Friday, August 26, 2022

What is classical theism?

My essay “What is Classical Theism?” is among those that appear in the volume Classical Theism: New Essays on the Metaphysics of God, edited by Jonathan Fuqua and Robert C. Koons and forthcoming from Routledge. Follow the link to check out its excellent roster of contributors and range of topics.

129 comments:

  1. Can't wait . . . hopefully the Kindle version will be cheaper. You can see a preview of Christopher T's contribution here. https://www.academia.edu/85628506/How_the_Absolutely_Simple_Creator_Escapes_a_Modal_Collapse?email_work_card=view-paper

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    1. I hope, for the sake of classical theism, that the other contributions are better than Tomaszewki's because his solution to the modal collapse objection really does not make any sense.

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    2. I've only just started reviewing but I think his intuition is sound. The puzzle raised by modal collapse arguments is how a simple God can be intrinsically the same across different possible worlds (worlds with different creations or no creations at all). Yet, if you accept that God's essence is necessary, as most theistic critics of divine simplicity do, Tomaszewski shows that you have the same problem: the non-simple God's necessary essence is the same across all possible worlds, including any intrinsic, contingent properties of God. But those intrinsic properties are grounded in God's necessary essence and thus are themselves necessary. In other words, you get the same "modal collapse," except that what collapses is not only creation but God himself. At least, this is my very crude rendition of the argument.

      So, the burden on the theistic personalist (such as Ryan Mullins) is to explain: If you contend that God's essence is necessary, how do you account for the contingency of those properties that are grounded in God's essence? And, if you can offer such an account, why can't the same apply to a simple God?

      Perhaps the theistic personalist can respond: God's contingent properties are not grounded in His essence; rather, they are not grounded in anything at all. God is a composite of a necessary essence and various contingent properties; the act of creation arises from one of those contingent properties.

      Tomaszewski doesn't say this but I think the same issue applies to a naturalist who believes there is a necessary, natural foundation to reality (I think this is Oppy's view). Except that the naturalist can argue that the necessary foundation creates through an entirely random, non-deterministic process -- which is not an option open for any traditional theist.

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    3. Bradley

      I agree with Tomaszewki that you get the same modal collapse if God is non-simple.
      The simplicity of God just makes this more obvious.
      What I don't agree with is his "solution".
      Here is why
      "Z1. God’s idea of zebras caused zebras to exist.
      Z2. God’s idea of unicorns caused zebras to exist.
      Here, (Z1) is true while (Z2) is obviously false, even though God’s idea of zebras is necessarily really identical to God’s idea of unicorns (and to the Divine essence)".
      The problem with this is the claim that God's 'distinct' ideas are logically posterior to God's cognition of Himself.
      If God's idea of zebras is really identical to God's idea of unicorns there is no reason at all why the idea of a zebra would not cause a unicorn (or anything else). In order forGod to cause a zebra instead of a unicorn, God has to 'think' they are different. But a simple being's thought of a unicorn is identical to the thought of a zebra because there is no reason why a thought would differ from an idea.

      The reason why thinking I saw Jack the Ripper caused me to run away does not entail that thinking Fracis Tumblety caused me to run away is because 'Jack the Ripper' and 'Francis Tumblety' are really distinct ideas for me. If I knew for certain that Francis and Jack were the same then thinking I saw Jack would entail Z1.
      Likewise, thinking that zebras are not unicorns entails that the idea of a zebra cannot be identical to the idea of a unicorn.
      Even if God's thinking or his ideas are logically posterior to God's cognition of Himself, those thought or ideas are still intrinsic to God and hence cannot differ across worlds.
      Add to this that a simple being cannot have distinct thoughts and it becomes obvious that Tomaszewki's solution fails.

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    4. Tomaszewski is a good writer, and he makes some good points in his paper. However, I think he unjustifiably dismisses hypothetical necessity, and that appears to undermine his possible worlds argument.

      God is certainly identical with His acts, and in willing His goodness, He wills the world. Given that, said act of creating is necessary, but that doesn’t make creation absolutely necessary because the absolute necessity of God’s creative act is a condition upon which creation’s necessity depends. Thus, the ground for the universe’s necessity is extrinsic to the universe which makes it a conditional necessity.

      Critics like Mullins argue that this undermines divine simplicity (DS) because it asserts two modalities (the act of willing and the act of creating), but there is no contradiction between the absolute necessity of God’s will and the conditional necessity God’s will produces. It’s a difference of cause and effect. Something absolutely necessary is necessary by its very concept whereas hypothetical necessity has an extrinsic ground. It is simply incorrect to assert the absolute necessity of the latter due to the absolute necessity of the former.

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    5. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "Add to this that a simple being cannot have distinct thoughts and it becomes obvious that Tomaszewki's solution fails."

      You really do not know what a simple being can "think" because you dismiss, without demonstration of error, an image of God that shows that God, who is greater than any image of Him, operates above human understanding. The logic you use finitely was created by God, was not created by necessity, but as an act of love, and cannot be shown by humans to be anything more than the operation of a finite subsequence of an infinite random sequence.

      As long as you pretend to know how God "must" act, you will not be able to understand this. I am sorry that you "hate" this, but that cannot make it go away.

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. Bill

      Even if the necessity of the universe is merely hypothetical or conditional, what is important is whether the universe could have been different or could have not existed if classical theism and divine simplicity are true.
      The answer is still 'no'.

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    7. Tom

      Maybe I don't know what a simple being can think, but Tomaszewki does seem to know it.
      "In this paper, my focus will be on the Thomistic version, according to which there is no real distinction between God and His attributes (and therefore between any attribute and any other), between God and His essence, between His essence and His existence, and between God and anything in Him which, in creatures, would be accidental, including His acts."

      But, who knows, Tomaszewki is wrong about this and about everything else.

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    8. @ Walter Van den Acker:

      If God's idea of zebras is really identical to God's idea of unicorns there is no reason at all why the idea of a zebra would not cause a unicorn (or anything else).

      Are you suggesting that a zebra and a unicorn are different substances? That essences are real? According to evolutionary thinking, everything is anything: a chain of ADN is a cell, is a plant, is a fish a dinosaur IS. You just need long streches of time for magic to happen.

      So if evolution is simple (or 'Mother Nature' if you'd prefer) and can have different 'thoughts' (creatures), why can't God?

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    9. @Walter, you write:

      Even if the necessity of the universe is merely hypothetical or conditional, what is important is whether the universe could have been different or could have not existed if classical theism and divine simplicity are true.
      The answer is still 'no'.


      The necessity of the universe is by definition conditional. It could be absolute only if it were uncreated. The fact that it is created renders it a qualified necessity.

      And “[w]hat is important” is of course the universe could not have been otherwise because it is the consequent of God’s eternal will. If God is infinitely perfect, then what He wills is infinitely perfect. There can be thus no circumstance where something less than God’s perfect decree obtains.

      You appear to think that the answer’s being “no,” is somehow significant, and I guess it may have to do with your unargued concept of freedom or liberty. If so, you must be aware that there are other definitions of liberty, but I’ll leave you to first spell out your objection more clearly.

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    10. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "But, who knows, Tomaszewki is wrong about this and about everything else."

      Could be.

      Tom Cohoe

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    11. Bill

      If you agree that the universe could not have been otherwise, you agree with the modal collapse argument.


      I agree that there are othet definitions of liberty, but what's important here is whether God has the liberty of not creating anything. It appears you agree He doesn't.

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    12. Tom

      The point is that the modal collapse is inevitable on Tomaszewski's definition of DS, which, by the way, he claims it is the Thomistic definition.
      Now, maybe on some other versions of DS, there is no modal collapse, but one thing at a time.

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    13. @Walter

      No, I don't believe in the model collapse at all. You agree that there are other conceptions of liberty only to turn around and ignore them and reassert your unargued conception of liberty. Your position is thus question-begging.

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    14. Bill

      I am not asserting any conception of liberty.
      I am simply saying that if you agree that the universe could not have been otherwise, you accept the modal collapse.
      That, in spite of this, God is still free, may be true, but it is still a fact that this universe, or rather this creation and not any other exists in every possible world.

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    15. @Walter

      If you acknowledge that God can still be free, then you must be defining modal collapse differently than me. My understanding is that DS contradicts other theistic commitments about freedom and creation by rendering them absolutely necessary to the effect that DS must be abandoned. That does not follow because creation is always contingent and God is always free. So, please define modal collapse.

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    16. Bill

      "Necessary" means "existing in every possible world". "Contingent" means "existing in at least one but not all possible worlds".
      If this particular universe exists in every possible world, as you seem to believe, then this universe is necessary, even if it is dependent on God's creation. You should not confuse "contingent" with "dependent".
      I acknowledge that God can still be free in some way because some people define freedom as the ability to do what is in your nature. If there is only one thing in my nature, then , by that definition, I am still free if I do that thing.
      Likewise, if God can, because of his essentially loving nature, only create one universe, then God is free in the sense that he has the 'power' to create another one but, due to His nature will never use that power.

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    17. @Walter, you write:

      "Necessary" means "existing in every possible world". "Contingent" means "existing in at least one but not all possible worlds".
      If this particular universe exists in every possible world, as you seem to believe, then this universe is necessary, even if it is dependent on God's creation. You should not confuse "contingent" with "dependent".


      Then my assumption was correct. You are collapsing modes into necessity, but you are again failing to take into account the different senses of necessity. This is something that Aquinas foresaw and addressed. Creation is necessary because God wills it, but its necessity is always a conditional one because its cause is extrinsic. And since it can never be anything other than a hypothetical necessity, it can never collapse into absolute necessity. God is necessary in Himself whereas creation is necessary in God. That is true in this world and in any other world. So long as God is the creator, whatever He creates is always conditioned on His efficient cause. Thus, modal collapse is impossible.

      I acknowledge that God can still be free in some way because some people define freedom as the ability to do what is in your nature. If there is only one thing in my nature, then , by that definition, I am still free if I do that thing.
      Likewise, if God can, because of his essentially loving nature, only create one universe, then God is free in the sense that he has the 'power' to create another one but, due to His nature will never use that power.


      I am glad to see that we agree, at least in a sense, that God is free. I will only repeat what I stated above that since God is perfect, His willing cannot be less than perfect. It is therefore incoherent to assert God’s willing something other than what His perfect will has decreed. One might as well ask whether God can make a rock too heavy for Him to lift—which is to ask whether God can cease being God in order to prove that He is God. So, if the universe is the result of God’s decree, then its existence is in accordance with His perfect will. There is thus no possible world where anything less than God’s perfect will can obtain.

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    18. Bill
      The real issue here is whether "There is no possible world where anything less than God’s perfect will can obtain" allows for possible initially different "creations".
      You said "of course the universe could not have been otherwise because it is the consequent of God’s eternal will.
      This means it is absolutely necessary that God creates this universe.
      Conditional necessity would take this form:
      in every possible world in which God decides to create this universe, this universe and no other universe obtains.
      But since you say that God's decision to create this world exists in every possible world, you get: in every possible world , this universe and no other universe obtains.

      So, you are in fact the one who collapses conditional necessity into absolute necessity, because you introduce a necessary condition.
      And that is what Tomaszewki is trying to avoid.

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    19. @Walter writes:

      The real issue here is whether "There is no possible world where anything less than God’s perfect will can obtain" allows for possible initially different "creations".

      As a matter of logical possibility, yes. None of us knows how God thinks. We just know that if He is infallible, His decisions are infallible.

      Conditional necessity would take this form:
      in every possible world in which God decides to create this universe, this universe and no other universe obtains.
      But since you say that God's decision to create this world exists in every possible world, you get: in every possible world , this universe and no other universe obtains.

      So, you are in fact the one who collapses conditional necessity into absolute necessity, because you introduce a necessary condition.


      Again, there is no “modal collapse” at all. Everybody agrees that if God exists, He exists in every possible world (PW). As you probably know, I’m not a fan of possible worlds analysis, but we’ll go with it. Why does God exist in every possible world? He exists because He is, by definition, absolutely necessary. If He weren’t, then He could differ from world to world. But given His absolute necessity, there is no PW without God. There is thus no “collapse” of modality from world to world; He is always absolutely necessary. If God is omnipotent in World 1, He is omnipotent in World 2. God’s will is one with God’s power, so His will cannot vary from PW to PW. So, no collapse occurs.

      Similarly, the modality of creation’s contingent status remains the same from PW to PW. Since it is always reliant on an extrinsic cause, it is impossible for its contingent modality to collapse into absolute necessity. To insist otherwise is to equivocate.

      Could there have been a universe with unicorns? Again, as a logical possibility, yes. We don’t know everything about God’s perfect intentions. If unicorns fit into His will, then we will have unicorns. If not, then we won’t.

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    20. Bill

      The point is that, apparently, unicorn do not fit into His will, so it is not possible for a world with unicorns to exist.
      Tyhe "necessary condition" I am atalking about is not just God, but God's will to create a world without unicorns., which is identical to God.
      Hence, while creation is dependent on God it is not contingent. If you define absolute necessity as independent necessity, then creation is not absolutely necessary, but I don't know anybody who would argue that if creation is necessary but dependent, there would be no modal collapse.

      Now I am going to bow out, Bill. Thank you for the interesting discussion..

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    21. @Walter writes:

      The point is that, apparently, unicorn do not fit into His will, so it is not possible for a world with unicorns to exist.

      There is a difference between logical possibility and actual possibility. It is logically possible for me to jump to the moon, but it is actually impossible for me to do so. And it is impossible because my nature does not permit it. It is also logically possible for God to create a universe with unicorns, but it is actually impossible if God’s perfect will does not include it.

      Tyhe "necessary condition" I am atalking about is not just God, but God's will to create a world without unicorns., which is identical to God.

      Well, if it’s identical with God, then it is just God. God’s will is most certainly the necessary condition for the world.

      Hence, while creation is dependent on God it is not contingent. If you define absolute necessity as independent necessity, then creation is not absolutely necessary, but I don't know anybody who would argue that if creation is necessary but dependent, there would be no modal collapse.

      Your point is rather vague here. The word contingent means: “dependent or conditioned by something else.” So, if creation is dependent on God, it is contingent by definition. We can say that creation is necessary on the supposition that God creates, but its necessity is always hypothetical and not in itself.

      And as I’ve stated several times now, creation’s status is always derivative which makes its modality a conditional necessity. The fact that it exists in all PWs never collapses its conditional necessity into absolute necessity. Thus, modal collapse does not occur.

      Opponents of DS have argued that the necessity of the universe forces its defenders to abandon divine liberty, for if the universe is necessary across every PW, then God is forced to create this universe. But as we’ve apparently agreed, this does not threaten divine liberty at all. Given that, I don’t see where this modal collapse occurs.

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  2. Looks good. Shame I can't afford it.

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    1. Interlibrary loan. Go to your local library and ask them to help you in acquiring the book.

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  3. Oh this book looks exciting!

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  4. Hi Ed,

    The book looks very interesting, especially Section 2. Not being able to afford the sticker price, I decided to have a look at Rob Koons' Youtube video, "The best case for God's existence" (May 2, 2020), at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVgbCIJ9Fxo. Dr. Koons is very learned man, but his case for God raises some questions.

    At 10:00, Dr. Koons argues that there can be no such thing as a self-explanatory fact. He claims there is/are some fact(s) that need(s) no explanation. He regards God's existence as such a fact. Would you concur, or would you argue that Koons' strategy simply makes God the Ultimate Brute Fact?

    At 17:50, Koons argues for a restricted version of PSR: all natural things require an explanation. From this, he says, I can know a priori that I need an explanation, because I can know a priori that I'm not God. As he puts it: "If everything except God has to have a cause, then I'm good to go" (18:00). But this assumes that we have a clear idea at the outset of what "natural" means, and what "God" means.

    Dr. Koons also defends the kalam version of the cosmological argument, but at 47:00, he not only admits that it could be denied by rejecting David Lewis's Patchwork Principle (that scenarios that are “patched” together from other possible scenarios are themselves possible), but undercuts his own case by declaring that he himself doesn't regard the Patchwork Principle as true without exception. Some might say that's ad hoc.

    At 51:08, Koons argues that a totality of contingent facts requires an explanation, but this principle is plausible only if the facts in question form a natural whole. He needs to establish that.

    At 57:36, Koons responds to the Gap Problem by arguing that any exception to the PSR must be simple and boundless, hence non-physical and infinite in power, and then at 58:31, argues that such a Being COULD BE intelligent if all truths are present to Him immediately and non-representationally, without the need for Him to infer anything. But "could be" doesn't imply "is." And Koons nowhere defines "intelligent." Nor does he explain how God's believing all these truths counts as knowledge if there isn't the right causal connection (1:14:44) between God and these truths.

    I conclude that Dr. Koons' case is incomplete.

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    1. Well Vincent that is why the Scholastic version of the PSR is awesome and the Rationalist one is Da Boak!

      The Rationalist PSR includes propositions ....

      Cheers.

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    2. Koons's blog is probably more representative of his current thoughts on the issue than that video.

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    3. Except that the naturalist can argue that the necessary foundation creates through an entirely random, non-deterministic process.

      In Gnosticism, the material universe is seen as evil, and the Demiurge is the creator of this evil world, either out of ignorance (that would be the 'randomness' part) or by evil design.

      The naturalist IS a superstitious, mythology-riddled creature. And they have the guts to mock people for being attached to 'Bronze Age' myths (a.k.a. The Bible) :)

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  5. Mr. Feser,

    I spent my afternoon reading “All One in Christ.” What a joy. Thank you for this.

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  6. Academic philosophers and the defenders of big-time false religiosity continue to persist in the silliest kind of sophomoric debates about the "existence of God". The arguments always range between "proof" offered by Reason. and the "proof" offered by Revelation - but both kinds of "proof" are nothing more that the poor servants of the adolescent dilemma of left-brained rationalism.

    To ask if God exists is already to doubt God's existence absolutely - and it reflects a commitment to the presumption that God (or Reality Itself) does not exist until it is absolutely proven otherwise. Once it is presumed that the existence of God (or Reality) is in doubt or in need of proof, the dreadful dilemma of separation from God (or Reality) has already solidified, and neither inner Reason nor outer Revelation has sufficient Power to liberate the individual from the (unexamined) subtle and fundamental despair that is inherent in such Godlessness

    God must be Realized as the obvious, not "proven" to exist. We must abide in the Mood of God-Realization, or inherence in the obvious, rather than in the mood or irreducible dilemma wherein obvious Truth must be "proven" to exist. We must proceed on the basis of prior inherence in God (or Reality), or ecstatic surrender of the psycho-physical self in God, rather than on the basis of the presumed mental and physical separation from God (or Reality).

    The question "Does God (or Reality) exist or not?" is itself a proposition - it is doubt, it is the idea of separation from ecstatic Fullness, it is the self-image of Sinners, it is the emotional contraction of the body-mind-complex from God, Life, and all relations. Reasons and Revelations are only a hedge around the hell-deep fear of sinners - a false sanctuary for the wounded self, who presumes him or her self to be trapped in the dead ends pf the Machine of Nature.

    The wages of sin is of course death, and sinners always (collectively) create hell-on-earth.

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    1. We must proceed on the basis of prior inherence in God (or Reality), or ecstatic surrender of the psycho-physical self in God, rather than on the basis of the presumed mental and physical separation from God (or Reality).

      Ick.

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    2. This sounds like the teaching of the spiritual teacher born Frank Jones (Da Free John). Am I right? And suppose (like many others) I don't feel this ecstatic fullness - what then? Rational arguments and proof by revelation can be useful first steps on the path to realizing there is no path. And even if I do feel the ecstatic fullness, does it necessarily mean that God exists? Of course not. Maybe I'm high on drugs or have achieved that state of mind through intense meditation.

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    3. @JD,

      "And even if I do feel the ecstatic fullness, does it necessarily mean that God exists?"

      It means that God's existence does not at all depend on what you think.

      Tom Cohoe

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  7. WCB

    And nothing is real
    Nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry Fields forever!
    - The Beatles

    WCB

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    1. @ WCB:

      Strawberries are not real either. It's just atoms and the intellectual void of the materialist cult.

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    2. God owes us nothing by definition. God is not a moral agent in the univocal way a maximally virtuously rational creature is a moral agent.

      Job 41:11

      God truly owns us nothing by definition.

      We owe God everything. Once you accept this truth. You are free.

      No theistic personalist false "god" exists boi.

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    3. But Son of Yakov, even if God owes us nothing, if he is good, loving, compassionate, merciful and the rest of it, one would expect him to behave in such a manner, unfettered by the limitations of restricted power and knowledge. But this is manifestly not the case.

      So your God cares enough about us to freely bring about the incarnation, resurrection and atonement but regularly permits little babies to burn, which I presume you find acceptable as He owes us nothing. Does your God suffer from MPD Son of Yakov?

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    4. @ Anonymous:

      So your God cares enough about us to freely bring about the incarnation, resurrection and atonement but regularly permits little babies to burn, which I presume you find acceptable as He owes us nothing.

      The babies that according to your leftist agenda is perfectly find to butcher?

      Your appeals to emotion are quite laughable. Wanna some cheese with your whine?

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    5. "But this is manifestly not the case."

      What is "manifest" to you could be something other than the truth. Pain now and something better later could be true.

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. Me: God owes us nothing....

      Anon: Ok God owes us nothing but let me pretend He does and ask you stupid questions based on that?

      I weep for the lack of Philosophical Atheists on this blog. The Gnu trolls are so disappointing.
      The sad part is they could do better. But they don't want too.

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    7. If God owes us nothing then presumably it is not wrong/unreasonable for him to break his promises to us and to lie to us?

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    8. @ ALEXANDER VI:

      If God owes us nothing then presumably it is not wrong/unreasonable for him to break his promises to us and to lie to us?

      Wrong. God is Truth. A lie is a contradiction, therefore it's not possible for God to lie. It's not in His Nature. That's why His moral commandments are eternal and unchangeable, instead of petty and fleeting like those of fallible humans.

      (I recommend you Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide) from Professor Feser (Chapter 2/ The doctrine of convertibles). Fascinating reading :)

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    9. Truth is a property of propositions and/or sentences. The strict identification of God with truth is a speculative metaphysical hypothesis which is open to reasonable rejection.

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    10. @ ALEXANDER VI,

      "Truth is a property of propositions and/or sentences."

      It is much more than that.

      "The strict identification of God with truth is a speculative metaphysical hypothesis which is open to reasonable rejection."

      Doubt springs eternal in the misled human breast.

      Have fun.

      :-)

      Here's hoping that you are some day led to real Truth based on something greater than doubt.

      Tom Cohoe

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  8. WCB

    Again, an omnipotent God who could act to eliminate horrendous moral evils and refuses to does in fact act as a moral agent.
    Just not a good moral agent.

    The bible, which we are told was authored by God himself, explicitly claims God is compassionate and merciful. And defines these attributes so there is no mistake as to what that means. See Luke 6 foe examples. To be compassionate or merciful as defined in the Bible is to assume moral obligations.

    Job is not history, it is a fable. Job does not mean we can ignore the claims of the Bible that Godd is merciful, compassionate, just, and loving. We have here, contradictory claimsthat cannot be reconciled intellectually.

    God's allowing Satan to kill Job's wife, children, servants, and cattle are not compassionate, just, merciful, or loving.

    WCB

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    1. @ WCB:

      God's allowing Satan to kill Job's wife, children, servants, and cattle are not compassionate, just, merciful, or loving.

      The atheist (who is per force a conceptualist/ nominalist) suggesting that life is an *objective* good and that taken it away is an *objective* evil. Oh the irony :)

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    2. "God's allowing Satan to kill Job's wife, children, servants, and cattle are not compassionate, just, merciful, or loving."

      It could be.

      Tom Cohoe

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  9. @WCB. There was a recent post that denied God's existence based on the claim that the existence of ugliness in the world impugned God's beauty. It seems that your claim is that God exists, but is not good; or that God exists, but is not all powerful. Either way, you take being all powerful and all good as mutually exclusive given the state of suffering in the world. I will post the response that I gave on the compatibility of the beauty of God and ugliness in the world as I touched on the coherence of the classicial view as it relates to the problem of evil. I wrote:

    This is a crude variation of the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God. The argument from the problem of evil can be constructed as follows: 1. Evil exists, 2. If God is all good and all powerful, He could and would remove evil from the world, 3. As He has not done so, God does not exist.

    The variation you have presented attends not to goodness and evil, but to beauty and ugliness and could be constructed similarly. 1. Ugliness exists, 2. If God were all beautiful and all powerful, He could and would eliminate ugliness in the world. 3. As He has not done so, God does not exist.

    The reason that I refer to your variation as crude is because you introduce ambiguous language ("sustain ugliness") and you don't bother to construct your argument well. I have helped with that above, but you have neither had the courtesy of offering a basic definition of key terms like beauty and ugliness (something that could be done in a relatively brief manner even in a blog combox) nor made the effort to understand how a Thomist might define these terms.

    To help remedy the latter problem, St. Thomas understands beauty in terms of order and proportion. Something is beautiful to the extent that it is proportionate or well ordered. For example, a face is beautiful in its structure to the extent that its parts are proportionate to the whole and manifest the order of symmetry. A symphony is beautiful to the extent that it’s notes fit with one another in a melodious order. Writing can also have a cadence to it that makes it beautiful. Computer codes are described by programmers as elegant or beautiful to the extent that they are well constructed. So fittingness or order are essential features of beauty. Something that is beautiful is well ordered.

    Conversely ugliness is a lack of order. A face is ugly because it lacks order and is misshapen or misfigured. A symphony is ugly when the notes are not related in a melodious order. Writing is ugly when it is poorly constructed and lacks order. Finally, computer codes lack elegance and beauty when they lack structure and order.

    Ugliness is both logically and metaphysically posterior to beauty. It is logically posterior to beauty in that beauty consists of right order or proportion and ugliness is privation of that order/proportion. The order is more fundamental metaphysically in that there are consistent patterns to the operation of the natural world. The natural world operates according to laws that can be known. The movement of the planets and laws of motion are so ordered that they can be understood with mathematical precision.

    This order is so normal to us that we expect it and are shocked when it is absent. We go to a symphony and expect beauty and are angry when we have paid good money and the notes are cacophinuos rather than melodiously well ordered. We are shocked by a misfigured face in a way that we are not shocked at a particularly beautiful face. The reason for this is that we expect beauty as more fundamental to reality than ugliness. (see continuation)

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  10. @WCB(continutation)

    Nevertheless, ugliness does exist, so how are we to account for it? Although there are other forms of ugliness, it is moral ugliness that tends to cause people to have objections against God’s existence. It is for this reason that such arguments are typically structured in the form of the problem of evil. However, they can also be structured in relation to beauty and ugliness as moral acts are well ordered acts (and thus beautiful) and immoral acts are disordered and thus ugly.

    We recognize that there is something ugly about cruelty. We recognize that there is something very ugly and unattractive about racism. We recognize that this is not fitting because race neither increases nor decreases the worth of a person. Likewise, it is morally ugly to be ungrateful to those who have given to your sacrificially for your good. Gratefulness would be a more fitting or proportionate (or we might say appropriate) response. There is something repulsive about people who are racists, cruel, or ungrateful. Conversely there is a moral beauty to people who are grateful, kind, and who treat others justly. Their actions are beautiful because their actions are fitting or proportionate.

    This recognition of beauty and ugliness in moral acts is reflected in our language. It is for this reason that parents say to their children, “Don’t be ugly” when those children are being unkind to their siblings. It is also for this reason that Mother Theresa’ exhorted others to live a sacrificial life in service of God in terms of “Doing something beautiful for God.”

    As a final example of ugliness, it is ugly for someone to be habitually skeptical of those who merit their trust. The problem with habitual skeptics is that they are not able to recognize either good will or good arguments. This is a moral defect that is ugly and damages the relationships the skeptic has with other people whom he or she should trust and damages the skeptics ability to discern truth. The alternative to such a disposition is not naïve credulity. The alternative is an openness to good arguments and a good faith effort to understand such arguments. This allows us to recognize truth as we earnestly seek it and to recognize people of good will and sound mind who can teach us the truth. Such a disposition allows people to learn from St. Thomas Aquinas and if they have goodwill to begin to see that his arguments are extremely strong if they are only given a real hearing (the life of Dr. Feser attests to this).

    So moral ugliness exists and it consists of a disordered disposition and disordered acts. Is there reason for us to think that this impugns the Beauty of God? Here the basic distinction between necessity and contingency is extremely important. God is necessarily good as He is Goodness Itself. He is also necessarily Beautiful as He is Beauty Itself. We are beautiful by nature but are not necessarily beautiful. That is to say that moral ugliness is a possibility for us precisely because we are created. If we had a will that was coterminous with beauty, we would be the creator and not the creature (making the creation of a necessarily beautiful person as contradictory as a square circle and thus not impugning God’s power). By nature of being a creature, our will can be set on beauty (morally well ordered acts), but it is not set there with necessity. Our beauty is contingent based on the contingency of our moral acts. This summarizes briefly a Catholic Thomistic account of how moral ugliness is present in the world and shows that the existence of moral ugliness in no way impugns the beauty of God. For a positive account of the existence of God, buy a copy of Edward Feser’s Five Proofs.

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  11. I also posted a response in the same thread that addressed the problem of natural evil. I wrote:

    The problem of evil in terms of natural disaster seems to call into question God's goodness or justice in a way that the problem of moral evil does not. The problem of moral evil is dissolved by the recognition of creatures who are contingently good by a free will. It impugns neither God's goodness nor God's power. While this problem is dissolved primarily in term of an exposition of God's power (it does not impugn anyone's power to say that He cannot draw a square circle nor created an uncreated being--i.e. one that is necessarily good and created), the latter problem must be resolved in terms of an exposition of God's Goodness and particularly His justice.

    How could it be just for an innocent baby to suffer from cancer or a tornado when he has done no wrong? How could a just God allow this to occur? Although the question is made palpable by our experience of suffering, it needs to be analyzed deeply if we are going to come to terms with it in a reasonable way. In other words, we must not allow a visceral first response to the question to keep us from examining the premises behind the question.

    For example, the most fundamental premise is that our greatest good lies in the avoidance of temporary suffering and that a loving and just God would not allow us to undergo temporary suffering. However, this premise is problematic. A just and loving father will allow his son to train for football when this entails some level of intense and even sustained suffering for something that can only be achieved through such suffering. There is a higher good in mind that the dad and the coach see more clearly than the linebacker son who is struggling through the two a days with asthma. In this instance, the parent and coach have an understanding of the value of the end goal and how it is worthy of pursuit and even suffering.

    With this in mind, it is important to analyze more deeply the premise that temporary suffering is the greatest evil that we could possibly endure. That premise either presupposes materialism and that the body is all that there is. If this were the case, bodily suffering would be the worst thing possible and should be avoided at all costs. However, such a view does not disprove God's existence; it presupposes that he does not exist. If however we recognize the existence of an immaterial soul, we have to assess the relation of the body and the soul. If the soul is more noble than the body, could we not justify bodily suffering for the good of the soul? Could not bodily suffering be *useful* for the good of the soul in that it helps us to recognize that the material world is temporary as it is subject to decay? This is precisely how the Catholic Tradition understands both the voluntary suffering of self denial which occurs, for example, through fasting and involuntary suffering that occurs through events outside our control. Such bodily suffering can be good for our own soul and our own suffering can be good for the soul of others as well. If there is a soul that is more noble than the body and is eternal, it is the eternal happiness of the soul that is most important and not the temporary pleasure or displeasure of the body (This is not to say that the body is bad or that pleasure is bad per se. It is only to recognize that pleasure is not ultimate because the body is a lower good than the soul).

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  12. @WCB (continued)

    Another premise that requires analysis is the premise that we only merit temporary bodily suffering for our own misdeeds. That is a key premise to the suggestion that it is unjust for an innocent child to suffer from cancer or a tornado. Although the child has committed no wrong, he suffers. How in this world could this be just for God to allow this?

    The fact that it is temporary and bodily suffering at least leaves open the possibility that such suffering may benefit the soul (either the child's soul or the soul of another person).

    Sometimes the suffering of one person can be for the good of another person. This occurs in war and in the case of anyone who makes a sacrifice for someone else. The difference between the suffering of an adult in war is that such suffering is generally voluntary and the suffering of an innocent child is not. Yet this only poses a problem if we hold the premise that the child must understand the reason for his suffering for the suffering to have a reason. That is, again, a faulty premise as we need not understand all or any of the good that our suffering does for others for that suffering to in fact do such good.

    Although there is much more that could be said about concepts such as "corporate solidarity" and the implications of original sin for suffering and Divine Justice, I will stop there as I think that some of the most important distinctions have been put in place.

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    1. @ Michael Copas

      We recognize that there is something ugly about cruelty.

      The problem for atheists is that they are forced to recognize as "evil" whatever their evolutionary master tells them to find evil. It's a process that is codified in their neuronal structures, be it because it helped their ancestors to pass along their genes or because it did not but got "co-opted" (their infamous "spandrel" theory, which can be easily trashed by a 4 years-old).

      So these people can never take a step back to reason if such "evil" is really objective. They are what their neurochemicals tell them they are, and they can not escape their neuronal prison. If evolution had "told" them in the past that torture and racism were "good/ beautiful", then they could not help but to think otherwise.

      So according to them, any attempt to reason is futile (C.S. Lewis). And these morons dominate the academia today. It's so pathetic.

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    2. @ Michael Copas:

      The variation you have presented attends not to goodness and evil, but to beauty and ugliness.

      Atheism IS the cause of the massive ugliness that we are witnessing today, be it in architecture, the "arts", the crumbling of morality/ generalized societal despair and even in science.

      You can not expect anything else from a nihilistic enterprise, where people have hammered in their heads since a very young age that their telos is to become worm-food.

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    3. @uncommon descent.

      I think you are right that there is a link to materialism and ugliness in art and architecture. When one abandons transcendental truth, beauty, and goodness, the pursuit of such things in the arts is lost. All that is left is the artistically disordered and ugly productions of morally disordered and ugly people.

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  13. Me & other Classic Theists: God is not a moral agent.
    Owes us nothing etc. etc etc yada yada....ye all read Brian Davies and Feser's relevant papers on the subject.

    Gnu Atheist Trolls: But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is! But He is!

    That is all ye got? Complaining about the "god" none of us believes in?

    Pathetic.

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  14. Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
    Everything under heaven belongs to me.-Job 41:11

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  15. Me and Classic Theists: No theistic personalist so called "god" exists.

    Gnu Atheist trolls: But he must exist based on my non Catholic interpretation of the bible! If you don't believe he exists how can I convince you a "god" you don't believe in does not exist?



    Ye cannot refute Classical Theism's solution to the problem of evil by pretending Classic Theism and Theistic Personalism are interchangeable.

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    1. Son of Yakov, do.you believe that God can ride a bike, yes or no? I understand that in the past you have impugned the divine omnipotence by denying this. Well, if YAHWEH could stroll along behind a hedge in the Garden of Eden, why could he not just as well have.gone about on a bicycle???

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    2. WCB

      "...yet that which the word signifies, namely that which subsists in an intellectual nature, is appropriate to God; and for this reason, the term person is properly ascribed to God.’
      Aquinas
      (De Potentia Dei, q.9, a.3, co.)

      SoY, you do not know what you are taling about. Vemenence is not evidence. Any more than shriekng "The only true God is Allah!" Makes it true.

      Personalism of God is an "How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?" questions still hotly debated by theologians, including self identifying clAssical theologians.

      WCB

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    3. I wish WCB wouldn't pretend "Theistic Personalism" and and "God is personal by reason of the fact He has Intellect and Will" (something we all read in THE LAST SUPERSTITION where Feser discusses the distinction between Theistic Personalism vs Classical Theism) are identical concepts. They are not.

      Quote"But the Unmoved Mover, as the source of all change, is the source of things coming to have the attributes they have. Hence He has these attributes eminently if not formally. That includes every power, so that He is all-powerful. It also includes the intellect and will that human beings possess (features far up in the hierarchy of attributes of created things, as we will see in the next chapter), so that He must be said to have intellect and will, and thus personality, in an analogical sense. Indeed, he must have them in the highest degree, lacking any
      of the limitations that go along with being a material creature or otherwise having otentiality. Hence He not only has knowledge, but knowledge without limit, being all-knowing."
      Ed Feser THE LAST SUPERSTITION.



      WCB makes me sad. He refuses to go beyond trolling. Laddie if ye put as much effort into formulating a rational philosophical argument against classic Theism as yer do with yer petty trolling you could be well respected around here.

      You might even advance the cause of Atheism. Instead of making Classic Theists look good by contrast.

      Oh WCB yer one Joe Schmit or Graham Oppy essay away from wisdom.

      Instead of all THIS.....

      "Personalism of God is an "How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?" blah blah blah...

      Do better WCB I am rooting fer ya.

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    4. Son of Ya'Kov, I think I've said it before, but here it is again: it seems a great mistake to call anthropomorphic theism "theistic personalism", which, as described around the blog, does not consist in personalism at all, but in the type of personalism, in this case, anthropomorphic.

      As personalism, like goodness and simplicity, are supremely divine characteristics, but exist analogically in humans, why single it out? The problem is surely anthropomorphism! Since the Renaissance/Enlightenment, the dominant error has been to reduce God to an impersonal force of nature, not make Him a human person (when that is done, in the person of Christ, we still revert to God as "cosmos" etc. anyway - impersonal).

      It's true that Catholics should counter any error that postulates (sincerely or not) an anthropomorphic God as "straw man". But we have to remember that the straw man is an excuse, not a religion competing with the Church. Atheists don't "believe" in an anthropomorphic God, even if some of them want us to. If you mean Protestants and Evangelicals etc., they can easily be handled as always. They aren't going to collapse in heap even if we spend the next five hundred years shouting at them that God is not a person like them. Among the errors assailing Catholics today, attacks on divine simplicity are not the most common or effective. Naturalism, and anything that tends to depersonalise God, abounds.

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    5. @ Miguel Cervantes:

      Naturalism, and anything that tends to depersonalise God, abounds.

      The so called 'naturalist' is a god believer. They simply choose to have impersonal deity. But 'nature'/ 'matter' is a deity nonetheless.

      And of course it's easier to elevate yourself if your god is dumb and blind. Because the telos of the naturalist IS to be God on Earth.

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    6. @ Miguel Cervantes

      As a creature of habit I tend to mimic my teachers and "Theistic Personalism" seems to be the favored terms for anthropomorphic Theism used by Feser and Fr. Brian Davies. I would also accept Neo Theism for that erroneous view as well.

      But you make an interesting point. Perhaps I need to change terms? I do seem to recall Davies also uses the term anthropomorphism. Theistic Anthropomorphism? Hmmmmm?

      I think that will do. If my 20 minute attention span holds I will try it out.

      Thanks mate. Cheers!

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    7. However one area I might disagree with you Miguel is New Atheists do seem to see God exclusively in anthropomorphic terms. It comes from their latent fundamentalism.

      Cheers.

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    8. Son of Ya'Kov, Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, it's true that atheist polemicists portray God in over-the-top anthropomorphic terms. All we can do is point out their error.

      While it's also true that Christians (including Catholics) sometimes also hold to ideas that, strictly speaking, do not tally with divine simplicity, they often hold ideas that are wrong in other areas too. They don't make the rules in the Church - as a rule. Outside religion, the same pertains in every field of knowledge, including philosophy; not everybody is right on everything. That's why we have a Church to guide us.

      Apart from the Church, it is personality itself that saves the orientation towards God, even among the ignorant: It's not for nothing that God says "I am the God of Abraham", more often than He says "I am that I am". Surely God's interventions were meant to make him recognisable; we know at once that it's the God of Isaac, not of Mohammad, not Zeus, Huichilobos, Heaven, the Sun etc.

      Even if not essentially required, God has always wanted humans to be in relation to Him (religion), and told us so. I think the Thomistic method has always managed to keep all this present while at the exact same time advancing the best discussion humans are capable of concerning God. The ST is theology plus...

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    9. On the other hand, of course, as Mohammad proclaimed that he worshipped the God of Abraham and creator of all, he should not have been mentioned with the others, whatever his errors.

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  16. Isn't it curious how the same atheists who express staggering amounts of epistemic uncertainty into principles of causation when you walk through Aristotelian style proofs for God's existence suddenly and mysteriously gain great confidence that all causation must be deterministic causation when an argument against classical theism is presented?

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    1. @ Anonymous:

      Or that morality is subjective and fleeting like the wind, but that they DO know that their flavor of morality is the 'right one' (and that God should obey their petty human rules because evolution has taught them what is good and what is evil. Also other humans should follow their ridiculous rules, see the woke dictatorial nightmare that is flagellating the West). They also say that a contradictory God can not exist because contradictions are impossible, while doubting the validity/ universality of the LNC (I saw a once a very confused fella who said that maybe, in the future, the LNC could be 'proven false'. Not kidding :)

      Also per Hume we can not know the causes of things, which invalidates the pursuit of their dear science, the same science which is the cause of them being atheists/ matter converts.

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    2. WCB

      And justwhat does that have to do with the fact that an omnipotent God who could act to eliminate many horrendous moral evils and chooses not to do so acts a a moral agent by refusing to do just that?

      WCB

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    3. @ WCB:

      an omnipotent God who could act to eliminate many horrendous moral evils and chooses not to do so acts a a moral agent by refusing to do just that?

      The problem is that there's nothing such as "moral evil" (let alone "horrendous") if FIRST there is not a God. Your evolution-given sense of morality is naive and laughable. It's simply based upon feelings (and not even atheists can agree, for example there are atheists who consider abortion murder and reprobable and others do not bat an eyelid and say that is something fantastic/ an objective good).

      I would like to hear a list of objectively grounded "moral evils" on the part of the atheist. Up until now, not a single one has produced a coherent answer.

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    4. Anonymous

      Do you think the God of classical theism is uncertain?

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    5. @ Walter Van den Acker:

      Truth is never uncertain.

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  17. I haven't worked through all of this, but it seems to me that the PoE defense, that God has no moral duties and owes us nothing, is a red herring. If God is omnibenevolent, then wouldn't God act, not out of duty, but simply out of the overflow of His benevolence? Wouldn't God succour the afflicted, not out of some obligation to creatures, but simply because it's His nature? Someone who loves, say, a child or spouse in need, ideally doesn't say, Well, I guess I am obligated to help out right now. Doesn't that person act out of benevolence alone-- if that person exemplifies the ideal? And God is the supreme beyond every series.

    So I am thinking the Brian Davies approach conceives of a rather Scrooge-like God. I should think that perfect love goes beyond what is owed.

    The force of the evidential PoE, then, doesn't come from a claim that God owes moral duties. It comes from looking around at the s--t that happens and asking, would a benevolent AND omnipotent agent allow this, even if not obligated to stop it, simply because a benevolent nature issues in benevolent, willing acts?

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    1. Ah yes, but didn't you know that God's benevolence is only analagous to the human version, ie so ill defined and elastic that it can mean whatever these people want it to mean, that is, anything at all?

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    2. Do wolves need to comfort lonely bears? Does the lynx need to stand up for the oppressed? No, because they are not such beings as to have this in their nature. God has no nature and thus no specific lists of commands He must follow to be perfectly good. Only, we can acknowledge it is fitting for infinite goodness to spill over and create our world, which can never be perfect because perfection cannot exist outside of He who is perfect by nature. So there must always be some room for imperfection, and in free beings, freely chosen imperfection—evil. Thus God is by no means bound to extinguish all evil.

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    3. To Anonymous who wrote about wolves and bears: You say God has no nature. Later you talk about He who is perfect by nature. Do you mean by this He some being other than God? No, because you go straight on to draw a conclusion about God. You are contradicting yourself.

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    4. My only criticism is pick a handle. So as to tell the Anonymous Gnu Atheist trolls from the serious drive by Classical Theists throwing shade at their dosh.

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    5. Anon 6:17

      All yer observations by definition presuppose Theistic Anthropomorphism(i.e. NeoTheism or Theistic Personalism) and God having duties to beings other than Himself.

      God's omnibenevolent means God is Goodness Itself. Can you claim Plato's Form of the Good is not Good because it didn't stop the holocaust? I am enjoying a good tall class of diet Pepsi cherry flavor right now. Is the cherry soda not good because it didn't end world hunger?

      All of God's acts toward creatures are acts of charity. They are by nature acts of supererogation. Which means they are not required. If ye require them then by definition yer obligating God. But if God can be obligated then how is He "God"?
      If ye require God to do X yer imposing a duty on Him.

      Job 41:11 is rather clear. As is the rest of Scholastic

      >Someone who loves, say, a child or spouse in need, ideally doesn't say, Well, I guess I am obligated to help out right now.

      Here is a blatant example of Theistic Anthropomorphism and comparing God to creatures univocally.

      No such "god" exists mae boi. That is not the God of the Bible or Classic Theism but I just repeated myself.

      >I should think that perfect love goes beyond what is owed.

      That manifests itself in God creating us in the first place and giving all rational beings sufficient grace to be saved. He owes ye no more than that and God doesn't even owe that. God could have not created you or chosen to save you from yer sins which are solely yer own fault.

      >The force of the evidential PoE, then, doesn't come from a claim that God owes moral duties.

      No it entirely presupposes that as Davies showed in his analysis of Rowe.

      God has no emotions. That is God has no passions. Emotive appeals are anthropomorphic.

      I hate theistic anthropomorphism with the fire of 10000 suns as I hate all idolatry.

      God is metaphysically God and ontologically God only. God is not morally good in the univocal way a supremely virtuous rational creature is morally good.

      Yer analysis presupposes a "god" we do not believe in.

      Here some free enlightenment.
      https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/12/4/268

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    6. Should have said "God is metaphysically Good and ontologically Good only. God is not morally good in the univocal way a supremely virtuous rational creature is morally good."

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    7. Ficino,

      Please consider that the divine nature is Esse. He has no nature that is morally determining, i.e. in the relevant sense. That does not mean there is nothing which can be referred to as His nature. Your point is true, that perhaps there is a mere linguistic appearance of contradiction, but nothing else.

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    8. @ Journey 516: ficino4ml here, but right now the platform won't let me comment on that account. Are you the Anonymous who wrote about wolves and bears?

      Anyway, I am glad to see you concede that God in CT has a nature.

      If you can supply intelligible content to "Esse," I shall appreciate it.

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    9. Ficino? I hear ya man. Anon 6:15 us mae too.

      The inter webs is being naughty.

      Delete
  18. @ Anonymous:

    ie so ill defined and elastic that it can mean whatever these people want it to mean, that is, anything at all?

    Mhh... That's what happens with the terms 'natural selection' and 'species'. They're so flexible that they encompass everything and anything.

    So your pagan god dressed up as 'science' suffers the same problem (although Fodor was more strict and said that 'natural selection' simply does not exist. And that hurts. Oh, and if darwinism were true, then species are not real entities either). So flexible, elastic and ill-defined definitions do not seem to be a problem for you after all.

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  19. WCB

    Genesis 1. All animals are created vegetarians.

    Isaiah 65:25

    “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”

    See also Isaiah 1:17.

    So why doesn't God act to en all this horrific suffering of animals?

    WCB

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    1. Why would a good God allow the existence of Gnu Atheists dragging down the atheist gene pool with their inferior brains and mucking up intelligent discussion on these matters with their lolcow & low brow sophistries?

      Well there is no such thing as the Best of All Possible World. God is not obligated to create any world. There is no world so Good God is obligated to make it and none so bad that as long as it participates in being God should refrain from making it.

      So God mercifully and in an act of supreme charity grants existence to the pathologically stupid class among the Atheists.

      Given that ye cannae nor fault the Almighty's kindness to them. But at least them yobs have existence and sufficient grace for Heaven. Wither they will make use of it or dither is to some degree on them.

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    2. @ WCB:

      So why doesn't God act to end all this horrific suffering of animals?

      What suffering? Animals do get laid a lot.

      Your "horrendous evil" catchphrase is funny. You look like the protagonist of a soap-opera, so overriden by emotions.

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    3. You expect a mortal to give an account of the mind of God, infinite in every way, known only analogously? Only this will satisfy you? God has provided great goods to animals, their existence and entire lives, why would it be necessary that their end must be peaceful too? If necessary, why not also some further blessing, that they never see harm at all? On that note, who’s to say it’s not peaceful? Are you aware that victims of car accidents often feel fine even when severely injured (which is why you should get checked if you’re in that situation, Heaven forbid)? Why shouldn’t a deer not have a similar reaction to be hunted? I would never put on you the burden to prove the workings of the mind of a deer being hunted, though it is indeed needed to mount such a claim as you have; yet why do you demand I prove the mind of God? God bless.

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    4. @ Journey 516:

      You expect a mortal to give an account of the mind of God, infinite in every way, known only analogously?

      Yes, atheists do expect that. But atheists are not creatures of reason.

      Only this will satisfy you.

      Nothing but an unending stream of orgasms/ physical pleasure + not a shred of psychological discomfort will ever satisfy the irrational atheist. Those creatures can not stand to bear the slightest damage, fragile as they are. Atheism is nothing but a tantrum held by grown-ups, a sad and pathetic attempt at being "rebellious".

      And regarding "animals", those emotionally immature fools lump together billions of different creatures, as if all "animals" were the same thing and had exactly the same experiences, and what's even worse, as if animals had our exact HUMAN experiences. They can not discriminate among the immense diversity of the natural world and they anthropomorphize it in the most intellectually dishonest way. No wonder they become vegans. It's very sad.

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    5. Anon 6:26 is me as well. I dinny understand it? Linux has never let mae down before?

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    6. "Those Vegans are awful & wicked people!"-Fred the Turnip.

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  20. As Feser said in his paper on Thomism and the Logical Problem of evil "when one properly understands what God is and what morality and moral
    agents are, it simply makes no sense to think of God as less than perfectly good or as morally obligated to prevent the evil that exists."END QUOTE

    Indeed this is like judging wither or not Beckum is a good footballer or not based on his batting average or wither or not He can run a mile in under 6 minutes.

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    1. I think the bigger issue is not whether or not God is a “moral agent” or whether “God has obligations — leave those aside for now — but, rather, that acts in accordance with his nature (and cannot act contrary to that nature), and if that nature IS love, then, on pain of using the word “love” equivocally, there *seems* to be *some* tension on the surface.

      Appealing to analogous predication doesn’t work if “loving” for us means something utterly different from (and even contrary to) “loving” in God’s case. That’s not analogical predication; it’s equivocation.

      BUT, just to clarify, I think the classical theist has routes to take…

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    2. Based on yer previous post Anon 4:44 I am going to conclude you think "God is Love" means God is the emotion of Love.

      No, it is infallible dogma God has no emotions. God has no passions. Divine Love is God willing the good for something. In this case God who is Divine Love has willed we Exist and we be the recipients of Sufficient Grace for Eternal Life.

      Of course this is gratuitous on God's part. It is charity. It is not owed and we cannot expect it or presume on it.

      Any additional goods you get are also gratuitous and you may thank God for giving them but since He is not debtor to us we cannot condemn God for not giving those extra goods to us.

      >Appealing to analogous predication doesn’t work if “loving” for us means something utterly different from (and even contrary to) “loving” in God’s case.

      It is analogous because our power to love shares a common referent with the Creator. Specifically Willing the Good. Except ours has the element of duty & obligation as well. God does not have that toward us. Only Himself. God must do His own Good & fulfill His Own Will & He must do it by necessity. Any good God does to us He does gratuitously.

      What you refuse to admit is you imagine God to have a Human Nature only more Uber.
      No such God exists. If such a God did exist it would render the Incarnation redundant as all feck.

      Just saying....

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    3. Ugh. Please forgive my sloppy writing above.

      E.g. “Analogous predication” should have instead been “analogical predication.” Etc.

      I wrote that post in a rush right after a dinner date with my girlfriend. I need to start logging into an account so I can edit! My fault.

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    4. Fr Brian Davies's name has come up here several times. Besides being a brilliant, world-renowned philosopher, I can personally attest that he is deeply caring and compassionate man.

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    5. anon 6:11 is me Son of Ya Kov. My autologin has rooked me again. The other Anon are nor me.

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  21. Hi Ed,

    On the topic of classical theism: I was just wondering if you'd read (or heard of) a book called "God: An Anatomy" by Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou. The author studied theology at Oxford, where she was also awarded her doctorate. She is currently Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, UK. Here's what John Barton, Emeritus Professor at Oriel College, Oxford and author of "A History of the Bible," has to say about the book:

    "In both Judaism and Christianity God is conceived as non-physical. In 'God: An Anatomy' Francesca Stavrakopoulou shows that this was not yet so in the Bible, where God appears in a much more corporeal form. This provocative work will surprise and may shock, but it brings to light aspects of the biblical account of God that modern readers seldom appreciate."

    Professor Stavrakopoulou contends that even in the New Testament, God is conceived of as physical. You might be thinking, "What about John 4:24, which says that God is spirit (pneuma)?" However, on page 409 of her book, Professor Stavrakopoulou addresses this objection: "For most first-century philosophers, pneuma was not the abstract immateriality of Platonic theory, but an airy yet material substance pervading the cosmos, much as Stoic thinkers imagined. Its fiery heat and dynamism gave it a generative quality easily qualified as divine in origin." In other words, it was a "potent exhalation of God" (p. 410), capable of permeating the human body, which is how Mary was able to conceive after "holy pneuma" overshadowed her, and how the disciples at Pentecost were able to speak in tongues after being filled with "holy pneuma." In John's Gospel, there is a subtle change: "the holy pneuma that penetrates the disciples' bodies is Christ's own breath," which is why Jesus says "Receive holy pneuma," when he breathes on his disciples after his resurrection. Finally, all Scripture is said to be God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

    It was not until the mid-second century that Christians began to conceive of God as wholly incorporeal. The problem here is that according to Catholic teaching, the meaning of Scripture is the meaning intended by the human sacred author: "the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words" (Dei Verbum 12). If Professor Stavrakopoulou is right, none of the sacred writers intended to assert that God is incorporeal, let alone simple; hence it cannot be taught by Scripture.

    Thoughts?

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    1. Hope you don't believe that. Perhaps someone can find "an airy yet material substance pervading the cosmos" in the OT or NT. But that shouldn't bother Stavrakopoulpou, since she believe the OT “wasn’t written to be a factual account of the past" anyway; and after three thousand years, she's discovered that the OT writers couldn't distinguish between fact and fiction. Did she get her Doctorate off the back of a pack of Cornflakes?

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    2. Cervantes at 10.48pm

      "Did she get her doctorate from the back of a packet of cornflakes?"

      No Cervantes, she got it from The University of Oxford. Where did you get yours from?

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    3. I don't find such an argument terribly persuasive, as it boils down to "the dominant philosophical understanding of terms like pneuma assumed a materialistic metaphysics, so that must be what the biblical author meant as well." It seems to me that under such a hermeneutic, it is basically impossible to convey outside of a straight philosophical treatise anything resembling a minority philosophical opinion. Put another way, how would this scholar have expected the language to be used if the author were actually intending to convey that God was essentially non-material?

      Or more to the point, why ought we consider as definitive authority this person who lives close to two thousand years after the fact over the people who natively spoke the language and lived within the lifetime and were in some cases the direct students of the people who wrote the texts in the first place?

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    4. Vicente! Have a look at this: https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2022/01/16/francesca-stavrakopoulou-on-her-new-book-about-god/
      What a dope.

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    5. Hi Anonymous,

      How's this for evidence?

      "The view that God is incorporeal, without body or parts, has been the hallmark of Christian orthodoxy, but in the beginning it was not so. In this article I show that ordinary Christians for at least the first three centuries of the current era commonly (and perhaps generally) believed God to be corporeal. The belief was abandoned (and then only gradually) as Neoplatonism became more and more entrenched as the dominant world view of Christian thinkers."

      (David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review , Volume 83 , Issue 2 , April 1990 , pp. 105 - 116)

      There's more.

      "...Edmond Cherbonnier has shown that the God of biblical revelation, in contrast with the deity of Platonist metaphysics, was personal, not abstract; invisible as a matter of choice, not inherently; everlasting or enduring through time, not timeless; and ethically constant, not metaphysically immutable. He concludes that in many respects the God of the Bible has more in common with the gods of the Greek
      and Roman pantheon than with Plato's idea of Ultimate Being or Aristotle's Unmoved Mover...

      "Even in first-century Alexandria, where Hellenistic ideas were already firmly entrenched, Jewish incorporealism was a minority position... Thus apparently in the first century the Jews in Alexandria, as well as in Palestine, almost universally believed in an embodied God...

      "Immaterialism was introduced into Christian theology at least as early as the mid-to-late second century, with Clement of Alexandria (about AD 150-213) being perhaps the first to unequivocally
      refer to God as immaterial. Immaterialists ultimately triumphed, but not without a three-century long struggle with Christians who held tenaciously to the primitive doctrine of divine embodiment...

      "Although [John] Cassian was an Origenist and an incorporealist, he nonetheless made it clear that for late fourth-century Christian monks in Egypt, anthropomorphism was the long established norm and incorporealism was the innovation."

      (Paulsen, David L. (1995) "Part II: Early Christian Belief in an Embodied God," BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 35: Iss. 4 , Article 4. Available online at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3081&context=byusq )

      If the Christians of the first century believed in an incorporeal Deity, then how do you account for the fact that Christians of the following two or three centuries didn't?

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    6. @Vincent Torley,

      "If the Christians of the first century believed in an incorporeal Deity, then how do you account for the fact that Christians of the following two or three centuries didn't?"

      Why do I have to account for a bed of bunk where sleeping modern minds desperately dream uncompelling, revolutionary visions? Oh gee, arrogant ones, what geniuses you are not!

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. Vicente. There’s not much mystery in the obsession of some to make of God something material and part of the created natural universe. These are the same people who have such trouble with the human soul itself as something immaterial, gifted with intellect and absolute individuality, utterly unassimilable to the rest of creation. On earth, only man has personality, individuality and an immaterial soul, without which human consciousness would have to be defined as just a series of “mental states” – the death of humanity. Nothing else in the material world has an immortal, rational mind. If one claims “fidelity”, while attributing to St. Thomas a concept of intentionality that ignores the intellect/soul and associates it with animals, one can “faithfully” say whatever one likes about the beliefs of the first Christians.

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    8. Miguel,

      I am not saying that the early Christians were correct in their belief that God is material. I'm just saying: that's what they believed, and that's what the people who wrote the Bible believed.

      One could respond to these findings by saying that even if they believed that God is material, they didn't TEACH it as something God revealed. Consequently, the Church has the right to subsequently define that God is not material. What it doesn't have the right to do is define that the Bible teaches this truth. That would be absurdly anachronistic.

      Nevertheless, I can't help wondering: where would Christianity be today if it hadn't been hijacked by Neo-Platonism in the mid-second century?

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    9. I don't see "evidence". I see opinions & un argued conclusions.

      I have no reason to believe the early pre Clement of Alexandra Christians thought of God as material.

      Also Platonic ideas in Judeo Christianity go back to at least Philo who would have been their contemporary.

      This sounds like contrived nonsense.

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    10. So yer citing the opinions of a Mormon (i.e. Paulsen) this reminds me of Bill Webster's ROMAN CATHOLICISM AT THE BAR OF HISTORY where he tried to argue the early Church Fathers taught Reformed Christianity.

      Mormons Vince? Fecking seriously?

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    11. Vicente. It's hard to follow you. Catholics believe the Old and New Testaments are the Church's record of Revelation; the Church is not at liberty to contradict its own teaching of what the revealed Faith is.

      I read Paulsen's article for fun - my first acquaintance with Mormon intellectualism (the annihilation of Brigham Young University will be one of many side-benefits of the Reconquista). Paulsen's effort is really weak. Patagotitan mayorum would have more luck than him grasping straws.

      The whole point of it seems to be that, if Origen attacked anthropomorphism, it must have been the teaching of the Church in the first two centuries. The article admits that the target was either ignorant and uncultured Christians, or Hellenised Jews (plus two very dodgily argued cases, a monk and a bishop).

      The Mastodon in Brigham Young University Hall is the total lack of any official Church pronouncement in Biblical texts, Councils, or the Barque itself, to the effect that the Church believed in a corporeal God - even for five minutes, never mind centuries.

      It doesn't do much good to bring up the heterodox; they abounded back then as now. Jews of the first century BC or AD? Palestine was seething with heretical sects like the Essenes. Might as well get someone from the future to do a survey of New York Catholics in 2022 in order to establish the Church's teaching of all time.

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    12. @ Vincent Torley,

      From the bunk bed, the dreamers "teach" us, in their dreams, that the Church cannot "TEACH" but that the dreamers can. By their dreamt of authority they can understand what the Church was, apparently, too dumb to understand, including its own history and that the Church is not the authority on Bible meaning, since the dreamers are. This would be absolutely insulting to Christians were the bootstrap argument dreamt by the dreamers not such a funny display of self importance.

      You still haven't answered why I should account for such bunk (and my question is no more insulting than yours - less, actually than yours, since deliberately reporting your dream amounts to an attack on the Church and on Christianity).

      Why, huh, should you be taken seriously?

      Hail o Church Of The Dreams of Torley et al (that was sarcasm).

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    13. Vincent,
      You seem to be espousing a version of the "Hellenization thesis," popularized by Adolf von Harnack i.e. "The Theory of Theology's Fall into Hellenistic Philosophy" along with von Harnack's agenda for the restoration of a more Hebraic, more ethical pre-Hellenistic Christianity. This thesis is now discredited by numerous scholars closely examining the beliefs of the Ancient Near East (which have been shown to be dualist rather than physicalist, for example, contrary to promoters of the Hellenization thesis), the doctrines promoted by various Greek philosophers, and the way various Church Fathers employed some insights by certain philosophers because they fit with the testimony of scripture (the correspondence theory of truth, for example) and rejected others (the eternity of the material world, for example) because they contradicted Scripture. More details to come.

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    14. Hi Miguel,

      You refer to "the total lack of any official Church pronouncement in Biblical texts, Councils, or the Barque itself, to the effect that the Church believed in a corporeal God - even for five minutes, never mind centuries."

      I never claimed that the Church made an official pronouncement stating that God is corporeal. Official pronouncements are not the only guide to Church belief, however; one can also appeal to what has been "believed always, everywhere, and by all," as St. Vincent of Lerins put it. The witness of the early Church Fathers prior to c.300 A.D. is divided: Clement of Alexandria, Tatian the Syrian, Irenaeus and Origen (and possibly Athenagoras) affirm an incorporeal God, while Melito of Sardis, Tertullian and Lactantius affirm the contrary. Moreover, Origen admits that the Church's teaching on the subject was unsettled in his day: "How God himself is to be understood, - whether as corporeal and formed according to some shape or of a different nature from bodies" is "a point which is not clearly indicated in our teachings." (De Principiis, Preface, para. 9)

      Finally, there is overwhelming evidence (presented by Francesca Stavrakopoulou in her book, "God: An Anatomy") that the Biblical authors did not envisage God in classical theistic terms, but as a corporeal being. For instance, regarding the goddess Asherah, Stavrakopoulou writes that "scholars are now widely agreed that she functioned traditionally as Yahweh's consort" (p. 149). God originally had a wife. It was only after the return from the Babylonian Exile (in the late sixth century B.C.) that "Yahweh lost his wife, while other members of his divine council were downgraded from deities to minor divine beings, heavenly messengers, or cosmic abstractions" (p. 152). Thomas Römer comes to the same conclusion in his book, "The Invention of God" (Harvard University Press, 2015) - see https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674504974 .

      Finally, there is no good evidence of widespread Jewish or Christian belief in an incorporeal God in the first century A.D., and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

      Tim,

      I wasn't appealing to the Hellenization thesis in my argument. In any case, even among the Greeks, the common folk doubtless believed in corporeal deities. And there's no evidence that the Jews ever believed in an immortal and immaterial soul, or for that matter, an incorporeal God, prior to their encounter with Greek philosophy in the third century B.C. Aristobulus of Alexandria (150 B.C.) was the first Jew to propound such a view, and it took centuries to become a widespread one within Judaism. Cheers.


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    15. @ Victor Torley

      Aquinas - "Origen [...] being deceived here as he was also in many other points" (Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, Question 51, Article 1, RO1).

      Well then, he must be an important "authority" for you since some writing of his is preserved, and so what he "admits" becomes a precision guide to truth in fantastic thinking.

      But ... Stavrakopoulou! - "scholars are now widely agreed [...]. Really?

      Who is this privileged little group? Who could have surveyed them for a fake, ad populum argument? This must have been a group that got its degrees off of Corn Flakes boxes.

      "Aristobulus of Alexandria (150 B.C.) was the first [...]"

      You read all the lost works of Jewish writers prior to their various exiles, of course.

      Funny, funny stuff. Corny, corny dream bunk.

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    16. @ Victor Torley,

      "Who is this privileged little group"

      ... self selected, let me stress, privileged little group ... that Stavrakopoulou surveys and counts? Ever hear of selection bias? ("you like my ideas, so you're in - those Christians over there don't like them, so they're not the scholars I'm talking about")

      Not really aware of the selection process of course as blinded by pride - "the bigger the target the greater the prestige".

      Heh.

      And you, Victor.

      What group of "scholars" have you surveyed?

      Pretty small compared to the number out there, I'm sure. But that's what dreamers who report their dreams as proven fact do.

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    17. Hello Vicente. Surely the only guide to Church belief are its official pronouncements - its Creeds, liturgy, Councils Papal teaching. What modern scholars think early Christians may have believed is not important. We know rejection of the Gnostic heresy was one of the many things that defined early Christianity. Its existence doesn't mean it was legitimate Christianity.

      As for the OT, modern scholars, ancient heretical Jewish sects and the Talmudic tradition cannot define its meaning; only the Church can. Non-Catholic modern scholarship has only one scientific principle judging by its ever-changing and mutually contradictory conclusions: the only truth in Biblical scholarship is that it cannot coincide with whatever the Church says its scriptures mean.

      Señora Asherah now? Perhaps Mormonism is not so out of place in the halls of Academia. Was it wrong to ridicule them in the light of other non-Catholic scholarship?

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  22. Hi Son of Ya'Kov,

    The article, "Part II: Early Christian Belief in an Embodied God," by David L. Paulsen which I linked to contained no less than 207 footnotes. Did you actually read it, or did you stop when you saw that it was published in BYU Studies Quarterly? Did you also notice that the other article by Paulsen which I cited was published in Harvard Theological Review? That should tell you that the guy's no dummy.

    How do you spell ad hominem?

    You write that Platonic ideas in Judeo Christianity go back to at least Philo who would have been contemporary with the early Christian Church, suggesting implicitly that the Church may have absorbed his Platonic views. That's extremely unlikely. Consider the following evidence, from Paulsen's article in BYU Studies Quarterly (pp. 45-47, 53).

    (1) In his recently published study, Alon Goshen Gottstein claims: "In all of rabbinic literature [covering both the tannaitic (70-200 AD) and amoraic (220-500 AD) periods] there is not a single statement that categorically denies that God has body or form." ("The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature," Harvard Theological Review 87 (1994): 172.)

    (2) Scholar James Drummond admits that even as the Jews advanced theologically to a higher conception of God, "we can hardly doubt that the mass of the people would be satisfied with [the scriptures'] literal meaning and that their idea of God was the purest anthropomorphism." (Philo Judaeus; or, The Jewish-Alexandrian Philosophy in Its Development and Completion, 2 vols. London: Williams and Norgate, 1888, 1:135.)

    (3) Regarding Philo, Paulsen writes (p. 45): "Philo's views were not generally accepted by his mainstream Jewish contemporaries. However, Albinus, a second-century non-Christian and middle-Platonist, did follow Philo's lead and in turn greatly influenced Origen and later Christian thinkers." For further information, he refers the curious reader to Grace Jantzen, "Theological Tradition and Divine Incorporeality," God's World, God's Body, (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1984) 21-35.

    (4) So powerful and natural was Judaism's "rich legacy of anthropomorphism" that Rabbi Hoshaiah could tell a story about the time when God came
    to create man and how the ministering angels mistook Adam for God: "What did the Holy One, blessed be he, do? He put him to sleep, so everyone knew that he was a mere man." (Genesis Rabbah 8:10)

    (5) Writing around 250 A.D., the Church Father Origen admits, "How God himself is to be understood, - whether as corporeal and formed according to some shape or of a different nature from bodies" is "a point which is not clearly indicated in our teachings." (De Principiis, Preface, para. 9)

    I think the evidence speaks for itself. Cheers.

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    1. Well I am nor gonna re-invent the wheel. It seems wee Talmud, Tom, Tim & Miguel answered ye quite well.

      My own brief comments response to (1) is an argument from silence. (2) Who cares what peasants think? (3) to (5) well the others answered ye quite well.

      Yep this is identical to Bill Webster only swap oot the Reformed nonsense with the wee Mormon nonsense.

      I dinny see evidence I see nonsense.

      I read Clement of Rome and the seven letter of Ignatius of Antioch. The early Christians look more like primitive Catholics then wee Mormons or Reformed or neo- Christian materialists. Just saying...

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  23. Vincent,
    Jaegwon Kim, a prominent physicalist working on the mind-body problem concedes that the default position of human societies is not physicalism but dualism: “Something like this dualism of personhood, I believe, is common lore shared across most cultures and religious traditions.” (Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation; Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000). Charles Taliaferro lists Michael Levin, Daniel Dennett, David Lewis, Thomas Nagel, J. J. C. Smart, Richard Rorty, Donald Davidson, and Colin McGinn as other non-dualist scholars working in philosophy of mind who concede that some commonsense view of dualism is held by the overwhelming number of humankind now and throughout history. Children are dualists. As Henry Wellman puts it, the recent findings of developmental psychology show that "young children are dualists: knowledgeable of mental states and entities as ontologically different from physical objects" (The Child's Theory of Mind; Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990). The presumption follows that Ancient Israel, like other ancient societies, would have held this commonsense dualism unless one can find evidence otherwise. What the Christian who claims that the Hebrew Bible advocates physicalism over dualism needs are arguments in the Hebrew Bible countering the prevailing assumption by ancient peoples of a basic dualism. There are none. The Hellenization thesis, as applied to physicalism, is a complete dud. Instead, basic dualism is at least the operating principle of the Hebrew Bible. And as bad as the position of Nancey Murphey, Brian Rosner, Paul Althaus and other Christian physicalists is, at least they are not global physicalists, i.e. they acknowledge that God is not composed of waves and limited to the speed of light.
    The Hellenization thesis is discredited with regards to doctrines like divine impassibility (Paul Gavrilyuk and several others show this) but it is even more discredited with respect to the Ancient Israelites were physicalists stuff.

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  24. @Vicent

    I mean, most monotheistic faiths today teach clearly that God is immaterial but most people do assume He has a body because they just do not have the necessary training a philosopher has(or should have) to be capable of understanding what being immaterial means.

    Our default way of thinking is a sort of mix between the concept and some mental images, it is not easy to not think like that. On something that we have a affection towards it seems even harder. That the biblical authors thought of God as having a body does not seems diferent than what we have with the average catholic believer today.

    Unless you got evidence than the Bible has to be interpreted as teaching a bodily God, that would go against catholic teaching and so be a problem, but people merely believing that is quite ok.

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  25. Hi Tim and Talmid,

    Thank you for your comments. It seems to me that they cancel each other out. Tim insists that dualism is the default position that humans gravitate towards from childhood, while Talmid makes the following admission concerning the way people think about God: "most people do assume He has a body because they just do not have the necessary training a philosopher has(or should have) to be capable of understanding what being immaterial means." That suggests that the default position is some kind of subtle materialism. Well, which is it: dualism or materialism?

    Most people picture themselves still being able to see and hear after they die, and that many NDE experiencers report the same. (Likewise, Jesus' parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke describes Dives as being able to see Lazarus and hear Abraham.) Some NDE survivors even report seeing God. Of course, I don't for a minute claim that this proves God is corporeal: rather, I assume God is able to appear to us in whatever form He wishes.

    That said, I do think Tim is correct when he writes that many people naively tend to think of themselves as a mind inhabiting a body. However, I don't think people believe that the mind of a deceased person is utterly disembodied: rather, they tend to picture it as having a subtle embodiment, like a shade or ghost. The Biblical story of Saul and the witch of Endor fits this tradition.

    Finally, I am not claiming that the Bible has to be interpreted as TEACHING a bodily God. Rather, I think there's overwhelming evidence that that's what the authors of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Christians of the first two centuries, actually believed. They didn't feel any need to teach it: to them, it was obvious.

    Ironically, the most significant evidence for this point comes from Augustine himself. (See Paulsen's essay, pages 74-76.) Despite growing up with a Christian mother (Monica), he was under the sincere impression that Christians believed in a corporeal God with a human form, until an encounter with the cultured Christian bishop Ambrose (a huge fan of Platonism, whose sermons contained many phrases from Plotinus) led to his conversion in 386, at the age of 32. By then, the Roman empire was mostly Christian. Augustine would have met and conversed with Christians every day. How could he have been so profoundly mistaken for 32 years if (as readers on this thread claim) the standard teaching of the Church at that time was that God is immaterial? Back then, it wasn't. That came later. Cheers.

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    1. Vicente. How could Saint Augustine have been mistaken [without there being some truth in his mistake]? Easily! How can so many non-Catholics sincerely believe we are "Mary worshippers"?

      Dualism versus physicalism as "fallback" positions? Why complicate your life? Neither of these have ever been the Catholic position concerning God (in both OT and NT); if commenters here imply that, they are wrong. Even the most ignorant Catholics (and most believers in the OT) do not follow those positions either (but who knows what acculturation may be able to achieve in Burundi or Uttar Pradesh). What heterodox Jews and the authors of the Babylonian Talmud thought is of no consequence. The faith didn't come from them.

      You haven't come up with any authoritative Church pronouncements in favour of a physical or "dualist" God. Discussing the mistaken beliefs of St. Augustine from a time when he confesses having been mistaken about a legion of things doesn't count as dogmatic definition or even the semblance of an argument.

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    2. @ Vincent Torley,

      What you have said here is so weak that I am embarrassed for you and am not going to laugh at it.

      Let's see. How could Augustine have thought the Church believed in an immaterial God if he had thought it believed God was material for 32 years? How could the brainy man have been wrong for 32 years? Well he was all wrong about Christianity, plain and simple, for 32 years, which is why he didn't become one earlier.

      His confession of the overwhelming number of errors he made in those 32 years is a very famous book, but you wish to infer from this list of mistakes that he supports ...

      I'm sorry, but that this ridiculous argument of yours represents actual good thinking on your part is actually funny, and even though it makes you stand out as a desperate and weak thinker, I just can't help but laugh.

      I just can't help it.

      :-)

      Now, as for Tim and Talmid "cancelling" each other out, this is too seriously bad thinking for laughter to be nice.

      Har ... oops, sorry.

      Talk about different things does not create an opposition. Otherwise, I could say "water runs downhill" opposes "water thrown up" and draw some ridiculous conclusion therefrom, which is what you do with your "cancel" argument.

      One is talking about what people think about their own minds. The other hypothesizes an explanation for error about God. Can you actually think these could be things in opposition? Really? Further, can you actually think that Truth is a voting matter?

      How embarrassing for you if you could only see how this makes you look, but I guess in the dream you live in, you are a mighty authority, far too dignified to stoop to my mentally impoverished and undignified level to notice my challenge and respond.

      But, gosh, it just is funny anyway.

      :-)

      I would like to thank Ed for attracting this kind of performance art and bringing genuinely funny stuff to his site.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. I agree with Tom that i and Tim are talking about diferent things. Tim is point out that the average person tends to a sort of dualism and i'am saying that the average person just does not know what it means to be immaterial, so i agree with you that people tend to think of tge soul as a sort of a ghost.

      This is actually clearly on the Gospels, for once Our Lord appeared walking on the water the disciples thinked that He, that they could see, was a ghost. On the Gospel of Luke there is also the part were He comes ressurrected and needs to assure they than He is not a ghost.

      Of course, i also suppose that the biblical authors probably thinked of God as having passions, feelings, i just agree with the Church that the Holy Spirit did not teach that when writing with they*.


      *no not imagine a dictation, that was not what the Church teach, i think

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  26. Miguel writes: "You haven't come up with any authoritative Church pronouncements in favour of a physical or 'dualist' God."

    To be clear: nowhere did I claim that there was such a pronouncement.

    What I DO claim is that there is a radical disconnect between the God of the Bible (Whom the sacred authors clearly believed to be a corporeal being, as Professor Stavrakopoulou demonstrates in her book, even if these authors did not explicitly teach this) and the God of classical theism (Who was grafted onto the God of the Bible in the late second century by certain highfalutin Neo-Platonist Christians who feared that if they didn't drastically revamp God's attributes ASAP, the God of Judaism and Christianity would be exposed to ridicule by educated pagan philosophers). What I'm saying is that the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction, and that the official pronouncements of the Church regarding God's attributes should be read in a way that makes them more compatible with popular piety and with the images we find in Scripture.

    Remember: when it comes to interpreting Scripture, Catholics are Originalists (like some of the Supreme Court judges are with the American Constitution). The human author's original intent cannot be set aside willy-nilly. So, for instance, when Psalm 139:16 declares of God, "Your eyes saw my unformed body," and Psalm 139:18 adds that God's thoughts "outnumber the grains of sand," we need to respect Scripture, and acknowledge that God is indeed somehow made aware of events in the world (in other words, He has feelings and experiences), and that God also has multiple thoughts about us. At the same time, we need to respect the Church's insistence that God does not change (Lateran IV). For my part, I see no reason why God cannot be made aware of events in a timeless fashion, and why He cannot entertain thoughts timelessly.

    Finally, re Augustine: let's not forget that he had a Christian mother: St. Monica. It is inconceivable that she did not teach her son the Christian faith, even if he chose to disbelieve it as a young man. Consequently, if Augustine was confused about God's corporeality, it's a fair bet that many Christians in the late fourth century were, too.

    I shall lay down my pen here. Cheers.

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    1. @ Vincent Torley,

      It's a good thing you are stopping because you have only just repeated yourself. You were already obviously done before this repetition, and so you accomplished nothing more with it beyond proving that the authority of a dreamer ceases at the edge of his debunked bed.

      That Augustine "must" have known your dream therefore your dream is true, though, is still funny. Maybe you can get a third round out of it if you can't stick to your resolution.

      But … it does well represent the quality of your method in general.

      For making that clear, I thank you. Wake up and you could do better.

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. Hello Vicente. Even if you don’t choose to write, nothing stops you from having a read. To repeat myself; the only things that matter concerning Church belief BC or AD are its official pronouncements. There is no disconnect between God as professed in the OT or after Christ. Nor is there any God of classical theism; non-Catholic philosophers (all of them) had insights, but also fundamental errors concerning God. Catholic philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas professed the same God in the same manner as the OT and the Christians of the first century.

      You’ll find that the Church’s official pronouncements are quite in line with popular piety because the Church invented it and guided it, along with the liturgy. Catholicism is not a folk religion, or a pseudo-democracy, or an aristocracy (we’ll leave such non-traditional heresies for the Kwasnewsky Neo-Old Catholics).

      Those who can’t get over figurative language in the Bible about God “seeing” etc., need to have a look inside any Catholic Church in the world. These places are full of, not just references to God hearing, speaking, and seeing, but images of His eyes, ears and mouth. We (and the OT) have always understood these things to be figurative. There is no way humans can talk or think about God without figurism; even the Jews, Muslims, and extreme Protestants venerate inscribed words (the same thing). Even our concepts rely on figurism to exist, which does not make them any less true.

      The ”scholars” you mention fail to establish their theory and the proofs you’ve mentioned don’t fit the bill. You stated earlier on that “Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus… and possibly Athenagoras” affirmed that God is corporeal. Where? You put Tatian the Syrian alongside them, yet he was not an orthodox Christian. As for St. Augustine, he could not have converted if he had not recognised was mistaken about many things concerning the Faith. God not being material was one of many matters concerning which his mother had to wait a long time for him to see reason. Unless some writings of St Monica that express the contrary view have been discovered, we have to assume she was an orthodox Christian

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    3. As an afterthought, one could say that figurative representations of God (by word or image) are not just a necessary "concession" human weakness, but the affirmation of something that has nothing to do with materiality: the divine is personal in the most perfect way. The human face represents personhood, and no other material creation does. To represent God by means of a human face is therefore fully part of the Christian (and Thomist) approach

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    4. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      'The ”scholars” you mention fail to establish their theory and the proofs you’ve mentioned don’t fit the bill'

      You've summarized it nicely. Miguel. As far as scholars go, I hesitate to write the word unless with quotes - "scholars" - but who is to define what a scholar is? There are many schools of thought in contention, but as Aquinas might have put it, truth doesn't contend with truth. So what does that say of scholarship? Out of respect for Ed, I leave the quotes off when I write "scholar" (heh), because he does not contend with truth as we have been guided to know it, nor do many others who act as scholars, even though in minor matters they might disagree in minor ways. As Gregory put it, as reported by Aquinas, "homo sentit cum pecoribus, et intelligit cum angelis" (Summa Theologiae 1a, q54, A5, Sed Contra). Unfortunately, not even the angels are all good. Much less can it be said for man. Many men (and women) follow the brutes in their thinking.

      But we can usefully pray for them as we cannot for bad angels.

      So thank you Miguel for your good summation.

      Tom Cohoe

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    5. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      I gave you an incorrect reference to the Summa. I wrote "Summa Theologiae 1a, q54, A5, Sed Contra". It should have been "Summa Theologiae 1, q54, A5, Sed Contra" (1a changes to 1)

      Tom Cohoe

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