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Saturday, November 12, 2022

Error ... and Agency

Below is a (lengthy) response I emailed to an online friend. While I haven't included previous emails between us, I think there is enough here to reward your patience in reading it through --

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Me: ==… but my main point is that error -- to be more precise: the ability to *recognize* that one has made an error; the ability to correct the error (to the extent possible); and to know that the attempted correction is indeed a correction -- proves that we are agents, proves that "free will" is reality. ==

 

Kristor: ==That seems right intuitively, but I’m not clear on the argument, so let me try to flesh it out. A stone falling has a final cause, a telos ...== 

I almost never argue in those sorts of terms (nor, you may have noticed, by reference to Scripture, except when Scripture or Christian claims are the immediate point): partly because I'm a simple man; partly because the proponents of the false views I wish to argue against tend to ignore/dismiss those sorts of arguments; partly because the general populace has been noticeably dumbed-down within my own lifetime.  So, I try to argue 1) in terms to which I think most people won't react, "Well, that's over my head" and thus ignore the argument, and 2) in terms that the deniers of "free-will" *claim* to accept.

 Thus, I tend to argue by treating atheistic claims about reality *as though* they were true, and then drawing out the contradictions, either directly within the claim itself or against other statements about reality that we (in general) recognize to be true.

Kristor:  ==Error then is a character only of free acts. From the fact that we apprehend errors, then, it follows that we act.==

I think that's one way to put it, though not the way I would put it.  And, I suspect, most people would find such a formulation confusing. 

I am approaching the argument about the reality for “free-will” in terms of C S Lewis's distinction between "cause-and-effect" and "ground-and-consequent", rather than Aristotle's Four Causes.  To paraphrase Lewis's illustration of the distinction -- "cause-and-effect": the tea kettle is whistling because the fire under the kettle is heating the water, which is to say, it is "exciting" the water molecules, which ... and so on; "ground-and-consequent": the tea kettle is whistling because I wish to make a cup of tea.  Now, while these two explanations are *vastly* different, and don't even begin to touch on the same questions, they are not at all contradictory.

You could say that my general approach is to show that, when it is critically examined, we see that the atheistic view of the nature of reality denies (and must deny) "ground-and-consequent" causation, and agency, altogether, and that we all know these denials to be absurd, and thus we *see* that atheism is itself absurd.

Not that this sort of argument is any more successful than any other sort of argument in getting the typical God-denier to acknowledge the reality that God is. 

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In your very first response to my initial note to you in response to your OP thread at The Orthoshpere, you said -- "Yes. What is not an act cannot be an error. The error generated by the Pentium CPU ["floating-point bug"] is such, not to the CPU, but to the user thereof."

I replied -- "Well, in the case of the Pentium CPU "floating point bug", the error was made by the Intel engineers."

I misread you, which is to say, ==>I made an error<== and then some days later, I ==>realized<== that I had made an error: I had initailly misread you (because I was skimming, rather that reading *attentively*) to be saying that the error generated by the buggy Pentium CPU was due to user error, when in fact, you were restating my point that the user, being an agent, might recognize the erroneous result as an error, but that the CPU, being no agent, does not and cannot.

So, my error in comprehending what you wrote, and my later recognition of the error, is just the sort of thing I was getting at in my first email on this topic to you.


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Background concepts (and mini-argument) –

We "theists" recognize two general categories of causation: mechanistic (i.e. "cause-and-effect") and agency (i.e. "ground-and-consequent").  Most people, including most God-deniers, will initially agree that these two categories are real, and distinct, and unbridgeable ... until they see where the argument is going. 

From recognition of the unbridgeable distinction between mechanism and agency, I argue that agency cannot "arise" from mechanism -- this is what the God-deniers who haven't denied agency from the start will then deny and this denial can then be shown absurd and thus false -- and thus that agency is, and must be, fundamental to nature of reality. 

==>But, as there is no such thing as 'agency' unless there is an actually existing agent, it follows that *an actually existing agent* is fundamental to the nature of reality.<== 

That is, *we* cannot be agents unless God (who is an agent) is/exists; or put another way: the fact that we *are* agents proves the reality of God and simultaneously proves the falseness of atheism, in all its forms.

On the other hand, *atheism* -- the -ism, in all its forms -- denies, and must deny, true agency.  For, as per the little argument above, to acknowledge the reality of agency is to acknowledge the reality of God.

Some *atheists* will try to posit random causation, or ‘randomness’ as a causation -- and these people will frequently try to subsume agency under 'randomness'.  But, this is absurd, and thus seen to be false.  For, to speak of ‘randomness’ is to speak of “a lack of correlation” between two or more things.  That is, to speak of a “random cause” is to literally speak of a “cause” which is not correlated with its alleged effect – literally, it is to speak of an effect which is not caused by a “cause”, and of a “cause” which does not cause an effect.


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So, back to my error and my recognition of the same; and treating the atheistic “explanation” of reality as being true; and pretending for the moment that to speak of a robot as understanding anything isn’t itself absurd; and ignoring the question of why a robot might reread something it had already read and “understood” –

According to Western-style (*) atheism, I am, in the words of Dilbert-creator, Scott Adams, a “meat robot”.  That is, I do what I do, not because I am an agent who freely chooses to do or to not do – for there are no such things as agents and no such thing as ‘agency’ – but because antecedent material/physical states mechanistically and deterministically cause me to do what I do.

So, assuming atheism’s mechanical determinism (whether of East or of West) to be the truth about myself (and ignoring the absurdity of saying that robot can understand anything), it follows that when I reread your email (which I had initially misread and misunderstood), either:

1) I would read it in exactly the same way as I had before; which is to say, I would misread it and misunderstand it exactly as I had before; or:

2) some (unknown) state or states (which states are, according to Western atheism, material/physical in nature) would cause me to read/understand it differently … which might result either in a correct understanding of it or in some *different* misunderstanding of it.  As a side note, the fact that there are more ways to be wrong than to be right implies that some different misunderstanding is more likely than a proper understanding.

But, assuming that some unknown state or states had caused me to read the email differently than I had at first, and assuming that on this rereading I correctly understood the content of the email, how do I *know* that I now correctly understand it?  After all, both my “understanding” of it, and my “knowledge” that I understand it, are due to some prior state or states, such that when I first read it I “understood” it as “this”, and believed myself to be correct, but when I reread it I understood it as “that”, and believed myself to be correct.  Perhaps if I read it a third time, I will understand it as “the other thing”, and will again believe myself to be correct.

Moreover, given atheism’s mechanically deterministic account of my nature, it isn’t even *meaningful* to speak either of me misunderstanding your email initially nor of correctly understanding it now.  Under atheism, effects are mechanically determined by prior states, not by choices, and not by meaning. 

CONCLUSION: Denial of one’s agency logically entails an infinite regress of denial that one *knows* anything.  And this is absurd, and ergo denial of the reality of one’s “free-will” is a false statement about the nature of reality.

On the other hand (as argued above), affirmation of one’s agency logically entails an affirmation of the reality and agency of God, and ergo denial of the reality of God is a false statement about the nature of reality.

It’s quite a conundrum for the God-denier … and explains why they *always* deny the reality of their own agency.


*I* say that I now correctly understand your email – and that I *know* that I correctly understand it – because you  *intended* the words you wrote mean “this” and not “that” and that when I *chose* to attentively read those words, I grasped/comprehended your intent.

But, under atheism, there really is no such thing as intent, there is no such thing as choosing, and there is no such thing as comprehending intent, nor of comprehending anything at all, for these things not only are not material/physical (as required by Western atheism), but also are not mechanically determined either (as required by both Western and Eastern atheism).

ULTIMATE CONCLUSION: Atheism, taken seriously, denies the reality of *everything*.  And this is absurd.  And thus we know that atheism is absurd, and false.  And thus we know that God is.


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(*) Western-style atheism denies the reality of the agent-self but acknowledges the reality of the physical/material world.  Thus, Western-style atheism’s denial of agency reduces to materialist/physicalist mechanical determinism.

In contrast, Eastern-style atheism denies not only the reality of the agent-self but also the reality of the physical/material world.  Thus, while Eastern-style atheism’s denial of agency also reduces to mechanical determinism, it does so without the materialist/physicalist element of Western atheism.


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EDIT (2020/11/17): 

The above post contains two arguments: 1) that our ability to see-and-correct error proves that we are agents; 2) that our agency proves that God is.  And they are linked because *everything* points to God, the creator-and-sustainer of all-that-is.

When I first started arguing online over 20 years ago that God is, and that we can know this to be true (i.e. we can know that we are not in error on this point), some people told me that I was approaching the question in a van Tillian presuppositional manner.  But, in fact, my approach is the exact opposite of presuppositionalism.

As Kristor frequently points out, the world *is* a world, it is a coherent whole.  That is, the world does not, because it can not, be either self-contradictory or absurd; for if it were, it would not be coherent ... and would not exist at all.   Thus, my argumentation builds on my belief that *all* atheistic arguments and/or assertions can be shown false by first assuming they are true and then drawing out the absurdities.

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EDIT (2020/11/20): 

=====
But, as there is no such thing as agency unless there is an actually existing agent, it follows that *an actually existing agent* is fundamental to the nature of reality.
=====

At the risk of appearing boastful, there is a very important concept expressed here.

Some God-deniers -- those who cannot bring themselves to accept atheism's logical entailment that they themselves don't even exist -- are trying to side-step the conundrum by abstracting out some aspect of personhood and positing that abstraction as being co-fundamental with matter to the nature of reality.  For example, the Hot New Thing for this set is 'panpsychism' ("the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world").  Now, no matter which word is used (and whether capitalized or not) -- 'Mind' (the word and capitalization formerly used), 'consciousness' (the word generally used currently), 'mentality' -- these words but refer to one abstraction or another, then reified.  But, there are no such things abstractions unless there is an actually existing mind who can abstract.

There is no such thing as 'Mind' unless there is an actually existing entity who is a mind.

There is no such thing as 'consciousness' unless there is an actually existing entity who is a conscious.

There is no such thing as 'mentality' unless there is an actually existing entity who possesses mentality.

Continue reading ...

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Paradox of Theseus's Maserati

Many people are familiar with the Paradox of Theseus's Ship; fewer are familiar with the Paradox of Theseus's Maserati. 

It seems that Aegeus had command of a time-traveling genie. Wanting to show his favor to Theseus, his newly discovered son, for his heroic acts as he had made his way to Athens, Aegeus commanded the genie to produce an exemplary gift, sure to quicken the heart of any young man, and so the genie nipped a Maserati straight from the factory. 

 Theseus, being a high-spirited youth, was instantly taken with the Maserati. He used to sit in it for *hours*, shifting the gears and twirling the wheel and making vroom-vroom noises. But, alas, as the genie had not thought to bring any gasoline/pertol back, that is all he could do with it. In time, the bloom of his enthusiasm for the Maserati had faded. 

Seeing Theseus moping about Athens, and being a doting, if belated, father, Aegeus inquired into the cause of Theseus's listlessness. Upon learning that shifting the gears and twirling the wheel and making vroom-vroom noises, even in a Maserati, gets old after a while, Aegeus commanded the genie to *do something* to reawaken Theseus's delight in the Maserati. 

 Not being the most quick-witted of spirits, the time-traveling genie returned to the scene of the crime, that is, to the Maserati factory. For days, he secretly observed the manufacture of Maseratii. And, while he never caught on to the requirement for gasoline/petrol in the tank, he *did* come to understand how a Maserati is put together, and all of the parts required. So, the genie nipped one of every single part which goes into the making of a Maserati, and took them back to Heroic Age Athens. 

As the genie's luck would have it, Theseus had a bit of a mechanical bent ... which would shortly serve him well in Crete. So, after the genie had explained how a Maserati might be assembled -- or re-assembled -- of the pile of parts, and still not understanding the necessity of gasoline/petrol, to say nothing of engine oil, Theseus's enthusiasm for the Maserati was rekindled, and he decided to swap-out every part in turn until he discovered just which part was the defective one preventing him from *driving* the Maserati. 

So, Theseus and the genie got to work (for, after all, the genie hadn't brought back the necessary tools) replacing parts on the Maserati Aegeus had given him. To keep from getting confused as to just which parts had been replaced, as each part was removed from the Maserati, rather that just dumping them in a jumble in some forgotten storeroom of the palace, the genie assembled each to all the other parts which had previously been removed from the original Maserati. 

At last, a day came when Theseus (and the genie) had replaced every single part of the Maserati Aegeus had given to Theseus -- and *still* it wouldn't start. Theseus was both frustrated and despondent. In his despair, he cried out to the Genie, “This is the Maserati which my father, the King, hast given me. Wherefore shall I tell him it that pleases me not?” But, pointing to the *other* Maserati which he had re-assembled, the genie replied, “Lo! This *also* is the Maserati which thy father, the King, hast given thee! Is this not a most wondrous gift which thy father, the King, hast given thee, in that *both* these Maseratii are one and the same Maserati?” 

Fortunately for Theseus’s sanity, the time had come once again for Athens to send to King Minos of Crete the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. And, well, everyone knows that story.

Continue reading ...

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Boys Who Cried "Russia! Russia! Russia!"

 One of the problems with being known as a liar is that no one believes you when you finally tell the truth about something.


Continue reading ...

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Amending the Constitution

 This is *my* ideal Amendment to the US Constitution --

No Bill shall be sent to the President unless it shall have been read aloud, in full, in the Chambers both of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, by the Presiding Officer of the respective Chambers.  And no Member of either Chamber who was absent for any portion of the Reading of a Bill shall vote on that Bill.  Nor shall any Regulation have the force of Law unless it shall have been enacted as a Bill dully voted by the Congress and signed by the President.


Continue reading ...

Thursday, December 2, 2021

There are armies ... and there are armies

 When the Chinese Communist Party decides that they are ready to take on the USA, the army they send against us will be very much the opposite of "woke" -- it will be trained and disciplined ... and quite intending to win the war: 

* it won't be made of soybois and meterosexuals; 

* it won't be made of "male feminists";

* it won't be made of "*female* feminists";

* it won't be made of "non-gender-binary" crybullies who demand that everyone else must at all times remember whichever made-up "pronouns" they personally have claimed, and must never refer to them by any others, and most especially not by the *real* pronouns; 

* it won't be made of mentally-ill castration-fetishist "transexual" crybullies who demand that everyone else must pretend that cutting off their dicks or their tits magically transformed their sex to its opposite;

* it won't be made of Burn Loot Murder fascist thugs ... and it won't give a damn about *any* "black life";

* it won't be made of "Antifa" fascist thugs;

* it won't be made of "allies";

* it won't be commanded by generals who are less concerned with preparing for and winning wars than with demonstrating that they are more "woke" than the other guy;

* AND HARDEST OF ALL for most who have read this far to stomach, it won't be made of women, pretending to be soldiers; which is to say, it won't be made of women pretending to be men.  It will be made of actual men.


Continue reading ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection ... and Gödel

This post is to capture to this point an email exchange I have been having with Kristor concerning what Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems might tell us reality, about ourselves, and about God.  We intend to continue our discussion in the comments section of this OP.

For the most part, I'll try to represent our exchange in chronological order.  But sometimes, arranging things in thematic order will override chronological order.  And, the part of the exchange I'll duplicate first is the last part of the exchange to this point.

Ilíon: What do you think of me turning our exchange up to this point into a post on my blog, and then continuing the discussion as comments to it?

Kristor: Sure, that would be terrific. Is it OK if I link to it from Orthosphere?

Ilíon: Of course that would be OK.

Kristor: OK, this is great. I think a lot of people could benefit from watching the two of us try to figure this out with each other. It is not often that you get equally orthodox yet divergent and well informed perspectives that are both working together to seek understanding (as opposed to crushing each other). Hugely valuable, as a counterpoint to our wicked adversarial environing culture.


Mentioned you in a post about Godel

This conversation was initiated by an email to me from Kristor:

Kristor: [Mentioned you in a post about GodelAnd would be happy of any criticisms you might want to offer. If you have the time, of course:


Ilíon: Related to Godel ... I suspect that the Incarnation and the Passion ... and indeed, the Creation ... were not primarily about *us*, but rather about the Godhead.  The Creation is necessitated by the Incarnation, which is necessitated by the Passion.  And the Passion is the proof that there is no contradiction within the Godhead.

Kristor: OK, this totally piques my interest. I'd be in your debt if you fleshed it out a bit. The closest I've gotten to it is the reflection that Creation is implicit in the divine nature - it's the sort of thing that a good God would do, by his nature - and that the Fall as being an almost certain eventuality for any created order meant that the Atonement would be necessary, so that the Passion would be needed, so that the Incarnation would be needed. But I'm fascinated to find what I've missed in not seeing that the Passion is implicit in the divine nature directly. I very much want to find out.


A digression about pronouns ... and about what actually exists


While I didn't mention this to Kristor, I constantly see supposed conservative Christians use "she" when correct English calls for "he" ... and their rationales, when I "call" them on it, are straight out of the leftist playbook.  So, I'm hyper-critical of any use of "she" when "he" is called for.

Also, the reason I finally decided to include this digression is because it is an example of what Kristor said: "It is not often that you get equally orthodox yet divergent and well informed perspectives that are both working together to seek understanding (as opposed to crushing each other)."

Ilíon (quoting and criticizing a single sentence of Kristor's post): ="Following on the same arguments, the human person is not exhaustively specified by any number of her past physical aspects."=

That use of "she/her" where correct English usage calls for "he/his" is mere feminist-pandering; it's "male virtue signaling", in that *women* (except perhaps a very few of the more outlandish man-haters) don't go out of their way to use "she" when "he" is correct.

Kristor: I can see why you took it that way, but it was not motivated that way. I've been working for a couple years now on the notion that relations of dominance are gendered, with the dominant agent being masculine and the non-dominant being feminine. It is an extension of the ancient idea that the father's seed is the source of all the information that informs the development of the foetus, which was extended even by ancient authors - particularly among the Greek Fathers - to the notion that God plants the forms of creatures in otherwise formless matter: these seeds of future creaturely development were and are called lógoi spermatokoi. 

I've been ruminating on this notion for some time, and find it fruitful, and that it explains a lot.

So, the human person is masculine in respect to its subsidiaries (such as the face), and feminine in respect to its supersidiaries (such as the spirit). The human creature is masculine in respect to his servants, and feminine in respect to the Lord. 

This notion is explicit in ecclesiological diction: the Church is feminine, Christ is her bridegroom. Looking back, I realize that my interest in the idea started with this striking locution. 

NB the difference between sex and gender; between male and female on the one hand, and masculine and feminine on the other. An army of men is feminine in respect to her commanding officer, masculine in respect to the territory it controls. Ships are feminine in respect to their sailors, but this is of course not to say that ships are female. 

Anyway, the idea is still too murky in my mind for me to have written about it anywhere but in my journal, and now in this message. But I find that it has begun to permeate my use of language. I'm content to watch that happen, and see what order suggests itself from the result. 

The feminists would be horrified at the idea. They want to demolish both sex and gender, in part because both sex and gender pick out sorts of dominance relations, which they abhor above all things. I'm going the opposite way, and in calling dominants masculine am accurately reflecting both the ontological reality and​ the Latin gender of "dominus." 

PS: in a nutshell, the agent which is the source of the logos of a thing is masculine in respect to that thing, and that thing - even though it be male, and manifest masculine virtues - is feminine in respect to the agent who is the source of its logos. 

PPS: OK, the permeation of my diction by the notion I have been discussing is a work in progress. I should have written:

In a nutshell, the agent who is the source of the logos of a thing is masculine in respect to that thing, and that thing – even though it be male, and manifest masculine virtues – is feminine in respect to the agent who is the source of her logos


What, given the foregoing, is the proper application of the third person? I suppose (not having considered the question before this very moment) that the third person would be apt to things that are not in themselves recipient of a logos particular to themselves, such as rocks. A rock has a form, but apart from the properties thereof which derive from the essential forms of its atomic and molecular constituents, that form is largely adventitious. The shape of a bit of granite does not depend so much upon its granitic nature as upon its contingent adventures. The bit of granite is not, i.e., a true entity. It is, rather, a congeries of entities: a heap that is evolving slowly. 

Ilíon: A hunk of granite -- or an entire planet (or star) -- is wholly lacking in *identity*.  So, can such things truly be said even to exist?

Kristor: It does not seem to me that a hunk of granite is an actual entity. It is, again, just a slow heap. We can refer to a heap or a hunk of granite, but the denotation is a heuristic only. 

Interestingly, on nominalism, all denotations are heuristics only. Never thought of that. 

I’m not so sure about planets and stars. It seems to me that some of them might be actual entities; might be embodiments of living spirits. I’m inclined to think that homeostasis might be a pretty good indication of life - albeit that I am not totally clear on what life is. 

[This particular digression went no further.  My questioning of whether a rock, or a planet, or a star, can truly be said to exist is rooted in some past ruminations on the Paradox of Theseus' Ship.]


On to the Main Event: Creation; Incarnation; Passion: God's Glory


Kristor: Please understand that, regardless of what you might have to say about my recent essay on Gödel, and regardless of whether indeed you have any reactions at all of a more, I don't know, big character (which I very much want to hear about, if such there be); nevertheless, I am absolutely with child to hear your notions of how the Passion is implicit logically in the Divine Nature. On pins and needles. I woke up at 3 AM this morning wondering about it. 

No pressure!

Ilíon: This could take several exchanges between us as we try together to work through the as yet undeveloped idea: I never did write up my thoughts to that point, and so I haven't fully fleshed-out the idea.  At the same time, we two have briefly discussed some of the background thought on the present matter; namely my suspicion (which you believe to be logically impossible) that Christ really was tempted by sin, as asserted in Scripture -- and, as a logical matter, really might have fallen to sin.

The Bible speaks many times of God having glory, or of this or that action or attribute of God resounding to his glory. And, as I recall (though I can't quickly locate where) that he does what he does, including the Creation, for his own glory.

But, what does "glory" mean to God?  Whose opinion of him matters so much to him as to resound in glory?  Clearly, it cannot be the opinion of any creature. And, as God has no peer, it cannot be the opinion of any other being but God himself: so, he does what he does for his own reasons, related to his own triune nature, and which reasons may or may not be comprehensible to creatures.  The history of the world is The Story of God: the Creation is about God, not about us; the Incarnation is about God, not about us; the Passion/Crucifixion is about God, not about us; the Resurrection is about God, not about us.  Yet, in his glory and mercy and grace, he extends all these things also to be about us.

Now, Scripture asserts that Jesus was tempted in all ways, just as we are.  It seems to me that that assertion logically entails that Jesus *might have* surrendered to at least one of those temptations, and thus *might have* sinned.  

For instance, when the Satan spread out all the kingdoms of the world before Jesus, and claimed that he'd give them to him if only Jesus would bow down and worship him, the temptation wasn't in the bowing down and worshiping of Satan; that was only the "payload", as it were.  No, the temptation was in the offer of being given dominion over all the kingdoms of the world. But, this was a temptation not as it would have been to most human persons, that is, as an appeal to our vainglory, but rather it was a temptation to "take the easy way" to achieve one of the goals of the Son's mission in taking on flesh.

Now, if, as I believe, Scripture's word usage and the logic of using those words dictates that the Second Person *might have* sinned, what does that *mean*?  It means that there would be a contradiction within the Godhead.  But God is capital-T Truth, and God is "the ground of all being".  Expanding on arguments you have presented, if the Second Person *had* sinned, and thus there were contradiction within the Godhead, then Truth is not truth and Being is not being.  If Jesus had sinned, then *all things* would be unmade, would *never have been* made (as a side note, I strongly suspect that that was the Satan's objective).   If Jesus had sinned, then God themself (*) -- Being Itself -- would not be.

As I recall from our previous discussions, you believe that the reasoning I've laid out above is flawed.

Moving on, this is where Godel comes in.

On second thought, and as this note is getting lengthy, let's save Godel for another time.  Why don't we first explore the ideas above to test whether they are sound or flawed?

(*) how is that for an attempt to express the plurality-in-unity of the Godhead?  Saying "God himself" when speaking of the Father seems to me to be correct; but, saying "God himself" when speaking of the Trinity has always stuck in my craw, and so I just now thought of saying "God themself".

Another Digression: "Themself" or "Himselves"?


Kristor: Hah! I like it. But, wouldn’t it be “God themselves”?

Ilíon: I had initially written "God themselves", but on thinking about it, changed it to "God themself".

I can see your point, in that God is a plurality of persons, but "themselves" in normal English denotes a plurality of beings/entities.  In our experience *as* human beings, a 'being' and a 'self' are co-extensive.   But, does that hold true in all possible worlds?

If one wishes to create a new pronoun to avoid referring to the *Trinity* as "God himself", perhaps is should be "God himselves"?

God is one being; God is three persons.  God certainly has selfhood; but is the Trinity one self (i.e. "God themself"), or is each Person a self (i.e. "God himselves")?

Kristor: Well, for years now I have understood "person" to mean - literally - "for + knowledge."  From pro + sopon. And I can't think of a way to avoid modalism except by taking the persons to be each subjects of such knowledge - primordially, of each other. That way the persons are truly different from each other, rather than being only modes of the Godhead. And I can't conceive of a subject of knowledge - a knower - other than as a self. 

I don't know the first thing about Hebrew, but from what I've read the plural noun elohim takes singular verbs when it is used to denote the Most High. 

[As an after-the-fact addendum to this digression, have you ever noticed that the very people who demand that we normal/sane persons "honor the pronouns" of mentally unstable and/or insane persons frequently decline to themselves "honor the pronoun" by which the God has chosen to be revealed to mankind?]

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Kristor: I think you are right that the entire creation and its redemption are about God. I have read the suggestion that God creates in virtue of his love, or of his overflowing goodness, and both of those notions seem right so far as they go. But they too are ultimately urges (if that’s the right term – I doubt that it is) internal to God. God is simple, so all his act is entirely in, of, and about himself. We creatures get to participate in that act; in it we live, move, and have being. But we are as it were along for the ride that is really his; like children allowed to ride along with their father on a business trip.

 

As for glory, again, I think you are spot on. God couldn’t have created in order to make himself bigger or more powerful, because he’s infinite and omnipotent by nature. Nor could he have created to make himself more glorious, though, because by nature he is Beauty per se, and glory is a sort of beauty: it is brilliance and purity; or the brilliance of purity, which is to say, of maximal perfection.

 

So, yeah, I think you are right: the whole created order, and God’s action within it, is about God. It makes perfect sense.

 

I don’t remember our discussion about whether Jesus could be tempted, or could sin. I do vaguely remember discussing “lead us not into temptation,” but I don’t remember the details.

 

It seems to me that you have provided a demonstration that Jesus could not sin: 

… if … Scripture’s word usage and the logic of using those words dictates that the Second Person *might have* sinned, what does that *mean*? It means that there would be a contradiction within the Godhead.

 

I think that sums it up. Jesus is God, and God cannot sin without ceasing to be God, which is an act impossible to a necessary being. I think your reasoning is bulletproof.

 

The question then is how to interpret Hebrews 4:15: 

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

 

Jesus can be tempted, in that he can hear the Satan’s offer, can understand its significance and feel its attractions, and so forth. So he can understand our predicament. But he can’t fall into sin. Likewise, Jesus can be lied to, but cannot be deceived. Sin is falsehood enacted. Jesus can’t credit a falsehood, because he is omniscient. So nor can he act in any way contrary to the Truth that he perfectly knows.

 

This is right in line with Hebrews 2:18: 

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

 

Jesus suffers the temptation: he is aware of it, indeed perfectly so; just as he is perfectly aware of the character of the false world represented to him in a creaturely lie. But he cannot fall into sin, just as he cannot be deceived.

 

The thing I don’t quite get is how the Satan could be so stupid as to think he had a shot at turning the Lógos to his own side. I have read explanations to the effect that Lucifer thought Jesus was only the worldly Messiah expected by most contemporaneous Hebrews, and had no idea he was dealing with the Lógos. But that doesn’t quite cut it for me. Lucifer is a seraph, after all. Before he Fell, he could see the whole of cosmic history laid out before him like a tapestry. He had to have known the score.

 

The notion that Lucifer was in the dark about Jesus falls also before the fact that the demons Jesus exorcised all seem to have known exactly who he was, before he even opened his mouth. And Lucifer must have known that his minions were being cast out, instantly, at a glance from Jesus. Anne Catherine Emmerich reports that Jesus exorcised hundreds and hundreds of people in the course of his public ministry. His powers as an exorcist were common knowledge in Judea and Galilee. Even his disciples – even those who were not his disciples – were casting out demons in his Name.

 

The only way I have been able to find a way out of that thicket is to suppose that his Fall radically addled Lucifer’s wits, and darkened his mind, so that he could no longer remember seeing things the way he had before he Fell. He must be nuts, right? I mean, the Church has been preaching the identity of Jesus and the Lógos for thousands of years now, so the demons certainly know the score. Yet they keep up with their hopeless war.

 

The other thing that bugs me is that one of the things Lucifer would have had to see in cosmic history prior to his Fall was … his Fall. Was he doomed?

 

Aquinas gets around this difficulty with the answer that the angels all made permanent decisions for or against YHWH in the very first moment of their existence. I suppose that works if the angels are essentially immaterial, and only accidentally corporeal. But it just feels weak.

 

I’m still struggling with these issues.

 

Thanks for the work you put into your message. 

Ilíon: =="We creatures get to participate in that act; in it we live, move, and have being. But we are as it were along for the ride that is really his; like children allowed to ride along with their father on a business trip."==

That's exactly what I was getting at, and I almost said something similar to "we are as it were along for the ride that is really his".

In the Creation, God graces us with being in the first place; in the Incarnation, God graces us with beholding him as he is; in the Passion/Crucifixion, God graces us with reconciliation; in the Resurrection, God graces us with the *fullness* of being.  These acts or events are *about* the Godhead ... and we are *graced* to participate in and benefit from them.

=="I think that sums it up. Jesus is God, and God cannot sin without ceasing to be God, which is an act impossible to a necessary being. I think your reasoning is bulletproof."==

Ah, but *is* God the Necessary Being?  Please don't misunderstand, I fully agree with you that the God is the Necessary Being.  BUT, I strongly suspect that that is the issue being put to the test in the Creation, Incarnation, and Crucifixion (and fully demonstrated in the Resurrection).

[Side Note: I strongly suspect, following on ruminations about what Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems might hint at about God -- keeping in mind that these theorems no more strictly apply to the Divine Persons than they do to human persons -- that the *point* of the Crucifixion, and thus of the Incarnation, and thus of the Creation, is that the Triune God is "putting God to the test", as it were, demonstrating that there is no contradiction within the Godhead.]

As I said in the last post, the history of the world is God's Story; God has done these things for God's own glory.  But, to what end, or at any rate to what end in terms which I can comprehend?  I more than suspect that what Creation, and all that follows from it, is about is that the God is putting the Godhead to the test: the God is demonstration/proving that there is no contradiction within the Godhead: "We are indeed the Necessary Being".

=="Jesus can be tempted, in that he can hear the Satan’s offer, can understand its significance and feel its attractions, and so forth. So he can understand our predicament. But he can’t fall into sin."==

It's a matter that is easy to misstate ... or to misunderstand another's statement.

If Jesus *could not* have submitted to the temptations by which he was tested, then they were not really temptations.  If Jesus *had* submitted to any of the temptations by which he was tested, then either: 1) Jesus is simply not God, or 2) both: Jesus is God ... and the Godhead contains a contradiction.  That is, Being Itself is contrary to Being Itself ... and thus there is no being at all.

=="Likewise, Jesus can be lied to, but cannot be deceived. Sin is falsehood enacted. Jesus can’t credit a falsehood, because he is omniscient. So nor can he act in any way contrary to the Truth that he perfectly knows."==

When the Second Person dwelt among us as the man Jesus, while he was indeed God, was he really omnipresent?  Of course not; at any one time during those 33 years, Jesus the man was located at one single place, just as we are.

In similar vein, was the man Jesus, while being indeed God, really omniscient?  I don't believe he was.  Does not Scripture say that the Son laid aside the glory of his divinity, that he "emptied" himself, to take on flesh?

=="The thing I don’t quite get is how the Satan could be so stupid as to think he had a shot at turning the Lógos to his own side. I have read explanations to the effect that Lucifer thought Jesus was only the worldly Messiah expected by most contemporaneous Hebrews, and had no idea he was dealing with the Lógos. But that doesn’t quite cut it for me. Lucifer is a seraph, after all. Before he Fell, he could see the whole of cosmic history laid out before him like a tapestry. He had to have known the score.
...
The only way I have been able to find a way out of that thicket is to suppose that his Fall radically addled Lucifer’s wits, and darkened his mind, so that he could no longer remember seeing things the way he had before he Fell. He must be nuts, right?"==

I agree ... and I disagree.  And, certainly, he is insane.  But, he's not stupid.

As I understand it, the majority opinion among philosophers and theologians (I mean, the ones who admit that there is such a thing as 'good', and that is is knowable), going back the Aquinas and ultimately to Aristotle, is that "Evil is a privation of Good".  From this presumption, they tend to reason that there is no being who loves evil purely for the sake of evil.  I disagree with that conclusion: a mere look at current events, much less at history, shows us multitudes of human beings who give every indication of loving evil purely for the sake of evil.  It seems to me to be a denial of their moral agency to tie oneself in philosophical knots "explaining" that, contrary to their own words, it's not that they love this or that evil, but that they misapprehend The Good.

By the reasoning which follows from "there is no being who loves evil purely for the sake of evil", the Satan is seen as being an atheist.  One might call him a pre-Randian: Ayn Rand imagined that she had disposed of the necessity of the Necessary Being by positing that "Existence Exists!"  On this view, the Satan has a similar outlook: he believes that "the cosmos", whether or not there is a physical extension to it, exists in its own right ... and, like the Darwinists, he believes that minds just "arise" all on their own out of not-mind.

To put it as a metaphor, the Satan believes that the three Persons of the Godhead occupy the Throne of Heaven not because they are God, but that they "arose" before he did and managed to cooperate and collectively occupy the Throne before he had the chance.  That is, he imagines that the Throne bestows godhood, rather than that Godhead establishes the Throne.

In contrast, I believe that the Satan understands very well the facts of the matter ... and that he hates it.

I believe that the Satan is indeed a being who loves evil.  Put another way, that he is a nihilist in the absolute sense of the word: that he *hates* "what is", he hates that anything at all exists; that the only purpose to which he puts his existence is to try to bring about the non-existence of "all that is".  Or, as I said above, that he is insane.

=="The thing I don’t quite get is how the Satan could be so stupid as to think he had a shot at turning the Lógos to his own side."==

If we stop insisting that Jesus, the man, *had* to be omniscient, then most, if not all, of that difficulty vanishes.  As I asked above, if we can acknowledge the plan fact that Jesus, the man, was not omnipresent, while still affirming that he is [indeed] the Second Person of the Trinity, why is it so difficult to let go the assertion that being the Son *requires* that the the Son of Man be omniscient?

So -- keeping in mind my view that the Satan is a nihilist -- I don't think it's so much that "Satan could be so stupid as to think he had a shot at turning the Lógos to his own side", but rather that he thought he could tempt Jesus, the man, into creating contradiction within the Godhead, and thereby bring about the non-existence of all things.

==The other thing that bugs me is that one of the things Lucifer would have had to see in cosmic history prior to his Fall was … his Fall. Was he doomed?==

What follows is purely hypothetical speculation --

1) What if physical incarnation as a human being is a "moral test", as it were, to which the angels must submit ... and that the "fallen angels" are those who refused the test?  Consider that pre-Christian, and especially anti-Christian, religious movements tend to view the physical world with disgust.  Perhaps the "fallen angels" were similarly disgusted by what embodiment entails, and refused to take the test

2) What if we human beings *are* the "fallen angels" (for whatever unstated reason it is that they rebelled against God) ... and that embodiment in the physical world and repentance through Christ Jesus is their/our hope of escaping ultimate death.  Consider that God is a *jealous* God -- he does not easily or willingly give up what is his, and even the demons are his creatures.  Is it really impossible that he loves them, even though they hate him?

If this second were the case, it's easy to see why God wouldn't tell us that: you just know that many millions of people, who might otherwise repent, might easily be swayed by the boast, "I shook my fist at God to has face, I'll keep shaking my fist at him."

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