Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What do you mean by mean?

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Atheists on CARM were making a big production of the idea that there is real meaning to the phrase "God makes life meaningful." Their contention is that their lives are meaningful for them, becuase they want to think they are, and no other form of meaning that makes any difference. I think this is one of their more myopic conceits. They proceeded to play a little game, whenever a theist tired to describe what was meant they would say "O but there's no God so it doesn't mean anything." All roads to Rome, and Rome is the Colosseum! where the Christians face the lions. Of course what they really mean is (if we can use that term "mean") is that "there is no other meaning that I choose to regard but the one I care to give things. This is obviously a very selfish attitude becuase that could just as logically be said by UFO chaser who smells like Bigfoot and talks to people who aren't there and then insists "I'm not bothering anyone, and anyone who is bothered doesn't deserve not to be."

When we say "meaning" God gives us meaning we have reference to an ordered relation between the idea and the particulars. Not to say it's necessary Platonist although it is Platonic in the sense that it relates the messy business of daily life to an ideal. God is Truth, Being and love. These three things correlate. they are based upon the nature of being as an eternal necessary reality of depth in which the beings are produced and in turn partake. Here I make the distinction made famous by Theologian
John Macquarrie's Principles of Christian Theology.   God is being itself, or the ground of being, the individual temporally bound contingencies created by God are "the beings." Thus, we have "Being" and "the beings." The latter are products of the former, or we could say they share in the nature of the former. Here I am making the assumption that being holds within it a meaning, based upon being as the source and origin of consciousness, thus the center of valuation and understanding, and the beings are the recipients of that understanding. It is the understanding of that center or origin of consciousness that bestows meaning upon us when we undersatnd the reality of that center and we harmonize with it's aims and interests. In the same manner we are loved by God and when return God's love we are living up tot he purpose for which we were created and thus we fit the valuation of the meaning of creation and we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.


Meaning is an ordered relation based upon creative purpose and wisdom and orients the contingent aspects of being to the eternal necessary aspect. It does this enabling us to ground identity and purpose: as SK said "when I find God I am more myself." Paul says In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17). We could say that living up the purpose of creation is an outgrown or a product of Salvation. The soteriolgoical process begins in life on earth, and culminates in eternal life after death. It is a restoration process; the term "salvation" is related to redemption, buying back, also to healing, restoring. Part of healing and restoration is to harmonize with the purpose for which our lives were intended.

Meaning is related to the transcendental signifier (or TS) and they way it orders relations as the top of the metaphsyical hierarchy. For reference I urge the reader to read my transcendental signifier arguemnt for the existence of God.  As well as the commentary on the page that goes with it. I might also point out there's a page on the Derridian background to the argument that one might find useful. In a nutshell the TS is the top of the metaphysical hierarchy, the apex of the organization scheme, the organizing principle which making meaning of all the marks (words) we use to bestow meaning upon things and ideas. In determining the organization of a system the TS is a principle which determines meaning. Derrida tells us that God is the supreme form of the TS.

"Without God, who has been the ultimate Transcendent Signified, there is no central perspective, no objective truth of things, no real thing beyond language." [Nacy Murphy and James McClendon jr." Distinguishing Modern and Postmodern Theologies." Modern Theology, 5:3 April 1989, 211]
Here it is said "signified" becuase signified is the thing to which the word refers. The word "G-o-d" is the "signifier" the thing with which we signify, and the thing we signify is the signified. The word "God" is the signifier, and thing to which it refers is the reality we call "God." Here Derrida, an atheist who was actually to prove there was no TS, admits that there is no central perspective or meaning without God. That's ok for him becuase his whole point was there is no  meaning. I have refereed to God as the "top of the metaphysical hierarchy." That is just what the TS is because it's the  principle that organizes. That's God's major job description as well.


For Heidegger metaphysics is grouping sense data into ordered categories. that's' not a good thing for him becuase it means we lose truth in preconceived notions. The altnaritve according to Heidegger is almost logos sort of move, where we allow the sense data to suggest it's own categories so we let the organization work by itself. SK goes one step further than that and says it's not just the sense data that suggests the categories but the logos, the ordering principle the mind of God.

What the heck am I talking about here with this "logos sort of move?" The theologians of the middle ages regarded the logos as the ordering principle, this is based upon Christ's work in creation "without him was not anything made." That's form John's Logos prologue. They saw the logos as the ordering principle that put things into perspective and fashioned and ordered the way the system works. In modern parlance we could say the logos is the TS or that the Logos is the embodiment of the principle of evolution. Of course the materialists would balk at such a concept. If there is a God who created a universe that evolves then evolution is one of the primary organizing features of reality and thus it has to be a reflection of God's mind at some point. That's what the Logos is, the creative rationale of God. Thus I say Heidegger's alternative to metaphysics (grouping under a single rue brick of sense data which contrasts understanding and meaning)  is a "Logos move" it allows the sense data to suggest their own categories, which was Heidegger's answer, yet I'm adding a theistic aspect that he did not see, which is the choices suggested by the sense data would be a reflection of the Logos's ordering of reality.

So Meaning an ordered relation form the top of the metaphysical hierarchy that enables us to ground our identity and our purpose in an understanding of who we are and what our lives are about and to orient that toward the infinite joys of heaven and knowledge of the divine.

11 comments:

Maggiebleu said...

I love this. As you know, C. S. Lewis was also atheist and became a Christian. I believe every person has it in them to believe in God.... It's a choice.

Metacrock said...

Great comment, thanks!

Dave said...

What, precisely, is great about Maggiebleu's comment?

Metacrock said...

I think everyone has it them to believe in God. I guess its complex and personal as to what people conclude about it.

You have taken things I've said to mean that I think people who don't believe are lazy or something. I don't think that.I think people can have good reasons not to bleieve. But they could also believe. I don't know how it is that things stack up, it's complex.

Metacrock said...

While I got here Dave, I want to apologize. I read your stuff the comments you've made on there and I asked Kristen to mediate and tell me if I was being too subjective or defensive. She said I was so I read them again and I think she's right.I was being defensive. I said unfair things to you too. I apologize.

I also snapped at that Johnny P guy unfairly so I apologize.

Dave said...

It has nothing to do with whether you think people are lazy, it has to do with the fact that some people just don't have the same access to what is generally termed spirituality, awareness of God, etc. If it is a choice, then those who actively spend time trying to pray, meditate, engage in religious ritual, serve the poor, etc should see some kind of result.

A Benedictine monk I talked with said that he has met many people who don't have a spark for faith, who just see the world without some sense of hidden depth. Plain and obvious. He didn't try to explain why, he just said that you can't read, study, or mechanically pray/worship your way into any kind of realization. It has nothing to do with good or bad reasons to "choose" to believe or disbelieve.

The idea that this is so, that people aren't just hiding some secret resistance or denial, but are honestly non-spiritual, apparently conflicts with the basic assumptions of many religious people. So much so that they have to deny it is possible. But that denial doesn't change the fact.

It would be nice to see someone address the issue, but I've yet to come across anyone who has. I've found postings by others who have looked into religion and also wondered why it didn't "click" with them, but most religious folks, even the most contemporary, multicultural, deeply trained and read, etc, seem to start with the assumption of a particular basic level of spiritual awareness. There is nothing out there for those who are starting at or close to zero.

Tejas said...

This is really cool. Just to drop in my 2 denarii, I think you handled that quite well. I listened to a teaching today that really ministered to me. It was around a topic as this. The big idea was basically to behave like Jesus toward unbelievers and show them a glimpse of him to sort of draw them in, you know? I think that's a great way to get people to Christ. But I mean, that's just my $0.02. This post in it's totality is definitely worth the read though. Love it.

Metacrock said...

Thanks for for the comment tejas

Metacrock said...

first of all Dave, I think you clearly have a sense of the depth f Being. What Tillich calls depth of Being doesn't mean secret stuff it just means there more to it than the bare bone issue of existence. you clearly see that becuase you see the value in the eastern perspective.

I know that everyone doesn't have the same access but we are only held accountable for what we do have access to. I think the bare minimum is more inclusive than you realise.

Dave said...

I think the Eastern perspective is interesting, but that is all. I don't "get it". It's just a matter of intellectual curiosity, a fun puzzle. A deaf person might find the idea of music fascinating, but it doesn't means she can hear it.

Metacrock said...

Dave: "I think the Eastern perspective is interesting, but that is all. I don't "get it". It's just a matter of intellectual curiosity, a fun puzzle. A deaf person might find the idea of music fascinating, but it doesn't means she can hear it."

I may have read more into your statements in the past than was there. Yet that really doesn't tally with thinks I think you said here and there in past.

You seemed to have talked like you felt the value of religion as a whole was something you found first and foremost in the East that and did offer something more than ordinary mundane thinking.