Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Paul Tillich and The "Personal" God: Was Tillich's Ground of Being an Impersonal Force?

Tillich at the Conference with Einstein
A response to Albert Einstein's essay "Science and Religion"
that was presented at The New York Conference on Science,
Philosophy and Religion in September 1940.
Photo is from
an ealier conference in 1928, see fn below for details.
Tillich: guy with glasses on right

To start with a more cogent question, is it possible for the ground of being to be conscious? The question of God’s consciousness is crucial to the entire theological proposal of this work because there are those (some of my old professors who I shall not name) who are adamantly opposed to Tillich’s “being itself” on the grounds that it reduces God to a impersonal force. Tillich does indeed oppose the “personal God” that was discussed in most of theology in his day. It must be remembered that he died before the advent of the charismatic movement.[i] To my knowledge he never considered the nature of the Pentecostal movement, and I doubt he would have felt at ease in those churches. While we don’t really know what he would have thought about the charismatic emphasis upon “personal relationship with God” he did not appreciate the idea of a big man in the sky. He referred to what he called “the God of theism” as something that modern theology had to transcend. He denied that this left us with a stark choice of an impersonal force. Yet his safety valve on this issue is not comforting. His answer was God is “the personal itself.” The structures that produce the self are the result of God’s creative activity thus the things that produce self are present in God, God is not a person but is the source of all personhood, thus God is the “personal itself.” He says “God is not a person but he is not less than personal.”[ii] That is not comforting because there is no guarantee that “the personal itself” knows your name, gives a rat’s hind quarters if you or I live or die, or has a will of which we must take heed. “Not less than personal” implies all the attributes we normally think of as personal but then Tillich seems to refute them when it comes to discussing them, as I will soon illustrate.
I am trapped between the two camps. On the one hand former professors and mentors who I admire and whose opinions I respect do not like this stuff for this very reason; God must be a person or an impersonal force, they can’t worship an impersonal force. On the other hand, Tillich, who I also admire, saw the problems and dangers of the “big guy in the sky.” Of course the former professors don’t think that God is just a big man, but some form of universal mind. Yet the problem is, isn’t a universal mind just a jumped-up big man? As Tillich said, if God is “a person” then “he” is subject to being itself rather than occupying the central position in ontology as being itself. The proposal made in chapter 4 was to speak of “the ground of being” rather than “being itself.” That may bail Tillich out of the problems of Jean-Luc Marion, God beyond (without) being, but may work for the issue of God beyond being, but it may not work for the problem here because it doesn’t tell us why the ground of being can be personal. We might even ask why should we think God is personal to begin with? Before I answer this, however, I will define my position: I accept Tillich’s notions of the problems with the big guy in the sky. I also add my own litany of problem, centering on the way atheists frame the question of God as “big man in the sky.” I also accept the need to understand God as “someone” a will, a volitional consciousness that knows my name. The reason for this I will deal with latter. To meet these concerns I will elucidate a position that allows one to understand the ground of being as transcending the human understanding of consciousness and person but containing the aspects of consciousness required in meeting those concerns. God is not a big man in the sky, a universal consciousness need not be associated with a biological organism, a brain or what we know as analogous to our own existence; we need not understand humanity as the only possible form of consciousness.

I am committed to the notion that God is aware of us, that God feels and cares and God's character is love, which is pretty "personal." I am also committed to re-thinking the concepts involved in "personal." I think think Tillich was near the answer. It would be worth it to know what he really said on the subject. The following is based upon a article he wrote when he was young, the early 30's, and the things he says in The Courage to Be, which he wrote much latter in life.

Tillich’s Rejection of the God of Theism

The theistic view of God is usually understood as the idea of a “person” or an aware mind that is surveying reality and creating out of rational wisdom. It is this concept of a mind surveying a world it creates that is part of the problem, it makes God into “the supreme being” or the greatest part of reality. A part is still subject to or limited by the whole.

The God of theological theism is a being beside others and as such part of the whole of reality. He certainly is considered its most important part, but as a part and therefore subject to the structure of the whole. He is supposed to be beyond the ontological elements and categories which constitute reality. But every statement subjects him to them. He is seen as a self which has a world, as an ego which is related to a thou, as a cause which is separated from its effect as having a definite space and an endless time. He is a being not being itself. As such he is bound to the subject/object structure of reality, he is an object for us as subjects and this decisive for the necessity of transcending theological theism. [iii]

At a 1940 conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion, Einstein presented a paper arguing against the notion of a personal God. Tillich agreed with Einstein and wrote an answer in which he largely sided with the physicist. Tillich thought it was significant for who presented it. “They [the arguments] are neither new nor powerful in themselves. But in the mouth of Einstein, as an expression of his intellectual and moral character, they are more significant than the highly sophisticated reasoning of somebody else.”[iv] Everyone tries to use Einstein, that’s a sure sign of being a crank. Yet this article is significant not because it enlists the great scientific thinker for a particular position but because it shows Tillich’s early pre American thought. Tillich summarizes the arguments:” Einstein attacks the idea of a personal God from four angles:

*The idea is not essential for religion.
*It is the creation of primitive superstition.
*It is self-contradictory.
*It contradicts the scientific world view.”[v]

He dismisses the first argument immediately on the grounds that the question about God and the personal must be answered before we understand the nature of religion, and moves on to the historical argument. He argues that it’s misuse tells us nothing about it’s genesis. Before it could be abused it had to be used. So what is its proper use? He says:

Looking at the tremendous impact the idea of God always has made on human thought and behavior, the theory that all this was a product of an uneducated arbitrary imagination appears utterly inadequate. Mythological fantasy can create stories about Gods but it cannot create the idea of God itself, because the idea transcends all the elements of experience which constitute mythology. As Descartes argues: the infinite in our mind presupposes the infinity itself.[vi]

The concept of a personal God is deemed self contradictory because God is depicted as creating both good and evil. God is also understood as the source of morality and thus should not be able to create evil, but as the omnipotent creator of all things God must create evil in some sense. Tillich counters this argument by denying the classical concept of omnipotence. He retrenches into the concept of the ground of being, and opposes it to the classical notion of omnipotence. On the one had we have a big man in the sky who is supposed to be all good but in some sense allows evil, or creates it directly, as opposed by this notion of the power of being which is in all things and through and beyond all things. So Tililch’s God is not a direct maker of the world, not a first cause at all. In the process of denying omnipotence Tillich also denies God as the first cause. He asserts that God acts in beings to suit their special nature. In humans God acts in a personal way and in plants God acts in an impersonal way. For Tillich God is not a wielder of final cause but is a conduit for cause distributed throughout all of reality. Here he is referring to the panENtheist assumptions of his view. God is in all things and as such is relating to them in the manner of a unifying source rather than a direct manipulator.[vii] God for Tillich is the unconditioned boundless undifferentiated unity.

But it is an old and always emphasized theological doctrine that God acts in all beings according to their special nature, in man according to their rational nature, in animals and plants according to their inorganic nature. The symbol of omnipotence expresses the religious experience that no structure of reality and no event in nature and history has the power of preventing us from community with the infinite and unexhaustible ground of meaning and being. What "omnipotence" means should be found in the words Deutero — Isaiah (Is. 40) speaks to the exiled in Babylon when he describes the nothingness of the world-empires in comparison with the divine power to fulfil its historical aim through an infinitely small group of exiled people. Or what "omnipotence" means must be found in the words Paul (Rom. 8) speaks to the few Christians in the slums of the big cities when he pronounces that neither natural nor political powers, neither earthly nor heavenly forces can separate us from the "Love of God." If the idea of omnipotence is taken out of this context and transformed into the description of a special form of causality, it becomes not only self-contradicting — as Einstein rightly states — but also absurd and irreligious.[viii]

In moving on to the fourth objection Tillich agrees with Einstein, and lays down two methodological caveats. The first such caveat is that we not make God of the gap arguments. That we not make doctrines or predicate our theology in “the dark places” where scientific knowledge has not penetrated. This is because eventually it probably will penetrate and destroy that theology. This he says happened over and over again to ninetieth century thinkers. He argues that theology must leave to science the description of things and leave to philosophy the description of being itself and the logos in which being becomes manifest. Here he means logos in the sense of the Greek Philosophers, reason, not Christ. The second methodological caveat is that he demands of scientific thinking skeptics and critics of theology that they attack the most advanced and modern ideological ideas, not the outmoded versions. He then argues that the idea of God intervening in natural processes makes God into an independent cause of natural events that makes God a thing in nature alongside other things. Here he makes the argument that one is reducing God to the level of “a being.” Even the highest being is still a being among others; God is the basis of all being itself, not a being subject to being itself. He argues that after Schleieramcher and Hegel have received Spinoza’s doctrine of God as a predication for a doctrine of God, it is impossible to use the primitive concept to challenge the idea of God itself.[ix] The primitive elements of the big man in the sky are mythological and their place in modern theology is metaphorical. They provide the necessary metaphor for dealing with the transcendent and unconditioned and the philosophical concepts that point to it on metaphorical terms. In the postmodern era this is all mocked as “onto-theology” because the post moderns don’t’ need metaphor because they don’t believe in anything to point to.. But the function of metaphor is to point beyond the metaphor itself to the thing that inspires it.
Tillich argues the symbol for the transcendent and transpersonal has to be the personal because it can’t be anything less than personal. One cannot point to a higher reality by going lower in symbol choice. We must use the highest we know point to something transcendent. Tillich interpreits the following statement by Einstein: “He "attains that humble attitude of mind towards the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man,”[x] to mean a common ground shared by the whole of the physical world and of superpersonal values, grounded in the structure of being, and meaning—the good the true the beautiful—one the one hand, and on the other hidden in inexhaustible depth. This is the sense of the numinous and it is accessible in any number of ways, prayer, meditation, experience of presence, art, Literature, music, random musings, but it cannot be objectified, he finds that the rudimentary basis of it exists in all concepts of God. What he’s talking about is basically the mystical. In this disclosure we see ideas yet to be formulated by Tillich, which in his latter life he would find in his study of Buddhism in the guise of “the Buddha mind.” He closes by saying the symbol of the personal God has to be used. We can’t relate to anything else.

For as the philosopher Schelling says: "Only a person can heal a person." This is the reason that the symbol of the Personal God is indispensable for living religion. It is a symbol, not an object, and it never should be interpreted as an object. And it is one symbol besides others indicating that our personal center is grasped by the manifestation of the inaccessible ground and abyss of being.[xi]

He is not saying is that God is actually impersonal but we have to imagine that “he’s” personal. Rather he is saying that God is beyond our understanding, perhaps we would not recognize divine consciousness as “personal,” as such could we behold it directly. That does not mean that God is impersonal. When he says it can’t be an object, he would say the same of you or I, and of himself. That approach to personhood which rejects objectifying the person, is just good existentialism.
Years latter in his most popular work, The Courage to Be, he would write that a self which has become a matter of calculation and management has ceased to be a self. He writes that one must participate in a self to know what self is, but participation also change the self. By “participation” he means being aware of selfhood.[xii] “In all existential knowledge, but subject and object are transformed in the very act of knowing.” Existential knowledge is encounter that results in knew knowledge. This is present in all forms of knowing, personal, religious, and intellectual.[xiii] Tillich denies that this excludes the theoretical possibly of objective detachment, but it restricts detachment to one element within cognitive participation. [xiv] We may know a psychological type that can be applied to people we know, but we do not know the person until we encounter that person existentially. We must participate in the center of that being to say that we actually know that person. “This is the first meaning of ‘existential,’ namely existential as the attitude of participating one’s own existence in some other existence.”[xv] Since the concept of a “personal God” is based upon the analogy to our understanding of humanity, we might actually think that Tillich was willing to apply the same concept to God; in other words, we can’t know the person until we participate in the experience of God as personal. This would preclude thinking of God as a big man in the sky that does things and looks at things as men do, without reducing God to the impersonal. That would certainly be suggested by the fact that he does say (fn above) that religious knowledge is a grounds for existential encounter. Tillich realizes that God transcends the divine-human encounter. God is beyond our understanding; we are not going to understand all of God.
Mystical experience moves beyond divine-human encounter. The divine-human encounter is analogical and has degrees, culminating in the sense of the numinous, which is a lower level of mystical. The highest level of the mystical is mysticism proper, which is the experience of undifferentiated unity of all things.[xvi] Tillich argues that there is absolute faith which transcends even the mystical. The mystical uses specific content of the world (differentiation) as an analogical gradation to step on and move above. So Mysticism doesn’t deny the “ten thousand things”(differentiation of the world)[xvii] as meaningless but sees them as something to transcend into undifferentiated unity.[xviii] Thus since human consciousness cannot be objectified and is indicative of existential encounter, so God’s consciousness also cannot be objectified and must be experienced in existential encounter for us to even get a glimpse of it as consciousness. Tillich understands his own outlook, as transcending theism. Tillich’s outlook is a combination of Hegel, Heidegger, and the Neo-Platonic concept of the superessential Godhead, as transcending theism. Tillich’s God is the “God beyond God,” the God beyond the God of theism. This may sound like sacrilege but it’s very Christian. The Bible doesn’t say theism is a holy theology, it doesn’t even mention “theism.” Theism is the idea of a human philosopher. As Tillich’s view is, but he is also aware of more.The God beyond God is the reality of God beyond our misunderstandings and limited human ideas; the cultural trappings and constructs that make up our views of the divine.
Tillich names three forms of theism. The first form he refers to as “unspecified.” This is a form of theism Tillich new well because it got him chased out of Germany. This is the kind of theism in civil religion. This is the God on the belt buckle of the Nazi’s to whom they paid homage when they offered glory.[xix] This is the God in whom America trusts on the dollar bill, The God of the Dollar, we could call him. This God is the God in the eye of pyramid. This is the God who is the refuge of patriots and scoundrels. It is not hard to transcend this God because he’s prior to any sort of relationship or personal experience, and most who speak of him have no concept of a relationship with the divine. The second form of theism is opposed to the unspecified that is the “person-to-person encounter.”[xx] This is the God with whom the religious believer has a relationship and with whom those who are not born again, or initiated into the faith in some way, do not have a relationship. This is the God constructed from the elements in the Jewish and Christian tradition, often referred to as “the God of the Bible.”

Theism in the is sense emphasizes the personalistic passages in the Bible and the Protestant Creeds, the personalitic image of God, the word as tool of creation and revelation, the ethical and social character of the kingdom of God, the personal nature of human faith and divine forgiveness, the historical vision of the universe and divine purpose, the infinite distance between creator and creature, the absolute separation between God and the world, the conflict between holy God and sinful man, the person-to-person character of prayer and practical devotion. Theism in this sense is the non mystical side of biblical religion and historical Christianity. Atheism from this point of view of this theism is the human attempt to escape the divine-human encounter. It is an existential, not a theoretical problem.[xxi]

In this passage Tillich indicts almost everything I believe in. Yet he’s not saying these are things that must be done away, he’s saying if we limit ourselves to this one set of points as our understanding, to this type of theism, we begin to think we understand it all and we limit God and we limit our spiritual growth in God by forfeiting the mystical which would understand that we don’t understand, these are merely analogical correspondences which are not only like but also “not like.” That is to say relationship with God is analogical to person-to-person relationship, but being analogical means it is also not like a person-to-person encounter but transcends it into the realm beyond our understanding.[xxii]
Theism in the third sense he calls theological theism. This is the God of the arguments for God. Tillich doesn’t say so but it is my observation that theological theism is based upon Aristotle’s prime mover more so than upon the God of the Bible. This is the God who is an effect separated from its cause. Tillich argues for transcending the first sense because it is irrelevant, the second because it’s one sided, but the third because it’s bad theology.[xxiii] I will go into this in greater detail in a subsequent chapter on argument for the existence of God. This notion of God makes God a being beside others.

He is seen as a self which has a world, an ego which is related to a thou, a cause which is separated from its effect, having a definite space and an endless time. He is a being not being itself. As such he is bound to the subject-object structure of reality; he is an object for us as subjects. At the same time we are objects for him as a subject. This is decisive for the necessity of transcending theological theism. For God as a subject makes me into an object. He deprives me of my subjectivity because he is all powerful and all knowing. I revolt and try to make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate, God appears as the invincible tyrant the being in contrast with whom all other beings are without freedom or subjectivity….This is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because no one can tolerate being made into an mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control. This is the deepest root of atheism, this is an atheism which is justified as a reaction against the theological theism and its disturbing implications. It is also the deepest root of the Existentialist despair and the widespread anxiety of meaninglessness in our period.[xxiv]

The personal view that sees God a universal all encompassing will or mind is the source of a couple of mistakes, whereby God is seen as either a big man in the sky or a more sophisticated Jumped up version of a big man, the big mind. This sort of view makes conflicts with God more inevitable since it leads us to confuse the super-ego with God, it leads us to confuse conflicts within ourselves with conflicts with the divine. It also leads to magical thinking because our despair and negative self acceptance become conflicts with the divine will, since we feel that some transcendent will is imposing that which we reject upon us. This kind of thinking is probably at the root of a lot of atheism.

[i] The charismatic movement as such did exist in 1965 when Tillich died. That’s about the time the early roots of it can be identified as “charismatic” as opposed to Penticostal. Yet it was not well known then. Pentecostal movement had been going for most of the century at that time but probably had a negative connotation for highly educated European intellectuals. I myself identify both movements with the idea of personal God because of their emphasis upon personal experience, feeling God’s presence and the sense of God’s love being real to them. I consider the popular image of God to be that of a big man in the sky although I really have no public opinion data to back that up.
[ii] Tillich, Systematic, Vol 1, op cit. 245
[iii] Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be. London and Glasgow: Collins, the Fontana library 1974, ninth impression. First published by Nisbet, 1952, 178.
[iv] Paul Tillich, “The Idea of a Personal God.” Online article from a blog by Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith reprinted with permission form the Yale Divinity School Library. URL: (visited 8/31/2010) No indication is given of a translator or original publication. The blog contains a photograph of an ealier conference in which Einstein and Tillich appear together with others at this 1928 conference. Davos Switzerland, March 18,1928.
[v] Ibid
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Tillich, The Courage to Be, op cit, 124.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Ibid, 124-125.
[xv] Ibid. 125
[xvi] find: mysticism undifferentiated unity Is highest form and sense of numinous is lesser form and it is in analogical degrees.
[xvii] “ten thousand things” no Tillich speak but Lao Tsu, the Tao Te Ching.(dow’da Ching) A phrase I use to mean the differentiation of things in the world and the illusion of separation. Mysticism proper embraces the idea that there is an undifferentiated unity of all things, that all the individual things meld into one great oneness in the final phrase of experiencing reality.
[xviii] Tillich, Courage to be, 172
[xix] Ibid, 176
[xx] Ibid, 177
[xxi] Ibid. 178
[xxii] This phrase “analogical” and the point about it’s “like” and “not-like” dimensions are not Tillich’s ideas but those of Eugene R. Fairweather from his essay on “Christianity and the Supernatural.”
[xxiii] Ibid
[xxiv] Ibid, 178-179

Monday, May 23, 2016

St Augustine's Correlation: God, Truth, Being itself

Botticelli's concept of St. Augustine

…St. Augustine’s view that God is being itself is based partly upon Platonism (“God is that which truly is” and partly on the Bible—“I am that I am”). The transcendence of time as a condition of full reality is a central theme…[in Augustine’s work].[1]

Of course Augustine was one of the seminal thinkers of all Church history. Along with Aquinas he’s probably one of the two most important theologians of all time. He might be called the last thinker in the tradition of the classical age. His view of the Trinity cemented the Orthodox position and set the Western view of Trinity on it’s trajectory diverging from the eastern Church. His work The City of God is one of the greatest theological master pieces of all time, and to think it’s a letter to friend (a letter the size of the New York Phone book).
Augustine expresses the concept of the super-essential Godhead many times and in many ways. Augustine was a Platonist. In that regard perhaps his greatest innovation was to place the Platonic forms in the mind of God. That is a major innovation because it trumps the Neo-Platonistic following after Plotinus, who conceived of a form of the forms. In Augustinian understanding the equivalent of the “the one” the form that holds all other forms within itself is the mind of God. Augustine never made an argument for the existence of God because for him God was known with certainty and immediacy. God is immediately discerned in the apprehension of truth, thus need not be “proved.” God is the basis of all truth, and therefore, cannot be the object of questioning about truth, since God is he medium through which other truths can be known.[2] Tillich said:
Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient skepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in ever philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. God is the presupposition of the question of God. This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis.[3]

Augustine says God is truth. He doesn’t so much say God is being as he says God is truth. But to say this in this way is actually in line with the general theme we have been discussing, the one I call “super-essential Godhead,” or Tillich’s existential ontology. Augustine puts the emphasis upon God’s name as love, not being. Since he was a neo Platonist he thought of true reality as beyond being and thus he thought of God as “beyond being.”[4] This makes no sense in a modern setting since for us “to be” is reality, and to not be part of being would meaning being unreal. But in the platonic context, true reality was beyond this level of reality and what we think of as “our reality” or “our world” is only a plane reflection of the true reality. We are creatures of a refection in a mud puddle and the thing reflected that is totally removed from our being is the true reality. It was this distinction Tillich tried to preserve by distinguishing between being and existence.
Augustine looked to the same passage in Exodus that Gilson quotes in connection with Aquinas. Augustine’s conclusions are much the same about that phrase “I am that I am.” This is one of his key reasons for his identification between God and truth. He saw the nature of God’s timeless being as a key also to identifying God with truth. The link between God and truth is the Platonic “one.” Augustine puts the forms in the mind of God, so God becomes the forms really. The basis of this identification is based partly upon God’s eternal nature. From that point on it’s all an easy identification between eternal verities, such as truth, eternal being, beauty, the one, and God. The other half of the equation is God’s revelation of himself as eternal and necessary through the phrase, for very similar reasons to those listed already by Gilson, between I am that I am and being itself (or in Augustine’s case the transcended of being). “He answers, disclosing himself to creature as Creator, as God to man, as Immortal to mortal, eternal to a thing of time he answers ‘I am who I am.’”[5]
From Psalm 101:25 he ponders the phrase “generation of generations” rather than the choice of saying your years is endless.” He concludes that this Psalm is not merely saying God is living through a parade of endless years but that God is timeless. He concludes that the generation of generations is a timeless generation. He concludes that God’s years are his substance, they cannot be separated from God himself (as we see ‘substance” can be a way of saying “being). “God’s years are God’s eternity, his eternity is God’s very substance.” Thus God is not only eternal but his being his essence coincide, his eternal nature is the same as his being. Thus God is eternal necessary being.[6]

[1] Reality: Readings in Phlosophy. Indianapolis, Indiana:Hackett Pulbishing company, inc. Carl Avren Levenson, John Westphal, editors, 1994, 54
[2] Donald Keef, Thomism and the Ontological Theology: A Comparison of Systems. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1971, 140.
The “two Ultimates” discussed are philosophy and Religion.
[3] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, 12-13
[4] The quotation above from the Levenson and Westphal book says Augistine believe God was being itself, Marion seems to say that Augustine put God beyond being. I think it’s debatable as to which he did because he didn’t say directly which it was. I’m assuming Marion is probably right just because of the time in which he lived and because he was a Platonic thinker.
[5] Levenson and Westphal, Ibid. translated by Edmond Hill
[6] Ibid, trans in Enarrationes in Psalm. 101

Friday, May 20, 2016

Challenegeto astheists> Jesus existed as a man in hisotry, Says Pete Kirby

Tomb of Philip at Hierapolis

Fun filled Friday: debating atheists what could be more fun? The topic: Jesus existed as a man in history

The Jesus mythers use phony standard of proof real historians don't use. Historicity was given to Pilate for having only two mention's, outsides the Bible, We have ore than two sources making the connection to Jesus.

Jesus has two mentions in different passages by Josephus, Here I link to an article I wrote about Peter Kirby's straw man argument making the evidence from Jo look weak. I show the case is very strong,

Kirby's straw man Talmud: Good evidence for Jesus in the Talmud

Papias and The Daughters of Philip, and polycarp
 Papias had several important connections to the history of Jesus. He studied with his friend Polycarp and they both studied under the Apostle John. There is a controservy about weather it was the Apostel John or another John, I will deal with that on Papias own page. He lived in Hierapolis where he was Bishop there was also Philip and his four virgin daughters. The daughters of Philip were prophetesses, Paul is said to have met them in Acts (8:5-40; 21:8-9. ), and Papias is said to have met them as well. Eusebius speaks of this in the same passage that he speaks about Papias:

The residence of the Apostle Philip with his daughters in Hierapolis has been mentioned above. We must now point out how Papias, who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord.[6]
Polycrates testifies (AD 190) to existence of these daughters and their burial and their father's burial at Hierapolis, "Philip of the twelve apostles who sleeps in Hierapolis and his two druthers, elderly virgins, and another of his daughters who after living in the Holy Spirit rests in Ephesos."[7] William Tabbernee documents an inscription from Hierapolis honoring a public figure which links the burial of Philip the apostle with the monument in his honor, the "martyrium." It refers to him as "the glorious Apostle and Theologian Philip.[8]  Of course there are problematic details in these accounts. Other accounts give four daughters, Polycrates seems to only know of there. There is a controversy as weather or not this Philip is the evangelist of Acts (one of the first decons) or the Apostles, one of the twelve who traveld with Jesus. No one really knows. In a famous debate between a Montanist (Prokolos) and an Orthox (Gaius) reference is made to the four daughters of Philip as having resided in that area and being burried there.[9] There is a possiblity that the tomb of Philip has been discovered:

Apologetics, Bible, historical Jesus, Polycarp Papias, Josephus., Talmud

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Does God's Trnascendent Nature Prevent Us From Understanding Anything AT All About God?

Gustov Dore's "Celestial Rose" from his great
illustrations Donte's Divine Comedy

this post is from 2012 people keep reading it so...

On the blog article I wrote: "demand for evidence of God unfair and misplaced"
the blog piece itself.

StewPiD MoNkEy had some questions for the comment section:


Hello again. Had to have a name change due to copy right laws. But any way, there is a slight problem with your logic. You say, "God is beyond our understanding." In the third paragraph yet later you go on to say, "God wants the search". Which one is it? Since you are bringing up epistemology, this question is directly towards the subject. If your God is "beyond you understanding", then how can u state what he/it wants? The whole concept of being in gods mind directly states that he is non material (how you get to a mind that does not have a brain based in matter is another story). Since by your standards he is non material there is no seperating what he is from that he is. If one aspect of your God is unknowable, then all aspects are unknowable. So to claim to know anything about your God, i. e. He wants u to search, is to claim knowledge of the unknowable. This negates its unknowable status. If its known then your God should be quantifiable. How do you reconcile this glaring contradiction?

Let's break it down:

"God is beyond our understanding." In the third paragraph yet later you go on to say, "God wants the search". Which one is it?
Both. God does not ask us to understand him, he asks us to seek and find him. What we are finding is a personal relationship with the source of our being and our place in being. We can know experimentally things we don't understand intellectually. I don't know that much about how a tv works, how my computer works, even how the lights work, other than the average amount of surface knowledge that most people possess. Yet I use all of these things. In terms of relationship I know and like or love various people who do I don't understand psychologically. Of cousre there is a certain degree of understanding that comes from experiencing the reality of a person or of God. In terms of God experience that is called the "noetic quality" of religious experience. That's not really what is being talked about when we say God is beyond our understanding. noetic qualtiies are part of the sense of hte numinous which is basic aspect of religious experience. That's the sense people get that the experience of the divine imparts some of kind of knowledge. It's not scientific or intellectual knowledge. The sort of thing one gains from the noetic aspects of religoius experience is the intuitive sense that life has meaning and that God loves us.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...
Since you are bringing up epistemology, this question is directly towards the subject. If your God is "beyond you understanding", then how can u state what he/it wants?
He can tell us. The noetic qulaities also impart a degree of knowledge of this sort. We know form the sense of love that comes with the sense of the numinous that God wants to have a love relationship with us. In addition to this, in the Christian tradition, we believe that Jesus was modeling God's character for us and Jesus tells us this.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

The whole concept of being in gods mind directly states that he is non material (how you get to a mind that does not have a brain based in matter is another story).

Not necessarily. I have things in my mind and I'm material. Yet I accept that God is not material. In fact I suggest that the divide bewteen material and spiritual is illusory. In my view, taking my ques form German philosophers, spirit is mind. In fact while most people focus on the definition of the Greek term for spirit, pnuma, as "wind" or "breath" most overlook the fact that "mind" is also part of the definition. In fact matter breaks down as well. Matter is energy, and mind is energy. There may be a point at which the two meet. We don't really know what energy is. If you look at the things science says about it, energy is made up of sub atomic particles. What are particles? They are not little balls like the models of atoms suggest, they are "charges." So atoms and subatomic particls are made up of little bitty atoms, so to speak. They are all charges and those charges are made up of more charges. If we ask "what is a charge" the answer really in literal is "more charges." Matter is just a different form of energy and it's not all that clear what energy is. If reductinoists are right and mind is just an organized matrix of electrical charge than it seems that mind and energy are really pretty much the same substance. That suggests that matter and spirit meet at a certain conjunction.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

Since by your standards he is non material there is no seperating what he is from that he is.

That's a tautological statement and it's true of everything.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

If one aspect of your God is unknowable, then all aspects are unknowable.
Conclusion not in evidence. It's also contradicted by any number of empirical instances. For example if I don't know what the submerge part of an ice berg holds that doesn't mean that I don't understand the part that's above water. If I don't know what caused the big bang that doesn't mean I don't undersatnd certain aspects of the expansion. If I don't know some details of a friend's past I can still have a basic understanding of that friend's psychological make up.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

So to claim to know anything about your God, i. e. He wants u to search, is to claim knowledge of the unknowable. This negates its unknowable status. If its known then your God should be quantifiable. How do you reconcile this glaring contradiction?

At this point you are just making a pedantic error. Once its' been explained to you the different senses in which the terms are used (such as "to know" fore example) it should be clear two different senses are involved. The Eastern Orthodox chruch makes the distinction between the unknowable nature of God through conventional means, and the personal or spiritual recourse to experiential knowledge of God. This distinction is preserved in apaphatic theology, the practice of only say what God is not, and that of mystical union where one understands through experience but speaks metahoricallly about it.

Eastern Orthodox Church. Timothy Ware wrote a fine book, The Orthodox Church that does a good job of introducing Western Christians to the Eastern Church.[1]
Ware explains the great schism and how the gulf between east and west continued to grow. He wants to explain the ways in which the east contributed to the gulf. He says that nothing was so radical as the scholastic “revolution” but he lists as the eastern counterpart the Hesychast controversy (pg2). 14th century Byzantium. This involved God’s nature and the method of prayer. To explain the controversy he goes back to history of eastern mystical theology, back to Clement of Alexandria (early third century) and Origen (mid 3d). The Cappadocians, especially Gregory of Nyssa and also Evagrius, a monk in the Egyptian desert (d399) developed the ideas of Clement and Origen. This entire tradition depended upon an apophatic approach, especially as developed by Clement and Gregory. God is beyond our understanding. We cannot speak accurately about God because we can’t understand God and we don’t know if our experiences of God are so very encompassing or just fragmentary. Therefore, the mystics of the Eastern Church use negative language of God rather than positive. That is to say they concern themselves with what God is not, rather than what God is.[i2] (63)
“The true knowledge and vision of God consists in this—in seeing that he is invisible, because what we seek lies beyond all knowledge, being wholly separated by the darkness of incomprehensibility.” –Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, 11, 163 (377A).

The Height of Negative theology is reached in the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. (unknown writer lived in Syria toward the end of the fifth century). Saint Maximus the Confessor (662) compassed a commentary on these writings and assured their place in the Eastern Church. [3]

He is also an influence on the west, as Ware points out, as Aquinas quotes him heavily in Summa Theologica. The concept of God as Being itself is ratified by Vatican II and is a major premise of modern Catholic doctrine.[4]

[1] Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, New York: Penguin books, 1963 (1993 edition).
[2] Ibid. 63
[3] Ibid. quotes John of Damascus from On the Orthodox Faith 1,4 (P.G. Xciv, 800b
[4] Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, Thomas A. Carlson Trans. 1991 (original language publication 1982). xxii.


Ron Krumpos said...
What we know about God is far exceeded by what we do not know. In a brief summary:

Scriptures, theologians and many religious leaders tell us what the divine is by listing grandiose attributes. Most mystics worship personal aspects of the divine, but they also speak of what it is not. Many of them said that the divine essence is nothing, i.e. no thing, that it is immanent in all things, yet it is transcendent to everything. Mystics consider this seeming paradox to be a positive negation.

Avidya, non-knowledge in Sanskrit, is used in Buddhism for our “spiritual ignorance” of the true nature of Reality. Bila kaif, without knowing how in Arabic, is Islam’s term for “without comparison” to describe Allah. Ein Sof, without end in Hebrew, is the “infinite beyond description” in the Kabbalah. Neti, neti, not this, not this in Sanskrit, refers to “unreality of appearances” to define Brahman. In via negativa, the way of negation in Latin, God is “not open to observation or description.”

Mysticism emphasizes spiritual knowing, which is not rational and is independent of reason, logic or images. Da`at is Hebrew for “the secret sphere of knowledge on the cosmic tree.” Gnosis is Greek for the “intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.” Jnana is Sanskrit for “knowledge of the way” to approach Brahman. Ma`rifa in Arabic is “knowledge of the inner truth.” Panna in Pali is “direct awareness”; perfect wisdom. These modes of suprarational knowing, perhaps described as complete intuitive insight, are not divine oneness; they are actualizing our inherent abilities to come closer to the goal.

(quoted from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Kristen said...
This tendency to think in binaries (unknowable/knowable) is part of our Western mindset, passed down all the way from Aristotle. But though binaries can be useful, they can also be quite limiting as a way to understand reality. Either God is completely knowable, or God is totally unknowable. This binary leaves no room for the things you've described, Metacrock, such as different kinds or levels of knowledge, or the possibility that the truth might be somewhere between the two binaries (God is knowable in some ways and not in others, or some aspects of God are knowable, but not other aspects).
Metacrock said...
Mysticism emphasizes spiritual knowing, which is not rational and is independent of reason, logic or images. Da`at is Hebrew for “the secret sphere of knowledge on the cosmic tree.” Gnosis is Greek for the “intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.” Jnana is Sanskrit for “knowledge of the way” to approach Brahman. Ma`rifa in Arabic is “knowledge of the inner truth.” Panna in Pali is “direct awareness”; perfect wisdom. These modes of suprarational knowing, perhaps described as complete intuitive insight, are not divine oneness; they are actualizing our inherent abilities to come closer to the goal.

Paradox of thought, mystical experience is ofen codified and pressed into doctrine then it becomes more than fresh experience. That's just an occupational hazard of being human and communicating by word of mouth.

Ultimately a commitment to any sort of theologian tradition is part of the package that comes with the leap, it's further leap of the leap of faith. It's important to be in a tradition for many reasons. the important thing is not to be rigid about it.

I think we can some things. Knowledge is just a crap shoot.
Metacrock said...
Say Kristen, I think binary opposition are universal. The east has plenty of them: yin and yang, dark and light, good and evil (Persian dualism) and so on.
Metacrock said...
what I find amusing is that the first thing people say when I ay God is beyond our understanding is "so what is God like?"
Kristen said...
"I think binary opposition are universal. The east has plenty of them: yin and yang, dark and light, good and evil (Persian dualism) and so on."

Metacrock, that's a good point, but I think the east handles them differently than Aristotelian logic does. Eastern thought sees the binaries in balance, each contributing to the whole, whereas Aristotelian thought sees them in terms of A/Not A, B/Not B, and so on, with "A" positive and "Not A" negative. Aristotle considered the female to be a defective version of the male, for instance, and he thought of society in terms of Greeks/Barbarians. I'm sure you know all this; but I do think it still affects our thinking today. Western thought finds it hard to say "God is unknowable/God is knowable" can both exist as different aspects of the same truth. It's either one or the other. Does that clarify what I mean?
Ron Krumpos said...
Perhaps a simple (and quick) reply to "what is God like?" would be Love. Let them define that!
Metacrock said...
Metacrock, that's a good point, but I think the east handles them differently than Aristotelian logic does. Eastern thought sees the binaries in balance, each contributing to the whole, whereas Aristotelian thought sees them in terms of A/Not A, B/Not B, and so on, with "A" positive and "Not A" negative. Aristotle considered the female to be a defective version of the male, for instance, and he thought of society in terms of Greeks/Barbarians. I'm sure you know all this; but I do think it still affects our thinking today. Western thought finds it hard to say "God is unknowable/God is knowable" can both exist as different aspects of the same truth. It's either one or the other. Does that clarify what I mean?

good point. the Derridian binary op, that's the way the West deals with it alright. Of cousre when atheists think they have any thing to answer with the jump on it and don't think it though deeply. SOME atheists!