Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Perspective Modalism

Since my previous post was also about the Trinity, I thought I'd share what seems to be a unique theory that I held for a time during high school (I've never seen anyone support or even suggest a theory quite like it though it seems likely that someone somewhere has at least pondered this sort of thing before). As someone with a little knowledge of some philosophy, theology, and science (and an intense interest in both God and time), I thought this was a pretty good theory of how the Trinity worked - in fact, I thought that any sort of God that was also a creator necessarily had to be at least binitarian (Father and Spirit) and probably trinitarian given certain decisions by God to engage with his creation in a certain way (a proof of the Trinity via natural theology!). But then I read more about the Trinity and early church history and became convinced this was just another form of the modalist heresy and thereafter became convinced that my theory was probably not a good one and hence one to be abandoned.

So here's the view (which I'm calling Perspective Modalism now - though I didn't have a name for it back then): God is literally omnipresent and omnitemporal - literally wholly located at every point in space and time. But he is not simply contained in space and time but also transcends it and is in eternity outside of all space and time - God is infinitely immense. But God is not simply in all time and also outside it but he also travels through it - that is, he takes on a particular path through space and time as specially his own. So now God has three very different perspectives from which to see things and thus three very different modes in which his consciousness and patterns of thought, reasoning and activity exist - outside time, in all time, and enduring through time. And these three, differentiated in such a way and hence so different from one another can interact in various ways that a single consciousness from only a single perspective cannot and hence give rise to three separate persons in God - God the Father (aka God Outside of Time, aka God Transcendent), God the Holy Spirit (aka God Omnitemporal, aka God Immanent), and God the Son (aka God in Time, aka God Incarnate (that is, "incarnate" first as the Angel of YHWH and then in the flesh as Jesus Christ)).

One obvious problem with this sort of view is that it makes the members of the Trinity (other than the Father) contingent - if God had not created space and time then there would be no Son or Spirit and even if he did, if he had not chosen to live a temporal life within his creation then there would be no Son. Of course, God would still be there but he would not have these other perspectives and ways of thinking and being. There are probably other problems with this sort of view too, but that's one of the biggies that I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Priority Unitarianism as a Form of Trinitarianism???

Sorry for the serious lack of blogging lately - the end of the quarter got me slightly swamped with finals, meetings, and trying to get an abstract together for my paper on why presentism and other such views fall prey to problems relating to moral responsibility. So here's something I've just been thinking about recently (but only for very brief moments at a time before being distracted by something else!):

Dale Tuggy's blog trinities is an excellent one (I highly recommend it) and, as a true-blue trinitarian, this has gotten me thinking a lot more about the nature of the trinity and how to form a version of the theory which is fully orthodox (you know, it avoids heresy and stuff) and yet both philosophically and biblically sound. In our department's metaphysics reading group we've been going through a bunch of stuff on metametaphysics recently and one paper by Jonathan Schaffer was particularly interesting as at the end he offered a very interesting theory about the structure of reality called Priority Monism. The idea here is that, even though there are indeed lots and lots of existents, all of them depend on or exist in virtue of a single substance (a fundamental entity which grounds other, derived entities) which could be described as the world as a whole. What I find interesting about this idea is that on this theory the world is - contra ordinary ways of thinking about mereology in metaphysics - explanatorily or metaphysically prior to or more fundamental than its parts. The world is the substance and its parts depend on it for their existence.

So my thought was, instead of a priority monism for the whole world, why not a priority unitarianism for God? That is, why not say that there is a single substance, God, but that the existence of this substance grounds other, non-fundamental entities, that perhaps can be considered parts of God. Like in the priority monism case, however, the existence of the whole is prior to the existence of the parts. For someone drawn to a social trinitarian sort of view that takes the members of the Trinity as parts of the Godhead, this might be an attractive picture to take since it unifies the members into a single substance in a way that won't work so well if one takes the existence of the parts as prior to that of the whole.

On the other hand, unlike modes of God which would also be derived existents, the persons can still be seen on this view as genuine distinct individual persons since they are indeed genuine parts of God not mere ways of being. So for someone drawn to a modalist picture of God, this might be an attractive picture to take since it individuates the members of the trinity in such a way that makes it possible for them to be full-on distinct and interacting persons.

There might be a few ways of cashing out such a picture. One of them is just to make Father, Son, and Spirit each one of three derived proper parts to God. Another way that might be more interesting and in line with a certain line of the Christian theological tradition that views the Father as most fundamentally (though not more so) divine and the source of divinity for the other divine persons (found especially in the Orthodox tradition) would be take the Father as the single substance of the Godhead and the Son and Spirit as the derived entities. This might, indeed, fit better with the tendency to use 'Father' and 'God' as interchangeable names in ways one might be more hesitant with 'Son' or 'Spirit' (where, when referring to one of the latter, we might more commonly qualify 'God' with 'the Son' or 'the Holy Spirit'). We might be more inclined to say, for instance, that God is Jesus' Father or that God sent Jesus into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, but less inclined to say, for instance, that God is the Father's Son or that the Father sent God into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. This sort of view might be able to make sense of such tendencies - the Father is fundamentally divine whereas the Son and Spirit are derivatively divine.

I'm really not sure whether any such view as one of the above is coherent or defensible but it surely is interesting and worth more examination. But it does offer some sort of way of making sense of the notion that God is both one and three - Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity - God is fundamentally one but derivatively three.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Open Theism, the Future, and Free Will - Comments on Some Recent Articles Pt. 2

Sorry for not blogging too much lately...I've had papers to grade...:(

Anyway, here's part 2 as promised. This entry is on Dale Tuggy (of Trinities fame) and his paper "Three Roads to Open Theism", which is for the most part a fairly good paper though I disagree (obviously) with some of the things he says about those who believe in a real future. According to Tuggy, there is no future since libertarian free will is incompatible with there being such a thing - it requires a genuinely open future because we need to have power over the future/more than one thing to choose to do/be able to do otherwise. But none of that stuff entails that the future is open at all - this is the mistake of all fatalistic arguments (see my earlier post for one version of such arguments and where it goes wrong). In actuality, the unreality of the future not only isn't a requirement for free will but it actually excludes it. Why? Precisely because it removes choice - one cannot choose when there is no later moment (there being no future after all) to choose at! If there is no future then there is no free choice over future states. Free will requires power to influence things but one cannot influence non-existent things. If there is no future then there's nothing to influence and therefore nothing to deliberate about in the first place. So free will actually requires there to be a fully determinate (but not determined) future.

**WARNING: Really Technical Part**

Tuggy thinks we need a branching model but not a linear model of time. But branching and linear models can actually be made compatible. The linear model can be taken to describe the actual world as it is - it models the concrete way things are. Temporal accessibility here is simply a matter of having actual temporal relations with something. The branching model describes possibilities for times - both actualized and non-actualized. Accessibility here is simply capturing possible temporal relations. Failure to see the compatibility of these two models and thinking the linear model rules out all possibilities is a key reason for the mistake Tuggy and many other open theists make in their reasoning.

Tuggy says that the branching structure beyond the present represents facts about the present - outcomes which are possible given the course of history up until now, represented futures not ruled out by past and present happenings. But that's consistent with an actual future. Which path is taken is up to us but that doesn't mean the path doesn't exist.

**End Really Technical Part**

Tuggy says that opponents of open theism haven't argued for or defended the assumption that time is linear (that is, that there is a single, determinate future). That, however, seems plainly wrong. They might not work, but Tuggy actually considers some objections against non-linear conceptions! So it's a bit disingenous to say that there's been no arguments when Tuggy has actually considered some in the very same paper in which he claims this. Additionally, lots of people have defended an actual future. There's a rather large literature here, actually. On this score, it could even be argued that non-linearists have actually been much more dialectically irresponsible than linearists!

Tuggy also claims that if those objections (from bivalence and the Law of the Excluded Middle) he considered are shown wrong, the anti-open theists will then rest their case against open theism on the weight of the claim that the Bible plainly teaches things incompatible with open theism. I, however, do not think that is true, so I'm clearly a counterexample to Tuggy's claim here. I think the main case against open theism of the variety Tuggy and many others like is that it requires an unreal future. And there are lots and lots of reasons against believing such a thing - ones that don't rest on the purely logical considerations that Tuggy addresses in his paper.