Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Atheist IQ Clalims Based upon Racism And False Assumptions


On Atheistwatch I've written about the New Attempts of atheist to prove that they have higher IQ's than religious people: Atheism's Psychology Today Scam, and, The Atheist IQ Scam (part 1)
(see part 2). Today I find an article by Andrew Brown in the American Guardian (Andrew Brown's Blog) where he demonstates the racist background of the atheist assumptions. He also discusses the idea that IQ tests are not measuring intelligence but cultural norms.

First of all I originally wrote about Atheist IQ claims (that atheists are Smarter because they ahve higher IQ's) on Doxa. This was roughly somewhere in the early ought (2001-2004). At that time the atheist website making the claims put up a bunch of old studies that pre dated the 60s. they had small samples and their basic assumptions where veg. they used the term "liberal" interchangeably with atheism and most of them never made clear that they had any atheist in the study. My criticism was "liberal" might as well mean theological liberal. They didn't have data that shows that people who identified themselves "I don't believe in God or gods" score higher on IQ tests than "I believe in God but in a liberal theology sense." I think for this purpose we can assume that "liberal theology " is broad and can include "new Evangelicals." I had some basis to suspect that the studies used were of liberal ethological believers. Studies done after the 60s, which the atheist sight didn't include, showed uniformly no correlation between intelligence and religious belief or that religious believers were smarter. These studies all used bigger samples and data bases. There had not been a study done showing atheist were smarter since the early 60s and there three in the 1990s (by Leslie Francis) showing no correlation.

The Brown article demonstrates the truth of my basic criticism. The atheist are doing a bait and switch to identify "liberal" with atheist when in fact it includes theological liberals.
Brown, "Brown's Blog"
on Guardian

OK, it's a naughty headline, but no less true than the one put on this survey at the aggressively atheist Sandwalk blog, which said "Atheists are smarter than agnostics". Both readings are justified. A large-scale analysis of the religious allegiance and measured IQ of a representative sample of 3,742 American adolescents found a clear trend: the more fundamentalist denominations had the more stupid believers, so that the bottom four places were occupied, from the bottom, by Pentecostalists, Baptists, Holiness churches and "Personal Philosophy", which I presume means a new-age-ish syncretism, while the top four places, again in ascending order, were taken by agnostics, atheists, Jews, and Episcopalians (Anglicans). So, atheists are smarter than agnostics, Jews are smarter than atheists, and Anglicans the smartest of the lot

The atheist came back on it in the late ought with a whole new batch of studies. They have three major researchers: Helmuth Nyborg, Richard Lynn and Satoshi Kanazawa (from psycholoy today). Now I find the Andrew Brown article blows the lid off of that research. I already hinted at big problems with those guys in my previous articles. Nyborg has been criticized as a racist. Brown took at look at his work:

The research was done by a retired Danish professor of psychology, Helmuth Nyborg, and he really does believe that he has found the explanation for the persistence of religious belief in the modern world: believers are measurably more stupid than atheists. His tone of elevated scorn will be familiar:

The study begins with two sets of a priori assumptions. First, [intelligent] people have a brain based biological capacity for solving complex problems, and for acting rationally when confronted with fundamental questions about existence, human nature, underlying causes, or the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". Second, [unintelligent] people lack this protection and are therefore unfairly ordained to live in a pre-rational world based on poorly validated evidence and little accumulated insight. They accordingly often find themselves in cognitively, emotionally, or morally challenging situations and have to use plan B, that is, to call upon easily comprehensible religious authoritative guidance and to submit more or less uncritically to culturally given stereotyped rituals. Frustration with their life may also make them seek redemption or faith in an after life.
High-IQ people are able to curb magical, supernatural thinking and tend to deal with the uncertainties of life on a rational-critical-empirical basis, and to become prosperous servants of society, whereas low-IQ people easily become trapped in religious magical thinking, in addition to achieving, earning and serving less well.
They are doing another bait and switch here. By "SN" they mean magical thinking but it creates the impression that liberal theology, philosophy and anything not "scinece" is automatically stupid. It's not hard to prove that non religious people are smarter when you define religion as "stupid" a priori. Of course they don't distinguish bewteen an ancient world religious view and a modern one. But it get's worse.

So I did a little digging around. I downloaded the paper, which costs, alas, $37.50 with VAT, and read it carefully through. It turns out that Nyborg is an enthusiast for scientific racism. It's not just believers who are more stupid, in his world: it's black people and women, too. In a collaboration with Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, he measured religiosity against IQ in 137 countries, and concluded that low IQ countries always had higher rates of religion. It's not religion that makes you stupid, he told a Christian paper at the time: but if you live in a very religious country, you are very likely to be stupid. And of course the correlation of religion and poverty is in global terms very clear, while the most religious continent of all is Africa.
In the paper under review, he writes,
quoting Nyborg and co.
The ultimate causal level presumes that geographically separated peoples were subjected to different evolutionary pressures over extended time-periods. Those living under the hardest of evolutionary pressures, in cold or arctic areas, were gradually and over many generations selected for enhanced g (for details of the Climate Theory, see Lynn, 2006; Rushton, 2000). They had to replace ancient pre-rational supernatural beliefs with more effective rational approaches in order to survive under the harsh conditions given. People living in warm or tropical areas enjoyed in general more relaxed selective conditions, and low g individuals were not severely punished, as their survival was not seriously compromised by uncritical reference to ancient supernatural thinking, irrational beliefs in souls, invisible worlds, Gods, forces, angels, devils, hell, or holy spirits. A contemporary belief that supernatural forces control behavior, feelings and thinking is accordingly seen as a reminiscence of pre-historic animism and magical thinking.
Brown: Oops!
(In case anyone is tempted to take this seriously, it's worth pointing out that one of the most demographically successful populations in human history were the New England puritans, many of them descendants of Vikings, who managed to combine life in a very cold climate with fervent religiosity.)
But Nyborg is entirely serious. He argues – in the spirit of Murray and Herrnstein's Bell Curve – that intelligence is IQ; IQ is biological, and biology is destiny:
High g individuals will gravitate towards atheism or science, will discard supernatural phenomena, and will learn fast and prosper. Average g individuals will find one of several moderate liberal denominations more to their taste, will display average learning, and will accordingly assume an intermediate socio-economic standing. Low g individuals will to submit to one of the many dogmatic denominations, will be slow learners, and will attain a low socio-economic status that accord with their limited cognitive
complexity and closed mind. Variations in disbelief, denominational complexity, educability and income are accordingly expected to follow from essentially heritable g differences, and to manifest themselves as today's mainly biologically brain based religious class differences.
(Brown): By now I imagine that you are recoiling from these ideas. The belief that religion can simply be explained by stupidity suddenly looks a lot less attractive when it is presented scientifically by an intelligent man who also believes that poverty, too, can be explained by stupidity, and stupidity in its turn by race.
Of course only scinece people are intelligent. Since philosophy, literature, art don't count as real knowledge people who are do them are not smart. only number crunchers matter.

This is all very self referential because IQ is only measuring IQ not intelligence. Brown talks about the Flynn ects which shows that IQ's are getting higher. Our children will be smarter than us, we are smarter than our parents and grandparents. The problem is they are only getting higher not because people are really smarter but because the concentrated urban environment re-writes cultural literacy. It's the same problem as the bell curve. In the olden days people lived in the country and hunted. So a question "what do a dog and rabit have in common?" the old answer was "use dog to hunt rabbit." Yet this is now a wrong answer. Now we don't hunt and we are all into scinece, so the right answer is they are both mammals. Thus people in the ancient past are automatically stupid compared to us. Flynn finds that by modern standards the average student around 1900 had an IQ between 50-70. So how did they even function? A person today with an IQ of 50 would be profoundly retarted, live in an institution and not be able to tie his shoes. Yet doctors, Lawyers, and bankers ran the world with IQs that would today be 60-70.

Brown reflects:

The answer, he says, is that one of the things that IQ tests measure is "post-scientific operational thinking". This is not the same as scientific thinking. But it is thinking about the world in terms of the categories by which science understands it. For instance, if you ask, "What do dogs and rabbits have in common", the post-scientific answer, that we would now regard as evidence of intelligence, is that they are both mammals. The pre-scientific answer is that you use a dog to hunt a rabbit. That's what matters about the two animals, not what class they belong to.
It is that kind of difference in reasoning which accounts for the huge measured IQ differences between urban and rural Brazil, and, of course, the fantastically low IQs measured in African countries.
But could something similar be true of religion? In particular, could dogmatic and fundamentalist religion be more useful to the poor and wretched? Could it lift them to the stage where they could experiment with doubt, with nuance, with novelistic thinking? The history of the early Methodists suggests exactly this. Remember John Wesley's reflection on his own success:
The Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.:

Obviously then the real implication might be that some religious subcultures are still more firmly rooted in the cultural literacy of the past, but not that stupid people beleive in religious beliefs and smart people don't.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Faith: not a replacement for proof

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....On CARM I tried to get across a point about the difference between not having "proof" and faith not being belief without reasons. faith is not the opposite of proof and its' not believing things for no reason. It's a replacement for proof. Real proof is hard to come by, and there's no reason to spend your whole life waiting for it when belief can be warranted without having to be actually proved. Faith is trust in a hypothesis and there can be many reasons for placing trust in a hypothesis. But the atheists lost distinction immediately and tired to turn it into a rant about the weakness of faith.

Originally Posted by Vangelis View Post
When there is mathematical or physical proof for a god, I will be the strongest believer!
But I know that will only happen when the mythical hell freezes over. why demand certainty from the big oceanic questions? they are not meant to be answered with certainty. It's not science its' a different kid of thing. It makes no sense to appraoch such issues demanding the kind of catatonia we can only get form empirical matters.

....There's a huge difference in the kind of question that religion asks the kind science asks. what is the meaning of life is not going have the kind of answer you get with questions about the sodium content of graham crackers or "string theory." I've already indicated why God wants us to do the search, so we internalize the values of the good. The problem with being human is in the heart. the solution to that problem is in the heart. why should we expect that proof to be on paper? the proof is oblivious going to be when see that God is real and his way works. You not going to see that without direct first hand experience. with 200 empirical studies indicating the nature of religious experience, it's informative effects there's no real excuse for arguing the way you guys do. That's a huge reason to that we can trust the vanity of religoius preeminence: It fits the criteria we use to determine the validity of experiences that means should be able to trust it as valid..
 ....I said this to another poster on another thread but I'm not going to include that because I don't want that person to think I'm putting him n the spot and i don't want the issue of that thread ot overshadow this. This is really the whole crux of the matter. Faith is not the replacement for proof. First of all the term "faith" does not mean "decisions without reaosn" or "belief in stuff with no evidence." or anything like that. that' is propaganda.A better definition of faith would be the extension of trust beyond epistemic gaps but it does not rule out initial reasons.
....The major problem that I tried to get across in the thread on "atheist thinking makes no sense" but was subverted from it, is that the ground for decision making is wrong in Atheist terms. This is not meant to be an insult. I think it is generally true of atheism as a whole. they want to put everything on scientific grounds and make it all matter of objective facts. It just be can't be that. The issues of belief require personal orientation toward one's own existential matters (ie "in the heart") rather than objective proof of anything. There's enough logic and fact to warrant a rational placing of confidence in the God hypothesis but there never be absolute proof. the decision for God has to be made on private grounds. We don't need proof when we have warrant, which is justification for belief. Faith is not necessarily warrant. That's another topic.

(1) I have amply demonstrated rational warrant for belief.

belief is justified in the sense that there are many good rational, logical, empirically based reasons to believe. see my God argument lists form just a few of many examples.

that's not going to cut it either way because belief in God is not about objective proof.

(2) belief has to be based upon personal existential search for one's place in being.

that's where the decision has to be made, so we have to make the search. It has to be made in the heart.

(3) yes it is subjective but that doesn't mean false.

everything we observe is observed through subjective means. our perspectives are hopelessly subjective. Human objectivity is a fares. there is none. There are only varying degrees of subjectivity.

(4) It' inter-subjective.

even though it's subjective it has the force and validity of objectivity.

 Originally Posted by Harry C View Post
Well if faith is not the replacement for proof then why do you continually replace proof with it?
we don't. We use it to extend beyond the point covered by the evidence. So the evidence amounts to a diving board and then you still have to make the leap. It's a question of how wide or narrow a chasm do you want to leap over? The board makes the gap smaller. But there's still going to be a gap.

 Originally Posted by Harry C View Post
So you say, and yet I am watching you do it right here
Right. You reach the point where you have no evidence and then switch modes to faith replacing the missing proof.
It’s more on the order of how much do you honor truth
all ideas or observations about the universe reach that point. you do not have absolute proof that materialism is a true hypothesis. There is no such proof, it's all base upon assumption.

 Originally Posted by Harry C View Post
And when they reach that point then they have reached that point and to pretend otherwise by claiming you have faith is mere intellectual dishonesty.
you are just confusing two different things. I'm sure if you do it because you pruresly want to screw thing sup or you just haven't' thought about it.

when I think about the question, "do I really believe that God is real deep down inside" I do not think "I have faith." I think I know God is real in a way atheist can't ever dispute becasue my doubt was ended by meeting god face to face (so to speak). the presence of God is so real to me and changed life I know it's real I can't deny it. Even if I wanted to I could not.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The "Bible God:" The Depth of Being

  photo 0187_moses_christian_clipart.jpg photo imagesqtbnANd9GcSlVyierOQ2ZIkFDZxPh-PuzBMkiV-WPXYZ-PQ5gjhSelV0Ad-A.jpg

....To hear Atheists tell it the only view of God the Bile gives us is that of a jerk, red-faced hysterical angry old man sitting on a throne with a white beard, commanding the destruction of some society every few moments. As with most things, however, this is just one image the atheists have picked out to vilify the belief system agaisnt which they struggle, the Christian fundamentalist viewpoint. That's a view they can never escape becuase they can't recognize that fighting that view of God is the same as thinking in that way; they are still "funides," they don't like God anymore but they still think in the terms of fundamentalists. I've pointed out many times that religious traditions are constructed by filtering experience of God through cloistral constructs. So that view of God is there in the OT, it's there becuase those are cultural constructs that they had to work with. The ancients, however, were not stupid. They knew there was more to God than that because they experienced the divine. That view point is the surface level, lurking ninetieth the surface is a much deeper concept: the depth of being. That concept is echoed in all my myriad different views of God that atheist ignore and don't see.
....Most people tend to think of God as a big man in the sky. Feminism tries to counter by thinking of God/ess as a big woman in the sky, but it’s the same principle. God is seen as a thing, a human, a big person who is only the most powerful but still part of creation.  Even those of us trained in a more liberal kind of theology still have a hard time shaking the childhood notion. In trying to discuss Tillich’s ideas with both Christians and atheists I find atheists are as committed to “the big guy in the sky” as are fundamentalist Christians. Both can be very strong about insisting that Tillich’s idea is not the Christian concept of God. Of course Tillich was convinced that he had hold of a deep forgotten truth buried beneath the tradition that one can see hinted at by all the major theologians. I will discuss in this chapter some of the theologians whom Tillich uses as such examples, but I will not critique his understanding of them extensively. I assume Tillich was reading into the theologians he liked ideas that may not be there originally. On the other hand some of the ideas are obvious. I will get that toward the end of this chapter. In this chapter I want to explore the notion that while Tillich’s idea is controversial and in some quarters much objected to, in a general sense its concerns if not its assertions are generally favorable to Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox, and that one can find in all of these traditions major thinkers who are in a general sense in agreement with either Tillich’s idea or his concerns. I think at least we can say these views are not anti-Christian, not heretical.

Two Major Passages

            We start with the Bible since that for so many forms the basis of Christian theological tradition. There are no passages that blatantly say God is being itself. Of course we are not going to find one that says “verily Verily, I say unto you, Tillich is right.” The main aspect of Biblical theology in which we can expect to find support is not the overt quotation of passages but the imagery and other theological devices used to communicate truth about the nature of God and God’s relation to reality. Also the relation of the concept of being to the concept of God as we see it used in the Bible is a major aspect of this evidence. Moreover, the endorsement of the idea outright by other theologians both living and ancient is a major part of the proof. Nevertheless, there is one passage that may be taken as embodying a concept the consequence of which would entail that God is being itself, or the ground of being. Thais passage is actually a translation; it’s the Septuagint (LXX) version, the Greek translation of the OT produced in the Intertestamental period. This passage is found in Exodus 3: 14 where God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush and tells him to go demand of Pharos “let my people God.” Moses says “whom shall I say is calling?”  God tells him, as translated from Hebrew to English from the Masoretic text, “I am that I am.” In the LXX however, he says ego eimi ‘O on, which literally means “I am he who is.” The meaning implied is that of eternal necessary being. Why say “I am he who is” when anyone who exists can say that? He’s not talking bout the mere fact of existence but the implication of being the basis of all existence. “He who is” implies an eternal and necessary nature.
            The famous passage of God appearing out of the burning bush and giving Moses his name as “I am” is an important passage, not only is it important for movie goers and Charlton Hesston fans but also in the history of philosophy. It was upon the basis of this passage that Etinene Gilson says Thomas Aquinas based the notion he had of God as the primary act of existence, and the basis of the argument about existential energy.

Quote the passage in Gilson

Why, St. Tomas asks, do we say that Qui est  is the most proper name among all those that can be given to God? And his answer is because it signifies ‘to be.’ : ipsum esse. And what is it to be? In answering this most difficult of all metaphysical questions, we must carefully distinguish between the meaning of two words which are both different and yet immediately realted, ens, or being and esse or ‘to be.’ To the question “what is being” the correct answer is, “being is that which is, or exits” If for instance we ask the same question with regard for God the correct answer would be “the being of God is an infinite and boundless ocean of substance.” But esse or to be is something else and much harder to grasp because it lies more deeply hidden in the metaphysical structure of reality. The word being as a noun designates some substance;the word “to be”—or esse—is a verb, because it designates an act. To understand this is also to reach beyond the level of essence, the deeper level of existence…we first conceive certain beings, then we define their essences, and last we confirm their existences by means of a judgment. But the metaphysical order of reality is just the reverse of the order of human knowledge. What first comes into it is a certain act of existing, which. Because it is this particular act of existing, circumscribes at once a certain essence and causes a certain substance to come into being. In this deeper sense “to be” is the deeper and fundamental act by virtue of which a certain being actually is, or exists…to be is the very act whereby an essence is.[1]

Of course for those not enamored of Thomistic philosophy this may seem a bit questionable but the point in bringing it up is to show the profound power and importance of the passage, which served as a spring board for a major movement in the history of philosophy and of faith. The meaning is obviously bound up in questions of the metaphysical nature of being and what it means to be. The Scholastics derived from this idea of essence and existence the notion that God alone is unique because the divine essence (what God is) is the same as the divine existence (the fact that God is), or to put it another way God’s essence is the same as his existence. For everything else existence is a function of essence. The up shot of all of this is that the thing God is is an eternally existing act.  The job description of God so to speak is to always be because what God is eternal necessary being. We can see that in the passage just by translating in the stadanrd way form Hebrew as “I am that I am.”
            Aquinas’ view of God is counter to that of Tillich even though they are both termed “existential.” Wolfhart Pannenberg used Aquinas to actually counter Tilich (one can see the contradiction between Aquinas’ use of the term “existence of God” and Tillich’s abhorrence f the term). [2] Even so I would argue that weather one works from the Hebrew derived translation “I am that I am” or the Greek “I am being” it’s hinting at the same thing. He doesn’t say “I am the most powerful being” or even “I am the creator” but either way it definitely rests the relationship between God and the world upon the notion of God as the basis of reality. “I am that I am” implies a self sustaining uncaused or eternal state, aka aseity, and that implies that the one who has aseity would have to be the foundation of all reality and the creator of all things. The interview between God and Moses is so crucial to the Christian concept of God, it is the unveiling of God’s identity to the great Patriarch of Israel, their leader out of slavery and to the promised land. This is a very key verse. This is where we are given the basic revelation of who God is. What does it tell us but that God is fundamentally connected to being at the most foundational level? The Hebrew word most used for God derives from this passage and it basically means “being.” “The name of god, which in Hebrew is spelled YHWH, is difficult to explain. Scholars generally believe that it derives from the Semitic word, "to be," and so means something like, "he causes to be."[3]
            The other archetypical passage that literally connects God to being itself proceeds from the other end of the equation, from the standpoint of the being and their connection to God. That passage is found in Acts 17: 28 “In him we live and move and have our being. Paul is telling the Greek philosophers and worshippers on Mars Hill that their alter to “the unknown God” hints at the reality of the true God. These were pagan followers of another religion. Paul stood up and said to them, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and observed your objects of worship I even found an alter with this inscription 'TO AN UNKOWN GOD' Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." He basically says that they are worshiping God, they just don't know who he is. That's why he says "I will make it known to you." He doesn't say "you have the wrong idea completely." Most Evangelicals dismiss this as a neat rhetorical trick. But if we assume that Paul would not lie or distort his beliefs for the sake of cheap tricks, we must consider that he did not say "you are all a bunch of pagans and you are going to hell!" He essentially told them, "God is working in your culture, you do know God, but you don't know who God is. You seek him, without knowing the one you seek. He goes on,(v27)"God did this [created humanity and scattered them into different cultures] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him though he is not far form each one of us." This implies that God not only wants to work in other cultures, but that it is actually his plan to do things in this way. Perhaps through a diversity of insights we might come to know God better. Perhaps it means that through spreading the Gospel people would come to contemplate better the meaning of God's love. The significance is that the Hebrew passage is God’s revelation to his chosen people, to the Israelites, the Greek passage of the NT is the revelation of the Christian God reaching out to other people. In both cases God is revealing himself or being revealed. In both cases God’s basic identity is related to God’s relation to being.  The passage in v28 says “In him we live and move and have our being.” Literally it says “in him we live and move and are.” The tense is present. The translation in English is usually slanted to the poetic. The notion of our being is not only derived from God but is played out “in” God suggests the concept of Being and the beings. The beings are produced and sustained as part of being. Since God is the producer and sustainer of our being, of all being it stands to reason that God is the foundation of all that is, and that God is therefore, fundamentally related to Being itself. This is also a picture of the depth of being. God’s estrangement from other cultures and revelation to those cultures demonstrates a fundamental relation to being, he is not an idol made with hands, (as Paul says in the passage) he is not served by men with their hands, yet he is “not far from any one of us.” In fact Paul quotes the Greek poet “we are all his offspring.” One is reminded of the notion “being is present and manifest in the beings.”

God and Biblical Metaphor

            Another major aspect of our conventional conceptions of God as “big man in the sky” is Biblical imagery. We see the king on the throne. We hear Jesus pray “our father” we see God parting the red sea. We are constantly confronted with the notion that God is the big man in the sky, the king, the father. This imagery sticks in our heads and overshadows other imagery because our culture is conditioned by the patriarch. We forget there is other imagery for God in the Bible. There is actually quite a bit of “other” imagery where God is seen as something other than a big man. Starting with the most obvious alternative, there is quite a bit of female imagery associated with God. Now that is not the same being itself. Of course, because the big woman in the sky is no better than the big man in terms of its rootedness in thinghood.. Nevertheless, in terms of an alternative to what many consider to be the rock solid belief that the Christian God has to be the big man in the sky, we should point out the female imagery.

There are also many ensconces in scripture where God is imaged in female or motherly terms:
Deu 32:11 "As an eagle stirs up her nest, and hovers over her young, and spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them on her wings.

Deu 32 :18 "Of the Rock that bore you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you." (that one may be hard to get, baring children--female image).

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb."

Job 38:29 "From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven."

Isa 45 9-10 Woe to you who strive with your Maker, earthen vessels with the potter. Does the clay say to the one who fashions it: What are you making, or Your work has no handles? Woe to anyone who says to a father: What are you begetting? or to a woman: With what are you in labour?

Isa 49:15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (comparing God's attitude toward Israel with a woman's attitude toward her children).

Isa 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Hosea 13:8 "I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart";

Mat 23:37 and Luk 13:34 Jerusalem, "Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing."
God transcends either gender. Gender is a matter of culture, sex is a matter of biology, and God is a product of neither. We can, however, learn a lot from the fact that God is compared with both mother and father. This sets the basis in equality; neither gender is privileged by imaging God.
or the Hebrew sadeh, meaning BREAST, the usual translation being PROVIDER, SUSTAINER (Klein, Ernest. 1990. A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language. Jerusalem: University of Haifa. 641).
SHADDAI would then be translated respectively as MOUNTAIN or BREAST[4]
EL SHADDAI is usually translated as GOD ALMIGHTY - EL, meaning GOD and SHADDAI being a combination word - SHE, meaning WHO and DAI meaning ENOUGH. EL SHADDAI GOD WHO IS ENOUGH, GOD WHO IS SELF-SUFFICIENT (Hagigah 12a). SHADDAI may also be from the Akkadian sadu, meaning MOUNTAIN, or the Hebrew sadeh, meaning BREAST. EL SHADDAI would then be translated respectively as GOD OF THE MOUNTAIN or GOD OF THE BREAST. Variant spelling - EL SHADAI “Adonai appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai” (Exodus 6:3).[5]

(Zohar. 1984. Tr. Harry Sperling et al. New York: Soncino. 3:130).

Examples of this word being used are Genesis 17:1, Exodus 6:3. Jacob giving last instructions to his sons said:
Gen 49:24-25.(24) "But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God (El) of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)25 Even by the God (El) of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty (Shaddai), who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb..."

(For other references to this same usage, see Isaiah 60:15-16 and Isaiah 66:10-13.)

Other metaphorical images:

Light (2 Chronicles 13:2 name Uriel means “God is my light” 1 John 1:5)
Whirlwind (Job 38:1-42)
Fire (Exodus 3:1-18, 13:21-22, Acts 2)
Water (New Testament, living water numerous references
Pillar of cloud (Exodus 13: 21-22)

            The point being that the image of God as a big man in the sky is a metaphor. It’s no more literal than these other images. There are also images of inanimate and natural things pictured as images of God.  In Job God speaks out of whirl wind, In Exodus God is constantly linked to darkness and to storms. In 1 John “He is light and in him there is no darkness.” To Moses he spoke from a burning bush, God’s spirit is imaged as a dove, water, fire. These are all obviously metaphors. Since God told the children of Israel not to make graven images of him, doesn’t this mean that God can’t be pinned down to any one image? These are all metaphors. Paul told the Greeks that as creator God does not dwell in temples made with hands. That contradicts the tabernacle Holy of Holies and the Temple in Jerusalem. But it’s not really a contradiction because those were not the limit on God’s presence. Even though God’s presence was there it was not only and entirely there, but everywhere. “Neither is he worshipped with men’ hands as though he needed anything seeing he giveth to all life and breath and all things.”(Acts 17: 25) that is the beginning of the discourse in which Paul leads, in the very next point to “in him we live and move and have our being.” God can’t be imaged and God is beyond our understanding, our own being is in god and derived from God. The connection of being ”in God” would certainly suggest that God is being and we are the beings. In any case it’s clear the images we see of God as Father and King and big guy in the sky are metaphors.
            Being ancients, the authors of the Bible wrote in popular language. They did not record deep philosophical concepts in deep philosophical language but simplified to the common reader of their own time and culture. Yet all Bible scholars know that this is no reason to exclude philosophical intent, topics, and concepts form the Bible. Those things are there clearly. We don’t know to what extent the Biblical authors understood them, and its’ not important. Isaiah was not sitting around thinking ‘cogito ergo sum.’ This does not mean, however, that when he says “come let us reason together” that any depth of reasoning which puts the meat on the table so to speak is included. In this way, philosophical concepts clothed in popular languages of the ancients, we find certain standard concepts of God relate to the notions of being itself brought out by Tillich. One major example is that of the Omnipresence of God, and it’s subdivisions, God’s immanence and transcendence. Psalm 139:6-16 God’s omnipresence is like that of ground of being

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from your presence?
 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.
 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 10 even there your hand will guide me,
       your right hand will hold me fast.
 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
       and the light become night around me,"
 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
       the night will shine like the day,
       for darkness is as light to you.
 13 For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother's womb.
 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.
 15 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.

In this passage we see both God’s immanence and tremendous wrapped up in omnipresence. God is everywhere, there is nowhere one can go where God is not. At the same time God is intimately related to the individual, making the inmost being (the spirit, the soul?) of the infant in the mother’s womb. That is a compound image of intimacy. God is not only immediately present to the mother, but inside the infant in her womb. Yet God is also beyond the world, in the darkness in the light in sheol (v 8 depth is sheol = the grave) in the depth of the earth. God is even present beyond world before anything was created. Certainly this is more than just a big man on throne.
            The Bible speaks of God in two ways that seem to be contradictions. It speaks of God as immanent, related to the world at a very intimate level (making the inner being of infants in their mother’s wombs) yet also transcendent—lofty and beyond our understanding. God is High dwelling in high holy places where humans cannot go. This is not a contradiction, it’s the upshot of God’s omnipresence, God is in the world and beyond it. This may seem contradiction to some but it makes perfect since for the ground of being. If Being is present and manifest in the beings then certainly Being is present in the world at an intimate level. If Being is the ground of all being than Being must be beyond the world and transcendent of our understanding. Both qualities are pictured in scripture. God’s Immanence is pictured in many passages, anywhere really where God does thins in the world, to numerous to list. I will give two examples, we already have a couple from pslam 139 (above). Psalm 65:9-13 see God working intimately in nature
Job 33:4:  God working intimately in creation of each individual see also Isaiah 63:11: The passage in Psalm 65 says:

9 You care for the land and water it;
       you enrich it abundantly.
       The streams of God are filled with water
       to provide the people with grain,
       for so you have ordained it. [c]
 10 You drench its furrows
       and level its ridges;
       you soften it with showers
       and bless its crops.
 11 You crown the year with your bounty,
       and your carts overflow with abundance.
 12 The grasslands of the desert overflow;
       the hills are clothed with gladness.
 13 The meadows are covered with flocks
       and the valleys are mantled with grain;
       they shout for joy and sing.

Job 33:4 tells us “ The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” While Issiah 63:11 says

“Then his people recalled [a] the days of old,
       the days of Moses and his people—
       where is he who brought them through the sea,
       with the shepherd of his flock?
       Where is he who set
       his Holy Spirit among them,”

The immanence of God is well attested. While some think God’s transcendence is a contradiction, there are bridges between the two The major bridge is the omnipresence of God. Since God is everywhere including beyond the world beyond our understanding, immanence and transcendence are just two aspects. There are numerous links to the immanence of God as omnipresence: Proverbs 15:3 “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. Genesis 28:10-22 the story of Jacob’s ladder where Jacob’s dream of a ladder connecting earth and heaven would seem to be a crude symbol of a spiritual connection between immanent and transcendent.

            The transcendence of God is well attested and demonstrates those aspects of the divine which are beyond human understanding:


God eternal, dwells in high and holy place, above the world: imagery of being above the world see
Ps 47:8
Isaiah 57:15,

Beyond human understanding: cannot be compared to anything (unconditioned)
Isaiah 55:8-9, Isaiah 40:13, 18

Doesn’t change: Malachi 3:6,

Powers indicate transcendence: omnipotence “with God all things are possible.”
.Matthew 19:26 See also Luke 1:37
Psalm 115:3, his plans always come to pass see also Psalm 33:11

God Is good and is the standard of justice:
Job 34:10 God will never do evil does justice see also Deuteronomy 32:4, Ps 11:7 just and does not show favoritism: Acts 10:34, judges each one according to what he has done: Romans 2:6 judges and forgives: 1 John 1:9

            Let’s take a deeper look at some of these passages. Isaiah 57:15

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
       he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
       "I live in a high and holy place,
       but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
       to revive the spirit of the lowly
       and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Iaaha 55: 8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,"
       declares the LORD.
 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts.

            The concept of omnipresence, and it’s subdivisions into immanence and transcendence, taken together not as contradictions but as part of a aspects of a whole mark out the philosophical territory of  the depth of being and God as the unconditioned which Tillich spoke of despite the primitive language:

The philosophical idea of omnipresence is that of exemption from the limitations of space, subjectively as well as objectively; subjectively, in so far as space, which is a necessary form of all created consciousness in the sphere of sense-perception, is not thus constitutionally inherent in the mind of God; objectively, in so far as the actuality of space-relations in the created world imposes no limit upon the presence and operation of God. This metaphysical conception of transcendence above all space is, of course, foreign to the Bible, which in regard to this, as in regard to the other transcendent attributes, clothes the truth of revelation in popular language, and speaks of exemption from the limitations of space in terms and figures derived from space itself. Thus, the very term "omnipresence" in its two component parts "everywhere" and "present" contains a double inadequacy of expression, both the notion of "everywhere" and that of "presence" being spacial concepts. Another point, in regard to which the popular nature of the Scriptural teaching on this subject must be kept in mind, concerns the mode of the divine omnipresence. In treating the concept philosophically, it is of importance to distinguish between its application to the essence, to the activity, and to the knowledge of God. The Bible does not draw these distinctions in the abstract. Although sometimes it speaks of God's omnipresence with reference to the pervasive immanence of His being, it frequently contents itself with affirming the universal extent of God's power and knowledge (Deuteronomy 4:39; 10:14; Psalms 139:6-16; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Amos 9:2).[6]

The picture that is painted for us of God resulting for these characteristics is much like what Tillich describes in his article on depth of being in Shaking of the Foundations[7] God’s justice, goodness, his love, his power to do good is part of that as it relates to depth of history. The physical aspect of God’s proximity to the world is like of depth of being and the power of being. God is in the world and beyond it, controlling it and relating ot it at the most intimate level; he’s making children grow in the womb and crops grow in the field; he’s making the rain drops come and plants grow and he’s in there involved in every aspect, he’s also so high and lofty he’s far beyond our understanding. This is much like being itself, he’s the source from which all things come, like being itself. He’s everywhere, the whole is surrounded by God and penetrated by God it is in God and God is in it, like being itself. Being is present and manifest in the beings and God is in the womb making kids grow. Being is beyond our understanding, eternal and beyond us, and God is in some high and heavenly place we can’t know, but God knows us before we exist. We see not only the ground of being in this portrait but the unconditioned, the God beyond God, the truth because our understanding. We can experience God’s love, presence and power just like the mystics.
            Isaiah 40, 13-14 declares:

13 Who has understood the mind [d] of the LORD,
       or instructed him as his counselor?
 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
       and who taught him the right way?
       Who was it that taught him knowledge
       or showed him the path of understanding?
V 18 “To whom, then, will you compare God?
       What image will you compare him to?”

No image is suitable to fully grasp the nature of God, he can’t be compared anything or anyone.  That’s really the idea behind the phrase “being itself,” a phrase which connotes the uniqueness of a concept that transcends “thinghood” and indicates something that is the only one of its kind. “A being” is one of many. If something is one of many its probably a “thing” in creation because it must compete with other things for existence. A being could fail to exist it could be another being as opposed to the one it is. But something that is the thing itself is the only one, unique, not contingent can’t fail to exist because it can’t be that it could have been otherwise. These ideas being communicated by the phrase: the un-conditioned. The unconditioned aspect of the divine is what is being communicated. Taken together these scriptures spell out the notion of God as the unconditioned, the depth of being, the basis of reality and these are the qualities that mark the ground of being as unique in a way that nothing else can match. Such a God is not a possibility among another, not just another personality or “most powerful being.” That’s moving in the right direction for ancient world concepts. This is not a just a big man on a throne but the basis of all reality.
            The unconditioned is beyond our understanding. The unconditioned means that no thought or reality we know of in concrete reality can be applied literally to God. That doesn’t mean God is an abstraction, the ground of being is concrete but nothing we know of, no “thing” in creation, can be applied literally to God.  God is not “a being,” God is not “a thing in creation,” God is not literally anything we know. But just as the ancients represented God through their primitive constructs as king, father, mother, animal fire, wind, water, light, dark so we can speak metaphorically of God. We need to recognize and be aware that the images used of God in the Bible are clearly just metaphors. The children of Israel were forbidden to make an graven image of God, they refused to try and represent God literally, they knew there making metaphors. The prophet says “what image can depict God?” We can construct much more sophisticated metaphors such as ground of being, unfired field, laws of physics, dialectic, but we still know what God is and these are still just metaphors. The big loving father is a metaphor. That doesn’t mean that God does not love, it means that God is beyond our understanding. We know the love is real by experiencing it, we can’t compare God literally to a father, because in every comparison there is “like” and “not like.” If God is “like a father” then God is also “not like a father.” One must keep in mind the metaphorical nature of the father image. We can see from the biblical imagery that depiction of God as a king, father, and big man in the sky are metaphorical.
            Atheists tend to think that Christianity is just the Bible. But the Christian tradition is living and active. It is not confined to just following Bible verses by wrote like robots following programming, but formulating ideas and explaining and re-explaining as each new generation finds is own seminal problems that confront human experience in their own era. Showing how contemporary problems and their solutions relate to the ancient tradition is the task of the theologian. Theologians relate the timeless metaphors of scripture and ancient tradition to the constructs of their own age and in so doing their theology becomes part of the tradition. The Christian tradition is living and active, it is still growing and God as being itself has became as much a part of Christian theology as some  of the ancient concepts. Theologians throughout history have discussed being itself and they forms a continuity between the ancient Biblical tradition and the growing theological tradition stretching into the contemporary scene.
            Theology might get pretty arid talking around that of which we cannot speak and spending our time remarking about how we can’t speak of it. Certainly it would be much more comforting to tell the bereaved and oppressed of God’s fatherly love than of “the unconditioned nature of the object of ultimate concern.” Not to worry, we can transform metaphors into symbols and take comfort in Tillich’s theory of symbols. For Tillich symbols participate in the reality which they symbolize. For example Moby Dick is a symbol of untamed nature but he’s also a white whale, which is part of untamed nature, except for the bit about him being a fictional character. It might seem that all of this is beyond “the average Christian” but it is not unnoted in Christian history.“There is a long tradition of analogy and negative theology in Judeo-Christian reflection that agrees with the denial of literal knowledge of God.  However, in much of this theology, God is still talked about as if God were an existing being…”

…  For Tillich, the identification of God as being-itself, or the unconditioned, is essential for a reflective grasp of God in both philosophy and theology, but it does not fully describe the immediate religious experience of God.  Analysis of religious experience shows that the idea of God as unconditioned is most generally fused with some concrete representation of God, which functions as a symbol.[x]  As Tillich says in a rather obscure quote, “God is unconditioned, that makes him God; but the ‘unconditional’ is not God.”[xi]  In other words, in the inner meaning of God is the idea of the unconditioned, but contained within the totality of the notion of God is more than that bare idea.  He continues, “the word ‘God’ is filled with the concrete symbols in which mankind (sic) has expressed its ultimate concern – its being grasped by something unconditional.”[xii]  To experience God, for example, as father, king, or lord, is to experience the fusion of a finite reality with the unconditioned experienced in and through this reality.  In this fusion, some concrete object functions as a symbol of God.  I will not attempt to justify Tillich’s theory of symbols here, but only point out that the religious idea of God, or God as experienced in some concrete religion, is more complex than this abstract analysis of God as unconditioned shows.[8] 

[1] Etienne Gilson, God and Philosophy. New Haven and London: Yale University press, Powell lectures on Philosophy Indiana University, 1941, 63-64.
[2] Find--Gilson
[3] Jewish Virtual Library, “Egypt and the Wanderings:Moses and the Cult of Yahweh ” visited 4/23/10, URL:  “the Hebrews a Learning Module Washington  State Universality, copyright Richard Hooker 2010.
[4] Kline Ernest, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English. Winona Lake, IN :Eisenbrauns Publishing, 1987.
[5] Tr. Harry Sperling et al.    Zohar. New York: Soncino. 3:130 1984.
[6] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia online. “omnipresence” Edited James Orr, John Nuelsen, Edgar Mullins, Morris Evans, and Melvin Grove Kyle and was published complete in 1939. W.B. Eerdman’s Publishing co. Webstie copywrited 2008.
[7] Op cit
[8] Duane Olson, “Paul Tillich and the Ontological Argument.”
I say in religious experience the unconditioned is “most generally” fused with a concrete representation, because Tillich does allow for mystical experiences that are devoid of concrete symbols.Theology of Culture, 24 Xii Ibid

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Big Man in the Sky part 1

....  photo Holy_Grail_God_small_0.gif

So many atheist attacks on the Christian faith proceed from the standpoint of litterlizing their negative image of God, which is based upon the OT version of God, that I used to always been telling them "you are making God into the big man in the sky." Now Atheists on CARM have started telling me that I'm making God into the Big man in the sky when I assume that God is conscious or that he loves us. The fact is that many of them assume that even slightest hint of consciousnesses in God and it's anthropomorphizing. They just have hold of the wrong end of the stick. God is not modeled after big man in sky just by being assumed conscious, but when we assume attitudes and behaviors caught up in the same assumptions that men make. My thesis here today is that it's only the big man in sky when it echos the personality hangups of big man. The nature of consciousness is such that this in and of itself need not be taken as anthropomorphic. The Christian concept of God as developed by the Platonic thinkers of the early centuries is about a universal mind that can relate to humans but works on a higher level so much so that we might not even understand it as consciousness or as "personal." That higher level can't be devoid of love, thus love is not anthropomorphic but a quality of God.
....The aspect of physical body is not the issue. I personally doubt that God has a body, since that would mean he is localized and limited specially, but not having a body but being a mind would only make him a "jumped up" big man if he still made the assumptions of a human. Although one of the major things I have had in mind when I used that phrase "big man in sky" is a Zeus figure sitting on throne with a white beard. The somewhat more sophisticated disembodied mind is only just a step up, especially if God is construed to have the same kinds of attitudes. The kind of attitude indicative of big man is the limited understanding, emotions of anger, rage, personality hand ups. Examples of this are found all over the OT. "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and ." (Exodus 20:5).
"The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their ... He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:16-33).
....When I was self identified as an evangelical I used to defend these things by saying "O that was to teach Abraham, to get him to look for the righteous men to emphasis to him that there were none." Surely really know there were no righteous men around. I never occurred to me until latter that the very act of teaching Abram in such away is in itself evidence of big monism, or the attitude of a man. That attitude is more likely to have come from the redactor. It's a fine literary device, it leads the reader to put himself in Abram's shoes, what would I do if I looked for the righteous men and couldn't find one? Did God have to actually commission authors/redactors who would write that? Or did he just know that in using human authors they would "get around" to using good literary devices? So it is with all the big man statements such as anger and jealousy and so forth. These are personifications that are aimed at enabling us to relate to God. We can't relate to some higher thing that is so far above us we can't even recognize it as personal. We relate to father and mother, thus God is reflected as having attributes of both throughout the bible. Surely doesn't have to be planned to be influenced by experiences of God.
....First we should distinguish between consciousness and the personal. There was a time there that I tried to avoid using the term "personal" in relation to God. The Bible never speaks of God as "personal." That implies personality and personality implies hang-ups. God can't have hang-ups.  Consciousness is an aspect of personality but it's not synonymous with personality per se. Consciousnesses is the basic self awareness and the ability to distinguish bewteen self and others. I am me, I am not my brother. I am individual I am who I am that sets me apart form others. Consciousness is our medium of exchange with the world. We know the world through out consciousness awareness. We begin to think that our kind of consciousnesses i the only kind there is. Yet a good reason to assume that consciousness per se is not anthropomorphic is that we are not he only being that are conscious. We know for example that dogs and dolphins are conscious. So consciousness is also dogpomporhic. Some thinkers speculate that conscoiusness is "ground up." In other words there's a bit of consciousness at the lowest levels of life and it become more sohpisticated as life before more complex. For example we know know that amoebas persue complex behavior such as hunting.

Collin Barris
New Scientist
oct 29, 2008

This year, Toshiyuki Nakagaki at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, won an Ig Nobel prize for his work on amoeba intelligence after his team found further evidence of the amoeba memory effect. They exposed Physarum amoeba to temperatures fluctuating regularly between cold and warm. It was already known that the cells become sluggish during cold snaps, but Nakagaki's team found that the amoeba slowed down in anticipation of cold conditions, even when the temperature changes had stopped (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.018101).

 Science Daily
Oct 2008

 The amoeba Dictyostelium finds bacteria by scent and moves toward its meal by assembling a molecular motor on its leading edge. The active form of a protein called Ras sets off a cascade of signals to start up that motor, but what controlled Ras was unknown.

 ....It's expalined through physical theory and it's more like an automatic reflex than a planned thought out behavior. I'm sure there are no amoeba coffee shops where dissident amoeba sing folk songs about their society. Yet we could think of these things as "consciousness" on a certain level. We think about the difference between an Amoeba, a slough a sea snail, a butterfly, a rat, a dog, a dolphin, ordinary humans, Noam Chomsky, and extra terrestrial life, why can't we posit the idea of that there's an off scale consciousness that keeps going until it's limitless, and infinite, that's God's level. Just as we can relate to lower levels, with varying degrees of success, the lower it gets the less success we can speculate that God can bend down and relate to us. Why is just being self aware only for humans and to posit that for God is to make God into the big man in the sky? The big man in the sky does not have complex motivations. God's motivations are beyond our underestimating so it's easy for us to stick with attributing our own to him.
....The Christian thinkers of the early centuries, around the time of Pseudo-Dionysus (500AD) understood God in terms of a universal mind. This is not a mind that is limited to one perspective like our own but that takes par tin all consciousness, becasue all consciousness is stemming from that mind. As the great Translator of Dionysus, Edwin Rolt said:
 The basis of their teaching is the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead (ὑπερούσιος θεαρχία). We must, therefore, at the very outset fix the meaning of this term. Now the word “Essence” or “Being” (οὐσία) means almost invariably an individual existence; more especially a person, since such is the highest type that individual existence can in this world assume. And, in fact, like the English word “Being,” it may without qualification be used to mean an angel. Since, then, the highest connotation of the term “Essence” or “Being” is a person, it follows that by “Super-Essence” is intended “Supra-Personality.” And hence the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead simply means that God is, in His ultimate Nature, Supra-Personal.
Now an individual person is one who distinguishes himself from the rest of the world. I am a person because I can say: “I am I and I am not you.” Personality thus consists in the faculty of knowing oneself to be one individual among others. And thus, by its very nature, Personality is (on one side of its being, at least) a finite thing. The very essence of my personal state lies in the fact that I am not the whole universe but a member thereof.
God, on the other hand, is Supra-Personal because He is infinite. He is not one Being among others, but in His ultimate nature dwells on a plane where there is nothing whatever beside Himself. The only kind of consciousness we may attribute to Him is what can but be described as an Universal Consciousness. He does not distinguish Himself from us; for were we caught up on to that level we should be wholly transformed into Him. And yet we distinguish between ourselves and Him because from our lower plane of finite Being we look up and see that ultimate level beyond us. The Super-Essential Godhead is, in fact, precisely that which modern philosophy describes as the Absolute. Behind the diversities of this world there must be an Ultimate Unity. And this Ultimate Unity must contain in an undifferentiated condition all the riches of consciousness, life, and existence which are dispersed in broken fragments throughout the world. Yet It is not a particular Consciousness or a particular Existence. It is certainly not Unconscious, Dead or, in the ordinary sense, non-Existent, for all these terms imply something below instead of above the states to which they are opposed.[1]

Thus God can understand us better than we can understand ourselves. He can relate to us from a view point that is as much a part of our own subjectivity as we are ourselves. As St. Augustine said "God is more near than my in most being." This is not Pantheism. It doesn't reduce God to the level of synonymy with all things. It recognizes the distinction between God and creation, between being and the beings. It also recognizes the ability of God to comprehend his creation.
....The one way we can relate to God and understand that which is beyond our understanding is through experiencing the love of God. Love does not require the kind of intellectual understanding that we can't have in relation to God's nature or being. All it requires is that it be answered with more love. God's love (agape) is the will to the good of the other, that puts us in a parent-child relationship with God. We can't really imagine needing to care about the good of the other in relation to God but we can experience his loving care and provision in caring about our good. We can't imagine needing to save God because God never needs saving, just as infants we don't think about our parents needing saving. When we literalize the metaphor and make God out to be the big man in the sky we attribute our own needs to God then then love becomes manipulation because we are manipulative creatures. As we have seen in the last installment God's love is experienced by all mystics in all traditions, if we are open to it we will find it.
....As for the OT writers, they were not idiots. They knew God knew how man righteous men there were. They knew God was beyond there understanding. Next time I'll open up some aspects of the OT view of God and we'll look at some aspects people miss about the transcendent nature of God.

 [1] Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New York, New York: Cosmio 2007, from original 1920 publication.  see also online versionChristian Classics Ethereal Library, on line version, The Author and his Influence, trans by, 1920  website URL:  by
visited May 13,

Monday, January 21, 2013

On God and Love part 2

 photo 2009-05thomasbronze.jpg

...,...CARM poster HRG ( who is a Mathematician) says it is a "category error" to say "God is love." Oxford dictianory of Philosophy defined category error as:

 A notion prominent in the work of Ryle. A category mistake arises when things or facts of one kind are presented as if they belonged to another. Someone would make a category mistake if after being shown all the battalions and regiments she wished to be shown the army. Ryle believed that a Cartesian theory of mind depended on the category mistake of reifying mental events, instead of seeing mental descriptions as just one kind of description of persons and their dispositions. Thinking of beliefs as in the head, or numbers as large spatial objects, or God as a person, or time as flowing, may each be making category mistakes.[1]

The reason HRG thinks its a category error to say "God is love" is becuase he doesn't know what a metaphor is. He thinks love is a quality or an emotion, it's produced by feelings which in turn stem from brain chemistry. Thus a  person such as God can't be a feeling produced by brain chemistry. He also no doubt thinks God can't be a person either because that is a category error according to Gilbert Ryle. That's a question for another time. Of long time readers of the blog will know that I don't put God on the level of "a person." God is not "a being" but being itself.
......,It's not uncommon for a lot of people to reduce love to the level of brain chemistry. The illusion that that is all love is is produced by the fact that love both manifests itself to us in feeling and is confused with a lot of different feelings. Feelings are transmitted though brain chemistry, thus a lot of people assume that love is just a feeling and feelings reduce to chemicals in the head. In discussing "love" in a theological context of cousre I'm talking about agope Greek term sometimes translated "charity" in English, that in itself is misleading. It leads us to think that charity just means giving things to the poor since that's mostly the context in which it is translated. What charity really is will become clear when we consider the full meaning of the term agape.The best definition of term was driven home to me not by a dictionary or Greek Lexicon but by Paul Tillich (of cousre). In his History of Christian Thought [2] he defined it as the willingness to accord basic human dignitary secure the good of the other (that's my paraphrase). From this i derive my formulaic saying "Love = will to the good of the other."
.......We have a tendency to use the term "Love" for everything form sex to ice cream. We confuse it with a lot of garbage including Romantic concepts and erotic desire. This is all based upon the notion that love is a feeling. The illusion that it is a feeling is produced by the fact that it's often manifested through feelings, thus many other feelings are taken for love when in fact hey have nothing to do with love. One of the most common forms of this problem is the confusion of sex with love. Of course I'm not going to deny that there is a special form of love that is shared between husband and wife, or between a man and woman. There are also special forms of love shared in the living out of many kinds of relationships, father and children, mother and children, other relatives, friendships. All of these are forms of love but they are extensions of something that goes much deeper than mere feelings. Feelings are deceptive and easy to mistake. On the other hand we can't really comprehend love in a cold dispassionate way apart form feelings, even though love is much more than mere feeling.
.......In it's broader scope love is an act of the willing "the will to the good of the other." That encompasses a range of concepts such as "the good" that can only be described "philosophy." In it's  highest summit love is an idea that encompasses it's own philosophy. Even this is not as far as we can go. We are told in 1 John 4:8 "he who loves knows God for God is love." This is not a category error because it's not saying that God (who may be compared to a person in some way) is a feeling.What else would it be? Considering the nature of the statement if we love we know God for God is love it's clearly a  metaphor and can refer to God's character. If we love we know God, why? Because that's what God is like. God is loving and kind and if we are loving and kind we know God's nature. Moreover, to say God is love implies a relationship so close between God and love that to know one is to know the other. What would that mean by that go is the origin or source of love. Since God is the origin or source of all things, directly or indirectly, that's just such a stretch.
.......God's charter is eternal, it's not the product of a prior cause, thus it is the basis of all that comes to be. It would have to be just as fundamental to the nature of things as God himself, that means we can link being (God is the ground of being) to love. Love, being, God all go together as the basis of all that is. We can construct both a philosophy of behavior and a philosophy of ethics on this concept. Love is the background of the moral universe. As God's character love would have to be the motive force behind creation and the end to which all is driving. Thus God is linked so closely with love we can speak of them both as the alpha and Omega. Love is the motive force, being is the action, "God" is the guiding logos that puts it all into action and brings about a creation based upon that impetus.
.......In the world of human experience love is a universal. All people around the world are capable of love, even in the higher agopic sense. All mystics sense love at the core of God's presence, even those who refuse to call the object of their experience "God" refuse to call the center of the experience "love" still describe all the secondary feelings around it including the positive outcome of the experience. That universal nature to love, in all faiths, all time periods, and all cultures, in association with the holy the religious sense is a good indication of something transcendent of mere brain chemistry something outside of human brain structure.[3]
......Love is a mystical reality. When we exhibit true love we enter into a reality with God where we can experiences soemthing of the nature of God's motivation and will. Love at it's core is mystery just as God is mystery. It's beyond our understanding, how could we understand God's motive force? That would be like understand the core of God. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is lauded for his one poetic passage about love but he also tells us some pretty important things about love there. first, he's using negative theology by telling us what love is not. He excludes from the application  "love" knowledge, mystical experience per se (not to say love is not a mystery) and understanding of spiritual things. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. " It's patienter and kind then he excludes several behaviors one might describe as "tacky." So love is manifested in positive behavior that builds others up and excludes behaviors that tear them down (not easily angered keeps no recores of wrong, v. 4). (The will to the good of the other).
.......Neither is love merely altruism or sacrifice: 3 "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing." That's the problem with translating Agape as Charity becuase it conveys the impression that just giving and sacrificing for the poor is love in itself. Although it might prompt us to do that. The sacrificial part can be apart form love. Then what he says about loves eternal nature bears out what I've said above:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Love is eternal and it's the most important form of knowledge. All gift related spiritual forms of knowledge will pass away all the mysteries of the world will be explored but love will never cease. Of course it could not be eternal and be separate form God. Thus love and god are intrinsically bound up. Anything that is that closely linked with God implies a personal nature to God. We can't have impersonal unconscious love. Then it would not be a motive force or a character unless there's a character there. The personal nature of God is implied. This creates problems for some who seem to think that any consciousness on God's part is anthropomorphic regardless of how highly nuanced. I plan to deal with that issue next time.


[1] Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy quoted on URL:
[2] Paul Tillich, History of Christian Thought, New York: Simon and Schuster,Touchstone Books, Forward by Carl Braaten, 1972.
[3]Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.
this is a Google books preview and doesn't include all the pages.   scroll to page 119 where the article starts.