Meaning is not epiphenomenal to anything. It is not just some superfluity added to physical causation, or riding it, like scum on the surface of a river. By the same token, physical causation is not some raw medium suitable for the occasional, adventitious carriage of information, but dumb in itself. All being is somehow cooked – i.e., formed. And formation is always an outcome of some act, that is ordered toward, and so intends, some end. The formation of every actuality is thus teleological, an intelligence and the product of some intelligence – even if only the intelligence inherent in even simple things like electrons. In no other way could things be the least bit intelligible. You can’t grasp the intelligence of a thing, can’t coherently tie it to other things, if it is not truly intelligent in the first place.
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.
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.
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).
Epistemological reach is the primary factor of ontological extent. As understanding grows, so does depth, intensity, efficacy, and causal influence of being. Growth of understanding is increase of substance; “substans” is the Latin for “understand” (and “hypostasis” the Greek).
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.”
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.
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.
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:
Makes sense, no? I had never seen it before.
Here then is the list that Taggard linked, with my responses: