Archive for December, 2009

ADS Thesis V: ADS, Eternal Rewards, and the Mercenary Objection (Conclusion)

December 31, 2009

So I’m gonna preface this last part of the paper by that it is extremely tentative, not reviewed or challenged by many peers, nor is it necessarily all coherent. In my defense I wrote most of it during an all-nighter the night before the paper colloquiem. However, instead of trying to read and/or fix it ahead of time, I’m gonna boldly put it out there for the three or four people who will read it. Feel free to tear it to shreds. 🙂

Now I will leave Dr. Hughes and explore a very tentative and modest argument of my own. This argument will deal with the objection raised by nonbelievers that the Christian faith is “mercenary” due to the emphasis placed on loving God for the reward of eternal life. That Christ and the apostles do motivate love for God and neighbor by appealing to the reward of eternal life is something I regard as fairly uncontroversial. So how is the Christian to respond? I will outline a brief reply that I take to be satisfying and claim that the reply is not open to the proponent of ADS. This does not constitute a “knock-down, drag-out” argument, but I will suggest that the line of reply I provide is workable, and it is not clear that an equally workable option is open to the proponent of ADS. (more…)


ADS Thesis IV: Short Incarnational Addendum to Trinitarian Argument

December 27, 2009

The last argument I will examine from Hughes is the incompatibility of ADS with the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation. The problem for the proponent of ADS is derivative from the problem of the Trinity. If there is not a real distinction between the persons of the Trinity, if they are all merely ways of referring to the one absolutely simple essence, then there is no way to block the inference that the Father became incarnate and suffered and died on the cross. As Hughes puts it, “If the Word is the same as the divine nature, and the Father is the same as the divine nature, then the Word is the same as the Father; and if the Word is the same as the Father, and the Word stands in the relation of assumption to a human nature, then the Father must also stand in the relation of assumption to that nature.”

The best possible line of reply for the proponent of ADS is also derivative from the best possible line of reply against Hughes’s Trinitarian argument: a response utilizing RI logic. Once again, Van Inwagen provides an interesting defense of the logical coherency of the doctrine of the Incarnation using RI logic in his paper, “Not by Confusion of Substance, but by Unity of Person.” Although his account is quite clever, I will not get far into it. I will preemptively strike by referring the reader back to the last argument against the RI logic strategy. If this last argument is successful, then it is a problem for RI logic in general and will thus block Van Inwagen’s strategy here as well. Because I cannot see any other way out for the proponent of ADS, I must tentatively conclude that there is none and that ADS is incompatible with the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation which clearly denies that any person of the Trinity besides the Son became incarnate, suffered, and died on the cross.

Thesis Part III: ADS and Trinitarian Orthodoxy

December 18, 2009

From here I will transition to some of Hughes’s argumentation about the incompatibility of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and ADS. I won’t be able to go into the full depth of Hughes’s argument here because he spends much of the 53 pages doing very in depth exegesis of Aquinas. I will try to streamline and simplify his argument as much as possible to fit it in this already crowded paper. The heart of Hughes’s argument is essentially this:

“Surely if (a) the essence of x = the essence of y, and (b) the essence of x = x, and the essence of
y = y, it follows as the night does the day that x = y. And Aquinas maintains both that the divine persons are not distinct from their essences, and that they all have the same essence (cf. DP 8.4; ST Ia.39.2; and ST Ia.40.1).”

In fact, the problem for the proponent of ADS could be stated even more simply: If all there is to God is His essence, and His essence is free from any type of real distinction (As Stump and Kretzmann admit), then there cannot be three really distinct persons in the Trinity that we refer to as The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Church Authority, Groundwork (2): The Infallibility of Christ’s flesh

December 17, 2009

In this post I will give a model of what an Orthodox Christian might mean by saying the Church is infallible. This post will help to provide a framework for a later post arguing for the infallibility of the Church. The argument can be stated like this:

P1. Paul teaches the Church is the body of Christ in a literal, physical sense—not just a metaphorical sense.
P2. The physical body of Christ has God’s power of infallibility.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Church has God’s power of infallibility.

In the subsequent post I will defend premises one and two. For now I will give an explanation of the ideas of “body of Christ” and “infallibility”, and how they relate to the teaching of the Church as an institution.

ADS Senior Thesis II: ADS, Omniscience and Genuine Possibilities

December 16, 2009

Now that we have a “rough-and-ready” understanding of ADS and some idea of the motivation for believing it, we will transition to Christopher Hughes’s critique of the doctrine. The first argument I will examine concerns God’s omniscience and his knowledge across possible worlds. The argument goes something like this: Because God is a necessary being and because he is essentially omniscient, he must know all truths in any given possible world. Because what is true differs across possible worlds, God’s knowledge must also differ across possible worlds. However, if God’s knowledge differs across possible worlds, then surely his beliefs must also differ across possible worlds. Because belief-states are, intuitively, intrinsic properties, it seems that either God’s intrinsic properties must differ across possible worlds, thus implying that God has intrinsic accidental properties, or one must assert that all truths in the actual world are necessary and deny that there are other genuine possible worlds. Obviously, if premises are true and the argument valid, then it seems the most reasonable horn of the dilemma to take hold of is the first, where God has intrinsic accidental properties. This would entail the falsity of ADS, so it seems the proponent of ADS has a serious problem on her hands. (more…)

Natural Consequences (9): The Definition of Natural Consequences and St. John of Damascus

December 15, 2009

In his Against the Manicheans, St. John of Damascus writes:

“A judge justly punishes one who is guilty of wrong doing; and if he does not punish him he is himself a wrongdoer. In punishing him the judge is not the cause either of the wrongdoing or of the vengeance taken against the wrongdoer, the cause being the wrongdoer’s freely chosen actions. Thus too God, Who saw what was going to happen as if it had already happened, judged it as if it had taken place; and if it was evil, that was the cause of its being punished. It was God who created man, so of course He created him in goodness; but man did evil of his own free choice, and is himself the cause of the vengence that overtakes him.”

St. John Damascene, Dialogue against the Manichaeans, 37. Translated in Jurgens, op. cit., vol. III, p. 348.

This seems to be a very straightforward statement of the idea of retributive justice. In response to wrong actions, a judge ought to issue a sentence that condemns a wrongdoer. This sentence is followed by the judge actively imposing his will to deal out punishment. Refraining from punishment is a crime, because the demands of justice must be satisfied.

In this post I will argue that St. John can be interpreted as teaching that hell is a punishment in terms of the natural consequences of sin. First, I will examine the concept of punishment as a natural consequence of sin and distinguish it from willfully imposed punishment. Then I will examine texts in St. John that suggests he understands some punishments as natural consequences of sin, establishing that his use of permissive language should be interpreted this way. Finally, I will re-examine the retributive-sounding texts offered above in the wider context of his writings, and argue that these texts do not require a retributive interpretation. I will also suggest that a non-retributive understanding of St. John is not just possible, but more plausible than a retributive reading.

My Senior Thesis: Part 1 (for the 2 or 3 people interested: it's about ADS and Thomism)

December 14, 2009

A Simple Defense of the Complexity of God:
Examining Three Arguments Against Absolute Divine Simplicity and Suggesting a New One

This paper will deal with the Latin Christian doctrine of divine simplicity which I will hereafter refer to as Absolute Divine Simplicity, or ADS.  I will attempt to get clear on exactly what this oft-misunderstood doctrine actually is, as well as why one might be motivated to believe it.  After this, the majority of the paper will be devoted to examining a few of the arguments against ADS provided by Christopher Hughes in his book On a Complex Theory of a Simple God.  I will examine three arguments: one having to do with God’s omniscience and possible worlds, one having to do with the compatibility of ADS and the doctrine of the Trinity, and one having to do with the compatibility of ADS with the doctrine of the incarnation.  I will explore possible lines of reply for the proponent of ADS and then take up the task of defending Hughes against them.  Finally, I will attempt to give a “bare-bones” sketch of how an argument might go to try to show ethical tension between ADS and the fact that Christians are motivated to love God on the basis of rewards.  This argument will not be entirely complete and will certainly not be a “knock-down, drag-out” argument, but it will hopefully provoke some thoughtful discussion. In the conclusion I will make a few recommendations to the Christian philosophical and theological communities regarding how to go about articulating a coherent picture of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.  Before we move on, though, let it be stated that the thesis of this paper is that ADS is not compatible with various tenants of orthodox Christian theism. (more…)

Natural Consequences (8): The Fathers on Merciful Justice

December 2, 2009

Are God’s justice and mercy inherently opposed to each other?  The Fathers suggest that punishment, which is a manifestation of justice in response to evil, is motivated by mercy.

3. Marcion, therefore, himself, by dividing God into two, maintaining one to be good and the other judicial, does in fact, on both sides, put an end to deity. For he that is the judicial one, if he be not good, is not God, because he from whom goodness is absent is no God at all; and again, he who is good, if he has no judicial power, suffers the same [loss] as the former, by being deprived of his character of deity. And how can they call the Father of all wise, if they do not assign to Him a judicial faculty? For if He is wise, He is also one who tests [others]; but the judicial power belongs to him who tests, and justice follows the judicial faculty, that it may reach a just conclusion; justice calls forth judgment, and judgment, when it is executed with justice, will pass on to wisdom. Therefore the Father will excel in wisdom all human and angelic wisdom, because He is Lord, and Judge, and the Just One, and Ruler over all. For He is good, and merciful, and patient, and saves whom He ought: nor does goodness desert Him in the exercise of justice, nor is His wisdom lessened; for He saves those whom He should save, and judges those worthy of judgment. Neither does He show Himself unmercifully just; for His goodness, no doubt, goes on before, and takes precedency.

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.XXV.iii

For tell me, if thou hast a servant, and he, after suffering much evil at the hands of his fellow-servants, takes no account of any one of the rest, but is only anxious not to provoke his master; is he not able by this alone to do away thine anger? But what, if his offenses against thee are no manner of care to him, while on those against his fellow-servants he is full of thought; wilt thou not lay on him the heavier punishment? So also God doeth: when we neglect His wrath, He brings it upon us more heavily; but when we regard it, more gently. Yea, rather, He lays it on us no more at all. He wills that we should exact vengeance of ourselves for our offences, and thenceforth He doth not exact it Himself. For this is why He at all threatens punishment; that by fear He may destroy contempt; and when the threat alone is sufficient to cause fear in us, He doth not suffer us to undergo the actual trial.

St. John Chrysostom , Homily on 1 Cor. 3:1–3

A man who is just and wise is like God because he never chastises a man in revenge for wickedness, but only in order to correct him, or that others be afraid.

–St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 73

48 The word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.
They will be self-condemned therefore, He says, who refuse to hear Him and do not accept the saving faith. For He that came to illumine, came not in order to judge, but to save. He therefore that disobeys and thereby subjects himself to the greatest miseries, let him blame himself as justly punished.” For I am not the cause thereof, Who desire to save those that are going to fall into judgment, and Who came for this end. For he that makes a law punishing the disobedient, makes it not for the sake of punishing them that transgress it, but in order that they that hear may take heed of it and be safe. I therefore, having come to save, charge you to believe, and not to despise My words; inasmuch as the present is a time of salvation, not of judgment. For in the day of judgment, the word that called you to salvation will bring the penalties of disobedience upon you. And of what nature was the word that I spake?”

–St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John 10:48-50

This was the first thing that [Adam] learnt [after the fall]—his own shame; and he hid himself from God.  Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal.  Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

XIII.  And having been first chastened by many means (because his sins were many, whose root of evil sprang up through divers causes and at sundry times), by word, by law, by prophets, by benefits, by threats, by plagues, by waters, by fires, by wars, by victories, by defeats, by signs in heaven and signs in the air and in the earth and in the sea, by unexpected changes of men, of cities, of nations (the object of which was the destruction of wickedness)…

–St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration XXXVIII, XII (more…)