Thursday, June 4, 2020

The case for Catholicism

Steve Hays interacts with a round table discussion on Catholicism Here. Very substantive and incisive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Theology Proper and Hermeneutics

In Philosophy of Religion and Analytic Theology much ink is spilt on arguing for the coherence of theism. But of course there are different rival models of God. Some are within orthodoxy and some are not. But the important point is they are models. Theories built from Biblical data (and/or theological, philosophical and scientific reflection) to provide a coherent and consistent story of God’s nature and character. Oliver Crisp defines a model roughly as, “a simplified conceptual framework or description by means of which complex data sets, systems, and processes may be organized and understood.”[1] Why construct models? An obvious reason is to demonstrate Christian doctrines are not logically impossible. But how does Biblical interpretation interplay with constructing models of God? I want to focus on three hermeneutical approaches. Perhaps more approaches can be discussed but would go beyond the scope of my intentions here. Now it should be said that all three approaches are nuanced enough to deal with literal and figurative language in Scripture. So I will simply speak broadly. The first approach takes language about God analogically in Scripture. Scripture is viewed as God’s self-disclosure and condescension to us with anthropomorphic, anthropopathic and zoomorphic language. Hence, it must be stressed that such language should not be taken as wooden literalism. Classical theism consistently argues from this first approach. The second approach interprets language about God univocally in Scripture. Scripture is viewed as God’s self-disclosure to us with literal (i.e. non-anthropomorphic or non-anthropopathic) language. Therefore, it is stressed that such language must be taken as literal. Thus when Scripture says God changes His mind this approach takes such language to be really the case. Open theism consistently advocates this approach. The third approach interprets language about God univocally or analogically in Scripture. Scripture is viewed as God’s self-disclosure to us with literal and figurative language. Consequently, it is stressed that such language must be determined in each relevant case. Thus when Scripture states God is angry or God changes His mind such statements cannot simply be interpreted as literal (i.e. non-anthropomorphic or non-anthropopathic) without overriding reasons. Overriding reasons may be reasons or evidences that render such an interpretation implausible or unreasonable. For example, Scriptures explicit teaching that God knows all things, including past, present and future events. Or that Saul of Tarsus was storing up God’s wrath as an enemy of God; but, by God’s sovereign mercy and grace Saul became Paul a friend and minister of God.  Indeed, this third approach does not have a straightforward, across the board, interpretation in all cases. The presumption of the analogia fidei principle is to be foundational. The literary genre and authorial intent is to be considered. Church history, creeds and confessions, if relevant, may be consulted. Moreover, undesirable intractable theo-philosophical problems that arise from any given interpretation may also be weighed. 

[1] Oliver Crisp. Analyzing Doctrine: Toward a Systematic Theology (Baylor UP, 2019), p86. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Trinitarian Monotheism

One formulation of the Trinity is as follows:

(1) There is one God
(2) The Father is God
(3) The Son is God
(4) The Holy Spirit is God
(5) God is three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
(6) The three Persons is wholly and entirely God. 
(7) Each person is essentially, ontologically (and logically?) necessary and inseparable parts of God

The problem is many Philosophers and Theologians take inseparable parts as separable parts. Consequently, the charge of partialism is leveled. Or a denial that each person is in any sense God. Both criticisms are avoided when each person is understood as essentially, ontologically (and logically?) necessary and inseparable parts of God.

The most charitable stance is to allow any given model to tease out the precise definitions and explanations of the data on their own terms of the model.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Classical theism and Neo-Classical theism

In Classical theism, God is envisioned as pure actuality with no potency. His essence is His existence and His existence is His essence. God’s attributes are identical to His essence and His essence is identical to His attributes. Hence, God is a simple being with no parts, properties or passions. Consequently, God possesses no essential nor accidental properties since both would deny divine simplicity (e.g. mereology laden? presumption of univocal language?). Rather, God’s being itself is essentially and necessarily simple (i.e. without parts or properties). God lacks nothing ad intra thus not dependent upon anything ad extra.

In Neo-Classical theism, God is envisioned as the most perfect being or maximally great being.  His essence and existence are not identical. God’s attributes are distinct yet inseparable from His essence. God is a simple being, in that, His essence is not composed of separable parts. Nevertheless, God’s being essentially and necessarily possesses distinct yet inseparable parts, properties and/or passions. Thus God necessarily has essential properties; but He may will to have accidental properties (supervenience from essential properties?) that are neither for the better nor worse. God lacks nothing essentially and necessarily ad intra thus not dependent upon anything ad extra.

Classical theists takes Neo-Classical theism to entail some form of panentheism and Tritheism. Likewise, Neo-Classical theists takes Classical theism to be a corollary to panentheism, Unitarianism and/or deism.

Classical theists argues Neo-Classical theism’s revision of divine simplicity and denial of impassability makes God dependent upon creation in order for God to possess accidental properties (e.g. wrath, jealousy, ambivalence).  Classical theists think Neo-Classical theism unintentionally assumes in order for God to be God He must create to actualize His potential. In other words, God gets what He doesn’t have from creation. Moreover, Classical theists deny Neo-Classical theism’s subtle yet integral qualification that God’s whole being necessarily has parts that are inseparable or indivisible (which guarantees individuation without separation or partialism). Hence, Classical theists deduce Neo-Classical theism implies Tritheism or MonoPolytheism.

Neo-Classical theists argue Classical theism’s insistence of a robust divine simplicity entails God’s nature and will are identical; but if God’s nature and will are the same then God’s will to create shares the same necessity as God’s will to exist (i.e. God cannot fail to exist nor can God fail to create). Perhaps another way to articulate the same thought is to affirm the only possible world is the actual world. Why? In order for God to be God (pure actuality whom essentially, necessarily and immutably creates), He must create the actual world. God is dependent upon creation to be the eternal, immutable, creator.  Neo-Classical theists further argue that a robust divine simplicity precludes Trinitarian monotheism since Trinitarian monotheism requires distinctions between the divine essence and persons. In fact, any subsisting relations between the persons of the Trinity must also require ontological grounds for their sameness and difference. Furthermore, Neo-Classical theists would contend a robust divine simplicity entails the Trinity is illogical. For example, if each person of the Trinity is wholly and entirely God (i.e. all of what and who God is) then one person is the Trinity.  Neo-Classical theists assert God has emotions; God deliberately, willingly, willfully and purposefully chose to create and have a relationship with creatures (thus emotional interaction created and controlled by God). On Classical theism God has one single emotion, namely divine happiness thus it’s hard not to feel God as hidden or emotionally aloof or detached from His creation.