Good Friday

What can it mean to say that God the Son of God died this afternoon?

Non-being is strictly incoherent. We can indicate it, but only as we might indicate a square triangle. When we refer to non-being, there’s nothing actually there to which we might be referring. There is nothing we can say about non-being, except that there is absolutely nothing we can say about it; for there is nothing to it, about which we could say anything. It’s not quite correct to say that it has no properties or characteristics, because it isn’t an item in the first place. It has no ontic hooks upon which properties or characteristics might be hung.

So it isn’t conceivable. It cannot be brought to mind. And this is not a limitation only of our finite creaturely intellects, but of logic: for there is nothing in non-being that any conceivable intellect could bring to mind. Not even God can imagine what non-being is like. Certainly, then, non-being is not possible.

Since non-being is impossible, it is necessary that something exist. Thus in the state of affairs prior to the existence of any and all contingent things, there necessarily exists a necessary being. [When I began to write this post, I didn’t set out intending to stumble upon an argument for the existence of God; but one thing I have learned about metaphysical reasoning is that it almost always ends up entailing the existence of God].

And once a being exists, it cannot somehow un-exist. It can stop becoming, stop recurring, so that it no longer perdures. But it cannot go on from being to achieve non-being. Facts are everlasting, and immutable. And as we have just seen, you can’t get a state of affairs in which there is no God. So God is an immutable fact.

God can’t die, properly speaking. What, then, again, can it mean to say that God the Son of God died on Calvary?

The death on the Cross must have been God’s primordial, eternal and necessary act of difference from non-being; i.e., of being. Dying, God encountered total nothingness. But the outer surface of nothingness, which is the inner surface of his own being, beyond which he does not exist, is not permeable; no one can get there. So he bounced off it, as it were: dying, he could not but effect his eternal act of being. His Resurrection then is at one with his actus purus, his primordial act of self-constitution.

The deletion of God is not non-being, but God. The negative of God is God. When God dies, the product of the process is God.

The death of God on Good Friday is not then really possible. As actual, simple and eternal, God cannot anywise die. As man, however, Jesus the Galilean can die. His Godhood cannot die; but as having been perfected by his Godhood, the sacrifice of his manhood is ipso facto rendered perfect – i.e., and among other things, omnicompetent:

O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only sonne Jesu Christ to suffre death upon the crosse for our redempcion, who made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde …                                                                              – Book of Common Prayer, 1549

It is not then the death of Jesus qua God that opens to us the Gate of Heaven, but the death of Jesus qua man. God had to materialize in order to rescue fallen matter, and to begin the repair of our depraved cosmogonic inheritance. It was that crucial step that, as infinite, no mere creature could take. But once God had perfected matter in Jesus, then the death of his manhood could suffice to make ontological compensation for the whole of the Fall, and rescue the entire Creation from its dire consequences.

For, when God perfected the body of Jesus, he perfected the cosmos; and when the perfect body of Jesus died, the cosmos died; for the cosmos is an integrity. There are in it no islands anywhere. The perfection of Jesus is the perfection of Creation in toto. The rabbis say somewhere that one perfect tsaddik is enough to redeem the whole world. Christ is the tikkun olam.

In the order of eternity, the whole victory is already won. In the order of time, it will of course take a while for all of us to cross over. It’s a long journey; best get on our Way.

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19 thoughts on “Good Friday

  1. So it isn’t conceivable. … Not even God can imagine what non-being is like. Certainly, then, non-being is not possible.

    That does not follow.

    Also, in these sorts of discussions, isn’t there generally made a distinction between ‘conceivable’ and ‘imaginable’? That is, we can imagine the “existence” of non-being, much as we can imagine a four-sided triangle, but both imaginings are truly in- conceivable .

    Getting back to Easter –

    The Son’s will on the matter differed from the Father’s, we have that on unimpeachable authority. Happily, the Son submitted his will to the Father’s will.

    Yet, the fact remains that the Son is an agent — and thus the Son could have refused, at any time up until it was true that “It is finished!”, to submit his will to the Father’s.

    So, what would it mean had the Son disobeyed the Father in the matter of Easter? Or, even more prosaically, what would it mean had the Son – who is Truth Itself – at some point lied, or committed some other sin against the Father’s will?

    It seems obvious to me that it would mean the undoing of all things – including of God. For, God is both Truth Itself and Being Itself, and, as you point out, in God there is actually no distinction between Truth and Being; but if Truth Itself is a self-contradiction, then so is Being Itself.

  2. Since non-being is impossible, it is necessary that something exist.

    The state of non-being is not impossible; the conception of ‘non-being’ as as existent is impossible.

    It is not necessary that something exists; however, given that anything exists, it is necessary that something exist necessarily.

    • … at the same time, as the Necessary Being is personal (*), and not merely an un-differentiated “thing-which-is” (as the ancients/Platonists might imagine it to be) or a “force” (as the moderns/materialists imagine it to be), it follows inescabably that Necessary Being possesses agency, *is* and Agent (**). To deny the agency of the Necessary Being is to deny the full Personhood of the same.

      Now, as the Necessary Being is personal, possesses agency — and especially given that the Necessary Being is *three* Persons — it follows that it is logically/conceptually possible for the Necessary Being to be at conflict with itself, to be at cross-purposes to itself, to be self-contradictory.

      You will respond that it is logically impossible for the Necessary Being to be self-contradictory; and I will reply that you are overlooking or ignoring the Personhood of the Necessary Being. I suspect that you are thinking of the Necessary Being simultaneously as a “thing-which-is” (as the ancients/Platonists might imagine it to be) and as a “force” (as the moderns/materialists imagine it to be). Surely, a mere “force” (or a mere “thing-which-is”) cannot be self-contradictory. But the Necessary Being is a Person or Persons, and persons *may* be self-contrdictory.

      The Necessary Being is Truth/Being Itself, certainly; but it is a Person/Persons who/are is Truth/Being Itself.

      God can’t die, properly speaking.

      Yet, it seems that God *can* commit suicide.

      God created the world, and us — and submitted to Calvary — for his own glory … whatever that means. I think one of the things it means is that God created the world, and us — and submitted to Calvary — to put himself to the test, to prove that in him is no contradiction.

      (*) is exactly three Persons, according to Christianity; (**) is exactly three Agents, according to Christianity

    • So it isn’t conceivable. … Not even God can imagine what non-being is like. Certainly, then, non-being is not possible.

      That does not follow … [And] isn’t there generally made a distinction between ‘conceivable’ and ‘imaginable’? That is, we can imagine the “existence” of non-being, much as we can imagine a four-sided triangle, but both imaginings are truly in- conceivable.

      Thanks, Ilíon, I was hoping someone would push back on that step a bit.

      I think the difference between imagining and conceiving is just that the former is a sort of the latter. Some conceiving involves imagining, some doesn’t. E.g., I can conceive of a triangle by specifying its geometrical properties, or I can take an extra step and form a mental image of it. To conceive a thing is to bring together its salient properties coherently and without contradiction, literally to capture them together, thus specifying what it is. This may be accomplished intellectually only, or also corporeally (as with the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb). To imagine a thing is to form a representation or model of it, whether in the mind (as when I form a mental image of a triangle) or corporeally (as when I scribe a triangle); and imagining a thing gives us an understanding of how it is, how it affects things.

      A thing may not be imaginable, and still be conceivable. E.g., a volume with more than three spatial dimensions is conceivable, but we can’t imagine it. Or I can’t, anyway.

      But what cannot be conceived in the first place cannot be imagined; for, an imagination of a thing is just an implementation of its properties. If they are logically incompatible, then they are incompossible either intellectually or corporeally.

      So no, I don’t think we can in fact imagine the existence of non-existence. We can refer to it, the same way we can string symbols together to refer to a four-sided triangle. But there is no referent of such references.

      And so, it seems to me that it does indeed follow that if we can’t conceive of x, then x cannot be really implemented in reality, either intellectually or corporeally. Therefore, when you say that, “the [intellectual] conception of ‘non-being’ as existent is impossible,” part of what that statement must mean is that non-being cannot anywise be implemented in reality, either intellectually or corporeally, so that the proposition that, “the [corporeal] state of non-being is not impossible” is false. Consider: how would one – anyone, human or Divine – actually go about implementing nothing at all?

      … the Son could have refused, at any time up until it was true that “It is finished!”, to submit his will to the Father’s.

      If disagreement between Christ and the Father were not conceivable, it would be hard to understand how Christ could have preferred not to die (or, for that matter, how Lucifer – no fool, and well informed about the economy of God – could think it worth his time to try to tempt Jesus). But I’m not so sure that it would be the Divine Will of the Son in Christ that could conceivably have disagreed with the Will of the Father. It seems that it must rather have been the human will of Jesus that might conceivably have disagreed with the Will of the Father, in just the way that Adam’s did.

      If God necessarily exists, contradictions internal to him – which would, as you say, undo all being whatever, implementing the inconceivable state of utter non-being – are logically impossible. The Persons of the Trinity cannot then conceivably disagree with each other, any more than they could conceive of a square triangle.

      Other sorts of persons can of course disagree with each other, and with the Persons of God. We do it all the time! It is logically possible then that the human will of Jesus could have disagreed with the Will of the eternal Logos. Whether his human will would agree in the end to his Divine Will was a real and open question. But had this disagreement happened, it would not have had the effect of introducing discord into the Trinity, somehow turning the Logos into a bit of a fool. It would rather have ruined the Incarnation, in which, precisely, a creaturely will that could conceivably have erred remained instead in perfect concord, agreement and unity with the Will of its soul, the Logos. If the human will of Jesus had disagreed with his soul, the hypostatic union between human and Divine natures would have been destroyed. Jesus would then have died, his human nature disjoined from his Divine nature, and his body no longer ensouled by the Son; and that body would not have resurrected.

      Presumably Lucifer’s hope in tempting Jesus was to spoil the Incarnation and Atonement in just this fashion.

      So, God can’t die; and what can’t die can’t be killed, even by itself.

      • But I’m not so sure that it would be the Divine Will of the Son in Christ that could conceivably have disagreed with the Will of the Father. It seems that it must rather have been the human will of Jesus that might conceivably have disagreed with the Will of the Father, in just the way that Adam’s did.

        The Son is *one* person, and thus one agent, one will. That he may have two natures does not change the fact that he is one person, with one will.

        It was not the Son’s will to suffer the torments of Calvary, but it *was* his will to do the Father’s will, it *was* his will to redeem us and all of creation — thus, he willingly submitted his will to the Father’s will. But, he might have done otherwise, he might have tried to exalt his own will above the Father’s … to deny this is to deny that the Son is a person.

        Calvary wasn’t just about us; it wasn’t even primarily about us — it was about God.

      • So, God can’t die; and what can’t die can’t be killed, even by itself.

        If Truth Itself is-or-involves a self-contradiction, then Truth does not/cannot be. If Being Itself is-or-involves a self-contradiction, then Being does not/cannot be.

        If God necessarily exists, contradictions internal to him – which would, as you say, undo all being whatever, implementing the inconceivable state of utter non-being – are logically impossible. The Persons of the Trinity cannot then conceivably disagree with each other, any more than they could conceive of a square triangle.

        And if God puts to the test the proposition that it is logically impossible that there be “within” the Godhead any self-contradiction, how will such testing be manifest?

        This world is that test. Calvary was the crux of that test.

      • Well, in asserting that there is but one will in Jesus Christ, I’m afraid you are at odds with the Holy Church Universal. Monothelitism was declared a heresy by the Third Council of Constantinople in 681. None of the Western communions – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, or Lutheran – believe it. Because they stood firm in rejecting it, Pope Martin I was martyred, and St. Maximus the Confessor lost his tongue and right hand (Emperor Constans was a big fan of the idea).

        It’s a tricky area of Christology, and it took quite a few years for the Church to figure it out. There’s no shame in finding yourself in this position. Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, Pope Honorius I and Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople were in the same boat. And those guys were no slouches.

        There can be two wills in one person. Will is the general capacity of a mind to feel desires or intentions in respect to different options for action, to decide between them, and to act on such decisions. Wills are features – literally, outworkings, factures – of natures. I can feel at least two wills in me right now: the will arising from my animal nature to seek out and eat some food, and the will arising from my rational nature to keep my fast of this Holiday. I intend to keep my fast, and doing so is my decision; but I would eat something, if despite my decision I could. If eating were logically compatible with fasting, I’d be in no difficulty. But it’s not; so I have from two of my compatible natures two incompatible wills toward two incompossible ends. And that’s why I must decide between them. If there were no incompossibilities of acts, then there would be nothing to decide – no will at all – and everything would be done.

        The human will of Jesus can feel a desire to sate his hunger or slake his thirst, and act upon it; not so for the Divine Will of the eternal Logos, who neither hungers nor thirsts. The human will of Jesus wants desperately to avoid being tortured to death; the Logos wills to redeem the world. As between the two, something’s gotta give. It’s the human nature of Jesus that is surrendered, by the hypostatic union of the human and Divine natures in the Person of Christ, whose agency conforms the creaturely will of Jesus – his animal nature, his human nature – with the Divine will of the Logos.

        This sheds some light, by the way, on our Lord’s cry of dereliction from the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” True, Jesus is here invoking the whole of Psalm 22, which although it begins in the horror of our exile from Eden is a song of the moral triumph of those faithful in Israel to the promise of the cosmic triumph of YHWH. But it does begin in dereliction and alienation, and the horror of Jesus thereat is real; were it otherwise, were his horror a pretense on the part of a being who cannot truly suffer, the sacrifice of Calvary would not be true – would not happen, at all. And that would vitiate the whole rite, frustrating its intent. The horror being real, it must really have been the case that Jesus felt himself abandoned by God. But, prima facie, this makes no sense: Jesus *is* God; how can he have felt as though he was abandoned by himself? Yet if we understand his cry as arising from his human nature, that can per se logically be alienated from God, can suffer, can die, and can earnestly desire not to undergo any of these trials, then it makes perfect sense. The human body of Jesus had to die, and with it the nature and will of that body. His body had to be tortured to death. It didn’t have to enjoy the process, or welcome it.

        As for the arresting notion that creation and Calvary are God’s way of testing his own self-consistency, I don’t see how eternal omniscience could ever fail to know that his self-destruction is impossible, or therefore feel any need to put the notion to the test.

      • But what cannot be conceived in the first place cannot be imagined; for, an imagination of a thing is just an implementation of its properties. If they are logically incompatible, then they are incompossible either intellectually or corporeally.

        I find this reasoning interesting, although it has strange and possibly-unintended implications. (i.e. if only conceivable things can be imagined, and anything conceivable is metaphysically possible, then any imaginable thing is possible. The only question becomes whether a particular thing is good or evil, i.e. whether it is right to desire for its implementation or not.)

      • There’s also the question of compossibility. I can imagine that my grandfather was never born. But I can’t act as if that were true. I can imagine that man never fell …

      • “There’s also the question of compossibility. I can imagine that my grandfather was never born. But I can’t act as if that were true. I can imagine that man never fell …”

        Right. That’s another way of saying that if a thing exists with an implied history, then the history of that thing also exists.

        When we imagine something like this, we have to bring in behind-the-scenes some kind of larger picture; say, a system of alternate universes, and I’m dropped from universe A into universe B where my grandfather was never born, to see what that’s like….

        Or, more saliently, we overwrite the universe a la ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘Groundhog Day’, so that certain people are gone, others remember things differently. It transpires quickly that an actual desire that my grandfather / myself were never born would be a desire to erase history, which is a pretty evil desire, on the small scale as well as the large.

        On the other hand, it is a perversion of the legitimate desire to overcome history. God cannot make it as though we had _never_ fallen, but He can guide us to a state where we are no worse off than if we had never fallen.

      • … if a thing exists with an implied history, then the history of that thing also exists. … an actual desire that my grandfather / myself were never born would be a desire to erase history, which is a pretty evil desire …

        Indeed. As Zippy said.

  3. Arakawa:I find this reasoning interesting, although it has strange and possibly-unintended implications. (i.e. if only conceivable things can be imagined, and anything conceivable is metaphysically possible, then any imaginable thing is possible. …

    I expect that is why it’s generally stated oppositely to how Kristor is stating it. As I tried to illustrate in my first post — one can imagine a four-sided triangle, one can even sloppily speak of a “concept” of a four-sided triangle, but there is no such concept, nor can there ever be, for “four-sided triangle” is a self-contradiction; thus, one cannot actually conceive of a four-sided triangle.

    One can imagine a human being who is simultaneously dead and alive, but one cannot conceive it, for “simultaneously dead and alive” is a self-contradiction.

    • Can we really form an image of four-sided triangle? I find it very difficult. It would have to be blurry and inaccurate image or some sort of illusion like Penrose staircase. In any case we end up with something that is not what it appears to be i.e. representation of something else.

      • Can we really form an image of four-sided triangle?

        No, we cannot conceive a four-sided triangle.

      • I can’t form an image of a four-sided triangle. Ilíon seems to be saying that he can. For the life of me, I don’t see how that’s possible. But then I’m not a very visual person.

  4. Kristor:It’s a tricky area of Christology, and it took quite a few years for the Church to figure it out. There’s no shame in finding yourself in this position. Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, Pope Honorius I and Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople were in the same boat. And those guys were no slouches.

    Well, thank you so much for this condescension.

    Kristor:Well, in asserting that there is but one will in Jesus Christ, I’m afraid you are at odds with the Holy Church Universal.

    When have I ever given any indication that I’m all that concerned with bureaucracies and human traditions? I care about truth. Well, you know, orthodoxy is good … but only if the ‘doxa‘ is, indeed, ‘orthos

    Kristor:Monothelitism was declared a heresy by the Third Council of Constantinople in 681. None of the Western communions – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, or Lutheran – believe it.

    Then, much as it pains me, I guess I’ll just have to be a heretic, because I’m right, and you (plural) are wrong.

    Kristor:Well, in asserting that there is but one will in Jesus Christ …

    Who said anything about there being a will “in” Christ … or “in” you or me, for that matter … as though the will were a part, like a foot? I said: “The Son is *one* person, and thus one agent, one will.

    To speak of ‘the will’ is just to speak of the person, with an emphasis or focus on one of the capacities adhering to personhood. A person “with” no will is a contradiction in terms, for that denotes “a person who is not a person”. Similarly, a person “with” two wills is also contradiction in terms, for that denotes “a person who is two persons”.

    ‘The will’ isn’t separate from the person, ‘the will’ isn’t a part of the person, ‘the will’ *is* the person.

    One’s foot is a part: one’s foot may be lopped off, yet one is and remains oneself. One’s will is not a part: one’s will can no more be lopped off than that the facet of a diamond can be excised. That the limitations of language all-but compel us to use vague or sloppy terminology such as “one’s will” doesn’t make the will into something other than or separate to the person, into a part or a possession, any more than that to speak of God’s love for all his creation turns that love into something other than or separate to the person of God – just as the rules of our language dictated that I write “the person of God” there, despite that we both understand God to be three persons.

    Shoot! The doctrine of the trinity is hard enough to grapple with. Why turn “three persons who are one being” into “three persons who are not really persons who are one being”?

    Kristor:There can be two wills in one person. Will is the general capacity of a mind to feel desires or intentions in respect to different options for action, to decide between them, and to act on such decisions. Wills are features – literally, outworkings, factures – of natures. I can feel at least two wills in me right now: the will arising from my animal nature to seek out and eat some food, and the will arising from my rational nature to keep my fast of this Holiday. …

    So, are you (accidentally) saying that the orthodox stance on this question – which is clearly wrong – is built upon an equivocation? That may well go some way toward explaining that and how it is wrong.

    That a person may simultaneously desire (be willing) both ‘A’ and ‘B’, or even both ‘A’ and ‘not-A’, does not cause him to “have” two (or more) wills. He may have two or more objects of his will, he may have two or more mutually exclusive objects of his will, he may have two or more mutually contradictory objects of his will, but he still “has” just the one will, which is himself.

    In the time period we denote as “The Passion”, the Second Person of the Godhead willed two mutually exclusive, and indeed mutually contradictory, ends. But he did not “have” two wills; he was one will who desired two mutually exclusive ends. He, being a person, being an agent, being a ‘free-will’, was free to choose either end; had he chosen the one he did not choose, not only would his willing have differed from the Father’s, but both his willing and his will would have been in opposition to, in conflict with, the Father.

    Kristor:… so I have from two of my compatible natures two incompatible wills toward two incompossible ends.

    … and, apparently, this equivocation then leads you to state that *you* have two (or more) natures, and two (or more) wills?

    Goodness! With orthodoxy like this, who need be concerned with heterodoxy or heresy?

    Kristor:… and the horror of Jesus thereat is real; were it otherwise, were his horror a pretense on the part of a being who cannot truly suffer, the sacrifice of Calvary would not be true – would not happen, at all. And that would vitiate the whole rite, frustrating its intent. The horror being real, it must really have been the case that Jesus felt himself abandoned by God. …

    You know, some time ago, I explained to you that (*) the “othodox” doctrine of God’s impassibility is false; that it is a conception of God from the pre- or extra-Christian past that the Chruchmen should not have baptized. From my perspective, you breezily waved away what I’d said … by an appeal to “orthodoxy” (which, of course, is the very thing I was saying is incorrect).

    And, here you are, implicitly affirming what I’d said … and even using much the same language and reasoning. And, yet, I’d bet that now that I’ve directed your attention to this, you will explicitly state that the proposition “God is impassible” is true.

    (*) and why it is incorrect, and how it originated in an unexamined cultural assumption of the pre-Christian pagan Greeks, who saw love as a weakness, as a lack of strength, and thus vainly imagined that God, being complete, lacking nothing, cannot love (or hate), nor desire love or anything else.

    Kristor:… The horror being real, it must really have been the case that Jesus felt himself abandoned by God. But, prima facie, this makes no sense: Jesus *is* God; how can he have felt as though he was abandoned by himself? Yet if we understand his cry as arising from his human nature, that can per se logically be alienated from God, can suffer, can die, and can earnestly desire not to undergo any of these trials, then it makes perfect sense. The human body of Jesus had to die, and with it the nature and will of that body. His body had to be tortured to death. It didn’t have to enjoy the process, or welcome it.

    Jesus is the Christ is the Second Person of the Godhead, is God. There was only one person nailed to that tree. That Person, who *is* God, experienced the horror to the full. It was not merely a man who suffered, it was God who suffered: God is not impassible.

    Kristor:As for the arresting notion that creation and Calvary are God’s way of testing his own self-consistency, I don’t see how eternal omniscience could ever fail to know that his self-destruction is impossible, or therefore feel any need to put the notion to the test.

    I’m not so sure you really gave much thought to what I said.

    You and I exist because God *knows* we exist, because God thinks about our existing. All that is not-God that exists exists because God thinks about its existing. So, since God eternally and omnisciently knows that Kristor Lawson and Troy Hailey exist right now and are having this discussion, does that mean that he “therefore feel[s no] need to put the notion to the test”? Not at all: that he knows it “put[s] the notion to the test”.

    What I’m saying is that your objection to what I’d said is a category error, whether or not I am correct (and I am correct).

    If the Divine Persons say, “There is in us no contradiction“, how can *that* thought — which is about God — not be made manifest, while the thought, “Kristor Lawson is” — which is merely about a creature — is made manifest?

    I say that all of Creation is the manifestation of God’s thought that “There is in us no contradiction“, and that Calvary is the ultimate testing/proving of the thought.

    Of course, I also sometimes wonder whether the specific fact of Calvary might not have been “forced” upon God by the whole history of his creation after mankind rebelled. In creating us, God not only made us free, but also gave us some small measure of “power” over him (*) — he delivered himself into the hands of his creatures not simply at Calvary, but by the very act of creation.

    Can there be any denial that had mankind never rebelled, then Calvary would never have happened, would never have been necessary? What I wonder is this: had Cain not murdered Abel (or had some other key decision in history been made another way), might our redemption have been possible without the shedding of blood?

    (*) This is why all sins are sins against God, for in sinning, we “force” God to participate in sin — in Christ we live and move and have our being, both the good and the evil.

    • Thanks, Ilíon, for your earnest and passionate engagement with this topic. I shall try to respond adequately to the questions you ask. But first let me apologize for giving you the impression that I was condescending to you. I didn’t mean to do so, certainly. On the contrary, by suggesting that you were in agreement with eminent theologians – two Patriarchs and a Pope, no less – I meant to suggest that your monothelitism is serious, and respectable.

      You may of course hold to your monothelitism if you wish, and set yourself against the judgement of thousands of years of diligent thought by hundreds of brilliant, learned and holy men. If I found myself in that position – which I did, a few years ago – I should pause and consider whether I might not have got something wrong. As I then did. My experience again and again has been that when find myself in disagreement with orthodox doctrine, and I go back to the Fathers and find out more about their arguments, I learn that I had not yet quite understood them, or the orthodox doctrine. It’s a salutary procedure, and rather fun. Curiously, I often find that the intuition that had led me to disagree with what I took to be doctrine turns out to be, in fact, comprehended by the doctrine as properly understood – albeit not usually in quite the way I had first intuited it.

      You insist that the will is inseparable from the person. Granted. This does not mean that “will” and “person” refer to *exactly the same thing,* so that to suggest that a man has two wills is to suggest that he is two people. Indeed, it seems to me clearly wrong to say that “person” = “will.” The two terms denote quite different things; that’s one of the main reasons we have and employ both the terms.

      You write:

      So, are you (accidentally) saying that the orthodox stance on this question – which is clearly wrong – is built upon an equivocation?

      No. What equivocation?

      My rational nature cannot feel hunger, and cannot therefore will or intend to sate it. Hunger arises from my animal nature. That the intentions of my animal nature and of my rational nature are collated by my intellect in my conscious awareness does not mean that they are not different wills arising from different natures, any more than my intellectual collation of the intuition of the Idea of a triangle with the sensation of a roughly scribed three-sided figure means that the sensation and the intuition are just the same thing.

      You write:

      … so I have from two of my compatible natures two incompatible wills toward two incompossible ends.

      … and, apparently, this equivocation then leads you to state that *you* have two (or more) natures, and two (or more) wills?

      I’m not seeing an equivocation here. What is it, exactly?

      You suggest that some time ago I dismissed your rejection of Divine impassibility as unorthodox, without really grappling with your arguments. I confess I have no recollection of that exchange, and would appreciate a link to it. I have to say that I doubt I would have dismissed your assertion of Divine passibility out of hand – or at least, would have intended to do so – for my thinking on that topic is not entirely settled. It’s a terrifically complex and difficult area, and I’m still working on it. I note in passing however that in discussing the agony of Jesus on the Cross in my comment above, I did not say that God did not suffer, but only that God did not feel alienated from God, a nonsensical notion. I don’t want to go so far as to say that God absolutely does not suffer (or, likewise, really know and love his creatures); nor do I want to say simply that God does suffer, period full stop. The subject is fraught.

      Finally, responding again to your suggestion that at Calvary God put himself to the test, it’s not that I didn’t think about it very much, but that I simply didn’t understand quite what you meant. I thought you meant that God thought at one point that he might possibly be able to contradict himself, and to find out whether that was true he ran an experiment on himself at Calvary, in rather the way he had tested Abraham and Job. It was that notion that I found incredible. But it seems now to me that what you meant was that Calvary was a demonstration or manifestation of the eternal fact that in God there is no contradiction, which God of course eternally knows and needn’t take special steps to find out. With that I agree.

  5. Kristor, are you trying to say that non-being cannot be because being (existing) non-being is contradiction? So there is literally no place for non-being because “place” indicates being.

    It sounds too simple to be true.

    • Yes. You can conceive of the absence of some particular thing from the cosmos, but you cannot conceive of the presence of nothing. E.g., I can coherently say that an apple does not exist on the desk in front of me. But I cannot coherently say that nothing exists on the desk in front of me. And this is not due simply to the fact that even if my desk didn’t have a phone, monitors, pencils and so forth on it, it would still have air molecules and vacuum on it. I mean, it is due to that, yes; but more fundamentally, it is due to the fact that the presence of absence, the being of non-being, is inconceivable, and therefore logically impossible to actualize.

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