Category Archives: Philosophical Theology

The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan

In Seriously Have we Been Captured by Satan?, I sketched out a conceptual model or philosophical theory on humanity being captured by Satan. What is the purpose of such a model? Most Catholics who hear about the temptations of Christ, demonic possessions or hell have no interest in such abstract discussions. We read the words of scripture and hear homilies. We accept the words and, more or less, heed the instructions not to take any images as portraying spiritual realities. We need not rely only on own own imaginations for imagery to set aside. We enjoy an immense artistic tradition illustrating Satan and his “works and pomps.” For instance, see Temptation of Christ by Vasily Surikov (1872) and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel . What is the value of all of this imagery? Of course, much of it has artistic value although, for the most part, not by presenting what is beautiful.

It must be emphasized that the imagery of Satan et al. is to be ignored for purposes of representing what was the case in natural and supernatural reality. The religious value of the imagery is as a heuristic to lead us to take the words of scripture seriously. By catching our imaginations we pay attention to the words. It must also be emphasized that imagery is not be ignored. In so far as, the imagery helps appreciate and follow the words of scripture and doctrines developed from scripture, the imagery is valuable.

What is the value of the scripture and doctrines?

The scripture and doctrines tell of our relation to God and how we are to live our natural lives so that we can be happy with God in heaven. The scripture, doctrines and heuristic imagery of Christianity form a vast conceptual scheme. It is a way of speaking and living. Here the attention is on the speaking. As a twentieth century philosopher who wrote his Ph. D. dissertation* on Wittgenstein, I class the Catholic way of speaking as at least a language game . There is no need to digress into the literature on language games. Here the important point is about what is the right thing to say. The word “game” suggestion that what is right or wrong in the game is contained in the game’s rule, explicit or implicit. The language game specifies what is correct to assert and correct to deny. Reality beyond the game need not be consulted on how to play the game, viz., say the right thing. Call the right thing to say “warranted assertions.”

I write mostly of Catholicism. But what I write can be applied to other religions.

Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of the Catholic teaching and practice, the Catholic language game, tell us what is the case with the natural and supernatural and how to live properly in it. Simple faith is trust that the warranted assertions tell the truth without any consideration of what it would be like for them to have truth conditions in reality – to represent what is the case.

It might be proposed that Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of Catholicism tell us what is true, and not merely warranted, because they come from a language game developed from the reality of Jesus’s teaching, crucifixion and resurrection. However, there is a problem of understanding how the first century reality of Jesus’ teaching, death and resurrection justify, outside our Catholic language game, assertions in the twenty first century. This is a problem which calls for a philosophical model.

Faith seeking understanding is hope that we can have some understanding of what it is like for there to be truth conditions for the warranted assertions. In particular, the value of conceptual models of Satan is to sketch out how there can be truth conditions for talk of Satan.

However, the conceptual models will be ignored by most, unverifiable by any empirical tests and controversial amongst the few who pay attention? (There is always quarrelling about any philosophy.) The fact that there are philosophically minded Catholics who are trying to understand how assertions about the transcendent and supernatural can be true becomes part of the language game of Catholicism. This contribution to the Catholic outlook, the Catholic language game, is an antidote to non-cognitivism about religious belief and, in particular, in Catholic religious belief.

Roughly, the non-cognitivist interpretation of religious assertions is that they do not tell us the truth about a reality independent of the religious beliefs. The purpose of religious assertions is to guide conduct and lead us to having a purpose driven life. Truth and falsity are irrelevant. Explicit non-cognitivism held by a large number of the members of a religion will be the end of that religion.

Non-cognitivism requires another post to appreciate its appeals and perils. It suffices as a conclusion to this post to claim:
The value for Catholicism of there being some awareness of a few Catholics pondering how doctrinal claims can be true in addition to being orthodox, viz., warranted assertions, is protecting claims that truth is being taught from being mere rhetoric.

* An improved version of my dissertation examining Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics is in my book: Strict Finitism, The Hague 1970

Seriously: Have We Been Rescued From Satan?

I have volunteered to be a discussion group facilitator in my parish’s presentation of The Rescue Project . The goal of the Rescue Project is strengthening belief in the Christian Salvation story.
The project is guided by the maxim: “We live our lives according to the story we believe” The website announces:

“We passionately believe that the most urgent task is the compelling proclamation of the gospel, one that not only shares it in an attractive – and concentrated – way, but that also offers people a way of seeing reality, and of making sense of the world, history, and life that is vastly different from the story our modern culture tells.” N.T. Wright is quoted: “This is how stories work. They invite listeners into a new world, and encourage them to make it their own, to see their ordinary world from now on through this lens, within this grid.”

The project is structured around eight videos in which Fr. John Ricardo dramatically lays out the Christian Salvation Story. There are group discussions after each video.

The third video is titled “The Enemy is the Enemy.” Fr. Ricardo speaks in an emphatically realistic way about Satan, the devil or the evil one as OUR ENEMY. In the fourth video, Fr. Ricardo dramatizes how humanity, with the disobedience of the first two humans, were captured by Satan. The fifth video describes Jesus’ crucifixion as rescuing all of us from him.

I am uncomfortable about participating in discussions of Satan. I cannot decide what I believe about the narratives. I do not want to undercut the point of the Fr. Ricardo’s narratives by indicating my skepticism. So, I tell myself a “metaphysical story.” What is the story? I begin by adapting St. Augustine’ doctrine that angels are essentially messengers. I use, and maybe misuse, Thomistic notions of matter and form. My metaphysical story should not be blamed on St. Augustine or St. Thomas. There is a glibness in my “metaphysical story.” I grasp at metaphysical straws to build a conceptual structure. Telling a metaphysical story is my rationalization for participating in discussions about Satan. In a subsequent post, I will exam why I seek a rationalization. via metaphysics.

In creation the transcendent God has there be out of nothing potentiality for being formed in various ways for various purposes. The transcendent God has, also out of nothing, there be entities conveying to potentiality the various ways of being formed for various purposes. These entities for conveying ways of being formed for various purposes can be regarded as messages from the transcendent; as such they are angels. They are not the Word of God. They are the messengers bringing the Word of God.to potentiality.

The ways of being formed for various purposes come into existence together with that to which they bring form and purpose. Athough they are not identical to that to which they bring form and function. For example, the angels for fishes bring form and function to the fish species. So, to fit in with the Genesis narrative: creation of the fish is creation of the fish angels. Hence, the entities conveying form and function to humans are created concomitant with creation of humans. Just as in the Genesis narrative humans are the summit of creation so are the concomitant angels the highest angels. The conveyers of the form to potentiality, viz. matter, have the form and function conveyed but without forming matter. So, the angels forming humanity have the forms of free will, self-consciousness, thoughts of God and obedience to laws of God. However, these angels are spiritual entities because they have no matter. This means that they have no potentiality for taking on accidental forms by which they can be spatially located and distinguished from one another; they can only be what they are essentially. However, these angels can change if their essence, the forms they have, provide for the attainment of a goal, eg. informing matter or making a decision as would be the case for angels conveying the form for free will. There is a formal succession; a before-and-after succession which cannot be tracked by an spatial succession.

This metaphysical speculation has set the stage for Fr. Ricardo’s anthropomorphic tale of the fall of Satan and Satan’s enslavement of human beings. The conceptual structure makes anthropomorphism plausible. For the angels for humanity have the forms of the traits they convey to humans. We think of them as similar to people while trying to ignore any spatial imagery of them.

( This is not platonic self-predication in which the form of man is a man. It is the conveyer of the form of man to potentiality which has the form it conveys.)

Some of the highest angels, perhaps those charged with bringing the highest intelligence to humans, were envious that humans would share with them eternal life. They believed that the humans tied down in matter should not share their high goal of eternal life. In their pride, with their free will they chose not to convey the form of eternal life to humans. With their choice not to convey the form of eternal life to humans, they chose not to be what they are essentially, viz., conveyers of the Word of God. By choosing not to be what they are essentially, they chose total death. Total death is annihilation; not being at all. But they cannot be annihilated for they have the form of eternal life. The result is that they have chosen eternal torment of having as their chosen goal being annihilated while they can never be annihilated. Simply being is an eternal torment for them. There is no rest. That is hell.

In their hellish state, they still envy humans having eternal life with being with God as their good. Other angels fulfilled the function of conveying the form of eternal life to humans. Perhaps, the other angels taking over this function could be portrayed as St. Michael casting Satan and his angels down from heaven. In their envy, they wish to pervert the good of eternal life in humans into the eternal torment to which their disobedience perverted their eternal life. Satan persuaded the first humans, viz. the humans from which the forms and purposes of humanity would be transmitted to other humans, to choose not to be with God by choosing to disobey God. By choosing not to be with God, these first humans chose for humanity not to have the goal of being with God. For humans not to have the goal of being with God is not to be. For humans not to be as they ought is not to be. So, the first humans who chose the forms for subsequent humans they chose the final form as not to be. Thus, humans, by this primeval choice have their final goal as the perverted good of not being. But it is perverted because they have the form of eternal life while having the goal of not having life, viz. annhilation. Thus, humans now have the hellish condition of the fallen angels. They eternally seek annihilation; a restless striving for a total death which never comes.

To be sure, humans have a type of death for death is what has been chosen. The death we get is not being full humans because we are all ultimately to be separated from matter, viz., biological death. We still have the form of eternally being which is now a curse for our choice is not to be. So, with Satan we have the eternal torment of seeking not to be.

Thus, Satan has captured us by making our destiny the same as his, viz., eternally tormented spiritual beings. For each of us the capture is completed at our biological death. For in the spiritual condition we are completely in his realm. So, it is biological death, becoming disembodied, which is the doorway to hell. In this sense, death is as much our enemy as Satan. Overcoming death, as disembodiment is the way to rescue humans from the hellish destiny of Satan.

I shall not attempt a rationalization of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection as overcoming death. I try to understand the Paschal Mystery with philosophy. But these philosophical speculations are only faith seeking understanding. I regard philosophical speculations as rationalizations when used to excuse anthropomorphic stories about spiritual beings.

The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View

Undercutting any solutions for the problem of evil is the cornerstone of nihilism.

Of course, this post connects with The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Christian World View. In that post, I developed a line of argument in philosophical theology adapting a line of argument reaching back at least to Epicurus’ classical formulation of the problem of evil, around 300 BC. It culminated with:

10. If God has delegated creation of reality as we experience it to subsidiary creators, He had a good reason for delegating creative activity and has a good reason for correcting the experienced reality produced by susidiary creators.

11. So, ultimately there will be a correction of reality as we experience it although we cannot imagine experiencing it!

These lines (10) and (11) provide an intellectual rationale for developing a world view of some type of salvation history. Salvation histories are histories of reality as we experience it using language of ordinary history plus reference to religious beings, processes and events. The world view of Christianity is a salvation history. My paradigm salvation history is given in the Catholic Bible plus interpretations of the Christian Church Fathers and expressed in the Nicene Creed. At the risk of being cryptic: Salvation histories are solutions to the problem of evil. Salvation histories make sense of life – tell of a point and purpose for living despite the sin and suffering all experience by living.

Most likely, the intellectual rationale behind a salvation history comes, in fact, after the salvation histories have been told for generations. However, being a subsequent rationale for narrations of the salvation history does not reduce the rationalization to unimportant additions to a salvation history. A dimension of our being rational animals is being theological animals. Experienced sin and suffering drives us to seek understanding of our believed salvation history.

Good reasons have been given for theological theories behind Judeo-Christian salvation history. Unfortunately, despite being good reasons, none of the rationalizations are compelling. The theories of philosophical theology simply do not have mathematical certainty. There are no intellectually compelling solutions for the problem of evil. Logic allows hardening the heart and saying: No!

Hence, the problem of evil provides a foundation for nihilism. Nihilists find loop-holes for setting aside the theological rationalizations and let the experience of sin and suffering lead people to despair of there being any point or purpose to living. All history, secular and salvation, tell only “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

When I think of loss of the naive faith of a child or even of an adult, I think of a nursery rhymme about an egg named Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s and all of the king’s men.
Could not put Humpty together again.

Faith and rationalization are now needed to go on living with hope that the salvation history tells the truth about the point and purpose of living. Both faith and reason are needed in religion just as both are needed in science. This religious faith that sustains hope is not naïve fideism justifying believing because one wants to belief. Religious faith justifies nothing. It is a gift that comes and goes sustaining hope that ultimately “all manner of things will be well.”

Theism Is Compatible With Nihilism

A theistic metaphysics is compatible with nihilism. For it is possible for God to give no significance to human life. We readily think that God sets no enduring destiny for Woodticks. He could, then, allow humans to vanish into non-being which is the fate to which we consign ticks.

In attempts to understand Christianity, I occasionally speculate that God originally intended that humans never pass into non-being. Humans had a choice to share in God’s never ceasing to be. However, there was some original choice by humans not to share completely in God’s way of being by not always willing as God willed. So, humans chose to have their own way of being as do the other creatures of God. Other creatures have temporary being; they come into existence and pass away. For an elaboration of these speculations, see Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition.

However, God had set as the good for humans never ceasing to be. God loves his creatures which means God wills the good of his creatures. So, even after humans had chosen ceasing to be, God stilled willed that humans not cease to be. There is no necessity for God to will never ceasing to be for humans. For God did not need to create. God did not need to create beings with a good of everlasting being.

The point remains. God did not have to give a meaning to human life as we understand having a meaning for life.

If our lives have meaning, it is because of the goodness of God.

The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View

As links reveal, this post coheres with efforts to find foundations for divine command morality. A factor of my motivation for understanding morality as based on divine commands is to understand retributive punishment. I believed that retributive punishment is crucial to understand the Christian world view that evil has been introduced by God’s creatures which God in His love for His creatures will correct. A Christian world view is a plausible account of what it would be like for line 11 below to be true.

A significant challenge to prevailing secular world views would be showing that an intelligible line of thought in philosophical theology leads to claims well explained by the Christian world view. Lines (1) through (10) below are philosophical theology. If I were to document sources for any of these lines, I would cite historical figures recognized as philosophers and not as theologians for any particular religious tradition. If I would cite sources on how to develop line (11) I would cite scriptures and theologians such as Church Fathers. I should be citing sources because I do not want to claim any originality for what I write. I admit originality only for what is not worth taking seriously. Perhaps, line (1), then, is original. Still, I believe line (1) is correct.

1. We cannot imagine experiencing reality without physical and moral evil.

2. If God is omnipotent, all good and the sole creator of reality, then reality is without physical and moral evil.

3. So, if God is omnipotent, all good and the sole creator of reality, then reality of which God is the sole creator is a reality which we cannot imagine experiencing.

4. We can, because of our experience, only too well imagine experiencing reality with physical and moral evil.

5. So, God is either not omnipotent or not all good or not the sole creator of the reality as we experience reality.

6. If God exists, God is omnipotent and all good.

7. God exists .

8. Hence, God is not the sole creator of reality as we experience it.

9. If God is not the sole creator of reality as we experience it , then the other creators are less than God and have been created with God’s permission to be subsidiary creators of reality as we experience it.

10. If God has delegated creation of reality as we experience it to subsidiary creators, He had a good reason for delegating creative activity and has a good reason for correcting the experienced reality produced by susidiary creators.

11. So, ultimately there will be a correction of reality as we experience it although we cannot imagine experiencing it!

Some remarks on the lines of the argument:

On line (1): An observation in a homily by my pastor, Fr, Matthew Hoover, gave me the insight that we pose the problem of evil but have no clear idea of what would solve it.

On line 9: I have sketched out how Satan could be the primary subsidiary creator.

Moral Gravity and Forgiveness of Original Sin

Moral Gravity and Forgiveness of Original Sin

I use this topic to speculate on the Christian Paschal mystery. I try to show that taking gravity -the seriousness – of an offense as an intrinsic feature of the offense is a theologically rich concept although in secular thinking gravity of an offense is extrinsic.

A fruitful opening question runs “Is an intrinsically grave wrong forgivable?” We turn away from legal and ordinary moral thinking because there are no intrinsically grave acts for those ways of thinking. For in legal and everyday moral thinking gravity depends upon the harm done by the act and the intention of the actor to do harm in the circumstance.

In the previous post, it was proposed that by interpreting moral rules as divine commands, we might be able to develop a concept of intrinsically grave wrong. Consider the following working definition.

An act is an intrinsically grave wrong if it is direct disobedience of a command of God. In the Judaic-Christian myth, Eve’s eating the apple was a grave wrong despite the triviality of eating an apple and Eve’s good intention to attain knowledge of good and evil. On the tempter’s suggestion, she directly with full consent of her will disobeyed God’s command. Adam endorsed and participated in the disobedience. So, at our beginning, humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, has directly willed to disobey God’s commands. So, from our beginning we are guilty of grave wrongs. For what Adam and Eve’s choice represents is each of us, except Mary mother of Jesus, accepting as a live option choosing evil – defiance of God – as a means to good.

How can God forgive us for that?

Consideration of what is involved in direct defiance of God, shows what might be needed to forgive such a wrong. Direct disobedience of a command of God is to will not to be as God wills us to be. However, willing not to be as God wills us to be is to will not to be at all. For what God does not will is nothing. So, Adam and Eve willed not to be – that is total evil: complete lack of any being.

I am using a command theory of morality in which choice of wrong requires retributive punishment.

Choice of wrong is choice to have a good inhibited. In general, the retributive punishment for choice of a good not to be is to be deprived of the good one chose to inhibit i.e., not to be. For instance, the apt retributive punishment for choosing death for another in murder is to lose one’s own life. So, in the case of Adam and Eve’s choice of not to be, the suitable retributive punishment is not to be. But, in this model of original sin, based on the Adam and Eve myth, Adam and Eve chose for humanity. The punishment, then, would be the annihilation of humanity.

God forgave Adam and Eve, viz., humanity, by not requiring of us the evil of annihilation that we have chosen. But how might God have forgiven the punishment? God gave humanity free will. Humanity used free will to choose not to be. Letting the choice of a free will come about is a great good because free will is a great good. So, God would not hinder the choice of humanity to be annihilated. But annihilation of humanity would be an evil – lack of being for all humans. God loves, wills the good, of humans. So, God wills that human not be annihilated as they have chosen.

How can God protect us from our punishment of annihilation which we have chosen? God becomes incarnate as a the human Jesus. In Jesus’ execution, human nature was annihilated as a punishment, Jesus’ death was more than our deaths. Jesus’s death was total annihilation. Jesus suffered exceedingly. As a man he suffered horrible biological death on the cross. After biological death, he suffered the total evil -non being- of annihilation which is hell. Only God who sustains all things in being could have had human nature annihilated, kept humans in existence and then re-created human nature.

Imperishability of the Human Soul

The human soul makes a human animal a supernatural being as well as a natural being.

That which makes a human animal supernatural is its moral capacity to know the good and freely choose it. Knowing the good is bipartite. First, there is knowing the basic natural human goods, Second, there is knowing that which the basic human goods are good for. The natural goods are also bipartite. First, there are those conditions which make for human flourishing. Second, there is being the kind of person who freely chooses these conditions for human flourishing. Since basic human goods are goals as well as natural conditions, knowledge of goods as good give humans purposes. Purposes are goods which are intentionally sought. Knowing what basic human goods are good for gives humans a purpose for living itself. But purposes are not part of nature when we think of nature from the perspective of evolutionary theory as we are doing here. So, our having purposes makes us supernatural beings as well as natural beings even if most of our goods are natural conditions.

This capacity for knowing the good is a moral capacity because we can freely choose to act against attainment of what is good. But the fundamental law of morality is “Choose what is good!” With knowledge of what is good and free will comes obligation. We could say that it is having obligations which places us in both the natural and supernatural.

It must be emphasized that exercise of the capacity to know and pursue the good depends upon physiological states of an individual human but this moral capacity is not any physiological state or capacity. It is an additional feature that enables physiological states and capacities to be used in intentionally knowing and choosing what is good. Individuals with severe cognitive capacities still have this moral capacity although unable to exercise it. Individuals receive this moral capacity – the human soul – when they began to be human, which is at conception.

This moral capacity is essential to the human species even if it did not arise by natural selection. This means that in a thought experiment in which humans from the period when humanity began, off-spring of these ancient humans due to mating with contemporary humans would have all of the basic moral concepts we have now. See Natural and Supernatural Origin.

The soul of an individual human is that individual’s capacity to know and pursue what is good.

Why claim that the soul of a human is imperishable? Why claim that the soul of a human does not cease to exist at biological death. Why claim that the soul of a human does not cease to exist when there is no body to form into a moral agent? I give a Kantian answer.

A human being is morally perfect if that person becomes the kind of person who freely chooses the natural goods. Amongst these natural goods is being morally perfect.

Consider, now, these brief syllogisms. The justification for (1) is given above when it was pointed out that our natural goods are obligatory goods. Premiss (2) is an alleged truth of logic.

Syllogism I

1. A person ought to be morally perfect.
2. What ought to be can be.
3. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect ceased to be at biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Hence: (4) A person’s capacity to be morally perfect cannot cease to be at biological death.

Syllogism II

5. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect were never embodied after biological death, that person’s capacity to be morally perfect could never be exercised after biological death
6. If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect could never be exercised after biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Hence: (7) If a person’s capacity to be morally perfect were never embodied after biological death, that person cannot be morally perfect.
Using (1) and (2) above, we can conclude:
8. A person’s capacity to be morally perfect – a person’s soul- is embodied some time after biological death.

Note that if a person attained moral perfection that person cannot cease to be. For what ought to be cannot cease to be. If what ought to be ceased to be something which ought to be could no longer be.

The Natural Evolutionary Origin Plus Supernatural Origin of Humanity

It is logically consistency to accept a complete naturalistic evolutionary origin of homo sapiens or homo sapiens-sapiens and still posit a supernatural origin of humanity. I follow some in using homo sapiens-sapiens to admit the prospect of human intelligence itself needing an evolutionary account. I write of a complete naturalistic origin to emphasize that the supernatural origin is not introduced to fill any gaps in the naturalistic evolutionary account. The supernatural should not be introduced to answer any question which could be answered naturalistically. From here on, I will write simply of evolutionary accounts and not use modifiers such as “naturalistic” or “by natural selection.”

What do I accept by granting that there is a complete evolutionary account of the origin of homo sapiens? I give the answer of a non-scientist who sooner or later faces the question “What do you accept or reject by accepting or rejecting an evolutionary explanation of humanity?”

There are two parts to my answer. The first sketches a model which finds a place for empirical evidence to support theories that species, some still existing, evolved by natural selection. The second part presents an imaginary scenario of what it means for the species we are now to be the same species as one existing thousands of years ago.

Perhaps a million or more years ago one particular breeding population in the genus homo, which I label A, flourished and grew. Some members of A would mate with members of other homo populations, which I label B, C, D. Genetic and environmental factors were not favorable for the flourishing and growth of B, C, D despite interbreeding with A. B, C, & D gradually became extinct.

Of course, my sketch is very “sketchy.” Over the thousands and thousands of years B, C & D have had successor populations which have bred, more or less successfully, with other populations, including successors of A. In the end though, all but the successors of A have become extinct.

Only A still exists in the sense that a path down from the present through a tree structure of branches ending before the present, leads from the present to A. The nodes at base of branches on the tree are species; not individuals. It is a branch which has not yet reached its tip.

The genuine hard scientific work lies in tracing such a pathway in the fossil and archaeological data. It is not always clear when they are on the pathway. For instance, do these tool-like rocks clearly indicate A’s? Most likely there can be no specification of a definite time for the origin of A’s. Individuals but not populations have definite origin times. But there can be a bracket of, perhaps, a few thousand years before which there were no A’s but within which A’s appeared. Perhaps, the beginning point of the bracket was fifty to forty thousand years ago.

It should be emphasized that the scientific program is not for explaining the origin of individual members of a species. If one accepts evolution, as I do, it is tempting to believe that there is a “family tree” tracing me back to a breeding pair of humans at a definite time before which there were no humans. But the scientific program is guided by a model of a “species tree.”

Also, it should be emphasized that evolutionary accounts face all of the mind-body problems of any scientific study of contemporary humans. The relation of human thought and feeling, collective as well as individual, to their physiological correlates in the nervous system of individuals, are unexplained in any study of humans.

There is a sexual or reproductive dimension to believing that a species long ago is the same species as ours. This is the requirement that, in general, individuals can reproduce fertile offspring if and only if they are of the same species. There is no way that such a test can be conducted with individuals thousands of years apart. So, I will indulge in a thought experiment.

Suppose somehow a male and female of ancient A had been frozen or preserved in some fashion so that they can now be revived and be sexually active here and now in the twenty first century. Let’s call them Ancient Man and Ancient Woman. They should be able to have offspring by mating with people of the twenty first century. Suppose Ancient Man mates with a contemporary woman Mary and she gives birth to a daughter Clara. Clara should grow up to have all of the cognitive abilities and technical skills of any other child of our century. This means, amongst many other things, that Clara could learn to speak English. Suppose further, Ancient Woman mates with a contemporary male Dick and Ancient Woman becomes pregnant and bears a son Tom. Just like Clara, Tom would be born with the ability to learn the cognitive and technical skills of the twenty first century. To be sure, there would be physical features which set Clara and Tom apart from typical twenty first century people. Almost certainly, they would have smaller body size. Over the centuries, natural selection changes many features of a species without leading to a new species. However, in this thought experiment the prediction is that if Clara and Tom breed with typical twenty first people and then the offspring of these children mate with typical twenty first people the physical differences will be significantly modified to match human features of our century.

The above is my attempt to specify what I admit when I claim to accept that the scientific community has the correct research program for giving a naturalistic explanation of the origin of the human species, indeed for the origin of any species.

The question of whether or not members of this species have been given a purpose or goal for their lives is not, and ought not be, even raised in the evolutionary account. So, it is consistent with this naturalistic account to claim that humans as beings with a purpose began when God specified that each man and woman has the goal of living to know, love and serve Him while living so that they can be happy with Him after biological death.

Of course, consistency is far from significant, let alone true. So, the further questions concern motivation and justification for supernatural claims.

The Transcendent vs Nothing

I am trying to understand the Christian* theme that there is a cosmic battle in progress between God and evil forces. This theme is, on the surface at least, incompatible with the Christian theme of God as the supreme unlimited source of everything except God. The latter theme expresses the standard philosophical concept of God with all the Omni’s, omniscience, omnipotence, etc..

This effort to understand the theme of a cosmic battle is crucial for my project of presenting morality as constituted by divine commands. In modelling morality as laws which are commanded it is very easy to slip into modelling morality as eternal standing laws. The model suggests that there are these immutable laws which were somehow established by a divine command. However, there really is no place for commanding. Classifying the moral laws as simply divine commands adds little to standard natural law models of morality. No new prescriptions can be added. And new prescriptions that some harm ought to occur upon violation of moral laws is crucial to morality as authoritarian morality. To emphasize that the divine commander of morality is an active commander, I try to model the divine commander as a “battlefield commander.”

At the risk of appearing to accept a childish reification of nothing, I explore a conjecture that God is struggling with nothing. There is a cosmic warfare between creating and nothing. Whatever the creator creates, the creator takes from nothing. Whatever the creator sustains keeps something from nothing. Nothing is the loser in creation.

In general, I do not like solving philosophic problems with a verbal change. If the change solves the conceptual problem, it seems an admission that the problem was only verbal. Nonetheless, I will experiment by frequently making the verbal change of “not being” for “nothing.”

The answer to “What is nothing?” is “not being.” So I rewrite my the crucial sentences of the previous paragraph as follows.

I explore a conjecture that God is struggling with not being. There is a cosmic warfare between creating and not being. Whatever the creator creates, the creator takes from not being. Whatever the creator sustains keeps something from not being. Not being is the loser in creation.

Let us suppose that the cosmic struggle is a reaction to creation. Creatures with intelligence and some power are necessary for there to be a struggle not to be – a struggle on behalf of nothing.

The creator creates intelligence with powers. There are intelligence beings with powers to influence what is created. Intelligence recognizes that it depends upon the creator for being. All intelligent beings dread not being. As dependent beings all intelligent beings are essentially capable of not being. And they know it!

There are two ways to react to awareness of dependence. One is to accept the dependent status with faith that the creator sustains one from not being. The other is to rebel against that dependent status.

In rebellion against the dependent status, a creature is rebelling against its being. The rebellious creature is choosing not to be. For a creature to be is to be dependent. Choice of not being dependent is a choice not to be. For a creature to be independent is for it not to be a creature and hence, not to be.

Choice against being a creature is choice against creation. Creation can be attacked only by preventing creatures from being – by having creatures not be. There is a limited way in which creation can be prevented. The only creatures that can be prevented from being are creatures who can not be as the creator intended that they be. These are creatures with free will. The moral laws tell these intelligent creatures what they are created to be. By violating the moral laws they choose not to be. For creatures with free will not to be as the creator intends in a particular area is always a general rebellion against being a creature and, hence, a choice not to be.

Some intelligences have chosen against their dependent status and hence have chosen creation not to be what it is. That means that some intelligences with powers have chosen that there not be creation – that there be nothing. The rebellious creatures want their choice to be correct. The vain hope for ratification of their choice is to have it chosen by all. Thus creatures in rebellion against being seek to use their powers to have others choose not to be which in its limited fashion is always a particular choice not be be as the creator intended in a particular area.

Hence, there is resistance in creation against what the creator creates. The resistant forces can alter what the creator intends in arenas in which the creator grants freedom of choice to some creatures. The typical resistance is disobedience to the moral laws of the creator who is the moral authority.

Subsequent posts will reconsider and clarify the notion of the creator being a moral commander in a contest with intelligences, with powers and free will, who have chosen that there be no creation.

* But I am not working in Christian theology. I want my work to be philosophic. I am here giving philosophic support to Christianity. My line of thought is that authoritarian morality is the correct philosophic model of moral thought. The authoritarian model posits a moral commander in conflict with evil. So, Christianity is shown to use a philosophically approved model of morality.

The Transcendent is Immanent in Moral Transparency

The Transcendent is Immanent in Moral Transparency

Theists establishing the existence of God as a transcendent reality can go on to establishing a consistent divine command moral theory.

In my previous post , I noted that the transcendence of that upon which everything depends for its existence is an artefact of our theoretical thinking. The argument for the being of that upon which everything depends for its existence proceeded by reflection upon our ways of thinking. That the argument proceeded by reflective thinking is apparent premises asserting that we must think in a certain way. In this reflective thinking we form a model of our thinking wherein we posit something beyond our thinking.

Similarly, in a case for a representative realism about truth conditions we form a model of our thinking wherein we posit the truth conditions for representations as things in themselves always beyond our representations. However, this barrier between truth conditions as things in themselves inaccessible to thought is only an artefact of the realism theory, a representative realism theory.

We ourselves along with our thinking are existing entities. We and our thinking are truth conditions for some claims. So, there is no reason for holding that in truth conditions, there is a barrier between thinking and what is thought about. When we are not thinking about our thinking we do not erect a barrier between thought and its objects.

So, there is a basis for holding that if we are not thinking about our thinking to form a metaphysical theory about that on which everything depends, we need not posit some barrier between that on which everything depends and our thinking. In particular, in our awareness that conformity to a moral law is transparent, our thought is in contact with that which from a theoretical point of view transcends thought. Or, so I am claiming. Recall that transparency is the awareness of our obedience, or disobedience, to a moral law is known by something or other. See Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality.

The theoretical transcendent is encountered in our moral thinking.

This is my “breakthrough” in development of a consistent divine command moral theory.

In a series of post developing a model of moral thought as presupposing a moral authority, I have made a case for a moral commander. In another series of posts, using “high metaphysical” reasoning, I have made a case for a divinity – the Transcendent. Theoretically the Transcendent is beyond the immanent reality it sustains while the moral commander is immanent. Now, though, we have realized that in practical reasoning we could be in contact with what is theoretically transcendent. I can consistently extend my model of moral thinking by identifying the divine commander as the Transcendent in metaphysical.

Theoretical reason pays a cost for this permission to go forward in development of a divine command moral theory. The cost is that theoretical reason has to concede that practical reason is superior. For theoretical reason has to admit that it creates artefacts that need to be set aside for realities uncovered by practical reason.

I have no longer have any intention of interpreting the thought of any philosopher; let alone John Henry Newman. Only recently, I took an on-line course on Newman from Bishop Robert Barron. I wish that I had studied Newman earlier. His wisdom exhibited in combining faith and skepticism guides me. I suggest that my sense of transparency in moral thinking leads me to give what Newman calls real assent to the divine while my theoretical reasoning to the Transcendent leads me to give notional assent to the divine.