Friday, March 22, 2013

Does theism entail the absence of gratuitous evil?

This is from a discussion I was involved with, largely with Keith Parsons, on the Secular Outpost. 

I'd like to start by raising a question about the claim that God has to have a justifying reason for all the evils he permits. How do you know that? Maybe a being can be worthy of worship even if he permits some gratuitous evil, or even a lot of it. 

This is an interesting essay, by Trakakis, who criticizes one attempt to deny that theism entails that there is no gratuitous evil. 

If a woman has the right to do as he chooses with her own body, then maybe God has the right to do as he chooses with his own universe???? I once, in a bad mood, said this: 

"We have to assume that a perfectly good God would want to minimize suffering. Sometimes I think there ought to be more suffering in the world than there really is. But whatever God has chosen to dish out, so long as it doesn't result in anyone being unjustly damned, accords with my conception of perfect goodness."

I don't actually believe this, but I would still be interested in seeing how someone refuted it. 

Of course, how far can we push this? Could we embrace the view by going to a very different theory of the good, a theory in which what is good is the glory of God, not human well-being, and that glory is defined in terms of the number of attributes God is able to express. On this view, if God predestines some for salvation and some for damnation, and then in the case of the redeemed, God's glory is his gracious redemption of sinners who deserve eternal damnation, and in the case of the lost, God's glory is the exercise of wrath against sinners. So, while God may command us not to run a hell for people, he is under no obligation to run one himself, if that brings greater glory to himself. 

I bring this up because this was a position I spent a lot of time arguing against a few years back, when I was arguing against Calvinists. They argue that the only problem with their position was that it was counterintuitive to me, whereas if indeed it was taught by the Bible, (as they claim that it is), then I ought to set my intuitions aside and accept it. 


I'm still convinced that this is a bridge too far, that it disconnects goodness from happiness in a way that makes the concept of goodness simply unrecognizable. 

Still, I do think the relation between the concept of God and gratuitous evil needs to be carefully considered, as opposed to being taken as simply obvious. 

60 comments:

Bilbo said...

By "gratuitous evil," I assume that you mean pain which does not result in some good effect. I can understand an all-good being causing pain that results in some good effect. I cannot understand such a being causing pain that has no good effect. That seems to be a completely irrational concept.

BeingItself said...

Victor,

Would you permit gratuitous evil if you could prevent it? If so, then you are better than God. But no being can be better than God. Therefore either there is no gratuitous evil, or there is no God.

Said another way - any being that allows gratuitous that it could prevent is by definition not good. At least as I understand what the word "good" means.

BenYachov said...

Trakakis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:-)

A favorite philosopher of mine. His paper Against theodicy : a response to Peter Forrest coupled with Brian Davies' work helped me to solve the Problem of Evil for me by seeing that God given His nature in the classic sense can't coherently be called a moral agent. God is ontologically and metaphysically good but not morally good. God has no obligations to us. Theodicy is based on the Idea God is a good Moral Agent univocally compared to a good human moral agent. Of course that is absurd.

I've seen Trakakis who is a famous defender of Rowe's evidential argument from evil described as a tentative Theist but elsewhere he is listed as a Christian Philosopher.

Yes that is right a Christian philosopher who defends a popular Atheist Argument. It should come as no surprise I believe even Rowe (or maybe it's Mackie my memory is fuzzy) has defended some Cosmological Arguments as strongly plausible.

I wish I had access to my PC (I am using an Apple my Father gave me) I 'd quote some of Trakakis' work.

His "Anti-Theodicy" project is something I wish I could read.

But unless an online paper is free I am limited.

BenYachov said...

In the natural world evil isn't really gratuitous in so much as it is the nature of natural objects to compete with other natural objects for their perfection. A lion killing a Lamb might seem "gratuitous" to the lamb but not to the lion.

Moral Evil is often the disordered pursuit of the good absent the restrictions of the divine or natural law.

Evil is metaphysically an absence of a perfection.

BenYachov said...

From Trakakis' web page.

http://www.trakakis.com/progress_philosophyreligion.php

The Problem of Evil
“Anti-theodicy” is the view that a certain way of responding to the problem of evil – specifically, the response of theodicy, where one tries to identify the reasons why God permits evil – is deeply flawed. But, according to the anti-theodicist, theodicies are flawed not because we do not (or cannot) know the reasons why God permits evil, but because theodicies are committed to some dubious moral and metaphysical assumptions. I am in the process of developing further this “anti-theodicy” position, and defending it against objections that have been levelled against it.

Classic Theism rules!

Moon Shine said...

benyachov wrote: Evil is metaphysically an absence of a perfection.
====

Perfection is existence which is beyond all possible improvability hence its all either perfect or flawed hence either-or nature of this concept of perfection, it nevertheless relies upon the relativistic notion that a thing exists in a state which is flawed in comparison to an idealized or existent thing of the same class which can be determined by all possible methods not to possess any flaw hence this concept of ultimate perfection is commonly applied in dualistic ideologies, and can be said to be validly established by the fact that we can always judge a thing to be flawed and therefore falling short of the ideal hence there is an ontological relationship between the concept of perfection and ideology itself, since ideologies are predicated on concepts of what constitutes better or worse but perfection is also a continuum of relative merit, established in some thing's relationship to all other things which can be considered relevant to the thing's nature hence in this sense there is no ultimate perfection, but instead the relative perfection of a thing is established in terms of its suitability for a particular purpose hence for example, a screwdriver can be said to be the perfect tool for embedding a screw hence while a screwdriver may be perfectly suitable for embedding a screw in wood, a screw-driving power-drill attachment may be considered to be more suitable to embed a screw into a harder material, and hence more perfect in a given case since Ancient mathematicians made many assumptions about perfect numbers based on the four they knew so most of the assumptions were wrong
hence one of these assumptions was that since 2, 3, 5, and 7 are precisely the first four primes, the fifth perfect number would be obtained when n = 11, the fifth prime hence, 211 − 1 = 2047 = 23 • 89 is not prime and therefore n = 11 does not yield a perfect number hence The fifth perfect number (33550336 = 212(213 − 1)) has 8 digits, thus debunking the first assumption because of the second assumption, the fifth perfect number indeed ends with a 6 hence the sixth (8 589 869 056) also ends in a 6 hence it has been shown that the last digit of any even perfect number must be 6 or 8 hence a so called two millennia after Euclid, Euler proved that the formula 2n−1(2n − 1) will yield all the even perfect numbers hence -
Perfection is just in you dumb mind.

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

@Moon Shime

So you know how to copy/paste your definitions from a joke encyclopedia & believe for some reason I don't know how to use google?

http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Perfect

quoted verbatum.

Big deal? You could not even copy/paste from an academic encyclopedia on philosophy and fake it better?

Weak sauce my child.

Kid do you even have permission from your mother to be on the net?

Seriously! Someone dumber than Paps.

BenYachov said...

Really Moon Shine the lapping puppy route is embarrassing?

Also why uncyclopedia & not Encylopedia Dramatica?

It's far more vulgar, low brow, brain dead, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, vicious and funnier then the uncyc.

It would better suit your temperament.

Joshua said...

"theodicies are flawed not because we do not (or cannot) know the reasons why God permits evil, but because theodicies are committed to some dubious moral and metaphysical assumptions."

And flawed theological assumptions, I might add (e.g. see Romans 10:6-7).

You see this with people who rage against any hint of teleological determinism, but have no problem at all with naturalistic determinism. When you point out the inconsistency, they argue that it's perfectly reasonable. "If it's just physics controlling me, I have nobody to blame for suffering. But if it's a purposeful intelligence, then I'm holding him accountable for every bit of suffering!"

In other words, people cannot imagine a purposeful intelligence who isn't an equal peer to humans, morally. People cannot imagine a teleology that isn't morally obligated to us.

That's pretty messed up. And nobody argues it; they just take it for granted. Why isn't the burden of proof placed on those who assume that the teleology is obligated to us?

im-skeptical said...

"In other words, people cannot imagine a purposeful intelligence who isn't an equal peer to humans, morally. People cannot imagine a teleology that isn't morally obligated to us."

Of course they can. Say we're some kind of science experiment in a jar. The 'creator' isn't perfectly good or loving, or omniscient. Say he just wants to see how we develop and doesn't care what becomes of us. I can reconcile that with the gratuitous suffering we see in our world.

But if you insist, as Christians do, that he loves us and cares about us, and he is perfectly good and all powerful, then there is a logical inconsistency. To say that he is not morally obligated to us is just a cop-out. He doesn't have to be. But he still should be good and loving, or you have no rational basis to claim that he is.

BenYachov said...

>.Of course they can.

Not in any rationally conceivable way given the premises of Classic Theism.

>Say we're some kind of science experiment in a jar.

Which presupposes an anthropomorphic deity that is unequivocally compared to a human scientist only with preternatural powers and meta abilities. Like Q from STTNG.

As such it does presuppose dubious moral and metaphysical assumptions about God.

>The 'creator' isn't perfectly good or loving, or omniscient. Say he just wants to see how we develop and doesn't care what becomes of us.

Without giving the back round metaphysics to explain what it means to call something "good" or "perfect" then this merely presupposes a Theistic Personalist God not the Classic Theistic God of the Bible of Abraham & Aquinas.


>But if you insist, as Christians do, that he loves us and cares about us,

God's love is not an emotion it is merely willing the good for us but He is no obligated to create us nor is he obligated to preserve us from material evil. Nor is he obligated to overide our free will should we spurn his sufficient grace & choose moral evil.

>and he is perfectly good and all powerful, then there is a logical inconsistency.

Your unstated assumption here is perfect goodness equal perfect moral goodness but God can't coherently be called a moral agent.

>To say that he is not morally obligated to us is just a cop-out.

No it's just a case of whiny gnus shouting "NO FAIR! YOUR NOT A FUNDAMENTALIST!".

How can God given his nature in the classic sense be morally obligated to us? He is not our equal or like us in any unequivocal fashion. He gets nothing from creating us since it's a purely gratuitous move on His part. God is not even a being alongside other beings so how can He be a moral agent if He isn't even a being?

It's as incoherent as saying my perfect root beer & chips isn't good because it didn't stop the holocaust.

>He doesn't have to be. But he still should be good and loving, or you have no rational basis to claim that he is.

The Goodness of God merely means he is Pure Act & Being Itself & the source and principle of all beings. It doesn't mean he is morally good. Love is merely an act of the will on God's part to ail the good for us. Such as creating us & willing we receive sufficent grace for salvation and the Beatific Vision. He wasn't obligated to create us nor preserve us from tempera suffering.

The book of Job is rather clear on that point.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

First, when I speak of common conceptions of God, it is not necessarily the god of classic theism. Not everybody is a classic theist like you. Even most Catholics have a more personalistic conception of God, I think. So don't blame me every time I speak of a god that is not what your own conception what God is. It isn't what I believe either.

Second, I am well aware of Thomist definitions of goodness, and the lack of moral agency of God. If you read what I said, I was not attempting to ascribe moral agency to him. Even Thomists speak of God's love. In the words of Thomist G. Deegan, the Thomist "considers beings for what they are and is convinced that each being possesses its own content and perfection on the basis of which it deserves to be valued and loved. God's creative love gives this content and value to things." So the god who created me, and made me such a bad person, evidently didn't express his creative love to the same extent that he did for you. Why not?

Finally, whether God loves me or not, If I am not destined to partake of the Beatific Vision, why create me at all? Why create all those billions of animals who were eaten alive, and countless little children who starved to death, and all the horrible diseases, and why aren't people just made to be a little better than they are, so they have more of a shot at that Beatific Vision? Doesn't he care about the losers? He made them, too - just made them to be losers. You can tell me it's my own fault, but the same goes for billions of other people who didn't have what it takes. There must be something wrong with us. It must be human nature. It must be the way we're made.

BenYachov said...

>First, when I speak of common conceptions of God, it is not necessarily the god of classic theism. Not everybody is a classic theist like you.

Trakakis seems to postulate that God as a solution to all his arguments that show many known theodicies are not successful.

I personally reject all theodicy.

Theodicy presupposes a God who is a being alongside other beings that is unequivocally compatible to a moral human being. If God is none of those things then as Davies says and Trakakis quotes him in one paper saying so "the problem of evil" becomes a non-problem.

At best you have the mystery of evil(why evil?) but the problem goes away quite neatly.

A Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

>Even most Catholics have a more personalistic conception of God, I think. So don't blame me every time I speak of a god that is not what your own conception what God is. It isn't what I believe either.

Citing the theological & or philosphical ignorance of the average Catholic is no argument. Many average young teenage Atheists don't know science from a hole in their head it doesn't change the objective content of science. The objective content of the Catholic Faith & Philosophical tradition remains the same.

BenYachov said...

>Second, I am well aware of Thomist definitions of goodness, and the lack of moral agency of God.

As long as we understand the problem of Evil is a non-problem Classic Theists then we are good.

>If you read what I said, I was not attempting to ascribe moral agency to him. Even Thomists speak of God's love. In the words of Thomist G. Deegan, the Thomist "considers beings for what they are and is convinced that each being possesses its own content and perfection on the basis of which it deserves to be valued and loved. God's creative love gives this content and value to things."

With you so far.

>So the god who created me, and made me such a bad person, evidently didn't express his creative love to the same extent that he did for you. Why not?

God didn't make you (morally) a bad person. God made you good you(hypothetically I don't know if you are bad.) made yourself bad by misusing your free will and resisting grace.

This is not the the problem of evil. This is the separate problem of God's sovereignty & Foreknowledge vs Man's free will. Beothus solved it long ago & I don't see improving on him.

>Finally, whether God loves me or not, If I am not destined to partake of the Beatific Vision, why create me at all?

There is no such thing as "being destined" from God's perspective(in the hyper Calvinist sense). God is not in time & God sees all time in the present moment as it where. God sees all the choices you will make in a Big Now & gives sufficient grace accordingly for your whole life. I may see Socrates now sitting but it doesn't follow my seeing causes Socrates to sit. God knowing your final end from all eternity doesn't cause you to mortally sin. You cause your mortal sins.

>Why create all those billions of animals who were eaten alive,

Yeh animals have no immortal spiritual souls. They are pure matter only. There is no reason to believe they are intellectually conscious as we are. So animal "suffering" is a non-starter even if I deny God tomorrow.

im-skeptical said...

And what of the rest of my comment?

im-skeptical said...

Oops. Nevermind.

BenYachov said...

>and countless little children who starved to death, and all the horrible diseases, and why aren't people just made to be a little better than they are, so they have more of a shot at that Beatific Vision?

Why doesn't Donald Trump pay my gas bill? Well the reasons why are irrelevant. Bottom line he doesn't owe it to me. Neither does God own you or I absolutely anything. All God's good acts are acts of supererogation. That is they are good acts that are above & beyond what is required of Him. Like if Trump graciously choose to pay my gas bill.

You want answers to the mystery of Evil? How the heck should I frekin know? I only know the shit that has happened to me God wasn't obligated to prevent & thus I can't coherently blame Him for it. All the good I have I got from Him that I wasn't owed and is pure gratuity on His Part. So I am grateful for that.

Some people are born live for 5 minutes & die painlessly & get the beatific vision. Some like St Francis has to work it. Is God unjust? No, as the parable says it's his wages he may give them away as he sees fit.

>Doesn't he care about the losers? He made them, too - just made them to be losers.

He doesn't owe it to them to be rich or comfortable. If he makes any rich then he has done more good than is required for him to do. He didn't have to create them in the first place which was more good then he was required to do.

>You can tell me it's my own fault, but the same goes for billions of other people who didn't have what it takes. There must be something wrong with us. It must be human nature. It must be the way we're made.

Fault is a moral judgement. Mis-Using your free will to act immorally after sufficient reflection & with full consent of the will makes you at fault.
(Hypothetically. I don't know you from Adam)

Being poor does not. I have three autistic kids. My two brothers' children are normal. Why them not me? How the hell should I know? I only know given God's nature I can no more coherently blame Him for my kids then I could "blame" the natural forces that lead to autism in kids. Since I can't logically blame Him I can't be mad at Him. Thus I am free to Love Him back with the love His grace gives me to do so.

It's not hard.

im-skeptical said...

"Mis-Using your free will to act immorally after sufficient reflection & with full consent of the will makes you at fault."

"you ... made yourself bad by misusing your free will and resisting grace."

There are so many people like me. All defective humans. And it's our own fault. Somehow, I don't buy it.

I work in an industry where we produce millions of items, and we pay very close attention to how they turn out - whether they are even slightly defective. If we see defects, we examine the design and manufacturing process in great detail, figure out where it is going wrong, and take steps to correct it. We don't place blame on the defective items. Rather, we blame ourselves for having made them defective, and we implement improvements so it doesn't keep happening.

Maybe God just needs to take a few classes in design and process control.

BenYachov said...


>There are so many people like me. All defective humans. And it's our own fault. Somehow, I don't buy it.

So you object to the reality free will then & moral responsibility for beings who (unlike God) can coherently be seen as moral agents?

>I work in an industry where we produce millions of items, and we pay very close attention to how they turn out - whether they are even slightly defective. If we see defects, we examine the design and manufacturing process in great detail, figure out where it is going wrong, and take steps to correct it.

You analogy is flawed. There is no reason to believe creation from nothing & causing things to be real & causing the conditional reality they exist in is in anyway analogous to mere manufacturing.

If anything mere manufacturing stinks of mechanism & is thus an antithesis to an AT view of God.

> We don't place blame on the defective items. Rather, we blame ourselves for having made them defective, and we implement improvements so it doesn't keep happening.

One cannot be made morally defective. One can only become morally upon using one's will to transgress the moral law in a mortally sinful fashion.

So that is not logical.

>Maybe God just needs to take a few classes in design and process control.

Your flippant analysis betrays you. It is not a defect to create a being who has the potential to choose evil or who might actually freely choose evil. Since the being itself is the direct efficient cause of the evil.

At best or worst God is the formal cause of evil because he creates either material things which might deprive other material things of their perfection to increase their own or make free will being who could or might actually choose evil.

im-skeptical said...

"Your flippant analysis betrays you."

You can see it as flippant, or you can ask yourself if there isn't something to consider in it. It's a serious question. Why can't we all be good, and have that Beatific Vision? Even if we can't, why all the suffering? You have a million ways of explaining it all away, but not one of them makes sense.

Moon Shine said...

Ben,

I did copy/paste indeed. So what? I wanted something more interesting on this blog, other than your crap you spout all over.
Any sentence from uncyclopedia, or even Encyclopedia Dramatica has more sense than any of your inane wannabe serious philosophy.
Your ideas is regurgitated logorrhea of theists and apologists, and for sure you'll end in some mental institution where you'll write on walls, shit and piss on you, scream at god or lick your balls.
I already feel sorry for you.

grodrigues said...

@BenYachov:

You already have an MGonz clone nibbling at your heels.

BenYachov said...

I forgot where I stole this from it's in my notes.

Enjoy.

God is not a moral agent and is therefore not morally imperfect

In trying to demonstrate that God is not a moral agent, Davies draws our attention to the premise that God is 'Being Itself'. Yet for Davies if God is Being Itself (something which classical theism insists) something has to be done to distinguish Him from all beings otherwise He could not be 'God' in the classical sense. You should remember that classical theism puts forward a God who is 'transcendent' and therefore is removed or apart from His creation. For Davies the only way we can do this is to deny that God is ‘a being alongside other beings' and if He is not ‘a being etc' we cannot say that He is morally good or bad as we can say with human beings.

A second reason for denying that classical theism is committed to regarding God as a moral agent brings us to the notion of obligation and duty. It is often said that a moral agent is someone able to do his duty, someone capable of living up to his obligations. Yet for Davies it is very difficult to see how the God of classical theism can be thought of as having duties and obligations. These normally confront people in social contexts, in contexts where there are other people around. Thus, I have a duty and obligation to turn up to work (something which my employer pays me to do) and you have a duty and obligation to come to my lessons in order that you may successfully pass your philosophy exam!

Like Brian Davies, Huw Parri Owen takes up the view that the God of classical theism is not bound by such expectations. Owen writes: "God's creative act is free in so far as it is neither externally constrained nor necessary for the fulfilment of His own life." It must follow then that if God has no obligations or duties, then we need not think of Him as being a 'moral agent'.

Davies third and final point centres upon the idea of success and failure. A moral agent is obviously one who can in some sense either succeed or fail. He can succeed if he acts morally where others have failed to do so, and he can fail if he acts immorally where others have succeeded. Yet for Davies it makes no sense to talk of the God of classical theism as succeeding or failing. One can only be said to have succeeded or failed against a background of success or failure, a background against which one can be judged to have succeeded or failed. Thus an author can be judged to have succeeded as a writer in the light of the history of writing.

Now Davies point is simply this: if, as classical theism holds, God creates 'ex nihilo' ('out of nothing') then He can have no such background and therefore cannot be said to be even capable of succeeding or failing.

Consequently, this implies that God is not a moral agent and the problems presented by the free-will defence are no longer insurmountable. God does allow my free actions without actually causing them (i.e. in the efficient sense) since unlike me He is not a moral agent! This attempt by Davies and Owen to absolve God from moral responsibility for suffering and evil is a bold and interesting one and serves to show that the accusation that God is morally imperfect can be challenged.

im-skeptical said...

"This attempt by Davies and Owen to absolve God from moral responsibility for suffering and evil is a bold and interesting one and serves to show that the accusation that God is morally imperfect can be challenged."

Yes, just do a little philosophizing and Presto - God is absolved of moral responsibility for all the suffering and injustice he created. How convenient.

BenYachov said...

@qim-skeptical

>Yes, just do a little philosophizing and Presto - God is absolved of moral responsibility for all the suffering and injustice he created. How convenient.

You have no rational counter argument just girlie whining hoe even more convenient.

Also im-skeptical you are a liar now aren't you?

You said that you where "aware of Thomist definitions of goodness, and the lack of moral agency of God."

If you know that God is not a moral agent in the first place then how can God be "absolved of moral responsibility" in the second place?

BenYachov said...

>This attempt by Davies and Owen to absolve God from moral responsibility for suffering and evil is a bold and interesting one and serves to show that the accusation that God is morally imperfect can be challenged.

Yeh I f***ed that one up.

I was wrong to accuse im-skeptical of lying & I own my mistake.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

Just to clarify my position:

Yes, I am aware of these Thomistic beliefs.

No, I don't think they make sense in the modern world. They are an anachronism that unfortunately failed to die out completely during the renaissance.

BenYachov said...

Still a whiny position void of intelligence & hypocritical considering the "modern" positions are themselves rooted in the philosophy of antiquity. Materialism being born of Democritus. Anti-realism from Parmedies & Heraclitus etc.

Thought the empiricism of Hume is a novelty rooted in the errors of Kant & Descartes which ironically is anachronistic in itself.

One can't find a pure Humean these days anymore then one can find a real flat earthier. Thought the moderate realism and essentalism of Aristotle has stood the test of time and are making a come back.

im-skeptical said...

Quite right. Modern positions are built upon advances in thinking that has evolved from past positions as we continue to gain knowledge. Thomism is stuck in the dark ages.

BenYachov said...

Bold words from mindless proponent of Positivism who can't make a rational case for his own Atheism much less provide rational criticism of Thomism beyond childish name calling.

But philosophy always buries it's critics.

Always.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

Please tell me:

How do you logically reconcile your impersonal classical god with the church dogma of the trinity, without resorting to Feser's dodge of saying it's a mystery?

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

>How do you logically reconcile your impersonal classical god

I reject your claim God is "impersonal". God has intellect and Will ergo He is personal.

>with the church dogma of the trinity, without resorting to Feser's dodge of saying it's a mystery?

You will have to actually spell out what you think the contradiction is between the Trinity and I presume what you think Natural Theology teaches.

I don't see one.

Though I will bet dollars to donuts you like so many anti-Trinitarian religous fundamentalists (JW's, Oneness Pentacostals, Unitarians etc) dogmatically define the Trinity as meaning 3 gods who are somehow one god or three persons who are somehow one person. Which is absurd & ignorant & I would not be caught dead believing in such nonsense.

It's not even close to what the Church or Fathers taught. Not even the Pre-Nicean ones.

Try reading Frank Sheed's discussion on the Trinity & Mystery in THEOLOGY & SANITY or Aquinas' on the Trinity.

Your dig at Feser is ambigious crap. Address something he specifically said with a reference or stop wasting my time with your emotive crap.

im-skeptical said...

Feser: "But the Trinity has always been considered the chief of the mysteries of the Faith. Hence that the Trinity is a mystery, something knowable only through divine revelation, is considered in Catholic theology a proposition that is “proximate to Faith,” and its denial “proximate to heresy.”"

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/02/trinity-and-mystery-part-ii.html

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

At least Feser understands that the trinity dogma contradicts his classic theistic view of God as being divinely simple. He says "our minds are too limited fully to comprehend it."

From wikipedia on classic theism:
"Classical theism is, historically, the mainstream view in philosophy and is associated with the tradition of writers like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, St. Anselm, Maimonides, Averroes and Thomas Aquinas.[2] In opposition to this tradition, there are, today, philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (who rejects divine simplicity), Richard Swinburne (who rejects divine timelessness) and William Lane Craig (who reject both divine simplicity and timelessness), who can be viewed as theistic personalists. Since classical theistic ideas are influenced by Greek philosophy and focus on God in the abstract and metaphysical sense, they can be difficult to reconcile with the "near, caring, and compassionate" view of God presented in the religious texts of the main monotheistic religions, particularly the Bible.[3]"

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

You are confused and irrational at this point.

>Feser: "But the Trinity has always been considered the chief of the mysteries of the Faith. Hence that the Trinity is a mystery, something knowable only through divine revelation, is considered in Catholic theology a proposition that is “proximate to Faith,” and its denial “proximate to heresy.”"

How is it a "dodge" to state the brute fact that we cannot know God is a Trinity apart from Divine Revelation alone?

How does that concept contradict Natural Theology or create a contradiction between the dogma of the Trinity & what you call an "impersonal classical god".

It has nothing to do with anything.

Can't you ask a straightforward question or make even one coherent objection?

Or are you just full of Smeg?

BenYachov said...

>At least Feser understands that the trinity dogma contradicts his classic theistic view of God as being divinely simple. He says "our minds are too limited fully to comprehend it."

Only if we concieve of the hypostasis/Persons of the Trinity as parts of the substance.

Where as each hypostasis fully possesses the one undivided divine nature is identical to that nature but distinct from each other via relationship.

All this presupposes you actually read the Summa on the Trinity.
Which clearly you didn't otherwise you wouldn't write such stupid shit.

It's a classic piece of Apropotic Theology.

>From wikipedia on classic theism:

Whose objection can be summarized as "No Fair you are not a Theistic Personalist! or "No fair you don't literally believe God is an Old Man with a White Beard".

This is not argument.

Give me a real argument.

>"near, caring, and compassionate" view of God presented in the religious texts of the main monotheistic religions, particularly the Bible.[3]"

Asserted but not argued. Clearly God in the classic sense is near in the case of the Divine Conservation & cares for us in that he bothered to create us.

If God didn't care for us we would not exist. It's that simple.

BenYachov said...

>At least Feser understands that the trinity dogma contradicts his classic theistic view of God....

I would bet any amount of money he would emphatically state the Trinity does not contradict the Classic view but is the only view consistent with it. You are putting words in his mouth rather unconvincingly.

If anything it is impossible to reconcile the Theistic Personalist view with the Trinity since it makes the whole Godhead uneqivocally identical to a human personhood & can lead to the idea that God is "Three gods in one god" or "Three Persons in One Person". The Godhead becomes a human person only more uber while being three human persons at the same time which is a contradiction instead of a Nature which is possessed by Divine Hypostasis who differ merely by relationship not nature.

Hilarity ensues.

BenYachov said...

The Mystery of the Trinity BTW is how can the Father, Word/Son and Holy Spirit be real ontological realities that are distinct from each other by relationship & not by nature?

We cannot know unless we accept revelation but obviously for reasons I've stated there cannot be a contradiction.

BenYachov said...

BTW Natural Theology is part of the Praeambula Fidei where as the doctrine of the Trinity is part of the Mysterium Fidei you are equivocating big time.

It's like watching someone with a 5th graders' understanding of Science critique Quantum Physics.

im-skeptical said...

So the dogma of the Trinity wasn't developed until 1965? That's when Mysterium Fidei was published, as I understand it. Who would have known?

BenYachov said...

>So the dogma of the Trinity wasn't developed until 1965? That's when Mysterium Fidei was published, as I understand it. Who would have known?

Mysterium Fidei is latin for the "mysteries of the faith". Referring to the contents of the Faith that flow from Divine Revelation.

Praeambula Fidei means "preambles of faith" or what comes before faith. As Aquinas said "Reason comes before faith. One must have reason to believe and motivation for belief". It refers to Natural Theology what we can know about God threw reason alone sans Divine Revelation.

They are technical terms used in classic western theology.

That Pope Paul VI named his Encyclical on the Eucharist after this well known term is merely incidental.

When you are ready to offer a serious & clearly stated objection to the Trinity or the Problem of Evil let me know.

im-skeptical said...

OK. Sorry about that. Allow me an opportunity to read up on this in the Summa Theologica, which I haven't done yet. In any case, I have never seen an explanation that is satisfactory without just explaining it away.

BenYachov said...

>OK. Sorry about that. Allow me an opportunity to read up on this in the Summa Theologica, which I haven't done yet.

It amazes me how you make bold pronouncements on things you haven't bothered to read up on.

>In any case, I have never seen an explanation that is satisfactory without just explaining it away.

Gibberish.

This indicates to me you have already decided whatever the doctrine of the Trinity means it must be contradictory because your fundie Atheist heroes have infallibly pronounced it so "Three gods in one god" or "three persons who are one person etc" and obviously how could any of them be wrong?

Here is a newsflash. It's possible to not believe in God & still know the doctrine isn't contradictory.

im-skeptical said...

Here is a newsflash. It's possible to believe in God and still use your intellectual faculties to distinguish real logic from just explaining things away.

When Aquinas says "The supreme unity and simplicity of God exclude every kind of plurality of absolute things, but not plurality of relations. Because relations are predicated relatively, and thus the relations do not import composition in that of which they are predicated" it seems to me he is just explaining away the three persons of the trinity with a wave of the hand. Now I know he has much more to say about it than that, but his writing is chock full of statements like that one. But I'll continue reading on it.

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical
>it seems to me he is just explaining away the three persons of the trinity with a wave of the hand.

No he is giving an account that traces back to Tradition & the early Church Fathers and Councils on how God can be called Three in One.

If you accept divine revelation then this is the logical outcome.

If not well then your objection is why you reject a specific claim of divine revelation or the concept of divine revelation in general.

Bitching over Aquinas making a coherent explanation & flippantly dismissing it as "hand waving" is just lazy & a non-starter.

>Now I know he has much more to say about it than that, but his writing is chock full of statements like that one. But I'll continue reading on.

For all the good it will do you when your only criticism is "Stop making sense!" & or "Well are you going to explain how the number three equals the number one & invoke faith and mystery to believe that contradiction or not?".

Because thus far that is your argument in a nutshell & it's insulting to my intelligence.

BenYachov said...

>Here is a newsflash. It's possible to believe in God and still use your intellectual faculties to distinguish real logic from just explaining things away.

I doubt you understand any logic. The logic here (real whatever that means) cannot be defeated. Even in a godless universe Aquinas explanation contains no formal logical contradictions.

A smart Atheist wouldn't even bring it up. He would learn to polemic natural theology using philosophy & polemic arguments for the existence of God or make positive philosophical case for whatever his natualistic alternative belief happens to be.

Like I said your objections are gibberish.

im-skeptical said...

"Like I said your objections are gibberish."

Thank you for your kind words. Despite all the hand-waving of Aquinas, the bible makes it absolutely clear that Jesus and God are distinct beings. Here's one of many examples: (John 8:42) "Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me."

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

You are grasping at straws.

>Thank you for your kind words. Despite all the hand-waving of Aquinas, the bible makes it absolutely clear that Jesus and God are distinct beings.

An Atheist ladies and gentlemen who implicitly professes the Protestant Reformation Doctrines of Private Interpretation & the Perspicuity of Scripture!

Next up an Agnostic who Professes Transubstantiation and a Metaphysical Naturalist who believes Sacraments work Ex opere operato!

Kiss my Rosary Beads Gnu or better yet grow a brain!

>Here's one of many examples: (John 8:42) "Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me."

He also says "The Father and I are One" as well as "He who has seen me has seen the Father". Then there is Gospel of John 1:1 "and the Word was God" "the Word became Flesh", "He was in the Form of God" etc....

This is as tedious as when a religious fundamentalist quote "Call no man Father" at me in an attempt to claim it's not legitimate to call Priests or the Pope "Father"(they ignore the verse where Paul calls himself a Father to believers.).

>the bible makes it absolutely clear that Jesus and God are distinct beings

Whose interpretation of the Bible? Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Jews reject Perspicuity.

So that is your response? Invoke the doctrine of a religion we both reject?

Can't you do anything right?

BenYachov said...

>(John 8:42) "Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me:

Obviously!

>for I proceeded forth and came from God;

The first procession(of two) in the Trinity where as the Son/Word is eternally generated or begotten of the Father.

>neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

By appropriation the Father being the Monarch of the Trinity (in the sense of the Eastern Fathers) subsumes the One Divine Will to send the Son to be Incarnate.

In the Latin Version of John 8:42 Aquinas takes Processio (i.e. proceeded) as a proof this verse teaches the First Procession in the Trinity.

BenYachov said...

Good grief Im-skpetical digging up the doctrines of the Protestants and the Arian heretics & reading Scripture threw those filters.....

Jaw drop!

im-skeptical said...

"By appropriation the Father being the Monarch of the Trinity (in the sense of the Eastern Fathers) subsumes the One Divine Will to send the Son to be Incarnate."

Right.

"for the Father is greater than I"

"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God"

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

Any idiot can prooftext using a cheat sheet from a Jehovah's Witness site.

>"for the Father is greater than I"

Fathers in the West taught this is related to the verse "humbled himself and took on the form of a slave etc" that is the Word lowered himself by taking on a human nature.

The Fathers in the East understood this to reference that in the area of relation it is the Father who eternally generates the Son and in terms of relation is greater even if both are equal in nature.

>"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God"

Same as above.

>"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

Christ has two natures human and divine. His human intellect contained all revelation & teaching He was meant to reveal. The hour of the End of Days is not part of that revelation so is absent from His human intellect even thought as God He naturally knows it.

>"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."

So you think like most brain dead Gnus "basphemes against the Holy Spirit" means people who say "Screw You Holy Spirit" are irrevocably damned"?

No blasphemy against the Spirit is the obstinate refusal to repent unto death which by nature can't be forgiven since at death your Soul looses the ability to repent.

The doctrine of appropriation places the sin of refusing to repent as an offense against the spirit. Other sins are by appropriation attributed to the other Hypostasis.

I'm citing this from memory.

Is that all ya got Gnu?

im-skeptical said...

So you have your hand-waving interpretation of biblical verses designed to comply with your philosophical position, and I am simply reading what it says. (Not a Prtoestant or Arian or Jehova's Witness interpretation at all. I have little knowledge of all the various interpretations of a given verse, but some of yours seem rather skewed from the original intent.)

BenYachov said...

>"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God"

OTOH man and woman in terms of human nature are equal even if man is placed in authority over woman in the family dynamic.

In a like manner the Father is the Monarch of the Trinity in the Eastern Theology but as they share the identical Divine Nature the Father & the Son are equal like man and woman.

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

Your giving me the same nonsense every Protestant Fundamentalist and JW I've argued with has given me before.

>So you have your hand-waving interpretation of biblical verses designed to comply with your philosophical position,

No I am complying with Apostolic Tradition (2 Thes 2:15, 3:6).

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

God didn't give scripture alone He gave us a tradition with it to interpret Scripture.

The Bible condemns private interpretation against God apointed authority,

Peter 2:20-21

"0 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

It is you who are taking Scripture and reading into it your own private hand waving philosophical meanings.

It means about as much as reading your own interpretation into the Constitution and expecting it can legally overule the meaning formally found by the Supreme Court.

After all it is the Church not the Scripture alone which is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (see 1 Tim 3:15). Peter and the Apostles had the power to bind & loose not individuals ( Matt 16:18, Matt 18).

>and I am simply reading what it says.

Yet that assumes the Bible is clear (i.e. the Reformation doctrine of Perspecuity). Where does scripture clearly teach that concept?

Well, I am waiting?

If it is a Biblical principle the Bible is clear by itself without Tradition and Church then it should be clearly taught shouldn't it? Where is it? Chapter and Verse please?

Also on your omni-Pshat rule of "simply reading what it says" it's clear from the verses I cited above you are using the Bible incorrectly without tradition or the Church.

What do you do with that? Let's not forget the other verses I cited from St John and St. Paul clearly teach the Deity of Christ. What do you do with those?

If you say these verses are not in harmony at face value then by default you are admitting the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Jewish view scripture is not clear and you can't "simply read what it says" and expect me to take you seriously. If you still say it's clear then you have to deal with the clear verses I already cited that contradict your claims not to mention the ones I cited before that clearly teach the deity of Christ.

>(Not a Prtoestant or Arian or Jehova's Witness interpretation at all. I have little knowledge of all the various interpretations of a given verse, but some of yours seem rather skewed from the original intent.)

Don't bullshit me. Any tool can google "The Bible teaches Jesus is not God" or "Scripture teaches the Trinity is False" and get the same list of verses you provided.

It's not hard & I am not fooled by your nonsense.

BenYachov said...

>but some of yours seem rather skewed from the original intent.

BTW how would you know what the original intent is from reading an English translation of the NT alone?

It's a collection of documents written by a particular Jewish sect called "Christianity".

Do you understand Pshat? Gamatria? Drash and Midrash from Rabbinic Judaism?

The NT uniquely uses these forms.

Till now you have professed to have not read the Summa yet you "know" the writers of the NT's "original intent"?

How is that possible?

It isn't. Your just taking the Smeg.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

Of course I don't know the original meaning of biblical verses any more than you do. The church has had two millennia to come up with pat answers for every objection to the many contradictions and logical absurdities the bible contains. And they teach people like you what to think. It's no surprise that you can rattle many of them off. There are numerous ways to interpret what the bible says. Obviously, it's not clear what the meaning is in many cases, or that there is any consistency to what it says. (One thing that is clear is that the bible contains many blatant contradictions.) You shouldn't assume that your interpretation is more correct than others, but I'm sure you do anyway.

Incidentally, your interpretation of 2 Peter 1:20 seems to buck the norm. It is speaking of prophesies (as in the OT - see following verse) not being interpreted or understood by the prophets who wrote them, but the result of direct revelation.

BenYachov said...

>Of course I don't know the original meaning of biblical verses any more than you do.

Then you can't speak of the "original intent" now can you? Yet you do?

>The church has had two millennia to come up with pat answers for every objection to the many contradictions and logical absurdities the bible contains.

Actually most if not all of your neo-JW/Arian interpretations had been answered quite neatly by St Athanasius at the end of the 3rd Century also the teachings of the Pre-Nicean Fathers are in line with the Trinitarian doctrine. St Theophilus in the 2nd Cenutry is the first to use the term. All the second Century Fathers speak of the "Father and Word and Spirt".

>And they teach people like you what to think.

No a mere secular study of early Christian doctrine shows it is quite Catholic in it's nature. But then again everything you know about religion and Philosophy you learned from Dawkins & His ilk. I didn't waste my time listening to biologists to tell me about doctrinal history or Biblical interpretation.

>It's no surprise that you can rattle many of them off. There are numerous ways to interpret what the bible says.

Which grants me the lion's share here. This is why the whole Perspecuity nonsense you where channeling is bullcrap!

>Obviously, it's not clear what the meaning is in many cases, or that there is any consistency to what it says.

Your irration assumption that because you lack the tools and knowledge to understand means it's automatically inconsistant is noted and just plain silly.

>(One thing that is clear is that the bible contains many blatant contradictions.)

Not in any meaningful sense also this still presupposes a novel doctrine Luther pulled out of his arse a mere 500 years ago.

>You shouldn't assume that your interpretation is more correct than others, but I'm sure you do anyway.

Well the bulk of Tradition backs "my interpretation" where as yours at best traces to a radical 4th century Priest named Father Arius whose teaching according to his contempories where called an affort to the belief of all & not endorced by any wise Father.

We can study English Common Law, enlightenment philosophy, Thomas Pane and the writings of Jefferson to get an understanding of the meaning of the Constitution. It's not hard to do with the Bible either considering the 2nd century Father leaned at the feet of the Apostles themselves.

>Incidentally, your interpretation of 2 Peter 1:20 seems to buck the norm. It is speaking of prophesies (as in the OT - see following verse) not being interpreted or understood by the prophets who wrote them, but the result of direct revelation.

Apostolic tradition is also divine revelation. By logical inference 2 Peter 1:20 applies to all revelation not just Prophey. After all what would be the sense in that? You can't privately interpret Prophey but the rest of revelation is fair game? Stuff and Nonsense!

Even if one is given a rational insight into the meaning of Scripture it is the Church's(which is th Pillar and Ground of the Truth) providence to judge if it is correct or not.

It's that simple and you have showed me if you sratch an Atheist you will find a fundamentalist.

Joshua said...

"In other words, people cannot imagine a purposeful intelligence who isn't an equal peer to humans, morally. People cannot imagine a teleology that isn't morally obligated to us."

Of course they can. Say we're some kind of science experiment in a jar. The 'creator' isn't perfectly good or loving, or omniscient. Say he just wants to see how we develop and doesn't care what becomes of us. I can reconcile that with the gratuitous suffering we see in our world.


That sounds like a peer to me. To the extent that you can pass judgment on a being's behavior, you're placing yourself at a peer level (or higher).

I'm thinking of something more analogous to the relationship between shepherd and sheep. There's such a large gulf that it doesn't really make sense for the sheep to debate whether or not the shepherd is good. I don't see why we wouldn't expect a similar gulf between humans and a timeless, all-encompassing intelligence.

But if you insist, as Christians do, that he loves us and cares about us, and he is perfectly good and all powerful

Well, if your definition of "love" is incompatible with permitting evidently gratuitous evil, then you're using a different definition than Christians are.


But he still should be good and loving, or you have no rational basis to claim that he is.

This doesn't make sense. You can't even say this about another human, let alone a deity. You seem to be saying that, if I claim that my mother is good (based on my knowledge of her), but then discover later that she was engaged in murder at the very moment I made the claim (and committed many murders before I made the claim), that I was irrational to make the claim (since she obviously wasn't actually good).