​On The Import Of Theology …

Folks like Kant, like Kierkegaard, like Engels, many others, suggest all ideas start with reality and then tend toward concreteness; formally object, concept, image.

Theology, and Philosophy too, is that bit of final direction between what is experienced — and if belief is attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs, already believed — and the terms we’ve fashioned that seem to best capture it.

The trope is that the map is not the territory.

Ideas, no matter how much we sanctify, sanction, dogmatize, or require them for group memberships, are always on the backside of anything that has already found its best reasons for mattering.

Just a thought.

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I Am Too!

The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?

John 10:33-36

Did Jesus just imply that the Logos of God is not a person and that he is not the only person himself to receive the Logos?

Isn’t Jesus denying that he is God here, unambiguously, since after this explanation, the Jews don’t stone him?

There’s nothing important about the idea of the Trinity and in fact nothing clear about it either. Scripture says nothing about it and passages like this abound that run in the opposite direction. Jesus never expresses equality with God or ontology, save for at best, a questionable meaning in John 8:58 and Jesus’ use of “I am”; “ego eimi” in Greek and associated with “ani hu” in Hebrew.

Where God refers to Himself in scripture such as Isaiah using “ani hu”, it “do[es] not provide a basis for interpreting the Johannine use because in all of these instances it is clear that God is the speaker, ‘I am the Lord [Jehovah], and there is no other.’ ” The context of John here doesn’t allow for equating his speaker, Jesus, with Isaiah’s speaker, Jehovah. Isaiah’s “ani hu” is the sender of the Messiah, John’s “ego eimi” which takes meaning on the cross.

(John Painter, The Quest For The Messiah, pg. 227)

“However, the variation in the presentation of ‘I am’ when not accompanied by an image suggests that to designate the words ‘ego eimi’ on their own as a I revelation-formula’ may be too simplistic, since it is clear that the ‘formula’ has several distinct forms […]  it seems that it [ontological claim to being Jehovah] could only be brought into play on the two occasions where there is an explicit reaction to the words of Jesus (8:58 and 18:58), but not in the highly problematic sayings of 8:24, 28 and 13:19. should also be noted here that even the reaction of the Jews to the ‘ego eimi’ in Jn 8:58 cannot simply be explained as a reaction to the Hebrew term ‘ani hu’ as a name for God. Even if such an interpretation is implicit, the emphasis in this verse is on the difference between the verb ‘ginomai’ and the verb ‘eimi’. The tension between the tense of the two verbs would be lost if the reader was only meant to see the utterance of a divine name here. It would therefore be better to look for a background for these sayings which also contains the variations of form which occur in John.” 

(David Mark Ball, ‘I Am’ In John’s Gospel, pg. 169-171)

But, you know, there’s always the easier route, since we just all know, because it says it right there in the Bible, that Jesus says he’s God and doesn’t even imply anything else.

Just a thought.

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Grounds For Thinking

Friedrich Engels, in “Anti Dürhing”, claims alongside many others including me, that all thoughts, no matter how abstract, are ultimately based in reality.

I say this quite often, and one reason is to strongly object to the possibility of an atheist claim that the idea of deity is made up. In fact, it isn’t. Something about humanity and our circumstances makes the idea of deity necessary, necessarily. This doesn’t prove there are deity, but only that deity can be an empirical, sound argument.

Hear Engles take maths, as perhaps one of our most abstract thoughts, and pin it down to reality in the end:

That mathematics has a validity which is independent of the  particular  experience of each individual is, for that matter, correct, and this is true of all established facts in every science, and indeed of all facts whatsoever. The magnetic poles, the fact that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, the fact that Hegel is dead and Herr Dühring alive, hold good independently of my own experience or that of any other individual, and even independently of Herr Dühring’s experience, when he begins to sleep the sleep of the just. But it is not at all true that in pure mathematics the mind deals only with its own creations and imaginations. The concepts of number and figure have not been derived from any source other than the world of reality. The ten fingers on which men learnt to count, that is, to perform the first arithmetical operation, are anything but a free creation of the mind. Counting requires not only objects that can be counted, but also the ability to exclude all properties of the objects considered except their number — and this ability is the product of a long historical development based on experience. Like the idea of number, so the idea of figure is borrowed exclusively from the external world, and does not arise in the mind out of pure thought. There must have been things which had shape and whose shapes were compared before anyone could arrive at the idea of figure. Pure mathematics deals with the space forms and quantity relations of the real world — that is, with material which is very real indeed. The fact that this material appears in an extremely abstract form can only superficially conceal its origin from the external world. But in order to make it possible to investigate these forms and relations in their pure state, it is necessary to separate them entirely from their content, to put the content aside as irrelevant; thus we get points without dimensions, lines without breadth and thickness,  a  and b and  x  and y, constants and variables; and only at the very end do we reach the free creations and imaginations of the mind itself, that is to say, imaginary magnitudes. Even the apparent derivation of mathematical magnitudes from each other does not prove their  a priori  origin, but only their rational connection. Before one came upon the idea of deducing the  form  of a cylinder from the rotation of a rectangle about one of its sides, a number of real rectangles and cylinders, however imperfect in form, must have been examined. Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the  needs  of men: from the measurement of land and the content of vessels, from the computation of time and from mechanics. But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws, which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as-laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform. That is how things happened in society and in the state, and in this way, and not otherwise,  pure  mathematics was subsequently  applied  to the world, although it is borrowed from this same world and represents only one part of its forms of interconnection — and it is only  just because of this that it can be applied at all.

Ibid, 1878, pg. 15

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Of Evil, And Meaningless Questions …

Where is God in all of this?

There are lots of rational ways to answer the question of why God doesn’t prevent genuine evil; the sort of “bad stuff that happens” that cannot possibly have more benefit to the world than if it were thwarted.

One way is to say that some things happen and are just things we don’t like or that are necessary; birth defects, decay, random events, chronic pain, death. Ultimately, these are a result of both the order of our reality, and the chaos as well. Another word for that chaos is “freedom”. If evolution describes how it is that life is so diverse, then it isn’t appropriate to call birth defects, which are often a result of genetic issues and so on. This goes for the rest too; decay, randomness, pain, death, all part of a selective process. Is this genuine evil, given that we are its result, able to feel like we do about these states of affairs?

I don’t think so. I wouldn’t even call these necessary evils, as others do. This is simply life.

Could God have created any other sort of reality without even these “things that distress us”? I don’t know. The fact is, this is reality. All we can say is that this reality as it is, is necessarily as it, or could have been otherwise. If necessary, it’s either because God can or can’t do what he wanted to do in creating at all. On the other hand, if unnecessary, God could have done otherwise but didn’t and the reason he did is either a good reason or not.

People have looked at it many ways but they all entail an immoral God or an incompetent God.

The only logical path to take — and don’t be fooled, all of these are simply views one chooses to adopt — is saying that God cannot change anything about the world directly, phenomenally, but only sustains the existence of reality and its flow into a generally predictable future; genuine evil existing because reality entails potential because of freedom.

For sentient, social agents, there is freedom too in being able to cause genuine evil in the world.

Since this is a completely logical problem, if we took enough time and care, we could absolve God of culpability, but that’s just logic! What does that matter! Who should care?

I am convinced from all angles of life, God is not absent of the world but there is absolutely no point in time where prevents any form of evil, at all. This ought to be obvious! However, it is this sense of God “being there” especially in despair, that does effect reality. It is that “breath” that keeps us living in spite of despair. It pushes us into deciding what we’re going to do. Sometimes, this is only possible in lacking any sense of “presence” to get us to face the very same question. These are of course all theological questions and responses, but a person asking where God is in all of this is itself such a question.

Whether theological or secular, the response we all have to give is the one of what we ourselves are going to do in the face of evil. While we may sense God in a real way in those moments, we can do what God cannot; be there in a concrete, material, effective sense.

So where is God in all of this? Let’s recognize that the logical answers are completely unsatisfying. Let’s recognize that if God is going to “be there” in any sense that matters, it’s going to be from your literal “being there” in someone else’s need. Recognize finally, God’s presence may be to “get you there” and that your freedom is the source and solution to genuine evil.

Just a thought.

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The Beauty Of Atheism

There’s a beauty in Atheism that cannot be found in Theism.

When one stands in the awe and amazement this vast and powerful yet distant and cold universe provides, and does so thinking that no moments necessarily lead to this one, that there’s no determined future, that there’s no necessarily cosmically moral target for existence or humanity but what we think matters to us alone as the sort of beings who can think and feel this way, freedom is realized.

As a result then, the “ought” of behavior is of far more significance when observed, no matter how slight the consequences of acting one way or the other. Freely, we ourselves find life meaningful in its experience rather than thinking some other reality, some other experience after this one, is warranted or granted by our activities here and now. No, meaning is only entailed in this “now” and the Atheist recognizes precisely what the Theist cannot. That is “now” finds its meaning in us alone, not in the gods.

Were Atheism or Theism genuine choices one could make, then it seems to me the one which is morally more beneficial to believe is the case that there are no deity; it puts the whole of human experience and ownership of those experiences immediately on us; Theism doesn’t, and no matter how benign, can’t.

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Priority

Logical priority makes a huge difference! For instance, if God’s love is prior to His sovereignty, then sovereignty is subservient to love. If on the other hand sovereignty is prior to love, then God is not ultimately good, because God’s power is literally the priority. In that case, God is also not a primarily morally concerned being by nature because He has a choice to do what is good but not a moral consideration about what is powerful, which may not correspond to what is good; such as negating providence to maintain order, even if evil is a result.

In other words, God will not prevent genuine evil providentially rather than God being powerless by nature to prevent such evils because of love.

A God that is love cannot be the God of Calvin. The God of Calvin is logically powerful by nature and thus irrespective of any moral nature God may have, God’s morality is not absolute. If we look at scriptures more closely, and the world too, God doesn’t allow evil but is powerless to prevent it, or God is not absolutely moral; because either way, there is genuine evil.

The nature of God, according to some thinkers, is love and love leads to creation which entails genuine freedom. If genuinely free, it is logically impossible for God to contradict his nature by restricting freedom, even if one could predict or foresee some consequence would be evil.

This would provide a way to address “the problem of evil”, but it also requires not only the Calvinist but nearly the whole of Christianity to reorient itself and theories of atonement, soteriology, christology, and eschatology; in essence, the entire doxastic enterprise.

Some of these are ideas presented in Thomas Jay Oord’s book, “The Uncontrolling Love Of God”, and some are consequences of accepting that God is love.

Many Christians will not genuinely accept that God is love because for them, God must be power first and foremost.

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Verbal Abuse

Perhaps the biggest disservice we do ourselves in understanding Jesus is in not identifying cultural language as not being doxic.

Imagine if words like “king”, “lord”, “sovereign”, and so on, had nothing important to do with what we ought to believe about Jesus. If these are merely the concepts the author could best capture his thoughts by at the time, we ought to expect that if that same author lived one, two, or three thousand years, his description would be constantly updating in order to adequately convey what mattered.

We have mistaken these words and their timestamped baggage as what matters rather than in going back in time, getting the point from that vantage, and then translating it into its rightful meaningfulness.

I no more believe God is or would want to be pedistalized, glorified, be worshipped, or be sovereign and judging any more than I can digest folks that do that also say Jesus Christ is God incarnate; the servant, the lowly, the one who suffers, the one who hangs on a tree rather than rules on a throne.

Just a thought.

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God is “is”

What we’ve learned from Science is that it is from randomness that order and structure emerge; like the randomness of a coin toss yet the application of the law of large numbers implies a completely predictable outcome of what tossing coins looks like over all.

What we also know is that the more highly ordered a system, the more restricted the system, the more rigid and less free, and ultimately the more impossible because complete order implies an inability to “continue”, in other words, change.

When we ask about what God ontologically is, we must agree it seems, with Tillich, Spinoza, Robinson, even Krauss, and aquiesce that the Eastern religious conceptions of the divine are best. That is, God — or whatever eternality from which all else comes — must be the ground of being, not that “what is” or “something that is”. God must essentially be something which is not chaos, but certainly is something akin to pure potential; which is in effect calling God “that which is wholly undermined”. Science doesn’t name energy “God” or fluctuation for that matter. However, if we honestly want to call God “creator”, then this objective rather than metaphysical proposition must have an answer that purports to represents facts. Lawrence Krauss would in that case be happy to say, I think, something like: “God is the sort of potential we find at the beginning of ‘somethings’ and ‘everythings’, there’s just no other reason to so name it.”

Since if we take “creatio ex nihilo” as ontological rather than theological we entail special case fallacies and moot it as proof for God — which I won’t bother to explain here — then we have to propose another classic view. That is, “creatio ex se”. And once we do, having avoided any logical issues as a result, we squarely cannot conceive of God ontologically in any other way than as described above.

This was a passing thought as I read through Oord’s “The Uncontrolling Love Of God”.

Just a thought.

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The Intent

We know Paul declared that the law itself is not the point of why there’s law. It is putting the law into practice that reveals what the point is. The law is the “word” in the Old Testament. The law leads to revelation. The law leads to God’s intent for humanity.

We have missed John’s gospel for the most part. John says Jesus is also God’s word. John isn’t painting Jesus as a gatekeeper but as a way of being in the world; the way to be in the world. Jesus himself is not the revelation, just as the law was not the revelation of God’s intent. Jesus is not a set of propositions that has to be believed. Through Jesus, we are given a revelation about humanity, and divinity. Like the law, Jesus is not himself salvation. It is in the practice of pursuing the life of Jesus that life itself is found, and that is salvation.

We find no difficulty at all finding this theology standing out from within the Old Testament and the Gospels and letters of the apostles.

Just a thought.

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“Bird” Ain’t The Only Word!

It must be hard to understand that we use the word “truth” functionally and completely differently than we actually talk about it. The oddest thing of all is that we deny the function and think our casual use of the term is all there is. It must be hard because most people can’t even see it.

For instance, we say that whatever is true is true regardless of what we believe. We say that truth is elusive. We say that the truth is out there. That’s all causal language.

Functionally, there are only actual states of affairs and our perspectives on what those actual states are. That means that truth isn’t reality but is a word attributed to a perspective we think best describes a state of affairs.

Yes, there is one reality. However, truth is not a property of states of affairs or the sentences we use to describe what we think of them. That means that it is possible to have many ways to describe a state of affairs but no way to say one is true or another is false, as long as their usefulness is the same, essentially. This is the first birthed idea of Pragmatism from Peirce and still echoed by other scientists today; for instance, Mlodinow and Hawking in the pragmatic reprise, Model-dependent Theory.

Reality is “out there”, folks; sentences are “in here”, as Rorty would say.

Nothing is “true”. There are only sentences that entail to justified propositions, or warranted assertability, or reason to assert. And there is no necessary limit to the number of justified ways we can think about any single given state of affairs; making the idea of “a” truth obsolete.

Hence, the functional end of “truth” because when a person thinks something is true, they must argue. In arguing, they are justifying. In justifying, people demonstrate no use for the word “true” but actually, functionally mean that truth is justification. Justification is what we appeal to in order to prove “truth”. We​ cannot merely appeal to “truth” and have anyone think it’s a justified comment; in other words, a true statement.

That’s what we’ve determined in Western Epistemology in its entire history, which comes from millennia of rigorous thought on human knowledge starting with the Greeks.

Truth is a word and that’s about it. Our use of it is poetic in most cases. However, most mistake their poetry for Epistemology. That’s a mistake.

Carry on.

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