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God's attributes

Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 25 Jan 2009, 17:54

My understanding of Dyonisius (I thought you'd track him down Mitch) is not that he wants to make a set of statements for us to analyse but rather that he wants to take us on a kind of journey. I find it exhilarating, like climbing a mountain or running a race. He begins with the double negations 'God is not without' to remind us that saying God does not have a particular attribute does not imply that he lacks it. So for example if we say God neither is nor has mind this does not imply that he is mindless or stupid – i.e. we can't apply the excluded middle to God in his essence. He then begins with the most earthly and physical things and tells us God is not these. He then moves on to more abstract qualities and denies these of God as well. The claim that God is neither one nor oneness is a direct stab at the neo-platonists who call the divine 'the one'. This God is not a philosophical abstraction we can know by contemplation. Then he takes the doctrine of the trinity and says God is beyond that. Beyond the logic of affirmation and denial, beyond reason; as a later translator of Dyonisius would say 'by love he may be known and held but by understanding never'

So he is saying whatever idea or conception we have that goes with the word spirit throw it away – it is inadequate. He wants to take us beyond words and meanings into reality itself. I think it's good to be reminded of this now and again. And I think you agree with me on that Mitch.

On your responses to bluegoat Mitch: this would be old ground for you and I. Suffice to say I believe creation has internal order and consistency of a very high level and so is unlike a dream – but I believe this order and consistency was itself created ex nihilo. I believe God through Christ upholds his creation because this seems to me to be clearly affirmed in scripture and the alternative interpretations you have offered of those scriptures seem to me highly implausible.

Bluegoat said:
I think Anselm is going farther than you seem to allow for here. He isn't only saying that we can only know some of God's attributes, but that even those we know are only a shadow of what really exists in God. So, the mode of God's existance is beyond what we can know. On the other hand, he is quite clear that our knowledge of God, in so far as it exists, has a kind of truth to it.


If you try to apply this to a particular attribute then I suppose you could compare it to the image of an iceberg with only a small part above the surface of the water. But Anselm also seems to be saying that what is below the water is really ice but ice of a kind quite different to the ice we can see. Does it still make sense to call it ice? Clouser thinks Augustine does something similar when talking about God's wisdom which was created but says there is also an eternal wisdom which was always with God. I think he misunderstands Augustine as I always thought that when he talks of the eternal wisdom Augustine is talking of the person of Christ as eternal logos.

Bluegoat said:
To characterize the relationship between God and creation only in abstract terms (say in terms of the Word) is to really miss the point; God must have a way of relating fundamentally to creation, there must be a place for God and creation, spirit and matter, to "touch." I think it is impossible for us to explain creation without something like the incarnation. So, I would be interested in exploring more how Clouser's views on God's attributes would affect our understanding of the Word made Flesh.


Clouser discusses this in the section on Incarnation at the end of Religious Language: A New Look at an Old Problem. Which can be found on his site. I read an earlier version of this paper back in the late eighties and went into shock! It was so different from anything I had read anywhere. But it had the strange effect of making whatever else I was reading look shallow in comparison – I was reading Moltmann on the trinity at the time – and eventually I came to accept what Clouser was saying though it was not until I had chance to discuss this with Clouser by email early in the current decade that I fully accepted it and there are some points where I would differ from him on detail.

Bluegoat said:
Which leads me to the question: is God's will a quality that would impinge upon his "being free of qualities?" If we say God's attributes are created, and that God in himself is truly free of qualities, can we say that this undefined God wills and knows what he creates? (I think to will it he would have to know it, although perhaps Basil would have an argument with that.) If not, what kind of relationship is left between God and his attributes? How can he create even attributes for himself without willing it? How can he remain unlimited if willing is part of his essence?


A very good objection and one which Clouser answers on page 189 of his book 'The Myth of Religious Neutrality.As he does not seem to have covered this in any of the papers published in his site I will quote him:

The will of God or the plan of God, is also part of God's accommodation to creatures. It is by his accommodation that he performs acts in time and space which we can understand as acts of choosing or knowing, and not those acts by which he accomplishes his accommodation. The accusation (that willing must be part of God's essence) therefore amounts only to reading part of the classical theology into the accommodation theory, for the latter did not say anything about how God accomplished the accommodation; that is quite beyond our ken. We cannot get “in back of” his revealed nature, and so are not entitled to do a”theopology” on God's nature analogous to an anthropology of our own. Just because we are constituted with a will and a mind does not mean that (aside from his accommodations) God is, too. At the same time, however, we must not suppose that God is not really personal. It must always be remembered that “accommodation” means it is God who has taken on the characteristics he reveals himself to have. They are no less true of him simply because they reveal the nature he has assumed in relation to creation. Consider for example, that aside from having creation depend on him, God would not be a creator. Being the creator is not essential to him because he does not need to create in order to be. But that does not mean he does not stand in that relation to all else. And the same is true of his other accommodated attributes.


An issue which Clouser does not tackle is that this leads to the conclusion that there are other acts of God which are not acts of will or decisions. In order for God to assume a nature that nature must have a logical identity; it must be what it is and not something else. In order for this to be so the laws of logic such as identity and non-contradiction must be supposed to be already operative. Hence since God's will is part of his accommodated nature these primary acts of divine creation cannot be acts of will. Mitch has taken this to mean that if they are not acts of will they must be emanations over which God has no control but I cannot see that this follows; it is simply the case that their manner of creation must be completely mysterious and unknowable to us. Mitch has insisted that if such creation is not produced by emanation it must be a result of God's decision and has therefore tended to argue that the accommodation theory is really a form of occamism which I dispute.

Bluegoat said:
It reminds me a lot of Proclus, Plotinus. et al, and I must say that makes me rather uncomfortable. (Pseudo-Dionysus makes me feel much the same way, though I haven't read much of him.) I find I keep thinking of God's attributes, which include the Trinity, as a hypostases.We have the real, "ineffable and unlimited" God, who we can't know or have much of a relationship with. Then there is the "secondary, limited God" the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who tells us about itself, who loves us, who we see face to face one day if we are lucky enough. It doesn''t seem to me that we are made to ever really meet Clouser's God.


Yes but to meet the infinite God as he is in himself we would have to become infinite. On Clouser's view it is truly God we know but God as he has limited himself in order for us to know him. Thus far Mitch and Clouser would agree. But Clouser would say this God we can know is comprised of attributes that are themselves created. In the mystical writers like Pseudo-Dyonisius there is always this feel that we are pushing beyond the limited to the unlimited depths beyond. I find that lacking in Clouser, and here is a problem: the more he uses argument to clarify his view and answer objections the less it seems to leave that window to the beyond that exhilarates me in the mystics. In Eckhart on the other hand who makes a similar distinction between God as we can know him and God in himself which he calls Godhead he is relating to this transcendent Godhead as well as the revealed God but when he does he himself is swallowed in the infinite and ceases to exist as a person. Maybe there are dimensions of our relationship to God that need to be balanced and held together that can be fragmented by certain types of analysis and experience.
nor does it know existing things according to existing knowledge


This is very opake to me and I am not familiar with Boethius. But do check it out and let us know what he says.

bluegoat said:
Slightly OT and I am sure you guys have discussed this before - but I am very curious to know what your own backgrounds in philosophy/theology are, if you are willing to share.


I don't really have a background. I've no formal training in philosophy or theology; that is why I am always eager to compare my thoughts with those who have. My degree was in literary studies. I'm trained as a nurse. I have an FE teaching qualification and am currently doing a Diploma in Counselling. Or were you wanting to know who has influenced my thinking? That would be a long story. What is your background?

Finally bluegoat said:
I don't know much about what the Orthodox mean either, though postodave seemed to allude to it in his post on Basil.

I am not sure exactly what they mean either though I do it all starts from the letter of Basil I quoted above. Whereas Basil was trying to counter the claims of the Arians to be able to do what Clouser would call a" theopology" later writers and specifically Gregory Palamas were trying to answer the question of whether those having mystical experiences were encountering God directly. The answer Gregory gave was that they were directly encountering God's energies but not his essence. I had some discussions on this with some Orthodox people a while back:http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?t=3711 There are lots of other interesting discussions on this site. You may find this interesting: http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1543
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 26 Jan 2009, 05:18

Bluegoat wrote:What you are saying reminds me of where St Paul talks about the way we will have our bodies in Heaven; they will be physical, but transformed.

Oh and where do you claimed that he says that? I ask because I know very well where Paul explains this in depth and he doesn't say anything like what you say here. I am taking about 1 Cor 15, which is indeed the seeds of what I have said in my previous post, for it is he that explains the difference between the physical and the spiritual in this passage.

He is addressing the question "with what sort of body will we be resurrected?" And his answer is that it is a spiritual body. In fact his description is that the spiritual is not the physical but grows from the physical which is first. This is the clear description of developmental understanding of the spirit, which is the basis of our eternal existence.

I know that many Christians like to say that he is talking about the transformation of our physical bodies into some kind of improved bodies, but this is NOT what Paul says. In fact what Paul says is at odds with this understanding for Paul very clearly declares: "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."

What Paul says is also more compatible with the rest of Scripture in which the spirit is something that people have and which leaves them when they die (and in one case returns when that person is brought back to life). It is also in excellent agreement with the numerous places in Scripture where it makes in clear that there are TWO kinds of life: the life of the physical body and the life of the spirit, such as when Jesus says, "let the dead bury their own dead".


Bluegoat wrote:I wonder if there might be another word that would fit well to describe your idea. I am especially hesitant over the word energy because I have talked to many people, Christian and otherwise, who think God is energy, literally, because they can't imagine something immaterial. New age books tend to reinforce that kind of thinking.

I don't know much about what the Orthodox mean either, though postodave seemed to allude to it in his post on Basil.

Well I am not so hostile to New age people, that I would say that anything they claim must be the opposite of the truth, but I certainly would not agree with them because I think their saying "God is energy" means that God is a force that can be used and manipulated and I very much disagree that. In fact, I would say that everything spiritual is really beyond manipulation in a fundamental way and that is what makes it inaccessible to the study of science. But of course it is utterly impossible to manipulate God in any way whatsoever - and religion that claim this or attempts this is the lowest, dirtiest, and despicable meaning of the word "religion" that can be imagined.

My metaphysics is that everything is a form of energy, for energy is the universal substance of being. That would imply that God too is a form of energy. However the difficulty is that God would have to be an infinite (without any limit of any kind) form of energy, which is almost a contradiction in terms in a way, for that would be like a form of energy that is beyond form -- not formless even in part for God is fully actualized and thus definite in every way and yet in a way that beyond definition.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby agingjb » 26 Jan 2009, 10:09

With a word like "energy" (and "force", "power", "momentum", etc.) that has a precise meaning in physics, I suspect that we tend to reverse the direction of the metaphor if we use it in other domains. I feel we have derived these words from concepts in, at least, the subjective psychological domain, and applied them, rather usefully, to physics, but that we should be careful in deducing anything in the other direction.

Then again, it would not surprise me if in other, perhaps more subtle, domains there was a precision of effect analogous to our mathematical descriptions of physics, although perhaps inaccessible to us.

If something like CSL's eldilic domain exists, then I'd guess it has a structure that would, if we could comprehend it, present parallels of a sort (a transcendent sort), but that "energy" and the others would be imperfectly and misleadingly represented by our common usages.

Beyond that domain, I suspect that we can say little or nothing.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 26 Jan 2009, 12:49

mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:What you are saying reminds me of where St Paul talks about the way we will have our bodies in Heaven; they will be physical, but transformed.

Oh and where do you claimed that he says that? I ask because I know very well where Paul explains this in depth and he doesn't say anything like what you say here. I am taking about 1 Cor 15, which is indeed the seeds of what I have said in my previous post, for it is he that explains the difference between the physical and the spiritual in this passage.

He is addressing the question "with what sort of body will we be resurrected?" And his answer is that it is a spiritual body. In fact his description is that the spiritual is not the physical but grows from the physical which is first. This is the clear description of developmental understanding of the spirit, which is the basis of our eternal existence.


I think his point is though, that the physical is not left behind, it is transformed or taken up into something that is more than it is now. So he is rejecting dualism, which would have been quite common among the people he was dealing with, but also making sure they didn't err in the other direction.

In any case, since we were thinking of the same passage, I don't think I have misunderstood you that badly.

Your thinking reminds me a bit of Spinoza.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 27 Jan 2009, 17:30

Finally bluegoat said:
I don't know much about what the Orthodox mean either, though postodave seemed to allude to it in his post on Basil.

I am not sure exactly what they mean either though I do it all starts from the letter of Basil I quoted above. Whereas Basil was trying to counter the claims of the Arians to be able to do what Clouser would call a" theopology" later writers and specifically Gregory Palamas were trying to answer the question of whether those having mystical experiences were encountering God directly. The answer Gregory gave was that they were directly encountering God's energies but not his essence. I had some discussions on this with some Orthodox people a while back:http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?t=3711 There are lots of other interesting discussions on this site. You may find this interesting: http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1543[/quote]


For me, the most fundamental truth of Christianity is that our longing for God is there because God is our end, and only in him can we find satisfaction. I think that this is seen directly in our own human nature. I suppose that in this I am very much an Augustinian.

Yes but to meet the infinite God as he is in himself we would have to become infinite. On Clouser's view it is truly God we know but God as he has limited himself in order for us to know him.


If this meant that we never really encounter God as he is in himself, I don't think I can accept it, (though I am not usually so definitive about theological ideas!)

If we are not meant for the infinite, how is it that we can long for it? Or to put it another way, if we can't "get in back of" God's accommodation to us, we should not even be able to realize that there is something to get in back of.

Hence since God's will is part of his accommodated nature these primary acts of divine creation cannot be acts of will. Mitch has taken this to mean that if they are not acts of will they must be emanations over which God has no control but I cannot see that this follows; it is simply the case that their manner of creation must be completely mysterious and unknowable to us.


Even put this way, it sounds like neoplatonism to me. I think your description of a mysterious process might fit emanation fairly well.

I will have to read Religious Language: A New Look at an Old Problem, so far I haven't had the chance. I'm delving into The Consolation of Philosophy now, so I will see in Boethius has anything useful to offer on this topic.


I would be interested in knowing who influenced you, though I always expect people to say The Beatles" to that question :rolleyes: I did an undergraduate degree in classical philosophy, which meant anything stemming from that tradition in the department where I studied.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 28 Jan 2009, 18:45

Bluegoat wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:What you are saying reminds me of where St Paul talks about the way we will have our bodies in Heaven; they will be physical, but transformed.

Oh and where do you claimed that he says that? I ask because I know very well where Paul explains this in depth and he doesn't say anything like what you say here. I am taking about 1 Cor 15, which is indeed the seeds of what I have said in my previous post, for it is he that explains the difference between the physical and the spiritual in this passage.

He is addressing the question "with what sort of body will we be resurrected?" And his answer is that it is a spiritual body. In fact his description is that the spiritual is not the physical but grows from the physical which is first. This is the clear description of developmental understanding of the spirit, which is the basis of our eternal existence.


I think his point is though, that the physical is not left behind, it is transformed or taken up into something that is more than it is now.

Where does he say that the physical is not left behind? Where in the Bible does it say that the physical is not left behind? It is an invention trying to make a great deal of the empty tomb of Jesus, right? BUT it is the pervasive claim of the Bible that the physical is nothing but dust and that the body IS left behind as the spirit leaves it.

Science makes total nonsense of the idea that the physical is not left behind for the body is a dynamic structure in which its substance is constanty replaced (our skin is said to be entirely replaced ever 14 days, for example). Does this process suddenly cease at the time of death and the physical substance of our bodies suddenly become immortalized? No. The substance leaves the body, the oxygen and water to join the atmosphere as the flesh is consumed by other organisms, and thus our substance is recycled to become a part of that which all living things draw upon in their own dynamic structures. We can slow this process for a long time with embalming tecniques but that is all. No it is a great advertisement for cemetaries but those who are cremated lose nothing because the physical is nothing but water air and dust.


Bluegoat wrote:So he is rejecting dualism, which would have been quite common among the people he was dealing with, but also making sure they didn't err in the other direction.

Well I certainly reject dualism in favor of a dual aspect monism, with dual aspects based on this 1 Cor 15, but no I don't see Paul doing anything of the kind. All we see in this passage is an absolute contrast being made between the physical and spiritual saying how spiritual and physical are different and statements like "flesh and bone cannot inherit the kingdom of God" that suggest that the gap between the two is unbridgeable. This passage is very dualistic and it is in spite of this that I oppose dualism to claim that the physical and spiritual are two different forms of the same substance - energy.


Bluegoat wrote:In any case, since we were thinking of the same passage, I don't think I have misunderstood you that badly.

It certainly means you have properly identified the Biblical origins of my thinking.


Bluegoat wrote:Your thinking reminds me a bit of Spinoza.

If you dig up a quote of what you think is similar then perhaps I could comment.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 28 Jan 2009, 22:26

Mitch said:
I know that many Christians like to say that he is talking about the transformation of our physical bodies into some kind of improved bodies, but this is NOT what Paul says. In fact what Paul says is at odds with this understanding for Paul very clearly declares: "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."

What Paul says is also more compatible with the rest of Scripture in which the spirit is something that people have and which leaves them when they die (and in one case returns when that person is brought back to life).

A few points here - yes improved is far too weak a word - Paul says our body will be glorified and as you say spiritual. Paul is very much a Hebrew and for a Hebrew thinker physical and spiritual are not antithetical. It is possible to misunderstand him and read some kind of platonic or cartesian dualism into him at this point but I am convinced it would be a misreading.The terms flesh and blood do not denote the physical. Paul uses the word flesh to refer to the body in so far as it is sinful and corruptible. Hence the NIV often translates sarx (flesh) as 'sinful nature'. The word blood in the old testament is strongly associated with Nephesh the word usually translated as soul. Thus it is said that the soul is in the blood. Even a corpse can be referred to as nephesh (soul) as long as it still has blood in it. But this is not soul considered as some kind of seperate substance within the body, rather it is the inner aspect of the total person. Nephesh like ruach (usually translated spirit) also means breath and it is this breath that can leave or return. The dead in sheol are usually referred to not as ruach or nephesh but as rephaim. It would seem to me that all this fits in well with dual aspect monism.

In any case when Paul refers to flesh and blood he is refering to the total person in so far as the person is weak and corruptible not to the physical as such.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Stanley Anderson » 28 Jan 2009, 23:02

I should probably stay out of this since I haven't followed this all the way through (and don't really have time to "catch up") and perhaps this has already been stated and debated earlier. But in response to talk about glorified bodies and such, we at least have to take into account the one "physical" example we have -- that of the resurrected Christ himself who seemed to go out of his way to verify to doubting Thomas the "real" nature of his body and to the others by eating "mundane" fish and such. And yet at the same time he could seemingly walk through walls, appear out of nowhere, and, oddly enough in light of the Thomas incident later, didn't want Mary Magdalene earlier on to "cling" to him, and also, numerous times he was not even recognized by his closest friends -- and isn't it interesting that even his wounds as shown to Thomas were not "healed up" as we think of healing, but were still there to be seen and felt, as though even those could be a glory of some kind in their very "open wounded-ness". This, at times oddly conflicting and seemingly chaotic, set of qualities, suggests both a "real" (at least in some way to our current understanding of real) solid body, as well as amplified or "meta-physical" or whatever aspects will be coordinated into those glorified bodies.

I like to think that it must be something akin to that illustration that -- hmmm...was it Corrie ten Boom? I'm not quite sure -- gave about the needlepoint tapestry that, from the back is unrecognizable and chaotic, but from the front is a clear picture. So those seemingly chaotic and conflicting aspects that we see in Christ's resurrected body may only be the result of the limitations of our fallen nature so that we can only see the "tangled up" side of the tapestry, but when we are able to get to "the other side", it will all fall together into an integrated and glorious wholeness, beautiful to behold.

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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 29 Jan 2009, 08:00

Stanley Anderson wrote:I should probably stay out of this since I haven't followed this all the way through (and don't really have time to "catch up") and perhaps this has already been stated and debated earlier. But in response to talk about glorified bodies and such, we at least have to take into account the one "physical" example we have -- that of the resurrected Christ himself who seemed to go out of his way to verify to doubting Thomas the "real" nature of his body and to the others by eating "mundane" fish and such. And yet at the same time he could seemingly walk through walls, appear out of nowhere, and, oddly enough in light of the Thomas incident later, didn't want Mary Magdalene earlier on to "cling" to him, and also, numerous times he was not even recognized by his closest friends -- and isn't it interesting that even his wounds as shown to Thomas were not "healed up" as we think of healing, but were still there to be seen and felt, as though even those could be a glory of some kind in their very "open wounded-ness". This, at times oddly conflicting and seemingly chaotic, set of qualities, suggests both a "real" (at least in some way to our current understanding of real) solid body, as well as amplified or "meta-physical" or whatever aspects will be coordinated into those glorified bodies.


Yes the problem I think is in the ambiguity of words. I remember that one person I talked to did not think that light was physical and this is because for him physical meant tangible. But the word physical as I use it (100% of the time), has nothing to do with this. It has to do with being subject to the laws of physics which is directly connected with this idea in 1 Cor 15 of the physical being subject to decay and I DONT think this has anything to do with any GNOSTIC ideas of the physical being corruptible in a moral sense. Moral corruption, of course, has NOTHING to do with something being physical. When the spirit leaves the body it leaves NONE of its moral corruption behind in the physical remains. That sort of confusion leads to the racist theologies which imagine that evil is found in a genetic corruption.

Yet I think these difficulties in perceiving Jesus is consistent with spiritual nature of his existence, for the inapplicability of physcial laws is also directly related to this sort of inconsistency in perception.

So the significance of the resurrection is that the spirit of a resurrected person with a connection to God and eternal life is as real and tangible (in fact MORE real and tangible) than the physical body. I can well believe that God made the body of Jesus disappear from the tomb in order to help bring that message accross, but the idea that our resurrected sprit requires air, water and dust to exist is just plain silly - reduced to self-contradictory babbling by the realities of science. This at least is the interpretation that is consistent with science and that is the only kind of interpretation that I have any interest in.


To dave and bluegoat, again I ask, where does Paul or the Bible say this is a transformation of the physical body? It doesn't. No matter what justifications you come up with this is being added to the text. In 2000 years no doubt people will be saying that Americans believed so and so and thus Mitchell must have meant such and such. Can you see how ridiculous that sounds?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 29 Jan 2009, 22:14

Hi bluegoat
If this meant that we never really encounter God as he is in himself, I don't think I can accept it, (though I am not usually so definitive about theological ideas!)

It's going to be a question of what is meant by in himself. If instead of taking God in total we talk about a single attribute say God's goodness and then we look at it in the way you have told me St. Anselm would and say what we actually encounter is as much of his goodness as he has revealed then we do not really encounter his goodness in it's totality but a tiny part of his goodness which has an indefinable relationship to his goodness as it is in itself. We cannot say what qualities this shares with his goodness as it is in total for then we would know what we do not know. This does not seem to me very much like knowing God's goodness as it is in itself; it is knowing God's goodness in relation to us and speculating about what God must therefore be like out of that relationship. But if I say that when I talk of God's goodness I am talking about the way in which God acts towards creation then although this does not tell me what God is in himself out of that relation to creation it is still truly God that I am talking about but but without the speculation that this must be mimetic of God's inner self. So what I have lost in rejecting Anselm's view is not the possibility of knowing God in himself but a speculation about the relationship that must pertain between God as I can know him and God in himself.
If we are not meant for the infinite, how is it that we can long for it?

I wouldn't know. I don't. My friend told me that unless he could lose his identity in the infinity of God he could never achieve what he longed for. I don't think we can ontologically merge with God in that way but that does not mean people cannot long for it.

Or to put it another way, if we can't "get in back of" God's accommodation to us, we should not even be able to realize that there is something to get in back of.

Why not? I can't get inside your mind but I don't conclude that your self-expression is all there is of you.

Even put this way, it sounds like neoplatonism to me. I think your description of a mysterious process might fit emanation fairly well.

I wouldn't mind someone using that word as long as they did not therefore draw any conclusions about what this process must be - and in particular would not conclude that this must be a process governed by some kind of law.
I would be interested in knowing who influenced you, though I always expect people to say The Beatles" to that question

When I became a Christian at 19 I was very much caught up in the charismatic movement. But I read around a lot. I read Lewis early on. I read a few of the more philosophical popular evangelical writers like James Sire and Stephen Evans. I read some bits of Augustine and Carl Jung. I read Francis Schaeffer and then went to stay at English L'Abri. I started to read about and some things by the Fathers, then read Luther and Calvin. While at L'Abri someone gave me Richard Russell's book list which was mostly neocalvinist writers - all influenced by Dooyeweerd - and that tradition has had a huge influence on me. I have found John Polkinghorne and Keith Ward and Michael Polanyi very helpful. On politics - Mill and Popper + Chomsky and Pilger and assorted anarchists. I don't feel like that covers it. I guess I just kept reading whatever I picked up.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 30 Jan 2009, 01:39

This is very confusing postodave! You address the post to me but none of the quotes are mine. I guess they are bluegoats?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 30 Jan 2009, 01:48

mitchellmckain wrote:To dave and bluegoat, again I ask, where does Paul or the Bible say this is a transformation of the physical body? It doesn't. No matter what justifications you come up with this is being added to the text. In 2000 years no doubt people will be saying that Americans believed so and so and thus Mitchell must have meant such and such. Can you see how ridiculous that sounds?


Rather off topic but oh well, diversions can be interesting, sometimes.

Are you looking for one place that spells it out? I think that passage does quite well, especially if you consider the Greek words used. But there is a great weight of suggestive texts, as well as what makes sense when you take them all together. I think the point mentioned about Jesus bodily resurrection and ascension is probably the most important one, along with the Word being made flesh. Not to mention that this is an extremely early doctrine, within the lifetime of those who knew Jesus. But I suppose we won't go into all that.

So, the question is Why do Christians believe in the resurrection of the body? I'll have a go and lean heavily on the biblical foundation. A bit dry perhaps.

Just to be clear, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body says that after the second coming we will all be raised, with our bodies, by Christ.

The soul, by it's very nature, is immortal, it cannot "die." The Jews, Platonists, early Christians and Biblical texts seem to agree on this. The body, on the other hand - well we see what happens to it, so to most people it has always been obvious that it dies. So this is the context for understanding what the Bible says about death.

Genesis - god created the world, and human beings, and it was good. It is clear in the creation story that we are meant to by physical, material beings. If we lost that, we would no longer be ourselves. A human being has a soul and a body, that's what makes it a human being.

There is a fair bit of this kind of thing, which is perhaps suggestive rather than definitive - these are just a few examples:

"Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, and we are cut off. 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people: and will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have opened your sepulchres, and shall have brought you out of your graves, O my people: 14 And shall have put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall make you rest upon your own land: and you shall know that I the Lord have spoken, and done it, saith the Lord God:

or this from Job "and after my skin hath been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God:"

Onto the NT:

The Word was made flesh - The word took on flesh, that is, physicality, a body, in order to redeem us and indeed creation. Christ reconciled flesh and spirit in himself.

The story of the resurrection: Christ rose from the dead, bodily. If it was some brand new thing the disciples saw, then the dead "natural" body ought to have still been in the tomb. It seems clearly presented that his body was physical, but strange. And then Christ ascended bodily into heaven.

Paul, in the passage we are talking about, is trying to tell us what we are supposed to understand about Christ being ressurecting and assumed with his body. He says the body will be changed,. He uses the imagery of the seed, the language of growth, which is not the same as, say the idea of something completely new. He says that our natural bodies have an underlying spiritual reality. The physical, in is essence is the spiritual. If you look at the Greek vocabulary here this is clear.

Here is a reference in Acts of Paul speaking to a crowd "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, We will hear thee concerning this yet again. 33 Thus Paul went out from among them. 34 But certain men clave unto him, and believed: among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."

From Romans: And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you; he that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

or this from John:
Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. 40 And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son and believeth in him may have life everlasting. And I will raise him up in the last day.

From 1Corinthians: 14 Now God hath raised up the Lord and will raise us up also by his power. 15 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid! 16 Or know you not that he who is joined to a harlot is made one body? For they shall be, saith he, two in one flesh. 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. 18 Fly fornication. Every sin that a man doth is without the body: but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 Or know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God: and you are not your own? 20 For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body.


But I think in the end it is the facts of the resurrection that are vital. Of course some people have always claimed that it was faked, but that would mean that all Biblical evidence was suspect and useless.

I rather like Augustine's comment though:God, the wonderful and inexpressible Artisan, will, with a wonderful and inexpressible speed, restore our flesh from the whole of the material of which it was constituted, and it will make no difference to its reconstruction whether hairs go back to hairs and nails go back to nails, or whatever of these had perished be changed to flesh and be assigned to other parts of the body, while the providence of the Artisan will take care that nothing unseemly result"

Looks like it is time for bed.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 30 Jan 2009, 01:49

mitchellmckain wrote:This is very confusing postodave! You address the post to me but none of the quotes are mine. I guess they are bluegoats?


Yes, I guess it was a mistake. Or perhaps you seemed in need of a hello?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 30 Jan 2009, 02:01

mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:Your thinking reminds me a bit of Spinoza.

If you dig up a quote of what you think is similar then perhaps I could comment.


Ha! I was looking up "dual aspect monism, and I came upon this. I suppose that's why you remind me of him. It's been 10 years since I read Spinoza though.

double-aspect theory
or dual-aspect theory
Type of mind-body monism. According to double-aspect theory, the mental and the material are different aspects or attributes of a unitary reality, which itself is neither mental nor material. The view is derived from the metaphysics of Benedict de Spinoza, who held that mind and matter are merely two of an infinite number of “modes” of a single existing substance, which he identified with God. See also mind-body problem.


I was off to bed, but my husbands mom is in emergency surgery, so I'm up again. Ho hum.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 30 Jan 2009, 06:36

Bluegoat wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote:Your thinking reminds me a bit of Spinoza.

If you dig up a quote of what you think is similar then perhaps I could comment.


Ha! I was looking up "dual aspect monism, and I came upon this. I suppose that's why you remind me of him. It's been 10 years since I read Spinoza though.

double-aspect theory
or dual-aspect theory
Type of mind-body monism. According to double-aspect theory, the mental and the material are different aspects or attributes of a unitary reality, which itself is neither mental nor material. The view is derived from the metaphysics of Benedict de Spinoza, who held that mind and matter are merely two of an infinite number of “modes” of a single existing substance, which he identified with God. See also mind-body problem.


I was off to bed, but my husbands mom is in emergency surgery, so I'm up again. Ho hum.


No similarity whatsoever. My use of "dual aspect monism" is taken from John Polkinghorne and though our metaphysical ideas are quite different, on this particular point we do agree.... how did he put it... seeing the apparent dualities of such things as the mental and the material as deriving from different aspects of a single "world-stuff". In my case, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I see them as different forms of the same "stuff". The point is that both JP and I as physicists see that explanation only comes from showing how the same stuff can be different things because of differences in how it is "put together" so speak. Ultimately what makes something what it is, is not the stuff is it made of but the structure or form the stuff is in. This has been the lesson of science, that for example, water and ice are finally understood when we see that they are different forms of the same stuff.

So, although in Spinoza there is no distinction between monism and pantheism, in the case of JP and myself there is a very big distinction. In any case this stuff, energy, which we and all the things around us are made of is not God, but is a work of God. So this "dual aspect monism" is a substance monism only, saying that everything is of the same stuff not that everything is a part or an aspect of the same thing. I use the word "substance" in a way that is possibly more similar to Aristotle's "hule" (that which remains the same through change) rather Aristotle's "ousia" (that apart from its properties without which a thing would not be). The problem is that the Aristotle argues that these are not the same thing whereas I would argue that they are. Thus I would identify "substance" as that by which a thing simply is and contrast it with "form", that by which a thing is what it is.

However just because I would say that all things are made of the same substance (which persists through changes), this does not mean that all things are in principle convertable from one thing to another. This is because how a thing changes is governed by its form, and thus there is a very big difference between physical forms of energy which are part of a greater whole - one single form and thus subject to the laws of that form, and spiritual forms of enegy which are what they are by their own nature and thus basically laws unto themselves. This means that spiritual forms of energy are NOT convertable into any other form of enegy but it does mean that they can change and become something different but only according to that which is within them - their nature.

This is probably why I would tend to see a "spiritual law" in a way that might sound tautological, like a matter of consistency because a spiritual law would be something that would have to be something with relevance to all these spiritual forms of energy which are as I have said a lot like laws unto themselves. I suppose you could say that "spiritual law" would be a restriction of what is possible in regards to spiritual forms of energy.

I will have to get back to the other topic (resurrection) later.
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