Abstract Vs Concrete God in Human Reason Vs Experience

Rational a priori categories possess properties of unity, transcendence, immutability, infinity or universality, and necessity (see Epistemics of Divine Reality for supportive arguments). On the contrary, empirical categories possess properties of plurality, immanence, flux, finitude or particularity, and contingency. No doubt then, rationalization of being leads to abstract theologies such as monism and non-dualism, while empirical approaches are characteristic of concrete theologies such as polytheism and spiritism.

Both these extremes are actually forms of atheism since in both God is not the transcendent wholly other being who created the universe. In the former, God is just the abstract substratum of this illusive phenomenal world, while in the latter, God (or gods) is part of the phenomenal world.

Theologians err when they try to analyse God and His experience in either abstract terms or in purely empirical terms only. Western theology based on Aristotelian philosophy suffers much from confusions around the conflict between the abstract and the concrete. The conflict is evident in issues such as the arguments for divine existence, the attributes of God, the meaning of Trinity, and issues regarding the divine and human natures of Christ.

Perhaps, it is too much for any limited human to not recognize that theology is not mathematics. The mind can discover mathematical principles through pure reasoning, but one cannot know God apart from God’s revelation of Himself. And, we only see Him now as in a blurred mirror and do not yet see Him as He is. Faith is not unreasonable, but faith also cannot exist without the revealed word.


Kant’s Critique of the Cosmological Argument

Excerpted from Epistemics of Divine Reality (2009, 2011), pp.105-107

b. The Cosmological Argument: As stated by Kant himself the cosmological argument runs as follows: If anything exists, an absolutely necessary being must also exist. Now I, at least, exist. Therefore, an absolutely necessary being exists.[1] Since an infinite series of contingent causal relations is impossible an uncaused, unconditioned, necessary cause must be posited as the cause of the universe. However, Kant reasons that this argument too, as the former one, attempts to prove the existence of the transcendent from the empirical, which is impossible. If God were a link or beginning of the series then He could not be separated from it and thus also conditioned by causality. However, on the other hand if it were argued that He is separate from the series, there remains no way reason can find to span the gap between pure and contingent existence.[2] Nothing beyond the world of senses can be definitely known to us. This argument is epistemically flawed since it misapplies the transcendental principle of causality beyond the bounds of the phenomenal world. In Kant’s own words:

This principle is applicable only in the sensible world; outside that world it has no meaning whatsoever. For the mere intellectual concept of the contingent cannot give rise to any synthetic proposition, such as that of causality. The principle of causality has no meaning and no criterion for its application save only in the sensible world. But in the cosmological proof it is precisely in order to enable us to advance beyond the sensible world that it is employed.[3]

The chief error of both the ontological and the cosmological arguments is that of projecting the subjective transcendental principles on to reality. Thus, infinity and causality are misconstrued as physical or external conditions of reality while in reality they are concepts of the mind by means of which objective reality is subjectively apprehended. Moreover, one cannot attribute necessity to anything in the phenomenal world, as the cosmological argument does in its inference of the necessity of an uncaused cause, since necessity is a formal condition of thought found in our reason and not applicable to external reality. In the words of Kant, ‘The concept of necessity is only to be found in our reason, as a formal condition of thought; it does not allow of being hypostatised as a material condition of existence.’[4]

[1] The Critique of Pure Reason (trans. N.K. Smith), p. 508
[2] Ibid, p. 519
[3] Ibid, p. 511
[4] Ibid, p. 518

Kant’s Critique of the Ontological Argument

Excerpted from Epistemics of Divine Reality (2009, 2011), pp.105-107

Kant resolutely argues that the traditional arguments for the existence of God, viz. the ontological, the cosmological, and the physico-theological (teleological) arguments are based on false premises. They proceed from the false assumption that quantity, quality, relation, and modality are inherent in the universe and not merely subjective to the knower alone. The arguments against the arguments for the existence of God are as follows:

a. The Ontological Argument: The ontological argument of St. Anselm (1033-1109) proceeded from the assumption that God was ‘that than which a greater cannot be conceived.’ However, if this God did not exist then everything conceived of would be greater than the conception of God for reality is greater than an idea. Therefore, God as ‘that than which a greater cannot be conceived’ must of necessity exist. Rene Descartes had his own form of the ontological argument in which he argued that since God is by definition the supremely perfect being, He cannot lack existence, for that would mean that He was not a supremely perfect being; and since existence is a necessary attribute of perfection, God exists necessarily.[1]

Kant argues that though the inference from contingent existence to necessary existence is correct and unavoidable, the conditions of the understanding refuse to aid us in forming any conception of such a being.[2] Thus, the ontological argument is correct as far as words are concerned; but when it comes to actually forming a concept of the absolute and necessary being the argument fails. Further, the argument rests on judgments alone and cannot thereby alone establish the reality of anything. In Kant’s own words: ‘the unconditioned necessity of judgments is not the same as an absolute necessity of things.’[3] Alluding to Descartes’ analogy of the triangle[4] Kant writes that though to posit a triangle and yet reject its three angles would be self-contradictory, there is no contradiction in rejecting the triangle with its three angles together. To put it the other way, if suppose in the analytical statement, ‘all bachelors are unmarried men’ the subject ‘bachelors’ implied the predicate ‘unmarried men,’ it still does not conclusively prove that there really are unmarried men or bachelors in the world. The statement is just a verbal one and is not corroborated by empirical evidence. In the same manner, though the subject ‘the supremely perfect being’ implies the predicate ‘has existence as an attribute,’ yet it does not conclusively prove that there really is a supremely perfect being in accordance to the words.[5] One can reject both the subject and predicate and still commit no contradiction. In addition, all existential propositions (that declare the existence or non-existence of the subject) are synthetic and not analytic and, therefore, the rejection of the predicated would never be a contradiction:[6] ‘all bachelors are unmarried men’ is not the same as ‘all bachelors exist.’ On the other hand if existence was to be considered as an attribute of anything, it is clear that this could not be true since an attribute adds to something and thus modifies it, but to say that something is does not really add anything to it. ‘The small word “is” adds no new predicate, but only serves to posit the predicate in its relation to the subject.’ [7] Therefore, existence cannot be an attribute. Even grammatically, it is understood that the words ‘is’ and ‘exists’ are not adjectives but verbs.
However, even more difficult is the attribution of existence to an idea having a priori and not a posteriori status. Kant says:

Whatever, therefore, and however much, our concept of an object may contain, we must go outside it, if we are to ascribe existence to the object. In the case of objects of the senses, this takes place through their connection with some one of our perceptions, in accordance with empirical laws. But in dealing with objects of pure thought, we have no means whatsoever of knowing their existence, since it would have to be known in a completely a priori manner. Our consciousness of all existence (whether immediately through perception, or mediately through inferences which connect something with perception) belongs exclusively to the unity of experience; any [alleged] existence outside this field, while not indeed such as we can declare to be absolutely impossible, is of the nature of an assumption which we can never be in a position to justify.[8]

Thus, since the idea of God as a perfect being cannot be empirically justified, it is impossible to certify whether such a perfect being exists or not in reality. Here it may seem that Kant is leaning towards empiricism, but it must be noted that he is only saying that necessity and strict universality can only be applied to that which is a priori and, thus, to the forms of intuition and the categories of thought alone. To extend these to anything beyond these is to go beyond justification. One can be sure that the statement ‘every cause has an effect’ is true since causality itself is a category of the mind and cannot be thought off. However, the same cannot be said of the existence God or any other being in the world. The distinction between the a priori constituents of the mind and the a posteriori world of senses once understood, the ontological argument cannot stand any longer. Thus, the ontological argument is dismissed.

[1] “Ontological Arguments,” Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments)
[2] The Critique of Pure Reason (trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn; internet edition)
[3] The Critique of Pure Reason (trans. N. K. Smith), p. 501
[4] That as the three angles are integral to the conception of a triangle, existence is integral to the conception of perfection.
[5] “supremely perfect being” are just words and have no accompanying conception.
[6] The Critique of Pure Reason (trans. N. K. Smith), p. 504
[7] Ibid, p. 505
[8] Ibid, p. 506

How Can Jesus Be Fully God and Fully Man At the Same Time?

Answer 1:

    A contradiction can be defined in the terms “A=not-A”; a non-contradiction, in the terms “A≠not-A”.

  • The statements “Jesus is fully God” and “Jesus is fully man” don’t involve such a contradiction, i.e, they don’t say “Jesus is fully God,” and “Jesus is not fully God” at the same time.
  • Christian theology doesn’t claim to say that Jesus is not God when it says Jesus is Man; likewise, it doesn’t clam to say that Jesus is not man when it says that Jesus is God.

Answer 2:

  • The divinity of Christ is eternal and immutable; therefore, in the Incarnation He was fully God. He was not created; He pre-existed. He was not born out of a man-woman relationship; but, was born of a Virgin; because He incarnated, He didn’t come into being – there was not when He didn’t exist.
  • In the Incarnation, God partook of human nature; He could do that because He created the world and so the world belonged to Him and He sustained it. The world didn’t cut off from Him in a way that God and creation were unrelated to each other. The world had not become a “wholly other” to God. The world was not closed out to God, as if it were an infinite and absolute entity by itself. The fact was that the world was contingent on Him. The world couldn’t restrict His power. In fact, it was He who held it by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). The world is not eternal; it is temporal; therefore, it is impossible for the world (including man) to become God. That would be a contradiction of terms. However, the Second Person of the Divine Trinity did become man, because His creation was not beyond His reach. The temporal exists within the eternal; and the finite within the infinite (not vice versa). “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). This is not pantheism or panentheism. It doesn’t say the world contains God as its soul or the world is God; but, that the world is contingent upon God, therefore not beyond His reach. Miracles are possible, Divine intervention is possible (the universe is not closed) and the Incarnation is the greatest example of God’s intervention in human history.

Further Reading:
The Humanity and Divinity of Christ
The Logic of Faith