Monday, June 18, 2012

Trinitarian Theology and Scientific Theory

I actually think there are important parallels between the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and the development of scientific theories. People had what they took to be data, and concluded the only way to explain it was through trinitarian theology. It took quite a bit of conceptual analysis to develop such a complicated idea, and if there were really no data to respond to, their God-concept would have been far simpler and less paradoxical. In the face of reality scientists had to combine the wave and particle theories of light, which seem initially to us to be contradictory. In the same way, theologians developed trinitarian theology, making Christ God and man, even though, initially, this looks contradictory.

79 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Very interesting angle, Victor. As you know, I see it a bit differently. I've long considered the existence of the Doctrine of the Trinity to be our best evidence that revelation is real. No human being could ever have dreamed up such a concept by himself. No amount of unaided reasoning could get one to it.

Note to skeptics: Note that I do not say the doctrine was contrary to reason - it is "super-rational".

B.L.T. said...

I disagree, I think its entirely plausible that the apostles reasoned that if the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit were God and there was only one God that they all had to be united some way into one being.

B. Prokop said...

But the mere fact that the apostles regarded Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as God was only because They had been revealed to them as such.

Cale B.T. said...

This post reminded me of John Polkinghorne's "bottom-up" approach:

"I'm not saying anything as ridiculous as "Quantum theory is odd therefore anything goes" I am saying "We cannot decide beforehand what the nature of reality (whether God or the physical world) is going to turn out to be."

From "Quarks, Chaos and Christianity"

unkleE said...

I think your example is helpful Vic. But I also think we should expect that when Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide his followers into "all truth", it actually happened, to some degree at least.

So I see no reason not to think that the Trinity might have been an example of this.

Gregory said...

When the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was expounded and defended by the Church, it's reflections were not conceived in the crucible of the Enlightenment. Therefore, it's a bit anachronistic for us to look back on their theological endeavors and see parallels with our own "enlightened" age.

What made true "theologians" of yore was a life of prayer and mystical union with the living God via the medicines of the Church....such that when the soul begins to heal from it's ancestral curse, it is then able to perceive the lofty teachings of the faith. But it is the soul that is purified that truly understands the deep things of the faith (i.e. the Holy Trinity), and can rightly be said to be a "theologian".

"Blessed are the pure in heart..."

Walter said...

I've long considered the existence of the Doctrine of the Trinity to be our best evidence that revelation is real.

I consider the dogma of Mormon Magic Underwear to be the best evidence for revelation.

The concept of the Trinity came about because early Christians were constrained by the Hebrew texts where Yahweh declares himself to be *one*. Something had to be done to safeguard this earlier "revelation" while shoehorning in two more candidates for deity.

B. Prokop said...

"I consider the dogma of Mormon Magic Underwear to be the best evidence for revelation."

Walter, you disappoint me. That was nothing but a very lame (and failed) attempt at sarcastic humor. The point of my comment was not the weirdness or the "fantastic-ness" of the doctrine, but its unimaginability. "Magic Underwear" does not even approach that threshold. It remains firmly within (a skewed version of) human experience, similar to magic wands or wizards' staffs.

Ridicule aside, I stand by what I wrote. The Doctrine of the Trinity is unattainable by reason or imagination alone. It is a pure example of Knowledge from Above.

Walter said...

Ridicule aside, I stand by what I wrote. The Doctrine of the Trinity is unattainable by reason or imagination alone. It is a pure example of Knowledge from Above.

Horse Hockey.

I already explained how it came about. Outside of Marcion's church, early Christians accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who prayed to the Jewish God as his father. The Jewish God had already declared himself to be *ONE*. The Trinity is just an ad hoc doctrine cooked up so that Jesus and the HS can also be called God without having a major discrepancy on their hands.

If that is your best evidence for divine revelation, then I feel quite justified in maintaining my deism.

Don Jindra said...

B. Prokop,

"No human being could ever have dreamed up such a concept by himself. No amount of unaided reasoning could get one to it."

That begs the question.

Humans are very creative. Dreaming up things like a trinity comes quite naturally to us.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

A doctrinal set advocated in order to include as much of the accepted data as possible might be "cooked up" in various ways, but by definition it could not be ad hoc. Any set of conclusions from the data, is not a set of newly proposed data intended to save a hypothesis, even if the conclusions are invalid or based on false data.

JRP

BenYachov said...

>I already explained how it came about.

Where is your proof? Anybody who has studied patristics can see the Trinity was early and unique.

>Outside of Marcion's church, early Christians accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who prayed to the Jewish God as his father.

There were 3 sects of early Jewish Christians. The Nazarenes accepted the deity of Christ the other two did not & rejected St Paul. This is reflected in archeology see THE CHURCH FROM THE CIRCUMCISION:History and Archelology of the Judaeo-Christians By Bagatti.

Also THE FAITH OF THE MOTHER CHURCH by Tesla.

The belief in the deity of Christ was early and across the board. Those who denied it where considered suspect Christians.


>The Jewish God had already declared himself to be *ONE*.

The Hebrew being "echad" which can mean a one that is many (i.e. the two become one/echad flesh etc) as opposed to "Yachid" which means absolute oneness.

>The Trinity is just an ad hoc doctrine cooked up so that Jesus and the HS can also be called God without having a major discrepancy on their hands.

No it is clearly unique and a total novelty. As for "discrepancy" Ebonites simply dismissed the deity of Christ & St Paul like the later Arians. The Elkanites & Gnostic Ebionites believed him to be an Angel.
Problem solved.


It's strange the idea of an Incarnation & Trinity should come about at all when you have some many easier choices.

Jason Pratt said...

B Prokop,

I regard orthodox trinitarian theism to have very strong logical principles which could in principle be discovered and fitted together (even with an expectation of a dual-nature Incarnation of the Second Person of God).

I do thus think that someone could have arrived at it apart from special revelatory data; only that as a matter of history no one did.

JRP

Walter said...

Where is your proof? Anybody who has studied patristics can see the Trinity was early and unique.

All religions have unique aspects about them, so what? No other religion came up with a trinity because no other religion had to explain how three deities are somehow really just one deity.

The belief in the deity of Christ was early and across the board. Those who denied it where considered suspect Christians.

I would not say that belief in Christ's full deity was "across the board." I would say that all early Christian groups believed that there was something special about Jesus. How he was special was a matter of some debate, and we all know which group won and established what is now considered orthodoxy.

The Hebrew being "echad" which can mean a one that is many (i.e. the two become one/echad flesh etc) as opposed to "Yachid" which means absolute oneness.

I seriously doubt that any pre-Christian Jews considered their God to be "one that is many." A core tent of their faith is that there was one true God, Yahweh.

Walter said...

And for the record, even though I consider the absurdity of the trinity to be one of the main reasons that I reject Christian orthodoxy, the trinity itself is not what I am taking issue with, it is Bob's silly comment about how humans could not come up with the doctrine sans special revelation. Victor's original post demonstrates that humans can come up with complex explanations where the data is seemingly contradictory, as in the example of the behavior of light. I suppose our theories about light are example of special revelation, too?

BenYachov said...

Walter it's been a few years but I read the literature on Jewish Christianity in archeology and the history of theology. Your are just giving me your own ad hoc theory based on your presuposition Chrisitanity is not a revealed religion.

So you are in the end just begging the question. It is across the board in belief.

>And for the record, even though I consider the absurdity of the trinity to be one of the main reasons that I reject Christian orthodoxy...

Let's be fair Walter you don't understand the difference between Trinity vs Tri-theism. You make kneejerk equivocations between the two. You are an Ex Sola Scriptura Fundamentalist. You haven't read Augustine or Aquinas on the Trinity. Thus you are in no position to call the doctrine "absurd" with any credibility.

>No other religion came up with a trinity because no other religion had to explain how three deities are somehow really just one deity.

See what I mean. There is only one Deity. Three hypostasis' that fully possess one Divine Substance do not constitute three Divine Substances.

Didn't you learn any sophisticated theology as a fundie or was it all ANSWERS IN GENESIS all the time?

>I am taking issue with, it is Bob's silly comment about how humans could not come up with the doctrine sans special revelation.

I don't see how one could philosophically deduce it's existence appart from revelation.

B. Prokop said...

Walter may call me "silly" all he likes, but I'm not backing down from this one. the doctrine of the Trinity is the single most astonishing characteristic of Christianity (even more so than the Incarnation), setting it apart from every other religion in history. As C.S. Lewis would say (this is, after all, a website about Lewis), it is the one and only "adult" idea about God on the market. Every other notion about the Divine Personality makes Him out to be more simplistic than the human mind. Only the Trinity gives us an idea of God that actually transcends us.

And just as my dog would never (on her own) be able to comprehend human nature, we would never (unaided) be able to conceive of the Fundamental Nature of God. But by revelation, we have been given an insight - the Doctrine of the Trinity.

If you want to know why the world is the way it is, meditate on the Trinity. That is the only way you'll ever make the least bit of progress toward an understanding.

Jason Pratt said...

BenYachov: It takes a while to carefully consider and build a progressive case from philosophical deduction, but I think it can be done without recourse to authoritative special revelation appeal.


Walter: {{I seriously doubt that any pre-Christian Jews considered their God to be "one that is many." A core tent of their faith is that there was one true God, Yahweh.}}

And many core data points of their faith involve the invisible YHWH Who cannot be seen and Who has no anthropic shape sending a visible YHWH to act anthropically as YHWH with YHWH's uniquely one-and-only identity yet with some kind of personal distinction from the invisible YHWH. These weren't only minor or obscure examples either (although some of those, too), but very important major examples in their religious history and in their religious expectations of history.

(Plus a couple of indications that there was some kind of third division or instancing of YHWH, but those are rare and obscure.)

The examples were frequent and important enough that entirely apart from early Christianity a protracted debate among rabbis developed with some taking the position that the scriptures clearly taught two Persons of one YHWH, and others insisting that this amounted to "Two Powers In Heaven" (as the multi-generational debate came to be known as) so therefore must be false.

When the Christian majority evangelical witness took up (in principle or in practice) the two (or actually three) Persons of one YHWH position, the rabbis against Two Powers In Heaven culturally prevailed within non-Christian Judaism: their position (or positions, as they had a wide set of alternate explanations) clearly distinguished them from what most Christians (one way or another) were teaching and preaching regarding YHWH.

It was kind of a mess. {g} But the Christian notion of Two-or-Three Persons of One YHWH didn't develop in a vacuum apart from strong debates in non-Christian Judaism. The chief Christian innovation (so to speak) was attaching the identity of the visible YHWH, the Angel of the Presence/Face, the Memra/Logos/Word of God, to a human man, born of woman, who had clearly died a shameful death regarded as cursed by God.

Of course, within that concept there were important (if minority) factions which corresponded instead to the rabbis against the Two Powers In Heaven: Christ had to be only a mode of God, not a distinct person; or Christ was only a man given special honor and abilities by God; or Christ was a super-angel manifesting or incarnating as a human.

Each of these clearly avoided proposing what we would now call cosmological dualism, whereas multiple distinct persons of a single ultimate deity seemed to such people to be logical nonsense or else two powers in heaven after all; and each mirrored alternate explanations taken by non-Christian rabbis to try to explain the data in some way other than there being two persons of YHWH (regarded as logical nonsense) or two YHWHS in heaven (regarded as blasphemy and also, not incidentally, as logical nonsense).

And there was much disputation. {g}

But there wouldn't have been so much disputation, either among Christians or among non-Christian Jews, if the received data hadn't provided strongly complex problems to sift through.

Which is why many non-Judeo/Christians preferred (and still prefer) to throw out the data altogether as hopelessly muddled or outright inaccurate to begin with.

(I don't; but I can certainly sympathize with the annoyance about the difficulties involved.)

JRP

Walter said...

Let's be fair Walter you don't understand the difference between Trinity vs Tri-theism. You make kneejerk equivocations between the two. You are an Ex Sola Scriptura Fundamentalist. You haven't read Augustine or Aquinas on the Trinity. Thus you are in no position to call the doctrine "absurd" with any credibility.

Give me a break, Yachov. You don't know what I have read on the subject. This is just your standard modus operandi to accuse your opponents of not being qualified to debate the subject with a sophisticated theologian such as yourself. I understand full well how the orthodox Church defines the trinity...and I reject it as preposterous.

I have lurked Dale Tuggy's site, Trinities.org, for quite some time now and I think that I am knowledgeable on the arguments.

Walter said...

@ Jason

I have read of the "two powers in heaven" controversy before, but thank you for expounding on the subject.

BenYachov said...

Walter you are not qualified here.

>Give me a break, Yachov. You don't know what I have read on the subject.

You are stylizing it as three deities in one deity. That tells me all I need to know. You have not read anything significant. Nobody who has studied the Trinity can stylize it this way.

You are to me like the fundamentalist who claim Catholics believe in "salvation by their own works without grace" but has clearly not read Session VI canon one of Trent.

You are not qualified at all.

>This is just your standard modus operandi to accuse your opponents of not being qualified to debate the subject with a sophisticated theologian such as yourself.

I have read the relavent literature. You have clearly not, otherwise you wouldn't classify the Trinity as three deities in one deity.

>I understand full well how the orthodox Church defines the trinity...and I reject it as preposterous.

That can't be true. Explain to me how three hypostasis fully possessing one substance is the equivolent of believing in three substances in one substance or three hypostasis in one hypostasis?

How is three hypostasis in one substance the equivolent of Tri-theism? Since Tri-theism would mandate three divine substances.

You can't because you haven't read anything meaningful on the Trinity. Have you read Frank Sheed? Clearly not. Aquinas? No! Augustine? Still No.

Who have you "read"?

These persons "Trinities.org"?

This is clearly neither a Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox site. They seem to hold too Sola Scriptura. They reject the authority of tradition and one of the entries says we should worship the Father and the Son only (& not the Spirit)

http://trinities.org/blog/archives/3776

That is not orthodox Christianity that is nonsense.

Finally they are not Classic Theists.

Of course as Brian Davies points out the first person to call God "personal" in the Theistic Personalist sense was a Unitarian heretic during the Reformation.

So is the doctrine of the Trinity logically incompatible with a Theistic Personalist view of God? I wouldn't be suprised.

Walter you need to come down to reality. You are not at all qualified to show a Catholic Classic Theist that the Trinity is really a belief in Three Gods who are one god.

As always my high standards of proof dictate I would believe the Trinity is not a profession of three gods or illogical per say even if I deny God tomorrow.

Those are the brute facts.

BenYachov said...

>BenYachov: It takes a while to carefully consider and build a progressive case from philosophical deduction, but I think it can be done without recourse to authoritative special revelation appeal.

Jason we have no common ground. To Catholics it is dogma we can't know God is a Trinity apart from Divine Revelation informing us.

If there was no NT or divine Apostolic Tradition informing us we would not know of the Trinity.

BenYachov said...

Now Jason after receiving the divine revelation we can use philosophical theology to develop the doctrine and understand it better.

But by reason alone we can't know God is a Trinity.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Wow.
I've long considered the existence of the Doctrine of the Trinity to be our best evidence that revelation is real. No human being could ever have dreamed up such a concept by himself.

Boy, this is so wrong.

Plato had the idea of a Three in One God!

Wrong. We can know the Trinity apart from Divine Revelation because the tripartite paradigm is a Law of Nature!

What are you guys smokin'?

In this article is the Trinity proved thru the Natural Law, referencing Plato! And where Plato got the idea is from the Spartans!

MacrocosmMicrocosm in Doric Thought

Long article. But the proof of the Trinity is in there and Plato laid down the concept that informed Hellenism which influenced Christianity!

B. Prokop said...

And what is so preposterous about Plato receiving a faint echo of Divine Revelation? Christians have long accepted that pagans such as Virgil were borderline divinely inspired when he wrote much of his poetry. I personally have no problem with such an idea. In fact, I have tirelessly argued with, for instance, Papalinton that analogs of Biblical truths found in non-Christian/non-Judaic faiths are evidence of their veracity.

So Lindsay, if you think you're going to upset me with finding pagan similarities to Christian truths, "Bring it on!" I revel in that stuff!

Walter said...

Walter you are not qualified here

Good old Courtier's Reply. Walter just ain't well read enough to interact with the sophisticated beliefs of Yachov. I call BS. First of all, I haven't even formulated an argument against the trinity, I merely stated that I find it unbelievable. And that is not going to change no matter how many thousands of pages of Catholic boulderdash have been printed on the subject.


Dale Tuggy is a philosopher who started his blog to wrestle with understanding the trinity using the best philosophical arguments at his dispoasal. After several years, he had to admit the truth to himself: biblical unitarianism is the only viable option. And unless Ben can directly refute Tuggy with philosophical arguments, then I guess Ben isn't qualified to express an opinion.

You can't weasel outa this one by declaring Tuggy a Theistic Personalist (big surprise that you would fall back on that tired excuse). You use that excuse to try and dismiss without argument anyone who isn't a dogmatic catholic.

Don Jindra said...

B. Prokop,

"Christians have long accepted that pagans such as Virgil were borderline divinely inspired..."

God to Virgil, "Can you hear me now?"

BenYachov said...

@Walter

>Good old Courtier's Reply. Walter just ain't well read enough to interact with the sophisticated beliefs of Yachov.+

When a misinformed individual YEC tells PZ Myers Evolution must be wrong because it "contradicts the second Law of thermaldynamics" I would never accuse the inventor of Couriers of using the Couriers reply.

I would conclude he is spot on in informing the person he doesn't know what he is talking about.

People who use a law of physics like a metaphysical principle don't know what they are talking about. People who stylize the Trinity as the illogical belief in three gods who are one god also don't know what they are talking about either. By definition.

>I call BS. First of all, I haven't even formulated an argument against the trinity, I merely stated that I find it unbelievable.

You stated you don't believe in the illogical belief in three gods who are somehow one god. Well I don't believe that either I believe in the Trinity. But I won't so much mind you not believing in the trinity except what you described is not the trinity. Not even close nor compatible.

>And that is not going to change no matter how many thousands of pages of Catholic boulderdash have been printed on the subject.

Then you are doomed to dismiss a bunch of non-Catholic religious concepts you fix the label "trinity" too that I & an a Billion other people don't believe in the first place.

Hope that exercise in creative ignorance works out for ya.

>Dale Tuggy is a philosopher who started his blog to wrestle with understanding the trinity using the best philosophical arguments at his dispoasal.

You can't reconcile any form of Theistic Personalism with the Trinity without contradiction. So it is a vain activity on his part like using Theodicy to morally justify god. Show me his arguments can be applied to Classic Theism.

>After several years, he had to admit the truth to himself: biblical unitarianism is the only viable option. And unless Ben can directly refute Tuggy with philosophical arguments, then I guess Ben isn't qualified to express an opinion.

Sola Scriptura is not taught in Scripture Walter but Tradition is (2 Thes 3:6). So that doctrine is false by it's own standards. So his whole basis for forming doctrine is against the Bible and just plain wrong. So me Sola Scriptura is true.

Walter you are the one who claimed the Trinity is "three deities in one deity". The burden of proof is solely on you to show this is the case.

>You can't weasel outa this one by declaring Tuggy a Theistic Personalist (big surprise that you would fall back on that tired excuse).

Clearly he is one. A simple use of his search function on his website comes up with no entries on the term "Ipsum esse subsistens". Classic Theism isn't even on his radar. Unitarianism was the birth of Theistic Personalism.

You can't weasel out of your claim the trinity is "three deities in one deity". Trying to shift the burden of proof won't work.

You are making the positive claim the trinity is a contradiction. Back it up.

That you intuitively figured out his Arguments might not fit a Classic view of God is telling. As is your attempted red herring downplaying the significance of Theistic Personalism vs Classic Theism in the understanding of the Trinity.

>You use that excuse to try and dismiss without argument anyone who isn't a dogmatic catholic.

Because unless he formulates arguments against that view then he is simply wasting my time refuting a "god" I am a strong Atheist toward believing in.

Give it up Walter.

Three hypostasis in One Divine Substance do not equal three gods. Three Substances would equal three gods.

If you dismiss the belief in three hypostasis on one divine substance knock yourself out. But you can't coherently say it's wrong because it's a contradiction. It simply isn't.

Walter said...

Tuggy's arguments are philosophical arguments that stand and fall on their own, regardless of whether Tuggy is a Protestant or not. Perhaps Tuggy is closer to authentic Christian belief than the Catholics, would you not want to know the Truth?

It is clear what you are doing, Ben. You cannot answer Tuggy, therefore you are attempting to marginalize him so you won't have to. It is pathetic. Philosophical arguments should be engaged directly.

BenYachov said...

This guy is not a Classic Theist Walter & clearly doesn't presupose it.

>http://trinities.org/blog/archives/1486#more-1486

Feser gives him a good schooling here.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/02/tuggy-contra-mysterianism.html

BenYachov said...

>It is clear what you are doing, Ben. You cannot answer Tuggy, therefore you are attempting to marginalize him so you won't have to. It is pathetic. Philosophical arguments should be engaged directly.

Walter just man up and admit you can't explain even with all of Tuggy's resources at your disposal how three hypostasis in one substance is a contradiction.

Walter said...

Let me also state that the orthodox dogma of the trinity hasn't always been codified into formal creeds. Early Christians would have been presented with a conundrum because the new testament texts appear to be describing what seems to be two more candidates for deity, causing the official doctrine of the trinity to be born after centuries of debate. Thus I stand by my original comment that *early* Christians were not sure how to deal with what appeared to be three separate deities in a religion which strongly affirms monotheism. All of this is beside the point because it has nothing to do with what I originally took issue with, namely that the trinity doctrine itself is not strong evidence of divine revelation, contra Prokop.

B. Prokop said...

So why is it an issue that something took centuries to gel? I must have missed it where someone decreed that revelation had to be instantaneous.

Walter said...

So why is it an issue that something took centuries to gel? I must have missed it where someone decreed that revelation had to be instantaneous.

That part of my comment was directed at Yachov, as an explanation as to why I was using the language of their being three deities.

BenYachov said...

>Let me also state that the orthodox dogma of the trinity hasn't always been codified into formal creeds.

Here Walter assumes the Protestant notion the early Christians where a lose association of individuals who held to the bible alone as a handbook which they where to personally & individually formulate doctrine.

This concept is alien to Judaism and Christanity. The Says of the Fathers found in the Talmud and the Mishna said the men of the Great Assembly had to build a fence around Torah. Scripture is interpreted only by those with authority. Like Priests or Prophets.

Without the formal creeds there is no Christianity. Only Chaos.

BenYachov said...

I leave the rest to you Bob since I want to give Walter time to breath.

BenYachov said...

Walter so need to read Newman on the development on doctrine.

Walter said...


Without the formal creeds there is no Christianity. Only Chaos


You're just not going to let this go, are you? Let me restate yet again: I could really care LESS about going round and round arguing about something as ridiculous (to me, anyway) as the trinity. I am a deist. I do not accept religious dogma as truth. I will let Christians argue the finer points of their dogmas with EACH OTHER. My contention in this thread is that the dogma of the trinity is not strong evidence of revelation. If you want to keep arguing about the trinity, find someone who gives a damn about it.

BenYachov said...

Then some advice Walter.

"I don't understand the finer doctrinal points of the trinity" is a better admission then claiming it is three deities in one deity.

Because I can become an Atheist tomorrow and know that is not the Trinity. Not even close & the charge of contradiction is wrong.

Walter said...

"I don't understand the finer doctrinal points of the trinity" is a better admission then claiming it is three deities in one deity.

{sighs}

Are you really this thick? Can you not understand what I was trying to say? Do you believe that the original disciples had a fully formulated belief in the orthodox trinity centuries before it was codified into a formal creed? These believers were presented with what appeared to be three deities, and it took centuries of debate to clarify what later became the orthodox position on the subject.

I know that you think of Protestants as nothing but backwoods, snake-handling hicks, but I can assure you that I was and am quite familiar with the orthodox creeds.

Ben doesn't seem to understand that I am not interested in discussing the validity of the trinity, I am discussing whether the trinity is evidence of special revelation.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

To B. Prokop, Christianity is a Greek religion. Christianity enculturated Hellenism. I refer you to Jerry Dell Erhlich's book Plato's Gift to Christianity. One might say that Plato is the intellectual founder of Christianity.

Christianity is Greek/European religion.

BenYachov said...

>Are you really this thick? Can you not understand what I was trying to say? Do you believe that the original disciples had a fully formulated belief in the orthodox trinity centuries before it was codified into a formal creed?

If Jesus really was God the Word Incarnate they certainly had first hand experience with it. But you presupose somebody made all this up Ad Hoc at some point. So up front we are begging the question.

>These believers were presented with what appeared to be three deities, and it took centuries of debate to clarify what later became the orthodox position on the subject.

How do you know this appart from your imagination? Walter you don't exactly stike me as a person who reads Patristics or looks at Jewish Christian Archeology. I am such a person.

>I know that you think of Protestants as nothing but backwoods, snake-handling hicks, but I can assure you that I was and am quite familiar with the orthodox creeds.

People who claim the Trinity is "three deities in one deity" are not fimiliar with anything that even resembles an orthodox creed.

>Ben doesn't seem to understand that I am not interested in discussing the validity of the trinity, I am discussing whether the trinity is evidence of special revelation.

Well it does seem rather odd to me for anyone to make something this complicated up rather then make up something simple.

Walter said...

"Ben doesn't seem to understand that I am not interested in discussing the validity of the trinity, I am discussing whether the trinity is evidence of special revelation."

Well it does seem rather odd to me for anyone to make something this complicated up rather then make up something simple.


So your answer would be that it must be special revelation because the Christian religion would have been simpler and more believable if the early Fathers had simply declared Jesus to be the human emissary of the one true God, who died and was resurrected as validation of his message to the Jews. I don't find that answer very compelling as strong proof of revelation, but at least we are finally on topic.

B. Prokop said...

"Christianity is a Greek religion. Christianity enculturated Hellenism."

Of course it is! It is also a Judaic religion. It is also a pagan religion. It is also an animist religion. This is not a shortcoming... it is a great strength and a crowning glory.

News flash: you're not going to unsettle me in the slightest by finding connections between Christianity and whatever you can find in Human History. The Faith is the fulfillment and culmination of all that has gone before, after, and contemporaneously.

grodrigues said...

@Ben Yachov:

"The Says of the Fathers found in the Talmud and the Mishna said the men of the Great Assembly had to build a fence around Torah."

So the the Pirke Avot begins:

"At Sinai Moses received the Torah and handed it over to Joshua who handed it over to the elders who handed it over to the prophets who in turn handed it over to the men of the Great Assembly. The latter said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah."

I do not like very much the translation I have by Kravitz and Olitzky (on purely internal, literary grounds, not because I know any Hebrew), and even less of their commentary, but this is one grand opening statement.of sweeping grandeur.

Walter said...

People who claim the Trinity is "three deities in one deity" are not fimiliar with anything that even resembles an orthodox creed.

I wasn't going to respond to this but I can't help myself. You are basing this on a single off-the-cuff remark I made that other religions did not need to explain how three deities are really one. You may not like the wording, but in essence this is exactly what the trinitarian dogma does: it "explains" how what appears to be three separate, individual deities is really one God. I was never a tri-theist nor a modalist in my thirty years as hick fundamentalist.

Just wanted to lay that to rest before I turn in for the evening.

BenYachov said...

>You are basing this on a single off-the-cuff remark I made that other religions did not need to explain how three deities are really one.

You wouldn't back down from it or clarify it so naturally I took you to task for what you said at face value.

It seems I still must.

>You may not like the wording, but in essence this is exactly what the trinitarian dogma does: it "explains" how what appears to be three separate, individual deities is really one God.

Sorry but any discription of the Hypostasis/Persons of the Trinity as "individual deities" is just ignorant at worst greviously inaccurate at best. I don't like inaccuracy. This is still incorrect.

The Trinity explains how three persons can share the same single substance and thus be one being even thought our everyday experience shows us there is one person per rational substance & no more.

>I was never a tri-theist nor a modalist in my thirty years as hick fundamentalist.

Using greviously faulty terms such as "three separate, individual deities" does not lead me to think otherwise.

If you are familar with the differences between Tri-theism vs Modalist/Sabellianism vs Trinitarianism then you have even less excuse digging in your heals with claims such as the trinity being "contradictatory" as well as using language that can only be applied to Tri-Theim.

So this is clearly your fault Walter my friend. Not mine. Sorry nothing personal.

Next time if you really know the correct language then use it.

BenYachov said...

Good night Walter.

Sleep in the Peace of God.

Walter said...

Sorry but any discription of the Hypostasis/Persons of the Trinity as "individual deities" is just ignorant at worst greviously inaccurate at best. I don't like inaccuracy. This is still incorrect.

You seem fundamentally incapable of grasping my point. A person who comes to Christianity cold will not understand all this talk of hypostatic unions. They will begin reading of a Jewish God called Yahweh who declares himself to be the one and only God. They will continue reading into the New Testament where they will now encounter two more beings who are described in exalted language and seemingly treated as deity, but how can we have three different beings all seeming to be God and still consider ourselves to be monotheists? This was the problem and the trinity was the orthodox Christian answer. Frankly, Ben, your making much ado over nothing. I find your implicit suggestion that the original apostles thought in terms of hypostatic unions to be laughably implausible.

None of this is a problem for me now since I no longer consider Jesus to have been a God, and I don't believe the Holy Spirit even exists. It's nothing but an academic discussion for me. And if I were ever to return to something resembling Christianity, it would be liberal Protestant Unitarianism--no more trinitarian nonsense. I'm forever done with that mess.

BenYachov said...

>A person who comes to Christianity cold will not understand all this talk of hypostatic unions.

What does that have to do with anything? A person who comes to evolutionary science will not understand all that stuff about Natural Selection or Punctuated equilibrium.

This has nothing to do with truth or falsehood or rational critique.

>They will begin reading of a Jewish God called Yahweh who declares himself to be the one and only God. They will continue reading into the New Testament where they will now encounter two more beings who are described in exalted language and seemingly treated as deity, but how can we have three different beings all seeming to be God and still consider ourselves to be monotheists?

Except that is not what will happen. The majority of people back in the old time where illiterate. They would hear preaching and catachistic instruction. The Apostles didn't give out personal New Testaments and we will not see that phenomina till the rise of the printing press and wide spread education 1600 years later.

Bishops would have scripture & likely not all of the New Testament. But they would know Tradition.

So many levels of ahistorical wrong in this analysis.....

>This was the problem and the trinity was the orthodox Christian answer. Frankly, Ben, your making much ado over nothing. I find your implicit suggestion that the original apostles thought in terms of hypostatic unions to be laughably implausible.

They where taught directly by Jesus and lived with him. They where also divinely inspired unlike later bishops and even the Popes. You so must ditch this fundamentalist mentality.

>None of this is a problem for me now since I no longer consider Jesus to have been a God, and I don't believe the Holy Spirit even exists. It's nothing but an academic discussion for me. And if I were ever to return to something resembling Christianity, it would be liberal Protestant Unitarianism--no more trinitarian nonsense. I'm forever done with that mess.

But I am still not convinced you understand what it is you don't believe in. Thus till you learn more you should be more prudent in critiquing it.

BenYachov said...

BTW for anyone interested.

Plotinus doctrine of the "Trinity" is not the same as the Christian concept.

Accept by analogy.
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/01/plotinus-on-divine-simplicity-part-i.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/01/plotinus-on-divine-simplicity-part-ii.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/01/plotinus-on-divine-simplicity-part-iii.html

For general trinitarian stuff.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/search?q=Trinity

Some more responses from Feser regarding Dale Tuggy's ideas.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/02/whats-black-and-white-and-misread-all.html

Cheers.

Matt DeStefano said...

The only "data" that's being evaluated in making this "theory" is that early Christians realized the discrepancy between the OT and NT, and needed a way to make them fit as Walter has nicely illustrated already.

While scientific theories are often meant to improve upon the current theories by explaining some existing discrepancy, it's hardly as if scientists are furrowing their brows over holy books trying to sort out seeming contradictions.

Frankly, Ben, your making much ado over nothing. I find your implicit suggestion that the original apostles thought in terms of hypostatic unions to be laughably implausible.

In order to ignore your immensely plausible hypothesis about the origin of the trinity concept, Ben will wave his hands and tell you over and over that you haven't read enough of the Early Church Fathers.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Trinitarian theology and scientific theory? Give it a break, Victor.

The historical emergence of the Doctrine of the Trinity is a wonderful case study of christianity's congenital inability to not only discriminate between old and new ideas but its inability to throw out old ideas when new ideas are introduced. The Doctrine of the Trinity is the perpetual revolving outcome of theological agglomeration.

The Tinity is a particularly classical example of management by sovereign edict. "In the Trinity doctrine, each person is understood as having the identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. The being of Christ can be said to have dominated theological discussions and councils of the church until the 7th century, and resulted in the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds, the Ephesine Formula of 431, the Christological statement of the Epistola Dogmatica of Leo I to Flavianus, and the condemnation of Monothelism in the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680–681). From these councils, the following christological doctrines were condemned as heresies: Ebionism, Docetism, Basilidianism, Alogism or Artemonism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism."

A five hundred year work in progress. And even today, the matter remains unresolved. "Together with papal primacy, differences over this doctrine [particularly the aspect of the filioque] have been and remain the primary causes of schism between the Western and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Filioque has been an ongoing source of conflict between the East and West, contributing to the East-West Schism of 1054 and proving an obstacle to attempts to reunify the two sides." Wiki

The 'argument from unimaginability' is itself an argument of unimaginable inconsequence. In fact the whole artifice of christian theology is predicated on the unimaginable, aided by the unsubstantiated and abetted by the inconsequential.

A simple case in point of the argument from agglomeration on another instance: When asked, "What were the very last words jesus said before he died after being strung up, (a) "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?", (b) "Father into thy hands I commit my spirit", or (c) "It is finished", the answer? [drum roll suspense build-up] .... They are ALL his last words.

So too, as is the father, the son and the holy spirit, the 3-in-1 godhead, unable to be intellectually or scholarly adjudicate in any meaningful way, the ultra-low road of theological agglomeration is the lazy embrace of catholic tradition. Here is a question: Since christians claim that the three persons are one divine being, how is it that the father and the holy spirit did not also die on the cross/stake when the son died?

Victor, you really must be sardonically smiling at the ease by which you can spin any kind of story on this site and the chumps lap it up as if it were 'gospel'. And 5 of the seven billion people out there in the world couldn't give a rat's.... about the christian trinity. To them its all hokum.

Cale B.T. said...

"how is it that the father and the holy spirit did not also die on the cross/stake when the son died?"

As I understand it: On the cross Jesus Christ died in his human nature, not his divine nature. Neither the Father, Son, nor Holy Spirit ceased to exist.

"And 5 of the seven billion people out there in the world couldn't give a rat's.... about the christian trinity. To them its all hokum."

Surely a significant number of those persons would know very little (if anything) about the idea of the Trinity.

Papalinton said...

Cale B.T.
"Surely a significant number of those persons would know very little (if anything) about the idea of the Trinity."

You're right. I love the grandeur of hyperbole. I learned it when I was a bible crazy. A significant number of persons will live and die, live and die, without ever knowing of the great inconsequences of the christian trinity. What will continue and is changing is that these persons will get to live a whole lot longer, not because of any fundamental existential truth embedded in christian trinitarian theism but simply because they will be the recipients of the uncompromising and relentless search for truth and understanding through scientific investigation that informs humanity. For Victor to even propose some dint of causative relationship between Trinitarian Theology and Scientific Theory is, in the words of my friend Bob Prokop, simply unimaginable. The suggestion is little more than the frightened entreaty of a failed hypothesis desperately seeking a new unsuspecting host on which to parasitize. This has been the unscrupulous and deviously clever strategy of the Templeton Foundation by which it attempts to buy cash-strapped scientists to soft-mouth the yawning gap between christian malarkey and science.

And then to top it all off, I read this little pearler, reflecting the state of today's nonsense:
"According to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism and most forms of Protestantism, a baptism is not valid if the Trinitarian formula is not used in the administration of that sacrament. Consequently, they may not recognize religious communities that baptize without this formula – e.g. Unitarians, Branhamists, Frankists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals, all of whom deny the Trinity – as Christian religions. This is also the case with baptisms within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church). Although LDS members baptize with the same Trinitarian formula, they reject the Nicene Trinitarian conception and regard the three Persons of the Trinity as being distinct gods or "divine personages", united not in substance, but in dominion and purpose. Other faiths (Frankists, Oneness Pentecostals and Branhamists in particular) use the formula "In the name of Jesus Christ" (based on Acts 2:38) for baptism, and in turn re-baptize converts who were first baptized under the Trinitarian formula, sometimes claiming that such persons would not have been previously aware that "Jesus is the Lord". Wiki

And this is what constitutes truth in the christian world? And this is what masquerades as bona fide existential discoveries form the cutting-edge theological research programs in Trinitarian Theology? What an utter dog's breakfast. And this form of garbage is trotted out as being equal to, if not more important than scientific theory in responding to the so-called 'big' existential questions of life and reality.

Who is pulling whose chain, Victor?

Walter said...

Ben says But I am still not convinced you understand what it is you don't believe in (trinity). Thus till you learn more you should be more prudent in critiquing it.

Let me tell you how I would have explained it in my evangelical days.

As Christians we worship one God

Jesus is God

The Father of Jesus (Yahweh) is God

The Holy Spirit is God

Jesus is not the same person as the Father or the Holy Spirit, but they are in essence the same being.

At this point the new convert will start shaking their head in abject confusion, and that's when I would tell them that it is not important for them to fully understand it at this point in time (I would try to explain that it was a mystery that no fallible human mind can clearly understand since there is no analog of the trinity to be found in nature). I would then emphasize repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice and subsequent resurrection on your behalf as a sinner.

I understand full well what I now reject

Cale B.T. said...

Papalinton, your pace doesn't make it very easy to engage you. For instance, in your last post, you brought up the Templeton Foundation and the validity of baptisms not administered in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do you actually want a substantive discussion on these issues, or were you just using them as rhetorical soundbites? Perhaps a more effective approach would be for you to write up your questions as separate blog posts on Reason Prevail.

I am curious about you being a former "bible crazy", though? What is your "spiritual autobiography", as it were?

Jason Pratt said...

BenYachov: {{Jason we have no common ground. To Catholics it is dogma we can't know God is a Trinity apart from Divine Revelation informing us.}}

I guess it's a good thing then, that there is no need for me or anyone else to evangelize Roman Catholics who already dogmatically accept the trinitarian doctrines, hm?

Whether people like Walter might or might not find such an approach helpful is a whole other matter.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Walter: {{I would try to explain that it was a mystery that no fallible human mind can clearly understand}}

I myself wouldn't say that, but I'd agree with the rest of it. Including that it isn't important, for purposes of worship, serving God, serving other people, or even for salvation from sin, to fully understand it now or later.

(I expect I would disagree with your previous group about some specific details concerning "acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice and subsequent resurrection on your behalf as a sinner", but I agree with the broad description as given so far as it goes.)

JRP

Walter said...
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Walter said...

Walter said: {{I would try to explain that it was a mystery that no fallible human mind can clearly understand}}

I myself wouldn't say that...


Since we seem not to be able to get away from discussing the trinity itself in this thread, I must ask: how would you explain it to where the rational mind can accept the proposition of one God consisting of three persons? There is no direct analog of anything like that occurring in nature. Every rational explanation I have come across flirts too closely with either modalism or tri-theism.

B. Prokop said...

It is no accident that the Trinity dominates this conversation. As I said above, the Doctrine of the trinity is the one, fundamental, absolutely essential Truth of Christianity. Even the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection are secondary to it. The doctrine gives us the most insightful information we have about the Very Nature of God, and therefore of creation. It tells us that in the End of Ends, the universe (and its Creator) is a Community of Love so total that the Community is simultaneously a Unity.

And the more you grasp the relationships between the Persons of the trinity, the more you understand how Love and Trust are at the very core of existence itself. The Son's emptying of Himself, His Death and Resurrection, are "what it's all about". It is the answer to the so-called Problem of Pain. At the same time, it is the Greatest of All Mysteries. The Death of God is as essential a fact as "I am who am" (possibly the most awesome line in the Bible).

BenYachov said...

@Matt

>The only "data" that's being evaluated in making this "theory" is that early Christians realized the discrepancy between the OT and NT, and needed a way to make them fit as Walter has nicely illustrated already.

My analogy should be obvious to even you Matt. You can have a simplistic & or popular explaination of a complex concept for the masses but then when you want to engadge in rational critique you need the technical and accurate one.

>In order to ignore your immensely plausible hypothesis about the origin of the trinity concept, Ben will wave his hands and tell you over and over that you haven't read enough of the Early Church Fathers.

Matt you have a single limited skill set. You can argue religion sucessfully with Theistic Personalist YEC ahistorical fundamentalist Protestants. That's it.

As for the rest you employ mockery to cover up your own willed self ignorance.

BTW the Trinity is not a "theory" you are equivocating between Science and Theology(I of course wasn't I was making a mere analogy). It would be nice to see you get back to being an Atheist Philosopher instead of a Gnu Atheist Wannabe.

I could take you seriously again son.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

As an overly short answer (summarizing the approach of the opening chapters of Section Three in the book I linked to previously upthread), I proceed along the line of thought connecting theism (distinct from atheism) to positive aseity (the idea that ultimate reality eternally depends on itself for existence and thus eternally actively self-exists) instead of to privative aseity (the idea that ultimate reality does not even depend upon itself for existence, and so only statically exists).

Ironically, even though there are clear conceptual connections between binitarian (and so also trinitarian) theism and positive aseity, as well as (I would say) fairly suggestive scriptural connections at least to positive aseity, most Christian metaphysicians, whether trinitarian or not, have historically preferred to follow notions of privative aseity instead. Whereas I find that privative aseity leads to significant problems for any theism at all.

In other words, I'm a positive aseitist because I already conclude on prior grounds that I ought to believe theism to be true; and because I find no insurmountable problems with positive aseity (since of course its mere proposal is no guarantee of logical coherency); and then I follow out the implications from there.

Anyway, seeing that as a deist you are already some kind of theist, and even already some kind of supernaturalistic theist (the evident system of spatio-temporal Nature not being God but being instead dependent for its existence upon one and only one God regardless of the further question of mediatorial systems or entities), I suspect (although I can't be sure) that our primary disagreement will end up being over the aseity of God before even getting to the question of multiple persons of one God.

In short, if we agreed that God Most High was actively self-existent (i.e. self-begetting and self-begotten, analogically speaking but keeping in mind the differences between the analogical language and the conceptual proposal), we could proceed to the question of what the further implications of that position is (e.g. clearly not tri-theism, but perhaps modalism instead of binitarianism).

But I not only don't know how anyone would validly arrive at binitarianism (nor trinitarianism subsequently) from privative aseity; if I thought the Independent Fact of all reality was only statically self-existent (i.e. rational action is not an essential characteristic of the IF's fundamental self-existence--the IF is proposed to rationally act without essentially being rational action) I doubt I would even be a theist, including not a deist.

JRP


PS: (While the link upthread went to a table of contents for various chapters and subchapters at the Cadre Journal, so that the topics of the posts could be discussed in comments, I’ve also attached the full 3rd edition as a free pdf here among other places. Although God knows I can’t imagine anyone plowing through all that who isn’t super-interested in the topic! {g} But we might be significantly in agreement in principle for the first 400 pages or so of discussion.

Jason Pratt said...

Opps, composition editing blip: "further implications of that position **is**" should be "implications... are". (I rewrote the sentence at some point and forgot to change the grammar there. Sorry.)

JRP

BenYachov said...

@Walter

>At this point the new convert will start shaking their head in abject confusion, and that's when I would tell them that it is not important for them to fully understand it at this point in time (I would try to explain that it was a mystery that no fallible human mind can clearly understand since there is no analog of the trinity to be found in nature). I would then emphasize repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice and subsequent resurrection on your behalf as a sinner.

>I understand full well what I now reject.

You understood it well enough on the Popular level but such a person could have learned more. If this convert where Catholic (even if he wasn't) I would have recommeded the explaination of the Trinity given in THEOLOGY AND SANITY by Frank Sheed. Which is a popular explaination of the Trinity given by Aquinas (Summa III 39 I think).

You can always learn more but you come from a very Fideistic form of religion so I don't know what to tell you Walter. My traditoinal puts more of a prize on reason. Luther said reason is the Devil's whore. Calvin the most intellectual of the Reformers condemned proud reason. That is alien to me & what I believe.

> how would you explain it to where the rational mind can accept the proposition of one God consisting of three persons? There is no direct analog of anything like that occurring in nature. Every rational explanation I have come across flirts too closely with either modalism or tri-theism.

There are a lot of better analogies such as Aquinas/Sheed's portraying the Logos as the Thought God has of Himself which is God & the Spirit as the Self-giving Love between Them which is God(the Divine Simplicity is invaluable even here).

But in the end God can only be known Analigously not unequivocally. I read some of the dialog between that Tuggy fellow and Feser. The man all but admits to Feser he is attracted to Theistic Personalism. So his philosophical criticisms are no doubt successful critique of Swimburne's faulty view of the Trinity.

You can't be a Theistic Personalist and a Trinitarian. Only a Unitarian.

BTW the above is a better critique then letting me think you really are a Tri-Theist. It would have saved some time if you lead with it. Just saying. Well better late then never.

Walter said...

It is no accident that the Trinity dominates this conversation. As I said above, the Doctrine of the trinity is the one, fundamental, absolutely essential Truth of Christianity.

It is the main reason I can never again give assent to orthodox Christian beliefs. I am fully convinced that Jesus was just a man; thus there was no incarnation, and there is no tri-unity in God.

Matt DeStefano said...

BTW the Trinity is not a "theory" you are equivocating between Science and Theology(I of course wasn't I was making a mere analogy). It would be nice to see you get back to being an Atheist Philosopher instead of a Gnu Atheist Wannabe.

I was commenting on Victor's analogy (the title of this post is a comparison between "Trinitarian Theology and Scientific Theory").

Matt DeStefano said...

Walter,

This is a bit off topic, but have you written anywhere about your reasons for deism?

BenYachov said...

>I was commenting on Victor's analogy (the title of this post is a comparison between "Trinitarian Theology and Scientific Theory").

Wonderful, but I accused you of equivocating between Science and Theology where as Victor and I are making analigious comparisons.

Now if you wish to deny this is your intention naturally I'll take you at your word as to your intention.

Walter said...

This is a bit off topic, but have you written anywhere about your reasons for deism?

No, I don't have a blog of my own.

When I initially deconverted from Christianity I became a weak atheist for about a year. One of the arguments that brought me back to a minimal theistic belief was Victor's AFR; it's why I found this blog in the first place. The reason that I'm a deist rather than a believer in any revealed religion is because I feel that I am not bound to accept any purported revelation from God that comes to me indirectly through a fallible human medium.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

I'm pretty sure I don't regard my reasoning as infallible, much less as intrinically inerrant; but even in the case of (hypothesizing for purposes of argument) being granted a direct revelation from God to me personally, I the human would still have to reason about it to process and understand it, much less to do anything rationally worthwhile with it subsequently.

Yet I think an argument can be legitimately made that we ought to accept as true (within various qualifications of course) the results of our reasoning, despite our reasoning being neither infallible (incapable of failing in its purpose) nor inerrant (always accurate without error).

Admittedly some scientists and (more likely) philosophers of science would reject the idea of accepting truth by exercise of reason, too, but scientific enterprises necessarily proceed by application of this practical license and obligation (despite attempts to deny otherwise). Moreover, we are routinely expected to try to practically accept as true vast amounts of claims made by other people than ourselves, almost always without having sufficient training, skill and access to the data to make our own judgments about the truthclaims being made.

This all occurs through at least one (sometimes more than one) fallible and not intrinsically inerrant human medium.

It is one thing to think that you do not personally have good enough reasons to accept a particular data set as worthy of acceptance on a topic--and I don't blame people for that, because God knows I think I don't personally have good enough reasons to accept other data sets myself. But even assuming for purposes of argument that the Judeo-Christian scriptures are a fallible human medium (a concept I myself regard as a non sequitur, but then neither would I say they themselves are infallible), that in itself seems no principle ground for rejecting any purported revelation from God that comes to us indirectly through them. I can think of other reasons to reject purported revelation data from them (perhaps), but not that reason: whatever truths we decide we are obligated to accept (and it is metaphysically impossible to be a total agnostic about truthclaims), they will always come to us indirectly through at least one fallible human medium.

That's as true for deism (if this or that version of deism is true, even minimal instead of nominal deism), as it is for any other metaphysical claim.

Or, putting it another way, I don't reject Islam and the special revelatory authority and claims (where they differ from my beliefs) of the Koran, due to my believing the Koran is a fallible human medium (in more than one way)--even though I do believe that, too. Admittedly, if I came somehow to believe first that it was an inerrant (beyond infallible) source of data on X-set of topics, I would be obligated to accept what the data means (whatever that meaning or meanings are) on that set of topics. But I could theoretically accept what it teaches on various topics, even religious ones, without regarding it as more than a fallible human medium.


(By the way, the material I linked to above on positive aseity and implications leading to binitarian theism instead of modalism thereby, follows a whole section of chapters based on a much more detailed version of what I find to be Lewis' formal Argument From Reason in M:aPS 2nd edition. I think the implications of his argument's shape and result go in that direction eventually, even though he himself never specifically spelled them out; but I do find hints from him on the topic in various things he wrote.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Argh, another multiple draft editing blip! {insert inerrancy joke here}{g}

"the idea of accepting truth by exercise of reason, *too*" -- the "too" was left over from a previous draft on a somewhat different topic not included in the final. Please ignore. (In neither draft was I trying to claim that you reject the idea of accepting truth by exercise of reason, by the way.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Walter: {{I am fully convinced that Jesus was just a man; thus there was no incarnation, and there is no tri-unity in God.}}

Strictly speaking, one concept (Jesus being the 2nd Person of the Trinity Incarnate) could be false while the other concept (God being a Trinity) could be still be true (although the former proposal depends on the latter being true for the possibility of its own truth of course).

I'm not denying the orthodox two-natures of Christ--I strongly affirm them. I'm just saying, it's technically possible to accept the latter without accepting the former.

(The non-Christian Jews on the receiving end of the critiques against Two Powers In Heaven, did not believe in the Incarnation of the second person of YHWH as Jesus of Nazareth, and probably did not regard the second visible YHWH to be any kind of Incarnation at all in their past or in their future--a manifestation maybe, but not an incarnation. But they were trying to reconcile Jewish scriptural data in a way that got them accused of proposing two powers in heaven even though they themselves agreed that this ought to be avoided. Just an example of believing what was evidently a proto-binitarian theism without claiming Jesus was more than only a human man.)

JRP

Walter said...

@ Jason

Let me put it another way. If another person comes to me and claims that God spoken directly to them and has a message for me, then I will seek some form of validation that the message is genuine and not a case of delusion or fraud. If you can provide no strong measure of proof that your message comes from above, then I feel quite justified in believing that the purported revelation you seek to pass on was created by you and none other.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Cale B.T.
"Papalinton, your pace doesn't make it very easy to engage you. For instance, in your last post, you brought up the Templeton Foundation and the validity of baptisms not administered in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do you actually want a substantive discussion on these issues, or were you just using them as rhetorical soundbites? Perhaps a more effective approach would be for you to write up your questions as separate blog posts on Reason Prevail.

I am curious about you being a former "bible crazy", though? What is your "spiritual autobiography", as it were?"


I guess you see my point. How does one have a substantive discussion on any theological idea? Even theologians have not the foggiest idea. Ask Dr John Shelby Spong. Ask Dr Albert Mohler. Ask George Pell. How does one engage the interpretation of an existing interpretation of a previous interpretation mindful of the polemical interpretation, and whether that interpretation has a catholic or protestant or a unitarian Baptist bias implied? And what of Scientology? or the Mormons? For me there is no value to be had from holding an elongated discussion on theological tripe, such as 'Father, Son and Holey ghost'. That would simply legitimate an already fraudulent and unsubstantiated proposition and derail a process now in train in which the great inconsequences of the failed jesus program in now being quietly put out to pasture. The germane question is how long is it going to take, and what strategies should the community take to unshackle this social albatross going forward?

It is truly a bit of a dog's breakfast, isn't it?

'Spiritual biography'? Cale B.T. this is one of the great swindles of christian theism. Being a religious believer has absolutely nothing to do with spirituality. As with many words in the English lexicon we cannot say the word 'spirituality' without it dripping with christian connotation. The word is so poisoned that when normal users of English wish to engage the word to explain a relationship to an event or a circumstance, even the process of defining out the christian content is insufficient to prevent soiling that experience with christian undertone. We must face the fact that religion has pervaded and commandeered everyday English as a part of its comprehensive colonization of experience. Other perfectly normal words such as heaven, hell, sin, devil, angel, soul, pray, worship, sacred, bless, holy, divine, anoint etc etc that have been appropriated by the parasitic nature of religion have rendered them so toxic that to even mention them in conversation is to always having to apologetically qualify their use. To conflate a spiritual experience with a religious experience is fraudulent and pious tripe.

As for me? Potted version: Born and raised christian, baptised lutheran, Sunday School, church every Sunday, confirmed in the Uniting Church of Nthn Australia. Married in a Anglican Church, had the banns read for three prior services to the wedding. Had my first two children baptised, one a Lutheran, one in the Anglican faith. Was a card carrying faithhead for much of my early life. My mid thirties resulted in the Enlightenment.

More importantly Cale B.T. what is you religious affiliation? Are you an avowed christian mystic, a person who is puzzled by the obvious, but who understands the nonexistent? Are you a person that subscribes to the cannibalism of physical transubstantiation or are you as I and Ralph Waldo Emerson, subscribers to, "The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next"?

Jason Pratt said...

Walter, entirely fair enough. (In fact, I have at least one whole chapter in SttH on detailing why something like that is fair, although more generally than claims of divine revelation per se. {g})

JRP