Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chandler on Plantinga and Lewis on God

Plantinga and Lewis on God's Nature: I've looked at Plantinga's Does God Have a Nature. Plantinga's God is defiantly personal. He is "alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, powerful and good." [p. 92] [This is an interesting little book.] I now think that Lewis' God is personal too - but in a rather odd way. This is from Beyond Personality: "On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings - just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who don't live on that level can't imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we can't fully conceive a Being like that.." [p. 10] Lewis seems to avoid saying that the Being composed of three persons is itself a (single) person. (A cube is not a kind of square.) He does say that that Being is "something super-personal - something more than a person." [p. 10] I'm not quite sure where that leaves us. My present view is that Lewis is NOT in full accord with Anselm & Co on this matter. In any case, we all agree, I think, that, according to Lewis' God is non-temporal. In this he certainly departs from Plantinga. Hugh
Fred Freddoso, who is probably the top expert on the Thomistic doctrine of God, also has used Lewis's writings in his class. I wonder what he would say here. Lewis, rather famously, works the Flatland analogy to death.

1 comment:

Jason Pratt said...

(Note: it turned out my possible trip out of state has been delayed until perhaps next week, so after catching up on things as the desk here...)

HC: {{Lewis seems to avoid saying that the Being composed of three persons is itself a (single) person.}}

Lewis, in this same quotation as printed--indeed in the same sentence being referenced by paraphrase here--refers to the Being as "a being who is", using both the personal pronoun 'who' with grammatically singular article and verb 'a' and 'is'; not even counting the extremely common usage of singular personal pronouns 'He' and 'Him' (with appropriately singular contextual grammar) throughout Lewis' corpus, including this chapter of this book, including nearby references before and after HC's quotation.

This being the case, I think Lewis is _not_ avoiding saying that the Being composed of three persons can also be legitimately spoken of in the personal singular, i.e. as a single person.

For what it is worth, though, I don't find him addressing this as a potential stumbling block in _Beyond Personality_ (aka Book IV of _MC_); and I don't recall, myself, anywhere he ever did address it. (Possibly he did in correspondence somewhere, which I do not yet have a complete collection of. Anyone else recall him mentioning it?)

Jason Pratt