Posts tagged Cappadocian Fathers
23 Jul 2011
The first part of chapter 10 of Roy Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) covers some previous material in more depth. For example, why do our beliefs about the whole of reality necessarily control our beliefs about any part of reality? The answer is basically that it is impossible even to think about any part of reality in isolation. So when we think about (say) biology, we cannot do so without presupposing some way in which biotic properties relate to other kinds of properties.
But the meat of the chapter is a fascinating discussion about the nature of God.
First, we have the view developed by Augustine, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas (the "AAA view" for short). Under this view, "God's attributes all exist necessarily, and necessarily God has them all" (p.202). This view encourages reductionism in theories: trying to explain things in one aspect of reality in terms of their dependence on some other aspect of reality, for example, explaining psychology in terms of biology and physics. It encourages reductionism
precisely by holding that certain kinds of properties and laws found in the cosmos exist necessarily and are uncreated [in the sense of not being wholly dependent on God] while others are not. For if some properties and/or laws of the cosmos are created [dependent on God] while others are not, then what could make more sense than to theorize about creaturely reality by looking for the ways its contingent properties and laws depend on those that are uncreated? Indeed, how could it be avoided? (p.212)
The problem with the AAA view is how to explain how God's attributes (say, his justice) can exist necessarily without God thereby becoming dependent on them.
For if there is even one abstract property that (on the AAA view) would have to exist independently of God and which God would have to possess to be God, then not only is that property rendered divine per se, but God is thereby debarred from that status (p.210).
Another apparently insurmountable problem is that
according to the AAA position, God's attributes (goodness, justice, or power, e.g.) exist as necessarily and are as uncreated as He is and are shared (in a lesser degree) by humans. The difficulty with this is that humans are thereby made to be (partly) divine because the qualities humans share with God would have to be as uncreated in us as they are in God (p.210).
In contrast, the view of God that Clouser advocates is one which, apparently, "to this day  has no voice whatever in philosophy of religion in western Europe and North America" (p.223), but is one which "was elaborated by the Cappadocian Fathers of the Greek Orthodox tradition, rediscovered in the west by Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth century, and championed by Karl Barth in the twentieth century" (p.203), labelled as the Cappadocian and Reformational position (the "C/R view" for short).
Under the C/R view, "everything found in the cosmos [has been] created by God" (p.213). After a survey of relevant biblical passages, Clouser concludes:
So I find the evidence to be that the Bible is not silent on whether anything is uncreated other than God, including numbers, sets, properties, relations, laws, propositions, or any of the other denizens of Plato's barnyard. None can be regarded as uncreated (p.217).
But this goes further than theory-making, because
Bible writers simply do not allow for exceptions, not even for the attributes ascribed to God Himself (p.217).
So while this view affirms that God really has both the relations to creatures and the qualities that scripture ascribes to Him, it insists that He did not have to have them to exist. Rather, they are true of Him because he freely willed them to be, and to subject Himself to laws and norms He also called into being, all so as to accomodate himself to our creaturely limitations (p.218).
Having seen how these different approaches to theory making are tied in to different views of the nature of God, and having seen that the AAA view (and its associated reductionism in theory making) is less coherent and less biblical than the C/R view, the stage is now clear to begin to construct a non-reductionist view of reality, which is the subject of the remaining three chapters.
3 Sep 2008
God is Father, Son and Spirit loving each other. That's it.
Okay, that's a bit more appealing than Aristotle's definition. But hold on! One God or three Gods?
But this just looks to us like you've got three Gods and they just happen to like each other a lot.
What's the solution?
We're not tritheists because we don't say the Father, Son and Spirit are three individuals; we say they are three persons. ... An individual is something that can be divided off ... so it can stand all on its own. ... Persons need relationship; they can only be understood in terms of their relations. ...
God is just these three persons loving each other. But that is not to say there are three Gods here, because their love for each other is so essential to who they are that none of them would exist without the others. ...
And so, you see, Basil and the boys are really majoring on verses like 1 John 4:16, "God is love", because they're seeing love, which is the relationship between the persons, is the being of God. It makes up the divine unity. God is one because God is love, because the Father, Son and Spirit love each other.