• BillMcEnaney
    54
    Hi, everyone,

    I'm a new member eager to learn from you. My field is computer science. But I earned a BA degree in philosophy and passed two graduate seminars in it. Since I'm a devout Catholic, I'm analytic Thomas, too. So please criticize my argument after I post it.

    For now, I'll summarize what I hope to prove: If St. Thomas Aquinas's classical theism is true, Prof. William Lane Craig's theistic personalism causes a vicious infinite regress.

    Thanks for your help.

    Bill
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    Hi and welcome to Philosophyforum. Good intro, but it might be good to flesh it out a little. Maybe lead with a few more reasons supporting that conclusion.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Thank you, Wayfarer. It's good to meet you. After I've slept long enough, I'll write in detail. Meanwhile, please forgive this night owl for making you and the other experts wait. Darn, there's no yawning emoji. :smile:
  • wonderer1
    1.7k


    Hey Bill,

    How have you been?
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Hi, wonderer1,

    I've been well, thanks. But we'll see how I'll feel after you guys criticize my argument. :smile:
  • Arne
    815
    if I knew what you were talking about, I might be able to agree or disagree. I might be willing to do some homework (such as read an article or two on each side of the issue) . But coming out of total ignorance regarding either side of the issue is a heavy lift. But I do have Google. . . But until such time as you can tell me what you are talking about or I can get a sense on my own, I can only rely upon my natural disposition and vehemently disagree. . .

    and besides, an infinite regress would not be a heavy lift for God?

    :wink:
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    Maybe Bill is a heavy sleeper…..
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Arne, I'll try to write simple prose. Then blame me if it confuses you. Either way, I'll answer what you asked about God and heavy lifting when I doubt that it'll help me falsify Craig's kind of theism.

    Can an all-powerful God make a rock that he can't lift? No, he can't do that. The question implies that though he can do anything, there's something he. can't do.. It implies a self-contradiction. But that's alright because classical theists believe that God can do any logically possible thing that his nature allows.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54

    Yes, I'm a heavy one. So here's what I say about that.

    Donald Fraser's Amen

    Now you know I'm an opera buff.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    …classical theists believe that God can do any logically possible thing that his natureBillMcEnaney

    Scholastic realists believe that, as I understand it. ‘Voluntarists’ believe that God is in no way constrained by logic. And, of course, to spell that out, would require a considerable amount of text, which I myself am probably not equipped to write. But it’s something I’ve read about regarding the disputes in classical metaphysics.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    You're the first one to tell me that, Wayfarer. So I don't see how it can be true when St. Thomas believes that God's nonexistence is at least metaphysically impossible. That's why they'll say that God can't fail to exist.To explain why I agree with Aquinas I'll describe what he teaches about both what's possible and about what's actual. That's because he doesn't use "possible" and "actual" in the modal logician's senses.

    When you know what it is Thomas possibility and actuality, you'll also see why he thinks there can be only one God and why you need to use "god" in another sense to describe Zeus, Aphrodite, Kali, Thor, and the other pagan deities.

    Besides, we need to reflect on the difference between a a primary cause and a secondary one to know what may be wrong with Craig's theistic personalism.
  • Arne
    815
    Arne, I'll try to write simple prose. Then blame me if it confuses you. Either way, I'll answer what you asked about God and heavy lifting when I doubt that it'll help me falsify Craig's brand kind of theism.BillMcEnaney

    I appreciate your reply though I was not expecting one at this time.

    I will wait here until you are ready to present and argue your notion that Mr. Lane's "theistic personalism causes a vicious infinite regress".

    I look forward to it.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Thank you, Arne. I hope that reply will be easy to comprehend. Some people believe writing is my forte. But I'll let you philosophers decide. I've always admired Ayer, Quine and Russell for their prose styles. So those talented writers give me something to aspire to. Quine was a wordsmith or maybe even a word maven. If my prose begins to sound like Heidegger's, please suspect severe brain damage. :wink:
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Everyone,

    I'm sorry about. the delay because my argument is turning into a description. So I'll post it when I can.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    Well, I might chip in. I did a bit of research, and found a blog post by Edward Feser (representing classical theism) critiquing William Lane Craig:

    ...the problem with the thesis that “God is a person” is not the word “person,” but rather the word “a.” And as Davies (in Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion) and I have argued many times, there are two key problems with it - a philosophical problem, and a distinctively Christian theological problem.

    The philosophical problem is that this language implies that God is a particular instance of the general kind “person,” and anything that is an instance of any kind is composite rather than simple, and thus requires a cause. Thus, nothing that is an instance of a kind could be God, who is of course essentially uncaused. (Obviously these claims need spelling out and defense, but of course I and other Thomists have spelled them out and defended them in detail many times.) The distinctively Christian theological problem is that God is Trinitarian -- three divine Persons in one substance -- and thus cannot be characterized as “a person” on pain of heresy. …

    So, the reason Davies labels the rejection of classical theism “theistic personalism” is not that he thinks God is impersonal. The reason is rather that he takes theistic personalists to start with the idea that God is a particular instance of the general kind “person” and to go from there. And this, he thinks, is what leads them to draw conclusions incompatible with classical theism, such as that God is (like the persons we’re familiar with in everyday experience) changeable, temporal, made up of parts, etc. To reject theistic personalism, then, is not a matter of regarding God as impersonal, but rather a matter of rejecting the idea that God is a particular instance of the kind “person,” or of any other kind for that matter.
    Edward Feser

    So the argument, essentially, is that Craig (and theistic personalism generally) view God as a person, a particular being, in anthropomorphic terms - a person like us, only perfect. The infinite regress arises from the claim that if God is a particular being, then in some sense he must be caused, as all particulars exist as the result of causes - as Feser says, 'anything that is an instance of any kind is composite rather than simple, and thus requires a cause.'

    I think the conflict arises as a consequence of Craig's Protestantism which tends to deprecate the classical metaphysics found in Aquinas (Feser describes himself as 'Aristotelian-Thomist') and other pre-modern theologies. Protestantism often leans towards the literal interpretation of scripture, citing 'sola scriptura'. The most obvious form of that is creationist fundamentalism, granted, a minority view but still representing an influential current in Protestant Christianity. Aquinas sought to accomodate elements of Aristotle, for which he was criticized by Luther. Protestant theology looks on metaphysics, which ultimately derives from Greek rather than Biblical sources, with suspicion. That's where I see the root of the conflict.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    Wayfarer, thanks for quoting Feser, an excellent Thomist. I spent hours writing a post that earned excellent grades from ProWritingAid. But the document got too long.

    Let me sum up my point about a vicious infinite regress. In a YouTube video, Dr. Craig says that without creation, God is timeless and temporal after it. On the other hand, classical theists believe that God is absolutely simple with no parts of any kind. And potentials are metaphysical parts. So, if God is purely actual, there's no potential in him. But Dr. Craig implies that God is metaphysical parts when he, Craig, says that God went from being possibly in time to being actually in it. Any object with potential is a composed object. And each composed object needs cause to put the parts together. So you end up with infinitely many composers but no composed object.

    Naturally, I'm taking the PSR for granted. Although Prof. Paul Draper rejects it, he agrees with me that Craig's theistic personalism implies a vicious infinite degree if Thomistic metaphysics is true.

    I'm still waiting for Dr. Craig's reply because I emailed him my argument.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Not all Catholics are Thomists. In fact many many are not these days. Traditional Catholic scholar Robert Sungenis has a book The Immutable God Who can Change his Mind nd has debated Thomist Jimmy Akin and others about it. Thomism in Catholicism is an opinion.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54

    I'm familiar with some things Sungenis said about that. Try my friend Eleanor Stump's book The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers. It's a tiny 103-page book and she's an Aquinas scholar who explains how our divinely simple God can talk with Jonah, say. Eleanore is philosophy professor at St. Louis University.

    She also wrote Aquinas, a brilliant book including a brilliant chapter about divine simplicity. I know God can speak. The question is how he does that when he's absolutely simple. Catholics must believe the doctrine about divine simplicity because it's a dogma.

    The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Divine simplicity is a contradiction however. How can God create if he has to make an moment of choice, thus changing his simplicity to a multiplicity. Suddenly he is a God who knows he created and is now related to creation. Also God, despite the choice to create, makes no true moral decisions so he is, not immoral, but amoral. He may be innocent but he doesn't have the goodness of courage ect. within him. The idea that he owns goodness like a possession is absurd. So ye Aquinas sucks. I dont consider his writings to be real philosophy. He was a theologian, commited to things he had no proof for
  • Lionino
    1.4k
    divinely simple GodBillMcEnaney

    Before God created the universe has he actualised the property of being a creator?
  • Leontiskos
    1.3k
    In a YouTube video, Dr. Craig says that without creation, God is timeless and temporal after it.BillMcEnaney

    Do you have a link and timestamp to the YouTube video, or a quote from Craig? We need more than hearsay.
  • wonderer1
    1.7k
    Do you have a link and timestamp to the YouTube video, or a quote from Craig? We need more than hearsay.Leontiskos

    Try this:

    I want to suggest that we think of eternity, like the singularity, as the boundary of time. God is causally prior, but not chronologically prior, to the universe. His changeless, timeless, eternal state is the boundary of time, at which He exists without the universe, and at the moment of creation God enters into time in virtue of His real relation to the created order and His knowledge of tensed facts, so that God is timeless without creation and temporal subsequent to creation. — William Lane Craig
  • Fire Ologist
    180
    Hi Bill,

    I’m a practicing Catholic, BA in philosophy too. Always good to know someone thinking for themselves while grateful to God for inviting us all to the table of wisdom.

    I still draw a clear line between philosophy/science and theology. Not because there is more than one world. There is only one truth. And not because the two are irreconcilable. (Jesus did that in the incarnation.).

    But philosophy/science, is a product of our experience, observation subject to reason. Science has its hands full just asserting “what is” or “scientific law reflects objective reality.” Talk of God in a logical, scientific way is so far away from what science is willing to admit. This is why the God of the philosopher, to me, has always been a hollow thing, nothing like a person - “monad” or “infinite pure actuality” or just a concept like an unmoved mover, or “the One” or even “the Good”. This hollowness is why, to me, the scientifically contextualized God led Aquinas to call his words “straw” and Augustine “a grain of sand.” Our only evidence of God in history that would approach useful objects of scientific inquiry are miracles and resurrections which are by definition, unscientific (I mean, the last place you would want to experiment on cures for cancer would be on Jesus’ resurrected body, for instance, because why would we expect any sample tissue from a resurrected body to have anything to do with anything else in nature, where cancer occurs and resurrections don’t).

    Now, all that said, turning instead to theology: God is one God; this one God, revealed himself to us in the name of the Father, the Son, and their self-same Spirit. Three persons each fully the one God. Son, eternally begotten of the Father, receives all from the Father, and in the same Spirit of the Father, says “not my will but thine be done” and gives everything he receives back to the Father…

    Or, the word was with God, and the word was God.

    I see a lot of other issues we might want to tackle before understanding how this God could be before creation, then in creation, unchangeable and simple, and changing and complex.

    We could ignore all of those issues just as well, but then, where did we come up with “God is simple” or “a person” in the first place?

    Since I already see God as one, being Father, Son and Spirit, I see room for God to be living, changing, creating, while not moving, not changing at all. There is room for it, somewhere between one God and three Persons. But not an easy math problem here (more of a Russell’s Paradox). And we may just as well try to crack the logic of how the Son refers to His Father when he says “I and the Father are one” as we would solve the problem of an infinite regress in any personhood at all.

    Individual lives like ours, may be as much of an impossibility to explain as is the life of God. Since we are like Him, made in His image, that actually makes sense to me. So I use science/philosophy to try to explain my impossible condition in life. Any truth gleaned gets me closer to God as a bonus, but I struggle to use science to see God directly. When I try to use that same reason to explain God’s life, I have to admit to non-believers (most modern scientists) that it sounds crazy (if the subject ever comes up).
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    That's an unusual question. The Big Bang produced space-time. With or without time, God the Father is still the first person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son is still the second one, and the Holy Ghost is still the third one. You use "before" in a timeless sense when you remind me that 2 comes before 3 in the set of positive integers.

    In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogama, Dr. Ludwig Ott writes, "Eternity is duration without beginning and without end, without sooner and without later, a 'permanent now'. . . The essence of eternity is the absolute lack of succession" (Ott 36).

    That's why medieval philosophers say there's a difference between an eternal thing an everlasting one. We say Gd is eternal partly because he never changes, An everlasting thing lasts forever after it begins to exist. For example, God created your immortal soul when your dad's sperm fertilized your mom's egg. So that soul will aways survive.

    Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible, D.D. Trans. Patrick Lynch, Ph.D. Charlotte: TAN Books, 1974.
  • BillMcEnaney
    54
    I don't know whether you're a a Catholic, Gregory. But by Catholic standards, your comment is heretical. Ludwig Ott writes: "That is simple which is not composed, and on that account also not divisible" (Ott 31).
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Ludwig Ott is not the magisterium. Simplicity can be interprerted along with many philosophical traditions. But no i am no longer Catholic. Vicarious atonment is an immoral doctrine and is central to Christianity. No one can do your repentence for you. Priesthoods are evil. And yes Aquinas was a priest. Ugg
  • Leontiskos
    1.3k
    classical theists believe that God is absolutely simple with no parts of any kindBillMcEnaney

    See the discussion between Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig on divine simplicity. In his response Craig explicitly targets the Thomistic view: Symposium Part 1 - Divine Simplicity. Craig's rejection of divine simplicity is apparently well-known.
  • baker
    5.6k
    Catholics must believe the doctrine /.../ because it's a dogma.BillMcEnaney
    A frequently underappreciated point, yet crucial to holding that God is more than merely a product of one's imagination.

    One is supposed to believe in God through divine revelation, ie. from the top down, with God revealing himself, and then a particular person coming in contact with that revelation via disciplic succession (that goes back directly to God himself).

    Not from the bottom up, the way philosophers and Protestants do it, where a particular person comes up with various "reasons for believing in God".
  • NotAristotle
    252
    Let me sum up my point about a vicious infinite regress. In a YouTube video, Dr. Craig says that without creation, God is timeless and temporal after it. On the other and, classical theists believe that God is absolutely simple with no parts of any kind. And potentials are metaphysical parts. So, if God is purely actual, there's no potential in him. But Dr. Craig implies that God is metaphysical parts when he, Craig, says that God went from being possibly in time to being actually in it. Any object with potential is a composed object. And each composed object needs cause to put the parts together. So you end up with infinitely many composers but no composed object.BillMcEnaney

    Time aside, would it not be the case that God as pure actuality is "in" the universe in only a "potential" way prior to creation, and in a "non-potential" way once creation has occurred? How do you make sense of that? (Note: I guess it would not have been a problem for Aquinas if Aquinas thought the universe was eternal/infinite).

    Perhaps it is a mischaracterization to describe the state of God outside creation as "potentially" in time? In wonderer1's quote, Dr. Craig does not use that term.

    If creation does not yet exist, can God bear any relation to it viz. potentiality? But if not, then God needn't be a composite of potentiality and actuality and there is not infinite backpedaling.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.