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August 12, 2014

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Augustine, in The City of God, while having a discussion on human free will, mentions this in passing:

"For we do not put the life of God or the foreknowledge of God under necessity if we should say that it is necessary that God should live for ever, and foreknow all things; as neither is His power diminished when we say that he cannot die or fall into error – for this is in such a way impossible to Him, that if it were possible for Him, He would be of less power."

Basically, God can do anything - except that which would in some way diminish His power.

Augustine of Hippo gave us the descriptive of Evil as an insufficiency of Being, or as a deficiency of being, or, of what is at bottom that privation of a Contingent Self out of which all that is the ontology of evil in Man’s possible of worlds finds its ends of regression. Evil here becomes, not a positive entity, but, rather, an amalgamation of two nuances: a deficiency of Good (the Contingent Self void of the Immutable Other), and, simultaneously, it houses a Good (the Contingent Self). In creating Man in His Image, God declares of that Contingent Self, “It is Good”. That God does not create Positive Evil by creating Man becomes apparent as we discover Trinity. The Necessary Being houses within His immutable love all that just is that state of affairs which we perceive as those volitional motions into and out of, amid and among, all which is the triune geography of Self-Other-Us. Whatever Divine Simplicity entails, it entails the Triune. The ontological statement “God is love” means some concrete something, and in the Triune God we discover what we all intuit within Personhood’s relational nuances of Self, of Other, of Us. The Father, Son, and Spirit unlock and dissolve a wealth of what seem – on the surface – to be metaphysical tensions.


God cannot sin: A necessary difference surfaces between any Created Self and the Necessary / Uncreated “Self”: Within the Triune God the motion into Self, or, into Other, or, into Us (Father, Son, Spirit, and so on in such contours) are all motions into the Great I AM. All moves in God necessarily land on The Good, The Real, The Lovely. He cannot unearth insufficiency by motion A or motion B and so on – He cannot do the impossible. He cannot sin. – (Digression: here we find the dissolution of those misreads which try to force us to hate ourselves or others rather than hating some sin - some deficiency of Him – within us. The Love of Self is – at bottom – ultimately the love of something Good, for the Self, Man, is declared Good by God even before Man chooses to motion into the Immutable Good or into the Privatized Self; thus love Other as you love Self, or, though choice is necessary the person matters to Him even before a choice is made, even after a choice is made. Hard Stop. End digression) – Whereas, for any Contingent Self that very same motion into Self necessitates, not The Good, not Immutable Love beneath one’s feet, above one’s head, and within one’s chest, but instead what we call, perceive as, define as lack, need, pain, want, insufficiency on all fronts – and such to the bitter end of any line taken. Where Self is on necessity God Himself in God Himself, Self is in/for the Contingent Self on necessity a Fragment of Sufficiency – or – Insufficiency. Here all possible worlds for Man are found housed within that Image of those motions amid and among the Necessary Being’s fully singular, fully triune milieu wherein Self-Other-Us house all that is Wholeness as the Created Adam finds himself amid/among all that is the Uncreated Other and the Created Self.

Sin? That would diminish God's holiness. A rock so big He can't lift it? If He can't lift it, His omnipotence is diminished. Square circles? Diminishes His rational nature. Lie? Would diminish His holiness and goodness. Cease to exist? That would diminish His being.

The one thing He can't do is diminish His own nature. That in no way harms His omnipotence - it rather affirms it even more deeply!

Man and Sin In All Worlds: What God on necessity cannot do via that motion into the Self, Man on necessity can. Evil – the deficiency that is the Self fragmented off of, out of, Self-Other-Us – actualizes should Adam there volitionally motion into Self, the peculiar result being that of a Good Thing (The Man) necessarily in the condition called want which just is a condition – being deficient of God – that just is the definition of evil. Here we are tempted to say – again – that God in creating Man in some non-amalgamated or yet-to-be amalgamated state with Himself creates “evil”, only, such a definition yet lacks the very Image of the Divine: non-stasis, that is to say, volitional motion into / out-of. The thing that is Man in Eden – contrary to our thinking – is not static for in His Living Water we can find no stasis, no lifelessness, and should we define Man as some lesser Image of the Triune Interior of the Necessary Being then we have simply failed to speak of, define, Eden’s Man as God speaks of, defines, Eden’s Man. Man-minus-Volition, Man in Stasis, just is not the Man which God defines by His Image and therefore – short of the whole-show – such a definition fails scripturally and fails ontologically. We saw that Man matters to God before any choice is made and that Man is called Good – not in lacking those motions into / out-of Self/Other (Himself vs. God) – but prior to such motions, such choices. There we find the landscape of the Free Will Defense mentioned in the OP. Perhaps post-fall we can make our attempts at various modes of slavery, perhaps even stasis, though that would have to be qualified, and yet the Old Man in Hebrews 11 still knocks, still trusts, still motions within faith, as per Hebrews, that is to say, as per Scripture. Faith is alive and well in Eden prior to Old/New, in the Old Man, in the New Man, in Hebrews 11, as such volitional motions just do end the regress within His Personhood, His Image. Hard Stop. Faith – knocking on His Door – while necessary in all of Man’s possible worlds – just fails to be sufficient in any of Man’s possible worlds. The Door must Himself Motion, Open, Pour. Hard Stop.

Christ our Hope: We find, again by the Trinity’s sort of amalgamation, that the only hope for Man is in fact amalgamation within the contours of Self-Other, or, of Man-God, within the Singular-Us. The only hope for Man is not Man juxtaposed to God – for such grants us no oneness with Immutability – rather no matter what move Man makes, no matter which world actualizes, Man’s Hope is Man in amalgamation with the Immutable, Man-In-God, God-In-Man, all that business of Timelessness-Time, of Uncreated-Created, of Immaterial-Material, of Word-Flesh. Evil is that volitional motion into that Isolated-Self, a fragment of what can be called Whole, outside of all that is Self-Other-Us, whereas, the solution to Evil is all the business of Gethsemane, whether in the Last Adam’s obedience or in the First Adam’s disobedience, as in all Worlds Man finds only One Singular Means/Ends. Genesis 3’s Protoevangelium in Seed’s Seed, in Amalgamation there in Word’s Corporeal – there in Word made Flesh, there in Christ is our only hope, and that in all possible worlds, whether inside of our Privation or whether inside of God. Should Man know, behold, taste the Whole he will too – ipso facto – know, behold, taste the Parts. In all worlds for the Self called Man it is the All-Sufficient One Who must pour out, Who must be debased, Who must come down, Who must efface Man with His Eternally Sacrificed Self, just as in all worlds it is In-Sufficiency, Man, who must ever be filled, who must ever be brought up, who must ever be glorified, who finds that he must ever praise Him – ever glorify Him – ever lift Him up, ever give thanks to that Fountain Who ceaselessly pours such Living Water – which is Himself. As within the Necessary Being’s immutable love so too between Him and His creation for such is Actuality’s ceaseless reciprocity as the Eternally Sacrificed Self unendingly pours and the Beloved Other perpetually fills. Such Living Water has no first, no last, and never can run dry. Within Time and Physicality it just is so that ontological necessity amid contingency reveals what cannot be otherwise within all these vectors as they effortlessly and seamlessly converge within Christ Who Alone is the most robust actualization of all that is fully Man and all that is fully God as in and by Him we perceive our Means and Ends, which are Himself.

"In the free will defense, God cannot do the logically impossible." Are you still invoking free will, granted by God, if you were created for damnation?

Even if what you say here is correct, we might still wonder why God would allow so-called natural evils: the suffering caused by natural disasters, forest fires, drought, etc. God could prevent those without violating or compromising our free will.

The free will defense against the problem of evil is not quite on-topic for Brett's post. Still, a couple points about it are in order:

  1. The evils in each human life are not explained by corresponding free choices by the human suffering the evil.

    As a general rule, the individuals suffering particular evils do not deserve those evils as punishment specific to some sin they have committed. Instead the world is infected by the freely chosen sin of humanity and this shows up in all sorts of ways.

    The analogy I've often heard on this is that the relationship between evil and free choice is like the relationship between the swirls and eddies on the surface of a deep river and the rocks and holes on the riverbed. The shape of the riverbed causes all of the surface behavior, but you usually can't easily connect specific features of the riverbed with particular surface behaviors.

    In the same way, freely chosen sin accounts for all the evils in the world, but in many cases the connection won't be apparent.

  2. Dangers posed by natural phenomena are not in and of themselves evil.

    That tornadoes exist is not, by itself, an evil, moral or natural. That humans are killed and injured by them is evil.

    But the fact that humans ever find themselves in dangerous circumstances is due to human choice. I'm not saying something simplistic here, like that the tornado victims have themselves to blame for choosing to live in the path of the storm. Sometimes such charges may go, but usually not.

    Instead, freely chosen sin can have all sorts of bad consequences that sinners cannot foresee. Consequences that God can foresee, which is why He commands us not to sin.

    And the most important sinful choice that led to unforeseen bad consequences was the choice of Adam, which sentenced humanity and all of the universe with it to mortality.

On Brett's main point, it seems that he wants to make a number of qualifications on God's power.

Fist, he wants to say that, of course, God's power is limited. God cannot do the logically impossible.

This seems wrongheaded to me. There is no limit here. If I were to say that God is limited because He cannot fhfshjugfvbjg, I think I would rightly be accused of talking nonsense. It seems to me that saying God cannot count to the highest number, or draw a round square, or what have you, is also nonsense.

We have not expressed limits on God's powers. We have displayed our limits in expressing God's power.

Second, he wants to say that, of course, God's power is limited, by his own nature. For example, God's nature is that He is Impeccable…He not only does not sin, He cannot sin.

This also strikes me as wrongheaded. For one thing, God's Impeccability is actually mentioned seldom and obliquely in the Bible (in contrast to the weaker claim that God does not sin). But He is called Omnipotent all the time. One of His most common titles is "The Almighty".

Why should we assume that His Impeccability limits His Omnipotence? Why should we say that God is stuck with His sinless nature…nuthin' He can do about it…so He has to settle for limited power?

Why not assume instead that His Omnipotence limits His Impeccability? Why not say that, yes, He could sin, but to do so, He would have to violate His own Nature? That is something that we cannot conceive, but which is not outside of God's Omnipotence.

If we make the latter assumption, then we are saying that God, alone among all the beings in the universe, chooses His own Nature, His own essential character. And if that is so, He alone, among all the beings in the universe, is praiseworthy for the attributes that He has essentially.

Hebrews 6:17 - In the same way God,desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose,interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie.

Makes sense to me.

When God says, “Light exists”, well, it exists. His Word is His Will is His Power is His Perfection is Actuality is Reality.


That is the definition of Necessary Existence. Being unfree to Not-Exist is absurdity akin to being unfree to make round squares as the Necessary Being is the ontological definition of God.


“The Necessary Being Cannot Lie, be Insufficient, make Round Squares…..”


Critic: “Oh! But *god* is not free to lie!”

So?

Is not His Word that which is Himself which is that which is His Power.....and so on inside of the Part-Less.

As if the Necessary Being’s Word is not Him is not His Will is not His Power is not Actuality is not Reality.


It is the true God vs. the *god* staw-man all over again. And again.


Instead of discovering our own limits here as we find in our own Contingency, we find in the Necessary Being Perfect Freedom. There are things unfree, only, such are found unfree by contingency, and amid His Multiple Perfect Distincts we find no Contingency, no Imperfection, no In-Sufficiency, as God is the Part-Less One there within the Triune’s Divine Simplicity. The I stands Unmoved amid Multiple Perfect Distincts and such just is the definition of Perfect Freedom.

If there is no contingent any-thing there is no determined any-thing. There is only Freedom.

The Critic wants to assert that if there is no contingent any-thing, there is still no freedom, but that is a nonsense statement for a determined motion is so via its contingent-upon-X-status. God has no parts. We find no contingency in Him, and worse, we find only All-Sufficiency, only Perfection, and thus, there is only Perfect Freedom.

The Necessary Being is the Perfectly Free Being.

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