Thoughts (for Students) on Language

Unexpectedly in mid-summer vacation, my departmental chair asked me whether I could assume supervision of some courses previously taught by a faculty member who had taken retirement on short notice at the end of the spring semester. One course concerned the Anglo-Saxon and Norman roots of Modern English and in general the history of the language. The other course concerned theories of language, of which it is designed to offer a survey, more or less at the instructor’s discretion. The clientele for both courses comes largely from the current cohort of teachers-in-training in my college’s School of Education and in some part from English majors. The new assignment required me to marshal my knowledge of the two areas and quickly to devise two syllabi. In writing the syllabi, I decided to introduce each course to its enrollment in the form of an essay. There is some repetition of ideas in both introductions, but that is inevitable given that the subject-matter of the two courses necessarily overlaps. I share the results with my fellow Orthosphereans.

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There Can Be Only One Unmoved Mover

For simplicity, say there were only two unmoved movers, β & ψ. They would each be an actus purus, by definition. They would both likewise be necessary and eternal.

Neither of them could influence the other, obviously. So, they couldn’t do or know anything about each other, and would not therefore be either omnipotent or omniscient. Nor could either one of them be properly understood as ultimate, because by the definition of ‘ultimate,’ there can be only one ultimate. So neither of them could be God (that’s why I didn’t label them α & ω).

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Revelation is a Holograph

God is an indivisible whole, so any bit of him is all of him. Nothing new can ever be added to revelation, then, because wherever revelation occurs, the whole of God enters into the prophet, and is present there, fully disclosed to him who has eyes to see.

With each ingression of God to the created order, the whole of him enters in. So each instance of his ingress, and each instance of every type of him, is a synecdoche of the whole of him. Thus is he completely present in every atom of creation, in each speck of consecrated host, each Christian, each congregation – and in every passage of the Scriptures.

In principle, the prophet can see the whole of God in any part of him. Because the whole of God is present in every bit of him, a vision of any such bit is for the seer a glimpse that takes in all that God knows. So it is that those who return from the mystical ascent report having seen “everything.”

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Who is the Holy Spirit?

From time to time, a stubborn and longstanding perplexity resolves suddenly into an intelligible pattern. An opacity clarifies, a lacuna is illumined, and one sees for the first time how to begin thinking about it. The ordered relations of a great mass of ideas are revealed as a new node in their net is neatly knit together, and unsuspected connections to other domains of inquiry suggest themselves. Thoughts that had been stymied by confusion pour forth in a generous, refreshing cascade. Things fall into place.

This recently happened to me respecting the Holy Spirit. I had never known quite how to think about him, had never understood quite what he does within the Trinity. He doesn’t get much attention, compared to the other two Persons. When he does, he is usually spoken of as the Love that flows between the Father and the Son, or as the Life of the Trinity. But these characterizations, while true enough, don’t get at the nub of it. The Holy Spirit is a person, and a person is not just his love or his life, but rather their subject.

What is it that the Spirit experiences, then, that is different from what the Son and Father experience of each other? What does he add to what they are, and know, and do? None of the explanations I had read quite hung together; there seemed to be little to hang them on. I had nothing to work with, nothing I felt I could lay hands on, until the other day, when at last pneumatology began to open to me.

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When a complex orderly phenomenon such as consciousness arises in matter, it is these days often ascribed to a mysterious emergence of properties implicit in those of its material substrates. But really it goes the other way. Consciousness – ordered form in general – does not emerge from the material substrate of our world. It rather immerges thereto, from elsewhere. Novelty of all sorts is added to history from without.

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Ten Things Atheists Suggest Theists Should Bear in Mind

Our doughty and affable atheist commenter Taggard has patiently endured and amiably responded to a lot of attention from Orthospherean theists over the last few days, in long, intense, and – to me, anyway – interesting conversations in the comments of two recent posts. I always learn a lot from participating in such discussions, and these were no exceptions. Taggard provided us with two interesting links, one to a graphic that plots the differences between gnostic atheists and theists on the one hand – who believe they know enough to positively assert the nonexistence or existence of God, respectively – and their agnostic interlocutors, who believe they do not know enough to positively assert anything about the existence of God.

The other was to a list of ten things atheists think theists should bear in mind when they are conversing. This post is a response to that list, which is reproduced below in full. If you plan on reading what follows, it will help first to peruse the graphic Taggard provided:

Agnostic v Gnostic v Atheist v Theist

Makes sense, no? I had never seen it before.

Here then is the list that Taggard linked, with my responses:

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Taggard on Atheism

In the discussion thread to my post “Atheism is an Assumption, not a Reasonable Conclusion from the Evidence,” commenter Taggard offered a lengthy criticism of my position. Since my response to his response is also lengthy, I offer it here.

In this writing, Taggard reiterates what I described as the basic error of the atheist: sticking with an initial negative assumption in the face of positive evidence.

I reproduce here the full text of Taggard’s comment. My responses are in bold:

Taggard, 9:45 am:

I would like to reply to this article point by point, for the most part, but before I do, I need to lay down some definitions, a basic assumption, and a few statements:

Definitions: Atheist – one who lacks belief in all gods. [AR: This is too thin a definition.  The existence of God is too important for a man simply to “lack belief.” For example, if someone told you that there was a bomb, or a check for a million dollars, in your car, you would not be content just to “lack belief.” You would want to have good reasons for acting in whatever way you choose to act. Atheists act as if they are confident that there is no God.] Agnostic – one who does not know for sure if gods exist. Evolution – the process by which living organisms have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth. [AR: As defined by the scientific establishment, “evolution” means that the process was entirely naturalistic.] Abiogenesis – the origin of life. Continue reading


From the perspective of naturalism into which most moderns – including Christians – have been from birth inculcated, the Resurrection can make no sense. It’s not just that the naturalist thinks the notion is false, he cannot but think it incoherent with the principles of reality as they are plainly manifest to him, as plainly as the nose on his face. From his perspective, the Resurrection, and for that matter the whole religious impulse and rigmarole, arise from a grotesque misprision that is “not even wrong.” The whole thing looks to him like a willfully insane mistake.

Once begin however to take seriously the fact that Nature Cannot Explain Itself, and the Resurrection becomes just as plausible as chickens. Because Nature is insufficient to itself, some Supernature or other is required, upon whose order the regularities of Nature supervene. That Supernatural Order – or Logos, as it has long been called in Greek – is not governed by the order of this world, but vice versa.

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