Tying up loose ends—Part 2

exhaustedIt’s been a bit exhausting, but hang in there. We ended our previous post with expanding/qualifying Alan Rhoda’s propositions defining ‘open theism’ to include:

 

        P1 Monotheism
        P2 Causal openness (grounded in a multiplicity of causal agents)
        P3 Divine epistemic openness (DEO)
        P4 Creation ex nihilo (CEN)

Surely we’re done now, right? Unfortunately no.

Let me offer one last unacceptable theistic model which is in no way compatible with ‘open theism’ even though it can affirm P1-4. It’s possible to argue that God is not unqualifiedly benevolent. P1-4 is arguably compatible with divine malevolence. There’s no obvious logical contradiction generated by supposing that a malevolent (unloving, spiteful) deity created ex nihilo, granted us freedom to determine ourselves (and so faces a partly open future), but is not motivated by unconditional love in all that he does. He might just work against us and will our harm within the constraints of P1-4. This is of course utterly incompatible with the intent and vision of the authors of The Openness of God and other open theist authors and philosophers.

But has not Alan Rhoda specifically qualified the sort of ‘broad classical theism’ he has in mind for open theism to rule out such malevolence? Perhaps. In the classical (Anselmian) theism he argues from, God “essentially possesses a maximally excellent compossible set of great-making attributes, including maximal power, knowledge, and goodness.” And must not this ‘goodness’ in question be viewed as the sort of ‘essential unconditional divine benevolence to all’ that open theists have in mind? Arguably yes. But if so, then Alan and we would have to concede that Calvinists are not “classical theists” in the “broad sense” and that would be a hard sell indeed. It’s arguable that such benevolence toward all is the best conceivable great-making property, but is it so obvious as to preclude Calvinists’ from being classical theists? I’ll leave that for another time. In the end, we agree that such unfailing benevolence is definitive of the sort of theism we’re talking about. And since Alan’s interest is to naming those explicit beliefs definitive of open theism, let us make one last explicit qualification:

   P5 Divine benevolence (i.e., God unfailingly wills & pursues the final, highest good of all created things).

Sanders is clear that P5 implies a certain divine receptivity to the world. Not only is God ‘receptive’ in the sense that his knowledge of a changing temporal world is derived from that world (in which case God is in some sense “open to” the world). Sanders insists upon a certain ‘relational receptivity’ whereby God permits his purposes and desires for relationship with us to be rejected by us and whereby this rejection (indeed, all creaturely self-determination) is of consequence to God. This is what Sanders takes divine benevolence to mean. And there’s no doubt that Boyd and others agree. God is the unconditional love which both grants our freedom and runs the risks entailed in such freedom and yet pursues us unconditionally and without fail, intent upon our relationship to him as our highest good. This constitutes the ‘risky’ sort of providential venture which Sanders understands open theism to be.

This clarity gives us something to move forward with, and I hope all the debating parties will agree. If we list P1-5 in order of primacy, then “open theism” is defined (at least) as:

– Monotheism
– Unconditional divine benevolence
– Creation ex nihilo
– Causal openness (grounded in a multiplicity of causal agents)
– Divine epistemic openness

totally-exhausted-athletesNow, we may be wrong, but it appears to Dwayne and me that if we’re positing this kind of God (one who loves and relates to the world and its contingencies in unconditional love and who is himself the summum bonum and perfected goodness the participation in which is the highest good of all created things), there are no theistic traditions on the horizon we can see that fit this bill other than Christianity. If there are some other monotheistic faiths out there that affirm P1-5, what are they? If there are none, then what are we arguing about? Christianity is the only existing faith tradition in which all the claims and theological values/convictions of P1-5 are in fact the case. It is arguable that Judaism has the conceptual and religious wherewithal to express itself in such terms, and perhaps Rabbi Harold Kushner would be an example. We’re down with that! But an open theism grounded solely in the Jewish Scriptures simply is the root of the Christian understanding itself. It’s not a fundamentally different faith tradition per se. And if we want to agree that the Mu’tazila (8th—10th century school of thought in Islamic theology) were proto-open theists, cool.

Let me close. Sanders begins his summary of open theism as follows:

“According to openness theology, the triune God of love has, in almighty power, created all that is and is sovereign over all. In freedom God decided to create beings capable of experiencing his love. In creating us the divine intention was that we would come to experience the triune love and respond to it with love of our own and freely come to collaborate with God towards the achievement of his goals. We believe love is the primary characteristic of God because the triune Godhead has eternally loved even prior to any creation.”

In private correspondence he wouldn’t mind my sharing (because it restates points he’s already published), Greg clarifies:

“I don’t think the ‘open view of the future’ is a distinctly Christian thing. You find it among some pre-Christian and early AD Hellenistic philosophers (Epicureans and several Middle Platonists). And today you find it espoused by many non-Christians. But I do see ‘Open Theism’ as a distinctly Christian thing, for (a) it was birthed by Christians, (b) we have some distinctly Christian reasons for espousing the open view of the future, and (c) we have a distinctly Christian way in which we tweak the openness of the future. Unfortunately, most use ‘open theism’ and ‘the open view of the future’ interchangeably.”

What about the Trinity? Are we going to insist upon it? It’s admittedly difficult to hear trinitarians argue for its exclusion, but I’ll only point out that Sanders doesn’t get six words into his opening definition of “open theism” before mentioning the Trinity, and he couldn’t get through his first paragraph without three mentions of it. Dwayne and I aren’t in a position to resolve it, but “open theism,” even conceived as just a conversation starter, was nevertheless endowed with an intent, vision and a sense of mission biblically informed by the ’94 authors. We may have to live with the tension of having to revisit on a regular basis the distinction between those purely philosophical commitments involved in an “open view of the future” (which anyone might agree to and which only imply trinity and incarnation as Alan says) on the one hand, and that vision of a uniquely Christian fulfillment of this worldview described as “open theism” as envisioned and intended by those who started this conversation under that same name on the other hand. But whatever finally happens in terms of branding and name ownership, Dwayne and I are interested in one thing — an articulation of open theism solely in terms of the Christian gospel and the trinitarian hope it proffers. That’s where we’re coming from.

(Pictures here and here.)

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15 comments on “Tying up loose ends—Part 2

  1. fenoglios says:

    Hey… it’s Jacob again,

    Unless I’m reading you incorrectly, there’s an identification in “biblically informed” with “trinitarian” here, and it’s presumed against your assumed conversation partner – those-who-wish-to-exclude-trinitairanism-under-the-OT-category (such as myself). I personally would feel more respected by a re-assertion of the word “trinitarian,” and you wouldn’t lose anything conceptually.

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  2. yieldedone says:

    Jacob,

    Dwayne here. Tom can speak for himself, but here is my thought. It is simply the case that 1) the ’94 authors’ intent, vision, and sense of mission indeed came primarily from a biblically informed place, not merely philosophical and 2) in doing so, the ’94 authors affirmed triunity of God to be inextricably linked to unconditional divine benevolence. It seems that we can see that clearly from Dr. Sanders’ remarks…and Greg would not disagree.

    Personally, I don’t see stating these facts as inherently lacking respect for “those-who-wish-to-exclude-trinitairanism-under-the-OT-category ” at all. It is simply stating the facts of the matter. In other words, neither Tom nor myself are willfully, intentionally being disrespectful towards non-trinitarians in making the statement. So, I guess personally, I’m sorry if you feel slighted. I pray that you hope the best of us here. Clarity is the intent, not marginalization. Blessings!

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  3. fenoglios says:

    Oh… I think I understand, Dwayne. Y’all are saying that the ’94 authors took their trinitarianism as being biblical. Y’all aren’t asserting here that trinitarianism is biblical (despite the fact that y’all believe that). Am I right? Or are y’all adding the assertion that trinitarianism is biblical in your above statements?

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    • tgbelt says:

      Jacob, we’re not here (in these two posts) arguing that trinitarianism is biblical or that Christianity is essentially trinitarian, but of course we do believe both.

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    • tgbelt says:

      I think a separate but good conversation to have is whether one can get to all of P1-6 without the trinity. I wouldn’t know how to get there; i.e., trinitarianism is the only way I know how to be an open theist. But I appreciate non-trinitarians who say they affirm all 1-6 all without the trinity. Alan prefers to make the trinity the quintessential but implied truth of P1-6. Like I said, I’m not in a position (not a pioneer of OT, got not PhD with me, and hardly no respect you see–[that was meant to be a rap!] to resolve that for OT, though I think believe its settled for Christianity.

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  4. Rob Parris says:

    On point as always Tom…100% agree.

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  5. Jeff says:

    So I don’t see mono-substantial trinitarianism as a “way” to “do” open theism (or anything else, for that matter) since I don’t know how to define the putatively relevant terms in the putative definition(s). But I would say that the godhead must be a plurality of essential persons existing in essential harmony to plausibly/inductively explain our experience. And I’m not aware of any non-Christian interpretation of reality that even posits that much.

    To see the significance of this, suppose the godhead is a plurality of essential persons that aren’t ESSENTIALLY in harmony. Then you have to explain that very harmony that is explanatory of our experience as a contingent effect of some antecedent conditions. IOW, the divine attribute of “benevolence” is most inductively (If not only) explained by an ESSENTIALLY social Creator, not one that “becomes” social contingently after an infinite history of a-social existence.

    How would we explain such a contingent origin of a divine, social nature or, alternatively, the preference of an a-social Creator in warranted human belief? “Benevolence” is a species OF sociality. Even bona-fide malevolence (as opposed to the mere pleasure derived from the wielding of raw power per se with NO regard for its sentient affects upon others), if there is such a thing, seems to be social in nature.

    IOW, it seems that where there is no social nature, there is no benevolence or malevolence, either. And therefore, there is no way to account for warranted belief. For if discursive truth-apprehension holds no discernible relation to our satisfaction, it is not only non-voluntarily acquired (since all voluntary action is satisfaction-oriented or dissatisfaction-averse), but therefore void of discernible value. And where there is no discernible value, warrant is meaningless. But if discursive truth-apprehension is satisfaction oriented, then warranted belief can conceivably exist because it has conceivable explanatory criteria. And divine benevolence is the only way to explain that relationship since it’s the only way to explain it finitely consistently with the principle of causality. We do this by the analogy of sympathy.

    So scripture, interpreted inductively, tells us the godhead consists of a plurality of benevolent persons. And the most parsimonious set of the Creator’s attributes that can be conceived of as necessary conditions of warranted belief includes the attribute of an ESSENTIAL social nature. What’s the chance that this convergence is coincidental given the other evidence for a super-natural explanation of the rapid spread of Christianity across a violently-resistant Roman empire?

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    • tgbelt says:

      Hi Jeff. Good to hear from ya.

      In your view then, this essential relatedness of the divine persons constitutes the benevolence which just is God’s existence, right? Do you take this benevolent relatedness, in its actuality, to be necessary or contingent?

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      • Jeff says:

        I take the benevolent relatedness to be essential. Because I see benevolent teleology to be the only finite way to explain anything consistent with the principle of causality and yet see no possible criteria by which to distinguish an uncaused event from a caused one. In short, I see benevolent theism as the only conceivable way to explain anything in a “warranted” (as opposed to arbitrary) way.

        On the other hand, since I can’t make sense of a “beginning of time” (since that seems to require using time as a frame of reference to conceive of a “before time”), to say that either a social or a benevolently-social nature BEGAN to exist contingently means that nature was either a-social or malevolent in the previous infinite past. How then could we explain the contingent origin of such a change in nature? It seems impossible.

        Benevolent teleology is what makes explanation of our experience possible (because of its finality) and warranted (because it provides a conceivable criteria of warrant, namely the criteria of our greatest, long-term satisfaction). The latter implies that we have ALREADY inferred that our long-term worth-while-satisfaction is at least one purpose of our existence and that our capacity to act voluntarily unto it is a means to the fulfillment of that purpose.

        Even atheists try to get this kind of satisfaction-based warrant by using blind-but-ever-adaptive change that includes satisfaction as ONE adaptive “director” of adaptive behavior. But the atheist is stuck with either denying the principle of causality or explaining events by an infinite series of past causes (which is impossible). But there is no criteria by which we can non-arbitrarily distinguish uncaused events from caused ones. And this leaves us with no warrant for beliefs.

        But to say that nothing can be believed with warrant is to say that nothing of discernible epistemological value is given to a contingent being by a Giver. And the latter is to say there is no Giver that requires anything in terms of beliefs (i.e., accountability, if it exists, is completely unrelated to beliefs). But that is counter-intuitive and contra-scriptural. Scripture frequently ties accountability to knowledge/belief.

        But to your more specific question — “this essential relatedness of the divine persons constitutes the benevolence which just is God’s existence, right?” — my sense of how human categories relate to language is such that your question makes no sense. Existence, when we use it in the context of substance-attribute thought, applies only to beings. As Porter said, a substance is a particular being distinguished BY its attributes.

        Time, space, attributes, lengths, widths, durations, etc are not substance-beings, to my mind. I can conceive of a substance existing, but I can’t conceive of time as existing since the very word “existing” requires the concept time for its very meaning. IOW, I can’t conceive of time if I have to say time “exists.” And substances have lenghts, widths, etc. So a length can be an attribute of a substance-being, but a substance-being is not an attribute of anything else, as I see it.

        So, for me, there is nothing intelligible in saying “relatedness” is an “existence.” For there to be “relatedness,” in the substance-attribute sense of the word, there has to be 2 or more “existing” substances. Otherwise, I don’t know what “relatedness” means such that it applies to the explanation of EVENTS.

        I can say one length is related to another length in terms of the relation “more or less.” But this is a purely quantitative relation. As such, that relatedness per se can’t explain events and therefore experience. The kind of relatedness that explains EVENTS or experience seems to be a relatedness of bona-fide substance-beings. Because substance-beings have the capacity to cause effects. That capacity is an attribute. And teleological substance-beings have the capacity to cause effects voluntarily.

        And this is why I have no problem with Christian mono-theism being just what scripture describes it as–the fact that the Father is the ONE God. And that’s because He is the ultimate teleological agent in the sense that all things are out of Him (as opposed to merely through or via Him). Theism, to be explanatory at all, has to be teleological. And the Father is that ultimate teleological agent. But this in no wise negates the fact that the Son’s existence is a NECESSARY condition of creation and its ends. Nor does it negate the fact that creation exists FOR the Son.

        The fact that we benefit from the way They become beneficiaries of creation seems to be simply due to their essential benevolence and how it inevitably plays out teleologically. But it’s only teleologically that we can explain creation as a beneficiary of their benevolence. If creation just popped out of existence right now, we couldn’t plausibly say that creation is the effect of a benevolent-competent libertarian agent. For divine benevolence to be warrantedly-explanatory, the best has to be yet to come. IOW, a world history that includes an infant tortured right up to the time of an annihilation of creation is a world history inexplicable by a benevolent godhead.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: So, for me, there is nothing intelligible in saying “relatedness” is an “existence.” For there to be “relatedness,” in the substance-attribute sense of the word, there has to be 2 or more “existing” substances.

        Tom: Really good to hear from you Bro. Usually we start off nice, get frustrated, and then walk away. I’m a bit reluctant to engage now because we have vastly different approaches when it comes to transcendence. So I’m just gonna suggest what seems implied in your comments. If you don’t see it, I’m totally fine with that.

        The same logic that insists you affirm ‘three substances’, Jeff, also requires you to call it polytheism (that is, if you think Son and Spirit are equally divine with the Father; i.e., you’re not accommodating these relations to a subordinationist ontology). But if you go with a subordinationist ontology, then you’ve got Unitarianism with a pantheon of lesser, created ‘gods’ for whom the Son is pre-eminent. And you can still argue the Son is the agency through which God creates and creation can still be about him if you want. You just don’t have ‘trinitarian monotheism’—One Triune God.

        But you seem to want more than Unitarianism and a subordinationist pantheon of created ‘gods’, because you agree Son and Spirit are (‘AS’ the Father) not created, AND you agree they three exist only in their distinct personal relations. You agree there’s nothing underneath or more metaphysically substantial to their existence as persons (or as ‘substances’ as you prefer) than their actual experienced oneness in love. THAT is a thing which ONLY trinitarians say. This ‘exist only in relation to’ and ‘as mutually co-constitutive’ puts you on the trinitarian side of things. It also challenges your logic too, for in all the created realm I don’t know of any two or more ‘substances’ whose existence metaphysically entails the other the way you’re supposing the triune persons do. These are not three ‘substances’ (if you’re limiting your definition, as you insist we must, to the world). If you want that kind of unity (3 uncreated persons who only exist in/as the mutual relations they are), I suggest staying as far away from calling them ‘three substances’ as you possibly can. Three substances definitely lands you in polytheism land.

        I’d say the same of Greg when it comes to his kenoticism. He only gets the kind of absolute relational dissolution between Father and Son that he wants if Father and Son are essentially two independent substances whose experienced unity is a contingent feature of their relationship. When it comes to his Christology (like most evangelicals I fear), Greg is a polytheist as far as I can tell. He tries to salvage this as monotheism by say, “Well, the unity of the persons is DEEPER than even their experience of each other.” That’s kenotic insanity—metaphysically speaking, given what Greg has already published on the Trinity. He drank the Kool-Aid.

        ——————–

        Having said all that, one final comment. You agreed on the indissoluble nature of the relations, saying, “I take the benevolent relatedness to be essential.” So how do you see the relation between Father and Son as experienced benevolence continuing unabated in its necessary uncreatedness when the Son incarnates into Mary’s womb? Where and how’s that metaphysically necessary benevolent relationality being experienced by Father and Son?

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  6. Jeff says:

    Jeff-1: IOW, a world history that includes an infant tortured right up to the time of an annihilation of creation is a world history inexplicable by a benevolent godhead.

    Jeff-2 (correction): IOW, a world history that includes an infant tortured right up to the time of an annihilation of creation is a world history inexplicable by a benevolent-COMPETENT godhead.

    IOW, it may be conceivable, as far as I can tell, that such a world history is consistent with that world being designed with benevolent INTENT. But what we need for warranted belief is that the intent is “backed-up” with the competence to teleologically work out that history such that it truly IS worth-while to the teleological creatures in it. Then, and only then, can we have warranted belief. Because only then can we get the relation between satisfaction and truth that makes warranted belief intelligible. And without warranted belief, it’s hard to conceive of how to make sense of accountability in any sense of the word. And it’s hard to conceive of how to make sense of Christianity (or benevolent theism, for that matter), if accountability isn’t a real aspect of creation. It seems that what we need for rationality to have to do with morality is that both accountability AND ultimate worth-while-satisfactory existence be necessary conditions of the intelligibility of a rational, moral order.

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    • Jeff says:

      Tom: Three substances definitely lands you in polytheism land.

      J: The problem I have with this statement is that the definition of theism, and therefore polytheism, ultimately depends on the definition of “god.” And in Hebrew and Greek, the word “god” is not constrained to what Westerners typically mean by it. Per scripture, the Father is the one God in the ONE sense that the Father is He out of whom are all things. And ultimately, what people tend to fundamentally think of as deity is the teleological agent or agents that INTENDED the world order to BE the rational, moral order we virtually irresistibly infer it to be. So the “out of whom” makes perfect teleological sense when applied to Father that way.

      It is not, per scripture, the case that all things are out of the Son, though. But it is imminently proper to call the Son “god” using the Hebrew and Greek meanings of those words. Indeed, the Son and Spirit are more properly divine than all else called “god” in those languages other than the Father Himself. Because they, too, are necessary conditions of the existence of creation and its particular orderliness. Apart from them, creation is inexplicable. If the Father has no Spirit, we can’t account for His NATURE. And voluntary choice is inconceivable apart from a sentient and intellectual NATURE.

      But it doesn’t follow that what we call the “Son” is subordinate to the Father except in respect to a creation that is only OUT of Him or that multiple necessary beings are problematic unless it can be shown that a single being more parsimoniously explains or explains with greater breadth. But as I said, a mono-substantial trinity seems impossible to define in terms of human categories, and therefore it seems to explain nothing. It is a belief seemingly OUTSIDE the realm of warranted belief and therefore seems void of any relation to intelligible accountability, even if true as per some supra-categorical meaning of “person,” etc.

      Tom: You agreed on the indissoluble nature of the relations, saying, “I take the benevolent relatedness to be essential.” So how do you see the relation between Father and Son as experienced benevolence continuing unabated in its necessary uncreatedness when the Son incarnates into Mary’s womb? Where and how’s that metaphysically necessary benevolent relationality being experienced by Father and Son?

      J: First, as you would agree, a relation per se need not be consciously experienced to be a relation. Two fundamental particles have a relation of distance whether or not they are conscious of the distance between them, e.g. But teleologically-chosen STATES OF AFFAIRS are in a sense personal in the minimal sense that they are voluntarily (i.e., by a person for personal motives) chosen. Similarly, teleologically-chosen STATES OF AFFAIRS that are chosen for the sake of ANOTHER personal being are in a minimal sense SOCIAL states of affairs. By analogy, if I choose to voluntarily become unconscious in a surgery to be performed to take an organ of mine that I want to donate to another, that whole state of affairs has a social relationality to it simply because it is intended for the good of ANOTHER social being. I’m unconsious, yes; but my intent is still being instantiated in a sense in the existential means to the intended end.

      But it’s even more so the case with the Father and Son. Because the competence and necessary-existence of the Father ASSURES that nothing is ultimately at risk in the chosen state of temporary unconsciousness. And the Father is affectionately-interested in the Son, even if he’s unconscious, rendering it true, post-creation even, that the ultimate teleological Designer of creation’s rational and moral order is essentially social, and benevolently so. This is what renders warranted belief intelligible and explicable.

      But disregard all the above if you find it unsatisfsactory: At bare minimum, even if it’s the case that ONLY the Father is essentially social (because sociality requires consciousness), it is still the case that the “ONE God out of whom are all things” that scripture speaks of still qualifies thus (He’s in social relation with creatures even while Jesus was unconscious), rendering Him explanatory of our experience in a teleological way. Moreover, I can’t even get this far without positing the conscious divine sociality sans creation that we agree on and that renders creation FOR the Son.

      And I do think supra-categorical transcendence is not discernibly implausible. It’s just that, as I understand it, positing supra-categorical transcendence is done to satisfy us in ways distinct from the way inductive warranted belief does. Positing supra-categorical transcendence is done to demonstrate to our satisfaction, in yet another way than philosophers have already, that naive falsificationism is logically impossible and that, therefore, theism per se is unfalsifiable even if some “versions” of it are of no conceivable value due to being contradictory and/or unintelligible and therefore non-explanatory of anything.

      E.g., I appeal to transcendence as a way of expressing the unfalsifiability of my belief that God’s beliefs correspond to reality NON-serendipitously even though I have no idea how to explain that. But explaining my experience doesn’t require me explaining such a correspondence. God’s motivating BELIEFS and powers are sufficient to EXPLAIN my experience whether or not those beliefs correspond with reality serendipitously.

      But to go further and deny that God even believes (what we prefer to say He also knows, so that the analogy of divine and human intellect is greater) anything is to render God completely non-explanatory. And this in turn renders warranted belief indistinguishable from unwarranted belief (atheism can’t account for warranted belief).
      Warranted belief is discursively-derived belief, which requires that we’re using intelligible concepts in our premises and/or analysis. Warranted belief seems to be a necessary condition of the intelligibility of accountability.

      What I find intuitive is that God did not originally intend a world where anyone need worry that God would harm or withhold any good merely for not believing what has no discernible warrant/plausibility. And so far, you seem to be contradicting my intuition in that respect.
      This is the issue at stake for me in our disagreement. I have no problem with God giving differentially for His own purposes. But that’s another thing altogether. But you seem to be saying that God originally meant for me to NOT experience some good MERELY because I don’t insist that an unintelligible statement is somehow nevertheless true in terms of some inconceivable, supra-intuitive, transcendent aspect of reality–even though I see no criteria that renders such an insistence satisfactory in any sense.

      Now, if you’re actually saying that you actually know what you mean by a person that is neither a being/substance, an attribute, nor anything else humans qua humans have categories for, then that’s another story altogether. Because then you’re saying God has given you super-human understanding. Paul claimed the same, but without saying those who didn’t have it were necessarily non-Christians (1 Cor. 2). As such, Paul didn’t render the very definition of “Christian” unintelligible to non-Christians. That’s a significant difference.

      In the past, you have seemed averse to the notion of God electing independent of human volition, even if it didn’t include “double-predestination.” But now you see to be contending for something basically like it–a divinely-endowed good given to SOME independent of anything God has given to them by which they could accountably choose. Because I don’t see your criteria for positing transcendence in the case of mono-substantial trinitarianism (surely we need a criteria for positing transcendence, lest we have to say there is warrant in positing it as a justification for every belief out there, however absurd). And this makes me wonder if you’ve changed your mind about the roles of human volition or whether I’m ignorant of what you think the necessary conditions of accountable choice are. For me, the existence of belief that is distinguishably warranted is a necessary condition of accountable choice.

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      • tgbelt says:

        Thanks Jeff! You got a lot there. Too much to hit every point.

        I do think all things created are “out of” Christ in the sense that he is the divine creative agency of God, for all things are created through him and are sustained in the immediacy of their becoming in him.

        As F, S, and SP are uncreated deity, they’re categorically other than all created entities and share the same uncreated nature.

        Re: the necessity of the divine relations, of course a relation ‘per se’ need not be consciously experience by created beings. We take naps and go under anesthesia, so we need to remain ‘conscious’. But created relations are by definition characterized by their contingency and embodiment. That’s just the point; the divine relations are not created or contingent or embodied. F, S, and SP don’t nap or take a break from being actually, consciously related to one another; there’s nothing more ontologically fundamental underneath their experiencing each other which might sustain their relations while one is napping or on the operating table. It’s out of the question. So we’ll just disagree on that.

        Re: “supra-categorical transcendence.” I’m glad to hear you think it is “not discernibly implausible.” But as you understand it, transcendence is posited “to demonstrate to our satisfaction that naive falsificationism is logically impossible and that theism per se is unfalsifiable.” That’s not my understanding of divine transcendence (what it amounts to, why we posit it, and how it functions religiously).

        Re: your “What I find intuitive is that God did not originally intend a world where anyone need worry that God would harm or withhold any good merely for not believing what has no discernible warrant/plausibility. And so far, you seem to be contradicting my intuition in that respect. This is the issue at stake for me in our disagreement.” Nothing about divine transcendence as traditionally viewed, or apophaticism per se, requires us to dismiss the intuition that God is benevolent or that whatever consequences there may be for our failure to maximize our natural capacities for benevolent living they may require of us belief in what is not warranted or plausible. You’ve misunderstood the logic of transcendence from the start.

        Blessings,
        Tom

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  7. Jeff says:

    Tom: I do think all things created are “out of” Christ in the sense that he is the divine creative agency of God, for all things are created through him

    J: Indeed, that’s one sense of “out of.” But it is pretty clear the way scripture juxtaposes “out of” next to “through” (amongst other such language like “One God and one mediator BETWEEN man and God–the man Christ Jesus”) that scripture is trying to emphasize a distinction. And that distinction is what renders the Father the ULTIMATE teleological mind/originator of creation whether or not the Son did or needed to consent to it for its instantiation THROUGH him.

    Tom: As F, S, and SP are uncreated deity, they’re categorically other than all created entities and share the same uncreated nature.

    J: That language (“THE same uncreated nature”) seems to imply that that the 3 necessarily have an IDENTICAL nature by virtue of being uncreated. But that simply doesn’t follow. The only thing that follows from the truth of the claim that the 3 are uncreated is that they aren’t created.

    Tom: But created relations are by definition characterized by their contingency and embodiment. That’s just the point; the divine relations are not created or contingent or embodied. F, S, and SP don’t nap or take a break from being actually, consciously related to one another; there’s nothing more ontologically fundamental underneath their experiencing each other which might sustain their relations while one is napping or on the operating table. It’s out of the question. So we’ll just disagree on that.

    J: Again, it doesn’t follow that because there is a temporary cessation of one relation between two or more beings that other relations don’t still exist between them, or that they must therefore cease to exist. That just flat doesn’t follow.

    Tom: That’s not my understanding of divine transcendence (what it amounts to, why we posit it, and how it functions religiously).

    J: Can you explain in words “what it amounts to, why we posit it, and how it functions religiously?”

    Tom: Nothing about divine transcendence as traditionally viewed, or apophaticism per se, requires us to dismiss the intuition that God is benevolent or that whatever consequences there may be for our failure to maximize our natural capacities for benevolent living they may require of us belief in what is not warranted or plausible.

    J: But that’s not what I said at all. You’re putting words “into my mouth” in what you’ve written there.

    Tom: You’ve misunderstood the logic of transcendence from the start.

    J: Teach me if it can be expressed in words. Or point me to a book or website that does.

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  8. […] (An excellent series of reflections on what should be welcomed into the tenets is here, here, here and here.) I’m open to these suggestions, and none of them are far from the core Alan […]

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