The Heart of Freedom (July 4, 2009)

No particular revisions this year; so just a link to my annual Independence Day sermon that I like to put up every year. {g!}

God’s hope to all our readers, around the world, on this day, and every day!

Jason Pratt


Spencer said…
I'd be interested to get your take on an ongoing debate about the resurrection between myself and preacher Jerry McDonald. See:

The debate scheduled to go for five rounds, and two have been completed.
Jason Pratt said…
I've got a pretty busy schedule already, but I'll consider it. Thanks!

Spencer said…
I take a completely different approach to the debate. To save time, you can skip McDonald's opening and just read my rebuttals.

You can also see the exchanges at his website here:
Jason Pratt said…
For what it's worth, I approve the basic technical thrust of your strategy. (I've said as much myself here and in related materials, among other places over the years.)

I didn't know you were Spencer Lo, btw. Nice to see you again! {wave!}

Spencer said…
Hi Jason!

If you approve of my basic strategy, does this mean you think the proposition that 'God raised Jesus from the dead' can't be established?
Jason Pratt said…
It means that I think both halves of the proposition have to be established.

If atheism is true, God couldn't have raised Jesus from the dead (unless we're talking about some Mormon-alien 'god' perhaps); if cosmological dualism is true, then God cannot interfere in Nature, thus ditto; if another kind of cos-du is true, where God and Anti-God are always actively canceling one another out, then ditto; if nominal deism is true and God could (in theory) interfere in Nature but never does, then ditto; if supernaturalistic theism is true, but God for any of various reasons would not be expected to raise Jesus from the dead (e.g. Jesus was actually a freaking blasphemer deceiver who should be boiling in his own semen in hell, per the Talmud), then ditto (or anyway the proposition has a much harder row to hoe {g}); if God exists but there is no particular reason pro or con for Him to raise Jesus from the dead, then ditto.

If God exists and there are various reasons for us to expect Him to raise Jesus from the dead, then those positions have to be established first (as they already largely were for the first Christians). Combine that with an assessment of whether events corresponding to that expectation have already occurred in history, and (depending on how strongly we can expect God to do such a thing sooner or later) now you'll have a thorough establishment for the proposition.

I don't think it's impossible. But I can spend almost 800 pages of analysis on just the metaphysical side of the question, just to establish a grounded expectation for this kind of thing occurring; and that doesn't yet begin a historical analysis. (C. S. Lewis does much the same thing, more briefly but the same strategy, in Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Making much the same point, too, especially in his introduction.)

I'm doubtful your opponent is going to be able to get that technically in-depth in his side of the debate. {s} (I doubt any human could cover the preliminary issues in sufficient depth within the scope of a mere debate. I'm pretty sure I couldn't!--nor would I try.)

Spencer said…
God's existence is irrelevant: it only matters if, as you said, "God exists and there are various reasons for us to expect Him to raise Jesus from the dead." What are those reasons?

Without such reasons, even if God does exist, you still can't establish the proposition that 'God raised Jesus from the dead."
Jason Pratt said…
Well, God's existence isn't sufficiently relevant, but God's existence is obviously very much relevant to the proposition 'God raised Jesus from the dead'. I wouldn't call it "irrelevant"; that isn't technically correct.

The kind of deity being proposed, or discovered, may make a big difference in the kinds of reasons the deity would have for raising Jesus from the dead. For example, Christians who deny the original deity of Christ may have various reasons for God to raise Jesus from the dead, but modalistic Christians will have another only-partially overlapping set of reasons available for why God would raise Himself from the dead; orthodox trinitarians would have yet another partially-overlapping set of reasons available for why the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit would raise the Son from the dead.

In the latter case, those reasons would (I'd argue, at length--not here) be intrinsically related to the economy of God's own active self-existence. In fact, in a straightline analysis I would in principle (and from experience) be discovering those things first and then afterward would be inferring an expectation of an Incarnation of the 2nd Person (God self-begotten), a Passion, a Death and a bodily Resurrection (with various Ascension possibilities afterward.)

Not that this would be at all obvious from a first-glance consideration of established ortho-trin. (I'm not trying to say I've argued this here in this tiny comment!--yeesh. {g})

Spencer said…
God's existence is only relevant to the proposition if certain assumptions are granted, such as the assumption that God intends to participate in human affairs, and not from "behind the scenes" so to speak, but via public events like miracles.

Would you agree that *without* this assumption, that God intends to participate in human affairs via public displays like miracles, the mere existence of God has no relevant bearing on the proposition? Or: would you agree that without this assumption, the proposition that God raised Jesus cannot be established?
Jason Pratt said…
God's existence is obviously topically relevant to the proposition "God raised Jesus from the dead." I have already stated (briefly and at length by example) that God's existence is not sufficiently relevant by itself to anchor that side of the proposition. (Just like a missing body or even an empty tomb is not sufficiently relevant by itself to anchor the other side.)

If you only mean 'relatively irrelevant', in that sense, I have no objection. It isn't absolutely irrelevant to the topic, though. (On the contrary, the "mere" existence of God, if "mere" is taken to be exclusive of other details, would still be extremely relevant to the proposition--except in a contravening fashion!)

{{Or: would you agree that without this assumption, the proposition that God raised Jesus cannot be established?}}

I would want this and many other metaphysical elements established as more than a set of assumptions, myself. I don't think merely assuming these things can help arrive at an establishment (i.e. some sort of reasonable conclusion, whether inductive or deductive) that God (as a matter of fact) raised Jesus.

Obviously a hypothesis that God raised Jesus requires various details being granted as at least assumptions, though; including the detail of "God intending to to participate in human affairs via public displays like miracles".

If that detail is not at least assumptively granted, even the hypothesis will fail. It would have to be more than only assumptively granted for a reasonable establishment of the factuality of the hypothesis to obtain, however. (Unless such an assumption was a necessary assumption for every line of reasoning--which would still need demonstrating. I don't consider the proposition of "God intending to participate in human affairs via public displays like miracles", to be an assumption necessary for every line of reasoning, though.)

Spencer said…
I'll put it another way; if you cannot establish the assumption that God intended to participate in human affairs via miracles, then you cannot establish the resurrection, even God exists. Agree?
Jason Pratt said…
I agree: unless that is done, I cannot establish the resurrection of Jesus by God, even if God exists. (Synching it back up with your topic.) I was always voluntarily affirming this and not denying it.

Incidentally, the original post you're commenting on has some connection to establishing that God intends to participate in human affairs via supernatural action within Nature (i.e. via "miracle"); and also has some connection to establishing God's self-sacrificial character in regard to human life and freedom. Which has more than a passing relevance to an expectation of Incarnation, self-sacrificial Passion, and Resurrection of God. (Although I don't spell that out in the article.)

I can't tell if you noticed this or not, when you read the post to which you have been commenting. (You did read the original post to which you are commenting, right? {s})

Spencer said…
No, I haven't read your sermon yet. But now I'm immensely curious on how you go from "God exists" to "God intends to participate in human affairs via miracles."

Can you give a quick reason for why you rule out the possibility that God only works from "behind the scenes,' or that he doesn't participate at all?
Jason Pratt said…
Oy... how to address the two options (or even one of them--never participates at all, or only behind the scenes) in a 4096 character comment. Even three comments seems _far_ too short. But I’ll try.

It should be obvious that participation 'behind the scenes' always involves at least the potential of more on-the-scene involvement. There would have to be further rationales pro or con for expecting or ruling out more obvious involvement.

If God is discovered to be an entity Whose own self-begetting self-begotten existence intrinsically involves active fulfillment of coherent and supportive interpersonal relationships (i.e. if trinitarian theism is discovered to be true), then that would be extremely strong grounds for expecting God to be working toward (and progressively enacting and enabling) interpersonal relationships between God's own substantial Persons and derivative persons created by God in any not-God system of reality. (I don't think the creation of not-God systems of reality would be necessarily expected, but the discovered existence of such a thing as well as of such a God would not be logically disjunctive; and would of course give us one more fact to be incorporating into the theological system.)

Trinitarian theism is a variation of supernaturalistic theism. As previously noted in my longer comment for this post, the question of whether God even interacts with Nature at all, is the same question as whether robust supernaturalistic theism is true compared to various forms of deism or cosmological dualism.

The progression of argument, then, would be: is there only one Independent Fact, or multiple ones? Multiple distinct IFs, however, tacitly presuppose an overarching system of shared existence. (Explanatory and ontological infinite regression both have similarly self-refuting implications.) Once the implications are spelled out, a single-IF reality of some kind, naturalism or supernaturalism, can be seen as being necessarily true. If naturalism is true then the evident system of Nature is the one and only level of existence, whether or not Nature is sentient (i.e. whether pantheism or atheism is ultimately true). If supernaturalism is true, then the natural system exists in ontological dependence on a substantially different IF. This ontological dependence is such that every point of space-time exists only due to interfacial relation with the IF (not simply as a matter of historical fact where once upon a time Nature was banged into existence as a result of something other than itself--though that, too, of course, temporally speaking.) I wrote “interfacial relation” so as not to beg the question in favor of theism instead of atheism.

The next crucially relevant questions are: is the IF actively sentient (theism is true), or only statically existent or at best only automatically reactive and counterreactive (atheism is true)? And is the evident system of Nature the IF or is it dependent for existence on the IF?

Part 2 of 3 next.
Jason Pratt said…
Very very briefly speaking, I accept the qualitative implications of human rationality (necessarily assumed for any argument to be ‘an argument’ per se and not merely an illusion thereof) to point deductively toward theism instead of atheism being ultimately true. A comparison of human rationality to the evident behaviors of the natural system, further clarifies that Nature cannot be the ultimately sentient IF and neither can rational humans (Nature isn’t God and neither am I). God exists and is supernatural; and ontologically Nature and natural entities exist in intimate interfacial union with God’s continuing action to keep us in existence with whatever properties we have. Nature itself is one kind of miracle from the outset, and my own existence as a rational human is that kind of miracle plus an even more overtly interactive kind of miracle: the introduction of effects into the system of natural reactions and counterreactions, in union with those natural behaviors.

From this point, a consideration of positive vs. privative aseity leads (via positive aseity) to at least binitarian theism (and eventually to trinitarian theism); and a consideration of the self-generation of God at the intrinsic level of God’s own existence leads to discovering the self-sacrificial character of the 2nd Person; which in turn dovetails exceedingly well with the action God would have to take in order to create a not-God system of reality at all: an action of self-sacrifice. The self-sacrifice of the 2nd Person, however, results in God’s own eternally self-existent and self-generating life (the Father, analogically, gives life to the Son Who sacrifices Himself for the sake of the Father Who gives life to the Son etc. etc.) At the level of God’s own self-existence there is self-sacrifice and (so to speak) resurrection of the Son. At the level of creation, the Son (the action of God) engages in a crucially different kind of self-sacrifice while still continuing the self-existent action of God’s interpersonal unity. The development and rise of derivatively sentient not-God persons in the history of Nature, is a further expression of this principle. As the Persons of God interact personally with one another, so their committment of fulfillment of fair-togetherness between persons leads to an expectation of necessarily acting toward fulfilling fair-togetherness between derivative persons, too: corporate personal unions between man and man, and between man and any other derivative sentience (already in existence or to be raised later), and between man and God.

Moreover, if we not-God entities are discovered to exist in this situation, it only makes sense (for the fulfillment of all fair-togetherness) that the living self-sacrifical action of God should also sooner or later in this natural history pour Himself out (while yet remaining Who and What He eternally is) to Incarnate Himself as a creature within the natural process--not only to act as a manifestation in Nature (though that can be expected, too), but to be begotten and born within Nature as a creature as part of sharing personal communion with all persons.

Part 3 of 3 next.
Jason Pratt said…
Rebellion of any derivative creatures against the fulfillment of interpersonal union (the ground of all existence, if this theology is true) would have to be factored into the expectations, if it occurs. And, from personal experience (not even counting historical experience!) I can vouch that this rebellion certainly occurs. I have ‘sinned’ against other people and so also against God.

But my sin can only occur, as such, if God allows it. God has His own authoritative responsibility for my sin; when I sin I am abusing the grace of God, but I continue to exist as a person who is able to sin because God loves sinners, too: not for being sinners, but as persons.

I am already taking advantage of the self-sacrificial life of God by sinning; in effect, I am murdering God by God’s own voluntary self-sacrifice for my sake. It doesn’t take much imagination to expect that if God Incarnates into such a situation, this will be exemplified historically, too. But just as God in interpersonal unity gives life to the self-sacrificing 2nd Person of God (the living action of God), all three Persons would be involved in resurrecting and restoring the slain self-sacrificed Incarnate Son. Similarly, despite sin and the natural effects of being raised to life originally within a neutrally reactive field of Nature, I can expect God to be acting toward mending broken personal relationships and acting toward transcending death for sentient spirits (as well as acting toward the raising of as much of the natural system to sentience eventually as feasibly possible.)

When I work out the totality of the metaphysical math, I reach these expectations. The next thing logically (aside from picking at and polishing those rationales, replacing faulty ones for better ones where possible, even if that changes the shape of the resulting worldview) is to look around to see if there is any evidence that God has to whatever-extent already begun revealing these things and acting (not only foreshadowing) in this special regard in natural history.

And the answer to that, I find, is yes. {s}

Spencer said…
My third rebuttal is up:

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