Monday, February 17, 2014

Utilitarianism and racial justice

Suppose a utilitarian were visiting an area in which there was racial strife, and that, during his visit, a Negro rapes a white woman, and that race riots occur as a result of the crime, white mobs, with the connivance of the police, bashing and killing Negroes, etc. Suppose too that our utilitarian is in the area of the crime when it is committed such that his testimony would bring about the conviction of a particular Negro. If he knows that a quick arrest will stop the riots and lynchings, surely, as a utilitarian, he must conclude that he has a duty to bear false witness in order to bring about the punishment of an innocent person (127).

H. J. McCloskey

165 comments:

Marcus said...

What this quote sounds like to me:

"Let's assert as fact that we know with great certainty that the practice of bearing false witness against this particular innocent person will stop potential riots in their tracks. Let's also assert as fact that this utilitarian believes a rule which says "bear false witness against blacks if I think riots will occur" will be better for society in the long term. If he knows the first of these things with certainty no man could possess and believes the second for reasons which are obviously unsound, then he should bear false witness against a persecuted minority to appease the bigoted masses. However, my intuition says bearing false witness against a persecuted group to appease to masses is always wrong even if it were better for everyone with regard to consequences. Checkmate utilitarians."

im-skeptical said...

It's a rather contrived scenario. More realistically, the utilitarian would recognize that the truth is likely to come out, and accusing the wrong man would result in still bigger problems. Aside from the fact that most of us do have that same instinctive feeling that Marcus discusses, regardless of our philosophical persuasion, it wouldn't be the best choice after all.

Crude said...

Let's assert as fact that we know with great certainty that the practice of bearing false witness against this particular innocent person will stop potential riots in their tracks.

You don't need great certainty. You simply need for it to seem likely all things considered.

However, my intuition says bearing false witness against a persecuted group to appease to masses is always wrong even if it were better for everyone with regard to consequences.

If you disagree with this, why not come right out and say you disagree with it? Just tell us: sometimes bearing false witness against a persecuted group is justified. Bite the bullet.

More realistically, the utilitarian would recognize that the truth is likely to come out

Since when? Because truth always comes out, even with local crimes? And when the truth does come out, it causes more problems?

History says otherwise. Sometimes the truth never comes out. Or if it does, by then the world has moved on, and few people care.

William said...

Contrived, yes indeed, im-skeptical.

In fact it shares a common trait of most such scenarios, as yet another false dilemma. Better to find the one who actually did it in the same amount of time, or even if it takes longer, than risk further riots when the rapist strikes again,for example.

If we always knew ALL the consequences of our choices, we could all choose to be good utilitarians, but instead we use general guidelines like laws because it is never so tidy and certain.

Ilíon said...

I-can-logic: "It's a rather contrived scenario. ..."

It's a reductio ad absurdum, you lying fool. It's an utterly valid logical technique to test a concept or claim to see whether it is actually absurd, despite its initial seeming reasonableness.

But you know this. You're forever attempting to perform a reductio ad absurdum on some Christian doctrine ... but, of course, because you're a lying fool, you refuse to use the technique correctly, so all you ever prove is that Christianity and atheism/materialism are in dispute -- that is, even when you're pretending to do a reductio ad absurdum, you engage in question-begging, imagining that you can prove Christianity to be absurd thereby.

Ilíon said...

"... If he knows that a quick arrest will stop the riots and lynchings, surely, as a utilitarian, he must conclude that he has a duty to bear false witness in order to bring about the punishment of an innocent person."

Even without the explicit utilitarianism, once you have jetisoned truth and justice -- which necessitates judgement and condemnation and (just) punishment -- in favor of anything else, such as "deterence", then scenarios like this *will* happen, and you *will* knowingly punish the innocent "for the greater good".

=========
According to any consistent utilitarianism, if there were a Mad Scientist (tm) who came up with a way to reliably kill all the other human beings in the world, and decided that *he* would be happier were there no other human beings alive, and so set in motion his plans and did kill every other human being, then his actions would be "right" ... for anyone who might not be happy with that result would be dead, and thus not count: since 100% of remaining humans are *very* happy with the result, the actions to effect the result are "moral".

frances said...

Simple utilitarianism is not adequate to provide a moral answer in all situations. Nor is Devine Command Theory. Nor is Modified Command theory.

Whilst I'm not a utilitarian, there are circumstances in which it would be morally permissible (IMO) to do allow (or even actively pursue) the death of an innocent human,but not many and this isn't one of them.

frances said...

Edit "Divine" and "Modified Divine Command"

planks length said...

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, rather than the whole nation should perish."
(John 11:49-50)

Marcus said...

To be specific, instead of parodying the quote:

This quote, like many other criticisms of utilitarianism, suffers from a few related problems. The first is devising thought experiments under which some highly implausible scenario is asserted as fact does not show utilitarianism is wanting, rather it demonstrates the limits of blindly accepting such intuition pumps. I could stipulate that if slavery is better for everyone a utilitarian would say we should adopt slavery. The problems is we have great reasons to believe slavery is not, in fact, better for everyone and the force of the objection only occurs because people think the consequences of actual slavery are horrible.

The second problem is this quote pushes some version of this argument:

P1. X strongly conflict with my current moral intuitions

P2. My current moral intuitions are correct or at least very close to the truth.

C. Therefore, we should reject any system which strongly conflicts with my current moral intuitions.

The problem is the second premise. Why should we believe that? At the very least you have to make an argument for it. I don't believe we have direct, unmediated access to what specific actions we would approve of if we knew all the facts (and reasoned correctly from them) through merely accessing intuitions. Indeed, where there is disagreement between intuitions at least someone's intuition must be wrong. So the question is, why should I believe our current moral intuitions are perfect, or near-perfect guidelines, to what we actually have reason to do given our values?

oozzielionel said...

One challenge is to define "utility." If utility is defined by who lives and who dies, there is one result. If utility is defined by the defense of an ideal, then there is an entirely different result. It may be justified for many to die in defense of an ideal, such as due process or justice or the defense of the innocent. "Thriving" can be complicated to define if there is more to consider than physical well-being.

Crude said...

Marcus,

The first is devising thought experiments under which some highly implausible scenario is asserted as fact does not show utilitarianism is wanting,

Just how is this highly implausible anyway? It basically boils down to, 'person of unpopular ethnic group commits crime, furious populace is worked up and wants blood, a scapegoat will calm things down and stop a deadly riot'. This isn't exactly the trolley question.

The second problem is this quote pushes some version of this argument:

I don't see this at all. It's simply asking a difficult question. Maybe you'll bite the bullet. Hell, maybe you don't even share the intuitions.

And if we should reject our intuitions at times, hey - bite the bullet, and (lacking a counter argument) say yep, a lynching would be acceptable here, all things considered.

Steve Lovell said...

By the way Vic, in this area there may be another item for your occasional series "arguments that don't mix".

I reckon it's problematic for utilitarians to press the problem of evil. That's what makes Dostoevky's version of the argument in the Brother's Karamazov so compelling:

Ivan: "Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature—that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance—and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

I remember reading an interesting paper on ethical positions that would fail to support the problem of evil. If anyone is interested, I could probably dig out the reference.

im-skeptical said...

A standard theistic reply to the problem of evil is that God allows suffering in this world in order to bring about a greater good. Sounds utilitarian to me.

BenYachov said...

God is not a moral agent people. That is incoherent given the divine nature & the conclusions of natural theology. God is onto-logically and metaphysically good but He doesn't owe you anything and you and I owe Him everything.

If I may invoke Brian Davies.

1. 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.

planks length said...

Can't we all just agree that the "Problem of Evil" is a mystery to all sides of this debate?

To the Christian, evil is a result of mankind's rebellion against God, Who allowed such to occur in order to preserve the greater good of free will. But even the staunchest believer cannot (in Milton's terms) "justify the ways of God to men" to everyone's satisfaction. (I.e., why does God allow the consequences of mankind's sin to be so abhorrent? And why do the innocent suffer alongside the guilty?)

To the atheist, evil is equally a mystery. Why, in a universe where everything ought to behave exactly and precisely as it should, are human beings such an apparent exception to the rule? If we supposedly live in a universe that has no choice to be other than that which it is, why do we find it so unpleasant? Ought we not to be totally in sync with "objective reality"?

See? Enough mystery to go around, and neither "side" wins this one.

BenYachov said...

>A standard theistic reply to the problem of evil is that God allows suffering in this world in order to bring about a greater good. Sounds utilitarian to me.

Since God has no obligations to us He need not by any necessity create a world that contains no evil.

This Thomistic maxim mean God only tolerates evil because He can by his power bring good out of it.

BenYachov said...

@PL

As far as I am concerned Davies solved the Problem of Evil. I used to think Plantinga solved it but now I don't give the free will defense the time of day sans Davies.

planks length said...

Ben,

I've read you say "God is not a moral agent" in several of your postings, and have no idea whatsoever what that means. I don't think I'll be able to follow your argument until I can get past that.

I'm not disagreeing with you here. I simply do not understand what it is you're trying to say. Do you have another way of expressing it?

BenYachov said...

@Pl

As a primer you should read the writing of Father Brian Davies

THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.

THOMAS AQUINAS ON GOD AND EVIL.

They changed my life & my life sucks but now I feel good about it.


Cheers brother.

planks length said...

I'm not sure I would ever label anything by Aquinas as a "primer"!

Dictionary.com: "PRIMER - an elementary book for teaching children to read."

Ilíon said...

Son of Confusion ... who clearly never gets tired of lying about God: "God is not a moral agent people. That is incoherent given the divine nature & the conclusions of natural theology. God is onto-logically and metaphysically good but He doesn't owe you anything and you and I owe Him everything."

God himself disagrees with the foolish assertion that he is not a moral agent and with the unfounded/confused assertion that he doesn't owe us anything.

a pox on both their houses: "Can't we all just agree that the "Problem of Evil" is a mystery to all sides of this debate?"

No. The "Problem of Evil" is only a problem for the God-deniers (and for fools like BenYachov). Why should we let them off the hook for anything.

BenYachov said...

@PL

Technically they are by Brian Davies about Aquinas and Catholic Theology in general in regards to the Problem of Evil.

But they will give you the ground work in solving the non-problem of evil.

Feser hints about it in his works and cites Davies.

Let me just say a Classic Theistic Divinity needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

"This Thomistic maxim mean God only tolerates evil because He can by his power bring good out of it."

Still sounds like utilitarianism to me. And it sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

Just sayin'.

Crude said...

planks,

If you haven't had the chance to read them, I'd recommend not only the books Ben speaks of, but Feser's Aquinas and The Last Superstition. I don't know what your knowledge is of classical theism, but even if you disagree with it, it's worth reading up on just to put various things in perspective.

BenYachov said...

>Still sounds like utilitarianism to me. And it sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

>Just sayin'.

In the immortal words of Jethro Tull "Thick as a Brick".

Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy that applies to moral agents.

How can it then apply to that which is not a moral agent?

Again with the "I don't believe in natural selection unless I can measure it's atomic weight" category mistake mishigoss.

Really dude will your brain develop an tumor if you got off your butt to learn some philosophy or religion beyond Positivism and fundamentalism?

Really?

Ilíon said...

planks length: "I've read you say "God is not a moral agent" in several of your postings, and have no idea whatsoever what that means. I don't think I'll be able to follow your argument until I can get past that.

I'm not disagreeing with you here. I simply do not understand what it is you're trying to say. Do you have another way of expressing it?
"

Here is the other way of expressing it: "IF I acknowledge that God is a moral being/agent, THEN I would hate him -- for I imagine that he done me wrong. BUT, since it is both dangerous and foolish-absurd to hate God, I will solve the dilemma of my own creation by denying that God is a moral being/agent."

Ilíon said...

... and call anyone who dares to disagree 'stupid' and/or 'fundie'.

William said...

Silly going-nowhere arguments due to talking past one another regarding terms like "moral agent" methinks...

BenYachov said...

A moral agent is any mere being that exists in reality alongside other beings with duties or obligations toward other beings as well as something higher than itself.

BenYachov said...

I should add morally agency only applies to beings with unequivocal created intellect and will.

That excludes animals & God since animals have neither in any sense & God's Intellect and Will are only analogously comparable to ours not unequivocally.

William said...

Here is a moral agent definition too: a moral agent is one which can judge something they or something that others do as being good or evil.

That definition is more inclusive than yours, Ben.

im-skeptical said...

A moral agent is one who acts and has the power to judge his own acts as good or bad.

William said...

Ben: are God's acts and judgments also only analogous to those of others in your view?

BenYachov said...

Both of your definitions can only apply to a being who exists alongside other beings in reality.

Not the Ground of All Being.

False Theistic Personalist useless "gods" need not apply nor will they be defended by moi.

>are God's acts and judgments also only analogous to those of others in your view?

Your question has no meaning in light of Classic Theism as far as I can tell.

God is not unequivocally comparable to creatures otherwise He would not God.

William

Do you know the different between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism?

If you don't we are wasting each other's time my friend.

I am a militant strong Atheist when it comes to even considering the existence of any Theistic Personalist concept of "god".

Classic Theist in the house.

planks length said...

To me at least, the big problem with the phrase "God is not a moral agent" is that whatever its technical meaning (which I still don't understand), it sounds awful! Whether you intend to or not, when you use that phrase, it carries nothing but negative connotations for the hearer, regardless of what meaning you actually wish to convey.

There's no good reason to demand that everyone become experts in the nuances of Scholastic thought before you have a reasonable discussion with them. (I myself enjoy a brief dip in the shallow end of the Thomistic pool every now and again, but I frankly find the greater part of the Summa to be way, way over my head.) Using a phrase like "God is not a moral agent" probably does more harm than good, and so should be avoided whenever possible. To speak frankly, it sounds like you're making God out to be a monster.

Bottom Line: I have to admit that the phrase makes no sense to me, but its apparent meaning (even if incorrect) is counter-productive.

BenYachov said...

>That definition is more inclusive than yours, Ben.

But it is neither the Thomist, Classic Theist nor Catholic definition so it has no meaning to me.

You have to deal with my beliefs not the beliefs of others.

BenYachov said...

>To me at least, the big problem with the phrase "God is not a moral agent" is that whatever its technical meaning (which I still don't understand), it sounds awful!

Actually it sounds better than Davies other formulations like "God is Good but not Morally Good". Which is technically true.

It's like God is not a being but being itself. God is not a moral agent but Morality Itself.

Plato's Form of the Good is not a moral agent either but you would be hard pressed to tell me the Form of the Good is not good just because it didn't let us say stop the holocaust.

William said...

Well, if the definition of God is such that God is not an agent, and I agree the Form of the Good would not generally be seen as an agent, then we absolutely cannot say God is in any way utilitarian. So the problem goes away.

Of course others will say God is indeed an agent. Hmm.

BenYachov said...

>Using a phrase like "God is not a moral agent" probably does more harm than good, and so should be avoided whenever possible.

It is arguably if I believe Davies the tradition of the Church. Calling God a moral agent is a modern novelty.

It should be used and explained.


>To speak frankly, it sounds like you're making God out to be a monster.

How many heathens think "Trinity" means "Three gods in one god"?

Abuse does not invalidate correct use. It's not classic theism that makes God into a moral monster.

It's Theistic Personalism and Neo-Theism.

God cannot given His Nature be coherently concieved of as a moral agent in the first place thus logically it is incoherent to call him a "moral monster".

At best God is the Moral Law or Holiness Itself. But not a moral agent.

Unless you have a hopeless & heterodox anthropomorphic view of God.

Some food for thought.

BenYachov said...

>Of course others will say God is indeed an agent. Hmm

I don't care what others say.

I believe in the God of Abraham, Aquinas and Anselm.

All other "gods" are false IMHO. You must address the God I believe in not the one you wished I believed in.

BenYachov said...

@William my friend,

I asked you a question?

Do you have an answer for me?

William said...

Ben: yes, but I think the classical one is likely incomplete, and that the personalistic one is likely too crude. So I don't agree fully with either, i guess.

Ilíon said...

"That definition is more inclusive than yours, Ben."

Son-of-Confusion is trying to come up with a definition (or description) of 'moral agent' such that, by definition, God is not a moral agent. In other words, it's just more question-begging.

William said...

I'm really out of depth here, but I do see this problem: the immanence of deity requires it to act in an agency type role within human perception. But if deity has an agency role, it may then also have a moral agency role.

Ilíon said...

Whatever this "Classical Theism" is that Son-of-Confusion is forever banging on about, it's not Christianity, and some of its assertions contradict God's self-revelation as recorded in the Bible (and asserted by Christianity) on some key points.

As one example (and the one he most likes to bang), the Bible (and Christianity) says that God *is* a personal being -- that Christianity says that God is three Persons in one Being does not make God into some sort of non-personal 'force' or 'principle' -- whereas. according to Son-of-Confusion, "Classical Theism" denies the personhood of God.

Now, either God is personal or God is not personal.

IF "Classical Theism" (according to Son-of-Confusion) has stated a fundamental truth about God's nature in denying God's personhood, THEN Biblical religion and theology, that is, Judaism and Christianity, contain at least one serious error about God's nature.

And vice-versa. But not both.

So, if one claims to be a Christian, then one cannot logically and rationally also claim that "Classical Theism" (according to Son-of-Confusion) has stated a fundamental truth about God's nature in denying God's personhood. If one claims to be a Christian, then one has *already* committed to denying this religion-that-never-was that Son-of-Confusion calls "Classical Theism".

BenYachov said...

>I'm really out of depth here, but I do see this problem: the immanence of deity requires it to act in an agency type role within human perception. But if deity has an agency role, it may then also have a moral agency role.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom and I believe this to be true.

I also agree with Socrates that the beginning of wisdom is also saying "I don't know".

So well done William.

Mad respects.

BenYachov said...

>yes, but I think the classical one is likely incomplete,

I don't see how?

>and that the personalistic one is likely too crude. So I don't agree fully with either, i guess.

You need a dose of Davies and Feser. IMHO.

But you are right.


> But if deity has an agency role, it may then also have a moral agency role.

Only if you equivocate between divinity concepts.

planks length said...

I, like Ilion, wonder about some of the things that Ben so resolutely asserts. Jesus tells Philip, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father." Paul says Christ is "the image of the invisible God." Hebrews says pretty much the same thing. The Book of Wisdom puts it "Wisdom [that is, Christ] is a reflection of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God." So (at least for me) the inevitable conclusion to be made is, if you want to know what God is like, you cannot do better than to look at Jesus.

Jesus does not seem to me to be some sort of impersonal force, but rather very much a Person. Is this what Ben is condemning as a "personalistic God"? (I'll again admit that I do not understand what Ben is trying to say here.)

im-skeptical said...

"I believe in the God of Abraham"

Ah yes, the God who told Abraham to kill his son (just for grins).

BenYachov said...

>I, like Ilion, wonder about some of the things that Ben so resolutely asserts.

Ilion attacks me for denying Sola Scriptura & saying the Catholic Church is the One True Church.

I was under the impression you are Catholic PL? Why listen to a Fundamentalist heretic if you are?

>Jesus tells Philip, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father." Paul says Christ is "the image of the invisible God." Hebrews says pretty much the same thing. The Book of Wisdom puts it "Wisdom [that is, Christ] is a reflection of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God."

How does the failure to affirm post enlightenment anti-Scholastic errors and novelties a denial of any of these verses?

It's not.

>So (at least for me) the inevitable conclusion to be made is, if you want to know what God is like, you cannot do better than to look at Jesus.

Jesus is God Incarnate born under the Law because He took on a human nature so He would act as a sinless human moral agent. But as God it is incoherent to call Him one.

>Jesus does not seem to me to be some sort of impersonal force, but rather very much a Person.

This boarders on Nestorian Heresy brother be careful. Jesus is a Divine Person not a human one.

God is personal because He has Intellect and Will analogous to a human. Not because He is some giant human meta-mind only more Uber. Jesus is the living Icon of the Incomprehensible One.
No question but if God is some meta-human then the Incarnation is redundant.

>Is this what Ben is condemning as a "personalistic God"? (I'll again admit that I do not understand what Ben is trying to say here.)

Never I would rather die.

You must learn these things so you may witness the Gospel better.

Trust me my brother.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Now, now... even you should know that the story of Abraham and Isaac is foreshadowing of God the Father sacrificing His Son on Calvary. (Some Biblical commentators even identify the very mount that Abraham ascended alongside his son with Mount Calvary.) The parallels are manifold, deep and rich. Isaac carrying the wood up the hill, just as Christ carried the cross. Abraham prophetically saying "God will provide the sacrifice." (John the Baptist takes this up when he declares Jesus to be the "Lamb of God".) There are literally dozens of other parallels and echoes. The two stories are inseparably intertwined.

"Just for grins"??? I think not.

BenYachov said...

>Ah yes, the God who told Abraham to kill his son (just for grins).

You see? Skept has an anthropomorphic view of God. God is Just Q/John Delancy from Star Trek picking on Abraham for shits and giggles.

He really believes his choices are a literal invisible magical wizard with a white beard or Atheism.

It's been like pulling teeth trying to get him to learn anything about philosophy but he likes his Theism like he likes his Atheism.

Simple minded and fundamentalistic.

I hate fundamentalism.

planks length said...

Ben,

I am very much a Catholic, but that does not make you understandable. Worse, you don't seem to be attempting to make yourself so. It's not enough to throw a list of books at someone and say, "Go off into your corner and learn something." If you cannot explain what you mean by insisting "God is not a moral agent" in your own words, then you should find better words to express yourself.

Sorry to be so harsh here, but you're really giving Catholicism a bad name here by your insistence on "I know better than all of you, and you're all stupid to boot". Makes you sound like a Fundie.

And if looking to Jesus in order to understand God makes me a heretic in your eyes, then I'll gladly accept the title. Where did I say, or even imply, that Jesus was not a Divine Person? Quite the contrary, that is what I was emphasizing.

Ilion and I certainly do not agree on all things (after all, I'm a Catholic and he's not), but I get the impression his heart's in the right place. And he does say much that is more than worth listening to. Shoot - I don't confine myself to learning from just Catholics. One of my favorite books is A Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan, a book that is absolutely soaked in Calvinist heresy. But still a damned good read and chock full of wisdom.

BenYachov said...

Theistic Personalism is just Mormonism 2.0.

It's a "god" who is nothing more than an unequivocal human mind only more Uber. It's the Mormon concept of deity only with the human body abstracted away.

It's an alien view of God in light of the Church Fathers and the Tradition of the Church and the Rabbis.

BenYachov said...

>I am very much a Catholic, but that does not make you understandable.

I told people what to read & I have clarified myself to an extent. If you refuse to do the leg work then you ignorance is your own fault not mine.

> Worse, you don't seem to be attempting to make yourself so. It's not enough to throw a list of books at someone and say, "Go off into your corner and learn something." If you cannot explain what you mean by insisting "God is not a moral agent" in your own words, then you should find better words to express yourself.

I have a life and sometimes I phone it in. This is a comments box. Everything I learned I learned from books not 50 words or less from reading comments boxes. I have already explicitly denied what has been attributed to me. Can you explain Quantum Mechanics in 50 words or less?

Besides Ilion knows Classic Theism. He has read Feser and used to post on his Blog. Now he hates Feser. So he is bullshiting you.

>Sorry to be so harsh here, but you're really giving Catholicism a bad name here by your insistence on "I know better than all of you, and you're all stupid to boot". Makes you sound like a Fundie.

Have you considered that is what you are doing to me? Point one finder at me points 3 back at yourself son.

>And if looking to Jesus in order to understand God makes me a heretic in your eyes, then I'll gladly accept the title. Where did I say, or even imply, that Jesus was not a Divine Person? Quite the contrary, that is what I was emphasizing.

See what I mean? I never once called you a heretic. I called you brother.

>Ilion and I certainly do not agree on all things (after all, I'm a Catholic and he's not), but I get the impression his heart's in the right place. And he does say much that is more than worth listening to. Shoot - I don't confine myself to learning from just Catholics. One of my favorite books is A Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan, a book that is absolutely soaked in Calvinist heresy. But still a damned good read and chock full of wisdom.

He is a nut. Nothing more. He is also bullshiting you son. I would be the last person to damn the ideas of someone just because they are Protestant. Some Protestants are very good Classic Theists and Thomists. Dr. Norman Geisler comes to mind. Many Calvinists are classic theists. But till you learn the difference and the meaning of the term “moral agent” and “God is good” you are not going to be very effective.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

"Really dude will your brain develop an tumor if you got off your butt to learn some philosophy or religion beyond Positivism and fundamentalism?"

The trouble is I have become familiar with the basic concepts of Thomism, but I just don't buy it.

BenYachov said...

>The trouble is I have become familiar with the basic concepts of Thomism.....

You hide it well.

In fact I checked you still believe "motion" for Aristotle means some type of physical momentum instead of a potency being made actual.

You can't tell the difference between physics and metaphysics.

Also the scientifically literate here note for someone who claims to have studied science you clearly don't understand the principles of Thermodynamics.

Seriously dude. You are bad at faking it.

BenYachov said...

@PL

Now that I have some time. Some clarifications.

>And if looking to Jesus in order to understand God makes me a heretic in your eyes, then I'll gladly accept the title.

Where did I ever say we shouldn't look to Jesus to understand God? I didn't if you read what I wrote.

> Where did I say, or even imply, that Jesus was not a Divine Person? Quite the contrary, that is what I was emphasizing.

But let's be fair. You never said that explicitly that he was. You said "Jesus does not seem to me to be some sort of impersonal force, but rather very much a Person." You didn't qualify what you meant by calling him a "person". You are guilty of the same ambiguity you take me to task for . But like I said it's a comments box and we need short cuts and sometimes we phone it in.

>I'll again admit that I do not understand what Ben is trying to say here.

Then you need to ask specific questions about what it is you don't understand.

>Using a phrase like "God is not a moral agent" probably does more harm than good, and so should be avoided whenever possible.

Like I said then why call God a Trinity? There are a whole class of people (Gnus and Unitarian Fundies) who insist no matter how you explain it that it really means "three gods in one god" and or "it means 3=1" which is logically absurd.

Anyway if you want some further explanations on why God is not a Moral Agent I have the time right now. Stand by.

BenYachov said...

I've discussed this all before. On this blog about 3 years ago.

here:
http://delicateawakening.blogspot.com/2011/06/atheism-it-kind-of-makes-sense.html

I will reproduce my posts with my crapy grammer cleaned up.

QUOTE OTOH there is Brian Davies solution to the so called "problem of evil".
My ruff summery of it.

The problem of Evil presupposes God's Goodness consists of perfect moral goodness. Or more accurately that God is a perfect moral agent.
Some attempts to defend God based on this presupposition mostly consist of showing how it is logically impossible for God to give us some goods without allowing some evil. Father Brian Davies thinks these arguments thought powerful ultimately fail(but might have some small validity). But don't waste your time.

(side note the Thomistic view of omnipotence tells us God cannot do the logically impossible. Example: Can't God do anything? So why can't He make 2+2=5? Answer: God can do anything 2+2=5 does not describe anything. It describes nothing and gives new meaning to the phrase "There is nothing God cannot do". Same applies to God making a Rock so heavy He cannot lift it blah blah blah)

Brian Davies argues OTOH given a Classical understanding of the nature of God instead of an anthropomorphic Theistic Personalist one.

God's Goodness cannot be conceived of coherently as moral goodness. God is not and cannot by nature coherently be conceived of as a moral agent unequivocally the same way a human might be conceived thus. That is, not to say God is not in some sense the same as what a morally good human person is, but He is not unequivocally the same.

We might ask since God contains all Perfections(see Aquinas) does it not follow God has perfect muscle tone? Clearly not! That would be incoherent. Since God cannot have perfect muscle tone without having muscles. But if God had muscles He would be composite not simple in substance and thus not perfect. Also Muscles have potency that becomes actual while God is Pure Act without any Potency. If God had muscles He could not be pure act. We can say God is Perfection Itself. Being Itself and Existence Itself. Since His existence and Essence are identical He can be the metaphysical source of perfection in perfect muscle tone without himself having muscles or perfect muscle tone.

In a like manner given the Thomistic Definition of Goodness. God can be the source of the Goodness in moral agency without being a moral agent Himself. We can't say coherently God is sober, temperate and Chaste they have no meaning given His Nature. Moral Agents share a moral community and God is not a member of a community with us given His wholly Other Nature. Thus God cannot coherently be called a moral agent. Thus the problem of Evil becomes a non-problem.

As Davies says people who argue the Problem of Evil on both sides, Atheist and Theist have largely been wasting their lives. It's like arguing about wither or not Tennis players should be able to run the mile in under 10 minutes. A Tennis player is not the sort of athlete concerned with running the mile but playing tennis. God is not a moral agent. God's Goodness is not moral Goodness. Though He is the source of the Goodness in morality. God's goodness is something else. Being the First Cause and the Final Cause and goal of all things.

But someone else will have to go into that later.

We don't let God off the hook. Rather it seems God isn't the sort of Thing that can coherently be hooked in the first place.

Thus I yawn at the Problem of Evil.

BenYachov said...

additional:

Morality requires obligations. God coherently doesn't and cannot have obligations to us. Morality requires sharing a moral community under a moral law. God doesn't and cannot coherently be said to share a community with us. God can be said to be the moral law by nature but God is not under the moral law since it is logically incoherent to claim God can be under Himself.

It doesn't mean God can do anything He wants to us given the Classic understanding of His nature this is impossible but God has no obligations to us.

Thank God.

As the Agnostic Theist and Thomistic Expert & critic Anthony Kenny said "Morality presupposes a moral community, and a moral community must be of beings with a common language, roughly equal power, and roughly similar needs, desires and interests. God can no more be part of a moral community with them than he can be part of a political community with them."


Aristotle said, we cannot attribute moral virtues to divinity: the praise would be vulgar. Equally, moral blame would be laughable.

This I copied from a blog post that no longer exists.

QUOTE"God As Morally Deficient
The point for now is just to indicate how different the classical theist’s conception of divine goodness is from that of the theistic personalist – and, for that matter, from the conception taken for granted by atheists who suggest that the existence of evil shows that God, if He exists, must in some way be morally deficient.

While God is not a Platonic Form, for the classical theist, to suggest that God is in some way morally deficient nevertheless makes about as much sense as suggesting that Plato’s Form of the Good might be morally deficient. The suggestion is unintelligible both because characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible, and because characterizing Him as deficient in any way is unintelligible. An atheist could intelligibly deny that such a God exists at all (just as he could intelligibly deny the existence of Platonic Forms), but to suggest that the God of classical theism might be morally deficient merely shows that such an atheist does not understand the view he is criticizing (just as an opponent of Platonism who suggested that the Form of the Good might be unloving or vicious would only show thereby that he doesn’t understand what sort of thing a Form is supposed to be)."END QUOTE

Classic Theism as defined by Philosopher Edward Feser

QUOTE"God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is pure being or existence itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space, and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and apart from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object in the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exists only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God."

The above view is what I would call God.END

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

You misunderestimate me. I am well aware of the Thomistic notion of "movement" as the actualization of a potency. It's not so hard to understand. It's just bullshit.

And any time you'd like to discuss the principles of thermodynamics, I'd be happy to do that, too.

BenYachov said...

I would also add citing Aquinas. That God must Will His own Good by necessity but He wills our good gratuitously.

God's Goodness toward us are pretty much acts of supererogation.

That is acts of goodness beyond what is required.

The following analogy might help.

Donald Trump doesn't know me from a hole in the head. He is not my father, friend or relative.

But if he wanted too he has the money and the power to pay my phone bill. Why doesn't he then? Well basically (even thought he is human and moral agent like of us) he really doesn't owe it too me. So he can't be condemned for not doing for me that which he doesn't in fact owe me.

But let us say he was feeling generous & said "I like the cut of BenYachov's gib. I think I will pay his phone bill this month".

What would we say if he did this? Well I would say "Thanks buddy. You didn't have to do that".

Such an act would be an act of gratuitous kindness.

Of course it is an imperfect analogy. Donald Trump is a human being in the wayfaring state & thus a moral agent. In some things he has human obligations.

But God has no obligations to us given His Nature and all his good acts toward us are purely gratuitous. Starting with creating us.

He didn't have too and He gets nothing out of it.

The modern Problem of Evil presupposes God is a moral agent and we need Theodicies to morally justify an omnipotent God's failure to use His power to crush evil or prevent it from ever existing.

I agree with Father Davies. All Theodicies fail but then again the ancients never used them because they didn't see God as a moral agent who had to justify himself in the first place.

Theodicy makes Atheists IMHO.

Like in WarGames the only winning move is not to play.

BenYachov said...

>You misunderestimate me. I am well aware of the Thomistic notion of "movement" as the actualization of a potency.

Yet the last time I saw you discuss this you kept bring up Aristotle's erroneous scientific view of physics and kept implying that somehow invalidated the metaphysics.

Category mistake.

>It's not so hard to understand. It's just bullshit.

It's perfectly easy to understand. You clearly don't understand it. You are just faking it.

>And any time you'd like to discuss the principles of thermodynamics, I'd be happy to do that, too.

I decline but if you can discuss it with Grod without making him laugh out loud that I would love to see.

BenYachov said...

Skept if you understood Aristotle's & Aquinas' view of motus why do you claim science invalidates it or makes it anachronistic? Category mistake much?

No, arguing successfully that nominalism is true might invalidate it since it would undermine the realism needed for it. Successfully defending the either of the conflicting metaphysics of Heraclitus or Parmenides would undermine it.

But claiming science invalidates it is the equivalent of the Young Earth Creationist claim the Second Law of Thermodynamics invalids evolution.

Both are too stupid to tie your shoes.

im-skeptical said...

"you kept bring up Aristotle's erroneous scientific view of physics and kept implying that somehow invalidated the metaphysics."

In the days of Aristotle, it was physics.
In the days of Aquinas, it was phyics.
Then along came Newton, who showed that it was bullshit, and it was physics no more.
That's when it became metaphysics instead.
But it's still bullshit.

BenYachov said...

Skept all but admits my accusations.

He equates physics with metaphysics & he equivocates between Newton's "momentum" & Aristotle's "Motus".

He clearly doesn't understand & is clearly bullshiting the rest of us with his claims that he does.

BenYachov said...

Anyway closer to the topic at hand.

If you see a man rape a woman you testify against him.

Period.

That many people will be happy or not over the verdict is not relevant.

A Utilitarian might seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

But this presupposes that is always a good thing even if it is done on the back of a little evil.

As moral agents we cannot directly do evil so that good may come of it.

BenYachov said...

We should seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people like the Utilitarians but that presupposes we know what that happiness is.

We can & should when possible seek the greatest good for the greatest number of people in a good way.

But I don't see how we can willfully do evil or fail to do the good that is required of us if we are able?

>Whilst I'm not a utilitarian, there are circumstances in which it would be morally permissible (IMO) to do allow (or even actively pursue) the death of an innocent human,but not many and this isn't one of them.

The above I cannot ever condone.

Steve Lovell said...

@Skep et al,

Sorry for the delay in responding.

I think Skep's initial response to me rather misses my point.

If utilitarianism is true then the sort of response to the Problem of Evil that Skep outlines ("God allows suffering in this world in order to bring about a greater good") would be unassailable. If we find that response less than satisfactory it's because we aren't utilitarians, at least not in respect of this problem. Which is why the arguments don't mix.

Will have to catch up on reading the other posts here later.

planks length said...

Thanks, Ben, for the responses. My final comments on the subject:

I now understand what you mean by the phrase "God is not a moral agent". Unfortunately, I still think it is a terrible phrase, loaded with all sorts of connotations that I can now see it doesn't have. But that's precisely the point. Those words will never pass my lips (or my keyboard) in a conversation, because I believe they would cause more harm than good. A person might praise himself for some sort of philosophic accuracy by using them, but all he would have accomplished in reality is to muddy the waters and turn other people off to what he's trying to say.

After all, the purpose of language is to communicate, and if what you say communicates something opposite of what you mean, then you need to change your words. "God is not a moral agent" only communicates the idea that He is a monster, regardless of whether or not that is what the phrase actually means.

(By the way, love your analogy between God and the universe with a musician and his music!)

Chad Handley said...

Isn't a personal relationship a sort of community? So, if God can't be in a community with human beings, wouldn't that also mean that human beings couldn't have any sort of personal relationship with Him?



Water into Whine said...

To be fair, the Christian God wasn't really looked upon very highly the last time He tried explaining things to us. And it would seem that the opposite danger is subjecting God to 'morality' as a pre-existent, that is human, construct, which firstly invalidates the claim for God as the source of morality, and secondly may convince people, but only because it ultimately subjects God to humanity or to morals which rest essentially upon human feelings. There is little that appeals to humans more than a God who is there to make them seem exalted without actually being above them, and you suspect that turning people off God at least means that where they stand is clear.

But then the other issue is that if we don't make God out to be a 'moral monster,' or a monster when considered humanly, then when one actually turns out to be so, through Himself or a prophet, we kill them. And given that God is never bound by human morality, He is always in principle a monster, and as it were is the principle of monstrousness, or something which is absolutely outside of morality (whereas criminals are only partially so.) In which sense we only kill the Barabbasses in order to kill the Christs. But given that utilitarianism is the point here, it's surely just as important for somebody who is not a utilitarian to be able to put forward a God whose ultimate criterion isn't human feelings, or who immediately offends them, just as it's important that an argument for utilitarianism doesn't go beyond feelings in order not to subjugate utilitarianism to another, deontological consideration.

If there's to be an issue, it's that the definition isn't demanding enough, or simply serves to resolve an issue, which is what Illion seems to be referencing. But it's not clear that this is a reason to reject the point, which isn't meant to be exhaustive so much as to show the limits of the question, or in short that the question isn't to be humans judging God, but that God is not simply another being to be judged - in which sense it is simply to indicate the distance between theism and atheism, or God as an object to be scientifically proved, etc. To then reduce it to saying that we would find God immoral except that we take Him as correct is to imply that the alternative is that a God who violated our morality would be evil, when in reality we have to begin our morality from God's revelation, which is thus not to begin from God as a moral agent.

In any case, the whole point of defining utilitarianism as a consistent doctrine is that it means that you're following a principle, rather than simply taking up moral principles arbitrarily according to one's mood. Presumably if one wants to argue for a morality in the real sense developed from human beings, which doesn't simply reduce to human arbitrariness or non-morality, then it at least has to be something that can be subjugated to rather than something one makes up on the spot.

planks length said...

Actually, Chad, you've hit upon the most fundamental difference between Christianity and (basically) every other religion, which is the possibility of a personal relationship with God.

You can't have such a thing under Islam, for instance. There, God is conceived of as being infinitely distant from humanity, and all that is possible for us poor entities is submission (the literal translation of "Islam"). In Buddhism or Hinduism, a close encounter with the divinity involves surrendering one's own individuality, like a drop of water returning to the sea. It may still be water, but its identity as a unique drop is gone. In Animist faiths, divinity is generally regarded as something utterly inhuman. We can perhaps communicate with it, supplicate or appease it, but definitely not relate to it.

In contrast, Christianity presents us with Jesus, simultaneously true God and true Man, Creator of "all things visible and invisible" and yet one of us, the Commander in Chief up in Supreme Command Headquarters and the dogface down in the trenches alongside the rest of the grunts. He both gives the order to go "over the top" and Himself climbs out into the field of fire.

Whenever I'm discussing my faith with someone face to face (and not on a blog), that is always the point I make first, last, and at every stage in between - not the historicity of the New Testament, not theodicy, not the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Five Ways, but that, as the song says "What if God was one of us, just a stranger on the bus?" Amazing how that strikes a chord every time.

grodrigues said...

@BenYachov:

"I decline but if you can discuss it with Grod without making him laugh out loud that I would love to see."

The joke has grown rather stale by now, so no thanks.

grodrigues said...

@planks length:

""God is not a moral agent" only communicates the idea that He is a monster, regardless of whether or not that is what the phrase actually means."

When BenYachov says something like "God is not a moral agent", he is being precise and accurate, as God, as the guarantor of there even being a moral community in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community. I find rather bizarre that one would misread "God is not a moral agent" for "He is a monster", but be that as it may, there is something to be said in *defense* of the rhetorical shock value, for it jolts the audience into thinking just how badly the whole problem is construed.

Let me also add, that something can, and should, be added to what Ben said. The usual idiot(s) have snickered, but one obvious addition (there is more, but this usually strays away from the terrain of natural theology straight into that of revealed theology, and I do not want to go there) is that God allows evil so that a greater good can come about. And one instance of this is rather obvious: you. Since I do not know you, let me tell you a little about my personal history.

1. My father was born in India, in the ancient Portuguese city of Goa. Evil 1: Imperialism and slavery.

2. My father came to Portugal to learn Medicine. But since at the time the country was at war in the Colonies he had to do military service. Evil 2: War.

3. He met my mother while she was helping in the hospital as a nurse. Evil 3: Disease.

I could go on, but the point should be clear by now: in order for the Universe to produce moi, this Glorious Being that you behold, an immense history of misery, pain, endless suffering and ugliness had to come about (*). So of course, this immense history came about for a greater good: me. And what is true of me, is true of everybody else in the world. So when someone clenches his fists and inveighs against God, not only he is not being original (Job did that, and much more eloquently), what he is really saying is that God should not have created him. Feel free to call me selfish (I am) and a bastard (I am), but I actually like to exist, so I cannot bring myself to curse my own birthday as Job did (in one of the most terrible injunctions of the History of Literature, he inverts and undoes Genesis 1:3 and says in Job 3:3, 4 "Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said: A man child is conceived./Let that day be turned into darkness, let not God regard it from above, and let not the light shine upon it.") and instead, thank Him for this and all the other untold blessings.

(*) One could try to deny this and contest the necessity of origins and argue that somehow God could have produced *me* and everyone else, but with a different History. This is an extremely tall order, a metaphysical impossibility. But hey, prove me wrong.

note: to preempt one possible misunderstanding, I am *NOT* saying that God is like a cosmic version of a Utilitarian, weighing the Good and Evil and on balance finding that the Good produced outweighs the Evil. As moral theories, Utilitarianism, Consequentialism and its allied cousins are all False and abhorrent. But even if they were true, it would still be false that God is like a divine accountant, producing Evil *for*, or *in order* so that some Good comes about.

Ilíon said...

grodrigues: "When BenYachov says something like "God is not a moral agent", he is being precise and accurate, as God, as the guarantor of there even being a moral community in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community."

When Son-of-Confusion says something like "God is not a moral agent", he's being anything but precise and accurate. He's also contradicting Christianity while claiming to be a Christian ... but hey, if you guys want to say that Catholics aren't Christians, have at it ... and, he's contradicting himself. For, he *also* asserts that we humans have moral obligations to God, but moral obligations cannot be owed to non-persons.

grodrigues: "... God, as the guarantor of there even being a moral community in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community."

God, as the guarantor of there even being 'being' in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be.

grodrigues said...

@llíon:

"For, he *also* asserts that we humans have moral obligations to God, but moral obligations cannot be owed to non-persons."

I assume the "he" here is referencing Ben. Well, I cannot speak for him, but I will say however that since he would flatly deny that God is a non-person, all is good and well.

"God, as the guarantor of there even being 'being' in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be."

If you want to make a reductio of what I have said, please be precise in your paraphrases. So the paraphrase should run as:

"as God, as the guarantor of there even being a community of beings in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community"

Hmm, does not strike me as contradictory. And in fact I, and Ben, do say such a thing.

Chad Handley said...

When BenYachov says something like "God is not a moral agent", he is being precise and accurate, as God, as the guarantor of there even being a moral community in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community

I don't understand how this follows. Why can't a guarantor of a moral community be a member of the community?

I can understand how Plato's form of the Good could be a guarantor but also not a member of a community, because it's clear to me that Plato's form of the Good is an abstract entity.

But the God of the Bible loves us, wants us to love Him, desires to forgive us, and even sent His Son into the world to "draw all men unto Him."

How could he do all that without being in any sort of moral community with us?

And I would love a straight answer as to whether a personal relationship with God is possible on classic theism, or if we're all forced to conform with planks' characterization of the Islamic viewpoint. God is some distant, perfected Non-Person, which we can submit to but not have any personal relationship with.

BenYachov said...

Thanks Grod,

If I may add my own thoughts.

@PL

>I now understand what you mean by the phrase "God is not a moral agent". Unfortunately, I still think it is a terrible phrase, loaded with all sorts of connotations that I can now see it doesn't have. But that's precisely the point.

I have been citing Father Brian Davies for years and with all due respect son I won't be changing my vocabulary anytime soon.
"Trinity" sounds terrible to many a Muslim or Jew who hear "Three gods" even thought that is not what it means. It's still the truth. There are many inconvenient infallible truths that sound bad but are still the truth. You don't like "God is not a moral agent"? Well it's an infallible dogma that "God has no emotions" because of the Divine Simplicity and Immutability.
The later means God has no base passions. God's love for us is not an emotion but His Will for our ultimate good.

>Those words will never pass my lips (or my keyboard) in a conversation, because I believe they would cause more harm than good. A person might praise himself for some sort of philosophic accuracy by using them, but all he would have accomplished in reality is to muddy the waters and turn other people off to what he's trying to say.

Again based on that reasoning the word "Trinity" must be dropped because too many people here think it means "three gods".
Sorry but as my old Father Confessor once told me. Abuse does not negate correct use. We must us the proper terms and explain their proper meaning. I say your way leads to the loss of souls. Your way has people believing God owes them something. Then when evil happens to them they get mad at God for not giving them what they erroneously believes he owes them & they fall into unbelief. Or in vain you turn to some stupid Theodicy which as Davies said any good Atheist Philosopher can knock on it's ass(well he didn't use those words but you get the drift). Even Plantinga whose Free Will Defense is the strongest of Theodicy falls before Rowe's evidentialist argument from evil. But all theodicy assumes God is a moral agent and channels a heterodox lie that was born with modern philosophy. Like I said the only winning move is not to play and God in the Classic Sense needs a Theodicy like a Militant Feminist needs a man to open the door for her.


>After all, the purpose of language is to communicate, and if what you say communicates something opposite of what you mean, then you need to change your words. "God is not a moral agent" only communicates the idea that He is a monster, regardless of whether or not that is what the phrase actually means.

>(By the way, love your analogy between God and the universe with a musician and his music!)

Sorry no. If you read the original thread I posted my explaination on the woman who owned the blog thanked me for it & foudn it valuable. Speaking as the Father of three autistic children knowing God is not a moral agent, doesn't own me anything but is still Good is a great comfort. If I didn't know what I know now I would be a more bitter Atheist than Loftus.

So sorry I cannot in good conscience do what you say.

Peace of Christ to you.

Chad Handley said...

Follow-up, if God is not part of our moral community, then how could it be said that we sin against Him? How could I owe repentance to an entity that is not part of my (or any) moral community? How could I be forgiven by an entity that is not in any sort of moral community with me?

It's one thing to say that God has no moral obligation towards us, but if he is not in any sort of moral community with us at all, then that sounds like we don't have any moral obligations towards Him.

BenYachov said...

>Isn't a personal relationship a sort of community? So, if God can't be in a community with human beings, wouldn't that also mean that human beings couldn't have any sort of personal relationship with Him?


Well we can't! Don't you read St. Paul? Only Pelagian heretics believe we can by our own natural powers have a relationship with God. God OTOH can by his omnipotence come down too our level and present himself to us on our level. Like becoming Incarnate and giving us His Life via supernatural Sanctifying Grace.

I thought you Prot types where suppose to be the big champions of Grace and we evil Romanist where the ones who promoted "salvation by your own works"?

Just saying....

BenYachov said...

Short answer: We can't have a relation with God but God can have one with us if He chooses.

It's really not hard.

Chad Handley said...

I thought you Prot types where suppose to be the big champions of Grace and we evil Romanist where the ones who promoted "salvation by your own works"?

I didn't ask "can we, through our own good works, earn a personal relationship with God?"

I asked "is a personal relationship with God so much as logically possible if God cannot be in any sort of community with us?"

Your answer seems to be "Yes, because omnipotence." Which isn't terribly satisfying as an answer.

BenYachov said...

>Follow-up, if God is not part of our moral community, then how could it be said that we sin against Him?

We will "A" when God wills "Not-A"?

How is this hard?

>How could I owe repentance to an entity that is not part of my (or any) moral community?

Divine Physics(not to be confused with science or metaphysics)!

If I reject God I reject Life Itself. If I reject life I have the absence of Life otherwise known as death.

>How could I be forgiven by an entity that is not in any sort of moral community with me?

God is not an entity! He is YHWH of Hosts not fraking Zeus or some gay pagan "deity". That is your first mistake bro.

>It's one thing to say that God has no moral obligation towards us, but if he is not in any sort of moral community with us at all, then that sounds like we don't have any moral obligations towards Him.

No that is not what that means.

Oy Vey I have work to do.

I will sort this out later.

BenYachov said...

Chad if God can create us He can relate to us otherwise He couldn't create us in the first place.

BenYachov said...

>"is a personal relationship with God so much as logically possible if God cannot be in any sort of community with us?"

God causes the existence of the community therefore He is more intimately connected to it then anything. Thus God can relate to our persons in the community both of which He created and understands perfectly. That is the nature of a personal relationship with God.

God knows you and God can reveal Himself.

I don't know what the Problem is and I see no logical argument against it based on what I have said.

I conclude the opposite.

grodrigues said...

@BenYachov:

"Even Plantinga whose Free Will Defense is the strongest of Theodicy falls before Rowe's evidentialist argument from evil."

While I concur with everything else you have said, I think your evaluation of theodicies is unduly, and needlessly, harsh. I suppose evaluations and judgments may vary, but I think the alleged knock-out rebuttals are anything but that. They have, at the very least, the virtue of highlighting some of the Goods in the actual world (that the universe is ordered as opposed to chaotic and magical, Free Will, etc.). At any rate, evidential arguments of evil like Rowe's can be torpedoed from other directions as well.

Chad Handley said...

We will "A" when God wills "Not-A"?

How is this hard?


I will A, and the Form of the Good says "Not-A." Well, I've of course failed to be good, but I haven't thereby incurred some form of debt to an abstract Form which is not personal, and not a member of my moral community.

If I reject God I reject Life Itself. If I reject life I have the absence of Life otherwise known as death.

That's great, but it doesn't explain how I could owe repentance to an entity that is not part of any moral community.

My point is, that I've always understood the Thomists as saying God has no moral obligations to us, but we do have a moral obligation to Him. That would indicate that we're in some sort of moral community with Him, but in that community, all obligations go one way.

But when you say we're not in a moral community with him at all, that sounds like we don't have any obligations to Him either, which seems completely unBiblical.

Chad Handley said...

God causes the existence of the community therefore He is more intimately connected to it then anything. Thus God can relate to our persons in the community both of which He created and understands perfectly. That is the nature of a personal relationship with God.

I don't understand what any of this means because you're telling me that God is not a person and is not in a community with us, yet you're using irreducibly personal and communal language to describe how He manages this.

It doesn't follow that because God created a community that he is "intimately" involved with it. We could imagine a sufficiently powerful computer creating a community of some sort, it wouldn't follow that the computer was "intimately" related to that community in a personal sense. You're using personal language to disguise what seems to be a completely impersonal state of affairs.

You mention that God "relates" to us by knowing everything about us. But again, a sufficiently powerful computer could hold every scrap of possible information about me and still not be said to "relate" to me only on those terms. Knowing is not relating.

God knows you and God can reveal Himself.

But can I know God, not in the sense of understanding all the depths of His mystery, but in the sense of having a personal relationship with Him?

You seem to be going to great lengths to avoid just saying no, but reading between the lines, your answer appears to be no.

BenYachov said...

@Grod

>While I concur with everything else you have said, I think your evaluation of theodicies is unduly, and needlessly, harsh.

You might be right but it's like arguing ID with me. IMHO you can do it maybe successfully but you ultimately don't need too.

Still my starting presupposition is Theodicy fails & you shouldn't do one anyway but that is another topic.

Chad I will get back to you I promise.

Chad Handley said...

Still my starting presupposition is Theodicy fails

Everybody's a critic...

;)

Ilíon said...

The Biblical Book of Job is a theodicy ... so, once again, we see that Son-of-Confusion is at odds with Christianity.

Water into Whine said...

"I will A, and the Form of the Good says "Not-A." Well, I've of course failed to be good, but I haven't thereby incurred some form of debt to an abstract Form which is not personal, and not a member of my moral community."

But if moral community isn't the highest form of our relation to God - and that it isn't is shown by Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son being an example of great faith - then evidently one can incur a debt to the lawgiver. The formulation 'Form of the Good' doesn't go beyond morality, or acts, and therefore evidently isn't a personal God, but the solution to this isn't to simply take the same premises as this and say that God is therefore not the moral community but within it - which was the role of the polytheistic gods in the Socratic system, and validly so, because these were humans.

But if 1 Corinthians 13 holds true, then ultimately morality is only of worth when grounded in love, and as love is not an act or something which one is capable of willing, it is a higher expression of the community of God and man than a moral community, or morality generally. If God is higher than a moral community, then this is expressed in saying that He forms the substance of this, and hence both exists within it and exists beyond it. His community with man is not, essentially, a moral community, or is this only by reference to grace, while evidently from an atheistic perspective or the problem of evil this doesn't occur. And when one refers to a 'personal relation,' the clearest example here is probably Abraham - the moral law is generic, but he was willing to act upon an individual divine command with no such basis. A moral community, however, is one which is generic or is governed by a morality set from elsewhere, or where both sides face each other as moral agents or simply equal - which would be to treat Jesus simply as a 'good man' or 'rabbi,' which he explicitly rejects.

Ilíon said...

Son-of-Confusion: "Ilion attacks me for denying Sola Scriptura & saying the Catholic Church is the One True Church."
In truth, I attack his intellectual dishonesty, his anti-reason, his anti-logic.

Concerning Sola Scriptura: some months ago, others (not me) tried to explain -- and supplied references -- to him what it is, and his response boiled down to: "Well, if that's what/all it means, then even I am an advocate of it ... but, that's not what it means, because I've never seen any Rah-Rah Catholic who is attacking it as being a heresy admit that that is what/all it means."

This is just a small sampling, in just this thread --
Son-of-Confusion: "God is not a moral agent people. That is incoherent given the divine nature & the conclusions of natural theology. ..."

Or, to put it another way: "I *assume* the thing I claim to prove ... and I'm OK with that, and so should you be!"

Son-of-Confusion: "A moral agent is any mere being that exists in reality alongside other beings with duties or obligations toward other beings as well as something higher than itself. ... I should add morally agency only applies to beings with unequivocal created intellect and will."

Or, to put it another way: "I *assume* the thing I claim to prove ... and I'm OK with that, and so should you be!"

Son-of-Confusion: "But it is neither the Thomist, Classic Theist nor Catholic definition so it has no meaning to me."

Or, to put it another way: "I'm a positivist, and I *assume* the thing I claim to prove ... and I'm OK with that, and so should you be!"

========
So, when you get down to it, is there *really* anything to recommend Son-of-Confusion over I-pretend-to-be-rational? Other than their enthusiams and the topics about which they are constantly intellectually dishonest, is there really all that much by which one might distinguish one from the other?

John Mitchell said...

Ben

I honestly doubt whether the question if god is a moral agent is relevant concerning the question of a need for a thedicy.
Im personally agnostic as to whether or not god can be said to be a moral agent, i just dont think it is relevant to the discussion about the inductive argument from evil.

The relevant fact is that god has to have reasons for what he does. The question is not whether god owes you something but why god
actualizes a world with evil in it.

You wrote


" God's love for us is not an emotion but His Will for our ultimate good."

I regard that as true but whats important is the question: what reason does god have to allow suffering.
Whatever god can characterized as, moral agent or not, he still has reasons for his acting in the world.

If god wants whats good for us, good according to our human nature, then it seems he would have good reasons for not allowing
evil to occur in the world.
The question of the inductive argument from evil can then easily be formulated as: how propable is it that for every seemingly gratuitous evil in the world there is a reason for god to permit it.


Lets try a simple analogy here: You see a beggar in the street and surely you dont owe him anything or if you want, lets just assume, for the sake of argument, that you dont owe him something but you if you still desire what is good for him you propably still give him
some bucks.

In the same way god might not owe us a life free from evil but he still wills what is good for us. So to explain why he just
doesnt eliminate evil, given the fact that he wills what is good for us, you need a theodicy or at least a defense.

In simplistic terms: there must be reasons why god doesnt just create heaven on earth and these reasons have to be adressed
in the form of theodicies.

Let me say what i think might be your mistake (at least the way how i see it): you seem to assume that there has to be only one theodicy that has to account for all evil in the world. But that seems to me to be wrong, there can be several theodicies, some cover some evil others cover other evil, For example there can be a free-will theodicy plus a soul-mking theodicy and so on.

frances said...

Ben,

It's a "god" who is nothing more than an unequivocal human mind only more Uber. It's the Mormon concept of deity only with the human body abstracted away.

So anyone who tried to shed light on God by, say comparing him to a father and suggesting that the way a father would behave to his children was a good model for how God would behave towards people, would have to be a complete idiot with no insight into the divine nature at all, right?*

"A moral agent" must be an agent first of all (i.e. something which is capable of acting). That is the big distinction between God and the Form of the Good. Additionally a moral agent must have an understanding of moral concepts. I don't see that anything more is required.

I don't agree that God can't be under an obligation to us. But even if I did, he would still be a moral agent because his supererogatory acts would be capable of being good.

* I do realise that this will inevitably lead to a reply containing some tortuous reasoning to make Jesus' parables fit into the Procrustean bed of Thomist philosophy.

frances said...

Getting back, if we may, to Utilitarianism, I do think that Utilitarians are onto something because the maximisation of human happiness is a good thing, on the whole. It is what underpins our having a system of morality in the first place. That is to say, having a system of morality ameliorates the potential misery of the human condition and so is conducive to increasing human happiness. Where Utilitarianism goes wrong, in my view, is to leap from the under-pinning rationale of the system being an increase in human happiness to saying that each individual action must be weighed only in terms of human happiness. This effectively destroys the system on which the whole of the benefit was based.

As an analogy (this is a loose analogy and I'm not suggesting it's on all fours) having a system of laws makes for a more stable society, which most people think is a good reason to have laws. But it doesn't follow from that that the law simply is whatever makes society more stable, so that whenever a case comes to be decided that judge can just jettison statute and case law and just decide what will promote the stability of society, because that would undermine the very stability which the law is supposed to promote.

oozzielionel said...

I think I agree with Francis. Utilitarianism cannot provide a consistent moral compass. The happiness of one individual will regularly and inevitably conflict with the happiness of another. And, more catastrophic, the happiness of the individual will conflict with the well being of the group. The individual rights model of morality defends the rights of the individual even when it is not convenient for the leader or the society as a whole. This is based on a higher principle of justice that trumps the pursuit of happiness or even the perceived good of the whole. But for stability and a society worth living in, ideals such as justice are worth suffering for.

BenYachov said...

@France

Briefly....

>So anyone who tried to shed light on God by, say comparing him to a father and suggesting that the way a father would behave to his children....

God is compared to creatures analigously not unequivocally. Learn the difference my dear.

>A moral agent" must be an agent first of all

But even in the created world there are a host of agents that are not moral. Also being the Moral Law or Holiness Itself is not equivolent to being an agent of said Moral Law and Holiness Itself.

I am sorry Francis but the Queen of England is not her own subject nor is God a moral agent just because he is the source of the moral law.

Your anthopomorphic "god" that you don't believe in does not exist as far as I am concerned. I am a strong Atheist in this regard.

> don't agree that God can't be under an obligation to us.

Then you are making assumptions about a "god" moi A Priori doesn't believe exists in the first place. You would have to put on the hat of a Theistic Personalist religious apologist & make the case for the existence of a Theistic Personalist "god" in order to turn around & dig up your impotent argument from evil & counter -theodicies. I would retaliate with a host of good arguments Atheists use against such a false concept of "deity" which technically I believe are valid.

To be clear the "god" Dawkins doesn't believe in I don't believe exists either.

So you are still wasting my time arguing against a "god" I am a strong Atheist toward.

>But even if I did, he would still be a moral agent because his supererogatory acts would be capable of being good.

Animals can be good even good toward us. It doesn't make their good acts moral acts.

God is Good, He is Metaphysically and Ontologically Good and thus the Ultimate Good but God is not unequivocally morally good like a human being.

Those are the breaks. Argue the God I believe in or pick a fight with some Prot Young Earth fundies.

Those are the breaks.

>* I do realise that this will inevitably lead to a reply containing some tortuous reasoning to make Jesus' parables fit into the Procrustean bed of Thomist philosophy.

Of course because the Bible must be interpreted threw the light of Tradition and Church since to do otherwise is to adopt the herecies of the Protestants on private interpretation, perspecuity and sola scriptura.

I don't know why it's such a shock to you Catholics read the Bible like Catholics?

frances said...

Ben,
God is compared to creatures analigously not unequivocally. Learn the difference my dear.

OK, firstly, don't patronise me, sonny.

Secondly - so what? Jesus says you can insight into the mind of God because of what you know about human relations and how humans react within them. How does this cohere with your presentation of God as one who doesn't have emotions? How can this comparison ("God will do this because, if you think about it, he's like a father, and that's what a father would do") be anything other than absurdly misinformed and misleading whether as an analogy or anything else, if your view of God is right?

I never said that all agents were moral agents. I said that agency was the sine qua non of its subset, moral agency.

I haven't made any argument from evil, impotent or otherwise.

Animals can be good even good toward us. It doesn't make their good acts moral acts.

What part of Additionally a moral agent must have an understanding of moral concepts did you not understand?

im-skeptical said...

"Utilitarianism cannot provide a consistent moral compass."

Nothing provides a consistent moral compass. Not utilitarianism, and certainly not Christianity. That's because there is no consistent moral compass. Period. We all have feelings about what is right and wrong. That's part of human nature, not some divine revelation. And that's why there is so much inconsistency between people - even between Christians.

Tor Hershman said...

)))((((((
(·)...(-)
....v....
.[___].---{This blog be goofy}

planks length said...

I'm not especially interested in debating Ben, because I think we have very different vocabularies, and would probably end up talking past each other or even being in violent agreement.

That said, I do not see any equivalence between his favored "not a moral agent" phraseology and the Trinity. The Trinity as a descriptive term does no harm to no one, even if they totally misunderstand it. It has no power to cause people to erroneously think of God as some sort of amoral (or even immoral) being who doesn't have our best interests at heart.

Because, although Ben insists that God is not part of a community, He IS a community - all by Himself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each fully a "Person" and possessed of of (horrors) obligations toward one another. And secondly, He most certainly became part of our community in the Incarnation. Yes, yes, I know. Christ has two natures (divine and human). But you cannot separate the two. If the human Christ is within our community, then guess what? So is the divine Christ.

planks length said...

"does no harm to no one"

Yikes! That should be "does no harm to anyone". Curse those double negatives!

BenYachov said...

>I'm not especially interested in debating Ben, because I think we have very different vocabularies, and would probably end up talking past each other or even being in violent agreement.

We are going to have to agree to disagree.

I renew my recommendation you get a copy of Brian Davies books THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL & Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil.

Great books.

Peace.

grodrigues said...

@planks length:

"Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each fully a "Person" and possessed of of (horrors) obligations toward one another."

And the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. So in God's name, what are these "obligations" that the Divine Persons have towards one another, and assuming you can inform us, what has *that* got to do with God being a moral agent, or having obligations towards us and the rest of the created order?

"And secondly, He most certainly became part of our community in the Incarnation."

Yes, Christ assumed a human nature and became one of us. How does that entail that God is a member of our moral community, that He is a moral agent like we are, or that He has obligations toward us? What does it mean to say that God has obligations towards us, if we, with the rest of the created order, are the freely willed creation of the Divine Fiat, maintained in existence in the here and the now by the same Word and Power? Was God under necessity to have created us? This cannot be it since it is explicitly denied by the Catechism. If not, then what can it mean to say that God has obligations toward us? Does it mean anything other than some paraphrase of "God Himself put Himself under an obligation", which of course, is only an obligation under an attenuated, analogous sense?

BenYachov said...


>OK, firstly, don't patronise me, sonny.

If God the Almighty cannot do the intrinsically impossble what hope is there for moi? I am merely flesh and blood.

>Secondly - so what? Jesus says you can insight into the mind of God because of what you know about human relations and how humans react within them. How does this cohere with your presentation of God as one who doesn't have emotions? How can this comparison ("God will do this because, if you think about it, he's like a father, and that's what a father would do") be anything other than absurdly misinformed and misleading whether as an analogy or anything else, if your view of God is right?

So you are giving me your non-Catholic novel exotic take on something you think Jesus said & what you think he really meant?

I should care why? Cite a Pope, doctrinal manuel or Church Father then we will talk.

>I never said that all agents were moral agents. I said that agency was the sine qua non of its subset, moral agency.

That is good to know and unremarkable.

>I haven't made any argument from evil, impotent or otherwise.

Then why advocate that God is a moral agent then?

Papalinton said...

"Yes, yes, I know. Christ has two natures (divine and human). But you cannot separate the two. If the human Christ is within our community, then guess what? So is the divine Christ."

Then how do you account for the reality that not one Hindu or Muslim would agree with you here? Your observation does not meet any criterion for acceptance as a universal truth or fact or proof.

One must eventually come to the logical realisation the only way out from this convoluted theological imbroglio is to accept that christianity is largely a geographic-based phenomenon and a thoroughly culture-bound narrative. Ben, Chuck, you, Ilion, even Skep, frances and I have a view, and given our two-pennies worth, as indeed others. Clearly such a declaration as you quote above remains in perpetual insolvable limbo, insoluble because it is a warm fuzzy but meaningless statement without epistemological foundation.

You have some way to go yet, Plank, in that journey, a journey that some of us on this site have already completed. I'm not sure you have what it takes to take this learning journey because the experience will truly test your intestinal fortitude, strength of character and your emotional and psychological maturity along the way.

BenYachov said...

PL

>Yes, yes, I know. Christ has two natures (divine and human). But you cannot separate the two. If the human Christ is within our community, then guess what? So is the divine Christ."

That Jesus is both God and Man tow natures that are really distinct but not separated does not mean that His Divine Nature now has human properties.

His human nature is finite but that doesn't mean His divine nature is now finite and not infinite etc and vice versa.

I hate to be a scold to you PL but I warned you before about Nestorianism now have we drifted to close Monophysitism? The two natures are united but they don't mix or suffer confusion.

That is Pope St. Leo the Great 101.

Jesus threw his human nature is under the law and is a moral agent in his humanity but as God Jesus is not a moral agent unequivocally like a human moral agent.

The Dogma is clear here.

BenYachov said...

I still haven't forgotten Chad and John Mitchell.

Stand by gentlemen.

oozzielionel said...

>Then how do you account for the reality that not one Hindu or Muslim would agree with you here? Your observation does not meet any criterion for acceptance as a universal truth or fact or proof.<

That would be the "Family Feud" version of epistemology: "from 100 people surveyed, the top answer is..." I prefer the Jeopardy approach where for every answer there is one right question.

im-skeptical said...

"I prefer the Jeopardy approach where for every answer there is one right question."

Congratulations. When did you de-convert?

BenYachov said...

First The Chad(I like that name).

>I will A, and the Form of the Good says "Not-A." Well, I've of course failed to be good, but I haven't thereby incurred some form of debt to an abstract Form which is not personal, and not a member of my moral community.

Debt to God is not unequivocally like a debt to a fellow creature. I have denied repeatedly the charge that I don't believe God is personal. God has Intellect and Will therefore God is personal. But I deny God is unequivocally a person like you and I are persons. The OT is clear "God is not a Man". Like I said if He was then the Incarnation would be redundant. God is not impersonal the ancients like Pseudo Denys rather called him Trans-personal or Meta-Personal. He is an order above what we are not something essentially like what we are only without limits.

>That's great, but it doesn't explain how I could owe repentance to an entity that is not part of any moral community.

Does Oxygen owe it too you to get into your blood to feed your brain if you insist on sticking your head into a bucket of water three times and God forbid only pulling it out twice? No it doesn't.

>My point is, that I've always understood the Thomists as saying God has no moral obligations to us, but we do have a moral obligation to Him. That would indicate that we're in some sort of moral community with Him, but in that community, all obligations go one way.

What is morally other then we must will our own Good and the Good we owe to others? We are dependent on God so we owe Him our existence and we owe it too ourselves to conform to His will for the sake of our own Good. God isn't dependent on us at all and doesn't need us at all. So how can He owe us anything?

>But when you say we're not in a moral community with him at all, that sounds like we don't have any obligations to Him either, which seems completely unBiblical.

Not at all.

>I don't understand what any of this means because you're telling me that God is not a person and is not in a community with us, yet you're using irreducibly personal and communal language to describe how He manages this.

We can only have natural knowledge of God threw our knowledge of Creation and Supernatural via divine revelation. The formal requires we use analogical language regarding the personal and the communal.

BenYachov said...

part 2

>It doesn't follow that because God created a community that he is "intimately" involved with it. We could imagine a sufficiently powerful computer creating a community of some sort, it wouldn't follow that the computer was "intimately" related to that community in a personal sense. You're using personal language to disguise what seems to be a completely impersonal state of affairs.

Again Trans-personal not impersonal. I deny the existence of any impersonal "god". An impersonal "god" would have no divine intellect and will.

>You mention that God "relates" to us by knowing everything about us. But again, a sufficiently powerful computer could hold every scrap of possible information about me and still not be said to "relate" to me only on those terms. Knowing is not relating.

Your problem is obvious. You insist on making unequivocal comparisons between God and Creatures not analogous.

>But can I know God, not in the sense of understanding all the depths of His mystery, but in the sense of having a personal relationship with Him?

You can know nothing beyond mere nature without God's supernatural intervention. Here is the rub what do you think a "personal relationship" with God entails? I say with the unanimous Tradition of the Church East and West & with that Tradition's reading of Scripture that it entails God revealing Himself to our person & filling our souls with His Life and Supernatural Grace. Now are thinking about what that is like subjectively to us when He does that? That subjectively in Our religious experience of God's Grace He kind of feels something like a conventional Person(s) to us at our end? Well that is to be expected and it is not wrong but a true experience of what God is but it is only true as far as it goes. God is more than what He graciously allows us to experience of Him.

>You seem to be going to great lengths to avoid just saying no, but reading between the lines, your answer appears to be no.

Rather my answers are more nuanced then the false either/or of God being a disembodied Human Mind only more uber with preternatural powers vs The Force.

BenYachov said...

additional:

Chad

To put it more simply. You owe God because it is essentially your nature to be totally dependent on Him. Your nature compels you to owe Him much like your nature compels you to breath with your head out of he proverbial bucket of water.

God isn't dependent on you or I at all so doesn't owe us squat but that doesn't mean He can do what he likes with us but that is another discussion at another times.

See the writings of Brian Davies for details.

Now on to John.

BenYachov said...

@John Mitchell

>I honestly doubt whether the question if god is a moral agent is relevant concerning the question of a need for a theodicy.
Im personally agnostic as to whether or not god can be said to be a moral agent, i just dont think it is relevant to the discussion about the inductive argument from evil.

That I respectfully think is incorrect. All modern Theodicy presupposes a God who is a moral agent and has moral obligations if I believe Davies or Nick Thrakakis and I do, also that God is a moral agent who is well behaved. The term "Theodicy" means justification for God. When the scholastics used the term for them it merely meant the philosophical justification for belief in God's existence.
But modern post enlightenment philosophers used it exclusively to refer to God behaving well or having an obligation to behave a certain way because of His goodness. In short God as something that is a moral agent and morally good.

>The relevant fact is that god has to have reasons for what he does. The question is not whether god owes you something but why god actualizes a world with evil in it.

Rather God has to have morally justified reasons because he is presumed to be Morally Good in the unequivocal sense a human is morally good. Some of God's reasons for doing A or B might be obscure. Why one Moon for our planet not two? Some might say our moon is beneficial for life Ok then via divine providence why not cause the evolution of exotic life that can exist on a Moonless Earth? I don't think such questions about such particulars can be answered on why God choose A over Not-A.

That God might have reasons for doing something is not relevant to Theodicy. Rather does he have morally justified reasons?

BenYachov said...

>I regard that as true but what's important is the question: what reason does god have to allow suffering.
Whatever god can characterized as, moral agent or not, he still has reasons for his acting in the world.

Why did God make Tigers hunger for human flesh and not Lions? Why not neither or both? I don't think such questions can be answered or are important to theodicy. Theodicy wants the morally justified reason for creating any man eating animals at all. So you can't escape moral agency or Theodicy is meaningless.

>If god wants whats good for us, good according to our human nature, then it seems he would have good reasons for not allowing evil to occur in the world.

Good reason? As in morally justified reason? He is not a moral agent so he might have reasons but they don't have to be morally good ones. As Father Davies once quipped "Someone once asked me what good does God bring out of a tiger eating a human person? I said well it's clearly good for the Tiger."

As Davies pointed out natural evil is a consequence of God choosing to create a material world and material things by nature expand their own good at the expense of other material things. God could have created a non-material world or God could create one and choose to intervene to keep rational creatures form falling victim to it but God is not obligated to create in the first place. As Aquinas said there is no world so Good God is obligated to create it and none so bad that as long as it participates in being God should refrain from creating it. In Aquinas there simply is no such thing as "the best of all possible worlds" which is what you seem to be channeling here. But God could always create a better world and still a better then that etc….

>The question of the inductive argument from evil can then easily be formulated as: how propable is it that for every seemingly gratuitous evil in the world there is a reason for god to permit it.

You mean moral justified reason for allowing it? There isn't really any such thing as gratuitous evil accept when committed by fallen created moral agents and even then moral evil is choosing a lesser good at the expense of a higher good. So I am skeptical there is such a thing as gratuitous evil.

The problem of evil is different for a Thomist and the whole system has a different set of assumptions modern theodicy philosophy doesn't have. I don't see how any theodicy is in fact a Theodicy in the modern sense unless it is trying to morally justify God for allowing an evil he could prevent? Davies showed me from citing Theists who champion Theodicy and Atheists who debunk them that they all presuppose a morally good/moral agent well behaved deity.

>Lets try a simple analogy here: You see a beggar in the street and surely you dont owe him anything or if you want, lets just assume, for the sake of argument, that you dont owe him something but you if you still desire what is good for him you propably still give him some bucks.

Ambiguous! I played a Star Wars RPG computer game where my Jedi Character gave money to a beggar on the Smugger's Moon and my Jedi Master companion who was flirting with the dark side showed my character a Force vision of the guy being mugged and killed for the money I gave him. If I foresaw in "The Force" this Beggar would use the money to live longer and commit sin and die in mortal sin I might be motivated to not give him anything but I can never have this knowledge. or act on it. If God damns an unrepentant soul He fulfills the good end of Divine Justice if he Saves a repentant sinner He accomplishes the good of divine mercy. But in God both are the same Divine Substance & Good wills His own Good either way.

I still say your argument presupposes a morally justified reason for God to allow evil from which flows the Best of all possible worlds mishigoss and other non-Thomist errors. You can't remove Moral Agency from God in Theodicy.

BenYachov said...

>In the same way god might not owe us a life free from evil but he still wills what is good for us. So to explain why he just
doesnt eliminate evil, given the fact that he wills what is good for us, you need a theodicy or at least a defense.

I can't explain anymore then I can explain why God choose to make humans Bipeds and not Centaur like quatropeds?
But what make the Theodicy a Theodicy is giving a morally significant reason for God allowing any particular evil.

>In simplistic terms: there must be reasons why god doesnt just create heaven on earth and these reasons have to be addressed in the form of theodicies.

Heaven is God giving Himself who is uncreated to the created Soul in the Beatific Vision. Which He does not owe to any creature He makes and no creature can earn but can loose by it's will. This presupposes the Best of all Possible worlds and thus presupposes a morally good God(i.e. moral agent).

>Let me say what i think might be your mistake (at least the way how i see it): you seem to assume that there has to be only one theodicy that has to account for all evil in the world. But that seems to me to be wrong, there can be several theodicies, some cover some evil others cover other evil, For example there can be a free-will theodicy plus a soul-mking theodicy and so on.

Rather I reject all Theodicy since I don't believe they apply to anything other then a God who is a moral agent & I don't believe such a "god" exists or can be identified with YHWH of Hosts.

I will give you some links.

http://www.aquinasonline.com

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/god-evil.html
http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/goodevil.html
http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html
http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/probevil.html

BenYachov said...

Anyway I hope my response wasn't too overwhelming there John.

I had a lot to say and I left out a lot.

Cheers.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "Here is [an]other way of expressing [BenYackov's "Classical Theism" vs his "Theistic Personalism"]: "IF I acknowledge that God is a moral being/agent, THEN I would hate him -- for I imagine that he done me wrong. BUT, since it is both dangerous and foolish-absurd to hate God, I will solve the dilemma of my own creation by denying that God is a moral being/agent.""

Son-of-Confusion: "Speaking as the Father of three autistic children knowing God is not a moral agent, doesn't own me anything but is still Good is a great comfort. If I didn't know what I know now I would be a more bitter Atheist than Loftus."

Bingo!

Son-of-Confusion's Rah-Rah Catholicism, his great war against "fundies" -- which is to say, against Christians, and, ultimately against Christ -- has nothing to do with reason and reasoned argument; it's entirely emotional, and childish (in the very negative sense) emotionalism, at that.

Ilíon said...

grodrigues: "... God, as the guarantor of there even being a moral community in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be a member of such a community."

grodrigues: "... But hey, prove me wrong."

Ilíon: "God, as the guarantor of there even being 'being' in the first place, cannot coherently be said to be."

grodrigues: "If you want to make a reductio of what I have said, please be precise in your paraphrases. So the paraphrase should run as: ..."

I performed a perfectly valid reductio ad absurdum on your argument-and-claim ... and proved it wrong. That you seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that, or to amend your thinking in light of having been shown to believe a falsehood -- either Christianity is committed to a falsehood, or you believe a falsehood -- is hardly my problem.

Furthermore, as my reductio does not actually assume any Christian doctrine, but rather shows your argument-and-claim to be false in light of what reason-without-reference-to-Christianity tells us about God, the reductio stands independently of Christianity: thus, even if Christianity were show to be false for other reasons, the reductio would still have shown your argument-and-claim to be absurd.

Ilíon said...

Chad Handley: "Isn't a personal relationship a sort of community? So, if God can't be in a community with human beings, wouldn't that also mean that human beings couldn't have any sort of personal relationship with Him?"

Even aside from possible relationships of humans with God, how can the three Persons of the Godhead be in mutual communion/community if they are not, you know, persons?


Mr Handley's post seems a good segue into something I'd been mentally composing (and I see from some of his subsequent comments that he sees the problem I intend to point out) ...

Understanding the transcendent reality of morality (and that really is the issue of the OP, after all) shows us certain things, among which are:
1) that God is ... there are many ways to logically show that God is, and that morality is transcendently real is one of them;
2) that God is personal;
3) that God is a multiplicity of persons.

These truths are established by reason, without reference to any doctrine of Christianity -- that these conclusions agree with certain doctrines of the Christian revelation shows the rational man that these Christian doctrines, at least, are correct. That these conclusions do not take one all the way to some specific doctrine of Christianity (for instance, to acknowledge that God is a multiplicity of persons is not the same as to say that God is *precisely* three Persons) does not worry the rational man, for acts of reasoning are not required to come to the same conclusions, but merely to conclusions which do not contradict.

The only way to escape the truth of the above logical conclusions is to retreat into the self-contradictory absurdity of denying the transcendent reality of morality; for the denial of the transcendent reality of morality can be asserted only on the basis of presuming the transcendent reality of morality, the very thing one is denying.

[continued]

Ilíon said...

Morality is interpersonal and relational -- no persons, no relationships amongst persons, no morality.

Morality is interpersonal -- moral duties and expectations exist only between persons: only persons can have moral obligations, and only to other persons; only persons can be owed moral obligations, and only from other persons. This fact, all by itself, shows us the confused incoherence of Son-of-Confusion's "Classical Theism", for he asserts that God is impersonal/non-personal and yet is owed moral obligations from human persons. But, persons cannot owe moral obligations to non-persons, any more than non-persons can owe moral obligations to anything.

Morality is relational -- the moral duties and expectations that exist between persons exist as a consequence of the relationship between them (one could put that as "the moral duties and expectations that exist between persons are a function of the relationship between them"). If there are human-like beings (that is, persons) living in the Alpha Centauri stellar system, we have no moral obligations to them, nor they to us, for there is no direct relationship between us. On the other hand, the relationships between husbands and wives (first) and parents and children (second) are the closest/deepest human relationships in which we can be members -- the only relationship that is closer/deeper is that between God and the individual human being, even a human who hates God and/or denies that he is.

Just as the moral obligations of a father to his son follows from the nature of the relationship, and is different from the moral obligation of a son to his father, so too do any moral obligations of God to his Creation follow from the nature of the relationship, and differ from the moral obligations of the Creature to the Creator.

This relational nature of moral obligations is why moral transgressions are so wicked: they violate the relationship between the persons. A moral transgression is a betrayal, and the closer/deeper the relationship between the persons, the greater is the betrayal.

[continued]

Ilíon said...

Morality is transcendent and interpersonal and relational --

To admit the transcendent reality of morality is to admit that morality itself is not contingent, but is rather inherent in being, however much that some specific moral obligation or corresponding moral expectation is contingent upon an interpersonal relationship.

To admit that morality is both transcendent and interpersonal is to admit that God, "the ground of all being", is non-contingent and personal, and is, in fact, a multiplicity of non-contingent persons. That this reasoning doesn't get us all the way to the Christian doctrine that God is precisely three Persons does not falsify what it does tell us.

To admit that morality is transcendent and interpersonal and relational is to admit that God is a communion of a multiplicity of non-contingent persons.

To deny that morality itself is any of these three things is to deny that morality itself is real, and it's also generally to assert an incoherency.


Thus, because morality is interpersonal and relational -- and transcendent: it doesn't come into being with the creation of human persons -- it is inherent in the community of Persons who are God. That is, morality is inherent in being: morality isn't a created thing, it isn't a continget thing, it isn't a thing separate from God -- just as God is Being Itself, and Truth Itself, so too is God Morality Itself.

To deny that the Divine Persons are, well, persons, to deny that the Divine Persons are moral agents, is to deny that morality is inherent in being, it is to deny that morality is transcendent, it is to assert that morality itself is contingent. That is, this denial is not merely to assert the truth that some specific moral obligation or corresponding expectaton is contingent, but rather is to assert the absurdity that morality itself is contingent upon the existence of human beings and/or other contingent rational beings like us.

Somewhere in this thread, Son-of-Confusion asserts (the truth that) "God is Morality Itself". Yet, in denying that the Divine Persons *are* persons, in denying God may have any moral obligation at all, he asserts that morality itself is contingent upon the existence of human beings and/or other contingent rational beings like us. That is, he is asserting that morality itself is a created-and-contingent thing ... and, in the end, he is asserting the incoherency that *God*, "the ground of all being", is a contingent thing.

Ilíon said...

planks length: "... although Ben insists that God is not part of a community, He IS a community - all by Himself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each fully a "Person" and possessed of of (horrors) obligations toward one another. And secondly, He most certainly became part of our community in the Incarnation. Yes, yes, I know. Christ has two natures (divine and human). But you cannot separate the two. If the human Christ is within our community, then guess what? So is the divine Christ."

Indeed. And so to deny these things while claiming to be a Christian is incoherent and self-contradictory.

Further, it would seem that God, in the Second Person, has *always* been (that's a horrible way to phrase it, but time-bound human language allows expression of only so much timelessness) a human person. To claim otherwise seems to be to claim that God can change, which is an impossibility.

Furthermore, as I've shown above, we can come to the important conclusions that God is personal and is, in fact, a multiplicity of persons, who are, indeed, moral agents, without any reference to Christian doctrines as assumptions.

Ilíon said...

Son-of-Confusion: "Theistic Personalism is just Mormonism 2.0.

It's a "god" who is nothing more than an unequivocal human mind only more Uber. It's the Mormon concept of deity only with the human body abstracted away.

It's an alien view of God in light of the Church Fathers and the Tradition of the Church and the Rabbis.
"

Son-of-Confusion is illogical, and indeed irrational ... definitely a "cat person" ... so --

"Feline Mammalism is just Dogism 2.0.

It's a "mammal" who is nothing more than an unequivocal dog mind only more Uber. It's the Dogish concept of mammality only with the canine body abstracted away.

It's an alien view of Cat in light of the Feline Fathers and the Tradition of the Universal-Pride and the Tribal-Pride.
"

Dogs and cats are mammals, and they are different kinds of mammals one from the other. But, neither is either more or less a mammal than the other. There is no such thing as a mammal simpliciter -- there is no mammal that is not a specific kind of mammal, and so to try to reify 'mammals simpliciter' is an absurdity. But, that dogs are canine mammals and cats are feline mammals doesn't change the fact that both are mammals and that there are things that can be said of both in common: one can coherently speak of 'mammals simpliciter' so long as one isn't trying to reify the concept.

The difference(s) between canine mammals and feline mammals are denoted by the adjectives, not by the noun.

Similarly, human persons and the Divine Persons are *equally* persons. That the Divine Persons are non-contingent/necessary, whereas human persons are contingent, does not change the pact that all are persons, and there are things that can be said in common of both sort of person ... among which are that (all) persons are moral agents: to deny the moral agency of *any* person is to deny the personhood of that person -- and is, in fact, to deny the personhood of all persons.

That is, to deny that the Divine Persons are moral agents is to simultaneously deny that *we* are moral agents; likewise, to deny we are moral agents is to simultaneously deny that the Divine Persons are moral agents.

The difference(s) between human persons and the Divine Persons are denoted by the adjectives, not by the noun. Son-of-Confusion is trying to have it that the noun is what denotes how we are different from them, such that not only are we and they different kinds of persons, but that 'person' itself is a totally different word/concept used in these two contexts.

Ilíon said...

[continued]

The truth is: everything about us is grounded in God, *everything* --

We are persons because God are persons (limitations of language).

We are moral agents because the Divine Persons are moral agents.

We are (or can be) in communion with one another and with God because the Divine Persons are in communion.

Each of those three statements above are really just different ways of saying the same thing.

And, shockingly to some, we can refuse to be in communion with God because the Son could have chosen to rebel against the Father's desire-and-plan for purchasing the Creation out of Death. That also follows from moral agency, both for us and for God.

Of course, had the Son chosen to disobey the Father, that would mean that Truth Itself / Being Itself were a self-contradiction -- and so all that is would have ceased to be, would never have been in the first place.

To put it crudely, the Incarnation was God's opportunity to commit suicide, which is really what Satan was tempting the Son, the Second Divine Person, to do -- which would have among its consequence that the Creation never were.

Whether it's that Satan thinks that being can be separated from Being Itself, such that he could ascend to God's Throne were the Second Person to worship him, or whether it's that he correctly understands that Christ having worshipped him would be to destroy/end *all* things, I don't know. Who can really understand such a twisted being? Yet, the fact that millions of human beings are so twisted that they would rather not be, and would rather that all things not be, than to simply acknowledge the reality of God in worshipful gratitude does lend credence to the thought that Satan really does understand what is at stake in his attempt to subvert the Son.

grodrigues said...

@llíon:

"I performed a perfectly valid reductio ad absurdum on your argument-and-claim ... and proved it wrong. That you seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that, or to amend your thinking in light of having been shown to believe a falsehood -- either Christianity is committed to a falsehood, or you believe a falsehood -- is hardly my problem."

No you did not and I showed why. If you cannot see the fallacy in your reasoning the problem is yours not mine. And please, save your bluster for someone that actually cares. If you have nothing else of relevance to say, I am done here.

planks length said...

"He [Ilion] is a nut. Nothing more. He is also bullshiting you son."

I would say that Ilion's latest series of comments here decisively disprove the above accusation. Cogent, well-thought-out, clearly expressed, to the point, and insightful.

Now, he and I disagree on many things: I am a Catholic and he is not; he believes in sola scriptura and I do not; he is very partisan in his politics (just check out his website) and I abhor partisanship; maybe a few other things as well. But, when he's good (as in this conversation), he's very good!

Ilíon said...

a pox on both their houses: "[Ilíon] is very partisan in his politics (just check out his website) and I abhor partisanship"

I certainly am not.

As anyone who pays attention can tell, I despise the Republican Party only slightly less than I abhor the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is controlled by hard leftists -- by the very people who wish to destroy my nation/people, and who have benn working for over a century to subvert the Constitutional Order. The Republican Party is controlled by squishy leftists -- by people who want to be "respected" by the hard leftists, that is, to be "respected" by the very people who would murder them if they could for being insufficiently leftist.

Perhaps it's your own unacknowledged longing to pitch your tent with the Democrats -- you're a Catholic, after all -- that leads you to imagine I am a partisan, leade you to not even see my criticisms of the Republicans and/or double-up my criticisms of the Democrats.

planks length said...

Whoa! That last posting sounded pretty partisan to me. One party is out to destroy the country, and the only thing wrong with the other party is it's not resisting the destroyers hard enough?

Think about it, Ilion. That's the same things as a Red Sox fan saying he hates the Yankees, and is disappointed that the Sox aren't hitting enough against them. He's still a Red Sox partisan.

Now don't make me have to recant my previous comment! Where's the "good" Ilion we've all (well, some of us) come to love so much?

BenYachov said...

Pl

I told you so son.......

Nuts!

PS He will also turn on you.

BenYachov said...

>the Son could have chosen to rebel against the Father's desire-and-plan for purchasing the Creation out of Death.

I reply: This is insane and gross heresy.

I am not impressed with Ilion PL.

frances said...

Ben,

>OK, firstly, don't patronise me, sonny.

If God the Almighty cannot do the intrinsically impossble what hope is there for moi? I am merely flesh and blood.


So it is intrinsically impossible for you to refrain from addressing me, a woman you have never met and about with whom you have no connection but exchanges on this site, as "dear"? I think not. You imagine you are being clever. You imagine you are being funny. You are neither of those things. But I am prepared to "take one for the team" and if putting up with your insolence is the price I have to pay for you exposing yourself as the sexist moron you are, then so be it.

So you are giving me your non-Catholic novel exotic take on something you think Jesus said & what you think he really meant

I don't know what Jesus said and neither do you. I know what he is represented as having said and it does not fit in with your claims about God. That is not a novel nor exotic interpretation. That is what the plain words mean. The fact that you need to rely on Popes, manuals and church fathers to say otherwise proves that it is your interpretation which is (relatively) novel and exotic, because the interpretation would not need to be pontificated upon unless there was a need to "spin" its ordinary meaning into something different.

Whether you care about what I say or not is of no consequence. Either answer for yourself or get off the line so that someone who is interested in actually debating, rather than hiding behind popes and church fathers,can take up the space you are mis-using.

I advocate that God is a moral agent because he is an agent and he has an understanding of morality.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "And, shockingly to some, we can refuse to be in communion with God because the Son could have chosen to rebel against the Father's desire-and-plan for purchasing the Creation out of Death. That also follows from moral agency, both for us and for God."

Son-of-Confusion: "I reply: This is insane and gross heresy."

Son-of-Confusion's warmed-over version of the last gasp of late classical paganism makes utter non-sense of Christ's work of redeeming his creation from death.

It is Christ -- the Son, the Second Divine Person -- who said: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup [of suffering] from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

The Son, the Second Person of the Godhead, did not want to go through the suffering of becoming our sin, his will on this matter differed from the Father's will. He submitted his will to the Father's -- he did the Father's will, though it was contrary to his own.

To dispute this, to assert that it is logically impossible that the Son could have chosen to disobey the Father, while claiming to be a Christian, is to make utter non-sense of Christianity.

William said...

frances said: "God is a moral agent because he is an agent and he has an understanding of morality. "

If we try to filter the rudeness and bravado out, here is what i see:

I like your definition, but several posters do not define things that way.

So part of the disagreement remains a talking past one another due to variant definitions of terms.

There is also a genuine difference in emphasis among different posters between God's transcendence and immanence here which remains even taking out definition controversies.


BenYachov said...

>So it is intrinsically impossible for you to refrain from addressing me, a woman you have never met and about with whom you have no connection but exchanges on this site, as "dear"?

It's a New York thing. Like when Brits call people "Luv". It's cultural.

It has no meaning outside of that.

BenYachov said...

William gets it.

BenYachov said...


@Francis


>I don't know what Jesus said and neither do you.

If that is your real argument then make it but don't bore me with your non-Catholic assumptions which you are equivocating with Catholic ones about the Bible.

>I know what he is represented as having said and it does not fit in with your claims about God.
Rather your interpretation of what he said goes against ours. Nothing more.

>That is not a novel nor exotic interpretation. That is what the plain words mean.

The idea scripture is plain is not taught in Scripture and contradicts many Scriptures. It was made up by a German Catholic Priest named Luther.

>The fact that you need to rely on Popes, manuals and church fathers to say otherwise proves that it is your interpretation which is (relatively) novel and exotic, because the interpretation would not need to be pontificated upon unless there was a need to "spin" its ordinary meaning into something different.

This assumes Luther doctrine of perspecuity and relies on it's alleged truth. Do you even know the verses the Prots cite to prove this teaching much less the counter verses I will bring?

So how do you know the Bible is suppose to be clear to the individual reader?


>Whether you care about what I say or not is of no consequence. Either answer for yourself or get off the line so that someone who is interested in actually debating, rather than hiding behind popes and church fathers,can take up the space you are mis-using.


Translation: Stop arguing like a Catholic because I only know how to answer YEC Fundamentalist Protestants.

No I won't.

>I advocate that God is a moral agent because he is an agent and he has an understanding of morality.

You can make up you own self serving definitions but they aren't mine so as William noted you will talk past me.

Attack the God I believe in because I am not interested in your criticisms of the God I don't believe in. In fact if they are any good I might use them myself.

So there.

planks length said...

"I don't know what Jesus said and neither do you."

Only half true. In most instances, it is probable that the original words of Christ were spoken in Aramaic, and what is recorded is a translation into Greek of what He actually said. As anyone will agree who's ever studied a foreign language, it's often impossible to reproduce the precise meaning of a word or phrase from one language to another.

There are at least three instances where the Gospels do record the original words of Jesus (Matthew 27:46, Mark 5:41, Mark 8:34). There may be more, but these are all I can think of at the moment.

Another real possibility (but only a possibility) is the interrogation by Pilate. It is nearly certain that Pilate knew Greek, as would any educated Roman official serving in the Eastern half of the Empire. And I've read more than one Biblical scholar assert that Jesus very likely knew Greek as well. So it's not impossible that we have the exact, original words of Christ to Pilate.

But for everything else, all we have are translations.

im-skeptical said...

"Attack the God I believe in ..."

The one who is simple but complex.

The one who is not personal except when he is personal.

The one who is an agent and who knows right from wrong, but doesn't take responsibility for his actions.

The one who made us what we are - made us to be sinful and rebellious - and then punishes us for acting in accordance with our nature.

BenYachov said...

@Skept

>The one who is simple but complex.

>The one who is not personal except when he is personal.

>The one who is an agent and who knows right from wrong, but doesn't take responsibility for his actions.

>The one who made us what we are - made us to be sinful and rebellious - and then punishes us for acting in accordance with our nature.

No the one described by the Bible, Tradition, Augustine, Pseudo-Denys, Aquinas, Anselm, Maimonides, Davis and Feser etc.

You know the one you refuse to learn anything about?

Geez Skept. Your like the YEC who says dumb shit like this:

Oh Evolution!

The doctrine that says things get better when the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says they get worst!

The doctrine that says Apes give birth to humans when we have never seen that happen!

The doctrine refuted by irreducible complexity!

The doctrine Darwin himself repudiated on his death bed when he accepted Jesus!END

You know dumb shit?

Really Skept would your brain melt if you got out of your Positivist Fundie bubble and learned some philosophy?

Would it?

planks length said...

Oh, and I should have added - unless one knows New Testament Greek (I do not) then even in the best of cases, all we as English speakers have are translations of translations. And if your translation is the Douay-Rheims, then you're dealing with a translation of a translation of a translation.

im-skeptical said...

"Oh Evolution!

The doctrine that says things get better when the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says they get worst!

The doctrine that says Apes give birth to humans when we have never seen that happen!

The doctrine refuted by irreducible complexity!

The doctrine Darwin himself repudiated on his death bed when he accepted Jesus!END"

And you call me ignorant.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Loathe as I am to step into the middle of this spit fight, I have to point out that Ben was trying to show how stupid YEC proponents could sound. Those lines were not meant to be taken seriously. Right before the part you quoted, he wrote this: "Your (sic) like the YEC who says dumb shit like this"

Of course, when Ben writes "your" when he means "you're", he kind of destroys the point he was trying to make.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

You are correct. But you must understand that Ben is no less a fundamentalist than the people he rails against. In fact I would venture to say he is the biggest fundie/positivist here. His brand of fundamentalism is called Thomism. His field of view is so narrow that he can see nothing else, and he is absolutely blind to its logical absurdities.

Water into Whine said...

A fundamentalist is not a dogmatist. The latter is to truth as poverty is to Christianity.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

I will agree that Ben is overly-dogmatic about Thomism. Where I don't agree is that there are any logical absurdities in Thomism to be blind about. And you should realize that too. There are certainly things one can disagree with Thomas about (as I do), but one of them is not the logic he employs. That's pretty much bulletproof.

I challenge you to find even one instance of St. Thomas departing from strict logic. You won't, because he never does. You may disagree with his conclusions - that's fine - but what you cannot say is that he arrived at them by violating logic.

im-skeptical said...

Before we get into quibbling about the meaning of the terms I used ...

one definition of fundamentalist: strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles

one defintion of positivist: the state or quality of being positive; definiteness; assurance

(both from dictionary.com)

frances said...

That we don't know what Jesus said is not my argument. It was just a clarification of my position.

The idea scripture is plain is not taught in Scripture and contradicts many Scriptures. It was made up by a German Catholic Priest named Luther.

What is taught in scripture cannot be assumed to be true. What is not taught in scripture cannot be assumed to be false.

Stop arguing like a Catholic

In order to argue like a Catholic, you must first argue. Argue like a Catholic, argue like a Mormon, argue like a Jew, but argue! All you are doing is trotting out a bunch of averments, unsupported by anything except appeals to authority, which...

Wait a minute! Of course! You ARE arguing like a Catholic! That's exactly what you're doing! It's all clear now! OK Ben, you have your little self-supporting rants, away in Catholicland. I'll just leave you get to on with it.

im-skeptical said...

"I challenge you to find even one instance of St. Thomas departing from strict logic. You won't, because he never does. You may disagree with his conclusions - that's fine - but what you cannot say is that he arrived at them by violating logic."

He arrived at his absurd conclusions by making invalid assumptions that constitute the premises of his arguments. The foundations upon which Thomistic logic rest are not based on any kind of evidence. They either assume a God and the properties of that God, or they define the parameters of the argument in such a way that they could only lead to the necessary existence of a God. Then those assumptions are used as a basis to "prove" this God's existence.

BenYachov said...

>I will agree that Ben is overly-dogmatic about Thomism.

Slander and from a brother in Christ how disappointing.

FYI I absolutely believe Molinists, Augustinians and the followers of Dun Scotus have an equal claim on Catholic orthodoxy as any Thomist or Banezien.

A fundametalist is primarily anti-rational and dogmatic.

A fundamentalist is someone who holds to their irrational arguments at all cost even at the expense of their rational truth.

For the sake of argument let us say no concept of divinity is in fact true(i.e. there is no god(s)).

Neither Skept nor Francis have given any intelligent criticisms of the Classic proposition that they believe contradicts reality.

All their "arguments" are at best non-starters at worst argumentative fallacies.

They seem to think like your average Gnu that mere denial of God suddenly conveys instantaneous rationality and skill in critical thinking.

Well it doesn't & I don't tier of pointing out that fact.

BenYachov said...

PL

Look at Skept's response to you.

He doesn't know how to answer your question he is phoning it in taking advantage of gaps in your knowledge of Thomism trying to fool you.

Heck he thinks Aristotle's motus is synonymous with Newton's momentum.

He couldn't even tell I was making fun of the YEC.

BenYachov said...

>one definition of fundamentalist: strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles

Which in effect condemns all people of conviction everywhere in all things.

planks length said...

"assumptions that constitute the premises of his arguments"

im-skeptical, ALL logic and reason is based on unproven/unprovable assumptions, axioms, postulates, definitions, whatever you wish to call them. So is mathematics. I remember quite well in my high school geometry class being told that the definitions and axioms we had to memorize were not provable, but without them, we could not get anywhere. So just calling an assumption "invalid" (a statement which is itself an unprovable assumption) is not a refutation of any logical argument made upon that assumption. Just read up on how various non-Euclidean geometries were arrived at - they just changed the going-in assumptions.

"are not based on any kind of evidence"

Nor do they need to be, in order to be logically consistent. You are quite confused about your terms. I am aware that you wrote you did not wish to get into "quibbling about the meaning of the terms I used", but gosh-darn it, man, if you're going to criticize somebody's logic, then you absolutely must get your terms straight.

BenYachov said...

>Of course, when Ben writes "your" when he means "you're", he kind of destroys the point he was trying to make.

For years I absolutely own the brute fact that more often then not my grammar and spelllling suck.

I don't pretend otherwise.

A fundamentalist or a Gnu is a person who spells a word wrong and instead of owning up to it claims the dictionary is mistaken.

BenYachov said...

I apologize PL.

You know more then I gave your credit so I want to acknowledge that here.

planks length said...

Ben,

No prob, bro. I know a lot less than I give myself credit for.

BenYachov said...

>What is taught in scripture cannot be assumed to be true. What is not taught in scripture cannot be assumed to be false.

Who gives a rat's behind wither or not Scripture is true or not?

Practically speaking if I am going to critique a Shia Muslim's understanding of the Koran(a book I don't believe in) I will be frakked if I talk to him like he is a freaking Sunni or Wahhabi Muslim.

They interpret the Koran differently.

I am not going to waste time smacking a Platonic Atheist and Property dualist upside the head with anti-materialism and materialist monist polemics.

Geez why is this bit of common sense hard for you people?

Papalinton said...

Plank says: "I challenge you to find even one instance of St. Thomas departing from strict logic. You won't, because he never does. You may disagree with his conclusions - that's fine - but what you cannot say is that he arrived at them by violating logic."

This is perhaps the most powerful and formidable treatise yet on why the wholly misplaced reliance on Aquinas when taken out of its 13thC context and the misconstrued christian rendition of Aristotelian philosophy in order to prop up the christian mythos. In part it reads:

"Theology is the purest expression of rationalism in the sense of proceeding by logical deduction from premises ungrounded in observable fact—deduction without reference to reality. The so-called “thinking” involved here is purely formal, observationally baseless, devoid of facts, cut off from reality. Thomas Aquinas, for example, was history’s foremost expert regarding the field of “angelology.” No one could match his “knowledge” of angels, and he devoted far more of his massive Summa Theologica to them than to physics.
Here is the tragedy of theology in its distilled essence: The employment of high-powered human intellect, of genius, of profoundly rigorous logical deduction—studying nothing. In the Middle Ages, the great minds capable of transforming the world did not study the world; and so, for most of a millennium, as human beings screamed in agony—decaying from starvation, eaten by leprosy and plague, dying in droves in their twenties—the men of the mind, who could have provided their earthly salvation, abandoned them for otherworldly fantasies."


The point is not about departing from logic but rather the veridical status of the initial premise. The deeper the investigation into Thomist philosophy and its antecedent christian theological base, the weakness in the arguments simply unravel before us. Despite the sterling efforts of the Starks, Fesers and Plantingas, most sections of the community at all levels are now rightly questioning christianity's fundamentals and finding them unhelpful, questionable and highly problematic as an explanatory framework going forward.

And that is to be expected as society becomes more educated, knowledgeable and experienced in skeptical inquiry and critical thinking. And that's a good thing.


im-skeptical said...

planks,

"ALL logic and reason is based on unproven/unprovable assumptions, axioms, postulates, definitions, whatever you wish to call them. So is mathematics."

Right you are. The question here is whether those assumptions are grounded in reality. An axiom is generally regarded as being self-evident. That's not the case with Thomistic assumptions. They may seem that way to a theist, but if you don't start from a theistic position, they are simply baseless.

As an example, the teleological argument assumes a purposeful design, and concludes that the designer is God. Of course the conclusion is logical. How could you conclude anything else, when the existence of the designer is built into the assumption? But if the world hasn't been designed, if things are the way they are for no particular purpose, what becomes of the argument?

BenYachov said...

Interesting Paps you citing a supporter of Ayn Rand?

Well that is a small improvement over the other shit you cut and paste. Objectivists are broadly Aristotelian thought their Nietzschean existentialist views undercut it considering existentialism as a philosophy rejects rationalism.

Still Ayn Rand and Objectivism? I guess that new Right Wing Prime Minister of Australia is rubbing off on you?

Fascinating!

Ilíon said...

"Now don't make me have to recant my previous comment! "

Really? That's all it took -- me explaining that, and how, you are wrong about me?

Well, I, for one, thank you for sharing this important knowledge about your psyche with us all.

planks length said...

"Really? That's all it took[?]"

Naw, I just did it for the Greater Good. It was the utilitarian thing to do.