A Sign of the Apocalypse

Every once in a while something happens that shouldn’t happen. Something is out of place. I don’t mean the commercials that the devil does on a regular basis. I mean things like cats and dogs living together.

So this Saturday morning I went over to Concordia Publishing for their annual warehouse sale. Since I am in Saint Louis, I could throw a rock and hit something Catholic or Lutheran and Corcordia is literally five minutes from my home. So I went to pick up some kids books and see if there was anything Lutheran that I wanted to buy at discount.

I am looking through the theology section and I find a book that looks promising. I intend to buy it, but before I leave I see another book. It is a pro-LDS book unfortunately published by Eerdmans some time ago. I have looked at the book in the past, specificallythe sections where the LDS try to co-opt early church sources particularly on theosis. It contains all of the usual mistakes that occur when the LDS bumble through the Fathers.

But this floored me. Between all of the Rome-is-the-whore-of Babylon texts, whether recent or from the era of Lutheran scholasticism, and all of the Luther-is-our-only-real-church-father books, there is a pro-Mormon text. So, being me, I complained.

I told the clerk that I knew that she didn’t order the book, but that seeing that this was Concordia Publishing bookstore, they shouldn’t have Mormon books. Someone of a managerial status came over to investigate and stated that all of their books go through a process of theological review. I replied to the effect that somehow they must have missed this one since it was Mormon! Besides, they wouldn’t sell pro-Roman works and Rome is Trinitarian! He noted that the book had been on the shelf for two years and it hadn’t sold. I noted that this was probably a good thing as they shouldn’t have the book at all.

What is the world coming to when I can’t even count on the Lutherans to protest crass heresy?

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185 Responses to A Sign of the Apocalypse

  1. Perry? Is this you? This is Isaac, that guy who met you at the Orthodox Witness conferences! Well anyway, I found your blog! My wife Arlie and I are now in Akron, where I’m in my second year of law school. We have saned out a bit from our “convertitis” days as ROCORians (my own term). Now we attend a large OCA parish, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this weekend.

    I am looking through your blog and I am at once struck by its meaty depth– what little I can understand is already quite inspiring. You will find nothing of that sort in my own little blog, which I mainly use as a forum for teaching my protestant pastor friend about Orthodoxy. He’s been coming with me to vespers on Saturdays, and asking lots of questions. His name is Gary Fox– if you don’t mind, please say a prayer for him.

    Commenting particularly on this post, I too am shocked that you found a Mormon apologetical work in a Lutheran (I’m presuming Missouri Synod, even) bookstore. Mormons are strangely numerous here in Akron– there are about 4 in my 2L classes, and 10 more in the class that entered the year ahead of me (now 3Ls). Crazy, eh?

    Good to find you, brother!

  2. Blake says:

    How closed minded can you be? YOU could learn quite a bit about deification from a pro-LDS book. What was the pro-LDS book? Was it written by a scholar who has a Ph.D. in early Christian studies? It may surprise you to know that one of the leading sources on theosis is by Mormon Keith Norman, a Ph.D. at Duke University in early Christian and Patristic studies. My own background is in analytic philosophy of religion and Latter-day Saint theology. I am appalled at the sheer ignorance, bigotry and assumes superiority and arrogance of your post.

    How dare you speak of Mormons as if we are invisible, blind and utterly beneath your notice. How dare you call yourself “Christian” with this sheer fear that a pro-LDS book might be so persuasive that it is dangerous to have it in a so-called “Christian” bookstore. It is this attitude that I find so alarming and anti-everything Christ stood for.

  3. Brad says:

    Perry,

    Egh. I was going to ask you to pick it up for me, but after reading the synopsis, nevermind. I’m looking for some decent LDS material, but that doesn’t look like it. Either way, that’s really strange to hear.

    Blake,

    All I have to say is don’t be naive. His surprise is really at the fact that this particular bookstore carried the book, not that there are actual Mormon scholars in the world. And, frankly, how dare *you*. You jump on a blog post and assume about 90% of your comment. I surprised that someone with a background in analytic philosophy wouldn’t have been taught about determining assumptions or reading for content (i.e. when you gloss him stating, “I have looked at the book in the past, specificallythe sections where the LDS try to co-opt early church sources particularly on theosis. It contains all of the usual mistakes that occur when the LDS bumble through the Fathers.”). In other words, you should read before you emote all over a comment on someone’s blog.

  4. Blake says:

    Brad: I was hardly emoting. if you are going to assert that I make assumptions, show what my assumptions are and show that I make them — that is what an analytic philosopher does. Perry’s protest was not merely that a Lutheran bookstore was carrying an LDS book. Look at what he said: “What is the world coming to when I can’t even count on the Lutherans to protest crass heresy?” So maybe you could read more carefully before you make rather absurd assertions. Crass heresies? Just what does that term mean to you? Perhaps “crass” really means that he is aware that there are actual Mormon scholars.

    Moreover, what are the “usual mistakes” he claims? None identified. What are the the LDS attempts to “co-opt early church sources”? None stated. So you see, I wasn’t assuming. I was reading what was said. If LDS make “usual mistakes,” how could anyone take that as a recognition knowledgeable about Mormon scholarship?

    But are right. I shouldn’t be naive about the unthinking bigotry, non-sense and sheer slander that passes for acceptable dialog regarding Mormons among so-called “christians”. The problem is that you are blind to your shared biases and bigotry. It is time to knock off the ad hominems, the slander, the non-sequiturs, the sheer arrogance and pride.

    So maybe you could read, actually pay attention and grasp what is being said.

  5. Mark Krause says:

    Blake, dude, you need to calm down a little bit. Are you surprised that the Orthodox think that Mormonism is heretical? That’s just a fact. See the Council of Nicea maybe? Of course Perry didn’t outline exactly why he thinks that Mormon assumptions about theosis are wrong on this particular blog. The Orthodox view of theosis is probably the most blogged about thing here, so the reason why he thinks that Mormon scholars make mistakes would be obvious to anyone who reads the blog.

    As for co-opting Patristic sources: Duh. Mormons do. You take Orthodox Church fathers and put them into your context and frame of mind. You might be able to quote Arius, or some other anti-Trinitarian heretic to support your views, but I guaruntee that if you’re bringing using the Cappedocians to support your views of theosis, your barking up the wrong tree.

    It seems that what you’re angry about is the fact that you want people to take Mormon scholarship seriously. Well, I can guarantee you that no one thinks that all Mormons are idiots, but we Orthodox do think that all Mormons are heretics. They don’t mean the same thing. Heretic is not some sort of ad hominem. It means that you hold views contrary to the dogmas of the Church. You do. I don’t see what you’ve got to be so worked up about.

    So if you really want validation, here it is: You’re smart. I’m sure that most Mormon scholars are very capable intelligent people. However, smart has nothing to do with heretic. You are heretics. Period. Lutherans should not sell books by anti-Trinitarian heretics because they are Trinitarians. This is not a very controversial observation. Relax. I’d say have a smoke and a beer…but…well, do whatever you do to relax.

  6. David Richards says:

    Hey Blake,

    One thing you are assuming is that Perry has never attempted to engage Mormon theology – why not ask him? Another thing you are assuming is that this post was meant to serve as a sort of rebuttal of Mormonism – it was not. It was mainly written to us Christians who are all agreed that the so-called visions of Joseph Smith, ushering in as they did numerous theological and practical innovations, were basically demonic apparitions. Something that would be, um, quite kind and scholarly of you would be to ask Perry to identify the “usual mistakes” Mormons make when they eisegete the Holy Fathers, and not to jerk your knee at the majority of traditional Christians who consider Mormonism beyond the pale of orthodoxy. As for ad hominems and non-sequitors, perhaps you should take your own advice and refrain from demeaning the intelligence of others. That much would be appreciated.

  7. Brad says:

    Blake,

    I also suppose that *not* giving an argument should be attributed to the “sheer ignorance” and “bigotry” you attributed him. I mean, you *never* say things like, “Boy, those Roman Catholics sure are wrong.” without giving a full dissertation, right? I suppose you think Joseph Smith or James Talmage are bigots for referring to the Roman Catholic church as the “whore of babylon” in statements that do not offer the full argument behind them. If you ask nicely, he might actually be willing to demonstrate his reasoning.

    I guess I missed the argument in calling someone a bigot, slanderer, unthinking, arrogant, and prideful because they thought your post was out of line or that they think Mormons believe “crass heresies” or that the author of the book makes the “usual mistakes”.

    There’s very little argument in my statement, as you note. It’s mostly full of assertions. Mostly that’s because I’m lazy. But since you asked, you’ve made assumptions about his level of knowledge without actually inferring any of that information from his post. One such assumption was that he is so “ignorant” that he would be found in a state of “surprise” to know that Mormon scholars both exist and have an interest in deification. You apparently took his distaste for “crass heresies” and “usual mistakes” to me that he had no reason for believing those things other than the fact that he was a “bigot”. Sure my response involved name calling (“naive”), but the basic point is solid.

    Second, you assumed that his post actually had anything to do with the subject of Mormonism. Sure he refers to it offhand in a dismissive manner, but it’s a story about a Mormon book in a bookstore that won’t sell Roman Catholic books, a religion they’re more theologically similar to, because the Roman Catholics are too heretical. Diving into the reasoning about why he thinks Mormonism is false simply isn’t topical. In short, I don’t think all dialog that involves Mormonism is actually about Mormonism. All you can derive from the post is that he thinks Mormonism is false and has a dismissive attitude about it. You can’t derive why he thinks that way. He *could* be an ignorant bigot. He *could* also have read a series of Mormon theologians. The fact is that you can’t derive that information from the text.

    Also, it’s not particularly useful when, in a statement, you accuse someone of using an ad hominem, do it right back to them, and then say that we should stop giving ad hominems.

  8. Blake says:

    I wouldn’t allow my students to get away with the kind of dismissive arrogance I see here. Since I actually have a book coming off of the press in about a month that deals with the New Testament, early Fathers, later Eastern writers and scholastics on deification, I suppose that I have some sense of what is permissible within scholarship. I have a chapter on why the Orthodox view of deification is incoherent. I have another on why there is a strain in Protestant theology regarding theosis and deification. I have another on why deification is difficult within the Western Catholic tradition. So I suppose that when someone asserts that all Mormons eisegete and make common errors, I would like them to give examples, back it up and actually have some substance. As it is, since I am actually familiar with the subject matter, the kinds of unsupportable assertions made here are laughable to me. They are also sad.

    Brad, what you admit is a dismissive attitude just is what I see as sheer arrogance. You give no reasons as you admit. You’re long on assertion and way short on anything worth taking seriously. However, bigotry is always worth taking seriously. I still don’t see any assumptions that you’ve identified. You assert that I assume that Perry is ignorant. I don’t assume it — he asserts that “Mormons make usual mistake” when they “bumble thorough the Fathers.” Well, I don’t. Keith Norman doesn’t. We’re Mormon. So anyone who makes this kind of universal assertion demonstrates a pretty fundamental prejudice and ignorance.

    I don’t need to ask Perry if he’s engaged Mormon scholarship with the kind of statements he makes here. He hasn’t. If he had, he wouldn’t make the kind of dismissive assertions that he makes.

    Heresy? You are all of course correct that from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, LDS thought is “heretical.” And so is Arminius, Luis de Molina, Aquinas and Luther in some respects. So what? Jesus was considered heretical by the Jews. That’s why they hung him. It was blasphemy. However, the charge of “crass heresy” is of course different. Look it up.

    As soon as I see something intelligent here, I’ll give y’all some credit.

  9. Lee says:

    Blake – would this be your book? http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/09/how-many-gods-are-there/447/

    (I think my first try got caught by the WordPress spam filter…)

    Lee

  10. Brad says:

    Blake,

    Regarding the majority of your comment, I think I’ve addressed it already and I obviously disagree. You either agree or you don’t. Honestly, I don’t much care either way at this point, so there’s no point in responding to me. I’m done. That has nothing to do with why I’m responding.

    I’m only responding to you because I am actually looking for some decent academic material on Mormonism — most of what I’ve read really isn’t what I’d call “academic” (and I’m hardly an academic). Feel free to shoot me an email at: blakethemormon at exwebris dot net (I use email aliases to reduce spam).

  11. Blake,

    Here, take this. It’s a suicide pill with a mild laxative side effect. If you wish to dialog here, fine, but you need to show a bit of respect and common courtesy when you are in someone else’s living room. If you don’t like it, fine. The Internet is a big place. Go write your own blog about how horrible I am and how perspicaciously intelligent you are. I don’t care. But if you are going to talk to people here, you need to eat more fiber and lift your leg once in a while and say excuse me.

    Now as to your comments, first, you make judgments without even knowing me or knowing what I know. Truth be told I have read Norman thesis from FARMS. I own a copy. The fundamental flaw in his work on Athanasius is that he posits for Athanasius a problem coming from Origenism, namely that the finite cannot ever participate in the divine in such a way that its participation is stable. This is one of the reasons why Origen thought that a series of falls was possible. This is supposedly the result of two incompatible doctrines held by Athanasius, deification and creation ex nihilo. The contingency of human existene supposedly precludes the penetration of divinity to human nature.

    Athanasius actually anticipates this problem as he is sufficiently familiar with Origen’s teaching and provides the basis for answering Origen’s worries. Norman relies it seems to me on conclusions quite questionable or demonstratably false taken from Grillemeir and Meijering. A correction to a number of these mistakes has been accomplished by Khalid Anatolios’ work on Athanasius, which is listed here under the reading section. Anatolios rightly interprets Athanasius doctrine of creation showing that the relation between nature and grace is not dialectical, thereby precluding Origen’s conclusion. Nature is fully capable of bearing the divine in a fixed state, which is another way of saying that God can become incarnate, which Arius could not hold and Origen fudged on.

    Lots of people do their PhD’s at Duke and that is not sufficient to make them “one of the leading sources” on theosis. If he were, he’d surely have far more in print that his dissertation. I haven’t checked the journals, but he has no work that I could see from any major academic publisher on the subject. (Sorry FARMS doesn’t count.) Rather strange for one of the supposed leading lights on a subject, don’t you think? So I must say I am quite taken aback at your being appalled due to your sheer ignorance of the field in question. Norman Russell for example is in fact one of the leading scholars on deification in the patristic tradition. Russell by contrast has gobs in print by reputable publishers. This is a round about way of saying that for all your outrage you don’t seem to know of what you speak.

    I found it ironic that a Lutheran book store, which you label “so-called Christian”, while going out of its way to preclude pro-Catholic works, carried a Mormon work. I had no great fear concerning the book or its effect. I leave such things up to the responsibility of the reader and divine providence. I am actually quite Stoic about it. I figured a church with a hierarch like Paul McCain would be a bit more anal about such works. If you haven’t read McCain’s stuff, then you don’t yet fully grasp the semantic content of “anal.”

    I don’t think the LDS are beyond my notice, but I don’t take them to be Christians. Which is fine, since they label me as an Orthodox Christian as an apostate. Perhaps when they rescind the first vision of Joey Smith they might be in a better position. I don’t take Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Way International to be Christians either on the same grounds. And for all the wealse wording that the LDS have taken to, they aren’t willing to accept the Jo-Ho’s as Christians on the very same basis-polytheism, non-Trinitarian corporeal deities, etc. What’s that called again? Special pleading you say?

    Your emoting, which by your love of the caps lock key seems to indicate, is quite beside the point. The point is that you are factually in error concerning the current state of scholarship on theosis. Keith isn’t the juggernaut that you claim he is. As for crass heresy, I take polytheism to be crass heresy or the idea that God is composed of matter. I don’t care if you don’t think so and I don’t find the fact that some LDS scholars produce this or that new conceptual model to try to move the view closer to the speculative thought of a handful of analytic Christian philosophers who have produced Social Trinitarianism which they themselves confesss is beyond the pale of historic orthodoxy. None of the views on these matters of the LDS scholars constitute the teaching of the LDS, anymore than Peter van Inwagen’s constitutes the official teaching of the Episcopal Church, though I am sure that would be a step up for the current leadership of the Episcopal Church. The existence of LDS scholars doesn’t transmute the crass heresy of polytheism and a corporeal deity into anything less than what it is, something other than historic Christianity. This is just to say that such LDS scholars are good Americans in their religious habits.

    Some of the usual mistakes that the LDS often make is take passages out of context. They take citations from Origen on the pre-existence of the soul and spin it so as to appear as if this was a viable teaching in the early church, when in fact any one with half a frontal lobe knows that Origen got the idea from Platonism. At other times they trot out citations from Athanasius on humans being deified giving the reader the impression that there is only one notion of theosis on the market, theirs and that this is the teaching in Athanasius (or Ireneaus). At other times they pose problems for the Fathers that just aren’t there, that are usually predicated on the mistakes of a previous generation of western scholars concerning theosis.

    As for slander, you’d need to do more than trot out the word. Truth is always an adequate defense against accusations of slander. As a practioner of the law, as opposed to a philosopher or a theologian, I would hope you’d recognize that. The idea that matter is superior to God, that there is more than one divine being, etc. is crass heresy on the order of worshipping Zeus in the history of Christian theology. It doesn’t matter if you take that history to be a distortion of the true church or that early Hebrew thought was closer to it or whatever, the fact is that Christians fairly widely so thought, period, done, end of story. Any Christian worth his salt in any given century would balk or blush at the idea that God is corporeal or that the Father was caused to exist and suffered death and existed in a resurrection corporeal body. If you don’t like the facts, I can’t help that. Become Orthodox, its much easier in that respect.

    Since you claim that the Orthodox view of theosis is incoherent, I’d love to see the argument. Perhaps you can sketch it for us. Of course, if the Orthodox view is incoherent, then it probably implies that all of those patristic citations can’t serve as evidence for lds teaching, unless the latter is also incoherent. In any case, give us the argument. If not, go be an LDS harpy somewhere else.

  12. Enthusiasmos says:

    On a somewhat less emotionally involved note, I appreciated the irony of the original post, Perry, as well as the informative dialog (we must take the thorns with the flowers must we not?) on the Mormon doctrine of the plurality of gods, from you Blake. Being a recovering Protestant who is new to Orthodoxy, new to a community where the word “deification” is not immediately subject to cries of horror and statements like, “But that’s what the serpent promised!” I had not anticipated the existence of competing doctrines of deification in other Christian traditions (loosely defined). I can imagine how my family and friends will probably want level the allegation of “Mormonism” against me, and who knows, maybe I am. I look forward to your arguments against the Orthodox view, if you take Perry’s challenge, and to catching up on the rest of the blog.

  13. Blake says:

    Perry: I agree with Keith Norman on the issue regarding the incompatibility of creatio ex nihilo and any human nature assuming anything that is truly divine as it is elucidated generally in the Eastern tradition. I missed your resolution to this problem. Just how does Athanasius solve the problem? Origen recognized the problem and certainly didn’t solve it — and your post gives me no clear as to how you believe it is resolved. The primary problem, as I see it, is that Origen and Athanasius both either adopt or assume a middle and neo-Platonic view respectively of participation in the form of the divine. Here is how I lay it out:

    The implicit logic of the exchange formula is that, because Christ has taken on human nature to share with us, and because Christ is the Form for all humanity as the second Adam, therefore humans can manifest that Form in particularity and also participate in the divine nature of this same Form of Humanity. So the missing premise can be supplied: If S participates in Form F, and Form F is the Ideal Form of both natural kind A and also kind B, then S also participates in both natural kinds A and B. The argument then becomes:

    (1**) By becoming incarnated, Christ is united with humans in the human nature.
    (2**) By becoming united with us in human nature, Christ instantiates both human and divine natures.
    (3**) By instantiating both human and divine natures, Christ became the Human Form F in which regenerated humans as particulars participate.
    (4**) If a human S participates in the Human Form F of Christ, and the Form F also includes both human and divine natures, then S participates in both human and divine natures in virtue of participation in Form F.
    (5**) Therefore, if we participate in Christ’s Human Form F, then we share the same divine nature as Christ and the Father.

    I believe that this argument uncovers the implicit assumptions underlying the exchange formula. However, it is not an argument that could be cogent for anyone but a middle Platonist. In the absence of this middle Platonic view of particulars sharing in the Ideal Form of the Logos, such reasoning makes little sense. Premises (3**) and (4**) have little to motivate anyone to accept them as true unless the middle Platonic view of Forms is assumed. Indeed, it is difficult to see how sharing a mere Form of humanity, even if we adopted such middle-Platonic thought, entails participating in the divine nature. That a human is an instance of the ideal Form of Humanity does not entail participation in the divine nature even if the Form itself has both natures. The thought seems to be that because Christ has both human and divine natures, if we share in Christ’s Ideal Form of Humanity we must also share in his divine nature to the extent that he includes both within himself. In the absence of this middle Platonic ontology of forms, sharing the human nature of Christ does nothing to suggest that we share the divine nature of either Christ or the Father. It entails only that we share in the same human nature.

    Athanasius hinted at another distinction, later made explicit by Gregory Palamas, that what Christ shares with us by participation only, Christ shares with the Father by nature or essence. It is something like the distinction between the essence of God and the energies of God. What Christ shares with us is not the divine nature, but only effects of the divine that are imparted to us by sharing the same underlying (or substantial) life force. The energies/essence distinction is usually explained by an analogy to the sun’s heat and light. As Gregory Palamas explained: “Just as the sun without diminution communicates heat and light to those who participate in them, and itself possesses these qualities as its inherent and essential energies, so the divine communications, since they inhere without diminution in Him who bestows communion, are His natural and essential energies. Thus [the energies] are also uncreated.” The essence/energies distinction is described by the Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky:

    [D]istinction does not mean separation: it does not divide God into knowable and unknowable. God reveals Himself, totally gives himself in His energies, and remains totally unknowable and uncommunicable in His essence. He remains identical in these two modes of existence: the same, and at the same time, different…. If one must distinguish in God essence and that which is not essence, that is precisely because God is not limited by His essence. He is more than his essence, if He is truly the living God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the Holy Trinity – and not the God of the philosophers and the scholars.

    So the argument can be restated in terms of the divine energies:

    (1***) We have been united in the life of Christ.
    (2***) In Christ dwells the fulness of the divine nature, including the divine energies.
    (3***) What is united shares the energies of that to which it is united.
    (4***) Therefore, by being united to the life of Christ we share the divine energies.

    This argument is logically valid. It doesn’t lead to the conclusion that we share the same divine essence as the Father and the Son. It entails that we participate in the divine energies and therefore share divine life and incorruptibility with Christ. It also entails that the righteousness of Christ has transformed us because we have freely accepted this change into our lives. However, here is where the problems once again begin. The doctrine of deification so construed entails that we are really made righteous and not merely judicially declared to be so as Protestants believe. It also entails that God’s essence cannot be simple as maintained by Augustine and Aquinas and a good many current Catholic theologians. It also entails that it is not the same divine nature in which we participate to be one “just as” the Father and the Son are one, because their unity is precisely consubstantial in the tradition. The consubstantial unity is essential to the divine nature – and yet no traditional theologian has ever maintained that we share the consubstantial unity of the Father and the Son. We share in a unity that is of a different nature – one that can be shared by one having a human nature only with one having a divine nature only. Yet if we share the same human nature or substance with Christ, the doctrine of divine energies just leaves vacuous what it is we share with Christ that could possibly include anything like sharing the divine nature

    BTW, this not the argument against the Orthodox view that I give in my book, but it is similar. If we have a property, it is a property of a human nature. However, we do not bear any property in a divine way and the modality of divine properties is always totally distinct from the modality of human properties. Thus, humans don’t possess divine properties and they don’t participate in the divine nature. It merely a metaphoric comparison at best — and that just isn’t anything worthy of the name deification or becoming divine in the that the Son is divine that could be compared to the Son becoming human like we are.

    I also argue at length in my first volume that the two nature theory of christology elucidated at Chalcedon and expanded at Toledo and elsewhere is incoherent — so I don’t assume that there is some coherent formulation of a divine being becoming human in the way the Eastern tradition has classically adopted it.

    Finally, I maintain that your post was condescending and arrogant — assuming a superiority that ill befits persons commanded to love one another.

  14. Blake says:

    Brad: I’m not sure what you are looking for in Mormon sources. Perhaps my web site is a place to look. Just click my name.

  15. Blake says:

    Perry: On what basis to you claim that Mormons reject JWs as Christians. To the extent they accept Jesus as revealing the divine they are Christian. They are not Christian to the extent “Christian” means someone who accepted the way of the councils. But since the latter view excludes at least Jesus and the first three centuries of Christianity, I see it as not merely special pleading but just wrong-headed.

    Mormons don’t judge who is Christian and who isn’t the way y’all do. It is true that we regard the Orthodox religion as apostate in the same way that the Jews were apostate in Jesus’s day. They also refused to God’s prophets and ongoing revelations. However, Mormons generally believe that faith in Christ is universally and always valid and even non-Mormon can exercise faith in Christ and to that extent be Christian.

  16. Blake says:

    Perry said: “Here, take this. It’s a suicide pill with a mild laxative side effect. ”

    Will the real Christian please stand up? Being a Christian doesn’t mean getting all of the ideas right. If that were the standard, then who is Christian? Being a Christian means treating others as a Christian would — and asking someone to take a suicide is usually sufficient to expose those who claim to be what they really aren’t.

  17. Blake, surely you can take a joke. If you need theological justification for it, look no further than St. Paul’s wish that the judaizers would “emasculate themselves.” It just seems so silly to resort to such a thing when what you really need to do is perhaps just stop and listen for a second. Didn’t Joseph Smith ever make a joke in between sleeping around with all of his apostles’ wives?

  18. Nick says:

    Blake good argument, but I think your usage of instantiation is problematic. I think with the classical Orthodoxy of Athanasius and the Cappadocians, the concept of inherence is closer to the mark than instantiation as you use in your premises. The idea of inherence being closer to the Aristotelain idea that natures inhere in partilculars, partilcuars do not instantiate forms, hence in some sense partilcuars are ontologically prior to the forms that are their modes of existence. This would seem to entail that two natures could inhere in a partilcuar and another partilcuar that shared one of the same natures as the former partilcuar, could subsist without having the other nature inhere in it as the later partilcuar did.
    (1) Natures X and Y inhere in a partilcuar A.
    (2) Nature X inheres in partilcar B.
    // B has X and A has X, but B does not have Y (from 1 and 2).

    So the idea would be that the partilcuar (the second person of the Trinity) in which the Divine nature inheres, takes on another nature, namely a human nature at some time T1 (while remaing only a divine partilcuar). So at T1 both a human and a Divine nature inhere in the partilcuar person such that other persons who also have the same human nature as Christ do not also have the Divine nature inhereing in them. The way we share in Christ divinty is not by talking on the same divine nature as Christ but by our humanity participating in the divine *energies* of Christ, there is not an ontological identity with Christ but an energetic identity with him. So the very same activities of Christ become ours even though we do not take on his divine nature. Our humanity becomes Divinized or similsr in its mode of activity. So we can have the same mode of activity as Christ and not be ontologicaly identical with him.

  19. Edith says:

    These are the books published by CPH on the Mormons:

    Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?:

    http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=124195&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=mormon

    and How to Respond–The Latter-Day Saints: http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=126006&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=mormon

    I too enjoyed the Saturday warehouse sale at CPH. I noted as well, that there are books from many different publishers, some not even Lutheran, on the shelves in their retail book store. It seems more decisive in understanding the stance of a publisher to look at what is published, not what is in the retail bookstore.

    Edith.

  20. Blake,

    You don’t seem very familiar with the real distinction that the Orthodox make between Person and Nature. Romanists don’t do it and Protestants don’t do it either.

    The divine logoi which are the basis of human existence are enhypostatic and are a constituent of our nature. Maximus identifies the logoi are the powers of the divine essence. So we do participate in the divine nature, since every essence has its natural energy. We just don’t gloss divine nature = divine essence.

    You’ll have to state what exactly you think is incoherent about the human and divine natures being united and perichoretic by dent of the Person. Perhaps for the Hellenist, but not for the Orthodox.

    Photios

  21. One thing. The relationship between Person and Nature in Orthodoxy doesn’t correspond identical to the idea of particulars as instantiated forms and the form itself. Persons in Orthodoxy aren’t “things,” so such an analysis doesn’t work.

    Photios

  22. Blake says:

    Photius: Of course I’m familiar with the attempt to make the distinction. I just believe it is a distinction without content. Just what does it mean to assert: “the divine logoi which are the basis of human existence are enhypostatic and are a constituent of our nature”? It means that God sustains us in existence in each moment. If he didn’t. we would not exist. But as contingent things, existence is not a part of our nature. If it were, we wouldn’t need to be maintained in existence by God because we would exist by nature. So I believe that the notion of logoi which sustain us in existence as part of our nature is fairly obviously incoherent.

  23. Blake says:

    Nick gave this argument:

    (1) Natures X and Y inhere in a partilcuar A.
    (2) Nature X inheres in partilcar B.
    // B has X and A has X, but B does not have Y (from 1 and 2).

    The problem with this argument is that premise (1) assumes what must be proved. If two natures are incompatible, such as a divine and a human nature, then it is incoherent to assert (1). My argument is aimed at showing that (1) isn’t true, so it can’t be used as a premise. The argument thus begs the question and is invalid.

  24. Blake,

    No. The relation is a dependence relation. I depend on the logoi and not the other way around. You obviously are missing the import of enhypostatic. And to not distinguish adequately between Person and Nature is the essence of Hellenism.

    Photios

  25. Ah…another good ol’ dialectician. Blake, you should read my paper on Gregory of Nyssa, since your whole program is bankrupt and begs the question from an Orthodox perspective as well:

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2006/04/26/gregory-of-nyssa-and-eunomius-trinitarian-structures-investigated/

    To say that the divine and human are “incompatible” , i.e. for those that read here: “dialectical opposition,” is why the Incarnation is foolishness to the Greeks like the bible says.

    Photios

  26. Greg DeLassus says:

    Goodness sakes, [b]I[/b] live five minutes away from Concordia publishing house as well. I had no idea that we shared a neighborhood. Not that this is in any wise significant, but it comes as a surprise to me.

  27. Blake says:

    Photius: My argument was based on the fact that there is a dependence relation. We depend on the logoi for existence. I didn’t assume or argue that the logoi depend on us for Pete’s sake! Your response doesn’t even come close to making contact with the argument and basic problem. We don’t have existence as part of our nature. Thus, the logoi, which exist, of necessity, aren’t part of our nature. The problem here isn’t a basic failure to communicate, as Cool Hand Luke would say, but a basic refusal to acknowledge a rather glaring contradiction.

  28. Blake,

    Nick gave this argument:

    (1) Natures X and Y inhere in a partilcuar A.
    (2) Nature X inheres in partilcar B.
    // B has X and A has X, but B does not have Y (from 1 and 2).

    The problem with this argument is that premise (1) assumes what must be proved. If two natures are incompatible, such as a divine and a human nature, then it is incoherent to assert (1). My argument is aimed at showing that (1) isn’t true, so it can’t be used as a premise. The argument thus begs the question and is invalid.

    You’re distinguishing between inherance, which I assume means of one essence, and instantiates, meaning that Christ is a form of God, but not God? That’s where you go against the Cappadocian’s as Perry said. This is why we trust the Ecumenical Councils instead of our own interpretation of the Bible, which would assume we have already arrived at deified reasoning capabilities. It all depends on your premise as to which interpretation you ascribe to. There is a Biblical case for Arianism, for example, but it went against the Apostolic Traditional interpretation, so it was tossed out, and even if you logically prove it’s true, we believe in the stability of God’s presence speaking through the Church (through His energies), so you wont convince us, and we are content for you to say we are in denial of your “higher” logical paradigms. Bottom line, I’d rather believe that Jesus is God in essence than that He isn’t.

    Btw, I’m not sure what the difference between nature and essence is. How something lives or operates, or the combination of it’s ingredients? Christ has a divine nature, and He is God in essence. I never thought of that being two different things. But I see how a deified person can attain a divine nature through divine energies and still not be God in essence. (unless I have my definitions wrong)

  29. Nick says:

    Hi Blake,
    I think the idea with my premise one is that, the inherence notion is going to fit neatly in with the idea of Trinitarian theology which seems to be the Orthodox conception. Now it may turn out you can argue they got it wrong, but the idea of trinitarian theology is that in some sense the persons all share a nature, they are not relations but persons. This would be closer to the inherence idea than the instantiation idea. And the further claim would be that the Trinitarian concept is closer to revelation so it would not be begging the question if it is the appropriate way to understand revalation.

  30. Blake,

    Your objection seems to be with the idea of perichoresis, that there can be a mingling of human and divine by dent of the person whether human or divine hypostases. But you haven’t laid out exactly what the problem is with that idea or an argument. I’m more than happy, being an Orthodox and not a Hellenist as you, in affirming that opposite properties can inhere in a single subject. To sum up a saying of an Orthodox teacher of mine: you can’t disentagled the principle of distinction from the principle of non-contradiction.

    The union that we have with the divine is not different than what is had by the Incarnation. The human nature participates in the divine energy of the divine nature by dent of Christ’s person. The union between the Son and the Father is different, because it is not one of participation. There is no “ever-becoming” here for the Son.
    Otherwise, Christ is a creature. Your statement is just a regurgitation of an old heresy: The Originest Dialectic. Either the Son and the World are creatures, or both are eternal. Both turn on the concept of Neo-Platonic simplicity, and thus Arianism was born.

    Second

    Photios

  31. Nick says:

    Hi Andrea,
    Actually the idea of inherence verse instantiation is a distinction used in contemporary metaphysics to distinguish between two notions of the relation between universals and partilcuars. The idea goes back to different ways of distinguishing the relations as articulated by Plato and Aristotle. The Fathers seem to be working from within this conceptual framework even though they transform it and use it for their purposes.

  32. Blake says:

    Andrea said: That’s where you go against the Cappadocian’s as Perry said. This is why we trust the Ecumenical Councils instead of our own interpretation of the Bible, which would assume we have already arrived at deified reasoning capabilities.

    The councils don’t claim to be revelation but merely a consensus of interpretation and reasoning. As I see it, their only authority is their reasoning and when their reason turns out to be erroneous, they have no authority at all. So hiding behind the councils makes absolutely no sense to me. Just how you believe that using standard logical locutions is assuming the ability to deified reasoning capacities is a mystery to me. I see it as an attempt to avoid a sound argument.

    Andrea said: “even if you logically prove it’s true, we believe in the stability of God’s presence speaking through the Church (through His energies), so you wont convince us, and we are content for you to say we are in denial of your “higher” logical paradigms. Bottom line, I’d rather believe that Jesus is God in essence than that He isn’t.” Why believe in the stability of God’s presence in the Church? What you’d rather believe is irrelevant. The notion of created and uncreated natures in the same subject was precisely the problem that Chalcedon dealt with. You’re not claiming that we cannot review whether its solution is workable and logical do you? Since the two natures are nowhere elucidated (or in my view even hinted at) in scripture, it seems passing strange to hide behind a council that claimed no more basis for its views than the supposed soundness of its reasoning. Since its reasoning is demonstrably incoherent, why would anyone give allegiance?

    Photios: Actually, I have laid out exactly what the problem is. The modality of divine properties is incompatible with the modality of human properties. They are not compossibly exemplified in the same person. That is exactly the problem. Now I am no Hellenist — but the neo-Platonic assumptions of Athanasius were what got us started on this line of reasoning with Perry claiming that he had solved the problem of inconsistent nature inhering in the same person.

    I don’t see the problem being solely perichoresis. First, you’re certainly not claiming that the perichoretic unity is shared by humans in the same way as it is shared among the divine persons are you? However, unless you are, you cannot resolve the problem of human deification by pointing to the kind of unity shared by divine persons. Second, I have pointed out there the divine attributes across the board are inconsistent with asserting that humans participate in or share the divine nature. The divine nature is essentially and immutably timeless, immutable, simple and for forth in a way that these kinds of properties cannot be shared in anything approaching the way that they describe or inhere in deity. There is just nothing that can be shared in a univocal way between the divine and humans on the Orthodox view. All that is left is a metaphor that is so very weak that it points to nothing really shared in common at all.

    I’m no Hellenist. I base the argument on Athansius’s Greek world-view because Perry said he had solved the problem. Then you say that Athanasius’s Hellenistic view is the problem! My argument is actually based on straightforward modal logic and isn’t any more Hellenistic than any logical system that derives from Aristotle. Further, I then adopted the Aristotelian logic to respond to Nick.

    Photius says: “The union that we have with the divine is not different than what is had by the Incarnation.” And just what is the union of human and divine in Christ? You aren’t claiming, surely, that we become just as Christ became fully human in the Incarnation, we become fully divine by union with Christ? Such a view is surely unacceptable to you. Yet unless you are willing to make that claim, you could not possibly claim that the union is “no different” than the union of divine and human in Christ. That is another way of stating the problem. It is surely impossible that we have a union of divine and human nature in the same way that Christ did.

    Now you claim that my arguments turn on the Neo-Platonic concept of simplicity. No they don’t — I haven’t even invoked simplicity. I recognize that the Orthodox view of simplicity is more moderate than the Latin view. However, none of my arguments depend on the doctrine of simplicity so I fail to see how you come to the conclusion that it is the crux of the problem, since it is not even relevant.

  33. *shakes head*

    No I didn’t say Athanasius Greek world view was the problem, precisely because his world-view isn’t derived from Plato, Plotinus, Middle Platonism, or Aristotle. It is, rather, a complete divorce from Hellenism. From an Orthodox perspective, the Ecumenical Councils are breaking away from Hellenistic ideas and thinking.

    When you say the modality of divine properties are incompatible with the modality of human properties. I take that you mean that opposite properties cannot adhere in a single subject or hypostasis since they are distinct and opposite. And exactly how is this principle any different than Eunomianism. Eunomius stated as such. The Father is ingenerate, the Father is the divine essence, thus the divine essence is ingenerate. The Son is Generate, generate is not ingenerate, thus the Son is of a different essence then the Father. So you’re not a Hellenist? You sure fooled me! I see no argument that these modalities are incompatible in a singular hypostasis, just an assertion. Especially since scripture teaches and shows that Christ (a singular subject) employs two different kinds of properties, which if one understands the way the Fathers do theology designate two different natures. That’s the ordo theologiae: Persons — Operations — Essence. You need learn that. If not, you’ll never understand patristic christianity just like the Romanists.

    Yes you point to divine energies like simplicity, immutibility, etc. If you read Orthodox sources, the difference between Christ Hypostasis and a deified saint is essentially this: Christ has all the energies of God, while we can only participate in a limited amount due to our limitation as being a created hypostasis and having a beginning. Yet we still participate to the degree that His human nature participates or at least so in potentiality (since such is dependent on hypostatic employment).

    What I’m trying to tell you is that Aristotelian logic is insufficient to deconstruct Orthodoxy since it is based on revelation. Aristotelian logic is desriptive of a fallen world. The Fall for Saint Maximos is a fall INTO dialectical opposition. Theology doesn’t need any handmaidens here.

    You need to learn and understand that Orthodox Christianity has a different logic to it then Hellenism. For the Cappadocian Fathers, where logic seems to imply something contradictory to what revelation says, there’s something improper about the way the logic is being used. We have quite a low view of the humanity’s ability to reason after the fall. Some Palamism is quite helpful here too.

    Photios

  34. Your argument does turn on divine simplicity. Because the implication of your objection is that a deified Saint can’t employ divine properties (***the ones that you listed***), because said person cannot become immutible or simple either by nature or by hypostasis. Thus, the divine properties have becomes identical both individually and severally with the divine essence, so if one participates in one you participate in all. Such is a hidden assumption in your objection. Clever, but no good.

    Photios

  35. Blake,

    The councils don’t claim to be revelation but merely a consensus of interpretation and reasoning. As I see it, their only authority is their reasoning and when their reason turns out to be erroneous, they have no authority at all. So hiding behind the councils makes absolutely no sense to me. Just how you believe that using standard logical locutions is assuming the ability to deified reasoning capacities is a mystery to me. I see it as an attempt to avoid a sound argument.

    Athanasius did not claim to be deriving his own conclusions based on his reasoning and Scripture alone, but that he had received the truth through being instructed in the Tradition. He was not claiming new revelation. I do not believe the Incarnation of Christ can be derived from standard logic. God’s ways are higher than our ways so we need revelation, God becoming man, to show us who He is. I’m sure you’ve worked out a way to avoid Scriptural support for Christ being God, by choosing passages like “why do you call me good, no one is good except the Father” over “I and the Father are one.” Orthodox and Mormons claim to have the right interpretation of these two seemingly contradictory statements. So which interpretation to pick? Orthodox consider the witness of the Fathers which are consistent with the Church, and others pick people who support a different view. We believe we need the Church to protect us from our tendencies for self delusion that started with the first humans. Others think their own logic and the Bible alone, or the Bible with the book of Mormon or the Westminster Confession of Faith is sufficient to guard from delusion. The fact that you have an auxillary, agreed upon book and a hierarchy to enforce it is what I attribute your maintaining a somewhat consistent voice, unlike most Protestant groups. And most Protestants do not realize how much their beliefs are rooted in the Council of Nicea and the WCofF, instead of self-evident, logical truth from the Bible alone.

    I’m interested to know how you came to trust the Mormon understanding. Were you raised with it, or are those door to door people pretty effective?

    Why believe in the stability of God’s presence in the Church? What you’d rather believe is irrelevant.

    You are right that what I’d rather believe makes no difference in whether Jesus is God or not, just what Church I go to. I came to believe in the stability of God’s presence 3 years ago when I was inquiring into Catholicism to a large extent because my The Way International ex-husband supported his heretical beliefs too easily in the Bible alone and that the Protestants we went to church with didn’t hold him accountable enough to specifics. Through living with him I came to see that there’s a big difference in believing Jesus is the Son of God, which is as far as the Apostle’s Creed goes, and believing that He is God in essence as the Nicene Creed states. My Protestant circle didn’t see that his saying, ‘I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and rose from the dead’ wasn’t enough. But I just have subjective, fruitbearing, anecdotal, experiential evidence as to why I believe that made him a non-Christian which I don’t want to get into.

    The notion of created and uncreated natures in the same subject was precisely the problem that Chalcedon dealt with. You’re not claiming that we cannot review whether its solution is workable and logical do you? Since the two natures are nowhere elucidated (or in my view even hinted at) in scripture, it seems passing strange to hide behind a council that claimed no more basis for its views than the supposed soundness of its reasoning. Since its reasoning is demonstrably incoherent, why would anyone give allegiance?

    I think that everyone needs to research and think through what each group is claiming, but I just don’t believe personal logic alone is the driving force to where we eventually place our trust. Orthodoxy unites the heart, mind, soul and strength of a person in community, which was scattered by the fall. I think we look elsewhere when our experience, not just the logic falls short, and we feel permission enough to look for a better way. I think a lot of people are attracted to Mormonism because of the clean-cut, moral behavior (except for the polygamy thing which can be backed up by the Old Testament) of many of the people, and because you offer a sense of communion, consistency, and community, not just a philosophically logical argument.

  36. Blake says:

    Photius: My objection works with any divine property, regardless of whether the properties are simple and identical. So my objection doesn’t turn on simplicity at all. Take e.g., immutability. The divine nature is absolutely immutable according to Orthodoxy. Let’s admit that it is distinct from divine knowledge and so forth. It still follows that no human could participate in an absolutely immutable nature or possess such an immutable property in any sense remotely approaching a univocal manner with the way a divine person is immutable in Orthodox theology. So it doesn’t turn on simplicity and the argument is valid regardless of the view of simplicity you take. I will admit that the Latin view of simplicity makes these issues much more intractable in my view.

    I’m no hellenist. I don’t even accept any of the divine properties or nature in the way Orthodox parse them. But to claim that the Greek Fathers and Athanasius in particular are not influenced by and often reflect Hellenistic thinking is just too simplistic for any informed person.

    Andrea and Photius: You both claim that the Orthodox doctrine is based on revelation. Some of the scriptural texts may disclose divine revelation; but the Orthodox reading and interpretation is not based on revelation but the human reasoning of councils and theologians — and that is what is at issue.

    For example, Andrea say: “God’s ways are higher than our ways so we need revelation,” Now that is a very Mormon statement. But by “revelation” we mean very different things. For Mormons, revelation most often means divine information or knowledge disclosed to humans. That kind of revelation could be the basis of interpretation and doctrine. You take the revelation of Christ to be the basis for Orthodox doctrine. It isn’t, however, because Christ doesn’t disclose any doctrine of his person. The kinds of distinctions and doctrines we’re discussing didn’t even interest jesus as far as I can see. The person of Christ doesn’t reveal in any way how we should understand the metaphysical issues raised, for instance, by Perry and Photius and the Greek Fathers. However, Orthodoxy is chuck full of these kinds of extra-biblical claims about divine nature, energies, unity of divine persons, indeed, “divine person” isn’t even a term used in the biblical texts.

    I’m aware that Orthodox base their interpretation on the Fathers and tradition. But I cannot see any reason to credit either beyond its rational persuasiveness. And for me, the Orthodox tradition is contra-rational and lacks persuasive power at all.

    However, I agree with this statement Andrea: “I think a lot of people are attracted to Mormonism because of the clean-cut, moral behavior (except for the polygamy thing which can be backed up by the Old Testament) of many of the people, and because you offer a sense of communion, consistency, and community, not just a philosophically logical argument.”

    However, for people like me Christianity is not merely a social club with good people. It is also rationally persuasive and scripturally supportable — and I don’t believe that Orthodoxy is either.

  37. The Fathers not influenced by Hellenism? Try Fr. Michael Azkoul, St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Tradition of the Fathers. I know that Western scholars read the Fathers differently, but they generally don’t know what an Orthodox consider as a Father and they subordinated revelation to philosophy starting with the pseudo-Athanasian (Augustinian) creed. So for them Hellenism supplies not only the vocabulary but also the “content” to do theology, whereas the Orthodox we have taken a hellenistic term and dump its Hellenistic content and plug it with the biblical meaning, reverse gnostic style. No surprise here that you read immutible the same way, whereas we do not. Same with infinity, simplicity, and other terms.

    Photios

  38. Blake, of course you are perfectly hypostatically free to reject the Orthodox Church on the grounds that you do not hypostatically find it logical that Christ’s revelation of who He is is preserved, guarded, confirmed and kept as contemporarily and culturally expressed by the Orthodox Church, ‘the pillar and ground of truth that the gates of hell has not prevailed against” for the past 2000 years, and to hypostatically hold that it does not maintain what the Bible was not big enough nor meant to contain, and to affirm instead that Joseph Smith, instead of the Orthodox Church is God’s more logically correct prophet. But “what you’d rather believe is irrelevant”.

  39. trinitarianunion says:

    Blake,
    One of the issues I am having the most trouble with is your constant recapitulation (forgive the pun) of the Harnack thesis. I am not at all convinced of Harnack’s premise and it seems, at least from my reading, that modern academics aren’t either. Furthermore it seems that your own approbation of Keith Norman begins to look a lot like the Hellenistic position which you think Orthodoxy is so guilty of. It was the system of Plotinus, who argued in the third Ennead that the whole realm of the One was impassible because it was bodiless and thus unable to be touched or affected by the created realm; the Platonist/neo Platonists then were the ones that claimed the utter transcendence of God, who being above passions was unable to be involved in the world directly and thus posited intermediaries. However the theology of Athanasius vis a vis Origen and neo Platonism stated that God’s goodness overcame the distance between creation and himself by the very act of the incarnation. Thus it is the theology of Athanasius which moves beyond the philosophical Hellenism of the neo Platonists and their understanding of transcendence to Gods goodness and love and care for creation serving as the ground of intervention in the incarnation. I fail to see how this looks anything like Hellenism. I will grant the use of language, but such language went through both baptism and conversion.

  40. Blake says:

    Trinity: I could care less about whether the Orthodox view is Hellenistic or not. It is incoherent. Others here have urged that somehow I am adopting a Hellenistic position. I am merely taking the Orthodox view of deification of humans and showing that it is nothing of the sort — coherently construed. The Orthodox have inconsistent views of the divine attributes and nature and human capacity.

    I grant that the Greek Fathers move beyond prior Greek philosophers, but they use them as stepping stones. Their entire theology makes no sense at all without the underlying Greek and Hellenistic world-view to frame the problems and provide the assumptions from which they work.

  41. trinitarianunion says:

    Blake,

    You assert the Orthodox are inconsistent in their views concerning attributes, nature and human capacity and I am curious how so? Based on your syllogism above I am not convinced you have properly understood the framework of the Orthodox. Furthermore it seems that your understanding of consubstantial unity and equating this attribution with the divine nature smacks of Eunomianism and lacks the apophatic sensibilities which should be employed. I have never read any Orthodox theologian who ventures to define the Divine nature in the manner you stipulate. Also you concede that the Orthodox have an altogether different understanding of simplicity than the West does, but then you use an argument that would only be applicable under a western paradigm. So I for one would certainly appreciate to see how the Orthodox paradigm is incoherent, off the mark etc, but your offering above seems to fall drastically short. Thanks.

  42. Blake says:

    Trinity: I’ve already shown what you are asking for. The fact that you don’t see it suggests to me that it is impossible to make further headway based upon fairly clear logical standards. I’ll be the first to admit that it is possible that I am missing some nuance. When outsiders write about Mormonism they hardly ever get it right and often making what are obvious errors to Mormons. Even when I point out the problems, they seem incapable of catching the distinctions and nuances.

    However, I am quite familiar with the writings of the Cappadocians and Orthodox theologians. I don’t see how what I say adopts a western view of simplicity or paradigm at all. Indeed, I have carefully avoided an identity of attributes entailed in the Augustinian and Thomistic views of simplicity.

    Further, where do I equate substantial unity with divine nature? Perhaps you could point it out rather than assert it. It is given that the Father, Son and HG share a substantial unity. This unity is not identical to, but is entailed by, the divine nature. It is clear that humans do not have any kind of substantial unity of the kind shared by the divine persons in Orthodox thought. That is all that I assert. That is all that is necessary to show the incoherence.

    Finally, often apophatic sensibilities seem to really be a way of refusing to deal with the logical issues at hand. In my experience, apophaticism usually entails the denial that we can actually even address the logical issues at hand so we can mire ourselves in incongruous mystery. All too often the apophatic approach is used as license to avoid addressing logical problems. In fact, I would say that it has often functioned that way in Orthodox “thought.”

  43. nathanwells says:

    very interesting – thanks everyone for taking the time to write, it has been good to read.

  44. Nick says:

    Hi Blake,
    If you are still reading this post, earlier you mentioned “you adopted Aristotelian logic to respond to Nick”. I am curious as to where you did this? The only response you gave to the argument I made was that I was begging the question in my first premise. You said I had to show in some non question begging way that (1) follows in my argument. Then I responded that I was not begging the question, in fact I hinted at the fact you were question begging by assuming an instantiation view of the relations between universals and partilcuars in your argument. What I showed was that there is a way to understand this relation (the inherence view which I took to be closer to the Orthodox position) which entailed the falsity of you premise number **4. What I showed was that there is a way a particular with a nature (human) can be the same kind of partilcuar as another particular that shares that same nature, but that this later partilcuar can have another nature inhereing in it which the former partilcuar does not take on. They are still united qua human nature but not qua divine nature. So from an ontological and logical point of view there is no problem with my premise (1).
    The question comes down to one of which view is closer to the deposit of fath? My claim in my second post was that the inherence view and hence premise (1) is closer to the Fathers. And the Fathers in turn have the view they do becuase they think it just is what was given in the tradition, namely the tradition that is given by Christ handed down to his disciples that has been codified in the scriptures. So the question is a hermenutical question and not anything to do with begging the question. What is your hermenutical principle used to interpret the scripture? Joseph Smith having some vision from an angle? Thats fine, I have had some pretty neat visions back in my days when I flirted with psychadelics (I do not say this disrespectfully just stating my expierence). Mohamed claimed to have a text revealed by the arch angle (I think Michael but it could be Gabrial). Benny Hinn and the whole lot of word of faith folks claim to have all kinds of revalations. I guess we have to decide which tradition gives us the most plausible epistemic warrant for its claims (a McIntyrian kind of approach maybe).

  45. Rob G. says:

    Blake said, “It is given that the Father, Son and HG share a substantial unity. This unity is not identical to, but is entailed by, the divine nature. It is clear that humans do not have any kind of substantial unity of the kind shared by the divine persons in Orthodox thought. That is all that I assert. That is all that is necessary to show the incoherence.”

    This discussion has become somewhat difficult to follow due to the multiple contributors and issues. This quote seems to contain the nub of Blake’s contention. Maybe someone could address this directly?

    ‘All too often the apophatic approach is used as license to avoid addressing logical problems. In fact, I would say that it has often functioned that way in Orthodox “thought.”’

    Is it not rather an admission that human logic has its limits, especially when discussing the Deity? Would you admit ANY area or issue of theology wherein lies a mystery in the strict sense, or do you get to pick and choose your mysteries? I have heard this same argument before from Lutherans and Calvinists, that the East ‘retreats’ into mystery whenever explaining something becomes difficult or illogical. Of course, they do exactly what they accuse us of doing, except at different points (all theologies have aspects that don’t support purely rationalistic, logical thinking.) The difference is, as Nick implied, that the Orthodox have a long-standing, continuous, hermeneutical and epistemological foundation from which to reason on these things, which comes from Scripture and the Patristic Tradition. Protestants don’t, and Mormons especially do not. We can ask you the same thing Athanasius asked of the Arians: “Where are the fathers for your beliefs?” In other words, where’s the pedigree, where’s the continuity? Fact is, there is none. You are proceeding by the logic of your own lights, and, as Fr. Patrick Reardon has described it, using ‘theory’ to trump Tradition.

    All theologies are necessarily apophatic to a certain degree, since our knowledge of God cannot be exhaustive. The question is, who decides what you’re going to be apophatic about, and what is it?

  46. trinitarianunion says:

    Blake,

    Your complaints are fair in so far as I am misunderstanding your position. I am certainly not trying to misconstrue your post and am actually earnestly trying to understand your argument but I can only go with the information you have provided. As far as I *am able* to see your argument turns on a premise which seems to misunderstand the Orthodox position. You state, after your syllogism discussing the essence and energies distinction the following conclusion:

    “Yet if we share the same human nature or substance with Christ, the doctrine of divine energies just leaves vacuous what it is we share with Christ that could possibly include anything like sharing the divine nature”

    You seem to be concluding for your antecedent argument that *if* we share in the divine energies and those energies don’t manifest a “unity” or “righteousness” exactly like the unity or righteousness of the Divine persons then the doctrine of the divine energies is vacuous. Is that correct? If so then I am convinced that you don’t understand the Orthodox position. The Orthodox position (the best I understand it) is that you actually do partake of the very righteousness of God. The energies of God are without beginning as the Fathers affirm; for how could one conceive of a beginning of Gods righteousness, his wisdom etc. No there is a single, un-originate righteousness of which we partake which is not the essence, but which does not diminish the reality of our participation. Diminution would follow *only* if the essence of God is absolutely simple, and thus to participate in God would be to participate in that simple essence. Consequently this is why I brought up simplicity.

    As Palamas noted the essence of God is not alone un-originate. Those things which have a beginning are those which exist by participation in those virtues which are without beginning and without end. Thus as we participate in these works, powers, Gods wisdoms (logoi), we participate in the divine nature and are thus righteous, immortal and incorruptible even as he is. Furthermore God is not divorced from His energies, as if the energies were impersonal instantiations, but rather those energies are completely personal. Here again are the word of Palamas;

    “But as for you, you allege all that is participable is created, that not only the works, but also the powers and energies of God have a beginning and a temporal end!…You accuse of impiety and threaten with excommunication and anathema those saints who glorify God according to his essence, which exceeds even His uncreated energies, since this essence transcends all affirmation and all negation. Since you hold and teach these opinions, have you any way of proving that you are not to be classed with the heretics of past times, since you declare that not only are all the energies and all the works of God created, but even the very powers of this superessential nature.”

    Only an alien ontology of the scriptures and the Fathers could begin to believe that participation in the energies of God is not participation in the divine nature. Thus when we partake of that righteousness which is His we indeed partake of the Divine nature and are thus divinized. Also, so far as unity with God is concerned, I am not convinced you have accurately understood Christology. It is because God himself assumed humanity that we can be united to God. Man (human nature) and God (divine nature) are not dialectically opposed as you seem to state, rather our salvation concerns our union with God. The incarnation is the assumption of a human body and soul by the Divine Logos, who takes a human nature whole and complete. These natures, being hypostatically united in Christ we see that the Logos thus permeates both natures without separation or confusion. Thus the divine energies are communicated personally to the human nature without communication of the essence (contra Osiander, Lutheranism etc.) Cyril writes:

    “For we do not say that the Nature of the Word was changed and became flesh, nor that He was transformed into a complete human being…but this rather, that the Word, having united to himself in own hypostasis, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner, flesh animated with a rational soul, became man, and was called Son of Man…and that while the natures which were brought together into this genuine unity were different, yet out of them both is the one Christ and Son, not as though the difference of the natures was abolished by the union, but rather the Godhood and manhood, by their ineffable and unspeakable coming together into unity, perfected for us the one Lord and Christ and Son.”

    Humanity is united to God. Furthermore I am not at all convinced, according to your reasoning that man must share the exact unity that the three persons of the Trinity share for there to be actual Theosis. How you get from there to here I cant see…though I do confess Blake that this may be my own inadequacies.

    Let me give one caveat here; I am not Orthodox but am protestant and am seeking to understand the Orthodox position better. If I have mispoken or misrepresented the tradition I trust Daniel or Perry will notify me. Also I am genuinely interested in your comments and I have tried to maintain a rhetoric free post

  47. Aaron,

    Exactly. The union that we have with God is not the type of union that is had by the Trinity, but rather the Incarnation. If the former, then their would be as many hypostases of God as there has been and ever will be human persons. Sctipture no where teaches this. At this point, what it means to be human and what it means to be deity has no meaning, but would rather be a kind of monism. Instead of a flight of the soul of the ‘alone to the alone’ as Plotinus taught, Blake drags the One down to the same ontological status as humans. He’s just on the other side of the dialectic then Plotinus.

    “Furthermore, if the Son is begotten from the Father, and the Spirit (according to this innovation) proceeds from the Father and the Son, then by the same token another person should proceed from the Spirit, and so we should have not three but four persons! And if the fourth procession be possible, then another procession is possible from that, and so on to an infinite number of processions and persons, until at last this doctrine is transformed into a Greek polytheism!” — Mystagogia 37

    Photios

  48. JKC says:

    Being new to these issues I am not exactly sure if I understand what Blake is trying to do. From what I am getting, he is trying to do a reduction ad absurdum. In order to do this he has to assume Orthodox principles, and then show how the Incarnation and deification are inconsistent within those principles. So if he is mistaken as to what those principles are, or imports foreign principles onto the Orthodox system, then his charge of incoherence will itself be incoherent.

    In doing this he is trying to show that the Orthodox position is inconsistent on at least two issues:

    1. The Incarnation is inconsistent with the Orthodox view of the difference between a divine and human essence.

    2. Even if the Incarnation is consistent, or is assumed as a first principle, the Orthodox understanding of deification (exchange) would still be inconsistent with its understanding of the hypostatic union.

    Am I understanding this right?

  49. JKC,

    Yes you are understanding this right.

    Very difficult to perform a reductio against Orthodoxy in the way that he’s going about it since Orthodoxy doesn’t measure theology by working through dialectical processes to get to the truth. If scripture says that a single subject performs two different kinds of operations, one signifying man and the other signifying deity, then we affirm as much regardless of what the dialecticians say. Christ is finite and Christ is infinite signify two different natures, yet are distinct in the sense that one of them is not the same as the other. To say that Christ’s eating, drinking, walking and running, things that signify his humanity, is of the same ontological status as Creating, Raising the Dead, and Healing the Sick, things that signify deity, is to fuse together that their is One will and One operation in Christ. Those that are familiar with the Disputation with Pyrrhus text should recall the Apollinarianism and Monotheletism of such a view-point, which should also bring to mine all the predestinarian problem that we have dealt with and worked so hard against. Thus, humanity is pushed along and co-opted by the Logos with no essential integrity of its own: I.e. the will as faculty is hypostatic. This Blake does not understand all the problems that he is creating in not differentiating, from the ordo theologiae, the uncreate and the created. Free-will will be seen dialectically again, with no stability and permanency in the eschaton. The stasis part of ever-moving-“rest” is gone and Origen’s cyclical falls and redemptions is left wide open.

    I’m sure Perry is thinking up a time bomb to drop on here that ties alot of these things together.

    Photios

  50. Cyprian says:

    I’m not sure Blake knows what he just walked into, lol…

  51. Jonathan Prejean says:

    Blake’s written a pair of books on the subject that are well-researched, so I don’t imagine he’ll be scared off that easily.

    Blake:
    Speaking of your books, I was just re-reading v. 1 of Examining Mormon Doctrine, and I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. You seem to view the Godhead as possessing infinite potential for happiness, and since Jesus retained that infinite potential in His kenosis, He remains divine. You argue (at least as I understand it) that classical Christology is incoherent because it asserts the divine nature as having properties not compossible with humanity. What consistently bothered me is how the idea of unlimited potential as divinity can be coherent absent some real act by which it is measured.

    To argue that God has unlimited potential for happiness, ISTM there must be a such thing as actually unlimited happiness. It would seem that you’ve skewered yourself on St. Anselm’s argument: an actually unlimited happiness cannot exist merely intentionally. In order to appeal to the concept, you have to believe that it exists, not merely intentionally but actually. But by your own admission, divinity is potentially but not actually unlimited in happiness. Is that not a contradiction? Or do you consider Anselm’s argument invalid or unsound? If you reject Anselm’s account, then how does unlimited happiness or unlimited capacity to relate actually mean anything?

    A couple of other questions occurred to me as well:
    * If only the intelligibility (possibility) but not the actual existence (actuality) of things need to be explained, then what motivation do we have to accept the Mormon account (or indeed, any account) of God’s existence? I recognize that it is a bad habit of analytic philosophy to disregard actual existence as a matter of philosophical inquiry (“existence is not a predicate” and whatnot) and so to reduce metaphysics to logic, but I think there has been some good analytic philosophy to show why this approach is wrong-headed (in particular, see William Vallicella’s A Paradigm Theory of Existence and Barry Miller’s A Most Unlikely God).

    * How is the Mormon “precritical” idea of revelation any better than the Orthodox apophaticism you decry?

    Anyway, I’m just a hack as far as philosophy goes, so I’m sure I can’t be the only person who has read your books and been unconvinced. Like Nick, I wonder if the same disputed premises (particularly on existence) aren’t just being carried over into your modal arguments. But I’ll leave it to you to explain yourself as you see fit.

  52. Blake says:

    I’ve been very busy, so I’ll respond to Photios and Trinitarian later. However, Jonathan, you view about divine perfection is logically flawed because attributes like happiness to not admit of a logically upper bounded maximum. No matter how happy one is, it is conceivable one could be happier. So the notion of a “greatest possible happiness” makes no sense — it is like the greatest possible integer. There cannot be any such limit. So Anselm’s notion of perfection as a maximal limit, a “greatest possible being,” is also flawed in the same way. There are just some divine attributes that do not admit of maxima. The notion of “actually unlimited happiness” is incoherent nonsense — like the notion of actual greatest possible integer.

    I’m not clear what you mean “some act by which it is measured.” If there is no maximum, it is logically impossible to measure by anything because the notion of a maximal actualization is incoherent. However, if there is no possible measurement, then the notion of a “greatest possible” also lacks meaning because there is no way of comparing less than greatest with greatest in that event.

    I don’t decry apophaticism per se when properly addressed to human limitations on what we can grasp. What I decry is using the cry of mystery and claiming we don’t grasp what we do. Let me give an example. I don’t and cannot grasp the enormity of the distance between the sun and the earth. it is just beyond my ability to comprehend. However, that doesn’t mean that I cannot grasp that there are exactly two planets between the earth and the sun. It is a basic problem when these two types of issues are confused. I cannot grasp the extent of divine power. However, I can grasp that predicating divine power of a human in Orthodox thought is logically impossible because the modality of God’s power is logically different than any human could have. So I can easily conclude that no human could possess the essential attribute of divine power in Orthodox thought without grasping the extent of the divine power itself. It is this type of special pleading to avoid legitimate issues and logical problems that I decry and that is rampant among Orthodox in this discussion.

  53. No, they are not different. When St. Peter employs the divine power to forgive sins, raise the dead, walk on water, is not logically different then when Christ employs the divine power in the same operations. We have those by dent of Christ’s person, which you continually ignore. Same goes with human operations. So, you have not shown that humans have the divine energy from the moment of creation as some mere extrinsic relation or that it is impossible for Human persons to employ divine powers.

  54. Blake says:

    Photios: You’re not getting it. I can forgive people. I do it all of the time without divine power. What I cannot do is create something using the divine power in the same way. I cannot be immutable, timeless, a se, impassible and so forth in anything like the divine way. So pointing to forgiveness is merely avoiding the issue and attempting a misdirection.

    Here is the problem, and it is what you admit. Humans have existence as a mere extrinsic relation; God has it in se. Humans have power only as an extrinsic relation; God has it in se. It is essential to these divine attributes that they be possessed in se. If God didn’t have these attributes in se, you wouldn’t consider it God. Parity of reason, when humans have these attributes and powers only extrinsically, they have them only in a non-divine way.

  55. Rob G. says:

    But Blake, apophaticism does not speak solely or even primarily to the issue of the limitation of human knowledge. You cannot grasp the distance between the earth and the sun; fair enough. But the mere fact that you cannot grasp it has nothing to do at all with the fact that there does really exist a specific measurable distance between the earth and sun. It is no less measurable, in theory, than the number of planets there between. You say “It is a basic problem when these two types of issues are confused.” But they are actually not two different types of issues, but the same issue. Both have finite answers; one is just more difficult to reach than the other. But this has little if anything to do with apophaticism, since apophaticism in the Christian sense is not primarily an epistemological concern. God is infinite and incomprehensible in Himself, not just because we don’t have the mental faculties to be able to comprehend him. The Christian God is REVEALED as unknowable; his unknowability is not some fact that we can reason our way to.

  56. Blake says:

    Rob: “The Christian God is REVEALED as unknowable; his unknowability is not some fact that we can reason our way to.”

    No Rob, the you know what what you worship applies to the philosophers whom Paul addressed on Mars Hill. They also didn’t know what they worshipped.

    Look, we can grasp the disparity in the human and divine nature. it is not a mystery that something timeless cannot be temporal, something metaphysically immutable cannot be also walking around the Palestinian country side. We know quite enough to be able to grasp that these are not logically compatible. That is not to say that I grasp what it would be like to be timeless or immutable. So the confusion is multiplied when we address apophaticism as you do.

  57. Blake,

    No.

    You missed my point of having two sets of operations in a single hypostasis. If you forgive someone, as a human operation, it doesn’t have the efficacy to remit judgment before God and heal the Person. No one can forgives sins except God, yet Peter forgives sins. How?

    Here’s another way to think about it. Is Moses finite or is he infinite? Or is he perhaps both?

    The problem is dialectic as you admit in your last post. That something temporal cannot be timeless. But that is begging the question of an Orthodox, since we deny such a method in doing theology.

    Perhaps a little hymnography will bring this to light:

    http://www.mytholog.com/poetry/farrell_5_soliloquy_leo.html

    “In order, then, to render their attack upon the Savior efficacious, this is the blasphemous method that they have adopted. There is no need, they urge, of looking at the collective attributes by which the Son’s equality in honour and dignity with the Father is signified, but ***from the opposition between generate and ungenerate*** we must argue a distinctive difference of nature..” –St. Gregory of Nyssa

    I’ll let the readers here decide who is the Usurper, Hellenist, and Gnostic and who is the Orthodox Christian.

    It’s really hard to see the difference between you and Iamblichus and you an Eunomius on the other. In latter there is a One above the One, and beyond that One, in an infinite regress. Your own dialectic fails you. Eunomianism is a sufficient reductio ad absurdum to your position. If the Father is uncreated, then what is begotten cannot be uncreated. You’ll either have to confess that nothing is truly unbegotten and you will take Iamblichus to the next step or you’re a Eunomian that only the Father is uncreate.

    Photios

  58. Rob G. says:

    But Christian teaching is universally consistent in saying precisely the opposite; the Christian God is NOT the god of the philosophers. He cannot be reasoned to, only revealed. One can, I believe, reason one’s way to the existence of a deity; this deity, however, will not be the Christian God.

    Furthermore, the incomprehensibility of the philosopher’s God is not even the same incomprehensibility as that of the Christian God. The former is tautological and reductionist, but this is not what Christian revelation means when it describes God as incomprehensible.

    “We know quite enough to be able to grasp that these are not logically compatible.”

    I disagree, but then let me ask you this: in your religion and understanding of God, are there any components whatsoever that are not logically compatible? Or does it all fit together neatly like a jigsaw puzzle? In Mormonism, does anything devolve into mystery in the theological sense?

    “So the confusion is multiplied when we address apophaticism as you do.”

    Your understanding of apophaticism is incorrect, as you seem to be unable to separate the ontological from the epistemological, as if the difference between God’s inner truth and our grasping of it is simply one of degree, not one of kind. This obviously is wrong. It is like saying that when God said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” he meant merely that he has more of them and that they are more complex.

  59. JKC says:

    Blake,

    Just wondering how you would define an infinite potential quality? In what way do you use the term infinite as referring to God’s being, quantitativly or qualitatively?

    I think (though not totally sure) that the Orthodox believe that the divine Persons are passable, while the nature is not. The Persons in some way transcend the nature or are not limited by the nature (though never separate from), which allows for the incarnation and atonement.

  60. JKC says:

    Blake,

    If the Orthodox believe that the Persons are passable due to their transcendence (I’m getting this from John Meyendorff if my memory is correct), then I believe it escapes your charge of incoherence. I think this is what Nick was pointing to when he was using the inherence position rather then instantiation. Since our understanding of what an essence or a person is is not exhaustive, all that needs to be shown is that this transcendence does not contradict or diffuse their relation, and in that you will have a legitimate mystery. One may not like the position, but I believe it will not be incoherent.

  61. Good point JKC. That brings back the distinction between Person and Nature nicely. Natures never change, which is why we don’t acquire a ‘sin nature’ and other such non-sense of those who confuse person and nature:

    “By nature we have an appetite simply for what by nature is good, but we gain experience of the goal in a particular way, through inquiry and counsel. Because of this, then, the gnomic will is fitly ascribed to us, being a mode of the employment [of the will], and not a principle of nature, otherwise nature [itself] would change innumerable times.” — St. Maximus the Confessor, Disputation with Pyrrhus

    Photios

  62. Blake says:

    Trinitarian said: “As Palamas noted the essence of God is not alone un-originate. Those things which have a beginning are those which exist by participation in those virtues which are without beginning and without end. Thus as we participate in these works, powers, Gods wisdoms (logoi), we participate in the divine nature and are thus righteous, immortal and incorruptible even as he is. Furthermore God is not divorced from His energies, as if the energies were impersonal instantiations, but rather those energies are completely personal. Here again are the word of Palamas.”

    Here is the problem. The assertion that we participate in God’s life and incorruptibility “even as he is” is simply in error. God possess life and incorruptibility necessarily and as part of his essence. We don’t. In each moment, if God did not act to keep us in existence, we would wink out of existence. So God has existence and incorruptibility necessarily and totally independently of any others; we have it only contingently and in total dependence in Orthodox thought. Thus, in fact we are not incorruptible nor do we possess as part of what we are — we have them in a modality or way that is completely different. Indeed, the way we may become incorruptible and immortal is so far different from God, that to say we participate in God’s life is a fundamental logical error. It is the divine nature to possess these qualities necessarily and a se. It is not human and cannot be human nature to do so in Orthodox thought. Thus, we don’t participate in the divine nature because to so we would have to able to participate in unparticipated life and unborrowed incorruptibility. It is logically impossible for us to do that. Once again, if we have life, it is not divine life but merely God’s act to keep us in existence in each moment.

    Further, if I have understood Trinitarian correctly, he maintains that there are essential divine attributes that have a beginning. Certainly, if human participate in the divine, then we participate at some first time because our existence has a first moment. But an essential divine property cannot have beginning. If there were something essential to God that began to exist, then before it existed he would not be divine. Thus, the notion of “an essential divine attribute that has a beginning” is incoherent.

    Finally, the issues of christology are very large and take time to address. However, the problem is that there cannot be a hypostatic union of attributes that are logically impossible to exist in the same person. For example, Jesus could not be both omniscient and limited in knowledge, omnipotent and limited in power, timeless and located in time. That is why there is a two nature theology — one nature is predicated of the Son, and the other of the human Jesus. The problem is the Son and Jesus are supposed to be the same “person,” Christ, and thus must be the same subject of the predicate “is” and thus we must be able to say that Christ is both omniscient and limited in knowledge. It is a logical mess and it is incoherent. I have two chapters where I explain these problems in my book, and it is perhaps foolish to attempt to address the issue on a blog because it takes careful discussion. But merely citing persons who state that the two logically incompatible nature are united in one person, as Trinitarian does, doesn’t establish that they are logically consistent and can exist in the same person.

    Photius: Further, there is a clear distinction between the accidental properties of a person (what you call “Person”) and essential properties of a person. A nature is defined by essential properties. The problem is that if a nature has essential properties, then it is impossible for the person to belong to that nature and yet not have the essential properties. So merely recognizing a distinction does solve the problem as you consistently and incorrectly assumed. For example, while there is a distinction between being the person I am and having DNA, I couldn’t be the person I am without my DNA. Your response assumes that a person could have properties inconsistent with being human — like being immutable, uncreated, a se, timeless and so forth. That just isn’t true. So noting a distinction just doesn’t solve the logical problem.

    One final thing — it hardly answers a logical problem to say that someone else used a similar argument. My arguments certainly differ in terms of logical presentation and merely saying someone else made a similar argument so I don’t have to answer is the ad hominem fallacy.

  63. Cyprian says:

    Jonathan Prejean wrote: “Blake’s written a pair of books on the subject that are well-researched, so I don’t imagine he’ll be scared off that easily.”

    I’m not sure if that is in response to my comment or not, but if it is, my posting earlier could have been read like a bit of taunting in Blake’s direction. So regardless, I should clarify what I meant. Rather than intending to taunt, I only meant that it seemed to me that he wasn’t sure what he was walking into when he started posting so far as there are capable people that would be able to conceptually engage his arguments in a meaningful manner. Blake does strike me as a intelligent person, which in turn is not to suggest that this means his arguments are any more cogent or lack-there-of because of that fact. Anyhow, I should have been clear if that much wasn’t obvious enough.

  64. Blake says:

    I have posted several responses and none of them are showing. Why not?

  65. I’ll look into it…something is getting caught.

  66. Blake,

    Since you are so well-researched, you have probably already studied the concept of kenosis, nevertheless, from Wikipedia,

    “In Christian theology, Kenosis is the concept of the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God and his perfect will. It is used both as an explanation of the incarnation, and an indication of the nature of God’s activity and condescension. Mystical theologian John of the Cross’ work “Dark Night of the Soul” is a particularly lucid explanation of God’s process of transforming the believer into the icon or “likeness of Christ”.

    An apparent dilemma arises when Christian theology posits a God outside of time and space, who enters into time and space to become human (incarnate). The doctrine of Kenosis attempts to explain what the Son of God chose to give up in terms of his divine attributes, or divinity, in order to assume human nature. Since the incarnate Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, Kenosis holds that these changes were temporarily assumed by God in his incarnation, and that when Jesus ascended back into heaven following the resurrection, he fully reassumed all of his original attributes and divinity.

    Specifically it refers to attributes of God that are thought to be incompatible with becoming fully human. For example, God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience as well as his aseity, eternity, infinity, impassibility and immutability. Theologians who support this doctrine often appeal to a reading of Philippians 2:5-8. Critics of Kenosis theology argue that the context of Philippians 2:5-8 is referring to Jesus voluntarily taking the form of a servant to conceal his divine glory (revealed temporarily in the Transfiguration), or to forsaking his place and position in heaven to dwell among men, as opposed to forsaking his divine attributes or nature (see syncatabasis).

    Kenotic Christology focuses on certain passages in the Gospels where Jesus questions his being called good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, Matthew 19:17), and evidence that he was not omniscient concerning the date of the Second Advent (Mark 13:32, Matthew 24:36). It became a central issue in the Protestant debates of the sixteenth century, and was revived in the nineteenth century to reinterpret classical doctrines of the incarnation.”

    Phil. 2:5 (NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  67. JKC says:

    I believe I misstated the position. The Persons are transcendent, but only Jesus is
    passable because he assumed a passable nature.

  68. Blake says:

    Andrea: I am indeed well-researched on kenotic christology. I present a modified kenotic christology in the last chapter of my first volume: Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God, While I believe that a kenotic christology can work given the assumptions of Mormon thought, I don’t believe it comes close to working within either the Eastern or Western traditions. Here’s why. As you admit but never clear up or even address, there is a problem if God is considered to be timeless or outside of time. Orthodox believe that God is timeless and strongly immutable. But if God the Son is timeless and immutable in the strong sense required by divine timelessness, it is impossible for him give up or become anything. By becoming human thru emptying himself of the fullness of the divine attributes, as you suggest, there is a time before when the Son fully possessed these attributes, a time after that when he emptied himself of these attributes, and a time after that when he was exalted and re-gained the fullness of divine attributes. Thus, the Son cannot be timeless and immutable.

    Because I believe that you are correct that the scriptures point toward a kenotic christology, I don’t believe that the Orthodox view of divinity and God is logically consistent. You brought up the fact that there is a problem if God is outside of time — but the Orthodox tradition is firmly committed to God’s immutability in a sense that is very clearly inconsistent with kenotic christology. I was just wondering why you would address or adopt the kenotic christology, bring up the problematic issue of timelessness but not address it?

  69. Blake,

    I’m afraid that if you want to continue on the course that you are on any sort of dialogue will be futile. No Orthodox does theology in the way that you describe, or at least not one worth his salt. Here’s an example. You say:

    “For example, Jesus could not be both omniscient and limited in knowledge, omnipotent and limited in power, timeless and located in time. That is why there is a two nature theology — one nature is predicated of the Son, and the other of the human Jesus.”

    This is one example among many of the writings I’ve seen from you so far. The very “logic” in which you framed the way one is to do or consider ontological categories is THAT VERY PROBLEM WHICH PRODUCED BOTH NESTORIANISM AND MONOPHYSITISM.

    No Orthodox does theology in this way. There’s a subtle confusion between person and nature here. We don’t predicate divine properties to the Son (which you confuse a person with the divine nature) and then predicate properties about the human Jesus (which you confuse a person with the human nature). We consider first Who is doing the Act, in a way such that the Person and the Operation are always foremost in consideration. We then make conclusions about the nature based on the type of Operation being done by said Person. Thus, the subject is always singular, while the operations are diverse. We never predicate operations of a nature, prior to, and consideration of Who is doing the operation. This is the way or order in which Orthodox do theology: the ordo theologiae. So where you wish us resolve certain paradoxes, we are left thinking, “Yeah, so? AND??” We don’t start with such an ordo in our thinking. We just don’t have the relationship between faith and reason, philosophy and theology, that you do. Your whole “dilemma” is just one big question begging for an Orthodox. If you want to give an internal critigue, follow the way an Orthodox think, and not this “Augustinian” ordo you wish to superimpose on us, which you are showing yourself to be nothing but a product of: http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2007/05/16/prolegomena-to-god-history-and-dialectic-by-most-rev-photius-joseph-p-farrell-ssb-dphiloxon/

    My point in showing your congruence with Hellenistic thinking is to try to point you in the direction that your game here is question begging, not necessarily ad hominem (though I think there’s a point where that can be necessary too). You construe the problems and premise in a certain way that an Orthodox will never accept. If you make arguments here to me that have their same logical basis in say Eunomius or Plotinus or Iamblichus, it is to alert the Orthodox reader of that good ol’ enemy that has always been to subvert us: Gnosticism. Don’t like that? Tough.

    Photios

  70. Blake says:

    Photios: Here is the problem and it is why no dialog will be profitable for us. When I use unproblematic logical constructs, you call pull an ad hominem in response and call it Hellensitic. It doesn’t matter what the merits or logic of the argument because if it disagrees with you pre-conceived views, you reject it as contrary to your tradition. Of course it is! I am challenging your tradition. To merely say that it conflicts with your traditional views, as if it answered the argument, demonstrates that you are simply unwilling to subject your views to logical scrutiny — not to mention biblical scrutiny.

    But let me add that any religion that refuses to subject itself to such scrutiny is impoverished thereby. Your position is analogous to this: say that you have a religion (rather like yours) that says that there is a person who both does and does not have a physical body. I point out that it simply denies what it affirms so it is a logical mess. You respond that your tradition would never accept the premises, would never accept a view that suggests it is somehow incorrect. I throw my hands up in the air and say — “then why are you trying to reason and use language at all? After all, you want to reason, you just don’t want to when the reasoning suggests what you accept is somehow unworkable.” With that the discussion must end and I walk away shaking my head in holy wonder and you walk away in a pious satisfaction that you maintained your faith even against “the horror of Hellenistic logic.”

  71. AH says:

    I think it is important to recognize what Christology does and does not necessitate when we discuss kenoticism. The council of Chalcedon established that Christ assumed a *complete* humanity against the heretical notions of Nestorius. The reasons for this were articulated by Gregory of Nazianzus, “For that which is not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to the Godhead is also saved.” It is this comment by Gregory which develops an ingrained line of reflection serving as the principal constituent for the history of Christology. This also acts presuppositionally as a lens by which the history of Christological controversy can be viewed; if you want to know why the fathers felt so passionate about a particular heresy ask yourself the question: “Does the heresy deny salvation to a particular aspect of the human person? [i.e., ‘will,’ ‘soul,’ ‘body’ etc].” If so, then the reason the fathers felt so ardently, should be obvious. If that aspect of the human person has not been assumed by Christ how shall that faculty of humanity (will=Monotheletism, soul=Apollinarianism) be healed? “Whatever is not assumed by Christ is not healed.”

    Central then at this point is the truth of the reverse. It was the divine Logos, who assumed this humanity, who was *completely* divine, being of the same essence as the Father and Spirit. To uphold his humanity at the expense of his deity is to sabotage the very reason that Christ became human. In the liturgy the church proclaims that complete humanity and deity were united, perfectly. The dogma states; We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation. The distinction between natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis. The incarnation demands that God truly is man, that it is truly God who is man, and that it is truly man that is God. It seems then if we diminish the full deity of the Logos, then the whole point of God becoming man is lost; which is our salvation.
    Furthermore it seems that we must not lessen the incarnate reality of God becoming man for we believe in the Holy Trinity through revelation and not philosophical speculation. If Christ is not homoousios with the Father *within* his incarnate state, how would we come to know that Christ is homoousios with the Father at all? It is because Christ is completely God that he can reveal the Father.
    Weinandy points out that one of the primary misconceptions within some kenotic Christologies is that the incarnation is conceived of in essentialist fashion and terminology. Envisaging the incarnation as a bringing together two incompatible and contrary (this is what Photius keeps bringing up again, and again etc) natures which contain within themselves contradictory attributes, one of the natures must be exalted at the expense of the others; hence by necessity we are again upon the Nestorian conundrum. Either the divinity or humanity is stressed at the expense of the other. However the Christology as defined by the council of chalcedon and by all the Fathers is not essentialistic but rather personalistic. The incarnation is not a fusing, but rather an assumption. God became man that we may become what he is. *This* (at least it seems to me) is what Perry was talking about earlier and what Athanasius corrects. Man and God are not dialectically related as Blake keeps asserting, but rather they are united hypostatically in the FULLY Divine Person Christ. And this is the axis by which our own divinization turns.

  72. Blake,

    The issue isn’t about using your brain or thinking.

    I gave you an example of how you are trying to give an internal critigue, yet it completely misses the mark. Why? Because you assume premises that an Orthodox doesn’t accept and outline your blasphemous conclusions one on top of the other. It’s called question begging. If you proceed along these lines and ignore the fact that we don’t do theology in which the way you describe, even after I have repeatedly corrected you, I will start deleting your posts. If you think that I or others should be persuaded by your argument or that your argument is somehow valid, but perhaps you can discuss why I should accept the dialectical method in placing things in this either/or dichotomy. As it stands, I know too much about the deconstruction of not only religion by dialectics but christianity in particular.

    Photios

  73. AH,

    Good post, but I’m afraid that Blake won’t get it because he doesn’t have a christian doctrine of person.

    Photios

  74. “Your position is analogous to this: say that you have a religion (rather like yours) that says that there is a person who both does and does not have a physical body.”

    Another subtle confusion between person and nature. Where person is seen as a contituent or a special kind of attribute either indicative of having a physical body or not having a physical body. If person and nature are identical or a person is nothing but a nature with its essential operations, as Blake seems to imply, then the problem is easily detected: In this understanding, if said person has a human body, indicative of a human nature, then said person cannot at the same time not have a human body.

    Photios

  75. Blake,

    My point: Don’t pretend to be offering a critical internal critique where the ethos of Orthodoxy is absent. Good day.

    Photios

  76. Rob G says:

    I find this exchange very interesting, as it reminds me of discussions I’ve had with Calvinists. Like Blake, they also demand that we accept their premises and presuppositions, and if we don’t then whatever proceeds from ours must be incoherent and/or illogical. It is an unreasonable expectation, obviously, and Blake’s last post shows that he still doesn’t get it. Also, it is, in a certain way, arguing in bad faith.

    In addition, like I said above, Blake doesn’t seem to allow for mystery at all; all must be scrutinized and examined by the rational mind and proved to be “logical” in a way in which God’s thoughts are shown to be not really higher than our thoughts after all. Which, actually, is what one would expect from a religion that says that God is simply a hyper-evolved “deified” man. Thus God’s thoughts are different from ours not in kind, but only in degree.

  77. Rostislav Peplinski says:

    Amidst all of the wonderful philisophical discussion happening here please allow me a simple statement: There is a huge and critical difference between applying our reasoning to that which has been revealed for the sake of better understanding and attempting to force fit God into the little logic-boxes we tend to create for ourselves. This is elementary. We must attain wings for our mind to be lifted to God, not try to pull down and subject God to our mental contructs. Untill Blake realizes that the latter methods are the height of foolishness all of his education will avail him nothing and all his arguments will fail to even lift off the ground. He will end up with nothing other than a god- or gods, as the case may be- created in his own image.

  78. Good point Rob. One thing that I find fascinating is that dialectic eventually ends up breaking down and collapsing in on itself in a ironic all-encompasing simplicity and Hegelian “synthesis.” What it means to be deity or what it means to be man, breaks down. I subtly argue in one of my papers that the dialectical method leads you into Nominalism. Language ends up with no meaning. The One in dialectical tension to the Many, is overcome by the Many being reduced to absolute synonyms and identity. Much like Blake that all things are just merely uncreate.

    Photios

  79. AH says:

    I just hope Blake doesnt *spin* the experience. Its not that no one was listening, we were listening. Its just he wasnt speaking the right language. It was pretty obvious, at least to me, that Blake didnt even understand Orthodoxy enough to formulate a proper critique…I came to that conclusion and I’m a protestant!

  80. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Photios, I just got back from our church bake sale and appreciate your leadership decisions.

    AH,

    Weinandy points out that one of the primary misconceptions within some kenotic Christologies is that the incarnation is conceived of in essentialist fashion and terminology. Envisaging the incarnation as a bringing together two incompatible and contrary (this is what Photius keeps bringing up again, and again etc) natures which contain within themselves contradictory attributes, one of the natures must be exalted at the expense of the others; hence by necessity we are again upon the Nestorian conundrum. Either the divinity or humanity is stressed at the expense of the other. However the Christology as defined by the council of chalcedon and by all the Fathers is not essentialistic but rather personalistic. The incarnation is not a fusing, but rather an assumption. God became man that we may become what he is. *This* (at least it seems to me) is what Perry was talking about earlier and what Athanasius corrects. Man and God are not dialectically related as Blake keeps asserting, but rather they are united hypostatically in the FULLY Divine Person Christ. And this is the axis by which our own divinization turns.

    Going-in assumptions seem to be the basis for acceptance. To become Orthodox, I had to come to assume that if the consensus of the Church and I disagree, I’m wrong. It’s hard to pin down exactly how coming to trust the Church that much comes about.

    It is very helpful to see that person comes first, and Christ the person became man and acted in his dual natured hyspostasis whatever way was necessary for our salvation. His deferring to the Father and even his saying he didn’t know certain things, Father Hopko says he didn’t know Russian for ex., were all somehow necessary for our salvation.

    But I believe the Orthodox position is that Christ “hid” his divinity to a large extent, and that it was revealed on the Mt. of Transfiguration, as that article also posited. I believe it is also stressed that his humility is a key attribute to his divinity, and so he chose to hide his glory, and maybe divested himself to some extent(?) to meet us where we are while lifting us up to where he is.

    And you’re a protestant?!? : )

  81. Blake says:

    Photios: I will make sure to let others know that at least on this Orthodox post reason is not welcome and that you delete posts that demonstrate, or at least make an attempt to do so, that the Orthodox view is extremely problematic and the best response you have is an ad hominem. My opinion of Orthodoxy has definitely been impacted by the discussion here and your refusal to engage in both a reasonable discussion and your deletions of posts and refusal to post them. History may be repeating itself — you attempt to control the conversation by silencing those who disagree with you. I don’t know how you deal with argument and issues at the educational institution where you teach, but at the institutions where I teach, such behavior would never be accepted.

  82. Blake,

    I don’t have this blog for you to have to as a forum for contempt and fist pounding. Where I thought you have made arguments or made a shot in the dark, I left the text untouched. Where you have been a bratty child demanding such answers with question begging and then continue on after being told so, your posts were deleted (which were quite few) and nothing new was to be gained from your posts. You haven’t demonstrated you have a clue on how the Orthodox think or how to read Patristic and Biblical texts, and I’m certainly not alone among other Orthodox here in thinking as much. If I accepted your pressuppositions and theological method, sure, I would grant much of the validity of you say, just like if I believed in the same dialectical principles I would be a modified NeoPlatonist and Origenist and filioquist, but I reject such principles and I have written on such topics demonstrating as much of how such a method leads to unchristian views both logically, historically, and even culturally. I can only state so many times until I lose my patience saying “we just don’t do theology that way.” Our paradigm comes down to us from the Fathers, right from the very start with St. Paul, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius, and perhaps most importantly St. Irenaeus.

    Photios

  83. Samn! says:

    Photios,

    If you accepted Blake’s premices and methodology and ran with it, you wouldn’t be a filioquist or a mormon, you’d be a muslim. Really, his arguments on the impossibility of the incarnation as Christians understand it are, mutatis mutandis, the same arguments that muslims have used since they discovered Aristotle. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the conclusion that they made, that if God cannot be incarnate then Jesus was simply a prophet is a much better conclusion than that Jesus is God’s first, physically-begotten spirit-child or whatever Blake believes when he reads the dime novel that he thinks is ‘another testament’.

    For that reason, I think it is important that we take his criticisms more seriously than you’re doing. Now, it’s clear to me that Blake doesn’t see himself as question-begging, and so I don’t think it was fair for you to delete his posts even if they annoy you. On the other hand, Blake clearly doesn’t pick up on the fact that not everyone out there takes the presuppositions of analytical philosophy as definitive or even all that useful for discussing metaphisics. I’ve been quietly hoping through this whole thing that the discussion would move to a debate between analytical philosophy and existentialism, as appeals to the fathers or pointing to the theological no-go zones that certain trains of thought would lead you down don’t really mean anything to anyone (mormon, muslim, or atheist) who argues along Blake’s pattern. But it is still important that such concerns be addressed without just saying ‘you do things your way, and I’ll do them mine- go away.’

    From what I see, the debate is really about what man is capable of knowing a priori. Blake is apparently arguing that even if not everything is fully knowable, everything is subject to what logical laws man may know. Now, while this is a perfectly respectable position, it’s not as problem-free or universal as Blake wants it to be (do any non-english-speakers do that kind of analytic philsophy for real?). An example of one line of (decidedly non-Orthodox) criticism against this position might be pragmatist notions of fallibility. So, a priori laws would be simply rules of thumb that distill experience thus far. So, 2+2=4, but this doesn’t describe some kind of innate reality, only man’s common experience of reality so far. So, while it’s a good bet to base future predictions on 2+2 always being 4, you can’t a priori rule out that there might be some unexpected case where they add up to 5 (I think Peirce said basically exactly that at some point). Of course, if you reason in this way it might make metaphysics impossible., or at least it severely curtails any metaphysical claims one is able to make without looking like a jackass. So, when Blake tries to use arguments based on notions of God’s immensity or eternity, he has to answer how he can know what immensity and eternity are (so far he hasn’t claimed to have had any experience of them). Otherwise, we’re just playing with words, and he’s able to define them for himself in such a way that they fit into the system he’s arguing for and Photios will define them in his way.

    Now, from what I can see Photios’ articulation of the Orthodox way of thinking is that it reflects on the experience of revelation and then describes this experience. Given that we’re dealing with revelation, these experiences have more value in determining truth than other experiences, and so logic as normally applies won’t necessarily apply.

    So, rather than throwing ‘incoherent, incoherent’ around, which is pretty meaningless for Photios,Blake would be better off questioning the feasibility of his apparent fideism.

    On the other hand, Photios would be better off questioning Blake’s apparent rejection of the possibility of paradox, as well as his insistence that human logical systems can comprehensively express and predict reality. The approach taken by Louth (and his sources) in ‘Discerning the Mystery’ is a rather nice one for this. I mean, there’s a strong argument out there that the only things that are completely coherent are the things that man creates for himself- math or the rules of logic, for example. When these things are then applied to the world outside our heads, they’re bound not to match up 100%, as physics keeps showing us.

    Sorry for my longwindedness……

  84. Samn!,

    Thanks for your post. For sure, what Blake offers an Orthodox is nothing but bad Neoplatonism. And on that score I don’t take muslims to be non Neoplatonists either. Allah is so simple he doesn’t have a nature. Anyways, If I accepted such thinking as presuppositions and the value in producing truth-makers, I’d be a NeoPlatonist or an Origenist. Both are filioquist, and both would consitently reject any kind of homoousion between Father, Son, and Spirit, or One, Nous, and Soul.

    To be sure, the posts I did delete didn’t have any arguments or anything that was new by way of argument, just a condescending tone and mockery of Orthodoxy and me in particular which will not be tolerated on this blog. So, no worries that I deleted anything of any significance.

    Photios

  85. JKC says:

    Blake,

    Is a profound Christian exception an excuse for being incoherent?

    First there were 3, and there were 2. Yet, because the dependence on the relationship of the divine unity of 3 was broken, it would seem that the 2 could not exercise the divine energeia :) to make it 3 again.

    If Jesus was no longer a divine person, would he ontologically have a necessary existence? And, if the Father could raise Jesus back up to the Godhead by ontologically changing him, why can’t he do the same for all men? Obviously you have shown that the Godhead is not necessarily only 3. I think your idea of deification becomes vacuous at this point.

    http://www.smpt.org/member_resource/element/ostler_element1-1.html

    “However, the Son and Holy Ghost do not depend upon the Father for their existence as individuals and thus each of the divine person has de re ontologically necessary existence.”

    “Because the properties of all-encompassing power, knowledge and presence arise from and in dependence on the relationship of divine unity, it logically follows that necessarily the distinct divine persons cannot exercise power in isolation from one another.”

    “32. The Incarnation or Condescension of God. There is one exception to the notion that the three divine persons will always rationally and freely choose to remain as one God — and it is a profoundly Christian exception.”

  86. JKC says:

    Oh, and is this an example of what you call serious research?

    “Augustine’s claim regarding the relation of the divine persons to the one God entails the following:

    (1) There is exactly one God;
    (2) The Father is God;
    (3) The Son is God;
    (4) The Father is not identical to the Son.

    9. From the foregoing premises it is apparent that acceptance of any three of these premises entails denial of the fourth. Premises 1, 2 and 3 entail that the Father and the Son are identical and thus the Sabellian heresy follows. The heresy claimed that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one identical being merely manifested in three different modes (thus also known as modalism). Premises 2, 3 and 4 entail bi-theism. There are two independent and separate persons, both of whom are Gods. Further, premises 1, 2 and 4 entail that the Son is not divine and thus reflect the Arian heresy which held that the Son is not divine in the same sense that the Father is divine. And from premises 1, 3 and 4 it follows that the Son is divine but the Father is not. The Gnostic heresy which rejected the God of the Old Testament but accepted Christ as divine thus follows. This inconsistent tetrad of premises poses a significant problem for classical Christians because each of them is affirmed by the tradition.”

  87. Cyprian says:

    JKC,

    Ah, how interesting. I traded some posts at a forum with a Mormon a few months ago, and I now know where his argument came from on Trinitarianism vis-a-vis Augustine.

    I’d say that this take on person and nature is way off, but if he’s relying on Augustine to conceptualize Trinitarianism like this then it should not be too surprising, as even Augustine was straight forward in his De Trinitate that he didn’t see a difference between ousia and hypostasis.

  88. JKC says:

    Cyprian,

    I just think it amazing that with all the research he has done on the fathers and EO that he doesn’t know the difference between person and nature. In fact, I’m starting to think that it’s not a lack of research for he has done plenty, but a seemingly sheer lack of ethics, which if I find appalling.

    1. He misrepresents the trinity (though maybe not Augustine)
    2. He admits that at some point his own system is incoherent and hypocritically uses mystery, or as he calls it, “a profoundly Christian exception” as a legitimate excuse.

    Will the real Christian please stand up?

  89. Blake says:

    JKC: Of course I know the difference between a person and a nature. However, a person has a nature, e.g., I am a person, but I have a human nature. I am both and must have what is essential to belong to the kind human and, if there are there personal natures, to what is personal to me. However, I have been dealing with the notion of nature only — because the creed says that christ has both a human and a divine nature. The problem is that you and Photios want to avoid the problem by refusing to deal with what the notion of having a divine and a human nature entails. Christ had both natures, but is only one person. However, a part of his divine nature entails unity with the Father — but his human nature does not. So we have one person who has two natures. My claim is that the natures cannot compossibly be exemplified in the same person. I haven’t seen anything here suggesting otherwise. Indeed, when it is complained that I confuse nature and person, or ousia and hypostasis, the problem is precisely a confusion of the fact that I am speaking of the natures that a single person has and what is essential to these natures — not what is essential to the persons (since I am not even sure if persons have individual natures or an haaceity).

    That said, what was deleted was substantive. It had long been the practice of Orthodox in Russia and elsewhere to silence their religious competition and I wonder if it is a practice that all Orthodox engage in. To the extent it is, it is inappropriate. I believe in the Jeffersoninian dictum — reason must be left free as long as reason is left free to rebut what is said.

    JKC doesn’t have much a clue about the arguments I have given. I invite y’all to read what he links to instead of taking his edits. BTW, I answered the argument in the post above and so I don’t regard that argument as valid against the Social Trinity that both Mormons and Orhtodox accept — with some obvious differences notwithstanding.

    I think I’ll look into Photios’s doctoral committee to see if they agree with me about what bigotry looks like.

  90. Discipulus says:

    Blake,

    You’re wrong.

  91. Samn! says:

    ‘When I use unproblematic logical constructs’

    Blake,

    This is the problem exactly. The logical constructs you’re using ARE problematic for Orthodox (among other philisophical traditions). You can’t assume that they will work when applied to God unless you have a host of other presuppositions about God that go along with this. Now, you may can argue that the Mormon god is subject to these presuppositions, but what I think Photios has been trying to point out is that the Orthodox fathers were aware of the objections you are raising, but that they deliberally articulated an understanding of God that is beyond and untouched by this kind of logic. When he gets frustrated at your insistence on the validity of these constructs with reference to God, he’s not being bigoted, he’s just frustrated with your insistence that he accept your presuppositions.

  92. Samn!,

    I like Discipulus’ response better…

    Seriously though, it is fun to read this discussion and see Perry and Photios work…

  93. TOm says:

    Hello all.
    I am a LDS so perhaps this means that somehow my intellect is incapable of understanding what has occurred on this thread. Before I get into that however, I want to ask if the Orthodox would believe that Christ took upon himself the energies and essence of humanity. Does Christ partake/become human in essence and energies or is His incarnation merely a full share in the energies of humanity?

    It has been a year since I read Weinandy and Gavrilyuk. It has been even longer since I read A.N. Williams and David Bradshaw. Some of what I have seen in this thread does remind me of Gavrilyuk, but he was not so bold as to come out and say what I think I see offered here by Photius.

    As I read Gavrilyuk I remember thinking that he methodically deals with the various heretical positions on the way to the Trinity and two-nature Christology, but when he was done he had staked out territory that was hetrodox supposedly on both sides of orthodoxy while giving little thought to the question, “Was there any territory left for orthodoxy to actually stand?” Being a former Catholic, I was a little more concerned with the further pushing of these positions within Augustine and especially Aquinas. However after reading this thread, I am re-reminded of my impressions.

    It seems to me that we might use a number line as an example of my point here. If heterodoxy of the highness is defined as any number greater than or equal to 50 AND heterodoxy of the lowness is defined as any number less than or equal to … 50, then there is no actual value that satisfies orthodoxy. While surely this is an over simplification, this is what I see on this thread. Blake says that your position properly weighed and measured violates the law of non-contradiction and Photius says, that is what heretic XYZ said and St. ABC responded by saying that he sees the issue and heretic XYZ is a heretic we must embrace the deposit of faith. Beyond this, it seems that Photius would claim that to think like XYZ is not only to be a heretic, but it is to not engage Orthodox thought in a meaningful way. If the law of non-contradiction applied to these questions is a “premise that an Orthodox doesn’t accept,” I am not sure what good reasoning about this is at all. Perhaps we should all just pray to know which church we should join?

    I am reminded of discussions with folks who say things like, “I think Mormonism and Eastern Orthodoxy are both the most true religions.” I might respond that they each presuppose the other is not the most true religion AND they have different views in certain places. “So what! you just do not understand the mysteries and glories of God.”

    It surprises me to see not only what I perceive I see, but to see a number of folks confident that the response to Blake’s comments is thorough and convincing. For this reason, I wonder what I am missing. Is there something I could read that would illuminate the disconnect that seems to be largely something only I am seeing?

    I did mostly enjoy the discussion, but I am interested in the two questions I asked.
    1. Does Christ in the incarnation share/partake of the human energies and essence of just the human energies.
    2. Is there something I could read that would illuminate the disconnect that seems to be largely something only I am seeing?

    Charity, TOm

  94. Blake says:

    Samn et al. Let me echo TOm’s consternation: I’ve heard this general statement without any specifics or content throughout this post. “Your logical constructs are wrong.” Fine, now tell me which logical constructs. Tell me how they are wrong. This kind of general assertion without backing doesn’t do anything except avoid actual arguments without anything of substance. I’ve read Photios’s article. It isn’t very good and merely saying that some person or another that we regard as a heretic used similar language (since they certainly didn’t make the arguments I’ve made) doesn’t answer the arguments, it merely engages in an ad hominem that says we don’t like that person so we don’t have to deal with your arguments. That isn’t sound reasoning and it engages in a number of logical fallacies that no one worth their salt ought to accept.

    Further, you haven’t shown what the supposed erroneous logical constructs are or how they are wrong. However, the logical constructs I’m using are derived from the creeds accepted by Orthodox. “Human nature” and “divine nature” cannot simply be wrong logical constructs — they are used in the creeds. They must mean something — and they do. They mean that whatever is essential to divinity was possessed by Christ and whatever is essential to humanity was also possessed by Christ and by us. I give an argument that if what is essential to divinity (in the Orthodox tradition) is logically incompatible with what is essential to humanity and thus they cannot be joined in union in the same person. Human nature is essentially temporal and mutable; divinity is essentially timeless and immutable for Orthodox. A single person cannot have both of these nature.

    Now it will do no good to say — “but that is against what we believe so we cannot accept it.” I know it is against what Orthodox believe. That is why I’m making the argument. I’ve been waiting for some kind of explanation that would intelligently address the argument. So far I get nothing but ad hominem responses that call that who who have accepted the argument heretics, but nothing showing that the argument isn’t a good one.

    So let’s move this forward. Explain what the logical constructs are that you claim Orthodox won’t accept. Show how those logical constructs are somehow unsound or erroneous. Until that is done, so far as I can see all that Orthodox defenders have done here is attempt to bob and weave to avoid a legitimate argument.

    Finally, when I see a doctoral student simply belittling my religion and a man I accept as a prophet with clear slander, I wonder if such bigoted discourse ought to be called to the attention of those from whom he seeks a doctor’s degree. I believe that institutions of higher learning have a duty to weed out such candidates. I will follow up on that since I know several of the regents at St. Louis University.

  95. Brad says:

    Blake,

    IMO, your last post would have been perfectly fine without the last paragraph. Mentioning unproven “slander” and “bigotry” on someone else’s personal blog while threatening someone’s academic career isn’t pursuant to a good discussion. That’s why your comments were removed in the first place. Even if they hadn’t, you’re siliencing yourself. Frankly, I’m getting sick of reading what you’re writting simply because of the manner in which you do so. If I were acting admin of this site, I’d be prone to simply ban you or close the thread down (which would be a shame since I’m interested in seeing the rest of the discussion). Your behavior is continually not appropriate.

    No one has said that *ALL* LDS are mentally challenged or unscholastic. No one has said that *ALL* LDS make the same mistakes (apart from simply believing in Mormonism, but that’s not surprising that we would think that). Please focus on the actual discussion (either about the bookstore which other Mormons have mused on without crying slander/bigot or the spin-off discussion about whether or not Orthodoxy is subject to the dilemna you’ve provided) or complain elsewhere.

    Again, I’m not going to respond to anything about my comment on this blog, (I’ll grant ahead of time that it’s unfair to hit and run, but I don’t want to litter this post with a discussion of this nature). If you feel the need to discuss this further, you can email me at blakethemormon at exwebris dot net. As for books, I’m interested in nailing down comprehensive, authoritative Mormon doctrine. Part of my problem while researching Mormonism is that things that would appear to be Mormon doctrine aren’t doctrine so much as the “current popular idea”. I’m also interested in what constitutes Mormon doctrine.

  96. TOm and Blake,

    You’re poor abused victim posture is unwarranted. You are the ones saying we are in denial of self-evident logical truth and that Orthodoxy is deficient and all credible people should become Mormon instead. You think we’re mistaken in denying Jesus can be God and man at the same time, and we think you are mistaken in rejecting what the Holy Spirit and the Father have taught about Jesus, even if He didn’t shout it Himself from the top of the temple or jump off to prove it. Let’s just agree to disagree and stop the name calling and threats. Photios does not have to entertain your repetitious accusations on his own blog to remain a credible participant in the Truth, no matter how much you disagree. Sometimes you just have to let people go who disagree with you, especially if they have told you plainly that they don’t want to repeat the arguments. It’s a free country.

    Just because I don’t answer the door to mormons, except accidently one time, doesn’t make me a parent who hides the truth from my kids. I tell them plainly that Jesus is God and all who say otherwise are wrong. It’s my right in my own house to say that, and it’s Photios’ and Perry’s right on their own blog. We don’t have to keep exposing ourselves to error, because error is destructive. There’s an algebraic proof that logically shows that 1=2. That doesn’t mean I have to use it or endlessly defend myself for not choosing to use it.

  97. Samn! says:

    Blake,
    The assumption you are making that is unnacceptable to Orthodox (and which Orthodox dogma was defined explicitly against) is the idea that human logic can grasp God. In practice, this means that your conclusion that human and divine natures cannot inhere in the same hypostasis just doesn’t necessarily follow for an Orthodox, because when Orthodox do theology, they don’t approach it with the assumption that human dialectical logic applies to God, pure and simple. So of course, when you apply the tools of analytical philosophy to Orthodox dogma, they’re likely to conclude that the dogma is incoherent. That’s fine, as far as it goes- it means that we have different understandings of what God is and what humans can know. I don’t see how that can be suprising to you. However, you can’t conclude from this that the theology of the Orthodox fathers was based on sticking their head in the sand and trying to ignore this kind of logic. They were confronted with it constantly, and repeatedly rejected man’s ability to apply his logic to God. The incarnation wasn’t meant to be understood logically; it is ‘foolishness to the Greeks’.
    So, we’re left with a debate about what man can know, with you taking the side, as I understand it, that man can apply the tools of his own logic to literally everything, including God, and the Orthodox saying that God is beyond the grasp of the human intellect. I don’t really think this is resolvable, as what’s being talked about is two different Gods. Or at the least two vastly differnt different anthropologies. As you are a Mormon, clearly both.
    Of course, modern philosophy has its own debates about the degree to which human logic is applicable to man and the created world, leaving aside God. It would be fruitless to recapitulate them here, but you should bear in mind that you can’t go around assuming that everyone shares your view of logic’s power.
    So, you can say that the Orthodox position is incoherent, analyzed with your presuppositions about God’s knowability. However, this isn’t much going to convince the Orthodox, who have a different God from you.

  98. Samn! says:

    But really, your god is (was?) a dude, and so more or less finite in some sense. The Orthodox God is not finite. How can the finite (us) grasp the inifinite God? And if we cannot grasp Him intellectually, how can we decide what is possible or impossible in Him?

  99. TOm says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,
    Aside from Blake’s original post which took issue with various things such as “CRASS heresy” I do not see where either of us has played the victim. If my persecution complex has reared its head, I would be interested in you showing me where this occurred (it surely does on occasion).
    My concern that I might somehow be missing the reason that Blake is so clearly wrong is genuine. There have been a couple of posts that seemed to indicate Blake was not out in left field, but the “responses” to his arguments have been by my view claiming he is out in left field. That these responses have been offered by clearly intelligent and informed people and that they have so satisfied other posters is something that does not make sense.
    I have an incredibly well read Catholic friend. He took issue with a suggestion, by someone other than Blake or me, that the Eastern Orthodox Church embraces a Social Trinitarian view. His view was that within the Orthodox tradition one could speak of things in various ways that are really at odds with each other and never feel the need to address the seeming contradictions. My Catholic friend claimed that this was the impetuous for the Social Trinitarian seeming comments within the EO Church. But that when placed in the larger framework of councils and other writings, it is inappropriate to make overly much of these Social Trinitarian teachings. I wonder if this thread is a more bold demonstration of this ability to speak of mutually contradictory things and choose not to address the issue.

    And Andrea, it seems to me from your comments that you have not engaged LDS thought overly much and Blake’s thought extensively at all. The issue that I see (and I suspect Blake sees) is that divinity-as-such has been defined in a way within Orthodoxy (and Catholicism) such that things like the Incarnation and Theosis become nonsense. It is my view that the Early Church in many ways did the equivalent of “moving into check” as they accepted various ideas associated with divinity-as-such that were certainly not explicitly Biblical and IMO were contra-Biblical, contra earliest of ECF.

    Before I repeat the two questions to which I really want answers, I would like to suggest that I doubt very seriously that your Algebraic proof that 1=2 is valid.

    My two questions again:
    1. Does Christ in the incarnation share/partake of the human energies AND essence, or just the human energies?
    2. Is there something I could read that would illuminate the disconnect that seems to be largely something only I am seeing?

    Charity, TOm

  100. TOm says:

    Samn!,
    I am almost certain that your 10:08pm post demonstrated that you have not chosen to engage Blake’s thoughts (those contained on his website or in his books). To my view you tilt at a windmill without even going to the efforts that Blake has to understand Orthodoxy.
    I very much respect the idea that God is in a sense unknowable. I would respond to 10:03pm post by suggesting that there are two concepts that are applicable.
    1. The councils EOs accept and the way they are elucidated offer information about what God is and what God is not. It is this set of supposed facts that seem to violate the law of non-contradiction. What is unknowable can be left for further exploration, but if what is claimed to be known violates the law of non-contradictions, it would seem that either the law of non-contradiction must be abandoned or some set of what is supposedly known is in error.
    2. If we will declare God unknowable AND/OR declare the law of non-contradiction to be of no value when seeking information about God, I think we should just pray to know which church is true. All of this discussion and even the councils are not necessary.

    I still want answers to my two questions in my last post.

    Charity, TOm

  101. TOm,

    This opening statement of yours seems “poor me” to me, “I am a LDS so perhaps this means that somehow my intellect is incapable of understanding what has occurred on this thread.”

    No one is saying that yall aren’t smart. To me you are just wrong by elevating your logic above what the Church says by saying it’s impossible for Jesus to be divine and human. That is the most basic tenet of Christianity, much less Orthodoxy, that there is. So to get around it you have to convince Protestants, who are prejudiced against Catholics in the first place, that it is a Catholic construct beginning with Constantine, which is what the nice young men at the door told me. Stubborn protestants will say that Jesus is God by trying to prove that the Bible supports it using verses that yall reject as saying what they think they sefl-evidently say. Catholics and Orthodox say that the Bible plus the Fathers support Christ’s divine and human natures, which you do not accept either. So if you think it is illogical, we say it doesn’t matter, and don’t feel the need to convince you that using your logical premise is illegal, which it essentially is to us. By the way the illegal action done in that proof is to divide both sides of the equation by 0. You may argue that it’s ok and perfectly logical to use 0 in that manner, but we can’t accept that 1=2, or that Jesus isn’t God, so we choose not to use your logic.

  102. Blake says:

    Andrea: “You think we’re mistaken in denying Jesus can be God and man at the same time,”

    Let me be very clear about this. I don’t deny that it is possible for Jesus to be both fully divine and fully human. What I deny is that it is possible for one to have a concept or doctrine of God along the lines adopted by Orthodox where God is immutable, timeless, essentially incorporeal, omnipotent and omniscient (in the sense accepted by Orthodox) and also believe that a single person could take on a human nature. I am not arguing that Christianity isn’t possible or that Christ couldn’t be the God who kenotically emptied himself of a fullness of divinity — I do claim that it is impossible if God is as claimed by Orthodox.

    I also agree that at this point we’ll just have to agree to disagree on these matters. However, unless and until we educate folks that what they accept as perfectly fine is in fact a form of prejudice, it will continue. Women had to take a stand against sexist language and treatment. Blacks had to educate whites about their own blind spots. There is a blind spot here about Mormons that I want to illuminate so that it doesn’t continue.

  103. Blake,

    I should have said, “in not denying”, but you probably understood what I meant.

    Photios and Perry already addressed your first paragraph by saying that you are bringing God the Father, not just the Son, down to a corporeal level, which I had not realized Mormons believe, so this has been enlightening on that point. So that is another going-in position that we disagree on. Your idea of fullness of divinity is less than ours, so Samn! is right in saying that Orthodox and Mormons worship different Gods.

    You are right that we should not be prejudiced insofar as we dehumanize people who disagree with us. In addition to being female, becoming Orthodox has shown me what it’s like to be on the other end of the stick in WASP land, and I know Mormons have been treated much like Native Americans, women, and Black people in this country in that they have been dehumanized and denied equal opportunity to say the least. I’ve become more “tolerant” since becoming Orthodox in that we are taught to see Jesus in everyone in that all are made in God’s image, even Mormons. But that’s not the same as tolerating error which can be seen as prohibiting growth towards Christ-likeness, in that we need to know what the goal is. Orthodox set the bar higher than about anybody else I’ve heard from in that He is worshipped as deserving the greatest adjectives imaginable to we finite humans, and He wants to share them with us by grace! We are maximalists to be sure.

    Thanks for toning things down, but while the word “crass’ did bother me as it does seem a bit insulting, “heresy” and “mistakes” doesn’t for the reasons I stated as error prohibits health and growth.

  104. Blake says:

    Samn: “But really, your god is (was?) a dude, and so more or less finite in some sense. The Orthodox God is not finite. How can the finite (us) grasp the inifinite God? And if we cannot grasp Him intellectually, how can we decide what is possible or impossible in Him?”

    Samn: It is no glory to God to attribute to him nonsense. It is not glorifying to assert that “X can create a perfectly round square” as long as X is God. It does not glorify God to replace the personal God revealed in Jesus with a God who is so far removed from humanity that it denigrates God to even suggest it is possible for God to have human properties — otherwise, the Christian message itself is impossible.

    Here is what mystifies me. Y’all recoil in horror when we suggest that God, the Father, also became incarnated at some point. It belittles him and is unthinkable. Yet somehow it is just fine if we replace “Father” with “Son.” I would have thought that Christ’s message would disabuse everyone of such nonsensical assumptions — but I see that Docetism is alive and well. It does not denigrate or abuse Christ to recognize that God the Son became enfleshed and walked among us — so why do you have the view that it is impossible for the Father to also be incarnated and in exactly the same way? To assert that Mormons are somehow out to lunch because we accept that a divine person can become enfleshed in simply mystifying to me. That is, after all, just what Christianity’s greatest truth is about.

  105. Samn! says:

    Blake,

    There is a difference between nonsense and ineffibility. Do you not at all alow for paradox? We’re not saying that God is completely removed from humanity. We’re just saying that he is both completely on another level, as far as Creator is from created, and also made himself known to us in the incarnation of his son. Certainly, from a scriptural perspective, the father is completely unknowable and we can only know him through the son, his self-revelation. Orthodox objection isn’t to the possibility of a divine person becoming incarnate per se. It’s to the idea that the Father, the ingenerate source of the other two persons and creator of all, became (or was initally?) like a human. Certainly, it’s anti-scriptural, which is why you have different scriptures through which you read our scriptures.

  106. Militus Christi,

    I’ve been working? huh. I thought I hadn’t even tried yet. Makes ya wonder. What’s that? You hear a whistling sound?

    Oh, thats the whistle on the bomb about to drop. probably sometime next week.

  107. My paper wasn’t any good? Hmmm.. Perhaps Blake could explain this to Fr. David Balas (who is a world renown scholar and authority on Gregory of Nyssa), who stated that I had as good of understanding on the Cappadocian model of the Trinity of any student he has had and that the paper grasped the philosophical problems with Eunomianism.

    The point Blake is that I can push you to Arianism or Eunomianism using the dialectical method since it is what you accept in establishing theological truth and not first and foremost scripture.

    (1) The Father is uncreate
    (2) The Father is ingenerate
    (3) The Son is generate
    (4) generate is the dialectical opposite of ingenerate.

    Therefore,

    (5) The Son is not uncreate.

    Photios

  108. Perry,

    Can’t wait.

    As long as I’ve got your ear though (and I’m sure you hear this all the time) where’s a good place to start in order to get a good grasp on the essence/energies, person/nature, Orthodox Christology vs. All Others topics? I’d love to be able to dialogue here more, but I often find myself not knowing where to begin.

    Thanks!

  109. Blake,

    I have just now noticed your comments threatening my academic standing and in turn my family and livelyhood. This makes it personal and unacceptable. Just because I think your religion is false is hardly a good reason to go to the regents of a private CATHOLIC university and lobby them to dismiss me. In fact, I can’t think of anyone in the entire philosophy department who thinks your religion is true or even beyond blasphemy. So you might wish to inform the people you know of that fact as well.

    More to the point, what I write on a private blog, which is in no way connected with the university won’t be sufficient to do much of anything. And, I criticize lots of theological and philosophical views. It is what philosophers do. That hardly makes me a bigot. I have read enough of the primary source material and secondary literature about your religion to be as or more informed than the average practicioner. My judgments are formed primarily from such sources. if you don’t think so, I don’t care.

    Moreover, there is nothing in my post, which was about heretical works by Lutheran standards in a Lutheran bookstore that prided itself on selling works in the Lutheran tradition, that is slanderous. If you disagree with the LCMS, go sue them.

    As to my sketch of errors that the LDS usually fall into regarding the Fathers, you have provided our readership with ample evidence, which I will mostly happily will dice up at some time in the near future.

    All of that said, I have given you a fairly wide berth here, which I didn’t have to do. I also warned you to tone down the rhetoric. You seem unable to keep yourself from attacking people personally as well as their livelyhood and family and this reflects badly on the character formation which the LDS have offered you. Everyone has faults but you seem routinely and in a short period of time unable to refrain from making personal assualts and now threats against me, even when I haven’t written anything to you or anyone else on this blog in a matter of days. All of this in the face of sheer ignorance of my person from which you made substantial claims about what I had or had not read, which proved to be false. The frosting on the cake was your deafening silence concerning y our demonstratably false claim that Norman was some be all and end all of scholarship on theosis, which was sufficient so show that you were talking out of your lawyeresque posterior.

    Consequently I am banning you from this venue and all threads. I am sure Daniel will agree with me. Your posts will remain so that I can dismantle them when I have some free time,to the benefit of future Christian (that means NON-MORMON) readers.

    I sincerenly hope that you find some constructive way to cope with the significant character flaws and sheer hatred you have for those who disagree with you.

    Wishing you the best.

  110. Sophocles says:

    Perry and Photios,

    Ahem. And amen. *blush* I love you guys. :)

  111. TOm says:

    Andrea,
    I guess I can see how you might have felt that was my attempt to be among the persecuted. It was actually an attempt to both say that I am a LDS and say that I am profoundly stumped by not only the path taken by the EO defenders here, but the celebration of that path by others here. I truly do not get it.
    1 does not equal 2 and dividing by 0 is inappropriate. However, looking at what has been defined by councils and put forth by defenders of orthodoxy and showing that the law of non-contradiction is violated is very different. Unless you are saying that that law of non-contradiction is like dividing by 0. If that is the case, then again I say, “Reason is of little value and my feelings are of as much worth as your feelings”
    Charity, TOm

  112. Cyril says:

    Been lurking on this thread. The post Sophocles gives cites Harold Bloom’s work, The American Religion, in which he notes Mormonism as nothing other than an American form of Gnosticism (Gnosis begin the American Religion). I give my students extracts from Bloom, whom I think quite perceptive on this. Most of what I give my students is on early revivalism and the SBC, but his stuff on the Mormons is worth the read as well. In the end, it all gets back to Hans Jonas and Joseph Farrell eventually, doesn’t it?

    Cyril

  113. Cyril says:

    TOm,

    Since the law of contradiction is in the first instance ontological (Aristotle, Logic, Bk gamma), and only by application a matter of logic, how can it ever apply to God?

    Cyril

  114. TOm says:

    Photius,

    You are unfamiliar with Blake’s view (and I guess he will be unable to point this out).
    I suspect Blake would explain that it is his understanding that the Sonship of Christ is not a product of being generative necessarily.
    It would seem that a Catholic or Protestant who does employ reason like Blake does might be backed into a corner with your 1-5, but one of the remarkable things about the seeds left within Joseph Smith’s thoughts and the systematization Blake has done is that many such problems are not problems.
    I would guess that Blake would suggest that the (5) contradicting the dogmatic position that the Son is uncreate would point to problems with some of your premises (namely 3).

    It seems to me that you are arguing that since reason moves us from 1-3 & 4 to 5, AND the presence of the assertion of not 5 within Christian thought, reason should be discarded.

    If I am misunderstanding, I really do not want to. Again, this is all quite remarkable to me.

    Charity, TOm

  115. TOm says:

    Cyril,
    Let me jump quickly to your post.
    You suggest that God should not be subject to the law of non-contradiction since it is a product of human reasoning. While I may disagree with you here, this is not even what I am saying.

    I am suggesting that the law of non-contradiction should be viewed as applicable when human’s seek to understand what is and is not true with respect to God because without this most fundamental of all tools of reasoning, reasoning is impossible. Again, if it is the EO position that God is unknowable to the extent that we cannot apply human reason and reject things that are mutually contradictory, we should just accept that reason is of no value in understanding God. We then pray to know God, or ???

    So, even if it is your position that God is not subject to the law of non-contradiction in that he can make a square circle, we just won’t understand how or what he did, that is not really the issue here. The issue is can we use reason at all? If the law of non-contradiction is to be scrapped just because we are discussing God, then I cannot see how reason is of any value.
    Charity, TOm

  116. TOm says:

    Perry,
    I would think that it was never Blake’s intention to threaten your livelihood or family. I can imagine that he has been more frustrated by this thread than I have (although perhaps not because I still have the nagging thought that perhaps I have truly missed something). I would concur with you that you have nothing to fear with respect to your academic career. I am sorry however that this has all come to where it has come.
    I am among those you deem non-Christian, but I will still hope to be edified by your “dicing” up of Blake’s positions. I am likely incapable of pointing to problems with your future posts and this adds to my sadness associated with Blake’s banning.
    I still have a few questions above. Reading through this thread and seeing Sophocles and Militus Christi cheer for the superior EO responses to the silly Blake problems has left me feeling like I suspect friends kids did when they had to sit in on some advanced Calculus class. Then again Militus Christi is asking for books on essence/energies and …, so perhaps what I am witnessing is the home team cheering out of loyalty (or even cheering against the particularly disliked enemy).

    I would hope someone could answer the two questions I have asked above. And I will look forward to your “dicing” up of Blake’s positions.

    As Jonathon Prejean said, Blake is no lightweight on these subjects. His banning will negatively impact my learning. I am in fact a lightweight in many ways, so I doubt I will be able to provide a rigorous response. Nonetheless, hopefully I can learn.

    Charity, TOm

  117. TOm says:

    All,
    There have been a few comments directed at non-EO or supposedly specifically LDS philosophy/foundations. It appears that there is even a link to something written a number of years ago questioning the CoJCoLDS. This really does not make the EO position being offered here any more palatable to me. If you succeeded in convincing me that the CoJCoLDS has huge holes in its philosophy just like the Eastern Orthodox religion appears to, I would need to evaluate truth claims in a different arena where reason did not play such a significant role. I am unconvinced that a non-LDS paradigm would fair any better in these less reason based arenas either.

    All that being what it is, just about everything applied supposedly against the LDS (or non-EO paradigm) on this thread is wrong-headed when applied against Blake’s systematization of LDS theology (perhaps I cheer the home team too, but truth be told in at least one area I fought against accepting Blake’s view. The battle was all in my mind, but I did largely loose). I have at times wondered if Blake had not read the top 100 most intractable problems with theism/Christianity and then created some system that offered solutions. But time and time again his solution is tied to Joseph Smith’s thought and/or scripture. My inability to explain the Restoration, my finding of reasons in the Early Church to postulate an apostasy, and … have given way to the issues I would have with believing in creation ex nihilo and numerous other non-LDS theological concepts.

    Charity, TOm

  118. Sophocles says:

    Ugh. It seems to have done it again…

  119. Cyril says:

    TOm,

    You wrote: “You suggest that God should not be subject to the law of non-contradiction since it is a product of human reasoning. While I may disagree with you here, this is not even what I am saying.”

    I never said it was a product of human reasoning; I said it pertains to the world of existence and being, and is thus applicable in a world of contingent existence. God is beyond being, and beyond all predication, otherwise, we have a contingent god. I would suggest you read Diderot’s “D’Alembert’s Dream”, for while it is pure atheism (at its wittiest best), and while his vitalism and naturalism are at times immature in comparison with what passes for these notions today, Diderot nonetheless lays out the best case for atheism, though all based on his deistic assumptions, none of them any different from what I can see in you (though read the first two to three pages and tell me if I am wrong). If God is comprehended by the human mind, or subject to the laws of being, to which the law of contradiction pertains, then you have set up the Manichee assumptions of dual principles (or however many Iamblichian or Valentinian principles you wish). I don’t see Mormonism as in any sense essentially different than either Manichaeism or Gnosticism, except that it might be less imaginative, more crass and thus relatively more boring. In this regard, in principle, how is it different than Hesiod? That’s my opinion.

    Cyril

  120. Cyril says:

    TOm,

    To be brief: can a contingent god exist?

    C

  121. Tom,

    My point is not that we exclude reason when doing theology, but the refutation of a certain order of thinking that will not work in a christian context. The principle of non-contradiction is valid, but it must be recontextualized to be applicable for doing theology. The problem arises when one uses it unbridled in its Hellenistic context where the principle of non-contradiction is entangled with the principle of distinction. As Plotinus once remarked, “Distinction is opposition.” To be sure, once one has considered the types of operations that a subject does, one cannot then say that the operations are interchangeable or just the same thing, hence the principle of non-contradiction applies, but since it has been disentangled from the principle of distinction it is harmonious that a Person so considered can have two different kinds of energies that subsist enhypostasized. This very naturally and LOGICALLY follows from an ordo theologiae that looks like the following: Person —> Operation —> Essence.

    With this understanding, Orthodoxy starts from a very apodictic approach, i.e. recognizing reality from observation or experience. It puts an encounter with the glorified Christ as the highest standard of all that can be said that is true about God and man. Glorification is obtained. Revelation takes primacy, scripture is thus the witness of that glorified saints encounter: theopany.

    I read Blake’s article on Divinity. I thought it was okay. My argument still goes through since he believes the Father is unbegotten and the Source and Fount of deity. He cannot affirm that the person of the Son or Spirit are autotheos with such a view. To say that the Son and Spirit are autotheos would assume that they all have a property in common that is autotheos, i.e. an energy of their essence. Outcome: The Father’s sole personal property of autotheos is then confused with a natural energy. Person and Nature are confused. Eunomianism ensues.

    Photios

  122. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    TOm,

    “1 does not equal 2 and dividing by 0 is inappropriate. However, looking at what has been defined by councils and put forth by defenders of orthodoxy and showing that the law of non-contradiction is violated is very different. Unless you are saying that that law of non-contradiction is like dividing by 0. If that is the case, then again I say, “Reason is of little value and my feelings are of as much worth as your feelings””

    I’m in a transition stage of subjecting my feelings to humility and the law of dialectics in the God is Simple world to the laws of distinctions between the numerous in the energy/essence world. The Law of Contradiction is too simplistic, there are way more variables out there which your equation doesn’t account for, and this is what I attribute your confusion to, and is indeed why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us corporately and individually in these matters. As Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood (reason) has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”, Matt 16:17. Your earlier suggestion of prayer is a good idea.

    Also, your saying that God cannot violate the law of non-contradiction seems to me like the old question, can god make a rock he cannot lift. The main problem to me is that is offensive to see God as weak and limited in the first place, and it’s like trying to put constraints on him like the Philistines tried to do with Samson.

  123. Gary,

    To go even further, I believe St. Maximos take the dialectical method to be descriptive of not only a world of contingent existence, but rather, of a FALLEN world where “things” have been dialectically pulled apart: death.

    Photios

  124. Sophocles says:

    Photios,

    I have been trying to post the same comment since last night here with no success. Anything down with WordPress?

  125. Sophocles says:

    It allows me to post these short sentences but not my longer one for some reason.

  126. Sophocles says:

    TOm(and Blake)

    At this point in this thread there is very little that I may offer in ways of continuing this dialogue that would add anything substantial.

    And just to clarify about my cheer. I personally look to the operators of this blog to better explicate matters concerning the Orthodox Faith in the areas of the respective operators’ expertise as being true to that Faith once for all delivered to the saints. I have come to trust that when Perry and Photios speak on any given subject it is not in a haphazard way but with real thought and understanding behind their words, however abrupt they may be.

    Now, given that, ANY Christian that holds to the historic undestanding of the Faith cannot, in any good conscience, give the Mormon religion the adjective “Christian”. Whatever Mormonism is, it is not Christian.

    Sometimes, in our overly sensitive, politically correct manner, we are afraid to state things in a plain manner.

    Here it is. The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church has absolutely nothing in common with Mormonism. Not one single, solitary thing. We are starting from totally unrelated starting premises. I hesitate even to place Orthodoxy in a place where I may state that She holds a “premise” at all because She does not. Orthodoxy springs not from any theological construct whatsoever. But that is not to say Orthodoxy does not require the full faculty of the mind to apprehend. Rather, the approach to “understand” is from a completely different soil.

    Incidentally, this parting of the ways in “knowledge”occurs between Orthodoxy and every other approach into the depths of God. There is no other navigable way into these depths without the risk of utter delusion or the losing of one’s way with the attendant risk of encountering perchance a pool of “knowledge” within these depths and mistaking this pool of knowledge within the depths of God as disclosing the Holy Mystery of Who and what God is apart from the flow of “knowledge” in the Holy Spirit(fully God yet not the Father nor the Son and yes, Person)connecting one pool with another in the depths and which occurs effortlessly within the depths of the Godhead and this “knowledge” yields itself to him or her who thinks with the Mind of the Church which is not some original thinkers thinking but is His, God’s, “Mind”.

    Knowledge in Orthodoxy subsists in the Church which is the body of Christ. TOm and Blake, the Orthodox Catholic Church has never apostasized as your religion states.

    In all fairness, the evidence points to you guys being the newcomers to the religious realm in point in time in history and as such, Photios is correct that you are question begging first and foremost with regards the beginnings of your whole religion. The raison d’etre of Joseph Smiths movement is that the whole Church had apostasized and that he alone, Joseph Smith, was the restorer of Truth in this world. First substantiate Joseph Smith’s claims as being true concerning the Church THEN move onto finer theological points.

    And not to gloss over, the Christianity with which Mr. Smith had dealings with was Protestant “Christianity” (and Roman Catholicism?-here I’m not sure but I’m sure others reading will be)and not that Faith which has been held inviolate and without corruption within the Church that has bled and suffered to carry that Faith within Her to this present discussion in which you gentlemen have embroiled yourselves in.

    I believe that in order for dialogue to occur, we must begin from elsewhere. Namely, your assumptions of what constitutes the Christian Faith and that from whence you chose to make a beginning into dialogue will prove fruitless without historical, not theological, questions being addressd first.

  127. Tom,

    First, I warned Blake regarding his comments which were rhetorical and insulting. He jumped in with guns blazing and got his foot stuck in his mouth in my first reply. Nothing in my original post was personal. If the LDS don’t like that Christians take them to be heterodox, then they either need to lump it or convince us that it is not so. Attacking us personally doesn’t advance the conversation in a rational way because it doesn’t advance the conversation but rather retards it. If he is frustrated he should find philosophically appropriate ways to vent. His frustration is not an excuse.

    He went out of his way to attack me personally when I had not even commented to him in a number of days. This means that he has some personal problem and it is not just with the thread. I am not his therapist so I am not going to allow him to use this blog to threaten people or be rude. I can take a hit and things can get heated here but there are limits. Being a poor graduate student trying to raise a family I don’t need nonsense like his. There are plenty of other idiots he can vent on. This blog is unique in so far as we have a narrow scope of things we discuss aiming to do so in a dispassionate manner. We don’t care about Harry Potter or what my cat did yesterday on the mat.

    You are free to post here and to disagree and even to do so strongly. I have no axe to grind with you. I have made mistakes in my life and I have learned to listen to the arguments of others so I am open to hearing what informed and thoughtful people have to say.

    After glancing through the posts the other day it seems to me very few have been able to clearly state where Blake’s problem is or if they have, it has only been on this or that point. Secondly, it is clear that we haven’t been able to translate across to your perspective because you are still reading us as advocating some kind of irrationalism. We need to more forcefully distinguish ourselves on that point and why our claim of epistemic limitation isn’t ad hoc. I plan to remedy those issues by providing something fairly comprehensive and much more clear. Right now I am swamped with deadlines, languages, grading and family matters. The blog can wait.

    I noticed your questions and I think they warrant inclusion in my response, so if you could continue to exemplify good character and be patient with me, I will do so. Blake is obviously free to post what he likes on his own blog. If you consider him worthwhile I am sure your fingers are capable of clicking your way to his site and accessing his work. I agree he is no lightweight, but he’s no heavy weight either, especially when on his own blog he confesses to substantial ignorance concerning the Orthodox theology he has been pounding his fist about. He is a lawyer and he writes like one. His substantial publications seem few in number and the rest are limited to letters to the editor or works published by the LDS publishing ghetto. That doesn’t imply that they are wrong, but he is no Al Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen or Etienne Gilson.

  128. TOm says:

    Cyril,
    Thank you for the book recommendation. I will look into it. You might be interested to note that I have regularly found that not only does Blake’s systemization of LDS theology address a number of seeming contradictions within Christianity but it generally addresses the common objections to theism offered by the atheist.
    I regularly encounter atheists who claim to be elevating reason to some appropriate place. Within western Christianity, this is usually responded to by saying that we too place importance upon reason. The issue is that atheists elevate scientific naturalism beyond the place it merits. There are experiences of the divine that are not to be weighed and measured with the 5 senses. This is where atheists abandon reason and theist continue to gather data. This is why atheism is wrong IMO.
    It seems to me that you are arguing that the application of reason leads to atheism therefore; we should not use reason in our pursuit of God and truth about God. Again, if you want to accept the idea that we do not use reason for our decisions about God and religious truth, that is of some value. Clearly there are numerous people who have profound relationships with God, but they have not considered (and perhaps couldn’t evaluate) the issues discussed in councils and on this thread.
    Why is it that I have found 3-4 posts to which I have responded by saying, “Ok, you are saying that reason is of diminished value toward evaluating these questions,” but that nobody ever says, “YES, I am!” or “NO, you are mistaken!”?

    On to your next post:
    You ask,

    To be brief: can a contingent god exist?

    As I read modern Orthodox thought and modern Catholic thought, I would say that in the truest sense, a contingent being cannot be called a god. I would however suggest that when Irenaeus spoke of men becoming “gods” and a number of ECF (before Athanasius) spoke of men becoming “gods,” they placed no limits on the final state of deified man. Yet, they embraced creation ex nihilo and thus made man’s initial existence (at the very least) contingent.
    It is my opinion that Athanasius and Augustine in the west began to view the idea that man “participated” in divinity as indicative of a limit on the final state of deification AND in the east a number of ECF (none before the 4th century) began to sow the seeds with which Palamas would separate essence and energy and claim that deified man do not share (or even experience) God’s essence. So while I see ideas of partaking and participating AND ideas like gods by grace, not by nature in Irenaeus and other pre-4th century writings; I see nothing to suggest that men do not become fully divine like Christ became fully human.

    Now, within Blake’s systematization of LDS thought as I embrace it, we could say that no beings with contingent existence could be properly called gods. The idea that men were created by God would need to be understood in a way similar to what Justin Martyr and all earlier Christians and Jews believed concerning creation, rather than in the way Irenaeus (a couple of earlier Christians, and the Gnostic philosopher Basilides) and later Christians did, but such a thing is quite appropriate (dare I say reasonable). The “ex nihilo” attached to “creation ex nihilo” is necessary for it to mean what it means within Eastern and Western Christian thought.

    Anyway, I will look into the book you recommended. I would much prefer an Orthodox response to Diderot though. I cannot find any sufficient reason to disbelieve that God has revealed Himself to me; for this reason atheism seems to not be an option. Now beyond this experience of God that I view as real and part of a set of data that includes supernaturally revealed personal data, I still think much can be discovered about God with reason and the 5 natural senses. I do not yet see were I must reject reason to embrace the systematization of LDS theology advocated by Blake. Do you believe that Diderot will remove reason from the arsenal of tools I use to evaluate which concepts of God are correct and which religion makes the most sense of the available data?

    Charity, TOm

    BTW, I have not read anything beyond Cyril’s two posts. I will look at those now.

  129. photios says:

    Tom,

    Where did St. Clement of Rome or St. Ignatius advocate creation from pre-existent matter, or that we pre-existed the body as some sort of intelligence?

    Photios

  130. TOm says:

    Photius,
    “DISTINCTION IS OPPOSITION” is most definitely a stumbling point for me. Jonathon Prejean told me this was my problem long ago, and I still have it. I will re-read your post a few more times eventually and see if I can grasp precisely the light bulb that should go on when I understand what “distinction is opposition” means and why I should reject it.

    Now, having read Blake’s books after reading his article, I would suggest he has gone beyond the info he offers in the article. It is my opinion that Blake recognizes the Father as the fount of divinity in that the Father is the locus around which the Social Trinity is eternally formed, and the Father has first place. That being said, the divine power, knowledge, and … are eternally properties of the Godhead. This is a necessary truth in that most LDS (Blake included) believe that God the Father who is embodied once walked through a world. Blake (and I believe Joseph Smith also) suggests that the Father’s incarnation was the pattern for Christ’s incarnation. This means at least to me that when the Father kenotically emptied himself of the fullness of communion enjoyed within the divine community, the divine attributes were contained within the one Godhead which during incarnation contains two persons (instead of three).

    The above likely sounds extraordinary to a non-LDS, but it is built upon John 5:19 by Joseph Smith. Perhaps he was not a prophet and he was wrong, but I do not think the systematization of these thoughts done by Blake violates the law of non-contradiction.

    Now, I need to learn more about “distinction is opposition,” but when you SEEM to me to be saying that I cannot utilize the law of non-contradiction because it brings my theology tumbling down; I am left with the impression that you are still ultimately arguing against the use of the law of non-contradiction. But, I really have yet to be able to know what you and Jonathon are trying to teach me when you say this. For this reason, I know I have more to learn.
    Charity, TOm

  131. Jay Dyer says:

    I’ll be having a debate with Mormon “apologist” Justin Hart that will be audio taped and placed on our Orthodox Website. He was blasting our site, so I issued a challenge and we are set to debate at the end of the month.

    -Jay

  132. TOm says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,
    I think I will say that “prayer is a good idea” is indeed a true statement.
    (and that Blake dealt extensively with the rock argument).
    Charity, TOm

  133. Jay Dyer says:

    Oh yeah, the topics will be:
    1. The Trinity
    2. That the texts they think teach a millennial restoration of the church have already been fulfilled in a preterist sense.

  134. TOm says:

    Perry Robinson,
    I look forward to your future post. As I stand today, I fall radically short. It is my goal to be “justified” before God when I die, so waiting a few weeks to read your response is hardly too much to ask. And while what I just wrote is certainly true, it should not be construed as indicating my desire to learn hints at a lack of thickheaded opinion or confidence that my views are closer to God’s than yours. It just means that learning is a lifetime experience and a few weeks wait is not concerning.
    I do appreciate that you somewhat acknowledge that my confusion concerning the ideas offered in this thread is appropriate. I suspect that “distinction is opposition” is a continual stumbling block for me.
    Charity, TOm

  135. Tom,

    I am sure that both you and Blake and all the other contributors can out “extensive” me any day of the week.

    Still, neither reason alone – you can logically prove error or else all conflicting philosophical arguments are right, or maybe they are with a higher view, which I think the distinction and paradoxical points come to – nor revelation alone will get you there, because we can be deluded and deceived by our revelations. One reason we reject Joseph Smith’s revelation is that he had it alone. The Orthodox find safety in numbers, but democracy alone wont get you there either. These are just some of the variables.

  136. TOm says:

    Sophocles,
    I did not mean to skip your post.
    I suppose I have been known to cheer, but it just confused me since I really couldn’t see a response to the concerns offered.

    Now given that, ANY Christian that holds to the historic understanding of the Faith cannot, in good conscious, give the Mormon religion the adjective “Christian.” Whatever Mormonism is, it is not Christian.

    Your statement is not near so clear as you might think it to be. Part of the problem of course is that few people seem to have engaged LDS in general or Blake’s LDS thought in particular. That being said, there are clearly differences between what you call “historic Christianity” and the theology of the CoJCoLDS.
    It is my opinion that when a Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox (perhaps some high church Anglicans) claim that “historic Christianity” warrants the declaration that Mormonism is not Christianity, there is some validity.
    That being said, Newman within the Catholic tradition and Pelikan within the EO tradition acknowledge that “historic Christianity” is a DEVELOPED religion. I would never argue that LDS believe the same things that modern Catholics or modern EO’s believe. Instead, I suggest that the developments evident in historic Christianity are problematic. In addition to this, I find reason to reject the developed authority that is also evident. But, this is of course not part of the discussions here. Instead, just because LDS do not embrace developed Christian theology does not mean that they are not the Restoration of ancient Christianity.

    The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church has absolutely nothing in common with Mormonism.

    This is either very poor reasoning, profound lack of knowledge, or pure polemics.

    Because you did comment on this, the CoJCoLDS was born largely within Protestant America. A Catholic Cardinal wrote an article that explained that Mormonism in many ways was the logical development of the mess that was Protestant America. There were a few interactions with Catholicism too, but not a lot. I have a LDS friend who recently told me that he no longer holds Catholicism in the “second place” but he suspects that it is EO Christianity that is in the “second place.” I would disagree with him based upon the development of authority views that I have derived from various early and late sources, but where you theology departs from Catholicism deserves more attention than I have given it (since in many ways I held that it was similar except for 2-3 things).

    Anyway, thanks for your response.
    Charity, TOm

  137. TOm says:

    Photius,
    I actually claimed that St. Justin Martyr was the one who explicitly rejected Creation ex Nihilo and that no Christian before him advocated Creation ex Nihilo. Here however are the words of Clement of Rome with commentary from Blake.

    http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/#en100

    Also writing at the beginning of the second century, Clement, Bishop of Rome, stated that God “made manifest (efaneropoiesas) the eternal fabric of the world (eu ten aennaon tou cosmou sistasin).”* Now Clement is important because he is at the very center of the Christian Church as it was then developing. Clement’s view assumed that God had created from an eternally existing substrate. Indeed, he created by “making manifest” what already existed in some form. The lack of argumentation or further elucidation indicates that Clement was not attempting to establish a philosophical position; he was merely stating a generally accepted position that is more tacit than explicit. However, the fact that such a view as assumed is even more significant than if Clement had argued for it. If he had presented an argument for this view, then we can assume that it was either a contested doctrine or a new view. However, because he accepts it as obvious, it appears to be a generally accepted belief in the early Christian Church.
    *1 Clement to the Corinthians, 60, 1. See, Oscar de Gebhardt and Adolphus Harnack, Patrium Apostolicorum Opera: Clemenits Romani (Lipsiae: J.C. Hinrichs, 1876), 8 vols., 1:100.

    Ostler, THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION EX NIHILO WAS CREATED OUT OF NOTHING: A RESPONSE TO COPAN AND CRAIG
    PART 1: THE SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENT

    I am not going to be able to rehash all of the issues people take with the LDS claim that we are a restoration of original Christianity or numerous other aspects of the truth claims of the CoJCoLDS. It has been a few years since I have encountered an argument that I have not seen responses for (and those responses existed, I just had yet to encounter them). There are message boards that discuss all of these issues, but I am hoping to stick with the rational exploration of theology here. If you find LDS theology capable of addressing reason based issues to a superior extent than is Eastern Orthodoxy, then I would be willing to point you towards sources that (and even facilitate some) discuss these other issues. Or if you just want to discuss these other issues that is fine too, but I would rather direct you to a place where people talk about these things frequently so it is not solely me who provides these answers.

    Charity, TOm

  138. TOm says:

    Andrea,
    I would suggest that the CoJCoLDS is definitely not built solely upon the revelation of one man, Joseph Smith. This was one of the key aspects of the early CoJCoLDS that such things must be built upon the witness of 2-3 persons not a single one.
    I do however agree that it is revelation and reason that we must rely upon. I just do not believe that God’s revelations will result in contradictions when they are understood properly. The “properly” part is however not so easy as it sounds.
    Finally, LDS have a concept of “common consent” (not absent within EO BTW). So, while we would also reject the idea that God’s church is a democracy, it is also not a system in which God only speaks to a single person such that we must have unquestioned faith in any human.
    Charity, TOm

  139. Tom,

    To get your head around regarding the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of distinction try my two papers, one on St. Gregory of Nyssa and the other on St. Maximos. Do a search on this blog and you should be able to find them.

    Here’s a little quote from St. Maximos in regard to experiencing God in which all dialectic ceases (scientific inquiry) which should make you appreciate the paradox, the epistemological limitations, and the limitations of language in general in grasping God. This is the purpose of the both/and dialectic, instead of an either/or. This is pretty much built on the Christian metaphysics of St. Dionysios the Aeropagaite.

    “The logoi which are in beings, in the infinity of which it contemplates the energies of God, then, to speak truly, it reproduces the numerous and infinite differences in the divine energies which it perceives. Then, as regards the employment of scientific inquiry (epistemonikes ereuvnes) into that which is really true, for reasons that one may readily appreciate (eikotws), it (the intellect) will find the power of any such inquiry [to be] ineffective and its method useless, for it has no means of understanding how God Who is truly none of the things that exist, and Who in the strict sense is all things, and yet beyond them all, [exists] in each logos of all particular things and in all the logoi together whereby all things exist. If, therefore, in a proper sense, every divine energy properly signifies God indivisibly, wholly and entirely through itself, in each thing according to the logos—whatever it may be—whereby it exists, who is capable of conceiving and of saying exactly how, being wholly and entirely and altogether common to all and yet altogether particularly present in each of these realities, God is without part and division, without [thereby] being diversely distributed in the infinite differences of these realities in which He exists as Being, and without thereby being contracted according to the particular existence of each individual [logos], and also without fusing the differences of these realities into the sole and unique totality of them all, but on the contrary that He is truly all in all, He Who never abandoned His own simplicity [which is] without parts?” –Ambigua 22, , PG 91:1257A-B

    Photios.

  140. Tom,

    So are you saying that other people had the same vision from the angel Moroni and saw the buried, golden Egyptian book of Mormon before Moroni took it back up? Another thing that bothers me about that story, which is most recently explained to me on Sophocles’ link, is how the “truth” left Jerusalem so early on and was hidden for so very long. Our God is more consistently and universally revealing of Himself than that. Then you come up with scattered bits of apparent agreement in the early church fathers claiming that makes some sort of consensus with Mormonism that even the earliest Church Fathers never had in the Mormon way.

    I know Pelikan uses the word “development”, but even that needs to be understood properly. I believe C.S. Lewis wrote in the Abolition of Man, it’s been a few years, that there is a difference between innovation and development. Innovation is introducing something new, and development is maturation and refinement of the same thing. So we can see the Constantinoplian addition to the Creed as refining a description of the Holy Spirit, for ex, while the addition of the Filioque can be seen as an innovation.

    Another variable that we need to believe someone’s claims is morality, and Joseph Smith does not impress me on that count either. Our Saints are known for their purity and chastity, even in marriage.

  141. Cyril says:

    Tom,

    I am in no way saying that the application of reason leads to atheism, only that the assumption that God is not being does, especially as it is embraced by deistic notions that cannot disentangle its god from creation. Thus atheism arises not as a response to theism, which sees God as separate from creation, and supra-temporal (at the least) but in opposition to deism. Read Diderot’s contemporary, Voltaire’s essay “We must take sides”. My point was that I don’t see the difference between LDS assumptions about God, and those of let us say Toland or even D’Alembert. God is at best an ens necessarium for these thinkers, a limiting concept; for the Orthodox this is not Who God is.

    As for a contingent god, no, an unnecessary god does not exist (and this is the whole weight of Diderot’s argument, one with which, given his assumptions, I must agree–though only given his assumptions). I am not quite sure about what you are saying in your reading of St. Irenaeus (and St. Athanasius). Irenaeus and Athanasius saw no fixed point to which we shall, even as creatures, attach ourselves (this is of course exactly what Maximus teaches). For Irenaeus, in AH, IV 28. 2, we shall progress forever in the kingdom, for the king is infinite. Where do you find in any Father that we participate in God’s essence? The earliest writers don’t allude to II Peter (Origen is the first), but to John 8 on “ye are gods” and all link it with the notion of divine sonship (and thus the notion that we become by grace what Christ is by nature). Even Origen’s use of participation in the divine nature sets the limit of this as the divine essence, but not in that we are not infinitely moving to infinity (Norman Russell is the one to look up here). Maximos saw no end to our personal union with God, and spoke of the infinity of the Christian soul, since the infinity of the logoi peri Theou made this a reality.

    As for Palamas making a distinction in the essence and energies, you should read Theophilus of Antioch and Irenaeus again. It is all quite present in both of them; it is in spades in the fourth century. You can sack this website for all sorts of citations from the Fathers to this effect.

    Finally, Diderot may not drive reason “from the arsenal of tools” you use, but why I recommended him was to address the question of how is the Mormon god, who exists eternally with materia and pragmata, not then contingent? This is what Diderot lances (I would suggest the Barzun translation, by-the-bye, though if you can read French, that is the best).

    Lastly, you said that you have had a personal experience of the divine. Does this trump reason? Is reason than an impoverished category, to stand second to what the mystic and prophet enjoy? If so, then how can you claim any reason to hold to reason? Further, can you rationally categorize this experience? If it is ineffable, then how can you attach any thing obtained by reason, to it? Finally, and as a question, “God spoke to me last night in a dream!” “Oh, yes! How do you know that you did not dream God spoke to you?” Is not experience a dangerous thing to be the gauge of our religious sensibilities?

    I shall be away from this blog for some days, as I have several things (student papers among them), that need to be done. Also, lbailes, do you have Allison Duncan’s class notes?

    Cyril

  142. TOm says:

    Photius,
    I am fairly sure I found your paper on Gregory of Nyssa, but not on Maximos.
    I found “Breaking the Dialectic Method: …”

    Is the Maximos paper another word document, or is it a post on the board. I couldn’t find it if it is a word document.
    Charity, TOm

  143. Cyril says:

    Correction: the first sentence should read “the assumption that God is supreme being does, especially…”

    Cyril (the unedited)

  144. Cyril says:

    Correction 2. John 10:34-5

  145. Here’s another paper that my really baffle your noodle too Tom:

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2006/02/14/maximus/

    Photios

  146. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Photios,

    Have you considered making your papers more readily accessible in the sidebar?

  147. TOm:
    My question was intended to point out that if the concept of the greatest possible happiness is incoherent, then it is explanatorily vacuous in terms of explaining actual existence. And since Blake’s account of divinity asserts that this is true of the divine, his concept of divinity strikes me as equally vacuous; it doesn’t actually mean anything. There’s no reason to believe it or even to need it. IOW, if the concept of an actual greatest possible happiness, an infinite act of existence, is incoherent, then existence (and any concept of God) is incoherent and inexplicable.

    I can’t see any middle ground between the classical conception of God and some sort of sheerly inexplicable holism in which separate existence itself is some sort of illusion or partial perception, along the lines of David Bohm or Gautama Buddha, so that the existence of all things is literally just a self-reflection of the one thing and perception itself is a superfluous error and a pointless limitation. I can understand person being an illusion, but I can’t understand any way in which personal existence (personal act) can be real in which the concept of infinite act is incoherent. Only if there is reason for distinctions can the law of non-contradiction be justified, and if there is no such thing as infinite act, then there cannot be any reason for finite act.

    That’s why I think Blake’s understanding is hopeless. It’s incoherent the minute it has to do any explanatory work on actual existence.

  148. Elliot B says:

    To the blog hosts:

    I want to commend your consistently charitable management of this blog.

    To the topic of an inherent incompatibility between the divine and the human:

    I have neither the acumen nor the time to develop a solid argument here, but I would like to raise what I think are two helpful considerations about the theandric tensions which Blake presses against Christianity. (I would also like to point out the more vociferously he uses them as weapons against CHRISTIANITY, the more evident it is he, as a MORMON, does not consider his own faith to be subject to any of those CHRISTIAN deficits. It has always struck me as odd how Mormons argue for the right to be identified as “Christians” when so much of their shtick is to point out how stylishly and attractively UN-Christian they are. It really is a status issue: the world is at least used to the oddness of Christian faith claims, so if they can get the title, they can at least get over the novel oddness of Mormonism as a tertium quid.)

    First, I think we should reflect on what it means for the human intellect, as an immaterial power of deliberation, to “partake” in the divine attribute of knowledge and immortality. To know something is to grasp it at an immaterial, and therefore atemporal (and therefore eternal) level. Also, the content of knowledge (say for grasping a formal logical operation) possesses infinite dimensions. To understand modus ponens formally is to grasp it in an infinite set of actual cases of it. Hence, clearly, human nature can partake of divine attributes. The brain is the medium in (or through) which, but not the power *by which*, humans think. I’m inclined to see the hypostasis of Jesus Christ as the agent *by which* the divine and human natures are expressed in the hypostatic union, while the historical conditions of the Incarnation are but the medium in (or through) which that theandric intention (theletic-intellectual) is expressed. Much the same goes for the human power of willing. We partake of the literally God-like power of deliberative choice. Hence, it is possible for human nature truly to manifest divine attributes. We understand “If p, then q. q, therefore p” just as well as God does; hence we do share in at least one divine power.

    Second, as I think someone pointed out about 2/3’s down this thread, it seems not at all clear the Mormon definition of divinity does justice to the concept itself. I think Blake’s analytical protestations can be turned against him. If it is impossible for the divine compossibly to inhere in the non-divine, then how can the material world, as the abode of the Mormonic divine bodies, partake of divinity? If humans, as agents in the temporal, passable world, can not partake of the divine nature, how can the entire world itself, decomposable as it is into any number of temporal, passable sub-agents, partake of divinity? If LDS’s can deny the possibility of a DIVINE human person, then surely we can deny the possibility of a divine PERSON. LDS’s seem to claim the divine body can be infinite and eternal in extension and duration. But Christians claim humans can partake of immortality and eternity in Christ, albeit contingently and by grace. The two claims are antipodal but no more or less coherent. This is why I see Blake’s arguments against the Incarnation as basically arguments against Revelation altogether. If it is incoherent to say a concrete human person truly instantiates the divine nature, it is just as incoherent to say the divine can truly inhere in the world (as analogously larger, super-personal, but still material, vessel for the divine). If Jesus cannot “contain” divinity certainly neither can the historical world of space-time. Blake’s is a Pyrrhic victory, if anything.

    The idea of theandric “participation” is an analogously, not univocally, conceivable term. If in any way human nature and the divinity can co-participate in some attributes, which I think they do plainly in the cases of existence and intellection, then it just becomes a matter of properly analyzing the analogous link between the “weightier” divine attributes (like impassibility, eternality, etc.) and human nature.

    Again, this is all tentative and off the cuff. I leave the real insights to my betters here.

    E.

  149. TOm says:

    Photius and All,
    Ok, I have read both “Breaking the Dialectical Method: The Trinitarian Structure of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Contra Enomium” and “Synergy in Christ According to Saint Maximus the Confessor.”

    I hope to offer some thoughts toward determining if I have understood what you feel are important aspects of these two papers.

    It is important to begin with what is revealed about God in scripture and tradition. Dialectic reasoning can push one to a heretical place by emphasizing “either-or” over “both-and.” From comments seen here, but not necessarily in the paper, some other bits of information can be mentioned. It would seem that the recognition that God is unknowable, that apophatic theology is often the best way of discussing God (or rather what God is not), and that our mind is both fallen and non-infinite; point to the need to be cautious (at the very least) when attempting to test predicates concerning right concepts of God.
    There are numerous examples of dialectic reasoning in the early church controversies and frequently one can show how this reasoning pushed those who employed it toward heretical positions.
    Origin in his lifetime did not find himself on the heretical side of a firm orthodox conflict, but his dialectic form of reasoning did plant numerous seeds that would bear bad fruit later on. Which does not mean that Origin did not provide valuable insights too.

    Eunomius utilized dialectic reasoning and arrived at a position where there was profound subordination within the Trinity. He started with an absolutist form of simplicity within God. God is one and simple. The many “names” for God really point to the one God (they could even be called synonymous especially if we understood more). Eunomius would then point out that God the Father is ingenerate. A true product of His essence would need to be likewise ingenerate, but the idea of production/product is inconsistent with being ingenerate. Thus the Son and the Spirit are not of the same essence as the Father.
    Gregory replies to this by saying that uncreate and ungenerate are not the same thing. This would be a problem for Eunomius because it would violate his ideas of simplicity. For Gregory the Trinity consists of one essence through being uncreate (and ?), but there is distinction within the Trinity such that scripture uses 3 names (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), calls the Son the only-begotten, and does not call the Spirit the only-begotten. This “distinction is not opposition” and does not compromise the oneness of essence.

    Before I go on to discuss some of the thoughts on “will” associated with the next paper, I thought I would mention that my understanding of Augustine’s (probably) and Aquinas’s (certainly) view of simplicity would make Gregory’s “escape” unavailable. Would that not be something you would likewise say?

    Next, we will leave Gregory (of Nyssa) who lived during Trinitarian controversies and go to St. Maximus who dealt with Monotheletism or the view that the dual natured Christ defined at Chalcedon had a single will (you use Monotheletism and Monenergism interchangeably, so I will as well).
    Pyrrhus would suggest that if Christ had a human will, it would be in conflict with the divine will. Perhaps in a stretch we might say the distinction in wills (two) would create opposition (distinction is opposition), but I think that might be too much of a stretch.
    It seems to me the key to St. Maximus’s response is in the understanding of will (which may have ramifications for free-will and even Augustine’s predestination, though I have not yet completed this linkage). Maximus seems to start with the more straight-forward result of the two nature position that there are two wills, a human and a divine. Then he deals with Christ’s impeccability. He argues that fallen humans have a gnomic will (which I had to look up), but that this is not the essence of human will but rather an accidental component of human will (seemingly linked to the fall). Christ’s fully human nature has a fully human will, but as wills in the presence of knowledge it does not deliberate about sinning but rather wills (and acts) naturally, correctly, and sinlessly. Thus, there is not conflict within the person of Christ.

    I also found interesting the idea that persons and natures were confused. Sabellius might say that since there is one will within the Triune God, there is one hypostasis (generally one person). Also Arius might say that since there were three hypostases there were three wills and thus three natures. The orthodox position seems to be that there is one will, one nature and three hypostases. So again we see that will is part of nature where “action of the will” is part of person.

    I think I will close here. I would like for folks that can see my errors to tear apart what I have said. I am trying to present (summarize some points) what I think you, Photius, put forth as your view. Where I have failed (even if my failure was to miss some of the more important points), I would like to be aggressively corrected.

    Charity, TOm

  150. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Tom,

    For what it’s worth, you seem to be understanding this very quickly to me. Please forgive me for saying you were being ‘poor me’. I have more than a healthy dose of self-pity and judged you unmercifully.

    To the administrators,

    Also for what it’s worth, thank you for sharing what seems to me clear, thorough, and helpful assessments of doctrine and dogma, including the more recent Play it Again Sam thread (which you might also want to check out, Tom).

  151. Tom,

    A pretty good summary. I would make one very important observation, in a general sense, to your summary that is most paramount. It is not just the use of the dialectical method, but the certain order in which theological questions are addressed: a theological structure if you will. Eunomius considers the essence of things and defines this in a way such that its opposite is known, and vice versa. ‘Distinction is opposition’ flows naturally from such a definition of whatever essence is considered.

    Why would you think Augustine or Aquinas makes Gregory’s escape unavailable? They both start from a common presupposition and structure that Eunomius would consider valid, (though not necessarily Augustine at times).

    On Maximos, the gnomic will isn’t so much a product of the fall, but rather being a consequence of being a created hypostasis. Think about it for a sec, was Adam’s sin possible by a perfect righteous will or a gnomic will? And is a gnomic will necessarily blameworthy?

    Photios

  152. Photios,

    Remember Farrell’s introduction to the Disputation with Pyrrhus where he explains how the “distinctions” in creation (sensible-intellectual, male-female) become “opposed” after the fall? I still do not grasp the meaning and implications of this and would be grateful if you could break this down for me.

  153. Neochalcedonian,

    It means quite simply this: that those things that are truly distinct become opposed and cause rupture, most notably death. So, the implication of such is really quite appalling and even astounding: those who wish to describe REALITY by the means of the dialectical method are describing what? They are describing reality as it currently is in its fallen state, and not what it is supposed to be. They are describing death. When this moves into theory, theology, they are creating a gnostic god that has nothing to do with the scriptures, even a gnostic god of death. I believe the filioque as expressed on the Carolingian shield is the greatest icon of that reality: the shield was an outward sign of an inward depravity.

    So, the dialectical method is really a consequence of the fall.

    Photios

  154. Photios,

    I’m trying to think of what implications this has for the attempt to theoretically recreate the history of the cosmos based on the laws that currently govern it. Many of the Fathers produced metaphysical-deductive arguments against the eternality of the world, for the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and a few for the simultaneous creation of body & soul. I reject materialist cosmologies, but I believe that apophatic theology implies the legitimacy of methodological naturalism in the sciences because theories and observations concerning the behavior of finite beings do not require the supposition of what is beyond being. Only normative teleological notions (“should” or “meant to be”) require an appeal to what is above existence for validation. This understanding of the relation between theology and natural science appears to ensure a lack of tension between the two except when it comes to the question of creation. Methodological naturalism with respect to creation forces the scientist to either affirm the eternality of existence or to construct some pseudo-scientific metaphysical explanation of how things came into being.

  155. TOm says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,
    I have a number of things to respond to, but I am going to focus on my understanding what you and Photius are saying first. Thank you for the kind words. As I said, the “poor me” was certainly a way of looking at my statement. I just wanted to be upfront about being a LDS and thought that was a fair way to start.
    I should note that I am trying to understand what is being offered as the EO position here. That should not be construed as me accepting the EO position as the most valid. I am presently toying with the idea that much of Catholicism and Protestantism exists in a thought world that creates problems for their theology, but the Eastern Orthodox Church has chosen to not enter this same “thought world” in order to hold orthodox views rather than views a philosopher might applaud, address, or engage with philosophies tools.
    I am also curious as to how prevalent this other “thought world” is within Eastern Orthodoxy. While it is true I was not looking; I did, nonetheless, not find this when I read Pelikan and Gavrilyuk.
    Charity, TOm

  156. TOm says:

    Photius,
    It sure is not easy to cut-and-paste so that I can quote you!

    I would make one very important observation, in a general sense, to your summary that is most paramount. It is not just the use of the dialectical method, but the certain order in which theological questions are addressed: a theological structure if you will. Eunomius considers the essence of things and defines this in a way such that its opposite is known, and vice versa. ‘Distinction is opposition’ flows naturally from such a definition of whatever essence is considered.

    Ok. So starting at essence to define God’s oneness or Christ’s two natures can frequently lead to problems. Instead one must start at the personal aspects of God as He is revealed to us. Most clearly this revelation is Christ, but the three persons of the Trinity are all mentioned in scripture and this must be part of this starting point. Having firmly established the personal nature of the revealed God, we can discuss essence. It would seem that what we say of essence must be guided by our understanding of persons else we could end in the same trap. There is still a need not to push to either-or thinking.

    Why would you think Augustine or Aquinas makes Gregory’s escape unavailable? They both start from a common presupposition and structure that Eunomius would consider valid, (though not necessarily Augustine at times).

    I am saying “Gregory’s escape” is not available to Augustine or Aquinas because of their view of divine simplicity.

    It would seem that Augustine and Aquinas also place a huge emphasis upon essence sometimes at the expense of persons.

    I have recently been even using the term “neo-modalist” to describe Augustine’s use of the term homoousian. Eusebius of Caesarea did not use homoousian the same way that Augustine did. Also Chalcedon did not use homoousian as Augustine did.
    (Let me break with things that you might agree with and offer this which you might disagree with –of course I am sure of neither your agreements nor disagreements. I think that Athanasius understood homoousian similar to Augustine and dissimilar to Eusebius).

    Also, I think you may have misunderstood what I meant when I said that “Augustine or Aquinas makes Gregory’s escape unavailable.” It was not my intent to suggest that A & A had an impact upon the validity of Gregory’s thought, but that Gregory’s thought does not rescue A & A from a problematic structure because they are married to a view of divine simplicity that Gregory rejects.

    On Maximos, the gnomic will isn’t so much a product of the fall, but rather being a consequence of being a created hypostasis. Think about it for a sec, was Adam’s sin possible by a perfect righteous will or a gnomic will? And is a gnomic will necessarily blameworthy?

    Not that it is important, but I claimed the gnomic will was “seemingly linked to the fall.” I believe Calvinist have a huge problem when it comes to explaining why Adam fell because of how they generally link sin to post-fall corrupted nature. I was not ready to walk down this road in EO thought. I believe contra-Sophocles that LDS concepts of the fall have a lot more in common with the EO than with post-Augustinian Western Christianity (and I would even say that EO concept of the fall have more in come with the LDS than with post-Augustinian Western Christainity).
    Anyway, I would say that the fall could only occur if Adam had a gnomic will. A perfect human will does not depart from the path to theosis. It is only the person in the presense of imperfect knowledge who has a gnomic will and thus deliberates and makes some choices that are counter productive towards theosis.
    “Is a gnomic will necessarily blameworthy?” I flash back to something I have said to my wife. I claimed that my specific act (acts) were not unloving / rebellion so much as stupidity. Be I selfish or unselfish at my core, in the possession of proper knowledge I would not have contributed to her anger/pain. This is because had I seen what would result, my love for her would have dictated a different course OR my selfish desire for peace and harmony would have dictated a different course. Either way, lack of knowledge was my problem. This did not go over so well, but fortunately I receive forgiveness anyway.
    So, when you ask, “Is the gnomic will necessarily blameworthy,” I say yes and no (though I suspect you were leaning toward the no answer). The natural human will (perfectly righteous will) is directed toward theosis. When the gnomic will is out of alignment with the natural will as a product of shortsightedness AND selfishness, it is blameworthy. When the gnomic will is out of alignment with the natural will as a product of shortsightedness alone it is not blameworthy. I would suggest that shortsightedness is almost always (always) healed (by God) as we walk through life, but selfishness in some is sometimes never overcome (thought turning to God can heal this too).
    If you lean so strongly towards a “no” answer that you cannot accept what I just offered, I would be interested in your theodicy with respect to the difference between joy in the energia of God and torment in the energia of God.

    Charity, TOm

  157. Neo,

    Allow me to take a crack at your question. The question doesn’t seem to me if the Fathers could give such arguments but what those arguments require. Do the Fathers give such arguments using dialectic to self stultify which indirectly shows the intrinsic contingency of the world? Do they have epistemic access to the nature of the world via common experience or supernatural enlightenment?

    I think apophatic theology implies a limited legitimacy of using dialectic in the modern world. if there was no limitation here, it would mply the autonomy of nature and philosophy from theology, when it is supposed to imply the opposite, the autonomy of theology from philosophy. On philosophical grounds, I am not convinced that methodological naturalism is either compatible with scientific realism or supports it, or that it is a viable project on its own legs. If that is anywhere near right, then the legitimacy of the sciences won’t turn on a committment to methodological naturalism.

    I am also not convinced due to my background in Van Til and presupp stuff that God is a necessary condition for teleology and normativity only. I think both Hume and Kant saw this problem fairly clearly. Not just morality and personhood but the entire scientific enterprise depends on theistic presuppositions.

  158. trvalentine says:

    Photios wrote:

    We just don’t gloss divine nature = divine essence.

    In reading Zizioulas yesterday, I came across a similar statement:

    Αντιθέτως, μία φύση είναι μία φύση, μία ουσία είναι μία ουσία.

    (On the contrary, a nature [physis] is a nature [physis]; an essence [ousia] is an essence [ousia].)

    So what is the difference between ‘nature’ [physis] and ‘essence’ [ousia]?

    Thomas

  159. Thomas,

    phusis is wider in scope than ousia. In Greek medical theory and in Platonism, the energies of various powers can mix, forming a semi-stable individual thing, a substance. The nature or phusis includes all of them and/or specifically picks out a dominating power, in the case of fire, like heat. Barnes’ work on the Power of God is quite helpful on this background.

    So the phusis includes ousia and energia so that when we speak of the divine nature we can be speaking of both. Ousia is therefore restricted in intension compared with phusis.

  160. Perry,

    (1)”Do the Fathers give such arguments using dialectic to self stultify which indirectly shows the intrinsic contingency of the world? Do they have epistemic access to the nature of the world via common experience or supernatural enlightenment?”

    I believe that St. Maximus the Confessor (Ambiguum 7) & St. John of Damascus (Exp. I, Ch. 3) believed that the fact of exnihilation could be deduced from the nature of things as presented in common experience and the impossibility of the contrary:

    “All things, that exist, are either created or uncreated. If, then, things are created, it follows that they are also wholly mutable. For things, whose existence originated in change, must also be subject to change, whether it be that they perish or that they become other than they are by act of wills. But if things are uncreated they must in all consistency be also wholly immutable… Things then that are mutable are also wholly created. But things that are created must be the work of some maker, and the maker cannot have been created. For if he had been created, he also must surely have been created by some one, and so on till we arrive at something uncreated. The Creator, then, being uncreated, is also wholly immutable. And what could this be other than Deity?” [St. John of Damascus, (Exp. I, Ch. 3)]

  161. 2) The question for me is this: do the conclusions drawn from and theories constructed on the basis of empirical data require an appeal to what is beyond being in order to be truth-preserving or logically consistent? A negative answer appears to grant autonomy to science and an affirmative answer introduces another “God-of-the-gaps” theology/methodology which brings with it a web of theological/intellectual difficulties. The apparent difficulty with the negative answer is eliminated, I believe, by the fact that the metaphysical-theological presuppositions of science are themselves not the direct object or subject of scientific investigation, for they lie beyond it.

    Scientists (irrespective of their specific theological commitments) can arrive at a consensus under the (necessary though empirically indemonstrable/untestable) supposition (a) that the external sensible world is real/intelligible and (b) that its nature is stable and uniform. Now we may be led to ask what are the metaphysical implications and enabling conditions of these suppositions, but that question and its answer would take us beyond the realm of scientific inquiry.

    I agree that the entire scientific enterprise depends on theistic presuppositions and that *metaphysical* naturalism is incapable of intellectually undergirding it, but I do not believe that lab experiments have to formally list indiscernible divine action as a variable in order to advance scientific knowledge and I do not believe my doctor is obligated/required to look for God, angels and demons when he looks for the causes of my symptoms; he may restrict himself to the possible natural/physiological causes of illness.

  162. TOm says:

    Jonathon,
    I skipped your post (and others) because I was working on understanding EO thought. I am surely not done, but I am caught up some so I will go back to your comments.

    My question was intended to point out that if the concept of the greatest possible happiness is incoherent, then it is explanatorily vacuous in terms of explaining actual existence.

    Unfortunately someone is borrowing my copy of Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God so I cannot go to the passages that have caused you concern.
    I will explore your comments shortly, but in line with other aspects of Blake’s thought, I have recently argued that the individual persons of whom there are three are God due to the perfection of their love, their sinlessness, their benevolence, their selflessness, and …. They are “One God” within the necessarily singular divine nature which is a social communion (Social Trinity) of those persons who are God. Thus, the Kenotically emptied Christ was an individual divine person and thus God, but He choose to empty Himself of the full communion which He previously and currently enjoyed. I suspect there are philosophic problems with this and that is why I find it so unfortunate the Blake cannot offer his more sophisticated positions.

    Again, I would need to look more at what you suggest is problematic for Blake’s ideas concerning, “infinite potential for happiness.” I cannot for the life of me remember how he used this. In any case, Blake in his response pointed to issues he had with Anslem’s arguments. His book also (as I recall) addressed Anslem on a number of occasions. It seems to me that Blake’s position in his book and in his response to you is associated with the inability of an actually greatest happiness or (integer or XYZ that might be predicated to God) to actually exist. If those things do not exist, having the potential to be progressively happier (or to be progressively more creative, or to name a progressively higher integer) would seem to not be undermined by the absence of a “greatest possible happiness.”

    I am certainly less familiar than you are with Anslem’s dialectic, so perhaps he offers a convincing argument as to why the greatest possible happiness must actually exist. I seem to recall something like God is the greatest of all. It is better to be more happy than to be less happy. Therefore God possesses the greatest possible happiness.

    One thing that may not be completely obvious, but I THINK is generally true of Blake’s thought is that it exists within a Whiteheadian metaphysics in many ways as opposed to an absolutist Greek metaphysics. I have begun Process and Reality a couple of times, but I keep putting it down.

    IOW, if the concept of an actual greatest possible happiness, an infinite act of existence, is incoherent, then existence (and any concept of God) is incoherent and inexplicable.

    If God is the “self-surpassing surpasser of all” instead of the Anslemian “greatest conceivable being” then I think your critique falls apart. As I said recently, even if Anslem believes existence is greater than non-existence, his God “does not exist and if He did we wouldn’t exist.”

    I can’t see any middle ground between the classical conception of God and some sort of sheerly inexplicable holism in which separate existence itself is some sort of illusion or partial perception, along the lines of David Bohm or Gautama Buddha, so that the existence of all things is literally just a self-reflection of the one thing and perception itself is a superfluous error and a pointless limitation. I can understand person being an illusion, but I can’t understand any way in which personal existence (personal act) can be real in which the concept of infinite act is incoherent. Only if there is reason for distinctions can the law of non-contradiction be justified, and if there is no such thing as infinite act, then there cannot be any reason for finite act.
    That’s why I think Blake’s understanding is hopeless. It’s incoherent the minute it has to do any explanatory work on actual existence.

    I am afraid I do not understand what you said here.

    I would also like to say that I am wondering how you come down on the ideas presented here at “Energetic Processions.” You say “distinction is opposition” and seem to question “the law of non-contradiction.” But you are a Catholic who accepts 14 extra councils and numerous folks who used dialectic reasoning to develop Christian truth. I am unsure exactly where that places you on the spectrum of religious thought.

    Also, I am interested in understanding clearly why Blake’s thought in your opinion violates “the law of non-contradiction.” I still do not see that. But if I became convinced that it did, then I would see Blake’s LDS and non-LDS thought both violating the law of non-contradiction. This would certainly even some areas of the field in my view.

    Charity, TOm

  163. TOm says:

    Andrea Elizabeth (and others later),
    I am going to jump back to some posts I skipped so that I could focus on understand Eastern Orthodoxy. I will very possibly skip future posts so that I can focus on this, but having some time I thought I would address a few things.
    There will be a terseness in my comments that I hope will not be reciprocated as I attempt to understand EO thought. It is my belief that you and other posters here are not seriously interested in the strength of the LDS position AND that if you were then the place to explore the frequent attacks upon my faith would not be on an EO board. The affect of such comments upon me is minimal, but mostly serves to strengthen my faith as I look with disdain upon criticism I consider weak and already addressed. Addressing the philosophic weakness within Blake’s thought or my perception of his thought as Jonathon Prejean has done will affect me as I have seldom seen such things. But rehashing tired anti-Mormon arguments (especially from a fairly non-informed position) is unlikely to impact me significantly.
    If you or anyone is interested in the strength of the CoJCoLDS, I encourage exploring these issues at a place like: http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php?s=fcbcc78bba1014b807b958f5647e8829&showforum=11
    Or perhaps even better beginning here:

    http://www.fairlds.org/apol/

    So are you saying that other people had the same vision from the angel Moroni and saw the buried, golden Egyptian book of Mormon before Moroni took it back up?

    The plates were experienced by numerous people and seen by the eight witnesses. I have been radically under-whelmed by the critics attempts to get around the physicality of the plates and the claims of the witnesses (and similarly under-whelmed by Vogal’s tumbaga theory). Nobody else saw the angel Moroni, but during certain time such as the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, theophanies and the appearance of angels to many are documented.

    Then you come up with scattered bits of apparent agreement in the early church fathers claiming that makes some sort of consensus with Mormonism that even the earliest Church Fathers never had in the Mormon way.

    Let me offer this here so I can see what responses I will receive. This is a bold claim, and it is quite possible that it is falsifiable.
    No ECF before the 4th century (Athanasius and the Capadocians) when speaking of the deification of man placed any limits upon the FINAL state of deified man. Instead these fathers while acknowledging that God was eternally God by nature and men were to become God by grace, boldly claimed that men were to become God as Christ became man. Since Chalcedon makes it clear that Christ became fully man, men are to become fully God.
    It is my opinion that what I say above is true, but I would be interested in seeing what sort of ECF statements might call it into question. Usually when I hear that Mormonism rests the ECF out of context, I respond with the above. Seldom is anything offered to show my errors and except for some comments by Athanasius (who I now exclude), I have not been convinced that I (I actually borrowed this from a Catholic friend) am in error.
    I recently read Deification and Grace by Keating and am more confident that scripturally and earliest of ECF wise, the LDS position is stronger than the non-LDS position.

    So we can see the Constantinoplian addition to the Creed as refining a description of the Holy Spirit, for ex, while the addition of the Filioque can be seen as an innovation.

    IMO opinion the line you draw here is so fine that only those with virtually identical theological predilections would agree with you. The non-theist would find such a line to be impossible to make out with the clarity you just suggested should exist.
    That “maturation and refinement” is acceptable and “innovation” is problematic is something that all historical Christians can agree upon, but having looked at the history myself I believe that it is valid authority that guides via God is the most consistent way to view what is invalid and what is valid.

    Another variable that we need to believe someone’s claims is morality, and Joseph Smith does not impress me on that count either. Our Saints are known for their purity and chastity, even in marriage.

    I find that I do not believe responsible history teaches of a reprobate Joseph Smith. I usually respond to this claim by pointing out that Joseph Smith, painted in the unflattering light our critics choose, still appears saintly as compared to some Popes and Catholic saints (or Martin Luther or ???). Unfortunately, I am less familiar with prominent figures in Eastern Orthodoxy. Are you however suggesting that virtue is a prerequisite for being used by God to reveal truth? It would seem the Bible would undermine such a position.

    I am certainly less interested in exploring “gold plate” and Joseph Smith’s character. I am still primarily interested in EO thought and “distinction is opposition.” I do however always consider “development” and “ECF view of deification” to be important topics.

    Charity, TOm

  164. Tom,

    To be frank, I do not understand why you are so impressed with Blake’s work. It doesn’t seem peer reviewed for one and by that I mean philosophical peers. Second, his formal education in the area seems to have stopped with a BA. I am not arguing that that in and of itself makes him wrong, but it seems somewhat less than intellectually virtuous to position his work as some significant hedge or foundation for LDS teaching compared with the likes of well established philosophical figures, both contemporary and those of the past. Apples and oranges.

    This seems even more problematic when I can detect and demonstrate either fairly well known philosophical mistakes or statements that are all rhetoric and no substance, such as the pure bluster over Keith Norman or his Nestorian assumptions. If I can do this, so much the more reason for thinking that others far more advanced than I can. I mean, I know Jonathan and Gary, and I’d wager that they weren’t even breaking a sweat in their comments. I can only imagine what someone like Kvanvig or Matt McGrath would do with this stuff. (Actually in the case of the former I know.)

    As for the strength of the LDS position, I would argue that the burden of proof rests on you and other LDS regardless of our interest in it. This is not an LDS blog or a blog that discusses LDS thought much at all. If you wish to discuss it in connection with material we do talk about here, you are welcome to do so. Moreover, I do not take LDs thought very seriously. At one time I spent years examining it and I owned a couple of book cases of LDS primary source material. To be quite frank LDS thought doesn’t really make it onto the philosophical radar screen in philosophical theology these days or if so only as a momentary blip. This doesn’t indicate that it is wrong, but that it doesn’t at least appear as a significant concern.

    And one reason for that is that it isn’t Christian. I know all of the usual moaning about this on the part of the LDS, but I claim the word by the simple fact of fixed usage, just as the LDS claim the title LDS and get to say what is or isn’t LDS. Why can’t I claim the title of LDS and deny everything the LDS say? By parity of reasoning I think you’d agree that it is absurd in both cases. “Water” means what we say it does because that is just its fixed usage.

    As for the witnesses to the plates and such things, it is quite well known or so seems to me that a good number of Smith’s witnesses later denied him, permanently, even under the threat of death. I believe only 3 out of he 12 remained faithful. That gives me significant cause for doubt considering we don’t have such a case with the Apostles of Jesus.

    I don’t doubt that early LDs had religious experiences, but placed in its historical context so did many religious groups, which made similar restorationist and prophetic claims in the 19th century. I don’t see anything that would stand out about the LDS that would signal that their argument was in any better epistemic position than say the Seventh Day Adventists, which I take to be fairly low. Why not take seriously the claims of Ellen White?

    As for theosis, your comment about the church Fathers prior to the 4th century is vague but if I take your meaning correctly, it is false for Ireneaus and others speak of still distinguishing between creator and creature even after theosis. And your use of Chalcedon turns on an equivocation, for what it means to be “fully God” means something different for Chalcedonians than for you. Consequently I can’t see how it can offer you any rational support to your claims. Moreover, I can believe everything the Fathers without being LDS, so why do I need to be LDS or rather what reason is there for thinking that the patristic evidence offers any support for LDS beliefs? Given that the Church Fathers just WERE Orthodox Christians, it seems quite reasonable to take their take on theosis as being, well Orthodox teaching and so it lends strong support for Orthodoxy rather than some group separated by 17 centuries. Which is more plausible I think is obvious.

    Moreover, using blog responses as a rational test seems a fairly bad way to judge the strength of your claims. Rather it would seem far better to me to work through the best scholarly literature on the subject, which is usually published by say Oxford, Routledge, Notre Dame, etc. Notice, I didn’t mention FARMS. So I am unmoved by the fact that you are unmoved by the responses you have received so far. Face it, most people are ignorant when it comes to religion, even their own and few and far between are the people that can actually wade through literature in a scholarly sub-field and form a justified judgment on a matter.

    As for Keating, I’d have to know what you found in his work that in fact implies that the patristic view is closer to the LDS view. I have read a goodly dose of his stuff and I never found myself worried or thought to myself working through his works that what he wrote lent any significant, let alone determining, weight to the LDS position. And I’d be astonished if he thought it did and could give a valid argument to that effect.

    What the Fathers and Councils do is craft adequate terminology, rather than tease out the conceptual implications of earlier works. Consequently we don’t believe doctrine “develops.” Moreover, if you agree for the necessity of a legitimate authority to guide inquiry, I can’t see how the LDS have a better pedigree than the Orthodox. In my mind the LDS stand in the same position as the Seventh day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphians with their common prophetic claims and claims of apostasy. They all claim an apostasy because they all need one to get their sect off the ground. The Orthodox on the other hand simply have real historic continuity. We don’t need to posit it as a theoretical position. It’s a fact.

    Smith’s character I think is at least questionable at points. The man dies shooting other people and that trying to escape duly constituted legal confinement. That doesn’t seem to compare with the Apostles or any of the Church Fathers that I know of. Just read the book of Acts.

    As for God, I don’t know in what sense you think divinity is “one.” I don’t even know what you mean by “God” when you make such claims. Do you mean a quality? A substance in Aristotle’s primary sense? Is this substantial being or accidental being? And since there are many different types of unity, which kind of unity is this? Unity can be said “in many ways.” It consequently doesn’t do any work to baldy claim that they are “one.” Well certainly in some metaphysically robust sense they are not one by your own comments. Until this is spelled out exactly using logic, the terms are idle.

    Moreover, Social Trinitarians admit their position is a weak form of Tri-theism and yet the LDS apologists that parasitically employ their work seem unwilling to state as much. And, Social Trinitarians generally don’t take God to be corporeal, and neither do Open Theists for that matter. So there seem to be significant reasons for thinking that even if Social Trinitarianism is a coherent model (its not, and I think Leftow and others have given good reasons for thinking so) some of its necessary conditions rule out the LDS model indicating that the LDS model won’t map it and hence lacks what metaphysical strength it may possess.

    As for Kenoticism, I figured that theory died a long time ago. The position you proffer though strikes me as similar to that of the JW’s. Jesus is a god, gets annihilated and re-made as a man, then annihilated again and remade as a god. On earth, since you conflate person and nature, there are only two deities and then later three. If gods can change in that way, why take them to be supreme, good or worthy of worship? Why think that they can’t fall or sin or that they will always be gods? Don’t they have free will?

    As for Whitehead, the really funny thing is that it is not non-Greek. It is just the other end of the Greek dialectic. This is why bi-polar theism just gets you problems **opposite** of those of Latin Scholasticism. And much the same is true of Open Theism. If not Actus, then Potentia.

  165. TOm says:

    Elliot B,
    I thought I would offer a little in response to what you said to me.

    Second, as I think someone pointed out about 2/3’s down this thread, it seems not at all clear the Mormon definition of divinity does justice to the concept itself. I think Blake’s analytical protestations can be turned against him. If it is impossible for the divine compossibly to inhere in the non-divine, then how can the material world, as the abode of the Mormonic divine bodies, partake of divinity?

    I am fairly certain that Blake is attempting to engage non-LDS thought as non-LDS would understand it. Divinity-as-such is quite different within Blake’s thought as compared to developed Christianity. So the issue he brings up as I understand it is the incoherence of non-LDS Christianity from a starting point of certain “truths” in non-LDS Christianity.
    There are certainly differences between divinity-as-such in Blake’s thought, but the question is not whether Blake’s thoughts do “justice to the concept itself” as you conceive it, but whether Blake’s thoughts are internally coherent and in alignment with revealed truth. It is clear that the sources of “revealed truth” in our respective traditions are different, but there are points of commonality (the Bible).

    If in any way human nature and the divinity can co-participate in some attributes, which I think they do plainly in the cases of existence and intellection, then it just becomes a matter of properly analyzing the analogous link between the “weightier” divine attributes (like impassibility, eternality, etc.) and human nature.

    I am not sure the above statement is actually correct. It would seem to me that both of our traditions envision men and God as having some points of contact like “intellection.” This does not mean that all attributes or … that constitute the divine and the non-divine are compossible.

    Now, I am going to try to begin a response to Perry.
    Charity, TOm

  166. TOm says:

    Perry,
    I am unsure you have returned to pull apart Blake’s arguments yet. I will begin addressing some of the things that you said. I feel like I have begun to understand what “distinction is opposition” means. I have found Perry’s two papers to have contributed to me getting farther than I have in the past. If I am beginning to understand, I suspect that Blake would absolutely reject the idea that we cannot think about God using the law of non-contradiction and through recognizing that “distinction is opposition.” In fact, I think that it would have been easier to explain to Blake that Energetic Procession as a blog frequently adopts a rejection of “distinction is opposition” and a general rejection of the law of non-contradiction. And, as I asked Andrea Elizabeth, I am not sure if the rejection of dialectic reasoning is universal within Eastern Orthodoxy or if it is a minority position prevalent at Energetic Procession. ?

    Now to your comments:

    To be frank, I do not understand why you are so impressed with Blake’s work. It doesn’t seem peer reviewed for one and by that I mean philosophical peers. Second, his formal education in the area seems to have stopped with a BA. I am not arguing that that in and of itself makes him wrong, but it seems somewhat less than intellectually virtuous to position his work as some significant hedge or foundation for LDS teaching compared with the likes of well established philosophical figures, both contemporary and those of the past. Apples and oranges.

    This is pure ad hominem and I would suggest that you are mistaken. Of course, I have a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. I have no place in this debate.
    What I do know is that Phd Philosophers both LDS and non-LDS have taken note of Ostler’s work. I can specifically recall a Phd philosopher (I think he was only an Assistant Professor at a state university), commenting upon Ostler’s ability to address these issues in a way impressive to a professional academic while being a full time attorney.
    I am not a fan of Blake because he is cute or has a corner office. I am a fan of Blake because he IMO lays out good arguments. I readily acknowledge that I have not lived and breathed these questions such that I can judge his arguments as well as some. But I will tell you that for the majority of this thread, all the academic acumen present within you and Photius was unable to bring me to understanding. It may be that you overestimate me and Blake did not.

    This seems even more problematic when I can detect and demonstrate either fairly well known philosophical mistakes or statements that are all rhetoric and no substance, such as the pure bluster over Keith Norman or his Nestorian assumptions. If I can do this, so much the more reason for thinking that others far more advanced than I can. I mean, I know Jonathan and Gary, and I’d wager that they weren’t even breaking a sweat in their comments. I can only imagine what someone like Kvanvig or Matt McGrath would do with this stuff. (Actually in the case of the former I know.)

    I have little to say about Keith Norman (though calling him a prominent patristic scholar is more accurate than suggesting that Joseph Smith was some kind of gunslinger).
    I will however explain to you what I now read when you refer to Blake’s “Nestorian assumptions.” It seems to me that Blake came to Energetic Processions ignorant of the rejection of dialectic reasoning, the rejections of “distinction is opposition,” and the rejection of the law of contraction prevalent here. I was too. So when you say that he utilized “Nestorian assumptions,” I say perhaps that is true and even appropriate.

    As for the strength of the LDS position, I would argue that the burden of proof rests on you and other LDS regardless of our interest in it. This is not an LDS blog or a blog that discusses LDS thought much at all. If you wish to discuss it in connection with material we do talk about here, you are welcome to do so.

    You started this thread on LDS thought and were very dismissive of LDS thought. I specifically made the point that this is not a place to evaluate the CoJCoLDS.

    Moreover, I do not take LDs thought very seriously. At one time I spent years examining it and I owned a couple of book cases of LDS primary source material. To be quite frank LDS thought doesn’t really make it onto the philosophical radar screen in philosophical theology these days or if so only as a momentary blip. This doesn’t indicate that it is wrong, but that it doesn’t at least appear as a significant concern.

    I would agree with most of the above. What did you do with your LDS books, I could take them off your hands. I am quite certain there has not been but a handful of books written on philosophic questions by LDS authors. Perhaps your bookshelf was overly critical of the LDS position. Still books are books!

    And one reason for that is that it isn’t Christian. I know all of the usual moaning about this on the part of the LDS, but I claim the word by the simple fact of fixed usage, just as the LDS claim the title LDS and get to say what is or isn’t LDS. Why can’t I claim the title of LDS and deny everything the LDS say? By parity of reasoning I think you’d agree that it is absurd in both cases. “Water” means what we say it does because that is just its fixed usage.

    Actually, it has been my experience that few folks stand up to Planginga and say that he is not a Christian for the reasons they may say LDS are not Christians. Most anti-cultists seem to resort to “special pleading” in order to declare LDS non-Christians without offending others they wish to feel welcome in the tent. Of course, I have already acknowledged that Catholics and Orthodox have more room to make these assessments than do Protestants.

    As for the witnesses to the plates and such things, it is quite well known or so seems to me that a good number of Smith’s witnesses later denied him, permanently, even under the threat of death. I believe only 3 out of he 12 remained faithful. That gives me significant cause for doubt considering we don’t have such a case with the Apostles of Jesus.

    Actually, you are either mistaken or you have chosen your words with the intention of communicating something different than reality. Many of the 11 witnesses had some falling away from the church. Most ultimately died as members. And none died with the claim that their witness was coerced or untrue. This is all the more remarkable considering that if it was some group fraud; they would have had every reason to uncover the deception during their disaffection.

    http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/emmain.asp?number=42

    I don’t doubt that early LDs had religious experiences, but placed in its historical context so did many religious groups, which made similar restorationist and prophetic claims in the 19th century. I don’t see anything that would stand out about the LDS that would signal that their argument was in any better epistemic position than say the Seventh Day Adventists, which I take to be fairly low. Why not take seriously the claims of Ellen White?

    I of course was responding to Andrea Elizabeth’s comments. However, for me one of the big differences that sets the CoJCoLDS in a different category then SDA is the Book of Mormon. The BOM in my mind includes witnesses and other non-spiritual confirming evidence. If you are interested in such things, I suggest following the links I gave above.

    As for theosis, your comment about the church Fathers prior to the 4th century is vague but if I take your meaning correctly, it is false for Ireneaus and others speak of still distinguishing between creator and creature even after theosis.

    I would be VERY interested in what you have in mind here. I readily acknowledge that Irenaeus believe that men were created ex nihilo, but it seems to me that he boldly claims that men are to become gods without saying things like, “but they will still have the creaturely nature when deified.”

    And your use of Chalcedon turns on an equivocation, for what it means to be “fully God” means something different for Chalcedonians than for you. Consequently I can’t see how it can offer you any rational support to your claims.

    Chalcedon together with the clear witness of the Bible and the exchange formula within the ECFs screams that men become homoousian with God (just as Christ became homoousian with men). That you and Keating deny that to be the case is very problematic for me.

    Moreover, I can believe everything the Fathers without being LDS, so why do I need to be LDS or rather what reason is there for thinking that the patristic evidence offers any support for LDS beliefs?

    I guess I would not believe that you can consistently embrace the exchange formula and Chalcedon. I see a big problem here, but for some reason few other people do. Keating was remarkably bold saying that there is an inequality across the exchange formula due to two meanings of “participate and partake.” Christ participates in the human nature via one meaning and we participate in the divine nature via the other meaning. I see nothing but DEVELOPED theology to support this view. So, while I do not mean to offend, I do not think you embrace what the Bible and the earliest of ECF say. Chalcedon is the dogmatic statement that Christ becomes homoousian with man, that is why I mentioned it.

    Moreover, using blog responses as a rational test seems a fairly bad way to judge the strength of your claims. Rather it would seem far better to me to work through the best scholarly literature on the subject, which is usually published by say Oxford, Routledge, Notre Dame, etc. Notice, I didn’t mention FARMS. So I am unmoved by the fact that you are unmoved by the responses you have received so far.

    I am both willing and capable of reading. It seemed to me that I was getting somewhere toward understanding your position. It seemed to me that you acknowledged there was more work to be done in responding to Blake’s arguments. Perhaps you have reconsidered. I hope it is not the case that you believe those who understand you do not disagree with you. This is quite common in the real world, but usually not present in academics accustomed to discussions like this.
    I am trying hard to understand what your ideas are, and I was thinking that I was getting somewhere. It does not mean that I will not point out when you make inaccurate statements that imply the witnesses backed off from the reality they witnessed. Or that I will not correct your understanding of my use of Chalcedon (which of course may have only been faulty because I didn’t communicate what I intended well).

    Face it, most people are ignorant when it comes to religion, even their own and few and far between are the people that can actually wade through literature in a scholarly sub-field and form a justified judgment on a matter.

    And, yes, as I said when I began my posting here; I may lack the intelligence to grasp these issues.

    I must confess, that your post has “tasted” different than your previous post to me. So much so that I think I will mention that some of what I see in your words are “boundary maintenance” for your EO readers rather than a desire to communicate with me such that I might better understand you. I still want to understand however and will certainly read your future “dicing up” of Blake’s thoughts. I hope you can keep in mind my previous inability to grasp things when you respond.

    As for Keating, I’d have to know what you found in his work that in fact implies that the patristic view is closer to the LDS view. I have read a goodly dose of his stuff and I never found myself worried or thought to myself working through his works that what he wrote lent any significant, let alone determining, weight to the LDS position. And I’d be astonished if he thought it did and could give a valid argument to that effect.

    It was remarkable to me the way he suggested that the words “participate” and “partake” should be understood differently when Christ particiapates/partakes of our humanity as compared to when we participate/partake of His divinity.
    It was the straightforward and bold way he said what he said that jarred me so.
    He also did a very good job of explaining where and how scripture (and the ECFs) claim that men can become gods.

    What the Fathers and Councils do is craft adequate terminology, rather than tease out the conceptual implications of earlier works. Consequently we don’t believe doctrine “develops.” Moreover, if you agree for the necessity of a legitimate authority to guide inquiry, I can’t see how the LDS have a better pedigree than the Orthodox. In my mind the LDS stand in the same position as the Seventh day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphians with their common prophetic claims and claims of apostasy. They all claim an apostasy because they all need one to get their sect off the ground. The Orthodox on the other hand simply have real historic continuity. We don’t need to posit it as a theoretical position. It’s a fact.

    I have yet to read your Papacy threads. I have read From Apostles to Bishops by Sullivan, The Rise of the Papacy by Eno, and Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity by Nibley. I recommend such a course to LDS and non-LDS alike. Either the Apostles with their “co-workers” planted the seeds of the monoepiscopate which grew after the Apostles were no longer around (and seems IMO to be the fertile ground in which the Papacy sprouted) OR Apostles and Bishops were dissimilar offices in the early church and the void was NATURALLY filled. The LDS stand in a different place than the SDA do in that we claim authority was restored.

    Smith’s character I think is at least questionable at points. The man dies shooting other people and that trying to escape duly constituted legal confinement. That doesn’t seem to compare with the Apostles or any of the Church Fathers that I know of. Just read the book of Acts.

    This statement IMO reflects poorly upon you. It is bald polemic removed from context.

    Moreover, Social Trinitarians admit their position is a weak form of Tri-theism and yet the LDS apologists that parasitically employ their work seem unwilling to state as much.

    “Parasitically” would again be an indicator that you would rather not communicate with me correct?
    I have on numerous occasions readily acknowledged that upon a spectrum of thought that starts at absolute monotheism (like modern Jews and Moslems) and ends at polytheism that the Social Trinity is more polytheistic than the Augustinian Trinity. I usually point out that the EO Trinity is more polytheistic than the Augustinian Trinity too. I could (I guess I will) link you to my “spectrum” of Trinitarian thought from probably over 2 years ago if you would like.

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=64642&page=2&highlight=karl+barth

    (post #16 and #17)
    I maintain however that the move from absolute monotheism to even the Augustinian Trinity is far more radical than the move from the EO Trinity to the Social Trinity. BTW, what did you think of my comments on the two different uses of the word “homoousian?”

    I guess what I know of a Kenotic view of the incarnation does not quite jive with what you claimed. And what I know of Whiteheadian metaphysics couldn’t fill a thimble so I have no idea if you are correct or not there.

    I really do hope to see the Irenaeus comments you consider significant.
    I really do hope to see the “dicing up” of Blake’s comments, and I hope I will be able to understand.
    I am quite willing to wade through words like “parasitically” (which I did not need to look up lest you think that is the type of wading I am referring too) so that I might learn more about EO thought, but perhaps that will not be necessary.
    And, again, I encourage folks who may be really interested in the CoJCoLDS and not solely interested in EO thought to go to the websites I linked above or read Blake’s books. I do not expect to have time to do justice to issues I consider silly and easy (like Joseph Smith the gunslinger) and I am not savvy enough to deal with some of the philosophy I hope to get into.

    Charity, TOm

  167. Tom,

    Drawing the distinction that you do between internal coherence of Blake’s thoughts and the concept of dvinity per se only moves the problem for even if what he offers is coherent, it is unlikely to be satisfactory in terms of how most people think of divinity. Lots of concepts are coherent, but irrelevant. Non-Anselmian views of deity for example could be coherent but Anselm will find them to be irrelevant for his conception is seemingly superior. You can’t get better than perfect.

    Moreover, even if Blake’s view of dvinity is different it doesn’t follow that the same basic problems can’t be replayed but in different form on his own principles or that new problems more serious than those raised for Christianity fall out of the LDS view, if Blake’s speculative ideas in fact are authoritative for the LDS.

  168. Tom,

    When I respond to Blake it will be a separate post. If Blake doesn’t grasp what dialectic is, I have to question his philosophical competence. It is all over Greek philosophy. How one can miss it in a basic logic class doing Aristotle’s Square of Opposition or Plato’s Republic is beyond me.

    Blake would reject the idea that gods are beyond comprehension because he places deities lower on the Platonic scale of being so of course gods ad intra have to be comprehensible. And since his deities are composite, this will put the universe in a superior metaphysical position since the gods depend on it due to their composition rather than the other way around. If there is no Mount Olympus, there are no gods but not the converse.

    Either it is the case that you or I do not know what is an ad hominem line of reasoning. I think you don’t. I did not argue that Blake’s work was mistaken because it wasn’t peer reviewed or published in peer reviewed venues. If I did, that wouldn’t logically follow. In fact I explicitly stated that it didn’t follow that his arguments were wrong. My comments were directed not to truth but to credibility and so my comments do not fall under extension of a genetic fallacy. In fact, they are quite to the point.

    This is why I spoke of intellectual virtue. You seem to put a lot of weight on Blake’s work and note that other philosophers have made note of it. But this leaves me unmoved. First the endorsements on his site are almost all from obvious LDS institutions. Evangelicals often have endorsements from other evangelicals. This gives a book or work the appearance of serious scholarship when it is really a testament to ghetto writing. I have learned not to be moved by such endorsements. Second, most philosophers, and even those who do work in philosophy of religion have a seriously deficient grasp of historical theology. They usually lay hold of some simplistic notion of a more complicated theological concept and run with it. Such is the case with Social Trinitarians who initially claimed to be representing the Cappadocian tradition. Even esteemed philosophers like Peter van Inwagen fall into this mistake. Sara Coakley, a feminist theologian no less practically skewed him on the historical theology. I like analytic philosophy of religion, but one of its major weaknesses is history. They get a hold of some idea and run with it with only a superficial understanding of it. You can see this in the recent fracas between Flint and Craig over Christology.

    Third, the fact that Ostler’s work, apart from fewer than a handful of articles, isn’t published in peer reviewed and hence philosophically reputable venues seems to undermine the implicit claim to intellectual virtue and credibility that you tout. If Ostler’s work was so important, it seems to me it would be regularly discussed in venues like Faith and Philosophy or full length books in say Oxford, Rowan and Littlefield, Routledge, etc. I do recognise Religious Studies for example as a reputable venue. But I don’t know how much you know about how philosophy is done in the US, but most graduate students who want a job have articles published prior to the granting of their degrees. I have one submitted already and three others preparing for submission next year. And I can’t even find any of his books in any library, public or university (public or private) across a three state area.

    And when he came on to my blog out of the blue he wrote like a lawyer, trying to intimidate me and others with a whole lot of yelling and scare words as well as a good dose of BS regarding the current state of scholarship on theosis and what the Orthodox do and do not believe. While at the same time confessing on an LDS blog that he doesn’t have much familiarity with Orthodox theology.

    You say you are a fan of Blake’s because he gives good arguments, but they must be given somewhere else because the ones he has given so far here are clearly unsound at best and are capable of all sorts of counter examples across multiple philosophical areas. A good argument is one that is truth preserving and it often helps to imagine how an objector would respond to check the supposed truth preserving character of an argument. But of course if one really doesn’t know much of the opposing view, that is going to be difficult to do.

    As my philosophical father once remarked to me during my MA work, “Philosophers are sheep.” It is quite true. I have met plenty of graduate students, not to mention people with PhD’s who make me wonder how they got that far. As a conference I attended when I was an undergrad, a presenter was from a top ten school, but the argument was obviously weak. The comment that my instructor’s whispered to each other was to the effect that so and so school obviously had gone “down hill.” The quality of the work primarily and getting published in well ranked peer reviewed venues gives credibility, not that someone with a degree was initially impressed. I have no way of knowing who this person was or how competent there were in metaphysics or philosophical theology. They could have their AOS in the philosophy of music for all I know.

    Photius is a theologian by trade and I am a philosopher, though I think Daniel did just jim fine dandy at picking out some of the obvious problems with Blake’s posts. As for me, if you did not reach understanding because of my writings, well that is for a simple reason, namely that I have written comparatively little in this thread. I haven’t flexed anything except my philosophical index finger.

    As for Norman, I think it obvious why you say little about him and why Blake simply dropped that line of reasoning, the characterization of which is beyond a work of supererogation. First because I had read the work and second because one work over twenty five years does not make someone the be all and end all of the field. If you would have brought up someone like Norman Russell who has a fairly continuous stream of publications, I would have rendered the due obeisance and engaged the argument directly. But the kind of, to put it frankly, bullshit (in the Frankfurtian sense), that Blake squeezed out deserved a toss over the fence from whence it came. He used that line to intimidate, bluster or dazzle. It is a tactic often used by lawyers. (Hannagraaf’s lawyer Mr. Yates used on me when I was younger for example.) I just don’t jump when people say “Boo!” Due to my own character deficiencies usually colorful metaphors leap from my lips instead or various hand gestures or if my Italian heritage comes to the surface, various arm gestures. The fact that he would employ such a tactic implies either that he knew it was BS or that he didn’t know. If he didn’t know it is because he was ignorant or incompetent. (If you can think of a tertium quid, feel free to put it in here.) If he did know, he is morally vicious or at best akratic. In any case, such behavior seriously undermines his credibility.

    I don’t reject dialectical reasoning, I just reject it, and its underlying causal theory, as a proper model into which to pour theological content. The new wine will burst the skins. The fact that Blake, who is supposed to be some kind of expert on theosis in the Fathers and consequently Orthodox teaching, didn’t know the rejection of dialectic in theology from navel lint I think also undermines his credibility since you can find that rejection in lots of Orthodox theological works, both ancient and contemporary. And the fact that he would represent himself in such a capacity and then confess in an LDS venue his ignorance concerning Orthodoxy also undermines his credibility. My gripe about Nestorianism turns on the Nestorian assumptions implicit in his formal arguments presented here, primarily concerning the nature of a substance of hypostasis. As for utilizing Nestorian assumptions, I can only give you an incredulous stare (WTF?) since it is obvious that the use of such assumptions in an argument meant to show the incoherence of Orthodox Christology is a perfect example of a strawman. At best what Blake has done is shown the incoherence of Nestorianism, but as an Orthodox Christian, I already knew that.

    The fact of the matter is that it has been made apparent that what I said was true, namely that LDS apologists bumble through the Fathers and Orthodox literature, understanding neither, making their claims that the Orthodox and/or the Fathers support their views on exaltation. Upon examination it becomes clear that they don’t and that the scholarship doesn’t. If a person doesn’t know the difference between a substance and an energy it is fairly obvious that they don’t know what they are talking about.

    As for Smith’s death, is it not true that he died while shooting at other people, yes or no? Was it not true that he was in prison and that for actions that were quite disreputable? I suppose he didn’t care for the first amendment.

    I did not start a thread on LDS thought and even if I did, so what? Its my blog? I don’t go on to your blog or any other LDS blog and start screaming “bigiot!” Nor did I do so posting links to try and persuade people of Orthodoxy. I can do that over at a bunch of LDS blogs if you’d like me to though. Somehow I think you’d complain. Moreover, if I were to make a post evaluating LDS teaching, my blog is a fine place to do it or don’t you believe in free speech?

    I posted a blog entry on my experience at the apparent hypocrisy of the LCMS publishing house given the context that the LCMS are sufficient vociferous historically speaking and that such a mistake was a bad sign for the LCMS and the world in general. You didn’t get the ironic element since you don’t seem well acquainted with Lutheranism.

    I sold off my LDS and JW cases. And I probably wouldn’t sell them to someone who was LDS or JW. I owned them to use to have on hand to demonstrate the falsity of LDS and JW claims. Most of the works were primary source works such as the original 1830 BOM, various volumes from JOD, and such things.

    Few folks or not, I have no trouble saying Plantinga or people like van Inwagen are material heretics. Of course I take Protestantism and Catholicism to be material heresy as well. Adding another faggot to the fire isn’t a big deal. Besides, I have told such people as much to their face. And even if I or others didn’t it wouldn’t give any legitimate standing to LDS teaching but would only pick out the weak character and inconsistency on the part of others or myself, so it is quite besides the point as to the legitimacy of LDS theology deserving the name “Christian.” Of course what they proffer for philosophical discussion and what they personally profess isn’t always the same. One isn’t necessarily wedded to their philosophical projects the way one is wedded to confessional statements. In any case, in the work I have submitted for publication I label people who deviate from established orthodox teaching heterodox, so this is not something new for me.

    I chose my words based on what I think I know, that only 3 out of the 12 remained faithful to Smith. At least one of which claimed Smith was a fraud, signing legal documents to the effect even when threatened by the LDS with death for doing so. If it is more than three but still significantly less than 12, that still is significantly unlike the Apostles of Christ.

    Seeing that the SDA often take White’s writings as inspired Scripture I don’t see what the difference is. And seeing that the specific religious claims of the early LDS were probably derived from similar reports from Shakers and other groups in the area, in order to compete with them, I am less than moved by such claims.

    If you want to see this in Ireneaus, I suggest you go and read Against Heresies. Moreover, I would have thought you would have known this from your own reading of the sources. Moreover, an affirmation of our partaking in the divine essence would make Ireneaus blatantly inconsistent on a number of points. He doesn’t per se qualify in the texts that LDS apologists like to cherry pick, but he does speak this way and so do others. In any case, the idea that we partake of the divine essence was not passed down from any of the sees founded personally by the Apostles, even if some of the early fathers didn’t make that distinction.

    If the witness to the bible is “clear” why is it that competent speakers of the Biblical languages for century upon century somehow missed it? Can you demonstrate exactly when and where this misunderstanding took place, with who and for what reason? I don’t think you can, not even close. I have read enogh Harnack, Hatch and plenty of others to know what kind of nonsense is spewed on these kinds of claims, so I am not going to buy some vague speculations based on half truths either. As for Chalcedon, it doesn’t say that humans become homoousion with the divine essence for the simple reason that the union in Christ between the two natures is hypostatic and not essential. We are consubstantial with Christ via humanity, not divinity and Chalcedon makes that very clear. Chalcedon affirms no union of essences but an empirichoretic penetration of energies via the hypostasis. Moreover, you cannot consistently claim coherence for homoousion in Chalcedon while decyring it in Nicea. You must deny one to uphold the other.

    It is not just my judgment and not that mine should matter much for you since I am not a patristics scholar, but it is the judgment of just about any scholar I can think of writing on the subject. This doesn’t imply that your interpretation is mistaken, but it is strong evidence for thinking so. The fact that you have to contradict the very scholarly sources, you employ, and not just on the details but on the very area of their expertise and the main part of their argument, I think is another example of what I spoke of initially, the misuse or misunderstanding of sources employed on theosis.

    The reason why you think Chalcedon is problematic for the Orthodox is that you are importing Hellenistic categories into terms which are semantically vaccuous. They are all apophatic-unmixed, unconfused, without separation, etc. Moreover, the metaphysics you and Blake are employing only admits of substance and accidents but not energies or persons. That is another big problem. In short, you haven’t even gotten Chalcedon correct, let alone built a good argument from it’s teaching. And it seems rather strange to say that the Orthodox can’t affirm what they wrote. And it seems quite obvious that the LDS can’t affirm it either. Bringing up the fact that the LDS import different meanings is just to capitulate the point that you can’t affirm Chalcedon, let alone Nicea. It is just rather funny to me for all of the LDS whooping and hollering about church authority that when the early church judges a matter they reject it out of hand. The fact is that you reject the authority of the church for the judgment of someone 1700 years later who relies on the judgment of that church for the very text he is reading. Ironic isn’t it? And I am not clear on why the LDS get to appoint themselves to decide what is or isn’t “wiggle room” in Christianity when they don’t accept others in their own rranks from on their own or on the basis of their own religious experience redefining what it is to be LDS? Why is that exactly? And Chalcedon doesn’t teach that Christ becomes homoousion with humanity in the same way he is already and eternally so with the Father for the Nicene term when applied in the previous centuries to the Father-Son relation precludes material composition, so it is impossible to think that the relation is the same, and that’s just for starters.

    The fact that you see nothing to support a difference is a report of your own epistemic abilities and not an argument. You need arguments, not confessions. Some reasons for thinking there is a difference is the patristic teaching on God. That God creates ex nihilo, that matter contra Platonism is not God’s dialectical equal and God does not depend on it or anything else. That’s why God gets to wear the BIG G on his sweater. Another reason would be that the Son is Son in a unique way, uncreated and existing timelessly as the eternal Logos of the Father. Another reason would be the Biblical teaching (Romans 5 for instance) concerning Christ as the font and head of the race, he takes up the race whole and entire in the incarnation and by virtue of his being the Logos in whom are all of the many logoi. Consequently we cannot participate in divinity in that sense since we are not the Creator and we do not stand in the relation Christ does to the race entire.

    And even if there weren’t a difference between the modes of participation, it still wouldn’t follow that what the fathers took participation to cash out to is the same or sufficiently similar to what the LDS think. I think it is fairly easy to demonstrate that they didn’t. The Scholastics come up with a variety of nifty ways to cash out participation that precludes becoming the divine essence so it in no way logically follows that even if there was a full and complete univocal sense of participation in both cases that it would imply what the LDS have in mind.

    I do not see anything developed here since all of the pieces are firmly in place in the Bible not to mention the Fathers long before Chalcedon.

    I think you have made progress in understanding Orthodoxy, but it is not like you are going to master the position in a few blog entries. Be honest. “Search your feelings, Luke, You know this to be true.” And I do think there is more work to be done in answering Blake, I just don’t think it is new conceptual work. It is, I teach four courses, have to take care of my kids, finish learning Latin and work on French, take another Comprehensive Examination for my PhD, keep the house up, grade papers, pay bills, change diapers, mow the lawn before winter…well grade papers as a reason NOT to mow the lawn, etc. The blog is a hobby I use to help people. I don’t have the time to do all I would like with it at an instant. Oh, one more thing. I am poor.

    If you want to understand Orthodox thought, why not start reading Orthodox theology? Visit an Orthodox liturgy, etc. Isn’t that what you would want others to do for your own view?

    My posts earlier had a different feel for a number of reasons. First you were asking more than objecting more. I wanted to make sure after I banned Blake for his personal threats and manifestly vicious character that you felt free to discuss ideas here. Those ends have been reached. If you can’t take a little give and take, then there is no much I can do for you. If you can stick an objection, I am not sure why on my own blog I can’t. Fair enough? Besides, don’t go around the block with the big dogs if you’re gonna piss like a puppy. I think I have been polite with you and given you room. If you want to play, then you need to be able to take a philosophical hit. If not, there’s the door.

    If I were really worried about what other Orthodox readers thought, I would have taken the time to slice you and Blake up immediately. There is noting in principle in his arguments or yours that I haven’t seen in other areas-Open Theism, Process Theology, Socinianism, Nestorianism, Social Trinitarianism, etc. It is very hard to come up with something genuinely new in philosophy. I figured I’d let some of the cubs get some practice while I did something called living my life. Besides, I need more time to pray, let alone go to confession. Moreover, there is plenty written on this blog and in print on Orthodoxy to address most of your questions so I didn’t feel a need to jump in with you. Like I just am sitting around with nothing to do but answer your questions. Sorry, but I am not going to be your personal Orthodox genie. You can do some of the work yourself if you really want to know. Remember I am a synergist.

    The best single book in my estimation on the doctrine of Apostolic Succession is, Felix Cirlot, Apostolic Succession: Is it true? I don’t think the doctrine requires the idea of a monoepiscopate if by that is the idea that there be only one bishop in one area. What it requires is that the bishops post apostles are the source for the other ministers, following a Trinitarian model. That can allow for lots of bishops in one place, which we know was the case in Rome and other major sees. The Papacy as defined by Rome I think sprouted from other roots than the notion of Apostolic Succession per se. But that is another story entirely.

    Coming back to the SDA/LDS comparison, in fact to my knowledge the SDA do claim a restoration in authority, as do the JW’s and lots of other groups, both that survived to the present time and some that did not. That’s the big deal the SDA’s have with the Sabbath observation and food laws observance as well as the Prophetic claims of White.

    Again, if you think my noting that Smith dies shooting other people reflects poorly on me, this could only be true if it is false. Is it false or not? If it is true that he dies shooting at other people, I would think it obvious that it reflects poorly on… well…Smith. Compare with the Apostle Paul, Peter, James, John, Andrew….

    “Parasitically” would imply a dependence relation. LDS apologists did not come up with contemporary Social Trinitarianism. Analytic philosophers of religion did so. Consequently the LDS depend on the work already done in a piggy back fashion. That is the truth of the matter. You seem to be taking words far too personally.

    It seems strange to me that you will easily admit what the LDS apologists look up to won’t, namely that the LDS affirm a form of polytheism. What do you think the necessary and sufficient conditions are for one to be a polytheist? Without this I don’t know why you’d think the Augustinian model is polytheistic at all. If it is anything it would be Modalistic if any problem would be ascribed to it. And if you think the Orthodox conception is tri-theistic its because you are thinking of God as being and hence haven’t grasped the Orthodox view at all. Consequently I deny what you maintain that the move from Unitarian monotheism to Augustinian Monotheism is far more radical than the move from the Cappadocian Monotheism to Social Trinitarianism. If anything, Social Trinitarianism would be closer to Augustine and that only weakly so. Orthodoxy is far, far removed from Social Trinitarianism in its view of the Trinity.

    Now, I have taken the time to write you EIGHT PAGES OF TEXT. I simply don’t have time to be your Orthodox genie. You are welcome to discuss matters here. You are not permitted to make personal threats or personal attacks. And I would say I take a dim view of promiting LDS theology here. There are plenty of pimple faced kids with three weeks training making them instance experts on all things theological coming out of Provo for that. Do it somewhere else please.

  169. TOm says:

    Perry,
    I think I can agree with most of what you just posted (this referred to the two paragraph post not the 8 page post BTW).

    Drawing the distinction that you do between internal coherence of Blake’s thoughts and the concept of dvinity per se only moves the problem for even if what he offers is coherent, it is unlikely to be satisfactory in terms of how most people think of divinity.

    I think there is a great deal of truth to what you said here. There are clearly aspects of Blake’s ideas that are very difficult to accept for most Christians, myself included (well at least in my way of defining what a Christian is). It is also true however that few Christians in the pew find an impassible God to be acceptable either. One of the more important questions to answer, “Is Nicea and Anselm’s concept of divinity or Blake’s concept of divinity closer to the Biblical, Apostolic, and original Christian view.”

    Lots of concepts are coherent, but irrelevant. Non-Anselmian views of deity for example could be coherent but Anselm will find them to be irrelevant for his conception is seemingly superior. You can’t get better than perfect.

    I find Anselmian perfection to be unbiblical and far from the “best” view of God. Numerous theologians are recognizing the Biblical warrant (and the very human desire) for embracing a passible God.

    I wrote the above before I read you 8 pages of text so I thought I would post it anyway.
    I enjoyed your 8 pages of text more than the 2-3 to which I responded. I will attempt not to be a “pissing puppy” too often. Intellectually I am incapable of running with the big dogs, but I hopefully I can role with punches. I would agree I have much to learn about Orthodox thought.
    I do not think I have the energy to respond in detail to all eight pages. I do think that the death of Joseph Smith and the full story of the witnesses are positives for the CoJCoLDS (the witnesses being very positive), but it is unnecessary IMO to elaborate here.
    I may pick through your post some to respond to some things (though I would not say “dice up”). But, if you have a few questions you really feel I should address please highlight them and I will.

    Anyway, at the very least I will look for the new threads concerning Blake’s thoughts. I will also think more about EO thought for a while. I cannot fathom I will be more offensive than a “pissing puppy,” so I reckon I will be welcome here for the foreseeable future.

    I wish I was learning Latin and French, grading papers, had past and future articles being published, and …. Thanks for having this blog, it has certainly been (and I think promises to be in the future) interesting.
    Charity, TOm

  170. trvalentine says:

    Perry wrote:

    So the phusis includes ousia and energia so that when we speak of the divine nature we can be speaking of both.

    Thanks for this. I’m afraid Barnes’ The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology was too much for my wee old brain to grasp in one reading and too expensive to purchase for multiple readings (though I doubt even that would help).

    Would it be correct to say ousia + energia = physis? or is there more to physis than those two elements?

    Thomas

  171. Elliot B says:

    Ah, that’s like a dollop of honey from the comb: Perry alluded to Frankfurtian bullshit! On Bullshit is one of my favorite little books.

    TOm:

    As far as the unbiblicalness of Anselmian perfection vis a vis God goes, I think that protest, coming from a Mormon, cuts very little ice. The entire canonical point of the BOM is to serve as a “revelation of the gaps” for where the Bible is deficient or miscopied or some such. Wherever the BOM contradicts the Bible, it is by definition unbiblical; but then clearly the question is begged who is really concerned about unbiblical teachings.

    As for Ostler’s non-divine theory of divinity, well, it strikes me as the same kind of thinking which tries to argue around marriage as a traditional, coherent, accepted reality, in favor of marriage as some floating variable term for any reality passably similar enough for the present socio-ideologico-political goal. On my blog I’ve recently been tinkering with a kind of argument (for free will and for the existence of God) which, while I highly doubt is original with me, is something I can only call “defining into existence”, or maybe the “fallacy of an all too apt definition.” As long as I appropriately set up the meaning of “free will” and “God”, I can syllogize them right into existence. Much the same goes for Ostler’s quasi-divine analysis. If he can argue around that the one troubling aspect of divinity––namely its being DIVINE–– then he can certainly posit a “coherent” view of a corporeal God. It may be coherent but, as Perry said, is that relevant to the debate as the term is understood historically and contextually?

    My own frank diffidence about my “definition” arguments on my blog are not to say I deny the existence of free will or God (on the contrary, I’d like to think their form, if not their content, is of some obscure merit); it is simply to acknowledge how devilishly tempting it is to tweak established terms for our own ends; and it is to acknowledge the limits of doing so. This kind of lowest common denominator thinking is rampant in much Artificial Intelligence boosterism, which M. Taube saw 40+ years ago by calling it a vicious circle. I know just the trick: If machines can’t be engineered up to human levels, let’s reduce man down to machine levels. Turing did so explicitly, arguing for a multitude of kinds of rationality, whereby clunky machine thinking is ‘just as good’, ‘in its own way‘, as conventional, and therefore chauvinistically favored, human thinking. This practice (known in some circles of a darker hue as “changing the joke to slip the yoke”) is not without merit but must be handled carefully in philosophy.

    Ostler has no rational grounds for arguing the divine out of divinity, since to do so is not to address the actual difficulties with theandric compossibility––mainly because Ostler takes it as an inviolable given the tensions are insurmountable. Rather, it is just to cut the knot altogether. “Solving” the problem of divine-human hypostatic compossibility by asserting the formal impossibility of such compossibility is just that: assertion. The “problem” of the Incarnation is not solved by evacuating the meaning of “divine” for analytical convenience sake. I find Ostler’s charges against theandric compossibility, in this forum at least, sloppy and rank with many hints of fallacies of equivocation. If it’s a matter of uniting the infinite in the finite, consider how many points exist in a one-inch line.

    FWIW, I believe Grisez argued for the logical coherence of the Incarnation is his God? (reissued recently with Augustine Press).

  172. I suspect there are philosophic problems with this and that is why I find it so unfortunate the Blake cannot offer his more sophisticated positions.

    It seems to me that Blake’s position in his book and in his response to you is associated with the inability of an actually greatest happiness or (integer or XYZ that might be predicated to God) to actually exist. If those things do not exist, having the potential to be progressively happier (or to be progressively more creative, or to name a progressively higher integer) would seem to not be undermined by the absence of a “greatest possible happiness.”

    You’ve hit on the problem exactly, because the analogy doesn’t hold up. I know what it means to say that there is “no greatest integer,” and it is because I have a definite formal concept of what an integer. The potential is a mere consequence of a conceptual formal operation. Moreover, the infinity of integers is ultimately grounded in the “natural numbers,” i.e., the quantity of actually existing things, subject to formal conceptual operations.

    But in the case of actual, as opposed to merely conceptual, existence, you have exactly the opposite situation. For any potential to be real, the corresponding act must be real, so the conceptual impossibility of the end renders even the potential impossible. For example, happiness is measured as an appetite toward some real goal, so one can’t have a concept of a potentially unlimited happiness unless there is an actually infinite end to be gained. If there is no existing goal, then there is no real potential to happiness; it’s that simple. One might say that God is the only real infinite, the only infinity that is not merely conceptual or potential but actual.

    On the other hand, if there is no actual infinite, then there cannot be any coherent reason for anything to exist; there is no cause for its existence. If Blake is right, then existence is inexplicable. Faced with that situation, I can’t see any choices but (1) deny that existence has any reason (atheism) or (2) deny that the existence of things is real (Buddhism). In any case, I can’t see any purpose in upholding Christian revelation if one accepts that argument.

  173. Ah, I found an article on Blake’s website. I was right. He never distinguishes between conceptual possibility and ontological possibility, so he doesn’t even understand why C&C consider the Hilbert hotel absurd as an existent. I’m comfortable that his arguments don’t even come close to answering my objection, or indeed, C&C’s kalam argument.

  174. Jp,

    Who the heck DOESN’T distinguish between logical and metaphysical?

  175. AH says:

    Calvinists…

  176. Who the heck DOESN’T distinguish between logical and metaphysical?

    Up to a point, everybody does, but there is often a point where they fail to do it consistently, and I’ve found the worst is on the subject of science.

    Note the following:
    “Indeed, it seems that there is in fact evidence that infinites actually occur in the real world because infinities turn up in standard quantum mechanical equations which give accurate predictions of quantum effects in the real world.”

    If that isn’t confusion between conceptual and metaphysical existence, then I don’t know what is. Zero appears in a lot of equations too; that doesn’t make zero a real metaphysical entity. Zero is a conceptual placeholder, just as infinity is. The fact that we can conceptualize non-existence or infinity hardly means that it becomes a possible entity. At the end of the day, if those infinities don’t cancel out, then one’s theory is toast as a description of physical entities.

    I certainly think that physical causation is fundamentally non-deterministic; in that sense, I think that the fundamental physical notions of quantum mechanics correspond to the reality of the studied phenomena. But if there is no metaphysical explanation of physical causation, then we might as well lobotomize ourselves, because metaphysical causality is the only adequate explanation for knowledge about reality. I happen to prefer the Aristotelian theory to the Platonic, but in any case, one can’t coherently just give up.

  177. I am having a hard time understanding what “metaphysical” is. I read the Wiki article and it goes from sounding like cosmic ectoplasm to how matter is changed in its accidens, to just about any philosophical theory out there such as creationism, dualism, atheism, and pantheism. Is it solely a product of western scholasticism or is it being translated into EO concepts, like ‘mystery’, to keep us from sounding so apophatically vague?

  178. Andrew Nova says:

    Was there ever a post to Blake? If so, I’d like to see it.

  179. [...] first section on his lecture on the Theotokos, and my first awareness of such an order on Energetic Procession by Photios Jones to a Mormon, “That’s the ordo theologiae: Persons — Operations — [...]

  180. J.W. says:

    Dear Perry,

    Greetings!

    Interesting blog.

    You can count on me to protest against crass heresy, though I rarely ever frequent CPH enough to know what kinds of heresy they may be peddling there. Were I there, I would have vehemently protested.
    There is so much heresy in the LC-MS at large that I can only rest in the comfort that the congregational structure allows me to consider myself only a member of my own congregation (in addition, of course, to being a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, Christ’s Body and Bride), and concentrate my diligence against doctrinal divergences there.

    Thanks for your diligence, though.

    Grace, peace and my best wishes.

    Sincerely,

    J.W.

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