Flowers in Auschwitz—Part 2

Auschwitz roseA first conviction I had about God’s experience of the world in terms of aesthetic appreciation was that the unity of the divine nature implies God’s experience is not divisible into independent experiences that don’t share in what each means to God, but that God ‘integrates’ the events of the world into his experience of his own essential, God-constituting triune beauty. This is dangerous and speculative talk, but it seems to me that this is just what it means to say “God experiences the world.” It is “God” who experiences the world. And it is God who “experiences” the world. This suggests that ‘all that God is’ experiences the world given that God is not divisible into parts. All God is is all God is. But more radically (and I hope consistent with tradition), this God experiences the world.

While I’m prepared to qualify all this apophatically, I do think we need to suppose (cataphatically speaking) that God experiences Godself. God relates to Godself. God is a self-reflecting, self-contemplating consciousness (analogous to us). That much doesn’t seem controversial. But then with the Orthodox I want to agree that God is infinitely beautiful and that in contemplating himself God contemplates his own infinite beauty. Furthermore, God’s triune beauty is best conceived as unconditioned (undetermined) by the world. No evil, however great or small, can manufacture in this bliss (to use David Hart’s phrase) “a moment of negation.” Nor is God’s perception of his own beauty in any way world-dependent. I think it follows then that (as Greg Boyd once argued) God’s triune experience is an unsurpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction.

This might be thought by some to be bad news — God locked away in the bliss of his own happiness, a “cosmic stuffed shirt” as Dallas Willard described the apathetic God, or more colorfully as one conversation partner put it (pardon the crude analogy, but I think it appropriate), God would be like an “unending cosmic orgasm.” Some of these can be dismissed without reply. An infinitely happy being need not be thought of as a “cosmic stuffed shirt.” We do have analogies that help endear us to thinking of God as unimprovably and undiminishably blissful. Some of these we’ve shared in previous posts (here, here, here and here).

trashHow’s such a God experience the world’s suffering? How can God ‘integrate’ the world’s sufferings into an overall aesthetic experience that we can call an appropriate response to our suffering with no diminishing of his bliss? To move in that direction, let me share a SECOND CONVICTION I’ve come to share with the Orthodox, this conviction having to do with the ‘freedom’ implicit in necessary being.

I always understood the Orthodox to believe God has no real experience of the world, that he cannot feel for or with the world. But I’m told by the Orthodox that this is not the case. God does have an appropriate aesthetic appreciation for the world, but this is not forced upon him. God is not made to feel or coerced into feeling this or that. God is essentially free and self-determining and this goes for integrating the world’s suffering into his experience. One way to express this freedom from the world while yet fully experiencing the world is to say God is always ‘intentional’. This is certainly not true of us. We can be made to feel physical pain, made to experience things independent of any intention on our part. I once thought of God’s vulnerability (a key theme of open theists) in this sense, namely, our being able to determine God, to make God suffer. I’m suspicious of such talk now, not because I think God does not experience of the world, but rather because I cannot conceive of the world getting in between the relations of Father, Son and Spirit to mar the beauty that God is essentially and necessarily. How would thinking of God as always ‘intending’ what he feels help us better understand how it is we are able to ‘mean’ something to God, something of ‘value’, something of ‘aesthetic value’? Can Auschwitz not dim the beauty of the flowers that grow within it? And what would it mean to experience this?

(Pictures here and here.)

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51 comments on “Flowers in Auschwitz—Part 2

  1. Jeff says:

    Tom: How can God ‘integrate’ the world’s sufferings into an overall aesthetic experience that we can call an appropriate response to our suffering with no diminishing of his bliss?

    J: I’m a missing something? I don’t see how you explained that at all. You deny that an integrative experience is consistent with divine sentient experience, and then you ask how we explain such an integration? Saying it’s intentional doesn’t change THAT it’s integrative. And it’s that integration which you’ve been denying the conceivability of, is it not?

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  2. tgbelt says:

    We’re missing each other. I don’t deny that integrative experience is consistent with sentient experience. I insist that it IS. You’re the one denying this (supposing God’s experience is not integrated but is rather a series of distinct [emotional] experiences no one of which influences the other.

    But I’m not suggesting that by virtue of being ‘intentional’ any final proof is made. Not even an argument really (at this point). I think I said I thought it helped to move us in the right direction.

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  3. Jeff says:

    I’m not denying that God’s experience is integrative either. I’m contending that if such a divine attribute creates theological problems (i.e., implies we can’t coherently make sense of benevolent/competent teleology), then we need not posit it. Because we can get around it the same way we do for distinct, simultaneous intellectual prehensions. We certainly don’t assume that God’s mental limitations are like our own. Indeed, it’s hard to see how we ever fully “multi-task” in cognizing matters of fact. But are we to therefore assume that God can’t simultaneously cognize all the distinct historical matters of fact of a moment of terrestrial history? Don’t such matters of fact include distinctions of libertarian and natural causality, even?

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  4. tgbelt says:

    Jeff, I’m posting all this here on Part 2 though some of it belongs in Part 1. Too many irons in the fire. It’s easier to keep it all in one place.

    ————————–

    J: …Because we can get around it the same way we do for distinct, simultaneous intellectual prehensions. We certainly don’t assume that God’s mental limitations are like our own. Indeed, it’s hard to see how we ever fully “multi-task” in cognizing matters of fact. But are we to therefore assume that God can’t simultaneously cognize all the distinct historical matters of fact of a moment of terrestrial history?

    T: God does simultaneously knows all the distinct matters of fact of any present moment. But I don’t think this works as an explanation of how God multitasks on the affective or aesthetic level. They’re not parallel the way you think they are, because where ‘knowing actual facts’ cannot generate a conflict, ‘feeling’ contrary emotions does precisely because emotions can be contrary while facts of matter cannot be. Knowing that ‘this violence’ is occurring and knowing that that ‘loving act of kindness’ is occurring doesn’t create any conflict of ‘knowledge’ per se. But things are not the same with integrating ‘feeling’. To ‘feel’ some act of violence (to have an emotional response to it) and simultaneously to ‘feel’ some truly loving act of kindness is to feel ‘contrary’ states.

    Pain and pleasure are contrary states (not absolutely, but just so far as integrating them is concerned. I can be ‘more or less’ painful, ‘more or less’ pleased). I don’t see how I can fully feel both, for the simple reason that pain and pleasure by definition have contrary effects in the feeler. So the integration of ‘pain’ and ‘pleasure’ is going to be a negotiated/integrated difference of the two. My mother’s death is doing to ‘dampen’ the joy I’d OTHERWISE feel upon hearing news that I got a great new job the day she died. Equally, getting a great new job will serve to ‘assuage’ in some measure the sorrow of my mother’s loss. What I can’t do is simultaneously experience both independently of the other—grieve over my Mom as if that one event is the only event in my life and rejoice over the new job as if I had no other event in my life. This is NOT like the multi-tasking involved in knowing this and that and that.

    I do want to say God integrates it all. But unlike you (I think) I introduce into this integrated experience a motivation for an infinite joy. You don’t talk about divine beauty (the beauty of God to Godself) or the joy that contemplating it would have. That’s OK. It might not even be on your radar or if it is, it functions differently for you. But it’s decisive for me.

    J: But [the Holocaust] is not unspeakable to God. It could be relatively trivial given His over-all sentient capacity and still huge relative to ours.

    T: Then God isn’t “fully feeling” the Holocaust as a “distinct experience” as you said ought to be the case (unless I misunderstood you). I thought you wanted God feeling the holocaust independently of anything else, so that he reeeeeally hurts on the inside and on this basis is able to identify with people.

    But I totally agree the Holocaust (and every other act of violence) is “relatively trivial” to God. But why is it so? It’s so because (a) God doesn’t experience the Holocaust independently of other experiences; i.e., it’s all integrated. Integrating it is how it gets trivialized, and because of (b) some experience of beauty God has which is powerful enough (intense enough in its beauty and the joy it produces) to relativize the Holocaust. What beauty might that be? My guess is it could only be the beatific vision. God’s own beauty. And that would be an infinite beauty whose joy is imperturbable. It’s not just another finite but very great instance of beauty, great enough to keep God from having an absolute break-down but finite enough to allow him to be more or less happy depending on how the world is doing. That would be the case if God was not essentially infinitely beautiful irrespective of the world. But I think he is this beautiful, so I also think the joy this beauty produces is what (as you say) makes the Holocaust “relatively trivial” to God. I think that’s moving the in the right direction. Rom. 8 again. It’s because of what God ‘is’ that the beatific vision will relativize all our suffering into utterly meaninglessness.

    J: Rm 8 is forward looking.

    T: It’s not just looking forward. It’s grounding the certainty of OUR future in God’s PRESENT. All suffering gets relativized into comparative meaninglessness FOR US when we see HIM. But God is not likewise awaiting glorification.

    J: It says all things work UNTO the good, not that all things ARE good.

    T: Yes, the work UNTO the good. What is that good? Good, beauty, truth–all transcendentals by which God is named. My point is, God isn’t one of the items on the inventory of things which are in the process of moving toward the good.

    J: It doesn’t help people feel a bit better to tell them that though they suffer, God doesn’t.

    T: What’s the alternative—divine commiseration? All I can say is my experiences have confirmed the healing power of such transcendent joy. Something like “the joy [not the sorrow or grief] of the Lord is your strength.”

    And it’s not just the fact that “God doesn’t suffer” that helps. That is, it’s not what God ISN’T that helps. It’s what God IS that helps. It’s that God’s undiminishable joy is available to the suffering. God’s truth can become our truth as we ground ourselves in a transcendent source of being which no worldly suffering can threaten. If that doesn’t make one feel better, perhaps the reason is pathological. We don’t improve because we want God to suffer as we have; we’re offended by any happiness which our suffering cannot corrupt.

    J: On the other hand, positing divine suffering explains the VALIDITY of scriptural claims that God is sympathetic in the normal conventional sense of that word –

    T: But you’ve just agreed that all the world’s suffering combined is “relatively trivial” to God. Going with your logic, that doesn’t sound very sympathetic. I mean, how helpful would that be to suffering victims of the Holocaust? Take a tortured victim of the Holocaust who agrees with you that God can help her only to the extent he suffers with her and tell her that her suffering is relatively trivial to God. It doesn’t work. On the premise that God helps us only insofar as he feels what we feel on the inside (even MORE than we feel it if you ask Greg!), then for our pain to be relatively trivial to God would in turn trivialize his ability to help us. I agree our pain is relatively trivialized in God, but that leads me to question the logic behind the claim that we need God to feel worse for us to feel better.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff,

      From a previous post:

      Your young daughter screams out in the night. You rush to her side and find her semi-awake, still trapped inside a nightmare, and crying out, “Daddy! There’s a monster chasing me!” What do you say? Do you say, “Run faster, Hunny, faster!” or perhaps “Hide behind a tree or under the staircase!”? Do you confirm the reality of her nightmare this way? Or perhaps you let it define you as well and run around her room feeling as desperately forsaken as she does.

      Here’s what you do. You hold her in your arms and say, “It’s alright my love, Daddy is here! Don’t be afraid; Daddy’s here,” and you gently rock her in your arms until her reality conforms to your reality, that is, until your reality defines her reality by putting the lie to her nightmare. You save her from her nightmare by exposing it as false.

      There is a view of God’s redeeming presence that says: God lets the nightmare define him, and we’re rescued when we see our nightmares become his reality.

      Some salvation.

      There is a different view of God’s redeeming presence that says: Instead of insisting upon a kind of ultimacy to our nightmares and believing our rescue rests in God’s feeling what we feel, let us recognize that ultimately suffering and violence are a privation, a phantom, a narrative that only has power to the extent that we believe it, and that it’s power over us is dispelled in the light of the narrative of God’s triune beauty and its joy. God’s narrative becomes our narrative. That’s my understanding of salvation. I don’t know how else to say it.

      This means adjusting what we mean when we talk about “compassion” for the suffering. It doesn’t mean we suffer a diminishing of our joy, that we agonize or fret or panic or otherwise ‘suffer’ the privation of our world-defining narrative. Instead, like a father who KNOWS THE TRUTH that his daughter’s dreamed reality is just that, a dream, and that it need not define him, need not corrupt his own narrative, in order for him to care about her, our rescue is in discovering the truth of HIS reality and being increasingly defined by IT, not in supposing he comes to be defined by ours.

      I actually shared this with one of our Recovery guys in ministry here. I work with a couple hundred recovering addicts (and folks with anxiety disorders, folks traumatized by sexual abuse, you name it). So I wanted to test drive this. I say to Dan (a recovered alcoholic and drug addict), “Dan, what do you think God felt all those years you rejected him and wasted your life on drugs and alcohol and violence?” He smiled. I didn’t want to prejudice him, so I took the traditional route, “God was suffering all those years with you, Dan. He was full of sorrow and grief over your sorrow and grief.” He said, “How would that help me? I don’t need a God who feels what I feel. I need a God who feels what I WANT to feel. I’m saved by knowing God’s joy never ends and that it just keeps coming and coming.”

      Should I correct him?

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  5. Jeff says:

    T: I do want to say God integrates it all.

    J: To explain what? Or to avoid what problem? That’s what I’m not seeing. It’s as though you just prefer to merely posit attributes of God rather than infer them analogically when His personhood grounds that inference plausibly.

    T: But unlike you (I think) I introduce into this integrated experience a motivation for an infinite joy.

    J: If an infinite joy is a real possibility (I can’t conceive of it, of course), I’m sure God is experiencing it. But since I can’t conceive of it in a positive way (i.e., I can only think of it as a negation of a finite experience), it couldn’t explain a thing for me, best I can tell. It’s like trying to explain exhaustive foreknowledge by positing an inconceivable “time-less” state of the divine mind.

    The only thing I can say positively of “infinite” is that it is conceived of as correlative to a QUANTITATIVE category, not a QUALITATIVE one. Quantity applies to the dimensions of space and time, and to the concept of intensity as applied to volume, brightness, pleasure, pain, and etc. And yet neither “infinite” nor “infinity” is a quantity since quantities are, by definition, finite.

    T: It might not even be on your radar…

    J: I have no doubt that our aesthetic sense is analogous to God’s. I just don’t yet see the problem of God suffering sympathetically. And in the meanwhile, scripture SAYS God is sympathetic/compassionate.

    T: … or if it is, it functions differently for you. But it’s decisive for me.

    J: What is that function? What result are you gaining that isn’t gained by the future-oriented “hope” aspect of motivation, and the joy that necessarily attends it and relativizes suffering?

    T: But I totally agree the Holocaust (and every other act of violence) is “relatively trivial” to God. But why is it so? It’s so because (a) God doesn’t experience the Holocaust independently of other experiences; i.e., it’s all integrated.

    J: Let’s say you’re right about the inevitability of the kind of integration you’re talking about. I could be dead wrong, after all. I just don’t know how to prove to myself that you’re right. It still doesn’t imply that the future-oriented hopefulness aspect of joy is inconsistent with an intensity of joy that is sufficient to strenghten us against temporal suffering by sufficiently relativizing it.
    And, after all, that’s EXACTLY the way scripture describes the reason why temporal suffering of the degrees currently experienced MUST stop. Both God and man are MOTIVATED to render it MERELY temporal. Why would this be if “right” living is nothing more than escaping all that current suffering by concentrating our way into a presently attainable bliss? Why wouldn’t scripture just say that instead?

    J: Rm 8 is forward looking.

    T: It’s not just looking forward. It’s grounding the certainty of OUR future in God’s PRESENT.

    J: Romans doesn’t say that it’s grounded in God’s present pleasurable experience, though. Rather, it says it’s grounded in the certainty of what God is going to DO for us–i.e., DELIVER us from the present groanings and travailings that are to continue until the sons of God are revealed in glory.

    T: All suffering gets relativized into comparative meaninglessness FOR US when we see HIM.

    J: That’s because we will be delivered from present groanings, travailings, persecutions, etc WHEN we see Him. There isn’t a word in scripture, to my knowledge, that hints at the idea that MERELY believing that God is presently ecstatic is that which sufficiently relativizes suffering so that we can ENDURE for His glory .

    T: But God is not likewise awaiting glorification.

    J: That’s true. But it’s a single proposition. As such, nothing follows from its truth but the falsity of its negation.

    J: It says all things work UNTO the good, not that all things ARE good.

    T: My point is, God isn’t one of the items on the inventory of things which are in the process of moving toward the good.

    J: If the “good” is the cessation of suffering, I don’t see how you can say that. Scripture literally screams from beginning to end that God is not only suffering, but that He prefers that it be as minimal as possible, including its temporality.

    J: It doesn’t help people feel a bit better to tell them that though they suffer, God doesn’t.

    T: What’s the alternative—divine commiseration?

    J: Answer: FUTURE BLISS that is attained consistently with MAXIMAL loving (and love ENDURES!). Scripture makes sense in terms of open theism even if it merely amounts to the Father risking for Himself while knowing that He can risklessly render creation worth it for the Son. That’s all it takes to make sense of it. If more is possible, great. If not, nothing is fatal to the intelligibility of Christianity.

    T: All I can say is my experiences have confirmed the healing power of such transcendent joy. Something like “the joy [not the sorrow or grief] of the Lord is your strength.”

    J: First of all, all experienced satisfaction relativizes simultaneous suffering if it is integrated in the way you claim. So there is no doubt about that. Indeed, praising God, alone, can cause delight that is down-right exhilarating. That doesn’t rule out the future-oriented hopefulness aspect of joy which ALSO relativizes suffering and which scripture ALSO emphasizes the importance of. Indeed, Paul specifically says that if we hope in Christ with respect to this life only, we are of all men most miserable, since if there is no ressurection we might as well “eat and drink” because of impending death. If this doesn’t indicate, like plenty of other passages, that the tribulations and persecutions we experience BECAUSE of our faith are relativized by a future-oriented-hope-causing joy to sufficiently render endurance POSSIBLE, I don’t know what it indicates. It certainly doesn’t indicate that on-going-this-worldly suffering is SO relativized by joy that life would be better for believers even IF there is no post-mortem, glorified ressurection life.

    T: And it’s not just the fact that “God doesn’t suffer” that helps. That is, it’s not what God ISN’T that helps. It’s what God IS that helps.

    J: God knows His own competence to bring about that FUTURE we rejoice in, whether Christians hold fast to the requisite joy-inspiring certainty of it or not. And yet that certainty and joy IS available to us, for He doesn’t allow us to be tested above what we’re able.

    T: It’s that God’s undiminishable joy is available to the suffering.

    J: Can we experience joy that is undiminishable? Well if we BOTH suffer AND integrate that suffering into a totaled intensity, is it that the joy limits the amount of suffering we can experience? Or is it that we can always experience enough joy to relativize suffering sufficiently to enable us to ENDURE in the will of God. The latter is all scripture seems to claim is necessary for us to do the will of God and be rewarded (for he who believes must believe THAT He is and THAT He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him).

    T: God’s truth can become our truth as we ground ourselves in a transcendent source of being which no worldly suffering can threaten.

    J: True. But that doesn’t contradict the future-oriented nature of present joy instantiation as you seem to be implying.

    T: We don’t improve because we want God to suffer as we have;

    J: Right. That’s not at all the issue. Rather, it’s that an attribute of divine sympathy is the only analogical explanation for why God would give a squat about our own satisfaction. Sure, there may be another explanation for which we have no analogy, but sympathy is an analogical one which explains why so many people speak of it thus, including the very authors of inspired writ.

    T: But you’ve just agreed that all the world’s suffering combined is “relatively trivial” to God. Going with your logic, that doesn’t sound very sympathetic.

    J: I didn’t say “all the world’s suffering;” I said Auschwitz. I’m positing the possibility that Auschwitz is “relatively trivial.” Moreover, meaningful sympathy need only be proportional in absolute intensity, however trivial that might be for the sympathizer due to His exceedingly greater capacity for intensity of feeling. Humans can’t feel just any intensity of feeling–they pass out. Maybe God doesn’t! 🙂

    T: I mean, how helpful would that be to suffering victims of the Holocaust? Take a tortured victim of the Holocaust who agrees with you that God can help her only to the extent he suffers with her and tell her that her suffering is relatively trivial to God.

    J: But that’s not what I’m saying God’s sympathy explains. It explains WHY people think of God as compassionate. And WHY the authors of scripture did as well. What is “compassion” but the latin form of the greek “sympathy?”

    IOW, people explain ANALOGICALLY, rather than merely posit when the former works. And it DOES work, best I can tell. For you have not yet explained how the future-oriented aspect of joy isn’t sufficiently explanatory of why we are sufficiently strengthened by it. And joy isn’t only about our hope (ressurrection unto life). It’s about reward — we rejoice while voluntarily suffering for righteousness, Jesus says, because therefrom comes a “great reward in the heavens.” These sayings about how the future motivates us are as analogical to normal future motivation as one can ask for.

    Your approach seems to imply that we are to somehow enter into the only relevant Christian bliss independently of a second coming, a ressurection, etc, or even a knowledge of them. And as such, your view seems unrecognizable as historic Christianity in even those doctrines that there has been significant agreement on.

    T: He said, “How would that help me? I don’t need a God who feels what I feel. I need a God who feels what I WANT to feel. I’m saved by knowing God’s joy never ends and that it just keeps coming and coming.”

    Should I correct him?

    J: If he was suggesting that the mere knowledge of a mere perpetual experience of pure and extreme satisfaction by another sentient being saves him from the lack of that kind and degree of satisfaction, then yes, I would say you should correct him. Because that’s seemingly a non-sequitor. It’s as though he’s suggesting that because that sentient being is divine, the relevant difference is implied. But it doesn’t as far as I can tell. How would we define “divine” to get a deduction that implies what he’s seemingly suggesting? I suspect that once you add the additional relevant attributes to God, you will see that the traditional future-oriented, strengthening joy is not only explanatory, but ANALOGICALLY so, and therefore PLAUSIBLY so.

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    • tgbelt says:

      You’ve been taking lesson from me on how to increase the length of posts! ;o)

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff, thanks for taking the time. You always get me thinking more deeply and responsibly about things.

      PART I

      T: I do want to say God integrates it all.

      J: To explain what?

      T: The unity of the divine nature.

      J: Or to avoid what problem?

      T: Partitioning God into independent experiences and inviting either polytheism or needless irrationality.

      J: It’s as though you just prefer to merely posit attributes of God rather than infer them analogically when His personhood grounds that inference plausibly.

      T: What attributes are you speaking of? If it’s just my conviction that monotheism implies the undivided nature of God’s experience, then the idea that God can be divided into a multiplicity of unrelated, non-integrated emotional experiences is NOT inferred analogically from anything. On the contrary, such an idea is completely non-analogous to anything we know.

      —————————

      J: If an infinite joy is a real possibility (I can’t conceive of it, of course), I’m sure God is experiencing it. But since I can’t conceive of it in a positive way (i.e., I can only think of it as a negation of a finite experience), it couldn’t explain a thing for me, best I can tell.

      T: If the term “infinite” is a problem, think of it in terms of Greg’s ‘unsurpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction’ deriving from a beauty no worldly event can mar.

      J: The only thing I can say positively of “infinite” is that it is conceived of as correlative to a QUANTITATIVE category, not a QUALITATIVE one.

      T: That’s the problem. Set mathematics aside. We’re not “counting” bits of joy or slices of beauty. You have Greg’s Trinity and Process, right? I thought you’d read it. We’re definitely talking a qualitative infinite.

      ———————————

      T: … or if it is, [the undiminishable joy which God’s beauty produces in God] functions differently for you. But it’s decisive for me.

      J: What is that function? What result are you gaining that isn’t gained by the future-oriented “hope” aspect of motivation, and the joy that necessarily attends it and relativizes suffering?

      T: Off the top of my head I’d say the gain is maintaining the distinction between God and creation such that God isn’t awaiting glorification with the rest of creation but is already, in the necessity of his triune experience, the saving fullness that created being requires for its present salvation and future perfection.

      Try this piece by Hart.

      ——————————

      T: But I totally agree the Holocaust (and every other act of violence) is “relatively trivial” to God. But why is it so? It’s so because (a) God doesn’t experience the Holocaust independently of other experiences; i.e., it’s all integrated.

      J: Let’s say you’re right about the inevitability of the kind of integration you’re talking about. I could be dead wrong, after all. I just don’t know how to prove to myself that you’re right. It still doesn’t imply that the future-oriented hopefulness aspect of joy is inconsistent with an intensity of joy that is sufficient to strengthen us against temporal suffering by sufficiently relativizing it.

      T: But there’s no question whatsoever that our notion of experience as persons is that experience is always an integrated whole. You’ve already agreed to this. So I don’t understand your skepticism here. You want to me PROVE that we HAVE to think of God’s experience as a unified whole as opposed to partitioning the divine experience into separate unrelated experiences? But if you had the latter, NO emotional response God had to any human suffering would be trivialized. Trivialization is the effect of integration.

      It seems to me that divine beauty and aesthetic experience simply don’t figure into your understanding of necessary/divine existence at all. You’ve got God not depending on the world for his existence (and basic competencies–rationality, wisdom, moral perfection), but that’s about it. It just seems to me that for you God’s overall sense of well-being, his aesthetic satisfaction, is derived from the world. Nothing of a qualitative sense of well-being defines God essentially. In that case I agree we’d HAVE to suppose God’s dispositional capacities for aesthetic experience are exercised only in relation to creation and fluctuate at our discretion. But if God’s necessity is (among whatever else) an aesthetic, qualitative experience, how would we go about negating that necessity by suggesting that our contingent sufferings have the power to diminish it?

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    • tgbelt says:

      PART II

      J: Romans doesn’t say that it’s grounded in God’s present pleasurable experience, though. Rather, it says it’s grounded in the certainty of what God is going to DO for us–i.e., DELIVER us from the present groanings and travailings that are to continue until the sons of God are revealed in glory.

      T: But this just means God gets glorified too. If glorification means deliverance from groaning and travail, and God suffers groaning and travail as well, then God gets glorified along with us.

      ——————————

      T: But God is not likewise awaiting glorification.

      J: That’s true. But it’s a single proposition. As such, nothing follows from its truth but the falsity of its negation.

      T: But you don’t have to precede that prop with “It is not the case that…” to falsify it. You include God in the same process and effects of our glorification (the same deliverance from groaning, suffering, etc.). That’s just to say God is glorified along with us. He ‘becomes’ perfected (inasmuch as freedom from suffering is a perfection—and it most certainly is) as we are perfected.

      —————————-

      J: First of all, all experienced satisfaction relativizes simultaneous suffering if it is integrated in the way you claim. So there is no doubt about that. Indeed, praising God, alone, can cause delight that is down-right exhilarating.

      T: I don’t get it Bro. Here you seem totally on board with the definitive integration of aesthetic experience. But earlier you insisted that I prove this in God’s case. Do you agree that God’s experience — his aesthetic satisfaction to be precise — is unified and integrated? I still don’t know what you think.

      If experienced satisfaction relativizes simultaneous suffering (which is just what ‘integration’ means), then the questions become—

      1) What sources of satisfaction combine in the divine experience?
      2) Ought we to think of God’s self-constituting triune experience sans creation in aesthetic terms at all and ought we to include this in the sources of divine satisfaction in question (1)?
      3) If ‘yes’ on (2) then how or to what extent ought we to imagine the contingent aesthetic dissatisfaction of finite creatures to be relativized compared to the necessary aesthetic satisfaction of God’s self-constituting experience?

      J: That doesn’t rule out the future-oriented hopefulness aspect of joy which ALSO relativizes suffering and which scripture ALSO emphasizes the importance of.

      T: I’ve not said the future isn’t to be enjoyed by God in the future. But since I believe God’s necessity sans creation to be an experienced fullness that cannot conceivably be world-dependent (by definition of necessity), I don’t limit the scope or intensity of God’s existential fullness to the fulfillment of his creational goals.

      ————————–

      J: Right. That’s not at all the issue. Rather, it’s that an attribute of divine sympathy is the only analogical explanation for why God would give a squat about our own satisfaction.

      T: I don’t think so. I don’t think God needs to sacrifice a measure of his happiness to care about us. It makes sense to me that a person can possess a joy that cannot be dampened by someone suffering and yet be motivated BY THIS JOY to seek its overflow in the experience of others. In other words, it’s more “Look at how unbelievably happy I am, let me multiply it within creation,” than it is “Look how miserable you are, and now I’m less happy on your account. Let me attend to you.”

      There’s a certain selfishness about this latter approach because God’s attending to the suffering of others is meant not only to aid their suffering but must also be viewed as intended to restore God’s own joy which our suffering took from him. In this case helping us is not disinterested love and so not sheer grace (a point Greg hammers in Trinity & Process), because on a fundamental level God NEEDS to help us in our suffering to RESTORE Godself (if even partially) to his former state of perfection lost in the contemplation of our suffering. And perfection is the right word here, because given Rom 8, glorification unto perfection is an irreducibly aesthetic experience. Hence, all failure of aesthetic satisfaction is a certain failure of perfection, a failure to achieve one’s telos. And you’ve got God subject to this. (I’m not saying it’s MORALLY imperfect. I’m just saying its EXISTENTIALLY imperfect.)

      —————————-

      T: But you’ve just agreed that all the world’s suffering combined is “relatively trivial” to God. Going with your logic, that doesn’t sound very sympathetic.

      J: I didn’t say “all the world’s suffering;” I said Auschwitz. I’m positing the possibility that Auschwitz is “relatively trivial.”

      T: Right. But the point remains I think. Your question to me was ‘How does it help me in my suffering to know God’s joy is undiminishable?’ Your question implies that it doesn’t help, to which I replied, “If we need ‘how God feels in response to us in our suffering‘ to be what help us, then my view wouldn’t help us; but then how much would it help someone being victimized in Auschwitz to know that their suffering was ‘trivial’ to God’”? It wouldn’t help either given the assumption that we are able to be helped in suffering only to the extent that our helper suffers as well.

      J: Moreover, meaningful sympathy need only be proportional in absolute intensity, however trivial that might be for the sympathizer due to His exceedingly greater capacity for intensity of feeling. Humans can’t feel just any intensity of feeling–they pass out. Maybe God doesn’t!

      T: Earlier you said “infinite joy” was inconceivable. I suggest thinking of it in terms of an absolute intensity along the lines of what you describe here. Just how relatively trivial would our suffering be to God IF God’s necessity, understood aesthetically, was an “absolute intensity” of aesthetic satisfaction?

      If it’s “absolutely intense,” then it can’t be diminished. An absolutely intense pleasure would trivialize all contingencies absolutely (so far as those contingencies relate to that which God is ‘necessarily’). But you don’t want this I think. You don’t see that the world’s pain can be trivialized out of all FELT consequence for God essentially. You want God ‘hurting’ (even if just trivially) because of us. But surely this is open to your own criticism of my view on the grounds that it doesn’t really help the victim in Auschwitz to know their suffering is only trivial to God.

      I’m seeing something here, Jeff. I wonder if you think what’s absolutely intense in God is not any particular aesthetic satisfaction, but rather the ‘mere capacity to feel’ per se. But that kind of intensity rules out the sort of integration that, as you say, would trivialize God’s emotional response to Auschwitz. If God’s absolute aesthetic intensity is the capacity to feel whatever, then God ought to be thought of as agonizing with the victim of Auschwitz just as they agonize, or even more-so (if you take Greg’s view that God can suffer our suffering MORE deeply than we can BECAUSE he’s God). But if, as in the Orthodox view, this necessarily absolute intensity is an absolute intensity of an aesthetic satisfaction derived from God’s triune experience, then…

      …we’re done!

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    • tgbelt says:

      PART III

      J: Your approach seems to imply that we are to somehow enter into the only relevant Christian bliss independently of a second coming, a ressurection, etc, or even a knowledge of them. And as such, your view seems unrecognizable as historic Christianity in even those doctrines that there has been significant agreement on.

      T: That’s not what I’m saying. Of course OUR experience of joy awaits future glorification.

      ————————————–

      T: He said, “How would that help me? I don’t need a God who feels what I feel. I need a God who feels what I WANT to feel. I’m saved by knowing God’s joy never ends and that it just keeps coming and coming.” Should I correct him?

      J: If he was suggesting that the mere knowledge of a mere perpetual experience of pure and extreme satisfaction by another sentient being saves him from the lack of that kind and degree of satisfaction, then yes, I would say you should correct him.

      T: But that’s not what I’ve been suggesting. It’s not that knowing somewhere in the universe God is out there having an orgasm while I suffer which is particularly helpful. It’s in understanding that what it is that accounts for God’s aesthetic satisfaction can come to account for mine as well as I come to define myself (like God) in terms which cannot be threatened by any conceivable suffering. As I come to define ‘who’ I am in ‘who’ Christ is (and even who Christ is in who I am), then ‘who’ I am (my identity, the fundamental meaning of my existence in the world) becomes something that cannot suffer, and to the extent that I learn to ground my joy and satisfaction in this identity, to that extent I experience a joy that no suffering can diminish.

      God already is this by nature. We’ll become it by grace and glorification. But if God is waiting just like me and the rest of us to come into possession of this perfection, then we have a very different view of God at play.

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  6. Jeff says:

    Happy New Year, Tom and all!!

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  7. Jeff says:

    BTW, Tom. I accept that that joy which is a fruit of God’s Spirit is super-naturally “grown.” Thus, it need not be analogical to that more natural joy that attends other future-oriented “hope” in the sense of its effectiveness. Thus, God can, due to His competence, render it sufficiently strengthening–i.e., capable of sufficiently relativizing the otherwise hindering effects of the causes of suffering.

    As I have argued before, it is the nature of God (His essential benevolence and competence) that causes us to see whatever current satisfaction He’s experiencing as related to why He’s going to ultimately DO for us something so benevolent. And as it turns out, that same benevolent/competent nature is required to explain the existence of warranted belief and/or positive evidential relationships as well.

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  8. Jeff says:

    Let’s start simple. You say you’re trying to avoid:

    T: Partitioning God into independent experiences and inviting either polytheism or needless irrationality.

    I can’t imagine, Tom, how God’s distinct sufferings and pleasures could be non-integrated. But I also can’t imagine a cognitive capacity that is unfazed by mind-bogglingly huge numbers of cognitions of DISTINCT matters of fact SIMULTANEOUSLY. This is why I just can’t see the problem you’re seeing. If I could imagine the one but not the other, I’d be right there with you. But I can’t imagine either analogically. I can only ask myself if I can prove that either is logically impossible. And I don’t know how to do that proof for either case.

    But I’m not concerned about avoiding integrated sentient experience in the first place. For I have no problem with the notion of God risking for the Son. Why is divine risk a problem for you? Or, if it isn’t a problem, what would risk mean other than a risk of a less satisfactory experience for some finite amount of time? And how does this diminish His love, seeing’s how Love (if 1 Cor. is true in its conventional language meaning) suffers long and endures “all (manner of?) things?”

    For the life of me I can’t see how God’s current integrated sentient experience is what saves us rather than His loving, powerful nature and the intentions that flow therefrom.

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    • tgbelt says:

      J: I can’t imagine, Tom, how God’s distinct sufferings and pleasures could be non-integrated.

      T: So we agree on that much. Excellent.

      J: I’m not concerned about avoiding integrated sentient experience in the first place. For I have no problem with the notion of God risking for the Son. Why is divine risk a problem for you? …what would risk mean other than a risk of a less satisfactory experience…?

      T: It all boils down to those questions, Jeff:

      (1) What sources of satisfaction combine in the divine experience at any given time?
      (2) Ought we to think of God’s necessary self-constituting triune experience in aesthetic terms at all?

      If ‘yes’ to (2), then whatever aesthetic satisfaction constitutes God’s (necessary) self-constituting triune experience, it’s a source of satisfaction within the integrated whole. Actually, it just IS that which integrates, that which relativizes, that which trivializes. That’s the question. For you, God’s necessity is distinct from either the triune beauty and/or the pleasure derived from its contemplation.

      Can God risk? It all depends on what’s being risked. Can God risk what defines God necessarily? By definition, no. That’s what makes it necessary. So we differ in this respect — I understand God’s triune necessity aesthetically and you do not. That’s the only way you can make God’s aesthetic satisfaction a contingent feature of his life.

      J: I also can’t imagine a cognitive capacity that is unfazed by mind-bogglingly huge numbers of cognitions of DISTINCT matters of fact SIMULTANEOUSLY.

      T: And I can’t imagine ‘necessary triune existence’ which is not infinite beauty and productive of an unsurpassably and undiminishably intense aesthetic satisfaction.

      This doens’t mean God’s not fazed cognitively. I mean, there are changes in mental states (knowing X obtains now to knowing X does not obtain now) which are changes in God. I’m pretty sure I differ with the Orthodox in admitting this. But the question we’re asking is how God evaluates these changes aesthetically (how he feels about them), right? You’re saying these have to “faze” God aesthetically. If they’re cognitions of evil then they result in a “less satisfactory experience” in God, and if they’re cognitions of goodness then they result in a “more satisfactory experience” in God. And this “more” and “less” is as fluctuating as are the instances of evil compared to instances of good in the changing world. And God’s is the ONE experience that integrates them all into a single aesthetic feeling (the joys will be somewhat dampened by the evils and the evils somewhat trivialized by the joys). That’s Charles Hartshorne (and now-a-days, Greg as well) to the tee: God’s aesthetic satisfaction (his happiness for short) is the difference of an equationreasons to be happy minus reasons to grieve.

      You don’t (and probably don’t want to) avoid this outcome by positing a deeper (non-aesthetic) ‘competence’ in God that renders the Holocaust trivial or that will finally resolve creation and glorify God through the restoration of his own experience to its pre-creational peak intensity of bliss. You only get this fluctuating aesthetic satisfaction in God by either supposing God’s necessity is not to be understood aesthetically at all (so that what God feels is simply the combined aesthetic value of every instance of worldly suffering, period) or supposing that if God’s necessity is aesthetic in nature at all it is finitely so (so that we have a satisfaction that can be truly diminished by us).

      The question is: How beautiful do you think God is?

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    • tgbelt says:

      We both are working with a very similar logic, Jeff. That is: We both suppose that God integrates the contingent world into his own experience and that this experience is (among other things) aesthetic. For me that’s to say that God evaluates the world’s diverse contingencies by relating them to himself in determining what it is they ‘mean’ to God (or what they contribute to what God believes he means). That’s my understanding of emotions (following Robert Solomon); they are strategies adopted by the self for the maximization and management of the self’s well-being.

      But for me this plays out differently in created vs uncreated being because the ‘well-being’ of ‘uncreated being’ is uncreated.

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    • tgbelt says:

      And I haven’t even gotten around to arguing that what we call moral goodness is in God an expression/function of aesthetic satisfaction. God is only as ‘good’ as he is ‘happy’! (Basically the indiscernability of transcendentals goodness, beauty, and truth).

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff, check out Marilyn McCord Adams’ book. I like it because it gives me a different vocabulary (other than Greg’s Process-philosophical vocab) to express this stuff. Sometimes just that much of a switch helps me see things differently.

      So I’ll view ‘emotion’—the whole range of it falling along the aesthetic satisfaction/dissatisfaction continuum—as ‘personal meaning-making’ (Adams), and by that we mean a verdict I reach regarding the meaning of my life and existence. Emotions are interpretations or valuations we make on the meaning (significance, worth, value) of our lives in this or that situation.

      My emotion is ‘MY’ emotion. It’s me tell me what “I” mean in relation to someone or something, not fundamentally what that someone or something means. When we view a Monet or a van Gogh, listen to Bach or Mozart, or hold a healthy newborn in our arms, the satisfaction we feel is our interpretation to ourselves of what WE mean. And we constantly do this, managing our perceived well-being or personal meaning as experienced satisfaction or dissatisfaction based on how we define our ‘self’ in relation to the relations and events of our lives. All the standard range of emotions—anger, anxiety, depression, rage, fear sympathy, compassion, apprehension—are simply the ‘self’ defining its meaning and significance variously in relation to different contexts.

      What I think we ought to agree that God’s essential, personal meaning-making capacity cannot be impaired. God doesn’t “get” who God is (or derive his identity or the significance of his existence) from anything in the contingent world. But emotion is by definition the ‘self’ interpreting itself as defined by things other than itself, interpreting in an experienced aesthetic way the self’s vision of ‘who’ it is, what’s it thinks its worth, what’s its purpose is, what its significance is, etc. (all different ways to say what its ‘meaning’ is). Rage, anger, anxiety, etc. are all the ‘self’ interpreting itself in its environment as threatened, dismissed, devalued, etc. God, as uncreated being, cannot come to view himself in such terms, so the emotions that express a self who believes it is threatened or devalued are not possible to God.

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  9. Jeff says:

    Tom: When we view a Monet or a van Gogh, listen to Bach or Mozart, or hold a healthy newborn in our arms, the satisfaction we feel is our interpretation to ourselves of what WE mean.

    J: I can’t make sense out of that. I would say that our emotions are effects OF our interpretations in the sense that they vary when our interpretations differ. But I think it’s inaccurate to say satisfaction IS an interpretation. And this gets back to the fact that you see knowing as equivalent to feeling. That seems false to me. It seems to me that knowing is distinguishable from feeling.

    Tom: What I think we ought to agree that God’s essential, personal meaning-making capacity cannot be impaired.

    J: That which is essential in God cannot be impaired. Because God is a necessary being. Thus, if He has essential attributes, they are necessary. But that which God sentiently experiences as effects of a contingent world is, by definition, contingent. To get around that, you have to say that we can’t affect God at all. Maybe that’s true. But I don’t see how it’s intuitive or proveable from any other intution(s). Nor do I see what it explains about our own experience.

    It seems to me that to BE essentially loving is to BE essentially affectable by others, however fleeting the duration or trivial the intensity might be.

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  10. Jeff says:

    Tom: God, as uncreated being, cannot come to view himself in such terms, so the emotions that express a self who believes it is threatened or devalued are not possible to God.

    J: God can not be threatened, that’s for sure. Nor can He get His feelings “hurt” by being under-valued by creatures. But there is another kind of anger that humans feel that isn’t contrary to the benevolence/competence of God. Unselfish humans get angry when someone is selfishly and adversely affected by the selfish opportunism of another. It’s like a passionate frustration whose source is pure sympathy. Jesus (the express image of the Father) seemed to experience this kind of anger himself.

    God

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  11. Jeff says:

    BTW, that last “God” was gonna be a beginning of another sentence that I forgot to delete. 🙂

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  12. Jeff says:

    Tom: I understand God’s triune necessity aesthetically and you do not. That’s the only way you can make God’s aesthetic satisfaction a contingent feature of his life.

    J: You’re completely missing the point, Tom. You’re not merely saying that God experiences an essential satisfaction. We agree on that. We agree that God probably has an integrative sentient experience such that His essential satisfaction is integrated with His dissatisfaction with Auschwitz. What we disagree on is whether that integrated experience can bring God’s sentient state to a point where this world is no longer worth perpetuating. I say yes to the latter. You seem to be saying no to the latter. In my view, His COMPETENCE is what assures that the integration will be maintained at a level consistent with His purposes.

    But to say that there is sin IS, in my opinion, to say that things are worse in the integrated state than they had to be–and that God is perfectly aware of that. IOW, per my view, there’s room for “losing” somewhat in the risk without losing per se. Kind of like losing a battle but winning the war. That’s where the teleological aspect comes into play. God preferred to “win all the battles.” But He’s “good with” merely “winning the war” if that’s the only way to ensure that the Son becomes a relevant beneficiary of creation.

    This way we have enough risk to account intuitively for a free choice to create as well as an intelligible conception of sin. Free choice is not the same thing as the absence of necessity. An uncaused event is neither free nor necessary. We need the positive aspects of FREEDOM to account for the finality of explanation and, therefore, warranted belief. And we need a divinely distinguishable DISSATISFACTION to account for an intelligible conception of sin.

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  13. Jeff says:

    Maybe addressing the following will clarify:

    Tom: I don’t think God needs to sacrifice a measure of his happiness to care about us.

    J: Me either. But all that can mean for me is that God could care about us even if we couldn’t sin at all. Once God creates me free to sin, that seems to just MEAN that I can DISsatisfy Him in a way that is distinguishable on His sentient radar screen.

    Tom: It makes sense to me that a person can possess a joy that cannot be dampened by someone suffering and yet be motivated BY THIS JOY to seek its overflow in the experience of others.

    J: I would say it this way. I can’t prove that you’re wrong about that. But I have no analogy for it on the other hand. Care, for humans, DERIVES from sympathy. If they received no naturally-caused pleasure and pain from the pleasure and pain from others, they would be indifferent to others except for enjoying their aesthetic appearance, etc.

    Tom: In other words, it’s more “Look at how unbelievably happy I am, let me multiply it within creation,”

    J: This positing is kind of like the inflation of the inflationary Big Bang hypothesis. How do you stop it? IOW, How do you stop God’s motivation from impelling Him to create more and more universes in a way that looks like a necessary God-world relationship?

    Tom: … than it is “Look how miserable you are, and now I’m less happy on your account. Let me attend to you.”

    J: Sympathy is BOTH the experience of pleasure caused by the awareness of the pleasure of others AND the experience of suffering caused by the suffering of others. This is why God PREFERS there be no sin. Because then it’s ALL pleasure except for the relatively trivial sympathetic suffering that occurs when a toddler gets hurt accidentally, etc.

    Tom: There’s a certain selfishness about this latter approach because God’s attending to the suffering of others is meant not only to aid their suffering but must also be viewed as intended to restore God’s own joy which our suffering took from him.

    J: First, we never take away God’s essential satisfaction. We can only relativize it by the integration you’re talking about, right? Second, selfishness has nothing to do with it. Explaining analogically rather than positing blindly unnecessarily has nothing to do with selfishness unless I’ve created an epistemological problem by doing so. I’ve yet to see what the problem is. It’s not as though analogical thinking is intuitively problematic. On the contrary. There doesn’t seem to be any epistemological virtue in positing non-analogically when analogical explanation already works.

    We have some choices. We can say that God’s sentient experience is utterly unaffected by us in any way. Or we can say that God is ONLY affected positively by us. Or we can say God is sympathetic as we are such that God is affected positively and negatively by us. To account for the intelligibility of sin and to avoid a divine motivation unto a necessary god-world relationship, the latter seems to be logically necessary.

    T: In this case helping us is not disinterested love …

    J: But the only way you get your brand of disinterested love is by saying God can’t suffer consciously enough to make sense of sin such that God can PREFER the absence of sin. For what conceivable meaning does “prefer” have if it has nothing to do with future sentient states that are conceived of as better or worse than each other FOR the preferring one?

    The other way to render love unselfish in the relevant benevolent sense is to say that the moral order is rational in the sense that the highest attainable good of any sentient creature is consistent with and conducive to the highest attainable good of every other sentient being. This way, all our analogies work, and we can define sin intelligibly while avoiding a seeming necessary god-world relationship.

    T: and so not sheer grace (a point Greg hammers in Trinity & Process), because on a fundamental level God NEEDS to help us in our suffering to RESTORE Godself (if even partially) to his former state of perfection lost in the contemplation of our suffering.

    J: Sheer grace just means utterly free and undeserved. Eternal life for sinners IS just that even if God suffers sympathetically.

    T: And perfection is the right word here, because given Rom 8, glorification unto perfection is an irreducibly aesthetic experience.

    J: I don’t see that glorification (the putting on of an immortal body) is identical with the absence of groanings and travailings. So I don’t see that glorification is necessarily talking about sentient states so much as immortality. But they do seem to coincide temporarily, of course. But the word “glorification” is too frequently tied to what happens to the body independent of how it feels for me to assume you’re right in your inference.

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  14. Jeff says:

    T: Tom: There’s a certain selfishness about this latter approach because God’s attending to the suffering of others is meant not only to aid their suffering but must also be viewed as intended to restore God’s own joy which our suffering took from him.

    J: If we really believed that selfishness means we ought not care about our own sentient state, then we wouldn’t need God’s sentient state to motivate us at all. For we would need no change in our own sentient state at all to act unto the satisfaction of others. So the only way you can make sense of what you’re saying of God, seemingly, is to say that we are NOT to be like God. For we, apparently, should have no need of satisfaction to act aright. But this is to deny the logical inseparability of future sentient states, motivation and FREE action.

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  15. Jeff says:

    I think I just realized what you’re meaning, Tom, by an absolute intensity of essential, divine aesthetic pleasure. I think you’re saying that pleasure is NOT relativized at all. But if so, what sense does it make to say sentient experience is, per se, integrated? I’m not following that at all. That seems like a downright contradiction. Alternatively, sentient experience is not per se integrated. But this just means you don’t need to posit integrated sentient experience at all.

    I do think I would need to reword my own position. I had claimed that God has an essential sentient experience that gets relativized by contingent creation. But that would mean that the essential experience isn’t absolute in its intensity. But in that case, I might as well deny that it’s essential since I can’t see how to articulate what exactly is essential in it. Maybe it can’t be essential for the very reason that God is not essentially incapable of creating contingent worlds that NATURALLY affect Him sentiently in an integrative way.

    Yet I still don’t see how this move incapacitates us from explaining our experience and the coherence of Christian theism. Sin is either real or not. If sin doesn’t affect God in negatively sentient way, then I have no idea what sin is. And I think the “battle vs. war” analogy solves the “risk” aspect of competent theism sufficiently to account for sin and the non-existence of a necessary god-world relationship.

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  16. Jeff says:

    But, Tom, I’m not denying THAT the persons of the godhead experience social pleasure sans creation and always from each other. That would be nuts. But it could be natural and intense without being essential in some particular intensity so far as explaining the coherence of Christianity is concerned.

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  17. tgbelt says:

    Do you have Greg’s Trinity & Process?

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  18. Jeff says:

    yeah. But I’m not reading that whole book. It was by far the most nebulous book I ever tried to read by Greg. I felt like I was reading one non-sequitor after another. If you can give some page numbers, I’ll read ’em.

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  19. Jeff says:

    I need a nap, anyway. I’ll read myself to sleep with some of his comments on aesthetics.

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  20. Jeff says:

    I was lost right off the bat. You’ll have to provide page numbers. Then I’ll tell you what you need to translate for me.

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    • tgbelt says:

      That’s OK. It’s pretty much a cumulative case, building as it goes, based off Hartshorne’s six a priori truths. One would have to follow his thought.

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      • Jeff says:

        That’s the thing. Hartshorne specifically appeals to the importance of analogy in those first chapters. And Hartshorne wasn’t trying to deduce what Greg was. Hartshorne was comfortable with a relatively incompetent god in a necessary god-world relationship. But best I can tell, that no more accounts for the existence of warranted belief than atheism or deism.

        The only way I know to account for motivation to begin to do something different is if

        1) the motivatee has a sentient capacity
        2) the motivatee can experience discernibly diverse sentient states
        3) the motivatee prefers some of those states over others
        4) the motivatee is FREE to initiate causal sequences unto whichever sentient state He prefers

        Apart from 1)-3), I have no idea what sin is to God. But apart from 2)-3) I can’t explain why God would create at all. On the other hand, apart from element of risk in creation, 2)-3) alone are consistent with divine compatibilism. We need all the necessary conditions to account for FREE creation and sin (and, therefore, an explanation of a limit to God’s endurance).

        As I see it, your approach has the same effect as denying 1). For once you deny 2), I don’t see how we can conceive of an explanation of DIVERSE divine action. For us, diverse action is explained by 1)-2) at least. And freely-chosen diverse action is explained by 3)-4).

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      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff, do you believe that (when it comes to conflicting options as you describe them) God by nature always goes with the option that pleases him more, that the “preferable” choice is the choice he believes will “yield more pleasure”?

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  21. Jeff says:

    Here’s what’s obvious to me. We agree that the godhead is essentially social, not merely contingently social. As I see it, however, that is the most parsimonious explanation of the human inability to but think morally in a rational way. In the same way that finite spatial relationships require an infinite space as the frame of reference to ground their intelligibility, and in the same way that finite temporal relationships require an infinite time as the frame of reference to ground their intelligibility, so normativity requires a rational governor of the moral/normative order to ground the intelligibility of rationality of the golden rule.

    But the golden rule is derived from the sympathetic nature of humans together with the need for a moral governor to explain the truth of that obligation as opposed to its mere conceivability. For if this life is it, there is nothing but reasons for thinking the golden rule is irrational. And this is because the golden rule isn’t about selflessness, but recognizing that loving others can’t contradict loving one’s self.

    But what kind of moral governor can analogically account for the truth of that obligation other than one who is also sympathetic. But a sympathetic moral governor would only have a motive to create other social beings if He was also social. But parsimony also requires that we posit that this governor is a necessary being. So how is it that this governor could exist from eternity alone if He can be motivated to create social beings and motivate them to love one another? Analogically, that would be a governor that exists necessarily in social relationality with another essentially social person.

    Now, Christianity comes along and tells us that the godhead is just such a godhead. So it turns out that what seems the most parsimonious explanation of a rational moral order (the truthfulness of the obligation to the golden rule) is entailed in the Christian view of the godhead.

    But social relationality has an aesthetic component to it. For social harmony is aesthetic in the same way that musical harmony is, etc. So yes, we can’t help but infer that the godhead was enjoying that aesthetic experience sans creation.

    But then the question is, “can such a godhead account for a motivation to risk suffering?” I say yes if that risk can work like the “battle vs. war” analogy I gave above. The Father can risk for the Son, hoping that all will go optimally, but not guaranteeing it. So long as His competence is sufficient to “win the war” without “winning all battles,” This way, love has its most analogical meaning for divine and non-divine. All rational beings are self-interested AND sympathetic. Thus we can explain motivation in the most analogical way for divine and non-divine persons.

    The Father has to win the war, which is to render creation worth it for all, though we all may have to experience a less than possible and optimal route to that end. That less than possible and optimal route is caused by SIN that was NOT inevitable

    This also allows us to conceive of divine freedom as analogical as possible.

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  22. Jeff says:

    Tom: Jeff, do you believe that (when it comes to conflicting options as you describe them) God by nature always goes with the option that pleases him more, that the “preferable” choice is the choice he believes will “yield more pleasure”?

    J: As an open theist, I think there can be true risk in creation, in the way I described. In other words, God may have to endure more than was inevitable to render a creation worth it to the Son. If so, maybe creation will be a “wash” for Him while being a benefit to the Son. So the simple answer to your question, given these seeming logical possibilities, is “no.”

    The scripture says the creation is OUT of the Father. It never says its OUT of the Son. Indeed, that distinction is made in cases when it distinguishes the Father as the ONE God. These scriptures are telling us something. They seem to render what I’m saying above as at least a LOGICAL possibility.

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    • Jeff says:

      In short, Tom, I believe God’s beliefs are realistic, not polyanna. Thus, when there is risk, God simply doesn’t know for sure. And therefore, He doesn’t necessarily believe one way or the other. So long as God isn’t risking for anyone else, the risk can be loving and hopeful of the best case scenario (i.e., sinlessness). But hoping in that sense is not believing.

      Like

      • tgbelt says:

        J: As an open theist, I think there can be true risk in creation, in the way I described. In other words, God may have to endure more than was inevitable to render a creation worth it to the Son. If so, maybe creation will be a “wash” for Him while being a benefit to the Son.

        T: Creation a wash for the Father but a benefit for the Son? I don’t know how to consider that a Christian/Trinitarian option.

        The question was simple I thought. Can God choose to do what God perceives as the ‘less preferable’ option. I hear you saying yes, that’s possible. God can entirely weigh ends, find one preferable to the another, and choose the less preferable.

        I’m at a loss.

        Like

  23. Jeff says:

    T: The question was simple I thought. Can God choose to do what God perceives as the ‘less preferable’ option.

    J: No, that wasn’t the question. The answer to THIS question is clearly “no.” To say God can risk is to say God doesn’t know how things are gonna turn out and that there is a range of conceivable possibilities, some of which are less desirable than others.

    T: Creation a wash for the Father but a benefit for the Son? I don’t know how to consider that a Christian/Trinitarian option.

    J: What about a scriptural option? What would be the problem there? I’m not seeing it.

    Like

    • tgbelt says:

      That was my question all along Bro. I wasn’t interested in risk per se.

      On your view you’ve got God creating unnecessarily and freely. But you also want to say that when God acts freely, he’s motivated to act by the comparatively greater preferability of one outcome over another. And you understand the choice to create in such terms. Creating (at all) presents God a greater motivation than not creating at all, and this motivation just is the perceived greater pleasure to be experienced by God via creation than can be had otherwise.

      Now, you’re agreeing that God always chooses the preferable option (create as opposed to not create at all). And yet God creates freely (= could not create). Do you see any problems here?

      Like

      • Jeff says:

        You’re still trying to pigeon hole me to narrowly.

        To the extent that God actually KNOWS future outcomes of a course of action, He performs that which He prefers. But to explain God’s essential benevolence, I have to say that this would be compatibilistic to the extent that it’s social as well as aesthetic outcomes that are known. This is not true of us in all cases since we’re not essentially benevolent.

        But when God perceives that the only way a particular good outcome for the Son can come about by taking a risk (i.e., there is no certainty of the kind above) for Himself, He has to CHOOSE to risk or not. It is inconceivable to me how such voluntary risk is not an act of voluntary love. It’s quintessential love. It’s WHY we can say LOVE endures and suffers long.

        What I hear you saying is that there is an absolute intensity of divine satisfaction which, by virtue of BEING absolute, is not relativized by integration with any other experience. But this is to say that integration is not inevitable after all for sentient experience. Because, as you’ve seemed to be arguing, integration just MEANS, at least in part, the relativizing we’ve been talking about. Your view seems to not only violate the law of non-contradiction (by having it both ways), but the absence of relativizing implies that divine love does NOT suffer long nor endure.

        What am I misunderstanding about your argument?

        Like

  24. Jeff says:

    I’m happy to admit that tying my view down air-tight is hard. But you seem to be eradicating any possibility of explaining divine motivation to do anything different than just involuntarily enjoy the one and only feeling with the one and only intensity that can ever manage to get on the divine conscious radar.

    To be motivated to initiate a new course of action seemingly requires the recognition that there is a distinct (from one’s current sentient state) desirable satisfaction or a diminishing of dissatisfaction that can be attained thereby. Otherwise, we have no analogy for it whatsoever. Maybe there is none. But in that case, we’re both wrong. For in that case, divine motivation is inconceivable. My question is, is it even meaningful to speak of divine freedom if divine motivation is inconceivable? I’m not seeing how.

    Like

  25. Jeff says:

    What we’re debating, here, though, IS very important. Because if we can’t conceive of divine freedom, we can’t account for finality of explanation for our experience. And if we can’t account for finality of explanation for our experience, inductive criteria don’t seem to be criteria for warranted belief. Then we’re in the same boat as atheists and deists, epistemologically. At that point, debate is futile.

    Like

  26. tgbelt says:

    J: To be motivated to initiate a new course of action seemingly requires the recognition that there is a distinct (from one’s current sentient state) desirable satisfaction or a diminishing of dissatisfaction that can be attained thereby.

    T: And your view is that God’s choice to create is thus motivated, i.e., by some satisfaction not possessed by him sans creation which God aims to achieve via creation. God deems creating to be thus ‘preferable’ to not creating. And you believe God is not capable of doing other than what God deems to be preferable.

    So again, my question is: How do you avoid the necessity of the world? To posit God “sans creation” at all would be to posit God in the less preferable state. God is less preferable to God than God + World. But on your view God always does what’s preferable. So how’s the world ever fail to exist?

    J: Otherwise, we have no analogy for it whatsoever. Maybe there is none. But in that case, we’re both wrong. For in that case, divine motivation is inconceivable. My question is, is it even meaningful to speak of divine freedom if divine motivation is inconceivable? I’m not seeing how.

    T: It makes perfect sense to me that one can be self-motivated (i.e., not dependent upon affections of dissatisfaction aroused in me by others or by the contemplation of some version of myself as more happy than I presently am). I claim it IS meaningful to conceive of being fully satisfied and yet choosing to adopt some new course of action IF we understand the action to be an expression of the delight in question. Acts (and so experiences) can be self-expressive or self-constituting. One can be constituted by a delight through self-constituting events (in God’s case the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, etc., as best we can understand them) and yet express this delight without having to view the expression as a means of increasing that delight.

    You’ve already make it clear that this makes zero sense to you, is utterly without analogy and so incoherent. But everything I would want to say depends upon its meaningfulness (and I do find it meaningful), so we may be finished for now.

    Hindus express this freedom as ‘Lila’ (Leela) which means ‘sport’ or ‘play’. And they view the cosmos as divine sportive or playful activity, created out of bliss for bliss, because Brahman is already complete. Creation is divine creative self-expression, pardon my French, ‘just for the hell of it’. God’s not trying to improve upon himself, increase his delight, or otherwise achieve something he doesn’t already have and isn’t already the perfection of. We’re not a “project” of that sort for God. So the freedom exercised in creating is not strictly speaking of the philosophical ‘libertarian’ sort at work in discursive deliberation where we “weigh the options.” It’s far more akin to Hindu ‘Lila’, or the kind of self-expressive motivation at work in artistic creation. Think of an artist fully satisfied with her work who continues to express herself through new creations of art. She doesn’t undertake them because, as you say, she “recognizes some distinct (from her current sentient state) desirable satisfaction to be attained thereby.” On the contrary, she may simply express her current state of delight in contingent ways.

    You gotta get out Bro! When’s the last time you went to an art museum?

    Like

  27. Jeff says:

    Tom: T: And your view is that God’s choice to create is thus motivated, i.e., by some satisfaction not possessed by him sans creation which God aims to achieve via creation. God deems creating to be thus ‘preferable’ to not creating. And you believe God is not capable of doing other than what God deems to be preferable.

    J: No, Tom. That’s precisely what I’m denying. Risk means creation might can turn out to be a wash. When that’s the case, it’s plausible that God would NOT have created had He KNOWN this up front. But given an OPEN future, He CAN’T know that up front. He might can only know that it MIGHT be better than a wash. But in either case, He won’t REGRET having created. But not regretting, is not the same thing, Tom, as saying He would have created even KNOWING it would be a wash.

    T: So how’s the world ever fail to exist?

    J: So as I just explained, I DON’T have that problem — YOU DO! You’re the one saying God HAS a motivation to create with absolutely ZERO reason NOT to create. I’m saying God always has a reason NOT to create — the deterrence of suffering for those cases where God can, at best case, only render creation a wash. This makes creation a BONA-FIDE voluntary CHOICE. As open theists, we say God simply can’t foreknow in the way traditionalists do.

    T: One can be constituted by a delight through self-constituting events

    J: Tom, just how ignorant do you think God is? Huh? How can God, of all intelligent beings, NOT be aware of precisely what you’re saying you know? Come on, Tom. God, of all intelligent beings, MUST know this. Thus, you ARE positing a DISTINCT delight that can be thought of as experienced. And this simply MEANS that there is no absolute satisfaction for God that is NEVER relativized. You’re contradicting yourself, Tom. This is probably why the EO’s don’t follow you’re approach. They realize that contradictions are unintelligible.

    T: Think of an artist fully satisfied with her work who continues to express herself through new creations of art. She doesn’t undertake them because, as you say, she “recognizes some distinct (from her current sentient state) desirable satisfaction to be attained thereby.”

    J: Tom, it’s YOU that needs to get out more. Artists are KNOWN for saying things like, ” I HAD to do it. I couldn’t resist it.” IOW, Tom, that stuff is easily explained compatibilistically. What needs to be accounted for is the FREE creation of the world, not a necessary god-world relationship. You have yet to do that.

    Like

    • tgbelt says:

      Tom: T: And your view is that God’s choice to create is thus motivated, i.e., by some satisfaction not possessed by him sans creation which God aims to achieve via creation. God deems creating to be thus ‘preferable’ to not creating. And you believe God is not capable of doing other than what God deems to be preferable.

      J: No, Tom. That’s precisely what I’m denying. Risk means creation might turn out to be a wash. When that’s the case, it’s plausible that God would NOT have created had He KNOWN this up front. But given an OPEN future, He CAN’T know that up front. He might can only know that it MIGHT be better than a wash. But in either case, He won’t REGRET having created. But not regretting, is not the same thing, Tom, as saying He would have created even KNOWING it would be a wash.

      T: You’re missing my point. Even granting that God knows creation may be a wash, he is still “motivated” in your view “by some satisfaction distinct from any satisfaction he possesses” sans creation and it is FOR THIS SATISFACTION he risks creating. He MAY NOT get it. Fine. Let’s forget whether or not he’ll regret it if it’s a wash. That’s a different/second problem. For now it’s just the fact that choosing to create at all (and to risk creation being a wash) is in your view a properly motivated choice, and that means — in your view — that God must “perceive some distinction satisfaction to be had in creating which he does not know sans creation” and it is this satisfaction which he — in your view — finds preferable to remaining as he is sans creation. This preference is his motivation in your view. That’s the problem. Because if God by nature does what God finds preferable (which you agree is the case), then there’s no way to avoid creation’s necessity.

      ———————————

      T: So how’s the world ever fail to exist?

      J: So as I just explained, I DON’T have that problem — YOU DO! You’re the one saying God HAS a motivation to create with absolutely ZERO reason NOT to create. I’m saying God always has a reason NOT to create — the deterrence of suffering for those cases where God can, at best case, only render creation a wash.

      T: No, I’m saying God’s motivation is equal re: creating vs not creating (see below). On your definition of motivation, leaving this sans creational state is only intelligible (giving the divine motivation by a distinct satisfaction to be gained in creation) if creating is PREFERABLE to not creating. God doesn’t have sufficient reason, on your view, not to create. The risk of it being a wash that you mention does absolutely nothing to change this, Jeff. The risk increases your problem because not only does God find adding perceived creational-satisfaction to himself preferable than not, he’s also willing to risk suffering just to TRY to achieve it. All risk means on your view is that God is ESPECIALLY motivated; he feels that perceived creational-satisfaction SO PREFERABLE that he’s willing to risk suffering to TRY to get it.

      J: I DON’T have that problem — YOU DO! You’re the one saying God HAS a motivation to create with absolutely ZERO reason NOT to create.

      T: No. I’m saying God’s motivations are better imagined as equal and that creation is NOT a “libertarian” choice (at least not in any standard philosophical definition). Nor is it compatibilistic. God doesn’t weigh satisfaction/dissatisfaction options and find creation preferable and choose libertarianly. I’m saying God’s triune bliss is metaphysically speaking INDIFFERENT to the world (I mean FREE OF the world). Creation is, as I said following the Hindu concept of Lila, just sportive, creative playfulness. It’s purposive, yes. But only in the sense any unnecessary work of ART can be purpose-driven — to EXPRESS and not CONSTITUTE.

      ————————————–

      T: One can be constituted by a delight through self-constituting events…

      J: Tom, just how ignorant do you think God is? Huh? How can God, of all intelligent beings, NOT be aware of precisely what you’re saying you know? Come on, Tom. God, of all intelligent beings, MUST know this. Thus, you ARE positing a DISTINCT delight that can be thought of as experienced. And this simply MEANS that there is no absolute satisfaction for God that is NEVER relativized. You’re contradicting yourself, Tom.

      T: Yes, God knows all this. I don’t have to imagine God to be ignorant of how happy he is in order to make sense of his creating as I envision it. I need him to KNOW how happy he is; i.e., he KNOWS creation isn’t going to make him a better God, a happier God, a more complete God, an existentially more self-realized God. God is all those things without us. But he creates literally…for fun…as a contingent expression of his ad intra delight.

      J: This is probably why the EO’s don’t follow you’re approach. They realize that contradictions are unintelligible.

      T: The Eastern Orthodox tend to be attracted by contradictions. They expect them. But I don’t imagine any Orthodox person would agree with me entirely on this (because I deny that God is actus purus). But they’d all agree that God is not “motivated to create” as you say “by some distinct joy he does not possess.”

      —————————

      T: Think of an artist fully satisfied with her work who continues to express herself through new creations of art. She doesn’t undertake them because, as you say, she “recognizes some distinct (from her current sentient state) desirable satisfaction to be attained thereby.”

      J: Tom, it’s YOU that needs to get out more.

      T: I’ll agree to that!

      J: Artists are KNOWN for saying things like, ” I HAD to do it. I couldn’t resist it.” IOW, Tom, that stuff is easily explained compatibilistically.

      T: I don’t doubt it can be that. I just don’t think it HAS to be that, and I can imagine it not being that. I’ve had experiences of delight that felt inexhaustible, joy so intense that multiple expressions came of it. Are SOME expressions of it necessary and partly constitutive of the joy itself (in somem compatibilistic sense)? Sure, I imagine so. But not all are, and not all NEED to be. Some expressions are not pursued because they represented a way of gaining a further joy we don’t have. Point is that whatever expression of this delight constitutes God’s self-sufficient existence, its expression in creation is gracious, superfluous, extravagant, and needn’t require motivation in terms of some perceived satisfaction to be gained in the expression which is not already present in God. That’s WHY it’s EX-pressive and not constitutive of God.

      CAPS are just for emphasis…not yelling! ;o)

      Like

  28. Jeff says:

    T: Let’s forget whether or not he’ll regret it if it’s a wash.

    J: More later – snowed under. But that’s what I’m NOT saying. I’m saying a “wash” is not regretted (how could it be?), but a “wash” is known by God to be insufficient to motivate UP FRONT when the choice to create is being contemplated. That’s why RISK is involved.

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    • tgbelt says:

      T: Let’s forget whether or not he’ll regret it if it’s a wash.

      J: More later – snowed under. But that’s what I’m NOT saying. I’m saying a “wash” is not regretted (how could it be?)

      T: I only put the question aside for another day. I didn’t take a position. But since you asked…one could easily argue that regret is the felt absence of that distinct satisfaction FOR WHICH one risked. It can ALSO be regret over loss of what was originally possessed IF that was risked. But it doesn’t have to be that. We regret washes all the time. If one felt that adding some distinct (as yet unpossessed/unknown) satisfaction to present satisfactions was so preferable than not doing so that one was willing to risk greatly just to try to achieve the addition, then it’s perfectly understandable that one would after all attempts are done regret not achieving what one felt was preferable.

      But I don’t want to go down this road. It’s not that relevant to the point and will only distract us.

      J: …a “wash” is known by God to be insufficient to motivate UP FRONT when the choice to create is being contemplated. That’s why RISK is involved.

      T: ‘Washes’ and ‘risks’ can’t possibly motivate choice. Obviously. What motivates is (on your view) that distinct unpossessed satisfaction for which God risks. That’s the problem for a lot of people and that is what entails the world’s necessity on the assumption that God always (by nature) does what God believes is “preferable.” The risk and wash have nothing to do with this.

      Like

  29. Jeff says:

    T: But since you asked…one could easily argue that regret is the felt absence of that distinct satisfaction FOR WHICH one risked.

    J: I have no idea what a “felt absence” of a satisfying feeling is. A feeling is not the absence of a feeling. Feelings are satisfying or dissatisfying. So I would say that regret would mean that God CONCLUDED that the negative feelings He experienced due to creation outweighed the positive feelings He experienced due to creation, per His own evaluation thereof. A wash, on the other hand, would mean that God concludes that neither those negatives nor those positives outweighed one another. This would mean that God would have no regret, but on the other hand, He would realize that He wouldn’t have motivation to chose to create HAD He known this up front.

    T: It can ALSO be regret over loss of what was originally possessed IF that was risked.

    J: And we agree that God loses no “thing.” There is nothing BUT the godhead sans creation. And the godhead still exists when creation has attained all temporal ends of its existence. And my approach doesn’t even imply that God “loses” strategically in the sense that creation can be regretted. Indeed, that may be what Genesis is telling us — that God can always pull a Noah, etc to render creation at LEAST unregrettable. And I’m not seeing how we could account for warranted belief of any kind otherwise. And apart from warranted belief, God is no less arbitrary as the hyper-calvinist God as any other “god.”

    T: We regret washes all the time.

    J: I would need an example to understand how you’re using the term.

    T: If one felt that adding some distinct (as yet unpossessed/unknown) satisfaction …

    J: Well, let’s say “unexperienced” rather than “unknown.” It has to be known in some sense to motivate. And here’s where I say the plurality of the godhead can help us explain that “reality” can BE a free creation. Because we can say that the Father’s main motivation for creation IS the satisfaction of the Son. And all we need to posit (and this doesn’t contradict scripture or anything we know self-evidently) is that the Son can get a DIFFERENT kind of satisfaction from creation than the Father can. And this isn’t even remotely counter-inductive. For to deny that is no more plausible per inductive criteria.

    T: … to present satisfactions was so preferable than not doing so that one was willing to risk greatly just to try to achieve the addition, then it’s perfectly understandable that one would after all attempts are done regret not achieving what one felt was preferable.

    J: Indeed, one could regret THAT and still not regret CREATING per se. All we need to posit is that neither the positives nor the negatives outweighed one another, per God’s evaluation, once all temporal ends for that creation were completed. I’m positing that this is probably the worst case scenario possible for a creation. This is what I mean by the COMPETENCE of God. Because if God can fail Himself in the sense you think I’m positing, then He can maybe fail us. And there goes “warranted belief.”

    J: …a “wash” is known by God to be insufficient to motivate UP FRONT when the choice to create is being contemplated. That’s why RISK is involved.

    T: ‘Washes’ and ‘risks’ can’t possibly motivate choice. Obviously.

    J: Right. What can motivate is the potential for a BOON, not a mere wash. And it may very well be that the Father can render creation a boon for the Son even IF it’s a mere wash for Himself. And this means that creation can always BE a boon for the godhead per se.

    T: What motivates is (on your view) that distinct unpossessed satisfaction for which God risks. That’s the problem for a lot of people and that is what entails the world’s necessity on the assumption that God always (by nature) does what God believes is “preferable.” The risk and wash have nothing to do with this.

    J: On the contrary. It is risk (in the non-possibility-of-failing sense that I described) that renders conceivable the fact that God can experience a wash that He would have never chosen HAD He known it ahead of time. It’s the POTENTIAL for a boon for the Father that motivates unto a possible choice, but it’s the non-NECESSITY of the boon that makes it an ACTUAL choice and not a compatibilistic move. Your view does just the opposite. It makes it seemingly impossible to conceive of creation as a choice. For there is, per your description, ONLY motivation to create—none to NOT create.

    And, Tom, the only problem with a necessary creation is that it eliminates, as is the case for atheism, the finality of explanation and, therefore, the warrantedness of inductive criteria. That’s VERY problematic, epistemologically.

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  30. Jeff says:

    T: … to present satisfactions was so preferable than not doing so that one was willing to risk greatly just to try to achieve the addition, then it’s perfectly understandable that one would after all attempts are done regret not achieving what one felt was preferable.

    J1: Indeed, one could regret THAT and still not regret CREATING per se.

    J2: Actually, it’s a bit equivocal to say “sin” is a failure of God to achieve what He preferred. Sin, in the sense that it was not inevitable, had nothing to do with God’s capacity to achieve. That’s what open theism is all about. God can’t guarantee the outcomes of libertarian causality. Can God in some sense be disappointed that sin occurred? Of course, else what does “sin” even MEAN? If God is identically and equally intensely elated no matter what happens, I have no idea what “sin” even means. Indeed, I don’t even know how to account for the finality of explanation of my experience since divine libertarian causality is meaningless, given that positing.

    The only way out of this explanation-nullifying position that I can see is if God, like us, experiences sentient states FROM creation in a way such that they are consciously relativized in SOME sense to SOME degree.

    Like

    • tgbelt says:

      Thanks for the conversation, Jeff. I don’t know where to go from here because we seem to inhabit very different conceptual lives, intuitions, and the rest of it. I don’t know what that means except that it seems to me that my participation in the conversation is over. I can’t make any better sense of how I see things than I have, and you’re doing your best, yet much of what we each believes makes zero sense to the other.

      Wish you the best!
      Tom

      Like

  31. Jeff says:

    Fair enuff, Tom. But hopefully you can answer one question for me about the EO. You say:

    T: The Eastern Orthodox tend to be attracted by contradictions. They expect them. But I don’t imagine any Orthodox person would agree with me entirely on this (because I deny that God is actus purus). But they’d all agree that God is not “motivated to create” as you say “by some distinct joy he does not possess.”

    My question is, do the EO even claim that God is “motivated to create,” for fun or anything else (not that even understand what “fun” means in the context of your view of divine motivation)? My guess is that EO folks are as puzzled by what you’re saying as I am. I really do get WHY Aidan says God can’t be conceived, given what the EO deny of God. Given those denials, I can’t come up with an intelligible conception of God either.

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