“I will now turn my attention to theological noncognitivism. This is the view that theological terms (such as ‘God’ and ‘the supernatural’) are non-sensical, and cannot even be entertained as concepts. I will focus here on the term ‘God’ as defined and used by Steve Hays, one of the Triabloggers….But what is mind? By taking the human mind to be aspatial, Steve is refusing to locate it in the human brain. Yet, Steve says that neuroscientists, by studying the brain, can study ‘manifestations’ of the human mind. This implies that the human mind is at least in some way spatial.”
i) It implies nothing of the kind. Abstract objects like numbers can be manifested in time and space. This doesn’t imply that numbers are spatial or temporal.
ii) Keep in mind that this isn’t a dividing point between theist and atheist. For example, Platonic realism is a live option in mathematics. Many mathematicians, even if they reject Platonic realism, would never say that Platonic realism is nonsensical. That abstract objects can’t even be entertained as concepts.
A number of secular philosophers have argued for the existence of abstract objects. Can these philosophers not even form a concept of their own position?
Streitfeld’s argument is not simply with me, the Christian, at this point, but with any thinker, theistic or atheistic, who believes in timeless and/or spaceless entities.
iii) Incidentally, there’s nothing extraordinary about the experience of remote awareness. By Streitfeld’s logic, if I stub my big toe, then my consciousness must reside in my toe since I feel pain in my toe.
iv) Apropos (iii), case studies in parapsychology furnish more dramatic examples of remote awareness.
“Generally, when we think of the mind, we think of thought. Minds are thinking things. But thought takes time. That is presumably why Steve says that the human mind is temporal.”
No, I say the human mind is temporal because successive mental states are a feature of human cognition.
“Yet, this would preclude the possibility of there being an atemporal mind.”
That begs the question of whether temporal succession is an essential feature of mentality, rather than an incidental feature of finite minds.
“Steve also says that God does not interact with or respond to the physical world, which is both spatial and temporal. (We may pause to note that the Bible offers many examples of God interacting with spatio-temporal events; e.g., God is depicted as engaging Job in conversation. This runs contrary to Steve’s usage.)”
Of course, I’ve already discussed this issue in relation to open theism. The fact that God effects a conversation with Job doesn’t mean the divine agent must enter into time to cause a temporal effect.
If you play computer chess, you are, in a roundabout sense, playing chess with the computer programmer. Yet you’re not directly interacting with the computer programmer when you play computer chess. He doesn’t occupy your time and space at the time you play chess. He’s not sitting across the table from you. He’s not waiting for you to make a move before he makes a countermove. Indeed, he may be dead by the time you play computer chess.
Streitfeld has such a simpleminded grasp of elementary issues.
“Steve also says that God ‘can instantiate any compossible state of affairs.’ Steve is here coupling the term ‘God’ with the verb ‘instantiate.’ Like all dynamic verbs (as opposed to stative verbs), ‘instantiate’ denotes an action. To instantiate something is to do something. Actions are events. Thus, God cannot instantiate anything. This is a contradiction in Steve’s usage.”
i) Streitfeld fails to distinguish between cause and effect. The fact that the effect is temporal doesn’t entail the temporality of the cause. A cause is not necessarily an event. Rather, the cause is a cause of an event. Some causes are prior events, but it doesn’t follow that every cause is, itself, an event.
ii) For one thing, that depends on your theory of causation. A counterfactual theory of causation doesn’t require temporal precedence.
iii) The secular philosopher and physicist Quentin Smith has argued that time itself is the temporal effect of a timeless cause. Ironically, Streitfeld won’t even allow a fellow atheist like Smith to present an atheistic cosmology. That would be “nonsensical.”
“For example, the sentence ‘God loves mankind’ indicates that God maintains some feelings about mankind. The maintaining of feelings requires time. God thus cannot maintain any feelings, or any state of affairs whatsoever.”
Streitfeld fails to distinguish between popular usage and technical usage. In ordinary language we use tensed verbs to express God’s attitude towards humanity.
However, if we wish to express ourselves with greater theological or philosophical precision, we can eliminate tense from our description. For a timeless God, there was never a time when he didn’t love the elect. But this isn’t synonymous with the claim that God loves the elect at all the times or all of the time. Rather, time is not a factor. God’s love is literally timeless.