Tom Torrance an open theist?

Domino-EffectBobby Grow over at The Evangelical Calvinist Forum wanted to make it clear to the world that Thomas Torrance wasn’t an open theist. Of course Torrance wasn’t an ‘open theist’. But in the course of comparing open theism to Torrance, Bobby quotes Boyd to confirm the definition of open theism. So far so good. But then Bobby elaborates on Boyd:

Whether or not (and he does not) Boyd wants to associate his ‘open’ view with his doctrine of God or not, does not change the reality that this (his) view does implicate his doctrine of God, and his conception of a God-world relation; in particular, as the quote illustrates, how Boyd conceives of God’s posture and activity towards the future of this earth, and the human decisions that shape it. For Boyd, then, God’s life becomes contingent upon the way we as human beings ‘decide’ to go one way or the other; and God then responds in kind to our decisions, even if he does so from a more privileged and knowledgeable place than we ourselves do. The implication being that God is ‘open’ to our future, thus filling in the gaps or contingencies embedded in creation as he ‘responds’ to our ‘free’ and unconditioned choices (which ends up collapsing God into creation [making God’s decisions about his relation to creation contingent upon creation’s decisions about the future, both generally, and particularly], which would be akin to the kind of pantheistic theology of someone like Jürgen Moltmann.

This is all patently false. Nothing of the sort is implied in open theism. Grow then goes on to reference comments of Torrance’s that he thinks no open theist could agree to, which in fact he thinks open theists are committed to disagreeing with. If Grow took the trouble to acquaint himself with the work of Greg (and others like Sanders, Rice, and Hasker) on these matters — particularly Greg’s work on Hartshorne in Trinity & Process — he’d know that:

(a) Greg does indeed associate his open theism with his doctrine of God. In fact, Greg settled on the open view precisely as the result of his work on the doctrine of God (cf. Trinity & Process).

(b) It doesn’t follow from open theism that “God’s life becomes contingent upon” creation in any objectionable sense noted by Torrance. Are some divine choices (like whether God blesses or judges people) contingent upon the human choices which warrant such divine action? Yes. But this hardly reduces “God’s life” without remainder to the contingencies of the world.

(c) Nothing of Torrance’s comments that Grow cites cannot be wholeheartedly affirmed by an open theist — viz., the self-existent fullness of God’s triune reality, God’s freedom from creation, the absolute gratuity of the world, etc. Affirming just these divine perfections sans creation was precisely the aim of Greg’s work on Hartshorne.

(Picture here.)

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22 comments on “Tom Torrance an open theist?

  1. Bobby Grow says:

    Hi,

    My sole aim, as I stated somewhere in my post was to demonstrate that the way TFT uses the language of ‘open’ and the way you all use it is different and thus equivocal. I think that is clear, and that is all. I’ll be back later to say more.

    • tgbelt says:

      Hi Bobby,

      That may have been your sole aim, but you said much more than would be required to establish (what all open theists would grant) that Torrance doesn’t anywhere use “open” to suggest what open theists generally understand divine foreknowledge to mean. It was the inaccuracy going on beside this sole aim which was my sole aim.

      Thanks.

  2. Bobby Grow says:

    Hi Tom,

    With due respect, when you make a blanket statement that is in itself an assertion I don’t have much to work with or respond. When you wrote:

    “This is all patently false. Nothing of the sort is implied in open theism….”

    And I was not attempting to test whether an open theist might be able to subscribe to some sort of conclusions presented by Torrance. But I do claim that if an open theist were able to amen Torrance’s conclusions that in particular cases it would equivocal, which again comes back to the main point of my post which was to illustrate how Torrance, and in what context he is using the language of ‘open.’ Whether or not an open theist could agree at points with Torrance or not was not my concern, really at all, in the post.

    And now I will respond, in turn, to your three points, and then close out with some parting observations about your post and response to my comment in this thread.

    (a) Here is what Boyd said in the quote I quoted of him taken from his RHE’s interview of him at her blog:

    (By the way, I prefer to refer to this view as “the open view of the future,” since the most distinctive aspect of Open Theism is not its understanding of the nature of God, but its understanding of the nature of the future).”

    All I can do is respond to what’s in front of me. If Boyd did not mean what he said, then my response to it would indeed be meaningless. But clearly, he moves the discussion away from ‘the nature of God’ (i.e. doctrine of God), and states that Open Theism’s most distinctive aspect has to do with a doctrine of creation. So he is making a methodological shift in the way he is prioritizing a doctrine of Creation in his theological methodology vis-a-vis a doctrine of God.

    But as I noted in my post, Boyd’s whole approach comes back to issues that primarily have to do with a doctrine of God; that was my basic point. And I am glad that you confirm that for me as well. But again, based on what Boyd said in that interview, he apparently wants to shift his emphasis away from a theology Proper and towards a doctrine of Creation as primary.

    (b) As far as the reduction of God and the future. If God’s choices about the outcome of the future are contingent and work in tandem with the deliberative choices of creatures, then his life and the telos of creation itself becomes contingent by way of logical order upon the choices of the creature. That seems straightforward. So I don’t understand how you can assert what you do in this regard. And whether or not God blesses or curses, in my view, is not the kind of example that would maximally illustrate the problem. If God is genuinely waiting to find out what someone chooses to do in regard to salvation etc for their own lives personally, then he has room to grow in tandem and cooperation with his creation–in other words, he is waiting on us, for example. How this does not invert a proper God-world relation and does not make God’s knowledge and act contingent upon his creation escapes me. How would you argue that this does not make God contingent upon creation?

    (c) I wouldn’t expect Open Theism to fully move away from its classical theistic past (which I see Open Theism along with Bruce McCormack as a subset of). But not ever TFT affirms the things you list in the typically classical way that it was originally articulated in. So sure, I can see how an Open Theist could affirm a lot of the orthodox grammar of Trinitarian theology, doctrine of Creation, etc. But obviously there are different meanings and reifications be poured into the similar grammar. In other words, the grammar is used equivocally when it comes to on the ground material realities and concerns pace each respective theological construct. And again, my point, and it is a meaningful one to me (esp. when Pinnock unrepentantly and naively appealed to Torrance as a maybe friend just because TFT used the language of ‘open’ in his theology), in writing the post that I did was simply to register the fact that Open Theists cannot appeal to Torrance as an endorser of their faith w/o doing so equivocally.

    My primary reason, again, for writing that post was to register a placeholder for future reference, in order to illustrate how TFT was not an Open Theist, and cannot be appealed to as an endorser of Open Theism. We can debate my nuanced or detailed understand of OT, but it isn’t a blackbox, and it isn’t all that difficult to understand at a basic premises level.

    pax.

    • tgbelt says:

      Bobby,

      Great to have you drop in. Just a few points to clarify:

      a) In saying the ‘open view’ is primarily a view about the ontology of the future (or creation) and not about the doctrine of God, Greg’s simply saying that there’s no ‘unique’ view of God within open theism. That is, non-open theists can affirm the same essential divine attributes (essentially loving, triune, relational, temporally engaged, experiencing changing states of mind, etc.) that open theists promote without being open theists (even if open theists think they do so inconsistently). Bill Craig is a good example. Greg’s point is there is no one, unique, open theistic doctrine of God. But nobody who knows Greg’s thinks his open theism has ‘nothing’ to do with his doctrine of God.

      b) What’s objectionable about your post is that in seeking to establish that Torrance doesn’t use “open” the way open theists use “open” you go on to draw false conclusions about what the open theist implies about God in saying he faces an open future.

      c) It’s not the case that an open theist couldn’t agree with Torrance in the sense he says God is open to creation without equivocating. The open theist could mean by ‘open’ precisely what Torrance means. But there’s no law that says a word has to always mean one thing in every context. If I agree with Torrance that God is open (in the sense Torrance means), that doesn’t prohibit me from using the word ‘open’ in other ways (say, to describe the open future). That’s not equivocating so long as I don’t pretend the word ‘open’ refers to the same thing in both cases.

      d) As far as open theism reducing God to the contingencies of creation, the point is that God is not reduced ‘without remainder’ to those contingencies. That is, God’s self-sustaining perfections or triune fullness—which define God’s necessity—could not depend on creation which is utterly contingent. So your saying “God’s life becomes contingent upon human beings” (in open theism) without any qualification is misleading. Not everything about God depends upon human beings even if some of God’s actions are consequent upon human choices. It doesn’t follow by way of any “logical order” that if anything of God’s choices (or purposes and timelines) is contingent upon creaturely freedom that (as you say) “[God’s] life and the telos of creation itself becomes contingent by way of logical order.” You can’t just posit the contingency of “God’s life” per se as following logically from its being the case that some of God’s choices are conditional upon creaturely freedom.

      e) You say “Whether or not God blesses or curses…is not the kind of example that would maximally illustrate the problem.” I wasn’t trying to illustrate a problem in pointing out that some of God’s choices are conditional upon creaturely freedom. I was just illustrating that it doesn’t follow, as you suppose, that if any of God’s choices are dependent upon creaturely choices that “God’s life” is reduced to creaturely contingencies. You argue that “if God is genuinely waiting to find out what someone chooses to do in regard to salvation for their own lives personally, then he has room to grow in tandem and cooperation with his creation.” I don’t know what you mean by “grow” here. If you mean God essentially grows in his perfections and become “fully realized” in some existential sense, then certainly not. But if you just mean “cooperation” and “synergy,” then yes. We’re not determinists after all.

      f) “In other words, he is waiting on us. How this does not invert a proper God-world relation and does not make God’s knowledge and act contingent upon his creation escapes me.” It does make God’s knowledge of what the temporal world actually is consequent upon the world’s actualities, but this doesn’t invert a proper God-world relation (unless you think monergism defines what is proper). I’m not arguing that nothing about God or God’s decisions is contingent upon the world in any sense (it is, to the extend God wills it to be and sustains it in its freedom). I’m only arguing (contrary to you) that this does not mean “God’s life” without remainder becomes contingent upon the world.

      Tom

      • Bobby Grow says:

        Tom,

        a) Okay. I’m actually glad you clarified this point, because at a surface level reading–which is what mine was of Boyd–it sounds like he is punting to creation, and suggesting that for himself God is implicated by an ontology of the future that is distinct from God and yet grounded in a contingency of creation that is abstract from God’s own creational domain.

        b) I’ll have to wait until I do further research on open theists to see if I actually agree that I have drawn false conclusions about OT based upon a caricature that I have presented or something. We’ll see. I will admit that I have relied heavily on Bruce McCormack’s critique and understanding of open theism in the book that Kim Fabricius references on the Kimel thread.

        c) Yeah, I understand that. But my point is really a narrow response–as I’ve already indicated at least twice now, not including my post–to TC Moore, Pinnock, and from what I understand a reference made at last year’s “Open Conference” to TFT and his purported inchoate support of an open conception of God and contingency. So it is, in the narrow way that I am addressing this, an equivocal thing to use TFT, as Clark Pinnock has, as someone who might give OT more legitimacy, when TFT does not; not in his employment of the language of openness, since of course his correlative employment of that language reposes upon his own unique kata physin theological program. Since TFT’s theological project is rather constructive and unique I would find it a rare case indeed if an Open Theist could end up using the language of ‘open’ in the same way that TFT does, but sure, it’s plausible that it could happen.

        d) ‘Without remainder?’ Okay, but from my kind of Torrancean vantage point, what you are illustrating to me, as you speak of God’s perfections and plenitude, is that you are still operating from the very classical theistic mode that I thought you wanted to repudiate as an open theist. And to speak of humanity in dualistic abstraction, as you do (when you get into your w/o remainder contingency argument), suggests further, that there is an ontology of contigency informing your conception of things that is outside of the ‘domain of the Word’ or the ‘domain of God’s life in Christ’. If this is so, then in the Incarnation, for example, the moment God enters into this domain in Christ (assumptio carnis), God’s life (if we affirm the homoousion) either a) is shaped by this ontic contingency outside of his life (i.e. creation) as he acts and becomes in Christ, or b) we would have to posit that the Son is generate and subordinate to the Father in order to keep the plenitude of God’s life ad intra integral and untouched by his creation (which would follow with your ‘without remainder’ argument). I am just not persuaded, at least when we are talking about the merits of open theism, that open theism is actually providing the kind of radical and coherent alternative to classical theism that you want outsiders to believe. Bruce McCormack (have you read him on this?) has one of the better critiques that I have read on open theism, and its continued relation and grammatical and conceptual reliance upon classical theism (I still need to read Gannon Murphy’s critique of OT, which I hear is quite excellent!).

        e) It is possible to be a “determinist” (a Christ-concentrated one!), and not a monergist you know. Haven’t you read any Barth or Torrance lately ;-) ?

        f) I would just recall my point in my response “d” and argue that in order to argue your w/o remainder position you would have to engage in some very creative (and I think heretical) thinking when it comes to what your view implies about the Incarnation and the integrity of God’s Triune life (ad intra/extra).

      • tgbelt says:

        Thanks again Bobby! Great convo.

        Bobby: From my kind of Torrancean vantage point, what you are illustrating to me, as you speak of God’s perfections and plenitude, is that you are still operating from the very classical theistic mode that I thought you wanted to repudiate as an open theist.

        Tom: Dwayne and I (here at An Open Orthodoxy) don’t want to repudiate classical theism wholesale. If one is interested in that one can be a Process theist I suppose. I know open theist authors made a huge point of classical theism’s being hopelessly corrupted by Hellenism early one, but I don’t think that’s the case and I don’t share McCormack’s desire for the kind of “departure” from classical theism that he envisions. If open theism isn’t the kind of departure from classical theism he thinks is needed, that’s no strike against open theism as far as I’m concerned.

        Bobby: And to speak of humanity in dualistic abstraction, as you do (when you get into your w/o remainder contingency argument), suggests further, that there is an ontology of contingency informing your conception of things that is outside of the ‘domain of the Word’ or the ‘domain of God’s life in Christ’.

        Tom: I’m not a Barthian and I don’t dismiss reason as a resource for theologizing. That’s not to say I think we can construct a bridge from reason, independent of revelation in Christ, all the way to theosis. We can’t. I’m just far more beholden to Przywara (and Denys Turner) than I am to Barth.

        Bobby: In the Incarnation, for example, the moment God enters into this domain in Christ (assumptio carnis), God’s life (if we affirm the homoousion) either (a) is shaped by this ontic contingency outside of his life (i.e. creation) as he acts and becomes in Christ, or (b) we would have to posit that the Son is generate and subordinate to the Father in order to keep the plenitude of God’s life ad intra integral and untouched by his creation (which would follow with your ‘without remainder’ argument).

        Tom: The homoousion posits the consubstantiality of the Son/Logos with the Father. Chalcedon specifies two natures. One person, yes, but two natures (inseparable and unconfused). It’s via his divine nature that the Son is consubstantial with the Father and via his human nature that the Son is consubstantial with us. But given Chalcedon, neither your (a) nor your (b) is true. That is, when I say the Son is not “reduced without remainder” to the constraints of his embodied/human context, I mean what Athanasius meant when he affirmed that while the Son was a babe in the cradle the SAME SON was sustaining the universe. One Person, yes, but two natures. And the natures are not collapsed into the constraints of Jesus human consciousness and embodied state. It seems to me that Kim F in his reply to Fr Aidan conflates the natures. He thinks that since there is one and only one subject (the Son) of the human sufferings that this must mean those sufferings define the divine nature. But that’s not at all an obvious ‘Christological’ truth picked up off the surface of reading the gospels, and it specifically denies Chalcedon.

        Bobby: I am just not persuaded, at least when we are talking about the merits of open theism, that open theism is actually providing the kind of radical and coherent alternative to classical theism that you want outsiders to believe.

        Tom: Between you and me, Bobby, I don’t want people to think open theism is a radical alternative to classical theism (if by classical you mean the basic, historical orthodoxy of the Nicaea and Chalcedon).

        Bobby: Bruce McCormack (have you read him on this?) has one of the better critiques that I have read on open theism, and its continued relation and grammatical and conceptual reliance upon classical theism (I still need to read Gannon Murphy’s critique of OT, which I hear is quite excellent!).

        Tom: Yeah, I appreciate Engaging the Doctrine of God. Henri Blocher’s Ch. 7 was, I thought, the best in the book, though perhaps one of the shortest. I’ve read McCormack’s Ch. 10 many times. I hope to finish up notes on it this Spring for a series on it this Summer. McCormack is successful against open theism if you’re a Barthian compatibilist. But I’m neither, so it just didn’t do much for me.

        Blessed Easter!

      • Bobby Grow says:

        Tom,

        Sorry to hear that you dismiss Barth. But I think you misunderstand Barth if you think that he dismisses ‘reason’ or the employment of ‘modal logic’, how could he?! Of course he rejects natural theology (which has become a little controversial nowadays, i.e. to say he has rejected it tout court), and he operates from within his actualistic/dialectic mode in contrast to your apparent association with a more analytic mode; but we should not infer from this that Barth rejected the employment of reason, even if he reorders the Thomist matrix of grace/nature through his principial christocentric prolegomena. But catch your drift. I’ve been wanting to read Przywara’ Analogia Entis since it has become recently available, but I haven’t read it yet.

        In response to your rejection of my appeal to a Chalcedonian pattern to problematize your view; I would just counter simply by asserting a certain understanding of the unio personalis. From what I am gathering by way of your response, it appears that you are going a little bit too rogue Nestorian for me. But I’ll have to get back to you on this. I follow a modified constructively construed Barthian extra Calvinisticum when it comes to employing the unio personalis as an analogy for working through these kinds of questions. But in my reading of what you just wrote, again, your description of Chalcedonian Christology sounds much more Nestorian in your application of it in re to our discussion on contingency etc. [As far as Kim F. he sounded more like Moltmann than Barth to me in his discussion about God and suffering.]

        My wife needs to go to bed, and our computer is in our bedroom, so I better stop. Good night :-)!

        P.S.

        I’m glad to hear that you guys aren’t interested in repudiating classical theism, per se, but the way I understand classical theism is as a signature of Thomas Aquinas’ synthesis of Aristotle. So I think maybe a better grammar might reference a paleo-theism, which might take us back to engage with the kind of patrology that Fr Kimel as well as my homeboy, Thomas Torrance are so keen in engaging with.

  3. Bobby Grow says:

    excuse all of my grammatical mistakes.

  4. Jeff says:

    If I’m following you, Tom, I think the issue that creates the conceptualization problem is what you call “absolute gratuity of the world.” You are seemingly distinguishing that from the idea of a “free” creation. The only way I can make sense of that is to assume that you’re meaning God libertarianly chose to create (which makes creation “freely-caused”) but with absolutely no motive unto any end whatsoever (which seems to render creation a deterministic or uncaused event). In other words, you seem to be supposing there is some supra-categorical kind of “freedom” that we have no analogy for that gets you both of the notions you’re wanting.

    The problem is, we can never discern what a supra-categorical relation implies. We can only note that it renders certain views non-falsifiable. But naive falsificationism is logically impossible regardless of the existence of supra-categorical relations once you posit fallibilism. And who doesn’t posit fallibilism? Thus, no belief can be falsifiied. What we need is a way to account for a distinction between warranted and unwarranted belief PER SE so we can account for accountability PER SE. This is what teleological theism does.

    And it doesn’t render God subject to creation at all. If the Father, out of Whom are all things, created for the Son because of the sympathetic satisfaction that He would experience therefrom, then the Father created for Himself as well. But if the Father was aware that the only way He could unconditionally render the Son a bona-fide beneficiary of creation was by risking a creation that might cost Himself more suffering than would have initially motivated Him to create in the first place, then we have a truly libertarian choice entailed in creation. Creation was a true risk for Him out of Whom are all things. But only a risk of temporal suffering; not a non-temporal risk.

    Yet, it was never a risk for the Son. The Son’s beneficiary status was never in question. That’s what it means for the Father’s end for creation to be assured by the Father’s competence. This is what 1 Cor. 13 tells us love does. It suffers long for loved ones if necessary. Love is not an attribute that is inconsistent with divinity.

    Once the Father creates for the Son (and therefore Himself) for the certain end of the sympathetic enjoyment of the Son’s satisfaction from creation, He necessarily loves creatures too, since the Father IS essentially benevolent. Thus, we have a sense in which our beneficiary status from creation is relatively meaningless to the Father in terms of His motivation to create. And yet once we exist, we can not be relatively meaningless (in the ultimate sense of that phrase) to the Father, because He is essentially benevolent.

    That not risking creation for the Son means the Son will miss out on some temporal, novel satisfaction does not imply the Son will be UNsatisfied, though. They utterly enjoy one another,sans creation just as you have contended. And if, as scripture interpreted inductively indicates, the Son is not omniscient, then the Son isn’t necessarily even conscious of all the novel satisfactions that he’s capable of experiencing from novel creations prior to the existence of those creations.

    • Jeff says:

      J1: And if, as scripture interpreted inductively indicates, the Son is not omniscient, then the Son isn’t necessarily even conscious of all the novel satisfactions that he’s capable of experiencing from novel creations prior to the existence of those creations.

      J2: What’s more, a loving Son wouldn’t regret or resent the Father for not risking, even if the Son knew what he was “missing.” Their mutual and perfect love for one another is what renders the Father’s refraining from creation non-selfish. For that refrain doesn’t diminish the Son’s sans creation satisfaction, whereas if the Father created out of compulsion (rather than “cheerful” giving) from the Son’s desire for a novel satisfaction, a perfectly loving Son’s satisfaction would, indeed, be diminished.

      Mutual, perfect love combined with sans creational bliss is what gets us to a workable teleological world-view that accounts for free creation and, thus, warranted belief and accountable normativity.

    • Jeff says:

      J1: Yet, it was never a risk for the Son. The Son’s beneficiary status was never in question. That’s what it means for the Father’s end for creation to be assured by the Father’s competence. This is what 1 Cor. 13 tells us love does. It suffers long for loved ones if necessary. Love is not an attribute that is inconsistent with divinity.

      J2: This explains why John speaks of the Father loving the Son before the world was and Ephesians speaking of the Son being the “beloved” of the Father. Where do we read of the reciprocal? It’s not a coincidence. The Father is the lovER in a unique sense when creating with risk to only Himself.

    • tgbelt says:

      Hi Jeff,

      We’ve talked a lot about this (here and on the over OV board).

      It doesn’t following that if God’s creation isn’t motivated in precisely the way you and I generally experience libertarian choice between two goods (i.e., as experiencing conflicting pleasures/goods; thus ‘motivation’) that God doesn’t then ‘freely’ create. There are other kinds of choice which are best described as ‘free’ but which involve no perception of conflicting goods and which are not on that account rendered pointless/purposeless. The Hindu concept of Lila is one such alternative. So I don’t agree that we have no analogous way to describe choice which is purposeful and intentional without involving a loss of self-defining pleasure. But if you want to object in this instance that I’m positing a supra-categorical relation and that “we can’t discern what a supra-categorical relation implies,” then I’m happy with that. We can only “discern” in terms of our categories. That goes without saying. But for me it’s more helpful to say that though we cannot know transcendence implies about God in his transcendence, we can discern that such transcendence is implied in creator-created distinction, in the perfections of necessary existence relative to the absolute contingencies of created being.

      I don’t suppose theism is infallible. I could be wrong about the gratuity of creation, about our being free, about the very existence of God. But given the existence of God (as necessary) and the contingency of the world, it does seem more warranted to me that as ground of all that exists God is supremely, perfectly self-sufficient. And it seem equally warranted that the necessary perfections of the ground of all that exists contingently are not themselves subject to the kind of contingency that must characterized created being.

      Pax

      • Jeff says:

        Tom,

        You say, “There are other kinds of choice which are best described as ‘free’ but which involve no perception of conflicting goods and which are not on that account rendered pointless/purposeless. The Hindu concept of Lila is one such alternative.”

        But when I go to wikipedia, it says of Lila,

        “And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.”

        IOW, they’re saying Lila creation is not one of necessity, but neither does it involve “purpose” or “self-conscious volition…” That seems to imply that “creation,” per Lila, is precisely what we mean by an uncaused event. So I’m still without this analogy you’re talking about.

        Tom: But given the existence of God (as necessary) and the contingency of the world, it does seem more warranted to me that as ground of all that exists God is supremely, perfectly self-sufficient.

        J: A necessary being is, by definition, utterly self-sufficient or without origin and need of anything for its perpetual existence. Adding “supremely, perfectly” doesn’t really change that meaning. When we speak of self-sufficiency of contingent beings, we mean something different by “self-sufficient.”

        Tom: And it seem equally warranted that the necessary perfections of the ground of all that exists contingently are not themselves subject to the kind of contingency that must characterized created being.

        J: Exactly. Anything that is necessary is, by definition, not subject to contingency. These things are true by the definition of what we mean by necessary and contingent. When we speak of “essential” attributes, even, these can apply to necessary beings or contingent beings. An essential attribute of a necessary being is a necessary attribute. If it’s also a “perfection,” then it is a necessary perfection. So far, so good.

        But I don’t see how I’m being contradicted. Positing that there are supra-categorical “relations” in transcendent reality doesn’t render them discernibly explanatory of any event that occurs in creation. IOW, even if it does explain one or more events in creation, we could never articulate or conceive of how it does so in conventional language. What we need to conventionally-linguistically explain events in creation are relations between the creator and the creation that we have categories for.

        Tom: I don’t suppose theism is infallible.

        J: What I meant by that fallibilism that renders naive falsificationism impossible is the possibility of erroneous inferences. Thus, we allow for the existence of illusions, false memories, etc. This means that only criteria can cause us to reject beliefs, not deductively provable falsifications. I.e., we use criteria to determine if an apparent memory is false, and so on. But then the belief rejections are no more warranted than the criteria applied.

        So at bottom, it gets down to what criteria are we using and why do we think them valid/warranted? Is it merely because they seem intuitive to us? Or is it also in part because they seem to be universally used by humans, at least for some inferences? IOW, if what I find to be intuitive is seemingly counter-intuitive or unintuitive to most people, is that a reason to re-think? For me, it is, if what I currently find intuitive I ALSO think is worth communicating linguistically to other people. At that point, coherence itself is at stake if I don’t re-think. And the LNC is one of my intuitions.

      • tgbelt says:

        You are one hard nut to crack dude. I don’t know what to say to you, but I’ll ramble on for the heck of it.

        Wiki: To say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss.

        Tom: Don’t know who wrote the wiki article, but to say it is created “for bliss” is to state its purpose, while to say it is created “out of” bliss is to say its purpose is nevertheless not the supply of some deficiency or lack in the bliss that creates. Greg makes the link to Lila in T&P. If you don’t see any analogy, fine.

        Jeff: A necessary being is, by definition, utterly self-sufficient or without origin and need of anything for its perpetual existence. Adding “supremely, perfectly” doesn’t really change that meaning.

        Tom: It doesn’t change the meaning, true, but it does make explicit what (we think) necessary existence entails. Some say “Sure, God exists necessarily” (i.e,. he couldn’t not exist) and then go on to contradict this by uploading all sorts of incompatible (in our view) things. So it’s just for clarity’s sake that I add “supremely” and “perfectly.”

        Jeff: When we speak of self-sufficiency of contingent beings, we mean something different by “self-sufficient.”

        Tom: I don’t mean anything by ‘self-sufficient’ when speaking of contingent beings. I’d never use the phrase of contingent beings because by definition we’re not self-sufficient.

        —————————-

        Jeff: Exactly. Anything that is necessary is, by definition, not subject to contingency. These things are true by the definition of what we mean by necessary and contingent. When we speak of “essential” attributes, even, these can apply to necessary beings or contingent beings. An essential attribute of a necessary being is a necessary attribute. If it’s also a “perfection,” then it is a necessary perfection. So far, so good.

        Tom: Right.

        Jeff: But I don’t see how I’m being contradicted. Positing that there are supra-categorical “relations” in transcendent reality doesn’t render them discernibly explanatory of any event that occurs in creation. IOW, even if it does explain one or more events in creation, we could never articulate or conceive of how it does so in conventional language. What we need to conventionally-linguistically explain events in creation are relations between the creator and the creation that we have categories for.

        Tom: We’re talking about God’s necessary freedom (which just is his necessary self-sufficiency) in creating AND we want to say God creates purposefully/intentionally, right? Do the math. If you insist this ‘freedom’ be the an instance of precisely the species of libertarian freedom you know (i.e., temporally wrought through discursive deliberation and the weighing of options that’s driven emotionally through evaluation how those options “make me feel,” etc.) then in my view you’ve compromised the very necessities that constitute the divine self-sufficiency, for God is self-sufficient precisely in this existential sense (if I can put it that way for the moment), i.e., the sense that there are no conceivable pleasures or goods that would increase, improve upon or otherwise supply some perceived deficiency in God sans creation. God is already the summum bonum. Creation is contingent self-expressive artistry. The necessity of God’s self-sufficient fullness logically entails that creation’s gratuity be conceived thus (IMO). If, as you say, this involves us in supposing volition and freedom to obtain in God in a way unlike creaturely self-determination (some supra-categorical relation) — I don’t have a problem with that at all because I think it implied in what I am warranted in concluding regarding God as necessary, and as necessary then self-sufficient, and as self-sufficient then not deriving the existential fulfillment of his being from anything ad extra. This fullness IS our contingency.

      • Jeff says:

        Tom: There are other kinds of choice which are best described as ‘free’ but which involve no perception of conflicting goods and which are not on that account rendered pointless/purposeless.

        J: It is certainly the case that every caused state of affairs is the elimination of the alternative state of affairs that would have occurred without that cause, if indeed events are caused. But this is true even when events aren’t caused by libertarianly-free choices. To choose one state of affairs is to reject the logical alternatives (because of what it means to CAUSE). But how could we possibly distinguish between the libertarianly-free caused SOFA and the deterministically-caused SOFA in a warranted way if all we’re looking at is a temporally-ordered sequence of events? We do this, best I can tell, by seeing if a MOTIVE is the most plausible (as per inductive criteria) explanation. I’ve never heard of any other way to do it non-arbitrarily. And without warranted criteria, any arbitrary interpretation is no discernibly less plausible than any other.

        Tom: If you insist this ‘freedom’ be the an instance of precisely the species of libertarian freedom you know (i.e., temporally wrought through discursive deliberation and the weighing of options that’s driven emotionally through evaluation how those options “make me feel,” etc.) then in my view you’ve compromised the very necessities that constitute the divine self-sufficiency, for God is self-sufficient precisely in this existential sense (if I can put it that way for the moment), i.e., the sense that there are no conceivable pleasures or goods that would increase, improve upon or otherwise supply some perceived deficiency in God sans creation.

        J: But the key phrase is “perceived deficiency.” It’s precisely because of open theism that the creation of which we are a part is not PERCEIVED by God (i.e., the Father) as a way to improve or supply anything for Himself. It is a risk, after all. And for all I know, maybe the only “win” in that risk for the Father is a sinless history for that creation. But as such a risk, the Father, per open theism, can’t perceive ahead of time that creation will improve any temporal sentient state of His. But the Father can conceivably believe that it will temporally instantiate a “worth it” kind of novel experience of the Son (and of the creatures involved in the project). And that’s all it takes for a lovingly sympathetic being to be motivated to risk.

        All I’m trying to show is that our normal sense of purposive language can still work consistently with scripture and a teleological explanation of warranted belief and accountability. And what else can? Mystery doesn’t explain anything.

        Creation can still be “gratuitous” in the sense you’re concerned about if we let the scriptural language mean what it seems to be jumping through hoops to say–i.e., that the Father and the Son are not identical in nature nor in relationship to creation (“out of” vs. “through,” etc). They are, however, both necessary conditions OF creation.

        So I’m trying to argue for a way to keep a bona-fide explanation of warranted belief on the table consistent with scripture in case the only other approach becomes so radically transcendant that it explains nothing, though remaining unfalsifiable. I’m not trying to change your mind, IOW. I’m just not seeing how you’ve explained the existence of warranted belief, yet.

        Belief formations are events. If events are caused, they are explicable. If warranted beliefs have a different cause than non-warranted beliefs, the causes have to be distinguishable so we can account for the existence of accountability. God explains nothing for us if He doesn’t FIRST explain the existence of warranted belief. And if it turns out that the only way to account for warranted belief, thus, is with an entailment of accountability, then God has great explanatory breadth. For virtually everyone seems to believe in both the distinctiveness of warranted belief and accountability of some kind/sense.

        In short, people do explain these things in terms of God. But we can’t do it by denying too much of God up front. And that’s what it seems, to me, you’ve done so far. I know you’re not done yet. So I’m not giving up on your approach ahead of time. But I’m arguing that there is hope elsewhere, best I can tell, if you and others who take negative theology quite far have denied too much of God. :)

      • Jeff says:

        Tom: You are one hard nut to crack dude.

        J: As are you, Aidan, and most everyone. That per se is not a problem. Many of us have eventually changed our minds on various matters. But it takes lots of reading and/or conversing to get us past the stuff that seems to us, thus far, to be as fundamental as one can get. What we’re talking about here is just that kind of stuff. It’s the hardest stuff to think through. And that’s why, in part, the divergence of opinion on it is so great. As Noah Porter said, categorical/fundamental intuitions are not the first things we consciously know in a distinct way. They are the last. Because it takes maximal analysis to see what is truly fundamental in thought.

  5. Jeff says:

    Also, the following seems contradictory:

    “Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss.:

    If creation is “for” Bliss, is Bliss a person or a sentient state attained BY creation? In either case, they’re using teleological/purposive language. That no one can seem to avoid these contradictions is strong evidence that the teleological causal mode is the one we’re stuck with, categorically. And I have yet to understand an argument against the teleological view of theism once you allow for the personal plurality of the godhead. Granted, if you take away that personal plurality, there are bona-fide problems. We need the plurality to get us the necessary sociality of God that explains what we need to explain.

    • Jeff says:

      Indeed, it seems to me that what those authors are saying of Brahman and Lila is that Brahman just DOES experience bliss from creation or without it. But what we need is more than a bliss attending the mere existence of creation, but something that accounts for normativity such that certain states of creation are not only unnecessary but worse than they could be.

      But what does “worse” mean to an unconditionally, unsurpassably “blissed-out” person/being? You could say such a person/being just knows that we can experience better and worse sentient states, but that knowledge generates no distinct sentient state in the knowing being/person. In that sense, it’s like the mere “knowing” that 2+2 is 4. It’s just raw knowledge, having no discernible relation to a purpose/preference.

  6. Bobby Grow says:

    Oh my goodness, there is way way too much analytic love going on here, wow! And this is exactly where Barth & co. bow out.

    pax.

  7. […] The homoousion posits the consubstantiality of the Son/Logos with the Father. Chalcedon specifies two natures. One person, yes, but two natures (inseparable and unconfused). It’s via his divine nature that the Son is consubstantial with the Father and via his human nature that the Son is consubstantial with us…. That is, when I say the Son is not “reduced without remainder” to the constraints of his embodied/human context, I mean what Athanasius meant when he affirmed that while the Son was a babe in the cradle the SAME SON was sustaining the universe. One Person, yes, but two natures. And the natures are not collapsed into the constraints of Jesus human consciousness and embodied state.It seems to me that Kim F in his reply to Fr Aidan conflates the natures. He thinks that since there is one and only one subject (the Son) of the human sufferings that this must mean those sufferings define the divine nature. But that’s not at all an obvious ‘Christological’ truth picked up off the surface of reading the gospels, and it specifically denies Chalcedon. (see here) […]

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