The Ontological Arguments

Once and Future Traditionalist blogger and orthospherean Casey Ann, now on hiatus from her doughty online efforts so that she can concentrate on college, recently commented on a post from 2013 in which I offered an ontological argument for the existence of God, asking for help with the covalent ontological arguments of St. Anselm of Canterbury and of Alvin Plantinga. She wrote:

I’m currently suffering through a Philosophy of Religion course (the democratic nature of these courses is sickening), and we have just gone over the cosmological arguments, arguments from design, the ontological arguments, and their respective criticisms. I’m writing an essay about which I prefer and discussing its strengths and weaknesses. I immediately go toward the ontological argument per St. Anselm, which I have loved for years now. The problem is that each time I study it I find myself peering at it through seemingly various aspects that become obscure to me as the next one approaches (this also could be linked to sleep issues, but anyway). I would love to get your perspective on it. What do you make of St. Thomas’s criticisms of it? Can a Thomist use the ontological argument? Do you think that there are really two ontological arguments made by Anselm? How do you approach Kant’s criticism and does it reject the traditional notion of God as Being? Is modal logic orthodox? (ha…seriously). Lastly (at least for now), what about Plantinga? I’m very unfamiliar with analytic philosophy, so I hardly even tried to tackle his writing on it. I wrote on a paper for a concise summary of his argument, “If it is possible for God to exist, then it is impossible for God not to exist,” and yesterday morning it CLICKED, wonderfully (but at the same time I feel as though there’s a strange gap between the two statements that I need to work out). Is it possible to reconcile this with Anselm’s, whose I am assuming can be thoroughly defended (double question)? What about Aquinas? Please, Kristor, don’t be vague (not to say that you tend to be); I really could use your help even from a personal position. Thank you.

The rest of this post is my response.

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How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Six: Other Authorities

[Part OnePart TwoPart Three.  Part FourPart Five.]

Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors, that the most important wisdom is to acknowledge God, and that intuition is the foundation of wisdom. Recall also that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise, and that once he has begun to repent of liberalism he is ready to find teachers of wisdom.

We have said that man can know the answers to many of his deepest questions or, in other words, that he can know the basic nature of the order of being, through his intuition. Since intuition can be corrupted or obscured, man needs to have these intuitions articulated, guided, and affirmed by authorities. And the highest authority is the Bible, God’s Word.

But there are other religious authorities. The Bible is not the only Christian authority. It is the highest (and the only infallible) authority, but you will need creeds and confessions, pastors and bishops, teachers and theologians to guide you. To become wise about God, you will need eventually to join one of the existing Christian traditions. Continue reading

Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up?

In the discussion after a recent post here, commenter Vishmehr24 said [I’ve made minor corrections of spelling and form]:

Alan Roebuck,

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Protestant?

How is Protestantism defined ?

You write

“confessional Protestantism (that is, the Protestantism that honors the Word of God by explicitly identifying what it teaches and then codifying these teachings in the various protestant confessions) is the best system.”

You write from theologian’s perspective, perhaps that is looking for best systems. But a believer or a seeker is looking for the best church. Your answer “confessional Protestantism” is too loose, too flabby. It seems like to mean -anything except the Catholic church or the Orthodoxy.

Here’s my response:

OK Vishmehr24, good questions. You sound skeptical, but I hope you’ll allow me to set the record straight.

The key issues underlying your questions would be these: First, Who, or what, has the authority to define Christianity?  Second, What difference does it make if one adheres to an invalid (or not-fully-valid) version of Christianity?

The answer to the first question has to be Jesus Christ and the Apostles he trained. And since they are no longer available for direct consultation, we must look to the written record of God’s words, the Bible.  This is the correct way to know what Christianity is.

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How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Five: Knowing About God

[Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four.]

Recall from the previous parts of this series that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors and that the most important item of wisdom is to acknowledge the God of the Bible. Recall also that intuition is the foundation of wisdom, and that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise. Once you have begun to repent of your liberalism, you are ready to find teachers of wisdom

The greatest teacher, of course, is God, and His teachings are found in the Bible. The most important of these teachings is how you can be saved from God’s wrath through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. This truth, of course, cannot be known through intuition. It must be revealed to you, and then you must believe it.

Since the Bible, and only the Bible, is God speaking, it is the highest authority other than God Himself[i]. It is the ultimate authority for testing and correcting our intuitions about the order of being.

But we face an immediate problem: Authorities disagree about exactly what the Bible means. Often these disagreements arise when men don’t want to acknowledge the clear meaning of the words. These are disagreements caused by stubbornness, not by a lack of clarity in the text.  But there are genuine disagreements. The authorities disagree about what the Bible teaches.

Perhaps you, the reader, are already a part of a Christian tradition. In that case you already have an authority which clarifies the meaning of the Bible.  But this essay assumes that you are not yet a traditionalist. That being so, you do not yet know which authority to trust. Continue reading

The Secular Utility of the Cloistered Contemplative

What are monks good for, anyway? Why do we allocate scarce resources to their activities of prayer, liturgy, and the odd bit of gardening, or apiculture, or brewing?

We could ask the same question about priests, and about church buildings. Sure, they do lots of good and valuable work – teaching, nursing, and so forth – but their strictly religious activities would seem to be a complete waste.

But not so. People do better – are braver, more resilient, and happier in the face of life’s ineliminable vicissitudes both small and great – when they can see that their personal struggles signify in the larger struggle of good with evil for the redemption of the whole world. They do better when they can see how their small efforts to be good contribute weal to the side of the angels in the Wars of Heaven. If earthly life is throughly pointed toward some utterly transcendent and wonderful Good, then it can all be worthwhile. Otherwise, it just can’t, and is utterly vain and meaningless, so that despair is the  only apposite response to life’s utter futility.

As for people, so for their families, their enterprises of all sorts, their tribes and nations. If these are formed by a shared understanding of their important roles in the wider struggle of God with his enemies, they are more likely to prosper and prevail. Otherwise, they are more likely to dwindle and fail. The demographic collapse of our merely secular society – more and more obviously nihilist – shows how irreligion plays out.

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Concreteness, Corporeality & Responsibility

English makes it easy to refer to a whole group of things as if it were a substantial entity in its own right, whether or not it really is. It then allows us to assign such things as motives, plans, and behavior to that merely notional entity. Thus, e.g., “Baseball been very very good to me;” “The Wehrmacht has taken Paris;” “Godless Communism killed 100 million.”[1]

It’s handy. But difficulty can ensue when we take our shorthand references to such groups as if they indicated something concretely real. The game of baseball can’t do anything, nor can the Wehrmacht, or Communism. Clemente was treated well by actual people involved in baseball, Paris was taken by German soldiers, and the victims of the Communist holocaust were destroyed by real men and women. It’s a category error to blame or credit merely notional entities. AN Whitehead called it the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. It arises when we treat ideas as if they were actual and concrete. Concrete entities do all inherit ideas from their past, embody them, and propose them to the future. But without a concrete entity to do the inheriting, embodying, and proposing, nothing happens with the ideas. Ideas don’t have themselves.

Ideas are indeed causes, to be sure; the final, formal and material causes of events are all ideas, in the final analysis. But the inputs to an event are not yet the event. Only agents can respond to the ideas that are their factors. It behooves us then to remember to assign responsibility to natural persons, rather than to movements or schools, to philosophies or merely legal persons.

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The Ultimate Integration

God is Omega in that all things achieve their final integration in him, and by him – not just at the eschaton, but always. It is by virtue of this integration that creaturely events are in the first place coordinated so as to form any coherent world. Thus the integration of the Omega is the forecondition of Creation. That’s why Omega is coterminous with Alpha.

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Creatura : Creator :: Map : Territory

According to the invaluable Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word “map” is derived from:

… Medieval Latin mappa mundi “map of the world;” first element from Latin mappa “napkin, cloth” (on which maps were drawn), “tablecloth, signal-cloth, flag,” said by Quintilian to be of Punic [i.e., Tyrian] origin (compare Talmudic Hebrew mappa, contraction of Mishnaic menaphah “a fluttering banner, streaming cloth”) + Latin mundi “of the world,” from mundus “universe, world” (see mundane).

Now this is interesting, because while the Old Testament refers to the firmament of the cosmos with the word raqiaà, meaning literally “extent” – apparently a merely abstract geometrical idea – it is described variously in scripture as like a crystalline tent or canopy (Isaiah 40:22, Ezekiel 1:22), or a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14). I.e., an expanse of fabric such as are used as a substrate for maps.

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Difference As Such Entails Risk of Evil

There is no logical Problem of Evil, because it is impossible in logic for God to create any sort of thing that is not extremely likely to Fall, and so suffer.

God knows perfectly, and so wills, the way that everything should be in order to be best. His existence is necessary, so if he were the only entity, things would necessarily be best.

But God is not the only entity. Because he is necessary, all the other entities that exist must – logically must – be contingent; for, there can be at most one unmoved mover. And contingent beings as such, by definition, are at risk of evil.

That there should be different things, then – that, i.e., there should be more than just one thing, namely God – entails that there should be great risk of evil.

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