Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Universals and Particulars (1): A Distinction and a Problem

September 13, 2011

I.

In this post I will attempt to clarify the universal-particular distinction in metaphysics. Then I will present an argument that this distinction is either absurd, or leads to an infinite regress. Later posts will attempt to answer this objection, explain more about universals and particulars, and relate this distinction to the difference between person and nature. (more…)

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Does reason matter? (1)

April 14, 2011

What is reason? Is it good, bad, or neutral? Is being reasonable an important part of what makes a person virtuous? Does reason help us find Truth or just truths? (more…)

The Return

February 18, 2011

The Well of Questions is back after a short vacation.  Now that I’ve applied to some grad schools, I will have some free time to blog again.  Also make sure to watch for my upcoming posts on energetic procession.  I will continue my series about Apostolic Succession.

Some earlier posts may get deleted, and there will be updates and new posts soon.

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.’
(more…)

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…)

Excellent Posts on the Problem of Genocide in the OT

July 23, 2010

The following posts by New Zealand philosopher-theologian Matthew Flannagan  give an excellent defense of the goodness of God in light of the history of the Old Testament, focusing on the Canaanite Genocide in Joshua:

Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites (Part 1)

Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites (Part 2)

The author’s argument basically goes like this.  Most of us come to the text of Joshua and assume that the historical intention of the human writer was that the divine commands to (paraphrase) “kill everything: men, women, children, animals…” should be read with full, literal force as mandating the killing of children.  The problem with this is not only that it seems to conflict with the character of God that we see revealed in Christ.  There are internal, textual reasons to doubt that this command was meant to be taken literally–textual reasons that do not assume the authority or inspiration or inerrancy (or even extremely high historical accuracy) of the book of Joshua.  The textual reasons are that the people groups that Israel is commanded to “exterminate” persist after the command is allegedly fulfilled.  Given the prominence and frequency of significant hyperbole/exaggeration in the ancient near east’s accounts of wars and conquests, and the unlikeliness that the author would write such blatant contradictions within a relatively short space of text, an alternative hypothesis recommends itself.  We can reconcile all of this data if we read the commands to “kill everything” as hyperbole.  On this view, it is kind of similar to a coach telling his team to “go exterminate the opponents” or to a basketball player bragging about how his team “totally annihilated those dudes”.  This is compatible with saying that the Israelites waged violent war on the Canaanites, but did not necessarily kill innocent women and children.

Though I don’t think this is the only possible solution to the problem of the Canaanite Genocide (because I hold to the moderate allegorism defended by Swinburne and used by some of the Church Fathers), I think this is a very plausible explanation of the text that will be more acceptable for Evangelical apologists and others who are commited to the historical grammatical method.  It also fits with the broader approach to the OT as best understood in light of the New Testament and the revelation of God’s love in Christ (Swinburne’s moderate allegorism is a variety of this approach).

I haven’t read much from the Fathers about the Canaanite genocide specifically, so I’m interested to hear if any Orthodox or other students of patristics have insight about this.  Is it possible, for instance, that the Fathers themselves were aware of this approach and used (or just assumed) it?

Hat tip to Aaron Gleason for suggesting these posts.

Apostolic Succession Posts at Energetic Procession

May 7, 2010

Readers of this blog are invited to take a look at a series of posts that I have been making on Energetic Procession.  Theses posts are geared towards answering objections to, and eventually arguing for, Apostolic Succession.  As I write further posts, expect notifications on occasion:

Apostolic Succession (1): Presbyter = Bishop?

Apostolic Succession (2): Presbyterian Ordination?

Apostolic Succession (3): The Didache

Please feel free to comment, preferably on those posts (but here as well, if the comments on those posts are closed) in response to the arguments offered.

Incarnation and Immortality

January 22, 2010

The problem of the necessity of the Incarnation is something I touched on before here. After thinking about it for awhile, I realized that there were weaknesses in my first account of why God needed to be incarnate to save us from death. It doesn’t analyze or answer the question “why does the source of life have to be intrinsic to human nature in order for us to be incapable of dying? why can’t God just will us to be incapable of dying without becoming incarnate?” This naturally has a lot more to do with my own misunderstanding than with St. Athanasius, who gave the answer to this question (though I didn’t understand it at first).[1]

In this post I offer a revised account of the Incarnation’s saving effects.  To understand this, we must first understand what the Incarnation changed, which requires making a lot of distinctions.  The incarnation did not change the fact that we partake of God’s energies as something intrinsic to human nature.  After all, we have the image of God, which is the logos of human nature.  Instead, the change is in the mode of participation–the way in which humanity partakes of the divine energies. Two initial distinctions are necessary. (more…)

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.