... So the conceptions of God in the two religions are radically different. But how is it supposed to follow that Christians and [Aztecs] worship numerically different Gods? It doesn't follow! Let me explain.Or, alternately, we *could* allow ourselves to see that William Vallicella has made the same mistake he constantly insists upon making.
Suppose Sam's conception of the author of Das Kapital includes the false belief that the author is a Russian while Dave's conception includes the true belief that he is a German. This is consistent with there being one and same philosopher whom they have beliefs about and are referring to. One and the same man, Karl Marx, is such that Sam has a false belief about him while Dave has a true belief about him.
Now suppose [Atl]'s conception of the divine being includes the false belief that said being [demands, or at least requires/needs, unending blood sacrifice, and on an industrial scale] while Peter's conception includes the true belief that God [offered himself once and for all as the only fitting blood sacrifice]. This is consistent with there being one and same being whom they have beliefs about and are referring to. One and the same god, God, is such that [Atl] has a false belief about him while Peter has a true belief about him.
What I have just shown is that from the radically different, and indeed inconsistent, God-conceptions one cannot validly infer that (normative) Christians and (normative) [Aztecs] refer to and worship numerically different Gods. For the difference in conceptions is consistent with sameness of referent. So you can see that Fr. O'Brien has made a mistake.
You know, it's one thing to say that Protestants and Catholics worship the same God, despite that Catholicism just can't seem to get that "once and for all" bit; it's quite another thing to say that Moslems and Christians worship the same God, when nearly every statement of Islam touching on Christ is *explicitly* formulated as a denial of a Christian statement.
But nota bene: Difference in conceptions is also consistent with a difference in referent. It could be that when a Christian uses 'God' he refers to something while a Muslim refers to nothing when he uses 'Allah.' Consider God and Zeus. Will you say that the Christian and the ancient Greek polytheist worship the same God except that the Greek has false beliefs about their common object of worship, believing as he does that Zeus is a superman who lives on a mountain top, literally hurls thunderbolts, etc.? Or will you say that there is no one God that they worship, that the Christian worships a being that exists while the Greek worships a nonexistent object? And if you say the latter, why not also say the same about God and Allah, namely, that there is no one being that they both worship, that the Christian worships the true God, the God that really exists, whereas Muslims worship a God that does not exist?Well, you *could* say, as I do, that the being whom Moslems worship does indeed exist and is not God.
In sum, difference in conceptions is logically consistent both with sameness of referent and difference of referent.You don't say! Might that be why -- contrary to Vallicella's prestntation of him -- Fr. O'Brien noted not simply differences between the Christian and Moslem conceptions of God, but also explicit Islamic repudiations of key Christian concepts?
SummaryWell, Vallicella does love him some entanglements and "inquiries" -- he loves nothing more than to keep jawboning a question while never arriving at an answer.
Most of the writing on this topic is exasperatingly superficial and uninformed, even that by theologians. Fr. O'Brien is a case in point. He thinks the question easily resolved: you simply note the radical difference in the Christian and Muslim God-conceptions and your work is done. Others make the opposite mistake. They think that, of course, Christians and Muslims worship the same God either by making Tuggy's mistake above or by thinking that the considerable overlap in the two conceptions settles the issue.
My thesis is not that the one side is right or that the other side is right. My thesis is that the question is a very difficult one that entangles us in controversial inquiries in the philosophies or mind and language.