Friday, October 18, 2013

Know Thyself, Know ThyGod

Good news. I understand the books will finally arrive here this afternoon.

True enough, I arranged for the cheapest possible shipping, but matters were further delayed because the mule was not permitted to cross federal lands. I asked the rider why he couldn't simply maneuver around the sawhorses, but it seems he's not here legally, so he didn't want to risk exposure.

I tried to assure him that the officials usually responsible for ignoring immigration laws weren't even there on the job to ignore them, but his only frame of reference is his own government, which is at least serious about keeping Mexicans out of Mexico.

So, where does this leave us?

We were just wondering whether it is true that change is intrinsically bad, while immutability and independence are always good. The Greeks looked at this vale of sorrows and quickly concluded that it was essentially a trainwreck in comparison to the beautiful, abstract, unchanging realm of platonic ideas. Their advice: get out. Tune in (to the Ideas), turn on (to the One), and drop out (of the many).

Which is one big reason why the Incarnation represented such foolishness to these gentiles. It essentially turned common philosophical sense upside down, by suggesting that there was something intrinsically noble, valuable, and redeeming about this crazy world.

For, why in heaven would God, the absolute principle, infinitely distant, free of change, unsullied by hand or tongue, ever submit to such indignity? Why would eternity ever consent to time, of all things?

Besides, how could the intrinsically changeless ever even have knowledge of the intrinsically changeable? To know something is to be changed by it, since it requires the conformity of knower to known; thus, the knower is partly determined by what he knows.

Think about it: just as it would be impossible for a being of pure contingency to know the absolute, it is impossible for a being of pure necessity to know -- and therefore be changed by -- the contingent.

Hartshorne relates this way of thinking to (what he believes to be) a common fallacy whereby irrational extremes condition and relate to one another -- for example, one vs. many, unity vs. plurality, matter vs. spirit, chance vs. determinism, exterior vs. interior.

But what if the truth is in the middle -- not in terms of some weak-minded compromise, but rather, an ultimate principle that is always two-sided?

Looked at this way, immutability is just human nonsense, a pure abstraction that can't even be thought, since it conforms to no object or experience (experience itself being experience of change). Could it be that immutability is an instance of (-k), just as is radical determinism, or materialism, or a logical atomism of exterior relations only?

Well, I say: what's your problem with time? Hartshorne maintains that the Greek prejudice against time persisted into the middle ages, envisioning a God for whom "the entirety of things is eternal, spread out immutably as datum for omniscience. Nothing is really past or future, and nothing is first nonexistent and then existent."

That's all well and good, but have you really considered the implications? For one thing, it implies that God's "decision" to create the world is "both eternal and yet not necessary," which -- recalling what was said above about extremes of logic -- makes the world a kind of "eternal accident" (an example of an unproductive paradox as opposed to a fruitful orthoparadox).

Again: what if we simply take the words "create" and "creator" seriously. Thus, "in the beginning" the Creator creates. And he never stops creating, for the vertical beginning is always now.

And having created, the Creator is "changed." How do we know he has changed? Because he sees what he has created, and sees that it is good. I'm not usually a biblical literalist, but what's wrong with taking this literally?

"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." So, "male and female He created them" (note the Us-them parallel, implying intersubjectivity both above and below).

If we are in the image of God, it very much matters what God is like. And if God is free of change, then so too should we strive to be that way. We should be more like progressives, who never learn, who never change, and who never create.

But what if there are "additions to truth" in "every new act of creativity?" Well, for one thing, what a blast it would be to be God! And what a joy and privilege to participate in his infinite creativity! Otherwise, if it's just the same old same old forever -- well, to quote the book:

Vishnu were here, but just His lux, God only knows only God, and frankly, ishvara monotheotonous -- no one beside Him, no nous, same old shunyata yada yada...

Literally!

25 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

But what if there are "additions to truth" in "every new act of creativity?" Well, for one thing, what a blast it would be to be God! And what a joy and privilege to participate in his infinite creativity!

Another bit of evidence that occurred to me this morning was the wisecrock about having faith as a mustard seed. If God is immutable and omniscient, then to quote Hillary, "What difference does it make?"

Faith becomes moot. It only makes sense as a freely willful act on the part of man, and more to the point as an interaction between man and God. If God is immutable, then he cannot possibly be affected by our faith, much less be moved to move mountains.

10/18/2013 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And down here, much of the fun of having children is watching them surprise you. How boring it would be if they were little automatons or carbon based copies!

10/18/2013 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

So true! I spend far more time laughing now than I did in the years between being a kid and having kids.

10/18/2013 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Good point julie (in reference to your first comment).

Thus, "in the beginning" the Creator creates. And he never stops creating, for the vertical beginning is always now. And having created, the Creator is "changed." How do we know he has changed? Because he sees what he has created, and sees that it is good.

That's very convincing. I like this process theology, -as you present it.

Always had a bit of trouble accepting that the Cosmos as a tapestry and your life an embedded thread with God, outside, viewing the tapestry from eternity. It made some sense because God created time but because of the problem of free-will, I never wanted to completely accept it.

Never sat well with me. A good metaphysic needs to "sit well", make you happy, as well as 'splain things. In my opinion.

10/18/2013 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Who knows -- God's omniscience could consist in knowing all-possibility as opposed to seeing the future just as the past, i.e., as already accomplished and settled. I like to think that God wills certain possibilities, and that it is up to us to cooperate so that "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

10/18/2013 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I might add that I don't want to try to convince anyone to believe something that clashes with his or her deepest convictions about God's unchangeability. We're just throwing it out there.

10/18/2013 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Looked at this way, immutability is just human nonsense, a pure abstraction that can't even be thought, since it conforms to no object or experience (experience itself being experience of change).

This and many other points in this series remind me of limits in calculus. If you drop something in a gravitational field, it accelerates. Calculus never really gets you to the limit where the acceleration starts. You know there is a continuum, but you can't get at it, just really, really close.

The abstraction makes it understandable, but it is not actual.

Or it could be I need more coffee.

10/18/2013 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I am getting a lot more comfortable with process as we go along, especially when thinking about the problem of evil. As Jesus said, Wisdom is vindicated by her children.

10/18/2013 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I keep thinking there's a big wall up ahead -- some massive barrier I'm overlooking -- but so far so good.

10/18/2013 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

GB - The massive barrier may be
The Book. I recommend reading it.

10/18/2013 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Alternatively, you could just explain to us how the book in its totality is incompatible with human freedom and a suffering God. It would save a lot of time.

10/18/2013 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For example, for every passage that implies necessity there's another that implies free will. But of the two, free will is the more encompassing metaphysical category, since it can contain necessity, whereas necessity cannot contain freedom. Nor, for that matter, can we even know truth if we aren't free to acknowledge and conform ourselves to it.

10/18/2013 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One more thought before bed: the Bible is explicitly about salvation, but only implicitly about metaphysics. Metaphysics involves the necessary truths of existence, whereas revelation involves truths necessary for salvation (just as science involves contingent truths). I believe it is impossible for these three forms of truth to clash, or to be irreconcilable, since all truth is ultimately of God.

10/18/2013 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

the Bible is explicitly about salvation, but only implicitly about metaphysics.

Or in other words, there's the Torah and then there's the Talmud...

Also, the very idea of salvation, again, makes sense only within a framework of free will and a possibility of not being saved.

10/18/2013 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes -- it's not possible to save anyone in an impossible cosmos (radical determinism being an impossibility).

10/19/2013 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The other day a commenter left this link on the many commonalities and a few of the (apparent) discords between process theology and Eastern Orthodoxy -- the latter of which seems to be more compatible with it than the typical western view, more steeped in dualism and scientism. I kind of skimmed it, and Griffin doesn't approach the subject exactly as I would, but he certainly makes many valid points.

10/19/2013 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And I will reiterate that I have no desire to argue with or question anyone who is comfortable with necessity and predestination. This series of posts is only for those who find the position humanly problematic.

10/19/2013 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger Kurt said...

I have never heard an argument for predestination that could get past John 3:16 - "For God so loved the WORLD that he gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER should believe in him should not perish but have eternal life." Yes, there are verses that support predestination and determinism in The Bible, but why would a person want to believe them, and who would want to love and worship such a god?

10/19/2013 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Because they'd have no choice?

10/19/2013 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger son of a preacher man said...

My father has often quipped that he's never met anyone who believes in predestination and also believes they are predestined to hell.

10/19/2013 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting too how the predestination-ism of dialectical material represents a secularization of the same determinism. Not for nothing do progressives believe they are intrinsically correct ("saved"), because they have special insight into the direction of history.

10/19/2013 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

http://traditionalistblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/schuons-connection-with-islam-not.html
[I stumbled upon this topic/thread of comments, which could be of interest to some here...]

10/19/2013 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm just thumbing through a copy of the Catholic Catechism, trying to figure out where I'm going off the rails.

First, it says that God "can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason," even if revelation is needed to fill in critical details that are beyond the grasp of reason. I couldn't agree more. I think I'm okay there.

It also states that, since we are in the image of God, it can be useful, by way of analogy, to take our own perfections as a kind of "starting point" for speaking of God, e.g., goodness, beauty, love, etc.

What Hartshorne is saying is that certain forms of radical independence are not perfections at all, but rather, grave defects. This sets my thigh a-tinglin', because a man who isn't open to love is hardly a man at all. It's what makes me think God must be open to us, and therefore subject to some sort of divine change.

Fast forward to the section on divine providence. It says that creation "did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator." Rather, the cosmos was created "in a state of journeying, toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it."

Substitute "process" for "journey" and we are talking about the same thing.

Furthermore, "God is the sovereign master of his plan," but "to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation."

Here again, this does not signify weakness or limitation. Rather, it is another form of his goodness, in that it grants humans "the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan."

That's straight up 'Coon-talk, that is.

So, I'm actually treading quite cautiously here, especially since so many process theologians seem to be anti-tradition liberals.

10/20/2013 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Well, that is what I meant when I said I thought that man co-creates the cosmos with God.

Somewhat related, I think that suffering may be a key ingredient of love. At least an indicator. But maybe key in a sense that the Father had to forsake his only son in the end. Otherways, what was the point of it? This way both the Father and the Son suffered genuinely.

10/20/2013 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"For, why in heaven would God, the absolute principle, infinitely distant, free of change, unsullied by hand or tongue, ever submit to such indignity? Why would eternity ever consent to time, of all things?"

What the world needs now, is a well versed Theologian-Object-Oriented-Programmer.... but then again... maybe it already has.

10/21/2013 11:19:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home