Sunday, June 25, 2017

Preparation for my debate with Bowen

My friend Bradley Bowenn (of Secular Outpost) and I are going to debate the existence of God. Just a little fun thing to do,. These are questions he ask in order to better  understand my position.

my first argumemt:
1.All naturalistic phenomena is contingent and temporal
2. Some aspect of being must be eternal and necessary unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo
3. In contrast to Human infinitude the GOB evokes sense of the numinous
4. whatever evokes the SON is a valid object of worship, thus we are warranted in equating  Gob with God
5, Belief is warranted from 2 and 4.

Questions for clarification asked by my opponent Bradley Bowen


What does it mean to say that an "aspect of being is eternal"?


There are only three alternatives for origin of all things given the assumption of cause and effect. They are (1) reality began in a state of nothing and something emerged from nothing, (2) There is an Infinite Causal Regression (ICR) that just happens to always be as a brute fact. (3) Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is. for various reasons I reject 1 and 2. From the premise that something cannot come from true absolute nothing, something must be eternal and thus able to give rise to all that is not eternal. So at this point we have a distinction between the eternal which I might call "primordial being;" the first form of being, or "ground of being,"  and temporal being or "the beings." McQuarrie makes the distinction between primordial being and the beings.

I speak of it as an aspect of being because I want to avoid the assumption that it is a big man in the . want to use new models for thinking of "God" that don't play off of thinking of God as a magnification of a human king.

What does it mean to say that an "aspect of being is necessary"?

In this case, that of ultimate origin. I see necessary more in terms of causality, whereas Necessary is usually taken to mean x is necessary iff x must exist in the same way in all possible worlds. Another way to say it, if it cannot cease or fail to exist. I think that is also true of God, God is necessary in that way. But in thinking about ultimate origins I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. Moreover, being the eternal aspect of  being God is in some sense the necessary condition upon which all contingencies depend. In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.

What does the phrase "Ground of Being" mean?

Above I indicated that this is a synonym for Primordial being.  If I said "the original being" that would give the wrong impression, you might  think meant a localized entity. Below I will say more about the phrase ground of being with reference to it's history.


What do you mean by the word "God"?


Transcendental signifies are terms that refer to the top of the metaphysical hierarchy. Concepts that refer to the first principle that sums  and gives meaning to all other principles; the logos, the over soul, the one, God, "object of ultimate concern", the "omega point", the "Atmon." These concepts are hinting at a reality beyond our understanding. The Transcendental signified is that to which these terms refer. In my view that is reality to which the God alludes. It is more than a mere place holder because it can be experienced, (see my book The Trace of God). I conceive of this reality as universal mind, knowing that we don't really understand it well enough to define it and can barely study it. The reality of transcendental signified can be experienced so powerfully that the concept has a reality. But that;s the other argument. (More on the concept of universal mind here). 


What does it mean to say that something "is real"? (particularly when the something in question is not a physical object or a living animal)

That it actually exists, but necessarily tangible or material. It's not just an idea in the mnd.

Each of the three crucial claims in your argument is unclear, at least none of the three claims is clear to me. Given that your three main claims are unclear, at least to me, I am in no position to agree or disagree with any of those claims. They might be true or the might be false. They might be coherent or they might be incoherent. They might be meaningful or they might be words strung together with no actual significance.

which thee?
Please define your key words and phrases and explain the meaning of each of the three main claims. Once you have done so, I will attempt to evaluate the truth of those claims and the logic of your reasoning.


More on the history of the term "ground of being."

Discussing the concept of being itself on my message board and my dialogue partner introduced me to a  blog article written several years ago by an atheist who read this blog and was considering it, I like this guy because he's an atheist but links to my blog, I am the only Christian blogger he linked to at that time. This Guy, "Tocho" is the only  name I can see for him, struggled to thinkof what being itself might mean,
The conceptualization of God as 'Being Itself' was, to my knowledge, first proposed by theologian Paul Tillich in the early 20th Century. It has been brought to my knowledge by a thoughtful blogger, discussant, and professional theologian with the pseudonym Metacrock ( If you can get through his posts (sorry, Meta, your writing style is a bit... difficult), you'll find that they are extremely intelligent in nature and they actually pose even greater challenges to non-believers than the arguments of more well-known Christian apologists. His conception of God is fairly unique and has required substantial thought for me to comprehend it in a manner that enables me to write about it.[1]
 At least We know the guy is very perceptive, ;-) he get's that by my reckoning (that is Tillich's) God is not a being but being itself. He tries to understand what kind of thing being itself might be, Actually the concept goes back to the Platonic Christianity of the orthodox church [2]  Tillich seems to draw part of it from St. Augustine. [3]

He recognizes the serious nature of the problem, that is for a Christian who has a "personal relationship with God to think of God as being itself, which could hardly be a person in the conventional sense of the   wed is a difficulty, "These questions seem to me to be serious problems of this view, especially to professed Christians like Metacrock, who hold onto the idea of a personal God." [4] Yet this article was written in in 2011. I've made some progress in solving the problem since then, But let's follow the guy's reasoning. He resorts to a solution in the distinction between entities and properties. He figures God is not an entity but a perpetuity, the property of being. Now the two are related in that entities have properties but properties need not be entities, "An entity is 'a thing with a distinct and independent existence,' whereas a property is "an attribute, quality, or characteristic of something" [5] I think this is actually a very intelligent solution and what's even more perceptive he sees it as a language problem, he uses a linguistic difference to sort out the problem:
"The sky is blue." Most every English speaking person would understand what is being conveyed by this sentence. What it truly means is that the sky has the property of being blue. But, it could be interpreted incorrectly as "The sky and blue are synonyms." This, of course, is incorrect, and there is a category error involved in the logic behind the statement. "The sky" is an entity, whereas "blue" is a property. They cannot be the same thing.....The distinction between the conceptualization of God as "a being" and God as "Being Itself" is that the former treats God as a specific entity and the latter treats God as a specific property. A being is a type of entity, namely an animate one. The concept of God as "a being" holds that God is an entity with whatever properties the conceptualizer claims God to have. It is worth mentioning that this concept is not limited to the view that God is a "big man in the sky," as God doesn't need to be thought of as a being with a physical body or even a spatial existence. It just requires us to view God as a thing with properties. The concept that God is "Being Itself," however, does just the opposite — requiring us to view God as a essential property of all things as opposed to a thing itself...[6]
 He even works it out where this makes a dandy God argument, one i was once tempted to use:
"Being Itself" is an essential property of all entities. It, to the best of my understanding, can be defined as the property of existing. All entities must exist, by definition, and therefore, all entities have the property of existing. This makes the logical necessity of God seem self-evident, as the following syllogism demonstrates...:
  1. God is the property of existing.
  2. Entities exist.
  3. Therefore, God is.[7]
That would sure come in handy but there's a problem. I am sincere when I say that the solution he attempts is cleaver, intelligent, perceptive, but there is a problem.. Being is not a property. This is is basically the same mistake as the  one Kant, and latter Bertrand Russell, pointed out in arguing against the The ontological argument, in saying "existence is not a predicate."
 Kant, himself a theist, argued that the ontological argument illicitly treats existence as a property that things can either possess or lack. According to Kant, to say that a thing exists is not to attribute existence to that thing, but to say that the concept of that thing is exemplified in the world. The difference, and its significance for the ontological argument, are described below.[8]
Etinne Gilson, the Great Neo Thomist, tells us that being is an act.[9] I f the statement by Holt is right it's the act of exemplifying the concept of something namely being, Gilson tells us being is "the act par excellance." in other words God's act of being is the most significant, the greatest and the original act of being, It;s an eternal act. Now you might thin this makes it worse because how could God be an act? Things act, acts don't just do themselves, Here Tocho offers us a solution without realizing it. In his analysis of the phrase "the sky is blue: he says this could be taken literally the sky is synonymous with the color blue, of course the context rules that out. The sky, which is the unlimited expanse of space above the earth, appears blue from the surface of the earth, 
He is right in saying that entities have properties, properties don't act by themselves, At the same time there is no problem with God being an entity, as long as he is not a localized entity, That's the problem with big man in sky. This also means we have to recognize Tillich's language as metaphor. Saying being itself is a way of separating us from the idea of God as a being, one of many, localized and man-like). Tillich gives us a clue in discussing the fifth-Sixth century mystic pseudo-Dionysius the Aireopagite (around 500AD). Tillich and others filter it through Heidegger, saying God is being itself. In history of Christian thought Tillich interprets Dionysius to say God is the ground of everything, the super essential God beyond everything, inclining Platonic ideas and essences, he says Dionysius thought God is God beyond God (Ibid). That ties the Dionysian concept decisively to Tillich's view. The important thing to note is that these phrases, God beyond God, and ground of everything, are phrases Tillich uses to designate his concept of God. Thus He is clearly identifying Dionysius' idea with his own,He's trying to translate Platonic Christianity into modern existentialist ideas.[10]

If such is the case then it behooves us to understand Dionysius' concept. I have written about it om this blog.[11] The concept is that of universal mind. Translator Edwin Rolt explains:

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.[12]
So the answer is God is universal mind and the act of being in which that participates is the ground of all being. Tillich used the phrases interchangeably but I  think ground of being is more meaningful because less misleading, since it implies an act apart from an actor.


[1] Tocho, Logocal implications of God as being itself. Reasonable Soup

Tuesday, (March 15, 2011) Blog URL:

[2] Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity. New York:Penguin, 1964, 65.
[3] Paul Tillich, Theology of Cultuire , Lomdon, Oxford NewYork Oxford University press, 1959,12-13.
[4] Tocho, op cit
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Tim Holt,  "Existence is not a Predicate," Philosophy of Religion 


[9] Etinne Gilson, God and Philosophy, New Haven,London: Yale Diversity Press, Powell Lectures On Philosophy at Indiana State University Second Edition, 1941. 63-64.
[10] Paul Tillich, A History of Christian thought, New York, NY:TouchStone books. 1967, 92
[11] Joseph Hnman. "The Super Essential Godhead (God is Being Itself),"Metacrock's Blog (TUESDAY, MAY 03, 2016) URL)
access i/10/17

[12] Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New YorkNew 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,

No comments: