Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Paul Tillich and The "Personal" God: Was Tillich's Ground of Being an Impersonal Force? Pat 1

Image result for Metacrock's blog Tillich personal God
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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Courage to Be and The Cowardly Mind

Image result for metacrock's blog the courage to be

Paul Tillich wrote a little paper back called The Courage To BE in which he set forth one of his most important concepts, the "God beyond God." That phrase refers to the truth of God beyond the cultural constructs and religious doctrines which are constructed out of cultural constructs. Of course Tillich didn't write in all this post structuralist jargon. The idea behind the title is that belief requires courage. A lot of people think he was saying that the existentialists have the real courage, but he was not only lauding the existentialist but any person of faith who is willing to seek God beyond traditionalism. The phrase "cowardly mind" I take from Joseph Campbell in his Hero With A Thousand Faces. There he says that cynicism appears as insight to the cowardly mind.

This is phrase is very apt for atheists on CARM and fora  huge segment of atheists in general, especially the "new atheists." What the phrase means is this, you have cynics who dogmatically take the negative, believe the worst, area always ready to tear down anything that isn't in their comfort zone. New thoughts and ideas are always a negative proposition for such people. Everything is bad you can be sure everything will turn out wrong. We see these people in Atheist circles and on Atheist message boards to a extreme degree. They think cynicism is insight because they are afraid to risk being wrong. These are the people who mock and ridicule faith because "belief without evidence is stupid." Usually they don't face belief without evidence they face a barrage of evidence which they ignore, they dogmatically sweep aside without truly examining it. We can see this in their responses to God arguments where they always take the option that is least likely. No matter how unlikely it is they will take over the risk of belief in God which may turn out to be wrong.

For example in my version of the cosmological argument (cosmological necessity) I can work it down to a choice between the unsupported possibility of a rules change beyond our space/time or some other unknown, like string membranes or something we have no support for, vs the probability which is on our side, that every we see requires a cause. They are always willing to assume that the unsupported is more likely becuase it supports their unbelief, and to assume that God is least likely because why? they don't want God. They are afraid to move beyond the template of their ideological socialization because that might be a risk and risks are always bad. That's a cynical move but they embrace it as insight. That's the point, the cowardly mind looks at the world and sees the constant critic who never says anything positive or supportive but constantly ridicules and they take this as "insight" because it supports not taking risks. Atheists are always lauding "skepticism" that's to be expected, they are skeptics of course. A certain amount of skepticism is good. But I find so many atheists expressing real contempt for the basic concept of belief itself especially if it invovles the unseen. They hate the concept of the unseen. To them that's a red flag to a bull. I think that is becasue the unseen threatens to take them out of their comfort zone where they have come to rest in the trumped up concept of science as all knowing; thus they place scinece in the place of God and expect it to save them from the angry God they  hope doesn't exist.

I can't blame anyone for rejecting the concept of hell on its face due to the absurdly revenge oriented nature of it. I can't blame anyone for dumping the concept of the big angry sky father as a instigator of the abruptly vengeful concept of hell. But this sort of thing gets to the point where they distort the meaning of faith itself, creating a straw man argument to the extent that "faith is believe any kind of evidence" to such an extent that the true meaning of faith, trust, is forgotten and seems  a foreign concept, than I just suspect this is the cowardly mind at work. They want their comfort zone which is built upon the assertion that only science matter, because scinece "proves" (supposedly) that religion is stupid so therefore they are not in danger. This I see as the cowardly mind because they are afraid to move beyond the safe confines of that which can be proved empirically and that which the white lab coat god will approve.

Recent run-ins on CARM have borne this out for me. One atheist self styled "Big Thinker" (yea, can you bleieve it?) was saying that God is imaginary. "Prove it" I say. His proof: God doesn't' exist. God is imaginary because he's only the mind. Astounding proof! The proof that he doesn't exist? He's not real. further prodding revealed his line of reasoning: imaginary things can't be seen, can't be detected with the senses, have no impact upon the world, and God is like this too. God can't be seen or detected with the senses and has no impact upon the world (that we can prove to his satisfaction)  therefore God must be imaginary. In other words, if you think it quakes like a duck, if you hallucinate that it walks like a duck, it it's in your fantasies that it looks like a duck, you might be having a delusion that you see a duck.

I try the old reliable ploy of bringing up thing in scince that fit the same criteria, we can detect them with the sense and they don't have a perceptible impact upon the world:

the singularity
the big bang
string membranes
dark matter
other subatomic particles. 

The scoffed at the concept of dark matter, he must think it's a Christian doctrine. But when all was said and done what it came down to was, that stuff is ok, it doesn't matter that it meets the criteria of imaginary things because scinece guys say its ok, ("its part of a theoretical heuristic--he didn't know that word--that is demonstrated by a theoretical data matrix blah blah yada yada). My stuff that can't be seen is imaginary because it's not part of this er zots god thing he worships which protects from the angry god. In other words, if it's part of the ideological template it's ok. It's his stuff so it doesn't matter that that it meets the same criteria. It's only stuff not sanctioned by the ideological template that is indicative of delusion.

This tendency to abhor anything not part of the ideological temple is an aspect of the cowardly mind. Just ilke the guys who were afraid to look through the telescope and see mountains on the moon because they feared it would be a trick, they are refusing to think about things hey have not thought about before because they have their little world all worked out where its comfy and they don't have to think too hard and it is not scary because it keeps big mean god away. If they move out into the cold cruel world where we don't know everything then they might have to re think the big mean god thing and get scared again. It's this fear that kept people from sailing off the end of the world. Of course the real joke is that these cowardly minded people call themselves "free thinkers!" 

Part of the myth that supports their comfort zone is the pretense that science is the only form of knowledge. That's how they know there's nothing to fear, becasue there's nothing beyond what science tells us is there. Science will never tell them the big mean god si there so they don't have to worry, but only so long as scinece is the only form of knowledge. If there are other forms of knowledge then they have to fear becasue one of those forms might tell them that there is something to think about in the unseen that will bring on fears of the big mean god. For this reason when his stuff meets the criteria of imaginary that's ok because it's sanctioned by the ideology, when it doesn't then we have to disparage it and go on message boards and mock and ridicule people who believe in it. In the old days we had an expression for that, it was called "special pleading."

Now it is true that these phenomena such as dark matter have some aspects that are supportive of their existence. We can't see them or detect them with our senses and we have no devices that will pick them up as radar detects a storm moving in, but there are ways of doing it:

John Polkinghorne (major physicist)

To respond to (2) first: since no-one knows what Dark Matter is, almost anything is possible.  But Dark Matter is subject to gravity – that’s how we deduce that it is there.  Therefore any abnormal increase in the density of Dark Matter (such as would be associated with a putative DarkHomoSapiens) would presumably have measurable gravitational effects.  This rules out many obvious ways in which there might be a DarkHomoSapiens. And the whole area is so speculative that it is scientifically impossible to address meaningfully.

Polkinghorne himself did not write that but his assistant did, and we are told the man himself reads all and approves the answers. But thing is I've laboriously discussed in the past how we can detect the Trace of God, I just wrote a book about it. That book may be coming out in a few months (hint hint). Same your pennies. We have these 200 studies, yes peer reviewed, yes published in academic journals, and they show religious expression can be discernment scientifically and distinguished from fantasy and folly. Like the guys who refused to look through Galileo's telescope the atheists on CARM steadfastly refuse to look at a single study. I have put out the link to a chapter in the text book by Ralph Hood the major researcher on the M scale (inventor of the M scale) the leading researcher in the field. The chapter talks about the studies on mystical experience and explains the M scale in detail. They refuse to click on the link. I put it right in front of them and they wont look. All the while the insightful cynics steadfastly that the studies are no good, they are not in peer reviewed journals, they can't be trusted, yet none of them has ever bothered to get one!

That is the cowardly mind at work (not to mention laziness). They are so anxious to have the universe sealed off from God that mock and ridicule metaphysics but they are doing metaphysics all the time. It is metaphysics to say "there is no such things as the unseen." To say "there is no metaphysics" is a highly metaphysical statement. They are so anxious to have their comfort zones totally proved and supported 100% and declared the only form of truth that they are closing off possibilities and losing phenomena and special pleading all over the place. In fact most of what exists is unknown to us.

Polikinghorne again:

However since it is known that only 4% of the matter and energy in the  Universe is made of what we understand as matter, and most of the  universe seems, on current understandings, to be “dark matter” and “dark  energy” about which we know nearly nothing, and no-one knows how to  reconcile Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity (the much-hyped  String Theory looks increasingly like a dead-end) it is unwise to assume  that current understandings of cosmology represent the last word.

I would suggest that this 4% is really more like 0.000000000000000000000000000x? When we take into account the whole of reality. The cowardly mind forms itself into a constant critic which must ridicule everything that crosses its path because it has to maintain the inviolability of the ideology at all costs. That means it's bound for a paradigm shift, it can't help but become top heavy with anomalies eventually.

One thing about Jesus, he's a good paradigm shifter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Problem for the Problem for the problem of Evil

On his blog The Secular Outpost Jeff Lowder writes "a Problem for the Problem of Evil."[1] The "problem of evil" (POE) is how philosophers refer to the atheist argument that says theists usually construe God is all good and all powerful, yet if such a God existed he would not allow evil to exist. Evil exists, therefore, either God does not exist or "he" is not all good or all powerful. Here Lowder is concerned with a very specific aspect of the argument. Some theists try to flip the argument over into an argument for God on the basis that  there is no metaphysical ground for evil without appeal to God's existence.

But, for now, I want to focus on just one of the top ten objections, the idea that the argument from evil (for atheism) can be flipped on its head into an argument from evil (for theism). I’ve refuted this objection over and over again, which might lead some regular readers of this blog to complain that I am beating a dead horse. But, since this is a meme which won’t die, I think a better analogy than dead horses is the game of “whack-a-mole.”[2]
He takes a writer named Doug Wilson to task for his simplistic take on the argument. Wilson grounds his approach in the Greek Epicurus and ignores recent developments over the last 30 years where a host of atheist super stars of philosophy, including Paul Draper, and others, [3] have hatched much more complex and sophisticated versions, (see last Monday where I attack Draper's sophisticated version). I am not concerned with Wilson or with this history of the argument, not right now). I am concerned with one particular aspect of this argument, involving possible worlds. In general my answer to the POE I call "soteriologocal drama" it can be found on my site The Religious a priori [4] Specifically, in terms of this argument, the problem for the problem is that there is no possible world in which evil can exist without God unless we dis-value the term "evil" and reduce it to the level of disapprobation rather than metaphysical moral motions.
The one point he uses Wilson to introduce is the flip over, the idea that without belief in God there is no basis for the idea of evil. Here we need to mention  the idea that POE is often called "the evidential  argumemt from evil," (EAE). Lowder says:
This [Wilson] is not a serious response to arguments from evil. First, even if it were the case that “there is no such thing as evil” if there is no God, that doesn’t refute evidential arguments from evil, which say that, other evidence held equal, known facts about ‘evil’ (such as I listed above) are much more probable on naturalism than on theism, and hence strong evidence against theism.[5]
I assume he refers to a list he makes of issues that are part of the new sophisticated version of the argument mentioned above, the superstar list: "pain and pleasure (which includes the problem of animal suffering), virtue and vice, flourishing and languishing, triumph and tragedy, autonomy and heteronomy,[6] empathy and apathy, and the like." The criticism I would level against Jeff at this point is just referring to the list does not establish a basis for the concept of "evil.." That does not answer the argument that without God there is no basis for evil,. All of those aspects of the problem assume there is a concept of evil they don't predicate it, They don't establish a basis for the concept apart from God. With no basis for evil that list becomes meaningless. Maybe the work of those philosophers does establish that, but the list doesn't. In fact I might agree that there is a basis for the notion of evil even for an atheist but that would have to be discussed. Jeff does not  go into that here.I am sure he has elsewhere.

Here he makes a second argument, that theists don't apply the same level of skepticism to their attempts to link POE to the moral argument ( turn POE into argument for God) that they do in disputation the Original POE. They don't think skeptically about their own proofs. In other words, we accuse atheists of being unable to ground a POE in any metaphysical basis for evil, but  we don;t demand enough of our pro God arguments to fill the gaps where atheists find  doubt.

...logical arguments from morality, which claim that God’s nonexistence is logically incompatible with the existence of evil. Critics of logical arguments from morality can point out that they fail for a parallel reason: there are possible worlds in which God doesn’t exist and evil exists. Of course, theists could deny that a world without God is a possible world. Apart from massively begging the question against atheists, this response carries with it an enormous burden of proof. It is one thing to claim that a world without God is not a possible world; it is another thing to prove that. Given the failure of the notorious ontological argument for God’s existence, I’d say the prospects for that line of defense are dim.[7]

So the upshot here is that some would make an argument such that we know there is evil we can't deny that but we have no metaphysical basis for evil without appealing to God as the moral standard that makes evil meaningful as the opposition to good, therefore,  there must be a God to explain the evil, Those who make this argument need to be more skeptical of their own assertions because there is no way to demonstrate that God's existence is necessary in a possible world where evil exists. 

It is not begging the question as Lowder asserts. He wants to tie it to proof of God's existence and without such proof he thinks it's begging the question, He means something by "evil;" but it wont have the same impact, the same dynamic that it has if based upon the morality of a God bearing universe, We don't need to prove that God exists to know that much all we need  is to understand the meaning of the term "evil" and it's distinction from the same term when used of a naturalistic universe. We don't have to know God is real to say--If God is real evil has this impact and it differs from that of a  universe not created by God. 

In what way does it differ? A God ordained universe revolves around a moral center which is God's love. This gives evil a metaphysical moral  gravity as the absence of good. "Evil" in secular terms means dis-approbation, We dis-value x therefore to do x is evil, In that sense evil is the violation of  social agreement or the offense of bad taste. In God ordained universe evil is the antithesis of God's purpose, God's love.

Does that mean that that we can flip the POE into a argument from evil, a pro God argument? It might work as the classic moral argument, but it can't be flipped into a reverse POE. The two seem like two sides to the same coin but the same connection to the dynamic we get from the metaphysical connection  to evil as the opponent of God is lost when flipped because it becomes a different universe when God doesn't create it; evil takes on a different connotation, That also means that we might recognize an intuitive warning in the nature of evil but that's not a logical proof,

The real lesson to be learned here is that belief in God is not just adding another thing to the universe. God is not just another fact in the universe but is the transcendental signified, the basis upon which the universe is predicated. A universe not created by God is a universe not ordained by God,it is a totally different universe than one that is God-ordained. One of those basic differences is in the meaning of evil in such a world. Another such  difference is the nature of being itself. In a world created by God, God is being itself and being has depth. In a naturalistic world being is surface only, meaning limited to the fact of existence.[8] While in the God created world depth of being means nuances such as the metaphorical valuation of evil.

Lowder is wrong, there is no possible world in which there is no God and evil persists, not evil in the sense in which theism uses the term. Nor do we need to prove the existence of God. There are two axiomatic concepts here that are involved in my argument, (1) the nature of evil given a God created universe and how it differs from a  naturalistic  reading of evil.  (2) That God is either necessary or impossible. The first point I've already discussed. If There is God then evil is moral if noGod evil is social/aesthetic, it's either/or, if no god then no evil in that sense,.As for Point (2) this is axiomatic, God cannot be a maybe.  If God exists he exists necessarily,(not to say he necessarily exits,) and if he does not exist it is because it is impossible thiat he could exist. That means if God exits he must exist is all possible worlds. ala Planitinga,[9] If God is impossible and thus does not exist then evil does not exist in  the moral sense of theism. But Jeff is right about the no-flip. While it may look like two sides to the same coin the distinction in evils has to be made clear and thus the flipped argument disappears, it would be taking evil out of context,

Post Script:
 The OA has not failed, Jeff needs to read Hatshorne, I challenge Jeff or any poster of the SOP to debate me on the OA anytime,


[1] Jeff Lowder, "A Problem for the Problem of Evil," Secular Outpost, (Aug 30, 2017) blog URL

[2] Ibid

[3] Jefff points to William Rowe, Paul Draper, Quentin Smith, Richard Gale, John Schellenberg, Bruce Russell,

[4] Joseph Hinman, "Soteriological Drama,". The Religious a priori, website. apologetics

[5] Lowder, op cit
[6] Heteronomy is a very important term im theology ised by Tillich a lot.the term heteronomous adjective
  1. subject to a law or standard external to itself.
    • (in Kantian moral philosophy) acting in accordance with one's desires rather than reason or moral duty.
    • subject to different laws.

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[7] Lowder op cit

There is a typo in the original text which I removed. The text above with blue box and blue word: "is" is my edit. Below is the original which Jeff agrees is a typo. the"no" does not belong there, No reflection on Jeff. Hey I've made more than my share of typos!
there are possible worlds in which God doesn’t exist and evil exists. Of course, theists could deny that a world without God is not a possible world. Apart from massively begging the question against atheists, this response carries with it an enormous burden of proof. It is one thing to claim that a world without God is not a possible world; it is another thing to prove that. Given the failure of the notorious ontological argument for God’s existence, I’d say the prospects for that line of defense are dim.
[8] Paul Tillich, the Shaking of the Foundations,New York: Scribner and Sons, 1948,52
or my own idiomatically this point see my article, "another take on being itself,"

Depth of Being and Tillich's Ontological Argument

[9] Alfred Plamtimga, The Nature of Necessity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974