CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

While surfing the 'net, I came across an article that I thought would be of interest to those interested in apologetics. Carried on MacLeans.CA, the article is entitled Jesus historians get an earful from Maurice Casey.

Coming from the so-called middle, Professor Casey has spent a life-time studying the texts of the New Testament and has issues his own book about the subject entitled "Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching." The article goes on to briefly say what he finds problematic with the conservative side (accepting "as historically valid such sources as the Gospel of John, which presents Jesus as fully divine, capable of walking on water and raising the dead, and virtually a Gentile, embroiled in constant tensions, not with scribes and Pharisees, but with 'the Jews'") and the liberals (the insistence on "mining documents of no historical value, including Gospels ascribed to the Apostle Thomas or Mary Magdalene"). The article concludes that Professor Casey's independent work finds a lot of facts that would make atheists uncomfortable.

Jesus was born about 4 BCE, and grew up in Nazareth; he was baptized by John the Baptist and called disciples of his own, appointing 12 of them as special apostles; he preached repentance, forgiveness and the coming of the kingdom of God in rural and small-town Galilee; his charismatic authority brought healing to many victims of psychosomatic illnesses, including the paralyzed, the blind and people with skin diseases; about 30 CE he went to Jerusalem, where the disturbance he caused chasing moneylenders out of the Temple led to his arrest and crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. After his death, Jesus was seen, in non-physical form, by some followers, including his brother James, in authentic bereavement experiences, while stories of the empty tomb and of his physical resurrection grew up afterwards to explain the visions inspired by raw grief.

There is a lot to chew on here. Obviously, there is much I agree with, but there are other things that I disagree with (the non-physical form resurrection and the healing of psychosomatic illnesses being two), but it is interesting that he has concluded that so much of the Gospels are true.

I publish this under the phrase "so-called independent analysis" because I really don't believe that his analysis is any more independent than that of anyone else. The article notes, "Since Casey does not believe in Christ’s divinity, [the Gospel of John] is an utterly impossible portrayal of the Torah-observant Jewish prophet he does consider Jesus to have been." But that is, in and of itself, a position that is not reflected in the texts. Throughout the other Gospels Jesus is revealed time and again as being more than a prophet. The failure to recognize or accept this is simply another bias that Professor Casey is imposing on the scripture.

Anyway, since he concludes that so much of the Gospel is true (a position that I hold), I may buy the book to learn more fully his reasoning for holding beliefs so similar to mine even though he rejects the very basis of the Gospels themselves, i.e., that God incarnate came to earth to save humanity from its sins.

I am a huge fan of the Teleological Argument because it is intuitively obvious that there is something special about out universe. For those that have never explored the Teleological Argument, it basically is the argument that notes how the basic conditions of the universe appears to be finely-tuned to support life. Moreover, contrary to the hopes and expectations of our atheist friend, as science has advanced, the appearance of fine-tuning in the universe has become more pronounced. Individual factors such as the expansion rate of the universe following the Big Bang and the ratio of protons to electrons appear (for no apparent natural reason) to be finely-tuned to allow life to arise. And these are not the only two factors. Rather, after noting that if "the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in [10 to the 60th power], the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form" and that "if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in [10 to the 40th power], then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist",the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Teleological Argument continues,

There is some disagreement over just how many such independent factors there are, but by some counts there are over 100.... But the apparent probability of all the necessary conditions sufficient to allow just the formation of planets (let alone life) coming together just by chance is utterly outrageously tiny—by Roger Penrose's calculation, the probability of chance alone producing cosmoi capable of producing planets is 1 in 10 raised in turn to the 10123 (Penrose 1990, 343–4). With respect to key enzymes occurring by chance, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle throws around numbers like 10-40000 (Hoyle 1982, 4–5). (Although there is no consensus, some, following e.g., Emile Borel, suggest that a probability of occurrence of less than 10-50 can be taken as equivalent to practical impossibility.)

The minuscule nature of the odds that a universe with the factors that science observes could have arisen by chance form a very impressive case for the necessity of a creator being behind the creation of the universe as we see it. Certainly, the teleological argument was the primary argument that converted former atheist hero, Antony Flew, into a theist -- a deist, actually, but that's a huge step from his former atheistic worldview.

In response, some have posited the idea of the multiverse as a totally naturalistic alternative to the need for a creator seemingly required by the incredible odds behind sheer chance. Not that I blame scientists for creating this alternative; after all, their job is to try to come up with natural explanations for what we see in nature. They very much want to discover natural explanations for natural phenomena rather than give up and say, "God did it." Seriously, that is something that we ought to strive to do -- as long as it is reasonable.

The multiverse is such a theory. Unprovable on its own merits, the multiverse theory is, according to Discovery Magazine, science's alternative to an intelligent creator.

Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi?verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non?religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

The multiverse theory holds that our universe is one of many universes that exist. In one variation of the multiverse theory, our universe was created in some infinitely large cosmic pool which bubbles out universes like a Coca-Cola bubbles out carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubble-universes produced by the infinite pool ripple through the eleventh dimension and are themselves infinite in number. The logic goes that since there are an infinite number of these universes in existence, that by sheer chance one of them must have arisen with the conditions necessary to support life, i.e., one of them would by sheer chance have the conditions that appear in our life-abundant universe.

As I mused about this argument, a couple of problems occurred to me. The first is fairly well known: there is little chance that the existence of any of these other universes could ever be proven. Thus, the multiverse theories, generally, and the bubble multiverse theory specifically, could not be proven to exist. Certainly, there is an argument for the existence of the multiverse in the fact that it might be said to explain Schrodinger's cat. But to say that it may solve a problem in quantum mechanics is a far cry from saying that it has been proven or even shown to be likely.

But it seems to me that there is a second problem with the multiverse theory which I have never seen discussed previously and that relates to the nature of the infinity. But let me lay a little mathematical groundwork, first. Let's suppose that we have 10,000 cars, and we discover that 1 in 5 of the cars have leather interiors. Basic math says that 20% of the cars will have leather interiors (1 divided by 5), and therefore 2,000 of the cars will have leather interiors (1 divided by 5 multiplied by 10,000 equals 2,000). Pretty basic, but I want to make certain that the readers understand the basic mathematical principle that gives rise to the problem.

According to the multiverse theory, there are an infinite number of universes. Each of these infinite number of universes has, by random chance, certain attributes. Under the theory, statistics say that some of these universes should have the attributes necessary to support life (else wise, the multiverse theory could not explain the existence of the universe that we observe). So, let's suppose that the odds of a universe arising that could support life would be 1 in 10 to the 2,000,000,000th power -- extremely low odds by any measurement. Following our leather interior in cars example, we can calculate that there are ... uh, an infinite number of universes that could support life. (1 divided by 10 to the 2,000,000,000th power multiplied by infinity = infinity.)

So, how many of these universes will give rise to human life? Well, according to the naturalistic view, everything that has happened in this universe is the result of an endless string of cause and effect within a closed system, so if the initial conditions are able to support life, it is merely a matter of the right causes and effect combining to create human life, too. Thus, it is a mere matter of chance that humanity arose, and the arising of human life is merely a matter of chance. Supposing that from the infinite number of universes that can support life, 1 in 10 to the 3,000,000,000th power of them will give rise to human life. Using the same calculation we find that there are ... uh, well ... an infinite number of universes that can support human life.

And since the fact is that in an purely closed-system, naturalistic universe where humanity arose, it was merely a confluence of cause and effect that gave rise to ... well, you. Now, the odds of that happening are phenomenally small. Let's suppose it is only 1 in 10 to the 400,000,000,000,000,000,000th power. (But, of course, it has to be possible to happen since it obviously happened.) So, using the same math as before we discover that there are ... I don't know how to say this without possibly hurting your self-esteem, but there must be an infinite number of you's. There are also an infinite number of me's.

If you find that hard to believe, I don't blame you (or any of the infinite other you's that exist that also would find this difficult to believe). However, that is a consequence of the existence of an infinite number of other universes -- especially if you and I are only the result of cause and effect in a closed system.

Of course, it may be that the number of universes is not really infinite -- only enough to result in one universe exactly like ours. But, of course, one would have to ask how it is that the number of universes would be exactly as needed to create our universe. Is this only fine-tuning once removed?

The 14th verse of the second chapter of the Gospel According to Luke is, frankly, kind of hard to translate.

The classic English translation works well enough: “Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, peace, goodwill to men!”

Strictly speaking, though, the Greek reads... well, it could read several things. A number of rather different things in fact.

{Doxa} ‘glory’
{en} ‘in’ or ‘among’
{huposistois} ‘(the) highest’
{the(i)o_} ‘to God’
{kai} ‘and’ or ‘now’ or even ‘but’ or ‘yet’
{epi} ‘upon’
{ge_s} ‘(the) land’ or ‘earth’
{eire_ne_} ‘peace’
{en} ‘in’ or ‘among’
{anthro_pois} ‘men’ or ‘mankind’
{eudokias} or {eudokia} ‘of his delight’ or ‘delight’

Does “highest” mean that glory is given among the highest angels to God? Or is the highest glory being given to God? Both of course would be true.

Is the glory being also given to God upon the earth or land? And if so, is the glory on the land, or is God upon the land as well as in heaven?! Either or both could be true!--if the Incarnation is true.

Is peace on the land, or in men? Either or both could (and should!) be true.

Is it peace or delight {en} men? Either or both could (and should!) be true.

The grammar could go one or both directions in several ways so far. But there is also a text-transmission problem toward the end. The vast majority of texts read ‘delight’; but the more difficult reading, which is also best supported among the earliest existent textual copies, both in the East and the West, is ‘of his delight’ (singular possessive).

If the well-attested older reading is in fact correct (which is the direction pointed to by textual criticism principles), the grammatic options shift a bit: it must be peace in men (as well as maybe on the land), whereas the delight belongs to God. Indeed the word there (in either form) means ‘good glory’ or even ‘good praise’, though it can also mean happiness and joy (as the term is sometimes used elsewhere in the New Testament.)

The Angelic Hymn announcing the birth of Christ, therefore, can (and probably should) be reset in the following stylistic pattern (which also fits the use of the Greek as printed):

“Glory among the highest to God and on the land!”
“Peace among men of His delight!”

The birth of the Messiah is announced to social outcasts by, quite literally, the armies of God. (That’s what the word we typically translate as “host” in English means.) And it comes with a tacit warning--a warning made more explicit a little later in Luke’s account by the mysterious prophet Simeon (possibly meant to be Simeon son of Hillel and father of Gamaliel I!) The Messiah brings peace, it is true; but it is peace among those who please God. The Messiah brings fire and sword (at least at first!) for those who do not please God.

What the hell kind of “gospel” is this!? Can this be “good news” for all mankind?!

A significant number of Christians (and Christian theologians, throughout our history) would say “No: it is only good news for the chosen elect of God.” And there’s some important theological truth in that, which they’re trying to protect by saying so. It is only by the freely given joy (the “grace”) of God that any of us can be pleasing to God at all; without that grace, we don’t even have the ability to be good. Other Christians (myself included) would say that God gives this gracious gift to all persons everywhere, and whether or not we please God depends on what we do with our gift (rather like with the parable of the talentons or the minas in GosMatt and GosLuke’s texts respectively.) If we abuse the gifts of God, we can rightfully expect no peace from God--not until we stop abusing the gifts of God.

In context of the Christmas gift of Christ Himself (the saving action of God Himself), we may consider God to be presenting us with a present that He will unwrap for us (and certainly made and provided for us). Rejecting that gift, or trying to take advantage of that gift apart from acknowledging the grace of God in giving it, is like the parable of the king who gives a wedding party for his son, inviting everyone everywhere to participate; but some refuse to come giving poor insulting reasons (fair honest reasons not to come, such as thinking one’s self too poor or the king too much of an enemy to believe the offer is real, are another matter--the king sends out special messengers to those people in the hedges and byways to practically compel them in!) Whereas others come to the party, but refuse to wear the celebration clothes provided graciously by the king. Those people, even though the king is friendly to them, will still be thrown outside the celebration party!--where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Now, some of us Christians believe that God doesn’t offer the present (so to speak) to everyone, but He does persistently offer it to at least some people till they receive it; and some of us believe that God offers it to everyone but eventually takes it away, not persistently offering it until they agree to receive it. A few of us (myself included) think both those other types of Christians have got things right!--and so we believe that God persistently offers that gift to everyone until those persons receive it (even if God persists for unspeakable eons of the eons.) But all of us agree that not having this gift means missing out on the best of Life Himself most high. And all of us agree that refusing this gift (whether temporarily or permanently) is not good news for anyone.

So there’s a warning, of a sword, couched in the message of the messengers.

But here is some other news about that sword!

The Messiah, God Most High Himself, shares that sword to the heart!--so that the hearts of many shall be revealed (as Simeon says, a little later in Luke’s account.)

God Most High does not baptize with fire (as well as with Spirit) from only on high, but stoops down low in humility, to count Himself among the rebels, sharing the chastening with us--even allowing Himself to be sacrificed and abused by us rebels when we sin.

And He does that out of love for us, even when we are sinners.

All of us Christians agree with this in principle as well as (to some extent at least) in practice--even the Christians who only believe God gives Himself for some but not for all, still believe (and ardently so!) that God does not wait for sinners to repent and seek forgiveness and salvation before He acts toward saving sinners from sin!

The message of Christmas, as well as of Easter, is that God Most High is not a tyrant, not even justly so. The highest possible Power gives Himself for even the worst of rebels because He loves even them. (And by ‘them’ I mean ‘us’ and ‘me!’)

That was completely new, as a religious idea at the time. And I think I can say that it still is completely unique. The baby Jesus of the Christmas story isn’t merely a lesser god being born more-or-less by accident. He isn’t a lesser god, or even God Most High (in one or another way), being born to help the people he (or He) already accounts as His allies. He isn’t mere Divinity coming to help whoever will listen to Him to cease to be persons themselves so that they can enter back into His substance.

The story is about the ground and source of all reality, sacrificing His life to give life to those who are in rebellion against the ground and source of all reality. Sharing the sword to the heart with the guilty and with the innocent, too, who must suffer in this “valley of death” and separation (such as Mary would have to endure a sword to her own heart, at the unjust death of her son.)

Even if you, wherever you are in the world today and this weekend, do not or cannot believe in the story as being factually true... least try to understand and appreciate what the meaning of the story is.

If you can even accept what’s at stake, when people try to put up billboards mocking the worth of the story at all...?

Well, that’s accepting the present, at least a little, to some degree.

And that’s a whole lot better than throwing away such a present as trash unfit for human consumption.

From all of us here at the Christian Cadre
To all our readers around the world, whoever you are!

May you come someday to believe that Love Most High has come, and comes, to share our joy and our pain in fair-togetherness with us...


(and hug someone for Christmas if you can... {g!})

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, chapter 25, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes chapter 26, "God's Relationship To Nature".]

Although I was unable (yet) to deductively remove from the option list the concept that what we call 'physical Nature' is God, I will remind you now that my own status as either a rebel (even if only occasional rebel) or as a deluded victim of illusion, indicates (even if nothing else did) that I am not fully divine in and of myself; and this indicates that at least two levels of reality, or two substantially different systems, exist: God and (in one way or another) not-God (namely myself).

Therefore, although I could only give a conceptual strike (not deduction) against 'practical pantheism' in the previous chapter, I do think I have deductively argued that pantheism must technically be false: not everything is fully God, because--as far as it is possible for me to tell--I am not God. Some type of relation that we may call Supernature-to-Nature, must therefore exist (even if, as might still be the case so far, what we call 'physical Nature' happens to be the 'supernatural' part of the relationship between the systems). The time has come for me to discover what necessary corollaries can be drawn from this position; and this will require thinking about the question: how can God effectively create something that is not-God?

To say the least, this is a tall order! It may also be my most controversial discussion; the implications somewhat unnerved me when I began putting together the pieces I had already uncovered. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I began to see that (despite the 'radical' look of the developing theory) it does hew, in the end, as close as I could wish to the doctrines of traditional Christianity (as well as those of some other theisms, to a certain extent).

Indeed, once I had picked over the implications more thoroughly, I began to see how some very traditional Christian mysticism statements could properly relate to a supernaturalistic theistic Unity; which has helped me reconcile, among other things, certain mysterious statements in the New Testament.

I realize (no one better!) that this sounds as if I am about to dive over the line into heresy; I can only beg the patience of my Christian brethren for a chapter or two, so I can show (in hindsight) that in fact I am ratifying some traditional Christian doctrines more strongly than ever.

Let me recap what I have established up to now:

The Independent Fact of reality is actively rational: God exists. Being the IF, God must be self-generative; and this necessity leads in turn to a conclusion that God must be a Unity of at least two Persons: the Begetting God (the Father, the God Who makes Himself) and the Begotten God (the Son, the God Who is made of Himself). Both of these Persons are distinctively real, not only modes of God's operation; yet they share the full attributes and singular reality (other than their conceptual position on either side of the self-generative action line) of ultimate Deity, including unity of mind and purpose. Except for a few special (although important) cases, if I talk about either God the Father or God the Son, I mean God Himself, fully God.

(I remind my reader, that I am not yet talking about an Incarnation of God, when I discuss this transPersonal unity-in-divinity of Father and Son.)

Now, how did God proceed in making something (such as myself) that is not-God, or not fully divine? As I have explained earlier, it is no use (as comfortable as we find the mental image) proposing some sort of void 'outside' God, into which He can create. That is not creation 'ex nihilo'; and if we seriously introduced it, we would find ourselves back to a cosmic dualism, and thence (as I have argued earlier) further back to a full theism anyway--and back to being without such things as an equally self-existent void for creation. Put another way, such a picture of 'a void' implies eventually that God has already created something that is not-God: the void. And the principles of such a not-God creation (although not necessarily creation of a 'void') are exactly what I am asking about now.

I think the conclusion is inescapable that if we insist on picturing some sort of 'history outside of history' (which frankly may be contradictive, but which recognition in turn may only mean that God is never not-creating--as He is certainly never not-generating, since He is ever and always generating Himself at least), then we must admit there was a 'time' (metaphorically speaking) when pantheism was true. Everything was God and fully God. But my own existence and properties as not-God indicate that this description 'no longer' (so to speak) represents reality accurately.

But if God was once Everything and Everything was fully God--and/or if it is nonsensical to state that something eternally not-God and not produced by God has always existed--then He can only have created not-God things by one method.

God's basic action must be to generate Himself fully. And I have concluded much earlier that it is nonsensical to propose that something eternally not-God existed for God to 'create into'. Yet I exist as evidence that something distinctively not-God can exist and thus was created.

God must therefore have ceased to generate Himself fully within a part of Himself.

This sounds immediately like an inconsistency (within a ‘part’ of God?--the Independent Fact can’t be comprised of ‘parts’!), so I will explore and refine it piecemeal.

Does this 'ceasing' count as an action, per se? The intent to do so certainly flags it as an action. But it is a very special type of action. Remember the created boulder from one of my earlier discussions (in Section One): God could choose not to lift it. We need only examine this type of event from the perspectives of our own minds to see that this choice is an action; but the action is a choice to not take some other action. This may result in a paradox, but not a contradiction.

Neither (and this is unspeakably important) would such a paradox be an utterly new thing within the self-consistent system of the Unity!

From eternity the 2nd Person of the Unity--God Begotten, or 'The Son'--must, as a Person, make a constant corollary choice whether or not to surrender to the Unity as the 'Unity'. It is utterly necessary for this Person to make such a submission, in order for anything else to be accomplished, and even for God's self-existence to continue; because to refuse to submit in Unity to the 1st Person (the Begetting Father) would mean the breakdown of the self-sustaining Unity of God, and God Himself would cease to exist.

From all eternity, then, God plunges Himself (I am speaking of both Self-generating Persons in the Divine Unity singularly considered) in a sort of death-to-self which is nevertheless entirely necessary for God Himself to live--and so which must also be necessary for anything else produced by God to be created and maintained.

Let me point out once more that to make this argument I am not appealing to mystical authority and/or 'scripture'. I am using some of the language of certain scriptures, and of centuries of subsequent documents about theology; but I am trying to show that this language can be applied to the concepts, having been developed out of the concepts, for usefully understanding fundamental reality in a logically coherent way that is also factually accurate (so far as I have been accounting in facts) For all intents and purposes at this point, the Christian New Testament (and subsequent documents, and the events within our history which all these documents claim to attest to) need not even exist. If you, my reader, are sceptical of those documents, then set them aside, at least for a while. How much fairer can I be? I am only asking you to check my logical math, to ensure I am adding up conclusions correctly on grounds which, in principle, are accessible to anyone.

To continue (and to repeat): because I am obligated, in order to avoid contradictions, to avoid proposing multiple separate Independent Facts (such as God and the Void); and because I am obligated to nevertheless recognize the existence of God and not-God entities (with myself as one example of a clearly not-God entity); then I therefore conclude that God must willingly choose to cease doing something in regard to Himself, thus in effect submitting Himself through death, in order that something distinctively not-God (yet intimately bound to God) begins to exist as such. For such a proposal to be true, it must not be inconsistent with God's most basic action as God; but on further consideration, one Personal aspect (not a 'part' in the sense of distinctly existent components, but still a distinctively real Person) of God does in fact already enact a death, a submission: the Son willingly and always chooses, as part of the ground of all possible existence, to submit to the Father (God Self-begotten to God Self-begetting).

So for God (and specially in and through the Person of the Son) to sacrificially act in self-submission for the sake of generating something not-God, would be a logically coherent though distinctly different action, too. Although of course, being a distinctively (not utterly) different action it will be done to a distinctively different degree (and in a different 'direction', so to speak).

My initial way of trying to put it, that “God ceases to generate Himself fully within a part of Himself”, is certainly not accurate in saying “within a part”. But a real yet unified distinction in the single Independent reality of God is the key not only to God’s active Self-existence but also to active creation of that which is not-God.

This being the case, I conclude that this deduction does not entail the intrinsic inconsistency of a contradiction: God must have chosen to stop doing something within the fullness of His fully divine and active infinity--thus creating a part, a not-God partition (one might say), from Himself, which would no longer be fully divine.

This willed abdication by God (different from, but related to and provided for by the Son's eternal abdication to the Father as a function of God's singular self-existent interPersonal Unity) I have described as partial. But why should I say that God has chosen to cease doing something (not ceased doing everything) within this selection of Himself?

Simply put, if God ceased to do everything within this proposed subsystem, the burgeoning subsystem would not continue to exist at all! God's direct activity is still required to maintain this new subsystem in existence; the subsystem is intimately and ontologically dependent upon Him. Whatever positive or negative properties it has, is due to His willed choice. He could choose to re-assert the totality of Himself throughout the 'region', at any or all points, to any extent--and thus, several generally pantheistic doctrines are (or could be) quite correct. I could be resolved utterly back into the Absolute; and I would at that point lose my own distinctiveness (as some pantheistic teachers correctly point out the result to be--if that ever happened).

If this happened, however, 'I' (per se) would cease to exist--which would negate the whole point of my creation to begin with, and would certainly not benefit 'me' in any conceivable fashion. Nor would it benefit God, either: if I add 1 back to infinity, the result is still infinity with no change in infinity's property characteristics. Still, it could happen.

But such a creation as I have deduced is not pantheism; because this created 'region', whatever properties it may have, is not 'fully' divine: God is acting in such a way for not-God entities (for example myself) to exist.

(Again, language so easily misleads here. It isn't that God has a part within Himself on which He can make such operations; on the contrary, by choosing to create, God generates something that may (with some inadequacy of language) be called a 'part', although unlike the generation of the Son, this generation is not-God.)

Would it be possible for God to do this throughout the whole of His infiniteness? No: there must remain something of God (and this 'something' would, by the way, remain infinitely 'large') that is not any kind of willed declension. Something must remain fully divine, Self-begetting and Self-begotten, to sufficiently ground this derivative partiality.

So, for all practical purposes (up to and including the purposes of God Himself), this new region must be considered to be something 'not-God'. It is created; not (self-)begotten.

If this creation could choose to abdicate itself in a manner similar to the 2nd Person (the only God-Begotten), then all sorts of wonderfully (even 'terribly'!) good things might happen, within this creation and to this creation; but the results would not and could not be exactly the same as the chief primary result of God's chief primary action. This creation could, quite simply, be (or come to be) eternally only like the Son. But that is a consideration for later.

That God can do this, I am in no doubt whatsoever. That God has done this in some fashion, I can attest to by my own existence as 'not-God'.

But can I go further? What type of creation can I deduce that God has created? In my next chapter I will consider the relations between myself and God, and perhaps between myself and this subsystem or 'Nature'.

[Next up: an argument from disparity]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, chapter 24, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes chapter 25, "Supernaturalism".]

By comparing my behaviors and characteristics with what I have discovered about God so far (and despite the wide-reaching implications, the actual number of details I have developed is still quite limited), I find that one way or another I must not be an entity with fully divine status. I am not God. I may perhaps be partially divine (whatever that means--and it's a topic I will get back to), but even the concept of being 'partially' divine necessarily indicates that a distinctive level of reality must exist which is not itself God.

This means a distinctively real supersystem/subsystem relationship exists; and I seem to be representative of the subsystem. As I explained last chapter, this strikes a serious blow, in a technical sense, against pantheism.

Either everything is equally God (including the distinctive Persons of divine unity in multiplicity, which must be the case with the begettor/begotten status of God Himself as the self-generative Independent Fact of reality); or something exists which is not fully God.

If the first situation is true, then there can be only one level of reality (however multifaceted the aspects of that reality may be). Although philosophers often use 'naturalism' to conveniently mean 'atheism', strictly speaking the terms are not equal. A person could maintain that multiple real but substantially different distinctive levels of reality exist, with one most fundamental level upon which all other substantially different levels of reality depend for their own existence (not upon themselves)--and that person could still be an atheist! She would be a supernaturalistic atheist. Or, a person could maintain that God exists (the IF is sentient), and that only one level of reality exists; he would be a naturalistic theist--that is, he would be a pantheist: only one level of reality exists, and that is God; therefore God is everything and everything is fully God.

However, my recognition of myself as being either compelled to be under an illusion (whether or not I am expected to try to 'escape' from it is irrelevant), or else of being (at least occasionally) in an actual willful rebellion against reality, indicates that I do not share fully divine status. The Begotten aspect of God is still God Himself as part of the Unity of the self-existent Independent Fact, and so shares fully divine status.

I thus conclude that whatever else may be true, there are at least two distinctive levels of reality: the fully divine (such as the 1st and 2nd Persons of the self-generative God) and the not-fully divine (such as myself). And if there are at least two substantial levels of reality, then technically speaking no pantheism can be true.

However, some of the propositions of pantheism might still be valid (and thus some sort of 'pantheism', using the term metaphorically for purposes of historical distinction, might be accepted) if the field of reality we commonly recognize as 'physical Nature' turns out to be itself fully divine. This would be an unusual approach to theology: a fusion of technical supernaturalism with practical pantheism.

Its distinction would be this: historically speaking, philosophers have generally argued or assumed that physical Nature either is the only level of reality, or else is the subsystem of an ontologically fundamental supernaturalistic reality. The option I am now considering inverts this: physical Nature would turn out to be the "Supernature", and my derivative reality (whatever that means in both principle and practice) would be the "Nature".

Or, put another way, instead of Nature/Supernature (such as the field of physical Nature and the supernatural God, respectively) we would have Subnature/Nature (entities such as myself and the physically natural God, respectively).

Let me suggest, therefore, that one philosophical option in front of me at this point, is to propose that I reflect one level or system of reality, and physical Nature reflects a supervening, or higher, system. By discussing my properties and the properties of physical Nature, as system/supersystem (respectively), we can perhaps avoid misunderstandings attached to terms such as natural/supernatural.

The question before me in this chapter is: can such a state of reality be true? Is God--the Sentient Independent Fact--physical Nature? Or, put a little more accurately, is physical Nature itself God? If this is true, many corollaries of historical pantheisms will suddenly be validated, even if we can no longer consider 'pantheism' in the technical sense to be the reality (thanks to the existence of system/supersystem relationships).

Whatever properties physical Nature may have, virtually everyone of any philosophical stripe agrees that my body is composed of (at least) physical materials. We may disagree drastically about what precisely this means about me, if we disagree about the properties of physical Nature; but we will at least agree upon that fact. (To give an extreme example: a person who says that the units of physical Nature possess the characteristic of 'being an illusion', will have a dramatically different opinion about what this means about me, than the person who says the units of physical Nature are not an illusion. But their disagreement will be about what it means for my body to be composed of physical materials.)

Furthermore, we have discovered that whatever else may be true, it is also true that the physical status of my brain affects my ability to effectively think. These correlations have been experimentally established; and thus we can infer, to a certain degree, the mechanics of my thinking process. Under the theory I am currently considering, these physical events and characteristics are facets of the ultimate level of reality (which is Nature). Also, thanks to the arguments I derived in Section Two, I should conclude that the ultimate level of reality is itself sentient--that is, capable of thinking in at least the manner I understand 'thinking' to be--and this means that the theory I am currently considering should factor in this characteristic as well. Finally, as usual I must presume that ultimate reality is self-consistent.

What all this boils down to, is the conclusion that physical reality (under the theory I am currently considering) always (self-consistently) thinks (being sentient) true thoughts.

Put another way, although perhaps non-physical behaviors may exist and be fallible (such a non-physical subreality might account in some fashion for my 'not-fully-divine' status), physical behaviors must consistently produce correct thinking, under this theory. This would be one of the necessary corollaries to the proposition that what we generally recognize as physical Nature is itself the Sentient Independent Fact.

Now, my first observation is that as a practical matter, the vast majority of us (including, as far as I can tell, virtually all pantheists) reject out of hand the notion that physical behaviors automatically produce (when left to themselves) fully accurate thinking. Indeed, we reject this so strongly that if a particular bit of human thinking is ascribed to fully physical behavior, we typically count that fact against the possibility that the thinking could be correct!

However, I might be told that this by itself only indicates how deep our declension from the Absolute runs. (Remember that such a declension is itself indicative of a system/supersystem reality, despite what pantheists have often otherwise said.) I might accept this answer as a rebuttal; except, we also have experimentation to consider now.

We have experimentally discovered, that whatever else human mentality may be, it is intimately related (at least currently) not only with the physical structures known as 'nerves' in my brain, but also to certain physical states of those biophysical structures.

Don't misunderstand: my forthcoming argument is not that this means only those types of nerve structures can function as a vehicle for active sentience. My point is rather different.

Let us say my task is to add up two numbers: 28 and 42. Let us also say someone has killed the nerve in which was stored the bit of information meaning 'I should carry the one when adding 8 and 2'. Instead, a new nerve has been wired, so that the memory of the taste of butterscotch is accessed instead. In principle, this type of result is possible. The physical interwiring may or may not account for my raw active intentions, but it did restrict what I was capable of accomplishing with those intentions. (See first comment below for an extended footnote here.)

I thus add up 28 and 42 and get 60, while gagging a little (I hate the taste of butterscotch). What has happened?

"You forgot to carry the 1," I might be told.

What does that mean? It means (under the terms of this example) that the nerve fired at a completely natural time, but not so that the correct number was produced. Does that mean I made a mistake?

"Yes, there's the wrong answer."

But that rather begs the question: Yes I made a mistake, because there's the mistake. Granted, but what was the mistake?

"Not carrying the 1."

And so we're back in a circle with nothing accomplished.

Here is the crux of the question: does 28 and 42 really add up to 60?

"No, it adds up to 70."

But I just added them up and reached 60. In what sense does 28 and 42 really not add up to 60?

"In the realistic sense."

Does that mean my behavior did not correspond to reality?

"Yes it did not correspond with reality, otherwise you would have reached 70, which is the number of oranges you will have in a box if you put in a bag of 28 oranges and a bag of 42 oranges."

But isn't this odd? A bit of matter interacted physically in my head with other bits of matter, the result being that I was prevented from coming up with a total other than 60. Did this not correspond with reality?

"No, it did correspond with reality; the reality of what would happen when those bits did that sort of thing."

Then 28 and 42 can really add up to 60.

"Yes, they can really be added up like that."

So that answer is just as valid and just as real as any other answer?

"Taken as bits of interacting matter, yes."

Would you give me $28 and $42? I will give you back six ten dollar bills.


Why not?

"Because you'd be shorting me ten dollars!"

So? Taken as bits of interacting matter, that result is just as good as any other result, isn't it?

"No, it isn't a true result."

So the mere fact that a physical event takes place (even when comprised of multiple physical events), turns out to be no guarantee that any ideas consequent with the event correspond correctly to reality: physical results can and do in fact hamper my successful thoughts about reality.

And yet, if physical Nature is the SIF (the Sentient Independent Fact), those events should utterly correspond with no disparity: if physical Nature is ultimately sentient, then I think I would have at least first-glance grounds for expecting physical interactions to remove obstacles to thinking most of the time--yet instead most of the time the opposite seems true.

The conceptual weight of the evidence thus seems to me to point away from physical Nature being itself the SIF.

However, I will say this: as I leave this chapter and continue onward, I do not think I have (so far) deductively removed the option from the possibility list. That being the case, I will be careful to watch myself throughout the next chapters, to ensure that any conclusion I draw about God and His relationship to creation does not require (without first properly inferring it) that He must not be equivalent to what we call "physical Nature".

Fortunately, my line of argumentation can leave this question to one side for a while; it will remain to be seen whether 'practical pantheism', so to speak, can be deductively removed. I have registered here only a strong conceptual strike against it.

[Next up: God and Creation]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the conclusion of chapter 23, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes chapter 24, "Creation or Creator?".]

I have been discussing the application of principles of self-generation, which must be the most basic possible action of the Independent Fact. By such an action, God begets Himself; and because His property characteristics include rational sentience, which implies consciousness, then I think it must be true that the begetting and begotten unity of God must be a unity of distinctive Persons.

This is admittedly a rather difficult concept to picture, but I think it can be most usefully analogized by saying that God the Father eternally begets God the Son, Who eternally submits in self-consistency back to the Father. The Son is of one mind with the Father and does the Father's will, and indeed does nothing except what the Father does, being the very action of God Himself. The Son may be said to be dependent upon the Father, but only in the sense that God is dependent upon Himself for His very existence.

Doubtless, if the analogy is pressed too far, it will break down; there can be no such thing as a 'full' analogy, for the fully similar would be the thing itself. This is why other analogies can be devised which help illustrate the basic principles involved; the multi-sided cube, for instance, can help us to understand the unity of something which in some of our other experiences we only find utterly distinct or altogether smeared.

But it is important to recognize the limitations of an analogy, in order to ensure the analogy is serving to illustrate the principles without superseding the principles. To require that the two Personalities must be utterly (even physically) distinct at their most fundamental level of existence--as a human father and son would be distinct--would be an error of arguing from the analogy, rather than letting the analogy be informed (and limited) by the principles involved.

Be that as it may, I am now faced with this concept: reality consists of at least two distinctive states--Maker and Made--yet at the most fundamental level these two properties are 'proper' to one Reality, as they must be for the self-existent IF. So where do I, and/or the things I find around me, fall into the picture?

I conclude that I must presume I can reason; and that I must exist; and if I am arguing to you, then I must assume that you (and the medium of our communication) must also truly exist in some fashion--although it may not be quite the fashion I am inferring 'at first glance' from my senses.

As entities who (and that) exist, we must be caused. And at the most fundamental level of reality (which is what I am currently considering) it is God Himself Who is caused, by Himself.

So: am I, are you, is the medium between us, or any combination of these three, the 2nd Person of God? Am I God the self-Begotten? Are you? Is what we call Nature actually God the Begotten, the 2nd Person of God? In short, I will now begin to consider the question of whether--or to what extents--pantheism can be true.

If I began by hypothesizing as a presumption that pantheism (theistic naturalism, or naturalistic theism) is true, then I would proceed by studying the interrelations of Nature (including those of men) throughout history; and thus I would proceed by inferences from my examinations, to conclusions about what characteristics God must have.

One conclusion I might reach almost immediately, is that if all things are fully divine in status, then God must either be both good and evil, or must be functionally amoral--and I might state this amorality in terms of God being "beyond" good and evil, which qualities I would then consider to be subjective illusions.

This is a fairly simple inference from the premise "Everything is God" and the observation "A large percentage of Everything seems to me to be what I call 'evil'." Since it is contradictory (on the face of it) for a single entity to truly be both good and evil in full measure, insofar as these are treated as exclusive terms (I perceive, mistakenly or not, that I am sometimes 'good' and sometimes 'evil' myself; but we are now talking of the sum total of everything which cannot be said to go through transitory states in the same way I do in my partiality), then I might logically conclude that my perception of good and evil must be faulty. And since I must presume that my perceptions nevertheless have a certain amount of relevance to what actually exists, I would (in such a case) conclude that what I am perceiving when I judge something to be 'good' or 'evil' must be something real, yet the quality of 'good' and 'evil' which I detect in it must be an perceptive illusion based on (and only on) my current circumstances. Not surprisingly, many pantheists say something very much like this. (I am not really now considering the questions of ethics, however. I will return to that topic later, in my next Section.)

I might also decide that God (being Everything, per the premise of pantheism) seems to be both sentient and nonsentient, because I perceive that many events take place which fit both categories. I might therefore proclaim God to actually be both sentient and nonsentient; as some pantheists do claim.

However, I doubt I would actually draw and defend this conclusion myself, for such a position is inherently contradictory. (Consider my arguments from Chapter 5 and 10.) Instead, I would probably take the next step and, rejecting the contradiction, proclaim that every event (whatever its appearance may be) is really the direct result of fully divinely sentient guidance (for if I went the other way, I would be espousing atheism, not pantheism). And, once more not surprisingly, I don't think I need to look hard to find similar positions within pantheism.

(One of the interesting qualities of pantheism in general, is its tendency to exhibit drastic variations within the general branch of philosophies which posit or conclude it. I think this comes, among other reasons, from the attempt to reconcile the behavior of Everything in a fully divine fashion.)

These are, I repeat, some positions I might come to (or pass through) if I started with pantheism as a necessary presumption.

However, I have not done that; I have reached where I am now by another route. Therefore, my task now is not to consider which pantheistic tenets are or are not intrinsically possible and/or supported by evidence; but whether pantheism per se is viable. Can it withstand being deducted from the option list?

I don't think I have salted the tea (so to speak) by reaching this topic in this fashion; up until now, pantheism can (I think) still be considered 'in the running'. Even when (at the end of Section Two) I was considering the (relatively minor) question of how to speak of God genderwise, I granted for fairness that my conclusion to use masculine personal pronouns might best be reversed if pantheism turned out to be true. Whether pantheism can stay in the running depends on the extent to which I can possibly maintain pantheism without necessarily presupposing it; and that depends (at the moment) on whether or not I can find something which must not be fully divine.

Throughout my book, I have begun my lines of argumentation at the only place where I really can start: with myself. So, here, I will also start with myself. Do I exhibit any qualities which necessarily indicate that I am not fully divine? (This topic obviously has links to the notion of Incarnation. I am deferring such questions for a while, but I will return to them later.)

Remember that the Person of the Begotten God shares every characteristic with the Person of the Begetting God, except the distinctively willed action of self-generation. And even then, the existence of the Begotten Person depends on willed submission to the Begetting Person of the Unity--so both by His own action and by virtue of sharing substantial final reality with the Begetting Person, the Begotten Person (as the living action of the Begetting Person) has eternal self-generating Life in Himself. The Persons, including the Son, are fully alive and active within the total Unity of their substantial reality.

So I ask myself: am I omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, in relation to my own reality? Or again, am I in any way self-generatingly Independent, even as the only Begotten Son of the Father?

It does not seem to me that I am any of these. For example, there are actions which are intrinsically possible but which I obviously am not exhibiting however much I might wish. I exist in one place and not another. And my knowledge is very limited. Moreover, I find that whether I live or die is not ultimately dependent on my voluntary choice, even in union with something that is not personally myself.

To be fair, many pantheists would, I think, agree not only with the form but with the content of these observations; therefore (these pantheists would say) I should try to escape my limitations and fulfill my destiny by becoming one with the Absolute, so that I can partake in the properties of full Divinity.

If I was presuming from the getgo that pantheism is true (or if I had already established it on other grounds), I might accept this. Then again, I might not, either. Such a solution only puts the problem one stage further back: if I am fully divine, why am I in this state and why would I be capable of choosing to stay in this state?

A pantheist might now (with some real justification) say I am being contrary, even needlessly contrary.


And the fact that I can be contrary raises a serious problem with the proposal that I am, in reality, fully divine.

If I am honest with myself, it seems to me that I willingly choose to do things which furthermore I seem to know deep down I should not do. If I began with the presupposition that I am fully God, then I might eventually conclude that whatever I happened to want to do was after all fully permissible; but then I would be faced with the question of why I thought those actions were not permissible in the first place.

Put more succinctly, there are times when I seem very clearly to be in rebellion against something; but under pantheism [u]every[/u] 'something' is equally God, including myself. God cannot be in rebellion against Himself at a fundamental level. That would mean God is not self-consistent: more simply, that reality is not self-consistent. More strictly speaking: the Son cannot rebel against the Father, or the Father betray the Son, and still exist as the self-generating God. Their personal faithfulness to one another is necessary for their substantial existence.

Perhaps reality is not ultimately self-consistent; but as I argued earlier in Section One, if that is true I can have no way to tell. I must presume reality is self-consistent; therefore I conclude that the IF (which I have discovered to be God) is self-consistent; therefore I further infer that God does not rebel against Himself; and if I rebel against something or even if I am deluded into seeming that I rebel against something, then either way I am not behaving consistently with the fully divine.

Therefore, I conclude: whatever else I am, I am not the fully Begotten of God; I am merely created. (I will also be developing this same argument in a bit more depth from another direction soon.)

This puts a huge dent in pantheism's intrinsic possibility. A pantheist could reply that I am not fully divine, but rather partly divine. I might agree with him; but a partly divine entity is not the Self-Begotten God, ground of all reality.

Something distinctively exists other than the Begettor and the Begotten (Who, though distinct Persons, are still the same single personal entity): me.

The Unity of the IF may be considered one level of reality, despite its Personal multiplicity, because the Begetting and Begotten aspects of the self-existent IF must be fully united and (in substantial essence) equivalent. But with the recognition of something other than the fully divine--myself--I necessarily introduce at least one more level of reality into the theory.

With (at least) two levels of reality, I have now concluded that some type of Nature/Supernature relationship exists--and a self-consistent pantheism is ultimately a one-level reality claim.

But some notions distinctive to pantheism might perhaps be salvaged if the physical world within which I operate turns out to be the ultimate reality (and therefore God "Incarnate" in many senses of that word)! To this topic I turn for my next chapter.

[Next up: Supernaturalism]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the start of chapter 23, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes Chapter 23, "The Unity".]

Is it necessary that God must be Self-Begetting and Self-Begotten?

Well, it is necessary that God (as the intentionally active, self-existent Independent Fact) must be self-generative; and it is necessary that what He self-generates must be fully and completely Himself. This might only mean, that as part of an increasing knowledge of God's aspects, we could treat this aspect of God (a Unity of Persons) as being something of a "useful legal fiction"; as we might consider a self-consistent equation to be two 'different' formulas, because the formulas (although they are ultimately the same) 'look' different. For certain purposes we might use the formula on the left side of the equal sign; while for other purposes, we might be better served by using the formula on the right. The statement of principle would in either case be ultimately the same, but we might find different valid uses for different expressions of the statement.

To this extent, enriching my perception of God by recognizing a 'unity in multiplicity' might be quite useful; but by itself that doesn't make it necessarily more than a convenient description. Theologians may recognize this to be a doctrine of modalism--so far!

Yet there is a philosophical problem (more than one, actually) that requires a fully robust characteristic, beyond this mere 'modalism', in order to be solved.

Philosophers (theistic and non-theistic, Christian and non-Christian) have occasionally debated the question of whether it makes sense to say that God is 'conscious'. The argument runs something like this: we theists say (for various reasons) that God is rational, sentient, active, and so forth. This indicates consciousness. Yet we have discovered that it is inconsistent to claim that someone is 'conscious' if that person has no perception of an 'other' for purposes of distinctive comparison.

Put another way, how could I possibly claim to be 'I myself' or even cogently perceive myself as 'myself', if I do not recognize something which is distinctively not 'myself'?

You may think this would be easy to overcome; I know it certainly feels easy to me! But I think our ease at overcoming this conceptual problem stems from our inability to even adequately (much less accurately) imagine a state of absolutely nothing that is not nevertheless distinctive from our individual 'selfs'. Our picture-thinking here defeats us; I can easily picture myself floating in a disembodied state in the middle of a void. But the void is not myself, and is very easily distinguished from my conception of 'self'. In simplest terms, it is 'there' and I am 'here'.

You should notice that a similar problem quickly arises when we try to 'picture' God and only God existing. We tend to think of God hanging in a void somewhere, and then (perhaps) 'banging' the physical universe into existence with an explosion in this void.

But whatever creation 'ex nihilo' (or 'from nothing') means--and I will be returning to this topic soon--it cannot quite mean that. The void itself must either be a creation of God (putting the problem of picturing God as existing only by Himself one stage further back for no gain); or it must itself be an Independent, and that reintroduces all the intrinsic problems of cosmic dualisms. If I decide that cosmic dualisms are functionally impossible, then I am required to expunge even this image when I try to think of God existing only by Himself--even literally by (as the self-Begetting) Himself. I think this state of existence must be unpictureable, rather like many mathematic or sub-physic truths are unpictureable.

Either way, we return to the problem some philosophers, especially some atheistic or agnostic philosophers, have raised concerning the cogency of claiming that God is 'conscious'. Yet, as I have already demonstrated, if I take my own rationality seriously (and if my specific argument along this line remains valid), then I will fetch up sooner or later at the necessary existence of a sentient Independent Fact: God. It would be inconsistent (I agree with the atheists here) to say that God has these properties and yet is not conscious at that fundamental state of His existence. And I further agree (again with the atheists) that without a distinctive difference of states, it is nonsensical to say that God could be 'conscious'.

A pantheist, of course, could say that I am begging the question against pantheism here; but if pantheism (naturalistic theism) is true, then there is no 'creation' per se; the evident system of Nature around us is itself God. (Or the evident system of Nature around us is completely illusory. Either way, God is God alone under pantheistic systems.) But God is God alone under pantheistic systems; and my problem here is that sentience implies consciousness, my previous argument concludes the IF is sentient, and consciousness requires a distinction of 'other'.

(Not surprisingly, a number of pantheistic systems imply that God is and is not sentient; or that God isn't really sentient at all--perhaps has even no existence at all (even as the IF). I have previously (in Section One) rejected those types of pantheism, due to argumentation on other grounds.)

If naturalistic theism (pantheism) is true, then God has no distinction of 'other' (which is required for consciousness); yet even if supernaturalism is true, then God's own 'nature' is not fully accounted for by a created non-eternal 'subordinate' 'Nature'. We might perhaps say that something God has created is 'eternal' although subordinate, and that this would supply the necessary distinction of 'other'. Perhaps; but the most fundamental thing God creates (or perhaps I should say 'generates') is Himself, self-existent as God: that which (as the self-existent Independent Fact) is truly eternal. This action on God's part must be more fundamental than the creation of anything not-God.

Therefore, I think I can necessarily conclude that if God necessarily exists, then God has never been in a state where there was only 'sheerly' God with no distinctive differentiation. And the begettor/begotten distinction satisfies this requirement in the most basic manner possible; for differentiation requires some type of action by the IF, and there can be no more basic action than self-generation.

Thus I conclude that God’s most basic action, the action of Self-generation, eternally introduces into His own most basic level of reality a true distinction of some sort; one which is intimately connected to the relationship between God as the cause of Self-generation and God as the result of Self-generation which is He Himself God.

The simplest possible way of stating this would be: God the Begettor is in some true sense one distinctive Person, and God the Begotten is in some true sense another distinctive Person.

Modalism is refuted--the theology where differentiation of Persons in the Divine Unity is only apparent not actual. Or rather, modalism is only false insofar as modalism is only modalism!--God does operate in conceptual modes, but at the level of self-generation the mode of operation involves real multiple persons. The Father/Son imagery turns out to be increasingly more accurate.

(Why am I not using Father/Daughter as the analogical way of describing this relationship of God to God? Because what God is 'begetting', in self-generation (remember my term 'begetting' here is analogical), is fully God's self, the chief possible agent; and the Daughter-imagery-language would tend to implicitly deny this characteristic for the 2nd Person. See my last chapter in Section Two for a short discussion on the generally accepted masculine/feminine agent/patient descriptor relationship in philosophy. Still, in some ways it would be a little more poetically and philosophically proper to use feminine language for the 2nd Person than for the 1st. And if pantheism turns out to be true after all, it might be better to speak of both Persons in feminine language!--though see again, from that chapter's discussion, the problems with doing so while keeping the concept of primary agency.)

Does this mean these 1st and 2nd Persons of God are completely distinct? No; what God begets, in self-generation, must fully be Himself. The unity is preserved; and indeed without some distinctive-yet-interlocked relationship there can be no unity, per se. A sheer One is not itself (or Himself) a 'Unity'--in union.

(Ironically, the so-called “unitarian” Christians, while they may in a way profess some kind of unity between God and man, cannot consistently profess a “unitarian God” per se at God’s own level of existence--not without shifting meanings of “unitarian” to mean, absolutely not a real unity of persons, but a mere singularity of person.)

This union of the Divine Unity is another necessity, which for us must necessarily be unpictureable. Lewis (among others) suggests that our difficulties in drawing a balance between these concepts can be illustrated in the following fashion.

Let us suppose that a 3-Dimension man attempted to explain a cube to a completely 2-D man. The 2-D man (per this example) has no 3-D perception: he can only perceive (and thus mentally picture) height and width, not depth. He can therefore perceive squares and rectangles (for instance)--but not cubes.

On the other hand, you and I, as 3-D people, can easily understand (but still not at all perceive, in its fullness!) six squares united to comprise one solid cube. The faces of the cube are distinct and, in a way, have their own distinctive properties; but they comprise a unity of the cube.

However, if we try to explain this to a 2-D man, and give him pictures to understand, we can (in principle) only do one of two things. We can either draw a "cube" for him, where the six sides are completely distinct and not intimately united; or we can draw a "cube" where the six sides are intimately united, but overlap too much and lose their proper distinctions.

Perhaps our best hope would be to draw both sorts of "cube" as correctives for each other, and try to teach the 2-D man that a "cube" is something other than these two representations: something that shares some of their positive properties while transcending them.

I do not think we could blame the 2-D man for not understanding, nor for rejecting, the concept of a 3-D cube; or at best going with one or the other of the representations. (Not coincidentally, most Christian 'heresies' propose one or the other of the "2-D cube" pictures (so to speak), either in their Christology, or at the level of God’s own existence.) Nevertheless, the cube does still exist.

Similarly, as I speak about the Unity, you and I will be more-or-less in the position of the 2-D man. We cannot easily (if at all) picture such a concept mentally. That doesn't mean such a Unity cannot exist, for physicists will tell you that our concepts of chemical arrangements and atoms and sub-atomic particles and their interrelations are also unpictureable--the physicists can at best provide us with two or three different sorts of picture, to try to get across some aspects of the reality. Yet the combined (and unpictureable as combined) properties of those entities still (as far as we can tell) are true--and can be understood to be true.

Therefore, if I have discovered that God, at His most fundamental level of reality, is first and foremost a Unity of Persons--one distinctively Begetting and one distinctively Begotten, both of them constituting a common 'substance' (so to speak) of existence--and yet I cannot quite picture this adequately in my mind, I am not overly concerned. Having reached this position by deductive logic, I am not worried about a lack of totally accurate mental imagery, as long as the underlying precepts remain self-consistent. The Father/Son imagery, as far as I can tell, is adequate; if God is not quite this, then He is more not less--but He will be 'more' along those same lines.

And this brings me back to my potential problem from Chapter 20. A very large part (perhaps even the most important part) of my rationale for deducting atheism (and its subordinate branches) out of the philosophical option list, involved my recognition that the general atheistic claim 'actions are produced ultimately by reactions' (or 'initiations are ultimately produced by noninitiations') is nonsensical; whereupon I found myself obligated to wonder whether the general theistic claim 'actions are ultimately produced by actions' is also nonsensical.

Specifically, I found I should ask whether it makes cogent sense, to say that derivative actions (such as what my behaviors seem to be) ultimately are produced by independent actions (such as what God's behaviors as the IF must be).

While puzzling this over, I decided that one solution would be to conclude that there are not in fact such things as derivative actions--in other words, what might seem like my derivative actions are in reality God's direct actions. The problem would then be mooted; because the only behaviors left over would be the actions of the IF, and perhaps blindly automatic reactions (such as Nature's)--leaving aside the question of how Nature fits into the scheme (a topic I will be returning to soon.)

That type of solution might provide us a pantheistic universe or a supernaturally theistic one, depending on whether the field of Nature turns out to be, itself, fully God. But the disadvantage to this sort of solution is that 'I' would not exist, per se. This lack of distinctive existence on 'my' part might not necessarily invalidate the logic-train by contradicting the Golden Presumption, because the action involved in this solution remains the IF's. Yet, such a tactic succeeds by removing one of the 'actions' from the proposition 'actions produce actions'.

It now turns out, that whatever else we say about God, He Himself (speaking of the Unity of Divinity as a single and personal entity) must necessarily be taking a certain action that results in His ability to take actions; which is how self-sustenance works for an ultimately Independent active entity. Thus at the most basic level of activity (and existence) in reality, I find that action can in fact be produced by action.

So my dilemma from Chapter 20 begins to unsnarl a bit; action-into-action is a viable proposition!--even though by itself this does not yet cover the proposition of action into non-Independent action.

Having established the transpersonal unity of God, and having worked out a few corollaries, I now will consider the topic of actions other than begetting--if indeed such activity by God should be said to exist.

[Next up: creation or Creator?]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, chapter 22, can be found here.]

[This entry begins Chapter 23, "The Unity".]

Recently I have been talking about what it means for foundational reality to be self-existent. And for various reasons, I have concluded I ought to believe that the foundational reality, the one Independent Fact of all existence, must not be privatively self-existent, but instead positively self-sustaining--especially if (as I have also concluded) I ought to believe the IF is rationally active.

If, therefore, God (the rationally active Independent Fact) is self-sustaining, then I conclude that the most fundamentally basic action of God is His own 'upkeep', so to speak. Without this action, no other actions of God would be possible. Because this action remains eternally successful, all other actions of God are possible. If God acts in any other fashions than this, then He can act in those fashions only because He continually acts in this fashion.

'To actively cause to be' is 'to create'. God is His own Creator, as well as ours and everything else's.

But many languages (including my own) have a distinctive word for a certain type of creation--the type wherein the creator creates (or the producer produces) something of its own kind.

In English, we call this special variation of creation 'begetting'. A man begets men; but he creates a chair. We say he creates a statue, even though the statue is in many ways like a man, because the statue is nevertheless not the same kind of thing the man is.

When God creates Himself from all eternity, what He creates obviously is 'the same kind of thing' God is, in the deepest possible sense of the phrase: for what the self-existent God eternally creates, or generates, at the most primary possible level, is Himself God.

I may therefore metaphorically (though usefully) distinguish this special action from other actions He may take, and say thus: God begets Himself, and He creates everything else.

Putting it another way around, God is not 'created', but is self-begotten; whatever is 'created', is not-God (if anything not-God exists at all). This is how I will typically limit my use of 'creation' and its cognates, hereafter.

Now notice a unique feature of the Self-Existent: we have in plain view before us a conceptual action line, with a cause and a result on either 'side', although the cause and result are effectively the same at this (necessarily) irreducible level. If we wish to recognize the two sides of this action line, we may cogently do so by saying that in this way God is the Self-Begettor; and in that way God is the Self-Begotten.

And because I should not forget that God (as an active sentience) is a Person, I should simultaneously affirm that a Person is the Begettor and a Person is the Begotten.

I may therefore metaphorically (but usefully and adequately) describe God as both Father and Son.

Now let me see to what extent such a characteristic of Him is necessary, and to what limits I can develop this doctrine, along lines I have already established.

[Next up: the interpersonal Unity of God]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the last for chapter 21, and the last for Section Two, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes Chapter 22, "The Aseity", and starts Section Three, "Creation and the Second Person".]

I have discovered (if my argument holds water) that the fundamental ground of all reality is active and sentient, and thus is a Personality. He must, at the barest minimum, be sentient to the degree that I require my own active and sentient properties to be distinctively real. What more He may be, remains to be discovered, if possible.

Let me look at a potential problem that many readers will now have. Where did God come from?

In one sense, the answer can be deferred; for no matter what philosophy we espouse--atheism or pantheism or theism or anything else--we will fetch up eventually with a reality that just is. (Even if an infinite regression could be possible, it still would finally be an infinite regression. Such a finality, of course, is contradictory to the whole notion of an infinite regression...) The naturalistic atheist who rejects God is still left with an entity--Nature--that just is; if she seriously asked where Nature 'came from', other than from Itself, she would be tacitly denying naturalism. She might thus become a supernaturalistic atheist; but then she would fetch up at a new irreducible stopping point.

Yet, although the question ('Where did God come from?') could be deferred, I would rather not. I think the question leads directly to a highly useful understanding about the characteristics of God; and simultaneously ratifies, in a minor way, my developing argument that a non-sentient Independent Fact is not the end, and source, of reality.

Whatever the IF is, It cannot have 'come into existence from nowhere', for that is a contradiction which owes its shreds of fictive plausibility to our inability to properly imagine a true 'nowhere'.

We think of a black space, and then of Nature (for instance) 'banging' into existence; but the space of Nature evidently already existed for physical material to expand into, and thus physical Nature does not have its true origin in that fashion. The blank slate may be self-existent, or it may have been created, but it is a slate and therefore exists; it is not nothing. [See first comment below for extended footnote here.]

Now, if I had no other (and prior) grounds for being logically confident that God exists (that the IF is rational and intentionally active, and so indeed even personal in some ultimate way) I would still strongly edge in favor of accepting theism, against an atheistic reality, by considering the question of whether fundamental reality, the Independent Fact, merely statically exists, uncaused, or whether the IF eternally causes its own existence.

In technical terms, this is called the question of “aseity”; “privative aseity” means the IF merely exists uncaused, “positive aseity” means the IF self-existently causes Its own existence. In no case does the IF receive existence from anything else; otherwise we wouldn’t in fact be talking about the Independent Fact! [See second comment below for an extended footnote here.]

You may have already noticed that one option, privative aseity, means that fundamentally the IF does not act (or even behave), whereas if positive aseity is true then the most fundamental reality of the IF is action (or at least behavior). That’s an important distinction, and I’ll be discussing it soon. But before then, I want to point out a major technical and formal problem with one of those options--a problem the other proposal doesn’t have!

This strong formal problem occurs due to a special property the IF must have in order for any argument we make to be relationally valid; and this time I don’t mean action ability (although I’ll also be discussing that issue in regard to aseity soon.)

For any argument of ours to even exist as an argument, much moreso for it to be worth anything, it must be caused and grounded. The argument must exist as the effect of a cause; and it must also have the property of being a logical consequent to a ground. Without being an effect of a cause, the argument wouldn’t exist at all; but without being properly consequent to a ground, the argument is invalid and so is worthless for understanding the truth of the topic being thought about.

The Cause/Effect relationship and the Ground/Consequent relationship are not necessarily the same thing--in fact at our level of reality they are categorically different things! Philosophers call this the fact/value distinction; you may have heard of a special version of it called the is/ought problem. The factness of an event, even though real, doesn’t have the same kind of quality as the value of an event, so merely appealing to a fact doesn’t necessarily establish the value of a fact.

I’ll be discussing this particularly in regard to ethics much later (in Section Four). Right now I’m talking about logic more broadly. As I discussed back in Section Two (and even back in Section One, at Chapter 4), the rationality of our behavior is something different from its logical validity; but for an argument to be worthwhile as a tool for understanding truth, it also has to have logical validity! If I make a mistake, I may still be acting rationally, but the mistake will mean my argument is invalid. Indeed here we may see there are (at least!) three categorically different qualities to what is happening: the event of the argument, as an effect of a cause; the validity or invalidity of the argument, in regard to the ground/consequent relationship; and the rationality (or not) of the entity doing the argument.

In short: if any argument of ours is ultimately uncaused, then it cannot (and never did) happen at all; and if any argument of ours is invalid (even allowing for different kinds of invalidity, whether inductive, abductive or deductive), then it is worthless for arriving at a true understanding of the facts of the topic. And our rationality is not a guarantee in itself that these other two qualities will also be true about our argument.

And here comes the first ontological problem with privative aseity: if privative aseity is true, then all our arguments are ultimately uncaused, because all reality (including our arguments) is ultimately uncaused!

I am willing to grant that due to the paradoxical and unique properties of the IF as such, it might be that the IF can (in various ways, directly and/or indirectly) provide causation for our arguments, despite the IF having no cause.

But existence is a different category than the ground/consequent relation of an argument. You may be able to see that the IF must somehow combine the qualities of cause/effect and ground/consequent, if any of our arguments are going to be worth anything: we have to be able to trace logical relations back to a grounded foundation. But if privative aseity is true, then the IF is ungrounded as well as uncaused--the IF does not even exist as Its own logical ground: there is ultimately no reason for the IF’s existence either way!

This isn’t quite the same problem as the first metaphysical corollary to the law of noncontradiction--from nothing comes nothing. If privative aseity is true, then by the terms of the proposal there is no question of the IF coming from anything (even from the IF). The IF simply statically exists, and from this Something comes Everything Else (if there is anything else other than the IF--which I haven’t really established yet, remember.)

But if privative aseity is true, then we have every reason from its proposed characteristic of ultimate non-behavior, much less an ultimate lack of action, to believe that nothing else exists other than Itself, and that unlike us the IF does nothing. Moreover, there can be no logical relation between propositions, no consequents to grounds. Put another way, if privative aseity is true, we have every reason to believe that we cannot possibly have any good reason to believe anything, including that privative aseity is true!

If that sounds like my critique of fundamental atheism from the previous Section, there’s a good reason why! If the Independent Fact only statically exists, then behavior of any kind, even merely automatic and systemically reactive/counterreactive behavior, is ultimately foreign to It. And I say “It” because, consequentially, if privative aseity is true, the IF could not be personal either. It would be the very deadest type of atheism: a mere singularity of existence with no detail other than mere ‘existence’ as such; for if it had any other properties besides mere existence, those properties would be relational at least to one another, implying logical grounds--and a privative aseity reality does not have logical grounding even in regard to Itself.

As I argued in the previous Section, though, we don’t only need for our behaviors to come from an ultimately ‘behaving’ reality; we need for at least some of our behaviors to have the property of active rationality, in order for any arguments of ours to be even possibly “rational”--and we are going to necessarily presume that our arguments can be at least possibly “rational”, involving special property claims for ourselves (even in denying the existence of those claims!) Proposing that fundamental reality is non-rational, in other words that atheism is true, immediately introduces a necessarily solvent sceptical threat to the reality of our own rationality--a threat that we cannot even try to resolve (regardless of whether we think we succeed in resolving it!) without first proposing that the threat is not necessarily solvent. Put shortly, we have to necessarily assume that the sceptical threat of atheism isn’t necessary, in order to combat its necessary fundamental threat to the reality of our rationality.

While theism has some potential problems of its own, in regard to our rationality, the threat isn’t necessarily immediate; there are at least a few ways around it from the start (as I discussed back in chapter 20, and will be discussing throughout this Section), and there may be more. Theism at least proposes the same kind of our own necessarily presupposed rationality for sake of any argument.

Privative aseity turns out to have similar formal problems to atheism, with regard to being an immediate and necessary sceptical threat to our rationality; and also turns out to have ontological characteristics much more in common with atheism, indeed with the most ‘atheistic’ atheism conceivable (aside from sheer total non-existence of anything perhaps!)

And yet again, privative aseity runs directly foul of the Golden Presumption, that you and I can act. For if privative aseity is true, then the core foundation of all reality, including all our own behaviors, is non-action. Our rationality cannot be defended by rational argument against that kind of fundamental conceptual threat; we will only end up tacitly presuming something contradictory to the reality of that proposal, in order to acknowledge at least the possibility of the responsible rationality of our own arguments.

Positive aseity just doesn’t have any of those problems. We don’t have to deny key tenets of positive aseity, nor of theism, in order to operate as responsibly rational persons. True, we would have to do so if an atheistic version of positive aseity was proposed--if the IF is proposed to be an eternally self-generating system of reactions and counterreactions. But leaving aside the question of what kind of behavior, positive aseity doesn’t have the fundamental anti-rational problems of privative aseity: putting it a little over-simply, we cannot have any good reason to believe that our reality fundamentally exists for no good reason.

All this being the case, and assuming for purposes of further argument that my prior arguments are sufficiently valid and accurate, I will consider the topic in terms of an entity that I already believe (on those other grounds) to certainly be active: what does it mean, for God to be self-existent?

[Next up: aseity and the Unity of God]

On Atheistwatch (my "other" blog) I have a two part peice on Nazareth (without meaning to be Christmas oriented). I suppose a timely Christmas Message would be about Bethlehem. Not that much has change in the "was Nazareth really a town in Jesus' day" issue, although the atheists seem to be reviving it for some reason. The biggest piece of hard evidence has been the discovery of a house that dates to Jesus' era. This is not the first actual archaeological proof of habitation in Jesus' day. Jesus mythers use their usual tricks to deny evidence cliaming that Jewish coins, oil lamps, and pot shards were from tombs, Hebrew never lived near tombs, so it wasn't habitation. Well here's a house that was "near by." It's a Hebrew style house. The problem with that tomb argument, well I will answer that on Wednesday.

see part I now.

Part II is now up)

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the second for chapter 21, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes Chapter 21, "Some Detours", and also concludes Section Two.]

In philosophy, there is a relationship that may be described as agent-to-patient. The 'agent' acts; the 'patient' receives the action. When philosophers of old described this relationship, they quite naturally put masculine pronouns on the side of the agent, and feminine on the sides of the patient. This reflected the most basic of male/female relationships: biologically speaking, when a child is conceived, the male gives and the female receives.

'Action', in this human situation, does not necessarily have its full philosophical rigor: it might only indicate one very particular cause/effect relationship. [See first comment below for footnote here.] Yet true actions do still exhibit this relationship. If I act, and you react, then for that interchange, I am the agent, and you are the patient.

Notice, however, that if God is the Independent Fact of reality (and I think the IF must be God, for reasons I have already given), then God’s fundamental relationship to all other things (if any not-God entities exist at all!) must be that of agent to patient. If any other relationship exists, it is because God chooses (or has chosen) to allow it--thus the original agent/patient relationship would still exist. And the easiest way of describing that relationship in terms of personal pronouns, is to use the masculine for God.

Perhaps I can illustrate this if I look at the proposed alternative: what if I called God "She"?

If I only lacked a genderless pronoun set, and if the female pronoun set was somehow established as appropriate for such neuter use in my language, then I suppose I would be just as willing to call God "She". But when it comes time to talk practically about God, then I run into a problem.

I am aware there are well-meaning people who speak of God as "Goddess" with appropriate modifications to pronouns. Very well, let me try that for a while. Goddess is my creator. (This can sound a bit odd, because our society has long been comfortable with using 'God' as a proper name, not merely as a term--another issue I'll touch on shortly.) This naturally brings up the following association: Goddess (as my creator, or at least as the One Who generates me) is my heavenly Mother.

But a mother is a person who has had something happen to her (in the net sum, at least) to bring me to birth. What happened to Goddess to cause me to be? Put bluntly (though metaphorically) how did She become impregnated? That seems to beg the question of another entity. But Goddess must be the IF; if anything could do that, it would have to be something She created. Yet that puts the question one stage further back; what is the relationship between Her and that entity, then? It might be feasible to say that She begot of Herself an entity which, by Her grace, then proceeded to beget other entities through Her--then perhaps into a third entity which She had also created (Nature), as a receptacle for further derivative entities like us.

The notion becomes rather convoluted from there (though not yet strictly self-contradictory: if we ask where the first begotten of Goddess came from, there might in fact be a self-consistent answer--which I will address not many chapters from now.) Whatever else may be true, the traditional role of God the Father allows a simpler notion. God creates Nature, and through Nature He begets derivative entities such as ourselves; Nature can be spoken of (either metaphorically or literally, depending on whether Nature is itself a derivative sentience) as our mother.

This view is so fitting to the concept of a creating sentience that it has a rich history into the deeps of pagan antiquity: Mother Earth and the Sky-Father. I find it also cleanly fits the character I am (on other grounds) discovering of God.

I will gladly admit, on the other hand, that if pantheism turns out to be true, then it might well be better to speak of Goddess the Mother: the IF would not be using a derivative entity to produce us, because the natural level of reality around us would itself be the ultimate level and itself Divine. This remains to be seen; so perhaps Goddess the Mother will be a metaphysically accurate description after all.

But there is another role whereby God has been symbolically described, related to gender. Actual religions which promote the idea of Goddess as our Mother may go the next step (mirroring their masculine alternative) and describe Goddess as our Bride.

And this is a concept I reject.

I do not reject it out of distaste: I find the idea very attractive! But this immediately alerts my suspicions: why do I find such an idea so attractive?

I think the idea implies, that at a fundamental level I can reverse the agent/patient relationship.

If I do have derivative action capability, then in a sense the IF could indeed choose (and in fact will have already chosen, by giving my current existence with action ability) to allow me such a privilege. God in humility could choose to submit to letting me make real contributions to the ongoing process of creation, such that God might then consequently make other choices based on the results of my input.

Yet the underlying fact would still be that the IF is choosing to do this, and my own ability and privilege would be the result. I still remain the patient, and God still remains the agent. (I have not forgotten the potential problem I raised in the previous chapter, though: is action-to-derivative-action a contradictory notion?!)

But to speak of the IF as being the Bride (as I might speak of Her as the Mother) carries with it the implication that She is the patient to me at the fundamental level of Her reality; and this idea must be contradictive, if She is the IF and I am derivative.

A human bride wouldn't be subordinate to me in such a fashion, either; I would be furious at the thought of it! But neither is a human bride being proposed as the level of reality to which I have the most fundamental possible relation. The Divinity is acting to generate me, and therefore is causing effects upon me. Analogical 'bride' language would imply that the fundamental relationship between Goddess and me, is my action to Her dependent response. I think this agent/patient relationship is extremely untrue--it essentially implies that I am the creator or inventor of 'Goddess'--so I will not use such language about the ultimate creating Divinity.

I can understand (for instance) the Christian Church, or the Jewish Nation, as a corporate body being metaphorically described as the Bride of God. That keeps the agent/patient relationship established properly. But Goddess as Bride does not seem to me to do this.

For these reasons, then--and there are others I may bring out later--I think it makes most sense to speak of God, through a useful and practical analogy, as 'He Himself'; as the Father, the King, the Husband. I do not claim this is a deductive necessity, but it fits better with what I am discovering elsewhere. (Although, again, if pantheism turns out to be true, I would be inclined to use the opposite analogy, at least insofar as Mother and Queen. I think I would still be obligated to reject Bride. Goddess Herself would be the Holy Virgin giving birth, I suppose.)

I recently mentioned that we Westerners have grown very comfortable using the word 'God' as a proper name for the Personality Who grounds all facts. I am content to continue this usage; it may be that God has revealed to us names which He Himself would prefer we use of Him, but this would beg the question of scriptural inspiration and attendant doctrines--a topic I am certainly not yet in a position to discuss! To the sceptic, then--that is, to the person who, it may be, only now is coming to accept the bare existence of God or who does not agree yet with certain historical and metaphysical claims about Him which I profess as a Christian--to that person, I willingly accede to a middle ground, and so shall use God (and only 'God') as a proper name.

And to the believer (of any type, including my own) who rightfully (but with a touch of naivete) wishes to guard the attribute of God as a Person and thus insists on a proper name, I say this: I challenge you to produce a proper name of God that means more than God. You may give me words of any description; yet I ask you to notice that these words (exotic as they may sound to us moderns who very probably speak another mother-tongue than the people who originally coined, or received permission to use, those titles) are themselves mundane descriptions which borrow divine importance by being applied to God.

You may insist, for instance, that Yahweh is His proper name. I would agree (although you should charitably remember that many of my other readers would not) that He has taught us to call Him this--or, rather, that He taught us to call Him something, but thanks to historical factors 'Yahweh' is perhaps the closest we can now come to the pronunciation of that lost name. But what does Yahweh mean? It doesn’t seem to mean anything, unless perhaps an abbreviation for the phrase “I AM THAT I AM”; and in Jewish scriptures it is often replaced with (the plural form of) “Lord”. I agree, He is the Lord. But lords exist who are not God, don't they? He is the King of Kings, yet there are kings who are not He. If I called God "King" throughout my discourses of Him, would you say I have denied or underplayed His Personhood, by using 'merely' a title and not a 'proper name'? Yet 'Lord' as such is also 'merely' a title, and not a 'proper name'. Indeed all of our names, to the best of my knowledge, are 'merely' titles if we insist on reducing them--and the person who insists on marginalizing God will insist on reductions of this sort no matter what you or I call Him. My own name could be transliterated to mean 'healer in the grassy meadow', or 'babbling thin bookish man'! This is what happens if we place too much weight on the name of God.

If I think it worthwhile to preserve and ratify the concept of the personhood of God, and if I am told that I must do so through the acceptance of a name which itself means less than God (as if that name was not itself a titular recognition of some aspect of His personality), then I would shut myself in a tower of contemplation and leave the field unchecked to the sceptics.

No; you may depend upon it: God's 'personhood' will not be ratified nor guarded by a name less than God (however applicable and lovely and pertinent and divinely sanctioned such a name may be); and a name equivalent to God might as well be God. I am told that Jehovah is not a real word, being a transliterated mush of Latin, Hebrew, Greek or whatnot. I say: by God Himself, Jehovah is a real word and means God, if I honestly and seriously and reverently use it for that purpose, no matter its origins! Am I supposed to think that God, Who in Hebrew Scripture alone gives us dozens of purportedly legitimate ways to name Him (most of them adjectives and gerunds which can be legitimately applied in lesser standing to many other subjects), cares overmuch whether I apply another batch of syllables to name Him, as long as by doing so I keep in mind Who He is and follow Him to the best of my ability to do so? I follow God, not (merely) His Name; I am not spending years writing this testimony in order to give sceptics better grounds (or believers clearer grounds) for joyfully receiving and following merely His Name!

Even the term 'God' itself is derived originally from a pagan word for deity--along with our English word 'good'. But the word itself originally meant something fairly mundane (as mundane as an ancient word for 'good' can be); as do all of our names for God, even the ones I think He has used of Himself. As I argued in Chapter 11, if we despise metaphorical language when speaking about God, we will only end up using metaphors of a type perhaps significantly different from our best ideas of Him.

Besides, while I am certainly not adverse to using names which mean 'King' or 'Lord'--as I frequently do in my own devotions to Him, and contemplations with Him--I have my own reasons, to be given later, for preferring to use a name that means 'Good'.

(And for preferring to use a name that means 'The Lord God saves'...)

All this being the case, I will continue to speak of God as "God" throughout this book; and I will continue to use the traditional masculine pronouns.

And having cleared away a few minor (but possible) stumbling blocks to the best of my ability (and having spliced into their proper place some earlier arguments of mine in my first section, in order to smooth out some rather more serious wrinkles), I now find myself free to proceed along my path--and perhaps to begin unraveling the problem of action-to-action which I detected in my most recent chapter.

[Next up: Section Three begins, "Creation and the Second Person".]

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