Thursday, December 26, 2013

A complex god with a god complex


I thank Dale Tuggy for his two-part reply to my most recent remarks about his criticisms of classical theism, and I thank him also for his gracious remarks about my work.  In Part 1 of his reply Dale tries to make a biblical case against classical theism, and in Part 2 he criticizes the core classical theist doctrine of divine simplicity.  Let’s consider each in turn.  Here are what I take to be the key remarks in Part 1 (though do read the whole thing in case I’ve left out something essential).  Dale writes:

As best I can tell, most Christians … think, and have always thought of God as a great self…

For them, God is a “He.” They think God loves and hates, does things, hears them, speaks, knows things, and can be anthropomorphically depicted, whether in art, or in Old Testament theophanies. And a good number think that the one God just is Jesus himself – and Jesus is literally a self, and so can’t be Being Itself.

Dale then goes on to cite various biblical passages in which God is described in personal terms.  He also adds some important qualifications:

In a number of biblical texts, God is pictured as sitting on a throne. Anthropomorphic? Yes, in the proper sense of the term. This is portraying God as human-like, humanoid, if you like. But this is OK; as we saw in Genesis 1, God made humans in his own image – and similarity is a symmetrical relation. That is, if we’re similar to God, it follows that he’s similar to us. This needn’t be a bodily similarity – but portraying God as a humanoid figure is an easy way to get us to think of him as a self…

God gets mad. Literally? Yes. Does the hair stand up on the back of his neck? Does he get red in the face? Does his heart race? No, no, and no. None of those are required for getting mad. A spirit may get mad. We have no good reason to think that only a bodily being can be a subject of annoyance, wrath, disdain, and so on.

Is this a flat-footed literalism? No. Nothing I’ve said, and nothing I will say, implies that all biblical, or all true descriptions of God must be understood literally. The claim is rather that we can form concepts which are satisfied by both God and his creatures, and of course we have terms which express these concepts, and so those terms too – e.g. being, self, moral agent, thinking being, soul, actor, lover, real entity – apply to both. But are those concepts I just named suited only to physical beings, or to creatures, or to humans? No. We can abstract away elements of a concept, and get a more general one, which applies to more than one sort of being, and even a divine being, a god.

From the biblical passages, Dale concludes:

God takes pity on us. He is compassionate, and sympathizes with our plight. He is supremely loving. He forgives. These actions, emotions, and character trains [sic] logically presuppose that he’s a self, a being capable of consciousness, with intelligence, will, and the ability to intentionally act. An abstract object, a universal, a force, a thought, a property, or a something-somewhat-like-a-universal can’t be thought to (literally) do or have those.

Later he adds:

Are you a long time churchgoer?  Ever heard a sermon or homily or liturgical reading or song whose theme was that “God” is “Being Itself”? Have you heard any in which God is extolled as a wonderful, trustworthy, active, mighty, wise, kind, parent-like being?  What’s the percentage of the two?  For me, it’d be 0% vs. 100%.

There’s a lot more in this vein, but that gives you the general idea.  Here are the problems I see with it:

1. Straw-manning and/or begging the question:  I’ve noted many times that the classical theist does not deny that God is personal, and indeed typically insists on attributing the key personal attributes of intellect and will to God.  Certainly the Christian classical theist does not regard God as “an abstract object, a universal, a force” etc.  So to cite biblical passages in which God is described as personal by itself cuts absolutely no ice.  Christian classical theists are well aware of those passages and accept them just as much as Dale does.  Hence, if Dale means to imply that the classical theist regards God as impersonal, then he is simply attacking a straw man.

More likely, Dale just doesn’t agree that the passages in question are best interpreted the way the classical theist would interpret them.  Evidently he supposes that in order to think of God as personal, you have to regard him as “a being” alongside other beings and “a person” alongside other persons, rather than as Being Itself and Intellect Itself.  “Jesus is literally a self,” he writes, “and so can’t be Being Itself” (emphasis added).  But of course, the classical theist doesn’t think this follows at all.  The classical theist thinks his own understanding of what it means to describe God in personal terms is perfectly compatible with the Bible, rightly understood.  Dale merely assumes, rather than argues, that this is false.  Hence he simply begs the question.

2. Special pleading: Dale does not hold himself to the same standard he applies to the classical theist.  When it suits him he cites the “man on the street’s” understanding of a scriptural passage as if it settled the matter.  But only when it suits him.  Does the plain man think that biblical descriptions of divine anger entail a literal emotional state into which God temporarily passes until his wrath is assuaged?  Then this, Dale seems to think, is also how the educated Christian should read these passages.  Does the plain man also suppose, on biblical grounds, that God literally sits on a throne?  Well, we needn’t agree with him about that!  But why not?  The classical theist, after all, has given reasons why the former sort of passage should not be taken at face value any more than the latter.  Dale, by contrast, offers no explicit criteria for why some passages but not others should be taken at face value.  And his implicit criteria do not reflect an adequate understanding of what is at stake.  Which brings us to:

3. Missing the point: Dale seems to think that in order to avoid a crude anthropomorphism that is incompatible with God’s being the ultimate explanation of things, it suffices to refrain from attributing corporeal attributes to him.  But the classical theist is well aware that theistic personalists don’t think God has a heart, a neck, etc.  While their reason for objecting to the attribution to God of emotional states is partly because at least some of them think a correct analysis of such states reveals them to be essentially corporeal, there are other reasons too.  For example, even if you regard the feelings with which anger is associated in us as something that might exist in a spirit, it still cannot be the case that God has such feelings.  For if (say) he goes from a tranquil state to having such feelings and then calms down again, then he has potentialities that can be actualized.  That entails that he can be caused to undergo change, and that he is composite (since there would in this case be both potentiality and actuality within him).  And that in turn entails that he is not the ultimate explanation of things, since whatever is composite requires a cause.

To speak of God’s wrath cannot be a matter of attributing to him an ephemeral emotional state, then.  It is rather a matter of God timelessly willing the punishment of the unrepentant.  Now Dale might disagree with this, as well as with the claims that emotions entail corporeal states -- a claim he glibly dismisses, but without any argument whatsoever -- and that anything that changes (including changing its emotional states) would require a cause of its own.  The point, though, is that merely citing biblical passages settles absolutely nothing.  Dale himself is happy to read some passages non-literally when a literal reading would conflict with what we know God must be like in order to be the first cause of things.  All the classical theist is saying is that the same sorts of considerations should lead to a more nuanced reading of other passages as well.  If Dale agrees that not all biblical descriptions of God can be taken at face value given what God is supposed to be, then the key point has already been conceded.  Anthropomorphism has been rejected in principle.  The rest are details.

4. Confusing analogy and metaphor: Having said that, Dale is rather sloppy in characterizing the classical theist’s treatment of biblical language.  It is not merely a matter of taking a passage either literally or non-literally.  In particular, when a Thomist says that a certain description of God must be understood analogically, he does not mean that it is merely metaphorical or non-literal.  Analogy is not the same thing as metaphor.  When I say that this man is good and that that pizza is good, I am using the term “good” analogically.  But I am still speaking literally and non-metaphorically in each case.  I am not saying that either the man or the pizza is not really good but that describing them that way is just a colorful way of saying something else.  I am saying that they are, literally, both good while recognizing that the goodness of food is a very different kind of thing from the goodness of a human being.

Now when the Thomist says that the words we apply to God cannot be understood in the same sense in which we apply them to human beings, he does not mean that such language must always be understood metaphorically or non-literally.  Some of it should be, but some of it should be understood in a way that is literal, but analogical rather than univocal.  Now, when we speak of God as “getting angry” or “being moved to pity” or the like, that is mere metaphor, because it implies a change in God and God cannot literally change.  But when we speak of God’s goodness, love, intellect, power, will, etc. that talk is to be understood not metaphorically but analogically.  That means that the description is literal, but just not univocal.  We are saying that there literally is goodness, love, etc. in God and that while it is not exactly the same thing as what we call goodness, love, etc. in us (just as the goodness of pizza is not the same thing as the goodness of a man) it is nevertheless analogous to what we call goodness, love, etc. in us.

Dale says that “we can form concepts which are satisfied by both God and his creatures” insofar as “we can abstract away elements of a concept, and get a more general one, which applies to more than one sort of being” -- as if this were something the Thomist would deny.  But in fact what Dale is describing is at least part of what the Thomist account of the analogical nature of theological language is itself saying.  The Thomist is claiming that the abstraction must be more extensive than Dale realizes, given what God must be like in order to be the ultimate explanation of things.  But he certainly does not deny that we can speak literally about God and that we can apply some of the same concepts both to God and to human beings (provided they are understood analogically).

5. Red herring: Like Dale, I haven’t heard any sermons about God as Being Itself.  So what?  I also haven’t heard any sermons on astronomy, but I assume Dale wouldn’t argue: “Pastors don’t give sermons on astronomy.  Therefore we should think the sun literally moves relative to the earth and that the earth does not move at all, since some biblical passages taken literally give that impression.” 

Why Dale thinks serious theology should always be sermon-friendly, I have no idea.  Sermons, after all, generally have to be accessible to people from all walks of life, and they are essentially pastoral rather than theological in purpose.  It is as ludicrous to judge a technical theological assertion by reference to its value to the preacher as it is to judge the preacher’s work by appeal to the standards of the technical theological treatise.  Dale is essentially making the same mistake as the New Atheist who insists on interpreting what serious philosophers and theologians say in light of what “the man in the pew” thinks, rather than the other way around.  The difference is that whereas the New Atheist attacks the simplistic conception of God that results, Dale embraces it. 

So much for Part 1 of Dale’s reply.  Part 2 is, I think, much better insofar as it (finally!) addresses the real issue between the classical theist and the theistic personalist.  Dale agrees that to be the ultimate explanation of things, God must in some sense lack any parts.  But he thinks one can affirm this without going the whole hog for the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity.  How?  Dale considers two main possible approaches, corresponding to two non-Aristotelian approaches to the problem of universals, viz. Platonist and nominalist.  (He also briefly alludes to treating universals as ideas in the divine intellect, but that just is the standard Scholastic view rather than an alternative to it.)  It is the second, nominalist view that Dale himself endorses. 

The first, Platonist approach goes like this:

Some monotheistic fans of abstracta such as universals will say that aseity only requires that God not depend on any other concrete beings. This will leave God as the Greatest Possible Being. Are abstracta also necessary and a se? They can reply: so what? That doesn’t put them at all in God’s league, as he’s also omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and so on. Abstracta are powerless shadows by comparison.

Must we think that God is the free creator of all else? The present theory rules out that. But arguably, the biblical and traditional requirement is that God alone made the heavens and the earth. As to things which couldn’t possibly be created (abstracta), it’s no deficiency in God if he didn’t create them.

Realists who aren’t Aristotelians about universals will say that it is simply a mistake to think of a thing’s properties as parts or components of it. Parts are parts. But having properties, they think, is bearing a unique relation to some universal. A partless being, they will urge, may bear such a relation to countless universals. God does that, and because he has has [sic] the properties (yes, plural) that he does, he’s the greatest being there could be.

End quote.  Now, I disagree with the claim that a thing’s properties aren’t parts of it in the relevant sense (see below), but we can put that issue aside because it is beside the main point -- a point Dale misses.  The reason the classical theist denies that God can have parts is that if God did have them, then he could not be the ultimate explanation of things.  It is God’s metaphysical and explanatory ultimacy that is crucial, not the lack of parts per se.  And even if we allowed that there is a sense in which God lacks parts on this Platonist view Dale is describing, God would not on this view, by Dale’s own admission, be metaphysically and explanatorily ultimate.   What would be metaphysically and explanatorily ultimate would be the universals and whatever principle accounts for their instantiation -- including their instantiation in God, which would require an explanation apart from God even if God were the explanation of how universals are instantiated in other things.

Of course, how universals understood in Platonist terms could be causally efficacious is bound to seem mysterious to your average modern philosopher.  But that doesn’t make them any less metaphysically and explanatorily ultimate, on the view in question.  Moreover, that their causality is mysterious to the modern philosopher will, for the traditional Platonist, say more about modern philosophers than it does about Platonism.  For modern philosophers tend to have a highly desiccated conception of causality -- essentially reducing all causality down, not only to efficient causality, but to a post-Humean understanding of efficient causality that is itself desiccated.  Exemplar causality as a species of Aristotelian formal causality, or the Neo-Platonist notion of emanation, might be appealed to by a Platonist as a way of making sense of the causality of universals understood as Platonic Forms.  In which case universals don’t seem very much like “powerless shadows” after all.

Hence the Platonist view Dale describes is perfectly compatible with saying, as a traditional non-Christian Platonist might, that the highest reality is the realm of the Forms, with the Form of the Good being the highest of the Forms.  A Timaeus-like demiurge or craftsman imposes order on the primeval chaos by looking to the Forms as models, but he is less ultimate than they are (since even the demiurge is what he is only by reference to the Forms he instantiates).  If Dale would think it acceptable to identity the God of the Bible with such a demiurge, he owes us an explanation of how this would be anything other than a classier riff on what is essentially an Erich von Däniken-style theology or a Prometheus theology (not to mention a Gnostic theology!)  Like the worship of space aliens, it would be the worship of something which may in some sense have “created” us but which nevertheless is, like us, itself dependent for its reality on something else.  That it is not dependent in exactly the way we are is hardly relevant.  Being what you are by virtue of participating in a Form makes you no less dependent on something more fundamental than you are than does being what you are because you have been engineered by a demiurge.  Nor does incorporeality or everlastingness suffice to make something metaphysically ultimate, otherwise an angel which had always existed -- think of an Aristotelian immaterial intelligence perpetually moving a planetary sphere in a universe that had no beginning -- would have the kind of divinity Christians attribute to the God of the Bible, and I imagine Dale would agree that that is not the case.

So, Dale’s first proposed alternative to divine simplicity fails.  What of his second, nominalist approach -- the approach he actually favors himself?  It goes like this:

For my part, I don’t believe in abstracta. For non-theological reasons, I think that positing them introduces at least as many problems as it solves. I do believe things are similar, and I do believe in something like what philosophers now call individual properties – but I don’t grant that they are second-class substances. I think they’re just ways substances are, or modes of them.

God exists, and is wise and powerful. This means, roughly, that he knows a lot about import [sic] matters, and that he can intentionally do a wide range of actions. (Those are vague terms, expressing vague concepts.) There’s no need, in my view, to suppose this means God is essentially related to distinct, eternal “universals” of wisdom and power – be they parts of his, or denizens of the proverbial “Platonic heaven.” What thing(s) make(s) it true that God is wise and powerful? God – that’s all.

But isn’t his wisdom distinct from his power? Yes, those are distinct (and essential) aspects of God. They are ways he is, and ways he must be. Does this mean he has parts? No. But is he then, as Thomists would have it, utterly simple? No – his wisdom is a different intrinsic mode or aspect of him than his power. But he doesn’t have parts – modes aren’t things, but only ways things are, and so are not parts.

On any of these alternate views, including my nominalist view at the end, God will be a being. But he’ll also be necessary and independent of any other (concrete) being.

End quote.  Now, the Thomist doesn’t accept nominalism any more than he does Platonism, but this too can be put to one side for present purposes.  The key problem with this second approach is this.  Dale’s proposal posits in God what Thomists would call a real distinction between substance and accidents.  Now substance and accidents are related as potential to actual; for the accidents of a thing actualize it insofar as they determine that it is this way rather than that.  But in God there can be no mixture of potentiality and actuality, otherwise he could not be absolutely necessary.  Only that which is pure actuality can be that. 

(Incidentally, if God were composed of substance and accidents, he would have “parts” in the relevant sense.  Dale seems to think of the “parts” the doctrine of divine simplicity denies as being “second-class substances,” but that is not what is meant.  In order for something to be a part in the relevant sense it need not be the sort of thing that could exist on its own, after the manner of a substance.  To suppose otherwise is to suppose that if A and B are really distinct then A and B must be able to exist separately, as two substances can exist separately.  But that a real distinction entails separability is something that the Thomistic theory of distinctions famously denies.  Two things A and B -- whether A and B are a substance and its accidents, an essence and an act of existence, or whatever -- could be really distinct even if they could not exist separately.  See my forthcoming Scholastic Metaphysics for more on this.)

Of course, Dale characterizes God as “necessary,” but it is no good merely to say that he would be necessary.  We need an account of why he would be necessary (and indeed how he could be necessary) if he is not pure actuality.  Suppose I said to you: Consider the notion of a bluenana.  It’s a banana that’s blue all over, but not just in any old way.  It’s the concept of a banana that’s necessarily blue.  What makes it true that it’s only ever blue? That it’s a bluenana -- that’s all.

Now, have I even made plausible the notion of a bluenana?  Obviously not, for there is simply nothing in the notion of having the usual features of a banana that could tie it together with being necessarily blue.  Blueness and the various characteristics of bananas are evidently related only contingently.  Just saying “What makes it necessarily blue is that it’s a bluenana, that’s all” does no metaphysical work whatsoever.  Now suppose I added to the notion of a bluenana the further characteristic of being the sort of thing that has, essentially, the color that actual ripe bananas usually have.  Now my proposed notion of a bluenana is not only implausible but implicitly self-contradictory.  For now I’ve implicitly attributed yellowness to bluenanas, as well as explicitly attributed blueness to them.  And they can’t be both yellow and blue.

Dale’s concept of God is like that.  It’s no good just to say: “God has wisdom, power, and other distinct attributes.  Just ‘cause he’s God, that’s all.  Oh, and he’s necessary too.”  For we need to know why necessary existence goes along with wisdom, power, etc. any more than blueness goes along with the attributes of a banana.  By itself what Dale gives us is just a wish list, or a metaphysical Build-A-Bear.  (“Dear Santa, here’s what I want in my theistic personalist god!”)  And such an exercise is completely undermined when one goes on to say or imply that these various attributes are distinct from the substance that has them (or for that matter that they’re merely distinct from each other -- it wouldn’t change things at all if you dropped substance entirely and went for some kind of bundle theory instead).  For you’ve now implicitly attributed potentiality to God, and nothing that has potentiality can be a necessary being, any more than what is yellow all over can at the same time be blue all over.

Dale gives us no reason at all, then, to doubt that a “God” who is composed of substance and accidents, genus and specific difference, essence and existence, or in any other way is less than absolutely simple, is also less than divine.  Indeed, his proposals merely reinforce the conclusion that a “God” who is merely “a being” rather than Being Itself or merely “a person” rather than Intellect Itself, is necessarily also only “a god” rather than God.  Qua metaphysically complex, such a god can only ever have a god complex -- delusions of true divinity but not the real McCoy.  To paraphrase J. B. Phillips, the god of theistic personalism is too small.  Or as the Hulk would put it…

423 comments:

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Daniel said...

If I might raise a few points:

1.

‘Are you a long time churchgoer? Ever heard a sermon or homily or liturgical reading or song whose theme was that “God” is “Being Itself”? Have you heard any in which God is extolled as a wonderful, trustworthy, active, mighty, wise, kind, parent-like being? What’s the percentage of the two? For me, it’d be 0% vs. 100%.’

Which might the reason the man on the street might be an atheist. Seriously though, there is a long and time honoured tradition of mystical sermons in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions – famously Augustine and his anthropomorphic misconceptions of God allayed by listening to such a sermon from St. Ambrose

2. With all due respect – and I say this as someone with very little knowledge of how Analytical Platonists operate – the description of Platonism both you and Dale give seems unlikely to be one any post-Aristotlian Platonist would hold. I should think most of them would claim that the Forms are exemplars in the Divine Mind (they would say, as Thomists would, that this does not endanger Divine Simplicity because a Form/Essence is to be considered as God’s knowing logically emptied out of all but the set of possibilities which make up one object). Not only does this get rid of time honoured problems like the Third Man it also shows why the sort of Platonistic mathematical object puzzles raised by Sodel and co. do not both them.

‘Now, the Thomist doesn’t accept nominalism any more than he does Platonism’

With the admitted distinction between Scholastic Realism and Aristotlian Realism, something Thomas himself didn’t realise, what exactly is the quarrel between Thomism and Platonism? Call the former a Hegelian synthesis between Plato and Aristotle if you will.

3. This may just show my abysmal unfamiliarity with Analytical metaphysics but how exactly does Dale defend a realistic view of the world on Nominalist grounds? By constant appeal to Modal Essences? Curiously, Dale’s understanding of parts and distinctions reads just like those of Hume in the first book of the Treatise. It occurs to me the best way Dale might defend his complex God theory is along the lines of Process Theology, though I really don’t think he’d want to go down that route.

Daniel said...

Actually, given what is grudgingly admitted of God in The Dialogues On Natural Religion I think that Hume should be considered the father of Theistic Personalism.

Drew said...

If you do not consider attributes to be properties, then our use of terms is so different that we end up talking past one another.

George R. said...

Not only does this get rid of time honoured problems like the Third Man. . .

Daniel, that's assuming that "post-Aristotle Platonists" are willing to admit that the exemplar-forms in the mind of God: A) do not exist in reality and B) do exist as principles in the created things. But in that case, I would say that the thesis of exemplar-forms in the mind of God is not Platonism at all, but simply a development of Aristotelianism.

Anonymous said...

God appears, and god is light
To those poor souls who dwell in Night
But does a human form display
To those that dwell in realms of day
-- Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

I think you made some excellent points against Dale Tuggy; however, I think there are some serious problems with the position you defend.

1. Nowhere in your post do you define the term "part." What does it mean for Y to be a part of Z?

2. I respectfully submit that the Scholastic doctrine of parts does violence to ordinary language. In ordinary language, parts are things that can be combined with one another to make a whole. Thus Y is a part of Z if there is some X, such that X combined with Y makes Z. This makes perfect sense if we think of the constituents of water, say. But it makes no sense to speak of water (a substance) being combined with its liquidity (an essential accident), or its temperature (a non-essential accident). To speak of these accidents as parts of water is downright bizarre.

3. You claim that on the Thomist conception of God, God is utterly simple. I'm not so sure. Take God's free and contingent decision to create the world. This decision is an action (it's a choice), but it's a contingent action. Therefore it cannot be identical with the necessary being of God. So there is a distinction between God's Being and His free, contingent choices. (I believe St. Thomas tries to evade the problem by denying that there's a real relation between God and creatures, but I don't see how he can deny the reality of God's action of creating the world.)

4. More worryingly, St. Thomas insists in S.T. I q. 15, art. 2 that God has many ideas in His Mind. He insists that this doesn't compromise God's simplicity: God, in knowing Himself, knows the multifarious ways in which it can be participated in by creatures according to some degree of likeness. But that doesn't help matters. Here's why. Suppose God knows Himself as Pure Being. Suppose He knows what a cat is by grasping it as Pure Being, minus certain perfections (call them A). Suppose He knows what a dog is by grasping it as Pure Being, minus certain other perfections (call them B). Even if God doesn't need to clutter up His Mind with the concepts of "cat" and "dog", His Mind would still need to contain the concepts of A and B - otherwise He couldn't distinguish between a cat and a dog. Thus God has simply replaced one form of multiplicity in His Mind with another. It gets worse. In S.T. I q. 15, art. 3, Aquinas says that God has ideas of all possible types of things in His Mind - even types of things that He never actually makes, but could make. That would mean there must be an infinite multitude of ideas in the Divine Mind. (One possible solution to this problem, which I have entertained, is that God's Mind doesn't contain His ideas; maybe He keeps them "offline" rather than "in" His Mind. How, I don't know.)

5. The Church has only defined that God's essence is absolutely simple. As far as I can tell, it does not forbid us to believe that God's free, contingent actions are distinct from His essence - as indeed they must be.

6. You insist that God is in no way potential. If that's right, then God must know our choices by determining them, as Garrigou-Lagrange argues, and as you have argued (likening God to the author of a book, in which the characters act freely, even though they are controlled by their author). The problem with this view is that it makes God the Author of all manner of things that cannot be worthily ascribed to a Deity - e.g. every bad or corny joke, every dirty joke, the details of every evil plot, as well as every argument (good or bad) for atheism. Surely that cannot be right. For my part, I find the Boethian view of Divine foreknowledge more congenial, and I don't see it as a problem for God's knowledge to be (timelessly) determined by His creatures, if that's what He chooses. Besides, God's knowledge of my contingent choices is distinct from God's necessary essence.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Back again.

7. You make a cery telling point when you argue that we need to know why necessity goes with God's other attributes. It's not enough to simply stipulate that it does. Now, I completely agree with you that God's essential attributes are all identical with God's substance: that's Church doctrine. But it's not enough to say that God is necessary simply because He is Being itself. That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't go deep enough. For we still need to ask: since God is Pure Act, what are the activities that characterize God, and why are those activities necessary? Following the Church Fathers, I would answer that the two activities that characterize God are knowing and loving, since both of these are per se unbounded activities, and no other activities are unbounded. I would also add that knowledge and love are necessary activities, because for something to exist is simply for it to be knowable and lovable.

8. I would suggest that the question of whether God is Being Itself or "a being" is a bit of a red herring. Why not both? According to Anselm, God is a being conceived without contradiction, who is so great that it would be a contradiction if a greater being could be conceived. According to Duns Scotus, someone can be certain that God is a being, while doubting whether this being is finite or infinite. Yet both of these thinkers affirm that God is Being Itself.

I hope you had a merry Christmas, Ed, and I'd like to wish you a happy New Year.

Daniel said...

@George,

Well, I remember Hartshorne once referred to Aristotle as the first Neoplatonist.

In all seriousness though I don’t think this was an ad hoc modification of Platonism. Some Middle Platonists did just this, and since Plotinus Neoplatonists have placed the Forms within the Nous, one of the hypostasis of God. Augustine, whose Platonist credentials I hope are not up for dispute, cut out the middle man and placed them directly in the divine mind.

I’m not convinced what I have described could be referred to as Aristotle since Aristotle did his best to purge the idea of exemplary causes from his ontology. As I said the question is largely academic now. As scholastic realism symphysis’s both elements.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent,

https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/papers/On3ProblemsOfDivineSimplicity.html

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks very much for directing me to Pruss's paper. Cheers.

Timotheos said...

"Are you a long time churchgoer?  Ever heard a sermon or homily or liturgical reading or song whose theme was that “God” is “Being Itself”?"

Actually, not only have I been to a church service where the main theme was that God is "being itself", but this is actually one of the main themes throughout all the services at my church. (and at a United Methodist church no less!)

This makes one wonder if Dale has even ever picked up, say, the gospel of John, or Exodus, or the Psalms, or Proverbs.

Timotheos said...

Now I should add to that last post that while the phrase "being itself" has never been used, the idea that the phrase conveys has been expressed in longer terms numerously.

Jeremy Taylor said...

The description of Platonism given by Tuggy is not ancient Platonism. Platonists always posited the principles of the one and the dyad above the general forms and ideal numbers and the One itself above even the distinction between the created one and the dyad.

The forms, and indeed all creation, is a progressive reflection and refraction of the Supreme One is Platonism, which is itself utterly undifferentiated and wholly unified. It is like, in a sense, the refraction of white light through a refracting material that separates the coloured light. Each level of being is a separation of latent but unified distinction inherent in the level of being above it.

Daniel said...

@ Jeremy Taylor,

That is the Tubingen interpretation of Plato centring around the Unwritten Doctrine isn’t it? Far be it from me to disagree but it is still a somewhat controversial interpretation.

If we do take it as true the core notions of the Dyad as ultimate interdeterminacy and the Monad as the determining principle of all would shed a lot of light on the genealogy of Aristotle’s Prime Matter/Pure Actuality dichotomy.

Fr Aidan Kimel said...

Let me throw into the mix a passage from David Hart:

"Some contend that divine simplicity and impassibility would make it impossible for God to be affected by and so aware of any contingent truths, or for him to create freely, or for him to create without absolutely determining the course of all events. Again, though, when one chases the premises in such arguments to ground, one invariably finds some tacit but stubborn anthropomorphism at work: an unreflective tendency to think that God is like a finite psychological subject whose knowledge depends on a conditional cognition of external realities, or whose freedom requires arbitrative deliberation among options somehow outside himself, or whose creative acts must effect changes in him in the way that our actions effect changes in us, or whose gift of existence to creatures is like some kind of finite mechanical causation that produces only determinate mechanical results (and so on). None of this is logically compelling. If God is the infinite and unconditioned source of all things, then his creative intention—whether he creates only one world, or many, or infinitely many—can be understood as an eternal act that involves no temporal change within him. His freedom, moreover, can be understood as consisting not in some temporal act of decision that overcomes some prior act of indecision, but in the infinite liberty with which he manifests himself in the creation he wills from everlasting.” (The Experience of God, pp. 138-139)

James Chastek said...

Vincent Torley,

I thought your objections were fun and so I wrote a post responding to them.

Anonymous said...

Daniel,

That is not the Tubingen interpretation, but the traditional one. Until the a distinction was made between Plato and so-called "Neoplatonism" by German academics a mere few centuries ago, Plotinus was the authoritative interpreter of Plato. As such, Christian appropriations of Platonism have always started with his view (save for the Middle Platonism of Origen and a few others prior). In contrast, the view that Tuggy draws from is a modern view that comes out of contemporary anglophone philosophy.

Let's try to keep the historical aspect in mind when we approach these figures. You already do the same for Aristotle when Aquinas' engagement with him is discussed, that is, you take the ancient view of Aristotle's writings, not the modern view that there is a development in his work from one period to another. All that being said, I think that the ancient interpretation of Plato and Aristotle is the right one, but as to why, that's another topic. For now, I can only point you to in the direction of Lloyd Gerson's and Kenneth Sayre's works.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

As anonymous said it is the traditional interpretation, from before Plotinus to Thomas Taylor. I don't know if it is the Tubingen interpretation as well, but I do know if one reads Plato in his context (Plato is essentially a Pythagorean, though a unique one) this is the view one would reasonably take away. Other views tend to be based on reading modern preoccupations and ideas back into Plato.

The existence of the Unwritten doctrines is obvious. We have not only the testimony of Aristotle and others, but Plato himself tells us of the great limitations of written philosophising in the Phaedrus. They are only controversial, it seems to me, because there are some who wish to make a rationalist of Plato and divorce him firmly from latter Platonism.

Even so, Plato explicitly makes use of the one and the dyad in the Philebus.

Alongside those authors recommended by anonymous I would recommend Algis Uzdavinys and Giovanni Reale.

The Third Man argument, as Reale reminds us, is little more than howler, which mistakes the ontological superiority Forms must have over the sensible if they are to play the role of true cause and explanation.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- I think neglects is a better term than mistakes in my final sentence above.

Daniel said...

I thought the main controversy regarding this particular area of Plato scholarship was whether or not to take the Letters as genuine or not – most of the argument against doing so are somewhat cyclical however as they are based on the a priori denial of there being anything to the Unwritten Doctrine idea. I stress I do agree this is the correct interpretation but it is not free from controversy.

I do question however that this line was really further developed by other Platonists after the dissolution of the Academy (It seems implausible that they should have been preserved in secret). Even when such elements crop up in Plotinus work they seem to suggest more of an Aristotelian influence than a direct harking back to the unwritten Doctrine – in other words I would propose such ideas re-entered Platonism via Aristotle.

I am well acquainted with Reale’s work – I read Towards a New Interpretation some years back when doing research on connections between the Matrix idea in the Timaeus and the origin of Aristotle’s concept of Prime Matter. I have read nothing by Uzdavinys (isn’t he a Perennialist?). Definitely want to read Gerson's Aristotle and Other Platonists at some point though

Scott said...

@Daniel:

"Definitely want to read Gerson's Aristotle and Other Platonists at some point though"

I'm working on that one right now too, and so far it's quite good.

Anonymous said...

Uzdavinys is indeed a Perennialist, which is why I avoid them. I also don't think that Plato was a Pythagorean, but rather that he adopted a number of Pythagorean ideas while rejecting the overall framework. He treats Parmenides in similar fashion, whom he even goes so far as to identify as a father figure to him in the Sophist. I haven't read Reale; I'll have to look into his work.

As for the subject under discussion, Kenneth Sayre has done some very good work demonstrating that the doctrine of the One and the Dyad are present in Plato's works, even if he doesn't use those specific terms. I have strong doubts that they are an Aristotelian innovation.

Scott, I do hope that you enjoy Gerson's work. His essay on the Third Man is quite interesting, if you haven't yet seen it. And it touches on something that could enrich the dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches as Palamas seemed to have adopted Proclus' distinctions in the act of participation without much modification.

Scott W. said...

Usually I don't like to scry other people's motives, but when they keep floating one bad argument after another I gotta wonder if there is some vested interest and that it seems to be a problem of the will rather than the intellect. What is it about classical theism that agitates people?

Daniel said...

Nothing against Perennialists per se – just wish they would pay more attention to philosophical issues and cease with the weak and persistent appeals to Intelligent Design at the very moment they criticise Mechanism.

I’m very happy to recommend Reale’s Towards a New Interpretation of Plato: elegantly written and wonderfully erudite in its subject matter. His book on the composition of Aristotle’s Metaphysics is meant to be very good too (on an aside Ralph McInerny immortalised poor Reale with a typo in his preface to Thomas’ commentary on that book).

Out of interest what exactly constitutes a modern Platonic approach to epistemology and perception?

Vincent Torley said...

Hi James,

I've written a reply to your comments at http://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/responding-to-some-objections-to-simplicity/#comment-17525 . Cheers.

George R. said...

I thought your objections were fun and so I wrote a post responding to them.

I, too, think that Vincent Torley's objections are interesting, and I would like to see Ed respond to them. That he can respond to them, I have little doubt. Because, when it comes right down to it, I don't think that VJ's understanding of metaphysics is all that it should be. On the other hand, Ed's writings on the divine simplicity are, imho, both clear and cogent. Nevertheless, VJ's objections are serious and deserve to be addressed.

Dale said...

Ed - thanks for this good and substantial reply. I think you underestimate the force of my objections in my first post - only peering out through the holes in the Thomist citadel do they look pitifully question-begging.

Also, I think it should concern you a little more that Christian movements seem to chug along happily without really a swig from the Thomist jug. The Bible and liturgy, it would seem, are not well-suited to produce belief in the Thomist sort of "God". As Catholic, of course, you can simply appeal to Mother Church's other pronouncements, and her belated general endorsement of Aquinas.

Is my conception of God the same simplistic one Dawkins mocks? I hardly think so - but let the readers judge.

Yes, we'll have to talk about analogy. I think that is an essential, load-bearing pillar of the Thomist scheme, allowing you to preserve a lot of personalistic talk of God. It seems to me you've not been too clear about that. Perhaps you or a reader could tell me the best place to look in your posts or publications for this issue?

Lots of things to discuss in your post - I'm inclined to take things piecemeal - will do when I find time.

Congrats on the forthcoming book - I look forward to seeing that.

Scott said...

@Dale:

"I think it should concern you a little more that Christian movements seem to chug along happily without really a swig from the Thomist jug. The Bible and liturgy, it would seem, are not well-suited to produce belief in the Thomist sort of 'God'. As Catholic, of course, you can simply appeal to Mother Church's other pronouncements, and her belated general endorsement of Aquinas."

You seem here to be under the impression that Thomas Aquinas introduced the Church to classical theism. In fact the Church "chug[ged] along happily without really a swig from the Thomist jug" for well over a millennium before Aquinas even existed, and still managed to be, and remain, "classically theistic."

Perhaps it's some other, later liturgies you have in mind here. If so, then you might also want to take account of the fact that those liturgies may not have been written with classical theism in mind in the first place.

rank sophist said...

Dale,

The problem, though, with any practice of identifying the divine attributes univocally, as "features" of the divine "substance" in much the same way as they are features of created substances (even in the agnostic Kantian form of proportionality), is that the God thus described is a logical nonsense: a being among beings, possessing the properties of his nature in a composite way, as aspects of his nature rather than as names ultimately convertible with one another in the simplicity of his transcendent essence, whose being and nature are then in some sense distinct from one another, who receives his being from being as such and so is less than being, who (even if he is changeless and eternal) in some sense becomes the being he is by partaking of that prior unity (existence) that allows his nature to persist in the composite reality it is, a God whose being has nonexistence as its opposite.... This God is a myth, an idol, and one we can believe in and speak of only so long as we have forgotten the difference between being and beings.

The Beauty of the Infinite (page 302) by David Bentley Hart.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

You seem to be focusing in on the division between the one and the dyad as one of the Unwritten Doctrines.

I think this particular doctrine is one of the easiest of the Unwritten Doctrines to prove. In fact, it is not even completely unwritten, appearing explicitly in the Philebus. As well as the testimony of Aristotle there is also the fact that it was a division, between the limited and limitless, that was common in ancient Greek thought. I don't think it was neglected by those who came after Plato but before Plotinus. Certainly, the Pythagorean tradition made frequent use of it.

Uzdavinys is certainly influenced by Perennialist figures, but he makes little overt reference to it in his works. His works are largely just about Platonism, and I certainly would consider them the finest recent scholarship on antique Platonism. I must say I find it a little odd that anon would avoid him altogether for his links to Perennialists.

My understanding, Dale, of the Perennialists is they do not endorse Intelligent Design; I think, rather, they believe in a sort of Platonic origin of the species. They are, though, very much opposed to Darwinian evolution and make use of certain Intelligent Design criticisms of evolution. To be honest, I personally have little knowledge of the real science of evolution either way, but if one were hostile to it I think you don't have to endorse Paleyite Intelligent Design to use some of the criticisms of evolution its followers make.

Dale,

The problem with your post is it singles out Thomism. One could just as easily replace the term Thomist with Patristic or Palamist or Lutheran or Reformed in your comments.

Glenn said...

Dale,

A telling clue, perhaps, as to why you have such difficulty with Divine simplicy:

I'm inclined to take things piecemeal

Let's us all hope and pray that God Himself is not a function of your inclination.

:-)

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly, it would be nice if Tuggy could respond without employing a strawman. Scott's qualification above should not have been necessary because Feser repeatedly made clear that Thomism is one form of classical theism, and the debate was never about Thomism vs. theistic personalism, but about classical theism versus theistic personalism. is not appreciated.

Furthermore, he doesn't really address anything that Feser wrote, he simply continues to insist that his reading of the Bible is better and then writes off Thomism as a Catholic thing, as if the Catholic Church were some provincial outpost of Christianity. Sorry, but that's ludicrous. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches together, both of which are classically theistic, as well as the many Protestants who also follow this view, make the opposite case: Tuggy's view is the marginal one--and heretical too.

But Tuggy has this odd fixation of trying to make his view appear within the mainstream or popular. He ridicules philosophical views out of fashion with the Western Academic world as outdated "philosophical mud pits." Now we get an appeal to the importance of "Christian movements" that "chug along" outside of Thomism. Let me echo something he said earlier: who cares what those other people believe, I care about the truth. These appeals to Ad Populum arguments won't get us there, so he should stop playing philosophical soft ball. Avoiding the question with irrelevant appeals and strawmen does not make him look good.

Glenn said...

(Hm. I'm sure 'Divine Simplicity' was intended.)

Anonymous said...

Yes, we'll have to talk about analogy. I think that is an essential, load-bearing pillar of the Thomist scheme, allowing you to preserve a lot of personalistic talk of God. It seems to me you've not been too clear about that. Perhaps you or a reader could tell me the best place to look in your posts or publications for this issue?

Take a look at James F. Ross's book Portraying Analogy.

Anonymous said...

Available here.

Scott said...

"Scott's qualification above should not have been necessary because Feser repeatedly made clear that Thomism is one form of classical theism, and the debate was never about Thomism vs. theistic personalism, but about classical theism versus theistic personalism."

Exactly. As Jeremy Taylor says, the problem with Dale's post is that it singles out Thomism when the real contrast is with classical theism generally. And if Dale thinks the Church's "belated general endorsement of Aquinas" was her first acknowledgement of classical theism, then I suspect he missed a couple days of class somewhere.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I also can't help feeling there is some equivocation and ambiguity going on here, though I can't quite put my finger on it.

The position of Theistic Personalism seems more radically to limit and constrain our notions of God than Tuggy's talk of God as a Being initially seems to.

Glenn said...

Dale, you're one funny guy.

From William Hopkins' "An Appeal to the Common Sense of All Christian People" (1787), which you have seen fit to reprint:

In order to give you a Notion of the Worfhip that obtained in the primitive Church, I will prefent you with an Account of it from the great Origen, one of the moft learned and zealous of Chriftians in the early Ages. He was born in the Year of our Lord 185, and died about 253. His whole Life was chiefly dedicated to the Study of Scriptures, and the promoting of the Caufe of Chriftianity, for which he endured many and grievous Sufferings. In a Book which he wrote againft an Adverfary of Chriftianity, he profeffes to explain the true Object of religious Worfhip....

The fame Author has left a large Book concerning Prayer, which he has fully treated in all its Parts. When he comes to explain the Nature of Prayer, with regard to the Object of it, he expreffes himfelf in the following Manner. "If we underftand what Payer is ; namely the mo[ft] folemn Prayer, as diftinguifhed from mediatorial, we muft not offer up this Prayer to any derived Being, not even to Chrift himfelf, but to the only God and Father of all, to whom our Saviour himfelf prayed and teachs us to pray."


If that great 2nd-3rd century Scrutator of Scripture is correct -- that the being of "the only God and Father of all" is underived -- then it follows that the being of "the only God and Father of all" must be being itself.

Chris said...

Jeremy Taylor,

You're quite right about the Perennialist position on intelligent design. Several Traditionalist- Perennialist writers do, as you said, make use of ID arguments- but their perspective is largely a species of Platonic/Plotinian "emanationism/creationism". For anyone interested, the Orthodox Perennialist, James Cutsinger, presents their pov on evolution in the essay "On Earth As It Is In Heaven".

Daniel Smith said...

I'm a little uncomfortable with an argument that says "divine simplicity because actuality/potentiality".

My problem with this is that an omnipotent God MUST have unlimited potential.

Now Dr. Feser and I have talked about this before and he agreed that God has unlimited potency (power) and that it is of the type that doesn't require another to actualize (active potency vs. passive potency - see here)

I'm not sure what the difference between "potency" and "potential" is (if any) but it seems to me that something which is only actual could DO NOTHING without the potential to act. (If that makes sense?)

I'm not sure how all this fits together... but God, to my mind anyway, must be both act and potency. Or, more correctly: God must be "pure active potency" (rather than just "pure act").

Now maybe "pure act" implies "pure active potency" - I don't know. Either way it seems that such a God would have to be "infinitely complex" rather than "simple" since He would have, in Himself, all potencies. (Or perhaps God's act IS his potency - making God simple after all?)

All this is very confusing for this philosophical noob and I'm quite sure I'm missing something here!

Scott said...

@Daniel Smith:

"Now Dr. Feser and I have talked about this before and he agreed that God has unlimited potency (power) and that it is of the type that doesn't require another to actualize (active potency vs. passive potency - see here)

I'm not sure what the difference between 'potency' and 'potential' is[.]"

Nor am I. Nor am I sure why it matters, since the relevant distinction, which Ed made and you've just repeated, is between active and passive potency.

For the former, I think "active power" is a better English rendering, and Ed specifically notes in the post to which you've linked that "power" is the sense of "potency" intended in referring to "active potency."

At any rate, whatever language we use, the heart of the matter is that what is sometimes called "active potency" is a capacity to act upon other things and what is sometimes called "passive potency" is a capacity to be acted upon by other things. The point is that God is utterly without the latter.

"[I]t seems to me that something which is only actual could DO NOTHING without the potential to act."

And if you mean "without the power to act," then of course you're right and Ed has already agreed with you.

"I'm not sure how all this fits together... but God, to my mind anyway, must be both act and potency. Or, more correctly: God must be 'pure active potency' (rather than just 'pure act')."

I think that last bit is incorrect as it stands; to say that God is "pure active potency" rather than "pure act" seems to mean that God consists entirely of unexercised powers, which is clearly false. But it would be correct to say that God, being pure act, must have (only) active powers, some of which may not be exercised (e.g. the power to make hippogryphs). If you want to call those powers "active potencies," that's fine, as long as you understand that that isn't what anyone means in declaring that there are no potencies/potentials in God.

Daniel Smith said...

Scott: to say that God is "pure active potency" rather than "pure act" seems to mean that God consists entirely of unexercised powers, which is clearly false.

OK, I see that. The way I worded it is not what I meant by it. I meant it in the sense that God is unlimited in both act and potency. Then again, why doesn't "pure act" imply that God consists entirely of exercised powers?

If you want to call those powers "active potencies," that's fine, as long as you understand that that isn't what anyone means in declaring that there are no potencies/potentials in God.

Well, it's been my experience that hardly anyone makes the active/passive distinction when talking about potential. Therefore, when they say "there are no potencies/potentials in God", it comes across as if they mean exactly that. Perhaps if they were more careful and said "there are no passive potencies/potentials in God", I would get more of a feel for what they mean.

Either way, there is still unlimited potential in God - though only of they type he himself can actuate. I guess I still struggle with how "active potency" jibes with "pure act" and divine simplicity.

rank sophist said...

Looks like Prof. Feser isn't the only classical theologian being hounded by a nonsense-spouting heretic:

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/12/plato-is-not-paul

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/samrocha/2013/12/guest-post-how-david-bentley-hart-censored-my-review-of-his-new-book-at-first-things/

Scott said...

@Daniel Smith:

"Well, it's been my experience that hardly anyone makes the active/passive distinction when talking about potential. Therefore, when they say 'there are no potencies/potentials in God, it comes across as if they mean exactly that. Perhaps if they were more careful and said 'there are no passive potencies/potentials in God', I would get more of a feel for what they mean."

If someone says there are no potencies in God, you can be sure they're referring to passive potencies, i.e., capacities or dispositions to be acted on by another. No one who says such a thing means that God has no power to act on or affect anything else.

"Either way, there is still unlimited potential in God - though only of they type he himself can actuate. I guess I still struggle with how 'active potency' jibes with 'pure act' and divine simplicity."

I don't think I see what there is to reconcile. Divine simplicity doesn't require that God have no active potencies.

As you yourself said in your previous post: "Or perhaps God's act IS his [active] potency - making God simple after all?" In the passage to which Ed referred you nearly two years ago, Aquinas expressly says (in his reply to Objection 2 in the first article) that "God's action is not distinct from His power, for both are His divine essence."

Scott said...

Oops, meant to include a link to the relevant bit of Aquinas.

Scott said...

@rank sophist (and anyone else who has followed rank sophist's links):

I find it hard to take seriously a reviewer who says, "No classical theist has ever given a convincing account of how God can be without parts and yet composed of three persons" [emphasis mine]. Of course not, nor has any classical theist ever made such an obviously nonsensical claim in the first place.

Daniel Smith said...

Thanks Scott. As usual I've got a lot to think about.

Glenn said...

Scott,

I find it hard to take seriously a reviewer who says, "No classical theist has ever given a convincing account of how God can be without parts and yet composed of three persons" [emphasis mine]. Of course not, nor has any classical theist ever made such an obviously nonsensical claim in the first place.

I noticed that too. But I had read at the second link first, so when I later later came across 'composed of three persons' in the review, I figured someone must have informed the reviewer that that is what classical theists claim. If so, then at least the reviewer is consistent. ;)

Glenn said...

(To clarify: "I figured someone must have informed the reviewer that that is what classical theists claim" is a wry allusion to the reviewer having offered nothing more than hearsay in support of the censorship claim he makes at Patheos (see 2nd statement of his 5th para at the Patheos link).)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Rank Sophist,

Apparently Webb is a Roman Catholic.

Comments like this are the sort of thing which makes one almost despair:

"And I am quite aware that there have long been theologians, beginning with Origen and Augustine, who are bothered by the literalism of beliefs such as mine, and who find Plato a helpful way for treating all the language I just used as metaphors in need of elaborate and careful negation."

Webb seems to have no proper knowledge of Patristic history. Even the most cursory knowledge of such would at least acquaint one with Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Alexandria as earliar examples of explicit Classical Theists amongst the Church Fathers. The only Church Father who comes even close to violating the Classical Theist perpsective is Tertullian, and that is in a far less clear and overt way.

What is really clear is that positions like Theistic Personalism and Open Theism show a considerable narrowness of intellect and imagination, as well as a stunning historical ignorance. This is not, perhaps, suprising given the links they have to Analytical Philosophy, which often seems to have a very narrow intellectual horizon.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Oh yes, and the Theistic Personalists, like many contemporary academics, love to hunt for influences and categorise them in neat boxes. Such influence is treated as immediately making anything that is supposedly influenced by it suspect.

Neoplatonism is, perhaps, the most obvious example. For some it is enough to hint at Neoplatonist influence to dismiss concepts and ideas. But other categories are also used in this way.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That plaint by Webb. I think the lady doth protest too much.

The paragraph of Webb's that was removed was quite sarcastic and unnecessary. If anything, it made his "argument" (read: assertions) look more credible. Now, I don't know whether that paragraph should have been removed or not at Hart's request or if he is overly sensitive. Nonetheless, it is clear that Webb suffers from a bad case of projection. Right after quoting Hart's critique of Webb's "paragraph" as "childish" and his "theory" as "bizarre," Webb claims that Hart directed these critiques toward his person. How daring one must be to misrepresent the words of others immediately after quoting them! If that weren't enough, he then associates Hart's supposedly untoward demeanor with all of Eastern Orthodoxy and Negative theology, as bizarre as such an association may be. It seems clear to me that whatever infraction Hart may have committed against Webb has been paid in full multiple times over; and it's also clear to me that Webb is a narcissist who thinks that his theories actually have much currency or appeal.

dguller said...

Scott:

As you yourself said in your previous post: "Or perhaps God's act IS his [active] potency - making God simple after all?" In the passage to which Ed referred you nearly two years ago, Aquinas expressly says (in his reply to Objection 2 in the first article) that "God's action is not distinct from His power, for both are His divine essence."

I’m not sure if that entirely solves the problem.

If active potency is just the power to do something, then active potency is distinct from the activity itself. For example, the power to run is distinct from actually running, and furthermore, once one is actually running, then one no longer has the power to run. After all, something cannot be actually X and potentially X simultaneously, which would be violated if one had the power to X while actually X. And to say that God’s actually doing X is identical to his power to do X would be impossible, because it would mean that God’s actually doing X is identical to his potential to do X.

Second, you wrote earlier that “God, being pure act, must have (only) active powers, some of which may not be exercised (e.g. the power to make hippogryphs).” And yet this is contradicted by the Aquinas quotation that you cited above, i.e. “God’s action is not distinct from His power”. Again, either there is a distinction between God’s power to do X and God’s actually doing X, or there is not. If there is a distinction, then that seems to introduce composition into God between what he is actually doing and what he has the power to do. If there is no distinction, then you cannot claim that some of God’s powers are not actualized, because whatever God can do, he is doing, which entirely negates the idea that God can do anything. After all, what sense is there to saying that God can do something when “can” implies potentiality of some kind, which is utterly absent in God.

PatrickH said...

No, dguller. That's exactly wrong. Power and operation are not contraries in the way potentiality and actuality are. When one is actually running, one does not lose the power to run, the action or operation requires the power.

You are confusing first and second act and first and second potency. In TLS (and Aquinas), Ed provides a very good way of distinguishing between power and operation on the one hand, and actuality and potentiality on the other.

Only actuality and potentiality are contraries. Power and operation are not.

PatrickH said...

I should have read the previous discussion before commenting. Scott deals with the issue very well, and posts links as well.

dguller said...

Patrick:

Power and operation are not contraries in the way potentiality and actuality are. When one is actually running, one does not lose the power to run, the action or operation requires the power.

But then the same argument could be made for act and potency in general. After all, one could not be in act if one didn’t have the potential to act. After all, all kinds of act “requires” the potential to act. What is the difference between active potency and passive potency, other than that the former has an intrinsic source of change and the latter as an extrinsic source of change? But the change itself presupposes the possibility of change.

You are confusing first and second act and first and second potency. In TLS (and Aquinas), Ed provides a very good way of distinguishing between power and operation on the one hand, and actuality and potentiality on the other.

Can you cite the relevant passages so that I can examine them?


Scott said...

"Right after quoting Hart's critique of Webb's 'paragraph' as 'childish' and his 'theory' as 'bizarre,' Webb claims that Hart directed these critiques toward his person."

I noticed that as well. I wonder whether Webb really thinks Hart was directing the comments at his person. Either way, it doesn't reflect well on his skills as a reader or his reliability as a reviewer. (Nor does his odd remark that when Hart says "infinite" he doesn't mean it literally.)

I also note that there is a difference between a demand and a request and that the only evidence that Hart demanded the editorial change is at least second-hand. If he merely requested the change (which is what Hart himself says) and the editor(s) "complied" (which is what Webb says), then the headline of the follow-up piece is a simple falsehood; Hart didn't "censor" a blessed thing.

And this is odd too: "I disagree, for a variety of reasons, with the teaching of divine simplicity." Fair enough, but the last time I checked, it was the de fide teaching of the Church Webb voluntarily and deliberately joined in 2007. That point might have merited mention somewhere. Instead, Webb makes it sound like some sort of intellectual fad.

PatrickH, thanks for the kind words.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"After all, one could not be in act if one didn't have the potential to act."

If you mean what you seem to mean here, then the truth is the opposite. One can't be in act unless one was previously in (passive) potency to that act (or, of course, unless one is Pure Act to begin with), but when one is in act one is no longer in (passive) potency to that act.

"What is the difference between active potency and passive potency, other than that the former has an intrinsic source of change and the latter as an extrinsic source of change?"

That in the latter the change (the reduction from potency to act) takes place in the thing that has the potency, and in the former it takes place in something else. Again, active potency is a capacity or disposition to affect something else, not oneself (or for one part of oneself to affect another part).

Vincent Torley said...

It seems to me that this part of dguller's preceding argument remains unrefuted:

"Again, either there is a distinction between God's power to do X and God's actually doing X, or there is not. If there is a distinction, then that seems to introduce composition into God between what he is actually doing and what he has the power to do. If there is no distinction, then you cannot claim that some of God’s powers are not actualized, because whatever God can do, he is doing, which entirely negates the idea that God can do anything."

I would certainly say that God's power to create the cosmos is distinct from His act of creating the cosmos: the former springs from His Nature as a necessary being, while the latter is a free and contingent choice. What I would add, however, is that God's free and contingent acts are in no way a part of His essence, which is absolutely simple.

dguller said...

Scott:

That in the latter the change (the reduction from potency to act) takes place in the thing that has the potency, and in the former it takes place in something else. Again, active potency is a capacity or disposition to affect something else, not oneself (or for one part of oneself to affect another part).

First, if active potency is a capacity “to affect something else”, then does that mean that God “had” no active potency “prior” to creation? After all, “prior” to creation, there was nothing else for God to act upon. But then how could he have a power to create at all, if power requires something else to act upon?

Second, if active potency is the capacity to cause a change from potency to act either in a part of oneself or in something outside of oneself, then the part that has the active potency never changes. So, say you have a part of a human being that has the power of rationality, and that power is activated to actualize rationality, then what other part was changed from potency to act in the process? Did the rationality turn on in a different part of the human being than the part that has the power of rationality? Did the rationality turn on in something outside of the human being itself?

Third, this does not address my concern that if in God, power is act, then how can you make a distinction between an unrealized power at all in God? It would seem that if God has the power to X, then God necessarily does X. In other words, there is no unrealized power in God at all.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"First, if active potency is a capacity 'to affect something else', then does that mean that God 'had' no active potency 'prior' to creation? After all, 'prior' to creation, there was nothing else for God to act upon. But then how could he have a power to create at all, if power requires something else to act upon?"

If I have a hunting rifle and I know how to use it, there's a tolerably clear sense in which I have the active potency to kill unicorns even if there aren't any unicorns. The analogy is very rough but I'm sure you see the point.

"Second, if active potency is the capacity to cause a change from potency to act either in a part of oneself or in something outside of oneself, then the part that has the active potency never changes."

Why not? Not only is it in (passive) potency in a host of other respects, but (unlike God) it needs something external to it to reduce it to act even with respect to the power in question. If my hand is scratching my knee, that doesn't mean it's scratching my knee all the time, 24/7. It needs something else to put it in motion, and so forth.

"Third, this does not address my concern that if in God, power is act, then how can you make a distinction between an unrealized power at all in God? It would seem that if God has the power to X, then God necessarily does X. In other words, there is no unrealized power in God at all."

And in a sense that's right; God's powers are fully realized, and that's that. But surely the power to do X is as fully realized in deliberately not doing X as it is in deliberately doing X. To put it a bit awkwardly, if God doesn't create unicorns, His power to create unicorns is still fully realized and He's deliberately and positively engaged in not-creating-unicorns.

Or so it seems to me. And if that's right, then I may also need to modify (or at least elaborate on) my earlier statement about "unexercised" powers in God. What I had in mind was that God can have the power to create unicorns even though He doesn't "exercise" it by positively creating any. But I suspect it would be more correct (though perhaps less in accord with ordinary usage) to say that in not creating unicorns, there's a sense in which God is "exercising" the power to create unicorns; He's just exercising it by deliberately not creating them. As a rough analogy, think of an expert boxer deliberately pulling a punch, in contrast to a ninety-pound weakling giving someone an ineffective little slap.

dguller said...

Scott:

If I have a hunting rifle and I know how to use it, there's a tolerably clear sense in which I have the active potency to kill unicorns even if there aren't any unicorns. The analogy is very rough but I'm sure you see the point.

I see your point.

Why not? Not only is it in (passive) potency in a host of other respects, but (unlike God) it needs something external to it to reduce it to act even with respect to the power in question. If my hand is scratching my knee, that doesn't mean it's scratching my knee all the time, 24/7. It needs something else to put it in motion, and so forth.

But I was asking about your account of active potency. Say that you have X with a potency to be Y. That potency is an active potency only if X itself is not changed from potency to act, but rather something else is changed from potency to act. This “something else” could either be a different part of the whole within which X exists, or an external thing of some kind. That potency is a passive potency only if X itself is changed from potency to act.

I asked how this account would apply to the power of rationality in a human being. We agree that the power of rationality is an active potency, which means that the part of the human being that contains the power of rationality does not change. Rather, something else must change, and my question was what exactly this “something else” would be. If it is something else within the human being, then what is it? If it is something else outside the human being, then what is it?

And in a sense that's right; God's powers are fully realized, and that's that. But surely the power to do X is as fully realized in deliberately not doing X as it is in deliberately doing X. To put it a bit awkwardly, if God doesn't create unicorns, His power to create unicorns is still fully realized and He's deliberately and positively engaged in not-creating-unicorns.

But this admits a distinction within God between his power to do X and his actually doing X. In that case, the power to do X would remain the same irrespective of whether God actually did X or not. And that does not seem to be possible if God’s power to do X is his act of doing X, which is what the Aquinas quote that you cited seems to imply. In that case, there cannot be such a distinction in God, which either means that God is exclusively unactualized power or is exclusively fully actualized power. There is no middle ground that is possible.

And both possibilities are absurd, I think. If God is exclusively unactualized power, then there could not be a creation at all, because creating creation would be an example of an actualized power. If God is exclusively actualized power, then it is impossible for God to have the power to do X, and not actually do X. Thus, if God has the power to create unicorns, then there must be unicorns. And since there are no unicorns, it follows that God lacks the power to create unicorns, which means that he is not omnipotent. Either way, you have absurdity.

Brad Henry said...

Probably a rather basic question: but if anger is just a metaphor and not an analogy, what is it a metaphor for?

dguller said...

Vincent:

I would certainly say that God's power to create the cosmos is distinct from His act of creating the cosmos: the former springs from His Nature as a necessary being, while the latter is a free and contingent choice. What I would add, however, is that God's free and contingent acts are in no way a part of His essence, which is absolutely simple.

And that position is highly problematic from the divine simplicity standpoint. Remember that according to divine simplicity, the divine essence is Being Itself, and anything that is not the divine essence is not Being itself, but rather is a participant of Being Itself, i.e. a created being. So, if “God’s free and contingent acts are in no way a part of his essence”, then “God’s free and contingent acts” are created beings, which is absurd.

This is the same argument that I’ve made against the doctrine of the Trinity and divine simplicity. If what distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence, then what distinguishes the divine persons is a created being, which is absurd, because it would follow that there is no distinction between the divine persons causally prior to the existence of creation.

PatrickH said...

You asked for a cite from Ed for my comment about his illustrating the distinction between active and passive potency in TLS. I don't have the book, but I do remember his using as an example of the non-contrariness of active potency and operation the case of someone having the power to speak German (i.e., he knows how to speak the German language) and how, therefore, he not only does not lose that power when he actually speaks German, he manifests it. I believe that Ed contrasted actuality and potentiality and their contrariness by saying that having the potential to learn German is contrary to actually knowing it, and therefore cannot coinhere in one person at the same time.

I'm afraid I can't do any better than that, but James Chastek has a discussion of act and potency that I found very valuable (including his responses to two questions of mine in the comments), here:

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/the-division-of-act-and-potency-in-relation-to-power/#comments

Anonymous said...

Dale,
Re: “Also, I think it should concern you a little more that Christian movements seem to chug along happily without really a swig from the Thomist jug.”

“Protestant have carefully protected themselves from any knowledge of Christian History” Dale Ahlquist. “and Christian Philosophy” I would add.

Scott said...

@dguller:

I'm a bit pressed for time at the moment (and I'll probably remain so until after the New Year), so let me just make a quick point in reply to one part of your post.

"But this admits a distinction within God between his power to do X and his actually doing X."

Offhand I don't see why that would mark any sort of real distinction within the divine essence.

But let's leave that point for another time. Perhaps for present purposes, rather than speaking of God's "power to create unicorns" (which suggests that it might or might not be "exercised" depending on whether or not God really created any) we might instead more properly speak of something like the power to determine whether or not there are unicorns.

I haven't thought this point through carefully and I don't have time to do it now, but at first look it does seem to help us avoid your proposed absurdities. At the very least it makes clear that, whether or not there are unicorns, it's God's fully realized power that determines the fact of the matter; I also don't see that it admits of any distinction "within God" between His "power to do X" and His actually doing X. (It may, however, pose problems I haven't thought of. That prospect, too, I'll have to leave for another time.)

Later, folks. Have a happy and safe New Year.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi dguller,

Thanks for your response. You write: 'So, if "God's free and contingent acts are in no way a part of his essence", then "God's free and contingent acts" are created beings, which is absurd.'

I would answer that God's free and contingent acts aren't beings at all, any more than my free and contingent acts are beings. They're actions of a Being. To say that God's actions are created beings would imply that there must have been some act of creating them too - which leads to an infinite regress of creative acts. (Ditto for humans.)

You also write: "If what distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence, then what distinguishes the divine persons is a created being, which is absurd..." You're assuming that what distinguishes the divine persons has to be a being (whether divine or created), which is a questionable assumption in the first place.

For me, the Trinity is simple: God knows and loves Himself perfectly. The activity which characterizes God is perfect knowledge-and-love (I've hyphenated it because it's one Divine activity). However, it's an essentially tripolar activity: there's a real opposition between knower and known, and between lover and beloved. That's why there are three persons, even though God is One Being, with One Mind and One Will.

BenYachov said...

>If what distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence, then what distinguishes the divine persons is a created being, which is absurd...

This morally evil dirt bag has been repeating this false either/or fallacy for 2000 post & has ignored correction.

One more time.

There is no such thing as a Catholic Christian doctrine of the Trinity that believes in real distinction between divine relations based on the divine essence.

The real distinctions between the divine relations are neither real physical or metaphysical one but mysterious ones in opposition.

Stop making up your own doctrines loser!

Either deal with the ones we believe or go argue with some Jesus Only Pentecostals or Mormons whose doctrines of what they call "Trinity" best fits your mishigoss.

Oy Vey!!!!!!!!

BenYachov said...

>If what distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence, then what distinguishes the divine persons is a created being,

Why can't the answer be neither of these?

Really are you this thick?

The divine simplicity is preserved because whatever the real distinction between opposing relations is it is neither real physical nor real metaphysical distinction.

Thus it doesn't represent either a physical division in the divine essence or any type of potency being made actual.

What part of "mystery" is unclear here?


Anonymous said...

William Lane Craig's Q&A this week has a question from an atheist, which I think coheres with the claim that it is the theistic personalist god that atheists do not take seriously:

In every incarnation of God that I've come across or heard about, He has been a being that distinctly does have feelings and those feelings guide the commandments He hands down. He is a jealous God. He is a vengeful God. He is a God that wants to be loved and acutely feels insults to His name. While I can understand a Christian identifying God as the true foundation or baseline of morality, I cannot fathom how a God so informed by emotion can be considered objective.

dguller said...

Scott:

Offhand I don't see why that would mark any sort of real distinction within the divine essence.

Because if the power to do X and actually doing X were not really distinct, then they would be two different terms for the exact same thing. And if that were true, then the power to do X is identical to actually doing X, which means that whatever God actually does is identical to what God can do. In other words, God has the power to do X if and only if God actually does X, and therefore, God does not have the power to do X if and only if God does not actually do X. Thus, if God does not create unicorns, for example, then God cannot create unicorns.

And this is a problem, because “everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility” (ST 1.25.3). Clearly, a unicorn is not logically contradictory, and thus should be possible for God to create. But, if it is true that God does not actually create a unicorn if and only if God cannot create a unicorn at all, then it follows that since God never created a unicorn, then God cannot create a unicorn at all, which leads to a contradiction with the claim that God can create that which is logically possible, including a unicorn, which we agree is logically possible.

So, we are stuck with a dilemma. On the one hand, to affirm that God’s omnipotence extends over anything that is logically possible presupposes a real distinction between God’s power to do X and actually doing X, which contradicts Aquinas’ claim that “God's action is not distinct from His power, for both are His divine essence” (ST 1.25.1). On the other hand, to deny such a real distinction leads to the conclusion that God’s power is actually limited to exclude even things that are logically possible, such as unicorns, which contradicts the claim that “the power of God is infinite” (ST 1.25.2), as well as to exclude the possibility that God could have acted otherwise than he did, which contradicts the claim that “God can do other things than those He has done” (ST 1.25.5).

Perhaps for present purposes, rather than speaking of God's "power to create unicorns" (which suggests that it might or might not be "exercised" depending on whether or not God really created any) we might instead more properly speak of something like the power to determine whether or not there are unicorns.

But that is loaded with ambiguities that would have to be clarified, I think. First, what does it mean to “determine” here? “Determine” in the sense of formal causality, efficient causality, and/or final causality? “Determine” in some other sense? Second, what does it mean to determine “whether or not there are X”? Do you mean as possible realities, or as actual realities, or both?

At the very least it makes clear that, whether or not there are unicorns, it's God's fully realized power that determines the fact of the matter;

I don’t think that was ever a problem, though. I agree that God’s power, like any power, is fully present and actualized simply on the basis of his essence. However, it is an independent matter if that power is actualized in the sense of an operation, or secondary actuality. And then the question is whether there is a distinction between the two within God, and what the implications are of this possibility.

I also don't see that it admits of any distinction "within God" between His "power to do X" and His actually doing X.

I think I’ve provided an argument above for that position.

Later, folks. Have a happy and safe New Year.

And likewise to yourself.

dguller said...

Vincent:

I would answer that God's free and contingent acts aren't beings at all, any more than my free and contingent acts are beings. They're actions of a Being. To say that God's actions are created beings would imply that there must have been some act of creating them too - which leads to an infinite regress of creative acts. (Ditto for humans.)

I agree that it is absurd, but I think that it is the necessary consequence of divine simplicity, which states that the divine essence is Being Itself, and that “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2). So, if God’s actions are really distinct from the divine essence, then God’s actions are necessarily creatures.

You also write: "If what distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence, then what distinguishes the divine persons is a created being, which is absurd..." You're assuming that what distinguishes the divine persons has to be a being (whether divine or created), which is a questionable assumption in the first place.

It’s not an assumption, though. It is a consequence of divine simplicity, as I mentioned above. If we call what distinguishes the divine persons, X, and if X is not the divine essence, then X is not Being Itself. Since anything that is not Being itself is a creature, it follows that X is a creature, and thus necessarily a composite being, which is absurd in this case.

For me, the Trinity is simple: God knows and loves Himself perfectly. The activity which characterizes God is perfect knowledge-and-love (I've hyphenated it because it's one Divine activity). However, it's an essentially tripolar activity: there's a real opposition between knower and known, and between lover and beloved. That's why there are three persons, even though God is One Being, with One Mind and One Will.

I would agree that “there's a real opposition between knower and known, and between lover and beloved”, but only with respect to composite entities. When it comes to a simple being, such as God, the knower is the known, and the lover is the beloved. There is no real distinction between them. And if this is difficult to conceive, then that is on par with our general inability to conceive of a simple being, which safeguards its transcendence.

dguller said...

Ben:

Why can't the answer be neither of these?

Because “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2).

BenYachov said...

>Because “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2).

Except the divine relations are identical with the divine essence & nobody who is a faithful Christian postulates that they are not identical.

You are equivocating between "what distinguishes the divine persons from one to another (which is a mysterious relation of opposition)" which is not the divine essence with a false either/or fallacy that claim the divine relations are either distinct by essence or by being creatures.

Well the divine relations are not creatures neither are they distinct by essence but by mysterious opposing relations.

You are a sophist and a moral scum bag.

BenYachov said...

Additional:

>>Why can't the answer be neither of these?

>Because “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2).

What distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence nor is it that they are creatures but they are distinguished one to anther by mysterious relations of opposition.

So I ask again why must I believe what distinguishes the divine relations/persons from one to another must be either the divine essence(which they fully share) or them being creatures and not a third choice?

That third choice being the real distinction between relations is a mysterious one of opposing relations that are neither a real physical or metaphysical distinctions that can only be found in creatures.

You are such a troll dguller anyone with eyes can see it.

BenYachov said...

Vincent

dguller is a troll when it comes to the Trinity who makes up his own doctrines and ignores Catholic definitions or scholastic explanations.

For example he once claimed divine simplicity meant the Godhead contained no type of subsisting real relations of any kind. Thus claiming really distinct relations would be a contradiction for this self-serving definition of his.

Well both the online Catholic Encyclopedia on divine simplicity and the writings of Lagrange say the divine simplicity means there are no real physical or metaphysical distinctions in the divine essence.
Not no distinctions of any type including mysterious ones of opposition such as exists between the really distinct persons/relations.

He is not here to argue the Trinity with you in good faith.

BenYachov said...

@Vincent

>I would agree that “there's a real opposition between knower and known, and between lover and beloved”, but only with respect to composite entities.

That is our only experience as creatures with real distinctions. We know only either real physical or metaphysical ones.

But the real distinctions between divine persons are mysterious & neither physical nor metaphysical in nature.

>When it comes to a simple being, such as God, the knower is the known, and the lover is the beloved. There is no real distinction between them.

In the divine essence there are no real physical or metaphysical distinctions. That is there are no distinctions that divide up the essence like cutting up a pie nor are there examples of potency being made actual in the Godhead.

>And if this is difficult to conceive, then that is on par with our general inability to conceive of a simple being, which safeguards its transcendence.

We don't need to conceive of anything. We just need to know proper definitions and logical categories.

Logically "Mysterious real relations by opposition" cannot eb an example of NOT "not any real physical or metaphysical distinctions".

Thus saying God is both relative relations and absolute essence cannot be a contradiction.

Vincent Torley said...

dguller,

I'd be careful about quoting Aquinas statement that "everything which is not the divine essence is a creature" (ST 1.28.2). Every thing, yes. But an action isn't a thing.

I also would agree with Ben Yachov's account of the Trinity. The three persons are distinguished by the oppositional relations between them, and these oppositional relations belong to the Divine essence itself.

In response to your statement that in God, "the knower is the known, and the lover is the beloved," they can all be the same Being, yes. But a mind and its act of knowing must be distinct. Knowing is by definition something that comes from a mind, and likewise love is something that comes from a lover. There's no getting around that.

dguller said...

Ben:

Except the divine relations are identical with the divine essence & nobody who is a faithful Christian postulates that they are not identical.

Great. If the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, then the different divine relations cannot be the principle of distinction between the divine persons. This is because what the divine persons share in common cannot be identical to what they do not share in common. We agree that the divine persons share the divine essence in common, because they are the divine essence. We also agree that what distinguishes the divine persons from one another cannot be what they share in common, and thus what distinguishes the divine persons from one another cannot be the divine essence, which they share in common. If you are correct that the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, then it follows that the divine relations cannot be what distinguishes the divine persons, because the divine persons share the divine relations in common. And this contradicts with Aquinas: “the persons or hypostases are distinguished rather by relations than by origin” (ST 1.40.2).

You are equivocating between "what distinguishes the divine persons from one to another (which is a mysterious relation of opposition)" which is not the divine essence with a false either/or fallacy that claim the divine relations are either distinct by essence or by being creatures.

Nope. I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence, and since the divine essence is Being itself, it follows that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons must be a creature, because “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2).

What distinguishes the divine persons is not the divine essence nor is it that they are creatures but they are distinguished one to anther by mysterious relations of opposition.

And I’ve provided an argument to why this is impossible.

So I ask again why must I believe what distinguishes the divine relations/persons from one to another must be either the divine essence(which they fully share) or them being creatures and not a third choice?

Because there is only Being Itself and that which participates in Being Itself. If the divine essence is Being Itself, then anything that is not the divine essence participates in Being Itself, and thus is a creature. Unless you want to say that God participates in Being Itself, and is not fully identical to Being Itself?

BenYachov said...

dguller,

Lord knows Vincent & I disagree in a lot of areas where the Church gives us liberty to disagree(ID, the Flood , meaning of God as a moral agent etc).

But it is clear he recognizes what I am expounding here is the actual doctrine of the Trinity.

You are simply discussing some other doctrine no Catholic here believes.

So what good are you?

rank sophist said...

Another dguller hijack about the Trinity. Hooray.

BenYachov said...

>the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, then the different divine relations cannot be the principle of distinction between the divine persons. This is because what the divine persons share in common cannot be identical to what they do not share in common. We agree that the divine persons share the divine essence in common, because they are the divine essence. We also agree that what distinguishes the divine persons from one another cannot be what they share in common, and thus what distinguishes the divine persons from one another cannot be the divine essence, which they share in common. If you are correct that the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, then it follows that the divine relations cannot be what distinguishes the divine persons, because the divine persons share the divine relations in common.

No argument.

>And this contradicts with Aquinas: “the persons or hypostases are distinguished rather by relations than by origin” (ST 1.40.2).

That is a big leap. There is no such contradiction. This is mere assertion.

>Nope. I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence,

For the 10,000th time I am not disputing that I assume it because it is Infallible Dogma. Why do you keep bring it up other then to bust chops like a bitch?

>And I’ve provided an argument to why this is impossible.

No you haven't you just nay say it.

>Because there is only Being Itself and that which participates in Being Itself. If the divine essence is Being Itself, then anything that is not the divine essence participates in Being Itself, and thus is a creature. Unless you want to say that God participates in Being Itself, and is not fully identical to Being Itself?

In other word "lalalalalalala....I'm not listening".

Scott gets this & he hasn't formally joined the Church.

Vincent and every other Trinity believer get this what is your malfunction?

BenYachov said...

One last bit

>If you are correct that the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, then it follows that the divine relations cannot be what distinguishes the divine persons, because the divine persons share the divine relations in common.

I ignored this part.

There is only a notional distinction between divine persons and or divine relations.

For example the divine person of the son is nothing less then the divine relation of sonship.

The relation of sonship is in real opposition to the relation of paternity otherwise known as the divine person of God the Father.

I have to watch that dguller switches terms at the drop of a hat.

He is such an evil troll.

BenYachov said...

Any relation of any kind is in real opposition to it's opposite relation.

There is no such thing as a single relation that is both Father and it's own son.

So if there are real relations subsisting in the divine essence they must be in real opposition to one another.

Their real distinctions cannot be any type of real physical distinction or metaphysical one other wise the divine essence would be a creature.

They must by nature be mysterious & as such we can make no positive claim about them other then they compel us to say things such as The Father is not the same Divine Person as the Son but both are equally the same God.

BenYachov said...

>I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence,

Which is true thus the really distinct persons must be one & the same God.

>and since the divine essence is Being itself, it follows that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons must be a creature,

No if there where real physical or metaphysical distinctions between the divine persons/relations then the divine essence would be a creature.

Lagrange and the Catholic Encyclopedia & every scholastic textbook known to man define divine simplicity in terms of a lack of real physical and real metaphysical distinction.

Get the frak over it!

Oh & I can't help but notice Feser's understanding of analogy and unequivocal comparison above do not negate across the board all literal referents.

A Nanny Moose said...

I have a reservation about divine simplicity that doesn't involve the Trinity. Namely, it seems that the question "Why did God create this world rather than another world?" is unanswerable given divine simplicity. God must have willed this particular world from all eternity; otherwise the willing of this world would involve a change in God. But could He not have willed a different world? And if He could have, then why this one?

Timotheos said...

"Because “[e]verything which is not the divine essence is a creature” (ST 1.28.2)."

I doubt Aquinas was talking about "beings" in general here dguller, instead of "substances".

If everything that is a being that is not the divine essence was a creature, that is, a creation, then it would follow that all universals would be creations, which is contrary to Aquinas's theory of universals.

Not recognizing the distinction between substances and beings leaves you to assume that everything that is not the divine essence is a "creature." (I.e. non-divine substantial being)

But this is a false dilemma, since the real distinctions could be non-substantial beings, and yet still exist in a way distinctly from the divine essence.

Analogously, the universal 5 exists in God's mind, and is really a distinct being (notsubstance) from the universal 6, and from the divine essence, even though God knows them both with one intuition.

Timotheos said...

As far as the active vs passive potency discussion, we need to remember that passive potency is a type, and not identical to, possibility. Possibility is actually a broader notion than passive potentiality, so even though many of the same rules apply to both, not all of them do.

This is similar to the fact that the actualization of potency is not identical with the action of efficient causality, even though they're similair enough to both fall under the scholastic principle of causality. The former implies a subject which is gaining some actuality, while the later doesn't always imply any pre-existing subject, just something being brought into existence.

So active potency is also a type of possibility in addition to the passive variety, but this dosen't imply that it has to be actualized in the sense that passive potency does.

It must also be remembered that the AT follower defines contingent being as that which can possibly exist and not exist.

This means that God's actions can truly be free and contingent beings** (again, not substances), and still not imply that God is not necessary or eternal.

**another benefit of defining contingent being in this way is that it allows for the existence of eternal, contingent beings, since these could possibly not exist eternally. (and lest this be doubted, the third way uses the term possibility in a narrower sense than this, which allows the argument to be valid)

William Dunkirk said...

Dguller

You wrote,

So, if “God’s free and contingent acts are in no way a part of his essence”, then “God’s free and contingent acts” are created beings, which is absurd.

Why is that absurd? God acts freely and there are created beings. That just is creation, isn’t it? Isn’t this why God is supposed to be the First Cause? At some point someone’s acting has to be responsible for contingent being. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” The Bible at times seems pretty emphatic that God takes no delight in the destruction of anything He has created. It’s pretty clear even in the scriptures that God isn’t in the business of non-beings. Indeed, all things being equal, it would seem to be just creatures whose activity does not really necessitate the generation or creation of being or beings. To just produce – truly utterly and spontaneously create – being as a necessary consequence of your activity sounds rather god-like to me: they would truly be your creatures.

Also there is no such thing as “prior to” Creation because time is not God. There was no “prior to” creation. Time only makes sense as a measure of change; but what was changing “before” Creation? I think in part concepts like divine simplicity and God being pure act is meant to defend against absurdities like there being a time before Creation as that would seem to necessitate God changing.

Now “causally prior to” would just mean only logically prior to and not necessarily temporally. Even fathers and sons can actually come into existence at the same time, which is especially obvious or clear in the instance of someone’s first child. Now does the father really change because of this? It’s a relation only and one that points clearly notwithstanding to the fact that the two (father and son) are yet really distinct. We can also ask: What actually changed in or about the father when he became a father? He probably didn’t even realize it and quite possibly could go his entire life without ever knowing he fathered a child and was himself a father. But even absent any change there is a real relation that exists and a real distinction.

I struggle with these concepts too but I constantly find that abandoning them is what really and ultimately tends to lead into absurdity.

Mr. Green said...

Jeremy Taylor: Comments like this are the sort of thing which makes one almost despair

"Almost"? Well, it's not this particular post that drove me over the edge, but I have come of late to despair indeed that even people who ought to understand this sort of thing, through appropriate circumstance and inclination, suited by nature and nurture as it were, may nevertheless simply not get it. It's not merely that Webb doesn't seem to be aware that divine simplicity is a doctrine of the Faith, or that Tuggy misses the point of it or that curmudgeonly "traditional" Catholics bad-mouth the pope, or any number of similar examples — those are disappointing, but not desperate. Everyone makes mistakes, every group has its lunatic fringe. It's the anti-intellectualism I'm seeing from people who are in a position to know better that gets me. Perhaps my discouragement is misplaced — a bit of the old Baader-Meinhof, for instance; or perhaps 'twas always thus. But I suspect that what I'm noticing is what Hart was trying to get at in his recent foray on natural law (although I still think that Hart could've been more blunt and explicit, but maybe that just means I haven't got his point after all). I might go back and look for some of Rank Sophist's relevant posts, now being in a better frame of mind to appreciate them.

rank sophist said...

Mr. Green,

Just a heads-up, since I noticed your post. If you do happen to look up my posts, I should warn you that my interpretation changed in multiple ways between the first and last comboxes on the subject. I think that my final interpretation (in the Hart stopping combox) is both cogent and accurate, but some of the claims that I made in earlier comboxes were way off track. Somewhere on his site, Brandon mentions that it's best to jump into philosophy even if you make a fool of yourself, and I definitely did a bit of that in the Hart debates. Again, just a heads-up.

George R. said...

Somewhere on his site, Brandon mentions that it's best to jump into philosophy even if you make a fool of yourself. . .

Maybe, but I don't think that the real problem in philosophy is that there aren't enough people jumping in and making fools of themselves.

dguller said...

Vincent:

I'd be careful about quoting Aquinas statement that "everything which is not the divine essence is a creature" (ST 1.28.2). Every thing, yes. But an action isn't a thing.

I think it’s a bit more radical than that. There is unparticipated being, i.e. Being itself, and participated being, i.e. created and composite being. Anything that is not Being itself necessarily falls under the latter category, which would include substantial being, accidental being, potential being, material being, and so on. But I’m happy to be corrected on this.

I also would agree with Ben Yachov's account of the Trinity. The three persons are distinguished by the oppositional relations between them, and these oppositional relations belong to the Divine essence itself.

I agree with Ben’s account, as well. I’m not saying that his account of the official doctrine is incorrect. I’m saying that the official doctrine contains a contradiction, which is based upon the following principle: A is really distinct from B if and only if what A and B have in common is not identical to what A and B do not have in common. If the divine persons are really distinct from one another, then what they have in common cannot be identical to what they do not have in common. They have the divine essence in common, and thus what they do not have in common cannot be the divine essence. Furthermore, what they do not have in common is precisely what accounts for the real distinction itself, because what they have in common cannot account for the real distinction at all. So, whatever accounts for the real distinction, which we can just call “X”, cannot be the divine essence.

Two consequences follow from this, I think. First, X must be really distinct from the divine essence. This is because if X was not really distinct from the divine essence, then X would be really identical to the divine essence, and it would then follow that what the divine persons have in common (i.e. divine essence) is identical to what they do not have in common (i.e. X), which is impossible. Second, X cannot be Being itself, which is identical to the divine essence, and therefore must be participated being, or created being. Either one of these consequences violates core aspects of the Thomist doctrine of the Trinity, I think.

In response to your statement that in God, "the knower is the known, and the lover is the beloved," they can all be the same Being, yes. But a mind and its act of knowing must be distinct. Knowing is by definition something that comes from a mind, and likewise love is something that comes from a lover. There's no getting around that.

And here’s where I disagree, but my understanding here is more limited than in other areas, and so I’m open to being corrected here. Normally, I would agree that “mind and its act of knowing must be distinct”, but when it comes to divine simplicity, many ordinary assumptions that are applicable to the composite created realm are inapplicable, despite the fact that our minds cannot comprehend how it could be so. For example, ordinarily, the power to do X is distinct from actually doing X, because the power to do X is simply the capacity to do X, and this is necessarily distinct from the act of doing X. And yet, in God, they are one and the same. The core definition is sacrificed on the alter of divine simplicity, and the fact that this makes no sense to us is simply a mark of divine transcendence. I don’t see why the same logic wouldn’t apply to the oppositional relations of the divine persons, and to God’s knowledge and love.

dguller said...

Timotheos:

I doubt Aquinas was talking about "beings" in general here dguller, instead of "substances".

I’m not so sure.

If everything that is a being that is not the divine essence was a creature, that is, a creation, then it would follow that all universals would be creations, which is contrary to Aquinas's theory of universals.

That would be true of the instantiation of form in composite entities, which are created beings, but it would not be true of the divine archetypes contained within the divine intellect, and thus are uncreated. As Aquinas says, “an idea in God is identical with His essence” (ST 1.15.1). In general, Aquinas says that if X is in the divine essence, then X is the divine essence.

Not recognizing the distinction between substances and beings leaves you to assume that everything that is not the divine essence is a "creature." (I.e. non-divine substantial being)

I think that there are a number of kinds of being: actual being, potential being, substantial being, accidental being, immaterial being, material being, and so on. However, there are two broad “categories” of being: unparticipated, perfect and infinite being (= Being itself = the divine essence) and participated, imperfect and finite being (= created being). The former only admits one “instance”, and the latter admits a number of possible instantiations, which would include substantial and non-substantial being.

But this is a false dilemma, since the real distinctions could be non-substantial beings, and yet still exist in a way distinctly from the divine essence.

The question is whether these “non-substantial beings” participate in Being itself or not. If the former, then they are created beings, period. If the latter, then they are Being itself.

dguller said...

William:

Why is that absurd? God acts freely and there are created beings. That just is creation, isn’t it? Isn’t this why God is supposed to be the First Cause? At some point someone’s acting has to be responsible for contingent being.

Yes, but there is a distinction between God’s acts and creation, even though the latter causally depend upon the former. As Aquinas writes: “God's action is not distinct from His power, for both are His divine essence” (ST 1.25.1). If it is true that “God’s action” is “His divine essence”, then if God’s action were identical to creation, then creation would be identical to God’s essence, which is absurd. So, there must be a real distinction between God’s acts and creation, much like there must be a real distinction between unparticipated, perfect and infinite being and participated, imperfect and finite being.

dguller said...

Ben:

>Nope. I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence,

For the 10,000th time I am not disputing that I assume it because it is Infallible Dogma. Why do you keep bring it up other then to bust chops like a bitch?


So, just to be clear, you agree that “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”.

>I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence,

Which is true thus the really distinct persons must be one & the same God.


Again, you agree that “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”.

So, if we call “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”, X, then it follows that X cannot be the divine essence, which you have agreed with twice.

>and since the divine essence is Being itself, it follows that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons must be a creature,

No if there where real physical or metaphysical distinctions between the divine persons/relations then the divine essence would be a creature.


And here is a core difference between us. I claim that there are two broad “categories” of being: unparticipated, perfect and infinite being (= Being itself = the divine essence) and participated, imperfect and finite being (= created being). One being cannot be present in both “categories” at the same time, and rather must be present in one or the other. In other words, the two “categories” are mutually exclusive, i.e. if X is the divine essence, then X cannot be a created being, and vice versa. So, if X cannot be the divine essence, which you endorsed as true twice, then X cannot be Being itself, which means that X must be a created being. That is why Aquinas wrote that "everything which is not the divine essence is a creature" (ST 1.28.2).

Now, your argument is that created being only applies to beings that have “real physical or metaphysical distinctions”. In fact, they are coextensive, meaning that X is a created being if and only if X has really distinct (physical or metaphysical) parts. The divine essence lacks such parts by virtue of divine simplicity, and thus the divine essence cannot be a created being. The question is where X would fit in your schema. X is not Being itself, because X is not the divine essence, which is identical to Being itself. If X is not Being itself, then X necessarily participates in Being itself. You seem to claim that X can be participated being, and yet not created being, because X lacks really distinct physical or metaphysical parts. But that makes no sense to me, because participated being is necessarily imperfect, and since only God is perfect, it follows that anything that is imperfect cannot be God, and thus must be creation. You are trying to claim that X can be perfect and imperfect, participated and unparticipated, finite and infinite, at the same time, which I think is absurd.

dguller said...

Ben:

Also, I’m interested to hear what you think X is. Is X the divine relations? Is X the divine origins? Is X the divine persons? What is X supposed to be?

But I'm glad that we both agree that X must be really distinct from the divine essence. That's some progress, I think.

BenYachov said...

@Vincent:

dguller has moved the goal posts so many times & I even caught him in a blatant lie at one point that
his original objection that the doctrine of the Trinity contains a logical contradiction has now been walked back even further.

>I’m saying that the official doctrine contains a contradiction,

The original charge was that it contains a logical contradiction now as you can see he has walked it back to an ambigious charge of mere "contradiction" rather than admit he has no fraking idea what he is talking about. After all to get specific we have no trouble saying the Trinity contains an apparent contradiction but not a logical one.


>which is based upon the following principle: A is really distinct from B if and only if what A and B have in common is not identical to what A and B do not have in common.

This is just a common sense understanding of what it is that creates a distinction in things. The divine relations/persons are not really distinct by essence. That is they are not distinct gods but the one God.

>They have the divine essence in common, and thus what they do not have in common cannot be the divine essence.

What they don't have in common is being the same identical divine person/relation. They are distinct relations/persons What causes this distinction? What is it's nature? You and I know it is a mystery but negatively we know it is not any type of real physicial or metaphysical distinction thus no type of dividing the essence and making it composite or having potencies that become actual can be found in the divine essence.

It is a mystery and dguller in his equivocations mushes incomprehension, apparent incoherence and logical contradiction in one big mad mess.

In the process he has managed to destroy the good will I once had for him because of his stuborn pig headed arrogance & dishonesty.

>So, whatever accounts for the real distinction, which we can just call “X”, cannot be the divine essence.

X is dogmatically a mystery and negatively it is not any type of real distinction we can concieve of even in principle & it is not any type of physical or metaphysical distinction.

This is the major doctrinal point of the Trinity which dguller does not get & there can be no logical contradiction present because there is no way you can argue that Mysterious Real Distinctions of opposing relations cannot equal an essence that contains no real physical & or Metaphysical distinctions.

So dguller equivocates by pretending there aren't different types of distinctions.

BenYachov said...

>Two consequences follow from this, I think. First, X must be really distinct from the divine essence.

Decreed by fiat. The relations/persons are subsisting in the divine essence & thus are identical to it. They are distinct from one to another by opposing relation but not in essence.

There is no positive example of anything like this occuring in nature & it is not possible for mere natural objects to exist this way without a real contradiction but there is no mere logical reason why it can't be true especially given the incomprehesiblity of God.

>The core definition is sacrificed on the alter of divine simplicity, and the fact that this makes no sense to us is simply a mark of divine transcendence.

The Trinity is not suppose to make sense. The only thing we can promise is no logical cotradiction.

God = Relative Relations/Persons = Absolute Essence.

God =Unknown and Unknowable.

Relative Relations/Persons= Mysterious Distinctions by opposition.

Absolute Essence = no real physical or metaphysical distinctions.

Further stipulate Mysterious distinctions negatively are not any type of real physical or metaphysical distinctions.

Put it all together you have no logical contradiction. No example of claiming God is A & NOT A at the same time and in the same sense.

dguller has only been able to get one by redefining the Trinity & changing the doctrine. Last time he claimed Aquinas principles meant we must believe there is some type of mysterious distinction between relations and essence(thus making the essence a fourth person). Aquinas as we all know argued the opposite but he wanted a logical contradiction and he is not above re-writing the Trinity to do it.

This is simple I don't see why he doesn't get it other than to spite me.

BenYachov said...

dguller you are a moral pile of dishonest human shit.

>So, just to be clear, you agree that “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”.

I reply: The Relations in God are really identical with the Divine Nature. (De fide.)-Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ott.

I've only confessed this as an infallible dogma & that you continue to pretend otherwise after I have told you 1000 times tells me you are not here for an honest discussion but to bust chops!!!!!!!!!!

I am not talking to you directly.

You have lost the right to have a civilized conversation with me because of your dishonesty.

But I will indulge you once.

>Also, I’m interested to hear what you think X is. Is X the divine relations? Is X the divine origins? Is X the divine persons? What is X supposed to be?

The divine relation by being relations are by nature in opposition thus really distinct from an opposing relation.

How this manifests itself subsisting in a divine essence that contains no physical composition or metaphysical distinction is a mystery.

I don't know what it is and by dogma I cannot know I only know what it is not.

It is not any type of physical or metaphysical distinction & it is not outside of God.

Geez go read Aquinas on mystery and stop being a little bitch.

Oy vey!!!!!!

Happy New Year you ex-Muslim Atheist jerk.:-)

BenYachov said...

>But I'm glad that we both agree that X must be really distinct from the divine essence. That's some progress, I think.

Anyone who reads English can see I said no such thing & I believe no such thing. Like I said dguller is a pathological liar at heart.

dguller said...

Ben:

This is just a common sense understanding of what it is that creates a distinction in things. The divine relations/persons are not really distinct by essence.

Good, so we agree, once again, that the divine persons cannot be really distinct from one another on the basis of the shared and common divine essence.

What they don't have in common is being the same identical divine person/relation

But that is tautological. That is like saying that X is not identical to Y, because X is not identical to Y. That doesn’t really explain what it is about X and Y that makes them different. There must be something that is present in X and absent in Y, or vice versa, that accounts for the difference. This principle is even applied to the divine persons themselves. The Father is unbegotten and the Son is begotten. The presence or absence of being begotten is what accounts for the difference between them.

What causes this distinction? What is it's nature? You and I know it is a mystery

It’s not a mystery. The Father is unbegotten. The Son is begotten. That is the difference between them. There are details about this account that are mysterious, sure, but it’s not as if Aquinas just waves his hands in the air, and says they are different, because they are different. He actually provides an account of why they are different, insofar as he can. Sure, he leaves a great deal out, because it is beyond human comprehension, but remember that a mystery isn’t that we don’t understand anything, but only that we don’t understand everything, at least according to Sheed.

Decreed by fiat. The relations/persons are subsisting in the divine essence & thus are identical to it. They are distinct from one to another by opposing relation but not in essence.

So, here you seem to identify X with “opposing relation”, which is distinct from the divine essence. But the problem is that the divine persons are the subsistent relations themselves, which you just claimed to be “identical” to the divine essence. That means that X is identical to the divine essence, which you just admitted was impossible. After all, that would violate the principle that what the divine persons have in common cannot be identical to what the divine persons do not have in common, because that would be equivalent to claiming that X is identical to not-X, which is logically contradictory. So, either the divine relations are identical to the divine essence or they are not identical to the divine essence. If the former, then you have a logical contradiction. If the latter, then you have a real distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence. You can’t have it both ways.

dguller said...

>So, just to be clear, you agree that “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”.

I reply: The Relations in God are really identical with the Divine Nature. (De fide.)-Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ott.

I've only confessed this as an infallible dogma & that you continue to pretend otherwise after I have told you 1000 times tells me you are not here for an honest discussion but to bust chops!!!!!!!!!!


I’m not pretending or anything. You just keep contradicting yourself, which is what happens when you hold a contradictory doctrine.

It’s very simple, Ben. You agree that X cannot be really identical to the divine essence, and thus must be really distinct from it. In your own words: “I am not disputing that I assume it because it is Infallible Dogma”, and “Which is true”. The question is what X is supposed to be. If X is the divine relations, which you seem to endorse, then the divine relations must be really distinct from the divine essence. But this contradicts your position that the divine relations are really identical to the divine essence, which you just cited Ott to justify. So, either they are really distinct from the divine essence, or they are not really distinct from the divine essence. Again, you can’t have it both ways.

Perhaps you mean that the divine relations are not really distinct from the divine in the sense of physical or metaphysical distinction, but they are really distinct from the divine essence in the sense of the mysterious non-physical and non-metaphysical real distinction? But even if that were true, then it would still follow that the divine relations are not really identical to the divine essence, and thus are not Being itself, which means that they must participate in Being itself, i.e. are created beings, which is absurd.

>But I'm glad that we both agree that X must be really distinct from the divine essence. That's some progress, I think.

Anyone who reads English can see I said no such thing & I believe no such thing. Like I said dguller is a pathological liar at heart.


Again, I’ll quote you.

I wrote: “I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”, and you replied: “For the 10,000th time I am not disputing that I assume it because it is Infallible Dogma. Why do you keep bring it up other then to bust chops like a bitch?”

I wrote: “I’m saying that whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”, and you replied: “Which is true”.

So, where on earth would I ever get the idea that you agreed with the position that “whatever accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons cannot be the divine essence”? Maybe from you?

BenYachov said...

>>What they don't have in common is being the same identical divine person/relation

>But that is tautological. That is like saying that X is not identical to Y, because X is not identical to Y. That doesn’t really explain what it is about X and Y that makes them different.

>>What causes this distinction? What is it's nature? You and I know it is a mystery

>It’s not a mystery.


As you can see folks dguller does not want to discuss the Trinity.

Since he rejects the mystery component he is not objectively addressing the actual Christian doctrine of the Trinity but his own straw man .

What is the point of going further?

The real distinctions between persons are a mystery otherwise no Trinity.

dguller won't accept that.

dguller said...

Ben:

Since he rejects the mystery component he is not objectively addressing the actual Christian doctrine of the Trinity but his own straw man .

All I meant was that we can say more about the real distinction between the divine persons than that they are really distinct from one another. It is not as if we know absolutely nothing about it at all. You would have realized that if you had just read a little further when I wrote:

“There are details about this account that are mysterious, sure, but it’s not as if Aquinas just waves his hands in the air, and says they are different, because they are different. He actually provides an account of why they are different, insofar as he can. Sure, he leaves a great deal out, because it is beyond human comprehension, but remember that a mystery isn’t that we don’t understand anything, but only that we don’t understand everything, at least according to Sheed.”

I apologize for any confusion on my part. I should have been clearer.

BenYachov said...

>So, either they are really distinct from the divine essence, or they are not really distinct from the divine essence. Again, you can’t have it both ways.

They are not in anyway really distinct from the divine essence.

They are really distinct in a mysterious way from one to another by opposition.

That mysterious real distinction one to another is not any type of physical or metaphysical distinction.

It is a mystery.

Are you really this thick?

BenYachov said...

>I apologize for any confusion on my part. I should have been clearer.

I accept your apology. But you will have to go a long way to earn back my trust.

dguller said...

Ben:

They are not in anyway really distinct from the divine essence.

Then the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, which means that what is common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine essence) is identical to what is not common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine relations). And that is a logical contradiction equivalent to affirming that X is identical to not-X.

BenYachov said...

>Then the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, which means that what is common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine essence) is identical to what is not common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine relations).

Fail! The divine persons are the divine relations.

What is not in common between them is a mystery but it is not in anyway really distinct from the essence & it is not any type of physical or metaphysical distinction.

>And that is a logical contradiction equivalent to affirming that X is identical to not-X.

It is not at all clear that mysterious real distinction equals not-"a lack of real physical & or metaphysical distinctions".

Fail.

BenYachov said...

>Then the divine relations are identical to the divine essence, which means that what is common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine essence) is identical to what is not common to the divine persons (i.e. the divine relations).

The Father, Son & Holy Spirit have being God in common.

Each Person is fully divine but distinct as a Person from another.

To be a case of X & Not-X we have to equivocate between the terms essence and relation.

Which is what you have been doing and is a big no no.

dguller said...

Ben:

What is not in common between them is a mystery but it is not in anyway really distinct from the essence & it is not any type of physical or metaphysical distinction.

Fine. What is not common between them is a mystery. We have absolutely no idea what it might be. So, let’s just call it X, as I’ve been doing throughout this discussion. You say that X “is not in anyway really distinct from the essence”, which means that X is the divine essence. That is what it means to say that A and B are not really distinct. In other words, any distinction between them exclusively exists in our minds, but does not correspond to anything in reality. But it is impossible for X to be really identical to the divine essence, because what the divine persons have in common (i.e. the divine essence) cannot be really identical to what the divine persons do not have in common (i.e. X). They must be really distinct, or else you have affirmed a logical contradiction.

To be a case of X & Not-X we have to equivocate between the terms essence and relation.

No equivocation here at all. What the divine persons have in common cannot be really identical to what the divine persons do not have in common, which means that what the divine persons have in common must be really distinct from what the divine persons do not have in common. If the divine persons have the divine essence in common and the divine persons do not have X in common, then the divine essence cannot be really identical to X, and rather the divine essence must be really distinct from X. All the terms retain the same sense and reference, and thus there is no equivocation at all.

BenYachov said...

>Fine. What is not common between them is a mystery.

Which means we can make no positive claims about them apart from what divine revelation tells us.

It tells us the distinction is person to person not person(s) to essence.

>We have absolutely no idea what it might be.

Right so far.

>You say that X “is not in anyway really distinct from the essence”, which means that X is the divine essence.

Rather the divine relations are identical to the divine essence.
The Person(s) are the One God.
Use the proper Grammar of the Trinity or go home.

>That is what it means to say that A and B are not really distinct. In other words, any distinction between them exclusively exists in our minds, but does not correspond to anything in reality.

They correspond to something real in divine reality which we cannot even in principle comprehend but not anything in created reality.

Why is this hard?

>No equivocation here at all.

You are the only person here who thinks this even Scott gets it & he is not formally a Christian(yet).

dguller said...

Ben:

Rather the divine relations are identical to the divine essence.

You said that “What is not in common between them […] is not in anyway really distinct from the essence”. If “What is not in common between them” is X, then X “is not in anyway really distinct from the essence”. But that just means that X is the divine essence, because to say that A is not really distinct from B just means that A is B.

Are you now saying that X is the different divine relations? That’s fine, because that’s what Aquinas himself says. But then you still have the logical contradiction that what is common between the divine persons (i.e. the divine essence) is really identical to what is not in common between the divine persons (i.e. the divine relations), which is impossible, because what is common between them must be really distinct from what is not in common between them.

They correspond to something real in divine reality which we cannot even in principle comprehend but not anything in created reality.

As long as we agree that they each correspond to something different “in divine reality”, then we are good. But then you have the problem that there is a real distinction between unparticipated being and participated being within God himself. This is because unparticipated being is Being itself, which is the divine essence, and thus if each term corresponds to something different in divine reality, then one term corresponds to Being itself, and the other term corresponds to what is other than Being itself, and the only thing that is other than Being itself is participated being, i.e. created being. So, you have the absurd conclusion that created being exists within God himself.

You are the only person here who thinks this even Scott gets it & he is not formally a Christian(yet).

What terms have I used in an equivocal manner? What different meanings did I assign to those terms?

BenYachov said...

dguller

Enough of your equivocal word games.

Spell the doctrine out in f***ing plain English & stop treating the doctrine like a mathematical formula.

What is common between the divine persons/relations is the divine essence.

Which is another way of saying the divine person(s) are without distinction the One God.

When you say f***ing stupid shit like "the relations are really distinct from the essence" you are in effect saying the Person(s) are distinct from being the One God or the Person(s) are not One God.

That is not the Trinity.

Stop with the asinine sophistry a be a person for once!

BenYachov said...

What is distinct between the relations is that one divine person is not another divine person predicated as divine persons.

That distinction between persons who are distinct but not separate is an impenetrable mystery.

Distinct Persons are identical with being the One God.

The Father is the same God as the Son but a different relation/person.

Logical contradiction comes if we say God is Three Gods in One God or Three Persons in One Person.

But we don't say that so there is no logical contradiction.

If you want to say you can't coherently conceive of what three persons in one God is then go for it. If you want to call it an apparent contradiction I will not say boo.

But enough of your logical contradiction mishigoss at this point it is just sad.

dguller said...

Ben:

Enough of your equivocal word games.

Still waiting for you to point out my equivocal terms with their different meanings.

When you say f***ing stupid shit like "the relations are really distinct from the essence" you are in effect saying the Person(s) are distinct from being the One God or the Person(s) are not One God.

But you miss the fact that I am describing the conclusion of an argument. I am not just pulling ideas out of the air without any justification. Furthermore, I know that the conclusion contradicts a key tenet of the doctrine of the Trinity. That is the point. Just telling me that my conclusion contradicts the Trinity does not refute it, especially if the argument itself is based upon true premises and is formally valid.

To say that A is really distinct from B means that there must be something that is present in A that is absent in B, or vice versa, which accounts for the distinction between them. If there is no such “something”, then A cannot be really distinct from B, because they do not differ in any way, which means that A is B. This is a principle that Aquinas himself accepts as valid and true. So, if you want to say that the divine persons are really distinct from one another, then there must be some “principle of distinction”, as Aquinas puts it, that accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons. You can call this principle of distinction, X, because we have no idea what it is, but we do know that it must be present to ground the real distinction between the divine persons.

It is also important to note that X cannot be really identical to whatever the divine persons have in common, because distinction can never be accounted for on the basis of commonality. Furthermore, it is a logical contradiction to say that X is common between the divine persons and X is not common between the divine persons. Therefore, X must be really distinct from whatever the divine persons have in common. Since the divine persons share the divine essence in common, it necessarily follows that X cannot be really identical to the divine essence. And if X is not identical to the divine essence, then X is also not identical to Being itself, which means that X must participate in Being itself. And if X participates in Being itself, then X is a created being, because only created beings participate in Being itself. Uncreated being is unparticipated Being itself.

That’s the argument, and note that it does not equivocate on “essence” or “person”. It does not even mention “relation”. It preserves the mystery of X by calling it “X”. And the alleged contradiction has nothing to do with the different kinds of real distinction. None of your complaints are valid here.

Anyway, I’m not going to be responding to anything else that you write unless it directly addresses my argument above, and not some imaginary argument in your mind. If anyone else has any criticisms of it, I’m more than interested in hearing them.

Take care.

BenYachov said...

>Still waiting for you to point out my equivocal terms with their different meanings.

Hello you kept talking about real distinctions in the Trinity contradicting the divine simplicity without specifying the difference between physical, metaphysical and mysterious distinction.

It is impossible to keep up with your nonsense because you keep moving the goal posts.

>But you miss the fact that I am describing the conclusion of an argument.

A straw man argument.

>I am not just pulling ideas out of the air without any justification.

Pretty much you are after all it was you who claimed Aquinas' principles meant the divine relations where really distinct from the essence when Aquinas said and argued the opposite.

>Furthermore, I know that the conclusion contradicts a key tenet of the doctrine of the Trinity.

It redefines the Trinity thus creating a Straw Man argument.

>That is the point. Just telling me that my conclusion contradicts the Trinity does not refute it,

Rather it shows you are not arguing against the Trinity but a doctrine of your own making.

>especially if the argument itself is based upon true premises and is formally valid.

Who said a Straw Man argument can't be internally valid? Not I but it is still a Straw Man.

>Anyway, I’m not going to be responding to anything else that you write unless it directly addresses my argument above, and not some imaginary argument in your mind. If anyone else has any criticisms of it, I’m more than interested in hearing them.

When you want to discuss the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity let me know.

Nobody here is interested in a "contradiction" you found in a doctrine of your own making that you call the "Trinity" but the rest of us don't recognize as such.

BenYachov said...

Let us re-write dguller in Trinity language. As you can see it is pretty absurd.


To say that The Father is really distinct from The Son means that there must be something that is present in The Father that is absent in The Son, or vice versa, which accounts for the distinction between them. That would be a mysterious relation by opposition.

>If there is no such “something”, then The Father cannot be really distinct from The Son, because they do not differ in any way, which means that The Father is The Son.

The above is true when we predicate them as the One God in essence but false when we predicate them as distinct Divine Persons who are the One God.

>This is a principle that Aquinas himself accepts as valid and true. So, if you want to say that the divine persons are really distinct from one another, then there must be some “principle of distinction”, as Aquinas puts it, that accounts for the real distinction between the divine persons. You can call this principle of distinction, X, because we have no idea what it is, but we do know that it must be present to ground the real distinction between the divine persons.

The principle of distinction is the fact they are mysterious opposing relations. A Father cannot be his own son. A Son cannot be his own Father. But since they share the same divine essence as God there is no distinction between them as God.

>It is also important to note that X cannot be really identical to whatever the divine persons have in common, because distinction can never be accounted for on the basis of commonality.

What the The Father & Son have in common is both are the One God without distinction. Their real distinction is an incomprehensible mystery & as such we have no way to affirm they can’t both be the same God but really distinct Persons.

> Therefore, “distinct persons” must be really distinct from whatever the divine persons have in common.

This makes no sense in terms of the Trinity. The Persons are by definition really mysteriously distinct from one another.

Dguller is spewing nonsense.

BenYachov said...

>That’s the argument, and note that it does not equivocate on “essence” or “person”. It does not even mention “relation”.

That is it does not spell out the Trinity in anyway.

>It preserves the mystery of X by calling it “X”. And the alleged contradiction has nothing to do with the different kinds of real distinction. None of your complaints are valid here.

Word Games & nonsense. Went translated into a Traditional Symbol of the Trinity it amounts to saying "distinct persons” must be really distinct from whatever the divine persons have in common".

Talk to us dguller when you want to discuss the Trinity.

dguller said...

Ben:

To say that The Father is really distinct from The Son means that there must be something that is present in The Father that is absent in The Son, or vice versa, which accounts for the distinction between them. That would be a mysterious relation by opposition.

So, X is “a mysterious relation by opposition”. Great.

>If there is no such “something”, then The Father cannot be really distinct from The Son, because they do not differ in any way, which means that The Father is The Son.

The above is true when we predicate them as the One God in essence but false when we predicate them as distinct Divine Persons who are the One God.


Why would it be true in the former and false in the latter? If the Father did not differ in any way from the Son, then the Father is the Son. That remains true whether the divine persons share the same divine essence, or are distinct divine persons who are one God. After all, it is a principle that applies to any really distinct A and B. If A did not differ from B in some way, which would correspond to their principle of distinction, then A is B. You are introducing red herrings and non sequitors.

The principle of distinction is the fact they are mysterious opposing relations. A Father cannot be his own son. A Son cannot be his own Father. But since they share the same divine essence as God there is no distinction between them as God.

Agreed.

>It is also important to note that X cannot be really identical to whatever the divine persons have in common, because distinction can never be accounted for on the basis of commonality.

What the The Father & Son have in common is both are the One God without distinction. Their real distinction is an incomprehensible mystery & as such we have no way to affirm they can’t both be the same God but really distinct Persons.


You’re missing the point. The issue is whether it is possible for what the divine persons share in common to be identical to what the divine persons do not share in common. Either this principle is true or false. If it is true, then if the divine persons share the divine essence in common, then it necessarily follows that what they do not share in common cannot be identical to the divine essence, and thus must be really distinct from the divine essence. If it is false, then you have a logical contradiction, because it is impossible that what A and B have in common is identical to what A and B do not have in common, and thus it must be true.

> Therefore, “distinct persons” must be really distinct from whatever the divine persons have in common.

This makes no sense in terms of the Trinity. The Persons are by definition really mysteriously distinct from one another.


It contradicts the Trinity, sure, but it is the conclusion of a sound logical argument, I think. Again, I am trying to refute the Trinity. You cannot argue against my argument by simply saying that it violates the Trinity. That is the entire point of the argument. That would be like an atheist saying that the five ways are all false, because they conclude that there is a God, and there just can’t be a God. You would never accept such a counter-argument from an atheist, because all it means is that he or she dislikes the conclusion, but their personal feelings about the argument have no bearing upon the soundness of the argument.

So, I can appreciate that the conclusion of my argument makes you uncomfortable and a little unhinged, but your feelings are beside the point. The point is whether the argument is sound. I think that the premises are all true, and the formal structure is valid, and thus the conclusion must be true, if you believe in logic and reason.

dguller said...

Here are the premises:

(1) A is really distinct from B if and only if (a) A and B have something in common, and (b) A and B have something not in common
(2) What A and B have in common cannot be identical to what A and B do not have in common
(3) Everything that is not the divine essence is a creature
(4) The divine relations are really distinct from one another
(5) The divine relations have the divine essence in common
(6) The divine relations are really identical to the divine essence

As far as I can tell, they are all true.

BenYachov said...

>Why would it be true in the former and false in the latter? If the Father did not differ in any way from the Son, then the Father is the Son.

differ has to be qualified. Differ in anyway in essence or differ in anyway as opposing persons? I don't know why this is unclear to you?

>It contradicts the Trinity, sure, but it is the conclusion of a sound logical argument, I think.

No your statement when spelled out practially using an actual Trinitarian symbol makes no sense & is clearly not the doctrine of the Trinity.

>>What the The Father & Son have in common is both are the One God without distinction. Their real distinction is an incomprehensible mystery & as such we have no way to affirm they can’t both be the same God but really distinct Persons.

>You’re missing the point.

No you are refusing to discuss the Trinity.

>The issue is whether it is possible for what the divine persons share in common to be identical to what the divine persons do not share in common.

The Person share being the One God they don't share being the same indistinct person but they are distinct but not seperate persons.

Why is this hard?

BenYachov said...

>So, I can appreciate that the conclusion of my argument makes you uncomfortable and a little unhinged, but your feelings are beside the point.

No you are being willfully obstinate & refusing to see the point because admitting no logical contradiction is present here hurts your ego and repeats the mistake where you insisted the Incarnation meant God turns his divine nature into a human one.

So you make up your own contradictory doctrine of the Trinity and pretend at all cost it is the one the rest of us share.

>The point is whether the argument is sound. I think that the premises are all true, and the formal structure is valid, and thus the conclusion must be true, if you believe in logic and reason.

But it is still a Straw man.

BenYachov said...

(1) The Father is really distinct from The Son as distinct Persons if and only if (a) The Father and The Son have something in common, being the same essence that is God and (b) The Father and The Son have something not in common being distinct persons.

(2) What The Father and The Son have in common cannot be identical to what The Father and Son do not have in common. Meaning predicating them as the Divine Essence is not the same as predicating them as relative relations/persons.


(3) Everything that is not God is a creature
(4) The divine relations are really distinct from one another as opposing relations.
(5) The divine relations have "being the One God"in common.
(6) The divine relations are really identical to being the One God.

I don't see the logical contradiction.

BenYachov said...

>The issue is whether it is possible for what the divine persons share in common to be identical to what the divine persons do not share in common.

Category mistake. What they share in common is being the One God & whatever is not God is a creature.

What they don't share in common is being the same indistinct person as opposed to being distinct but not separate persons who are both the One God.

Really why is this hard?

dguller said...

Ben:

differ has to be qualified. Differ in anyway in essence or differ in anyway as opposing persons? I don't know why this is unclear to you?

They must differ in some way. They cannot differ in terms of the divine essence, because they share it in common. Therefore, their principle of distinction must be really distinct from the divine essence. After all, if their principle of distinction was the divine essence, then they would not differ at all, and thus could not be really distinct.

No your statement when spelled out practially using an actual Trinitarian symbol makes no sense & is clearly not the doctrine of the Trinity.

The conclusion of my argument is that the principle of distinction between the divine persons must be really distinct from the divine essence. If the principle of distinction is the different divine relations, then the conclusion is that the divine relations are really distinct from the divine essence. I fully agree that this is inconsistent with the Trinity, but that does not necessarily falsify the conclusion outright, especially if the argument itself is based upon true premises and a formally valid logical structure. You haven’t stated which premises are false or how my argument is formally invalid. You’ve only said that the conclusion cannot possibly be true, because it contradicts a sacred theological doctrine. I’m afraid that just isn’t good enough.

How does this “make no sense”? I agree that it contradicts the Trinity, but it does not follow that it is senseless and meaningless.

The Person share being the One God they don't share being the same indistinct person but they are distinct but not seperate persons.

Still totally missing the point.

(2) What The Father and The Son have in common cannot be identical to what The Father and Son do not have in common. Meaning predicating them as the Divine Essence is not the same as predicating them as relative relations/persons.

But the question is what the predicates refer to. Either the predicates refer to the same thing (i.e. “the divine essence” and “the divine relations” are just different terms for the exact same thing, i.e. they are notionally distinct), or they refer to different things (i.e. what “the divine essence” refers to is really distinct from what “the divine relations” refers to). If the predicates refer to the same thing, then you are claiming that what the Father and the Son have in common is identical to what the Father and the Son do not have in common, which is violates the principle that you endorsed above that “What The Father and The Son have in common cannot be identical to what The Father and Son do not have in common”. If the predicates refer to different things, then one predicate refers to the divine essence (= unparticipated Being itself) and the other predicate refers to something other than the divine essence, and whatever is other than the divine essence is participated being, i.e. created being. Both of these options are logically incoherent. That’s the logical contradiction.

dguller said...

(3) Everything that is not God is a creature

But how is God distinguished from creation? God is distinguished from creation by virtue of being non-composite while creation is composite. That is the foundational distinction upon which Thomist theology is erected. God is simple, because God is the divine essence, which is simple. Remember that all composite entities are composed fundamentally of essence and existence, and the ultimate explanatory principle of creation is a being such that essence is existence. That is why God is God, and not just a “puny god”. You cannot just hide this behind the word “God”, which fudges the matter by being horribly imprecise. The name “God” refers to Being itself, as Feser has been arguing, and using the word “God” rather than the divine essence or Being itself just serves to equivocate matters horribly.

BenYachov said...

>>The Person[s] share being the One God [in common] they don't share being the same indistinct person but they are distinct but not separate persons who are the One God.

>Still totally missing the point.

This is the point & no other point interests me.

You can only have a "contradiction" by re-writing the doctrine of the Trinity in which case it is not the doctrine of the Trinity anymore and not a true example of contradiction.

It is that simple.

BenYachov said...

>Both of these options are logically incoherent.

No they are at best formally incoherent since there is no example in nature of them.

>That’s the logical contradiction.

No saying One God in Three Gods or Three Persons in One Person is a logical contradiction.

Three Persons in One God or One God in Three Persons is not a logical contradiction.

Since saying Three Persons in no way says Not-One God & Saying One God in no way says Not-Three Persons.

It's that simple.

BenYachov said...

>You cannot just hide this behind the word “God”, which fudges the matter by being horribly imprecise.

Yes I can. What God is as God is a mystery get the frak over it.

dguller said...

Ben:

>>The Person[s] share being the One God [in common] they don't share being the same indistinct person but they are distinct but not separate persons who are the One God.

>Still totally missing the point.

This is the point & no other point interests me.


But saying that “the persons share being the One God in common” just means that the divine persons share the one divine essence in common. As Aquinas says, “the three persons agree in the unity of essence” (ST 1.40.2). Without making reference to the divine simplicity of the divine essence, you are not actually talking about “the one God” at all. That was Feser’s point in defending the notion of God as Being Itself as a necessary concept to justify classical theism. The fact that you are trying to obfuscate matters by using equivocal language while accusing me of distorting matters is quite ironic, especially since I am trying to be precise in my terminology, and not needlessly vague and fuzzy. Why would you choose imprecise and vague language when it can be avoided? Do you really deny that the divine persons share the same divine essence? If you don’t, then why object to me using this language?

No they are at best formally incoherent since there is no example in nature of them.

What are you talking about? Are you denying that your terms refer to anything? Are you denying that if your terms are notionally distinct, then they must refer to one and the same thing? Are you denying that if your terms are really distinct, then they must refer to different things? Either two terms refer to one and the same thing or they refer to two different things. Each of these options, in this case, leads to logical absurdities and incoherence. You cannot just brush this matter aside by saying that “there is no example in nature of them”. That is completely irrelevant, unless you want to say that the principles involved do not apply to God, which would be strange, because Aquinas himself uses those same principles to argue about God all the time.

Three Persons in One God or One God in Three Persons is not a logical contradiction.

That is not my argument. Did you see that conclusion anywhere in my argument? If not, then why bring it up at all, other than to communicate something that only exists in your imagination? The conclusion of my argument is that the principle of distinction between the divine persons must be really distinct from the divine essence. That has nothing to do with one essence, three persons, or whatever is dancing around in your head.

Yes I can. What God is as God is a mystery get the frak over it.

But a mystery doesn’t mean that we know nothing about it, only that we do not know everything about it. And one thing that we know about the term “God” is that it refers to the divine essence, which is identical to Being Itself, Pure Act, First Cause, and so on, according to classical theism. I don’t think that you are claiming that these terms mean nothing at all, because their referent is mysterious.

BenYachov said...

>But how is God distinguished from creation?

God's essence is identical to his being & other things but saying whatever is not the divine essence is a creature is no different than saying whatever is not God is a creature.

So I don't know why you are bitching about it now?

BenYachov said...

>>Three Persons in One God or One God in Three Persons is not a logical contradiction.

>That is not my argument.

Then you are wasting my time.

BenYachov said...

At this point dguller you have no objective argument about anything.

BenYachov said...

>The conclusion of my argument is that the principle of distinction between the divine persons must be really distinct from the divine essence.

Word salad. You are in effect saying the divine persons are really distinct from being the One God.

That is not the Trinity that is nutty talk.

>That has nothing to do with one essence, three persons, or whatever is dancing around in your head.

I am glad for once you are now finally admitting you have not been discussing the Trinity with me or anyone else here.

BenYachov said...

> Why would you choose imprecise and vague language when it can be avoided?

Pot=Kettle=Black.

dguller said...

Ben:

God's essence is identical to his being & other things but saying whatever is not the divine essence is a creature is no different than saying whatever is not God is a creature.

I wrote that the divine persons share the divine essence in common, and you decided to rewrite that as “The Person[s] share being the One God [in common]”. My question is, why did you substitute “being the one God” for “the divine essence”? You even wrote earlier that “The Father and The Son have something in common, being the same essence that is God”, which confirms that it is the divine essence that is God. So, again, why are you changing the terms if they are equivalent?

Then you are wasting my time.

So, let me get this straight: because one argument against the Trinity is unsound, then all arguments against the Trinity is unsound? Wow. I suppose that because ID arguments for theism are unsound, then an atheist can dismiss all theistic arguments altogether, according to you? Or, maybe different arguments must be approached and assessed individually? Has that been the major stumbling block between us? You cannot help but translate every anti-Trinitarian argument into that one form, which has completely blinded you to the fact that there are a variety of arguments out there? Wow. Why not just assess my argument, and not the figment of your imagination that you have been battling with?

Word salad. You are in effect saying the divine persons are really distinct from being the One God.

Correct. The fact that this conclusion must be false must mean that my premises are false and/or the logical structure of the argument is invalid. The argument is clearly valid, and so your best bet would be to find which premises are false. That is a perfectly fine approach to criticizing my argument. Simply declaring, again and again, that the conclusion violates the Trinity is useless, because I know the conclusion violates the Trinity. That is the whole point.

With regard to my premises, you agree that the divine persons have something in common, which is the divine essence, and you agree that the divine persons have something not in common, which is “being distinct persons”. You also agree that what the divine persons have in common cannot be identical to what the divine persons do not have in common. It necessarily follows from those premises, which you have accepted, that the divine essence cannot be identical to “being distinct persons”, and thus the divine essence is really distinct from “being distinct persons”. If they weren’t really distinct, then they would be identical, which would mean that what the divine persons have in common is identical to what the divine persons do not have in common, which you agreed is impossible. Given that conclusion, it follows that “being distinct persons” must be really distinct from Being itself, which means that “being distinct persons” must participate in Being itself, but cannot be unparticipated Being itself. And that means, as you wrote above, that “the divine persons are really distinct from being the One God”.

BenYachov said...

dguller at this point your "objection" or "argument" has no coherent meaning to me since you have conceded that it does not lead to the conclusion that One God must equal Not-Three Persons.

Which means saying God = Absolute Essence does not lead to Not-relative persons/relations either.

Which means there is no logical contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity.

That you can't figure out that saying whatever is not the divine essence is a creature is equivalent to saying whatever is not God is a creature tells me you skimmed Sheen, Aquinas and Lagrange did not read any of them carefully.

>So, let me get this straight: because one argument against the Trinity is unsound, then all arguments against the Trinity is unsound?

Any argument that says there is a logical contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity is by definition unsound.

Just like any argument that says Muhammed is not a Prophet in Islam is unsound.

You have conceded your argument doesn't lead to One God means not-three Persons.

As for divine simplicity you still pretend the text book definition does not exist.

It's New Year's Eve. Go have a drink. You are not a Muslim anymore so have one on me.

I am stuck with the wife and kids so no Kluuhah & milk.

bye.

Michael said...

Could it be any clearer that Dguller's argument is sound? I mean, sheesh: he has made it as obvious as can be--painfully so, it appears, to some.

BenYachov said...

So anti-Trinitarian Open Theist likes your "argument" dguller?

Now if he could only explain it to us . But then again Open Theism is Theistic Personalism on crack & by itself is incompatible with Classic Theism.

Non Immutable "gods" need not apply here.

BenYachov said...

If Open Theism is True there is no way the classic doctrine of the Trinity can be shoehorned into it.

Anonymous said...

His argument isn't sound because it ignores the most very basic principles of Christian metaphysics since Nicaea, specifically the distinction between persons and essence. It's certainly not an easy doctrine, but it's also not a self-contradictory one. He may not like that distinction--as you may not--but it is what it is. The Christian story is that God is One essence and three persons. It always has been, at least implicitly, and to reject either is to reject the Gospel.

The reason that he ignores the mystery of the trinity, however, is because he seems to be under the impression that there are no mysteries and that the human intellect should be able to objectify all. This ontotheology is foreign to the Gospel; it's a very modern approach. For premodern thinkers, the answer is quite simple: since we can only predicate of God analogously or by way of "divine names," then we cannot really understand the reality of the divine essence because it is completely apart from finite and contingent reality. As such, the full reality of the divine essence is beyond human comprehension as it is situated "on this side" of "being." (In fact, it is only an essence in an analogous sense to begin with.) In short, finite and infinite "being" are different kinds; we can know something of the latter from the former, but not the whole; we can also know that the latter is a metaphysical and logical necessity given the conditionality of the former, but what we can know can never exhaust it. All "things" are, blessedly, not subject to human intellection. So in effect, while the trinity is not demonstrable, neither is it in discord with it.

Anyway, I don't really want to have an argument on this subject as it is not germane to the topic of this post. Further, I suspect dguller's motives. He seems more interested in disproving the Christian or classical theist position, as a result of other commitments, rather than discussing the matter with an open mind and heart.

Glenn said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

dguller said...

Anonymous:

His argument isn't sound because it ignores the most very basic principles of Christian metaphysics since Nicaea, specifically the distinction between persons and essence.

First, I don’t think I’m ignoring that distinction, especially since it comes up frequently in my argument. In fact, one iteration of my argument ultimately concludes that the divine persons must be really distinct from the divine essence.

Second, the question I have for you is whether the distinction between the divine persons and the divine essence is a notional distinction or a real distinction.

If it is a notional distinction, then any distinction between them only exists in our minds, and does not correspond to anything in reality. In that case, the terms “the divine persons” and “the divine essence” are just different terms for one and the same thing. But if that is true, then if there is one divine essence, then there must be one divine person, and if there is three divine persons, then there must be three divine essences.

The only way to avoid this conclusion is to affirm that there is a real distinction between the divine persons and the divine essence, which means that term “the divine persons” correspond to something in God and that the “the divine essence” corresponds to something else in God. In other words, the distinction between them does not only exist in the mind, but also exists in reality. But if that is true, then the divine persons are really distinct from Being itself, which means that they must participate in Being itself. And that is a problem, because that would make the divine persons creatures.

The reason that he ignores the mystery of the trinity, however, is because he seems to be under the impression that there are no mysteries and that the human intellect should be able to objectify all.

I don’t ignore the mystery of the Trinity. I just accept Sheed’s definition of “mystery”, which is not that we don’t know anything, but rather that we don’t know everything. But it follows that there are some things that we know about the Trinity. It is not a completely incomprehensible doctrine that we cannot know anything about. And I definitely do not think that the human intellect is capable of understanding everything.

since we can only predicate of God analogously or by way of "divine names," then we cannot really understand the reality of the divine essence because it is completely apart from finite and contingent reality.

Well, I disagree with that, as well. The only way that analogical language can truthfully refer to God at all is if there is an ontological likeness between God and creation, which means that God and creation must share something in common. And if that is true, then the divine essence cannot be “completely apart from finite and contingent reality”.

Further, I suspect dguller's motives. He seems more interested in disproving the Christian or classical theist position, as a result of other commitments, rather than discussing the matter with an open mind and heart.

My only commitment is to the truth insofar as I understand it. I’ve admitted my errors on numerous occasions when they have been demonstrated to me, which is inconsistent with your accusation that I lack an “open mind and heart”. Furthermore, I actually have little problem with classical theism per se, but I have a hard time understanding how classical theism is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. And I doubt that I’m alone in that struggle.

Anonymous said...

You ask what type of distinction it is and then provide two alternatives. My response is that this is an either-or fallacy; it is neither of the two. The trinity is a mystery because infinite "being" is only analogously related to finite being. We cannot objectify it, which is precisely what you are trying to do. Your problem has to do with how we understand analogy. That's what your argument is implicitly about. Your problem with the trinity is only the fallout from this understanding. I would suggest two things: (1) You shift your inquiry from that of the trinity specifically to the topic of the analogia entis, and (2) that you read Denys the Areopagite. He isn't exactly Thomist (although he was a major authority and source for Thomas) and he wasn't scholastic, but he provides an excellent meditation on cataphatic and apophatic predication about God. It is a source of, shall we say, apprehension rather than argumentation, though the latter in implicit in the meditation.

dguller said...

Ben:

dguller at this point your "objection" or "argument" has no coherent meaning to me since you have conceded that it does not lead to the conclusion that One God must equal Not-Three Persons.

That’s true. But it does lead to other contradictions. For example, if you assume that the principle of distinction between the divine persons is the different divine relations, then my argument concludes with the contradiction between (1) the divine relations are not really distinct from the divine essence, and (2) the divine relations are really distinct from the divine essence. Even if you reject that assumption, it still concludes with the contradiction that God is dependent upon creation (because the divine persons cannot be differentiated from one another until creation exists) and God is independent of creation (because of divine impassibility, amongst other reasons). I’m actually quite amazed that you don’t even understand what contradiction I’m claiming exists within the doctrine of the Trinity.

That you can't figure out that saying whatever is not the divine essence is a creature is equivalent to saying whatever is not God is a creature tells me you skimmed Sheen, Aquinas and Lagrange did not read any of them carefully.

I fully agree that the name “God” must refer to the divine essence, and that what makes the divine persons divine is that they each share one and the same divine essence. It is the divine essence that confers divinity and Godhood, and nothing else. So, we don’t disagree here. My only question is, if the name “God” just refers to the divine essence, then why did you change any mention of the divine essence into a mention of God? What possible service could that provide?

Any argument that says there is a logical contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity is by definition unsound.

And if there was a religion that claimed to have a revelation that affirmed that God is a composite being and that there was no possible way that this could be falsified, then would you accept that affirmation? Clearly, there is a logical contradiction involved in claiming that God is a composite being, especially since he must be simple if he is to serve as the ultimate explanation of reality. Would you just casually dismiss the logical contradiction here by saying that revelation trumps reason?

Just like any argument that says Muhammed is not a Prophet in Islam is unsound.

Why would such an argument be unsound? Here’s a potentially sound argument: Islam is a false religion, because it violates the core tenets of Christianity. God would not send a prophet that claimed a revelation that violated the core tenets of Christianity. Since Muhammad claimed a revelation that violated the core tenets of Christianity, then Muhammad is not a prophet at all.

You have conceded your argument doesn't lead to One God means not-three Persons.

Because that wasn’t the argument at all.

As for divine simplicity you still pretend the text book definition does not exist.

Can you cite a textbook that defines “divine simplicity” as permitting real distinction in the divine essence that is neither physical nor metaphysical?

dguller said...

Anonymous:

You ask what type of distinction it is and then provide two alternatives. My response is that this is an either-or fallacy; it is neither of the two.

So, I should dismiss Aquinas when he says that there is no real distinction between the divine persons and the divine essence?

The trinity is a mystery because infinite "being" is only analogously related to finite being. We cannot objectify it, which is precisely what you are trying to do.

I doubt that you are claiming that we cannot understand anything about the Trinity, and thus we must be able to understand something about it, and yes, whatever we understand about the Trinity must be presentable to the human mind. So, perhaps I would agree that I am trying to partially “objectify it”, because otherwise it would be totally beyond our understanding.

I would suggest two things: (1) You shift your inquiry from that of the trinity specifically to the topic of the analogia entis,

But I do make reference to the analogy of being. I specifically mention the distinction between unparticipated being and participated being. The latter necessarily is dependent upon and refers to the former, which is the basis for the analogy in question. The latter is like the former by virtue of participating in it in some way. To me, unparticipated being is the divine essence, and anything that is not the divine essence is also not unparticipated being, because they are one and the same thing. If what distinguishes the divine persons cannot possibly be the divine essence, then it must be really distinct from the divine essence, and thus must participate in Being itself rather than being Being itself.

(2) that you read Denys the Areopagite. He isn't exactly Thomist (although he was a major authority and source for Thomas) and he wasn't scholastic, but he provides an excellent meditation on cataphatic and apophatic predication about God. It is a source of, shall we say, apprehension rather than argumentation, though the latter in implicit in the meditation.

I’ve read Denys, as well as several books on Denys, on the recommendation of Rank Sophist. It was fascinating and illuminating, to say the least. I also found his ideas to be parallel to those of Gregory of Nyssa, especially the infinite “spacing” between the divine and creation, and the insatiable desire of creation to cross that spacing, despite the fact that no matter how far we come close to the divine, it is always infinitely far away by virtue of the ultimately unbridgeable gap between the two. I was also struck by Denys’ idea that the optimal expression about the divine is silence, because our words infinitely fail to reach their target, and must constantly be negated and rejected as woefully inadequate in an infinite process.

dguller said...

Anonymous:

And sorry, just one more thing.

You ask what type of distinction it is and then provide two alternatives. My response is that this is an either-or fallacy; it is neither of the two.

But what if the alternatives are logically exhaustive? Here is my understanding of the two kinds of distinctions, according to Aquinas:

(1) X is really distinct from Y iff the distinction between X and Y does not only exist in the mind
(2) X is notionally distinct from Y iff the distinction between X and Y does only exist in the mind

So, either the distinction between X and Y does only exist in the mind or the distinction does not only exist in the mind. They are mutually exclusive and logically exhaustive, although real distinction can be subdivided into different categories, I think.

Since you brought up Denys, you could easily respond to the above by saying that since God is beyond affirmation and denial, then he is beyond any such dichotomy, which itself presupposes affirmation and denial. But the problem with such a position is that you must ultimately deny the Trinity itself, because it is also dependent upon multiple affirmations and denials. In fact, you should not say anything about God, including that you cannot say anything about God, and should just remain silent.

Anonymous said...

Denys says plenty about God; it's not just all silence. Creation, as it receives its being from the divine can be predicated as "divine names" in its descension from God. These "names" are then denied in the ascension, the return to God. This ultimately stills the mind and it is where God is met, not as an empty negation, but as a superabundance of presence.

So you are half-right. Yes, describing God as Trinity is not nominating God absolutely, but as God is revealed in exitus. But this also applies to every other "name"--they are all imperfect descriptions of the unknowable. Thus, even "Triune" is negated in reditus, just as the name "One" and the notion of "divine essence" must be. So yes, these names must be negated; but nonetheless, they are still the names of God, imperfect though they be. One does not have to choose between an absolute cataphatic predication or a total negation in an apophatic one. The tradition affirms them both as necessary. Your error seems to be assuming one or the other of these extremes.

As for what Thomas says, I do not know his work well enough to adjudicate his views on the matter. In truth, I am Eastern Orthodox, and while I have enormous respect for Thomas, I am not a Thomist in the proper sense.

One other matter: you wrote that you had no problem with classical theism. I was under the impression that you were a new atheist who had little interest in seriously grappling with the implications of materialism. Perhaps I mistook you for another commentator who no longer frequents this blog. If so, then I apologize.

BenYachov said...

Happy New Year dguller.

>I’m actually quite amazed that you don’t even understand what contradiction I’m claiming exists within the doctrine of the Trinity.

I don't think anyone here understands it, not even Brendan could understand it, and that guy has some mad skills. It has no coherent meaning relative to my knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity and natural theology. It's just you proof-texting various scholastic sources like a fundamentalist Christian proof texts the Bible. I can't make heads to tails as to what this new "contradiction" could possibly mean if it doesn't mean for example Absolute Essence must equal Not-relative persons/relations?

>And if there was a religion that claimed to have a revelation that affirmed that God is a composite being and that there was no possible way that this could be falsified, then would you accept that affirmation?

I would accept what they call "god" I would merely refer to as a meta being or super being. But I would take their doctrines as brute facts of their beliefs. I certainly wouldn't make up my own doctrines they don't objectively believe or impose categories foreign to them.
That is just rude.

>Clearly, there is a logical contradiction involved in claiming that God is a composite being,

Not if you have a religion that does not define God in the Classic sense like that Michael person. It's like pointing out contradictions in Mormon Prophecy. Mormons don't care because they believe God can change his mind. Only Christian & Jews and Muslims believe God is immutable.

>Why would such an argument be unsound? Here’s a potentially sound argument: Islam is a false religion, because it violates the core tenets of Christianity.

I absolutely believe Islam is false but it is a brute fact Islam as a religion says Muhammed is a prophet. If I make a critique of Muslim doctrine by assuming Muhammed is not the final prophet then I am merely re-writing the religion instead of taking it at face value and no rational Muslim would waste his time talking to me about my Straw man.

I could deny the existence of God with ease and I would still think none of your arguments against the Trinity to date where rational or coherent and nothing more than straw man nonsense. I say that with all sincerity.

>Can you cite a textbook that defines “divine simplicity” as permitting real distinction in the divine essence that is neither physical nor metaphysical?

I cited several and Lagrange & not one of them says all real distinctions of all types across the board are excluded by the divine simplicity. They restrict it to real physical and metaphysical. That is it. You must accept it.

Now enjoy the new year. I will resolve to reduce my abuse of you.

I won't however show you friendship since you have that whole homophobic paranoia that makes you think a dude showing you dude bro luv is some kind of come on.

Geez what is that about?

john di said...

…Well, I disagree with that, as well. The only way that analogical language can truthfully refer to God at all is if there is an ontological likeness between God and creation, which means that God and creation must share something in common. And if that is true, then the divine essence cannot be “completely apart from finite and contingent reality…”.

This, I think, is where dguller goes wrong in understanding the classic theological approach: there is no ontological likeness between God and creation. David Bentley Hart describes the analogy of being in “The Beauty of the Infinite”:

…And, one must add, this analogy [of being] holds only insofar as beings comprise within their “essences” each a persisting interval of incommensurability that is the created likeness of the infinite ontological interval between God and them. That is to say, a creature’s likeness to God, posed between the pure ontic ectasy of its participation in being ex nihilo and the infinite ontological plenitude of God’s being in se (between, one might say, its intrinsic nothingness and God’s supereminent “no-thing-ness”), cannot simply take the form of a homonymy of “attributes” applied to two discrete substances, but must consist, radically, in the rhythm of the creature’s difference from God, its likeness to his unlikeness, under the form of a dynamic synthesis of distinct moments of being that. In God, coincide in simple and infinite identity: by being distinguished in itself between what it is and that it is, between “essence” and the force of becoming, between its creaturely particularity and the infinite distance it traverses, In no other way can a being be a being—that is, a finite act of existence. God is not so divided; and yet, because he is Trinity, and because therefore his being is also the gift that is always being given determinatively to the other, and so is never simply undifferentiated presence, he is also the God who can be within his infinite distance, who is at liberty therein, who is infinite and yet also infinitely formosus, and who can consequently make all his beauty pass before the eyes of Moses, even as Moses passes before him in endless pilgrimage…” .

Folks who can’t agree on the analogy of being as described above cannot have a conversation about Trinity and Divine Simplicity. They will just talk past each other.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chris,

I have no read much of the main Perennialist authors, such as Schuon and Guenon. My readings are mostly confined to certain more peripheral Perennialist influenced writers, especially Algis Uždavinys and Wolfgang Smith, as well as related authors such as Henry Corbin and the Temenos Academy figures.

I have read Martin Lings's book on Shakespeare as sacred art, which I found to be excellent.

Daniel said...

@ Jeremy Taylor,

I have great respect for Guenon – it was reading his The Crisis of the Modern World which first made me resolve to study philosophy. Looking back on it, I think the most interesting work he did was on Subject/Object relations and the metaphysics of modality in The Symbolism of the Cross and The Multiple States of Being. I don’t agree with all he says but his combination of Scholasticism and Indian philosophy mark him out as a true original.

One of the problems I think was that he was one of the few proficient applied metaphysicians the Perennialist school had. Schuon’s work is mostly comparison and exegesis: when it actually comes down to philosophical argument he has an alarming tendency to fall back on pious rhetoric and arbitrary appeals to the sacred when the very validity of the sacred is under question.

I used to admire Wolfgang Smith greatly but his paranoid scaremongering about evolution and attempts to use Astrophysics to sneak in Young Earth Creationism put me right off him.

Nasr has produced some good work chronicling the history of Islamic philosophy. There’s a cornucopia of interesting material there particularly with regards to Epistemology and discussions of Essence/Existence. It would be nice to think some modern Scholastic philosopher might take notice and incorporate some of these insights into his/her own work.

dguller said...

Anonymous:

Denys says plenty about God; it's not just all silence. Creation, as it receives its being from the divine can be predicated as "divine names" in its descension from God. These "names" are then denied in the ascension, the return to God. This ultimately stills the mind and it is where God is met, not as an empty negation, but as a superabundance of presence.

First, the more one talks about God, the more one demonstrates one’s distance from God. As Denys says: “For the higher we soar in contemplation the more limited become our expressions of that which is purely intelligible; even as now, when plunging into the Darkness that is above the intellect, we pass not merely into brevity of speech, but even into absolute silence of thoughts and of words.” (MT 3). That is why the best approach is silence, because the closer one gets to God, the more one’s thoughts and words become inadequate until you arrive at an ineffable darkness that is indescribable and unthinkable, and you are reduced to utter silence.

Second, I have always been struck by John D. Caputo’s idea of radical undecidability when it comes to such mystical experiences. The idea is what when one is plunged into darkness, then one cannot determine in final fashion whether the darkness is due to an overabundance of light or due to the utter absence of light. Similarly, once one has reached that mystical darkness, one does not know if one’s conceptual framework has collapsed, because of a tremendous weight or because of a fault within that framework that collapsed as soon as you reached it.

So yes, these names must be negated; but nonetheless, they are still the names of God, imperfect though they be. One does not have to choose between an absolute cataphatic predication or a total negation in an apophatic one. The tradition affirms them both as necessary. Your error seems to be assuming one or the other of these extremes.

I think that you can negate some aspect of the name, and affirm the remaining part as closer to the truth, but you cannot negate the entire name itself, because then you will be left with nothing at all. It is like Plotinus’ description of the process of purification as analogous to a sculptor removing unnecessary stone until the form is reached within (Enneads 9.7). And the problem, I think, is that what one ultimately ends up removing is any thought or image or word from one’s mind as woefully inadequate, which leaves one in darkness and nothingness. After all, once one has negated affirmation and negation itself, then what is one left with? Nothing.

One other matter: you wrote that you had no problem with classical theism. I was under the impression that you were a new atheist who had little interest in seriously grappling with the implications of materialism. Perhaps I mistook you for another commentator who no longer frequents this blog. If so, then I apologize.

No need to apologize, but I appreciate the civility of the gesture.

Happy New Year.

dguller said...

Ben:

I don't think anyone here understands it, not even Brendan could understand it, and that guy has some mad skills. It has no coherent meaning relative to my knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity and natural theology. It's just you proof-texting various scholastic sources like a fundamentalist Christian proof texts the Bible. I can't make heads to tails as to what this new "contradiction" could possibly mean if it doesn't mean for example Absolute Essence must equal Not-relative persons/relations?

Look at the following pairs of propositions:

(1) The divine relations are not really distinct from the divine essence
(2) The divine relations are really distinct from the divine essence

(3) God is independent of creation
(4) God is dependent upon creation

(5) God is partly a creature
(6) God is not partly a creature

Do you really not see those pairs of propositions as contradictory?

I would accept what they call "god" I would merely refer to as a meta being or super being. But I would take their doctrines as brute facts of their beliefs. I certainly wouldn't make up my own doctrines they don't objectively believe or impose categories foreign to them.

And if you provided an argument to them for why their god, in order to be God, must be simple and not composite, and they responded that you have just made up a doctrine that is impossible, then what would you say then? Would you say that truth is relative, and to each their own, or would you tell them they are wrong, that their beliefs are false, that their god cannot possibly be God, despite their protestations to the contrary?

dguller said...

Not if you have a religion that does not define God in the Classic sense like that Michael person. It's like pointing out contradictions in Mormon Prophecy. Mormons don't care because they believe God can change his mind. Only Christian & Jews and Muslims believe God is immutable.

The issue is not what one believes, but rather whether what one believes is true. You’re not a relativist, are you, Ben?

I cited several and Lagrange & not one of them says all real distinctions of all types across the board are excluded by the divine simplicity. They restrict it to real physical and metaphysical. That is it. You must accept it.

First, none of them said that there is a mysterious third kind of real distinction that is neither physical nor metaphysical, which is predicable of the divine essence.

Second, you still haven’t even defined what you mean by a real distinction, and how it differs from a notional distinction. And even more interesting, what a virtual distinction is supposed to be, and how it differs from the other two. In other words, you are using terms that don’t mean anything. Here’s my definitions:

(1) X is really distinct from Y iff the distinction between X and Y does not only exist in the mind

(2) X is notionally distinct from Y iff the distinction between X and Y does only exist in the mind

What’s yours?

dguller said...

John di:

This, I think, is where dguller goes wrong in understanding the classic theological approach: there is no ontological likeness between God and creation.

Here’s how I’ve always understood things:

(1) A is identical to B iff A and B have everything in common
(2) A is like B iff A and B have something in common

That is the difference between identity and likeness. So, if God and creation do not have something that is common between them and present in both, then they are neither identical nor similar, but rather are radically different and completely incommensurable to the point that knowledge about creation would provide absolutely no knowledge about God.

And as for Hart, I’m working up to reading his books, but wanted to do an extensive background reading first. Shockingly, it’s been a year of reading dozens of books, and I’m almost ready for Hart. :) But offhand, in the quote that you mentioned, he never defines what he means by “likeness”. He seems to imply that creation is like God in that they are both infinitely distant from one another, and so what they have in common is that they have nothing in common with one another. But if they have nothing in common, then knowledge about creation provides absolutely no knowledge about God, including that he is pure act, the first cause, and so on. These truths are built upon knowledge of creation, and would have to be treated as metaphors and not analogies, because whatever you predicate of God on the basis of creation is false, but you can mentally transfer properties from creation to God, knowing that it is untrue.

john di said...

dguller:

(2) A is like B iff A and B have something in common

When it comes to the Biblical sense of analogy the “something” must take on a radically new meaning because God is “no-thing”. Here is Robert Sokolowski in “Christian Faith and Human Understanding”:

“…In this new setting [Biblical religion], we have to be careful not to let analogy spin out of control. We have to be careful not to let it slip back into being mere metaphor. Christian religious discourse does not just point to a mystery or indicate a transcendence; it also conveys an understanding, or at least the glimpse of an understanding, one that is appropriate to this new context and hence only analogous to the understandings [including the pagan use of analogy] we achieve in the natural [pagan] setting. The use of analogy was strained even in natural religion, as it extended to touch that which was at the edge of things; now we stretch it further into that which is beyond the edge, not in a spatial sense, but in the sense that this divinity could be [in undiminished perfection and goodness] even if it were not beyond the edge of things, that is, even if there were no things for it to be contrasted with..

So again, any conversation about Trinity and Divine Simplicity must use analogy and so an agreement on which type of analogy to use (pagan or Biblical) must come first.

Michael said...

. . . Open Theism is Theistic Personalism on crack . . . Non Immutable "gods" need not apply here.

“If ever there was a miserable anthropomorphism, it is the hallucination of a divine immutability which rules out the possibility that God can let himself be conditioned in this or that way by his creature." -- K. Barth

Scott said...

"Wait, immutability is anthropomorphism? How does that work?" -Scott

Michael said...

Barth's point is that one errs greatly--"hallucinates"--by explaining away as anthropomorphism the Scripture's thoroughgoing presentation of God as one who is conditioned by his creatures.

dguller said...

John di:

When it comes to the Biblical sense of analogy the “something” must take on a radically new meaning because God is “no-thing”.

Whatever this “something” is, it must be present in both God and creation in order to ground the likeness between them. If God and creation did not have this “something” in common, then they would have nothing in common, and thus there could not be a similarity or likeness relationship between them at all. They would be radically different and completely incommensurable to the point that knowing something about creation would literally be useless to know anything about God. Furthermore, it goes without saying that this “something” is not some thing, but only something, and that even though God is no thing, he is not nothing.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

dguller the issue is what is the doctrine of the Trinity. A rational Atheist can learn the actual doctrine and it's formal content and
logically conclude it contains no provable logical contradictions. Since they can see there is no way to show as you have concede for example Absolute Essence = Not-Relative Persons/Relations.

That is all I care about, explaining the doctrine and discussing their implications. I'll let the Holy Spirit & Divine Providence take care of the belief part. Not my job.

>First, none of them said that there is a mysterious third kind of real distinction that is neither physical nor metaphysical, which is predicable of the divine essence.

This type of hairsplitting is reminiscent of Fundamentalist Protestants who complain "Where does the Bible say Mary is sinless?". All Catholic scholiastic texts including Legrange define divine simplicity exclusively in terms of a lack of real physical and metaphysical distinctions in the divine nature. None of them extend the lack of real distinction beyond those categories, none of them give your novel definition, otherwise we would have to reject the Trinity. All of them teach the Trinity. Do the math son.

>Second, you still haven’t even defined what you mean by a real distinction, and how it differs from a notional distinction.

We already know a Real distinction is any type of distinction that exists outside the mind and independent of it so let us dispense with the hairsplitting . A notional distinction only exists in the mind.

The really distinct relations that subsist in the divine nature really exist in the divine reality somehow and not just as notions in our minds. Thus it is an expression of real truth for me to say The Father is without distinction WHAT the Son is & The Father is not WHO the Son is thought He is not separate from the Son. Because of the divine simplicity none of these real distinctions from relation to relation can be any type of real physical or metaphysical distinctions. That is all we can say. At best we might employ an analogy as to The Father being like a Thinker and the Son being like a Self-Thought when they are both in Act but we would have to exclude the imperfections such as the thought having once been a potency and mind and thought being different acts instead of the same single Pure Act. So I really don't see the problem here.

>Look at the following pairs of propositions:
Do you really not see those pairs of propositions as contradictory?

I am not getting your point?

>(1) The divine relations are not really distinct from the divine essence
(2) The divine relations are really distinct from the divine essence

(1) is infallible Catholic/Orthodox dogma & (2) is heresy.

>(3) God is independent of creation
(4) God is dependent upon creation

The former is infallible dogma the later is heresy.

>(5) God is partly a creature
(6) God is not partly a creature

The former is heresy the later is true since God's essence contains no real physical distinctions
and can't be part divine & part creature. God by definition is wholly God in His Divine Nature.

These are unremarkable. I have believed them all my life.

dguller said...

Ben:

This type of hairsplitting is reminiscent of Fundamentalist Protestants who complain "Where does the Bible say Mary is sinless?". All Catholic scholiastic texts including Legrange define divine simplicity exclusively in terms of a lack of real physical and metaphysical distinctions in the divine nature. None of them extend the lack of real distinction beyond those categories, none of them give your novel definition, otherwise we would have to reject the Trinity. All of them teach the Trinity. Do the math son.

So, none of them explicitly endorse your position, then. That’s good to know.

We already know a Real distinction is any type of distinction that exists outside the mind and independent of it so let us dispense with the hairsplitting . A notional distinction only exists in the mind.

Good. So you agree with my definitions. Progress!

The really distinct relations that subsist in the divine nature really exist in the divine reality somehow and not just as notions in our minds.

If X is in the divine essence, then X is the divine essence. So, if the divine relations are in the divine essence, then the divine relations are the divine essence, which means that the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence can only be a notional distinction, i.e. a distinction that only exists in the mind.

Given that, if what the divine persons have in common is the divine essence and what the divine persons do not have in common are the divine relations, then it necessarily follows – given a principle that you yourself have endorsed – that the divine essence cannot be notionally distinct from the divine relations, because if that were true, then what the divine persons have in common would be identical to what the divine persons do not have in common, which is impossible. It thus follows that the divine relations must be really distinct from the divine essence, which completely contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity that states that they cannot be really distinct at all.

These are unremarkable. I have believed them all my life.

The question is whether they contradict one another. Since one proposition is the truth and the other proposition is a heresy, then unless you want to claim that truth can be identical to heresy, they must contradict one another, i.e. the truth of one necessarily implies the falsehood of the other. In other words, they cannot both be true. Would you agree that the paired propositions that I mentioned are logically contradictory, i.e. they cannot both be true simultaneously?

Scott said...

I do enjoy a good thread hijacking. Thanks, fellas.

Michael said...

Again, I don't know how dguller could make his point more clearly.

According to the thomistic conception of God, he is an absolutely simple being without any real distinctions. He is simply ipsum esse subsistens.

According to the dogma of the trinity, God is one being in three really distinct persons.

But the two clearly contradict one another. An absolutely simple being without any real distinctions cannot somehow consist of three really distinct persons.

Either one or both of these dogmas must be false. The truth is they both are.

Glenn said...

dguller: if the divine relations are in the divine essence, then the divine relations are the divine essence, which means that the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence can only be a notional distinction, i.e. a distinction that only exists in the mind.

Aquinas: since the relations whereby the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinguished really exist in God, the relations in question must be real relations, and are not merely mental relations.

Happy New Year.

dguller said...

Michael:

An absolutely simple being without any real distinctions cannot somehow consist of three really distinct persons.

That isn’t my argument, though.

And Ben would rebut your argument by stating that there are three kinds of real distinction: physical, metaphysical and mysterious. Only the first two kinds are inapplicable to the divine essence, but the third kind is applicable. And since the real distinction between the divine persons is of the third kind, it is applicable to the divine essence without sacrificing divine simplicity.

The bottom line is that the first two kinds of real distinction involve both act and potency, and it is for that reason that they are inapplicable to the divine essence, which is pure act. However, the third kind only involves act, and thus is applicable to the divine essence.

dguller said...

Glenn:

dguller: if the divine relations are in the divine essence, then the divine relations are the divine essence, which means that the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence can only be a notional distinction, i.e. a distinction that only exists in the mind.



Aquinas: since the relations whereby the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinguished really exist in God, the relations in question must be real relations, and are not merely mental relations.


Those quotes are talking about different subjects. My quote is talking about the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence, and the Aquinas quote is talking about the distinction between the divine relations themselves.

Scott said...

@Michael:

"Again, I don't know how dguller could make his point more clearly."

Then I expect you'll be able to summarize it for us accurately. Let's see how you do.

"According to the [T]homistic conception of God, he is an absolutely simple being without any real distinctions."

Oops, wrong already. The doctrine of divine simplicity rules out only real physical and metaphysical distinctions. It quite clearly and expressly acknowledges that there's some other kind of real distinction among the divine persons that remains a mystery to us because we can't grasp it with our intellects.

"According to the dogma of the trinity, God is one being in three really distinct persons.

But the two clearly contradict one another."

Oops, wrong again. This obviously isn't dguller's argument; dguller's argument is that the divine persons can't be both united and distinguished by the very same common feature.

Oh, well.

Glenn said...

dguller,

Those quotes are talking about different subjects. My quote is talking about the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence, and the Aquinas quote is talking about the distinction between the divine relations themselves.

If so, then the difficulty you have is, as you have already indicated, with something notional, and so the difficulty you have is with something in your own mind.

Scott said...

And let's note to dguller's credit that he's (a) turned down support from someone who has misunderstood his argument and (b) provided what seems to me to be an accurate rebuttal on behalf of a view with which he disagrees.

glenn said...

I'll agree that credit ought to be given where credit is due.

Michael said...

Dguller,

You are right: I did not accurately restate your argument. That's what I get for sacrificing imprecision! Nevertheless, I am happy that my hasty restatement has resutled in you clarifying that you do hold God can be simple subsisting being (ipsum esse subsistens) and a trinity of three persons. Now, you say that the distinctions between the three persons are not real or metaphysical but mysterious. But if the divine essence just is the perfection of all being (ST I.4.2), then by what can the persons be distinct from one another? There is nothing left. I assumed that you were making this larger point in your argument.

Scott said...

"That's what I get for sacrificing imprecision!"

Let that be a lesson to anyone who might ever be tempted to sacrifice imprecision. Um, or its opposite. ;-)

Michael said...

Ha! Doh!

dguller said...

Glenn:

If so, then the difficulty you have is, as you have already indicated, with something notional, and so the difficulty you have is with something in your own mind.

Not at all.

Either the distinction between the divine relations and the divine essence is only in our minds (i.e. is a notional distinction) or is not only in our minds, but also in reality (i.e. is a real distinction). If the former, then the divine relations and the divine essence are one and the same thing, and thus you have the logical contradiction that what the divine persons have in common is identical to what the divine persons do not have in common. If the latter, then the divine relations are other than Being itself, which means that they must participate in Being itself, and thus are creatures.

That’s the argument, in a nutshell.

dguller said...

Michael:

Nevertheless, I am happy that my hasty restatement has resutled in you clarifying that you do hold God can be simple subsisting being (ipsum esse subsistens) and a trinity of three persons.

I don’t think that God can be Being itself and a trinity of really distinct divine persons, and have provided an argument to that effect. I just don’t think that your argument will work to justify your conclusion, because the Trinitarian has the option of rebutting it as both Scott and I have done. I think that mine is better at accomplishing that goal.

Saying that, I don’t necessarily think that the counterargument is fully successful, because it results in unwanted consequences. For example, if the divine essence can involve some kind of real distinction without compromising divine simplicity, then why would one argue that the divine intellect is the divine will? Why not just say that they are mysteriously really distinct? Furthermore, even accepting the truth of mysterious real distinction does not rebut my argument in the least, because it works for any kind of real distinction.

Anonymous said...

"It is not sufficiently noted that Aquinas always characterizes the doctrine of simplicity as the claim that there is no composition in God. Composition, however, tends to be a technical term for Aquinas; it means a union of two things as potential to actual. That this is in fact what he means in this context is clear from the way he goes about discussing simplicity. It has become common to claim that Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity conflicts with the doctrine of the Trinity; but this is an artifact, I think, of not properly characterizing Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity. I think a failure to recognize the essential point about composition is a major factor in this. For the only alternatives to Aquinas on this is to say either 1) that the Trinity is an aggregate; or 2) that the Persons are related to each other in some way as actual to potential. (1) contradicts the unity of the Persons. (2) contradicts the equality of the persons. So the alternatives to Aquinas violate the doctrine of the Trinity. Aquinas's does not, because the doctrine of the Trinity does not require us to say that there is a union according to potential and actual in God. This, of course, leaves many other questions (could it possibly be otherwise?), but the claims of Aquinas's problem here are massively exaggerated."

-from Brandon's website
http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2005/02/jotting-about-aquinas-on-divine.html

Michael said...

Dguller,

I don’t think that God can be Being itself and a trinity of really distinct divine persons, and have provided an argument to that effect.

But are you saying you do believe God can be Being istelf and a trinity of mysteriouslyreally distinct divine persons?

In other words, are you saying God is Being itself and a trinity three persons who are really distinct by a mysterious real distinction?

Is this correct?

Michael said...

Dguller,

Let me repost that:

You said,

I don’t think that God can be Being itself and a trinity of really distinct divine persons, and have provided an argument to that effect.

Okay. But are you saying you do believe God can be Being istelf and a trinity of mysteriously really distinct divine persons?

In other words, are you saying God is Being itself and a trinity of three persons who are really distinct by a mysterious real distinction?

Is this correct?

Step2 said...

However, the third kind only involves act, and thus is applicable to the divine essence.

How is the Incarnation not considered a potency in the Godhead? Doesn't the denial of this position imply that Christianity would have "naturally" arisen from Judaism? I'm only asking dguller these questions because Ben is impossible.

dguller said...

Michael:

Okay. But are you saying you do believe God can be Being istelf and a trinity of mysteriously really distinct divine persons?

No, I do not, but not because of your argument, which can be rebutted. Rather, I do not believe that they are compatible on the basis of my argument, which has yet to be refuted. So, you and I agree that it is impossible for Being itself to be identical to a trinity of really distinct divine persons, but for different reasons.

dguller said...

Step2:

How is the Incarnation not considered a potency in the Godhead?

I think that to say that a potency is actualized in God is to attribute temporality to God, because time just is the transition from potency to act. However, because God exists outside of time and in eternity, such a transition is metaphysically impossible. Furthermore, from the standpoint of eternity, there is no time in which the Son is not incarnated, even though from our temporal standpoint, there was a time when the incarnation occurred. But that potency is not a potency in God, but rather a potency in creation, which is inherently temporal. Anyway, that's how I'd make sense of it.

Doesn't the denial of this position imply that Christianity would have "naturally" arisen from Judaism?

I don’t know.

Glenn said...

That’s the argument, in a nutshell.

If that's the argument in a nutshell, then, as indicated in prior comments by both by Ben Yachov and (the) Anonymous (who identified himself as Orthodox), the argument is an example of the either/or fallacy.

(Your retort to that Anonymous -- "So, I should dismiss Aquinas when he says that there is no real distinction between the divine persons and the divine essence?" -- is not an argument against the claim that your argument involves an either/or fallacy, but, rather, an indication of a desire that that fallacy should stand without being recognized as such.)

dguller said...

Glenn:

If that's the argument in a nutshell, then, as indicated in prior comments by both by Ben Yachov and (the) Anonymous (who identified himself as Orthodox), the argument is an example of the either/or fallacy.

Anonymous stated that the missing option is that the distinction is neither notional nor real, which is logically impossible. Remember that a notional distinction is one that exists only in the mind, but not in reality, and a real distinction is one that exists not only in the mind, but also in reality. They are mutually exclusive. To say that the distinction is neither notional nor real is logically equivalent to claiming that the distinction is both notional and real, which is logically impossible. So, that response won’t work.

What would work is if you could inform me what a viable third option would be other than notional versus real distinction.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

I have not read much of Schuon's work, though I have heard good things about it. Indeed, as you know, he is the figure most revered by the Perennialists. My understanding is that he is not primarily interested in systematic philosophy, especially in the sense of appealing to unbelievers. In fact that is, I think, generally the Perennialist position. That is one of the appeals of Perennialism, I should think. The Perennialists utter surety of the existence of the divine and a traditional, Platonic and symbolic metaphysics, as well as their utter contempt and dismissal of much modern thought. For the traditionally minded, so used to being isolated and feeling under seige, this approach can feel refreshing.

Where did you get the impression that Smith was YEC? It is not my own impression from his works, although I have not read his work on Quantum Physics. He is anti-evolution, as noted, but I'm not sure that should be used to attack him. Obviously, in the Anglo world we are used to evolution being taken as gospel and the mark of intelligence. But I'm not quite convinced. I don't know enough about it to really commit, but from what I have seen much of the evidence seems to depend upon the worldview one brings to it. And the lady really doth seem to protest too much: the evolutionists of the Anglo world (I'm told it is different elsewhere) really do seem fanatically vehement about their theory. I'm not really fit to comment though, and obviously creationists proper can often be idiots - but I do think the traditionally minded should not rule out those who critique evolution.

I own Seyyed Nasr's Knowledge and the Sacred, but I have never read it. I plan to soon.

I am particularly drawn to two aspects of Perennialism. One is the complete rejection of the modern current of thought already mentioned. I think we traditionally minded people should disengage more from modern thought. The other is their expressions of the Platonic doctrine of the symbol, which I find powerful and insightful.

I find it strange that so many traditionally minded individuals would never read the Perennialists, although they'd read, for example, Coleridge, or Henry Corbin or Kathleen Raine if I recommended them. They'd even read Heidegger, but there's something about the Perennialists which causes the reactions of those like Anon above.

I haven't read James Cutsinger's books, except one on Coleridge, but I've read his blog. In one post he recommends John Michell who calls himself a Radical Traditionalist. Michell, is not a Perennialist, but, although he was a little too open towards new age tendencies at times, I would heartily recommend him insightful traditionalist writer and one with a style and voice that cannot help give cheer and warmth to the lonely traditionalist in the desolations of modernity. He also wrote some interesting works on Pythagorean cosmology, which is of great interest to me.

Michael said...

Dguller,

Okay, so which do you give up, the trinity or God as Being itself?

And, frankly, I fail to see the clear difference between your reasoning and mine.

Glenn said...

What would work is if you could inform me what a viable third option would be other than notional versus real distinction.

Still at it, eh? You have the quote from Aquinas. Look it up, and read it in context.

BenYachov said...

>So, none of them explicitly endorse your position, then. That’s good to know.

Focus Dguller all of them endorse my position which is the Catholic Position none of them endorse your novel definition of

Divine Simplicity.

>Good. So you agree with my definitions. Progress!

So far.

Now let us take your response to me and express it in terms of practical theology with the necessary corrections.

If X is in God, then X is God. So, if the divine relations/persons are in God, then the divine relations are God, which means that the distinction between the divine relations/persons and being God can only be a notional distinction, i.e. a distinction that only exists in the mind.

Given that, if what the divine persons/relations have in common is being God and what the divine persons/relations do not have in common are being the same singular indistinct person , then it necessarily follows – given a principle that you yourself have endorsed – that being God is still only notionally distinct from being the divine relations/persons, saying what the divine persons have in common is not the same type of categorical predication to what the divine persons do not have in common to say otherwise is to commit a category mistake. It thus follows that the divine relations STILL must NOT be really distinct from the divine essence, which is completely IN LINE with the doctrine of the Trinity that states that they must be really distinct.

dguller your original "argument" reflects a profound ignorance of the categories of Catholic Theology and a category mistake.

If only one person subsisted in God then that person would still be God. If many persons they would always have being God in common even if they don't have being each other as individual persons being in God in common. We use the term Person/relation because by definition that word means real distinction. In fact from the perspective of theology it is absurd to say there is one person in God because there would be nothing else in God to be really distinct from so in terms of Catholic Theology at minimum a Di-unity or more would make sense but Unitarianism would not if you predicate it in terms of God containing a single hyposasis.

I am afraid your new argument is about as meaningful & formidable objection as "Who created God" and just as much a category error "Who created the Uncreated". You are fudging theology and re-writing doctrine to suit your own end. Everyone who is a Trinitarian believer agrees with me here. You stand alone. Even if God doesn't exist the doctrine clearly contains no provable logical contradiction. Since there is only a notional distinction between God's being and essence then God is simply His own essence as well as his own existence and thus his essence is simply God. That is Thomism 101 go look it up.


>The question is whether they contradict one another. Since one proposition is the truth and the other proposition is a heresy,

Rather they are contrary theological propositions. That is unremarkable. Catholics say Jesus is the Messiah and Rabbinic Jews say the Messiah has not yet come. That is a contrary theology.



> then unless you want to claim that truth can be identical to heresy, they must contradict one another, i.e. the truth of one necessarily implies the falsehood of the other. In other words, they cannot both be true. Would you agree that the paired propositions that I mentioned are logically contradictory, i.e. they cannot both be true simultaneously?

Which is like I say unremarkable to me.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Doesn't Michael's underlying point hinch on the Thomist, or any other Classical Theist, preferring, if I can be forgiven for speaking in such a way, the Biblical God to Divine Simplicity (which is required for God to be the utlimate cause and explanation of all things, and the Supreme Quality).


dguller said...

Michael:

Okay, so which do you give up, the trinity or God as Being itself?

Since I’m not a Christian, I’d give up the Trinity.

Jeremy Taylor said...

-hinge.

dguller said...

Glenn:

Still at it, eh? You have the quote from Aquinas. Look it up, and read it in context.

What quote? Why not just tell me about a kind of distinction that is neither notional nor real? That’s all you would have to do to demonstrate that my either-or is fallacious. No need to be unnecessarily coy.

Michael said...

Dguller,

Are you at least a theist?

And, as you know, I reject both (God as trinity and God as Being itself).

Glenn said...

What quote?

Please

dguller said...

Ben:

If X is in God, then X is God. So, if the divine relations/persons are in God, then the divine relations are God, which means that the distinction between the divine relations/persons and being God can only be a notional distinction, i.e. a distinction that only exists in the mind.

That’s not what Aquinas says, though. He writes that “whatever is attributed to God is His own essence” (ST 1.40.1). Remember that what makes God, God, is the divine essence. After all, it is the divine essence that is Being itself, which is the ultimate explanatory principle of reality itself. Why you insist on substituting “God” for “the divine essence” is beyond me, other than to obfuscate the issue. After all, God is also the Son, and God is the Father. So, when you say “God” are you talking about the divine essence or the divine persons, or are you saying that there is only a notional distinction between them, and they are just different terms for the one and the same thing?

Given that, if what the divine persons/relations have in common is being God and what the divine persons/relations do not have in common are being the same singular indistinct person , then it necessarily follows – given a principle that you yourself have endorsed – that being God is still only notionally distinct from being the divine relations/persons, saying what the divine persons have in common is not the same type of categorical predication to what the divine persons do not have in common to say otherwise is to commit a category mistake. It thus follows that the divine relations STILL must NOT be really distinct from the divine essence, which is completely IN LINE with the doctrine of the Trinity that states that they must be really distinct.

No, Ben. Aquinas explicitly says that what the divine persons have in common is the divine essence, and not being God, unless the two terms are merely notionally distinct. But in that case, my argument still stands, because whenever you write “being God”, I can just as easily replace it with “the divine essence”, and remember that my argument just relies upon the fact that the divine essence is Being itself, and anything that is not the divine essence is also not Being itself, and thus must necessarily participate in Being itself, i.e. be a created being.

And even if your principle of distinction was correct, i.e. “being the same singular indistinct person”, then this reality must be a created being, because it must be really distinct from the divine essence, or being God, or whatever. That is where the problem lies. Whatever principle of distinction you come up with, it necessarily must be other than Being itself, and thus be a created being. Unless you can show that the divine essence is not Being itself, or that something can be other than Being itself, and yet not participate in Being itself, my argument is sound.

Rather they are contrary theological propositions. That is unremarkable. Catholics say Jesus is the Messiah and Rabbinic Jews say the Messiah has not yet come. That is a contrary theology.

The question is whether they can all be simultaneously true. Unless you want to say that “contrary theological propositions” can all be true, then you must endorse the truth that mutually exclusive theological propositions cannot simultaneously be true.

I mean, come on. Affirming that God is dependent upon creation does not necessarily negate the claim that God is independent of creation? Are you serious? I’m amazed at how much of logic and reason you must abandon to salvage your position, Ben.

dguller said...

Glenn:

Please

Yes, please provide the quote so that I can read the context. Or even better, just tell me what kind of distinction is neither notional nor real. Why be so evasive, especially if the answer is so obvious?

dguller said...

Michael:

Are you at least a theist?

And, as you know, I reject both (God as trinity and God as Being itself).

I am inclined towards classical theism, but reject the particular historical religious traditions.

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