Thoughts on the Grandest of Noses

Before I continue, let me just disclaim: I had a hard time writing this, because I didn’t want to. Yes, I’m devastated to have to live in a world without Robert Engel – known instead to me and the rest of his “grandgeese” as Grandpa Bob – and without my future kids getting a chance to know him like I have, as well as all the rest of my friends and loved ones. But what I mean is it’s a shame for me to try to sum up how he meant to me in a few short paragraphs: it was much more fun to live it, and this account of him is more than likely going to fall short. Well, this is me giving it a try anyway. So here we go. Continue reading

If only Aristotle had a radio talk show…

Success requires wisdom and eloquence.

This statement from my COM theory text is one that really struck me. I think a brief refresher in Greek history is in order to articulate this!

In the time of Aristotle and his mentor Plato, there were these travelling speech ‘teachers’ called Sophists, who were essentially the original FOX news anchors, just dressed for frat parties. They went around Athens offering public speaking lessons for aspiring politicians, lawyers and the like, and they were known for their technique of showboating; elevating style over content. One might accuse any presidential candidate of sophistry. It’s just too easy, and can make you sound educated in Greek history! But these days if you explained what that meant, the moderate voter might reply “And what’s wrong with that? It’s how this thing works.” In a culture run by mass media we are not only taught that this is a good thing, but we are conditioned and controlled by this technique. If you have ever been to a grocery store, been in a job interview, or bought a MacBook, then you’re a sucker. And so am I. (Except for the MacBook. I can’t afford it. Still, props to Apple for making me lust for inanimate objects!) Continue reading

The Infinitude of Our Debt to God – and Vice Versa

This is my final Kierkegaard paper which basically says God is in debt to us big time.

In chapter 5 of Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard discusses our moral indebtedness to each other on the basis of love.  The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:8 says “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”[1] and by saying this makes the implication that the only good debt for one to have is the debt of love.  Kierkegaard focuses on the idea that love is not just a debt, but a different kind of debt.  The difference, he claims, is that opposed to monetary debts which are dealt with in finite quantities, love is dealt with in the infinite.  With finite debts, the goal is to get out of debt as soon as possible.  With the infinite debt of love, however, it would be “speaking unlovingly, coldly, and harshly”[2] to try to get out of debt as fast as possible.  Keeping records with love would be an offense.  If, however, one acts in a loving way toward another and expresses that he wishes to remain in debt, this, Kierkegaard says, is speaking lovingly.  To make calculations and assessments of love, an infinite act, would be inherently impossible. This is impossible because to try to quantify the infinite on a finite level is a task which will never be complete but rather continues on forever; it is a logical impossibility.

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Speaking for Boyd: A Defense of Open-Theism

This is a paper I recently wrote for “God and Freedom” one of my upper-level philosophy classes.  I’m still not entirely sure about my stance on divine foreknowledge on conjunction with human free will, but I figured picking a view and arguing for it was as good a place to start figuring it out as any.

The problem of reconciling libertarian free will with God’s sovereignty is one which many theologians and philosophers alike have been trying to solve for a long time.  It brings many different people to many different conclusions about how they will settle this difficult issue.  No view has brought as much theological and philosophical debate as much as open theism, which has become so polarizing that all other views are united into ‘classical theism’.  Gregory Boyd, a well known theologian and proponent of open theism, makes the case that the classical theist is wrong for interpreting scripture anthropomorphically (giving God human characteristics just for our ease of understanding, even though He is ultimately beyond understanding), and that it is more beneficial to simply read scripture for what it is at face value. He cites examples for verses that appear to say that God had unfulfilled expectations (Isaiah 5:4), or that God is not sure what humans will freely choose (Jeremiah 3:19-20).  The classical theist counters this argument by presenting verses like Acts 2:23, where it directly mentions God having both foreknowledge and control of future events.  Boyd does not seem to have a response to this, though I believe there is a certainly a response to be made.  In this essay, my goal is to use the Acts 2:23 counter-argument of classical theism to the advantage of Boyd to show that God’s having foreknowledge of a future event is simply a result of His divine intervention to predetermine that situation, and is therefore fully compatible with the open-theism view.

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Counterfactual Knowledge and Free Will – take 1

This is a post from my presentation for one of my upper level philosophy classes called God and Freedom. The class is basically one endless attempt at wrestling with the behemoth that is exploring the philosophical implications of human free will and the sovereignty of God. This post is basically the handout I’m making for the class about my presentation on the subject of ‘Middle Knowledge’. This is based off William Lane Craig’s essay in the book “Divine Foreknowledge”.

The question about the order in which God possesses counterfactual knowledge is a debate long argued by Dominican and Jesuit theologians, and has enormous implications on whether or not human beings possessing free will clashes with the theological claim of God being an omniscient being.

The main question:

(page 120)

Theologians from most sides tend to agree that God possesses counterfactual knowledge (“conditional statements in the conjunctive mood” eg.: if Hillary Clinton had won the primaries, John McCain would be President right now). What theologians most often disagree with, however, is when would God possess such knowledge.

The order of possible knowledge is as follows:

“Natural Knowledge”
o  o  o  o  o  o  o  o  o
The range of ‘possible’ worlds.

“Middle Knowledge”
o     o     o
The range of ‘feasible’ worlds.

“Free Knowledge”
The ‘actual’ world.

We’re concerned with “Middle Knowledge”, and the dispute over when God possesses this knowledge is not relation to time, but rather “logical order”. The question we will focus on is whether God’s counterfactual “Middle Knowledge” is logically prior or posterior to his divine creative decree.

Dominican View:
(page 121)
“Catholic theologians of the Dominican order held that God’s counterfactual knowledge is logically subsequent to his decree to create a certain world. ” Therefore when God created the world, he decreed through that act of creation which counterfactuals (or what feasibly would contingently happen) are going to be true. Logically prior to that divine decree, however, there are no counterfactuals to know, and therefore it is not necessary for him to know such possibilities in that logical order. God simply only knows the many contingent possibilities at the order in time that is logically necessary.

Jesuit View:
(page 122)
“Catholic theologians of the Jesuit order inspired by Luis de Molina maintained that God’s counterfactual knowledge is logically prior to his creative decree.” The Molinists’ main fuel for argument with Dominicans is that by making counterfactuals a subsequent consequence of God’s creating the world, the Dominicans had effectively destroyed the possibility of human freedom, for counterfactual possibility would be a mere cause and effect of a particular act of creation by God. Molinists, by placing counterfactuals logically prior to creative decree, exempt any interdependent involvement by the two, leaving room for legitimate free-choice to be a possibility for human beings, while not messing with God’s sovereignty. God would simply factor the range of possibilities into his creation of a world – and this is what Molinists coin as “Middle Knowledge”.

I’m leaning toward Molinism, for lack of a better solution. It still possesses holes for me, like if God possesses counterfactual knowledge independent of divine creation, then it might be problematic for his sovereignty. I’d be willing to deal with that though in the face of the alternative Dominican view, which would appear to me to be surrendering a white flag to determinism. And if there’s one thing I’m not… it’s a Calvinist. No thanks.