The Bickersons

Continuing the spat with Steve Hays from,

Even if Augustine adapts the notion of the divine ideas or logoi to suit his theological purposes, this is irrelevant to my point. The concept is still Platonic. Moreover, while it is true that say Plato synthesizes ideas from Heracleitus, Parmenides, and Pythagoras, it doesn’t follow from that, that it is not possible to state that his views are Platonic. The putting forth of the notion of the divine ideas is still a product of Platonism, even if it has a longer genealogy. Otherwise we would be left with the stupid idea that no attribution of source or origin could ever be made because there is always some further source behind that one.

I don’t recall any scriptural demonstration of the notion of the divine ideas. Perhaps you could post a link.

Granted that Augustine also has the Bible and his hermeneutics are by and large Platonic as well. Compare On Christian Doctrine with Republic, bks 2-3. His philosophical views guide and frame his exegesis of Scripture. The philosophical comes first for Augustine and Scripture after since it is by philosophical reflection that he arrives at the belief in the Good and then identifies the Good with God and then the God of Scripture. See the Confessions 6-8, De Trinitate 1-6.

Moreover, his collapsing of Nous into the One isn’t motivated by Scripture so your reference to Scripture in this instance is irrelevant. And your own view does at least appear to track Augustine’s because, as you have written else where you speak of God as being “mind.” Whether you diverge from Augustine on later points is irrelevant since your view would still count as a species of Neoplatonic philosophical theology.

I didn’t refer to “this or that” Reformed theologian. I referred to representative theologians of an entire tradition. The tradition as a whole subscribes to absolute divine simplicity and it usually cashes it out following either Aquinas or Scotus. Perhaps I made the mistake of thinking that since you identified yourself as “Reformed” that citing representative theologians as testifying to the position of the Reformed tradition would carry weight with your or that you subscribed to the position in question. I will make sure when we discuss the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, or any of the Solas for example, so as not to presume on the basis of what the Reformed tradition teaches that you subscribe to it until such time as you proffer a individual doctrinal statement. (An individual doctrinal statement-imagine that for a Baptist!)

I never claimed that ADS was a view that distinguished Reformed theology from other traditions, except from the Orthodox. ADS doesn’t differentiate the Reformed tradition from Rome for example since they hold to the same doctrine, which explains why Rome and the Reformed both hold to the heterodox doctrine of the Filioque for example. I did claim that ADS is something that the Reformed generally subscribe to, both confessionally and via its representative theologians and writings. Since that was my point, your noting that ADS doesn’t distinguish the Reformed is a red herring and therefore irrelevant.

Even if it were true that your Calvinism takes its point of departure from exegesis, this is beside the point since it would at best only show that you dissent from Protestant Orthodoxy on that point. It would still be true that Protestant Orthodoxy subscribes to ADS and that you were heterodox in relation to it.

Moreover, exegesis requires pre-exegetical philosophical presuppositions that are not paradigm neutral. Such presuppositions since they are antecedent to the praxis of exegesis and features of your worldview are not derived from exegesis. Therefore your Calvinism doesn’t and couldn’t take its point of departure from exegesis but from your philosophical presuppositions.

You wrote on 7/13/2005,
“Notice how, according to this framework, the individuating principle which differentiates one person of the Godhead from another consists in existential propositions concerning the economic Trinity. And that conduces straight to modalism. On such a view, the Trinitarian relations are contingent rather than necessary.”

I wonder exactly how you derive the concept of the Trinitarian persons as “relations” from exegesis? Where exactly does the Bible gloss, either implicitly or explicitly the divine persons as relations? Nowhere that I know of. I don’t know how you would come to that view without ADS. If the divine essence isn’t simple, then hypostases can subsist with in it and amount to a real plurality in the essence, rather than relations of the essence to itself, as Augustine is forced to do because of his commitment to ADS. In any case, it is obvious that your Calvinism doesn’t take its point of departure nor all of its content from exegesis but from inherited platonic views.

Moreover, you have posted in the past an article from Paul Helm endorsing ADS.

I suppose I made the mistake of thinking that you wouldn’t post something on your blog that defended a deformed or heterodox view of God. I took your posting of Helm’s re-hash of Aquinas (See ST, 1.3, 1.9) as an implicit endorsement of the doctrine. I should stop being so charitable I suppose.

If the divine ideas are unexemplified then they are potentia in God and since identical with the divine essence, God is potentia. So when you ask, “relative to what?” the answer is, relative to God. If there are divine ideas that are unexemplified in the world, but actual in God, what is it to be unexemplified that is not being actual? To be exemplified is to be actual in some world. If they are actual in God then they are exemplified in God, thereby making creation, among other things, necessary.

If all or any of his ideas are actual, then they are instantiated since to be actual is to be instantiated. If not, you need to explain what you mean by “actual” and how you are differentiating it from “exemplification.” In any case, your position here is essentially that of Aquinas, which is what I have been saying since the get-go. The difference between the worldly mode of subsistence and their mode of subsistence in God cannot be a real difference since they are identical to the divine essence. Traditionally, the divine ideas don’t subsist in the world in any case but perhaps here you prefer to dissent from traditional Latin philosophical theology and favor pantheism instead.

If God is not his own exemplar, then do you deny that God knows other things in knowing his divine ideas which are nothing other than himself? Does God know creatures by knowing himself or does he know by knowing the creature?

If you are not committed to ADS, how do you gloss divine unity?


Berkeley’s position is no more derived from reason than Hume’s. Hume also has sensations or impressions as mental phenomena. Just because Berkeley thinks that what the senses produce in us are mental entities doesn’t make him a rationalist, just an idealism. And his scheme is panpsychical if by that we mean that everything that exists is mental, but not if we mean that everything is conscious as say David Chalmers thinks.

And thinking that everything is mental doesn’t imply a coherence theory of truth or knowledge in Berkeley. There is nothing in correspondence theory of truth or knowledge that indicates that those things that are being related have to be material. Correspondence theory only requires that the truth-value of a proposition depends on the state of the world. If the world is the way the proposition says, then it is true, if not, it is false. The mere fact that our ideas cohere with each other, if they do, for Berkeley, doesn’t imply their truth or that they amount to knowledge. Again, you are only convicting him of idealism, which isn’t informative.

Berkeley says that God could have not thought of anything else, hence no world. Berkeley says that God can and does will different things and cease to think of other things, which is how he explains the appearance of temporal succession. No equivocation or non-sequitor there.

Berkley’s view is a form of Platonism and it is a form of empiricism. Empiricism is only opposed to Platonism if we suppose that knowledge comes from matter. But Berkeley doesn’t think there is any such thing as matter because we never sense such a thing. Hence knowledge does not come from matter. For Berkeley knowledge comes from acquaintance with ideas, which is entirely Platonic. For Plato, matter doesn’t exist as any one thing, because it is indefinite or indeterminate. So, matter has existence as ultimately many, but it is wrong to say for Plato that matter absolutely does not exist. Berkeley then is somewhat more extreme than Plato on this point. In any case, both think that knowledge comes from acquaintance with ideas. Plato is not an empiricist because what we sense are bodies which are formed matter or matter affected by forms. Knowledge cannot come via this route. Berkeley is an empiricist, because what we sense are ideas and not matter, which is why, ironically enough, he is not a rationalist, because he doesn’t think that is knowledge exclusively from reason or begins exclusively in reason, that is, the relating of ideas one to another.

As for theories of time, I am open to either. My view of divine timelessness doesn’t commit me to either. And I reject the Boethian simultineity view.

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