Author Archive

Fr. Seraphim on nihilism in art and the humanities

October 15, 2010

“The logic of unbelief leads inexorably to the Abyss; he who will not return to the truth must follow error to its end.  So does humanism, too, after having contracted the Realist infection, succumb to the Vitalist germ.  Of this fact there is no better indication than the ‘dynamic’ standards that have come to occupy an increasingly large place in formal criticism in art and literature, and even in discussions of religion philosophy, and science.  there are no qualities more prized in any of these fields today than those of being ‘original,’ ‘experimental,’ or ‘exciting’; the question of truth, if it is raised at all, is more and more forced into the background and replaced by subjective criteria:  ‘integrity,’ ‘authenticity,’ ‘individuality.’
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Orthodox Christology, Gnosticism, and Gender Identity Disorders

September 14, 2010

I’ve had a few conversations recently about gender identity disorders and so have done a little thought on the issue and would like to articulate the beginnings of an Orthodox opinion on the subject.  First, I will present a bare-bones sketch of a position I’ve heard some Christians endorse.  The position goes something like this:

1) Both souls and bodies are gendered. (or are in some sense “sexual,” or perhaps the body is the bearer of sex, but the soul is the bearer of gender; I’ve heard all these)
2) Because of the fall, sometimes souls can be put into mis-matched bodies in terms of gender/sex.
3) A person in this situation ought to identify with his/her soulish gender and not the sex of his/her body.
4) The patient ought to be treated by bringing the body and outward image in as close as possible conformity with the gender of the person’s soul. (more…)

Vanhoozer on the Divine Energies?

March 16, 2010

I recently read an interesting interview of Kevin Vanhoozer on “Exiled Preacher” about Vanhoozer’s new book Remythologizing Theology. He says some interesting things regarding “God’s self-communicative activity.”

“What we can, and must, say of God is that he is the one who creates, commands, consoles, etc. by speaking. God makes himself known and shares his life largely through speech acts like promising, instructing, forgiving, and exhorting, as well as through his corporeal discourse – the Word made flesh – Jesus Christ. If we let Scripture guide our thinking, then we must say that God’s triune being is in his communicative activity. We derive our understanding of the divine attributes not by analyzing the idea of infinite perfection but by describing and detailing the predicates and perfections of God’s communicative activity.”

“I use the term “communicate” in a very broad sense, not merely in the sense “to transmit information,” but “to make common” or “share.” The most important thing that God communicates is himself: his light (truth), life (energy), and love (relationship). Whereas the end of causation is coercion, the end of communication is communion. The category of communicative action opens up new possibilities for theism and adheres more closely to the categories of Scripture itself.”

“God calls us into being and communicates his light, life, and love so that we can communicate them to others.”

It will be interesting to see how he tries to develop his understanding of God’s self-communicative activity in light of his commitment to “classical theism” and the “reformed tradition.”

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.
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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…)

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…)

The Wheels on the Dialectic go Round and Round…

September 3, 2009

“What we see, therefore, is a strangely disjointed history.  These modern, secularist assumptions, which are questioned and brought into doubt more and more, certainly pervade much if not all the radical death of God theologies of the 1960’s.  The question, which becomes the central question that this volume seeks to address, is the following:  How do we get from the post-Christian, post-Holocaust, and largely secular death of God theologies of the 1960’s to the postmodern return of religion? Put otherwise, what happens when we move from the early claim that deconstruction is the hermeneutic of the death of God to the subsequent effort at deconstructing the death of God?  What happens when the critical linking of the death of God with deconstruction comes full circle? And finally, how is it that this question of the return of religion is transmitted not by theologians and/or religious leaders but by and through philosophers and cultural theorists who heretofore had little or no expressed interest in religious or theological questions?”

–After the Death of God, John D. Caputo, Gianni Vatitimo, ed. Jeffrey W. Robbins p. 12-13.

Metropolitan Jonah On the Future of Orthodoxy in America

April 6, 2009

His grace, Met. Jonah laid some much needed smack down on the subject of Orthodox Unity in America and how we should proceed forward with that task.  This is a VERY important Homily!