Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Doctrine of Theosis (QEWSIS)

An interlocutor wrote:

"[Charles Taze] Russell, in the following issue of his publication, again elevated his followers to Godhood, announcing, 'Ye are Gods.' He further concluded that, 'When we claim on the scriptural warrant, that we are begotten of a divine nature and Jehovah is thus our Father, it is claiming that we are divine beings - hence all such are Gods.' Absent from Russell's assertion that we can become gods is any reminder of Satan's lie to Eve in the garden, 'You will become like God!' (Genesis 3:5), Lucifer's fall from glory for wishing to be as God (Isaiah 14:14), and the words from Yahweh himself, stating that 'The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish [SIC] from the earth and from under the heavens.' (Jeremiah 10:11)"

My comments are below:

In Eastern Christendom, an often heard refrain has been: "God became
man, in order that man might be shown how to become God (divine)." The Greek
theologian Maximus wrote: "All that God is, except for an identity
in OUSIA, one becomes when one is deified by grace" (Max. Ambig. 41).
His explanation of QEWSIS left a way for the Greek theologians to preserve a distinction between the Creator and the creature. Gregory Palamas also suggested that "the deifying gift of the Spirit is not the superessential OUSIA of God, but the deifying activity [ENERGEIA] of the superessential OUSIA of God." In other
words, 2 Peter 1:4 was not viewed as describing an identical participation of
the finite referent in the "superessential OUSIA of God." To the contrary,
humans were supposedly able to participate in the divine OUSIA by the wonderful
divine work of deification. Thus one would go from corruptibility to incorruptibility, as a result of God's XARIS (See The Christian
Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 267-268).

This view of Eastern Christendom is not just an obsolete, antiquitous
view. Even in 1953, Russian writer Vladimir Lossky, while presenting a
synopsis of the Grecian idea of QEWSIS said:

"The descent (KATABASIS) of the divine person of Christ makes human
persons capable of an ascent (ANABASIS) in the Holy Spirit. It was
necessary that the voluntary humiliation, the redemptive self-emptying
(KENOSIS) of the Son of God should take place, so that fallen men might
accomplish their vocation of QEWSIS, the deification of created beings
by uncreated grace. Thus the redeeming work of Christ--or rather, more
generally speaking, the Incarnation of the Word--is seen as directly
related to the ultimate goal of creatures: to know union with God. If
this union has been accomplished in the divine person of the Son, who
is God become man, it is necessary that each human person should in
turn become god by grace, or become 'a partaker in the divine nature,'
according to St Peter's expression (2 Peter 1:4)" (See Alister McGrath,
Christian Theology: An Introduction, pp. 413-414).

As we read the thoughts of orthodox theologians and the ancient fathers of the church, Russell's comments seem mild by comparison. In actuality, his views were
evidently scriptural. Christians who are "born again" DO have the hope of sharing
in the divine nature. By making this statement, Russell was not saying that some mystical type of QEWSIS would take place whereby the individual Christian referent would be absorbed into God Himself. No, to draw this conclusion from 2 Peter 1:4 would be to cross the forbidden line between Creator and creature. McGrath warns against this danger:

"A distinction must be drawn between the idea of deification as
'becoming God' (QEWSIS) and as 'becoming like God' (HOMOIOSIS QEOI).
the first, associated with the Alexandrian School, conceives of
deification as a union with the SUBSTANCE of God; the second,
associated with the Antiochene school, interprets the believer's
relationship with God more in terms of a participation in that which is
divine, often conceived in terms of ethical perfection. The distinction
between these approaches is subtle, and reflects significantly
different Christologies." (McGrath 414).


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

James Pustejovsky on Mass and Count Nouns

James Pustejovsky's (in the context of discussing polysemy) book also examines mass and count nouns in his text The Generative Lexicon. Pustejovsky sets forth a few examples of mass and count nouns that I want to present. He writes that sand, "although in fact composed of individual grains," is a mass noun because it refers to "undifferentiated stuff in our daily experience of it" (Pustejovsky 17). But the word "house" (he writes) "is obviously perceivable as an individuated object and is classified as a count noun."

Pustejovsky goes on to provide the following examples:

Mass nouns: much sand, more water.
Count nouns: several houses, every child.

Examples of nouns which are both mass and count simultaneously are
given:

1a. Texans drink a lot of beer.
1b. Patsy relished every beer she drank.

2a. More e-mail is arriving every day.
2b. Every e-mail I send gets bounced.

From Pustejovsky's discussion, it seems that he classifies mass/count nouns
on the basis of individuation potential.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

1 Corinthians 5:1 Interpretation

Back in 1999, I discussed 1 Cor. 5:1ff with a couple of interlocutors on a public forum. One suggested that the Corinthians text refers to the Lord's Supper. Here is my reply:

I must admit that a reference to the Lord's supper is a possibility (1
Cor. 11:23ff). But my analysis rules out that conclusion for the
following reasons.

In 1 Cor. 5:1, Paul describes the sin of the brother in Corinth. He is
cohabiting with his father's wife, living in an incestuous relationship.
Even worse, the older men of Corinth--[part of] the EKKLESIA--are tolerating this
immoral conduct. Paul laments that the Corinthians are "puffed up"
rather than mourning over the abhorrent deeds of the immoral "brother"
in their midst.

In 1 Cor. 5:3-5, the "apostle to the nations" recommends that the one
practicing sin be "delivered up to the adversary." This act is done in
order to destroy the sinful "flesh" and preserve the spirit of the
believer "in the day of the Lord."

Next, Paul continues to expound on the reason [that] the sinning believer must
be turned over to the Devil. By allowing such a one to remain in the
midst of the congregation, the EKKLESIA will suffer corruption and will
not be able to rightly observe the antitypical passover: "for even our
Paschal Lamb, Christ, was sacrificed" (Emphatic Diaglott). Therefore,
the congregation of God must take the action prescribed in 1 Cor.
5:9-13. What is the thrust of this counsel? What action is the EKKLESIA
urged to take?

1 Cor. 5:11 says: "NUNI DE EGRAYA hUMIN MH SUNANAMIGNUSQAI EAN TIS
ADELFOS ONOMAZOMENOS hH PORNOS . . ."

The phrase that really catches my attention here is NUNI DE EGRAYA hUMIN
MH SUNANAMIGNUSQAI.

This part of the verse indicates that Paul is not simply talking about
ceasing to share "the meal" [i.e. Lord's Supper] with a brother who practices sin--although clearly the congregation should take this action as well. The present
infinitive middle SUNANAMIGNUSQAI tells me that all association should
cease with this person (not just the Lord's evening meal). Elsewhere we
are told, "do not receive him into your house nor wish him success" (2
John 10, 11). If you want to discuss the applicability/inapplicability
of 2 John 2:7, we can examine that verse too. In sum, I would say that 1
Cor. 5:11 is talking about general association (i.e., "don't even eat
lunch with this man"!).

For now, I am inclined to agree with the words of Kathleen Callow concerning 1 Cor. 5:6-8:

"In this unit Paul urges the expulsion (EKKAQARATE, v. 7a) in the light
of the effect of evil on their fellowship as a whole, and of their own
status as AZOUMOI--a purified community" (See Linguistics and NT Interpretation, edited by DA Black, page 202).

Regards,

Edgar

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are There Three "I Think's" in God?

The following quote is taken from John J. O'Donnell's The Mystery of the Triune God. This snippet convincingly demonstrates the problem with viewing the TRES PERSONAE TRINITATIS as three separate centers of consciousness.

"In contemporary parlance, person is spontaneously identified as centre
of consciousness and freedom. However, if we bring these pre-reflective
categories to theology, we are immediately confronted with a problem.
For if we say that God is one being in three persons, and if we
understand by person centres of consciousness and freedom, then God
becomes three centres of consciousness and there are three I think's in
God. But such an understanding is the same as tritheism" (O'Donnell
103).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can We Get To "Know" God By Reading Scripture?

The following is a dialogue that occurred publicly on another forum. I have left the discussion in its original form. This post was originally written in 1999 when I was an undergrad at Lenoir-Rhyne College. I would now characterize it as a dialogue about religious epistemology. My responses are outside the quotation marks after the post begins.

Hi George

I'm glad we got all the details worked out about polemics, etc.

George writes:

From: Edgar Foster

"OIDAMEN DE hOTI hO hUIOS TOU QEOU hHKEI KAI DEDWKEN
hHMIN DIANOIAN hINA GINWSKOMEN TON ALHQINON."

"True, John does write that our DIANOIA comes from
the Son of God. This verse is in harmony with John 1:18, where we read
that the Son of God came and explained (exegeted) the Father, thus
revealing Him to humanity in a way not hitherto experienced.
Nevertheless, I must ask--where do we find the words and deeds of the
Son of God? Is it not in the written Word of God? Does not the Bible
report God's revelatory activities?"

[George]
"Of course it does. It is a report ABOUT God. It is
NOT God. It is written by men who are inspired DIA TON QEON."

Not only is it a report ABOUT God: it is a report BY God. God speaks to
us DIA His written Word.

DESPOTA SU hO POIHSAS TON OURANON KAI THN GHN KAI THN QALASSAN KAI
PANTA TA EN AUTOIS hO TOU PATROS hHMWN DIA PNEUMATOS hAGIOU STOMATOS
DAUEID PAIDOS SOU (Acts 4:24, 25).

"I am noticing the three levels of our 'knowing' in the above passage:
OIDAMEN is a visionary term of perception here, imho.

DIANOIA is the understanding [through mind] we are given when the Son
of God comes to us and gives it to us. I take this 'giver' to be the
"Spirit of Truth" [PARAKLEITOS] GINWSKAMEN is the actual knowing in the
fullest sense, the identity of self, mind, and God. When one knows in this way, there is no need of other "proof", because ANY proof rests upon IT. This is the goal of our study of scripture, and not the proofs that we are so convinced that we 'know'..."

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not the teaching of
the GNT [Greek New Testament]. At least, not at its surface level. :-)

It is very difficult to prove that we come to know God solely through
the inward mediation of the Spirit, and not by [means of] Scripture (Cf. Acts
18:24-28). 1 John 5:20 (in its first century context) does not say that
the Spirit of truth has given/gives us DIANOIAN. John is talking about
a historical event in the past: "EKEINOS EXHGHSATO" (that one unfolded
our understanding of the Father).

hOUTOS ESTIN hO ELQWN DI' hUDATOS KAI hAIMATOS IHSOUS XRISTOS (1 John
5:6).

The tenor of the entire first Epistle of John is historical. Jesus came
and provided us with DIANOIAN--the capacity to understand the Father.
He came and taught us how to love others by dying PRO NOBIS (1 John
3:16). He CAME and bore witness to God, glorifying Him and zealously
announcing His heavenly kingdom in fulfillment of the numerous
prophecies that bore witness to him. All of these historical events are
recorded in the GNT. John even wrote:

POLLA MEN OUN KAI ALLA SHMEIA EPOIHSEN hO IHSOUS ENWPION TWN MAQHTWN hA
OUK ESTIN GEGRAMMENA EN TWi BIBLIWi TOUTWi TAUTA DE GEGRAPTAI hINA
PISTEUHTE hOTI IHSOUS ESTIN hO XRISTOS hO hUIOS TOU QEOU KAI hINA
PISTEUONTES ZWHN EXHTE EN TWi ONOMATI AUTOU (John 20:30, 31).

[George quoting Edgar]
"When the Beroeans came to know the true one, was it not through their
dilligent study of the Scriptures?"

[George]
"Their diligent study brought them to the 'EIDOMEN'
level, in terms of the above passage, and from there came the Son, etc.
[I am guessing here, because in my scriptural ignorance I have not even
heard of the Beroeans before!]"

Beroea was about fifty miles from Thessalonica. It lay on the eastern
slopes of Mt. Vermion in the Olympian mountain range (See Pohill "Acts"
363).

The Beroeans are reported to have carefully examined the Scriptures
everyday to determine whether Paul and Silas were speaking the truth to
them. This search resulted in 'many Jews' becoming believers. I would
say they were past the point of OIDAMEN. They entered into a
relationship with the Most High God and His Son. They were at the level
of GINWSKW via their study of the Scriptures. (IMHO) Knowledge in a
Biblical sense is not only "head knowledge": it is relational
knowledge.

"The point here is that we do not KNOW God through
study of scripture, but only through God. There are tons of folks who
can read and study scripture till their eyes wear out and still not
know God! Reading God's Word does not give us KNOWLEDGE of God, in the
GINWSKW meaning of knowledge, but only in the EPISTHMH sense... Which
is knowing ABOUT God, you see..."

In view of Matt. 22:29-32, I would respectfully disagree. In this
Matthean pericope, Jesus offers a stinging rebuke to the Sadducees. He
informs them that that [sic] the reason they misunderstand the resurrection
of the dead is because of their Scriptural ignorance: "You know neither
the Scriptures nor the power of God."

"As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was
spoken to you hUPO QEOU LEGONTOS" (Matt. 22:31, 32).

Then Jesus references the account of the thornbush in Ex. 6. He
concludes that God is a God of the living, and not of the dead. How
does he arrive at this conclusion? By reflecting on the grammar of the
written record. This indicates that we can come to know God through a
careful reading of the Scriptures. I will concede your point, however.
There are many folks that read the Bible diligently and do not
understand [or know] God. This fact doesn't mean that one can't obtain knowledge of
God by reading Scripture (John 5:39ff).

[George quoting Edgar]
"Whenever Paul participated in his ministerial work, he reasoned with
people from the Scriptures, proving to them by references that Jesus is the Christ
(Acts 17:3, 4). I believe that he set an example for us, in this regard."

[George]
"No question about that, and what we overlook so
often is that he "came to them EN DUNAMIN..." His scriptural proofs
and reasonings would have had no impact at all without that power of the Spirit of the risen Christ actively supporting his efforts."

I agree 100%.

Take Care, George.

Edgar Foster
Classics Major
Lenoir-Rhyne College

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Remarks on Stephen Hawking's New Book from the Pertinacious Papist

See http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2010/09/stephen-hawking-god-did-not-create.html

Friday, September 03, 2010

Luke 2:22

Certain scholars have claimed that Luke made a mistake
when he spoke of the purification of "them" (hAI
hHMERAI TOU KAQARISMOU AUTWN) in accordance with the
Law of Moses (Luke 2:22). Should one hastily conclude
that Luke the doctor-cum-historian was mistaken in
speaking of the need for "them" to be purified rather
than "her" (i.e. Mary, the mother of Jesus)?

The KJV says "her purification" rather than alluding to
the purification of "them." The interpretive or textual problem is that
we know of only one Greek MS that reads AUTHS as opposed to AUTWN (a 12th century text). This change was probably made because of the supposed
difficulties with the Lukan account. The evidence from MSS
dating from the fourth century onwards is that the
text should read AUTWN. Yet, the Law of Moses only
prescribed that the mother of a male child should make
purification for herself (Leviticus 12:1-8). How then,
can one account for Luke's wording of this account?

Ralph Earle offers three possible explanations for the
use of the plural AUTWN:

(1) The pronoun could refer to Joseph and Mary; (2) it could reference the Jews (i.e. "Jewish" purification) or (3) Luke may have "run together the cleansing of the mother and the offering of the child" (Word Meanings in the NT,
55).

Rogers and Rogers New Linguistic and Exegetical Key
to the Greek NT
suggests that the genitive plural AUTWN possibly refers to Mary and Joseph (indicating family solidarity) "or it may refer to the purification of Mary and to the redemption of the
firstborn" (page 112).

I. Howard Marshall writes (after examining different factors): "It is most likely that Luke has run together the cleansing of the mother and the offering of the child . . ." into one act" (see The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text).

Avo,

Edgar Foster

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Thomas Aquinas on Ecclesiastes 3:19 and 12:7 (SCG 2.79)

Aquinas on Eccl 12:7 (from Summa Contra Gentiles 2.79)

"Hereby is banished the error of the impious in whose person it is said: We were born out of nothingness, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been (Wisd. ii, 2); in whose person again Solomon says: One is the perishing of man and beast, and even is the lot of both: as man dies, so do beasts die: all breathe alike, and man hath no advantage over beasts (Eccles iii, 19): that he does not say this in his own person, but in the person of the ungodly, is clear from what he says at the end, as it were drawing a conclusion: Till the dust return to the earth, from whence it came; and the spirit go back to the God who gave it (Eccles xii, 7)."

What a way to explain Ecclesiastes 3:19.

Regards,

Edgar