don't know. What does it mean to "transcend existence"?

It means theology needs some weasel words to escape the incoherence and contradictions.

Cliff Martin said...

No Isaac,

Currently the definition of "universe" that works for Cliff "all existing matter..." would seem to include the "... is not a material thing (only)" god matter, and it's back to God creates God with the universe (on the author's terms).

The Bible is very clear. God is a spirit. When I allowed that he enters the material universe in material form, I was thinking particularly of the Incarnation. Seemed so obvious to me that I assumed you could arrive at that on your own.

Why this constant attempt to corner me, or to trap me in my words? It does not serve the discussion at all. I seriously doubt your feigned interest in understanding me or the meaning in my writings. No one else seems to have trouble with the concept that God (an eternally existent spirit being) created the universe and all that is in it (perhaps ex nihilo, perhaps not) and that he dwells in said universe, but is not constrained to it, and that he takes on material existence in the Incarnation.

I'm sure you can take the above sentence and parse it to hell and come up with all kinds of twisted and contorted meanings and reveal how I have contradicted myself yet again! Be my guest. But don't expect me to go on offering endless definitions and explanations.

Do you have a point to make?

Cliff Martin said...

wtanksley

It is true that the specific environments, or ecological niches, are determined dynamically as various organisms take form. Thus predator animals will evolve a pair of forward looking eyes to enable depth perception and aid in hunting, while the survival of their preys will be favored by side vision. We can see the interplay of such convergences across all life forms.

Does convergence suggest that human beings will occur in any planet with an environment like ours? Conway Morris says, yes. I have not yet read his seminal work, Life’s Solution, Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe though its daunting 300+ pages are staring at me from my coffee table! I assume, however, that the inevitable “humans” are defined less by specific body features (height, number of fingers, location of organs, etc.) and more by qualities such as intelligence and sentience. However, Conway Morris would likely set some fairly constrained parameters for many physical features which would predictably characterize the species.

I'd need to be assured that someone saw a specific evolutionary benefit before I could accept convergence as a possible law rather than a mere coincidence.

I think the evolutionary benefits that drive convergence would be the same as those that drive all of natural selection: survival and reproductive success.

I believe that convergence will never account for every organism. Evolution is no doubt driven partly by convergence, partly by contingency (ala Gould). This can be seen in remarkable similarity in the array of marsupial mammals in Australia and the placental mammals elsewhere (e.g. flying squirrels); but on the other hand, placental mammals have nothing analogous to kangaroos.

wtanksley said...

Thank you for noticing that so many of my comments just ask Cliff what he means by a particular phrase.

I struggle to find a single comment of yours that actually does that. Every one in this thread at least carries at least a subtext of disagreement. And you have to search a while to find the first actual question -- most of your posts are one-sentence mockeries, usually absurd and presumptuous ones (such as the classic: "dust that finds itself fascinating while getting in the way of the main event").

Even if seeking meaning was something you actually did, you'd still have to have some purpose... Elucidating meaning is pointless if you don't intend to ever apply it to build an argument.

Currently ... for Cliff ... it's back to God creates God with the universe (on the author's terms).

I'm not sure how you could say that "it's back", since you've not identified how he ever said that. He certainly didn't imply it, in spite of your claim here; we do claim that God had incarnated in the Physics He created, but His existence isn't grounded in it.

It means theology needs some weasel words to escape the incoherence and contradictions.

Theology doesn't need the phrase "transcend existence". You may want those words, for some reason, but that's your problem.

Is that really your only point, this whole time? You think theology is "incoherence and contradictions", so you walk into a theology/science blog and pester the author to answer random questions whose implications you don't even believe in?

Please say it's not so.

-Wm

laurie burke said...

Cliff, I love the questions you ask here! I wish I had more time to dig my toes down deep into this incredibly interesting argument--and, it is not due to lack of interest but rather lack of time that I can't.

But, I find that variations of this theme are what make up much of my contemplation of God (how hands-on should I expect God to be in my life? Did he really bring this positive or negative, good or bad, exciting or challenging thing into my life or did it just happen? As I respond to it or other events in my life, should I expect that God will supernaturally intervene and thereby show me the direction to take? I mean, after all, if he does not, if he is not really intimately involved in my every move, then why should I pray for direction?)

While I totally track and am interested in your more heady debates about God's involvement in the cosmos and the order of the universe, these more mortal questions are the ones that plague me on a daily basis. How shall we then live? How should I interpret the daily results of my individual life? How should I interpret those, not-infrequent, times when I really don't think God gives a rip about a particular area of my life because he remains totally silent (and feels distant) for long period of times, yet is incredibly active (and amazingly attentive) in other areas of my life--all regardless of the amount of time spent in prayer. What relationship should I expect from a God who said he is my closest friend, my Father, my husband, my lover, and my savior? A distant one....really??! I'm not sure I know anymore....but it plagues me because I am in need of answers every hour.

Perhaps, my ramblings here are too vague and insufficient to warrant a response, but to these types of questions I often wonder "what would Cliff say?"

wtanksley said...

It would suggest that God cares enough to be immanent, and even to incarnate himself, but that he doesn’t care enough to shield innocents from unthinkable horrors.

Cliff, the problem is twofold: first, you're assuming the caring of God into Steve's proposal. Steve didn't imply how little God cared. Second, you're ignoring (for the moment) the fact that God in fact did NOT "shield innocents from unthinkable horrors" (at least the ones we know about; obviously there are ones He may have shielded us from). If you claim that "not caring" is the only reason God could have done that... Well, out of your own mouth... (But I know that's not normally your claim.)

I agree with you that "That's just the way He is," is a pat answer. It's vital to think about the way God is; we believe that God is fundamentally orderly and just, and even though we have to accept that the fullness is beyond us, we should be able to see the justice. If we can't see that, it's plausible to suggest we aren't looking at God, but at something else -- and we should question whether it's an idol.

I fully support and am following your inquiry; when I've disagreed, it's usually been at your dismissal of earlier inquiries that weren't as specific as yours have been. I hope your attempt at increased specificity bears fruit... But even that isn't totally new. The idea of a war against evil in which we are enlisted isn't new, either.

-Wm

wtanksley said...

Does convergence suggest that human beings will occur in any planet with an environment like ours? Conway Morris says, yes.

Ah, I see -- you're not arguing that ALL convergence is non-coincidental; merely that intelligence is a point of eventual convergence. So God didn't have to exercise guidance to produce us, beyond setting up the general initial conditions (stellar formation possible, etc.). Taking from your earlier writings, I think the point of the convergence is that God didn't create us in order to produce binocular vision or beards, but rather to produce beings capable of rational moral cooperation with Him.

Does that sound fair?

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

Laurie,

My comment here is going to be brief ... this morning we are packing for a week of camping at the Metolius. Thank you for stopping by, and for your thoughts. At our Sunday Breakfast meetings (wish you could join us!) we often explore the paradox of God’s apparent “hands-off” approach to the the natural world, and his vital involvement in the believer’s life. There are some very specific reasons why, I believe, he must be distant in ways, and some very specific reasons why he does interact very personally with people of faith. It would take way more than a comment like this to explore those concepts ... though I will be attempting to do so in future posts. Some ideas defy written expression. Much better to explore them in face-to-face discussions. Perhaps we shall have such opportunity some day(??) I’m still looking forward to a fuller report on the Toronto APA convention, even though Francis Collins had to back out. Post it on FB or email me.

Cliff Martin said...

wtanksley,

So much to respond to, and so little time today.

Honestly, I struggle hard with developing greater specificity to some of the ideas expressed here. It is, for me, a slow process. I deeply value the interaction with others such as yourself; my own thoughts, yet forming, often coalesce in the light of our discussions. So be patient, and (if you will) stay as engaged as you can. Your thoughts are so helpful.

Yes, your description of the significance of convergence in the creation of man is spot-on. Convergence is one of those ideas that has emerged in my thinking of late, and helps to make sense of many concepts. I first read about convergence in a Ken Miller’s book Only a Theory. But is was, interestingly, our friend Isaac who turned me on to the writings of Simon Conway Morris. And for that, I am sincerely grateful.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > Theology doesn't need the phrase "transcend existence". You may want those words, for some reason, but that's your problem.

Or I may not want or need those words, and they cause me no problem.


wtanksley > ... we do claim that God had incarnated in the Physics He created, but His existence isn't grounded in it.

The word "incarnated" wraps enough unfathomable mystery to split a church.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I seriously doubt your feigned interest in understanding me or the meaning in my writings.

That's uncharitable.


Cliff > No one else seems to have trouble with the concept that God (an eternally existent spirit being) created the universe and all that is in it (perhaps ex nihilo, perhaps not) and that he dwells in said universe, but is not constrained to it...

"dwells in" or indwelling?

By "dwells in said universe" do you mean takes on material existence (a material god not being able to see Adam and Eve) or ...?


Cliff > ... and that he takes on material existence in the Incarnation.

The mystery of the doctrine is that the same person Jesus is said to have both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature.

We might say 'God suffered hunger and thirst' when 'God' refers to the person Jesus who could suffer hunger and thirst because of his fully human nature.

Is that the same as saying that it's in the divine nature to suffer hunger and thirst, that it's in the nature of God to suffer hunger and thirst?

The fully human and fully divine person Jesus has material existence - is that the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence?

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

"The word "incarnated" wraps enough unfathomable mystery to split a church."

There lies a rich vein for us to contmeplate.

Any nominations for the most split religion?

Any nominations for one that hasn't split?

Any nominations for any single one of them that doesn't claim the one and only true answer?

Cheers,

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

Psi,

When dealing with any metaphysical topic, with limited data, splintering of viewpoints and opinions are inevitable. There is much infighting and opinion splintering among atheists, as you must surely know. It is not so noticeable because atheists make no pretense of subscribing to the same "faith". But differences abound, sometimes angry differences, among skeptics as well as religionists.

As you know from reading my blog, I frequently point out the dangers of certitude. And I couch most of my views in language that reveals my own lack of certainty. With you, I have marveled at the degree to which many of my Christian friends are so absolutely certain of views that run afoul of the majority of Christians. And of course, the same is true of those holding the alternate views. I often wonder if dogmatic religionists even notice this phenomena. If they did, perhaps they would exercise more tentativeness.

wtanksley said...

The mystery of the doctrine is that the same person Jesus is said to have both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature.

There's more mystery than that, but yes, that's definitely puzzled me.

We might say 'God suffered hunger and thirst' when 'God' refers to the person Jesus who could suffer hunger and thirst because of his fully human nature.

The reason we do not usually say that is that Jesus did not suffer hunger and thirst by His divine nature, but by His human nature. With that said, it is possible to say that.

Is that the same as saying that it's in the divine nature to suffer hunger and thirst, that it's in the nature of God to suffer hunger and thirst?

No. That transfers human nature over into the divine nature, which isn't what's claimed by Christian theology as part of the concept of incarnation.

It was definitely in Jesus' nature to suffer hunger and thirst, but that came to him through His human nature, not His Divine nature.

The fully human and fully divine person Jesus has material existence - is that the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence?

In short, no, for the reason given above.

wtanksley said...

Or I may not want or need those words, and they cause me no problem.

Yet you use them to imply the phrase "theology needs some weasel words to escape the incoherence and contradictions."

So although you don't need the words, you nonetheless fabricate them in order to be able to make the statement above... And when asked about it, rather than explain what you meant, you just repeat it in different words...

Are you interested in discussion at all now, or are you just trying to waste time?

You're throwing things against the wall to see which ones stick, and when one doesn't stick you just move on to the next, rather than even attempting to dialogue on the original point you raised (with the implicit claim that you actually believed it).

So... Now your own words "transcend existence" aren't your problem, they're only theology's problem, even though they have no meaning whatsoever... Okay, throw your next shot.

You still haven't mentioned whether you actually have a point in all this.

Isaac Gouy said...

> > ... is that the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence?

wtanksley > In short, no, for the reason given above.

Which takes me back to Cliff's explanation - "When I allowed that he [God] enters the material universe in material form, I was thinking particularly of the Incarnation."

Now we've taken notice of these doctrinal subtleties would you consider the Incarnation an example of God entering the material universe in material form?

wtanksley said...

would you consider the Incarnation an example of God entering the material universe in material form?

Yes.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

I consider that a case of having your cake and eating it too.

wtanksley said...

Isaac, care to enlighten me as to why you said that?

Psiloiordinary said...

while you are all at it . . .

just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Thanks,

Psi

wtanksley said...

Psi: why?

At the time the question was originally addressed, the answers that were discussed included zero, undefined, or one of the infinities. Those were concepts that the math at the time held only vaguely, so even addressing the concept was pretty impressive.

Addressing them now wouldn't add anything to our understanding of mathematics, and addressing them in this post seems like a mere distraction.

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

Actually, computers have made this much easier to figure ... I ran the calcs myself on my MacBook. 347,896, assuming none of the angels is excessively overweight.

Psiloiordinary said...

How dare you say it would be "mere" anything

:-)

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley, care to enlighten me with a reason that might support your monosyllabic response?

wtanksley said...

You asked a yes or no question. I gave an unqualified "yes" answer. I was tempted to chatter a bit, I admit, but I thought I was being courteous in answering your question without qualifications, even though I have no clue why you're asking the question.

I cooperated anyhow. You responded with an thoughtless insult. I asked what you meant, and you responded by pretending my clear, exact answer to your question qualifies merely as a "monosyllabic response".

I hope you have some reason for your original question; right now it sure doesn't look like it.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > I gave an unqualified "yes" answer.

And for the questions before that you did provide a reason for your "clear, exact answer" - which is a reasonable thing to expect.

If you don't wish provide a reason for your last "clear, exact answer" so be it.

wtanksley said...

Isaac, this conversation leaves me confused. What sort of answer are you hoping for? I guess it might help if you rephrased the question you were asking; that might possibly give me a clue as to what you want.

Are you looking for a thesis on the Biblical support for the doctrine of the incarnation? Do you want my personal history how I became attracted to the doctrine? Shall I argue from philosophy?

Do you have some specific objection?

Is there a reason why you think I "have my cake and eat it"?

Isaac Gouy said...

> What sort of answer are you hoping for?

On the one hand you agree that saying the fully human and fully divine person Jesus has material existence isn't the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence.

On the other hand you say that the Incarnation is an example of God entering the material universe in material form.

Why is the Incarnation an example of God entering the material universe in material form when the material existence of Jesus is an expression of the fully human nature not an expression of the fully divine nature?

wtanksley said...

Isaac, thank you for explaining.

Why is the Incarnation an example of God entering the material universe in material form when the material existence of Jesus is an expression of the fully human nature not an expression of the fully divine nature?

Thank you, I finally get what you thought was so obviously wrong. I think the cognitive gap might be fairly simple to bridge.

There are three Persons in our one God. Anything one of those Persons does is something that God does. When Jesus took on human form, becoming obedient to human nature, God (in Him) did so. But the nature of God is not the same thing as Jesus. Jesus fully follows the nature of God, and fully follows the nature of man, but the fact that in following the nature of man He became obedient to death doesn't mean that it became part of the nature of God to die -- any more than after God parted the Red Sea it became part of the nature of God to part the Red Sea.

I'll stop for now... Am I making sense?

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Paul, in Philippians 2:5-8, is as precise as anyone can be in his description of the Incarnation of Jesus. Rather than express dismay over statements wtanksley or I make, perhaps you could respond directly to Paul. Then we could explain our take on what the Bible teaches about God, Jesus, God taking on material form, etc.

There is no question about it ... Incarnation is cloaked in mystery. With our very limited knowledge of the nature of God, or of the extra-dimensionality of God's existence, there is little chance that any believer could explain the Incarnation to you in physical/metaphysical terms that would make perfect sense to you. But as far as he takes us into this mystery, Paul is fairly explicit.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > When Jesus took on human form, becoming obedient to human nature, God (in Him) did so.

Here 'Jesus' seems to refer to God The Son not yet joined in fully human material form; here 'Jesus' and 'God' both seem to refer just to the nature of God.


wtanksley > But the nature of God is not the same thing as Jesus.

Here 'Jesus' seems to refer to God The Son now joined in fully human material form; here 'Jesus' doesn't seem to refer just to the nature of God.


wtanksley > ... the fact that in following the nature of man He became obedient to death doesn't mean that it became part of the nature of God to die...

Which is just as you agreed - saying the fully human and fully divine person Jesus has material existence isn't the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence.

The question arises in the next step when you agree "the Incarnation [is] an example of God entering the material universe in material form".

The question seems to be what do you understand 'God' to mean in that statement?

Do you understand 'God' to refer just to 'the nature of God' or ...?

wtanksley said...

here 'Jesus' and 'God' both seem to refer just to the nature of God.

Here's our point of misunderstanding. As a rule, "the nature of X" and "X" do not mean the same thing.

"Jesus" is one person who is God. "God" is a trinity of Persons. "The nature of God" is neither of those; it's a set of laws that distinguish God from non-God.

The nature of a thing is, by definition, the set of rules to which the thing is subject. It is not the thing itself. Some examples of laws might include: Humans are made of matter. Matter is subject to the laws of physics. Humans die. God is all-righteous. God is all-wise.

You should not confuse the concept of a nature (or a law) with the concept of a thing which obeys that law. God obeys the nature of God; but the nature of God is not itself God. Jesus obeys the nature of God, but the nature of God is not a person, but rather is a set of laws.

Jesus -- the Son, a specific one of the three Persons in the Trinity -- eternally followed the nature of God (for example, He is righteous). Jesus became incarnate as a human, and as such "became obedient" to the set of laws that bind humans, including the law of death.

But this doesn't mean that the nature of God suddenly included the law of death, nor that the other persons of the Trinity became human. It simply means that the person Jesus/the Son became thusly subject.

Recap: a thing is not equal to its nature.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > But this doesn't mean that the nature of God suddenly included the law of death, nor that the other persons of the Trinity became human. It simply means that the person Jesus/the Son became thusly subject.

In which case the Incarnation might be an example of Jesus/the Son entering the material universe in material form.

But apparently not an example of the other persons of the Trinity entering the material universe in material form.

God the Trinity did enter the material universe in material form (the Son) and God the Trinity did not enter the material universe in material form (the other persons of the Trinity).

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > Jesus became incarnate as a human, and as such "became obedient" to the set of laws that bind humans, including the law of death.

But this doesn't mean that the nature of God suddenly included the law of death, nor that the other persons of the Trinity became human.


I was too quick to accept that material existence of Jesus was not the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence.

That Jesus could experience hunger and thirst and death and material existence because of his fully human nature doesn't address what would be required in the nature of God to allow the Incarnation.

Rich G. said...

I've been laying low for a couple of weeks, and man, you guys have covered a lot of ground since then.

"...what would be required in the nature of God to allow the Incarnation.

Concepts that have been left out are that of 'choice' and 'will'. You have been discussing 'nature' as if that is an iron-clad, inviolable and inanimate characteristic. While the trappings and constraints of material existence do not apply to God's eternal 'nature', the Christian doctrine is that He chose, for a time, to "put on" a material form in order to "dwell with us" in this material existence. C. S. Lewis uses an imperfect illustration when he asks how William Shakespeare can have a conversation with Hamlet. The only possibility is for Shakespeare to write himself into the story as another character. There is NOTHING Hamlet can do to make it happen, it would be only by The Bard's choice and action.

So what would be in the The Bard's nature to allow him to enter the story of Hamlet?

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > So what would be in the The Bard's nature to allow him to enter the story of Hamlet?

Shakespeare cannot have a conversation with Hamlet, he can imagine a pretend conversation.

Are Shakespeare's plays a demonstration that it was in his nature to imagine pretend conversations?

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

I said it was an imperfect illustration. You need to extrapolate up a couple of dimensions. It seems to me that you are trapped by your dogma into too small of a space.

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > I said it was an imperfect illustration.

It's an illustration of being misled by ambiguous language.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"It's an illustration of being misled by ambiguous language."

Help me out here. Where are the potential multiple meanings in my choice of words?

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley, did I mistate or misunderstand what you've been saying when I wrote -

"God the Trinity did enter the material universe in material form (the Son) and God the Trinity did not enter the material universe in material form (the other persons of the Trinity)"?

wtanksley said...

God the Trinity did enter the material universe in material form (the Son) and God the Trinity did not enter the material universe in material form (the other persons of the Trinity).

First, I apologize for the delay; I was at the hospital helping my wife deliver our third child.

Second, I'll pass over a minor error in your formulation, hoping it's as insignificant as it looks. You say "God the Trinity... the Son", but the Son is not a trinity. Skip the words "the trinity" in your question (both times it appears) and it's a good question.

Third, now we appropriately start to look at the doctrine of the Trinity. Unfortunately, it's a complicated doctrine; but I believe it answers your objections entirely, almost as if it had been invented to answer them.

The problem is that I cannot possibly teach you the doctrine in this comment form; I can only explain how this thing and that thing doesn't contradict. Hopefully I won't wind up merely making the doctrine look stupid -- if I do, let me know.

Let me give some setup. Christians believe that each Person of the Trinity is fully God, and has all of the attributes and substance of God in full measure, not merely one-third of them apiece.

The reason your above objection doesn't hunt is that Christianity says that each Person in the Godhead is fully God in substance and by nature, yet distinct in personhood from the other two Persons.

So when God the Son entered the universe in material form, God DID enter the universe in material form; but it's false to say that God did NOT, since although neither of the other two Persons became incarnate, they did not (would not) withhold the substance of God from the Son, "and we beheld His glory."

-Wm

wtanksley said...

I was too quick to accept that material existence of Jesus was not the same as saying that it's in the nature of God to have material existence.

As phrased, the question is nonsense. Things in your nature are things that are necessary to you; whereas the fact that Jesus had to take on material nature meant that Jesus did not originally have it, so it could not be in His nature.

That Jesus could experience hunger and thirst and death and material existence because of his fully human nature doesn't address what would be required in the nature of God to allow the Incarnation.

This sounds like an interesting question, but so far as I know it's not been revealed; thus, it's open to speculation. I'll speculate, if you'll help me by explaining why not knowing is a problem.

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

wtanksley,

May I call you William?

Congratulations on the birth of your child! Exciting days for you! Along with some sleepless nights, but hey, they are worth it!

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > So when God the Son entered the universe in material form, God DID enter the universe in material form...

What do you mean by the unqualified word 'God' here?

Do you mean something different than - So when God the Son entered the universe in material form, [a person with the nature and substance of God - namely God the Son] DID enter the universe in material form... ?

wtanksley said...

What do you mean by the unqualified word 'God' here?

That's a very well-put question.

I mean a being with all the attributes, all the same motive desires, and composed of the same substance as, God; in all ways, a being indistinguishable from God.

Your reading is factually correct as well, but tautological.

-Wm

wtanksley said...

Thank you, Cliff. So far we're all experiencing the sleep deprivation quite as expected :-).

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > ... in all ways, a being indistinguishable from God.

You seem to be saying that by the unqualified word 'God' you mean that which is referred to by the unqualified word 'God'.

I don't see that it answers the "Do you mean something different than..." question I asked.

Without meaning to be condescending it would be unkind of me to demand that you justify the doctrine. Instead I was looking for your approach - is there something among these that seems like the approach you take?

wtanksley said...

Isaac, I was trying to explain what I meant by using more words in hopes that they would reduce the redundancy. I did attempt to choose my words very carefully, and I'm sorry to see that they had less than no effect.

As I said elsewhere, I can't possibly teach the doctrine of the Trinity in a comment form, and (given that you point to a philosophy dictionary on the topic) I don't think you really need ME blabbering on the topic :-).

I'm not sure how answering your "did you mean" question would provide any more useful precision. Since my own phrasing fails to clarify to you what I mean, I doubt that your phrasing can help.

Perhaps, however, I could more usefully define my terms if you'd clarify what direction you're attempting to head. What point are you attempting to make?

wtanksley said...

"more words in hopes that they would reduce the redundancy"

Oops. I means ambiguity, not redundancy.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > I'm not sure how answering your "did you mean" question would provide any more useful precision.

Perhaps you didn't mean "a person"?

wtanksley said...

Isaac, I'm not going to interact with your questions again until you make some attempt to answer mine: what's your point?

Isaac Gouy said...

As you wish.

Cliff Martin said...

Ah!

In other word, Isaac, you have no point.

Well, after ignoring the question eight or ten times, I'm glad you've finally owned up to the pointlessness of your venture here. In the future, readers (as well as myself) will know how seriously to take your comments.

Psiloiordinary said...

I love you Isaac.

You have more patience than me!

Regards,

Psi

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > In other word, Isaac, you have no point.

In other words, I acknowledge wtanksley's decision.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Then why have you never indicated why you are asking the questions you ask? What is you point.

Psi,

I respect your defense of Isaac, but there is a real difference in the way you communicate, and the way Isaac does. I always understand what you are saying, and why. You have never attempted to set someone up, or to trap someone you disagree with in their words. This is a ploy that Isaac uses repeatedly. Anyone can do it. It takes no special skill. But it leads conversations no where.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Then why have you never indicated why you are asking the questions you ask?

I've told you over and over again.

Yesterday I told wtanksley I was looking for the approach he took to the doctrine and gave a laundry list of different approaches that have been put forward - if that isn't something he wishes to talk about so be it.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

I took their questions in a more global sense. It seems you won't answer these kinds of requests, but deflect them with questions of your own, then claim to have answered them.

I think several people want to know where you are coming from, and where you are wanting to go with your questions and comments.

Rich G.

wtanksley said...

Yesterday I told wtanksley I was looking for the approach he took to the doctrine and gave a laundry list of different approaches that have been put forward - if that isn't something he wishes to talk about so be it.

Isaac, I love talking about it; why else would I have kept going so long? But I'm not trying to ask you what the most recent question you asked me was; I'm asking you to tell me why you're asking all these questions. What's your point?

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > Even if seeking meaning was something you actually did, you'd still have to have some purpose... Elucidating meaning is pointless if you don't intend to ever apply it to build an argument.

Seeking to understand what other people mean is in-itself pointless?

I very much doubt you meant to suggest other people are just a means to an end but...

wtanksley said...

Isaac, You're still refusing to answer any of my questions. I'm not distracted by your guilt manipulation and word games: it's clear that you're only interested in finding cheap "gotchas" in people's posts, rather than in conversing to communicate a point and elucidate meaning. It's almost amusing how many times you've jumped to the conclusion that someone'd made a crucial logical error, and it turned out that you simply didn't understand the issues they were talking about.

So, let's put this on the table: your point in this is to troll, not to converse. Unfortunately, you're a boring troll; pulling up an old post to nitpick on it is a boring trick.

IF you're not here to troll, what are you here for? What's your point?

-Wm

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Seeking to understand what other people mean is in-itself pointless?

It would be much easier to believe that your participation on this blog is for no reason other than a sincere desire to understand people if your tone was not so argumentative. It is perfectly permissible to argue on this site. No problem with that. But your implied denial that you are arguing is laughably disingenuous. You seem to have some chip on your shoulder, some need to "be right", and yet wtanksley and I have asked repeatedly that you state your case, tell us what you are driving at. It is difficult to carry on any kind of meaningful exchange with someone who wants to argue but refuses again and again to actually state his position.

Wtanksley just asked again, "What is your point?" Will you ignore it yet again? Will you go on pretending that you are merely curious, and are merely seeking to understand people?

I very much doubt you meant to suggest other people are just a means to an end but...

Nothing wtanksley said would suggest that other "people are just a means to an end." But he did imply that striving to understand someone with whom you disagree is in almost all cases a means to an end. You have proven that to be the case countless times! But beyond setting people up for your ill-informed ridicule, we have no idea exactly what your "end" is. It would be helpful to know.

Psiloiordinary said...

Well, unwelcome though this might be, I have seen Isaac try and try and try to find out what you guys mean.

If you see that as trying to "trick" you into a "position" then I think it says something about you.

Seems to me that you don't have answers to many of his questions.

Well not ones that are consistent with the answers to other questions he has asked.

I really do think that accusations of trolling are unjust to say the least.

I haven't seen any rudeness, just lots of curiosity.

I am afraid most of the "theological" discussions just faded into woolliness for me way back and you've surely got o give him some credit for hanging on in there with you.

Sorry folks but that's my view from the sidelines.

Regards,

Psi

wtanksley said...

Well, unwelcome though this might be, I have seen Isaac try and try and try to find out what you guys mean.

I have to agree; that's why I started interacting with him.

If you see that as trying to "trick" you into a "position" then I think it says something about you.

I don't know what you mean by "position", but "trick" is certainly appropriate. Isaac has, a couple of times, proclaimed that I'd argued myself into a contradiction. That would be embarrassing to me, except that he didn't even try to state the contradiction up front, and when I finally got him to state it, it turned out to be a simple misdefinition.

Even that would be more my problem than his, except that each time he's pretended that I'm somehow being rude by the answer in which he thinks I'm contradicting my earlier answer.

Seems to me that you don't have answers to many of his questions.

Which one haven't we answered? We've answered _everything_, and they haven't stopped, nor have they led anywhere.

Well not ones that are consistent with the answers to other questions he has asked.

Go ahead, state the contradiction. Simply SAYING one exists isn't enough.

I really do think that accusations of trolling are unjust to say the least. I haven't seen any rudeness, just lots of curiosity.

I enjoyed answering his questions. I much less enjoyed being accused of contradiction by a person who wouldn't even explain what two statements he was talking about -- and in fact, in the first case he didn't even SAY it was a contradiction at first, he merely implied I was being rude by answering his question with a "monosyllable".

I am afraid most of the "theological" discussions just faded into woolliness for me way back and you've surely got o give him some credit for hanging on in there with you.

The woolliness is due to a complete lack of direction, not due to theology itself. If you or Isaac want to learn theology in a structured manner, you can either use our structure, as seen in this blog or a book on systematic theology (or historic theology, or biblical theology, etc.); or you can apply your own structure by asking questions (or making statements) that have a point, so that we can interact with them.

I concede that you may be right that Isaac may be just honestly curious. But if so, he needs to learn that accusations are a poor approach to satisfying curiosity.

-Wm

Tom said...

Both sides are right. Isaac has good opinions, but they are indirect. He hides behind definitions and quotes of commentors, philosophers, and authors without ever offering a direct opinion. Isaac, you can say much of the same thing by saying "This is similar to the X opinion of so and so...." or "I find you contradicting yourself when you say Y, in which case, which position am I to believe?" or even to boldly say "I disagree with you and here is why." At first you struck me as a linguist, Isaac, but then I realized you were too anal. A linguist attempts to understand nuance and gist to get the real meaning of things. We are talking ideas and opinions here. Cliff puts his out there. What are yours?

On the flip side I appreciate your diligence and prodding. As you imply, the whole doctrine of the trinity is filled with inconsistencies that demand a logical response by Cliff who calls himself a skeptical Christian. Theology is a house of cards and I have learned some things through your comments as I've seen you challenge these Cliff and others. Don't go away. Just hang your neck out.

wtanksley said...

Tom, thank you; I think you're right.

Isaac, based on what Tom's said, I take back what I said about demanding you explain your point. I'll be happy to continue interacting with you if you're willing to make the conversation feel a little more personal, in the ways Tom explained. It'll feel more like a conversation and less like a one-sided "GOTCHA" hunt or interrogation.

Thank you again, Tom.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

Tom > We are talking ideas and opinions here. Cliff puts his out there. What are yours?

When I want to promote my opinions I'll start a blog.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > I take back what I said about demanding you explain your point.

You have a lot more to take back than that.

wtanksley said...

You have a lot more to take back than that.

Of course I've expressed more opinions than that; I don't take back any of my other opinions.

If you were TRYING to snarkily imply that I offended you, lay aside the snark and implication, and just TELL me.

-Wm

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"When I want to promote my opinions I'll start a blog."

You have not been asked to promote your opinions, but to reveal them.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > You have not been asked to promote your opinions, but to reveal them.

When I want to reveal my opinions I'll start a blog.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley@September 3, 2:03 PM > Which one haven't we answered? We've answered _everything_, and they haven't stopped, nor have they led anywhere.

They have led from a spirit being in extra-dimensions of the universe to ground in doctrine - the Trinity, via the Incarnation.

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > If you were TRYING to snarkily imply that I offended you, lay aside the snark and implication, and just TELL me.

You chose to take offense at my words.

You chose to make the offense in your words unmistakable.

You should take back those words for yourself, not for me.

Tom said...

Isaac, you're a hoot! I'm with Psi. I love you.

wtanksley said...

You chose to take offense at my words. [...] You should take back those words for yourself, not for me.

First, you declare that taking offense and saying so is... offensive! I suppose that holds for everyone except yourself.

Second, you presume that I took offense at your incorrect accusations. I don't; I simply note them in order to build an accurate picture of your argument: i.e. that you don't have one.

Why do I do this? Because it's MUCH more entertaining than reading your go-arounds with other people.

-Wm

Isaac Gouy said...

wtanksley > First, you declare that taking offense and saying so is... offensive!

No.

I declared that taking offense was your choice.

I did not declare that saying you were offended would be offensive.

I declared that you chose to make the offense in your words unmistakable.

For example - "your guilt manipulation and word games", "you're a boring troll".

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

wtanksley said...

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

And He also said, "Hypocrites... den of vipers... whitewashed sepulchers... You who killed the prophets..." So what He said didn't mean that I can't call a spade a spade.

This doesn't mean I'm not willing to chat; it just means that I know the tactics you're currently using, and can expose them at a moment's notice.

So... If you're only in this to score cheap debating points... Unless you see an actual error, you'd best not waste your time.

-Wm

Psiloiordinary said...

Look he has left behind his sandal. It is a sign.

Lo the sign of the sandal.

Yes it is a sign that we should all take off one sandal and so walk on the earth as he does!

No, no it is truly a sign that we should gather together all sandals and so show our devotion to him as the true messiah.

- - -

Or something like that. Oh and don't forget the gourd!

Best,

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,

Sorry its taken so long to reply to your comment ...

"... the whole doctrine of the trinity is filled with inconsistencies that demand a logical response by Cliff who calls himself a skeptical Christian."

Actually, the doctrine of the trinity was introduced to this discussion by others. I have never stated a belief in or attempted elucidation of the trinity. I do not affirm nor deny the traditional formulation of trinity. But, as "trinity" is not a Biblical word (though many argue it is a Biblical concept), I do not use the word. I prefer other approaches to the understanding of the Incarnation, the kenosis of Christ, the relationship between Christ and the Father, and the identity of the Holy Spirit. I prefer to approach each of these questions independent of the others without attempting to overlay them with an extra-biblical construct such as modalism or trinity. This aspect of the nature of God is beyond my understanding.

Most of what I would affirm about God in answering specific questions would generally conform to trinitarianism. But for me, trinitarianism as such does not explain all the Biblical data well, and seems to create more issues than is solves. The forgoing discussion serves as an example.

Cliff Martin said...

Re: the trinity ...

I should add that wtanksley presented the trinity, and defended the concept, about as well as anyone I know. I thought his answers were succinct and straightforward. But no one understands this mystery with perfect clarity, and the issues Isaac kept pressing struck me less as a genuine interest in clarification, and more as a petty attempt to find and jump on perceived inconsistencies. Every trinitarian I know will readily admit that the trinity is a mystery. While the concept of trinity gives many believers a frame of reference which they find satisfactory, a non-believer will likely never find it fully satisfying.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > ... the issues Isaac kept pressing struck me less as a genuine interest in clarification, and more as a petty attempt to find and jump on perceived inconsistencies.

"Without meaning to be condescending it would be unkind of me to demand that you justify the doctrine. Instead I was looking for your approach - is there something among these that seems like the approach you take?"

Somewhere in there must be a trap!

Psiloiordinary said...

You are both holding the gourd wrong.

Psi

wtanksley said...

Somewhere in there must be a trap!

Isaac, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." You've made it very clear that you're more interested in trapping than teaching (every time you think you've caught me in a contradiction you've just cut me off without any explanation); and you've also made it very clear that you're utterly uninterested in sociable discussion (you completely refuse or ignore reasonable requests, to the extent of treating them as conversation-enders).

I don't see what else we have to go with here.

And no, me picking from a list of philosophically accepted doctrines won't teach you anything. If you want to learn from that page, go ahead and read it yourself. I personally found it fairly interesting. If you have questions about the page that you think can be answered from a believer's perspective (or can't be answered -- that's ok too), I'll TRY to answer them, and I'll try to let you know when they're above my head -- I wouldn't be surprised if they are.

-Wm