Book Review: The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Nash)

Nash, Ronald.  The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Zondervan: 1982. Reprint by Presbyterian and Reformed.RonNash

The possibility of our having cognitive knowledge about God was denied on three grounds:  God is too transcendent; 2) human knowledge is de jure problematic; 3) human language was de jure problematic.

Question of the book: Can the human logos know the Logos of God (Nash 14)?

Hume’s Gap: our pivotal beliefs must rest on something besides knowledge.

Kant’s wall: there is a wall between the world as it is and the sense world.

For the Neo-Orthodox, revelation is always an event.  It is never cognitive knowledge about God.

Defense of Propositional Revelation

(A)  All S is P                                             (E) No  S is P

(I)  Some S is P                                         (O) Some S is not P.

(A) All revelation is propositional       (E) No revelation is propositional

(I) Some revelation is propositional    (O) Some rev. Is not propositional

We can rule out O as irrelevant to the discussion.  The Neo-Orthodox thinks that all evangelicals hold to A, but that’s false.  We hold to I.  Further, holding to I doesn’t entail the claim that all revelation is propositional.

In short God reveals knowledge to his creation and some of this knowledge about himself is contained in the form of propositions (45). And even if one wants to claim that revelation is personal, saving faith still presupposes saving faith about something.

The Christian Logos

This is the heart of Nash’s project. Key idea: “Jesus Christ, the eternal Logos of god, mediates all divine revelation and grounds the correspondence between the divine and human minds” (59).

The Christian Rationalism of St Augustine

Augustine has some sort of interplay between the uncreated Light of God and the mutable light of the human mind (81). How can the human mind understand the eternal Forms within God’s mind?  Nash suggests three ways:

(1) The human intellect is both passive and active with respect to the forms (85). It is passive, pace Kant, in that it doesn’t create the conditions for knowledge. It is active in the sense that it judges and receives.

(2) The forms are and are not separate from the divine mind.

(3) The human mind is and is not a light that makes knowledge possible.

While Nash had a fine discussion on how Augustine modified Plato’s essentialism, and I don’t necessarily disagree, the chapter just feels “short.” I know he wrote a book on the topic and it is worth pursuing there.

In Defense of Logic

When Nash wrote this book, the Dooyeweerdian school in Toronto was a force to be reckoned with (one sees something similar in John Frame’s works).  Nash gives a fine rebuttal to the Dooyeweerdians: if human reason is valid only one one side of the cosmonomic boundary, “then any inference that God is transcendent must be an illegitimate application of human reason” (99). In other words, if God is transcendent, you are in error for saying he is transcendent!

Conclusion

The Logos of God has created the logos of the human mind in such a way that that it can receive cognitive, propositional knowledge about a transcendent God.

 

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Is the Holy Spirit a product?

I don’t want to get into Filioquist metaphysics.  Confessionally, I am a Protestant and that means I am in the Filioque tradition.  So let’s get this out of the way up front:  do I hold to the Filioque?  I think later Protestant thinkers, in terms of seeing it in Speech-Act format, perhaps have the resources to constructively engage this debate.  But if we are asking do I hold to the Filioque in terms of Augustine, Thomas, and the 4th Lateran Council, the answer is absolutely not.  It is dialectics.

I want to thank Jay Dyer for doing the leg work on this.  Here is the problem: if you say that the Holy Spirit is from the Father’s (and Son’s) will, you are an Arian. Or so St Athanasius says:

Hence the Son, not being (for He existed at the will of the Father), is God Only-begotten , and He is alien from either. Wisdom existed as Wisdom by the will of the Wise God. (De Synodis).

That’s straightfoward enough.  Arian theology says that the Son is a product of the Father’s will (and presumably, the Holy Spirit is a product of the Son’s).    But here is what Western theology states:

Ludwig Ott: “The Holy Ghost proceeds from the will or the mutual love of the Father and Son.” (Sent. certa.). 

Augustine:  “But if any person in the Trinity is also to be specially called the will of God, this name, like love, is better suited to the Holy Spirit; for what else is love, except will?” (De Trinitate, Schaff edition, p.234).

Here a person of the Trinity is identified with the operation or attribute of God.  The Filioquist can get out of this by saying Augustine is saying that the Holy Spirit *is* (=?) the will of the Father, not a product of the will of the Father.   True, that is a different claim.  But if will is a faculty (or operation or function) of essence, then the Holy Spirit is an operation of the essence–and now we are right back at saying he is a product of the essence.

We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines)

Bray, Gerald. ed. We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines). Intervarsity Press, 2009.

I think I have found the best primary source intro to the Fathers. The only drawback is the somewhat steep price. Gerald Bray (in this volume) gives a running commentary on the Nicene Creed using only the writings of the Fathers. He examines each clause of the Creed up to “things visible and invisible.” He alerts us to the hermeneutical sensitivities of the Fathers while pointing to areas where they were either lacking or refused to pursue the logical development. For example, the Fathers, unlike moderns today, be they conservative or liberal, were very interested in the role of Angels and demons. Their cosmology, untainted by post-Kantian gnosticism, allowed for such a role. Further, the fathers did not develop the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and predestination in any real sense. Augustine did the most.

My main problem with the book is the lack of Maximus the Confessor. In this review I will post an extended outline. I am doing that because the reader needs to see the logical and narratival development of the Fathers’ use of the Creed (or pre-creedal formulae). Finally, the reader should note that the Fathers had values that we do not necessarily pursue today, such as apostolic succession. But it should also be noted that the situation then is different than now.

Bray begins each section with a brief contextual introduction, then summarizes roughly each Father, and then gives a litany of Patristic quotations. It is truly grand.

Movement of the Creed

We believe (which covers the gamut from knowledge of God, Scripture as the basis of knowledge [Clement Strom. 7.16], to the canon of Scripture, to the interpretation of Scripture.

Apostolic Tradition:

  • “found in the Scriptures” (Irenaeus Adv. Haer. 3.5.1) and passed down by bishops.
  • “Unwritten traditions.” Some were passed down, like the sign of the cross (Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 27.66).

In One God.

  1. Who God Is.
    1. God’s unbegottenness is not the same as his essence (Basil 39).
    2. God is one in nature, not in number. My guess is that Basil says this because number implies distinction (Letter 8.2).
    3. Basil distinguishes between God’s energies and his essence (Letter 234).
    4. Yet Augustine says God’s being and his attributes are the same (“In God to be is the same as to be strong/just/wise; Trinity 6.4.6).
    5. God is not a substance but an essence. Substances subsist. This would mean God subsists in Goodness, rather than is goodness itself (7.5.10).
  2. The Unity of God’s Being
    1. God’s unity is beyond essence (Ps. Dionys. Divine Names 2.4).
  3. The Freedom of God
    1. God knows future events (Iren. Adv. Haer. 4.21.2).
  4. The Divine Will
  5. God’s Attributes
    1. God is above both space and time (Clement. Strom. 2.2
  1. Father-Son relationship
    1. Athanasius: the Son is in the Father because his whole being is proper to the Father’s essence (Contra Ar. 3.23.3).
    2. Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is eternal because the Father is not mind-less.
  2. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    1. Ephrem: affirms the Filioque (Hymn on the Dead and the Trinity). Father = Mind; Son = Word; Spirit = voice.
    2. Basil: Community of essence (Letter 38.4). Identity of operation proves they have the same nature (Letter 189.7).
    3. Basil: ousia = general; hypostasis = particular. The Godhead is common, the hypostatic characteristics are particular (Letter 236.6).
    4. Basil: True knowledge of God moves from the Spirit through the Son to the Father (Holy Spirit 18.47).
    5. Hilary: Difference between beginning and birth. A thing that begins to exist comes from nothing. A thing that is begotten comes from the same nature (De Trin. 7.14).
    6. Augustine: the substance of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (De Trin. 3.11.21).
    7. Augustine: Person is a convenient description. We use the term “person” because we have no other way of describing them (De Trin.7.4.8).
      8. Cyril of Alexandria: the nature is modulated through the properties of the hypostases. In each person the entire nature is understood along with its hypostatic property (Dialogue on the Trinity 7).

The Almighty

  1. Augustine: “Almighty” means God can do what he wills (City of God, 5.10.1).

Maker

Heaven and earth

  1. Cyril of Alexandria: No Limits to God. “There is no place that holds divinity, yet it is absent from nothing at all, for it fills all things, goes through all things, is beyond all things and yet within all things” (Commentary on John 11.9).
  2. John of Damascus: God is the Cause of all, the essence of all that have essence (Orthodox Faith 1.12)./
  3. Space and Time:
    1. God’s works are external, unlike the begetting of His Son, which is internal to his being (Athanasius Contra Ar. 1.29).

Of all that is, Seen

  1. Ephrem the Syrian: Threefold nature of Adam’s creation.
    1. Eve took Adam’s body, but not his soul (Comm. on Genesis 1-2).
  2. Augustine’s trichotomism: body, soul, and spirit (On Faith and the Creed 10.23).
  3. Cyril of Alexandria: The soul did not exist before the body (Comm. on John 1.9).

And Unseen

  1. Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: Angel of punishment belongs in the class of righteous angels.
    2. Clement of Alexandria: Spiritual people pray with angels (Strom. 7.12).
    3. Hilary of Poitiers: Angels intercede for us (Homily on the Psalms 129 (130)).
    4. Gregory the Great: Nine different orders of angels: angels, archangels, rulers, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim (Forty Gospel Homilies 2.34.7).
  2. Nephilim:
    1. Athenagoras–some angels fell into sexual lust. Their offspring were the Giants (Plea Regarding Christians 24).
    2. Tertullian: sometimes angels assume corporeal form, as when the men of Sodom sought them (On the Flesh of Christ 3).
    3. Yet Chrysostom says the angels cannot have sexual relations (Homilies on Genesis 22.2).
    4. On the other hand, John Cassian says some angels have their own type of body (Conferences 7.13).
  3. Guardian Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: each person has two angels, one evil and one good (Mandate 2.6.2).
    2. Origen: churches, apostles, and individuals each have angels (On First Principles 1.8.1). Nations also have their own angels (cf. Greece and Persia in Daniel; Tyre in Ezekiel; On First Principles 3.3.2).
    3. Jerome: each person has a guardian angel from the moment of birth (Commentary on Matthew 3.18.10).
    4. Theodoret of Cyr: Individuals have angels; nations have archangels (Comm. Daniel 10.13).
  4. Demons
    1. Exorcism still takes place today–Theophilus of Antioch (To Autoclys 2.8).
    2. Fallen angels invented magic and astrology (Tertullian).
    3. Demons only harm those who fear them: Lactantius, Institutes 2.16.

Self-Love and Augustine: Analytical Outline

This is an outline of Oliver O’Donovan’s The Problem of Self-Love in St Augustine.
Thomas Aquinas identified three different froms of self-love: friendly, hostile, neutral.

      1. Augustine’s own use of it identifies with the eudaimonist tradition (O’Donovan 2).
    1. Four Aspects of Love
      1. Dilectio and caritas are words better-suited than amor.
        1. There is no caritas about evil things; only cupiditas.
      2. The loving subject stands in a complex relation to the reality he confronts.
        1. “Order” is a teleological notion.
        2. The subject discovers this order.
      3. The final good.
        1. Augustine initially thought this meant happiness.
        2. The supreme Good can’t be below or equal to man; it is above him.
        3. Using language like finis bonum introduces a positivist note (17).
      4. Cosmic love
        1. Metaphysical/ethical realism.
        2. The love of God is a metaphysical movement of the human will towards its final cause.
          1. But this doesn’t really account for deviations.
          2. Augustine then said that the movement of each thing is “proper” in that it occurs without any exterior force as an intervening cause.
        3. Augustine’s “Neo-Platonism.”
          1. The good of each degree is identified with the degree above it.
          2. Yet Augustine the metaphysician had to admit that only one object of love was permissible.
      5. Positive Love
        1. For the early Augustine “use” was opposite of love.
        2. Distinction between things and signs
          1. Things are subdivided
            1. Objects of enjoyment: you cleave to something for its own sake.
            2. Objects of use: not all use of temporal things is love.
        3. This is classical eudaimonism: the end is something one posits (28).
      6. Rational Love
        1. Love is estimation, appreciation, approval, not appetite or movement.
        2. The lover’s response to the object of his admiration is dilectatio.
          1. The basis of this delight is rational.
          2. Love’s order is given by its comprehending conformity to the order of reality.

 

  • Self-Love and the Love of God

 

      1. The pyramidal ordo amoris supposes that every subordinate good derives its value from its final orientation to God.
      2. Knowledge: We require God’s merciful self-communication
        1. The human mind
          1. We also need subjective criteria: the mind loves itself.

 

  • Self-Love and Self-Knowledge

 

      1. Love follows knowledge.
      2. Matter and Mind
        1. To be in matter is to be in space.
        2. The intelligible realm is “in itself.”
      3. Soul and Presence
        1. Self-presence: the soul detached from the world of matter
        2. Distance-from-self: the soul in matter.
        3. Augustine identifies the inner self with conscience (71).
      4. There is a gulf between self-knowledge and knowledge of God.
      5. Commentary on De Trinitate
        1. First three-fold division
        2. Amans, amata, amor
          1. This was the Trinity of external love.
          2. The subject-object-copula only yielded two terms.
          3. New triad can yield three: mens, notitia, amor.
        3. Memoria, intelligentia, voluntas

 

  • The Primal Destruction

 

      1. Self-love is to reject the good common to all, God himself, in favor of some limited personal good.
      2. Platonic echoes: Augustine sees the soul of man occupied in the middle place of the universe.
        1. We must view the soul as expanding (reaching towards God) and contracting (sin).
      3. Your private interests should not clash with another’s, for the only true interests have to be communal because the only true goodness was God, who gives himself freely to all (103).
        1. Neglecting the common good is neglecting the transcendent good common to all.

 

  • Suum has become an ontological category (104).

 

Thesis: Self-love is notorious to define, be it pagan or Christian.  And it isn’t always clear what Augustine means by it.  O’Donovan, however, does point the way through the morass and gives us something like the following: Augustine takes classical eudaimonianism and gives a “communal” and eschatological cast to it:  self-love finds its true expression in love to God, which orders my love to others (138).

O’Donovan ends with an outstanding presentation of Christian Eudaimonism.  Such a view will have to take a positivist view of the finis bonum.

But in some ways more important than the above is O’Donovan’s wise, judicious handling of the history of ethics in the ancient world.  Among other things, he gives us an outstanding commentary on the latter half of De Trinitate.

Rejoinder to Goldberg/National Review

I normally despise anything National Review writes, but every now and then they can be very helpful even if very wrong.  In “Denationalizing Politics” Jonah Goldberg notes,

Donald Trump almost never uses the language of traditional American conservatism, with its emphasis on classically liberal notions of limited government, constitutionalism, individualism, and free trade.

Well, yes. Though given National Review’s support for neocon wars, one wonders how committed to constitutionalism they are.

Still, these visions leave millions of traditional conservatives and committed libertarians without a natural home in either major political party

Welcome to my world for the past two decades. Not fun, is it?  

No one simply lives in the United States of America. We live in Peoria, Harlem, and Seattle. The virtues built close to home, Levin argues, are those that make us good citizens and ultimately draw us together.

This is almost true.  I like the “go local” part of it.  The problem is that the United States as a singular entity was never supposed to exist.  We are supposed to be a collection of federal republics.

What would be so terrible about letting diverse communities decide how they want to live and spend their tax dollars?

Didn’t you guys call for the mass suicide of white communities?

As a whole much of Goldberg’s post sounds like something I would write.  The problem is the neocon agenda.  How can we empower local communities (“not cede power to Washington”) when the federal government expanded under his hero George W. Bush?

But isn’t “nationalism” dangerous?  Depends on what you mean by that term.  I think “nationalism” as used today is an empty term that serves only to link the enemy with Hitler. Of course, those who studied philosophical romanticism and the development of cultural cohesion know that no proponent uses the term like that.  

So what is nationalism?  Goldberg doesn’t actually define it but I think he means something like state centralization of power at the expense of local and international communities.  In doing so he makes a classic error in defining the state in modern, post-Enlightenment terms as some sort of bureaucratic apparatus. Goldberg sees the state as synonymous with the nation. Earlier Romantics (and the middle ages) did not use such a definition.  “Nation” for them was the cohesion of a number of unifying factors: culture, religion, language. Oh yeah, see Augustine’s City of God 19.24-26, “common bonds of love.”  State as a modern bureaucratic invention did not happen until much later.

Thus, we can define nationalism–no doubt as Herder defined it–as promoting the cultural cohesion of different groups who are defined and bound together by their shared objects of love.  Far from being “xenophobic” or “wacist,” this is the most loving and culturally enriching thing one can do.

Tell me what is better:  Ethiopian Orthodox art or some watered down white-boy band pop music?  Tell me what is better: the mosque at Timbuktu or Bauhaus architecture?  Tell me what is better: the Tao te Ching or 50 Shades of Grey?

I wonder if the loss of a culture is the reason for much of the mental illness in America today.

But moving on:  without nationalism and a strong identity, we are simply Lockean atoms bouncing in the Void.  Uprooted communities who live in fear and angst will not be able to stop the Internal Bankster Regime.

 

Organic Communities

I have several goals in this post:

  1. Rebut extreme racism
  2. Rebut multiculturalism
  3. Show that the promoters of (2) secretly believe in (1).
  4. Point towards how all races and communities can flourish

What does the word racism mean?  Who invented it?  Are you scared when a Marxist calls you a racist?

Don’t lie.

I also want to mention the quasi-irrational fear that some “Trad Ox” have at being labeled “phyletist” or “racist.” Guys, you will not win an argument against Cultural Marxists. Own up to the term.

Let’s begin with a discussion of race, per Starbucks and Drug Lord Eric Holder. Multiculturalists will say “There is no such thing as race.”  If that’s true, then how can we have a discussion on race?  It’s like discussing unicorns.  Interesting, no doubt, but utterly pointless.

However, I don’t think race is a good lowest common denominator for how a community should be organized.  I was thinking last night, “I have far more in common with a middle class or rural black man than I do with a LGBTYQ university professor in New England.  Whom would I rather have as a neighbor?”   It’s kind of a self-explanatory question.  

Therefore, I reject the idea of one-race-only communities.   I reject it because it fails on the above two counts.

Multiculturalism is trickier.  Just what does one mean by the word?  It’s bandied about but rarely defined.  And some well-meaning Christians, armed with facile interpretations of Galatians 3:28, support multiculturalism.  Again what does it mean?

Df. (1) = different ethnic groups can live in the same geographic locale

Is that all that multiculturalism means?  If so, then the militantly nationalist Byzantine Empire is multicultural.   Before we begin, let’s look at a statement from St Augustine’s City of God Bk. 19.24.

[We] say that a people is an assemblage of rational beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love, then, in order to discover the character of any people, we have only to observe what they love.

Can different groups within one society hold to Augustine’s principle?  I think so, though it becomes harder and without some form of transcendental “grounding” it is borderline impossible.

For example, the Jihadi “migrant” wants to practice female circumcision.  I want to kill anyone who does that.  We have two different “loves.” Therefore, we cannot be a society.

Note, however, the above paragraph has nothing to do with “race.”  

So, we’ve concluded that modern uses of “multiculturalism” have little to do with df.(1).  We need to search for other definitions.

Df.(1*) = different ethnic groups must live in the same geographic locale.

I think this is close to the correct definition.  It explains the suicidal policies in Europe.  Fortunately, it’s easy to refute.  Whenever someone says this, just ask “Why?”  And keep asking that question.  Apart from some transcendental norm–which the modern world rejects–it’s difficult to answer.  You’ll probably get some answer like “Because it’s the current year. LOL.”

Point (3) is fun.  Trick question:  what’s the difference in the KKK’s neighborhood and that of a white liberal?  Tough, isn’t it? You are correct.  There is no difference.  They both live in all-white neighborhoods.  

Some in the black community have suggested that what black youth need are black male role models and mentors and teachers.  Specifically, they don’t need the liberal white savior (LWS).  So where does the idea of LWS arise?  Probably from liberal white politicians.  Proponents of (2) are actually endorsing (1).  By endorsing the LWS myth, proponents of (2) are saying that black males can’t do the job.  Liberal whites hold to a particularly nasty form of racism and one which I condemn in the strongest terms.

Of course, the elites who endorse multiculturalism have no intention of moving to inner-city Detroit.

How can different races live in harmony with each other?  This is where localism is just common sense.  The question we should actually be asking is this, “How can we best promote the flourishing of each neighborhood?”

Of course, no neighborhood is going to analyze its values in the abstract.  In fact, it probably won’t think of that at all.  Neighborhoods, while acknowledging that people plan to move into a neighboorhood, often just “happen.”  And they seem to “happen” along organic patterns.

Theses on community and politics

I’ve had these ideas for about 6 years now but felt I should publish them after reading the execrable article from National Review on how white communities should go ahead and die.

  1. Neo-Cons, exemplified by National Review, are interested in commerce, not culture.
  2. As such, they cannot hold to Augustine’s definition of a community: an assemblage of rational beings bound together by agreement in the common objects of their love (Civ. Dei. 19.24).  The problem for National Review is that these “common objects” for Augustine are immaterial, not spiritual.

    (2*) Shucks, they no doubt reject Augustine, too.

  3. Unrestrained commercialism erodes the virtues.

    (3*) This doesn’t mean commercialism or technology is bad, per se.

    Rather, it’s current champions, who are also the harshest critics of traditional communities, who are also labeling themselves conservatives, do not have the virtues necessary to keep commercialism from eroding its traditional communities.

    (3′) Which is probably why they don’t give a damn about communities, anyway.

  4. Can one have knowledge of immaterial concepts like “virtue” if one holds to empiricist and commercialist epistemologies?

    (4*)  Commercialist epistemologies: anything that isn’t quantifiable in market-terms does not count as knowledge.

    (4′) As such, it can’t be a “common object of love.”

These will be running theses, for which I will set up a page.