Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Revelation 15:8 and Christology

In Revelation 15:8, John reports that when the glory and power of God was fully manifest in his temple, OUDEIS EDUNATO EISELQEIN EIS TON NAON AXRI TELESQWSIN hAI hEPTA PLHGAI TWN hEPTA AGGELWN.

What did John mean by the words OUDEIS EDUNATO EISELQEIN? Who are included in the pronoun functioning as a substantive OUDEIS?

Uriah Smith (a Seventh Day Adventist commentator) writes:

"While the seven angels are performing
their fearful mission, the temple is filled
with the glory of God, and no man, OUDEIS, no one,
no being, referring to Christ and his heavenly
assistants, can enter therein. This shows that the
work of mercy is closed, and there is no ministration
in the sanctuary during the infliction of the plagues ;
hence they are manifestations of the wrath of God,
without any mixture of mercy" (Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Revelation, page 308, published 1881).

Notice that Smith includes Christ and his "heavenly assistants" as referents of the term OUDEIS. It does not seem that Smith draws any ontological inferences from the language of Revelation 15:8. However, it seems to me that John is pointing out that not only were beings not in the holy NAOS in heaven--they COULD NOT enter because of the manifested glory and power of God the Father. What do you readers of this blog think?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Josef Stern on Identifying Metaphors

The following is taken from the first chapter of my dissertation on metaphor and divine paternity:

How does one undertake the task of identifying a metaphor? What
linguistic markers signal that an utterance or
proposition is metaphorical? Donald Davidson

There are no instructions for devising
metaphors; there is no manual for determining what a
metaphor 'means' or 'says'; there is no test for
metaphor that does not call for taste.

But Josef Stern appears to posit compelling
evidence that may successfully militate against Davidson's thesis.
He initially presents a semantic account of metaphors,
comparing them to demonstrative or deictic signifiers
(i.e. indexicals) that linguistically point to
noetically intended objects. Nevertheless, Stern
recognizes that there is a linguistic pragmatic
element involved in the detection of metaphors. Two
such pragmatic features of human discourse are the
Sitz-im-Leben (life situation) and the koinonoetic context (shared social situation) of communicative agents. Therefore, knowledge of how language works in its real life social or contextual setting is essential for metaphor recognition; it forms an essential part of the
diagnostic criterion for metaphoricity.

Stern rigorously develops this point in his seminal study on metaphor and context. Deciphering indexicals requires that a discourse agent possess both semantic competence and the knowledge of a particular discourse situation since demonstratives are apparently context-dependent. Juxtaposing deictic terms and metaphors, Stern maintains that in order to construe metaphors adequately, a speaker belonging to a given discourse community must also have semantic competence and intimate knowledge of the situational context in which communicative agents utter or write specific metaphors. Metaphors (like demonstratives) are also context-dependent: "Metaphors do not function in isolation. They exist in both a rhetorical context and a cultural context."

Recognizing a metaphorical locution thus requires being acquainted with a specified Sitz-im-Leben. When one is conversant with a certain social, cognitive, political, rhetorical, literary, intellectual or religious context, inter alia, he or she evidently is capable of discerning metaphors as such.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Predestination and Free Will

There is certainly a tension in the early church fathers between human free will (which they universally affirm) and foreordination. Moreover, the pre-Nicenes allude to the topic of foreordination, but they do not really elucidate their beliefs concerning it: predestination does not become a major issue until Augustine's time period (see Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. London: Banner of Truth, 1971, page 109).

In his authoritative work, The Christian Tradition (1:280), historian Jaroslav Pelikan points out that Augustine's spiritual predecessors [i.e. the pre-Nicenes and post-Nicenes] "leaned noticeably to one side of the dilemma, namely, the side of free will and responsibility rather than the side of inevitability and original sin."

Augustine argued that the reason those who preceded him did not adequately deal with the issue of human free will and divine foreordination was because their historical circumstances did not necessitate that they deal with the issue in a satisfactory manner (On the Predestination of the Saints 14.27; On the Gift of Perseverance 2.4). In other words, heresy had not yet made it necessary to deal with this problematic question (according to Augustine of Hippo).

One important caveat to mention at this point, however, is that Augustine did not reject free will in toto. According to what he writes in De Civitate Dei 5.9, God "knows all things before they come to pass," yet we will or act freely, of our own choosing. Nevertheless, the ancient bishop claims, free will is included in "a certain order of causes" that has been determined or decreed by God. Such a view can be aptly described as "soft determinism" since it does not affirm a libertarian version of human voluntas. William Hasker discusses these points in God, Time, and Knowledge (pp. 5-6).

Steven Ozment on Calvin and Servetus

The following quote is taken from Steven Ozment's The Age
of Reform:1250-1550
(page 371):

In the controversy that followed the execution [of
Servetus], Castellio memorably summarized what to many
contemporaries became the simple truth of the episode.
'To kill a man,' he wrote, 'is not to defend a
doctrine, but simply to kill a man.' Although that
assessment has also proved to be history's view of the
matter, another century of religious warfare would be
required before this principle became firmly
established in law.

Lactantius on the Freedom of Religion in Worship

Lactantius writes:

"These things may indeed be said with justice. But who will hear, when men of furious and unbridled spirit think that their authority is diminished if there is any freedom in the affairs of men? But it is religion alone in which freedom has placed its dwelling. For it is a matter which is voluntary above all others, nor can necessity be imposed upon any, so as to worship that which he does not wish to worship" (Epitome of the Divine Institutes LIV).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Dialogue on Gender, Metaphor and God the Father

I am posting another dialogue that transpired privately between me and an interlocutor who shall remain nameless. I have replaced his actual name with a pseudonym:

If cultures or societies decide what gender is, then
the phenomenon is somewhat arbitrary. But I would not
categorize what I believe about gender as arbitrary.
According to my paradigm, God created man as a
masculine being, woman as a feminine creature; he also
created masculine and feminine pairs of animals.
Nevertheless, sociologists and anthropologists tend to
define the term "gender" (used in a non-grammatical
sense) as a sociogenic or anthropological phenomenon. My
earlier comments reflected this common practice of the
social sciences.

Further, I deny that there can be no gender without
a bilogical entity of some kind. The sky is
masculine. The sea is feminine. Day is masculine.
Night is feminine.

Are they? How do you know (in the sense of justified true belief) that the sky is masculine or the sea is

You may be inclined to follow the pervasive nominalism
of our society in declaring this eisegetical. But on
what basis? What's to prevent this from being
exegetical--reading it out of nature? The linguistic
consensus surely seems near unanimous across history
and historical cultures.

If the sky's gender, for example, can be read out of
nature, exactly how does one go about reading it thus?
And, as I see it, the onus probandi
is not on me to say what prevents your approach from being
eisegetical. Do you not have the responsibility to
provide justificatory utterances that logically
validate your position? ;-0 Finally, IMHO, linguistic
consensus is just that.

I don't follow your point about James 1:17.
Further, I don't deny that God in Himself contains
both masulinity and femininity, since He lacks
nothing. But I would insist that (1) in relation to
us He is properly masculine, and (2) that this
masculinity is not an arbitrary or merely human,
cultural development, but revealed as properly
His nature.

My point about James 1:17 is that it seems nigh or
even downright impossible to construe the text as
saying God literally fathered the celestial lights.
Maybe you view the matter differently.

I agree that God is masculine (not sure about the term
"properly") in relation to us. And I've never denied
that the conceptual association of "God" with "Father"
in Scripture is catalogical (i.e. emanates from
above). So I'm not contending that the divine appellation
"Father" is arbitrary or merely human. What I am
arguing is that God evidently inspired humans to speak in such
human cultural terms so that "He" might be mentally
grasped, to an extent, in order that we might come to
understand (somewhat) the divine functions and
beneficences. But the word "Father" does not tell us whether God
is ontologically masculine or feminine. I tend to think God is
above gender, however, for reasons hitherto delineated.
Please explain to me how such a view is "arbitrary."

I refer you to my previous discussion in the
foregoing paragraphs. You may think that we human
beings read non-biotically based gender INTO nature,
but on what basis do you assume that? On what basis
do you assume it couldn't be read OUT of nature.

Keep in mind that we're talking about how humans press
their respective natural languages into service. I thus
make my previously mentioned claims on the basis of my
ongoing studies in human language. For example, abstract
and impersonal attributes are spoken of in feminine
terms at times (e.g. SOPHIA or hOKHMAH). A man, that
is, the Son of David is referred to in feminine terms
(e.g. QOHELETH). Both a male child and a male lamb are
described with neuter nouns (e.g. PAIDION and ARNION).
These examples could be multiplied, but I think the
point I'm trying to make is somewhat established.
Grammatical gender is largely a social construct:
it doesn't necessarily tell us
anything about a particular animate or inanimate
referent's natural gender, although it might.

Even in times of antiquity, Arnobius of Sicca wrote:

"Yet, if you consider the true state of the case, no
language is naturally perfect, and in like manner none
is faulty. For what natural reason is there, or what
law written in the constitution of the world, that
should be called ['used with'] hic, and sella
['used with'] haec?--since neither have they sex
distinguished by male and female, nor can the most
learned man tell me what hic and haec are, or why one
of them denotes the male sex while the other is
applied to the female. These conventionalities are
man's, and certainly are not indispensable to all
persons for the use of forming their language; for
paries might perhaps have been called haec, and sella
hic, without any fault being found, if it had been
agreed upon at first that they should be so called,
and if this practice had been maintained by following
generations in their daily conversation" (Adversus

None of the foregoing means that I deny God's role
in gifting us with language.