Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Little Big Metaphysic

I was just now flipping through the Theo-Drama, trying to decide if I need to read the whole thing again, when I was arrested by the following passage on p. 50:

What is the relationship between divine and human freedom? Should we suppose that God accepted some limit on his freedom when he created man, by whom his world could be brought either to perfection or destruction? Is he powerless in the face of autonomous man's "No"?

Awkward questions without facile answers. Or rather, I can think of at least two very easy answers: 1) It's not even a meaningful question, just silly; and 2) God is by definition omnipotent, so our so-called freedom doesn't enter into it. 

Wait, there's more:

And how is this divine powerlessness related to the Godforsakenness of his Son on the Cross?

Again, two easy answers, 1) What Godforsakenness? It's just an executed criminal, and 2) What powerlessness? It was the plan all along!

Now, exactly no one up to the moment of the Resurrection -- and even for some time thereafter -- would have called this a great plan, ingenious, a Swiss freakin' watch, because, for one thing, no one understood the plan. 

Rather, the narrative is simply given to us raw and undigested, at least in the first three Gospels, where the facts are seemingly less conditioned by theological reflection than in John, where the relation is clearly reversed. Still, the synoptics do not pretend to be biography in the modern sense. Rather, they convey an understanding that only occurs later, and is retroactively poured back into them, so to speak. 

As a matter of fact, I was just reading about this in a personally helpful book called The Shape of Catholic Theology. It was helpful to me for reasons mentioned the other day -- that I am hardly a trained philosopher or theologian, rather, just a lapsed psychologist with too much time and too many tomes in his hands. 

No one would ever think of just diving into, say, physics, without a guide or textbook to narrow the search, define terms, differentiate the settled from unsettled, mark out fruitful from unfruitful paths, etc. 

Come to think of it, there's a paradox at work, in that I never stop learning, but know far less than when I began blogging 17 years ago. I know all the hard stuff. It's the basics I keep learning.

You could say I jumped into post-graduate work before mastering the fundamentals, or really, even graduating from elementary school, so there's been a lot of remedial work along the way: bonehead theology, so to speak. 

On the other hand, sometimes it takes an idiot. In other words, there are times that fresh and untrained eyes can see a problem from a perspective the expert can't. Aphorisms:

Philosophy gives up when one stops asking simple questions.

Or sometimes just one:

In philosophy a single naïve question is sometimes enough to make an entire system come tumbling down.

Thaaat's right, reader. The beauty is its simplicity. If your philosophy gets too complex, something always goes wrong. Therefore,

Common sense is the father’s house to which philosophy returns, every so often, feeble and emaciated.

Back for a moment to the "simple" narrative of the Gospels. Obviously, they embody both a letter and a spirit. If there is only the former, then the first question that arises is, Nice story, but what does any of it have to do with me? And if only the latter, the question is Why not just give it to me straight instead of clothing it in a fairy tale?  

But it turns out there are more than just two meanings, for there is the literal, the allegorical, the moral, the anagogical, the metaphysical, the mystical, etc., all at once

But enough about The Big Lebowski. Let's get back to those two tricky questions raised at the outset. Now, what I would say is that if a simple question is enough to blow up your metaphysic, then either metaphysics is impossible, or you need a bigger metaphysic. The modern belief is that grand philosophical narratives are strictly impossible, and are just the superstitious residue of a less enlightened age. 

Actually, these narratives are worse than that, for they are just an oppressive tool of some power-wielding minority. So long as this minority is white, male, and Christian. All others may control the Ring, e.g., women, blacks, homosexuals, etc. So long as they're leftists. In other words, just hand the Ring over to the progressive Orcs, or else!

This hypocrisy reminds me of an aphorism, that

Philosophers often start from their conclusions in order to invent their principles.

Now, no one would accuse the left of engaging in serious philosophy as opposed to spinning out fairy tale narratives for the most childish among us. 

As it applies to the question of whether God is powerless in the face of autonomous man's refusal, one approach begins with the conclusion that God does not exist, therefore it's a silly question. 

The other side begins with the conclusion that God is omnipotent, therefore, of course our No! doesn't enter into it, and is part of the plan.

But I say, get a bigger metaphysic, one that can reconcile divine and human freedom. 

10 comments:

John Venlet said...

...get a bigger metaphysic, one that can reconcile divine and human freedom.

Is not the reconciliation the fact that The Messiah could have allowed his personal will to be done, but did not, but rather allowed His will to be done, and that this lesson holds more than we necessarily grasp?

julie said...

Let's get back to those two tricky questions raised at the outset. Now, what I would say is that if a simple question is enough to blow up your metaphysic, then either metaphysics is impossible, or you need a bigger metaphysic.

Or, it needs to be built on rock instead of sand...

In other words, just hand the Ring over to the progressive Orcs, or else!

Along those lines, there was this cromulent observation at DuToit's today.

Gagdad Bob said...

John:

That's definitely a Big Hint, in that Christ is the locus of the reconciliation of divine and human freedom.

Nicolás said...

As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock.

Cousin Dupree said...

And as long as we do not arrive at progressive categories, our explanations are not founded upon a crock.

Gagdad Bob said...

Some good answers here to the question of how to square the left's pursuit of policies that increase their wealth & power, with the seemingly self-defeating insanity of the groomer agenda.

Gagdad Bob said...

I guess you could say there are literal, allegorical, (im)moral, eschatological, metaphysical, spiritual, psychopathological, and status & control seeking reasons all at once.

julie said...

I think there has to be emphasis on the word "seemingly." At Ace's today, it becomes pretty clear that at least for some people, there is absolutely a lot of power and money in encouraging kids to mutilate themselves. It can never be undone, and those kids will have serious medical problems for life which the caring folks at Vanderbilt will be only too happy to treat for years.

There's also the forcing-people-to-lie-in-order-to-get-through-the-day factor, the perverting innocence factor, the fact that many of the world's most wealthy and powerful people want most of humanity to just die already, the opportunities to virtue signal harder than any of the dirt people, etc., ad nauseum...

julie said...

Also, I doubt they expect to actually lose elections anymore. After all Brandon had a mandate from the masses of 81 million votes, for reelz. Clearly America wants everything they have to offer, even if America doesn't know it yet, and anyone who disagrees, well... just watch out for drivers looking to save the world from UltraMAGA terrorists, is all I'm saying.

Van Harvey said...

"Again, two easy answers, 1) What Godforsakenness? It's just an executed criminal, and 2) What powerlessness? It was the plan all along!"

'Zactly. How is having the power to create a being with the ability to make its own decisions, a demonstration of powerlessness? How does the very essence of the creation, doing what it was designed to do, in any way call the creator or the creation of the creator into question? Attempting to judge from within the framework of the creation, the motives, abilities, or powers, of the creator who operates outside of that framework he created, is Gödeldamned silly.