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A Discussion of Theology

I am not sure how much I can contribute to a debate in which all are, by testimony of each other, morons. Mayhaps I stand convicted of moronity by mere participation. Be that as it may, here are a few small thoughts. To begin with, if my understanding is correct, much of what is being disputed has its roots in Classical Greek philosophy. This is quite understandable. Christianity may have originated within Judea but, after the first generation, it was a Gentile sect. The early Christian theologians were all educated in Classical philosophy and it was natural for them to draw on it. It can be a little difficult to understand what the Christian theologians were getting at and assuming without a grounding in classical philosophy which few have these days, even implicitly. The following from Beth [1] may be illuminating:

"A considerable number of arguments in speculative philosophy are based on a certain principle, which is, in most cases, tacitly assumed. This principle has been applied with remarkable virtuosity by Aristotle, and will be called the Principle of the Absolute. It can be stated as follows: [2]

Suppose we have entities u and v, and let u have to v the relation F; then there is an entity f which has the following property: for entity x which is distinct from f, we have (i) x has the relation F to f, and (ii) f has not the relation F to x.

The entity f will be called the absolute entity corresponding to the relation F. The following examples, chosen from the various domains of traditional speculative philosophy, show typical applications of the Principle of the Absolute.

(1)	Let F(x,y) be the phrase: x takes its origin from y; then f
will be the principle in the sense of pre-Socratic philosophy.

(2)	Let F(x,y) be the phrase: x is moved by y; then f will be
the Prime Mover in the sense of Aristotle. [2]

(3)	Let F(x,y) be the phrase: x is desired for the sake of y;
then f will be summum bonum in the sense of Aristotle. [3]"

At first thought it might seem that the Principle of the Absolute is simply gibberish. Indeed, it can readily be shown that the PofA is not a logical identity. For example, let F be the relation "is less than" and let the entities be the positive and negative integers. Consideration of various counter examples is illuminating, however, because one quickly sees that all such examples are ungrounded, i.e. they imply infinite regressions.

Infinite regressions, when applied to the physical world, end up being equivalent to asserting the Universe is infinitely old, a proposition not without problems. So, when one considers the matter, the Principle of the Absolute is rather more plausible than it might seem at first sight.

To return to the point -- the conception of God in classical theology as the Creator, first cause, prime mover, omnipotent, omniscient, and so on is very much a product of classical speculative philosophy. God in this sense is the Absolute of Aristotle rather than the deity of Judea. As a side note, I think it is also fair to say that many of the traditional challenges, e.g. "Who created God", are in the nature of a failure to recognize what is being claimed. God, considered as the absolute of the relationship "is created by" is of necessity exempt from being created.

As a matter of convenience [mine] I am going to use the words, Logos and Jehovah, to refer to the Christian God. Logos will be used when I am discussing aspects which reflect classical philosophy; Jehovah will be used in contrast to discuss aspects reflecting the Judean deity as portrayed in the Old Testament.

Now, back to the future. The following is a convenient summary of the kind of argument being made [4]:

	Sorry kid, We ain't the ones making the assertions:
	A.	There is a god.
	B.	He is omnipotent.
	C.	Yet we have free will, or no we do not have
		free will (depending on which side of the 
		theological fence you are on.)

	......
	The operating definition I am using is that if God made all
	things at once at all points of space and time, that is
	determined, then we have no free will, that is, we have no
	ability to change reality in a meaningful manner....

"God" here is Logos. An error which is specific to this quotation is the assumption that Logos created all points of space and time. Logos created the universe, serving as first cause. The universe then "unfolded" [5] on its own.

In this entire discussion there are, IMO, a number of substantive errors which reflect a failure to recognize the implications of what is being claimed for Logos. Logos is a universal in the sense of Plato [6], i.e. an ideal abstraction, and, as such, is incorruptible [7], i.e. invariant or unchanging. In other words, Logos is indeed "outside time" as Gene Ward Smith [8] remarks, but not for the reason he cites [simplicity of assumptions about a Creator].

Given that Logos is incorruptible or invariant it follows that the omniscience and omnipotence of Logos has a substantially different character than that of a being within time with the same attributes. Logos cannot act in the sense that you or I can because Logos literally has no time within which to act. Logos cannot make decisions in the sense that you or I do for the same reason.

There seems to be a recurring insistence that Logos none-the-less does act and make decisions. For example, Lawrence [5] raises the question: If Logos is omniscient and omnipotent, seeing the future in its entirety, and then intervenes, Logos thereby changes the future (after the intervention point); how can Logos be omniscient unless Logos foresees not only the future of space and time, but also all future interventions by Logos.

Stated in this form, the question clearly is based on a confusion about time. Logos, who is outside time, is supposed to be acting in his own "time", much like the eternals in Asimov's novel [9]. The omnipotence of Logos is, by our standards, a peculiar sort of omnipotence. By the journal accounts [10] Logos's alter ego, Jehovah, has intervened quite often, somewhat capriciously, and without regard to the restrictions of physics. The interventions of Logos are simply part of the invariant nature of what Logos is. Timeless omniscience is, I admit, hard to account for in logical terms; however there seems to be no difficulty with it experientally [11].

Similarly the apparent paradox of free will vs an omniscient Logos are based on a confusion about time. The paradox may be stated as follows: I now have a choice which I will make using my free will; if my actions are known how can I have a choice. [A discussion of what, if anything, is meant by free will is outside the scope of this article.] The question, as stated, is clearly confused. In the past we made choices; what those choices were is now known; the fact that we now know what the choices were does not alter the putative free will that we exercised when they made.

Again, the apparently thorny issue of predestination is not a problem if we are simply dealing with Logos. What the future holds for us may not be known to us. But what the future held in the past is known to us now, and what all futures hold is necessarily known to a being that sees all time and space.

As a final comment in a lengthy post, the fusion of Logos and Jehovah made in Christian theology is an awkward combination. The concerns of Greek philosophy simply were not part of the world picture of the Jews. Jehovah is portrayed as being temporal, as having emotions and reactions, and as acting within time. Jehovah is not portrayed as being omniscient.

For that matter, the deity portrayed in the New Testament [12] is neither Jehovah nor Logos. Judaism does not particularly deal in Heaven and Hell, immortal souls, and redemption. The traditional trinity of Christianity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; a noted usenet poster [13] holds that, philosophically speaking, the trinity is Jehovah, Logos, and Christ.

References:
[1]	Beth, _The Foundations Of Mathematics_
[2]	Aristotle, _Metaphysics_
[3]	Aristotle, _Nicomachean Ethics_
[4]	William Barwell, usenet posting
[5]	Tony Lawrence, usenet postings
[6]	Plato, _Parmenides_
[7]	Handel, _Messiah_
[8]	Gene Ward Smith, usenet postings
[9]	Isaac Asimov, _The End Of Eternity_
[10]	Various, _The Old Testament_
[11]	Somerset Maugham, _The Razor's Edge_
[12]	Various, _The New Testament_
[13]	Richard Harter, this posting

This page was last updated June 29, 1996.