Friday, October 28, 2022

Divine freedom and necessity

In a recent article, I commented on Fr. James Dominic Rooney’s critique of David Bentley Hart.  My focus was, specifically, on Fr. Rooney’s objections to Hart’s view that God’s creation of the world follows inevitably from his nature.  That position, as Rooney points out, is heretical.  In the comments section at Fr. Aidan Kimel’s blog, Hart defends himself, objecting both to Rooney’s characterization of his position and to the claim that it is heretical.  Let’s take a look.

First, recall the passage from Hart’s book You Are Gods that provided the basis for Fr. Rooney’s charge: 

For God, deliberative liberty – any “could have been otherwise,” any arbitrary decision among opposed possibilities – would be an impossible defect of his freedom.  God does not require the indeterminacy of the possible in order to be free… And in the calculus of the infinite, any tension between freedom and necessity simply disappears; there is no problem to be resolved because, in regard to the transcendent and infinite fullness of all Being, the distinction is meaningless… And it is only insofar as God is not a being defined by possibility, and is hence infinitely free, that creation inevitably follows from who he is.  This in no way alters the truth that creation, in itself, “might not have been,” so long as this claim is understood as a modal definition, a statement of ontological contingency, a recognition that creation receives its being from beyond itself and so has no necessity intrinsic to itself.

End quote.  Hart here says that “creation inevitably follows from who [God] is.”  He denies that there is “any ‘could have been otherwise,’” any “indeterminacy of the possible,” where divine action is concerned.  He says that this is consistent with the thesis that the world might not have been just “so long as” this is understood to mean that the world receives its being from something beyond it.  The implication, given the preceding remarks, is that it has nothing to do with any possibility of God’s refraining from creating it.

Now, given standard philosophical and theological usage of “necessary” and cognate terms, it is clear that Hart is asserting that God creates the world of necessity.  For example, in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on “Contingent and Necessary Statements,” necessity is characterized as “what must occur,” whereas contingency involves “what may or may not occur.”  The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy defines “necessity” as “a modal property attributable to a whole proposition… just when it is not possible that the proposition be false.”  Wuellner’s Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy defines “necessary” as “that which cannot not-be,” “that which must be and be as it is,” and “that which must act as it does and which cannot act otherwise.”  Obviously, Hart thinks God’s creation of the world must occur, given his nature.  He thinks that it is not possible that the proposition that God creates the world be false.  He thinks that God must act to create the world, that his act of creation cannot not-be.  Hence, again, given standard usage, Hart clearly thinks that God creates the world of necessity.

I emphasize this because, in at least some of the remarks Hart makes in reply to Rooney, he seems to deny that he thinks that God creates of necessity.  He asks: “[W]here did I ever suggest God was prompted by a necessity beyond himself – or even within himself?”  And he says that “I’ve always maintained that ‘necessity’ is not a meaningful concept in relation to God,” and indeed that “creation is not necessary for God.”  On the other hand, he also says that “creation follows necessarily from who God freely is”; that “it is impossible that God – the Good as such – would not create”; and that “God as the good cannot fail to be… diffusive” by creating.  And these statements entail that God does create of necessity as the term “necessity” is standardly used.  And again, the remarks in You Are Gods entail it too. 

All told, then, it is clear that Hart does not deny, or at least cannot reasonably deny, that he holds that God creates the world of necessity.  Rather, the most that he can try to argue (albeit, I think, unpersuasively) is that the specific sense in which he thinks that God creates of necessity is compatible with divine freedom and with Christian orthodoxy. 

To be sure, there is one clear sense in which Hart thinks that God does not create of necessity, insofar as he holds that God is free of “necessitation under extrinsic coercion,” of “a necessity beyond himself.”  Like Fr. Rooney, me, and the Christian tradition in general, Hart agrees that nothing outside of God in any way compels him to create.  For that matter, there is also a sense in which Fr. Rooney, I, and the Christian tradition in general agree with Hart that God acts of necessity in some respects.  In particular, there is no disagreement with Hart when he writes: “Can God lie?  Can God will evil?  No and no, manifestly, because he is the infinite unhindered Good.” 

There is also agreement on all sides that there is no arbitrariness in God’s willing to create the world.  Hart characterizes Rooney’s position as “voluntarist,” apparently meaning that by rejecting Hart’s view that God’s nature makes it inevitable that he will create, Rooney must be committed to viewing creation as the product of a random choice with no rhyme or reason about it.  But Rooney takes no such position, nor does anything he says imply it.  Rooney, like the Christian tradition in general, would agree with Hart that God creates the world not arbitrarily but out of love.  What is at issue is whether this makes creation inevitable. 

In short, all sides agree that God is not compelled to create by anything outside him, that he cannot will evil, and that his will is not arbitrary or unintelligible.  What is at issue is rather this: Is there anything internal to the divine nature that entails that God could not possibly have refrained from creating the world?  Hart says there is, and Fr. Rooney and I (and, we claim, the mainstream Christian tradition in general) say that there is not.

Why does Hart think so, and why does he think his view is compatible with the tradition?  In his comments at Fr. Kimel’s blog, there seem to be at least five considerations that he thinks support these claims:

1. Hart says that “‘necessity’ is not a meaningful concept in relation to God” and that “necessity cannot attach to him who is perfect infinite act.”  The argument seems to be that since he is explicitly committed to these claims, he cannot fairly be accused of holding that God creates of necessity.  But there are several problems with this line of defense.

First, the argument seems to boil down to mere semantic sleight of hand.  Again, Hart holds that “creation inevitably follows from who [God] is,” denies that there is “any ‘could have been otherwise’” where creation is concerned, and so forth.  This counts as holding that God creates of necessity given the standard philosophical and theological use of “necessity.”  Hence, if Hart really is denying that he takes God to create of necessity, the denial rings true only if he is using the word in some idiosyncratic way.

Second, the claim that “‘necessity’ is not a meaningful concept in relation to God” is simply not true in the classical theist tradition within which Hart, Rooney, and I are all operating.  That tradition holds, for example, that God exists of necessity insofar as he is subsistent being itself, pure actuality, and so on.  Hart might respond that he is not denying that there is necessity in God in that sense.  But then, it will not do to dismiss Fr. Rooney’s criticisms on the basis of the completely general assertion that “‘necessity’ is not a meaningful concept in relation to God.”

Third, Hart is in any case not himself consistent on this point.  For in his comments at Fr. Kimel’s blog, he asserts that “creation follows necessarily from who God freely is,” and he compares God’s creation of the world to “a mother’s love for her child… [which] flows necessarily from her nature, unimpeded by exterior conditions.”  Even Hart, then, allows that there is a sense in which he is committed to the claim that God creates of necessity.

2. That last remark from Hart is part of a second line of defense.  He writes:

[I]t is impossible that God – the Good as such – would not create, not because he must, but because nothing could prevent him from acting as what he is.  Is a mother’s love for her child unfree because it flows necessarily from her nature, unimpeded by exterior conditions?

End quote.  The argument here seems to be this.  There is a sense in which a mother’s love for her child flows of necessity from her nature, but we would not for that reason judge the acts that express this love to be unfree.  Similarly, if, as Hart claims, the act of creation flows of necessity from God’s nature, we shouldn’t judge that it is unfree.

But that this is too quick should be obvious from the fact that, say, a dog’s nurturing of her puppies is also necessitated by her nature – and it is unfree.  Hence, there must be some additional factor in the cases of a human mother and of God that evidences that they are free in a way the dog is not.  What might that be?

Well, in the case of the human mother, she could have decided not to have a child at all.  True, given that she does have the child, her nature, if unimpeded (by sin or by mental illness, say), will lead her inevitably to love the child.  But that’s a conditional necessity, and the antecedent could have failed to be true.  Unlike the dog (which has no choice in the matter) a human being can freely decide not to have children.  But analogously, even if God cannot fail to love the world if he creates it, his freedom is still manifest in the fact that he nevertheless could have refrained from creating it in the first place.

Note that this is compatible with saying that God creates the world out of love, just as it is compatible with saying that a woman might decide to have a child out of love.  That she wills to express her love by having a child to whom she might show that love does not entail that it was inevitable that she would have the child.  And by the same token, that God wills to express his love by creating and showing his love to his creatures does not entail that it was inevitable that he would create.

3. But in response to this, it seems that Hart would deploy a further argument.  At Fr. Kimel’s blog, a reader says: “Creation is unnecessary in that it adds nothing to God.  However, creation is inevitable given the boundless love of God.”  And to this, Hart replies: “Precisely.”  So, it seems that Hart would argue that, unlike a human mother’s love, God’s love is boundless, and that this is what makes his creative act inevitable.  For God to fail to create would entail some bound or limitation on God’s love. 

The problem with this is that it contradicts the reader’s first statement, to the effect that creation adds nothing to God.  For if God cannot be boundless in love without creating the world, then creation does add something to God – it completes or perfects his love.  This entails that God needs creation in order to be complete, perfect, unlimited, unbounded.  And this is no less heretical than is the claim that God creates of necessity.  Thus does the First Vatican Council teach that “there is one true and living God, creator and lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immeasurable, incomprehensible, infinite in will, understanding and every perfection” (emphasis added).  Of course, Hart would not be moved by the pronouncements of a Catholic council, but the doctrine is grounded in scripture and tradition.  For example, Matthew 5:48 says: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  It is also a consequence of God’s pure actuality, for only what has some unactualized potential could fail to be perfect.

In my review of Hart’s You Are Gods, commenting on Hart’s view that creation follows inevitably from God’s nature, I noted that “it is hard to see how this is different from the Trinitarian claim that the Son is of necessity begotten by the Father; and if it isn’t different, then creation is no less divine than the Son is.”  Hart’s necessitarian view of creation is thus one of several respects in which, as I noted in the review, his position collapses into a kind of pantheism.  And as Pohle and Preuss note in their manual God: His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes, against the traditional doctrine of divine perfection, it is precisely “Pantheists [who] object that ‘God plus the universe’ must obviously be more perfect than ‘God minus the universe’” (p. 188). 

Now, some of Hart’s readers have objected to my characterization of him as a pantheist.  But “pantheism” covers a variety of related positions, and even if Hart is not committed to everything that has been associated historically with pantheism, it does not follow that there is no reasonable construal of the term on which his position amounts to pantheism.  And as I noted in a recent exchange with Hart, he has himself admitted this, saying: “The accusation of pantheism troubles me not in the least… [T]here are many ways in which I would proudly wear the title…  I am quite happy to be accused of pantheism.”

But whether or not Hart thinks pantheism can be reconciled with orthodoxy, his critics do not.  Hence, it will hardly do for him to try to defend the orthodoxy of his necessitarianism via lines of argument that seem to imply pantheism, since this will simply beg the question against his critics, who don’t accept pantheism any more than they accept necessitarianism.

4. But Hart has another argument that might at first glance seem to be precisely the kind that should trouble his critics:

A God who merely chooses to create – as one equally possible exercise of deliberative will among others – is either actualizing a potential beyond his nature (in which case he is not God, but a god only) or he is actualizing some otherwise unrealized potential within himself (in which case, again, he is not God, but a god only). 

End quote.  Given that God is pure actuality, doesn’t it follow that he cannot have potentials of either of the kinds here referred to by Hart? 

But as every Thomist knows, we need to draw a distinction between active potency and passive potency.  Passive potency is the capacity to be changed or altered in some way.  It is passive potency or potentiality, specifically, that God utterly lacks by virtue of being pure actuality.  Active potency, by contrast, is the capacity to effect a change in something else.  And as Aquinas writes, active potency or potentiality is something that “we must assign to [God] in the highest degree.”

Now, I assume that Hart accepts this distinction.  If he does, though, then he should realize that his argument does not succeed, because the position he rejects does not entail attributing any passive potential in God (which would indeed be problematic) but rather only active potency.  And if he does not accept the distinction, then his argument simply begs the question against his critics, who do accept it.

5. Finally, Hart makes a point in defense of the orthodoxy of his position, claiming:

Not that I give a toss about Roman dogma, but the fact remains that there is no doctrinal rule regarding the metaphysical content of the claim that God creates freely… [W]hat I have written on the matter is one very venerable way of affirming divine freedom in creation.

End quote.  But I already explained what is wrong with this in my previous article.  For one thing, Hart is simply mistaken about Catholic doctrine.  The First Vatican Council teaches:

If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.

End quote.  Fr. Rooney, in his own article, cited other Catholic magisterial texts.  Contrary to what Hart says, then, it is in fact a matter of Catholic orthodoxy that divine freedom is not compatible with the view that creation was not “free from all necessity” so that God created the world “as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself.”

Furthermore, I also noted in my previous article that the Catholic position has deep roots in scripture and the Fathers of the Church, citing texts from Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Augustine, and Theodoret.  Further evidence could be given.  For example, as Aquinas notes, Ambrose teaches in De Fide II, 3: “The Holy Spirit divideth unto each one as He will, namely, according to the free choice of the will, not in obedience to necessity.”  And as Fr. Rooney has noted in the course of his recent exchanges on this topic at Twitter, Maximus the Confessor also denies that necessitation is compatible with divine freedom, writing: “If you say that the will is natural, and if that what is natural is determined, and if you say that wills in Christ are natural, then you actually eliminate in him every voluntary movement” (quoted in Filip Ivanovic, “Maximus the Confessor on Freedom”).

In responding to Fr. Rooney, Hart has been dismissive of any attempt to enlist the Fathers against him.  But he has not explained exactly how Rooney or I have misinterpreted them, or exactly how his position can be reconciled with the passages we have quoted.  His argument boils down to a sheer appeal to his own personal authority as a patristics scholar (never mind the fact that not all patristics scholars would agree with his interpretations).  Suppose Hart had cited some text from Aquinas in an argument against me or Fr. Rooney.  And suppose that Rooney or I responded by claiming that Hart had gotten Aquinas wrong, but did not explain exactly how, merely saying: “We’re Thomists, trust us.”  Hart and his fans would regard this as an unserious response, and rightly so.  But this sort of thing is no less unserious when Hart does it.

All told, then, it is clear that Hart has failed successfully to rebut the criticisms Fr. Rooney and I raised in our earlier articles.


  1. I always think it is helpful to point out that God, of absolute necessity, has some will regarding the finite order. That is, He necessarily knows all of the ways that He can be imitated and He necessarily wills at least one of those options (although not any particular one). Among these are no creation, the current creation, and some other creation. That distinction helps bridge the gap between the absolutely necessary (God having some opinion about the created order) and the necessary by supposition (God willing this particular created order).

    As Vincent Vega famously said, “You gotta have an opinion!”

  2. Even if we look at Eric Perl's treatment of Plotinus's so-called 'necessary emmanation' we see that there is an aspect of necessity involved in it. Perl says on pg. 50 of Theophany, "The necessity of procession, therefore, is in no sense a limitation on the One, but rather an expression of his absolute freedom from any limiting condition whatsoever." He's clearly denying that the One is constrained by any 'condition,' but that is something the Thomist would also accept. The 'necessity' refers not to the any external condition, but his pure productivity itself. As Perl says, "For if the One might not produce being, then his productive activity would be distinct from himself and he would be condition by a relation to his product."

    Why is this relevant? Well, one of the arguments of Perl's book is a situating of Pseudo-Dionysius within a Plotinian and Procline metaphysics. So, Perl goes on to state that "For Dionysius, as for Plotinus, God is nothing but the making of all things, so that the possibility of not making does not arise.... As in Plotinus, to produce all things is not a "choice" on God's part... That God cannot not create is a consequence, not a limitation, of his absolute transcendence, his unrelatedness to that which proceeds from him." Pg. 52

    I mean this is the absolute best I can do to make sense of Hart's position - interpret it through the Dionysian idea of diffusive goodness and love. And Hart's supporters frequently point out that he's operating within this 'Neoplatonic and Dionysian tradition,' so my move appears to be justified.

    But, an appeal to Denys or the Neoplatonic tradition isn't any argument or textual exegesis, and it seems to me that Dionysius is still subject to the same criticisms raised in Ed's post. Of course, one could deny Perl's reading of the Dionysian metaphysics...

    1. to state that "For Dionysius, as for Plotinus, God is nothing but the making of all things, so that the possibility of not making does not arise.... As in Plotinus, to produce all things is not a "choice" on God's part... That God cannot not create is a consequence, not a limitation, of his absolute transcendence, his unrelatedness to that which proceeds from him."

      One would hope that Dionysius (or Perl) are a little more sensible than that: if God "is nothing but" the making of all things, then he cannot be "unrelated" to all things and transcendent above them. Not, at least, using those terms in any ordinary sense. Maybe using them by infra-contradiction, in which the word instead means its opposite.

  3. Ed, you just don't understand DBH's distinction between "the logically necessary and the logically inevitable."

    As DBH says, "this is elementary logic" that there is an obvious distinction between it being metaphysically or logically impossible for there to be alternative ways things could be and the logically necessary.

    Or, of course, the distinction between God being unable to do otherwise because He is "subject to a logical law such that there is only one possibility open to him" versus God being unable to do otherwise, because of who He is, such that He only has one logically/metaphysically possible course of action. Only a 'not very clever' person would think that God only has one logically/metaphysically possible course of action on both views.

  4. Since I thought "pantheism" had only one sense, would someone please tell me what Dr. Hart means by it? I must have misinterpreted something Dr. Feser said in the post, because the post reminded me of self-causation.

  5. "There is also agreement on all sides that there is no arbitrariness in God’s willing to create the world....What is at issue is rather this: Is there anything internal to the divine nature that entails that God could not possibly have refrained from creating the world?"

    That is not the issue. Hart agrees that God could refrain from creating were there good reasons to so choose, but creation nevertheless is inevitable because there are no good reasons not to create. Nothing extrinsic to God gives God a reason not to create, and God’s nature certainly contains no such reason. Therefore, God’s love is the controlling reason that entails creation, for there exists nothing in competition with love that could sway God’s will against choosing to create.

    To argue otherwise logically constitutes introducing arbitrariness or randomness into the divine will.

    1. "Nothing extrinsic to God gives God a reason not to create, and God’s nature certainly contains no such reason."

      On what possible basis could we have sufficient knowledge of the boundless and inexhaustible divine nature to know that divine omniscience *certainly* could not discover *any* reasons not to create from it?

    2. Had God a compelling reason not to create, we would not be having this discussion.

    3. This response manages to involve several basic errors. First, your first comment was (as it needs to be) about good reasons, not compelling reasons. The two are not the same at all, even in our case. Second, 'compelling' reason is a metaphor; nobody is literally compelled by any reasons, which would require that reasons be efficient causes. All 'compelling reason' means is that it was a reason good enough due to its intrinsic merits that one acted on it. Because of this, while it is true that our creation shows that God had no compelling reason not to create, it is trivially true -- all it is saying is that God's making choice A shows that He didn't decide to act on the intrinsic merits of any reasons He might have had for choice B. It doesn't tell us anything about whether He had good reasons for choice B. Third, the response is irrelevant because the claim in question is "nothing in God's nature contains a reason not to create".

      Thus I ask again, On what possible basis could we have sufficient knowledge of the boundless and inexhaustible divine nature to know that divine omniscience *certainly* could not discover *any* reasons not to create from it?

    4. Brandon, apologies for being sloppy above.

      Clearly, God does have at least one reason not to create, namely the possibility of sin and suffering. In answer to your question, then, I grant that God had at least one reason not to create. But that is beside the issue.

      The issue is the following: Given God’s reasons for and against creating, was it inevitable that God would choose to create? In other words, was God’s choice to create (a) wholly determined by reason or (b) at least partially arbitrary or random?

      I argue that (b) is incompatible with classical theism, and I think everyone involved agrees. Thus, we must assert (a) in the alternative.

      But (a) means that creation is inevitable. If the reasons in favor of creation outweigh the reasons against it—as we know they do simply based on our own existence—then it follows that creation is inevitable.

    5. In other words, was God’s choice to create (a) wholly determined by reason or (b) at least partially arbitrary or random?

      And, you are certain these two options cover the entire range of logical possibilities...why?

      Let me ask a question: Suppose you get to heaven and ask God: "why did you create ant #3,271,445,928?" and He answers "because it is good". Does that answer fall in (a) or (b)? I suggest neither: "it is good" is a reason, but it is not "wholly determined". It is not arbitrary or random because "it is good" is a reason and that rejects random. Further, as a reason it does not arbitrariness in any way without adding in some further element, not stated. Such as a Question 2, "but why NOT some other universe that didn't have that particular ant". But "why not some OTHER universe" is answering a different question than Q1, and from the answer given, no specific response to Q 2 can be assumed.

      You have almost certainly assumed that the only non-arbitrary answer to Q2 must be "because any other universe would be bad (in comparison to this universe," but this is mere projection of how we will onto God.

  6. It is still not true, however, that Hart's universalism (or his arguments for it in TASBS) require or entail necessitarianism.

    To recall: from the impossibility of persons being damned, it doesn't follow that God must CREATE&save persons. When saying it is necessary that God must save all, the necessity in question can be perfectly conditional - if God creates persons (which can be true contingently), God must save all of them (necessary).

    Pretending that arguing against necessitarianism is a good argument against strong universalism just doesn't work, even if Hart happens to think necessitarianism is true (and universalism is, too). They're different questions.

  7. WCB

    We are told God creates everything and that God foreknows the future, God is omniscient.
    Isaiah 41, 43, 45, 46 etc.
    If God decides to create a Universe, God must choose an initial state of creation. From that initial state will know all future events of that Universe. If God chooses an initial state that mean the wi) be Nazis, Mongols, Communists and Pol Pot, these are God's fault.

    If God decides to create a Universe, God will know there will be evil, Nazis, the holocaust and Stalin in 13.75 billion years. Being omniscient God has perfect knowledge of all future events

    It gets worse. 1 trilion years ao God knew he would create a Universe that would have evil, holocausts and Nazis. If God is indeed eternal, from any point in the eternal past God knew when he would create this evil Universe. It eternally has always beeb so. So how can God have ever chose anything?

    If God is good, merciful and compassionate as per the Bible, Gd can only be horrified at how fate forces these actions. God gets no choice. This have always been fated to be this way and nobody as free wil, most certainly not God.

    The Biblical claims God is good, creates all and has foreknowledge of future events makes for an incoherent theological mess.


    1. "If God decides to create a Universe, God must choose an initial state of creation. From that initial state will know all future events of that Universe."

      It most certainly does not follow that God knows all future events solely by His knowledge of the initial state. You're smuggling in determinism as a premise.

      Given determinism and God's omniscience, compatablism is false. I happen to think your logic is valid here, but I reject the premise you have avoided stating.

    2. The universe is not evil, there is evil in the universe. I think the reason that 99% of people avoid suicide is the recognition that a life with suffering is better than none at all. God gave man existence, a universe to explore, love, family, philosophy, grace, redemption, the Eucharist, and hope for eternity… and you’re complaining He didn’t do more? Your examples are even the weaker examples of suffering chalked up to human freedom. You just need perspective. Cheers.

  8. Quoting Hart:
    For God, deliberative liberty – any “could have been otherwise,” any arbitrary decision among opposed possibilities – would be an impossible defect of his freedom.
    A God who merely chooses to create – as one equally possible exercise of deliberative will among others – is either actualizing a potential beyond his nature... or he is actualizing some otherwise unrealized potential within himself....

    I notice that Hart is essentially stating the Modal Collapse objection in these passages, which purports to find a dilemma according to which either creation must be as actual as God Himself, or His act of creation must be utterly arbitrary, random, and unintended on His part.

    Rather than rejecting this dilemma as classical theists do, or taking it as an argument against the Unmoved Mover as atheistic proponents of the argument do, Hart affirms the first leg of the dilemma, collapsing creation into necessity and thus crossing into pantheism. He wants to arbitrarily take this only halfway, though, rather than following that line of logic to its full implication that change and multiplicity are illusions, and only Being Itself exists, a la Parmenides.

    As Ed points out, to assume that creation must be as necessary as God in order to be caused by God ignores the distinction between active potency and passive potency. And that distinction isn't some special pleading, but rather a direct implication of the Unmoved Mover argument.

    I would argue that the idea that creation must be either necessary or random also evinces a tendency especially common among moderns to try to collapse free will (the choices of rational agents with will and intellect) into either blind law-like automation or random chance, the two broad categories of mindless, mechanistic causation allowed by the "scientific" reductionist-mechanistic worldview. Even though we experience it all the time in our own choices, they simply have a difficult time understanding that a free rational agent can cause things such that they are not necessitated by the agent's nature but are still grounded in it and non-random, and that this does not reduce to something less.

  9. WCB

    For it cannot be possibly the case that God both knows something beforehand, and yet that it will not occur – for that would imply that God’s foreknowledge is inaccurate.
    - Aquinas

    The Bible is explicit that God Foreknows future events. Isaiah 41, 43, 44 45, 46 et al.

    That God infallibly foreknows the future is explicit in the Bible and is a feature of classical theism. So hard determinism is entailed. I am not "smuggling" anything into my post. I am noting the explicit claims of classical theism based on Biblical claims that are clear, and unmistakable.

    Now all that is left to do is take these basic claims, dogmas, to their logical conclusion. These propositions that God is good, creates all, and has foreknowledge of the future entails severe theological difficulties.


    1. @WCB

      Whatever will we do with your devastating criticisms that no one else has ever considered before? Oh wait, St. Augustine coherently this out about 1700 years before you were born. God's knowing events that are future to us entail no more determinism than our knowing past events would entail determinism. God does not see something in time that we "will do". He is not seeing it in a manner that is bound by the present because he is not bound by time. He sees the event as eternally present to him and it entails no determinism for you to see what does in fact happen in the present, now does it. So, just as we can know past and present events without determinism, so God can know future events without determinism. While it is convenient to pretend like there are not answers given in the Christian Tradition by not mentioning them, there is a certain intellectual dishonesty to this if you are aware of these answers. If you are not aware of them, well now you are aware of one such answer. You might ask yourself: am I really willing to consider such answers or am I hell bent on avoiding serious consideration of such resolutions. If the latter, I might ask: why are you so determined to get this wrong? Ah, because of determinism. I see your quandry.

    2. @ WCB,

      "That God infallibly foreknows the future is explicit in the Bible and is a feature of classical theism. So hard determinism is entailed"

      That's God, not you. It is indeterminate to material science, ie, to humans. Nor do you understand God, his method, or his purpose, which is the good of creation as a whole, not your particular feelings. Even your finite and vaguely defined logic (it is so for all humans) is not up to fitting God into the moral asseverations that you advance.


      Tom Cohoe

    3. WCB is a notorious troll. He keep repeating this same nonsense over and over and ove. He ignores intelligent replies then late he repeats himself often verbatim.

      He just recycles the same invalid objections.
      He also thinks Rats can reason(& now that I brought that up he will rush to copy/paste his cringe claims in that dept).

      Ye can tell the time by him. I wouldna' bother.

      I have appealed to him in the past to actually study Atheist philosophy so he could actually challenge the rest of us in a credible informed matter. But he prefers trolling.

      Sad. He is basically like wee Paps but more obtuse.

      Dinna' waste yer time on him gentleman and pray to God that he send us some challenging Atheist thinkers to post to sharpen our intellects and produce even better defenses and expositions on Classical Theism.

      Remember. Classical Theism Rulez.

      Theistic Personalism blows chunks.

      God bless

    4. @ Son of Ya'Kov,

      WCB may not convert but should be answered at least some of the time, imo, to give random passing gulls the opportunity to see that his words, which can sound good even though they are not good, are answerable. I also often ignore him, as you, my friend, advise.

      Tom Cohoe

  10. WCB

    Isaiah 41
    22 Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
    23 Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.


    1. @ WCB,

      God mocks those who think that, of themselves,they have the tools to understand, know and judge God's action.

      "By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive [Matthew 13: 14-

      Here, Jesus speaks of (and to) you.

      Tom Cohoe

  11. WCB

    @Tom Cohoe

    You post does not solve the theological fatalism dilemma. The claims of the Bible, God creates all and foreknows the future are supposedly revelations from God himself. Who authored the Bible according to Council Of Trent - Fourth Session and Verbum Dei - 1965. So Catholic Theology is stuck with these dogmatic assertions. And these assertions are plain enough they cannot be brushed off as allegorical, metaphorical, or anthropomorphisms etc.

    So from here we can safely take this to its logical conclusion. All then from eternity is foreordained. God gets no choice in the initial state of creation that creates this Universe as it is actualized. So where does this ternal fatalism come from so powerful even God cannot escape that?

    This is why Process Theology and Open Theology abandons foreknowledge, omniscience, and the Bible as revelation..


    1. @ WCB,

      It is you who, not me, "brushe[s] off" the plain words that "by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive".

      You do not have faith, "the evidence of things not seen", "the substance of things hoped for" [Hebrews 11:1]. That is why you do not understand.

      The universe is not made according to so-called "process theology" or "open theology" which are merely things that came out of your head. The logic that God created for you cannot be used to understand God, His works, His method, His purpose, His Charity. God does not conform to your will no matter what the logic He gave to you, when incorrectly used by you, leads you to think. The logic God created for you, used step-by-step, can not arrive at Infinity. That you think it can is a error in this logic. It can only correctly tell you that by it you can not get there.

      The logic that God gave you is not simple. Nothing of creation is simple. If you think that the logic gifted by God, through his love is simple, why is there no last book written by humans on logic?

      God is simple. Complexity does not comprehend simplicity.

      Instead of dictating what God must be, pray to God, with patience that never ends during your life, for His assistance in rising above your complex logic that you may conform to his incomprehensible will and receive the salvation to be hoped for.

      Tom Cohoe

    2. WCB

      @Tom Cohoe

      You do not have faith, "the evidence of things not seen", "the substance of things hoped for" [Hebrews 11:1]. That is why you do not understand.

      I understand. I have rational thinking, logic and reason. I have critical thinking to guide me.

      I do not do blind faith. Not in Orthodox. Catholic, or Protestant Christianity. Not in Islam, Mormonism, or Scientology. Demanding I just ignore the issues of Christian dogmas and claims and just take a leap of faith is not going to happen. Sorry about that.

      I come here to do due dilligence. To see if there are good answers to my observations. I am not seeing any.


    3. @ WCB,

      You are not seeing any good answers because you assumed your conclusion before you began to look. You are not seeing the good answers because you are not seeing at all. Others can see that your reasoning is circular.

      Tom Cohoe

  12. It seems to me that Hart can't wrap his head around or even state that he is confusing God creating with the force of necessity for his creatures, meaning they can't countervene it, and God creating of necessity from his ontology. I wouldn't be surprised if this is part of a broader confusion with Hart between power and necessity. -Bill Solomon

  13. WCB

    @Michael Copas

    Whatever will we do with your devastating criticisms that no one else has ever considered before?

    I have carefully examined a lot of classical theologians on this point.Augustine, Boethius, Ansalm, William of Okham, Duns Scotus, Aquinas, Molina and others. And some of the enormous modern secondary literature.

    Augustine assert that though God foresees all he does not cause all. Boethius claims that as a man sees something, that man does not cause what he sees. Thus God sees future events but likewise does not cause them. And on and on it goes. Everybody is indeed wrong

    The particular argument I posted is not answered by the nearly 1600 years of theologians trying to explain the issue of God's foreknowledge and free will. Not until Luther's "Bondage Of The Will" did the issue of this become a problem.

    Late in his life after the Pelagian affair Augustine gave up on free will, which was followed by Calvin, Luther et all.

    I am sure that somewhere somebody else has made the argument I have, but I have yet to see anybody that has among the theologian community.

    The key concep I wrote about is if Go d decides to create a Universe, God must choose an initial states of creation. And that we are told by centuries of theologians God foresees the future. Based on biblical claims God does that.
    Now all I do is follow these claims to their logical conclusion. No classical theologians had the wit to notice this problem. Today's answer from theists is that has all been answered long ago by classical theists. This is not true.

    And Augustin's idea God is outside of time is an idea just as bad, with the same issue at its heart.


    1. @WCB

      Wow. An argument against God's existence that no one has ever thought of before. That is truly remarkable. Surely others have recognized your immense brilliance. You must have a dozen publishers pounding at your doors waiting for you to produce this devastating critique of theism. How do you decide between all the offers you must have? Are you overwhelmed by all the publicity from your singular brilliance? Is that the reason that you don't reveal your real name? Perhaps because we would all be overcome by your rock star status as a philosopher and theologian?

      Let's see what widely renowned thinkers do I know that have the initials WCB? Ah, that's right. No one. That is the reason that you are not taken seriously here (anywhere?). That is the reason that Ya'kov referred to you as a "notorious troll." From my limited interaction with you, that description fits the bill quite neatly.

      However, there is more that can be said and Tom Cohoe has said this well, "Ever seeing and never perceiving." That fits the bill quite well also.

      But there is no doubt some spark within you that does not want to be an obnoxious troll who is under sad delusions of grandeur. Why not try to follow that spark? Why not stop pretending that you are clever when those around you are not fooled?

      Regarding St. Augustine's argument, it addresses the point that God would know the state of the world at creation. After all God knows the state of the world past, present, and future, so despite your inept assertions otherwise, this point has not eluded theologians preceding nominalism or Luther or certainly not you. So why don't you stop pretending? It isn't fooling anyone.

      The suggestion that St. Augustine abandoned his account of free will later in his career is a sad trope in older reformed Protestant theology. Your repetition of this sad trope shows that you are most certainly not familiar with the secondary literature on these issues. The account of the will found in his early Cassiacum Dialogues (On the Freedom of the Will) is maintained in his anti-Pelagian writings (e.g. On Grace and Free Will). It is also maintained in his City of God. Han Luen Kantzer Komline has traced St. Augustine on the will in Augustine on the Will: A Theological Account. This work makes clear that St. Augustine did not abandon and account on the Freedom of the Will. It really only takes a cursory reading of a few of St. Augustine's early and late works to realize this. In light of this, it is clear that you are familiar with neither St. Augustine nor the secondary literature on St. Augustine. So, again, who do you think you are fooling? Why keep pretending?

      I would continue to expose the nonsense in your post, but I am left to wonder whether it would do any good in encouraging you to stop being a shameless pretender. Perhaps as a sign of goodwill, you might recognize that you have no clue what you are talking about with respect to St. Augustine. Then we can move on to other things that you have no clue about. Recognizing your ignorance at this point would be your surest path to wisdom.

    2. WCB

      Augustine assures us that God does not in fact cause our choices, God merely knows them. Which is obviously wrong if God creates eveything as it is. Which he also asserts. Creation is eternally happening. Caused by God. See Augustine's "Confessions - Book XI". Augustine never took all of this to its logical ends.. He never realized his claim that God did not cause our actions good or bad was logically and rationally wrong.

      Augustine had some large conceptual blind spots. Which is theology's basic problem. Of course any theologian who realized this sort of problem confirmed classical theology was nonsense dared not admit it in writing publically. Not unless he find himself pronounced anathema, excommunicated, stripped of any offices he held, and losing any rights to teach in any University if he held a license to teach.

      You see the problem here.
      I naturally wonder how many theologians came to realize this sort of theological nonsense was nonsense and simply avoided trouble by not hinting at any of his realizations theology was bunk. Jean Messlier was an example of a well respected priest who scorching opinions were only known posthumously.

      Did Augustine abandon free will? Yes. Read the Council of Orange. Which followed Augustine until that turned out to be problematic.

      Later, insisting free will was impossible as Augustine suggested became heresy. A monk, Gottshalk of Orbis, who insisted on Augustine's abandoment of free will was censuted and spent 20 years in prison, refusing to abandon that opinion. The Synod of Paris in the tenth century, pronounced that opinion heresy, utterly abandoning the Council Of Orange. Manuscripts about the Gottshalk affair only recently have been gathered and translated. I do not know if these have yet been published.

      You might want to read the Council of Orange.

      We have very little about the discussions of theologians of the time who realized Augustine's theology made God author and creator of all horrendous evil and suffering forcing abandment of that theology, but that in fact happen, and the Council of Orange, the end product of Augustian theology was quietly but thoroughly abandoned starting in the sixth century. Some of the theolgians who were involved in this abandonment of strict Augustinian theology are known, but the few writings they left are very hard to find. Some seem to have not been translated from Latin.
      My effots to trace all of this theological puzzles is still ongoing, and there are huge gaps in all of this, but it is obvious Augustine's theology was seen as problematic and was abandoned for what we now call semi-Pelgianism.


    3. @ Michael Copas,

      I think jealousy could be a factor in his refusal to consider that God made him, not he God.

      Jealousy never leads to the good, the true, or the beautiful.

      Tom Cohoe

    4. WCB

      I have already read the council of Orange and that council has precisely zero bearing on the question of whether St. Augustine abandoned his position on the freedom of the Will (your previous baseless assertion). Read below the recommendations on logic texts.


      There are some quotes from the catechism that are relevant here:

      "If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness" (2088)


      "Hatred of God comes from pride." 2094)

      These are noted under sins against the first commandment.

    5. WCB,

      I have already noted Komline's Augustine on the Will in the Oxford Historical Theology series published in 2019. I have also noted some of the relevant works of St. Augustine that you are not familiar with that show that he did not change his position. The work that shows this most clearly is a work written by St. Augustine at the end of his life called: The Retractions. St. Augustine knew that his writings would be maintained and widely read after his death because his fame was already so widespread during his life. He was also, like any faithful Catholic, concerned about orthodoxy and that he did not lead others into error in any way. This reflects his charity, which is why he was a saint.

      In order to ensure that any mistakes in his writings did not lead others astray, he read through them at the end of his life carefully and retracted any statements that were erroneous. Such retractions are found in his work: The Retractions. This is relevant for our discussion because he revisited his early Cassiacum dialogues, including On the Freedom of the Will. And did he make the sweeping assertion that he completely rejected his early account of the will in this work? Nope. He made small and precise corrections to his cassiacum dialogues while continuing to hold to his main lines of argument within them.

      St. Augustine was a clear, compelling, cogent, and precise thinker. That precision entailed that he avoided gross and unsupported generalizations of the sort that fly off your keyboard, WCB. So, no he didn't "reject his account of the will". That sweeping generalization has as much support as your other sweeping generalizations. That is, it has no support.

      It is a bad habit to make such unsupported generalizations and to do so with such a high level of confidence. After all, a high level of confidence with a high level of ignorance is a fairly toxic combination.

    6. Regarding the council of Orange and semi-pelagianism: Here again, this assertion reflects a high level of confidence and a high level of ignorance mixed in a toxic cocktail. Pelagianism is a heresy. And Church councils condemn heresy, rather than upholding a moderated version of heresy (i.e. semi-heresy).Semi-pelagianism, which is imprecise and often undefined, denies the role of God's grace in the initial movement of the will toward God. This is denied by both the Council of Orange and St. Augustine. In fact it is condemned by the Council of Orange as heresy. So, the council of Orange *nowhere* condemned St. Augustine. It did however condemn a version of the very same heresy that St. Augustine fought so tirelessly against.

      Now, the key here for anyone who cares about orthodoxy is that heresy and orthodoxy are not defined by the self-appointed pope WCB. It is defined by the Church that the Scripture's refer to as "the pillar and foundation of truth" and which Christ said "the gates of hell will not prevail against it". Satan is the father of lies and where lies prevail (e.g. in the thought of WCB), there Satan prevails. This has not and cannot happen in Christ's Church which is the pillar and foundation of truth. So, as I mentioned below, WCB, no one here is interested in joining the cult of WCB. Your judgements are pervasively erroneous and you should consider tempering that unflinching confidence in your own wisdom. Trusting that rickety old bridge is going to lead you to fall into a pit.

      As a final note to the interested reader, it is not enough to read Scripture and quote it. We have to interpret it correctly and there is such a thing as a heretical interpretation (for examples of this, review the writings of WCB). Pelagius was, after all, not reading the funny papers when he arrived at his position that "there was when the word was not". He was reading the book of Proverbs and offering a heretical interpretation of this book (He also wrote a commentary on Romans.). So, it is not enough to quote Scripture. Satan quoted Scripture. You have to interpret it truly with the pillar and foundation of truth and this involves submitting to the judgements of Church councils which are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we see in Acts 15 from St. James' words ("it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit") as the council sent out letters to the Churches notifying all Christians of the decision of the council. They did not say, "well take a bible--if your literate--and decide what you think on this issue and, if you are not literate, just follow whoever is most able to convince you with "smooth and flattering words that will "tickle your ears" (two quotes from Scripture, I will leave to the reader to look them up). Instead, everyone knew that they must obey the judgement of the leaders of the Church at the Jerusalem council. After all, Hebrews teaches, "Obey your leaders". It is for this reason that they did not say, "Let me see what you think about that and then I will decide whether or not you got it right." That would be the arrogant and foolish approach of WCB. Instead, they received the letter with joy and docility because they understood the teaching of Scripture: "Obey your leaders."

    7. WCB,

      One final note on semi-pelagianism. It is clear from your writing on this point as well that you are not familiar with the secondary literature on this question. Protestant reformers used the term "semi-pelagianism" to refer to any position that did not affirm double predestination. That this was a misnomer has been widely recognized by both Protestant and Catholic scholars today. If you had even a basic familiarity with the secondary literature, you would know this. There has been alot to clean up from your post and there is still more to do. However, I think it is only right that you begin to take it from here with some of the recommendations that are made below.

  14. WCB

    And now, the proposition that God is outside of time. This propsition was posed by Augustine in his "Confessions - Book XI."
    It became an idea adopted by most if not all classical theologians from Boethius to Aquinas.

    For God, there is no real past, present, or future, to God all is Now. God can directly experience every part of that Big Now. Difficuly one is if there is no real past, there can be no before, now, afterwards. Creation entails before creation, creation, after creation. One might argue God is an immanent sustainer of this eternal creation.
    But that entails all ever was and is and will be as it is eternally. Why then does a perfectly good God sustain horrendous evil and suffering?

    And we are baack to the problem off long befoe these evils, God knew some 13.75 billion years ago these evils would happen. A trillion years ago, God knew this horrific evil in this Universe would exist. An googleplex years ago, God could experience this segment of the Big Now and witness this evil and suffering.

    If we claim God created this world, God chose this Universe with all its evils and we get no free will. God gets the blame. If we argue God merely sustains this Universe, God gets the blames for all suffering and evil. If God from any point in eternity knew the state of what we percieve of Now, that is immutable and unchangable.

    If we argue against all reason and logic God could change anything, we are back to the issue of why God allows so much evil and suffering? Not matter what God's Big Now is, God gets the blame.

    And even if we say God could change anything, there is a final actualized state of Now and God would know what that final, unchangable Now is.

    God in the end has no real choice. More later.


  15. WCB

    A few words about Molinism. Luis De Molina proposed middle knowledge. That in any possible world, God would know what a sentient agent would do. Many critics have rightfully written this idea is incoherent and unlikely.

    For example, consider an agent, John, in possible worlds. A world with Nazis, Stalin's gulags and great evils and suffering. Or a world without suffering caused by Nazis and Stalin. God would know what John would do in all details in any actualized possible world.

    Since to create a world, God must choose an initial starting state of creation God's omniscient foreknowledge would allow God to know the future, no sentient being in that Universe has free will. Any such Universe is necessarily hard determinate.

    And God would know that. God does not have to know all possible world's, just the fact that any Universe necessarily has an initial state of creation that determines all events in that actualized world.

    Of course if fate, not God is responsible for this actualized Universe and even God gets no choice, Molinism is necessarily impossible.


  16. WCB continues to argue that "given determinism, unpleasant consequences logically follow about moral realities" and then wonders why we aren't all smart atheists like him.

  17. WCB

    Ad hominen attacks are not arguments. Can you actually deal with my arguments logically and rationally? I am looking to see if anyone here can actually deal with these arguments reasonably.

    Name calling is not an argument. Appeals to just believe are not arguments. Declaring God is incomprehensible is not an argument. I had hoped some of the sophisticated theology that is supposedly neo-Thomism might have a better showing here. Again, due dilligence. Opening mysef up to being criticised reasonably and logically. I am very sure I am right, but I want to put my ideas to a good, solid, meaningful test.


  18. WCB

    Theology often is poorly thought out. Consider Duns Scotus on future contingents. Future contingents are created by God's will. So on July 4, 2020, John may have oatmeal for breakfast. Or may not have oatmeal for breakfast. John's choice of breakfast will be caused by the will of God. That is how God knows the future.

    Now consider that on July 6, John may kidnap Jane, rape her, torture her over several days and finally sadistically murder Jane. Or John may not do so. If as per Duns Scotus, God chooses to actualize John's actions, then if John does kidnapsJane and rapes, tortures and kills her, her it is solely because of God's will. This theological claim makes God a participant in all acts of horrendous evil and suffering. Duns Scotus was influential with some theologians with his will of God to explain future contingents. And apparently did not think this out to its logical and horrific conclusion.

    Read enough theology, and one will find lots of tunnel vision thinking, blind spots, and poorly thought out ideas. Like this. Just saying.


  19. @ WCB,

    Well since you assume for yourself the position of judge of these things, as I already explained, your unsurprising conclusion about them is entirely predictable, foregoing any reasoning at all.

    The sheriff, the judge, and the press are all one person.

    Tom Cohoe

    1. WCB,

      Have you noticed that no one hear takes your assertions parading as arguments seriously? And have you considered that maybe, just maybe, everyone else is not the problem? There's some food for thought.

      Yet another person above noted that you are presupposing determinism and then also pretending like it is the conclusion of an argument. Everyone here sees this clearly and you wish for us to believe that you are the only person, not just here, but in all of theological history with 20/20 vision on this question? That suggestion authentically moves beyond laughable to worthy of pity.

      The reason you are parading your initial premise as the conclusion to an argument is because you are not competent in either theology or the rudiments of logic. To help with the latter point you might read Kreeft's Socratic Logic or Logic as a Liberal Art by Houser.

      And it is not an ad hominem attack to point out how and why your are wrong about Augustine abandoning his position on the freedom of the will. You made a baseless assertion, it was shown to be false and you ignored this just like you ignored it when I called you out in another post about not having the slightest understanding of the tools involved in biblical exegesis. So pointing out that you don't know what you are talking about is quite relevant to our discussion. And pointing out that you ignore this and pretend like it did not happen is also relevant. It shows a lack of good will.

      And, again, I responded to your puerile attempt to make argument about the initial state of the world above. You ignored this and I have seen you do this on multiple occasions. If you don't like it, you ignore it. Ignoring such responses of course results in ignorance.

      As I have noted above, you don't have the slightest clue what you are talking about. You are pretending that you do simply because you know the names of a few theologians and no one here is fooled. Have you managed to fool any publishers into believing in your singular brilliance? We are all on the edge of our seats waiting for that book to come out from a major publisher.

      I don't wish for your to act absurdly. But if you are going to do so, it is going to be pointed out in the hopes that your recognize the silliness of what you are saying for your own good and the good of others. While I don't think it likely that the cult of 1 called "WCB" is going to multiply with these assertions parading as arguments, it is still a good thing for all to see how and why they are silly. As I have said before, if you wish to be taken seriously, you are going to have to act and think seriously.

    2. WCB

      "If we claim God created this world, God chose this Universe with all its evils and we get no free will."

      What follows the comma here does not follow in any way from what precedes the comma. Again, read the books on logic I recommended to learn how to construct sound and valid arguments. You should focus particularly on defining terms. For you to make a demonstrative argument, you need to be able to define the terms and reach agreement on the terms with those you are making the argument with. Then you can move forward together in a demonstration. This is, again, the basics of logic.

      The suggestion that you know what no other theologian in the Tradition was aware of when you don't even understand the rudiments of logic is part of the reason it is very difficult to take what you say seriously.

      Also, I have also responded to you in another post on the problem of evil and you ignored this when I posted it. The problem is not that people are not responding to your arguments. The problem is that you are not making arguments. You are making a string of assertions that haven't the slightest logical connection and then calling them "arguments."

    3. I just noticed two comments of Tom Cohoe that point out WCB's circular reasoning. I have also recommended for WCB a couple of textbooks on logic. So, there you have it WCB, you have exposed your assertions for feedback and you have gotten it. Go back to logic 101 and let's talk after you get through it with a passing grade.

    4. "For God, there is no real past, present, or future, to God all is Now. God can directly experience every part of that Big Now. Difficuly one is if there is no real past, there can be no before, now, afterwards."

      The first sentence is not how a classical Theist would make the sort of assertion you are trying to make. If you are going to engage in dialogue where anyone at all takes you seriously, you are going to have to make more effort understanding the positions you appear hell bent on rejecting. Perhaps if you at least understand them correctly, that spark within you that cares about understanding rather than pretending might be fanned into a flame.

      To say is correctly, you would say that God is not bound by time. That is a correct way to state the initial premise in an argument that you are set on criticizing. Now this requires an understanding of time and time's relation to matter, if you are going to actually understand a classical theist on this point.

      In your third sentence quoted above you move from talking about God being outside time to simply making the assertion that this entails that there is not past, present, or future. Here you move from the assertion that since God is outside time, everyone and everything must be outside time. Well once it is framed that way (and this is an accurate way to frame the issue based on St. Augustine and St. Thomas' understanding of the relationship between time and matter--again more below--and God's relationship to time and matter), it becomes clear that what you are saying is sheer nonsense. So if you are going to frame a critique of classical theism, you are going to have to offer something beyond a sophmoric and blundering misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the premises of the classical theists argument.

      Regarding the relationship between time and matter, Philo and St. Augustine held that these are interdependent and this is confirmed by modern physics (See Barr's Modern Physics and Ancient Faith). We are subject to the limits associated with time because we are corporeal beings and there is interrelationship between time and matter. After all, we measure time with respect to the movement of matter (e.g. the rotation of the earth around the sun). So the argument requires a deeper understanding and exposition of their understanding of time in order to get their argument right in the first place.

      You have not taken the time to understand all of this which is why there is no one here that is impressed with what you have to say on this matter. If you wish to have your arguments taken seriously, why don't you first make a serious effort to consider the arguments of figures like St. Augustine and St. Thomas? This of course requires that you actually make a good faith effort to understand them on their terms. Now this would also require a smidge of humility in recognizing that they have something to teach you and that it is, to put it gently, relatively unlikely that you have created a fool proof argument against God's existence that no one else has ever considered. Humility and a firm grasp on reality always walk together hand in hand.

    5. I should warn you Michael. I corrected WCB ad nauseum on his various non starter arguments against Classic Theism. His MO at this point would suggest he ignores this post and in a few weeks repost the same nonsense or to simply repeat himself without interacting with any of the points you made.

      He is a troll. He dinna' cares about his own Atheist beliefs much less formulating an intelligent response to Classical Theism.

      OTOH I would agree with Tom Cohoe above that even thought WCB will NOT debate you upfront. It is valuable to answer his nonsense from time to time.

      Just don't expect any good will from the guy. He is after all a troll.


      Remember Theistic Personalism sucks more than anything that has ever sucked before (like Dr. Who since they came up with that awful TIMELESS CHILD plotline that ruined the series forever).

      But Classic Theism is super awesome. The God of Abraham and Aquinas is the only true God.

    6. Son of Ya'Kov,

      Thank you for the message. I am aware that he might not change and might not have the slightest concern about the truth. However, I think that his posts need to be addressed for a few reasons.

      First, like all of us, he is not beyond the hope of repentance.

      Second, his claims will not likely fool anyone, but they need a response so that everyone continues to recognize that what he is saying is sheer non-sense. This is important so that other people are not confused by his own confusion or malice. They will see it for what it is, just as you and I do.

      The third reason that his posts need to be addressed is because they include blasphemy. He is denying Divine Goodness and making other heretical and blasphemous claims.

      At this point, assuming no change of heart, I do think his continued presence here is much like the presence of a belligerent drunk at a dinner party. It is difficult to have more substantive discourse when there is a drunk loudly and unintelligibly flailing about. It seems to me that the best thing would be for someone to call him a cab and escort him to the door.

  20. The Divine has to purpose it merely IS.

  21. Hi WCB

    I would just like to provide some balance to your myriad detractors on here, some of whom would clearly love for you to cease posting or for Prof Feser to prevent you from doing so.

    I have found your posts to be in the main wise and illuminating , and often a real challange to aspects of the world view promulgated on here. The attempted replies and rebuttals have been weak and inadequate to say the least.

    Keep up the good work, challanging the closed mind set of this merry band of true believers!

    1. @ The Peanut Gallery,

      "merry band of true believers"

      Say there. Do you actually think truth is to the one who has a loud cheering section with nothing of real content to add here?

      Ha ha ha!

      What a funny idea!

      You belong on a stage entertaining people with other absurdities.

      Tom Cohoe

    2. Tom Cohoe should realise that by being obnoxious and denigrating to people, he convinces no-one but simply plays to the crowd. Any decent arguments and considerations he might occasionally put forth are simply lost in the fog of bad feeling he generates.

      I myself now resolve to simply pass over anything he post and concentrate instead on those penned by more considered and self controlled contributors, such as Tony. What you write from now on Cohoe will be irrelevant to me as I will not read it.

    3. @ The Peanut Gallery,


      I hope you do ignore me and do not reply to me because I am only interested in substantive comment from people actually in the game.

      Now don't be lying. Don't even take a peep at my comments.



      Tom Cohoe


      One would think that you would appreciate that I gave you a handle - The Peanut Gallery. But you can still always "get back" at me by peeping and pouting as a different anonymouth.



  22. Gnu Atheists are mentally and intellectually inferior.

    Philosophically educated Atheists are worthy foes to us Classical Theists and an order of magnitude more intelligent than the wee Gnus.

    If no gods exist be advised no Gnu Atheist reasoned themselves to that conclusion. They merely made a lucky guess.

  23. David Hart is a pompous condescending bastard. I send him a serious (but polite message) message detailing how his rhetoric essential argues God into a meaningless abstraction of abstractions and all he says to me is "I don't have time to read all this." and "You need to do some more thinking." As if my criticism is unworthy of his attention. F him.

    1. Your criticism may well be unworthy of his attention. He is no doubt a very man, and you may well be a crank. Who knows what endless reams of imbacilic junk you plied him with.

    2. Aww, did David sick one of his mutts on me? Why don't you run back to his sub-stack of poetical jargon and receive your complimentary head pat.

    3. Hey Caddy, that was actually a pretty amusing reposte - it made me chuckle!

      Seriously though, don't you think that David is probably very busy and has a huge mailbag, so can hardly be expected to send considered replies to every Tom, Dick or Harry who may or may not have something significant to say to him? You just seem far too affronted that he did not think much of what you had to say but was not willing to spend considerable time and enetgy engaging you about it. But wtf should he? Suck it up dude.

    4. My message was a direct reply to his 'Experience of God' book. If he can't defend it from my scrutiny or simply doesn't care, enough to than that says more about him then me. Also, you being a sycophant on his behalf doesn't do him any favors.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Just thought that the language and tone of your original post was a bit extreme that's all. It got my goat a little!

    2. The tone was a response to David's tone to me. His exact words were "I don't have time for this" and "You need to think more" ironically, he never tells me what I need to think more on I made multiply criticisms. Basically, it would be like me saying to you "My message is beyond reproach because you just don't understand my views and you wrote to much." Do you think that's fair or right? David continuously prides himself on being an educator not a hand-waver. Hence why I was so steamed when he did just that.

  25. Hello Caddy,

    Would you mind relaying the substance of your criticism? He was not willing to give it due consideration, but I think it would receive due consideration here.



    1. Seems not.

      Perhaps David's response was the correct one to make.

    2. You want full message, fine here.
      -I read your "The experience of God" book twice and I have some questions regarding it.
      First is a minor nitpick (And I mean no offence for saying this) but I feel you have a tendency to use too many $10 words. Case in point; you use the word "quotidian" at least 5 times that I can remember, when that word is almost never better than its friendly companions "daily", "everyday", "ordinary", and "commonplace". Now having a large vocabulary isn't a bad thing, but a flagrant use of obscure words made it very difficult to understand your point.
      My second problem is your concept of God and how you define it. Your definition of God is that in trying to elevate Him to the loftiest heights, heights truly befitting the magnificence of God, I feel you have reduced Him to empty concepts/platitudes, both completely meaningless and as uninspiring as mathematical axioms. What could it mean to say God is existence, or consciousness, or bliss, or any of the other abstract concepts that one often hears thrown about by other religious believers: love, truth, the alpha and the omega, and so on? One might as well argue that God is electricity, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Of course, this would be ludicrous. Who would seek ecstatic union with the weak nuclear force, or pray to electricity, or find solace in the presence of gravity? But slap a poetic, inspirational-sounding abstraction on God (being, truth, beauty, etc.), and suddenly the whole thing gains a veneer of credibility it hasn't earned.
      The meaninglessness of your idea of God culminates in your assertion that God must be simple, unable to “possess distinct parts, or even distinct properties” (p.128), and, as eternal, He can’t be subject to change either (time being a measure of change – not to mention the fact that change indicates a movement from potentiality to actuality, whereas God is pure actuality (another meaningless concept)). What can possibly be left over after one has removed distinct parts/properties and the ability to change?
      Lastly you defend all of this by claiming that any other way of thinking about God is guilty of anthropomorphism; the tendency to re-make God in our own image and likeness. The charge of anthropomorphism is undeniably valid when people try to convince us that a being even the tiniest bit like what you describe, God cares about what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom, or desires human worship, or takes sides favouring one equally petty, narrow-minded tribe over another, but it is far from obvious that the claim that God isn’t subject to change or lacks distinguishing properties fares any better. The problem here is to explain how this God can be as transcendent as you claim and yet not dissolve into meaningless abstractions. Unfortunately, to the extent that you attempt this impossible task, all you do is appeal to even more meaninglessness propositions. If God can’t change, He must therefore be unfeeling and unable to be aware of contingent truths, you argue?
      Hart: It’s just that “his knowledge or bliss or love does not involve any metaphysical change in him” (p.137). God therefore can’t act in the world, nor can He be free, you say?
      Hart: God’s “creative intention… can be understood as an eternal act that involves no temporal change within him. His freedom… [consists in] the infinite liberty with which he manifests himself in the creation he wills from everlasting.” (p.139)

    3. part 2
      As far as I’m concerned, this is all mystical, pseudo-philosophical gibberish. None of these ‘explanations’ mean anything. What is an “eternal act,” or knowledge that doesn’t produce a “metaphysical change” in the knower, or something willed “from everlasting”? Yes, your idea of God is immune to most atheistic attacks, but in securing this victory, you basically hollow out the definition so much that not only is there no trace left of a loving Father we can have a personal relationship with (not such a serious problem for religions like Buddhism, but a massive blow for traditional Christianity), but ‘God,’ identified as nothing more than a string of abstract concepts, is (like all abstractions) absolutely bereft of any concrete reality independent of a thinking subject.
      Third leading from my second issue is are you a Pantheist David? I have read both yours and Ed Fesers blog sites and I recall you saying “The accusation of pantheism troubles me not in the least… There are many ways in which I would proudly wear the title… I am quite happy to be accused of pantheism.”
      So, unless you were being facetious, I don't see how that doesn't confirm his and his followers' beliefs about you. You've also said that "Pantheism is a vague term." Well, the simplest definition is God=World that's it, he is immutable, indifferent, formless and eternal. However, is it possible that the accusations of pantheism are actually misunderstood as Panentheism?
      Put simply, a Panentheist (also known as also known as Monistic Monotheism), is the belief, similar to Pantheism, that the physical universe is joined to God, but stressing that God is greater than (rather than equivalent to) the universe. Thus, the one God is synonymous with the material universe and interpenetrates every part of nature (as in Pantheism), but timelessly extends beyond as well. This conception of God influenced New England Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was popularized by Charles Hartshorne (1897 – 2000) in his development of process theology in the 20th Century. The Neoplatonism (which you declare yourself a follower of) of Plotinus (in which the world itself is a God) is to some extent panentheistic with polytheistic tendencies, and philosophical treatises have been written on it in the context of Hinduism for millennia (notably in the “Bhagavad Gita” and the “Shri Rudram”). For more details on Panentheism I have provided a video link below, feel free to watch it.
      Despite all of what I have said David I still hold you in high regard, you're intelligent, witty and can keep your biases in check. (Something I feel is becoming rarer by the day)
      Christianity and Panentheism - YouTube

      There. Still think David's response was the correct one.

    4. I don't think people most people actually understand the accusation if pantheism they're making. An identification of God with Existence or, to use more platonic language, The One (The Good), cannot in principle be a pantheistic conception, since the world is obviously a complex and changing object. Panentheism may fit better, but even here outside of emanating from a singular object, due to the absolute simplicity of the absolute, it's impossible for the world to be a part of it, it lacks the parts with which anything outside of it could ever truly be related to it. Arguably, the platonist conception of the absolute is even simpler than Aristotle's unmoved mover, for the reason that Plotinus argues against Aristotle's idea of it being Thinking thinking about thoughts. Whether it's correct or not, Plotinus argues that every kind of knowledge involves minimal composition. In that sense, the One cannot be an intellect, which doesn't mean though that it's wholly unmental.

      It may be easier for me than for others here since, even though I'd call myself Christian, I have zero emotional investment in the religion and would be indifferent to dropping it, but the accusation that a lofty conception of God removes any kind of personal relation, for me, just shows that we too heavily rely on a, frankly, infantile conception of the supreme being, instead of following the intellectual route of letting ourselves be led into complete apophaticism, in the footsteps of Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius. What would knowledge be if it doesn't change? Well, not the knowledge of truths we know it, but acts that *produce* these truths. The convergence with existence and the ultimate dependency of everything on it entails that at the grass roots of knowledge, power or morality, these concepts are entailed by existence/goodness. This is just the logical consequence, something O'Conner hinted at in his book on the contingency argument. Furthermore in regards to knowledge I'd once again reference Barry Miller who quotes Patrick Grim, the idea of omniscience as propositional knowledge (P is true, God knows that P), is not a conception that can be applied to God, this just leads to contradictions. But it also means that his mode of knowledge would be as much comparable to ours as Aquinas' pure esse would be to Frege's existential quantifier

  26. The Good is diffusive by its own nature. The idea that God could choose is not an intelligible one on pain of irrationality (for example the reasons for creating are present in every world; being compelled in one but not the other world is unintelligible) . As Barry Miller already wrote, choosing is foreign to God, but willing is not. A Thomist blog should be aware of that