Monday, November 30, 2015

Justin Martyr and the Equality of Divine Persons

Justin evidently does not acknowledge the ontological equality of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit. To the contrary, he apparently makes a sharp demarcation between the Father and the Son in Dialogus cum Tryphone 127. Fortman adds that Justin: "has no real doctrine of the Trinity, for he says nothing of the relations of the three to one another and to the Godhead" (47). Additionally, he most certainly comes nowhere near affirming the famed VERE DEUS of Chalcedon or homoousion to patri of Nicea.

Finally, in a book edited by Nigel M. de S. Cameron entitled The Power and Weakness of God: Impassibility and Orthodoxy (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1990), Peter R. Forster also informs his readers that "the textbooks are widely misleading" when it comes to explaining the pre-Nicene LOGOS theory since "To take the case of Justin, with but few exceptions (1 Apol 59 (?), 64; 2 Apol 6) he attributes creation entirely to the transcendent 'Father of all'" (page 30). Forster also has other perceptive observations that I encourage you to read for yourself. He demonstrates how Justin is laboring under Middle Platonic and Stoic philosophical conceptions.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

John 20:28 and the Definite Article (C.F.D. Moule)


From page 116 in the 1953 Edition.

Jn 5:18-19 and ἴσος (Edited)

While the word ἴσος at times bears the meaning "similar," it can also mean "equal." In view of classical, NT evidence and lexical evidence from Philo, I find it difficult to believe that ἴσος has the denotation "similar" in John 5:18. Why would the Jews have been so upset, if they only thought that Jesus was making himself similar, but not equal to his Father? Furthermore, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6:

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ.

On the other hand, I find the words of Trinitarian scholar G.R.B. Murray of interest:

"Bultmann, however, went on to point out that the Jews failed to grasp that Jesus is the Revealer; second, they made the mistake of viewing equality with God as independence from God, whereas for Jesus it meant total dependence on God ([Bultmann] 244). In light of these (undoubtedly correct) observations, the expression 'equal to God' is a misleading interpretation of the declaration of Jesus. That Jesus spoke of God as his own Father rightly points to the unique relation to God, and it is the Evangelist's concern to make plain the nature of that relationship. But in vv. 19-30 we see a twofold emphasis that exists in tension: on the one hand there is the acknowledgement by Jesus of the total dependence of the Son on the Father, and on the other a consciousness of the Father's appointment of the Son to perform on his behalf works that God alone has the right and power to execute (vv 19-20, 21, 22, 26-27, 30). It is perhaps not irrelevant to note that the Jews were ready, when they wished, to recognize that in certain conditions men could be spoken of as God. For example they viewed Ps 82:6, 'I said you are gods, sons of the Most High all of you,' as relating to the people of Israel. And they glorified in the fact that in Exod 7:1 God states that he has made Moses as God to Pharaoh, whereas since Pharaoh made himself as God he had to learn that he was nothing (Tanh. B sec. 12 in Str-B 2:462-64). It would seem that in their eyes God could exalt a man to be as God, but whoever MADE HIMSELF as God called down divine retribution on himself. They saw Jesus in the latter category" (John, 75).

While I do not agree with Murray's comments in toto, it seems that the quote provided above does shed light on how monotheism was construed in ancient Judaism. Having said the foregoing, I would still argue that certain Jews thought Jesus was making himself equal to God, but they were mistaken. Making himself equal to the Father (Jehovah) would have constituted blasphemy according to their laws.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dialogue on Mortality (Secunda Secundae Partis)

Interlocutor:
I'm familiar with Hebrews. It definitely presents the Abrahamic hope, not a new hope:

Heb 11:
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. {provided: or, foreseen}

Edgar:
"For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in besides of a BETTER HOPE did, through which we are drawing near to God" (Heb 7:19).

Interlocutor:
Notice that the writer of Hebrews hopes for a renewed Earth:

Heb 10:
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, {written: or, enrolled}
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and
to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of
Abel. {covenant:
or, testament}
25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if
they escaped not
who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not
we escape, if we
turn
away from him that speaketh from heaven:
26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath
promised, saying,
Yet
once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the
removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that
those things which
cannot be shaken may remain. {are shaken: or, may be shaken}
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be
moved, let us have
grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with
reverence and godly
fear: {let.: or, let us hold fast}
29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Edgar:
Could you explain, in a sentence or two, how you extract the idea that the writer of Hebrews looked forward to LIVING on a renewed earth, from the passages you just quoted? Yes he hoped for a new earth. But this fact does not mean that he planned to live on it.

Interlocutor:
Notice that in Revelation the "heavenly Jerusalem" descends from heaven to earth:

Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a
pillar in the temple
of
my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write
upon him the name
of
my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is
new Jerusalem,
which
cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will
write upon him my new
name.

Revelation 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new
Jerusalem, coming
down
from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned
for her husband.

Edgar
:
More reading into texts, my friend. John says nothing about the New Jerusalem (not heavenly Jerusalem) coming down to earth. Since you have such a literalist hermeneutic, please show me explicitly where John said these exact words. You are again reading your own ideas into Scripture instead of extracting meaning from Holy Writ.

Addendum: I have since written that one might infer that New Jerusalem descends to earth, but Revelation 21:1-2 never makes that exact claim. Even if the city descends to earth as my interlocutor suggested, I believe that the descent would be metaphorical.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Aspect and Aktionsart (John 10:32 and the conative present)

Different grammarians or linguists use the term Aktionsart in bewildering and disparate ways, but older grammars often employ the term Aktionsart as a reference to action delineated by the verbal stem. Porter writes that K. Brugmann (in 1885) was the first writer to employ the German term Aktionsart to describe: "the kind of action indicated objectively by the verb" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the NT, Stanley Porter, 29). So when I talk about "kind of action" in this context, I am referring to action in terms of completed, durative, ingressive or conative (inchoative) activities that are objectively signaled by the respective verb stem (root + affix) or in some other fashion.

For example, K.L. McKay (when discussing the conative and inceptive use of the Greek present "tense") provides an example from Jn 10:32:

DIA POION AUTWN ERGON EME LIQAZETE: "for which of these deeds are you trying to stone me?"

McKay thinks that the present verb LIQAZETE in this passage, "has the effect of so emphasizing the incompleteness of the activity that the most natural English equivalent is try to do" in this case.

So in Jn 10:32 we evidently have an example of the conative present. Certain scholars would argue that the conative "kind of action" is signaled by the verbal stem (Aktionsart). Others would contend that we know LIQAZETE is conative present (imperfective aspect) in view of the features that mark the action of the verb (still referring to Aktionsart).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pistis: What Does It Possibly Mean?

Regarding the Greek πίστις (pistis): the lexical evidence seems to allow for the translation "faith" or "faithfulness." BDAG suggests that πίστις (in Galatians 5:22) refers to faithfulness or fidelity. Timothy George (NAB Commentary on Galatians) also thinks that the word denotes "faithfulness" in Paul's list of the spirit's fruit (compare 2 Timothy 2:2).

A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures also favors the understanding "faithfulness."

Vincent's Word Studies:

Faith (πίστις)

Trustfulness.

Alford GNT: "πίστις, in the widest sense: faith, towards God and man: of love it is said, 1 Corinthians 13:7, πάντα πιστεύει."

NET Bible renders πίστις as "faithfulness," but in a note for Gal 5:22, it adds:

Or "reliability"; see BDAG 818 s.v. πίστις 1.a.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dialogue on Mortality (Prima Secundae Partis)

Interlocutor:
There is no "replacement" in view. It is not "my immortal soul must put on a different body" but rather "this mortal body, this corruptible must be changed..."

Edgar:
Up to this point, I have said nothing about an "immortal soul" putting on a different body. This is what I mean when I say that you erroneously impute certain views to me and then you shadow-box with strawmen. Where did I ever say that I believe in the doctrine of the immortal soul? My position is that spirit anointed Christians resurrected from the dead will have a "spiritual body." That spiritual body is not synonymous with an immortal soul.

Interlocutor:
The figure of "eternal in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1-2] refers to origin, not destination. He explains exactly what he means:

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this
tabernacle were
dissolved,
we have a building of God, an house not made with
hands, eternal in the
heavens.
2 For in this [earthly house] we groan, earnestly
desiring to be
clothed
upon with our house which is **from heaven**:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found
naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being
burdened: **not
for
that we would be unclothed**, but clothed upon, **that
mortality might be swallowed up of life**.

Crystal clear. There is no room for the traditional reading.

Edgar:
You quoted four verses but did absolutely nothing to refute what I believe. Of course I would agree that the "building" Paul is talking about comes from God and is not an immortal soul, but you totally overlook the fact that the building remains "eternal in the heavens." You ignore the fact that the apostle indicates at least some Christians will live forever in the heavens for all eternity. Additionally the verse says nothing about a body "descending" from
God. It simply shows that God is the source of the new body.

Interlocutor:
The phrase "from heaven" indicates that it comes to us. It occurs in the process of resurrection, not in a later ascent, since it is "raised incorruptible."

Edgar:
The phrase 'from heaven' (EX OURANOU) in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 is what I would call an ablative of source. It tells from whence the new "building" comes, not wither it is going. There is no indication that spatial movement is being discussed in this passage. Paul is simply making us aware that the body emanates/derives--not descends--from the Divine One. See 1 Cor 8:5-6 and note how EX is used there:

"Thus, the heavenly dwelling of 2 Cor 5:1, no less than the heavenly commonwealth of Phil 3:19, would be an image for that new age. Not even death, the final proof of mortality, need cause the apostles to shrink back (4:16a), for they, like all believers, know that their true home is in heaven" (V.P. Furnish. II Corinthians; translated with introduction, notes and commentary. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984).

Interlocutor:
This "true home" is "from heaven" and "swallows up mortality." In referring to a "heavenly body" he refers to the image that we shall bear:

35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up?
and with what
body do
they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not
quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that
body that shall
be, but
bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other
grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him,
and to every seed
his
own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one
kind of flesh of
men,
another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and
another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies
terrestrial: but the
glory
of the celestial is one, and the glory of the
terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory
of the moon, and
another glory of the stars: for one star differeth
from another star in
glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It [the
body] is sown in
corruption; it [the body] is raised in incorruption:
43 It [the body] is sown in dishonour; it [the body]
is raised in
glory: it
[the body] is sown in weakness; it [the body] is
raised in power:
44 It [the body] is sown a natural body; it [the
body] is raised a
spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is
a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made
a living soul;
the
last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but
that which is
natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second
man is the Lord
from
heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are
earthy: and as is the
**heavenly**, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we
shall also **bear
the
image of the heavenly**.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the
kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit
incorruption.

Edgar:
Bearing the image of the heavenly one, Jesus Christ, does not prove that 'the heavenly body' is simply the body of flesh swallowed up by life. If the body of flesh is sown, then according to Paul, it cannot rise up again as a 'bare grain' (as it was when it was planted). See 1 Cor 15:45. Secondly, if the body of flesh is dissolved or broken down, then it cannot be the building that Paul says Christians will receive from God. Bruce then adds:

"He is there as His people's forerunner, the surety of their admission to the dwelling place of God; He is there, too, as their perpetual high priest, 'after the order of Melchizdek'" (132).

Interlocutor:
"Perpetually" refers to a continuous, or unbroken preisthood, rather than an annual one. But it is temporary.

Edgar:
The main reason I cited Bruce was to show what he had to say about Jesus being the 'forerunner' (PRODROMOS) for anointed Christians. The context suggests that Jesus served as a forerunner in that he entered the Most Holy in order that others might follow him and appear before the Person of God, in the heavens of his presence. See Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews: with introduction, exposition and notes. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1964.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be a Person? (Preliminary Thoughts)

There is an ontological problem associated with defining what it means to be a "person." Being a human person could mean having the capacity for a specific range of intentional states, and intentionality is here defined as object-directedness or object-aboutness. John Searle distinguishes between three kinds of intentionality: original, derived, and metaphorical aboutness. A thought could be intentional insofar as it is about one's beloved or one's consciousness might be directed toward--or be about--God.

It's also possible that the capacity for self-referentiality adequately defines personhood (i.e., I have the ability to think and reference myself by using a first-person singular pronoun); however, persons are also constituted by relations (according to Kevin Corcoran).

One traditional definition of personhood has also been "individual substance of a rational nature" (Boethius, et al). But it seems that this definition of "person" might not work unless one nuances the definiens. What does it mean to be an individual, to be a substance, and to be or have a rational nature? Is it possible to consider babies as persons based on this classical definition?

Maybe another defining criterion that we could suggest for the word "person" is incommunicability. That is to say, a person is unique or cannot be reproduced without loss of personhood (i.e., cloning). One's own personhood is not something that can be shared or communicated.

Whatever a suitable definition of "human person" turns out to be, it seems that a Christian must view personhood through the lens of Genesis 1:26.

Giles Discusses the Ecclesiastical View of Women As Expressed Historically

There have been many writers in church history, who have published less than commendatory perspectives concerning women. Here are quotes from Kevin Giles' work Trinity and Subordinationism:

"Having become disobedient, she [Eve] was made the cause of death, both to herself and the whole human race" (Irenaeus qt. in Giles 153).

"And do you not know that each of you [women] is Eve? . . . You are the devil's gateway: you are the first deserter of the divine law" (Tertullian).

John Chrysostom claims that women are "captivated by appetite"--as if men aren't!--"weak and fickle" (collectively) and "ruined." See Giles 153-154.

Woman is responsible for the ruin of the whole human race (John Calvin). It is no wonder that woman was "the first deserter of the divine law" since she was outmatched in the wisdom department by man, says Luther (Giles 154). Even Matthew Henry wrote that the devil assaulted the "weaker" person in the Garden of Eden:

"We may suppose her [Eve] inferior to Adam in knowledge, and strength, and presence of mind" (ibid).

"The tradition is uniform. Once more, we have seen that the best of past theologians interpreted the Bible to be teaching that women are more prone than men to sin and error" (ibid).

Martin Luther made extremely offensive comments that I have not posted. You can find the remarks in his collected "Works."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Denizens of Paris and Terror

My condolences go out to the people of Paris. It's hard to see how some can think that the world is constantly improving (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Matthew 5:18 (Ulrich Luz)

Due to limited time, I will not be presenting opposing viewpoints in this post. I will simply give my take on Mt 5:18 and cite one scholar, who seems to put forth a view that's in harmony with the NWT rendering of the Matthean text. There is plenty of material out there on this verse; some agree with the rendering found in the NWT while others do not (cf. Hagner's Word Commentary on Matthew).

Firstly, let us compare how different Bible translations render this passage:

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (NKJV).

"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (NASB).

"For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (RSV).

"for, verily I say to you, till that the heaven and the earth may pass away, one iota or one tittle may not pass away from the law, till that all may come to pass" (YLT).

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (NIV).

"Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place" (Catholic NAB).

"I assure you, heaven and earth may as well cease to be, as that one jot or one tittle of the law should fail of its completion" (Mace NT of 1729).

"Truly I say to you that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one stroke of a letter to pass away from the Law until all things take place" (NWT 2013 Revision).

As you can see, translators often choose to translate the first occurrence of ἕως ἂν in a manner that suggests "heaven and earth" will or might eventually pass away. But the NWT treats the language of Mt 5:18 as an example of hyperbole.

The Greek of Mt 5:18 reads:

ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται.

Ulrich Luz (Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. Translated by Wilhelm C. Linss. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989) reviews the translational possibilities for the Greek of Mt 5:18. He observes that the words ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ can either be a periphrastic way of saying "never" (see Luz, p. 265ff) or it may "limit the validity of the law until the end of the world."

Luz points out that the decision between these two alternatives is "very difficult" since in Mt 24:35, Jesus is reported to have said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Elsewhere, however, we read:

"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped" (Lk 16:17 NRSV).

The Hebrew Scriptures also teach us concerning the Messiah:

"In his days may the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace till the moon is no more" (Ps 72:7 NASB).

Yet we read in Jeremiah 31:35-36 (ASV):

"Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."

The passages in Matthew 24:35; Lk 16:17 and the OT usage of ἕως ἂν in the LXX might have influenced the NWT handling of Mt 5:18--however, going back to Luz' discussion, knowing exactly how to construe the language of Mt 5:18 does seem extremely difficult. As he says:

"Does the evangelist mean that--in contrast to the words of Jesus--the law is to be valid only until the passing of heaven and earth? Matthew then would follow a sparsely documented Jewish idea that the law would be abolished in the future eon" (ibid).

In order to resolve the apparent or imagined difficulties associated with translating and understanding Mt 5:18, Luz goes into a number of text-critical and source issues that I will not concern myself with here. Suffice it to say that he thinks ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ likely means "never." This view is based, in part, on a comparison of both material and linguistic parallels found in the LXX. To find out each example referred to in the commentary, see Luz 265ff.

Linguistic parallels to Mt 5:18 are scanty, but Luz cites two places from the OT: Job 14:12; Ps 72:5, 7, 17. The verse at Job 14:12 is really good. Even if one translated ἕως ἂν there as "until," it could still carry the meaning "never."

You might also want to check out BDAG and Louw-Nida on this point.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Divine Simplicity and God's Emotions

A great number of the early fathers maintained that God
has no emotions whatsoever. Not only the ancients,
but especially medieval theologians reasoned this way.
For instance, Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas
both state that God does not instantiate any emotions.
But even Bishop Augustine of Hippo believed that God
is emotionless--in fact, I believe Jurgen Moltmann
(The Trinity and the Kingdom of God)
writes that only one ancient theologian
believed God is passible. That was Origen.

Augustine of Hippo writes:

"God's repentance is not because of error; his anger
has no ardor of a perturbed mind; his mercy does not
have the compassionate misery suggested by the Latin
term; the jealously of God has no spite of mind. But
the repentance of God refers to things ruled by his
power which change unexpectedly for us; the anger of
God is the punishment of sin; the mercy of God is the
goodness of helping; the jealously of God is
providence, which does not allow those which it has
subdued to love with impunity what it prohibits"
(Contra Advers. Legis et Prophet 1.20.40 quoted in
J. Hallman's Descent of God).

But some Fathers in antiquity think God has emotions
while others insist that He is totally devoid of them.
Yet it is probably more accurate to say that their ideas
subsist in a dialectical tension along a
continuum between impassibility and passibility.
Moreover, we also have to keep in mind the theological
development of certain patristic thinkers. Arnobius of
Sicca certainly thought that God is emotionless and
so did Clement of Alexandria, although there is a
passage in Clement's writings that suggests he may have
thought God can possibly show emotion by means of condescension.

An example of someone believing in divine emotions that are
qualitiative different from ours is Tertullian. He reckons that
God has emotions that befit the divine nature:

"And this, therefore, is to be deemed the likeness of God in man, that the human soul have the same emotions and sensations as God, although they are not of the same kind; differing as they do both in their conditions and their issues according to their nature. Then, again, with respect to the opposite sensations—I mean meekness, patience, mercy, and the very parent of them all, goodness,— why do you form your opinion of the divine displays of these (from the human qualities)? For we indeed do not possess them in perfection, because it is God alone who is perfect. So also in regard to those others—namely, anger and irritation, we are not affected by them in so happy a manner, because God alone is truly happy, by reason of His property of incorruptibility. Angry He will possibly be, but not irritated, nor dangerously tempted; He will be moved, but not subverted. All appliances He must needs use, because of all contingencies; as many sensations as there are causes: anger because of the wicked, and indignation because of the ungrateful, and jealousy because of the proud, and whatsoever else is a hinderance to the evil" (Adversus Marcionem 2.16.6).

Novatian also writes:

"For that God is angry, arises from no vice in Him.
But He is so for our advantage; for He is merciful
even then when He threatens, because by these threats
men are recalled to rectitude. For fear is necessary
for those who want the motive to a virtuous life, that
they who have forsaken reason may at least be moved by
terror. And thus all those, either angers of God or
hatreds, or whatever they are of this kind, being
displayed for our medicine,-as the case teaches,-have
arisen of wisdom, not from vice, nor do they originate
from frailty; wherefore also they cannot avail for the
corruption of God. For the diversity in us of the
materials of which we consist, is accustomed to arouse
the discord of anger which corrupts us; but this,
whether of nature or of defect, cannot subsist in God,
seeing that He is known to be constructed assuredly of
no associations of bodily parts. For He is simple and
without any corporeal commixture, being wholly of that
essence, which, whatever it be,-He alone
knows,-constitutes His being, since He is called
Spirit. And thus those things which in men are faulty
and corrupting, since they arise from the
corruptibility of the body, and matter itself, in God
cannot exert the force of corruptibility, since, as we
have said, they have come, not of vice, but of
reason."

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Cursory Thoughts on Divine Temporality

Most orthodox theologians affirm the eternity (i.e., atemporality) of God ex professo. For instance, Paul Helm claims: "it makes no sense to ask how long God has existed, or to divide up his life into periods of time." Helm believes that God is eternal; the adjective "eternal" (in this context) refers to a presumed intrinsic property of the omnipotent Christian God whereby this deity is supposed to be outside of time. He is purportedly a divine being that transcends duration of time and temporal location (tempus).

Additionally, Thomas Aquinas reasons that God's timelessness is a fundamental truth: “From what we have said it is further apparent that God is eternal. Everything that begins to be or ceases to be does so through motion or change. Since, however, we have shown that God is absolutely immutable [i.e., not experiencing motion or change], He is eternal, lacking all beginning or end.” So God’s immutability (unchangeableness) ostensibly entails divine atemporality and the objective absence of de re potentiality in God.

This study will briefly examine two theories of divine atemporality posited by Boethius (ca. 475-526 CE) and Aquinas (1225-1274 CE). Both of the theories have been influential and they continue to mold contemporary discourse pertaining to God and time. After reviewing how Boethius and Aquinas construe the doctrine of absolute divine timelessness, I will talk about the observations of contemporary philosopher, Stephen T. Davis, then offer a provisional answer to the question, is God's putative eternity (atemporality) logically possible? The first issue that merits attention, however, is the relationship between God’s atemporality, divine foreknowledge and our human freedom. The first heading of this study will discuss the problem of free will and divine foreknowledge before undertaking an exploration of the Boethian and Thomistic views of God’s atemporality followed by Davis’ critique, an examination of objections to Davis, then my considered thoughts on the debate.

Friday, November 06, 2015

God and Time (for Sean K.)

Stephen T. Davis writes: "Time, perhaps, is an eternal aspect of God's nature rather than a reality independent of God. But the point is that God, on this view, is a temporal being" (Reason, Logic, and the Nature of God, 23).

Davis also notes that John of Damascus set forth another possibility, namely, that "time has always existed . . . yet is only measurable when things like the sun and moon exist" (Davis 23).

The Bible itself states that God is "from concealed time (OLAM) to concealed time" (Gesenius). Thorleif Boman also notes that OLAM denotes "boundless time."

Moreover, the Complete Word Study: Old Testament avers that OLAM in relation to God does not necessarily mean that God is outside of time:

"Temporal categories are inadequate to describe the nature of God's existence. The Creator has been from "everlasting to everlasting" (Ps 90:2). Even then, it [OLAM] still expresses the idea of a continued, measurable existence, rather than a state of being independent of time considerations" (The Complete Word Study: OT, page 2348).

MORE NOTES:

According to Boethius (in De Consolatio 5), on the metaphysical level, there is no such thing as "divine forevision" or foreknowledge. Boethius writes:

"If you will weigh the foresight with which God discerns all things, you will rightly esteem it to be the knowledge of a never fading instant rather than a foreknowledge of the 'future.' It should therefore rather be called provision than prevision because, placed high above all things, it looks out over all as from the loftiest mountain top."

In other words, while humans may rightly call God's knowledge of that which is future "foreknowledge," in reality, it is not foreknowledge, but intimate awareness of the present insofar as the present is nunc stans.

But why would an orthodox Christian be tempted to make
this move? There are at least two reasons that readily
spring to my mind. First, Boethius believes that if
God actually foresees future events or states, then He
also causes them. Second, Boethius reasons that
"Without doubt . . . all things which God foreknows do
come to pass, but certain of them proceed from free
will."

Boethius argues that something known "cannot be
otherwise than it is known to be," though free acts
viewed IN SE, "do not lose the perfect freedom of
their nature" (See William Hasker's _God, Time, and
Knowledge_, page 7).

Boethius is not alone in this regard since Thomas
Aquinas further writes:

"Hence what is known by us must be necessary even as
it is in itself; for what is future contingent in
itself, cannot be known by us. Whereas what is known
by God must be necessary according to the mode in
which they are subject to the divine knowledge, as
already stated, but not absolutely as considered in
their own causes" (S.T. I. 14. 13, Reply Obj. 3. See
also Hasker, p. 10).

Notice that Thomas too escapes the possible dilemmas
that may arise from positing divine foreknowledge by
appealing to the notion of God's eternal present. But
if God subsists in timeless eternity, above time,
which both Boethius and Aquinas believe, then He
doesn't really see future events or behold future
states before they occur, bnut as they occur.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Tertullian's Angelomorphic Christology (Addressed to a Friend and Brother)

Written and submitted to a public forum on 11/5/2001:

Tertullian's Christology can be confusing at first.
But one thing that helps is to note his distinction
between the eternal Word or Reason of God and the
"created" or "begotten" Son. While Tertullian might
have written that the RATIO DEI or divine SERMO is/was
eternal, he did not say that the Son is/was eternally
generated. Adv Prax 7 makes this point very clear when
it speaks of the complete nativity of the Word. In
other words, the generation of the Son is a temporal
process that occurs prior to and for the purpose of
God's act of creation. By virtue of his begettal AND
the OT 'theophanies' that he performs, the Son
(according to Tertullian) shows himself to be lower
than the angels. But the minoration of the Son is only
for a time. Tertullian employs 1 Cor 15:25ff in Adv
Prax IV to show that the Son will eventually hand over
the MONARXIA TOU QEOU to the Father in order that God
may be all in all. Jurgen Moltmann (The Trinity and
the Kingdom of God
)thus quips that Tertullian teaches
the begotten Son, who is lower than the angels
(Moltmann does not note this point about the angels),
will be subsumed into the One: he will evidently once
again function as the RATIO DEI just as he did before
his complete heavenly nativity. Tertullian's "Trinity"
is therefore much different from later formulations of
the Trinity.

Stump, Kretzmann, Time and God

Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann argue that God's duration is atemporal. Their joint concept of divine "eternal-simultaneity" is based on Boethius' account of divine eternity (understood as timeless duration) and Einsteinian relativity, which contributes to the simultaneity part of their general thesis.

Nonetheless, even some who advocate divine timelessness have found glaring weaknesses in Stump and Kretzmann's argument. The infirmities constituting this idea evidently are so profound that Stump and Kretzmann have even seen fit to revise their understanding of eternal-simultaneity. It seems that in order to have duration, we need time (tempus) or temporal parts. The concept of "atemporal duration" does not seem to be coherent. Paul Fitzgerald deals with this subject matter in "Stump and Kretzmann on Time and Eternity," The Journal of Philosophy, 82.5. (May 1985): 260-269. He contends that it appears difficult to maintain a belief in atemporal duration without simultaneously proposing (finite) temporal parts for this supposed divine property:

"So we can opt for a doctrine of God's eternality as not involving in se any duration or mode of extension at all (the point rather than the line). Or we get E-duration in God, in which case there are subphases at which distinct particulars of the divine life have their locations and E-durations (or could at least, even if in fact the divine duration is absolutely monotone, as would be suggested by the doctrine of divine immutability)."

See p. 264 of the aforementioned article.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

1 John 5:13 (A Few Syntactical Observations)

Text: Ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ. (1 John 5:13)

After using the epistolary aorist (ἔγραψα), John next employs the ἵνα or purpose clause. Therefore, his words might properly read: "I write you these things [in order] that . . ."

Next, we encounter εἰδῆτε. εἰδῆτε is a present subjunctive active form (not an infinitive which = to + the verb). Therefore, this verb should ideally not be rendered "to know," etc. It is more literally, "you might/may know" since it's also second person plural.

Furthermore, the additional utilization of the ὅτι clause and the preposition εἰς emphasize the point that the addresses of the letter "are having" (ἔχετε) eternal life.