Friday, April 22, 2022

Whose pantheism? Which dualism? A Reply to David Bentley Hart


Over at Substack, David Bentley Hart has written an open letter in reply to my recent review, at
Public Discourse, of his book You Are Gods: On Nature and SupernatureWhat follows is my own open letter in response.  Before reading it, it would help if you’ve already read my review and Hart’s reply.

Hello David,

Many thanks for your enjoyable and vigorous rejoinder.  If your eyes fall on this, I know they will be rolling at the prospect of yet another round.  But I cannot resist a reply to what seem to me basic misunderstandings, along with crucial concessions disguised as rebuttals.  I do promise to refrain from Photoshop antics and cheap puns, for the sake of preserving our armistice and basic good taste.  Plus, I wouldn’t want any of your readers to spill their sherry. 

As it happens, I have already addressed some of the points you make in a response to your namesake Seth Hart, who had also objected to my review of your book.  (No, he’s no relation to you, in case you are wondering.)  I don’t expect you to have read that, but I mention it since some people reading this will have done so, and I apologize to them for the overlap between what I say here and what I said there.  There’s new stuff here too, though, to make it worthwhile for them to read on.  (In case you are tempted to follow the link to my reply to Seth, I apologize to you too, since in that article I did indulge the temptation to pun.  It seems that on that score I am not able not to sin.)

The computer analogy

Let’s begin with my analogy of the laptop computer, which you characterize as a real howler.  Your substantive points (as opposed to derisive rhetoric) fail to justify that characterization.  In any analogy, there are only certain features of the analogues that are relevant to the point being made with the analogy.  For example, when Christ compares himself to a thief in the night, it would be silly to object to the analogy on the grounds that thievery is sinful and Christ is sinless.  For thievery is simply not relevant to the specific point being made with the analogy.

It is also crucial to follow out an analogy consistently.  There’s a scene in the Whit Stillman movie Barcelona where the character Ted compares the belligerents in a Third World civil war to warring ant colonies.  His listeners are outraged, one of them thinking that his point is that Third World populations are, from the American point of view, like mere ants.  Another objects that people in the Third World are people and not ants.  Ted tries, without success, to explain to them that they are missing the point – that it is an analogy, and that everyone, including Americans, is being reduced to ant scale in the analogy.  This illustrates how we need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about what the elements of an analogy are meant to correspond to in the real world.

I realize you know how analogies are supposed to work, but you seem momentarily to have forgotten it when evaluating the one I gave.  For you make errors in interpreting my computer analogy comparable to those I have just used as illustrations.  First, you complain that a computer is an artifact, whereas human beings are natural substances.  Now, as a card-carrying, dues-paying, unreconstructed Aristotelian metaphysician, I am, of course, as aware as anyone of the radical difference in kind between nature and artifice, which reflects the difference between substantial and accidental form.  But that is simply irrelevant to the specific point of the analogy, just as it is irrelevant to the specific point of Christ’s analogy that thievery is sinful.  There is a fact of the matter (even if it is a man-made fact of the matter) about what a computer is and what it was made for, and that’s enough for the purposes of the analogy.  True, artefactual kinds have fuzzier boundaries and functions than natural kinds, but that does not entail that they have no boundaries or functions at all.  And again, the rough-and-ready boundaries and functions that we unproblematically attribute to them every day are good enough for the purposes of the analogy.

You also complain that what actualizes the potential of a laptop computer to be supplemented with new applications, hardware, and the like, is a cause that is as much within the natural order as the computer itself is (rather than anything miraculous).  But here, like the listeners in Barcelona, you’re not paying careful enough attention to what corresponds to what in the analogy.  Yes, actual computers and their users and updaters are all in the natural order, just as human beings are human beings and not ants.  But again, it is an analogy, for goodness’ sake.  In the analogy, the computer itself is meant to correspond to human beings in a state of “pure nature.”  And supplementing it with new applications, hardware, etc. is meant to correspond to divine action to raise human beings to a supernatural end.  Yes, in real life, those who add an application or hardware to an existing computer are not performing a miracle or doing anything supernatural, but – to repeat myself – it’s an analogy.

Now, what is key to understanding the analogy is that there is a sense in which the laptop computer, without any such supplemental applications or hardware, is already complete as is.  It is not like, say, a computer without a battery or a functioning keyboard, which would obviously be incomplete.  Refraining from adding applications or hardware to the computer would not be like leaving out a battery.  The computer can do everything its designers and purchasers intended it to do even if the new applications and hardware are never added to it, whereas it could not do so if it didn’t have a battery or functioning keyboard.  This is analogous to human beings in the state of “pure nature,” who would be complete with just natural knowledge of God and without the beatific vision.

The USB ports and downloading capacities of the computer correspond to the obediential potency for a supernatural end that human beings have even in a state of pure nature.  And it is crucial to understanding the analogy that the new applications and hardware that these make possible are sometimes unplanned and unforeseen by the designers of the computer.  So, the fact that designers do foresee some future applications and hardware does not undermine the analogy.  Neither does it “do your work for you” by effectively folding the supernatural into the natural.  In the analogy, it is, again, the unplanned and unforeseen future applications and hardware that correspond to the supernatural end, not the planned and foreseen ones.

Because said applications are unplanned and unforeseen – and thus do not exist within the computer even in an implicit or embryonic way – they can in no way arise from within the computer as it stands, but can be put into it only from without.  That corresponds to the way in which a supernatural end must be imposed on the state of pure nature entirely from without.  All the same, the USB ports, etc. – which are already built into the computer – make this external imposition on the computer possible.  (It would not be possible to put into, say, an old Commodore computer or Apple II Plus, hardware or software that is developed today for modern computers.)  And this corresponds to the fact that rational creatures have (as sub-rational creatures do not) a build-in obediential potency for the beatific vision, even though the beatific vision is in no way a natural end.

This is why the analogy illustrates more than just “non-repugnance,” contrary to what you say in your reply.  The USB ports, etc. positively point to there being some new applications and hardware or other that might be added.  That’s more than mere non-repugnance vis-à-vis such additions.  At the same time, they do not positively point to certain specific applications or hardware that might be added (namely, to those that were totally unknown and unforeseen by the designers of the computer).  This corresponds to the way that human beings in a state of pure nature point, by virtue of their rationality, to the possibility of some kind of supplemental end or other – but without pointing to the beatific vision specifically.

I am well aware, by the way, that you say much in your book about the distinction between the way the notion of an obediential potency was understood prior to Cajetan (which you illustrate with the example of Sara’s pregnancy) and how it was understood by Cajetan and his Thomist successors (where it is clearly meant to underwrite a truly supernatural end).  My analogy was intended to illustrate only what you characterize as the post-Cajetan conception, which is why it is a red herring to argue (as you do) that my analogy is not a good way to illustrate the other conception.  My review had gone way over the word limit as it was, and I had to leave things out.  Indeed, my review explicitly warned readers that “I have left out various nuances and details.”  But those details were not relevant to the specific points I was trying to make.

Anyway, here’s the thing.  When it is properly understood, the computer analogy is fine.  Read charitably (or, really, just fairly) it is not the ineptly prepared dog’s breakfast you make it out to be.  I understand that you are nevertheless going to reject the notion that I am using it to illustrate.  But to go on about the analogy being an “absolute catastrophe,” about its doing your work for you, about its not even getting Thomism right, etc. – well, there’s a lot of heat there to warm the hearts of the fans, but no light.

The bat analogy

You also miss the point of the analogy I borrow from Thomas Nagel, about wondering what it is like to be a bat.  You object that desiring such knowledge amounts to mere “curiosity,” whereas the desire for the beatific vision is obviously much more than that.  But while that is of course true, it is irrelevant to the specific point I was making with the example.

Because we are rational animals, we can conceptualize what it is like to be a bat, and can go on to wonder what it would be like.  We can even positively want to know what it would be like.  At the same time, given that our perceptual apparatus is by nature so different from that of a bat, we cannot in fact know this.  And being rational, we can know that we can’t know it.  Hence, we can judge both that in some sense it would be desirable to know this and that it is not a kind of knowledge that is “in the cards” for us.  Because it is not, we don’t judge this lack of knowledge to be a loss or incompleteness in our nature, the way that we would judge, say, the lack of vision as a loss or lack of completeness (since it is part of our nature to be able to see).

The example is meant to illustrate the idea that a rational creature can in some sense desire to know something and yet at the same time not regard the impossibility of fulfilling that desire as a loss or a lack of completion.  And this parallels human beings in a state of pure nature who, being rational creatures and knowing God as first principle of the world, can go on to wonder what it would be like directly to apprehend the very essence of God.  At the same time, they would judge that that kind of knowledge is simply not one that is open to us – that it is “above our pay grade,” metaphysically and epistemologically speaking – and thus they would not experience this incapacity as a loss or an imperfection. 

It is true that knowledge of the divine essence is incomparably more significant than knowledge of bat phenomenology, but, again, that is simply irrelevant to the specific point of the analogy.  You would no doubt respond, as you do in your reply, that any rational nature would have to regard the incapacity for the beatific vision as a loss or an imperfection.  But that simply reasserts your position against mine, without arguing for it; that is to say, it begs the question.  You might then go on (as indeed you do in your reply) to say that this is simply not a “sane” position to take, and warn that I “will lose the debate” if I take it.  But this merely adds foot-stomping to the question-begging. 

It is also false to claim that my analogy fails insofar as learning what it is like to be a bat would require replacing one nature with another – viz. human nature with bat nature – and thus make your point for you.  That is clearly not the case.  Our nature is to be rational animals.  And if, super-naturally, the capacity for a bat-like echolocation were added to our existing repertoire of animal capacities, we would still have the nature of rational animals (and not the nature of bats, which are of their nature non-rational).  Once again, my analogy, when one is careful to note exactly what it is intended (and not intended) to illustrate, is perfectly fine.

Pantheism

OK, so let’s get to the pantheism business.  One thing I need to emphasize from the get-go is that I was, of course, not attributing to you everything that the Stoics, Spinoza, or Hegel believed.  I was not characterizing you as a “synthesis of all pantheists” or the like.  I was merely making the point that you do say things that echo some of the distinctively pantheist themes of each of these thinkers, even if you put your own twist on them and wouldn’t endorse everything they say.  Hence, to note that you differ from the Stoics in this way, from Spinoza in that way, from Hegel in this other way, and so on, is not to the point.  Yes, of course you’re not a Stoic pantheist, a Spinozist pantheist, or a Hegelian pantheist.  You’re a David Bentley Hart pantheist.  Hence, still a pantheist.

To be sure, “pantheism” is a label that has been applied to a pretty broad range of thinkers, from Vedantists to Parmenides to Marcus Aurelius to John Scotus Eriugena to Spinoza to Hegel to Einstein to Deepak Chopra.  But not anything goes.  The boundaries may be fuzzy, but they are not non-existent.  Hence it will not do for you to say, in response to the charge of pantheism, that it is a label you “can neither reject nor accept, since it is meaningless.”  And in fact that is different from what you conceded just a couple of years ago, when, during an earlier exchange of ours, you said:

The accusation of pantheism troubles me not in the least.  For one thing, it’s a vague word used of far too many different things.  But there are many ways in which I would proudly wear the title…  I am quite happy to be accused of pantheism – or of paganism, monism, syncretism, Hinduism, panpsychism, and so on, since I regard none of those labels as opprobrious.

End quote.  So, we have it on the expert testimony of one David Bentley Hart that David Bentley Hart is (some kind of) pantheist.  Indeed, even in this latest reply, you concede: “But, yes, you have me, I am a metaphysical monist.”  So which is it?  “Oh please, don’t fling the silly ‘pantheist” charge!” or “Damn right I’m a pantheist, wanna make something of it?”  Pick a strategy and stick with it!

True, you go on to claim that you are in this regard merely placing yourself in the tradition of “Eriugena, Eckhart, and Cusanus, [and] also drawing from Gregory and Maximus.”  But (putting aside issues about how these various thinkers ought to be interpreted) saying “They’re ‘pantheists’ too!” is very different from denying the charge of pantheism.  I cannot help but wonder if you are being a bit coy lest too frank an acknowledgement of your pantheism might alienate those among your readers for whom that would be a bridge too far.  But I’d urge you to let your Yes be Yes and your No, No.  Anything else is from the marketing department.  (Not that I think you care about selling books.  But I do think you care about selling ideas.)

As I emphasized in my aforementioned reply to your namesake, the lens through which I am viewing the pantheism question is – you will be utterly unsurprised to hear – that provided by the First Vatican Council and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century papal teaching and its Neo-Scholastic inspiration.  There are, for example, these bracing passages from the Council:

If anyone says that finite things, both corporal and spiritual, or at any rate, spiritual, emanated from the divine substance; or that the divine essence, by the manifestation and evolution of itself becomes all things… let him be anathema.

If anyone… holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself… let him be anathema.

There is Pius X’s Pascendi, which takes “the identity of man with God” to be the chief note of pantheism.  There is Pius XI’s Mit Brennender Sorge, which identifies “raising the world to the dimensions of God” as a variety of pantheism.  And so on. 

Now, in You Are Gods, you say that because we are capable of a supernatural end, human beings “must be divine – ‘naturally’” and “must always already have been divine,” so that “our being in God and God’s being in us are both also and more originally God’s being as God.”  You say that “creation… [is] revealed as being ‘located’ nowhere but within the very life of God as God.”  You say that “creation inevitably follows from who [God] is.”  You say that “nothing in nature or history can be simply extrinsic to this movement of the Father’s ‘achievement’ of his own essence in the divine life.”  You say that:

Only the God who is always already human can become human.  Only a humanity that is always already divine can become God… God is all that is.  Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God.

And so on.  I quote other relevant remarks in my review.  Surely no one reading this needs to do the math, least of all you.  If pantheism includes the sorts of things condemned by the Council and the popes, then your position is clearly pantheistic.  At the very least, it “savors of pantheism,” as Pius X would say.

You would no doubt respond, as you do in your reply, that “I do not believe in the organs of authority that you believe in.”  I know that.  That’s not the point.  I don’t for a moment expect you to give up your pantheism simply because the Piuses condemned it.  But I do not think it is too much to ask for you frankly to acknowledge that your position is indeed exactly the sort of thing they condemned.  You would lose some Catholic readers – and (I cannot tell a lie) I think that is why you don’t just come out and admit the obvious – but the true nature of the dispute between us would be clearer.

It is also no good for the 1,234th time to rattle off a list of the Mighty Dead, as if the mere incantation forced them to testify on your behalf.  The devil knows scripture, and he knows the Fathers too.  I daresay he’s even read them in the original Greek and Latin.  What they said is one thing, and what you say they meant is not necessarily the same thing.  Take the theosis of Irenaeus and Athanasius, which held a powerful attraction for me when I began to reconsider Christianity after years of being an atheist (and still does).  I would interpret it in a Thomistic way, which preserves the sharp distinction between creature and creator.  You would no doubt regard such an interpretation as anachronistic and superficial, missing the deep (cough pantheistic cough) meaning implicit in these Fathers, even if unrealized by them.  Who is right?  Merely citing them is not going to answer that question.  The same is true of thinkers you regard as more obviously supporting your side, such as Gregory.  Precisely because you and I both regard them as incorporable within our respective positions, merely name-checking them cuts no ice.

Orthodoxy

Now, the question is, in part, a question of what is an orthodox reading of such thinkers.  In my review, I quoted a number of lines from You Are Gods evidencing your rejection of traditional criteria of Christian orthodoxy – and your appeal to extra-Christian sources as if they were equal in authority, or in some cases perhaps even of greater insight, than some Christian sources.  On the one hand, you quibble with some of the details of what I say.  For example, when I note with disapproval that you suggest that Christian thinkers “have a great deal to learn” from Vedanta, you respond:

And?  Would you raise objections to the term “Neoplatonic Christianity?”  Would you have resisted the use of Platonism by the early Christians?  How about Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism by Thomas?  Would Thomas’s reliance on a Muslim philosopher like ibn Sina have horrified you?

But once again you have missed the point.  I am, of course, happy to learn from Vedanta, and from Neoplatonism, Avicenna, and (for that matter) my electrician and the guy who does my taxes.  But here’s one thing we are not going to learn from Vedanta: what Christianity is. 

On the other hand, the main point I was making in that section of the review is one that you basically concede.  In your reply, you write: “I admit that what others consider orthodoxy is not my primary concern” and “I do not care whether what I say fits a particular definition of orthodoxy.”

Well, here’s one problem with that.  It’s not entirely true.  For you do not present the position you develop in You Are Gods as merely inspired by Christian writers, alongside others.  You present it as the Christian position, and you condemn rivals like Neo-Scholastic Thomism as positively contrary to Christian teaching.  Similarly, in That All Shall Be Saved, you presented your universalism as Christian teaching full stop, and dismissed rival positions like Thomism and Calvinism as simply getting Christianity wrong.  (Indeed, it even seems, at least in those moments, that perhaps you envy the Piuses their authority to issue anathemas!)

So, it appears to me that you have a tendency to speak out of both sides of your mouth.  When it suits your purposes, you are happy to play the orthodoxy card against your opponents.  When accused of flouting orthodoxy yourself, it’s suddenly: “Orthodoxy schmorthodoxy, let a thousand flowers bloom!”  That’s the sort of rhetoric that may work well with people who are into rhetoric of that sort.  But logically speaking… well, I don’t need to finish the sentence.

Hence, when you admonish me: “Do not arrogate to yourself the right to speak for Christian tradition in general” and “there are more things in Christianity… than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” what else can I say but: Right back atcha, David. 

Except that our positions are not really at a stalemate at this point, since I really do believe that there is such a thing as orthodoxy and that there are objective criteria by which that can be determined.  You, I think, do not.  I suspect that the traditional Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant debates over the sources of authority bore you.  I gather that, when the term “modernism” enters the discussion, you’ll offer an impatient sigh, with a side order of eye rolls.  But, when pressed, you’ll concede that yes, at least where questions about the authority of tradition, the history of dogma, and the like are concerned, your sympathies are with thinkers of the sort condemned in Pascendi.  Stop me when I‘m getting warm.

So, while you may think I get Christianity wrong, I am most certainly trying to get it right.  I don’t think you are doing that, not fundamentally anyway.  You admitted as much in That All Shall Be Saved, where you suggested that if it should turn out that your universalism really is inconsistent with Christianity, you would give up Christianity rather than universalism – appealing to your own “conscience,” against which, you say, “the authority of a dominant tradition… has no weight whatever.”

Hence what you defend in that book and in the new one, I would suggest, is not really Christianity itself, but rather a personal theology that takes certain Christian thinkers as key sources of inspiration.  It is, at the end of the day, essentially David Bentley Hartism.  And so, I agree with you when you say that “for all intents and purposes, we profess different faiths.”

Well, that’s basically it.  I appreciate the good sportsmanship of your reply, your kind words about my philosophy of mind book, and the kind words you have had elsewhere for Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  As you know, I admire your own books Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God, and I know that they have meant a lot to some of my own readers.  It is where we get into matters of more specific Christian concern that we, and our readers, begin to diverge.  That is regrettable, but there it is.

The big book on the soul that I am currently working on is one that mostly deals with matters on which our sympathies converge.  And so, I think that for the most part you will like it.  Except for the section on the postmortem fixity of the will, which you will hate. 

May God bless you too.

Best,

Ed

90 comments:

  1. Why don't you guys have a public debate? The written exchanges have their benefits, of course; I believe they allow for deeper and longer expositions of arguments and are easier to go back to and reexamine. On the other hand, all this "I said, he said, I didn't meant it like that, he misquoted me" would be easier resolved, at least for the audience, during a live debate.

    That's what I believe at least.

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    1. all this "I said, he said, I didn't meant it like that, he misquoted me" would be easier resolved, at least for the audience, during a live debate.

      Zeno, having watched several such debates, I think that this is actually not the case. At least in my experience, debaters often fail to "get behind" an initial state where they aren't using each others terms quite the same way. Indeed, sometimes they go further apart, perhaps because (in the heat of a person-to-person tense debate) one person mis-construes the other's meaning, and the other mis-construes the first's intention and good will, leading to worse and worse exchanges. Given the past nature of Hart & Feser written disputes having quite heated castigations, I would not put much money down on a bet for their having a fruitful and productive debate. Their apparent difference in temperaments (oft-remarked by people who like both writers) inclines me to think it unlikely.

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    2. Tony is right, on a debate where there are profound diferenced it is quite easy to the debaters to just talk pass each other for a lot or all of it or just getting stuck on a minor point. Dr. Feser second debate with Dr. Oppy, while cool, kinda stagnated after some time, for instance.

      The debate perhaps would help to see were the disagreement lies, but not to finish it. Debates seems good to open discussions and research.

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    3. I think such a debate could work, but there would have to be two conditions, both of which are unlikely to be met.

      (a) It would have to be eight hours.
      (b) The moderator would have to be extremely well-versed in both debaters' views, would have to be extremely fair-minded, and would have to have a loaded gun that he was willing to use when either participant started to get off track.

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    4. Hmm The After-Show of the Prof Feser-Oppy debate was really interesting,they touched on many interesting issues. The one that found I was most interesting was the one where they were discussing the modal collapse and God's reasons for creating the world. Prof.Feser even said he had some upcoming work on those particular issues but I don't know what became of it ever since. A blog post on God's reasons for creating this world rather then some other world or a similar post would be nice though :).

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  2. Zeno,

    While I like a good live debate, I don't think it would be productive in this case.

    After reading this Feser post, it seems like Hart would just start talking in circles on anything of substance.

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  3. Appeal to conscience is a tricky thing. Yes, we should follow it, BUT our obligation does not end there!
    We are called to form it correctly, otherwise we can follow its leading to end up gassing Jews or philosophy bloggers.
    And how do we know if it is well formed? By testing it against God's revelation.
    And who did God install as the guarantors is what His revelation actually is? Either the apostles and his successors or David Bentley Hart apparently.

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  4. David is clearly inspired by St. Gregory and St. Maximus*, besides some other neoplatonic christians, but i really doubt that they as they were back them would accept him as a christian, let alone that they DO accept him now...

    After reading both men i say that it is a iteresting exchange but i wonder if the two bright minds diferent temperaments and traditions, besides the diferences on the relevance of being orthodox, is causing more disagreements that there should be.

    I feel like Hart does not get the two feserian analogies and neither the sense of obediential potency he is using. The way that he conceptualizes the thomistic position as this pure nature completely closed off to theosis that is them radically changed by Our Lord is, as Dr. Feser explains, not really what the view means and David seems to get close to accept the real deal when he talks about Aristotle idea of something being possible to us "by way of a friend". Perhaps is his concept of the thomistic view that clounds the analogies.

    And while it seems to me too that Hart is hardly what would pass off as a christian not even a few centuries ago, let alone at the patristic era, that Ed acusation of pantheism is unfair. It is quite easy to sound unorthodox when speaking of God relation with creation, since we are dealing with two very, very, diferent ways of being. That, from what i see, the neoplatonic tradition of Hart tends to use a more misteriously sounding language does not help much.

    His point about the accusation of God having no choice is a good showing of that. David says that what he meant is that, unlike us, The Father does not need to stop and deliberate before picking a option, for He is neither ignorant or changing, but this makes Him MORE free that us, for His pick is not limited by ignorance or time wasted etc. It is David refusal of using analogical language and just say "God choose to create" that creates the problem but it seems orthodox to me. I had a similar thinking today on a reflexion a little before mass, so i hope it is orthodox!

    So, in the end, besides they clearly disagreeing on "christian orthodoxy" being a meaningful thing, it seems to this mere talmid that the two men are on more agreement that one can see at first, which seems unlike the prior exchanges of they. I'am getting this right?

    *does he gets they right? I can't judge

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  5. Well Written Letter Prof. Feser.

    My favourite part of the letter was when you mentioned that
    "I am, of course, happy to learn from Vedanta, and from Neoplatonism, Avicenna, and (for that matter) my electrician and the guy who does my taxes. But here’s one thing we are not going to learn from Vedanta: what Christianity is."

    I think that this statement has a more profound meaning then is apparent at the surface because it captures the point very beautiful. Many traditions may have something interesting to say about the Divine Nature considered in itself as far as one can go with Natural Theology.

    But when it comes to Christianity, it is important for Christian Philosophers to note that, that's the part where they primarily come into the picture. Christianity is what Christian Philosophers uniquely have, to offer to the conversation. And they shouldn't allow anyone to take that away from them.Their philosophy should always be at the service of making Christianity more comprehensible to the masses albeit without compromising any essential aspect of the Christian Message.

    To suggest that one can learn more about Christianity from philosophers of another tradition would render the point of being a "Christian" philosopher moot. Christianity is what we offer to the world, not what the world offers to us. Hence other traditions come to the Christian Philosopher/Theologian to know what Christianity is and not vice versa.

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    1. What Ed is getting at is the Mark of Apostolicity; the real teaching must come down from the Apostles.

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  6. Two thoughts...

    - I love to use analogies, but once i find that my interlocutor is impervious to their symbolism i realize that i have to either give up on the tool or give up on the conversation.

    - so... Pantheism is a label you “can neither reject nor accept, since it is meaningless.” wow, what then is that word doing in all our dictionaries? You can tell a guy is in a corner when he has to say that words themselves should be abandoned!
    Come on, you can go ahead and dispute what a term means, but don't be telling the world it has NO meaning.

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  7. David Bentley HartApril 23, 2022 at 10:10 AM

    Ed,

    Thanks for alerting me to your post. I’m in a rush, so excuse the drive-by. No need to duck, however.

    God bless you for sticking to your guns, but you really need to give up on the computer and bat-echolocation analogies. I understood them perfectly. They don’t work, not because they fail to convey what you mean, but because what you mean is not what the tradition you think you’re defending means when it talks of potentia oboedientialis or about superelevation by the infusion of the lumen gloriae.

    I will try one more time, and if you don’t get it, so be it.

    The computer metaphor is a metaphor for something that is totally unlike what obediential potential is in the post-Cajetanian Thomist lexicon. It just is. You are defending the existence of natural potentials that can be realized only by adventitious aid and act; I have no problem with that, but that has nothing to do with the actual classic debate. A better metaphor would be to say that you have just installed new software on the acacia tree in your garden, and the tree is running the software flawlessly. At this point I would be moved to ask how a tree can run software, in that it lacks both the potential and the faculty for such a thing, even as an “inchoate predisposition”; do you mean your tree was magically converted into a computer? No, you tell me, it is still a tree, in all the integrity of its arboreal nature, but it has also been superelevated to the condition of running software without violation of its treeness. Do you mean that it has merged with a computer, and so is a composite of two different things with distinct teleologies? I ask. No, you say, it is a tree that simply now has the superadded gift of running software—as a tree. Is it not then, I query, some other nature than a tree’s that it now possesses, with an altogether discontinuous teleology? No, you say. I ask how and you say, Oh, there was an obediential potential there. At this point, I will tell you that either the tree had a natural capacity—albeit one requiring adventitious assistance—to run software or it did not; and, if not, then the acacia in your garden is no longer an acacia, even if it is materially continuous with the tree that once was there.

    On the bat business—let’s try one more time to cut to the chase. Can a spiritual nature—a rational being—exist as having anything other than God as its sole ultimate final cause? Could there exist such a being in a state of pure nature? What then would be the index of its rational desires? How could it desire knowledge of anything except as a purely spontaneous curiosity? Indeed, how would it even be capable of spontaneous curiosity? If the final horizon of all noetic intentionality is not already a transcendental foregrasp of, and insatiable hunger of the natural will for, God in his infinity, how is it rationally intentional at all? The issue is not whether creatures unaided can achieve the beatific vision; it is whether the hunger for the vision of God is the necessary ground of all natural rational longing. You keep getting the issue backward.

    (continued below)

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  8. David Bentley HartApril 23, 2022 at 10:10 AM

    (continued)

    Last few notes:

    Vedanta may very well be able to tell you what Christianity is, to some very real degree. Neoplatonism wasn’t merely a supplement to an already completely formulated orthodoxy. It was a necessary implement in discovering what the Christian concept of God was. Without those metaphysical tools, the tradition would never have been able to make sense of the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of the trinity, or neo-Chalcedonian Christology. Vedanta may yet provide needed tools for getting past other theological difficulties (like the absurd paradoxes generated by two-tier Thomism).

    I am careful not to claim that my beliefs are orthodoxy as such. You do in fact claim that the second scholastic Thomist system is the official teaching of what you take to be the apostolic church. It is not, but that is how you present it. My monism is a Neoplatonic monism present both in “sainted” figures like Gregory and Maximus and in “parallel orthodox” (ie, uncondemned, theologoumenally licit) figures like Eriugena, Eckhart, and Cusanus. You may reject it; you cannot legitimately claim I am breaking from ancient tradition in embracing it. And, again, the two-tier system is the most isolated and controverted school in Catholic thought, with the possible exception of Jansenism.

    Use the word pantheism if you like. I don’t object. Romantic vitalist, pantheist, monist idealist, Sophiologist—whatever works for you. It’s all true in some acceptation or other. But it is a rhetorical rather than critical category, then, since it would take in simultaneously Plotinus, Nocholas of Cusa, Spinoza, and a Gaia-worshipper named Jerome who lives in Seattle.

    If only you had been immersed in Bulgakov at the crucial time...

    But this is getting repetitive. I’m done.

    Take care.

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    1. This is what I glean from Harts post.
      He's not trying to pursue pantheistic theology in the classic sense, he's out craft a theology that is pantheistic in that it includes all positions.
      A grand unification of theology: all christian positions and all non Christian positions woven together.
      A Catholic philosopher, like Feser (or anyone who holds a single position) is looking for perfection in their respective theology, i.e. the highest Truths of their respective Faiths.
      Thus Hart can quote any position by any writer as needed because none of them is unorthodox for him. Orthodoxy is only a problem for those he's at odds with, so he holds up both kinds of sources against his opponent and claims his opponent is narrow minded.
      The modernists in any school can easily agree with him because they're already looking for wiggle-room is their respective "Faiths". He can always find a way to accommodate them.
      This reminds me of two quotes from Scripture. The one about people who cannot abide sound doctrine and heap unto themselves teachers according to their own desires.
      The second, St. Paul's warning that no other revelation was to be accepted thought it came from an angel. You can't give credence to Buddha, or anyone else, if you claim to profess the Faith. (as in ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, A-P-O-S-T-O-L-I-C, Faith.)

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    2. @Tim the White
      Indeed, it's an epistemic issue. The orthodox position is that God has spoken, and we must hear Him. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all agree on that; we only disagree on the content of that divine speech, or proclamation. Yet we all agree that God has spoken through His Word, in Christ and the scriptures.

      Dr. Hart is essentially departing from this ecclesial tradition, I think. His starting point is not the theocentric God-who-speaks, but the anthropocentric man-who-listens. He throws us back onto ourselves, to listening to our inner moral and spiritual resources to discern what "God" is saying. The source of his faith is internal rather than external. It doesn't come from hearing the preaching of the Gospel, but rather from discovering some mystical resource within oneself. It is the 'vital immanence' that Pius X points out as a chief pillar of Modernist theology.

      Dr. Hart's position is fashionable, and has a lot of academic and political backing. After all, the orthodox ecclesial position rests on the preposterous claim that God spoke authoritatively through unlettered fishermen 2,000 years ago, and that these fishermen had the power to speak for God that the great philosophers and mystics didn't have.

      Coincidentally, I'm sure that Dr. Hart would allow that the apostles did speak for God; only, not in any essentially different way from the great philosophers or mystics, or the great prophets and saints of other religions. All are reacting to the vitally immanent 'spirit' within them, so that Christian revelation is not essentially different from any other revelation of spirituality, of mysticism, or of philosophy; even though the first Christians might have been able to "discover" several new insights bubbling forth from within themselves.

      Dr. Hart is starting from the very polite, modern academic position of having all these ancient and medieval documents layed before us, and trying to discern (through his own good taste, no doubt) what in them is "spiritual" and "divine". He isn't clinging to one word (the word of the apostles) as the divinely revealed truth, and rudely dismissing the others. Wouldn't that be bigoted and unenlightened? And doesn't he have all the weight of modern politics/society behind him, in that all religions are given civil recognition and treated as equal partners in a great "humanistic debate about God and the soul"? And doesn't history back him up, in that the struggle of "orthodox" Christians to determine what exactly "orthodoxy" consists of, has only led to contradiction and war?

      1/2

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    3. The problem with Dr. Hart's approach, for all its scholarliness and urbanity, is that it leaves us with a religion of mere refined taste and academic opinion. It is a human religion with no divine authority to convict. He's not in any different position epistemically from Plato and the other ancient pagan philosophers. God might as well not have spoken to Moses at Sinai, or become incarnate in Jesus, because at the end of the day (if we are to follow Hart) we are still just looking into ourselves, trying to discern true or false by the power of our own human understanding. Hart is following the sages and the gurus, not the prophets and the apostles.

      To his credit, Dr. Hart does not follow so many of the current powers-that-be in reducing all religion to historicist, anthropological, deconstructionist irrelevance. He clearly sees something of timeless truth here. He knows too much to be a simple agnostic. But I wonder in what way his religion differs from a well-read ancient Roman philosopher like Cicero or Seneca; except that Hart happens to be more well-read than those two, and that's partly due to our modern scholarship giving him a much greater abundance of documents to draw from. Of course he has the benefit of having heard of the resurrection; but again, if you reduce the preaching of the resurrection to metaphysical allegories and speculations, you really aren't in much of a better position than a Plato, a Cicero, or a Seneca. They were just as capable of sublime moral intuitions, speculative ecstasies, and allegorical wisdom.

      Modern man's addiction to the beautiful documents of old has been very treacherous. Of course it was inevitable. I'm not advocating book burning or hatred of scholarship. But our being presented with so many lovely ideas and exotic "worldviews" has made us intoxicated with the human intellect and scholarship, so that "professing to be wise, they became fools." We've learned so much. I'm glad. And Dr. Hart is an exceptionally learned man. But all our learning has led us into deeper confusion and, to use one of my favorite biblical expressions, "confusion of face".

      Dr. Hart reminds me of Nicodemus, a very sympathetic figure of the New Testament; the type of the intellectual who is captivated by Christ, but who wants to rely on his intellect to approach him. Perhaps the Church needs its Nicodemuses, those who approach Christ by night and ask Him searching questions. But if Nicodemus was in charge, the Gospel would never be preached; we'd only have questions and theories about the Christ — intellectually, but not vitally, interesting.

      2/2

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  9. Good letter Dr. Feser. It would very interesting if you and Hart have a public debate.

    God bless you!

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  10. I find Hart's argument about the bat interesting and Feser's answer not convincing. It seems to me that to understand what it is to be a bat one would have to share its nature: simply gaining the sense of echolocation as Feser answers would not be enough, any more than the fact that we share the sight and other senses with dogs does not allow us to fully put ourselves in their place and understand their inner life. So it does not seem stupid to me to imagine that in order to share and contemplate the inner life of God we must become, IN A SENSE, divine partake in His nature.

    I hope your book on the soul will have a passage on theosis :)

    If not : any books recommandations ?

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    1. "It seems to me that to understand what it is to be a bat one would have to share its nature: simply gaining the sense of echolocation as Feser answers would not be enough, any more than the fact that we share the sight and other senses with dogs does not allow us to fully put ourselves in their place and understand their inner life."

      To be fair, the whole debate is about the christian view of theosis, who is closer to having the bat echolocation than to having a bat nature. The christian view is quite clearly that there is a diference between the eternal relation and equality between the persons of the Trinity, the relation between Our Lord Jesus Christ human and divine natures and
      the saints and God. These three relations are quite diferent and Hart point would only work if theosis was like the first relation, which it is clearly not. If it was, a sort of monism would truly be the case, though.

      It is easy to see that when remembering that the baptized are God adopted sons, unlike THE Father eternal, begotten not made, Son. Besides the clear separation made on Scripture, this can be seen indirectly when noticed that the angels or saints can't be worshiped, only venerated, while God is worshiped. The numerous comparisons where God is put at masculine or active roles like a father, sheepherd, husband, king etc while the saints are put at feminine or passive roles like sons, sheeps, wifes, servants etc also show that there is on the christian tradition a very clear separation between the Father and the christians.

      Even the beatific vision do not change that, for the blessed, while in direct contact with God, are still human. On the thomistic view, this is shown by the insistence that God can't be understood even by the blessed that see Him face to face. On Hart eastern orthodoxy, this is shown by the insistence that the blessed are in direct contact with God energies but never with His ineffable essence. Hart point them, does not work on a christian context, while it does on some pagan ones.

      I even remember a few pagans complaining that christianity is a feminine religion because of this insistence on God transcendence. While i prefer Chesterton take on that*, i agree that there is a quite unique way of talking about union with God in the christian tradition when compared with some pagan ones, that is why David complain miss the point.

      *see his criticism of buddhism

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  11. Hi, I really enjoyed this response, and I also enjoyed DB Hart's original letter (I am a profound admirer of Hart's theology). I did want to respond to one point in your response where you say we will not learn what Christianity is, from a range of other faith traditions. My question is, why not? If Christianity is the full revelation of a loving God does it not follow that we will indeed learn about Christianity from the deep wells of truth that we find in other faiths? Is this not part of the sheer delight of the spiritual path? For example, through my study of Buddhist literature I feel quite certain I have understood Christ's teachings more deeply.

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    1. Unknown wrote, "If Christianity is the full revelation of a loving God does it not follow that we will indeed learn about Christianity from the deep wells of truth that we find in other faiths

      I would agree -and I suspect Dr. Feser. would too- that we can learn much about Christianity from other faith traditions, to the extent that these traditions are in harmony with one another. However, these faith traditions also disagree with one another, and at least in some cases the disagreements are substantial. Unless one believes that all religions are essentially the same, and therefore "Christianity", "Buddhism" and "Vedanta" are but different names that refer to same thing, we have to acknowledge these substantial differences, and in this sense, other faith religions don't tell us what Christianity is.

      To use an analogy which is far from perfect but hopefully illustrative: humans and monkeys have much in common, from their genetic makeup to their social behaviour, and, for this reason, learning about monkeys helps deepening our understanding of ourselves, on the other hand, humans are also different from monkeys substantially, and we cannot know what it means to be truly human, not matter how much we learn from monkeys.

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    2. For example, through my study of Buddhist literature I feel quite certain I have understood Christ's teachings more deeply.

      One of the traditional reasons for studying the WRONG great philosophers is to grasp what does not work, and why, which is, itself, an approach to the truth - though an imperfect one. That is, error helps us by allowing us to narrow down the truth by exclusion. It's value in study is, then, via negativa.

      we will not learn what Christianity is, from a range of other faith traditions. My question is, why not? If Christianity is the full revelation of a loving God does it not follow that we will indeed learn about Christianity from the deep wells of truth that we find in other faiths?

      To the extent other faiths harbor, say, truths of history or science, one can readily embrace those truths and flesh out a Christian realization of those truths, e.g. to see how Christianity enfolds those truths into a larger picture. To do so does not imply that Christianity was in error before those truths of history or science were known. Nothing prevents us from learning from things outside of the foundational Christian truths, including things "in other religions". And to the extent they were true, Christianity never objectively excluded them to begin with, and in those truths those religions did not disagree with Christianity.

      In those things which some other religion disagrees with Christianity, one cannot "learn what Christianity is" solely by consulting with the other religion, rather obviously. One could learn by studying Buddhism that Buddhism says X, but one could not thereby know that Christianity says not-X, other than by also recognizing that X is false, which you would have to learn separately from studying Buddhism alone.

      With respect to "the deep wells of truth" we find in other religions: the whole point of God's intervening in human affairs with special revelation is that our capacity to SORT OUT which of the claims of the various religions are in fact true and which are not is unreliable. If we could be reliably certain that proposition Z (which polytheists agree on and monotheists dispute), then Z would have been settled by humans without need of God's revelation. But (manifestly) there has been vast disagreement, and so we are relatively unreliable in our (unaided) judgments about what religious claims are true, and we need some help. Given that divine assistance and our need for it, we cannot readily assess which claims count as "the deep wells of truth" in various religions, and backstopping our assessment by resort to "what does the Christian revelation say about Z" is needed at least practically, i.e. for most people, (and indeed, for all people, on some points).

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    3. Furthermore, if one steps back from an assumption that Christianity is true: it is manifestly the case that Religion A and Religion B dispute issue Y. One cannot know from a prior judgment that Y is true and that Religion A asserts it that therefore Religion B must also assert it. Maybe religion B is just plain wrong? If Hart is willing to allow that universal salvation is true and it could be shown that "traditional Christianity denies universal salvation", his apparent comments to the effect that "well, so much the worse for traditional Christianity" is, in effect, an allowance that Christianity DOES NOT hold "the truth". One could never have discovered that 'fact' merely from knowing that some other religion, say vedantism, does teach it. What a specific religion teaches is a historical datum, not a philosophical analysis.

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    4. @Tony

      While i agree with what you wrote, it seems that Unknown was just making the observation that from ideas and themes on the human traditions we can be lead to see things on new ways that in turn help us see things on our faith in new ways.

      Picking a personal example: my reading of Nietzsche slave morality, yea, helped me analise with more sincerity some of my atitudes that had quite a bit of a hidden libido dominandis. Someone who looked at, say, mahayana buddhism insistence that we should aim to save all perhaps could be helped to see Our Lord command to pray and do good even to the bad on a new way.

      Now, could the christian learn these things with his on tradition? Sure, these truths are there, but there are cases were the human traditions are the best path to these small realizations thanks to particular circunstances. Our God can aways bring the good out of evil, after all.

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    5. @Unknown

      All spirituality is demoniacal. If you read the very best of the Buddhist literature (e.g. the Blue Cliff Record; the Record of Lin-chi) you'll see that even they were aware that all spirituality is demoniacal and fruitless. All our human efforts to achieve holiness and righteousness are sins, and only increase our guiltiness before God. We have all fallen short and need the mercy of God. The "faith traditions — which are more accurately called records of man's faithlessness — have nothing to teach you; though you will probably get entangled with a demoniacal spirit if you pursue any of their "spiritual paths", or, as the Buddhists put it, you'll get yourself lost in a "ghost cave" or go chasing after "wild fox spirits". Flee the spiritual path. It disguises itself as the narrow path of salvation Jesus speaks of, but in reality is just one of the more luxurious passages in the broad way of destruction.

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    6. Unknown, say you didn't know anything about Christianity, could you know the essence of Christianity by simply studying other faiths and philosophies?

      I'm sure you could get to some side aspects of Christianity, but you wouldn't get the essence of it.

      As an analogy, the ancient Greeks got pretty far in recognizing some divine spark in us, but they never got to the imago dei.

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  12. A helpful way for me to drill down to the nub of things is by forgetting, momentarily, later theological figures and developments and addressing myself to Jesus and the early church (about whom/which we know considerably more than Hart lets on in his Questions for O’Regan chapter. The Vedanta/monist-Neoplatonic Jesus is much more akin to the Jesus we find in various Nag Hammadi texts, and (categorically) not the very Jewish Jesus of the Synoptics—and even John. The fact of the matter is (and I’d put my money on ballparking 98+% of serious NT scholars would concur), the real Jesus of history is nothing like gnostic Jesus. Same goes for the apostles, and the first few generations thereafter. Even with Ignatius, Justin, Tatian, etc. there is a clear sense of the very Jewish apostolic kerygma in the driver seat. This is the main idea behind Tertullian’s famous line about Jerusalem and Athens, and then Irenaeus’ parable of the Fox and king and appeal to the rule of faith. Again, Hart makes it seem like the jury’s out about what the real Jesus of history and earliest Christianity would have thought, but this view represents an older generation of historical Jesus scholarship; there’s actually a remarkably strong consensus today about the basics of Jesus’ ministry and death, about the early church’s understanding of Jesus’ messiahship, etc. Implicit in these beliefs would be, I imagine, a strong resistance to monism, pantheism, and even overdependence on contemporary philosophical currents. The temptation is always to reinterpret the apostolic faith in light of a homier metaphysic as if the former were always just an allegory for the latter—this we find time and again. Sometimes it’s not clear just how transgressive the refiguration is (Origen, Nyssen, Maximus), other times you have to do some serious mental gymnastics to not see the flagrant narrative transgression (Evagrius, Eckhart, Boehme). The basic question is, then, can x thinker or y idea plausibly be said to stand in continuity with the historical Jesus/early church? Is x or y plausibly a development or refinement of what Jesus was up to?

    I think in the case of monism/pantheism, or even Neoplatonism masquerading as apostolic Christianity, the answer is clearly no. If Hart is right and monism is true, then so much the worse for Jesus and the apostles. No need to take them with us—they were wrong, they believed silly Jewish fables—why reinterpret them? Ditch them. (The two quotes of Jesus’ at the beginning of the book are too hackneyed to merit comment—suffice it to say no NT scholar worth his salt interprets then in the way Hart seems inclined to.) In all this I’m reminded of Zaehner’s perceptive comment that most of us are Marcionites at the end of the day; but if so, the responsible thing to do is to abandon Jesus, not coopt him for our own philosophic purposes.

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  13. Feser: “And it is crucial to understanding the analogy that the new applications and hardware that these make possible are sometimes unplanned and unforeseen by the designers of the computer.” Yes, but that’s the obvious problem with the computer analogy. What does it mean for God to create something that gets new applications that was unplanned and unforeseen for the eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God?

    And furthermore, I simply cannot for the life of me understand what the difference is between an obediential potency for God as our ultimate end and a natural potency for God as our ultimate end. It seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. It is given by God but so is everything. Nothing exists which does not live, move, or has its being in God.

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    1. Kjetil Kringlebotten, "What does it mean for God to create something that gets new applications that was unplanned and unforeseen for the eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God?"

      Good question. I'll give it a shot, if I may.

      The point of the computer analogy, as I understand it, is that the computer is complete qua computer, without the "new applications". It is complete because it meets the specifications and serves the purpose for which it was created, i.e., it functions as planned and foreseen by the original designer and manufacture.

      As you pointed out, nothing is unplanned or unforeseen for God. However, what God has planned shall happen to a certain creature is mot the same as the nature of said creature itself. For example, God makes man out of dust, it doesn't mean dust and man have the same nature; God has the power to overcome evil with good, it doesn't mean good and evil have the same nature. I think that's partly the difference between supernatural and natural.

      You wrote, "I simply cannot for the life of me understand what the difference is between an obediential potency for God as our ultimate end and a natural potency for God as our ultimate end... It is given by God but so is everything. "

      Everything is given by God, yes, but everything doesn't have the same nature. My understanding of Aristotelian potentiality, which might not accurately represent Dr. Feser's, is this: a natural potency will be actualized if nothing external hinders, whereas an obediential potency will be actualized only if something else is superimposed, in this case, grace and (obediance to) faith. To use another imperfect analogy, an infant has the natural potency to become an adult, but the obediential potency to become a saint or a sports superstar.

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    2. For example, God makes man out of dust, it doesn't mean dust and man have the same nature; God has the power to overcome evil with good, it doesn't mean good and evil have the same nature. I think that's partly the difference between supernatural and natural.

      Yes, we are created from dust but we are not dust. But that's not what Christianity thinks happens with salvation or deification. We are not made into something non-human. We are not dust now but we will be human in the eschaton. We will not be another species.

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    3. Kjetil Kringlebotten wrote, "...what Christianity thinks happens with salvation or deification.We are not made into something non-human..."

      It's safe to say that both sides agree on that point. The question in dispute, as I see it, is whether salvation or deification is a "natural" process for man. Salvation doesn't change humans into non-humans, but that doesn't mean it is a natural process. To use another example, Lazarus was raised from the dead, and came out of the tomb, he was still the man Lazarus, but what happened to him was supernatural. He would have rotted in the grave otherwise.

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    4. Nemo, your point is interesting because while Lazarus was raised to a normal sort of human life (though the raising itself was certainly not normal), Jesus was raised to a different sort of life. Which Tim the White makes below: our life in the resurrection will be quite different, with the body glorified: impassible, subtle, and agile in non-natural ways. Some (though I am not sure Hart is among them) might call this "not human", or at least sufficiently not human-like to raise questions.

      But the more important question, of course, revolves around the intellect's seeing the BV: is that a "natural" act of seeing merely supposing added powers to accomplish it, or is it inherently an above-human kind of seeing? The answer is by no means obvious without a lot of preliminary work on the nature of the intellect, I think.

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    5. Tony wrote, "... Jesus was raised to a different sort of life ... Some (though I am not sure Hart is among them) might call this "not human", or at least sufficiently not human-like to raise questions.

      Augustine wrote to the effect that we don't know ourselves unless/until we know God. I think it is partly because we don't know what it means to be truly human, unless we see what God has in mind when he creates man.

      Adam would not help us in that regard, for we don't know what would have happened to Adam had he not fallen; Jesus, as the last Adam, shows us what is human, in its proper state, as a masterpiece of God. In that sense, Jesus is not above-human, but we are, in our current fallen state, sub-human.

      In Jesus, the divine nature and human nature are still distinct, as you also pointed out. God has become the Light of man, the Light that not only enlightens the intellect, but also energizes the soul and body of man, such that whatever he sees the Father does he does also. Man is enlightened, but God gives Light; man lives, but it is God who sustains life.

      Regardless of what the "natural" ability of the intellect is, the distinction between human and divine is clear, in my view. I'd leave speculation of the former to philosophers. :)

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  14. Strange way for me to spend some time on a Saturday evening, but so be it.

    I think that for some while now it has probably occured to Ed Feser that apart from certain conceptual or framing disputes, there is not really that much for him to debate David Bentley Hart about.

    Feser and Hart, do in fact have effectively different religious or spiritual comittments.

    For example, whatever purposes Ed Feser has in arguing for the reasonableness and intellectual respectability of classical theism in the first place, it is pretty clear it was not aimed at justifying a "cruder" Jesus-centric worship to himself, or spraying a patina of academic or intellectual respectability over it. That is to say it was not for the purpose of cobbling together a less socially embarrassing pretext for a more closeted Christian belief.

    Ed, I take it, takes as seriously as any Dallas trained Evangelical, biblical references to the text " .. there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.."

    On the other hand, whatever purpose or significance the Christian religion has for David Bentley Hart, it obviously has little or nothing to do with the conditional salvation of individual souls - conceived of as distinct and everlasting persons surviving death, as per Catholic doctrine. If Hart even believes in any kind of personal survival after death, his position seems to be that are all predestined to be saved - or reintegrated or absorbed- anyway.

    So all this Jesus business Christianity has traditionally been going on about, especially his death on the cross, is in light of Hart's most recent statements, just pointless.

    Man whatever he is, is ultimately "saved" whatever that means, by the force of apparently ... some type of divine gravity. Once, having been necessarily effervesed off or out by the divine whatever, he/it is bound to return to this loving sea.

    Now I am quite sure, and historians do tell us, that when Jesus was preached to the various peoples of the Classical and post-Classical world, some of them, with somewhat already settled cultural notions or dispositions, would try to place the Son of Man and The Father in a context they were familiar with already. Paul even deliberately tried it as a preaching strategy in Athens.

    And we know too, for example, that the Hellenistic world was not the only one to place a spin on the figure of Jesus; the Germanic people in Britain 300 years later than Gregory of Nyssa, projected heroic war-band leader, ring giver-like qualities on the person of Jesus as can be seen historians and critics say, in certain, eventually written down, Old English poems. Middle Earth may not be as sophisticated a cosmology as that found in Scipio's Dream, or in Aristotle, but we all get the general idea of the adaptive process involved.

    So, now, remind me again why anyone should view Gregory's ruminations as particularly dispositive for anything? He's a saint, I have read. But not even a "doctor of the Church"

    Reading up on the supposed "revival" of interest in his writings, it looks to me as much like a modern project of mining for proof texts - or the potential for rhetorical allusions to their supposed existence - in support of a preexisting ideological position, as it does anything else.

    David Bentley Hart has obviously, proudly, and triumphantly, constructed himself a comfortable and ego satisfying religion which he, for now, is content to refer to as Christianity.

    How long before Hart and Elaine Pagels figuratively meet in a hot tub for a glass of wine and a little creative god-talk is anyone's guess. But mine would be, "Not long"

    Don't even think of bothering with a debate with Hart, Ed. You might as well try and debate the value of knowing Jesus as compared with enjoying a delicious and satisfying bowl of chocolate ice cream.

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    1. Dbh has a problem with people not understanding his positions, attributing to him something irrelevant that they can understand, and then attacking those positions with all the righteous fury they can muster.

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    2. Which at minimum means he should be more clear.

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  15. Hart’s style of argumentation is flawed in the same way as his short stories are. The problem is not that he is pretentious. (Borges, Joyce and Nabokov are pretentious—and brilliant.) The problem is that his stories are overwritten in a way that a good writer would, but Hart does not, notice. Same goes, for me at least, with his philosophy. I suspect Hart is so enamoured of and focused on his own belletrism and literary flourish that he loses sight of substance and structure—like an over-excited chef who produces spectacular-looking but over-seasoned and un-nutritious dishes that give you bad indigestion.

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  16. After two millennia of religious-inspired claim and counterclaim, this is the result? A he said-he said squabble over Christian ideology laid out raw and ugly for all to see smack-bang in the middle of the 21st Century.

    I don't know what it is but this is not intellectual scholarship. And what it underlies, in stark relief, is the profoundly flawed character, the nonsensical and schismatic nature of Christian belief. And so tribal at its most frightening; the Feser Catholic Street gang against the Hart Orthodox Neighbourhood hoodies.

    And paraphrasing Ben Mines above, both dishes are unpalatable and hazardous to one's moral, ethical and psychological health.



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  17. I think saying that the Beatific Vision is a natural desire entails pantheism for the following reason. Even when we see the Divine Essence in the Beatific Vision, what we see is a finite mode of knowledge. So there is going to be a knowledge that there is more that we could know (like the bat example). But of course, on Hart’s view, that would mean we are not fulfilling our telos, which means we must know more. I don’t see how this ends without humans eventually necessarily becoming the infinite Divine Substance itself. That would also do away with all hierarchy in Heaven, which seems to be counter to Christian orthodoxy (we know there are ranks of angels, for example).

    So yes I think that this is not an acceptable view for any Christian, let alone a Catholic.

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  18. Hi,

    I didn't actually mean to comment as anon, I was the one talking about what we can learn from other faiths, including Buddhist thought. I'm certainly not in the business of picking fights on this subject. Where I think though that Hart is prophetic is that he does not regard the rich traditions of other faiths as threats, indeed he sees them as gifts. As a priest in the C of E I cannot see how other faiths can be anything other than gifts, as long as one has a robust and deep sense of God's transcendence, how God's goodness, God's Christlikeness, can only shine out of other faiths and non-faiths. I think this is the natural consequence of taking seriously as God-intoxicated a vision as Hart presents. However, of course, others will take other viewpoints. I guess what I am aiming at here is God's transcendent freedom to be God, once we move toward that freedom quite a lot else seems like the human drawing up of boundaries.

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    1. Ok then,

      Why the Divine Mandate to preach the Gospel to every creature and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

      If we needed anything from these other religions, our Faith would be in vain.

      They need the Gospel, they need Baptism, they need what we have, not the other way around.

      What's that line that goes "All the gods of the gentiles are devils, but the Lord made the Heavens"?

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    2. Unknown wrote, "As a priest in the C of E I cannot see how other faiths can be anything other than gifts, as long as one has a robust and deep sense of God's transcendence,"

      I was reminded me of the saying, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". But Tim the White's response made me see Unknown's point. I guess I'm taking a middle position, where I don't offhandedly reject nor accept the teachings of any faith traditions without careful examination. All that glitters is not gold, neither is it all gloss.

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  19. Pappy says: I don't know what it is but this is not intellectual scholarship. And what it underlies, in stark relief, is the profoundly flawed character, the nonsensical and schismatic nature of Christian belief. And so tribal at its most frightening; the Feser Catholic Street gang against the Hart Orthodox Neighbourhood hoodies."

    "Neighborhood hoodies", eh?

    If Hart were commenting in this spot he'd probably call that a "pleonastic construction". Be thankful he is not. There is not space enough in one room, even virtual, for the two of you together.

    But really. Get accused of reacting hysterically, much?

    I guess schism, as you understand it, occurs whenever one person speaks bluntly to another, and declines to go along with whatever the other person has cooked up.

    Now Pappy, I don't know why you find that circumstance so outrageous. It is pretty much the lay of the land when it comes to humans with independent- at least of each other's - minds.

    I know however that for a certain kind of solidarity pimping type - let's use my favorite punching bag Richard Rorty as an example here - any attempt to ground morals and interpersonal human obligation in metaphysical language or references, is, why, as they see it, tantamount to treason to humanity - whatever the hell "humanity" might be expected to be for such a nominalist; and however the nominalst might imagine it can pull off the very trick which it denies can be performed in the first place: which is, deriving a morally imperative "ought", from a mere descriptive, "is".

    For the anti-metaphysician, terms like treason, humanity, and schism all become on his own assumptions, words which mask arbitrary and shifting, and rhetorically generated categories and claims. You might recall that we recently learned that "pantheism" is one of those as well. The meaning of pantheism, appatently depends on whose ox is being gored.

    Now old bag face Rorty admits all this. He admits he does not have an objectively grounded universal to stand on. Do you as well? If so, what are you bitching about?

    You can of course formulate the matter half a dozen different ways, and are welcome to do so if you prefer somewhat different technical terms.

    But the upshot in any case, is that you have really gone overboard here in an amusingly incoherent way.

    I guess that if one, like Herr Rorty, wishes to rule out of court the metaphysicians and their grounding disputes, then, emoting and sentiment is pretty much all one has left to charm the rabble.

    Apart that is from keeping them locked up in their apartments.

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    1. DNW: "Pappy says: I don't know what it is but this is not intellectual scholarship. And what it underlies, in stark relief, is the profoundly flawed character, the nonsensical and schismatic nature of Christian belief. And so tribal at its most frightening; the Feser Catholic Street gang against the Hart Orthodox Neighbourhood hoodies."

      "Neighborhood hoodies", eh?"

      Six of one, half-a-dozen of another. Doesn't matter to me. Easy to de-pleonasticize the comment:
      "And so tribal at its most frightening; the Feser Catholic Hoodies against the Hart Orthodox Neighbourhood street gang."

      There! Done!

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    2. "There! Done!"

      Well, if Hart ever stumbles across your comment, he will undoubtedly be pleased, since literary style counts for a great deal with him. Or, so he says.

      As for myself, and no doubt for some of the old guard who used to visit here before the recent focus ( or so it seems at a glance) on theology began to predominate, what one would appreciate seeing from you is the grounding and structure of your moral-claims system laid out. You repeat your conclusions often enough. How about the supposed justifications for those interpersonal and associative obligations you would impose? This is after all, a philosopher's blog, and you should be able to deal with those who basically say: "Why should I care what you want?" Especially because unlike a Christian, you cannot start by saying, "Because that is what the creator of all things wants; and in obeying him on charity, we will be eternally rewarded"

      You know, in other words, you should be able to give clear and objective reasoning as to why - just for an example - it is morally imperative that I should abandon my life habits, customs, and all past reason, because, say, some goofy has decided he is a girl trapped inside a male carcass, and wants everyone else to act as an appreciative audience for him as he engages in his mimicry antics. Instead of, his say, just trashing his wig and bra and panties and ceasing his making a nuisance of himself.

      Instead, what we get from you is the typical series of woke-ish assertions that demonstrate nothing.

      At least Christians promise paradise for engaging in self sacrificial benevolance toward annoying others. All you deliver is a second and third helping of this-worldly s%!t in return for one's putting up with the first one.

      Therefore, remarkably enough, the Christian promise should it fail to deliver, is a better deal than yours is, when it does.

      Less harm, as some are so fond of saying.

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    3. @ DNW

      Best to let a troll fester alone. Your reaction is his food.

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. "Best to let a troll fester alone. Your reaction is his food."

      As a general rule, that is a good one. However in the case of Linton an occasional challenge to him to either put up, or stand exposed as ignorant and shallow, is, in my estimation, worthwhile.

      Now, I admit that Linton's indignant jibes are largely directed at sensitive and religiously devout types, rather than at Feser's moderate realist and analytical philosophy aligned cohort. But, realists, religious or not - and perhaps most especially the " not" or the " not very" and the libertarian LEANING - have cause to now and again challenge the organisms of the left to.prove up on their claim structures, or to stand exposed as stinking intellectual frauds.

      I think Feser allows Linton to jabber and hector away here, because Linton's doing so is a reminder of what is potentially at stake for everyone, not just for the pious, if the ridiculous and ignorantly preening Karens of the world ever achieved complete dominance.

      Linton is an example of that philosophical incompetent who, masquerading as ethically superior, cannot even grasp the redounding, acidic, self-deconstructing implications of his own basic assumptions as revealed in those "progressive" judgments he pronounces.

      And sensitive Christians especially, seem unwilling to throw those acids of his back in his face.

      But I think that confronting him now and then with the fact that he is - among other things - comically posturing on behalf of a category , i.e., " humanity," that on his own assumptions has no universal identifying essence or telos, and probably has also - if he is like others striking the the same poses - no special or unified ontical status either, is worth the trouble of a few lines.

      As far as I am concerned then, he can mock religion, the Christian religion most especially, all he likes.

      If that activity eventually conduces him to Hell, he is welcome to go there as far as I am concerned. Which, I should hssten to mention, is a prospect for him which most Christians - believing him to be a meaningfully like-kind and a soul worth saving would find horrifying.

      But I wish him to instead understand that on his own foundational assumptions, his experiencing such a fate is not anything anyone who is not him, should concern themselves with in the least.

      If he finds that at all puzzling or objectionable, it might be the first step on his road to a greater understanding of the critical importance of the "problem of universals" for the claims he, like so many other leftist, appetite expressing things, is repeatedly staking.

      .

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  20. Everything stands or falls on the nature of Adam, and why Adam was unique, vis-a-vis the other sacrificing, walking, talking hominins from amongst whom he was born, and into whose nature, culture and identity he fell. Collapsing the difference leads to pantheism, or Nietzscheism.

    Feser's software analogy is most apt.

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  21. Because said applications are unplanned and unforeseen – and thus do not exist within the computer even in an implicit or embryonic way – they can in no way arise from within the computer as it stands, but can be put into it only from without.

    This is where you equivocate between a modern (Cartesian, but already present in Ockham) idea of purpose and a classical-medieval understanding of natural teleology. That is, you equivocate between an operation that is 'unplanned and unforseen' in the mind of the computer's maker, and hence an externally added purpose that isn't present in the computer itself; and an application that does exist 'in an embryonic way' in the computer itself.

    Speaking strictly (as opposed to vague anological hand-waving), no application exists 'within the computer.' It has an indefinitely large number of physical possiblities that we can make use of for our extrinsic (i.e. extrinsic to the computer) purposes. And among those physical possibilities are interactions with any and all USB devices.

    We can, if we want to talk that way, speak of the physical possibilities of the concatenation of plastic and metal as the natural purposes of 'the computer.' In which case, running any USB device whatever is a natural potentiality of 'the computer.' But if we want to say, instead, that its purposes are only those envisioned by its maker, then it doesn't have any natural purposes at all.

    It's a pretty straight-forward either/or.

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  22. I think I've Got it!
    Back me up Professor!

    So people don't like the analogies that the Professor uses? Try this one.

    The Glorified Body!

    The Glorified Body has all kinds of new attributes that our present bodies do not have.

    1. It is luminous- The soul's beauty shines out through the body.
    2. It is agile- The glorified body can travel instantly to any corner of Heaven or earth.
    3. It is impassible- it cannot be hurt or destroyed.
    4. It has subtility- It cannot be restrained or blocked.
    The glorified body is identical to the body that formerly died. This is essential, because if it were not the same; it would not be a true resurrection. (if it were not the same, it would be reincarnation).
    The glorified body has all these spiritual attributes due to it's obediential potency with regard to the Glorified Soul that animates it. Due to the "overflow of Grace and Power of the soul" if I remember correctly.
    Likewise, if the body can receive these new attributes from the glorified soul that it does not naturally have now, then the Glorified Soul can perceive the Divine Essence due to IT'S obediential potency to God's grace (overflowing on it) which it could not do naturally before.
    The Glorified Soul will shine out through the Glorified Body and the Light of Glory will fill the Souls of the Just.

    Amen.

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    1. Tim, I think this is a beautiful addition to the discussion. Thank you.

      I fear, however, that it will merely highlight the underlying dispute, but I hope it highlights it by giving a clearer field for actually addressing the dispute. The disputation can now be addressed in terms of the body as well as the soul: Is human nature such that the glorified body is properly "the natural end" of such body? Or is a glorified body beyond "the natural end" of the body. I am not sure this can be settled any easier than tackling whether the BV is beyond "the natural end" of the intellect.

      Feser's thesis seems to rest primarily on the premise that it is unreasonable to speak of a "natural end" proper to a thing that is, per se, beyond natural powers to achieve. Hart's thesis seems to be, contrariwise, that it is unreasonable to speak of a thing achieving an end that is "beyond its nature" (for how could such a thing be "it's end" properly speaking?)

      I fall between the two, interpreting St. Thomas's treatment as saying man has only one proper end, a supernatural one (the BV), but that end is beyond it's nature as to powers to achieve it: God's design of an intellectual being's nature is a design of a nature capable of receiving a supernatural imprint as an adopted son of God, and this nature MUST be, at one and the same time, natural (with its implication of limitation, finiteness, non-transcendence) and oriented toward transcendence, with an implication of being oriented toward by reason of supernatural assistance. That is, man's nature is a nature CALLING for assistance, a nature too weak to achieve it's proper end by itself, but not too weak to achieve it WITH assistance. Where Hart defies such a thing as as being reasonable, Thomas insists that this is necessary, since it is fundamentally impossible for a created nature to have natural power to join the Transcendent Nature. While probably Hart is not (arguably, as Reed argues below) formally a pantheist, his position ends up being reducible to a version of pantheism, because he is relying on a premise that implies an identification of our nature and God's nature. Feser, along with Thomas, premises a strict distinction between their natures.

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    2. Tony,

      man's nature is a nature CALLING for assistance, a nature too weak to achieve it's proper end by itself, but not too weak to achieve it WITH assistance

      So, human beings have the natural potentiality to see but cannot actualize it without external assistance: there must be light as well as visible objects to be seen. Are you thinking of man's potentiality to be deified in this way or differently?

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    3. I should probably add that by saying "and this nature MUST be, at one and the same time, natural (with its implication of limitation, finiteness, non-transcendence) and oriented toward transcendence, with an implication of being oriented toward by reason of supernatural assistance. "

      I mean "oriented toward transcendence" in the sense of being united to The Transcendent One by a grace of adoption, which is distinct from the union of The Son being united with Father by nature. In the BV we remain distinct from God in regard to nature, we do not become "divinized" in the sense that our nature ceases to be human nature, and becomes divine nature.

      This is, by the way, implicit in the distinction made in reference to the Incarnation, in which Christ's human nature remains distinct from his divine nature, while being united to that divine nature. If in Christ the two natures remain distinct (though one person), then all the more so do we, in the BV, remain distinct in nature from God as well as distinct in person.

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    4. @Buddy

      "So, human beings have the natural potentiality to see but cannot actualize it without external assistance: there must be light as well as visible objects to be seen."

      Just commenting, but is that not similar to the christian view of the saintly life? We are by nature drawn to doing good, but we can't do it if we don't have grace. Grace instead of changing or nature actualy makes we capable of living like our nature demands.

      If i'am getting this right, is this not relevant to the debate? For Ed position sounds similar.

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    5. We are by nature drawn to doing good, but we can't do it if we don't have grace.

      If I am reading Feser's account right, we are not "drawn to" doing good in the proper sense by nature. The upright, due kind of doing good is an act motivated by charity, i.e. an inherently supernatural love of God, and we either are not naturally inclined to that act at all, or we are naturally only "inclined in some sense" that is inadequate to be called "desire" in the proper sense. Even acting out of the natural love of God as the all-perfect and all-good Unmoved Mover is not sufficient for righteousness. Nor is personal sin needed to explain this inability in us: even Adam in the Garden, and the angels before receiving the BV, needed grace to act in righteous charity.

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    6. @Tony

      By "being drawn to" good i did not mean that we by ourselves have the capacity to it, i meant that our nature tends to it in the sense that we are only complete, truly we, when we do it.

      But looking at it now it seems that the analogy to Ed position does not work, for the professor defends that a hypothetical man on a state of nature would be mostly fine with no BV. Our relation to grace is not like that, as our first parents need of original justice does show.

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  23. “As you know, I admire your own books Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God,” - Ed Feser

    “This latest book [You Are Gods] continues the trajectory away from historical Christianity evident in Hart’s recent work.” - Ed Feser

    “Gregory's universalism, though, is a subordinate issue; what is of interest here is the light it casts on Gregory's larger vision. That is to say, Gregory's understanding of the infinite never dissolves into abstraction: infinity is God alone, in his fullness, in whom all richness, beauty, motion, and life already dwell, without violence, negation, diremption, or the sacrifice of the particular.” - from pg. 219 of The Beauty of the Infinite, published in 2003 (also check out pgs. 218, 246-247, 418-422 for more discussion on universalism and “pantheism”)

    “The threat of eternal torment is an appeal solely to spiritual and emotional terror, and to the degree that Christians employed it as an inducement to faith, their arguments were clearly somewhat vulgar. The doctrine of hell, understood in a purely literal sense, as a place of eternally unremitting divine wrath, is an idea that would seem to reduce Christianity’s larger claims regarding the justice, mercy, and love of God to nonsense.” - from pg. 169 of Atheist Delusions, published in 2009

    “The terms in which I have chosen to speak of God, as the title page of this volume announces, are ‘being,’ ‘consciousness,’ and ‘bliss.’ This is a traditional ternion that I have borrowed from Indian tradition: in Sanskrit, the terms are sat, chit, and ananda, which are often fused into the single substantive satchidananda…In any event, the three terms taken together constitute a particularly venerable Indian definition of the Godhead, with roots that reach back into the metaphysics of the Upanishads, and I have chosen to use them for a number of reasons.” - from pgs. 74-75 of The Experience of God, published in 2013

    Hart has been speaking of apokatastasis / universalism, “pantheism,” and Vedanta from his first published book roughly 20 years ago up to the present moment. Criticize him all you like for his views, but to claim that he’s departing the traditional Faith for something else is an utterly ridiculous claim. For anyone to suggest that Hart “used to be” some sort of fierce apologetic orthodox Christian fighter, but has now wandered off into polluted wells elsewhere, clearly reveals they actually never read or understood Hart to begin with.

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    1. I'm no Hart scholar, but:

      The initial quotes you cite leave plenty of room for cross-confessional Historic Orthodoxy that not all will be saved. For instance neither J.P. Moreland or Bill Craig, to my understanding, believe hellfire to be literal physical torture, but a metaphor of the agony of eternal separation from God. Ditto for Lewis's imagery in the Great Divorce. Even Balthasar, though he wants to make room to hope all will be saved, does not presume God is *obligated* that all will be.

      I do think you have a point that the germ of where Hart was going to go was always there. I remember his Experience of God interview with Mars Hill Audio's Ken Myers and him speaking of "supremely gifted" Indian thinkers, and the zest that came into his voice alongside his professed indifference as to who won debates between WLC and Dawkins. While I admired his eloquent confidence hitting those beats left a nagging concern about the implications of his thought. I don't know exactly when Hart "came out" as a Universalist, but it was surely within a couple of years (I remember a piece in First Things around that time) of the Experience of God's publication.

      What was jarring for people may have been twofold.

      First, all that deep, I'll-just-footnote-myself-while-I'm talking erudition that begat an atmosphere of complete triumph when wielded against Alex Rosenberg, say, was turned on the "Infernalism" of Historic Christianity and especially its contemporary defenders. He turned that learned polemicism against a lot of erstwhile admirers (there's likely a lesson there).

      Second, Hart's Universalism is not one at God's Discretion -too personalistic a way of talking within his system perhaps - out of an overplus of His Love for the Undeserving Sinners of every time and severity. Rather, God is metaphysically obligated to save them, both by His nature and theirs. And forsooth, if the Christian God cannot be understood to have said such, Hart believes we should abandon Him.

      I don't think Hart's evolution as a metaphysician is over, especially given his penchant for controversy. My guess is he'll go after received wisdom on the Trinity next.


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    2. Hi, thanks for your response.

      Regarding the concept of Hell that gets referenced to in Atheist Delusions, the above snippet I quoted may indeed be able to be interpreted in various ways as you suggested, but it has a fuller context in the text than what I originally posted (because I was merely posting a snippet, after all). For example, immediately following that section above is, “The evidence of the Gospels, moreover, is far more ambiguous on this point than most persons imagine; even Christ’s allegorical portrait of the final judgment in Matthew chapter 25 allows considerable latitude for interpretation, and patristic theologians as diverse as Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Isaac of Nineveh saw in the phrase aiōnios kolasis (typically translated as ‘eternal punishment,’ but possible to read as ‘correction for a long period’ or ‘for an age’ or even ‘in the age to come’) no cause to conclude that hell was anything but a temporary process of spiritual purification.”

      And again, this is from his most popular book, lauded as a modern apologetic polemic from 2009.

      As to your next-to-last paragraph, I would suggest that that is not an accurate representation of Hart’s views, but is more of a misunderstanding, at best. Nowhere that I am aware of does Hart ever state that God is metaphysically “obligated” to save all; in fact, were God “obligated” or “required” to “do” anything, then obviously God would be subservient to some standard beyond Himself (and hence, not be God). Rather, what Hart argues (according to how I understand him) is that God is entirely free (within the classical concept of freedom, which is distinctly different from the modern concept of deliberative agency and libertarian freedom), and that with His freedom, He freely creates and saves all through grace. And Hart bases this entirely out of the Gospels and the New Testament: God is Love, and the Incarnation of Christ is Love made manifest. Hart’s entire foundation for his adherence to apokatastasis is his belief in the Incarnation, so while he absolutely argues his position from a place of church history, patristic theology, linguistics, metaphysics, and logic, his foundation is still very much the belief that God is Love and the most important revelation in human history is the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus.

      Anyway, my main point here is this: when someone claims that Hart has essentially abandoned traditional Christianity (or, in the words of fundamentalist evangelicals - “backslidden”), as many commentators on this blog have said, as well as Feser, and other critics of Hart like Michael McClymond, all it ultimately reveals is that these critics are actually very misinformed on Hart’s views. And if that is indeed the case - if they can’t be trusted enough to understand a living person with recent published books that anyone can pick up and read at any time - then why on earth should they be trusted on what 2,000 year old texts from different cultures and languages say?

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    3. Reed wrote, "when someone claims that Hart has essentially abandoned traditional Christianity, ... these critics are actually very misinformed on Hart’s views. And if that is indeed the case - if they can’t be trusted enough to understand a living person ... - then why on earth should they be trusted on what 2,000 year old texts from different cultures and languages say?"

      As a critic of Hart and his universalism, I think you made a fair point that deserves a response. Ironically, when I finished "That All Shall be Saved", I also found that I could not trust Hart. So it seems to me there is mutual distrust between the two camps, which is not conducive to constructive dialogue and learning. FWIW, I'll make an honest attempt to remedy the situation, by explaining things from my perspective:

      First, WRT the question whether Hart has "abandoned" traditional Christianity. Hart's universalism contradicts the traditional doctrine of eternal punishment. We can argue which view is true "Christianity", but, IF Hart is in error, then there is a sense in which he has abandoned Christianity, even if he has held the erroneous view for at least the past 20 years. For if one believes (as I do) the notion that evil is a privation or departure from good, then error is a departure from or abandonment of truth.

      Second, needless to say, just because other people's views are different from ours, it doesn't mean they are wrong or untrustworthy, for it is quite possible that we're wrong ourselves, or that they made a good faith mistake. After all, we are fallible beings -obviously not gods, at least not yet.

      Third, perhaps an average reader lacks the qualification to critique Hart, for Hart knows a lot more than an average reader (myself included). So in this sense, one cannot "trust" the critic. But, if that is the case, jury trial would not be part of a valid judicial system. An expert witness certainly knows a lot more in his field of expertise than the jurors . Nevertheless, a juror can make a valid judgment, when provided with all the evidence and arguments from both sides.

      "Come now, let us reason together"

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    4. Hi, let me qualify what I stated above about trust; I can see from your response how what I wrote can be interpreted way more harsh than what I intended. I have no problem with trusting Feser or anyone else on topics within their field, or even with just holding a charitable viewpoint towards the opinions of others in general.

      I just meant in the very narrow scope of these debates: if Critic A laments of how Hart “used to be orthodox” or if Critic B states that Hart made some claim in a book, and then I can read the book and see that the critics’ claims are entirely unsound, then on the terms of the debate, why would I agree with their argument when they’ve already established they cannot be trusted to understand even the substance of the claims within the debate?

      “We can argue which view is true "Christianity", but, IF Hart is in error, then there is a sense in which he has abandoned Christianity, even if he has held the erroneous view for at least the past 20 years.”

      That’s fine, but that wasn’t what I was arguing; what I was saying, was that it’s irrational for anyone to claim that Hart used to be in line with true Christianity but now has lost his way. He’s held the same beliefs for decades. Someone can reject his ideas all they like, just don’t hold an erroneous view that he’s somehow fallen away from his former orthodoxy.

      None of this means that Hart is correct on universalism or anything else. But what it does mean, for me at least, is that for me to weigh a criticism as valid is predicated upon whether it’s clear or not that the critic even had the faintest idea of what it was he was criticizing.

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    5. Reed,

      Could you post the link or quote the passage where Dr. Feser, Michael McClymond or other published critics of Hart claim that he "used to be orthodox"?

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    6. Nemo,

      Do you interpret this line by Feser, “This latest book [You Are Gods] continues the trajectory away from historical Christianity evident in Hart’s RECENT work,” (emphasis added) as meaning something other than staking a claim that Hart was a part of historical Christianity in the past but recently has departed, or at the very least, is in the process of departing?

      I don’t know if any formal critic has literally stated that Hart has “abandoned orthodoxy,” but I think that intent is fairly clear in so many words.

      For example, McClymond has stated:

      “The language of rude dismissal was something of a guilty pleasure when he deployed it against the ‘New Atheists’ more than a decade ago. Now he is denouncing Dante and every­one else who sustains the age-old tradition of the Church…Oddly, Hart now sounds very much like Richard Dawkins. No less than the aging atheist, Hart finds the two-thousand-year Christian tradition not just unbelievable but repugnant and inhuman…The Apostle Paul wrote that we know in part and see through a glass darkly. Hart labors under no such limitations: He fully knows the eschaton, transparently perceives it, and declares with assurance what will certainly happen. Hart thus affirms a total luminosity of human eschatological understanding, banishing all shadows of doubt regarding God’s future ways and works. This trait marks Hart not as Catholic or Orthodox but as an Enlightenment thinker.”

      McClymond again from a different review: “Adding to the disappointment for me, and I’m sure for many other readers, is that Hart is no longer countering unbelief—as in Atheist Delusions (2010)—but is now in all-out war with fellow Christians believers who hold to traditional views on heaven and hell…In its unbounded rage against historic Christian teaching, Hart’s book reads mostly like a ‘new atheist’ book by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. As for the atheist authors, so too for Hart, the ‘God’ preached and taught by the church through the centuries is ‘inventively sadistic’ (23), ‘theatrically grotesque’ (23), a ‘heartlessly capricious gamester’ (45–46), and so a ‘monstrous deity’ (167).”

      Since, again, Atheist Delusions itself rejects eternal torment, these sorts of statements seem to me to only indicate that the critics didn’t actually even read Hart’s earlier works.

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    7. Reed,

      Thanks for the quotes. My interpretation is different from yours:
      "this line by Feser, “This latest book [You Are Gods] continues the trajectory away from historical Christianity evident in Hart’s RECENT work,”

      To me, Feser is saying Hart continues to move away from historical Christianity, without implying that he started with it. Hart could be miles apart from the historical position to begin with, but his recent works have made it progressively clear, like a comet moving away from the Earth.

      As for MyClymond's comment about Hart "no longer countering unbelief", I take it to mean that he is disappointed Hart no longer attacks the common enemy of theists, i.e., the New Atheists, but is now turning his formidable weapons against fellow theists.

      To use myself as an example, I've been defending the traditional teaching alongside Roman Catholics at this blog. But I'm not one, and if I begin to attack Catholicism at some point, I suspect people who follow my comments would say the same thing about me.

      Anyway, my point is that the same comments/books can be interpreted differently. It people disagree, it is better not to presume we're right, but test our views in the furnace of cross-examination.

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    8. “To me, Feser is saying Hart continues to move away from historical Christianity, without implying that he started with it. Hart could be miles apart from the historical position to begin with, but his recent works have made it progressively clear, like a comet moving away from the Earth.”

      But that’s ignoring Feser’s other quote I originally paired with that one: “As you know, I admire your own books Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God.”

      The context of what I’m speaking towards is this: by his own admission, Feser enjoyed Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God.

      And by his own admission, he did not enjoy That All Shall Be Saved nor You Are Gods.

      What I’m pointing out is that Atheist Delusions had a few pages in it discarding eternal torment and speaking on the topic of universalism, and the Experience of God had much to say about Vedanta. Feser enjoyed both books.

      But he dislikes these other books precisely for the content that he didn’t seem much bothered by in Hart’s earlier works. The implication here is, again, that Feser enjoyed the earlier books precisely because he viewed Hart’s writings there as nearer to the tradition than he does now; which is nonsensical, because Hart’s views haven’t changed.

      I find that odd and that’s what I’m pointing out.

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    9. Reed,

      Let's look at Feser's remark in its own context:

      "As you know, I admire your own books Atheist Delusions and The Experience of God, and I know that they have meant a lot to some of my own readers. It is where we get into matters of more specific Christian concern that we, and our readers, begin to diverge. That is regrettable, but there it is."

      I think Feser made it clear he enjoyed Hart's earlier books notfor the specifically "Christian" content in them, but in spite of them - for the defence of theism against atheism. Moreover, one can enjoy a book even if s/he disagree strongly with some or all of its views, as Feser enjoyed Hart's response to his review of You are Gods.

      You wrote, "But he dislikes these other books precisely for the content that he didn’t seem much bothered by in Hart’s earlier works"

      Yes, Hart's recent works bothered Feser--even drove him to exhibit symptoms of Tourette Syndrome, but it doesn't follow that he agrees with everything Hart wrote in his earlier works.

      Even if two books express the same views, it is not uncommon for some readers to like the one and dislike the other. For example, one book may be filled with logical fallacies, and the other not; one book may be attacking a specific group of readers directly, and the other not.

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  24. I also think Hart is trying to find philosophical problems with an analogy that is merely inelegant. Maybe it’s even just Hart’s snobbery. I have always enjoyed Feser’s everyday-thing analogies and found them helpful in understanding Thomism. His rubber balls, cups of coffee and laptop computers are robust and relatable—reminding me both of Peter Kreeft and the military saying: “If it’s stupid, and it works, it’s not stupid.”

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    1. I agree that people are avoiding the plain sense and applicability of the laptop metaphor by nitpicking the limitations inherent in one so basic. Just in practical terms, given who and what was being debated, I think that's on Feser because it left the room it has to make the debate about the metaphor and not the substance. Though, as Ed himself noted, this was for Public Discourse, and not even someplace like First Things.

      I wonder if another metaphor from the IT/CompSci world might be legacy mainframes from the 1980s, or even before, integrated into Enterprise-level networks as so many large organizations undertook in the late 90s/early-to-mid 00's?

      I don't know that it's a superior metaphor at the most basic level, but legacy mainframes lack the built-in interoperability so familiar in PCs/Macs but retain the potency for integration into a Novell or WinNT network utterly other (though not opposite) to its original design.

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  25. Absolutely brilliant. And fun. Thank you.

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  26. In an effort not to be a total spoil sport, I've been doing a little reading up on Greek Orthodox mysticism, "theosis", and all that business.

    And I must say that the more I experience of it, "the better I don't like it."

    It's one thing to dive into The Enneads, or Clarence Rolt's commentary "On the Divine Names" as an intellectual exercise or as supplemental reading as many of us did during our school days. And, those who've taken much in the way of Medieval history or the history of philosophy, will be familiar with the Carolingian palace school, and Eriugena's remarkable for that era, and perhaps for any other, work.

    But while one may derive a shiver of intellectual or emotional excitement and seeming liberation on encountering these profoundly novel or puzzling works, the harder you look at them the less there is really there apart from the vision of an imaginative system. Or so it seemed to me.

    And too, one of the remarks I keep running across in scholarly accounts of Gregory's theology, regards its apparent inconsistency.

    Rigor is not everything. But very much of this speculative theology business, and the fog and drift associated with it, and one begins in reaction to very strongly feel the lure of Logical Positivism.

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  27. Let me start by noting that being nice becomes you.

    On pantheism, I think the key Hartian phrase is “Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God.” Here are my two cents: If somebody points at an apple and says “This is God” or “This is part of God” then that is pantheism. But if somebody points as the same apple and says “This is divine not only because its being is grounded in God but mainly because it is by nature on its way to universal and eternal atonement with God” then that’s not pantheism but rather close to the orthodox understanding of creation.

    On orthodoxy and authoritative sources, I’d say that the only authority is Christ who is the truth. But how to distinguish Christ from the spirits of deception? Here I think God has provided us with several guides: Our experience of God, our sense of the divine, the image of God in which we are made, the silent attraction of the Holy Spirit, and – most clearly – the fruits. For the truth will make us free to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. I say this latter way is the clearest one for one cannot miss the fact that one is thus loving God.

    On what Christianity is, it depends on what one means by “Christianity”. If one means the religious movement then Christianity is a mosaic of institutions and cultures. If one means the body of Christ then, it seems to me, the Muslim who walks on Christ’s way and thus resembles Him embodies Christianity. While the Christian who spends all their life studying Christian texts of deep wisdom is but a shadow.

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    1. Anonymous wrote, " But how to distinguish Christ from the spirits of deception? Here I think God has provided us with several guides: Our experience of God, our sense of the divine, the image of God in which we are made, the silent attraction of the Holy Spirit, and – most clearly – the fruits. "

      You asked a very good question, but instead of addressing it, you proceeded to beg the question (in both senses of phrase): "our experience of God", "our sense of the divine", but how do we distinguish between experience of God vs. experience of "spirits of deception"? You provide no answer, instead, you implicitly assume your experience is of God, and look to it as an "authority". In other words, Christ is not the only authority, you are.

      One commenter, Jack, wrote that this is "an epistemic issue". I tend to agree. The impression I get from Hart and his fans is that they recognize no authority other than themselves, and whatever they think is true must be true. If you don't agree, you either "don't get it" or aren't "worthy of fellowship". Perhaps it is not a problem, if they are (always) right, but they are demonstrably not. When they are heading in the wrong direction, there is no turning back.

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    2. Yes, this is a good point. One of the most critical reasons for having a written Scripture which is authoritative is to have at least some hard, written guardrails on what is "from God" in terms of interior experience. We have all heard of people who were convinced that God was telling them X, where X is nutty, and also opposed to what's in the Bible. We don't have to somehow "step inside" their experience of God to know they got something wrong. (Yes, this still leaves the question of how to interpret the Bible, when it is obscure. That doesn't negate the value of the hard guardrails where it isn't obscure.)

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    3. Nemo and Tony, sorry for being late but for some reason I can't anymore sign with my name, and couldn't know that you had commented. I am Dianelos, and I remember we have conversed several years ago.

      You are right of course that what seems to be the experience of God might come from deception. On the other hand without the actual experience of God all theology becomes epistemically ungrounded. So the experience of God is fundamental.

      I happen to distinguish between the experience of God (which is caused by God) and our sense of the divine which I take is a faculty we have and by which we have a sense of perfection, and indeed of good and evil. Our sense of the divine, I take it, is entailed in our being made in the image of God. (As is our capacity to experience God of course.) It is by our sense of the divine that we realise that when we listen to Christ’s voice in the gospels we are listening to the voice of God.

      Now our good Lord made us so that we can’t have certainty. But, I say, all the interlocking guides I described can give us plenty of warrant for believing in God. Especially the fruits are a very reliable guide. If one finds oneself loving one’s neighbours with the universality and unselfishness that Christ embodied in His earthly life, if we find ourselves obeying His commandments not because of fear of punishment or desire for reward but because of our love for Him – then surely we are following the way of Christ. And any belief that inspires us to follow Christ cannot come from deception.

      As for considering myself being the authority, I don’t even know what this means. The process by which we come to embrace any belief is a process in which we partake. For example to embrace the belief that scripture is authoritative is something one does (as is to accept as authoritative one’s church’s interpretation of scripture, etc). We are made in such a way that we cannot absolve ourselves from spiritual responsibility. And whether one describes this fact as considering oneself the authority or not, is only semantics. Actually the talk about “authority” sounds to me like trying to hide from ourselves the fact that it is ultimately we who make a choice. Ultimately, God – whether as a living personal presence or as the source of all that is good and true and beautiful – reveals himself in our lives in a myriad ways, and desires and prods us to *choose* him. God comes to us so that we may go to him.

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    4. Anonymous/Dianelos wrote, "I remember we have conversed several years ago."

      Yes, two years ago we had a discussion about universalism. It wasn't particularly productive, and I'm not optimistic that it will be different this time around, but I'll respond to your comment above, for the sake of courtesy.

      Dianelos wrote, " if we find ourselves obeying His commandments not because of fear of punishment or desire for reward but because of our love for Him– then surely we are following the way of Christ.

      You are assuming fear of punishment and desire for reward are incompatible with the way of Christ. What is the basis for that assumption?

      You wrote, "As for considering myself being the authority, I don’t even know what this means"

      Fair enough. People who read this might have the same question. I'll explain as follows:

      When someone or something is an authority, others will check their own opinions against views expressed by said authority, and if their opinions agree wth the authority, their opinions are validated, otherwise, they are invalidated.

      If someone seldom or never checks his own opinions against an authority, but constantly asserts his own views are correct, it shows that he accepts no authority other than himself.

      You wrote, "Actually the talk about “authority” sounds to me like trying to hide from ourselves the fact that it is ultimately we who make a choice.

      There is a difference between choice, responsibility and authority. We have a choice to obey or disobey authority, and we're responsible for recognizing and obeying legitimate authority, but we're not the authority.

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  28. DBH breaks my heart. EF does too with his silence over the deadly transfection agent. So much for his understanding of natural philosophy. See parting parables Matt 24

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  29. Fascinating stuff! Query re. bats (full disclosure: I'm agnostic but fairly widely read in, and appreciative of, many religions, including Christianity, as much as that's possible lacking the original languages, and lacking an infinite amount of time :) )

    You say: "At the same time, they would judge that that kind of knowledge is simply not one that is open to us – that it is “above our pay grade,” metaphysically and epistemologically speaking – and thus they would not experience this incapacity as a loss or an imperfection."

    How would we know it's "above our pay grade?" We know the analogous impossibility in the bat case because we know we don't have the same sensory system and organs. But what's the analogous thing we lack that makes knowledge of God's essence impossible?

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    1. "But what's the analogous thing we lack that makes knowledge of God's essence impossible?"

      Going by the thomistic position that Dr. Feser defends, i do too, the first problem is that God is immaterial but all of our knowledge starts by the senses. Sure, our intellect can know immaterial things, he is more that a passive receiver of sense data, but it is a more indirect knowledge.

      Another problem is that we understand a thing by knowing its essence, what sort of being it is and its atributes. Now, God is in no group, He has no essence diferent from His existence and is simple, so there is no division between He and His atributes. This means that our intellect can't quite grasp Him.

      Finally, and i think that the eastern orthodox defend that as well, our intellect understands by, as Aristotle said, in a way becoming like the thing understood. Since God is absolutely infinite, complete, perfect and we have limited minds, our intellects can't be like God enough to understand Him. The orthodox for instance even defend that not even the blessed can see God essence,only His energies(but how diferent this is from the thomistic view in pratice is debateble.

      This is what i remember being the thomistic answer.

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    2. Yes that sounds about right for the Thomist answer (so far as I understand it).

      Re. the first point, wouldn't that be begging the question from the (for want of a better term) mystical point of view? It seems premature to say we don't have access to the immaterial, since we have a bunch of testimony (specifically, from mystics) that says we do. The question is, are they wrong or right? Well, if one wants to know, it probably behooves one to try out their recommendations - only at that point would one have the ability to compare and contrast (normal frame of mind, state of being, etc., with the mystical) and decide whether the latter is bs or not.

      Re. the second point. Generally I think the idea with mysticism is not that you are God (like an inflation of the ordinary you), but rather that God is (also) you (something like "kenosis"). Obviously the Big Kahuna is way beyond the comprehension of the any finite mind, but if there's some part or aspect of God that indwells, that's a "chip off the old block," so to speak, then it makes sense that it should be possible to know that aspect or part.

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    3. @gurugeorge

      Somehow i missed your answer. That happens, i guess!

      "Re. the first point, wouldn't that be begging the question from the (for want of a better term) mystical point of view?"

      Not really, for St. Thomas and the mystics are not in disagreement here. Aquinas is threating of:

      1. How the human mind normally knows things.

      2. How the implications of 1. Affect our ways of knowing God by way of reason.

      It is not that St. Thomas is saying that mysticism is bs, he was one himself, but he is discussing philosophy and so the normal frame of mind that philosophy and any other science(on the medieval meaning) has to use to get knowledge. We can know the immaterial by philosophy, but it is a quite indirect knowledge, it is only knowledge of what He is not.

      Seeing how the mystics, at least the ones i know, defend that direct knowledge of God can only come on a diferent frame of mind and that this knowledge can't be easily, if it even can, be passed to the normal frame of mind, it seems that there is agreement here.

      As a disciple of Pseudo-Dionysius, Aquinas would agrer that the mystic way is better. After what he saw them...

      But when limiting himself to the way of reason, as he does in his writings, he is just not talking about that.

      ". the second point. Generally I think the idea with mysticism is not that you are God (like an inflation of the ordinary you), but rather that God is (also) you (something like "kenosis"). Obviously the Big Kahuna is way beyond the comprehension of the any finite mind, but if there's some part or aspect of God that indwells, that's a "chip off the old block," so to speak, then it makes sense that it should be possible to know that aspect or part."

      That is... actually closer to St. Thomas that you realize. Since God is Being-Itself, completely pure
      , self-suficient and unlimited, He is not part of any category. To be of a category is to be "this", to be limited to certain characteristics, to be imperfect. Since our intellects know a thing by knowing what it is(its form or nature), them there is pretty much nothing to know, no form of God, so the intellect is just worthless here.

      But by this radical separation there is a big dependence. Creation is keeped in being by God and it is a sort of imitation of Him. For instance, every thing has a certain degree of power,it affect other things. By this everything is participating on God omnipotence, kinda pointing towards His power.

      This is St. Thomas doctrine of analogy: every thing is sorta of a bad copy of God, so by knowing things we can know that God is in a way like they,even if we don't know exactly how He is. So, He truly has a bit of He in everything and this is how we understand Him.

      This only talking about the way of reason, of course.

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    4. Excellent, thoughtful response, thank you Talmid!

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    5. You are welcome!

      Aways good to see that on these diferent systems there are some agreements here and there, for we gain knowledge of both and of the theme.

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  30. @ gurugeorge,

    "what's the analogous thing we lack that makes knowledge of God's essence impossible?"

    Comprehension. God comprehends bats because He made them. So if we comprehended God we would comprehend bats. We don't so it follows that we can't comprehend God.

    Tom Cohoe

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    1. In the analogy, we didn't make bats but we can still comprehend why we wouldn't be able to know what it's like to be a bat.

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    2. @ gurugeorge,

      We can understand why we _can't_ know what it is like to be a bat, so how could we expect to be able to know what it's like to be something infinitely greater, ie, God?

      Let me put it a little differently:

      By "comprehension" in the God side of the analogy that you asked for, I mean "perfectly complete understanding - nothing lacking - no limits". In this sense, God comprehends bats. If our comprehension were the same rather than just analagous, we would comprehend bats perfectly, and it would follow that we would have perfectly complete understanding of bats, with nothing lacking from that understanding. This perfect understanding would include a bat's experience of its sensations.

      But on our side of the analogy, "comprehension" is finite, limited, and imperfect in nature. These imperfections mean that knowing or comprehending a bat's sensations as experienced by the bat is not possible for us - as you pointed out.

      Therefore "comprehension" actually is the thing that is analogous.

      We lack God's kind of comprehension.

      It follows that we cannot know His essence. Indeed, God's essence is infinitely greater than the essence of any of His creatures, so it should be obvious that since we cannot even know the essence of a bat we certainly cannot know the essence of God.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. So "comprehension" here means not just a thorough intellectual apprehension, but also a felt understanding of "what it's like to be" every aspect of the creation.

      That makes sense - so then couldn't the mystic say that's exactly what's being accessed in mystical experience? i.e. God's comprehension of what it's like to be you?

      (Which would make sense from the way Eastern systems talk about it too: it's not that you're causing a change of state, rather it's that you're clearing away the clouds so you can see the sky - IOW, God being you - the "what it's like to be" part of you - is what's always there, but the ordinary sense of self is what's beclouding that indwelling presence, so to speak.)

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    4. @ gurugeorge,

      God's comprehension is unlimited. Any way you can think of that it might be limited is therefore wrong. But our human comprehension is limited. It is like being unable to see the individual needles on a pine tree when it is too distant.

      A famous Catholic mystic who is consistent with Aquinas is Saint Teresa of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites (c. 1562) and Doctor of the Church. She wrote several books, which you would probably find quite interesting, as she goes into her mystical experiences quite extensively. I recommend "The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself" as I have read it and it is available translated into many languages.

      I would think that Eastern mysticism would be in some ways similar to Christian mysticism, but it couldn't be identical because Jesus makes Christianity unique.

      Tom Cohoe

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    5. Yes, as I understand it, it's the purported revelation and singular historical avatarhood of Jesus that makes Christianity distinct - both of which "fill in" more detail than can be achieved by intellectual apprehension.

      I "hae ma doots" about that ofc, but you pays your money and you takes your choice :)

      I used to be a barefoot atheist many years ago - snickered along with the best of them - but I'm much more friendly to Christianity these days. The more you know the real history of the past couple of thousand years, the more you understand that a lot of what you believed as a rationalist was bunk :)

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    6. @ gurugeorge,

      You are called to be an image of infinite love and infinite truth. How you answer that call to perfect your own nature is your own free choice, a spark with which you have been graced through the mystical infinite power of the Holy Spirit.

      May you be God blessed in your search.

      Tom Cohoe

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  31. Feser and Hart should co-write a book defending Classical Theism. They are both brilliant, in a different way, on the topic, and also agree a lot regarding that. Would be a tour de force.

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