Friday, October 25, 2013

Eastern Approach to God

Eastern Orthodoxy lays great stress on inwardness, the mysteriousness of God and His incomprehensible ways. The Cappadocian Fathers reveled in the paradoxical nature of the Trinity. For these men, the doctrine's truthfulness is ineffable, but salvific:

"When I think of any one of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light" Gregory Nazianzius).


Gregory of Nyssa writes: "Now if any one should ask for some interpretation, and description, and explanation of the Divine essence, we are not going to deny that in this kind of wisdom we are unlearned, acknowledging only so much as this, that it is not possible that that which is by nature infinite should be comprehended in any conception expressed by words" (Against Eunomius 3.5).

What are we to think about a view that focuses on inwardness to the almost total exclusion of exteriority? To illustrate what I'm pinpointing here, consider the example of Bernard of Clairvaux (a French abbot who was canonized in 1174 CE) and Peter Abelard (a philosopher-theologian of the Middle Ages). Both men were Trinitarians, but Abelard highly valued reason, whereas Bernard preferred a mystical approach to God--one that was primarily spiritualistic. The result was that Bernard viciously opposed Abelard, which evidently contributed to the latter's physical demise.

Karen Armstrong cites the painful lesson learned from this telling episode of religious history:

"Bernard, however, seemed afraid of the intellect and wanted to keep it separate from the more emotional, intuitive parts of the mind. This was dangerous: it could lead to an unhealthy disassociation of sensibility that was in its own way just as worrying as an arid rationalism" (A History of God, p. 203-204).

While I have no desire to worship at the altar of rationalism or evidentialism, I believe that rationality plays an important part in worship to God (Rom. 12:1, 2). For the aforementioned reasons, I have a problem with the Eastern approach to worshiping and serving God.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Aquinas' First Way (Proof) for the Existence of God

I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in
five ways.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Thomas Aquinas lived from 1224-1274.

EN ATOMWi in 1 Cor 15:52

I've posed this query in other forums and just wondered what my blogging audience might have to say.

There is a question that I've wondered about on and off for a number of years and I want to ask what you all think.

As most of you here know, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that while the Bible is not a scientific treatise, when it touches on scientific matters--it is believed to be spot on (as the Brits say). For instance, Isaiah talks about the "circle" of the earth (Isa 40:22), apparently referring to the oblate spheroid known as planet earth and Job also speaks of the earth hanging upon nothing (Job 26:7). This point also comports with our present understanding of centripetal and centrifugal force.

Paul likewise writes that "star differs from star in glory," thus confirming what we know today about the variegated celestial bodies that comprise part of God's creation. (See 1 Cor 15:41.)

With the foregoing in mind, I must say that the apostolic use of EN ATOMWi in 1 Cor 15:52 has me somewhat perplexed. After all, do not the words recorded in this account imply or explicitly say that an atom (as was thought in ancient times) is indivisible?

According to BDAG, ATOMOS basically means "uncut" or indivisible. Moreover, the term is used of an entity "that is viewed as such a unit that it cannot be cut, esp. because of the smallness (e.g. particle of matter, uncompounded word) indivisible . .

Aristotle uses the phrase EN ATOMWi when referring to time (see Phys. 236a, 6).

I don't want to imply that this question is about to make me stumble. But I just wanted to see if others have noticed this point before. Modern-day physics has taught us that atoms can undergo both fission and fusion. Atoms are evidently not indivisible since physicists now write about particles known as quarks that are more basic than atoms.

IMHO, the definition was appropriate for first century minds or for ancient thinkers like Epicurus or Democritus, who were not aware of the atom's ability to undergo nuclear fission or fusion. Even moderns had to learn progressively that the atom is in fact reducible to smaller constituents. Moreover, the Greek ATOMOS seems to have more to do with the putative inability of an atom to be divided than with its "size."

Thanks for your consideration,

Friday, October 11, 2013

Logical and Scientific Proof for God's Existence

From time to time, I receive queries about the subject of God's existence. My correspondents want to know what logical and scientific proof there is for God's existence.

Most intellectuals throughout history (especially before the modern period) likely have believed in God. An author named Max Fishler wrote a book on this very subject many years ago. Examples of theistic philosophers include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Georg Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Soren Kierkegaard.

The philosophical (logical) evidence for God's existence is multifaceted. There have been numerous arguments put forward to prove there is a Supreme Being. But keep in mind that philosophical arguments generally are not apodictic (i.e. irrefutable or incontrovertible). No logical argument is airtight: fault can be found with almost every line of reasoning proferred. But Thomas Aquinas advanced the cosmological argument for the existence of God. See his Summa Theologica.

Aristotle sets forth proof for God's existence in his work Metaphysics (book 12). There is also the Kalam cosmological argument posited by the medieval Islamic philosophers and (in our time) by William Lane Craig.

The Kalam approach could be formulated this way: A) Everything that begins to exist has a cause; B) The universe began to exist; C) Therefore, the universe has a cause. Of course, the argument becomes lengthy and complex, so I merely give you the following as an example.

I believe there is scientific evidence that points toward the existence of God. I'm reading a complex book now that uses new insights from physics to argue for God's existence. One example is the second law of thermodynamics, which suggests that the universe has not always obtained. How did it come into existence? What is the most reasonable explanation? Additionally, the fine-tuning of cosmological constants might suggest that some intelligent entity made the precision of these constants possible. For example, the ratio of gases in the earth's atmosphere or the earth's tilt. Stephen Barr has written an interesting work on the relationship between faith and physics.