According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Ontological Univocity of God's Being from a Postmodern Perspective


Scot McKnight, The Past is Never Dead:

"...Gregory connects John Duns Scotus and William of Occam to a new metaphysic (univocity vs. analogy) that more or less made God’s being like our being and put God into the materialistic universe of proof vs. non-proof (and God loses since God is transcendent, etc) and the Reformation’s battle over [the Catholic doctrine of] transsubstantiation was but one example of how a metaphysic can unleash theological battles that ended up separating God from reason and science. (I’m not a specialist in this field but I’m not so sure the Protestant view of the “presence” of Christ might be more analogical than univocal, and the Catholic view more univocal.)"

Definition of Terms
1 - Univocal (adjective) - having only one meaning; unambiguous (synonym)
     Univocally (adverb)
     Univocity (synonym)

2 - Equivocal (adjective) - having several meanings; something that is necessarily ambiguous; can be confused with equivalent ("equal in value, or the same thing as")
  • allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous: an equivocal answer.
  • of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious: aliens of equivocal loyalty.
  • of uncertain significance; not determined: an equivocal attitude.
     equivocality or equivocacy (noun)
     equivocally or nonequivocally (adverb)
     equivocalness or nonquivocalness (noun)
3 - Analogical (adjective) - showing a similarity between two things on which a comparison may be based (ex., the analogy between the heart and a pump).

     Synonyms - comparison, likeness, resemblance, similitude, affinity, correspondence.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

by R.E. Slater
According to Brad S. Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation, the Reformation period changed the metaphysical conceptions of the God of Late Medievalism from holistic category to the dualistic categories of reason and rationality; immateriality to materiality (of substance and form); of scientific proof (in which case God is unprovable by reason and science except through faith); of removing a world-view of faith and theology to a rational world-view of man-oriented philosophy and science; and so forth.

Said another way (and contra to Norm Geisler's avowed beliefs) the Reformation birthed Modernism which would bring with it many of the things Late Medievalism did not subscribe to:

1. Death of God - Atheism
2. Death of objective truth - Relativism
3. Death of exclusive truth - Pluralism
4. Death of objective meaning - Conventialism
5. Death of thinking (logic) - Anti-Foundationalism
6. Death of objective interpretation - Deconstructionism
7. Death of Objective values - Subjectivism

Hence,  modernity may be characterized as consisting of two sides: “the progressive union of scientific objectivity and politico-economic rationality . . . mirrored in disturbed visions of unalleviated existential despair" (1990: 5). - Postmodernism and Its Critics

And into this list Postmodernism now comes to re-examine each area through its own lenses:

"The primary tenets of the postmodern movement include: (1) an elevation of text and language as the fundamental phenomena of existence, (2) the application of literary analysis to all phenomena, (3) a questioning of reality and representation, (4) a critique of metanarratives, (5) an argument against method and evaluation, (6) a focus upon power relations and hegemony, (7) and a general critique of Western institutions and knowledge" (Kuznar 2008:78).  - Postmodernism and Its Critics

The following are some proposed differences between modern and postmodern thought: Contrast of Modern and Postmodern Thinking

Reasoning From foundation upwards Multiple factors of multiple levels of reasoning. Web-oriented.
Science Universal Optimism Realism of Limitations
Part/Whole Parts comprise the whole The whole is more than the parts
God Acts by violating "natural" laws" or by "immanence" in everything that is Top-Down causation
Language Referential Meaning in social context through usage
Source: (note: this link is no longer working as of 4/30/2012)

What we see then is the increasing spectrum of Modernism's secular divorce from all things God and God-ward beginning with the start of the Reformation until today. Creating an environment that would give to us 500 years later the inevitable backlash of a non-secular (authenticizing) Postmodernism to its secular twin of Modernistic Reason and Rationality. As such, a postmodernistic deconstruction must occur to modernism's results as well as a postmodernistic reconstruction to replace modernism's secular statements.

However, for this present discussion I would like to explore the theme of univocality from a postmodernistic perspective. Which is at once a Reformational theme that must be rescued from its modernistic expression into postmodern terminology to recapture the essence of the Church's Late Medieval theology. One that is no less Orthodox, but is Orthodox from a postmodern progression of an older idea which had pushed the Church towards the secularization of God instead of towards its now Emergent Christian twin of non-secularized postmodernism.

To thus, decouple the modernistic dualism of materiality v. immateriality applied to God's Being towards a holistic synergism of both concepts (that is, a re-coupling, if you will) in a theological escalation upwards towards the idea of Relational Theism (cf., the sidebars under theism). Thus elevating the older Reformed ideas of God (sic, known in biblical studies as systematic theologies) into a postmodern (or Emergent) theological expression of God, as we have been doing here these past many months....

But first, let's look at Wikipedia's statement of univocity (or, univocality)...
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Univocity of being

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Univocity of being is the idea that words describing the properties of God mean the same thing as when they apply to people or things, even if God is vastly in kind.
In medieval disputes over the nature of God, many theologians and philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas) held that when one says that "God is good", God's goodness is only analogous to human goodness. John Duns Scotus argued to the contrary that when one says that "God is good", the goodness in question is exactly the same sort of goodness that is meant when one says "Jane is good". That is, God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, and so forth are "univocally" applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea.
Gilles Deleuze borrowed the doctrine of ontological univocity from Scotus.[citation needed] He claimed that being is univocal, i.e., that all of its senses are affirmed in one voice. Deleuze adapts the doctrine of univocity to claim that being is, univocally, difference. "With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we - and our individuality - which remains equivocal [("to call by the same name')] in and for a univocal Being."[1]
Deleuze at once echoes and inverts Spinoza,[citation needed] who maintained that everything that exists is a modification of the one substance, God or Nature. He claims that it [(univocality)] is the organizing principle of the Dutchman's philosophy [(Spinoza)] - despite the absence of the term from any of Spinoza's works. For Deleuze, there is no one substance, only an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding. Deleuze summarizes this ontology in the paradoxical formula "pluralism = monism".[2]

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

An Abbreviated version of Spinoza
from Wikipedia
The Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza rejected the French philosopher, Rene Descarte's position of dualism and claimed that everything is from one Substance of Reality. A substance that we call God or know as Nature. From which we get the idea of classical pantheism ("all is God, and God is all") or classical panentheism ("the world is not God, but in God, or a subset of God"). This idea evolved from the Enlightenment's rationalization that pure materialism presented Nature as an extended substance of a greater Reality. As such, Spinoza re-established the idea of God into the idea of a godless ontology.
Secondly, to Spinoza, God is a abstraction (or abstract idea) which (not "Who") is an impersonal, deterministic force which excludes creational indeterminacy and human free will. As a force, it cannot be known, or observed in its effects. Effects that are beyond our comprehension except for its merest evidences in a space-time reality that we reside within. As such, God is an abstraction we cannot know but partially, if at all. Within which we are mechanistically moved and guided contrary to the idea of Deism which denied God's involvement in creation (a God that created and stood aside to its mechanistic outworkings).
Thirdly, the ideas of truth, morality, and ethical judgment are illusions to our free will, giving to us a false idea of choice, predicated upon our conscious experience of reality. As such, we have no responsibility for our actions (this could be described as materialism, and/or stoicism).
Overall, "the attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late 18th-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to [crass] materialism, atheism, and deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:
  • the unity of all that exists;
  • the regularity of all that happens; and
  • the identity of spirit and nature.

From Spinoza's philosophies many variants spun off in reaction to his idea of "God or Nature" (Deus sive Natura) which provided a living, natural God in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical "First Cause" or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine". Coleridge and Shelley saw in Spinoza's philosophy a religion of nature.[1] Novalis called him the "God-intoxicated man". Spinoza inspired the poet Shelley to write his essay "The Necessity of Atheism".

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Commentary Continued
by R.E. Slater
... Let me continue discussing the univocity of God by first agreeing with Spinoza that there is One Substance to which biblical revelation tells us is God (as understood within Orthodox Christian doctrine; and contra atheism). Secondly, this God is personal (as understood through Relational Theism). That the Jewish-Christian God is intimately involved with His creation (immanence, sovereignty; and contra deism). That creation has been "purposely created with" (not simply "granted with," a weaker positional statement) indeterminacy; and that humanity has been purposely created with free will (contra determinism). Where from human free will comes morality and ethics found in the personage of the Triune Creator-God. A God who actively redeems what He created back to its intended design and purpose (the Hebrew idea of Sholom).

To these ideas we must discuss the univocity of God by saying that God's being is different from our being (statedly of course), even as His character and attributes are reflections in our being. Hence, God is ontologically different from us in His divine Being, but reflected in us univocally through His divine Being. As such, we may speak of God as we would of one another, realizing of course that God is ontologically different in His divine being from our own. We may speak of love, goodness, forgiveness, mercy and fundamentally understand those relational terms because God is love, goodness, forgiveness, mercy in His divine Being (which also is relational because of His Trinity).

Moreover, though there is a univocal difference of ontological being between us and God, there is also a univocal reflection/similarity between our beings and God's in character and attributes as we just mentioned. Many would think of this relational difference in terms of degrees - that is, God's love is so much higher, greater, stronger, deeper, than our human love for God or for one another. But to quantify God's qualitative character and attributes simply does Him an injustice, no less than it does an injustice to ourselves. Love may be all those adjectival descriptions, but it can never be measured in quantitative metaphysical terms as one would measure-out spaghetti noodles, cups of sugar, or a teaspoon of salt).

Another way to say all this is that our ground of being is founded upon God's being. Without His divine Being we simply are not. This epistemological rational for ontological groundedness (or creation's solidarity with the Divine) must be univocal. Even though we may express God's likeness in analogical terms (God is like this, or like that) yet we may be confident in saying God is the ground for all creation's being. We may again try to compare God to ourselves by using creational analogies which may try to comprehend God. but yet analogies fail in their symbolism to accurately qualify our knowledge of the Divine. By example, we use the description of an egg (shell, egg white, yolk) to speak about the Trinity (or even of our body, soul, spirit) but the egg illustration fails at many levels to sufficiently explain the Godhead's relationship as a Tri-unity (just as it does with our wholistic human spirit that is described as one essence in the Hebraic sense).

Thus, we are because God is. We are the encapsulations, reflections, portrayals, poems, songs, rhythm and music to God's being, as much as we are creational beings, human, man and woman, hearts, minds, souls, spirits, hands and feet to God's expression. Language fails our efforts of description even as our faith, feelings, aspirations, assurances, would lend us the certainty of knowledge of the Divine.

If God is our ground of being univocally than I think we can express these things better than we can analogically. For if God is analogical to our being than we cannot know who God is. He would remain wholly other to us - and in some continuing biblical sense I do think this is true.... That God is wholly other than us. But I fail to understand this for if I use the illustration of God as a force I cannot conceptualize this divine force as being separate from the divine Personage of God. For does not a man or woman's muscular force come from his or her's presence of being? As such, without being there is no force, and consequently describing God as a pure force would be inaccurate. It would be more accurate to describe God's Personage from which His divine force results.

Moreover, for biblical purposes of redemptive communication, God relates His Being to us univocally, and not analogically - in ontological terms. and not in analogical literary terms of expression as I have used the examples of analogy above. Hence, we seemed to sense the Person of God because we are in kind, or similar to, the Divine's Personage. If God were simply an analogical expression of divine being than we could not sense (or understand) our Creator-Redeemer. Strictly said, God would be wholly unlike anything we could know. Or speak of. Or understand. So for myself, the Medieval terminology would be better to separate its analogical discussions of God by (i) abstaining from speaking of God's ontological Being in analogical terms while (ii) maintaining its analogical uses in literary, epistemological terms.

Lastly, Emergent Theology is attempting to syncretise postmodernism's holistic approach to modernism's incomplete language and thoughts built upon secular bifurcation and competing dualisms. It is attempting to complete what the church's Reformation systematic theology split apart under its Catholic orientation. And for that matter, to attempt to heal what man's philosophical statements have said about God and humanity in both a materialistic and a-theistic setting using determinative syntax. For a postmodern. emergent theologian, the task is to add God back into man's secular sciences, church dogmas, and philosophies. Not by ignoring what each discipline has said, but my completing each discipline's formative endeavors. Not by recanting all of the Reformation and Enlightenment, and returning to Late Medievalism, but by accepting everything that has been said and done, by weaving together variant Christian statements into an uplifted, postmodern, pluralistic fabric of Emergent Theology. A fabric more similar to Joseph's coat of many colours than to the pure white toga of the Roman statesman. A coat blood stained upon the breast of Jesus rather than blood-stained upon the togas of the sacrilegious Scribe and Pharisee. Dyed upon by the hands of God in Emergent expression than smeared in the the dividing colours of secular Modernism.

R.E. Slater
January 23, 2013

*ps - by way of commentary on Wikipedia's last paragraph, I would not care whether we view God as either a metaphysical substance or process, for we ourselves are so much the same.... Our lives appeareth as a vapour that is but an instant of time and process, folding, and unfolding, and refolding, over-and-through the membranes of time and relationship to all of creation. Does it matter so much that our physical beings are at once metaphysical processes as they are metaphysical entities? I think not, inasmuch as we are more than flesh... we are spirit. And in our spirits doeth bear the Spirit of Almighty God, who is our sum-and-substance, whether as substance, process, or some other thing.
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