Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Christianity preserved learning and enabaled the rise of mocern science.

James Hannam is a Historian, Ph.D. from Cambridge. He
has also been "Bede" one of the major internet apologists
known for "Bede's library." He is a member of the CARE.

im-skeptical, who has made his presence known in the comment section writes in reaction to Victor Reppert on the dangerous idea blog. The article was discussing James Hnnam's book Genesis of Science which argues that the church did not persecute or hold back science:

It is amusing to see Christian apologists like Victor Reppert seize upon any any article they find on the internet that appeals to their confirmation bias.  One topic that Christians have been touchy about is the idea that the church played a large role in the suppression if intellectual pursuit during the historical period known as the Dark Ages.  If you're a Christian apologist, you'd rather believe that there was no such thing as the Dark Ages.  You'd rather believe that intellectual endeavors flourished under the benevolent leadership of the church, and life for the average citizen was just peachy.  There is no shortage of revisionist literature that supports this.  In his customary manner, Victor has uncritically latched onto a review of James Hannam's book God's Philosophers that supports this notion.[1]
The view his attributing to Christian apologists are views I learned from some atheist some Unitarian  professors in a secular history of ideas program. im-s is mot a major voice but this is right down the center of my dissertation topic. So as a point of honor I will answer it. He has no idea what historians say because his view are so ideological it's just propaganda. Look at the way he caricatures the view of Christians, Hannam does not say there was no dark ages but the term "dark" does not refer to repression of knowledge it refers to lack of source documents.

In comment section one  comes to bolster his view and quotes this ridiculous that is decades behind where historians are today, who regurgitates the atheist party line:
PapalintonMay 25, 2016 at 2:33 AMOne of the most instructive synopses of the Middle Ages [Dark Ages] that characterise the prevailing sentiment of that period in relation to the following Renaissance period of human history is this paragraph:
 During the Middle Ages man had lived enveloped in a cowl. He had not
seen the beauty of the world, or had seen it only to cross himself, and turn
aside and tell his beads and pray. Like St. Bernard travelling along the
shores of Lake Leman, and noticing neither the azure of the waters nor the
luxuriance of the vines,nor the radiance of the mountains with their robe of
sun and snow, but bending a thought-burdened forehead over the neck of his
mule - even like this monk, humanity has passed, a careful pilgrim, intent on
the terrors of sin, death, and judgment, along the highways of the world, and
had not known that they were sightworthy, or that life is a blessing. Beauty
is a snare, pleasure a sin, the world a fleeting show, man fallen and lost,
death the only certainty, judgment inevitable, hell everlasting, heaven hard
to win, ignorance is acceptable to God as a proof of faith and submission,
abstinence and mortification are the only safe rules of life - these were the
fixed ideas of the ascetic mediaeval Church. The Renaissance shattered and
destroyed them, rending the thick veil which they had drawn between the mind of man and the outer world, and flashing the light of reality upon the
darkened places of his own nature. For the mystic teaching of the Church was substituted culture in the classical humanities; a new ideal was established,whereby man strove to make himself the monarch of the globe on which it is his privilege as well as destiny to live. The Renaissance was the liberation of humanity from a dungeon, the double discovery of the outer and the innerworld." taken from HERE
This is not from a book but a website. The link is there. "The Renaissance" by R. A. Guisepi. [2]
Funny thing I cannot find reference to publications other this website and I can't find where he studied, He links his name to University of Southern California but doesn't he teaches there or got hisi doctorate there, I find no reference to a degree. There is a source that says he is a historian but doesn't say where he teaches. That doesn't mean that he's not worth reading. It does mean he's not a big authority. This quotation purports to get inside the head of a medieval Christian to what he felt and what his aversions were, and of course because he was a Christian they can all be attributed to that.He adds: "Ironically, the Renaissance movement fomented and broke out right in the Catholic Church's own backyard, Italy, paving the way across the rest of Europe and the world and towards the advent of the Enlightenment, at which time there would be no turning back to the Church." Right in their own back yard hu? Could that possibly be because they weren't being suppressed?

Everyone who deals with the issue of Christianity vs science starts with science to demonstrate either that it was persecuted or not, Hannam is no exception. In one of my best papers in graduate school I opposed the famous article by White on the roots of our Ecological crisis [3]. My starting point was not science but mystical theology., The assumption was made by  White and other secularists that mystical theology denigrated nature because it wasn't spiritual or Holy,. I demonstrated the folly of this View. In the middle ages nature was re-valued. True there was a hierarchy and nature did not occupy the top spot but neither was it denigrated.  A new relation between nature and God led to the realization of nature's beauty in its own right, and to scientific curiosity. The study of nature was not divorced from the spiritual, however, but the two were inter-related. The search for natural causes began in many monasteries: at Tours, Orleans, Paris, but most notably at Chartres and Saint-Victor. There was a reaction against the search for natural causes, not out of denigration of nature, but on the grounds that God is the final cause of all things, one need not seek further. William of Conches denied that the search for causes detracted from the Glory of God, the search for natural causes was the great work of the believer. He charged his opponents with "placing more reliance on their monkish garb than on their wisdom." The major proponents of the new outlook at Chartres were William of Conches, Adelard of Bath, Bernard Silvester, Hermann of Carinthia, John of Salisbury, and most notable, Gilbert of Poitiers.[4]

The seeds of Renaissance were planted in the 10th century, they came to full flower in the 12th century, and with them, a vital upsurge of interest in nature. The 12th century saw some very complex developments, because it brought not only a Renaissance, economic expansion and the rise of scientific study, but also a religious reformation. The movement included reform of Church corruption, as well as a mystical sense of the divine. Schiebinger makes the point that monastic institutions afforded women a measure of power, education, and scientific study. She mentions Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), who was "the most notable medieval woman author on medicine, natural history, and cosmology." She was also one of the most notable mystics of the middle ages; a major leader of the reform movement. Hildegard, through her studies of the natural world, transformed static Greek science into mystical symbolism.[5]

A host of German woman, contemporaries of Hildegard, deserve mention: among them, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Gertrude the great of Helfta, and Gertrude of Heckborn. All of these figures used nature symbolism to illumine understanding of the divine. The German mystics, far from denigrating nature, were so enchanted by it that they are often charged with pantheism; Meister Eckhart being one of the primary examples of this type of mystic. In the southern mediterranean, St. Francis brought in a new understanding of the relation to nature. Francis put nature on equal terms with humanity, "he opened up nature with respect to its ground of being, which is the same as with man." Contrary to the popular image, however, St. Francis was not a "nature mystic," that title fits Eckhart much better. Francis did not divinize nature, nor did he romanticize it. Instead, he democratized it, putting animals, trees, the stars, and the planets on the same level as humanity (his hym to "brother sun, sister moon"); all creatures beloved of God. There is a story for example, probabbly myth, which illustrates Francis attitude toward animals. A hunter was about to kill a wolf which had become a killer. Francis stood in the way and said, "don't harm brother wolf." On the other hand, he did preach to animals, on the assumption that as creatures of God they loved God and enjoyed hearing the Gospel. He also began an active engagement with life in the world, rather than contemplation in the monastery. His new order, along with their female counterparts, the Poor Clares, began a medieval poverty movement which threatened to reform the whole Church. For this reason, and because he did change the attitude toward nature, Tillich calls him "the true father [parent we could say] of the Renaissance."6 Tillich after shevenger
The entire relationship of humans to nature was being re-thought, not to the exclusion of the divine, but based on and related to the divine in a different way. Through the works of John the Scot, the word "universitas" came into more common parlance, meaning, that nature was seen as a whole (a universe, a united diversity--a uninted and harmonious whole made up of many smaller parts). Theologians, artists, poets, and other thinkers "reflected that they were themselves caught up within the framework of nature, were themselves also bits of this cosmos they were ready to master." Nature came to be valued, not merely as a symbol of the spiritual, but in its own right (as with St. Francis). God had always been present in the world, but now God infused nature with divine being. "To conceive the world as one whole is already to perceive its profound structure--a world of forms transcending the medley of visible and sense-perceptible phenomena. The whole penetrates each of its parts; it is one universe; God conceived it as a unique living being, and its intelligible model is itself a whole." ?
 Early in the eleventh century great cathedral schools in large began to rose. These were a major influence in addition to the papacy. Their influence was felt in science and in it;' early forerunner natural philosophy. "In the Carolingian period much of the focus of scholarship was among the monks in monasteries located in rural areas. with the growth if cities and the need for san educated intellectual elite among the clergy schools devoted to arose at the cathedrals around Europe." [7]  Most of the great imtellectual ferment of the twelfth century occurred near Paris where the schools of Chartres and St. Victor both produce great interest in science.[8] St. Victor developed reason and logic while Chartres focused more on cosmology and mathematics..
From this outcropping was produced a swarm of great philosophical minds who developed logic and paved  the way for scientific theory as well as philosophy as a whole. Chief among these, in the fourteenth century, was William of Ockham.

turn to science Schrtres and st victor St Vic more logicand philso[phy. both were. use Linberg book to show parallax view, theory and technology

[1] im-skeptical, "The Lie That Never Dies: Christian Apologetoics," The Skeptic Zone, May 24, 2016 blog URL: http://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-lie-that-never-dies-christian.html
accessed 5/27/16

[2] R. A. Guisepi, "The Beginning and progress of The Renaissance." The renaissance.

[3]  Lynn White, "The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," in Machina Ex Deo: Essays in The Dynamism of Western Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1968. no page indicated

[4] Grant, Edward. "Science and Theology in The Middle Ages," in God and Nature: Historical Essays ON The Encounter Between Christianity and Science. ed. David Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. 51

[5] Londa Schiebenger,  "The Mind Has No Sex?" Women in The Origins of Modern Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. 13.

[6] Tillich

[8] Eugene F. Bales, Philosophy in the West: Men, Women, Religion, Science  172

[7] Ibid 174

[8] Armand Augustine Maurer, "The School at Chartres," Medieval Studies. Ontario:  Pontifical Institute , Medieval Philosophy  1962, 1982, 71


Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Counter Apologiost Attacks The Moral Argument

 photo sightseeing-rome-rome-tours-sightseeing-rome-things-to-do-rome-la-dolce-vita_zps534dbad5.jpg

The Fountain scene from La Duce Vita
one of my favorite films. I use it as symbol of
moral relativism.


I know nothing about this guy, who calls himself "counter apologist:" (I'll call him CA) except that he is a philosophy student somewhere in the US.I don't know graduate or undergraduate, I will say this for him, he's a good student. He is arguing against the moral argument for the existence of
God as it is ran by William Lane Craig, so it is a modified version of divine command theory. The basic argument says:

(1) if God exists, there are objective moral values

(2) there are objective moral values

(3) therefore God exists.

This is a lousy argument. I will say it up front. I never argue this  it's just a bad expression of a moral argument that I have to wonder if he isn't making  straw man hat is except it is a version WLC uses. I can't fault the guy but one does wonder why he doesn't  take on Kant's moral argument? My contention is that this argument is invalid because it's  committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Just because it is true that if God exists there will be objective moral values doesn't mean that the presence of objective moral values means that God exists. You would need another  premise saying that god is the only source of grounding possible. That would be pretty thought to prove. I'm going to argue the possibility of a moral argument and present my own better version. But I'm to engage CA at the point where he opposes oral realism to theistic morality.
But before we get into that there is another basic paradigm he brings into the discussion which I also want to challenge. In discussion Christian moral theology he labels the idea of God as proper grounding for moral axioms as "the grand metaphysics object" (GMO).He's doing the same thing with that phrase that Dennett is doing speaking of "wonder tissue," he's sarcastically mocking an ideal that he can't answer. That ideas is the notion that God grounds moral axioms. He can't conceive of how God could  equal a moral axiom being true so therefore it's like a magic trick just an arbitrary notion like some big magic trick. He juxtaposes this to antsiest version of moral realism where moral conclusions are just factually arbitrarily and we are given to think so, but no supernatural is required to make it so.
Before starting let me make clear my assumptions. I understand virtue ethics and deontology as two sides of the same coin. I also understand both as almost synonymous with Christian ethics. So he begins by playing what I call they wonder tissue card," that is asserting that the believer's notion of morality is some magical thinking thing that has no meaning. to witt:
Moral Realism and Atheism: "Why should we consider the 'grand metaphysical object' view of morality to be the only game in town when it comes to getting an objective morality?"  Objective could be used as a key, in that if the apologist was to use the word to mean “object-like” could be a way to insinuate that, but why would we care? We can have objective, independent reasons that apply equally to all moral agents, to adjudicate between right and wrong.   In fact, it is this second kind of objectivity that’s referred to in debates about the moral argument...

It is Hard to understand how literally he takes "object." He seems to be trying to build a straw man argument by re defining virtue/obligation in terms that portray it as "wonder tissue." [2] That is to say some kind of magic thing that can't be explained and has a reality beyond the world. of the physical; as though there is some magical moral stuff up in heaven that makes things good. It's a straw man argument because that's what religious people mean by ":the good" At least it[s not what I mean.
while there no doubt are those whose conception of the good is similar to the GMO idea there are obviously major thinkers (and also me) who don't have that idea so he's not challenging thke best examples, me.
What’s important to note here is that there’s a difference between “objective” moral values and any notion of moral values “existing” as a grand metaphysical object.  This is an important distinction to realize: moral objectivism is quite different from moral realism...If moral values are simply the basis that moral agents use to determine between right and wrong actions, then we can have an objective moral value system that does not require a “value” to exist as some object.  On this conception of morality, it would be equivalent to something like “money” or “chess”.   One certainly would say that these things “exist” even if it is only a concept that is used by human beings, and we can derive objective facts about these kind of things. 
Of course we can. We religious people can have that as well. I don't believe that the good is some magical stuff like a physical object. The good is not a magic stuff or some physical thing. It's based upon God's character,. So "the good" is an abstraction based upon the nature of God's inclination to prefer the other; ie "Love." The good is as concept and an attitude that regulates behavior in relations with others. But since CA thinks it's a magic stuff then he's going to compare it as competing against his philosophy of "moral realism." I may have a tendency to make a straw mam argument out of his views. Bearing that in mind, I think moral realism is the view that is irrational and most similar to magical thinking. But there can be theistic moral realism. In a sense any Christian ethical thinker is a moral realist in that we think moral values have real meaning and actually count. That's really the issue. Moral thinkers consider that moral values have meaning and there are reasons to hold to them beyond the pragmatic. It don't just want to be good to avoid fights and problems we think it means it matters that we are good. We think the meaning of moral value and the nature of it's gravitas is grounded in God's command. God has authority because he created all that is and all that could ever be is contingent upon God's active will or forbearance. It's not an arbitrary whim that makes it good but it's the basis of love. God as all knowing source of all that is judges the level of veracity against the acts of virtue, not for meritorious consequences but so that we might know in what ways our conduct and attitudes have fallen short. All of that tempered with love's propensity for mercy.
Moral realism when not backed by the divine is much like presupositionalism, there's no real reason given and non e will ever  be defended, he says: "I’m touching on a debate about what counts as 'moral realism'.  Moral realism is a philosophical position that there are true moral facts that accurately describe reality.  That’s a bit confusing if you’re not into philosophy, so let’s use an illustration." What makes something a true moral fact (as opposed to a false moral fact)? Nor will any be offered. Look at what passes for an answer in CA's argument.
Consider the following two statements:
1.)    I used to own a pit bul.
2.)    It is morally wrong to torture babies for fun.
 Moral realism holds that both statements, if true, are true in the same way. That is the statements actually describe some facts about reality. Suffice it to say, if one is a moral realist, you will affirm premise two of the moral argument.
What makes them facts? How do we know they are facts? That is as much like moral good being an object as theist morality ever comes. Now he uses moral realism to .put atheism in a position of parity, atheism has the equivalent of objective morals too because it has moral facts. He says:
One of the things that isn’t brought up often enough in debates over the moral argument is that the majority of “moral realist” theories in contemporary philosophy are completely compatible with atheism." There’s John Rawls’s Social Contract theory, various forms of consequentialism, Railton’s Reductive Naturalism, the Ideal Observer Theory, and a host of others.  Each of these theories provides a basis for moral agents to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong in an objective way. 
Here he shifted his argument, Those are not examples of moral realism. In fact some of them are not even moral but are based upon abandoning the moral. John Rawls is opposed to consequentialism,. Consequentialism is based upon outcomes matching value system but without grounding the value systems in something they are arbitrary. Most ethicists today feel that Rawls disproved consequentialism. Rawls social contract is limited to the dictates of society can't arbitrate between competing values such as a fascist based social contract. Reductive naturalism is like giving up on morality. I don't think any of those are moral realism.
There are entire families of “atheism compatible” moral realist theories that satisfy the criteria of there being objective moral values in the sense Dr. Craig describes with his Nazi example.  The list provided above isn’t even close to exhaustive. This is why the moral argument is so unconvincing to anyone who has spent time studying moral philosophy.  One of the first things that become clear is that there are a plethora of meta-ethical theories out there that can get us to this kind of “objective moral values”.  An apologist might counter that the above kinds of conceptions of morality don’t actually count as moral realist views as they don’t get you a Grand Metaphysical Object kind of morality.  Sometimes you’ll hear them refer to “robust moral realism” in order to indicate belief in the “Grand Metaphysical Object” style of moral values.  My response there is to ask why it should matter if there is no Grand Metaphysical Object.

This is actually a bait and Switch, None of those theories are moral realism, comseqntualism does not assert that it's axioms are moral facts it asserts that they grounded in being consequences, and so withy all the others. Moral realism is not just any other moral system that's not divine command. That is essentially what he's asserting. Moral realism is a specific idea that moral axioms are moral facts but they still have to be grounded or it's just as arbitrary as the big magic who ha that he tries to say G
od is, the wonder tissue idea. He's selling secular naturalistic wonder tissue.Moral realists don't believe in grounding but they offer not basis for moral facts.[3]

This is because even if one denies the Grand Metaphysical Object style of moral values, they can still get an objective moral value system that gives the atheist a basis for discerning between right and wrong, like in Dr. Craig’s Nazi example.  All that we’re arguing over is a semantic issue on whether or not such systems count as “real” even if they’re not fundamental parts of reality, but rather if morality was a “real” as “the economy” or “baseball”. The point is that atheism, even if one is a naturalist or materialist, allows one to avoid collapse into nihilism or moral relativism.

What's going to make it be objective? Look at Rawls social contract. That says moral axioms are moral because society says they are moral. In WWII we had  society that said gassing people and baking them in ovens was moral. What makes it not moral? society confined it. By definition social contract theory is relative to society. Consequentialism is relative to consequences. He is doing what an atheist friend of mine describes as pour ought sauce on it.[4]
Moral realism I either mysterious and arbitrary or it is based upon values that themselves reduce to non ethical values meaning it's as firmly grounded as values commanded by God because they relative and not universal. Moral realists are violating vthe4 is/;ought dichotomy, Grounding axioms would mean one has a reason to attach an ought, merely saying "one ought" doesn't establish the basis for ought, Saying X is a moral fact doesn't ell us why omen should do X or not do X.

Having eliminated the bait and switch to the secular wonder tissue it's no different then any other atheist who has to ground his values and axioms. God is always going to be the most certain and  universal grounding because he is the source of moral values and the source of love upon which morality is based.[5] Morality is not magic, it's an object in the physical sense, it's the mandated consequences of God's Love. Fletcher got the idea from St. Augustine who said Love is the background of the moral universe. Without a universal mind making judgments and instilling moral laws  and communicated and role modeling love atheists might maintain some moral motions and they can love. I am betting they wont have the strong grounding God supplies or the spiritual strength of love enemies. Let's just hope we have that. Without a universal mind to pass judgment on an ought where is the universality?

 see sources for more quotes.


[1] The Counter Apologiost, "A much longer Counter to the Moral Argument." The Counter Apologist Blog. (May 13, 2016) URL:
accessed 5/28/2016
[2] Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained. New YorkBack Bay Books; 1 edition (October 20, 1992)

Wonder tissue a term Dennett uses to stand for the mysterious qualities of mind that can't be pinned down and that he doesn't believe exist.
[3] Shin Kim, Internet Encyclopedia: A Peer Reviewed Academic Resource.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/moralrea/ accessed 5/28/2016

The moral realist contends that there are moral facts, so moral realism is a thesis in ontology, the study of what is. The ontological category “moral facts” includes both the descriptive moral judgment that is allegedly true of an individual, such as,“Sam is morally good,” and the descriptive moral judgment that is allegedly true for all individuals such as, “Lying for personal gain is wrong.” A signature of the latter type of moral fact is that it not only describes an enduring condition of the world but also proscribes what ought to be the case (or what ought not to be the case) in terms of an individual’s behavior.The traditional areas of disagreement between the realist camp and the antirealist camp are cognitivism, descriptivism, moral truth, moral knowledge, and moral objectivity. The long and recalcitrant history of the realism/antirealism debate records that the focal point of the debate has been shaped and reshaped over centuries, with a third way, namely, Quasi-realism, attracting more recent attention. Quasi-realism debunks the positions of both realism and antirealism.
The point being realists have no  clear grounding.

Kim, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Korea.


[4] Fred D'Agostino, Gerald Gaus,  and John Thrasher,  "Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/contractarianism-contemporary/>.
The social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all stressed that the justification of the state depends on showing that everyone would, in some way, consent to it. By relying on consent, social contract theory seemed to suppose a voluntarist conception of political justice and obligation: what is just depends on what people choose to agree to—what they will. Only in Kant (1797) does it become clear that consent is not fundamental to a social contract view: we have a duty to agree to act according to the idea of the “original contract.” Rawls's revival of social contract theory in A Theory of Justice did not base obligations on consent, though the apparatus of an “original agreement” persisted as a way to help solve the problem of justification. As the question of public justification takes center stage (we might say as contractualist liberalism becomes justificatory liberalism), it becomes clear that posing the problem of justification in terms of a deliberative or a bargaining problem is a heuristic: the real issue is “the problem of justification”—what principles can be justified to all reasonable citizens or persons.
 That quote essentially says even though Rawls version is not based upon concert it's still  based upn society,

[5] Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, Westminster John Knox Press; 2nd edition (July 1, 1997) 57, 87


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Challenge to atheists, any atheistd out there

Argument: (1) No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

(2) We do not find this epistemological dilemma debilitating on a daily basis because we assume that if our experiences are consistent and regular than we can navigate in "reality" whether it is ultimately illusory of not.

(3) Consistency and regularity of personal experience is the key.

(4) religious experience can also be regular and consistent, perhaps not to the same degree, but in the same way.

(5) Inersubjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by bleievers all over the world, in different times and diffrent places, just as the exeternal world seems to be percieved the same by everyone.

(6) Real and Lasting effects.

(7) therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experince as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds.

*We assume reality by means of a Jugement

*we make such jugements based upon criteria

*Because RE fits the same criteria we are justfied in making the same assumption; ie that these experinces are idicative of a reality.

The criteria: If our experiences are:


(2) Argument from Universal Nature of Mystical Experience

(1) Religious experience is an individual personal experience

(2) Religious symbols are cultural

(3) scientific knowledge is far from proving a gene for religion

(4) therefore, we should not expect to find that mystical experience is universal

(5) we do find that mystical experiences are universal in the nature of what is experienced.

(6) Therefore, we are rationally warranted in thinking that there is an external stimulus being experienced.

(7)Since universal mystical experience leads people to faith, the content of it is about God, and is life transforming we are warranted in the assumption that this external stimulus experienced is God

Empirical Studies show Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

(1) Studies Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.

Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

(2)Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

(3) Trend toward positive view among psychologists. Spiriutal Emergency MYSTICAL OR UNITIVE EXPERIENCE "Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation." (4) Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive. (Ibid) "Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".

 Article written for academic conference

this is all in my book with much greater details see side bar

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

Tillich’s Rejection of the God of Theism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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