Is God 'being' itself?

(Dominik Kowalski) #21

I am going to answer you in two posts. In this one I´ll just answer your objections.

Great for you! I think it is fair to assume, that you hold the sola scriptura view? Christianity in the world is growing fast, but it is declining in the west, especially western europe, so I of course am interested in making good arguments or even proving Gods existence through philosophy of nature.
The strongest arguments are being drawn not from scientific data, but from presuppostitions that science itself has to make in order to work! The bible is the way to God in the way he revealed himself to us through Jesus. We can make strong arguments for Gods existence just with looking at the historical data of the life of Jesus and his resurrection. But these arguments for Jesus being the Messiah only get stronger, if we already have established Gods existence through the philosophy of nature. How anyone can therefor think that the philosophers God is a dangerous myth, is beyond me. In which way would the New Testament be threatened in any way, if we would adapt the aristotelian-thomistic philosophy? It is almost redundant to say, that I know of no Thomist who isn´t also a Christian. And I know of no Thomist who thinks, that the philosophy has completely grasped every attribute that God has. Where natural theology ends and revelation theology begins is clearly distinguished by every philosopher and theologian in the area.
People get persuaded by the christian truth through different ways. For me it was the history of Jesus life and resurrection. If one wants to come to God first, you maybe get there through witnessing a miracle (50-90% of new members in the chinese church claim to get to the faith because they witnessed one), having experiences or getting there through philosophy (Edward Feser). I probably forgot ten other ways here, but that doesn´t matter. Claiming a priori that the “philosophers God” (It´s the same every Christian believes in, of course) doesn´t exist, respectively we have no way to get to God through philosophy and thus human reasoning, does not only run against an important doctrine in the catholic church (An incredible compiment to the human reason and rationality by the way), it also smells like a no-true-scotsman-fallacy, the way you argue.

This was just a reaction at the moment, when realizing, that the editor of the Wikipedia page on the five ways of Aquinas to prove Gods existence (It is a proof, by the way, because if the premise is accepted, the conclusion follows from it and doesn´t allow for another conclusion or possibility. It is called “evidence” in philosophy, if there in principle is another option, no matter how improbable that one might be. Aquinas ways are prooves, because there is no other possibility), had the same amount of philosophical knowledge like Dawkins, when equating the first three ways with the kalam cosmological argument, although Aquinas explicitly rejected it, since he thought that arguing for God from a beginning of the world, was just a terrible argument.

I can agree with that one, it doesn´t attack the position of divine simplicity. Once again, “Simplicity” doesn´t refer to simple the way normally used, but that should be clear to anybody.

And I can agree with that one, too, which is why, I don´t understand your hostility towards philosophical proving Gods existence. Let me ask you, Roger:
If I see your back, can I claim to have seen the whole person? Of course not! But I can certainly say that you were there, because I saw you, albeit only a part of you. This is no different to the arguments from natural theology.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom and has many faces and comes from different perspectives. Good metaphysics argue from a standpoint, that isn´t dependent of current or future scientific knowledge, but take the same presuppositions as science does

The second post will take a bit longer. I want to show, why your position of a rational universe from a rational mind, while at the same time denying the possibility of philosophy to show that, is inconsistent.

(Cindy) #22

It is your claim that one should not attempt to use Philosophy to prove the existence of God because one might then choose the wrong god to worship? I find that idea to be dangerous. People come to Christ in various ways and philosophically is just as viable way as any other.

(Cindy) #23

That is a wide range but still an interesting statement. Do you have a link for that by any chance?

(Dominik Kowalski) #24

Hello Cindy,
yes the range is very wide, but this is due to the very restrictive rules in China on the freedom of speech. If someone wants to make a study about the religiosity of the chinese people, it is known, that the results can vary very much and possibly not represent reality in the slightest, because the government doesn´t like it, if someone openly states their believes. The 50% is the estimated conversion reasoning by a church leader of, I believe the Pentecostals in China, concerning the conversions of the last two decades. 90% was an estimation from a housechurch concerning the new members of their church. The latter is probably closer whecn it comes to rural areas alone.
Here´s a speech from Craig Keener on that:

Watch from 9:00-13:00 and you have it.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #25

What we are discussing is whether we can know God through philosophy or rationality alone. If some one comes to Jesus through philosophy, then they are using theology and philosophy to come to God, that is Jesus Christ.

My point is that God is not Being Itself. God is God. We might know that here is a God, through philosophy but we know Who God is only through theology.

The topic of this discussion is "Is God ‘Being’ Itself? If the answer is yes, if God is Being Itself, then there is no need for theology and there is no need for the Bible. because God and Being are identical.

(Cindy) #26

Sorry but I don’t see how one follows the other. God Being Itself is only an aspect of God, it in no way closes the door to theology nor the study of the Bible. I really have no idea why you think that it would.

I am also confused about what the “God of the Quran” has to do with your argument. How is a God that is Being Itself open to the theology of Islam and study of the Quran but not open to the theology of Christianity and study of the Bible?

(Cindy) #27

Thanks for the link, that was an interesting video!

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #28

The God of philosophy is Absolute, just as the God of Quran is. Thus it would seem that then God of the Quran is the God of Philosophy, rather than the God of Jesus.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #29

That assumption is mistaken.

The world is in a bad situation, because the foundations of our civilization are out of sync. Science in general is not pro-Christian, and neither is philosophy. The times are more scientific than pro-philosophy. Therefore it would seem more fruitful to me to build a bridge from science to Christianity, then from philosophy to Christianity.

As I have said my concern is not proving the existence of God, because that is a given. My concern is to build a build a world view that includes science, philosophy, and Christian theology, which gives everyone a holistic understanding of Reality.

(Cindy) #30

Since you capitalized the “a” in “Absolute”, I am assuming that you are using it in a noun form:




a value or principle which is regarded as universally valid or which may be viewed without relation to other things.

“good and evil are presented as absolutes”

I don’t see how God Being fits this, further; I don’t see how the God of the Quran differs from the God of the Bible in this regard. Are you sure that you meant to use the word “absolute”? I really don’t get what you are trying to say, at all.

(Dominik Kowalski) #32

The second post:

Let´s establish an axiom first: Aristotles first way, the "Uncaused Cause" proves the existence of God with several divine attributes, such as omnipotent, omniscient, perfect and personal. It argues from a hierarchical standpoint and thus also works within an infinite universe or multiverse.

For the sake of it, you can keep on rejecting his premise where he argues from, I want to show your inconsistent treatment of the arguments.

I won´t explain it here further, because it is a work for more than just a post and your a priori rejection of it makes it unnecessary anyway.

You say, that the philosophers perspective or their proof of God doesn´t work, but at the same time you say that the universe is rational, because it comes from God, who is rational. Of course, you will also say, that human beings are rational and have the ability to search for God and do science. If you wouldn´t do it, then there is no reason that our assumption that the universe or God are rational, or exist in the first place, would have any value.

Then there are of course two problems. Let´s have a look at the "Uncaused Cause" argument:

It´s premise is, that change occurs. In a temporal sense the chain of causality can be infinite, but in a hierarchical way it has to trace back to an uncaused cause, which is purely actual in nature and doesn´t have any potential to be different. This is important to give anything the causal power to actualize the potential of something else to change (e.g. The banana turning from green to yellow). Once again I won´t explain this further, read the literature for further explanation. The rationalist, like you seemingly are, thinks, that humans have the capability to understand nature, which is intelligible because it is rational, therefor humans can trace nature through reason and science, the latter one when we´re dealing with material things of course, to this first cause. Now we get to a key point. For a reason that I don´t understand, and I take Cindy´s side here, because it seems irrational and purely based on emotion, because it runs against ever standpoint you´re taking anywhere else, you don´t think that we can show the existence of the God of Philosophers, because he doesn´t exist. This would 1) show that God isn´t knowable outside scripture and would ultimately result in a kind of fideism, which I´m opposed to with all my heart, and 2) that, if you were correct, that the universe ultimately ends in a brute fact. Now, the difference between God and a brute fact ist, that the first one is intelligible while the latter is not. I mentioned „divine simplicity“, which simply says that God is one and not made of several things. You bringing up the Trinity is a copout, because when we´re talking about God, we speak of the being outside of time and space, who sustains everything all the time. Jesus and the holy spirit are his expressions within the physical world, but this is the area of revelation theology and when we´re talking about knowing God through human reason, this is not our concern. We don´t just say that we call the ultimate cause God for no reason, we can find several divine attributes for the being, just through reason. These are, omnipotence, omniscience, immateriality, eternal, perfect and personal. This is the scenario in which the universe is rational and thus understandable.

But what when we have a brute fact? The universe is the way that it is, because it is the way that it is? I don´t know why you would be interested in advocating this. It would show that the universe is irrational, which would shed a strange light on our own rationality and bring up the question if we could trust our senses. It is not intelligible. The atheistic philosophers of the past knew the problem. Rationalism leads to theism. Which is why David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche were irrationalist. Sean Carrol is another one, but certainly not a good philosopher of course.

So Roger, I don´t want to get into deeper detail, because I´m not sure you´re interested in going down that route. You have said several times, that you´re not a friend of classical theism and thus I won´t bring up a defence of the arguments from above, which would take several long posts. But I hope you realize, that if we can´t get to God through philosophy, at least from a certain perspective, the whole argument for Gods rationality falls down like a house of cards. Agains, this is not a replacement of revelation, rather philosophy and the bible complete the puzzle. From where else, but the bible should we known with certainty that God is indeed a loving God?

(Dominik Kowalski) #33

Sciene in general has to be agnostic.
What some scientist do with it, is another topic. However this is due to 1) fundamentalist upbringing in certain parts of the US, 2) Biblical Illiteration, 3) the missing philosophy of Aristotle, on campusses often enough replaced by Nietzsche, of all people. And 4) especially here in europe its due to the scandals of molesting and the decades of being quiet on why Christianity or theism in general is true.

Agree and disagree.
Yes around 80% of academic philosophers lean toward atheism. Kurt Gödel himself, shortly after moving to the US wrote down, that the philosophers seem to try anything to eliminate God. After all it was the time, when philosophy was still ruled by logical positivism and the philosophy of the circle of Vienna.
However, the picture is completely turned, when it comes to the philosophy of religion, here 80% are leaning towards theism. And because philosophers are rediscovering Aristotle and Aquinas I look into the future with positivity.

What many people don´t relize is, that you can´t have the one thing wothout the other. It is virtually impossible, to not do philosophy at least to some degree. However, if you´re intereseted, I gave a book from Dr Nigel Cundy, a quantum physicist of the University of Oxford to my brother. He links it to a fascinating degree. Here it is, I´d recommend it in the forum, once the topic comes up again.

Roger, I understand you. But let´s look at the other side of the aisle. I´m living in a very secularized culture and see the christian values vanishing, replaced by pure hedonism. People think thate the values of Christianity have something going for them, but it is a given, that they´re vanishing if people can´t rationalize living by them, but at the same time not accepting why they´re there in the first place (Christian religion). My sole focus lies in giving reasons to believe in God, because secularization doesn´t bring any good. And I do this with the proofs of classical theism and the history of the New Testament. Gods fingerprints in nature are only visible for those who have come to faith in him already. For the rest it is a random rock flying around in an uncaring universe.

What makes you think I´m not doing that?

Edit: There is one thing I forgot to mention the whole time. The biggest advantage of approaching God through classical theism/Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy is, that it is not dependent on what scientific discoveries the future will bring. E.g. a multiverse wouldn´t matter to a Thomist.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #34

@Relates Sorry if this has already been said, but knowing God’s attributes is different from knowing what God actually is. We can learn God’s attributes from how he behaves in scripture, but we cannot know what he actually is, since humans are fallible

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #35

@DoKo, @Seeking_Harmony
Sorry to argue with you, but I think that you have it backwards, First of all God is not a What, God is a Who. I think that this is the biggest problem I have with the God of the philosophers.

God is a Person. Theologically this is seen in that God created humans in God’s Own Image. Theologically this is found in Jesus Christ Who is the exact Image of God is a Person.

Yes, we can see what God does by reading the Bible. We can also he3ar what God says by reading the Bible. We can indeed see God in action by knowing Jesus the Messiah though the NT and talking to Him in prayer.

If I wanted to get to know someone other than God, what better way to do so than to observe his/her actions, listen to that persons words, and conversing with her/him. So how can se say that we do not know God.

Somehow we think that knowing something means we can manipulate that thing or person. We cannot manipulate God, but neither can we manipulate humans as we can things… We can communicate with God. We can cooperate with each other. We can love one another, which we cannot do with non-persons, which we cannot so with Being.

We do know what God is, God is Love. God is Personal, and God is Relational. We do not know God perfectly because we are finite and imperfect. We do not know God through our own strength and powers, but though the information, strength, and powers God gives us.

We know God through relationships, because God is relational and God made us relational like God is. .

(Dominik Kowalski) #36

I think we can let that pass. The theologian is concerned with the person God and how he revealed himself. However claiming exclusivity to this view would insinuate that God is a deistic deity, completely distinct from his creation. If that would be the case, we indeed could not use rationality to get to God but rely on scripture. The “Who?” is certainly in the field of revelation. What I merely want to point out, that the “What?”-question automatically comes up and the philosopher can, using his reason, at least say “Something with specific divine attributes”. And calling this immaterial “something” “being itself”, should pass and if only for the lack of better wording and for the human desire to make Gods nature somewhat understandable, even though it is ultimatey false. Again, this shows something very important. The God of the philosopher is the way to start and it ends in the God of scripture. But to say, that we can know that there is this something is important for people to know, so that they know, that there´s something worth seeking.

And I would even argue that you are right, but I want to add that I think realizing this is step 2.
Skeptics have to be persuaded by rational arguments first, and although I see e.g. things like the moral argument as rational arguments, I also rely on Aristotle and Aquinas just to show that there is a God in the first place. I mean, it worked with Antony Flew of all people. I like a quote I heard from an american apologetic arguing for the resurrection:

I don´t want to convert you today (although I wouldn´t mind), I want to put a stone in your shoe

Roger, I realize that people take different paths to get to God and it is dependend on culture and upbringing and I probably project how I perceive the Germans to be persuaded in this discussion, but I just know, that I will never get anywhere, if I begin with pointing at the bible. Spirituality or other New Age Movements are often to find within the mindset of my fellow people. But there is still a step to take before the spiritual is seen as God and, if the thirst to know this God is still there then, ultimately approach Jesus.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #37

I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, since we both follow different religious traditions. You are a Christian, and I a Noachide, scholars of the Jewish/Noachide tradition, such as the Rambam have emphasised that God cannot be positively described, and thus support via negativa. I agree that my beliefs are not completely compatible with Christian ideas of the incarnation.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #38

First of all, let me repeat that I am not primarily concerned about proving the existence of God, in part because I know that it cannot be done if people are not interested in belief. You say that you are interested in providing rational evidence and moral evidence, which are fine, but really if people are not willing to believe it is very simple to deny this evidence.

Anthony Flew says he believes in God based on a design argument, which to my mind is a scientific argument, but it is d weak deistic form of God. In my opinion the strongest evidence for the existence of God is the Big Bang Theory that demonstrates that the universe has an absolute Beginning.

Before the Big Bang there was no matter, no energy, no time, no space. The universe was not created in space and time, but with space and time or as part of space and time.

Therefore the universe could not have created itself, but Something or Some One must have created it. The proof of the power of this argument is found in the lengths people go to deny it.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #39

See, I struggle with believing in a personal God. Rather I tend to believe in a Neo-platonist God, and identify this God with Moses’ YHWH, for if God has a mind, he cannot be simple, for he has parts. Yet God has to be simple, for if he was composed of parts, he would have prior ontological causes.

I don’t think such a view necessarily contradicts my view of scripture, where I believe that whenever God is anthropomorphised, it is done in an allegorical way. Jacob wrestling with God, for example is an allegory for the fight believers take with understanding God and his ways.

But it might conflict with traditional Judeo-Christian exegesis.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #40

God is indeed the God of Moses and the patriarchs, but you may be interested in this Andy Stanley sermon: (part 4 of his “Ninety” series) where he addresses the relationship between the old covenant and the new. It may not be addressing exactly all the points of concern you have, but you should consider it before deciding on what the “Judeo-Christian” exegesis must be. I just finished listening to part 4 myself just now, and it struck me that this may be a valuable connection for you to see, Reggie.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #41

Reggie, I sympathize with your struggle.

I think that you need to begin with the statement and understanding that God does not have to do or be anything. I AM WHO I AM = YHWH, Who is the God of the Jews, See Exodus 3:13-15.

YHWH has no ontological causes. YHWH is self-created and self-sustained.

Yet YHWH is not Simple, because Simple beings cannot think. Simple beings cannot communicate. Simple beings cannot empathize. Simple beings are more like Rocks than humans. Simple beings are not personal, but YHWH is Personal, so YHWH is not Simple.

So we conform the fact that the God of Being is not the God of the Bible, but why should it be? Is the God of Gen. 1 the God of evolution? Must theology always dictate to science about science? No, so why should philosophy dictate to theology about God?

It must also be noted that science has rejected many of the ideas of philosophy. Just as philosophy says that God must be Simple, so it says that the structure of the universe must be Simple, which it is not. Does the quantum world strike you as Simple? Thus a scientist like Hawking rejects philosophy, although I prefer to reform rather than reject.

Now if you insist on r3elying on a Jewish tradition which does not have a strong personal point of view, then you have a real problem. See above. On the other hand if you are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads you, then I would say that you need to give up the philosopher’s God and accept the God of the Trinity.