• Dermot Griffin
    133
    It’s been a year since I have joined this forum and have yet to actually ask a question let alone answer one. What does everyone think about the debate between classical theism (that God exists outside of time and does not have parts) and theistic personalism (that God is a person and likewise exists in time and has parts). I have always been convinced that classical theism is more logical, God being both immanent in the world and transcendent beyond it. This is largely due to my interest in the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition and Platonism; the God of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas falls under the heading of classical theism. Edward Feser and David Bentley Hart are some of my favorites but I also enjoy advocates of theistic personalism like Richard Swinburne, who rejects divine timelessness (and I don’t exactly think he’s enjoy the label of a “theistic personalist”), and a little bit from William Lane Craig, who rejects both divine simplicity and divine timelessness. What do you all think? I have a hard time understanding what theistic personalism is so if someone knows better than I on this please chime in.

  • AJJAccepted Answer
    909


    If you like Edward Feser he has a blog post about this: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html?m=1

    And the aspect of classical theism that Davies emphasizes throughout the book is its commitment to the doctrine of divine simplicity, together with such implications of that doctrine as the theses that God is immutable, that he is timeless, that he is not a particular instance of some general kind of thing, and so forth.

    What makes someone a “theistic personalist” as opposed to a classical theist, then (as I read Davies), is essentially that he either explicitly denies the doctrine of divine simplicity, or that he at least implicitly denies it by virtue of denying God’s immutability, or claiming that God is an instance of a kind, etc.

    As I remember, a criticism Hart makes of the theistic personalist view is essentially that on those terms God’s existence relies on some undefined absolute, which would on examination be the God of classical theism.
  • Agent Smith
    9.5k
    divine simplicity

    Ergo,

    Incomprehensibilis

    The comprehension paradox.

    Both the simple(st) and the (most) complex are beyond comprehension. Understanding, like most things I suppose, can only occur in media res.
  • Cuthbert
    1.1k
    I have a hard time understanding what theistic personalism is....Dermot Griffin

    It's easy to get lost in intricate philosophical theology and miss the feel of the problem.

    On the one hand:
    If God is all powerful, all knowing, all good, unchanging and timeless, then how can we have a relationship with Him or He with us?

    On the other hand:
    If God is a person as we understand persons to be and if God is able to give and take in relationship with us, then how can He be also a supreme and eternal being?
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    If the theisms are species of theology, and -ology means knowledge of, and God is by most accounts in principle unknowable, then what is theology but a claim to know what cannot be known. Which of course is one reason theology will never, ever, resolve into any kind of science at all - as a matter of both principle and fact. And why when theologians speak, it is usually of ideas in terms of psychology, and of psychology, not the scientific kind.

    The debate, then? Pffft, who cares? Or, why should anyone care? Either is ultimately a matter of belief, and beliefs not usually adjudicable. (I cannot find whether "adjudicable" is or is not a good English word or just my ignorant neologism of the moment - anyone?) The best one can do with beliefs is look for inner consistency and some sort of in-the-world applicability.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Whether "classical" or "personalist", IME, theism is not true :point: .
  • T Clark
    13k
    ↪Dermot Griffin Whether "classical" or "personalist", IME, theism is not true :point: ↪180 Proof.180 Proof

    Yes, we know your opinion on this. You don't belong in this discussion. It's not about the existence of God. Go back in your cage and don't disrupt people who are trying to work on this.
  • T Clark
    13k
    The debate, then? Pffft, who cares? Or, why should anyone care?tim wood

    Come on Tim. Go play cards with 180 Proof in his cage. Leave these nice people alone.
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    The question is really what sort of game is it? If its feet touch no ground anywhere, then what are the criteria in argument? You cannot tell anyone what they can, or should, or cannot or should not believe. There is inner consistency, but true believers worry not about that. And the conclusions drawn, whether supported with adequate premises, or no premises at all, notwithstanding. So players get to play. But the question why anyone should care, stands. But I am invited out, and accept, unless someone replies.
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    Go play cards with 180 Proof in his cage.TClark
    This is the @180 Proof cage, nor am I out of it. What you mean, I think, is don't feed the 180s. And I'm not (you-all are), being instead just an innocent bystander.
  • T Clark
    13k
    The question is really what sort of game is it? If its feet touch no ground anywhere, then what are the criteria in argument? You cannot tell anyone what they can, or should, or cannot or should not believe. There is inner consistency, but true believers worry not about that. And the conclusions drawn, whether supported with adequate premises, or no premises at all, notwithstanding. So players get to play. But the question why anyone should care, stands. But I am invited out, and accept, unless someone replies.tim wood

    Well, I have no authority to invite you out. But it's simple courtesy to address the question on the terms the original poster sets.
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    What does everyone think about the debate between classical theism (that God exists outside of time and does not have parts) and theistic personalism (that God is a person and likewise exists in time and has parts).Dermot Griffin
    Well, there's the question. Do not you think that if God existed it would be merely a question of consulting that existence to determine an answer? Lacking that, it would seem "existence" in this context is a word with its meaning amputated. And what is left of a discussion as to aspects of an existing thing which does not exist?
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    :roll: My post was not hand written and the type is legible so anyone who's literate enough, TC, can read that I've only written y'all are "working on" an empty concept (re: "theism") without a single word for or against "the existence of God".
  • Cuthbert
    1.1k
    I suppose that if there is no God then the problem doesn't arise. Maybe the problem doesn't arise even if there is a God.

    For what it's worth, I think the general problem can have a humanist interpretation as well. One kind of parent will be perfect, all-knowing, all-controlling, endlessly patient - but somehow not quite approachable. Another kind will be engaged and engaging, frazzled and caring, but perhaps lacking in consistency. For anyone who thinks that 'God' may be some kind of psychological projection of our human needs (at best) then this might give an idea of the feeling of the problem (if it is a problem).

    I suspect that the OP was by someone writing an essay in theology and a one-line essay 'There is no God' might not yield the A or B they were hoping for on the particular set topic....
  • bert1
    1.8k
    On the one hand:
    If God is all powerful, all knowing, all good, unchanging and timeless, then how can we have a relationship with Him or He with us?

    On the other hand:
    If God is a person as we understand persons to be and if God is able to give and take in relationship with us, then how can He be also a supreme and eternal being?
    Cuthbert

    Thanks for setting the context. I wasn't aware of the terminology from the OP.

    One way to approach the question is to perhaps enquire what God and human beings have in common (suspending disbelief, obviously, for the purposes of the thread).
    - will
    - a body? Can space, or the universe, be a body? Is that compatible with transcendence?
    - sentience
    - thought, as we understand it? What about functional aspects of though that are substrate dependent?

    Can we have finite and infinite versions of these things?
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    I suppose that if there is no God then the problem doesn't arise. Maybe the problem doesn't arise even if there is a GodCuthbert
    :up:
  • Seppo
    276
    I have always been convinced that classical theism is more logical, God being both immanent in the world and transcendent beyond itDermot Griffin

    More logical in what sense? Classical theism has at its core an apparent contradiction or conceptual muddle, between God's transcendence, and God's causal role in creating the world and periodically interacting/intervening within it. What does it mean, for instance, to claim that an entity is timeless and atemporal but nevertheless stands in various causal (and therefore temporal) relations with the world? How does a transcendent entity interact with the world they supposedly transcend? And what to make of traditional, apparently nonsensical, attributes of God like necessary existence or omnipotence?

    So at least in terms of logic, it seems theistic personalism has one up on classical theism, and I think the primary arguments for classical theism are theological rather than logical.
  • AJJ
    909


    The idea is that he’s transcendent and immanent, as in beyond any instance of a particular thing, while being that which gives everything its being; in that sense he’s always interacting with everything.

    Necessity isn’t nonsensical; it just means can’t not exist. Omnipotence understood as every power that exists - like the power heat has to boil water - coming from God also seems reasonable.
  • Seppo
    276
    being that which gives everything its being; in that sense he’s always interacting with everything.AJJ

    Right, and this leads to the sorts of issues I mentioned.

    Necessity isn’t nonsensical; it just means can’t not exist. Omnipotence understood as every power that exists - like the power heat has to boil water - coming from God also seems reasonable.AJJ

    I know what it means, the problem is that it doesn't hold up under scrutiny, as Kant and Hume and many others have shown: a conditioned necessary existence makes perfect sense- e.g. given a triangle, three angles exist necessarily- but an absolute/unconditioned necessary existence is non-sense.

    So again, on purely logical grounds, its hard to say that classical theism is on firmer ground than theistic personalism; the motivations for many of these aspects of classical theism are theological, not logical.
  • AJJ
    909


    The Christian story and other accounts of gods becoming human draw some of their relevance from this. It’s fair to think that God would be impersonal and incomplete if not for experiencing creation from a human perspective.
  • AJJ
    909


    You didn’t mention any other issues.

    Necessity is something you can assert about things. To say something is necessary is just to say it can’t not exist; you might be wrong in making that assertion, but it isn’t nonsense.
  • Seppo
    276
    You didn’t mention any other issues.AJJ

    Yep, I sure did.

    Necessity is something you can assert about things. To say something is necessary is just to say it can’t not exist; you might be wrong in making that assertion, but it isn’t nonsenseAJJ

    Sure it is. Necessary existence is, by definition, conditioned; given something, something else exists necessarily. Talk of unconditioned or absolute necessary existence is meaningless- you may as well talk about the deductive validity of the color purple.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    I've read some of the thinkers you have mentioned and am fond of Bentley Hart. This may be a shallow read but as I see it there's an ongoing discussion in Christianity that amounts to a kind of dualistic squabble between 1) the shallow faith or 2) the deeper faith. The latter seeing the Bible as allegorical and God as essentially unknowable - the Apophatic tradition. I am not a theist but this doesn't mean I haven't thought about this in my own limited way. I am not sympathetic to concrete thinking and literalism, so I do not think the idea of a personal god is helpful and I guess Classical theism on account of its roots in Greek philosophy is more sophisticated and justifiable.

    I have always been convinced that classical theism is more logicalDermot Griffin

    I am not sure about logic and god and personally think there is more in father Richard Rohr's understanding of the tradition of contemplative prayer and mysticism. I generally find I resist discussions that try to shoehorn ideas of God into laws of physics and human relationships. If God is transcendent then surely he transcends all that?
  • AJJ
    909


    You didn’t mention any other issues, just the one about interaction.

    “It is in the nature of a triangle to have 3 sides. Given that a triangle exists, it necessarily has 3 sides.”

    “It is in the nature of God to exist. Given that he exists, he exists necessarily.”
  • Seppo
    276
    You didn’t mention any other issues, just the one about interaction.AJJ

    Also the one about temporality. So you ignored one, and hand-waved away the other.

    Better luck next time, I guess?

    “It is in the nature of a triangle to have 3 sides. Given that a triangle exists, it necessarily has 3 sides.”

    “It is in the nature of God to exist. Given that he exists, he exists necessarily.”
    AJJ

    Lol, exactly. Of course, given some X, it always follows that, necessarily, X exists; nothing peculiar to God there. What is attributed to God, of course, is an absolute and unconditioned necessity. Which is, as I noted, and as countless philosophers going back to Hume have pointed out, simply meaningless- a misuse of terminology. If you want to more substantively contribute on this point, you might want to familiarize yourself with what they had to say on the matter (happy to provide references, if you're genuinely interested).
  • AJJ
    909


    You mentioned temporality in respect to interaction. It wasn’t hand-waving; the concepts are clear.

    Necessary means can’t not exist. It doesn’t follow from something existing that it’s necessary.
  • Janus
    15.7k
    in media res.Agent Smith

    Common mistake: it's 'in medias res'.
  • AJJ
    909
    (happy to provide references, if you're genuinely interested).Seppo

    Please actually, if you’re willing.
  • Seppo
    276
    You mentioned temporality in respect to interaction.AJJ

    Right, the point was that the general conceptual tension manifests in various ways. Transcendence/interaction was one. Temporality and causality another.

    It wasn’t hand-wavingAJJ

    It most certainly was.

    Necessary means can’t not exist. It doesn’t follow from something existing that it’s necessary.
    I know what it means (and strictly speaking, "necessary" means necessarily true, not necessarily existant). And yes, that's how deduction works: if something is given- for instance, the existence of some X- then, it follows necessarily that that thing exists. Which is the correct and meaningful way we can talk about necessary existence; i.e. based on the condition of something... as opposed to the nonsensical talk of an absolute and unconditioned necessity, i.e. as of God's existence.

    Please actually, if you’re willingAJJ

    for Hume, see part 9 of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

    for Kant, see chapter III section IV of the Critique of Pure Reason

    There's also an abundant literature on this topic within the philosophy of religion. The consensus appears to be, as I've stated here, that the theological notion of God's necessary existence is a category error, a mis-use/understanding of the relevant terms, and not something that is logically sustainable.

    Its also worth noting, wrt this point, that all theistic arguments that make use of this purported necessary existence ("ontological arguments") are, without exception, invalid or question-begging... it appears even apologists agree that this is an empty concept, as any other necessary truth can be demonstrated in virtue of its negation entailing a contradiction, not merely assumed/stipulated rather than shown (as must be done with God's "necessary existence").
  • AJJ
    909


    Temporality and causality... interaction.

    Transcendence: you can’t find God as an object in the world.

    Immanence: he’s that which gives everything its being.

    The concepts are clear.

    Necessary means can’t not exist. If an object such as a pen exists you can make it so it no longer exists, i.e. it isn’t necessary.

    Possibility, existence, and necessity nobody has ever yet been able to explain without being guilty of manifest tautology, when the definition has been drawn entirely from the pure understanding. For the substitution of the logical possibility of the conception—the condition of which is that it be not self-contradictory, for the transcendental possibility of things—the condition of which is that there be an object corresponding to the conception, is a trick which can only deceive the inexperienced. — Kant

    He explicitly says above that necessity is a logical possibility; his problem is that it can’t be found in experience (and so can’t really be known), but then, as he also says, neither can contingency.
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