Archive for May 2008
Four Ways of Interpretation: The Medieval Quadriga
Littera gesta docet; quid credas allegoria;
Moralis quid agas; sed quid speres anagoge.
1. The letter lets you know what happened;
2. Allegory what you believe;
3. The moral sense what you must do;
4. and anagogy what you may hope for.
When they are rhymed:
The letter shows us what God and our fathers did;
The allegory shows us where our faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules for daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our daily strife.
They are one historical and three spiritual interpretations:
1. Literal or historical 2. Allegorical 3. moral 4. hidden
meaning for the future life
1. The Jewish city 2. The Church 3. The human soul 4. Heaven
“Ishmael and Isaac”
1. The two sons of Abraham 2. The two testaments or the synagogue and the church or law and grace 3. Flesh and spirit
4. Hell and heaven
Luther proposed another Evangelical fourfold interpretation in his commentary on Psalm 117, developing it out of one simple sense that gives much.
1. Prophesy: interpreting the writings of the prophets concerning Christ
2. Revelation is more than allegory, it means to strike something special in the scripture that not everyone can find, who may well have some of the first three parts or even all of them.
3. Instruction is teaching knowledge. (Numbers three and four are somehow mixed together). Teaching is preaching faith and how it makes us righteous without our deserving it.
4. Admonition is how we should serve God, making a distinction of outward behavior and customs. In the Psalm 117 he gives instruction about offering or sacrifice and vows.
Luther is slightly confusing here (p. 146) because he derives his fourfold interpretation from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:6:
“Dear brothers and sisters if I came to you speaking in tongues, what use would I be to you, if I did not speak to you through revelation or insight or prophesy or teaching.”
Luther tries to be completely Pauline in defining each of Paul’s terms with other passages from Paul. Rereading the commentary, of which a great deal had to be cut to reduce the length of our book, may help make his four ways of interpretation somewhat more clear cut.
About our book Luther’s Spirituality:
I would love reaction on what I call his diabolical dialectic found on pages 142-143. But there are clues for its meaning right at the beginning of his section on Instruction, where he says that God’s highest wisdom is godly, not human, secret, not revealed and in the world it is called “insidious heresy,” the devil’s damned instruction (page 135). “Why do they all persecute this teaching about the grace of God and call it heresy?” (page 136) Other real highlights of this commentary are his description of the Heaven of Grace, pages 138-140 and the incredible catalogue, listing almost every possible phenomenological situation of the church, and finding that the Gospel was always missing (pages 134-135).
At Christ Lutheran Church in El Cerrito, California, we just concluded a reading of this book together and the experience was very rewarding. The class received an in depth introduction to how Luther writes out of the midst of life and experience remaining incredibly relevant for the toughest issues of our lives and experience. Pastor Peter Krey
Wilhelm Pauck, ed. Luther: Lectures on Romans, (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1961), p.xxviii.
 Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform (1250-)1550), (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), p.66. He is citing Robert M. Grant.
 Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), 146.
Religious Experience of God’s Existence
Lecture for the Philosophy of Religion by Dr. Peter Krey
Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California
In a classic biography of St. Augustine, Peter Brown writes about “a long contemplation of the Logos, whose existence can be ‘hinted at by innumerable rational proofs’” We have been honoring reason by going through some of these proofs that attempt to approach the Infinite and Ineffable. There are the cosmological proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas, the more modern ones of William Lane Craig, Samuel Clarke, as well as the Islamic proof called the Kalam Argument. Then we covered the teleological argument of William Paley, the ontological arguments of St. Anselm as well as the modal one by Alvin Plantinga, and there are many others, whose truths are supported by “sparkling little chains of [reasoning]” to use a phrase of Plotinus.
Now we turn away from rationalism and toward empiricist justifications of God’s existence. Experience is much more akin to our modern scientific and inductive way of thinking. A central thesis from our Philosophy of Religion text reads:
Ultimate reality is recognized as sacred in relation
to when persons enter a transformative process.
As a transition from rationalism to religious experience, listen to the experience of St. Augustine conversing with his mother, Monica as related by Peter Brown from Augustine’s ninth book in his Confessions:
There we talked together, she and I alone in deep joy….and while we were thus talking of His Wisdom and panting for it, with all the effort of our heart we did for one instant attain to touch it; then sighing and leaving the first fruits of our spirit bound to it, we returned to the sound of our own tongue, in which words must have a beginning and end….What we said is this: “If to any man the tumult of the flesh grew silent, silent the images of the earth, sea, and air, and if the heavens grew silent, and the very soul grew silent to herself, and, by not thinking of self, mounted beyond self; if all dreams and images grew silent, and every tongue and every symbol – everything that passes away…and in their silence He alone spoke to us, not by them but by Himself: so that we should hear His Word, not by any tongue of the flesh, not in the voice of an angel, not in the sound of thunder, not in the darkness of a parable – but that we should hear Himself . . .should hear Himself and not them.
They entered up in a spiritual rapture that went into the infinite. Then they heard the sound of their own tongue again, in which words must have a beginning and ending. That means they were back in the finite world of experience. With paltry words Augustine tries to recapitulate how they might hear God speaking to them.
Thus they may not have been able to traverse the Infinite, but they experienced a foretaste, a preview of it.
What kind of an event is a religious experience? In our Peterson’s text religious experience is classified in the following ways:
1. as a feeling of dread or awe, one of utter dependence, or a feeling of longing for the transcendent being, who fascinates us.
2. as a type of religious perception, perhaps not a
common perception, but like a sensory one.
3. as an interpretative account of experience,
one described as transcendent (pages 5-6).
We already mentioned the ecstatic experience of St. Thomas, where in a realization of all his theology he had something like a beatific vision, which caused him to cease writing. In the face of that experience, he said that all his words were like straw.
We can also remember the experience of St. Augustine when he heard the sing-song voice of a child say, “Take and read!”
Martin Luther of old (1483-1546) had a transformative experience while overcoming the medieval wrathful and vengeful judging God in the sky with a loving sweet and forgiving God. Before he experienced the language event which we call his being justified by faith, he hated God’s righteousness and raged,
As if, indeed, it is not enough that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath.
Luther was trying to understand what St. Paul meant by Romans 1:17. “In the [Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith, as it is written, ‘the one who through faith is righteous shall live.’” Luther meditated on this place in Scripture ardently desiring “to know what St. Paul wanted.”
At last by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘he who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself again through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise.
Often some theologians interpret this place in Luther’s life as if it merely had doctrinal significance. But it was an transformative experience that not only made a very different person of Luther, but brought about the sixteenth century renewal of the Christian Church, called the Reformation.
Pojman mentions the theophanies of Moses before the burning bush, Isaiah experiencing God in the temple, and Saul becoming transformed into Paul on the road to Damascus.
Some Definitions from our Introduction (Peterson, p. 1-3):
Philosophy of Religion is the critical examination of basic religious concepts and beliefs. As a philosophical activity, it tries to be as objective and rigorous as possible analyzing the major ideas of religion and theology (e.g., God, miracles, evil), to synthesize them into a coherent point of view, and to assess the reasons that thoughtful people have offered for or against religious belief.
Theology is the discipline of questioning key beliefs and doctrines inside of a religion for their conceptual development and systematization.
Natural theology deals with what all human beings can know through reason and revealed theology, with what can be known only through revealed scripture.
Religion, difficult to define according to our text, is a set of beliefs, actions, and experiences, both individual and collective, organized around some sacred idea of Ultimate Reality in relation to which persons can become transformed.
Ultimate Reality is a unity or plurality, personal or non-personal, divine or not, differing from religion to religion.
Classical theism is the belief that a transcendent spiritual being exists, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. Because “theism” is a term that derives from Greek philosophy, some have argued that the God of the Jews and Christians is non-philosophical and thus one could be an atheist and still believe in the God of the Bible.
Theodicy tries to square the divine attributes of God (omnipotence, holiness, and perfection) with the problem of evil.
Philosophy endeavors to analyze and critically evaluate our most basic concepts and beliefs.
Analytic approach to philosophy is concerned with meaning, consistency, coherence, reasonableness, justification and truth of our beliefs. It emphasizes crucial concepts and the structure and soundness of the arguments used to justify them.
The Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle (1920’s) argued that religious language had no cognitive content, using Wittgenstein’s verifiability principle, which was a modern version of David Hume’s analytic/ synthetic scissor.
The verifiability principle criterion of meaning states that 1) a factual statement has cognitive meaning only if sense experience can provide evidence for its truth and 2) the experiences that would demonstrate its truth are identical to its meaning. This principle became problematic when many scientific statements could not meet this criterion and Wittgenstein turned the principle upon itself and showed that it was not verifiable in itself. W. V. O Quine argued that statements in isolation could not be verified, because they presented themselves corporately: some statements could be falsified at the periphery of one’s core beliefs, but observations and experiments would be challenged if core beliefs became contradicted. Thomas Kuhn used Quine’s ideas to speak about the nature of scientific revolutions, where a paradigm was not changed, despite experiments and evidence to the contrary, until a new paradigm was ready to explain the new evidence and everything the old one had explained.
This turn of philosophical theories brought much more respect for the integrity of religious rationality and experience, and that many philosophers have become religious themselves, adds to exciting new developments in the philosophy of religion.
An elderly man, who was a friend of mine, is under a tree before daylight contemplating suicide. His new wife is an abusive alcoholic. His former wife had committed suicide, for which he feels guilty. As the daylight begins to dawn, suddenly the whole tree becomes alive with birds singing their songs as if they would burst. The old man looks up to the heavens, the sun is rising, and he thanks God for speaking to him, loving him so much, and saving his life through the songbirds in that tree.
He felt that he had had a religious experience through which God interceded and saved his life. It assured him that God still loved him no matter what he was going through.
This person felt that in this religious experience heaven had touched his soul and he had been healed. Was it an experience as described by William James or Rudolph Otto? Not exactly: dread, utter dependence, trembling, tremendous fascination, and longing for the transcendent being as feelings do not seem to hit the mark. Not mysticism of total absorption into God or the secondary experience of trance, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), automatic writing, etc. either. They do not seem to fit.
Following William Alston, we could say that it was religious perception. To interpret Alston somewhat through Origen’s spiritual sense (See hand-out), perceptions do not take place only through the five physical senses. They can also take place through the spiritual senses, the perception of the soul. One can see through the eyes of the heart, hear with the ears of the inmost self, and be touched at the heart. When Alston notes that this is not a sensory or common experience of a perception, although it is analogous with a sensory perception, he might be searching for Origen’s insight (see page 22).
Thomas Aquinas felt that all the physical senses internalized and integrated were the intellect. For him the intellect was like an invisible hand that could grasp and comprehend consciousness, concepts or perceptions. Because they were made out of the mind and made for the mind they were abstract. The hand touches and feels. The internal senses could also focus more on spiritual sight or a more intense and concentrated spiritual sense of hearing.
Thus when Alston speaks of “generalizing from sense perception, that we acquire a wider concept of perception” (page 22), certainly reminds of Origen. Thus if we have the perception of a cat, then we assume there is a cat present that has given us the perception. In the same way when we have had a perception involved in a religious experience, then God became present, appeared, or was somehow given, for that religious perception to have taken place. He thus argues that religious perception provides a strong justification of the existence of God.
Vocabulary: “doxastic” (on page 24 top) giving rise to beliefs and therefore teachings and doctrine.
In Alston’e perceptual model to mystical experience, he argues that if God exists, then mystical experience is quite properly thought of as mystical perception (page 24). There can certainly be delusional perceptions as well as real ones, but that is true for the sensory and the spiritual variety of perceptions and experiences and thus mystical or religious perceptions are not disqualified and some can also be real (veridical).
By indirect experiences of God, Alston refers to becoming aware of God through beauties of nature, the words of the bible or a sermon, or other natural phenomena (page 21). In contrast by direct religious experience of God, Alston refers to presentations of God to the individual in somewhat the way in which physical objects are presented to sense perception (page 21).
It is questionable whether or not the religious experience under the songbird tree was indirect or direct perception. I do not feel it was the beauty of nature that stirred the man, but the very surprising fact that the tree was full of songbirds that all burst into song at the same time speaking the love of God to him. This experience convinced him that God was present and the elderly man perceived it through the songbird-tree experience.
Can religious experience be used to justify religious beliefs, e.g., that God exists. Such an approach is far more consonant with our modern mentality than all the rational proofs. Thus William James argues that “religious experience is the root of religion” (the title of his article, page 10). We are much more experiential today than purely rational and experience and observation are more convincing to us. So religious experience as a type of perception points to its source, the way the visual experience does to the presence of a cat.
Pojman’s critique of all the variety and diversity of religious experience can be answered to an extent by those who argue for its being an interpretation of experience. Here the Ultimate Reality becomes present and the religious experience, the primary feeling, is interpreted in the religion and tradition of the particular believer involved. That would account for all the diversity in religious experience.
Pojman’s critiques of religious experience are that
1) they are so amorphous and varied, 2) their justification is often circular: the premises are as questionable as the conclusion, and 3) they are non-verifiable.
William James argues that to discern diabolical mysticism from good mysticism the experience must be sifted and tested, and it must run the gauntlet of the total context of experience, just like what comes from the outer world of sense (page 17-18). It is important to be cognizant of this evil kind of experience as well, because the spiritual comes in good and evil varieties. In the Scripture the prophets sometimes heard the voice of God. Elijah hiding in the cave for instance (e.g., 1 Kings 19:13). But a very disturbed woman was hearing voices and I asked her what they said. “They are telling me to throw you off this balcony.” She said. Voices are sometimes heard from the fragments of a person’s ego and considered to come from the outside. These kinds of voices can be very destructive. Thus the spirits have to be discerned for being good or evil, and all spirituality should not be assumed to be good.
 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: a Biography, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 153.
 Ibid., p. 155.
 The pages we will be referring to in this lecture come from the textbook for our course: Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, editors, Philosophy of Religion, Second Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2001). This reference is on page 1. (The authors put out a third edition in 2007.)
 Peter Brown, Augustine, page 129.
 Rudolph Otto can be remembered here with his work: The Idea of the Holy. Louis Pojman divides this category into mystical experience, in which the believer is absorbed into God, becomes one with God, and secondly, religious experience, which does not conflate the subject and object, but is nominal (Divine) experience of the presence of God or an angel or Christ or the Holy Spirit (if we refer only the Christian tradition) (Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2001), pages 53-54).
 Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, Fourth Edition, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), page 136.
 Peter Brown, Augustine, p. 108.
 Lewis W. Spitz and Helmut Lehmann, editors, Luther’s Works, vol. 34, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), pages 336-337.
 Ibid., page 337.
 Pojman, Philosophy of Religion, page 51-52.
 Lawhead, Voyage of Discovery, Second Edition, (Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002), page 579.
Second Sunday of Pentecost May 25th 2008 by Pastor Peter Krey
Isaiah 49: 8-16a Psalm 131 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Matthew 6:24-34
Let faith take a bite out of your worry!
Whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer, we Protestants conclude with: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever! Amen.” Do we just say it or do we also believe it? Do you and I believe that Christ reigns because God sent him to take charge over us and make us part of the Kingdom of Heaven and when we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, do we attribute the power and the glory to him over our lives? Having that faith is the challenge.
The first verses of the Gospel lesson must have made me uptight, because I forgot to see how the stock market was doing. Later I found out it went down another 146 points. That takes another big bite out of our pension! But hold it, Jesus says, “either / or”! You either serve me or mammon. Usually we understand “Mammon” as the god of materialism and money. But in Hebrew “mammon” merely means the accumulation of wealth. “Unrighteous mammon” from that notorious text about making friends with unrighteous mammon” needs to be explained (Luke 16:9). Your wealth is unrighteous if you have surplus, more than you need, but you won’t help save the lives of the needy with it. Make friends with unrighteous mammon means to save those lives with that surplus, so that the poor, whom you have saved, will welcome you into their mansions in heaven!
When I watch the business channel that operates from the floor of Wall Street, a goodly number of people seem to have the accumulation of wealth as the sole purpose of their lives. But that means to serve Mammon and makes you hate Christ, because Christ wants us to serve him alone. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added to you. If making money is the first priority of your life, then God will subtract all things from you. When Jesus speaks of having a single eye, he means that we can either choose the one purpose or the other. So let’s keep our eye on seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and the justice it stands for, and then God will provide for our every need.
Now often we look over our shoulders and become jealous of those who are raking in the doe. That is because we think that money will fulfill their lives. Looking over our shoulders like that makes us slip and fall.
Now I ask myself, “How come I have so much road rash?” (When the boys fall off their skateboards and get all scraped up, they call it “road rash.”)
Well, it’s easy to say “Don’t worry!” but there are a whole bundle of things to worry about. “How will we pay our bills if the gas price keeps going up? What good are dollars if their value keeps going down? What happens if I can’t pay my mortgage and they foreclose on our house? How can we afford to pay for college tuition, when it is so high? How do I keep my medical coverage should I get laid off? What if my pension money runs out?” Wow, it is hard not to worry about all these questions in our lives. Jesus boils the questions down to, “What will I eat, What will I drink, What will I wear?” and says, don’t worry. But my worries overflow: “How will I pay off my credit cards? If I’m unemployed, how will I find a job?”
In our society we certainly have reason to worry; but not if God is our champion. That is the reason we can be as trusting as the birds and get dressed more beautifully than Easter Lilies. God rules over us through Christ and he will fulfill all God’s promises to us. “Christ is our champion, my friend! He’ll fight for us to the end.” The American dream might fail, but not the dream of the Kingdom of Heaven; that dream will come true. Thus we have no need to worry. We only have to worry if we think Obama, Hilary, and John can keep their promises. They can’t. I don’t have to be a prophet to predict that.
A president does not have that kind of power – nor a power elite, if you are into conspiracy theories. Nor do people at the grass roots have the power. Would you repeat the words of the prayer with me: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever! Amen.”
We don’t have to worry or get anxiety attacks, because in the words of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘In the time of favor’” (and God is always in time, that’s the kairos,) “I have answered you, I have helped you with the day of salvation.”
Check out all of the promises God makes to you in that Old Testament lesson. I‘ll mention only two. God cares about us like a mother nursing her child and God did not only have an exodus back with Moses. He had one through the wilderness in Isaiah’s time and God has an exodus for you and me as well.
So like a mother tenderly nurses her infant at the breast, God will tenderly love us and care for all of our needs. Even should a mother forget her child, God will never forget or neglect us.
Hello! This is the Maker of heaven and earth speaking. Jesus says, “O ye of little faith!” Do you really think someone in Washington will think of you, let alone care for you tenderly? They might if they seek righteousness and have Jesus Christ as their champion. If they too are seeking the Kingdom of God and its justice, then the Creator of heaven and earth can also work through them. But usually they have taken the other way.
If you believe that money will fulfill your needs and all you need is more of it. Jesus will say, “O ye of little faith!” (And I’m preaching to myself as well, do you hear me?) No, first seek the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and allow him to orient your life and get into the campaign that Christ is running to make the Kingdom of Heaven real amongst us. But you have to believe it. It takes some faith. When that becomes the first priority of your life, then you have no need to worry. Isaiah speaks of an exodus that God will perform for you, should you be pushed to the place where you find no escape.
Luther has an interesting take on the exodus. In the creation story, God separated the waters from the waters and then divided the waters of the oceans to form the continents. God commanded the wind and the waves, “You can pound on the shore, but you cannot reach my people! They shall walk and live and have their being on dry land.” That is the miracle of the exodus God performed for all the nations of the world even before the one God performed over the Red Sea for the Children of Israel. So don’t you think he can find a place for you feet to go?
Ah, we worry ourselves to death, we go under the water, because we do not trust the God of the exodus, who draws us out of the water as his people and keeps us safe on dry land.
We certainly have lots to worry about if we trust in our money. Remember, even on our money, it says, “In God we trust.” Well, you say, “The dollar is now only 57 cents on the Euro and countries are converting their money into Euros instead of dollars and the United States has lost a good deal of its standing in the world!?!” But we are seeking the kingdom of heaven, remember? And we confess Jesus Christ to be our champion, to be our Lord. Our lives are committed to his righteousness, to his way of loving and sharing. As we say in Christ Lutheran Church, “God calls us to live and share the amazing love and grace of Jesus Christ with all people.” What a wonderful mission statement!
Doing that at home, at work, at school, at play and we can shake our worries and become worry-free. No anxiety attacks necessary! In their place we have a robust faith, a full measure, packed down and overflowing bushel basket full of faith, the good faith through which God provides for us. And what a wonderful God! Even when we are faithless, Christ is faithful. Even when we are untrustworthy, Christ remains trustworthy.
Just look at the birds. They neither reap nor sow. They are justified by grace. And see how the Father in Heaven cares for them. They don’t accumulate wealth and put it into the bank or risk their seeds on the dogs, horses, Las Vegas, the lottery, or the stock market. They don’t put their seeds into hedge funds, but God takes care of them.
They are justified by grace and don’t have to sow or reap; like the lilies, don’t have to toil or spin, but their good faith lets God provide all kinds of gifts through them. Yes, consider the lilies. All the movie stars posing on the red carpets with their expensive gowns and dresses are not arrayed like one of these. Coming back from Philadelphia, I’ve really gotten into the flowers here, especially the roses. Gaze at them and let them fill your soul with their beauty. Just take in the fragrance of a rose and it will witness to the One who is richer and wiser than Solomon and whose Kingdom of Heaven you’ve been baptized into.
That’s why we need not worry. Jesus makes it clear that our Father in Heaven knows our every need and through the Kingdom of Heaven, ruled by the Creator of heaven and earth, all our needs will be met, and our souls will be quieted, like a baby is quieted at its mother’s breast.
It is so easy to lose sight of the heaven of grace over us and lapse into that little faith that places its hopes in money or the government in Washington, or even makes our private lives be an end all, while we are supposed to be campaigning for Christ. We fix on this world as if Jesus never proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven, never baptized us into it, never taught us that “we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Jesus knows how hard this faith is. You and I need to pray God for a big new measure of it, an increase of good faith in the One God sent to save us. That faith will take a big bite out of our worry. Because Jesus knows how hard that is for us, he says, “Take it one day at a time.” The old words were: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Don’t import all the troubles of tomorrow into your today. God will provide for us, as God did in all our yesterdays. With utter confidence, let us also place all our tomorrows into God’s hands. And when God raises up his hands to bless us, we will see our names inscribed on the palms of his hands, Isaiah says, for God does not only know our names, but also all our needs in order to provide for them. Amen.
Divine Attributes A Lecture by Dr. Peter Krey 3/13/2006
Philosophy of Religion, Diablo Valley College, California – March 13th 2006
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam argue that God is a divine personal being who has created the entire universe, not out of need but out of sheer generosity and goodness. God is all-powerful, all knowing, ubiquitous, and perfectly morally good. The history of the world and the universe does not unfold in chance, but in divine providence. The amount of control God takes is controversial but God tries to attract all humanity by love and friendships and bring human being to a culmination of fulfillment.
It is controversial whether or not God possesses the attribute of necessary existence, i.e., to hold that it is impossible for God not to exist. Against it some argue a necessary existence is incoherent proving for them that God does not exist.
What about omnipotence? Aquinas argues that God can bring any state of affairs into existence, if it is logically possible. Omnipotence has brought many a puzzle— just the same way God’s foreknowledge has vis-à-vis (in relation to) human freedom of will.
What does it mean that God is eternal? Is it timelessness— is God’s existence outside of the realm of the time and change that we inhabit or is God everlasting— meaning that God exists and acts in time, but a time that neither has a beginning nor end. Perhaps the latter is closer to the Biblical position.
There are also alternative conceptions of the deity from process theology or theism that see God guiding the world but not controlling it. The a Hindu view is “monistic” and “pantheistic”— Brahman, the sole ultimate reality is impersonal, underlying the whole universe— a unity that proves the multiplicity is illusionary Maya.
John Hick tries to refute J. N. Findlay who put the ontological argument into reverse, to say that it actually disapproved the existence of God, in his much discussed article, “Can God’s existence be disproved?”(p. 133). A being, who is logically necessary cannot exist, because existence to empiricists has to be factual and contingent, not necessary.
On the top of (p.134) Findlay has his four reasons,
(1) an adequate object of religious attitudes must be conceived as a being infinitely superior to ourselves in value and worth. (Accordingly, Findlay refers to this object as “he” rather than as “it.”)
(2) He must be conceived as being who is unique: God must not merely be one of a class of beings of the same kind, but must stand in an asymmetrical relationship to all other objects as the source of whatever value they may have,
(3) then, says Findlay, the adequate object of religious attitudes must be conceived as not merely happening to exist, but as existing necessarily; if he merely happened to exist
he would not be worthy of the full unqualified attitude of worship.
And (4) this being must be conceived as not merely happening to possess his various characteristics, but as possessing them in some necessary manner.
Points (3) and (4) are used by Findlay to argue in the theoretical work of Hume that it is absurd to speak of such a being existing, because no proposition of the form “exists” can be analytically true. Thus, the a priori existence in a necessary manner is self-contradictory.
Hick argues against Findlay pointing out that he has two premises, a philosophical one that no existential proposition can be an analytic truth and secondly, a theological one, that an adequate object of worship must be logically necessary. Hick finds the former true, but the latter premise false. It is like saying a circle must be square; it is an improper use of language. God is not an inferred entity but an experienced reality for the people in the Bible. Logical necessity was a completely alien philosophical puzzle to them. They experienced the being of God, whose non-existence to them was unthinkable, in a tradition that sees God as a necessary being. It is not a logical, but an ontological factual necessity that made God an adequate object of worship. Kant speaks of a “material necessity in existence” and not merely of formal and logical necessity (p. 136). He sometimes calls it causal necessity, participating in the universal causal system of nature. Anselm had the concept of a necessary being first, “It is impossible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist” (p. 136). His rejoinder to Gaunilo is that a beautiful, perfect island can be conceived not to exist because it has a beginning or end or composition of parts, and does not [in] whatever, at any place or at any time exist as a whole. “That being alone on the other hand, cannot be conceived not to exist, in which any conception discovers neither beginning nor end nor composition of parts …and which any conception finds always and everywhere as a whole” (p. 136). What Anselm is speaking about is far more than logical necessity, but the essence of the contrasting notion of God as sheer, ultimate, unconditioned reality without origin or end.
Hick finds necessary being in Aquinas, too. Contingency is transiency or temporal finitude and by contrast, non-contingency is the necessary being of God, an existence with neither beginning nor end, in other words, an eternal being. God’s existence is one that is in and of itself and not dependent on anything else for his existence. In Latin, existence without any external cause is (a se esse) being from itself. That is where Hick’s gets the word “aseity,” that God is not from nothing, but God is through himself and from himself being whatever he is. Thus, God’s aseity makes the divine exclusive of dependence on anything whatever.
Moses Maimonides argues the use of the “way of negation,” because to grow in the knowledge of God is to increase the number of attributes that you know cannot be ascribed to God, because God is superlatively more than these. Those people who argue that God does not have a body are closest, those who do not know, are further away; and those who argue God has a body are farthest from knowing God. But we divested God of corporeality, but not the modes of corporeality, namely, the accidents (p. 138).
The Torah, says Maimonides, speaks in human language. But how can human language speak of the attributes of God to predicate divine perfection, of God, who is above every attributive qualification? (p. 139)
As with the functions of fire (p.139) and human rationality (p. 139-140) their many functions do not really point to the true nature of each, i.e., of fire and rationality. Thus the description of God by means of negation is the correct description “that is not affected by an indulgence in facile language and does not imply any deficiency with respect to God in general or in any particular mode” (p.140). Affirmations, however, associate with God that which he is not and imply a deficiency to God.
In a certain respect negations are attributes and they differ from affirmative attributes and God has to the described through negations. (Vocabulary: Quiddity— is that, which makes a thing what it is.) (Top of p.141) Maimonides proves that God cannot have any affirmative attribute in any respect.
Like fire burning, the existence of (the Supreme Being), which is his essence, suffices not only for being existent, but also for many other existences flowing from it. The overflow of divine existence issues into all the other extent sentient and non-sentient existences (p. 141, but using my own words).
1. of essence
2. of actions
Air is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, so what is it? What makes it that which it is, i.e., gives it quiddity. See the middle of (p.142) “What then should be the state of our intellects when they inspire to apprehend him…?” An existent to which none of the things brought into existence resembles.
When intellects contemplate God their apprehension turns into incapacity (bottom p.142). Their knowledge turns into ignorance, eloquent speech turn into weary words.
When the attributes of things are predicated, then the more they are particularized by increasing attributes, the more one predicates, the closer one comes to the apprehension of a thing’s true reality. For God, however, the apprehension comes nearer with every increase in the negations regarding him (top p. 143).
Maimonides subtracts or negates corporeality and affection and continuing in this way— is to come nearer to God. Look at Augustine and his mother— they go in a negative way in their words all the way to the voice of God. Augustine and his mother ‘stood alone leaning in a window, which looked inwards to the
garden within the house where we were staying. [Augustine continues]
There we talked together, she and I alone in deep joy….and while we were thus talking of His Wisdom and panting for it, with all the effort of our heart we did for one instant attain to touch it; then sighing and leaving the first fruits of our spirit bound to it, we returned to the sound of our own tongue, in which words must have a beginning and end….What we said is this: “If to any man the tumult of the flesh grew silent, silent the images of the earth, sea, and air, and if the heavens grew silent, and the very soul grew silent to herself, and, by not thinking of self, mounted beyond self; if all dreams and images grew silent, and every tongue and every symbol – everything that passes away…and in their silence He alone spoke to us, not by them but by Himself: so that we should hear His Word, not by any tongue of the flesh, not in the voice of an angel, not in the sound of thunder, not in the darkness of a parable – but that we should hear Himself . . .should hear Himself and not them.”
The via negativa one might say, subtracts every
positive attribute of the creation to end up with the essence of the One left thereafter, as Augustine does to hear the naked voice of God.
George Mavrodes looks into puzzles of omnipotence. Can God make a stone that he is unable to lift? If he cannot, then there is something that God is unable to do. If God can do it, then there is still something God cannot do, namely lift the stone once he made it.
Mavrodes helps with Aquinas right at his beginning. Aquinas tries to clarify the meaning of omnipotence, by saying that it is doing all things that are not self-contradictory. What does being able to draw a square circle have to with omnipotence? The answer is nothing. The law of non-contradiction leaves God’s omnipotence in the proper universe of discourse in which the teaching is intended to be.
The dilemma of the stone is also about doing something self-contradictory— and to reply that God cannot, does not damage God’s omnipotence (top p.148).
That a stone becomes too heavy to lift by a power that can lift anything is Self- contradictory. It resembles infinite power to create and infinite power to lift, which has something of Zeno in it. Zeno also featured the contradictions that are associated with infinites.
Boethius follows Nelson Pike because he shows where God’s knowledge from out of the eternal touches everyone of our moments of time, but does not make our actions necessary thereby nor control them. Nelson Pike argues that foreknowledge in one sense really means that all actions have to be determined or controlled by the eternal God, who knows them and believed they would occur. Augustine separates God’s foreknowledge from controlling power.
Nicholas Wolterstorff takes issue with the Hellenization of the Biblical God. God acts in time and is completely involved in our lives and in our history. Greek philosophy places God outside of time, into eternity, where God is impassive, immutable, and detached. This concept of God is very much like Aristotle— the unmoved mover of pure actuality completely uninvolved with the creation. Wolterstorff shows that the Biblical God is involved in temporal events like sending Moses back to Egypt, like participating in the Exodus, like visiting and dwelling on earth in Jesus Christ and being involved in the resurrection. Thus God shares our temporality and does not stay aloof above it, and this means that God is everlasting, but not eternal. Wolterstorf’s distinction attempts to prevent the emasculation of God by Greek philosophy.
Perhaps the Christian teachings about God as a Trinity, which are, however, also much influenced by Greek philosophy, play a role here. Boethius speaks of the peculiar simplicity of God, that Maimonides assumes as well. But Christians speak of the complexity of the Triune God, where the immanent Trinity may well reside in eternity, but the economic Trinity has complete commerce with the temporal.
John Cobb and David Ray Griffin follow Alfred North Whitehead in Process Theology. God’s love is not dispassionate and it is shown only in doing good things for the loved one. God’s love is also responsive, as well as sympathetically compassionate. A “love” that is devoid of genuine sensitivity to the deepest needs of the “loved ones” is problematic for the authors. God’s love is not that of a “do-gooder.” Not because God does not do good, but because “do-gooders” go around trying to impose their own notions of the good that needs doing, without any sensitive responsiveness to the real desires and needs of those they think they are helping (second edition, p. 151).
So as divine absoluteness cannot be the whole story, process theologians speak of divine relativity as well—if people suffer, God suffers, too (second edition, bottom p. 151). The authors disagree with the doctrine of divine simplicity— which I just also tried to counter with greater insight into the Christian Trinity. For the process theologian Hartshorne, God has two poles: an abstract essence and a concrete actuality (Ibid.). As the description of each— one absolute, independent, unchangeable, abstract essence while the other is temporal, relative, dependent and constantly changing, concrete actuality (Ibid.). This teaching they call God’s divine Dipolarity.
God is working to overcome evil and create goodness in the world. But God does not control everything with coercive power, but is persuasive with divine creative influence (p.154).
The moral trust is apt here in relation to control, because the divine creative activity involves risk. God provides an “initial aim,” but the human being can actualize him/herself from a range of inner impulses, among which, the person is free to choose. So evil can come about and it is not incompatible with God’s beneficence to all his creatures (top p.155).
If we truly love others, we do not seek to control them and while traditional theology places God’s power over God’s love, these process theologians place God’s love over His power.
This article is very rewarding. The image of God is separated from coercive control and the essence of God is declared to be persuasive influence, which (from my point of view) if embedded in trust, should win more and more ground in the universe of human experience— so that coercive control recedes not only in our relationship but also in international ones. Control is a last resort to be used with a sense of regret rather than from the thrill that comes about from a sense of imitating the Deity (p. 155), i.e., playing God. As Luther said, “Let God be God!” Those that play god misunderstand the Infinite One completely, too.
 The pages being referred to in this lecture come from the textbook for our course: Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, editors, Philosophy of Religion, Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2007).
 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: a Biography, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 129.
 For the via negative also see Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, Fourth Edition, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), pages 115-117.
 Page 151 in Peterson’s second edition: the authors leave out this article in our third edition. The pages referred to in the remaining part of the lecture come from the second edition of Peterson, et.al.
Arguments for God’s Existence, Philosophy of Religion
Lecture of July 22nd 2004 Diablo Valley College, California
The pages being referred to in this lecture come from the textbook for our course: Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, editors, Philosophy of Religion, Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2007).
Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion,(San Francisco: McGraw Hill Publishers, 2001) wsa also used as a textbook for this course.
Alvin Plantinga recasts the ontological argument into a modal one. Modal logic is one that deals with possibility and necessity. The move he makes in reasoning goes like this:
Logical possibilities and impossibilities do not vary from world to world. That is to say, if a given proposition or state of affairs is impossible in at least one possible world, then it is impossible in every possible world. There are no propositions that in fact are possible but could have been impossible; there are none that are in fact impossible that could have been possible. Accordingly, the non-existence of B (a greatest possible being) is impossible in every possible world; hence it is impossible in this world; hence B exists and exists necessarily. (P. 178)
1. It is possible that there be a being that has maximal greatness.
2. So there is a possible being that in some world W has maximal greatness.
3. A being has maximal greatness in a given world only if it has maximal greatness in every world.
4. A being has maximal excellence in a given world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in that world.
Plantinga goes on to refine his argument further with instantiation rather than existence, but concedes that only if one accepts the existence of God would one accept the argument. But his modal argument provides evidence that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational about the existence of a maximally great being with omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection. (We have to leave the Ontological Argument here.)
The bare bones of the Cosmological Argument (Sheyna)
1. Everything has a cause.
2. Nothing can cause itself.
(1,2) 3. Everything that is moved is moved by another.
4. Things are moving.
(3,4) 5. Something has to move things.
(5) 6. No infinite regress is possible.
(3,6) 7. There is an unmoved Mover (God).
There are two problems: why does the proof point to God? What makes the unmoved mover benevolent? Is this God still there after having set the world in motion? So the conclusion of the argument, even if it is valid, does not give any indications about the Prime Mover. Secondly, David Hume argued that there is nothing logically inconsistent about an infinite regression.
William Lane Craig, who revived the medieval Islamic Kalam version of the cosmological argument, argues the claim that the universe is an actual infinity of events – or that there could be an infinite regress of events or causes in it – is absurd. This absurdity can be illustrated by the puzzles an actual infinite resents. In the case of the Hilbert Hotel with an infinite number of rooms, an infinite number of guests can be added to an already infinite number who have rooms in it, and thereafter, there are still an infinite number of guests in the hotel. In our text page 199 the puzzles of a library with an infinite number of books, each of which have an infinite number of pages is considered. There would be as many pages in the first book of the library as are in the whole collection of books in the library. The problem of infinite sets is dealt with on p. 200. In finite sets the whole is greater than any of the parts and there is a one to one correspondence between their members. In infinite sets only the latter is true, not the former rule. While in the abstract realm of mathematics such infinites are possible, in the actual concrete world, they produce absurd puzzles. Similarly, there are two kinds of non-Euclidian geometry, our text continues (p. 200), but only the Euclidian one fits into our actual space. It is instructive to compare the refutation of an infinite regression on page 201 with that of Aquinas using Aristotle‘s reasoning on page 186. The former includes such comments as
If any past event has not already been actualized, then the present could not have occurred. This means that the past is actual and contains a specifiable, determinate number of events. This chain of events must have a first member. (Page 201)
Then another statement:
since one cannot reach infinity one at a time, then if the past was actually infinite, the present moment could not have been reached. For to come to the present moment, and actual infinite would have to have been [traversed]. (Ibid.)
St. Thomas argumentation following Aristotle concludes much the same thing. And it is the same rationale the early atomists Leucippus and Democritus (460-370 B.C.E.) used to start with an uncuttable particle. (“Atom” in Greek is derived from “uncuttable.”) Otherwise all reality would disappear into a vortex of an infinite regression. Thus they began with atoms positing that everything that exists began with them. Our text asserts that an infinite regression is like trying to count to zero from a negative infinity. It is like trying to jump out of a bottomless pit. (P. 202-203) Zeno‘s paradoxes also revolve around the puzzles of abstract, negative, and actual infinites. All these reasons support the Kalam argument that the universe has to have had a beginning.
J. P. Moreland explaining the Kalam argument also uses the big bang theory and the second law of thermodynamics to support the claim that the universe had a beginning, i.e., it could not be infinite. For the most part the theory of the oscillating universe has been put to rest. It requires that the universe be twice as dense as it actually is. Thus the big bang is the event that begins the universe, first a dimensionless geometric point that is exploding into the expanding universe we inhabit. If the universe would be contracting and expanding, i.e., oscillating infinitely, then the energy and heat loss, according to the second law thermodynamics, would already have spelled the “heat death” of the universe. Thus these two scientific theories support the claim that the universe had a beginning.
Because something does not come from nothing, it is reasonable to believe that the world was caused. Events have a definite beginning and end, and they do not happen if they are not caused. God on the other hand does not need a cause, since God is neither an event nor a contingent being. God is a necessary being, who is uncaused. It is a category fallacy to ask for the cause of God since this is really asking for the cause of an uncaused being. (P. 206) Finally when asking about the necessary and sufficient conditions for the cause that began the universe, it has to be personal. For a physicalist to maintain they are not personal, the necessary and sufficient conditions for the event that began the universe had to exist from all eternity in a timeless, changeless state. But that does not explain why the event that began all things happened. The only reasonable explanation is that a spontaneous free act of a person or agent caused the event that began the universe. Q.E.D.(P. 208)
Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion,(San Francisco: McGraw Hill Publishers, 2001), p. 22.
16th of May, 2008
Today’s New York Times had an interesting article about Chinese superstition spread by bloggers over the Internet. (It is on page A 10 and authored by Andrew Jacobs.) In the days before the earthquake in the Sichuan Province, the stories go, that ponds inexplicably drained, cows flung themselves against their enclosures, and swarms of toads invaded the town of Mianzhu. The latter event was confirmed and took place two days before the earthquake. 3,000 people died in Mianzhu and 4,500 are still missing.
The draining of a lake would have something to do with the quake, but the prescience of the cows or toads may well be a fallacy of thought, or perhaps not. The fallacy in reasoning that I am referring to is false cause: post hoc, ergo propter hoc. In English that means “after which, therefore because of which.” Because the earthquake happened after these events, they therefore happened because of them. But my reasoning is not yet precise.
A draining of a lake, if true, would be correspondence; it corresponded with the seismic events and could have indicated some geological event was afoot. But that is, if it really occurred.
The argument is not, in terms of the other cases, a matter of cause, but whether the cows and the toads were prescient of the coming quake and thus could have given the people an indication that it was coming.
Let’s step back. Empiricism, that reliable knowledge derives from the senses, and rationalism, that it derives from logical reasoning, need to be aided and abetted by the scientific method in order to determine whether or not an event is a false cause or a real one. Just because something happens after something else, does not mean that it caused it. After the people of an ancient city built a statue of a god, an earthquake hit. They tore it down, reasoning that it had caused the event. Superstition is rife with false causes.
But the argument is not that the toads, for example, caused the earthquake, but that they were prescient of its coming and their swarming into the town was a portent warning the population that a natural disaster was about to come. The Internet bloggers argue that the government did not care enough to warn, evacuate, and protect the people.
First of all, the sign that the toads represented was negative, and interpreted as such by the frightened population, but otherwise very ambiguous. How would the government or any sages for that matter, know that it meant a coming earthquake and not a fire, storm, or other natural catastrophe?
Two days before the earthquake, when the toads had swarmed into the town, the director of the Mianzhu Forestry Bureau tried to calm the terror of the residents on TV by saying that the mass migration of the toads was a normal part of their breeding season. That, of course, does not seem reasonable, because the people would not have reacted with fear, if such a swarm of toads was a normal occurrence. The people had insisted that the invasion of toads was a harbinger of bad things.
Here is where the scientific method has to come in. could animal life in some way become prescient of coming natural disasters? Perhaps that is the rational reason behind the ancients’ trying to read portents and signs from the flight of birds. In the sixteenth century, abnormal births of animals also were read as portents of evils to come. Our genetic understanding of mutations clears up that superstition.
But animals may well be closer to nature than human beings and may react more sensitively to indications of a coming catastrophe. The ability of dogs to read and understand smells, far surpasses ours and lets them guide us to people buried under the earthquake rubble. Birds may have instincts attuned to magnetic forces that guide their flights. The problem becomes that such signs may not be ambiguous about whether or not a coming event is negative, but it is ambiguous about what event is indicated. Stories go that animals were aware of the coming Christmas Tsunami and ran for higher ground. Such an occurrence is hard to read accurately and there is no evidence that the story is true. I myself have been awakened by dogs barking very strangely in the night and then the jolt of an earthquake hit our house that sounded like a truck.
It might be the case that in our separation from nature, creatures more fully embedded in nature, may have some prescience to natural catastrophes that we do not have. Meteorologically, science and technology have given us great advance; it is wished that the victims of the Tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar could have had it! We are not there yet with earthquakes, however, and portents remain ambiguous.
Our bodies, however, sometimes know more than we consciously know. Thus our dreams often contain symbols that give fruitful instruction at the incomprehensible edges of our lives. When a bright cross covered the full moon in a deep blue sky in Gruenberg, Silesia, (Schlesien) during World War II, my father, a pastor, was asked by the people to interpret it. All those who gazed at the cross felt that it was a portent, a sign of things to come. “It foretells a time of great sorrow.” he said. I think it crystallized my father’s foreboding that the Russian army was closing in and the days would become very evil.
Despite the kindly bishop, who calmed the people and tried to persuade my father not to take fight, the family packed all its belongings and left. I was one year old at the time so we were a family of eleven. Dreadful things did happen when the Russians Army took revenge on the Germans. My father, who always seemed to be praying, had read the sign accurately.
Here I was going to just describe a fallacy of thinking and look at where I’ve ended up!
From my Dissertation March 10, 2001
Luther speaks about change versus improvement:
“Often have I said that change and improvement are two different things (but who will believe me until they experience it?): one lies in human hands and God‘s ordaining; the other in God‘s hands and gracious favor.“
From Luther’s Commentary on Psalm 101, written in 1534.
I you do not know the way scholars refer to the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works,
“WA 51:258.22‑24” means:
Volume 51 in the Weimar Edition of Luther‘s Works, page 258, lines 22-24.
The quotation in Luther’s Early New High German:
Denn ich hab nu offt gesagt (wer wolt mir aber gleuben, bis mans  erfare?), Das Endern und Bessern sind zweierley. Eines stehet jnn der menschen  hende und Gottes verhengen, Das ander jnn Gottes henden und gnaden.
As taken from my dissertation:
The direct action of God is so important, because God alone brings improvement, while humans bring only change. In Luther‘s Commentary for Psalm 101 (1534), a Fürstenspiegel, ( a mirror for princes) for the elector John Frederick, the Magnanimous, he wrote:
“change and improvement are two different things: one lies in human hands and God‘s ordaining; the other in God‘s hands and gracious favor.“
Now directly from the WA:
Denn ich hab nu offt gesagt (wer wolt mir aber gleuben, bis mans erfare?), Das Endern
Und Bessern sind zweierley. Eines stehet jnn der menschen hende und Gottes verhengen,
Das ander jnn Gottes henden und gnaden.
To put that in modern German:
„Denn ich habe nun oft gesagt (wer wollt mir aber glauben, bis man’s erfahre?):
Das Verändern und Verbessern sind zeierlei. Eines steht in der Menschen Hände und Gottes Verhängen. Das Andere in Gottes Händen und Gnaden.“ 
 I first read this passage in the Borchert and Merz edition of Luther’s Works. It was the one produced right before World War II. But it can also be found in the WA, that is, volume 51 in the Weimar Edition of Luther‘s Works, page 258, lines 22‑24.