Saturday, January 21, 2012

A pretty good couple of moments for Newt

Today is the date of the South Carolina primary, and it looks as if the conservative vote is going to rally around Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are both dropping off in the SC polls. Right now, Romney is ahead in Florida (which will be Tuesday, January 31), but that is certain to change if the headline in SC reads "Newt Wins South Carolina".

The measure of a lifetime

Beth’s Chimerism test results came in yesterday, at 100% of the donor’s DNA, and 0% of her old marrow. There is no sign of the disease. She is not out of the woods yet, but this is what we wanted to see at this point. She is still contending with some of the difficulties of graft vs host. She still has some itchies. Other problems she wouldn’t care to have me mention. But remember, too, that it is the graft vs host effect that will continue to provide a graft vs leukemia effect – it will continue to work inside her to attack and kill any latent leukemia, bad bone marrow, etc.

I view this as a miracle, and I hope to write about it in the near future. This is a woman who had a disease for which, if you don’t go through a bone marrow transplant, the life expectancy is 12 to 24 months. Now she has a new lease on life. She can potentially live for 20 or 30 years or more. True, she will need to be continually monitored throughout her lifetime. And true, the leukemia can re-emerge at some point. But I look at this in the light of what’s happened to Denise Sproul, (R.C. Sproul Jr’s wife). I have six kids, including some younger kids, and I prayed hard that my little girls would not lose their mom. R.C. has eight kids. I just marvel at how and why God does the things that he does.

Not long after the little girl photo to the left was taken, Beth suffered a kind of triple tragedy in her life: her parents divorced, her mom came down with Multiple Sclerosis (which incapacitated her very quickly), and then she and her mom and sister were then moved to another state where they lived with grandparents who didn’t really want them and weren’t very kind about it. All of that happened within just a couple of years. It led to a hard life in which she became a runaway, was in and out of foster homes, and eventually led her to join the army. And once, as a young woman, she found security in the army years, it made sense, from her perspective, to join the army as a 40 year old woman when another national crisis occurred.

I love the little girl photograph of her on the left. Because she grew up in a broken home, we have very few photos of her as a little girl. And I look at her today, after all she’s been through, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that hers is a lifetime that’s been given to me. That is, even though I only met her at age 26, and I didn’t know her as a little girl, but everything she is, everything she’s suffered from that point till this, has been entrusted to me, as her husband. Over these last months, I have kept the little girl photo handy, and my prayer often took the form, “Lord, please enable me to do right by this little girl.”

God uses the things that we suffer to shape our lives. In some very real way, our sufferings are a part of us.

A mind at the end of its tether

I’m going to quote in full, then comment on, Michael Sudduth’s recent deconversion testimonial:

My Conversion to Vaishnava Vedanta:
An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends
"Knowing me as the enjoyer
of all worship, the Lord of all worlds,
the dearest friend of all beings,
that man gains perfect peace."
(Bhagavad Gita 5:29)
Since summer 2011 I have received a number of emails from Christian friends who have inquired about a perceived shift in my theological beliefs. I think it’s been relatively clear in my various status updates and comments to respondents on Facebook that I have developed a very positive appraisal of eastern religion, specifically the bhakti tradition of Vaishnavism. For a number of years I have had a growing interest in and appreciation for the insights of Vedanta philosophy and the various Vaishnava traditions. I wish now to disclose to my Facebook friends that I have come to personally embrace many of the fundamental beliefs and practices of Gaudiya Vaishnavism (GV). While I still retain many of my former Christian beliefs, the move in the direction of GV marks a decisive break with my long-standing adherence to traditional Christianity. I feel it’s important at this time to explain the nature, grounds, and evolution of this substantial and dramatic change in my theological perspective and spiritual practice.
I. From Christianity to Vaishnavism: The Move Eastwards
I have spent twenty-five years as a Protestant Christian, a tradition that I came to through my reading of the Bible and personal experience of the Lord Jesus Christ in my early 20’s. For most of these twenty-five years I have been an adherent of the Reformed theological tradition, though with an appreciation for both Catholicism and Protestant traditions other than my own. As a professional philosopher of religion since the mid 1990’s, I have devoted much of my work to bringing as much clarity as possible to important questions concerning the nature of religious knowledge, the concept of God, and the project of natural theology (i.e., rational arguments for God’s existence). I have regularly streamlined these interests in the philosophy of religion with their relevance to and development in the context of Reformed philosophical theology.
Despite my long-standing adherence to the Christian tradition, my spiritual journey has now moved me eastward and outside the framework of Christian theism. For the past few years I have been increasingly drawn to the Indian philosophy of Vedanta, specifically the bhakti tradition of Vaishnavism. By being “drawn” to Vedanta I mean both a philosophical attraction to the ideas of Vaishnava Vedanta (and GV in particular) and an experiential attraction to the person of Lord Krishna in my spiritual/devotional life. This began with my readings in the Bhagavad Gita over the past several years (including a reading of Ramanuja’s Gita Bhasya), dramatically intensified in 2011, and culminated in a powerful religious experience of Krishna in the fall of 2011. It was this personal experience of Krishna that inspired me to visit Audarya, a Gaudiya Vaishnava ashram in northern California, during Thanksgiving of last year. There I discovered what I had in a sense known for quite some time: the depth of my love for Lord Krishna as the person who now reveals God to me in a way essential to my spiritual life.
I would like to share the details of my conversion process, as well as briefly explain how I see my new perspective in relation to my former religious identity as a Protestant Christian.
II. The Bhagavad Gita and Spiritual Transformation
I started teaching the Bhagavad Gita in my world religions classes several years ago. It was a time of great transition in my personal life, and, as is often the case with times of transition, it was also a time of intense spiritual struggle. While I was drawing wonderful support and guidance from the Bible during this time, as I began my systematic and in-depth exploration of the Bhagavad Gita, I found myself profoundly affected by this text. Krishna’s words would stay with me, often arising spontaneously in my mind at times of crisis. They not only instilled a wonderful serenity in me, gradually they began illuminating many aspects of my life and relationship to God.  I will discuss some of these insights below. Most importantly, though, I sometimes found myself overwhelmed with a powerful sense of the presence of God while reading from the Bhagavad Gita, in much the same way that I had often experienced God through reading the Bible.
Many of my Facebook friends are aware of the many past references to my “jetted tub,” which I know many of you found humorous. But I tell you now that I liked that tub most because I spent countless nights there reading from the Gita, with tears of joy running down my face as I read the words of Lord Krishna and felt the presence of God.
"The man who sees me in everything
and everything within me
will not be lost to me, nor
will I ever be lost to him.
He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being; wherever
he goes, he remains in me."
(Bhagavad Gita, 6:30-31)
This dynamic engagement with the Bhagavad Gita intensified in early 2011, shortly after my near fatal car accident on March 28, 2011. The accident was in itself a catalyst for profound personal and spiritual transformation, and it’s fair to say that my relationship with the Bhagavad Gita would never be the same after this. It’s difficult even at this time to adequately express the decisive break I experienced with my former life in the aftermath of the accident. At the moment of impact I accepted the inevitability and imminence of my own death for the first time in my life. In that moment I let go of everything, every attachment (e.g., family, friends, career, belongings, projects, future plans), even the attachment to life itself. In a sense, I actually died in that moment. When the vehicle came to a stop and the shattering glass had settled, I was conscious, but I was not the same. In letting go of my attachments, I had shed the harder layers of my self, or more precisely the self I had become through my various attachments to non-enduring aspects of my life. In the aftermath of the accident, which miraculously my then five-year old son and I survived, I found myself with the most beautiful gratitude for life. I found myself with a bliss and enjoyment of God that I had not known for many years in my life, and perhaps had never known at all.  I had the most profound sense of God’s presence in the sight of the sky, clouds and mountains, and in the fragrance of the air and each breath I took, and ultimately a sense of the divine presence within my own heart. If I died on that day in March 2011, clearly I was reborn.
"Abandoning all desires,
acting without craving, free
from all thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’
that man finds utter peace.
This is the divine state, Arjuna.
Absorbed in it, everywhere, always,
Even at the moment of death,
he vanishes into God’s bliss."
(Bhagavad Gita, 2:71-72)
Many of Krishna’s identity claims would spontaneously arise in my mind in the days following the accident.
"There is nothing more fundamental
than I, Arjuna; all worlds;
all beings, are strung upon me
like pearls on a single thread.
I am the taste in water,
the light in the moon and sun,
the sacred syllable Om
in the Vedas, the sound in air.
I am the fragrance in the earth. .  .
I am the primal seed
within all beings, Arjuna."
(Bhagavad Gita, 7:7-10)
"I am the heat of the sun.
I hold back the rain and release it;
I am death, and the deathless,
And all that is and is not."
(Bhagavad Gita, 9:19)
As before, words such as these illuminated my life, comforted me, and guided me, but this time I began to feel the presence of God through Lord Krishna himself, not merely his words. Better put, I was beginning to experience Krishna himself through his words. Krishna and his words were becoming one. And I found God directly present to me in such experiences, but present to me in such a way that I experienced both tremendous awe and reverence for God and a deep intimacy with God through my consciousness of Lord Krishna. And I began to see my former “God conceptions” as limited expressions of a fuller, richer, and more experientially meaningful view of God that was now present in Lord Krishna himself.
In summer 2011 I began listening to lectures on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami B.V. Tripurari, a Vaishnava sannyasi (renunciate) and the guru of one of my former students. Under the guidance of Swami Tripurari I began digging deeper into the Gita and acquired a wonderful understanding of the GV tradition’s understanding of the Gita, which interestingly corresponded in many ways to my own.
Feeling more deeply drawn to Krishna, throughout summer 2011 I had regularly devoted time to meditating on the lilas of Krishna, that is, his activities on earth as described in the Bhagavad Gita and the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It was at this time that I began regularly reciting the maha “Hare Krishna” mantra as part of my daily routine as well as listening to and singing bhajans, often on my iPhone while driving.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna, Krishna
Hare, Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama, Rama,
Hare, Hare
I experienced a wonderful sense of God’s presence in the chanting and singing of this mantra.
III. My Religious Experience of Sri Krishna
Having spent the entire summer deeply engaged in readings in the Gita and the lectures of Swami Tripurari, I began the fall semester with a wonderful enthusiasm for teaching the Gita once again. But I did not anticipate what would happen to me on September 16, 2011: a profoundly moving religious experience of Krishna himself, of even greater intensity than I had felt before in my readings of the Gita.
On Thursday, September 15th I spent time in the afternoon meditating on Krishna’s lilas while listening to singer and musician Deva Premal’s “Homeage to Krishna.” Later in the evening I spent some time working on my final lecture on the Bhagavad Gita, to be given the next day, and then I went to bed. I meditated for a few moments on the later part of Gita chapter 18, on which I had spent some time earlier in the evening. These passages in particular:
"If you focus your mind on me
and revere me with all your heart,
you will surely come to me; this
I promise, because I love you."
(Bhagavad Gita, 18:65)
"Krishna, I see the truth now
By your immeasurable kindness.
I have no more doubts; I will act
according to your command."
(Bhagavad Gita, 18:73)
Around 4:20am (Friday morning) September 16th, I woke suddenly from a deep sleep to the sound of the name of “Krishna” being uttered in some way, as if someone was present in my room and had spoken his name out loud. Upon waking I immediately had a most profound sense of Krishna's actual presence in my bedroom, a presence no less real than the presence of another living person in the room, though I was alone at the time. I responded to this felt presence, first through my thoughts that repeated Krishna’s name (and inquired of his presence), and then verbally out loud by uttering Krishna’s name twice: Krishna, Krishna. I was seized at this moment with a most sweet feeling of completeness and joy. I felt as if Krishna was there with me in my room and actually heard my voice, and that my response had completed a process that began with his name within my mind. I pondered this experience for several minutes, while at the same time continuing to experience a most blissful serenity and feeling of oneness with God, not unlike I had experienced on many occasions in the past in my relationship with the Lord Jesus. It was a most profound sense of both awe and intimacy with God in the form of Lord Krishna.
I should add, and I think this is very important, that I felt I was experiencing the same God that I had experienced on many occasions throughout my Christian life. However, I felt like this being was showing me a different face, side, or aspect to Himself, or – better yet – a different mode of my relationship to Him. I felt a certain validation of my spiritual journey, both past and present. I had gone so far in my Christian faith, but it was now necessary for me to relate to God as Lord Krishna.
After my journey to Audarya in November 2011 (See my facebook note Reflections on Audarya), I had further confirmation that my heart had taken root in the soil of the eastern bhakti traditions. I can only describe my experience as one of being irresistibly drawn to Sri Krishna, overwhelmed with His power and beauty, convinced of his Godhead – in short overflowing with love for Him as the Supreme Personality of the Godhead, and through him love for all beings, as He resides in the hearts of all beings.
Since this time I have experienced Krishna’s presence in the air, mountains, ocean, trees, cows, and equally within myself. I experience Him in the outer and inner worlds, and my heart is regularly filled with serenity and bliss. In short, I have learned the essence of the Gita. As Ramakrishna once said, repeat the name “Gita” ten times and you will know the essence of the Bhagavad Gita: GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA GITA. The name “Gita” will transform verbally into the word “Tagi.” “Gita” means “song” (Bhagavad Gita – song of the Lord) and “tagi” means “absolute surrender.” Having surrendered to God, the Gita has become the actual song that passes through my lips in every moment of awe and intimacy with the creator as He manifests himself through his shaktis (energies) in the world. And the love is returned: flowing from Him to me. And I have the strongest of conviction that love arose in me by virtue of his own love, drawing me to Himself.
"Concentrate your mind on me
fill your heart with my presence,
love me, serve me, worship me,
and you will attain me at last."
(Bhagavad Gita, 9:34)
"Now listen to my final words,
the deepest secret of all;
I am speaking to you for your own welfare,
since you are precious to me.
If you focus your mind on me
and revere me with all your heart
you will surely come to me; this
I promise, because I love you."
(Bhagavad Gita, 18:64-65)
IV. Exploring Gaudiya Vaishnavism (GV)
Although my movement towards Vaishnavism has been largely experiential in its genesis, as indicated above over the past few years I have increasingly found different aspects of Vedanta theologically and philosophically appealing to me. Here are some of the points of intellectual attraction in connection with GV in particular.
(1) GV articulates a model of love of God (bhakti) in which “intimacy” and “separation” are both acknowledged as essential and dynamically coordinated elements in the human-divine love relation. Moreover, there is not only a detailed model of bhakti itself in GV but a set of spiritual practices that are efficacious in cultivating it.
(2) In connection with (1), Krishna as the Supreme personality of the Godhead embodies both aishvarya (lordship) and madhurya (sweetness) qualities, which make Him the most perfect object of bhakti (under the separation-intimacy assumption embedded in (1) above). Krishna’s aishvarya qualities are His majestic qualities (e.g., omnipotent, omniscient creator and controller of the cosmos), which give rise to feelings of awe and reverence for the Lord.
The aishvarya elements induce in us a profound sense of the distinction or separation between the self and God. This is essential to bhakti since love of the other presupposes the actual otherness of the other and therefore a certain degree of separation between lover and beloved. This idea of separation is half of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophical equation and works to intensify one’s love for God when properly cultivated.
Krishna’s madhurya qualities are His human qualities that engender a deep sense of closeness and intimacy with Him (e.g., his playfulness as a child in Vrindavan, His friendship with Arjuna, flute playing cowherd, youthful dancer, His relationships with thegopis, His physical beauty, etc). This is the second part of the equation and equally essential in the bhakti tradition because one’s love for God manifests in varying degrees/modes of union with God.
(3) Related to (1) and (2), the GV tradition specifically views the relationship between God and the self as an inconceivable and simultaneous difference and non-difference (achintya bheda abheda tattva). This strikes a wonderful balance between the monism of Advaita Vedanta and the strong dualism of the Dvaita schools originating from Madhva (and also reflected in most streams of the Christian tradition). As I see it, the ways of unqualified oneness and unqualified separateness (between self and God) each tends ultimately to dissolve the love relationship between the self and God. Love requires a merging of two beings into one, yet without a loss of their individuality. This is inconceivable, but its truth is the precondition for the possibility of real love between the self and God. Consequently, I now accept a panentheistic metaphysics in which the universe and human souls are, to put it roughly, in the being of God.
(4) GV has the intellectual resources for a reasonable inclusivist understanding of religion. By this I mean a few things.
A sensible way of acknowledging religious truth found across different religious traditions.
A sensible account of the efficacy of different religious traditions to guide their adherents to salvation, whilst
retaining the truth of a particular, robust, and historically grounded religious tradition.
True to its conception of God as infinite or absolute being, GV acknowledges that God is manifested in diverse ways and that God-realization (or salvation) takes on diverse forms. God is one, but we do not relate to Him in one way. Krishna means the “all attractive one.” He draws all people to himself, but in accordance with their own dispositions and tendencies. “However men try to reach me, I return their love with my love; whatever path they travel, it leads to me in the end” (Bhagavad Gita, 4:11).
Krishna is the all-attractive Absolute who is manifested in the different religious traditions of the world. There is merging into impersonal Brahman. There are also distinctly theistic experiences in which the self encounters a personal God. Some experience the personal God under the name “Yahweh,” others “Allah;” and others “Jesus.” The names are many; God is one. Of these experiences, some are awe and reverence experiences; some are more unitive experiences with varying degrees of sensed intimacy between the self and God. Some are combinations of separation and intimacy. GV acknowledges that transcendental consciousness (the aim of nearly all religious traditions) is in fact variegated in nature. There are different modes or degrees of penetration into transcendence. For Gaudiya Vaishnavas, the transcendental experience of impersonal Brahman is not the ultimate religious experience, however, it is a legitimate one and need not be discredited. It occurs when the individual spirit soul, the jiva, merges into the brahma-jyoti, (something akin to the aura or effulgence radiating from the body of Krishna himself). Similarly, those who worship Lord Jesus experience a mode of transcendence through a particular divine incarnation.
As Swami Tripurari has stated:
"Thoughtful, objective analysis reveals that all Gods are but partial manifestations of the same purusa, Sri Krsna, and all Goddesses partial expressions of the primal sakti, Sri Radha. Krsna possesses all attributes of divinity found in other incarnations as well as aspects found in him alone. There can be only one God, yet . . . he has many expressions of himself." ~ Swami Tripurari (Rasa: Love Relationships in Transcendence, p. 71)
Just as there are different practices that produce these different experiences of God realization, GV acknowledges that how we experience God depends on different aspects of our own personalities. This seems supported by a substantial body of literature in western psychology extending back to William James. The religious impulse is deep in human nature, part of the imago dei (according to the Christian tradition), but it takes on various forms (not merely because of sin – as Christians would say), but because of features of our individual psychology and local culture. God doesn’t override this in the scheme of salvation, but works through it. Otherwise put, given human nature, it is not surprising that God should manifest Himself to human persons in diverse ways.
(5) GV maintains that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the fons et origo of GV) is the combined manifestation of Krishna and Radharani. In the lila of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Radharani was Krishna’s consort and the highest caliber devotee. She demonstrated unparalleled, pure love for Krishna. It is said that Krishna could not begin to fathom the depths of her love for Him so he appeared in this special combined incarnation to taste the highest levels of devotion to Himself. I find this a wonderful image that complements the Christian idea of God taking on human nature to achieve righteousness for the sinner and to pay the penalty for sin for the sinner. It is most fitting that God would seek to experience the love of the devotee in much the same way that he would seek to experience the suffering of the devotee (in the person of Jesus). In Christ God suffers with us. In Chaitanya, God loves with us.  In each case, there is an important identification between God and us. God tastes the suffering that distances us from Him and the love that brings us near to Him.
I think it’s important to underscore, mainly for the sake of my Christian friends, two points relevant to the relationship between my adherence to the principles outlined above and Christian theism. I do not perceive myself as worshipping a different God than I did as a Christian. It’s the same God under a different (and for me fuller) manifestation. Krishna reveals himself in diverse ways across culture and time, personality and life circumstance. Christians and Muslims are also bhaktas, though they cultivate love of God in a different way.
Secondly, the basic principles of Gaudiya Vaishnavism are logically compatible with a number of fundamental Christian beliefs: the deity of Christ, virgin birth, his resurrection, and the soteriological importance (even necessity of) his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. In converting to Vaishnavism I do not relinquish these beliefs but simply situate them in a different philosophical and theological context. That being said, I intend in the future to write on the subject of the relationship between the above aspects of GV and Christian theism.
For those who are interested in learning about the different Vaishnava traditions, I would recommend reading the online historical account here:
V. The Road Ahead
My conversion to Vaishnava Vedanta will not alter my continuing interest in the areas of philosophy of religion that have interested me for many years, but it will signal a shift in emphasis to working on these issues now in the context of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and its relationship to western theism. While there have been many books written on the relationship between Vaishnavism and Christian theism, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in this area. At an earlier time I announced that I had started working on a book on Yoga and Christianity. While I still think that popular Christian criticisms of yoga are pretty silly and riddled with misrepresentations and over simplifications of so-called “Hinduism,” I have decided to focus rather on a book on theism and modes of transcendence for my philosophy classes.
I wish to express my appreciation for those Christian friends who have expressed patience and openness regarding my spiritual journey and theological changes. I wish to especially thank my Christian friends who – due to their love for me and passion for truth – will continue to be gracious interlocutors with me on matters that we equally deem of ultimate importance, even if we should approach this truth from different paths. Since two eyes are better than one, I hope they will benefit as I have from the broadening of vision that comes from dialogue across traditions. I have no interest in converting any of my Christian friends to Vaishnavism, but I do hope that we shall each help make each other better devotees in our respective faiths.
Hare Krishna, Jai Krishna, Jai Radhe
Michael Sudduth

Several problems:

i) Frankly, the juvenile tone sounds like a schoolgirl crush on a teen idol. Bieber fever. While that maybe natural and age-appropriate for a teenybopper, for a middle-aged man to carry on this way reflects emotional immaturity.

ii) As I recall, Michael has been on antidepressants. I don’t say that as a criticism. There can be perfectly legitimate reasons for that. Still, someone who’s been in a condition requiring psychotropic meds isn’t necessarily in the best position to evaluate his own state of mind.

iii) I trace Michael’s problems back to when, as a teenager, he and some friends toyed with a ouija board. This precipitated some paranormal experiences.

I think dabbling in the occult opened a door which he was never able to close. Later in life he found himself living in a haunted house. He’s also experienced Old Hag syndrome on a regular basis.

I think he’s been under some degree of occultic bondage for most of his life. Never able to shake free of that. It left him susceptible and vulnerable.

iv) To my knowledge, Michael has never been biblically oriented. His Christian faith has always been more philosophically oriented. Now, there’s nothing wrong with philosophical theology. But Christianity is ultimately based on historic revelation. Unless your faith is moored in Scripture, you’re adrift.

v) Michael’s makeshift syncretism is an exercise in self-deception. A way to rationalize his idolatry. Jesus is squarely in the jealous God tradition of Isaiah and the Pentateuch. That can’t be harmonized with devotion to “Lord Krishna.”

vi) One thing we always need to ask ourselves is how we know what we believe is true. What’s our source of information? Is it reliable?

In the nature of the case, Michael’s experience can’t be veridical. For Michael is positing a fundamental dichotomy between how we perceive reality and reality in itself. He seems to combine this with a type of modalism according to which an ultimate divine reality projects itself into nature and history in a wide variety of disparate manifestations. But somehow these all map back onto the same ultimate reality.

An obvious problem with this paradigm is that, from our side of the transaction, we’d be in no position to compare our experience with reality. Because we’re on the receiving end of this process, we can’t retrace the process to arrive at a knowledge of what the source of origin is truly like.

And not just because we’re the recipients, but because the framework itself posits a blackbox between our subjective experience and objective reality.

Michael is fudging by tacitly acting as if he enjoys a privileged topdown perspective. As if he can start from a God’s-eye viewpoint. But if what he says is true, then he could never know it’s true. If what he says is true, then no one (including himself) has the inside track on what ultimate reality is ultimately like.

vii) Which brings us to another point: what does Michael think Krishna represents? Why does he think Krishna lies behind experience? What kind of entity does he think Krishna is?

Why think Krishna is real? Why think Krishna is a person?

What’s the relationship between Krishna and Jesus? Is Jesus a projection of Krishna? Is Jesus a different manifestation of Krishna? Are Jesus and Krishna both projections of something more ultimate?

viii) In any event, there’s no way to salvage orthodox Christology from Michael’s syncretism. In Christian theism, the Trinity is the ultimate reality. Not just a mode of something over and above the Trinity.

Basically, he’s reducing Jesus to a parochial religious metaphor.

ix) By the same token, it doesn’t matter whether we can accurately distinguish all the different shades of Hinduism. For however you slice it, a cow pie is no better than the constituent ingredients.

Imagine if L. Ron Hubbard had 10 rival protégés. Imagine if each protégé lay claim to be the one true interpreter L. Ron Hubbard.

You could spend your life patiently mastering the minutiae of each variant on Scientology. But what’s the point? Variations on nonsense. Competing interpretations of nonsense.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mary In The Old Testament And Some Other Issues

Michael Brown discussed the Roman Catholic view of Mary on his radio program earlier this week. There's a thread on the subject at one of his web sites, and a lot of issues have come up there: alleged Marian typology in the Old Testament, her supposed perpetual virginity, whether she was a sinner, and whether she should be called Mother of God, for example. Michael Brown has been posting there, and so have several other people, including me.

Here's an index that links to some Triablogue posts on issues related to Mary.

Is Romney inevitable?



Here is the context of Pinochet/Allende. Needless to say, Allende destroyed Chilean democracy before the 73 coup with his movement towards authortarianism. Pinochet saved Chile from becoming another Cuba. It is funny how Dave regurgitates Left wing talking points against America without mentioning context.

Ending the Palestinian "Right of Return"

Blame America firsters


Try a test, Steve. Ask yourself and your conservative friends some questions. Apparently you are of the opinion that US based crimes are well known but enemy crimes, like those of Al Qaeda are unknown. Ask yourself and your friends these questions.
Here are some of the crimes from our side. Ask your friends if they've heard of them or can tell you any details.
I'm going to guess that you can't answer a single one of those 9 questions without going to Google right now. So you should ask yourself how you can sustain a claim like this when you are so ignorant of the crimes coming from our side.

i) I didn’t claim anything. Rather, I linked to an article by a guy who “served with an armored cavalry squadron during the Surge.”

ii) Notice that David is committing the fallacy of question-framing. He artificially tilts the argument in his favor by how he preemptively and prejudicially frames the issue. But why assume that these are the right question to ask? Also observe how David’s questions take certain premises for granted.

iii) I’ve lived through many of the events in question. I saw the news coverage at the time. Not to mention books and articles I’ve read.

Our crimes:
1-Do you know when the war in Vietnam started? Which portion of Vietnam was attacked? How many people died in the entire conflict? Can you answer within an order of magnitude?

i) Needless to say, that’s the wrong way to frame the issue. The Vietnam war had a context. The containment policy. Vietnam was one front in the cold war. It was an effort to check the expansion of communism. Communism is a totalitarian ideology which, at the time, posed a threat to the free world–including the U.S.

ii) The Vietnam war is not all of a piece. It evolved over time. We see the whole thing in retrospect, but, of course, people at the time couldn’t see into the future, and their own actions or inactions were shaping the future outcome in unpredictable ways. 

So, for instance, US involvement in the Vietnam war might have been a reasonable calculation in the early stages of the war.

IMO, we invested too much in the Vietnam conflict. Like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it became an exercise in diminishing returns. We should have had more limited objectives. Not so much to win the war, but to sabotage the global efforts of Russian and Red China. Get in, get out.

iii) Keep in mind, too, that we can’t compare the actual outcome with a counterfactual outcome. We don’t have access to possible worlds with alternate histories.

iv) David questions the humanitarian cost of the Vietnam war, but what about the humanitarian cost when the Viet Cong swept into the South–not to mention, as a side effect, the Khmer Rouge invading Cambodia?

2-What happened on 9-11-1973? How many people died?

i) Once again, David disregards the context of the coup d’etat. Allende was a communist alley. The prospect of Latin American going communist posed a threat to American national security. Congress and the POTUS have a Constitutional duty to protect us from our enemies.

ii) Keep in mind that the CIA didn’t assassinate Allende, although it did have a hand in destabilizing his regime, which was a hostile regime. He died in a military coup, at the hands of his countrymen. Why shift the blame to the US?

3-Do you know about birth defects in Fallujah and how they were caused?

i) Whether DU is responsible for birth defects is disputed:

ii) If this is a “crime,” it would be a crime against America soldiers as well as Iraqi citizens inasmuch as American soldiers would also be exposed to DU.

iii) It’s sometime a tradeoff between one risk and another. Not having armor-piercing ordnance puts our soldiers at risk.

4-Do you know how many people have been tortured to death in US custody according to Human Rights Watch since 9-11?

Human Rights Watch is a far left anti-war outfit. Ideologically opposed to US foreign policy. That’s hardly an impartial source of information.

5-How many have died in Iraq since the US invasion? Do you know the order of magnitude?

That fails to draw elementary moral distinctions. Are we talking about Muslim-on-Muslim casualties? Dead terrorists? Collateral damage?

6-What is the Haditha Massacre?

i) That’s disputed. For instance:

ii) Notice David’s default assumption: when in doubt, always assume the worst about Americans.

7-What does Afghan Convoy of Death refer to?

i) It refers to a movie.

ii) An Afghan journalist (Najibullah Quraishi) has no presumptive credibility in how he depicts US forces. He is motivated to produce antiwar propaganda.

iii) By the same token, Afghan “witnesses” have no presumptive credibility. They, too, have an incentive to present American forces in the worst possible light.

That doesn’t mean I automatically discount their testimony. But I don’t assume their version of events is more trustworthy than the testimony of our soldiers on the ground. Why not give our courageous soldiers the benefit of the doubt? 

iv) The alleged “Dasht-i-Leili massacre” is clearly a case of Muslim-on-Muslim violence. So why shift the blame to American forces?

v) Assuming that UIF soldiers massacred Taliban war captives, what were US soldiers supposed to do? Shoot UIF soldiers? Imagine how that would play on Aljazeera or the BBC?

vi) Why should I care whether Taliban combatants were killed? The world is a better place in their absence.

8-Name the most deadly terrorist incident in the western hemisphere prior to 9-11 that involved a civilian airliner.

i) I assume David is alluding to the Flight 655 incident. I remember the news coverage at the time.

ii) Why classify that as a “terrorist incident” rather than a tragic mistake? It would be a PR disaster for us to knowingly down a passenger plane. How would that further our national security interests?

iii) This also has a larger context. It happened on the heels of the USS Stark incident, when we didn’t respond in time.

9-Name the 2 largest genocidal campaigns since WWII and where the weaponry came from.

Is David alluding to the Rwandan-Burundi genocide? Is so, wasn’t the machete the weapon of choice? An agricultural implement?

Likewise, if that's the event you're alluding to, why blame Americans for African-on-African violence? 

Bart Ehrman in a sentence

Bart Ehrman's work "has a feisty flavor that makes it interesting, but the author is far too impressed by his own skepticism." D.A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 40.

Ron Paul’s Appeal Among the Military

A Brief History of the Rick Santorum Presidential Campaign

Almost a month before his sweeping victory in the Iowa caucuses, I put up this post on Rick Santorum (at a time when he was dead last in every single poll), and I noted, “Given the dislike for some of the current frontrunners, a good performance from Rick in Iowa could help give him some national exposure and the all important MO-mentum into some of the more conservative states”. Note the date: it was December 12, the fourth day of my wife’s chemotherapy, the day before she began whole body irradiation, and two days before her bone marrow transplant. Even in such distress, I was thinking this clearly, this predictively.

As it turns out, he won the Iowa caucuses. On January 6, I gave my analysis. I said, “he’s a smart, hard-working politician. He knows the system, and he knows how to use the system to his advantage, and he knows how to ‘get things done’ within it”.

Later, in this post, I noted that Ronald Reagan was a person who took the time to think through how conservative ideas and principles ought to play out in the real world. And I suggested that “The real heavy lifting of the Republican party will need to be accomplished not by someone who merely claims the mantle of Reagan, but by someone who can genuinely do what Reagan did, and that is, to think through the problems of the day, and understand how best to solve these problems with the best of conservative principles”.

Now NRO’s Terrence Jeffrey has picked up on my idea: “Santorum is clearly expressing his heartfelt beliefs — a rare thing among American politicians, and a thing, I believe, that is recognized and prized by voters … Santorum has shown the courage, including in last night’s debate, to lay out his own unique vision for the future of America”.

If Rick Santorum goes much farther in this election contest, I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to explain why such a “bitter anti-Catholic” as myself can support a Roman Catholic for President. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ron Paul on Abortion

Tim Tebow's prayers

The Death Experiences Of Felons

Nancy Evans Bush recently wrote a good blog post on the death experiences of prisoners. Though these individuals were felons, and some died "angry at everyone and everything, but especially at death", only one of them had a negative experience. Evans Bush concludes:

There is not a shred of evidence that good people get good experiences and bad people get bad experiences. The conviction that types of NDEs [near-death experiences] and deathbed visions are tied to moral qualities and behaviors simply does not hold up. If it’s true at Angola [the prison where the study was done], it’s true enough for me.

Here's a post I wrote a few months ago about the moral diversity of NDEs.

The Nakba Obsession

Have you left Rome? And if so, why?

I have already admitted that I am uncertain about papal infallibility; thus I also entertain doubts about the exact nature of the Magisterium. These are not hills I will die upon.

When I left the Roman Catholic Church, I did so because of a crisis of faith that seemed to me at the time similar to what Philip has been talking about: that he is not comfortable with some aspects of Roman Catholic teaching. It seemed to me at the time, and does so now, that it was not proper to continue to be Roman Catholic while doubting some of its core doctrines.

What follows is a selection from my “resignation letter” to the priest at our church at the time. At one point I cited a paragraph from Richard John Neuhaus, from his chapter in the book by the title “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”, and which shortly followed the release of that initial document. Neuhaus said:

The fathers of the council understood themselves to be saying what was said much earlier by James….They also thought that the sola fide formula promoted in the Reformation era was, among other things, a denial of human moral agency, a rejection of the role of the God-given capacities of reason and will in coming to faith, a repudiation of sanctifying grace, and an invitation to antinomianism.

Did the council fathers at Trent misunderstand what the Reformers meant by sola fide?  Most scholars, whether Catholic or Protestant, agree that they did not understand the Reformers, especially Luther and Calvin, adequately.  And there is slight disagreement, perhaps no disagreement that the Reformers, especially Luther, could have expressed themselves more clearly, carefully, and consistently.

Then I responded to Neuhaus’s quote with the following:

Keep in mind here what Luther and Calvin were doing: they were endeavoring to call the church to reform itself.  It is unfortunate that these individuals could not articulate their views to the satisfaction of an “infallible” church.  But it is inexcusable, I would think, to have an “infallible” Church pronouncing anathemas on something it doesn’t fully understand.  Again, is it ignorance or arrogance?

Eventually, whether you believe the Catholics or the Protestants, the question comes down to a question of authority: Sola Scriptura, vs. the Church’s Teaching.  [While the church would say that Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium form one “Deposit of Faith,” it could also be said that in practice, this is a misnomer, because ultimately, the Church’s teaching authority always takes precedent over the other two, and you end up having what he calls sola ecclesia.]

The bottom line is that I could not accept “the entire deposit of faith.”  And rather than tell the kids, “you’ve just sort of wink and nod at some Church teachings—especially the Marian doctrines and the doctrines of infallibility—I decided it would be better to be honest about the whole thing and just leave.

If you’ve left the Roman church, I’d like to ask, why did you do it? We know that lots of people leave Rome for evangelical churches. What was it that prompted you to leave? Please use the comments in this thread to let us know. And if you have any questions of your own, I’ll be happy to answer them here.

A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred

Who’s a Zionist?

Spy chief

Ron Paul is raising a lot of questions about American foreign policy over the years. Here's a partial, insider account from two old Cold Warriors. Unlike Ron Paul, these men weren't afraid to get dirt under their  fingernails to do the hard, thankless work and make the tough judgment calls necessary to actually protect us from our then-enemies:

Ron Paul: Wrong on the Taliban

Can Christians Today Work True Miracles?

Following Up with Philip Jude

Philip and I corresponded privately behind the scenes, but I wanted to respond here to some of his comments in the thread below:

1. I certainly did not (and do not) mean to be disingenuous. I just wanted to have a conversation. I am an affable and curious and talkative guy. Also, my name really is Philip Jude, so you don't need to put it in scare quotes. Heck, you even know my last name, having traced me back to Catholic Lane.

Hi Philip, I know we have corresponded privately, but I wanted to respond publicly to some of your comments here. I am sorry that you feel uncomfortable. I apologize, if you did not intend to be disingenuous, but after our private correspondence, and reading some of your other works, I’m still inclined to think you’re holding something back. (And again, I respect your privacy and anonymity, but I’m inclined to think you’re not being straight, and I’ll say why below).

2. I am not a professional by any means, just a practicing Catholic who loves the Bible and is fascinated by philosophy and theology. The last class I took on theology was in tenth grade. I don't even have a college degree! (For many years I struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse, which complicated the whole formal education thing.) Nope, I am just a theology geek with a big appetite for books. Simple as that.

Even so, this level of humility does nothing to explain some of the things you have written which are very articulate and well-thought-out pieces. Maybe not a “formal education”, but you are not just “a theology geek with a big appetite for books”. You have trained and knowledgeable teachers, and not only a “big appetite” for books, but access to them, and the time to study them. I’m thinking maybe you are affiliated with a religious order somewhere, or at least, you have close access to them, but that’s just a surmise.

4. Yes, I have been editing for Catholic Lane for several months. It is a part-time, unpaid position that I secured through a friend. It's my small way of giving back to the Church.

Such things take time and knowledge, and you have these, and you have not acquired them in a haphazard way, through light and curious reading.

The Bible is not enough, as it clearly states! That is an Islamic claim unknown to Christians prior to the Reformation. Even then, it was exclusive to the radicals, utterly rejected by the likes of Calvin and Luther.

You will have to show me where the Bible states that it is not sufficient. You should qualify that, as “sufficient for its own intended purposes”. As it is, your statement is a bit of a straw man. Even the WCF qualifies the “naked Bible” as you posit.

Anyway, the adjective "Roman" (which you insist upon) is ultimately misleading. It is rather the Church Universal. That the Chair of Peter happened to end up in Rome is an accident of history. (And, as I've remarked before, I am indeed wary of certain papal claims.)

On the contrary, Rome is precisely the problem. It is the wholesale importation of Roman culture that is among the earliest corruptions of the Apostolic message, and I believe that with the help of some of the modern New Testament scholarship, and other scholarship dealing with the early church, this will become more and more evident over time.

Rome “claims” universality, and I intend to comment, for example, on Ratzinger’s article about the very nature of “Roman” “Catholic”. And as far as Peter having ended up in Rome as “an accident of history”, Ratzinger disagrees with you. In his “Called to Communion”, he goes to great lengths to prove that “Rome was the original pre-eminent authority”, the very purpose of the progression in Acts. But I’m sure you are more correct than he is in this question.

Although, it is likely that Peter, a traveling missionary to the Jews, never had a “chair”. The concept of “a chair” is a later superimposition on what the Apostles actually taught and did.

You separate Christ and His Church, but this is impossible. Communion with Christ is communion with His Body (the Church), and vice versa.

No, I do not “separate Christ and His Church”. I separate Rome from “Christ and his church”. Roman, pagan accretions. Yes, every Christian, as I said above, may boast of “union with Christ”. But this is a direct, personal relationship. No Roman hierarchy is required.

Given this great and wonderful mystery, the Christian is bound to discern the true Church among the chaos of competing sects. From my (admittedly amateur) study of history and Scripture, I believe this to be the Catholic Church.

No, turn to Christ and you be a member of the church. “Repent and be baptized.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. And you will be part of the universal body of Christ. No Roman hierarchy is required.

You insist on using the semi-pejorative term "Roman," but this is misleading: there are Byzantine Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholics, Malankarese Catholics, Coptic Catholics, Ethiopian Catholics, Syriac Catholics, and so on. Some of these rites differ significantly from Rome, undercutting the notion that communion with the papacy is truly a state of abject servility.

It is not the “rites” that are foundational. It is “abject servility to the papacy” that makes them part of the Roman network of things. There is one thing that unites all these “rites”. As an Opus Dei friend put it to me, “the pope is in charge”.

As for the hierarchy: Sure, all churches have hierarchies. Anyway, hierarchy was an aspect of the Church from the start, as evidenced by Acts. The episcopal structure is revealed by Scripture and confirmed by the earliest fathers.

Yes, and here is the hierarchy: “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. Not popes and bishops and sees and chairs and endless successions based merely on “office”. In the “earliest fathers”, you should note that even Ignatius did not hold to “apostolic succession” as Rome defines it.

As I mentioned in our emails, Francis Sullivan’s study, “Apostles to Bishops” concludes, “while most Catholic scholars agree that the episcopate is the fruit of the post-New Testament development, they maintain that this development was so evidently guided by the Holy Spirit that it must be recognized as corresponding to God’s plan for the structure of his Church”.

I’ll agree with him that it was a “post-New Testament development”, but it is evident (as further study is showing) that this is not only not “structural” in any way, but it was rightly rejected by the Reformers, when this system, which was beneficial in the 2nd century but had become totally corrupted by the 14th century.

Let me reiterate that I do harbor doubts regarding certain aspects of Catholicism (mainly the papacy).

Then you are on a good path, and in good company. Follow up on this. John Meier and others have said that the papacy “cannot give a credible historical account of its own origins”.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How revolutionary was the Copernican revolution?

Hardhearted Pharaoh

I'm posting some comments I left over at Justin Taylor's blog:

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

“So now you have God’s common grace in conflict with his own plan of hardening. You have God fighting with his own goodness (common grace). You have a house divided against itself.”

That’s silly. Common grace isn’t uniform. Common grace serves a purpose, as does hardening. Different means to different ends, in a part/whole relation.

“All God really needed to do is withhold his common grace to work his plan (passive) in Pharaoh. No need to harden anyone – as you insist on your ‘hardening’ interpretation.”

Indeed, it would be possible to define hardening as God withdrawing any moral restraint on Pharaoh’s sinfulness and impudence, then presenting him with a suitable, external provocation. That would be perfectly consistent with Reformed theology. At the same time, we need to actually exegete the text before us.

steve hays January 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

“Even further, he argues that this hardening or making Pharaoh stubborn in his resolve actually allowed Pharaoh to exercise his will feely since God’s actions in the plagues would have overwhelmed Pharaoh to the point that he would have let the Israelite’s go against his will. God strengthening his resolve (directly or indirectly) made it possible for Pharaoh to act in accordance with his free will despite overwhelming pressure to set the Israelite’s free.”

If you define freewill as the freedom to do otherwise, then it would be nonsensical for God to give Pharaoh the freedom to thwart God’s intentions. For on that view, God intended to give Pharaoh the freedom to thwart God’s intentions. Thus God intends to frustrate God’s intentions, which is incoherent.

The purpose of the ten plagues was to demonstrate that Yahweh was the true God, in contrast to the impotent idol-gods of Egypt. To say that Pharaoh had the freedom to scuttle God’s plan, thereby interrupting the ten plagues at any stage of the process, cuts against the grain of the narrative.

“Likewise, the hardening of the Jews in Paul’s day was indirect as well, as this hardening was the natural result of God making covenantal status based not on ancestry or works but on faith in Christ.”

How is that either indirect or a natural result of making covenantal status contingent on faith?

“For example, Paul speaks of the same hardened Jews of which Pharaoh serves as a type in Romans 11:7. Here he contrasts the elect with ‘the rest’ who were ‘hardened’. Verse 11 equates this hardening further with stumbling, but makes it clear that this stumbling isn’t necessarily permanent. Verse 15 equates it further with their rejecting Christ (most specifically, elect status through faith in Christ) and verse 17 equates this with being broken off from the elect body (the ancient olive branch built on the patriarch’s and fulfilled in Christ as the final chosen covenant head). But 11:23 says that these same hardened, Christ rejecting, broken off Jews can be grafted in again to the elect body (i.e. they go from ‘the rest’-non-elect to ‘elect’). This completely undermines the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 as a whole…”

i) To the contrary, the fact that it’s temporary confirms rather than undermines the Calvinist interpretation. Both belief and disbelief are the result of divine action. They disbelieve when God hardens them, and they believe when God withdrawals his hardening influence.

ii) Unless you’re a preterist, there’s no reason to think the very same group of Jews is in view throughout this historical process. Are you saying Arminians are committed to preterist eschatology? Many Arminians are premil. And they interpret Rom 11 premillennially.

iii) You’re also confounding ordinary usage about the “chosen” with technical terminology about the “election.”

“Yet it fits perfectly with the Arminian corporate election view as well…”

i) To say that God has temporarily hardened Israel, but will someday cease to harden Israel, doesn’t mean the same group is in view. “Israel” is a diachronic entity, spanning many generations.

It’s like saying the river freezes over in winter, but thaws in springtime. It’s the same river, but it’s not the same water.

ii) Calvinism also subscribes to corporate election. But Calvinism doesn’t generate a false dichotomy between individual election and corporate election–unlike Arminianism.

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 5:41 am

“I’m curious; how do you see God foreknowing what it will take to get Pharoah to let God’s people go in Exodus 3:19-20″

Pharaoh’s actions are predictable because they are the result of antecedent conditions–which God put in place.

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 7:05 am

“Hey Steve can you show me any antecedent conditions that are present in the text, especially in light of Exodus 3:19-20?”

Exodus comes on the heels of Genesis. A chain of historical causation, in which God makes promises, then orchestrates events to fulfill his promises.

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 10:30 am

“Where is the antecedent conditions?”

i) 3:19 foreshadows 4:21. So the immediate antecedent condition of Pharaoh’s obduracy is divine hardening.

ii) But some antecedent conditions are more remote than others. God raised him up for this very purpose (Exod 9:16). So that’s contingent on a providential series of antecedent conditions.

iii) BTW, the fact that God knows a priori how Pharaoh will act means the outcome can’t go either way.

iv) Even “accidents” (e.g. manslaughter) have a providential underpinning (e.g. Exod 21:13).

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 5:44 am

“This is fine, but Calvinists often use ‘hardening’ to describe the state of the non-elect. The Wesleyan would say the same above this way… They disbelieve because of their nature, and when God grants his prevenient grace they are able to believe. You have God hardening the already hardened.”

We’re not discussing the function of hardening in general, but how it functions in the Exodus account.

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

“Where are you specifically drawing this from those two texts?”

i) Foreshadowing is a common narrative technique in the Pentateuch.

ii) They share a common linking motif.

iii) There’s nothing uniquely Calvinistic about the intertextual connection I drew. Arminian OT scholar Douglas Stuart draws the same intertextual connection in his commentary on Exodus (p126).

“Where do you get this from?”

If the outcome could go either way, then it can’t be foreknown. For if it could go either way, then there is no one particular outcome to be known in advance of whatever possible outcome actually eventuates.

steve hays January 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm

“Why can’t God foreknow several different ways something might play out?”

You’re committing a modal fallacy by confounding foreknowledge with counterfactual knowledge. Foreknowledge has reference to what will happen, not what might have happened. Only one outcome will eventuate.

steve hays January 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

“Brother, that is true if you assume that foreknowledge=foreordain.”

You’re confused. There’s nothing uniquely Calvinistic about my definition. By definition, foreknowledge takes the actual future as its object. And there can only be one actual future. That’s standard usage.

By definition, counterfactual knowledge takes an alternate future as its object. In principle, there can be more than one alternate future (although that turns on your metaphysical commitments). That’s standard usage. You need to master basic terms and concepts.

My distinction isn’t a uniquely Calvinistic distinction. Freewill theism (e.g. Arminianism, Molinism, Ockhamism, open theism) also draws this distinction.

“Question, Can God foreknow something including several outcomes to that situation, yet not necessarily foreordain it to happen?”

Your question suffers from the conceptual and semantic confusions I noted above.

God knows the future because God predestines the future.

God also knows what might have happened had he predestined a different outcome.

steve hays January 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

i) My argument wasn’t fundamentally temporal. Rather, if the future is indeterminate, then there is no particular object of knowledge until the event eventuates. Prior to that concretization, you have a set of abstract forking paths. It’s a fundamentally abstract/concrete distinction. Between the possible and the actual.

ii) Foreknowledge isn’t counterfactual knowledge. Foreknowledge isn’t God’s knowledge of what happens in possible worlds, but what will happen in the actual world.

iii) Temporal necessity is hardly unrelated to the logical and/or theological fatalism or metaphysical necessity. Standard formulations of the foreknowledge dilemma invoke the accidental necessity of the past.

And if we substitute God’s timeless knowledge of the future, then that, if anything, introduces an even stronger principle. If past beliefs are unalterable, so are timeless beliefs–for a timeless state is, by definition, immutable. The transfer of necessity goes through on either formulation.

steve hays January 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm
I’ve responded to Abasciano here: