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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic.

The topic of this Section of chapters [beware!--long summary paragraph approaching! {g}] is ethical grounding; and in the first several entries I analyzed crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists. Having covered some introductory inferences regarding the 3rd Person's relationship to the other two Persons in the substantial unity of God, I proceeded to consider some preliminary issues in regard to requirements for personal interaction between the 3rd Person and each of us, as persons; and I inferred that an encouragement to avoid accepting what we perceive to be contradictory, would be the minimum communication we could expect from the Holy Spirit. After considering what an intention to foster contradictions would involve, first for God and then for myself, I reached the topic of enacted human sin; and I began considering the consequences of my sin. This allowed me to also spend some time, discussing anti-theistic arguments from evil and/or suffering, in context of my own developing argument; after which I returned again to considering the relationship of sin and death in me, raising the technical possibility of annihilation. My conclusion was that although the technical possibility would always remain (just as it does for God in a way), I can expect (if trinitarian theism is true) that God will never annihilate me or allow me to be annihilated. An insistence on my part to continue loving and enacting my sin would, however, lead to progressively worse results in me; with this continual degradation being, ironically, a perverted shadow of the death that God (in the Person of the Son) sacrificially undergoes in order for any creation at all to exist (including myself.) On the other hand, I cannot emulate (and share in) the highest death the Son Himself undergoes, without thereby being freed from my sinning: this is the death-into-life I should have always been sharing with the Son, but being a rebel I have been choosing to enact other deaths instead--deaths that do not lead back into life, for myself or for other people affected by my sinning. Those sinfuls deaths lead to effects other than an abundance of life: injustice for other people, sufferings that they did not deserve. Other results would be a critical hampering of my relationships with God, with God's created Nature (in which I live and of which I am partially constituted), and with other created persons. These results from enacting such a sinful death, not only appear to be a condition I was born in, but also appear to be endemic to the race of Man (and other races?) throughout known human history. Creation itself, and mankind in particular, has apparently Fallen; and the probabilities point (in mankind's case) to an original pair, male and female, of fallen humans. The story in my own religious tradition, of Adam and Eve, happens to illustrate the principles fairly well: the sin they enact is essentially the same as the sin I enact--they rebel against what light they can see, for no good reason at all. In doing so, they do receive the knowledge of good and evil, a knowledge that is good to have--but they receive it in the wrong and fatal way. Now their relationships with God, with the Nature created by God, and with each other, must change for the worse.

In my most recent entry, I ended by asking, "But, once they realize the penalties they have brought on themselves, can Adam and Eve choose to put the shape [of their lives] back exactly as they found it?"

This entry concludes chapter 40, "a history of the Fall", in my original text. Some side commentary I would otherwise relegate to footnotes, is included below in [Footnote] text. Where I thought a footnote would be too disruptive to represent in my main text, I have put it into the comments below instead; this will be marked where so.


.......[excerpt begins here]

They might want to [put that synthetic shape back to its original 'specifications', so to speak]; and that would be a good thing, as far as it goes. Indeed, love and justice on God's part would suggest that He will institute ways for them to know they have made a serious mistake that should be fixed.

It might be purely self-serving for Adam and Eve to want this; but the problem to be fixed is the result of their intentions to be purely self-serving. This cannot be fixed by being merely self-serving again. To truly want to fix it, must involve at least a partial negation of that intention. It is the first step, or one of the first, on the road of repentance.

But can they do it?

Basically the question is: once they have hampered their connection to the source of their knowledge and power, how can they have enough knowledge and power to put themselves back? [Footnote: If my Christian brethren here mutter something about ‘gnosticism’, let me preliminarily reassure them: I am perhaps the least gnostic Christian on the planet! Just bear with me a little longer.]

Either they can, or they can't. If it had been flatly impossible for them to be saved from this, God would have annihilated them. More to the point, God would not have designed them so that a rebellion was necessarily unfixable, precisely because He would not have wanted to annihilate them if they chose that choice.

God certainly would know how to help, and would certainly want to help them. But one of the things they have hampered is their communication ability with God--and they have hampered it from their own 'side' of the contact.

Let us say I take a razorblade to my own eyes, and slice them badly. Then I prudently say, "Opps! That was a bad idea... um... I need to fix this. Someone show me how." But it shall be rather difficult to 'show me how', with my eyes all sliced up!

The situation of the Fall, however, is far more fundamental than that. Although some change to the synthetic shape (which I think I can conclude would involve some type of subordinate change at the natural level) has been accomplished, it is not simply a matter of our ancestors 'wanting' to put that shape back right, if they could. The shape is already the result of their willful (not merely instinctive) wanting. [See first comment below for a longer footnote here.]

Okay, but can they not just sit down and transcendentally meditate, or something like that, and fix the problem?

I fully admit that this might help to fix the problem! But the problem, is that they have intentionally hampered their relationship with God. It might be somewhat helpful to meditate on how to re-achieve that relationship. But merely meditating on the abstract issue of the problem, won't solve the problem, even if they managed somehow to find the right answer. They have messed up their personal relationship to God as a Person, and to fix the problem that personal relationship is what they have to fully re-establish, not some intellectual theory or emotional feeling about the relationship. [See second comment below for another extended footnote here.]

So, to sum up: they need to get back in unity with God's character as a Person. But they have hampered their communication with God, so they have hampered their ability to discover or understand what that character is. Nearer is certainly better, but they should be right on the dot to achieve a full and proper unity. And remember, this is not like searching for a page in a book, or even quite like tuning a radio: what needs to be fixed is a personal relationship between active people (God and the individual). A magic codeword or passcard, or even knowledge about some metaphysical doctrine (do I know and accept the “Athanasian Creed” perfectly?--it says I will be hopelessly condemned if I don’t!), won't fix the problem. A personal relationship isn't like that.

Will God help them? Of course! But, again, a magic codeword or passcard (or even some kind of forceful shifting of the synthetic shape by Him) cannot possibly accomplish the cure. God will work to help them, as people themselves, to understand and (even more importantly) to relate to Him as a Person again.

He will try to communicate with them.

But part of the problem is that they have messed up the 'radio' (so to speak) on their side. [Footnote: ‘Tuning the radio’ would not fix the problem by itself--but it is certainly part of fixing the problem.] His means of communication shall be more limited now, thanks to their own actions.

Yet God will still take every advantage He can of the newly limited channel of communication. He always has at least one foothold: He Himself continually acts to keep up their existence as active entities themselves. Whatever their own opinions or beliefs, He Himself still will relate to them as Person to persons. The Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Divine Unity, still operates with the bare (yet still crucial) remnant of divine communication: find and accept truth, reject falsehoods. God would not have designed our predecessors so that any possible shifting of the synthetic shape could excise this contact of Person to persons--for this contact is what keeps the persons in existence.

No matter how far I try to harden my heart, to resolutely set my face against reality, reality still shall affect me. Reality is Personal; and I am a person. One way or another, that communication shall still continue, whether I recognize it as such or not.

So, if I choose to deal with truth to the best of my ability (however poor that ability of mine may be), then I am to that extent working with the Holy Spirit.

But remember that Truth is not itself abstract. Truth is Reality--more specifically, 'truth' is the relationship of a person to actual facts, and at the deepest level of reality this means that Truth is the actual relationship of God to God.

Our perceptions and communications of Truth may be abstract to one degree or another--I myself have had to use abstractions to try to communicate to you, my reader, what I have perceived to be true, even concerning the relationship of God to God.

But the foundational Truth itself is not abstract--it is actively real.

Consequently, while contemplation of truths (or even Truth) may be helpful in some ways, it is wasted without subsequent actions taken by us upon the truths we discern. [See third comment below for a footnote here.]

And those subsequent actions need to be taken with an intentive choice on our part, to remain true to 'the truth'--not necessarily to what we think is true; because our thoughts about what is true might be obstinate self-delusions, or they might simply be in error. Neither condition can possibly be healed unless we choose, as a goal, at every moment, even if beginning right now, even if we stumble and fall and pick ourselves up to try again--to be consistently for the Truth.

You, my reader, may not agree with me about the specific characteristics of ultimate Truth; but that is less important than whether you and I are actively committed, by our own choice, to pursue the objectively real truth--at the expense of our own preference-feelings, if necessary. [See fourth comment below for an extended footnote here.]

The first sinners would be in the same condition as I, in this respect. Would they, or would they not, as individuals, 'repent'? Would they change their willed intent back to embracing the truth?

Perhaps they would; perhaps they wouldn't. But even if they didn't, God still would be pursuing them, for the sake of fulfilling His love and His justice to them.

And the extent to which He would pursue them (and to which He does pursue you and I!) will be discussed throughout the remainder of this book.

Meanwhile, complications arise.

These first sinners, our human progenitors, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist within a vast and reactive Nature, which shall be busily going about its 'business' over time, even over mere moments of time. And they exist for some purpose; a purpose (or set of purposes) that must have been very important to God: for He let them do something quite astonishing, given their current rebellious condition.

He let them breed.

I will discuss the implications of this, in the next chapter.

[Next up: the children of the first sinners]

[A very abbreviated and incomplete summary of the several hundred pages of argument preceding these chapters, can be found in my July 4th essay The Heart of Freedom.]

4 comments:

Some of the footnotes were too unwieldy, I thought, to be reproduced in the main text above, so I'm porting them here. This is the first such footnote.

....... [footnote begins here]

Wants aren't always merely instinctive feelings, as I can personally testify. The Fall of our first ancestors would have been predicated not by instinctual wants, if any--I don't know whether God would have allowed them to have wants of that sort, although I suppose it is quite possible--but by choices on their part to intentively defy what they believe to be true. Actions tend to have feelings consequent to the actions, and so the action of wanting something tends to have consequent feelings of 'want' as well; but I am not speaking of mere feeling.

The second unwieldy footnote.

.......[footnote begins here]

Many meditative operations are not about generating feelings or contemplating notions, of course--although I have found such meditations to be helpful as a tool, myself. In many cases, the meditations are a focusing operation designed to help get rid of 'clutter' in the mind. These can certainly be helpful, too. I am basically in favor of many different forms of meditation; but I question some of the goals. Any meditation that involves a depersonalizing goal, should be avoided--'personality', per se, is not the problem. The breach of a personal relationship with God is the problem.

Third unwieldy footnote.

....... [footnote begins here]

There are subordinate truths, of course; just as there are subordinate facts, derivative of the Independent Fact--Who is, Himself, not merely a Fact but the Truth. This is why no merely created entity should ever claim to be the Truth. I am not the Way, the Truth or the Light. I serve the One Who is.

Fourth unwieldy footnote here! (I had more than usual for this chapter. {g})

....... [footnote starts here]

'Less important' does not mean 'not important'. As I said in Section One [currently unpublished], if I thought differences of opinion about truth were unimportant, I wouldn't be writing this book. At the very least, differences about truth are important because what a person thinks is important--because persons are individually important, whomever they may be. But differences about truth cannot be considered important, unless we personally commit to pursue the truth.

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