Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cyril Lucaris on the Place of Scripture in the Ecclesia

Cyril Lucaris was a Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. His dates are 1572-1638 CE. He evidently produced an 18 point synopsis of his beliefs, which certain scholars have claimed was influenced by Calvinism. I now quote chapter 2 of Cyril's Confessions:

We believe the Holy Scripture to be given by God, to have no other author but the Holy Spirit. This we ought undoubtedly to believe, for it is written. We have a more sure word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to light shining in a dark place. We believe the authority of the Holy Scripture to be above the authority of the Church. To be taught by the Holy Spirit is a far different thing from being taught by a man; for man may through ignorance err, deceive and be deceived, but the word of God neither deceives nor is deceived, nor can err, and is infallible and has eternal authority.


Did God the Son Change?

A yahoogroup member who participates on an Evangelical-Jehovah's Witnesses forum and sometimes on this blog was asked:

If a divine person takes on a human nature, is that not a change

His answer:

Hi R--,
Only if the Divine Person in question already existed BEFORE taking on human
nature. But, for those of us who believe in Divine Timelessness, it just simply
is not true that the Son existed first for a certain length of time without His
human nature, and then LATER took on human nature. Also, the Divine Person of
the Son is BOTH unchangeable AND changeable: In His divinity, He is
unchangeable, while in His humanity, He is changeable. Likewise, the Divine
Person of the Son is both timeless AND temporal: In His divinity, He is
timeless, while in His humanity, He is temporal. So, yes, it is true that a
change occurred in that the human nature of the Son first did not exist, and
then afterwards came to exist (for the Incarnation is a temporal event). BUT,
it does not follow from this that the Person of the Son first existed without
His human nature, and then afterwards came to have His human nature.
For, BEFORE the time of the Incarnation, i.e., APART from the Incranation [SIC], there is no temporal succession involved in the existence of the Person of the Son of which one can speak. Thus, the Incarnation does not in any manner whatosever [SIC] either contradict or weaken the absolute nature of the Divine Unchangeability

If I may borrow a term from another participant on the Evangelical-Witnesses forum, this explanation is practically unintelligible. Moreover, it begs the question (petitio principii) by asserting that which should be demonstrated through the use of logic in one form or another. But to talk about the Son adding humanity to his deity without a change or event occurring is unintelligible. It contradicts the principles of basic logic and it flies in the face of our bodily experience in the phenomenal realm. In his answer, the aforementioned forum participant claims that the human nature of "God the Son" did not exist, but then subsequently came to exist since the Incarnation is a putative temporal event. But even if we prescind from the question of whether God is temporal or atemporal, we must nevertheless ask how motion occurs without a state of affairs being altered. Motion (understood in its broad sense of any change whatsoever like the Latin motus can signify) cannot occur without a state of affairs being altered which involves a person in given state of affairs undergoing some type of alteration or change.

Yet, how is it possible for a timeless or immutable God (in the absolute sense) to undergo change or experience motus? The previous claim that God the Son becomes incarnate, thereby adding humanity to his deity, is unintelligible without invoking change. Other theologians have admitted the "mystery" that attends this "temporal" event. O how blessed we would be to have such an admission from the person who tried to answer the question above.

According to A.W. Pink, there are at least three ways in which God is immutable:

First, God is immutable in His essence. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved.

Secondly, God is immutable in His attributes. Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so forever. Necessarily so; for they are the very perfections, the essential qualities of His being. Semper idem (always the same) is written across every one of them. His power is unabated, His wisdom undiminished, His holiness unsullied.

Thirdly, God is immutable in His counsel. His will never varies. Perhaps some are ready to object that we ought to read the following: "And it repented the Lord that He had made man" (Gen 6:6). Our first reply is, Then do the Scriptures contradict themselves? No, that cannot be. Numbers 23:19 is plain enough: "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent." So also in 1 Samuel 15:19, "The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent."


But if God is absolutely immutable, then how did God "become" incarnate? How would Pink explain God the Son adding humanity to his deity? Furthermore, does not the language of "becoming" suggest that motion (motus) or change occurs? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

The Incarnation is an especially knotty problem for DDI's [the doctrine of divine immutability's] Christian friends. In general, these argue that all change it involved occurred in the human nature God the Son assumed rather than in God; God was eternally ready to be incarnate, and eternally had those experiences of the earthly Christ which the Incarnation makes part of his life. Through changes in Mary and the infant she bore, what was eternally in God eventually took place on earth.

God eternally experienced what the earthly Christ would undergo when he "became" flesh? How could God have those experiences without change occurring in his preexistent state?

Brian Hebblethwaite makes an interesting point regarding the Incarnation and change in God. In his book entitled Philosophical Theology and Christian Doctrine (page 45), he writes:

The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, which we
shall be considering in the next chapter, is very hard
to square with the classical view of [divine] timeless
eternity. But so is the notion of a timeless act of
creation. For an act is surely a novel realization of
a prior intention, an actualization of a

In a nutshell (in nuce), Hebblethwaite is saying that it is difficult to understand how a timeless, immutable God becomes man or creates the universe. For the Incarnation doctrine implies that the LOGOS became flesh, whereas the doctrine of creation indicates that God acted to bring creation into being ex nihilo. Both notions appear problematic in the light of divine atemporality.

Old Email Concerning Aquinas' Use of the Term "Person" for God


I once wrote this email to a colleague of mine who is an atheist. I
have a good relationship with this individual, but we greatly disagree
when it comes to matters that concern theology. :)

Hi Sue [name inserted to replace the original one],

I've been reading a book entitled "After Aquinas"
written by Fergus Kerr and I think it contains some interesting
remarks on divine personhood that I'd like to share with you.

Kerr writes that in ordinary modern usage, the term "person" is
"co-extensive" with "human being" (After Aquinas, 193). Philosophy
students influenced by the Cartesian turn to subjectivity, however, no
doubt think of a person in terms of "a self-conscious or rational
being," a usage which was also quite familiar to the British
Empiricist John Locke.

However, Thomas Aquinas holds that the term "person"
when applied to God actually refers to "an individual substance of a
rational nature" (rationalis naturae individua substantia) as long as
one carefully nuances or qualifies what is meant by "individual"
(i.e., incommunicable) "rational" (non-discursive, but intellectual)
and "substance" ('self-grounded existing').

Kerr closes the paragraph I took this information from by noting:

"Of course, as Thomas keeps insisting, this concept of person [i.e.,
rationalis naturae individua substantia] applies in discourse about
God only analogically" (After Aquinas, 193).

See the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, particularly ST 1.13.5;

If I don't communicate with you between now and Friday, have a good


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Trinity Doctrine in the Light of Reason-Part 3

I will now list some objections to the doctrine of divine simplicity that make it an unlikely candidate for buttressing the Trinity doctrine or accounting for its conceptual feasibility.

The doctrine of God's simplicity (simplicitas Dei) does not fail to encounter its own logical problematics. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig argue that it "seems patently false" to make the claim that God does not exemplify properties that are objectively distinct from one another since the property of being good apparently is objectively distinct from the property of being omniscient, just as the property of being omnipotent is not metaphysically identical with the abstract property of being omnibenevolent. Moreover, Christopher Stead maintains that it is problematic to insist that God's action toward the world is "simple and uniform." He maintains that divine simplicity does not seem to explain adequately how God loves numerous creatures simultaneously or providentially guides the multitudinous events that repeatedly and continuously occur in creation; nor does the doctrine evidently account for the notion of an immanent God, who personally acts in creation. Those who advocate this doctrine, however, contend that the supposed difficulties associated with God's simplicity emanate from dissimilar ontological emphases between the medieval and contemporary period, not from the concept of divine simplicity itself. They insist that medieval thinkers stress constituent ontology (i.e. entities are what they are as such) whereas contemporary thinkers are inclined to emphasize relational ontology (i.e. entities have essences, properties or sets of properties). In the light of relational ontology, Alvin Plantinga has contended that divine simplicity possibly leads to the logical conclusion that God is a property. Plantinga writes:

In the first place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then each of his properties is identical with each of his properties, so that he has but one property … In the second place, if God is identical with each of his properties, then since each of his properties is a property, he is a property—a self-exemplifying property.


Yet, there are other logical objections to divine simplicity that seem to function as sound defeaters for the doctrine. The next blog post will review some of these objections.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Philo on Parents as Gods

In his study _The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts
in Egypt: Legal Administration by the Jews Under the
Early Roman Empire as Described by Philo Judaeus_ (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1929) Erwin
R. Goodenough relates that Philo evidently depicts
parents as QEOI EMFANEIS since they "create" (as it
were) in the manner of Almighty God. The ancient
writer from Alexandria contends that parents are "gods
only to their own children" and that parenthood always
implies "divinity" or "a rank between the divine and
human," as De Specialibus Legibus 2.225 suggests. Cf.
De Decalogo 120 as well.

This data can be found on page 67 of Goodenough's

De Specialibus Legibus 2.225 states: "For parents
themselves are something between divine and human
nature, partaking of both; of human nature, inasmuch
as it is plain that they have been born and that they
will die; and of divine nature, because they have
engendered other beings, and have brought what did not
exist into existence: for, in my opinion, what God is
to the world, that parents are to their children;
since, just as God gave existence to that which had no
existence, they also, in imitation of his power, as
far at least as they were able, make the rest of
mankind everlasting."

I find it interesting that Philo could posit these
ideas without breaching his monotheistic stance.

Best regards,

Lactantius on God's Instantiated Emotions

Lactantius reasons that God the Father must be passible (in a certain sense) if he is going to treat both his good and bad servants (i.e. human beings) in a just manner. He insists that a righteous God and Father must find pleasure regarding the pious acts of his servants but feel wrath for those acts which are not in accordance with divine law, those acts that do not promote human flourishing (De ira Dei 5). But if the Father is literally going to make a distinction in terms of the treatment that good and bad servants receive, then he must instantiate certain emotions. These states must be objectively differentiated in God lest he proves to be inanimate (Divinae institutiones 5.22.13). Since Lactantius is persuaded that some creatures—by dint of their actions—merit being hated or loved, he maintains that the Father must have actual emotions to qualify as a righteous deity (De ira Dei 6; Divinae institutiones 6.19.8). The only impassible entities
are those beings that are inanimate or dead. Neither rocks nor trees nor sand
can show emotions. However, Lactantius believes that the living God does
experience such variations within himself (De ira Dei 4). Furthermore, he
contends that where emotions do not exist, virtue cannot exist (Divinae
institutiones 6.15.9). The virtuous Father of all is thus moved (internally) as
he responds to virtuous or vicious human actions. His well-ordered experience of
phenomenal subjectivity ensures that evil will not obtain forever since God
apparently will treat evil and goodness in proportion to their respective dues
(De ira Dei 16).


Wagner on Full God Christology

This material is taken from a book written by Walter Wagner entitled After the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994), page

Frankly, the 'full God Christology' has problems.
More passages in the New Testament reflect adoptionist
and angelic positions than the full God option. It may
assure those who are convinced that human free will is
unable to obey God, but it makes no philosophical
sense, invites forced interpretations of the
Scriptures, and raises questions. For example, the
Gospels reported that Jesus prayed, but if he was hO
QEOS to whom did he pray? If God is one, how could a
section of God be sent out on an earthly mission? Is
God divisible? In the event that Jesus was a
manifestation of the supreme God, does that mean God
is subject to change with all philosophical risks such
a view entails? If God became enfleshed in Jesus, did
God-as-Jesus sweat, hunger, and have bowel movements?
Doesn't such a view degrade the holy and transcendent
God? If the enfleshed God did not participate in human
grubbiness as well as nobility, then what kind of
humanity did Jesus-God have?

Walter H. Wagner was associate professor at Muhlenberg
College in Allentown, PA.

Edgar Foster

Lenoir-Rhyne University
Russell House, no. 7

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Myth of Objective Science


The old Neo-Kantian bifurcation of facts and values is simply untenable. While it may seem tempting to state that science deals with "facts" while religion concerns itself with "values," this assertion cannot withstand serious analysis and a number of scientists have admitted that science is not cold or dispassionate but sometimes ideological and always informed by human presuppositions or a priori concepts. As Paul Davies points out, it seems that scientists have to start with certain "givens," which may not be necessary (in the Kantian sense) but probably are not objectionable either (The Mind of God, pp. 186-187).

Modern thought on science and cognition indicates that "there are no unfiltered facts." While I think this proposition might overstate the case somewhat, it does capture an important truth: science is not and cannot be dispassionate ex toto. Scientists may deal with factual data, but that data is not filtered through blank slates. The myth of the blank slate (tabula rasa) has been exposed thoroughly by contemporary epistemologists. Moreover, those intimately acquainted with the workings of the human brain or sapient cognitive structures will concede that feeling is an integral part of thinking. One who thinks without the presence of emotions or feelings cannot adequately think. Neurologist Antonio Damasio has shown that rationality without emotion or feeling makes prudent decision-making difficult or perhaps impossible. See his work Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain. Ergo, science cannot be dispassionate or presupposition-free: it does not come to us mere mortals from the land of nowhere.

Astronomer Robert Jastrow also exposes the myth of objective science, writing:

"Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind--supposedly a very objective mind--when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases" (God and the Astronomers, page 16).

Edgar Foster

Paul Tillich on the Incarnation


Speaking about those who like to employ the term
"Incarnation" with some frequency, the late systematic
theologian Paul Tillich writes:

"They forget that this is not an especially Christian
characteristic, because incarnation is something which
happens in paganism all the time. The divine beings
always incarnate in different forms. That is very easy
in paganism. This is not the real distinction between
Christianity and other religions" (See pg. 363 of
_Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings_ edited by
Michael Peterson, William Hasker, et. al.).

Proof of Tillich's observation can be found in Greek
and Roman mythology and in the sacred works of
Hinduism. The Incarnation may well be a product of
antecedent non-Christian thought.

Best regards,

Brief Word Study on EUTRAPELIA

Brief Word Study on EUTRAPELIA

BDAG states: "EUTRAPELIA, AS, hH (s. TREPW; Hippocr. et al., mostly in a good sense: 'wittiness', 'facetiousness' [cp. our 'turn of phrase']; so also Posidipp. Com. fgm. 28, 5; Diod. S. 15, 6, 5; Philo, Leg. ad Gai. 361; Jos., Ant. 12, 173; 214. Acc. to Aristot., EN 2, 7, 13 it is the middle term betw. the extremes of buffonery [BWMOLOXIA] and boorishness [AGROIKIA]; acc. to Aristot., Rhet. 2, 12 it is PEPAIDEUMENH hUBRIS) in our lit. only in bad sense coarse jesting, risque wit (for sim. sense cp. EUTRAPELOS Isocr. 7, 49) Eph 5:4."

"EUTRAPELIA, AS, hH (EU, TREPW), 1. Versatility, wit, facetiousness(Hippocr., Plt., al.). 2. = BWMOLOGIA, coarse jesting, ribaldry(Abbott, Essays, 93): Eph 5:4" (Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, page 190).

"EUTRAPELIA, AS, f: coarse jesting involving vulgar expressions and indecent content-'vulgar speech, indecent talk.' KAI AISXROTHS KAI MWROLOGIA H EUTRAPELIA, hA OUK ANHKEN 'nor is it fitting for you to use shameful, foolish, or vulgar language' Eph 5:4" (Louw-Nida Greek & English Lexicon 33.34).

"EUTRAPELIA (#2365) coarse jesting. It implies the dexterity of turning a discourse to wit or humor that ends in deceptive speech, so formed that the speaker easily contrives to wriggle out of its meaning or engagement (Eadie). After a banquet the guests would sit and talk making jokes; often there was a jester (SCURRA, COPREA) who knew how
to make plays on words . . ." (Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, page 443).

SCURRA = "A city buffoon, droll, jester" (Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary).

COPREA-"A low buffoon, a filthy jester (post-Aug.), Suet. Tib. 61; id. Claud. 8; cf. Dio Cass. 50, 28" (Lewis and Short).