Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Augustine of Hippo on 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13

Why they are called signs and lying wonders [in 2 Thess. 2:8-13], we shall then be more likely to know when the time itself arrives. But whatever be the reason of the name, they shall be such signs and wonders as shall seduce those who shall deserve to be seduced, "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved." Neither did the apostle scruple to go on to say, "For this cause God shall send upon them the working of error that they should believe a lie." For God shall send, because God shall permit the devil to do these things, the permission being by His own just judgment, though the doing of them is in pursuance of the devil's unrighteous and malignant purpose, "that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Therefore, being judged, they shall be seduced, and, being seduced, they shall be judged. But, being judged, they shall be seduced by those secretly just and justly secret judgments of God, with which He has never ceased to judge since the first sin of the rational creatures; and, being seduced, they shall be judged in that last and manifest judgment administered by Jesus Christ, who was Himself most unjustly judged and shall most justly judge.

See Augustine's City of God (De Civitate Dei), Chapter 19.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflections on the Eastern Idea of Theosis (QEWSIS)

Personally, I think that QEWSIS [deification] is a doctrine that has a certain element of truth, but it is also capable of being distorted.

In the New Testament, there are scriptures that support the idea of deification
(at least, in a limited sense). 2 Pet. 1:4 speaks of Christians
becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (GENHSQE QEIAS KOINWNOI
FUSEWS). 1 John 3:2 also says that the sons of God will "see God and
be LIKE him." These Scriptures indicate that at least some Christians
will experience QEWSIS.

The doctrine of QEWSIS is a beautiful teaching insofar as it is delineated in
the NT. The only danger is that it could be misconstrued to imply that
humans will become equal to God. MH GENOITO! There is a sharp eternal
[ontological] distinction between the Creator and the creature.
For this reason, Alister McGrath has suggested that we speak
of deification as QEIWSIS rather than QEWSIS. That is,
those deified will be godlike, but not God.

At any rate, I think that QEWSIS for those Christians privileged to
inherit it, will entail being clothed with immortality and
incorruption--with self-existence. They will also share in ruling with
Christ Jesus for 1000 years, transforming the present world order into
a new age devoid of death, sickness, and crime (Revelation 20:6; 21:1-5).

My thoughts,


Note: I wrote these reflections a number of years ago. At the time I quoted McGrath but did not document where I found his distinction between QEIOSIS and QEOSIS. I went to Googlebooks, however, and found two references. See http://books.google.com/books?id=DvPMFcGIZgkC&pg=PA171&dq=mcgrath+and+theiosis&lr= and http://books.google.com/books?id=AEtIlaWp9foC&pg=PA392&dq=mcgrath+and+theiosis&lr=

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saul Kripke on Necessity, Possibility and Rigidity

The following dialogue is one that I had with a friend and colleague back in 2004. I am not including his name in order to protect his identity:

Saul Kripke is speaking the language of modal logic when he uses the operator "possibly" in Naming and Necessity. He appears to have in mind counterfactual situations (i.e., counterfactual conditionals) or possible worlds such that if P is logically or modally possible in one or more possible world, then there is a counterfactual situation [a possible world] in which P is evidently not logically or modally impossible. In other words, it could have been the case (possibly) that mental states obtain without brain states. It also might have been the case that my arms were white instead of "black." One Kripkean example of possibility addressing this issue is that there is a counterfactual situation (call it W1) in which the first Postmaster General is not identical with the inventor of bifocals. He doesn't come right out and say that he is using "possibility" thus; however, Naming and Necessity
turns on counterfactual situations and possible worlds. And I now know that Kripke basically ignores the question
about whether something might have existed or not.

Concerning "necessity," Kripke writes, "Thus the identity of pain with the stimulation of C-fibers, if true, must be necessary" (N & N, 149).

What does he mean by "necessary" here? Hasker makes a
distinction between logical (i.e. conceptual)
necessity and metaphysical necessity, noting that
statements such as the one above are metaphysically
necessary, meaning that they are true in all possible
worlds. Kripke also asserts that "This table is not
made of ice," IF TRUE, is necessarily true or true in
all possible worlds (i.e. counterfactual situations).
so necessity evidently means "true in all
counterfactual situations or possible worlds."

For "rigid," Kripke simply writes that the RD or "rigid designator"
(which is apparently stipulative) names the same object in
all possible worlds. The RD, Nixon, names the same
object in W1, W2, W3 . . .

Now here is what I also found on a website article written by
Quentin Smith:

<<[Tyler] Burge then identifies Kripke's essays as the first "account of names [in terms of] a theory of necessity. He counted names as 'rigid designators' - expressions that maintained a certain constancy of reference through variation in the possible worlds by reference to which modal sentences might be evaluated" [1992: 25]. However, these ideas about names and rigid designators were not presented first by Kripke, but earlier presented by Plantinga [1967], Føllesdal [1961] and Marcus [1961].>>


Smith thinks that Kripke posits a similarity of
identity between logical and metaphysical necessity.
Nevertheless, he still defines it [i.e. necessity] as "true in all
possible worlds."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Anonymous God Tradition

John Cooper argues that the term "name" can have four basic denotations: (1) a personal name (e.g. Jehovah or Peter); (2) a proper noun (e.g. Father, God, King); (3) a general designation (e.g. dog, cat, slanderer); (4) any linguistic reference (e.g. "God is light" or "the greatest possible being").

While it seems that the pre-Nicenes generally acknowledged that God had a name in the sense of (3) or (4) above, the early church writers often appear to be denying that God has a name in the sense of (1) or (2) above. I am reminded of Marcus Minucius Felix, who writes in Octavius 18:

"Nor should you seek a name for God: God is His name. We have need of titles in cases where we want to separate individuals from a large group; we use, then the distinguishing mark of personal names. But God is unique; all He has for title is God" (Nec nomen deo quaeras: Deus nomen est. Illic vocabulis opus est, cum per singulos propriis appellationum insignibus multitudo dirimenda est: deo, qui solus est, dei vocabulum totum est).

There is an anonymous God tradition in early Christianity that is manifested in the East and West. The tradition asserted that God does not have a proper name.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Alister McGrath on Understated Tritheism in the Cappadocians

The notable writer Alister McGrath (a Trinitarian himself) writes concerning the Cappadocian notion of God in three persons:

"We are asked to imagine three human beings. Each of
them is distinct; yet share a common humanity. So it
is with the trinity: There are three distinct persons,
yet with a common divine nature. When all is said and
done, this analogy leads directly to understated
tritheism. Yet the treatise in which Gregory of Nyssa
develops this analogy is entitled That There Are Not
Three Gods! In fact, Gregory develops his analogy with
a degree of sophistication which blunts the prima
facie charge of tritheism; however, even the most
studious reader of the work is often left with the
lingering impression of three distinct independent
entities within the trinity" (Christian Theology: An
Introduction, page 302).

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Animals, Language and Speech (A Short Paper)

Animals, Language, and Speech

Dr. Edgar Foster

Is language strictly a human activity or do animals also use language? What is language? Is there a difference between speech and language? The following brief treatment of these questions in no way claims to be comprehensive or exhaustive. It is merely a short reply to specific claims regarding language and animals.
Rodolfo R. Llinas (author of I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self) claims that language simpliciter, but particularly human language, "arose as an extension of premotor conditions, namely, those of the increasing complexities of intentionality as abstract thinking grew richer" (242). Llinas defines intentionality as "the premotor detail of the desired result of movement through which a particular emotional state is expressed: the choice of what to do before the doing of it" (228). Notice that intentionality, as opposed to being primarily mentalistic, is associated with "a motor representation of what is happening inside our heads" (ibid). Intentionality expressed in premotor activity essentially predicts or adumbrates genuine motor patterns, according to Llinas. Language, he argues, arose because premotor activity increasingly grew more complex as abstract cerebration became richer.

The upshot of Llinas' analysis is that language is not simply a human possession (228-230). He contends that non-rational animals also use language. For language, on this view, is "the given methodology by which one animal may communicate with another" (229). Is Llinas correct? Do animals really implement or deploy language in their daily activities? Did non-rational animal language precede the use of language by Homo sapiens?

Most psycholinguists now believe that human language acquisition is not based on external stimuli. Scientific studies of “language” deployed by apes and by children indicate that human language is somehow innate since there evidently is such a discrepancy between the lingual performance of apes and that of humans. This difference is so profound that it moved Noam Chomsky to argue that humans possess a "language acquisition device"(LAD). Based on the foregoing, is it accurate to say that animals utilize language?

Linguist and NT scholar Moises Silva thinks that non-rational animals do communicate with one another and this point seems hard to deny. Nevertheless, Silva also holds that "the most successful experiments to date serve, if anything, to emphasize the enormous difference between the 'language' of the most intelligent animals—even after extensive training—and the linguistic competence of even a three-year old human being" (Silva, "God, Language and Scripture" in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, 207). At any rate (Silva insists) animals do not use speech. This leaves us with two questions to consider. What is language? Secondly, what is the difference, if any, between language and speech?

Ferdinand Saussure famously made a distinction between la langue and la parole. The former refers to an abstract system of different phonological signs, whereas the latter has reference to the use of abstract language in communication. La langue additionally has both an internal and external aspect in that phonology, morphology, syntax (internal features) and semantics (external feature) all constitute language. Ergo, if we define language as Saussure and other linguists or philosophers have defined the phenomenon, then it seems that animals possess neither langue nor parole. The matter will no doubt remain controversial, yet there are good scientific and logical reasons to doubt that animals use language, as one commonly understands that term.

In conclusion, I affirm the uniqueness of human language and speech. I will close with quotes from Sophocles and King David to support my case:

"And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods
that mould a state, hath he [i.e. man] taught himself;
and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis
hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of
the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all;
without resource he meets nothing that must come: only
against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from
baffling maladies he hath devised escapes"(Antigone 332-340).

"What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere
mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them
little less than a god, crowned them with glory and
honor" (Psalm 8:5ff NAB).