Monday, February 28, 2011

Phenomenology and Theolgoical Method part 1


I am always going on about how scientific methods are not adequate for the big “oceanic” questions that people harbor most deeply in their hearts. These questions are not the questions that science asks, not that with which it is equipped to deal. The scientific reductionism solution, the atheist solution, is to mock the question, our methods don’t give us control over the answer; therefore, the question is wrong. Don’t ask the question because we can’t answer it, if we can’t answer it with our methods it’s a bad question. Rather than dismiss he question, since this is the deepest longing of humans to know, we can search for other methods. Fortunately, there are other sources of knowledge. In this chapter I will discuss a combination of alternatives, mainly phenomenology, but also deductive reasoning, general philosophical thinking and aspect of social sciences, in other words, a global approach applied on a case by case basis. The overall goal is to produce a framework in which the realization of God can proceed without the issues of skepticism and science tainting the process before it can ever get started. In this chapter I will:

(1) Discuss phenomenology in general terms,

(2) Talk about verification and other methods in general

(3) Then return to the subject of phenomenology with an emphasis upon Heidegger’s take on being as a prerequisite for the discussion of Tillich’s ontology and the meaning of “being itself.”

Religion and the Ground of Being

Skeptics see religion as a question about empirical proofs of the existence of one additional thing in reality, besides all the things we regularly see in the universe; God, as opposed to a universe with everything in it that is in the God universe, but minus God. In other words for them God is just another object tin the universe to prove through empirical means. To them belief in God is just adding another fact to the universe. Belief in God is much more than that. Belief in God is not adding a fact to the universe; it’s an understanding of our relation to the universe. Belief in God is about understanding our relation to the universe, and that relation is as contingent beings, creatures whose being is derived form the ground of being. When we make this realization there is no more doubt. To realize the nature of being is to realize not only the reality of God but also the reality of oneself as creature of God. Of course this can’t have the same kind of verification that scientific work has, if it did it wouldn’t be a take on the basic nature of reality. This does not mean there are no methods that help secure the certainty that is found in the heart of one who has made such a realization. It is hoped that understanding this will lead others to seek that realization.

We can see and understand this method looking at the nature of religious evolution in the evolution of humanity. Of course history of religions and comparative religions are extremely complex, time and space do not permit me to do them justice here. In a thumbnail sketch we can see the roots of Tillich’s concept of God as being itself coming out of this evolutionary development. Anthropologists understand religion as developing as man evolved. No one invented religion, no one decided one day to make up some entity called a God. Religion existed before gods existed. The instinctive realization toward integration into being was part of our ancient ancestors, part of our pre-human heritage. It grew up with us and began to down on us in ways that could be consciously pondered and portrayed as we began to grasp symbolic representation and to think about death and to wonder about the things around us. Atheists still use the old ninetieth century structural functionalist explanation for the origins of religion; the need to explain the thunder, the need to explain rain, the need to manipulate a higher power to make the crops grow. This explanation isn’t really accepted now days because now we realize there’s something more to it all; the sense of he numinous. To those outside looking in religion seems to be about ceremonies and the need to manipulate powers to those involved in It the reality is quite different. As I’ve already said atheists don’t listen to religious people as to why they believe, they are more concerned with assigning the explanations that flatter their own view point. The realization of the sense of the numinous the idea that there is a special quality to being that can be found all around us, the sense of the holy is the preferred explanation for thinkers such as Huston Smith:

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

Smith considers transcendence to be the one dimension common to all peoples of religious faith: "what they have in common lies not in the tradition that introduces them to transcendence, [not in their faith by which they personally respond, but] in that to which they respond, the transcendent itself..."[i]

The issue of religious adaptation to culture is most interesting because it illustrates the plastic nature of religion, and highlights the fact that belief is not just adding a fact to the universe but is actually an orientation to one’s own place in being. First we see humanity beginning to understand about pictures and representation, and in that same era, or before it perhaps but certainly in that era we began burying out dead with plants and herbs that would help them either because we expected them to have some sort of afterlife in which these things could be used, or we began to feel that they symbolically suggested our wishes for them. In this general era, the “pre historic” the “stone age” humans began to sense the presence of spiritual forces and began burying their dead [ii] with herbs and drawing their hands on cave walls, because these things offered some sense of connection with spiritual forces. Some of the flowers put in the graves did not grow in the area; all are used in folk medicine with healing prosperities, indicating they had significance for a belief system.[iii] Humans had a belief in sprits long before they believed in gods. What they were actually doing in all of this was coming to understand not only that the world and how they already knew to live in it, but the idea of its enchantment. The skeptic can only see that they were wrong, stupid ancient man so wrong about the existence of this extra object no one can see; what really seems to have been going on was a discovery about himself, we are living in a world filled with spiritual forces, he began to feel this. After several thousand years of pondering such things finally began to conceptualize these forces are personal and can be named and thus came up with the concept of gods. This concept was rooted in the first inklings of an understanding about our own lives and what it means to live in the world, to be part of being.

Religious belief is an adaptation to culture because it is filtered through the lens of the cultural construct in order to be understood and shared in communication. The skeptic imagines the origin of religion to have been such as his/her observation of modern religion goes, a set of people try to understand why water falls out of the sky every so often and so they make up a story about a big man up there who pours water out of his huge boot, or whatever. The evolutionary practices of religious people as conform to their cultures have aided and abided this idea as it has been foisted upon the public. When we look at the nature of religion in the ancient world, even earlier we don’t an outside observer we see a practitioner who may resort to drawing upon a reservoir of knowledge that he already posses to explain the world, but he/she already posses that knowledge because it’s part of his/her way of life. Religion was not segmented factions battling to see whose set of doctrines came to dominate, in the ancient world religion was not about theology it was even “religion” that word was not used, it was ‘obedience.’ As human began sharpening their concepts they used the king as a model to represent deity because the king was the most powerful person around. Yet human understanding about life was already grasping the concept of the spirit and one’s place in being well before this understanding was ever called “religious belief.” The idea of God who is worshipped and has followers who chose one God over another a latter development, just as priest craft was a latter development.[iv]

Rudolph Otto coined the term “sense of the numinous, in his work The Idea of The Holy in order to capture the mysterious essence of the quality of feeling that stands behind all religion. He used words like “dread” and mysterium Tremendum to get across these are not ordinary feelings; words failed him in being able to describe what exactly he was talking, but this is the essence of mystical or “peak” experience. These terms are used to indicate a feeling or a sense that is beyond the ordinary sense in which we use them. It is non-rational, not irrational. It’s not “crazy” but can’t be analyzed or pinned down and distilled in reason. [v] The sense of the numinous is related to mystical experience and stands at the origin of religion in human thinking; this is essentially why religion exists. It is not hard to understand that this is the feeling related to the mysteries of life, death and the great beyond that led our ancient nameless primordial ancestors to draw their hands on cave walls and bury their dead with flowers to think about the other world and the forced that enchanted the universe with a sense they could not comprehend. At the center of this feeling is the sense of which we read above, of which Smith and Ideonopolis speak, “transcendence itself.” This is a realization about their place in the world, their being and their relation to the rest of being. They did not try to dissect it or psychoanalyze it away, they lived it out. The way to recapture it and live it again is to open up to the sense of wonder in being and allows the sense of being to suggest the categories into which we focus our understanding. There are methodologies that will allow us to do this.


One such source or methodology is phenomenology. Phenomenology is a very complex subject. It’s different things, it’s an attitude, a methodology, a philosophy, a commitment to certain a kind of philosophy, and more. Here I’m only concerned with the essentials of phenomenological method. I won’t go into the history of it or the ins and outs of the philosophical developments as a school. I will quote David Woodruf Smith in the article used by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to define “Phenomenology:”

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Phenomenology as a discipline is distinct from but related to other key disciplines in philosophy, such as ontology, epistemology, logic, and ethics. Phenomenology has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but it came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others. Phenomenological issues of intentionality, consciousness, qualia, and first-person perspective have been prominent in recent philosophy of mind.

Phenomenology is commonly understood in either of two ways: as a disciplinary field in philosophy, or as a movement in the history of philosophy.

The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. [vi]This field of philosophy is then to be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action), etc.

John Macquarrie explains phenomenology as theological method.[vii] Both as theological method and in a more general way a major aspect and type of phenomenological method is description. What is described? Phenomena are what we describe in descriptive theological method; namely, the phenomena in question of the effects upon humans of our searches and experiences in seeking to answer these great oceanic questions. Macquarrie refers to this form of method as “a care analytical description,… letting us see that which shows itself (phenomena) by removing, as far as possible, concealments, distortions, and whatever else might prevent us from seeing the phenomena as it actually gives itself .”[viii]

This notion of phenomena giving itself is very important. We have seen in past articles that one of the main problems with taking a scientific approach to theological and ontological questions is that reductionists tend to lose the phenomena; thus the antidote for losing phenomena is saving it, by adequate description. This method begins where thee action is, so to speak, with the phenomena. In theology that means the effects of experiences and beliefs upon the people who have the experience and hold the beliefs. This is crucial for our study since the point of it is to develop an understanding of “realizing” the reality of God as an alternative to “proofs” that no one believes or listens to. In a sense even the most rigidly logical proofs are admittedly not about proving the existence of God, but of providing the basis upon which to understand belief as rational. By preserving the phenomena of religious experience we can understand such experience as an even more rational basis for belief. If this sounds like a self fulfilling prophesy or "confirmation bias," it’s just that it’s already been done a thousand times. Each and every new believer must do it for himself/herself, and old believers occasionally need to go back and re-do it again. This descriptive method also puts us at the ground level so to speak, where the basis for actual belief is really formed. Macquarrie points that that “in proceeding by description rather than deduction it moves on a more secure ground”[ix] Logic can fall into fallacy, of course description always leave some things out, or doesn’t include all the phenomena because our point of view is selective. If we are through and incorporate a multiplicity of view points we are probably on more cautious ground than if we plunge into deductive proof. After all, to make a deductive proof requires treating God as a “thing” that can be proved. The phenomenological method in the theology does not pretend to observe God, but to observe the effects of experiences reputed to be experiences of God’s aspect upon those who have them.

In my forthcoming work, The Trace of God[x] I explicate a huge body of social science research surrounding religious/”mystical” and its effects upon those who have such experiences. Through the theoretical work of W.T. Stace, William James and the works of the great mystics, researchers such as Ralph Hood Jr. were able to verify a measurement scale that can identify valid mystical experience. Since these experiences can be identified and defined, at least in terms of a phenomenological description, that is describing their effects, they can be studied quantitatively to some extent. Thus such descriptions can be scientific, and that scientific approach can be applied to a phenomenological approach. The researchers who have done those studies would not think of them selves as phenomenologists, nor would the philosophers who do think of themselves that way think of the studies as examples of phenomenology. But that is a good example of a point where science and phenomenology meet. Obviously, we can’t study God empirically. We can study what we think seems to be the “co-determinate” of God, the trace, the foot print in the snow so to speak. Hegel spoke of the foot prints of God in the sands of time, I speak of the fingerprints of God on the lives of the believers. It is humans who ask questions about why we are here, and humans who find answers such as God and other theological concepts. It is upon the human psyche, “heart,” that such answers present themselves in the form of experiences. Therefore, a description of religious experience is crucial to an understanding of theological method. Macquarrie reflects upon the human connection in understanding of religious truth, and asks if this dimension of experiencing the numinous, the presence of God, means that religion reduces to emotional subjectivity? [xi] This is a real misunderstanding of the nature of Schleiermacher, it is crucial for this project because Schleiermacher’s work lies at the heart of the “realization.” Moreover, social science analysis can help to keep the touchstone in less subjective approaches.

Nevertheless, most phenomenological work will not involve empirical studies, nor does it need to. Tillich’s approach involves description of being from a philosophical view point. Macquarrie takes up revelation as the basis of a clear understanding of the divine, God’s self revelation to humanity. But in order to come to place where ground work is laid he discusses broadly the major categories of knowing and the principle modes of thinking. His aim is to find a place among these for revelation. Among these modes of knowing is “calculative thinking.” Heidegger, Macquarrie’s guide to the phenomenological, sees this as a kind of bare thinking that dominates and imposes its shallow orientation of subject/object upon the thinker. This sort of thinking approaches thought as an object, the object is to be manipulated, handled, deal with. The most sophisticated version of this kind of thinking is technology. [xii]But “technology” Is not just machines and gadgets. In the 90s the Post modernists were fond of speaking of “technology” as the manipulative gimmick that goes with the production of the machine, the thinking part of the production of what we normally call “technology.” The sort of knowledge produced by this kind of thinking is “objective knowledge.” In this sort of knowing we subject what is known and surpass it, transcended it. Even theoretical understanding of the natural world is the extension of control over the natural world.[xiii] In this sort of thinking we are active and the objects of our thought are passive. “Our activities are observing, experimenting, measuring and deducing…”[xiv] Hopefully in the previous critique I have demonstrated that “objectivity” is a pretense. There is no objectivity there are only varying degrees of subjectivity. Through scientific methods we might keep subjectivity to a minimum. There is truth, but we can never actually achieve “objectivity” in our own attitudes or perceptions. We can approach truth, however, to a greater degree. But that does not always involve getting away from subjectivity.

The second level of thinking that Macquarrie designates is “existential” thinking. This sort of thinking is not aimed at use, control, or manipulation. It may aim toward well being of the thinker or others. Both of these kinds of thinking are common in everyday thought. Existential thinking does not take what it thought about as the object to be controlled, but as another subject to reveal itself to us. It often involves participation, placing the thinker into the position of the other. “Heidegger’s own existential analytic is an illustration of this. It is thinking about the constitution of human existence, yet it is not calculative that takes such existence as object.” [xv] Macquaarrie’s example of this tendency in Heidegger is that of fear. The “objective” description of fear would begin with recording physiological changes in the body when experiencing fear, while the existential would allow a first hand account of the feelings of subject while afraid.[xvi] An example comes from a discussion I had with an atheist friend about the book Leviathan and the Air Pump,. by Steven Shappin and Simon Schaffer.[xvii] I kept trying to discuss what I felt was the view of the authors that Boyle’s creation of a factory of science facts was a propaganda move to beat Hobbes, and is reason for beating Hobbes was political and theological and not just scientific. My friend kept talking about how Boyle was right scientifically. It was as though he said, even he denied this, that as long he got his facts right it didn’t matter how or why he got them. He was exhibiting the calculative thinking, and the tendency of those who enjoy it to focus on that as the only means of knowing, while I was trying to broaden his horizons (well, that and Prove I’m right). This is an illustration of the two kinds of thinking. The one, “just the facts,” the other sees the relevance of the existential. Of course, as my own attitude illustrates, the existential can be co-opted by ego and is not an guarantee against corruption or wrong motives.

A special aspect of existential thinking is “repetitive” thinking. This does not mean a mechanical repetition but a resurgence of some memory or recorded experience handed down, that against becomes “alive” and “fresh.” One such example is obvious, the accounts of the resurrection of Christ in the gospels for example. Another good Biblical example is the Passover sadder of Hebrew Passover. The re-telling of the flight from Egypt and freeing of salves, escape through the parted red sea, the wiping out of the Egyptian army. This is told and re-told every year, and takes on a life of-its-own. This type of thinking can also be seen in documents, novels, poems, favorite music. Macquarrie points out that we can think of others in objective terms, that is usually construed as domineering or “objectifying” and is seen as wrong and hurtful.[xviii] Then there is personal knowledge; in which persons accept each other on equal terms as subjects rather than the dominating subject/object or “I-it” dichotomy. “Hence in truly personal knowledge we do not subject the other, or master, or transcend him but meet him on a footing of mutuality and reciprocity.”[xix] Theologians often claim that revelation is in the vein of person knowledge, an “I-thou” meeting between God and humanity. Macquarrie lists three problems with this: (1) a “I-thou” requires physical meeting necessary to hear voices and see facial gestures and that’s how get clues to meaning. Revelatory encounter would have to be only analogous to I-thou. (2) I-thou is equal, reciprocity, give and take, this is not indicative of revelatory encounter between humans and God, in which the human is often overwhelmed by the grandeur of God. We can take an informal attitude toward communion with God but we can never actually be in God’s presence in a very “deep” way without being overwhelmed. (3) in I-thou situation two beings meet and know each other. But in God/human relation, if we understand it the way Macquarrie and Tillich do, God as being itself, then its’ not an encounter between two beings but between a being and Being itself. This could be a huge difference. Surely personal thinking has aspects of revelation and may lead us to revelatory encounter, but it can’t really be such an encounter itself.[xx]

Despite these problems the religious experience is justified to some extent in using the language of person encounter, since religious experience seems to be analogous to active self disclosure of that which is being experienced, the one revealing “himself.” Yet, these phenomenological modes of thinking are still inadequate, although that’s just part of the deal; it is par for the theological course. The basis of mystical theology says that God is beyond our understanding, as has been discussed in the previous chapter. Of course phenomenological thinking will be inadequate to understand God, because nothing will enable us to truly understand God except mystical experience and that we can’t talk about accurately. But if science defenders are justified in saying “it’s the only method that gives us systematic certain knowledge,” surely the mystic is justified in saying that mystical consciousness is the only method that gives certainly even if it can’t be related in words, the phenomenologist in saying it’s the only method that brings insight in an area that is beyond our understanding.[xxi] Yet, there is a third mode of phenomenological thinking that Heidegger points us to, that of “primordial thinking.”

Primordial thinking is meditative as opposed to calculative. Macquarrie describes it as “thinking that waits and listens.” [xxii] Heidegger describes it as an “occurrence of being.” [xxiii] It is explicitly compared to both the insights of religion and of poetry. Primordial thinking provides a paradigm for understanding revelatory thinking. This would seem to be an attitude that allows intuitive sense of being itself. What is known in this intuitive sense is not another being but being itself. Macquarrie doesn’t discuss the next obvious question any analytical skeptic would be asking right now, how can it be verified? That’s really issue with scientific thinking, not that it’s ‘certain’ not that it’s the only ‘systematic’ thinking, or course it’s not the only systematic thinking by any means but it is verifiable. Scientific thinking is only verifiable because it only accepted as scientific that which can be verified by its method. That makes the verifiability of other forms of thinking that much harder, if they are willing to take on ideas that can’t be verified such as belief in God. As I pointed out already, what can be verified about belief is the effects of belief upon the believer. That can be verified by measuring the effects once we have a way to identify the actual experience and separate it form something else. Heidegger never did any such social science research on primordial thinking. This doesn’t mean that verifiability escapes notice of the theologian. I’ll have to bracket this discussion for now but I will definitely return to it. I’m still not through describing primordial thinking.

Primordial thinking, according to Macquarrie, contains two more characteristics similar to those of revelation, it is gift-like, that is it presents itself seemingly without being forced or controlled or pried loose. In this sense the insights of this form of thinking seem gracious. The only real condition for reception is that we be open to the intuitive sense of the realization. The other aspect is its overwhelming nature, its tendency to grab the experience and hold attention and to awe the experiencer..

It is more true to say that being grasps us than that we grasp being, yet it grasps us in such a way that we are not simply overwhelmed by it. In the religious experience of revelation, the overwhealmingness of being is matched by its grace, the tremendum by its fascinans, for being gives itself and opens itself, so that we stand in the grace and openness of being. It reveals itself not only in otherness but also in kinship, so that even as we are grasped by it, we can to some extent grasp it in turn and hold to it.

At this point it is necessary to remind ourselves that anxiety and joy, judgment and grace, the sense of otherness and the sense of kinship, the tremendum and the fascinans , man’s sense of disorder and his transcending drive toward fulfillment, are always, so to speak, two sides of a single coin. Sometimes one may predominate, sometimes the other; they may be differently weighted in the experience of different individuals or generations; they may be variously evaluated by different interpreters; but finally they are inseparable and any attempt seize on one side and to set it up in isolation can result only in superficiality.[xxiv]

At this point Macquarrie compares revelatory thinking to esthetic experience, and to moral experience. Knowledge of particular beings arises out of our perceiving them and what our intellect works about them based upon those perceptions. But our knowledge of the awareness of being is more global than that. It arises out of our total range of perception regarding being in the world. It strikes me that this knowledge is both that of a participant and an observer.[xxv] The understanding of being that we reach has to be reached through a global understanding of the full range of knowledge. This global aspect as well as the participant observer aspect is like esthetic or artistic thinking. What is known to the esthetic thinker is not an additional fact added to knowledge but a knowledge perspective of the whole or the depth of what confronts us, as Macquarrie puts it; there’s a term for that that Macquarrie uses, Gestalt. [xxvi] We understand being by our global experience of the world and our lives in the world, and that global experience tells us something about being, something that comes from the perceptive of the whole not merely an additional fact, and it adds to the understanding of the whole. This knowledge, this Gestalt, is much like our understanding of revelation or of religious experience in that the overwhelming aspect is there as well as the idea that the divine is not just another fact in the world but is presented to our awareness as part of the revelation of the whole, the basis of the whole. This kind of thinking is like moral thinking in that it lays a claim of ultimacy upon the individual. True moral thinking lays a claim of ultimacy, while this can be mistaken for convention by those who are bereft of moral understanding the one upon whom that claim is laid understands it quite well.

This idea of understanding the whole, gestalt, is crucial because it’s the opposite of reduction. Since reductionism is a major problem for understanding being and the world, because it loses phenomena and isolates phenomena from its context in our lives, the opposite method is indicated. Rather reduce something to the basic parts that make it up we understand it as a whole. The entire enterprise of speaking of God as being itself is a reflection of this process, because it seeks to understand God not as just an additional fact added to the world, but as a whole, the global understanding of being as reflected in human being in the world. The problem here is the atheist charge of “subjectivity.” Phenomenology is often confused by its critics with introspection or psychology. Phenomenology is not a subjective account of experience. By the same token some seek to overcome subjectivity by turning subjective experience into an object that can be examined by using third person thinking. Categorizing ideas and experiences in this way, “subjective”, “objective,” loses phenomena within the experience and transforms the experienced into a “thing” or an object that loses most of the aspect that made it important and creates a biased account.[xxvii] This tendency is fraught with bias and bigotry, a prime example is seen in my critique of Proudfoot’s arguments in his book on Religious Experience, as I discuss in the Trace of God. [xxviii]

[i]Thomas Idinopulos,.”What is Religion” Cross Currents, Volume 48, no. 3(Fall 1998). Also see online URL: visited 10/28/10

[ii] Paul Pettitt, “When Burial Begins,” British Archaeology, Issue 66 August 2002. See Web versoin URL:, visited 10/14/08. Pettitt is research fellow at Keble college, Oxford.

[iii] Richard Leaky and Roger Lewin. Origins. New York: E.P. Dutton. 1977

[iv] Willfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1991, Originally published 1962. on line google books page 51, URL: visited 9/28/10

[v] Rudolf Otto, and John W. Harvey.The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational factor in the Idea of the Divine, 1929. Kessinger Pulbisher’s rare prints, (John W. Harvey Trans) 2004 5-8 Online page number URL: visited 10/4/10, Originally published Oxford University Press 1926.

[vi] David Woodruf Smith, Sun Nov 16, 2003; substantive revision Mon Jul 28, 2008 onlnie copty Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website, URL: viisted 5/20/10.

[vii] John, Macquarrie. The Principles of Christian Theology, revised edition. Great Britain: SCM Press, 1966/1977, 34.

[viii] Ibid, 35

[ix] Ibid, 36, in this paragraph I list three advantages to descriptive method, they are all based upon Macquarrie’s ideas as the sketches them out, the three advantages to this method. I’ve just re-worded them to suit my own speech patterns and thought patterns more.

[x] J.L. Hinman, The Trace of God, Dallas, and Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct, 2010.

(ok so this one is not published yet)

[xi] Macquarrie, 97

[xii] Ibid, 91

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Ibid, 92

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Steven Shappin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and The Air Pump, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1989.

[xviii] Macquarrie, 92.

[xix] Ibid, 93.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid

[xxiii] Ibid. Macquarrie makes references to Heidegger’s discussion of primordial thinking, his use of these terms such as “religion and poetry” he sites Was ist Metaphysik, 47-49.

[xxiv] Ibid, 95

[xxv] Ibid 96

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. New York: Routtledge. 2008, 19.

Shaun Gallagher is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Central Florida and coeditor of the journal "Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. Dan Zahavi is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen and the author of "Self-Awareness and Alterity" and "Husserl's Phenomenology".

[xxviii] J.L. Hinman, The Trace of God: (find)

Friday, February 25, 2011

There Cannot Not Be a God

garden of the gods

I have a standard sort of God argument that I used to make all the time. It began as an version of the cosmological argument and I called "cosmological necessity."

(1) The Universe is contingent upon "prior" conditions (conditions that existed "prior" to our understanding of space/time:

(a) Prior condition being space/time, or gravitational field.

Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singularity, the prior condition of which is...we do not know.

(b)All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.

"There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality." First Things: Physics and the Mind of God: The Templeton Prize Address (1999)

(2) By definition the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since it would reuqire the explaination of still prior conditions (a string of infinite contingencies with no necessity is logical nonsense;the existence of contingent conditions requires the existence of necessary conditions).

(3) Therefore, the universe must have emerged from some prior condition which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything "higher."

(4) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the congtingencies function as necessities

(5) Therefore, since arbitrary necessities are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.


(6) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the definition of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!

Over time it began slowing to run together with the Tillich idea of begin itself and I began to argue it quite differently form a cosmological argument. Then when I began to take Tillich's views on the cosmological argument seriously (he didn't like it) I sort of slipped over the line and turned it into another argument I was already making about Tillich. So now it became this:

Argument: Based loosely upon Tillich's ideas. He never advanced argument like this.

(1) For many people, the “sense of the numinous” evokes feelings of religious devotion. [Premise 1]

(2) For [some of(?)] those people, this “sense of the numinous” results from a perception of the juxtaposition of the finite nature of ourselves and the infinite nature of the universe, and contemplation of the “special nature of being” which is rationally inferred on the basis of these perceptions. [Premise 2]

(3) This “special nature of being” refers to the necessary existence of a “ground of all being” or “being itself” as the basis of reality. [Premise 3]

(4) These perceptions and the inferred “special nature of being” meet our criteria of epistemic judgment. [Premise 4]

(5) If certain perceptions or inferences meet our criteria of epistemic judgment, then it is rationally warranted to conclude that the perceptions, and that which is inferred on their basis, accurately represents the nature of reality. [Premise 5]

(6) For many people, feelings of religious devotion are evoked by that which results from contemplation of the “ground of all being” or “being itself” as the basis of all reality, which they are rationally warranted in taking to accurately represent the nature of reality. [From 1~5]

(7) For these people, the “ground of being” or “being itself” is itself the object or source of the evoked feelings of religious devotion. [Premise 6]

(8) Whatever is the object or source of feelings of religious devotion can be reasonably defined as “God”. [Premise 7]

(9) There are people who are rationally warranted in concluding that reality contains as its basis that which we can reasonably call "God".
[Conclusion, from 6, 7, & 8]

If the reader would care to notice the real difference in these two is that the first one connects to God through concept of explaining the eternal nature of existence and the distinction between naturalistic (temporal, consent) being and 'the divine' (known by it's ontologically necessary nature). The second one turns upon and connects to God through the nature of the eternal and the way that triggers the religious nature of humans. There's an implied syllogism here.

Only God is a fit object of worship

Whatever evokes the sense of the numinous must be a fit object of worship becuase worship is a response to the sense of the numinous.

Eternal necessary being triggers the sense of numinous, thus it must be a fit object of worship, therefore, it must be divine (becuase only the divine is a fit object of worship).

the corollary: Only God is divine, therefore, if eternal necessary being is divine, Eternal necessary being must be God.
Atheists have responded to this, (the whole thing but mainly the newer version) by saying "you are just things are the way they are"). That's a clumsy way to put it. It's easy to dismiss in that form becuase I usually just say "that's because the way things are is that God must be." They see as circular becuase they don't get the implied steps in the syllogism. I've made them explicit now and then but the point is not to carp about atheist understanding, after it's also very likely that's my inability to communicate.

I got to thinking, that answer to the issue assumes they put the argument in a clumsy way. What if they put argument in an adroit way. Would be able to answering it? I always did have this realization in the back of my mind, if they ever got serious about answering that aspect of it it might be hard to come back on it. I decided to make the best argument I could on their behalf. That would be this, not to make a straw man argument to really try and challenge myself. That's how one blocks out arguments, it's making straw man because you don't claim "this is really their argument," just a "what if they said this what would I say?"

The what if I see out there no one has put this way but, what if they said, "suppose this eteranl necessary aspect of being did not evoke the numinous, suppose it had nothing special about it but was "naturalistic," how else could it be but eternal and necessary?" In other words isn't the real difference between my concept of God and their concept of naturalism just an attitude one takes toward nature? That's tricky because if they put that tag on it "an attitude toward nature" then it's easy to get out of. I can say "no" because I'm not thinking of "nature" which is anything form rocks and trees to the laws of physics, but "being itself" which is literally the raw nature of what it means to be whatever you are, rocks, trees, gold fish, laws of physics, or whatever. It's not nature that I'm expounding but the eternal necessary aspect of Being.

So the hypothetical atheist needs to refine his work. He needs say "isn't the difference in their view, which is naturalistic, and my view, that is "religious" just a matter of attitude toward what it means to be? All I'm doing is doubing an aspect of nature as "a special form of being" because it makes me feel a certain way? If that's the argument, one must ask "what real negating power does it hold over the argument?" It reduces the sense of the numinous to the atheist ideology and declarers victory becuase it refuses to take seriously the ultimate transfomrative power of religion. Yet that an arbitrary gain saying of an attitude that differs from their own.

Of course by this time the real atheists reading this will be saying "it's more than just disagreement about how to approach being, it's a matter of God not being real, God being a big sky man unicorn what have you." Those who say that are not tumbling to the fact that when I say "God" and they say "God" we mean two totally different things. My idea of God is an aspect of being that is eternal and necessary, it need NOT be viewed as a father figure, it is not a big man in the sky, it doesn't have a white beard or sit on a literal throne. Atheists always get angry here and demand that stop this nonsense, everyone knows that religious people believe in a big man in the sky and God has to be that or it's not God. They often reveal the most bizarre assumption that popularity makes right by demanding that since the majority of theists believe God is a big man (which is a gross oversimplification) then of course that's the only way to be a Christian. If you beileve in God you must believe popularity makes right. Yet they are atheists. Surely they know they are in the minority? Although I've seen some rationalize their way around that in shameless and idiotic fashion. The most appealing one was a guy who tried to narrow liberal theology down to just me. I'm a minority of one so there are more atheists than there are any particular branch of Christianity (to pull that off he had to declare that Hindus are atheists--then all polytheists are atheists).

I don't even wont to dignify such philosophical clowning with an answer.In a sense the hypothetical atheist is right, the actual atheist is wrong. The hypothetical one is righ tin that the argument is really a matter of the attitude one takes toward begin in a certain sense. The actual atheist is wrong in thinking that the impersonal view of God cannot be considered a valid theological view point even from a Christian perspective. Process theology has been taken in by liberal Christianity. That is not to say that I agree with such a view. I think God is the source of consciousness and is conscious, although in a way that is beyond our understanding. There's no point in trying to draw an analogy between God and biological life, but that's another issue. The point is this "impersonal" ground of understanding sort process notion of God is my default assumption, that is it's the basic level one needs to call it "God."

The better question would be to ask, what would the situation with being look like without God? Since we can expect a naturalistic universe to also be laden with eternal necessary being, under that means, by the default described above, there can't fail to be a God as long as anything at all exists. It's the total victory of God over any doubt that this situation musters, I am sure, that cause complete ire on the part of atheists. So what would things be like if there were not God? Just becuase the conditions can't obtain logically doesn't mean that such conditions as one might suggest would not be the negation of the God concept. For example, if the world sprang up out of nothing for no reason, even though logically we should assume that can't happen, that would be a condition such that were it proved to have been the case might indicate no God. That's too easy because we could still say it's the product of God. The problem with having nothing that could count against belief is that it means there's nothing counts for it either.

The criteria do exist, however, to falsify belief in the Tillichian concept of God as being itself. The major one would be if being has no depth. If being is merely surface level and the surface nature of being were transparent. It's the depth aspect of being that creates the situation in which we can have faith. What would a "shallow" universe be like? For one thing the nature of the eternal would not trigger the sense of numinous. In fact we might well posit there would be no sense of the numinous. I'm bracketing the issues brain chemistry for now, that doesn't mean we can't discuss them. I feel I should point that the situation is not anywhere near the "done deal" that atheists thin it is, vis brain chemistry and religious experience. If being had no depth it would be a done deal. There would be no recourse and no hard problem of consciousness. So a world without God would probably be a world of philosophical zombies. A Philosophical Zombie is David Chalmer's* hypothetical concept for getting across the idea of the hard problem. Unlike their Hollywood counter parts, the philosophical variety don't. Wonder about with too much make up and holding their arms in front of them with a glassy stare, they just don't have the sorts of inner feelings we do. Other than that you can't tell them from ordinary people.

Non falsifiability is the concept we are working here, the idea that if there are no circumstances under which something can be proved false then it can't be proved either. That concept is only applicable to the empirical side of proof. It doesn't apply to arguments that are subjective nd personal anyway,such as existentially based arguments. It doesn't apply to deductive reasoning either such as the ontological argument. So, while the argument I am discussing has some falsifiable aspects, it doesn't really need them. It's not a proof it's a ratioanl for personal assurance, or rational warrant perhaps. When Atheists say "there's no proof for your God" I say "I have something better than proof." The sort of deep knowledge (personal assurance) that the phenomenological/existential approach offers, when it's real and it's life changing, is much stronger and more reliable also less demonstrable than empirical scientific proof. I'm sure that in itself is a proposition that gals atheists becuase it flays in the face of their God substitute, their own er zots science. The actual situation is there can't not be a God. Being has to be eternal and necessary and grounded and God is the eternal and necessary ground of being.

*I don't know if he invented them, but he uses the concept and made it famous. Chalmers loves to clown and in a hilarious spoof sings a little Jazz beat tune about "Zombie Blues" on You tube. this is Chamlers himself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Announcement: Retraction

In my last thing I said the Deeper Waters blog had ceased. Happily I am delighted to say it hyas not. It's a fine blog and I'm glad to know it's still going. There's a fault with the soft ware or something that makes it show a date of 2007. Don't pay attention to that becuase he's doing new stuff and what you are reading is probably new.

It's a fine blog form a much needed perspective, that of one who is knowledgeable of Catholic theology and who knows the Tradition of Austine and Aquinas and the scholastic. He's a Protestant but he knows the tradition.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dialogue on Resurrection Historicity


I advanced the argument I have posted on this blog about eight levels of verification for Gospels. I show that the pre mark redaction puts the story of the empty tomb back to at least a period just 18 years after the original events, and we find it circulating in writing around 50 AD/CE. This, according to Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels. The atheists on carm can't distinguish between setting up an argument for the resurrection and other dread "supernaturl" ideas, and the historical nature of the text itself. Since they know the argument for the truth of all Gospels claims starts with the argument for historicity of Jesus, they just start at the beginning to short circuit the whole thing by saying that supernatural claims cancel the historicity. Of cousre they pay no attention to my argument that this is merely ideological swirl and the fear of one arguing for supernatural can't possibly cancel out what can be proved in history. That is not the same as arguing that miracles are historical, that's only setting up the possibility of the argument. This distinction is lost on almost all the atheists on carm!

Of course I don't' think that just demonstrated the historical nature of the narrative automatically argues for miracles. Nor do I think that miracles can be part of history. I understand why historians since the enlightenment have ruled miracles out of hsitory as historical material. that is not the same thing as saying miracles don't happen. They may very well happen, they just can't be called historical facts. They can, however, be personal beliefs, another discrimination the third grade hacks on CARM can't fathom. Of cousre then I don't argue that miracles can be proved as historical facts. I aruge that we do have a ratioanl basis for asscepting miracles as tenets of faith, they are not ruled out by an known principle in history other than that of historiography, the writing of history itself. Belief in miracles can still be rationally warranted, of course it would be historically based evidence that warrants them.

at this point good old DP, (old friend from CARM going back years) comes in and bless his heart, he actually argues agaisnt the historicity of the Gospels based upon the text rather than the ideology of wanting to dump the bible. The little guy is probably unaware that I admire him for that. I'll I have to tell him.

Originally Posted by Darth Pringle View Post
Meta, if the Gospel accounts prove anything, they only prove a resurrection claim - not that an actual resurrection took place.
Meta: that's true, but it's enough for rational warrant.

You've conceded elsewhere that religious experience doesn't validate any particular tradition so why you've appealed to it again in your OP to defend belief in a particular tradition, I don't know.
Meta:The mystical expedience proper doesn't validate any particular tradition but one can experience Jesus. Its' a subset of mystical experience proper. That's why my experience of the mystical was also my conversion to Christ.

In the sense of the numinous one experiences a personal loving nature not experienced in the undifferentiated unity. then even a subset of that that one can cannot with a particular tradition.

why be afraid of Christianity if you know it's not the Christianity of the fundies?

Originally Posted by Darth Pringle View Post
Even if the Gospels are in some way historically reliable, let us take some key claims into consideration.

1. People were claiming that Jesus was a prophet (Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist etc) come back from the dead even before he died. These ideas became so widespread that even Herod embraced the idea that Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist.

Meta:So what? That was popular misconception. I think they did have some reincarnation belief sin Hebrew folklore.

2. Jesus warned his disciples that there would be people pretending to be him after he had gone ... and not to trust them.

He didn't say they would pretend to be Jesus of Nazareth he said they would pretend to be messiah (Christ).

3. The Pharisees approached Pilate (who had previously and publicly disassociated himself from the death of Jesus) for a guard to protect his dead body because a false resurrection claim would become believed on a widespread scale if it was made. Pilate found this sufficiently convincing (despite his previous disassociation) to provide a guard.

He did provide a guard. the phrase "you have a guard" means "here you go, take one." a guard meant several men not just one. Two independent sources document the guard on the tomb, not just Matt but also Gpete.

4. The body of Jesus went missing on the one night that there was a large group of men at the tomb who later prove to be dishonest (they change their initial resurrection claim in exchange for money) and who made a large sum of money out of the disappearance of the body.

How atheists love to twist things. they were the Roman guard assigned to guard the tomb. they tomb turned up empty they were going to be killed for failing so the Sanhedrin promised to help them if they denied the resurrection.

5. In post resurrection appearances, Jesus often went initially unrecognised by his closest friends and one account (Mark's) makes it clear that he was in a different form during one appearance (see 2). Paul's appearance didn't even involve seeing a person!

The epiphanies are form differing sources. they have different agendas it's hard to get a handle on what they were about. Just to assume that his a convent juncture to assert an unsupported atheist theory is us a childish ploy. It's not going to be backed by anything. no reason to accept it.

Any suggestion that such objections would be laughed at by a judge is in itself laughable.
That's not even what I said. I said the kind person petty garbage that has put up so far would be laughed at. so you decide to get off your you know what and make some real arguemnts then try to insert them into the quote as though I was talking about the reason arguments one could make. that's so silly. don't you have any integrity?

I know you do I'm just kidding. but come on! stop playing with my rhetorical flourishes! ;-)

Originally Posted by Darth Pringle View Post
So what? It means that "back from death" claims were not that uncommon and resemblance to the original was not an important factor in such claims being embraced. It was claimed (by some) that Jesus was John the baptist back from death. This couldn't have been a reincarnation claim because Jesus was an adult in his early thirties and John had only recently died. Presumably Jesus and John were not identical.

Meta:Jesus didn't claim to be John. Moreover, what if some form of reincarnation is true, not that I believe in it, but is that really worth opposing God over? why deny God's reality just for that?

This is highly questionable ... even to the point of being obviously false.

what is?I'm not sure what you are pointing to.

And ...

And ...

In all versions, Jesus predicts that the Disciples will encounter fraudsters who will come and not simply claim to be the Messiah but will also come in his name. IOW, claiming to be his version of the Messiah. Jesus' warning only makes sense if the culture was one in which this type of thing was likely to happen.

so you conclude that means he as phony too right? He's the only one that ever had the credentials.

No twisting is taking place - only a consideration of broader context that is often overlooked.
which is?
[broader context! One that just happens to assume the text has to vial some hidden flaw that disproves the itself.]

There are a number of issues that fly in the face of your rationalisation:

[calling rational warrant rationalization]

1. In the Gospel of Peter (which you have appealed to to defend the idea that the guard was there) the guard go to Pilate, explain that the body is gone, that Jesus is risen and they are not punished with the death penalty but only told to keep quiet.

Meta:that doesn't fly in the face of anything. It's almost the same as the canonical gospels. Only difference is the pay and the promise to get hem off.

[I had used the Gospel of Peter to argue for independent verification of the guards on the tomb. He tries to turn Peter against the canonical but they are not in sharp enough contrast to do him any good.]

2. They had to be bribed to change their account. Why would people need to be bribed to save their own lives? That they had to be bribed suggests something else.

They were bribed to keep quite about the angles and stuff not "save themselves." they were bribed not to tell the people what happened. The tendency would be to tell their superiors what hapepned and if they were killed go get drunk and tell the world. the were bribed to keep the masses form hearing it.

3. Their altered story was one in which they fell asleep on duty which was still punishable by death so they were hardly guaranteeing their safety!


that's why the Sanhedrin promised to intercede for them. Otherwise their only excuse is to claim the miracle.

4. Their new version of events was as watertight as a bucket with no bottom! If they were asleep when the body was taken then how could they claim to know that the disciples took it???

Meta:by surmising.

Luke and Mark were written before Matthew and make no mention of a guard. I see only two possibilities:

no only Mark was before Mat. It goes Mark, Mat, Luke, John. that's irrelevant you have to follow the textual criticism. It's easy to establish if you understand how they do it there's more to it than just saying which one was written first. it's about the copies not the original writing.

1. They were unaware of the guard at the tomb in which case it is likely that this was added later.

that's why it's important that G Pete is independent and early!

2. They were aware but intentionally omitted that detail.

More likely; they probalby omitted becasue by the 70s the Jews had stopped talking about it and stopped saying the body was stolen so they didn't need to worry about pointing out the tomb was guarded.

There are aspects of matt that reflect an earlier redaction. Mat uses M source as well which is his independent material that no one else uses.

Either way it doesn't look good. Why omit such an important detail?
no longer important for that community. Answer, because the body of Jesus went missing on the one night that there was a large group of men at the tomb who made a large sum of money out of it's disappearance and who never became Christians!
why do that? they weren't even expect to rise form the dead. It wasn't fulfilling anything they clearly understood.

[that sort of twisting of facts is really sinking low. why would it ever occur to them that they could get money from the Sanhedrin for keeping quite about a miracle? No one would assume that as a likely outcome. the more likely outcome they would assume is "we are for it, we are going to die." Sanhedrin probably figured, they guys will come clean and spread the story about to protect themselves, even thought it wont save them that's the human thing to do out of fear the only option they have in such a case, so we give them and out they keep quite and we get them off the hook. That's much more logical than assuming the guards say "let's make some money by offering to keep quite. Even if they did that doesn't imply that the body was stolen it would be even stupider to let them steal it on the ridiculously off chance that they could make money by offing to keep silent.]

Originally Posted by Darth Pringle View Post
That's not the point. The only point of interest here is that other people claimed that he was. Ergo, it appears that it was not unusual for people to make false "back from death" claims ... especially given what we read of the mass resurrection claimed by many mentioned at the end of Matthew.

I see a huge difference in reincarnation and resurrection. they weren't claiming he rose from they dead in saying he was Elisha. They probably said he was John because they weren't on the scene didn't know what John looked like. Communications were real bad back then. Probably half of them weren't even sure John was killed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

See "Need More Shovels"


On my political blog I talk about the budge cuts

see "Need More Shovels" for a list of Republican budget cuts.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is God Simple or Complex?


Atheists such as Dawkins often argue that a complex creation such as the universe (or the Multiverse) requires a complex creator. If the creator is complex, these clever people think, then the odds of "him" existing are much less and so God is improbable. It would hysterical to hear what Kierkegaard would say, probably something like, "sure God is improbable, there's no better proof he's real." Aside from the ridiculous idea of attaching a probability to the likelihood of the basis of all that is existing, the atheist's point is to counter the design argument. Of course to make the argument they must assume God is like a big man in the sky rather than the ground of being.

Tillich argues that this big man in the sky is behind much atheism. It is an anecdotal observation that now seems to be backed up by some emerging data. It is certainly the case that atheists are embroiled in a struggle against the superego-like God whom they think of as a “big man in the sky.” Nothing is clearer for that than Dawkin’s approach to the reverse design arguments. In answering God arguments Dawkins takes God as totally a being alongside other beings and in fact seems to think he is perfectly, 1x1, analogous to a biological organism.[i] Dawkins spells it out in no uncertain terms. “why there almost certainly is no God.” Why? Because, a big man in the sky would have to be more complex than the universe he creates. Of course this is based upon the assumption that whatever reality entails has to reflect accurately and be limited to the information we glean from our little dust mote, from which we have never journeyed far.[ii]

Dawkins is working against what he takes to be the most popular pro God arguments (one of the weakest) the monkey’s-writing-Shakespeare-by-accident argument. He couches it in terms of assembling a 747 from a scrap yard by means of a hurricane. [iii] The creationist, whose argument this revises, couches his argument in terms of finding some living creature who is too improbable to be assumabled by accident. Improbability means complexity. The more complex something is the less likely it is to be assembled by accident. The creationist equates improbability with design. Dawkins points out that it’s not the Darwinians who are trying to get “something for nothing,” so to speak, in assuming that complexity could come about undersigned, but the creationists are seeking the “free lunch,” simply because they don’t recognize that “however statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by evoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the ultimate Boeing 747.”[iv] Dawkins takes this assumption through the entire book. The view of God that he’s attacking is obviously that of a big man. It may be couched as “big mind” or even “universal mind” but it’s still an entity, a thing, something that has to consciously calculate or deliberate about what it’s doing. Never does he stop to consider that he might have the wrong idea of God. He spends long pages droning on and on about consciousness raising and implying that creationists are stupid and feminists are smarter,[v] never does it occur to him that he just might be dealing with the wrong concept of God.

On the other hand, we can’t understand God as impersonal force like the electro-magnetic or the strong force that would reduce God to being “a thing.” That would place God under the regime of being rather than understanding God as the foundation of being. There are a couple of good reasons not to do that. The depth of being is certainly one such reason. We know that being has depth then the basis of being can’t be just another thing like an impersonal force. The complexity argument is stupid, because it equates complexity with probability. The ground of being can’t be merely probable, either there’s a ground of being or there is not. If not then there can’t be any depth of being either. If there is depth there is a ground, and if there is a ground it can’t be just another thing. There has to be alternative to the stark contrast between “personal” in the sense of human consciousness and impersonal in the sense of dead matter. The stark choice between being en soir and por soir[vi] is really limited. There has to be some other aspect of being that is either both or neither, or perhaps both and neither. To find the solution to the personal problem we probably have to venture away from the confines of Tillich’s theology, since he never considers the need to understand God as personal. Perhaps the major reason, however, to understand God as “personal” is because most mystics experience God in this way. The sense of the numinous is the most profound mystical experience next to the undifferentiated unity and is certainly as prevalent if not more so. This experience, the sense of the numinous is a deep all pervasive sense of love emanating form everything and love for everything, and most especially love for people. Love itself demands the personal.

Mystical experiences can be divided into two types, the introvertive and the extrovertive. Researchers are divided as to which of these two experiences is the most advanced. Introvertive is impersonal; all sense of differentiation in reality is lost. This state is supposed to be beyond word, thought or image. The extrovertive experience transfers the unity to nature. One distinguishes between different objects but an underlying sense of unity pervades all. In contrast to these two experiences, which are perhaps different stages of the same thing, there is also another kind of mystical experience called ‘the numinous.” This experience is derived from the work of Rudolph Otto and his sense of the holy.[vii] The numinous is an experience of personal dimension in the divine. It is a sense of all pervasive presence, usually a presence of love. In this experience one usually sees God as personal and loving. Both of these experiences are properly mystical. “Although it is possible to separate the numinous and mystical as two poles of religious experience, they are ultimately united, mystical experiences of unity (variously expressed) can be numinous as well.”[viii] One could proceed on the assumption that the personal is the illusion and fades away when the mystic gains more advancement. That doesn’t really seem to be what the research shows. It seems more like a matter of which aspect one emphasizes they are actually two poles of the same thing.

Thus we can separate the numinous and the mystical for conceptual purposes, depending upon whether the personal or impersonal aspects of foundational reality are emphasized. Mysticism tends toward the impersonal and numinous tends toward the personal. As we shall shortly note measurement studies can identify both numinous and mystical experiences, based upon whether one experiences a sense of presence (numinous experience) or a sense of unity (mystical experience)…that both components are properly mystical has been briefly noted above and extensively argued by Hood…their importance is that from a social psychological perspective they are part of what religions defend as the experience of the sacred.[ix]

In other words we can’t write off the personal dimension as the illusory any more than we can the other pole of the unity. They are both intrinsic to the foundational nature of religious belief.

Mystical experience is seen by many as the actual basis of religion and the ground of the mature end of Christian experience. Religion is more than merely “jumped up” ethics, or primitive failed science. There is a core to all religious belief that is rooted in the sense of the numinous, the idea that something special, something “holy” is set apart from the mundane world. That in itself introduces an experiential dimension into the concept of the religious. That differs markedly from the "big sky guy," who is merely amplified humanity. The atheist makes the analogy to humanity based upon this well wore cliche of God probably becuase it's most people are introduced to. That's a necessary hazard of human thought, in seeking to illustrate God's love it's only natural to compare God tot he most loving things we know, mother and father. Then when we do that we also open our God images up to the most negative and frustrating relationships we know, for those of us not had blessed with a loving postoperative home. Moreover, all people have friction with parents and problems with super-ego, so that just equates God with problems. There's really no other way around it, we just have to keep in mind that the "father image" is a metaphor.


Analogical language automatically carries a negative side. Since God's father-likeness is analogical it is also automatically connected to a "not-likeness." God is like a father in some ways, and therefore, not like like a father in other ways. Since God is not really a big man, or a biological organism, the terms "simple" and "complex" don't fit. How can the basis for all that is be compared to anything? What else would exist alongside God prior to creation of anything to which God might be compared? God's state of being is the basis of what being is, sense "being itself" how can one compare the nature of being in it's primordial essence to anything? Another argument is that complexity is based upon parts. These people think of God as made up of parts like the human body is made of parts. Since God is not made of parts the comparison to complexity falls apart. Some atheists try to deny that the argument turns on parts.

CARM 2/20/11, no 10 in thread

Originally Posted by HRG View Post
But the argument is algorithmic, not biological. "Complex" means able to plan and store a large amount of information. In any case, if you are not composed of parts, you cannot store information. Each bit needs a specific part where it goes, and different bits need different parts.
That would only be true if you limited to biological or physical nature. He's still trying to compare God to things in the world. God would have to be complex to plan, that's only true if you are a big man not if you are the ground of being. Is it true that God actually plans? No more so than it is that God actaully calculates. Why would "he" need to do either? I think part of the problem with athesits is that they just have no imagination. They just can't conceive of something that challenges their scientific learning.


P.S. The author of the answer you quoted does not understand Dawkins' argument and present just the often rebutted fallacies of Scholastic theology.
doesn't matter. there's no comparison to the ground of being so there' no point in using the term. "complex" in relation to what?
I'll quote the source he refers to in a movement. This is truly a lame response. He doesn't understand: crank up the irony meter. The arrogant Austrian mathematician goes on his way really believing he's socked to my argument by reinforcing a inept comparison and not understanding the concept of ground of being.

My understanding of scinece is complex compared to my one year old great niece's understanding. My understanding is, according to HRG, simple compared to his understanding. What if I was the only human being ever to do scinece in a thousand years, would my understanding be complex or simple? you can't even say it without comparing it to something. One cannot say "it would be complex" without thinking "compared to the lack of any scientific thinking for a thousand years."

the source to which he refers is a blog that ceased publication in 2007, unfortunately because it was by someone I don't know but someone who understand the basic concepts of the Christian God, rooted in the history of the chruch; extremely rare.

Deeper Waters

Dawkins should know that in Christian thought, God in his nature is immaterial. What parts does he think he can speak of then? Do such questions even occur to him? One cannot know because Dawkins simply does not interact with his opponents. Evolutionists prefer to not argue when all their opponents simply get their arguments only from YEC materials. Fair enough. (To those who are YEC, I do recommend reading all materials so you can have an idea of what your opponents believe and why. I have met a number of YECs who unfortunately think being YEC means denying inerrancy and a literal Adam and Eve.) However, Dawkins seems to get all his information secondhand, as if he was reading it off of Wikipedia, which would make a lot of sense.

What do I mean however by God being simple then? I dare not simply say Dawkins has it wrong without entering my own information in. I mean that God is not made up of parts. There is no combination in him. For instance, I as a human being possess a human nature that is tied to this material that I dwell in. Both of these also have existence. They do not existence necessarily but have a derived existence.

An angel is different. Now to my atheist friends, even if you do not believe in angels, Aquinas does. His argument does not depend on their existence, but it shows his way of thinking and it does not refute his point to say “There are no angels.” An angel is an immaterial being, but it does not have necessary existence. It too has derived existence. Angels are not separated by matter seeing as they’re immaterial, so they differ by essence. Each angel is his own essence. Therefore, an angel has an essence with no matter. It is purely essence plus the existence it receives. In this, it’s essence is simple as it has no parts, but it is not absolutely simple in that it has essence plus existence.

However, God has his essence AS his existence. What it means to be is God. God is being without limitations. Of course, Aquinas works this out further, but it means there is no combination in God. It also means His existence is not caused as what can cause existence? Something outside of existence? Then this non-existing thing is acting to cause existence, which is absurd. Is it another existing thing? There cannot be two such beings for there is nothing they would differ by and if two things differ by nothing, they are the same.

Anyone who has studied Aquinas briefly would know that Dawkins fumbled entirely on this one, and the shame is that these are the first arguments Dawkins attempts to refute. Even if one is an atheist, one should accept that Aquinas was a brilliant mind and that he reasoned out his arguments well. That does not mean they’re right, but that does mean one should take them seriously and not write them off hastily.

If any atheist uses this kind of argument, you can rest assured you are talking to a neophyte in the area of theology who does not understand the concepts he argues against. It is the shoddy research of the new atheists in this manner that further to me realize the bankruptcy of their position. It is simply outrage against a belief system they have not taken the time to understand. Sadly, this comes from the people who are supposedly the beacons of reason.

I urge the reader to read the entire piece as it is worth reading. Here is a summary of my answers to the issue:

(1) the argument that the cause of a complex effect must be complex is still a violation of evolution. By "violation" I mean a contradiction.

(2) Ditto contradicts unified field.

(3) there is sense in using terms like "complex" or simple of God because there's nothing to compare God to other than his creation. This may mean Aquinas is wrong to call God "simple" but I think not because he's speaking in a certain sense. ie God is not made of parts.

(4) "Complex" in relation to biology means parts. God is not made of parts.

Sure God is antisocially complex but that is not the sense in which Dawkins et al assume

[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, op cit (chapter 1 fn 5) on line page 138. all of these references are on line page numbers.

[ii] Ibid, 138

[iii] Ibid. he attributes the scrap yard image to Fred Hoyle.

[iv] Ibid, 138

[v] 189-140

[vi] en soir = “being in itself.” Por Soir = being for itself. These are terms used by Jean-Paul Sartre in his Being and Nothingness. The “being in itself” refers to inanimate objects and being for itself refers to conscious being. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, New York:Hazel E Barnes Philosophical Library, 1948m 1943

[vii] Ralph Hood, Spilka et al, op cit 292

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid, 293

747 argument, apologetics, apologetics. God's existence, is God comoplex? Dawkins