Can a Trinitarian God serve as the objective source..

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Can a Trinitarian God serve as the objective source..

Post #1

Post by Ionian_Tradition »

This debate will discuss whether the notion of a Triune God serving as the objective source of human morality is tenable; as was suggested in the following quote posted by theopoesis:
theopoesis wrote: (1) The Trinity: Though it is common to suggest that there are trinities in multiple religions, I am not convinced of the same through my reading in comparative religion. A triad is distinct from a Trinity. I am convinced that teleology helps us overcome Hume's objection that we cannot deduce "ought" from "is". We can do so through this logical form: If moral agent A wants outcome O, A ought to do O. If outcome O is the teleological purpose of that agent, and if failing to act according to one's purpose is in fact self-destructive, then we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G (from whom teleology originates). It is cooperative in the Christian metaphysic, and it truly can move from is to ought.

Now, suppose that you were to hold to a polytheistic view of the world, or an atheistic view. You could potentially run into problems with the teleological component of this whole metaphysic. If there were two distinct sources of creation, there could potentially be two distinct purposes, two distinct teleologies, and two distinct moral systems. Therefore, for moral coherence, we would need to posit a single source of teleology: monotheism.

Having done so, we run into the Euthyphro dilemma, which argues from a false dichotomy that morality would be meaningless if derived from God. I resolve this dilemma through the suggestion that God acts according to his character. In patristic thought, you could explain this by claiming that God's actions are Personal, and undertaken by the Three Persons of the Trinity, who are perfect hypostasizations of the divine nature and character. Thus, they work in perfect harmony according to a real moral standard that is not contingent on their will nor is external to their nature (thereby defeating Euthyphro as I understand it). The trinity is necessary first because without the three persons instantiating the same nature, there could be division and teleology would break down. But why not simple monotheism, as in Islam or Judaism?

The answer is in considering that "God is love." If we defeat Euthyphro by referring to God's character, then we would hope that God's character was loving in order to maintain any degree of morality as we know it. But to be loving, there must be relationality. In fact, I've read some sociological arguments (not by Christians or specifically talking about God) that indicates that to truly judge a social action, you must judge the action with respect to a minimum of three social agents. Hence the Trinity. Hence Christianity. (That's all very abreviated, but I hope it at least shows that my decision to favor Christianity isn't only arbitrary.

I will begin this discussion by asking that theopoesis define a few terms. Once this is done I will begin by presenting the potential flaws I believe may be present within this particular line of reasoning. Once I have done so, theopoesis will be invited to respond to my critique. From there casual discussion will ensue between both parties until such a time that a mutual satisfaction has been achieved. There is no time limit for this debate and both parties may respond to one another at their leisure.

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Post #2

Post by Ionian_Tradition »

Firstly theopoesis I would like to extend my gratitude for the opportunity to discuss this topic with you at length. I am quite certain this discussion shall prove an enriching and intellectually stimulating experience for us both. With that said, would you be so kind as to offer further clarification in regard to the following?

theopoesis wrote: If moral agent A wants outcome O, A ought to do O. If outcome O is the teleological purpose of that agent, and if failing to act according to one's purpose is in fact self-destructive, then we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G (from whom teleology originates). It is cooperative in the Christian metaphysic, and it truly can move from is to ought.
You say that O is the teleological purpose of agent A, and that a failure to act in accordance with O will result in the self inflicted destruction of A. Can you begin by stating in clear terms what the teleological purpose of A truly is as it pertains to that which has been prescribed by G?

Would you then explain in detail the exact manner in which a failure to act in accordance with O is "self destructive"?

theopoesis wrote: In patristic thought, you could explain this by claiming that God's actions are Personal, and undertaken by the Three Persons of the Trinity, who are perfect hypostasizations of the divine nature and character. Thus, they work in perfect harmony according to a real moral standard that is not contingent on their will nor is external to their nature (thereby defeating Euthyphro as I understand it).
If the "real moral standard" to which you refer is rooted in the nature of the three persons of the trinity, might we then say that every thought and action committed by these members is by definition "moral", provided that these persons will not act in a manner which is a privation of their divine nature and character?

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Post #3

Post by theopoesis »

Hello Ionian_Tradition. It is a privilege to be a part of this head to head discussion, and I look forward to the opportunity to dialogue and learn from you. I'll be clear up front that I am a theologian and not a philosopher, and will ask you to be patient if I require more clarification than normal as you explain your philosophical claims to me. I have seen them elsewhere, and recognize that I can learn much from you.

For now, here are the answers to your question. I hope they suffice.
Ionian_Tradition wrote:You say that O is the teleological purpose of agent A, and that a failure to act in accordance with O will result in the self inflicted destruction of A. Can you begin by stating in clear terms what the teleological purpose of A truly is as it pertains to that which has been prescribed by G?

Would you then explain in detail the exact manner in which a failure to act in accordance with O is "self destructive"?
Theologians have described the relationship between teleological purpose and self-destruction in a variety of ways. To be honest, I've considered why this link is important philosophically, but I have not yet determined whether any particular description of the link itself is superior to the others. As such, I'll put one system forward as a working thesis, and will note that there may be reason to abandon this particular explanation in favor of another at a later point.

For now I'll present a modified Augustinian position, which is older and more widely accepted, and which is influential on many of the other options. The Augustinian position states that God is the source of existence, morality, truth, and beauty. In this system, humans are created for the purpose of relating to God through each of these four areas. Humans are created for the purpose of existing by choosing to commune with the one who offers existence. Humans are created for the purpose of doing good by following the good purposes for which they have been created, the good acts which have been preordained for them to do. Humans are created for the purpose of displaying beauty by reflecting the glory and beauty of God. Humans are created to know the truth by receiving as true the revelation from the God who knows all.

It is important to note that these four categories can be explained in a way that they are connected. Augustine claimed that evil did not exist, it was the absence of good. Furthermore, everything that God created is good, so evil is actually a privation or diminishment of existence. To be good is to exist, to reflect the beauty of God, and to live in truth. In this way, being good is to avoid sins of omission (i.e. sins committed by inaction instead of active existence, such as letting injustice continue), to avoid sins of perversion (i.e. sins which corrupt the beauty intrinsic to humanity, such as murdering a beautiful creation of God), and sins of falsehood (i.e. sins which corrupt the truth, such as lying). Augustine also categorized these as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Lust of the flesh refers to perversion, lust of the eyes to an idle curiosity of inaction, and the pride of life to a false understanding of oneself.

How then is failing to fulfill one's purpose self-destructive? First, because to turn from God and His purposes is to turn from the source of existence toward evil and non-existence. Second, because to turn from God is to turn from beauty and joy. (Here I am modifying Augustine with Jonathan Edwards, who considers all human joy as derived from the beautiful offering of God to a false unsustainable joy offered by created things). Third, because to turn from God to sin is to turn from a true understanding of oneself, the world, and God toward falsehood and self-deception. Therefore, to turn from God is to destroy oneself existentially, aesthetically/emotionally, and epistemologically.

Thus, to explain my initial claim in more robust Augustinian terms, God (G) created humans for the purpose of eternal fellowship, and thus eternal life/existence, eternal joy/beauty, and eternal truth/knowledge. If a human being (moral agent A) wants joy, truth, and existence (outcome O), then A ought to do O, which, since we have established that O as truth, beauty, and existence is to do the good, is another way of saying that A ought to be morally good.

That's the Augustinian answer, at least.
Ionian_Tradition wrote:If the "real moral standard" to which you refer is rooted in the nature of the three persons of the trinity, might we then say that every thought and action committed by these members is by definition "moral", provided that these persons will not act in a manner which is a privation of their divine nature and character?
Tentatively, yes. Every divine action or thought is moral in the sense that every action is a fulfillment of God's character as giver of existence, beauty, goodness, and truth, and noting that such a gift is nothing other than love. This provided that God does not act contrary to the divine character.

Note that this claim is philosophical, and that any specific historical instance may require further clarification. (I'm particularly thinking of many OT examples of God's actions, which would require one of several different interpretations). Furthermore, note that it might be difficult or impossible to explain why any particular sin leads to a negation of existence, beauty, and truth except by speculation.

I hope that helps.

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Post #4

Post by Ionian_Tradition »

theopoesis wrote:Hello Ionian_Tradition. It is a privilege to be a part of this head to head discussion, and I look forward to the opportunity to dialogue and learn from you. I'll be clear up front that I am a theologian and not a philosopher, and will ask you to be patient if I require more clarification than normal as you explain your philosophical claims to me. I have seen them elsewhere, and recognize that I can learn much from you.
The privilege is mine theopoesis. I myself am no theologian, thus I believe there is much we may learn from one another. I will ask that you extend to me also patience if I may seem a bit slow in comprehending the theological aspects of your argument with which I lack familiarity. With that said, before I issue my response to your argument I would like clarification regarding the following:


theopoesis wrote: Humans are created for the purpose of doing good by following the good purposes for which they have been created, the good acts which have been preordained for them to do. Humans are created for the purpose of displaying beauty by reflecting the glory and beauty of God. Humans are created to know the truth by receiving as true the revelation from the God who knows all.

Would you say that human beings "do good" when they reflect the glory and beauty of God which is seated in his Nature? If a man's actions are conducive with the character and nature of God, has he done a "good" or "moral" thing? Is man's purpose, in fact, to reflect God's moral nature and Character? Is "goodness" rooted in man's adherence to his teleological purpose alone? Or is goodness rather first rooted in the nature and character of God from which teleology originates? In other words, is it the proper fulfillment of man's purpose which makes him moral? Or is his morality ultimately seated in the nature of God from which man's purpose is derived?

theopoesis wrote: It is important to note that these four categories can be explained in a way that they are connected. Augustine claimed that evil did not exist, it was the absence of good. Furthermore, everything that God created is good, so evil is actually a privation or diminishment of existence. To be good is to exist,
Why is it that everything that God creates is good? Is it because everything forged by the hand of God is a reflection of his "good" nature? If so, given that you said "to be good is to exist", might we say that everything which exists has a principle of being which is rooted in God and therefore is good by virtue of its source of being (which is a intrinsically good God)?



theopoesis wrote: Second, because to turn from God is to turn from beauty and joy. (Here I am modifying Augustine with Jonathan Edwards, who considers all human joy as derived from the beautiful offering of God to a false unsustainable joy offered by created things).
In what way is adherence to one's teleological purpose a method of obtaining sustainable joy? What do you mean when you imply that "joy is sustainable" in life? Can a man's joy ever truly be sustained while living? If a man derives unsustainable, yet immensely great, joy from a created thing, but finds that in order to adhere to his teleological purpose he must deprive himself of that thing, how has his joy been increased or sustained? Can the deprivation of joy (which produces suffering) truly produce in its stead a joy which is sustainable?

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Post #5

Post by theopoesis »

Ionian_Tradition wrote:before I issue my response to your argument I would like clarification regarding the following:
theopoesis wrote: Humans are created for the purpose of doing good by following the good purposes for which they have been created, the good acts which have been preordained for them to do. Humans are created for the purpose of displaying beauty by reflecting the glory and beauty of God. Humans are created to know the truth by receiving as true the revelation from the God who knows all.
Would you say that human beings "do good" when they reflect the glory and beauty of God which is seated in his Nature?
A more precise way to phrase it might be that they are good when they reflect the glory and beauty of God. Most theological systems focus on virtue ethics, with specific moral acts significant mostly as means to build character.
If a man's actions are conducive with the character and nature of God, has he done a "good" or "moral" thing?
If a man's actions are conducive with the character and nature of one created in the image of God, he has done a good thing.
Is man's purpose, in fact, to reflect God's moral nature and Character?
I suppose that would be one way to formulate it, insofar as God is love. We are not to reflect things like God's omnipotence, etc.
Is "goodness" rooted in man's adherence to his teleological purpose alone? Or is goodness rather first rooted in the nature and character of God from which teleology originates? In other words, is it the proper fulfillment of man's purpose which makes him moral? Or is his morality ultimately seated in the nature of God from which man's purpose is derived?
Hmm. I think teleology is significant for deriving moral obligation. It's how we move from "is" to "ought" in overcoming Hume. That was the main reason I had initially brought up teleology in the quote in the OP, so this is moving in a different direction, but I think I have an answer:

I suppose teleology is the "final cause", the end that man must tend toward to be good. But God's character is the "efficient cause," the thing that shapes teleology in the first place. That's a bit muddled because it's Aristotelian and Augustine wasn't, but I think it holds true.
Ionian_Tradition wrote:
theopoesis wrote: It is important to note that these four categories can be explained in a way that they are connected. Augustine claimed that evil did not exist, it was the absence of good. Furthermore, everything that God created is good, so evil is actually a privation or diminishment of existence. To be good is to exist,
Why is it that everything that God creates is good? Is it because everything forged by the hand of God is a reflection of his "good" nature? If so, given that you said "to be good is to exist", might we say that everything which exists has a principle of being which is rooted in God and therefore is good by virtue of its source of being (which is a intrinsically good God)?
For Augustine, the answer would be that Genesis teaches that God creates everything good, and furthermore that is part of what it means to be God. Not a particularly satisfying philosophical answer.

I think how you paint things would fit with many other theological systems, and I don't yet see why I would object to it. Everything that exists is good as a reflection of God's good nature insofar as it exists. Insofar as it tends toward evil, it does so by existing less fully.
Ionian_Tradition wrote:
theopoesis wrote: Second, because to turn from God is to turn from beauty and joy. (Here I am modifying Augustine with Jonathan Edwards, who considers all human joy as derived from the beautiful offering of God to a false unsustainable joy offered by created things).
In what way is adherence to one's teleological purpose a method of obtaining sustainable joy? What do you mean when you imply that "joy is sustainable" in life?
If, as I stated, "humans are created for the purpose of relating to God through existence, goodness, truth, and beauty," I would say that the answer would emphasize the relating. When we exist in communion with God, following the good plan of God, reflecting God's beauty and glory, and receiving his revelation as truth, we do so through a relationship with God, the source of existence, goodness, truth, and beauty. These things are offered in love and received as love, and love is something to be joyful over.

Utilitarianism (at least as it has found its way into economics) suggests that there is diminishing marginal utility for material goods. You have one piece of pizza and you are happy but perhaps still hungry. Three is a satisfying meal, though the third slice wasn't quite as good as the first. A whole pizza, and the last slice doesn't bring you that much joy, you're already full. Ten pizzas, and you might be annoyed at having to eat the leftovers for a month. Finite things yield finite joy.

I think Edwards' claim would be that God is infinite, meaning his love is infinite, and our relationship with him infinite in depth. There is no finitude with which to exhaust our utility, only an infinite plenitude from which joy can be eternally sustained.
Can a man's joy ever truly be sustained while living?
Perhaps not in this life as a result of sin, but Christians believe it can be sustained in life after the resurrection in bodies of incorruptibility.
If a man derives unsustainable, yet immensely great, joy from a created thing, but finds that in order to adhere to his teleological purpose he must deprive himself of that thing, how has his joy been increased or sustained?
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." The joy now may feel profound, but it cannot last and our conviction is that they joy which awaits is far greater. No, more than that, the joy which is available now through the "peace which surpasses all understanding" offered by Jesus is greater.

(quoting scripture now, and less Augustine. These questions are moving beyond my knowledge of him, so that I have now presented a very modified Augustinianism, which I have perhaps not analyzed enough to tell if it is internally consistent)
Can the deprivation of joy (which produces suffering) truly produce in its stead a joy which is sustainable?
That would depend on whether Augustine's depiction of reality holds true. If joy which leads to self-destruction (hell) feels wonderful, it does so as a simulation of that joy which leads to glorification and the beatific vision (Augustine's term). The latter would be more profound. I really know of no way to measure these things (utils?) to really arbitrate on the levels of joy concerned. In my experience, sustainable joy from a relation with God seems superior, but that's nothing more than opinion and inadmissible here I would think.

Anecdotally, in my time in chaplaincy I have seen those who suffer trauma but who recover and claim to experience a more profound joy. But I admit that's basically just hearsay and not particularly persuasive.


I hope these answers are satisfactory. I appreciate the many questions, but hope I'm not just making things increasingly cumbersome.

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Re: Can a Trinitarian God serve as the objective source..

Post #6

Post by Ionian_Tradition »

Before I begin, I would like to thank you for the thoughtful response you've provided for the myriad of questions I've issued. Having come to better understand the theological aspects of the moral system under consideration I will now proceed in an attempt to expose the potential flaws which I believe may, perhaps, serve to undermine its premises.

theopoesis wrote: (1) The Trinity: Though it is common to suggest that there are trinities in multiple religions, I am not convinced of the same through my reading in comparative religion. A triad is distinct from a Trinity. I am convinced that teleology helps us overcome Hume's objection that we cannot deduce "ought" from "is". We can do so through this logical form: If moral agent A wants outcome O, A ought to do O. If outcome O is the teleological purpose of that agent, and if failing to act according to one's purpose is in fact self-destructive, then we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G (from whom teleology originates). It is cooperative in the Christian metaphysic, and it truly can move from is to ought.
While I grant that one can construct a rationale which would oblige one to act in accordance with one's teleological purpose, I do not believe the logical form you've put forward is sufficient in establishing an objective moral "ought" from the "is" of God's nature. The "ought" seems predicated upon a subjective desire to achieve the conditions attainable through O. If moral agent A subjectively desires an outcome which is conducive for actualizing the conditions only acquired through O, then it follows that that A "ought" to perform actions in keeping with O. Yet if, for any reason, moral agent A does not subjectively desire said conditions, it equally follows that A "ought not" perform actions in keeping with O. The "ought" is acquired through an analysis of A's subjective desires, from which a rational conclusion regarding how best to behave is derive. It is not derived from an objective obligation seated in God's nature. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature provides an "objective obligation" for man to act in accordance with his teleological purpose...Rather, it is a "rational obligation", produced from the subjective mind of man, which instructs human behavior according to the desires of the individual ...Desires which may or may not align with the purpose prescribed for man by God.
theopoesis wrote: Now, suppose that you were to hold to a polytheistic view of the world, or an atheistic view. You could potentially run into problems with the teleological component of this whole metaphysic. If there were two distinct sources of creation, there could potentially be two distinct purposes, two distinct teleologies, and two distinct moral systems. Therefore, for moral coherence, we would need to posit a single source of teleology: monotheism.
If teleology is prescribed by the mind of God through conscious volition, then the same problem which exists for polytheism exists for trinitarian monotheism given that at least two members of the trinity (father and son) have been shown in scripture to possess separate and distinct minds which harbor mutually independent wills (John 6:38 & Luke 22:42 come to mind). It follows then that it is at least possible for two, or even three, distinct teleologies to emerges from these minds. If we contend that the minds which comprise the trinity prescribe teleology through shared consensus, or some heirarchical authoritative structure within the trinity through which decisions are filtered, then I fail to see why the same could not be true for a polytheistic account of teleology. This would seem to render the notion that moral coherency can only be acquired through trinitarian monotheism more or less unsubstantiated.


theopoesis wrote: Having done so, we run into the Euthyphro dilemma, which argues from a false dichotomy that morality would be meaningless if derived from God. I resolve this dilemma through the suggestion that God acts according to his character. In patristic thought, you could explain this by claiming that God's actions are Personal, and undertaken by the Three Persons of the Trinity, who are perfect hypostasizations of the divine nature and character. Thus, they work in perfect harmony according to a real moral standard that is not contingent on their will nor is external to their nature (thereby defeating Euthyphro as I understand it).
If the standard of human morality is rooted in God's nature and character then it follows that every action which is conducive with God's nature and character is by definition "moral" or "good". Therefore, it can never be said that anything which is conducive with God's nature and character is "immoral" if emulated by man. Yet in scripture we observe a quality which is conducive with the nature and character of God which would not be considered moral if emulated by man:


Deuteronomy 32:35

To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.



Romans 12:19

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "Vengeance belongeth to me; I will repay," says the Lord.



Proverbs 20:22

Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.



It seems apparent that what is conducive with the nature and character of God (vengeance) is not permitted, and therefore, immoral for man to replicate. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature and character forms the standard which instructs human morality. Morality, in this context, is measured by whether or not a man remains obedient to God's command. Thus the Euphythro dilemma stands.

theopoesis wrote: The trinity is necessary first because without the three persons instantiating the same nature, there could be division and teleology would break down. But why not simple monotheism, as in Islam or Judaism?

The answer is in considering that "God is love." If we defeat Euthyphro by referring to God's character, then we would hope that God's character was loving in order to maintain any degree of morality as we know it.
This is a rather small quibble but if morality is rooted in God's character then we should "hope" nothing in regard to what characteristics ought be manifested within that character. "Love" being an attribute of God's character is more or less circumstantial in this context. If malice or deceit happened to be attributes of God's intrinsic character then these qualities would be "moral" by definition. If we maintain that love, by its own nature, is intrinsically "good", and its antithesis is intrinsically "evil", and that God's character must reflect a character of love and not malice in order to be considered truly moral, then your argument will have found its negation.

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Post #7

Post by theopoesis »

Good afternoon, Ionian_Tradition, and thank you for your thorough critiques. I anticipated one of them, but the others were novel to me, though I'm not sure I find them decisive. I appreciate your bringing them to my attention.
theopoesis wrote: (1) The Trinity: Though it is common to suggest that there are trinities in multiple religions, I am not convinced of the same through my reading in comparative religion. A triad is distinct from a Trinity. I am convinced that teleology helps us overcome Hume's objection that we cannot deduce "ought" from "is". We can do so through this logical form: If moral agent A wants outcome O, A ought to do O. If outcome O is the teleological purpose of that agent, and if failing to act according to one's purpose is in fact self-destructive, then we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G (from whom teleology originates). It is cooperative in the Christian metaphysic, and it truly can move from is to ought.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: While I grant that one can construct a rationale which would oblige one to act in accordance with one's teleological purpose, I do not believe the logical form you've put forward is sufficient in establishing an objective moral "ought" from the "is" of God's nature. The "ought" seems predicated upon a subjective desire to achieve the conditions attainable through O. If moral agent A subjectively desires an outcome which is conducive for actualizing the conditions only acquired through O, then it follows that that A "ought" to perform actions in keeping with O. Yet if, for any reason, moral agent A does not subjectively desire said conditions, it equally follows that A "ought not" perform actions in keeping with O. The "ought" is acquired through an analysis of A's subjective desires, from which a rational conclusion regarding how best to behave is derive. It is not derived from an objective obligation seated in God's nature. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature provides an "objective obligation" for man to act in accordance with his teleological purpose...Rather, it is a "rational obligation", produced from the subjective mind of man, which instructs human behavior according to the desires of the individual ...Desires which may or may not align with the purpose prescribed for man by God.
I believe it does show that there is a way to get from "is" to "ought", and also that we must qualify exactly what this way consists of. In the way I have formulated it, the obligation derives from the desires of human beings. If I want to have a relationship with God (and thereby to have existence, goodness, joy, and truth), then I ought to follow my purpose. But my purpose is given by God, and the specific character that I must therefore strive to develop through repeated specific moral actions is a character and set of actions derived from the character of God. So the moral system itself derives both from the character of God and from the will of humans.

In my "theological ethics" class in seminary, the professor, Sam Wells, suggested that there were three broad schools of theological ethics. The first, which he called the "universal" or the "dominant" strain indicated that there was a universal divine law which all peoples in all times and places were required to obey. Typically, this universal moral law was discernible through the help of reason. The second group was called "subversive ethics" and rooted ethics in a particular perspective overcoming what that perspective considered the pseudo-universal tradition. In this group would belong feminist theology, liberation theology (which is rooted in the perspective of the poor), black theology, mujerista theology, womanist theology, Latino/a theology, etc. The third group believed that ethics was made possible through a specific community, and denied any universally applicable law. However, the group also denied that the community must adopt a particular subversive perspective; Rather, the community is the church. Therefore, the third group is called "ecclesial ethics."

This is a very important distinction to draw. To be sure, my argument above would not preserve a universal ethic, and I am skeptical that it could preserve a subversive ethic. This is not to say that there aren't arguments that might do so, but rather that the arguments I am putting forward do not do so. And I do not think this is a problem. After all, the logical form I have presented above is taken from Alasdair MacIntyre, who is classified in the third group by Wells (and indeed is very influential on others in that group, such as Stanley Hauerwas). Others claim MacIntyre is a communitarian.

So what does that mean? That means that the moral system deriving from the character of God and from the willingness of humanity is a covenant, which establishes the moral obligation known as the law, a written explanation of the telos of humankind. This covenant is like a contract, entered through the mutual desires of both parties. The covenant with God should be attractive to all people, and the law is the source of joy (Psalm 119:16), truth (Psalm 119:30), and goodness (Psalm 119:30 -> just to show that these principles are in the Bible when it speaks of the law). As Paul says, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law" (Romans 7:7). Prior to the law, we are lawless (greek anomos - we are without a law), we have missed the mark (greek amartema), we are without worship (greek asebo), we are unrightous (greek adikos, which can mean "useless"), we have fallen away (greek parapipto), all of these things can be interpreted to indicate that we are not conforming to our purpose. We are alogoi (Greek for lacking the logos, which can be reason or the ordering principle) according to Jude 1:10. But once we come into a relationship with God by our desire and according to our purpose, there is a specific way in which we must live: a moral system created by God's design and our desire. We are under the law as a guide (the greek word for this derives from pedagogy).

What of those who do not desire existence, goodness, beauty, and truth? They are then objects of God's wrath, which many Christians interpret to mean that they are given over to their desires (This is the language of Romans 1:24 for example). If they do not want existence, goodness, beauty, or truth, they are without a law, free to do anything, but destined to receive what they desire: hell, a place of evil and darkness, ugliness and suffering, deception and falsehood. Perhaps even a place of annihilation. The judgment towards those outside of the covenant is different than the judgement of those within the covenant, according to Biblical terms. The former are anomos, without a law. "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). The later are paranomos, transgressors of the law. They are unable to fulfill their purpose despite their desire to fulfill their moral obligation, and they are dependent on God's grace.

I hope that opens up the possibility that your objection need not be a violation of MacIntyre's intention, Christian theology, or the Bible. Rather, a moral "ought" is derived from subjective rational understanding of what ought to be done if a person desires to fulfill his/her telos through truth, goodness, beauty, and existence, and the content of that telos is established according to the character of God.

I'd also like to make two theological foot notes. First, if we take the strongest reformed approach (double predestination), then God is behind the desires of those who want to fulfill their purpose, and of those who do not want to fulfill their purpose. I think such a formulation would introduce levels of God's purpose: there would be a creative purpose which would include the intrinsic Augustinian design related to truth, goodness, beauty, and existence discussed above. Second, there would be a salvific purpose, related to whether one fulfilled the creative purpose. Defending this would involve much more intense discussions of divine will, and of the relation between the divine will and divine character. I don't see the need to present this at the present time. However, it could resolve your claim that some people's desires would be against God's purpose. Perhaps they would be against the creative purpose, and therefore not a basis for moral obligation, but still according to God's salvific purpose.

Second, I'd like to note that natural law theory, along the lines of Aquinas, could perhaps suggest that the moral obligation which MacIntyre reduces to a communal moral obligation could be universally derived through reason. Certain desires are rationally superior, and as rational creatures we, given time, will come to possess these desires, which would then obligate us to certain acts to fulfill those desires. Thus, the God-bestowed rational principle, though subjective, can reach objective truth as to which moral obligation we rationally should select for ourselves. I'm not one to defend natural theology, but I do think that someone who believes it might be able to overcome the subjectivist objection you mentioned above in a different way than I have.
theopoesis wrote: Now, suppose that you were to hold to a polytheistic view of the world, or an atheistic view. You could potentially run into problems with the teleological component of this whole metaphysic. If there were two distinct sources of creation, there could potentially be two distinct purposes, two distinct teleologies, and two distinct moral systems. Therefore, for moral coherence, we would need to posit a single source of teleology: monotheism.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: If teleology is prescribed by the mind of God through conscious volition, then the same problem which exists for polytheism exists for trinitarian monotheism given that at least two members of the trinity (father and son) have been shown in scripture to possess separate and distinct minds which harbor mutually independent wills (John 6:38 & Luke 22:42 come to mind). It follows then that it is at least possible for two, or even three, distinct teleologies to emerges from these minds. If we contend that the minds which comprise the trinity prescribe teleology through shared consensus, or some heirarchical authoritative structure within the trinity through which decisions are filtered, then I fail to see why the same could not be true for a polytheistic account of teleology. This would seem to render the notion that moral coherency can only be acquired through trinitarian monotheism more or less unsubstantiated.
Orthodox theology would, in fact, make things more complicated than this even. First, orthodox theology, in claiming that Father, Son, and Spirit are all Persons, would claim that each would have three wills as three divine Persons. To complicate things more, in the incarnation, Jesus took on the fullness of human nature. To quote a rather famous patristic maxim from Gregory of Nazianzus: "That which he did not assume, he did not redeem." Thus, contrary to the later heresy of monothelitism (Greek for "one will"), Jesus had two wills: a human and a divine. Thus, we have four wills to consider. The question remains whether it is possible for these four wills to will something different, and thereby to create several teloi, or purposes, for human kind.

I'll address the matter of the incarnation first. (And let the reader be advised that much of patristic and even later theology would interpret John 6:38 and Luke 22:42 as referring to the human will in Jesus). To put it very briefly, the traditional view is that the human will in Jesus submitted perfectly to the divine will in Jesus. I recognize that there are philosophical problems arising from this, and I am ready to address some of them. But for now let me note that, if the assertion stands, then the human will need not be a problem for current purposes.

I will respond to the three divine wills in two ways. First, I will point out the theological category that theologically resolves the challenge, and then I will note some philosophical points that may validate the theological claim.

Theologically, one way that the unity of the Trinity is described is called perichoresis (in Greek), or circumincessio (in Latin). There's not a great English translation, but Ive heard "mutual interpenetration" comes close. I'll just stick with perichoresis. Anyway, the doctrine claims that all three Persons of the Trinity work in perfect harmony in everything they do. To cite a few brief examples, we see the scriptures attribute activity to the Father, Son and Spirit in creating. Likewise, Jesus claims he was sent by the Father, by the Spirit, and by his own will. The Spirit is sent by the Father, by the Son, and it goes where it wishes. And so forth. The basic doctrine would declare that, by virtue of being the Trinity, the three Persons and the three wills are going to act in agreement, and therefore there can't be a conflicting telos in the same way that there could be with polytheism.

How would we philosophically justify the doctrine of perichoresis? The first thing to note is that the doctrine has an ontological basis. The Three Persons are eternal hypostasizations of One Being. There is One God, who is Tri-Personal. The unity is then based not just in their shared activity, but in their shared nature and being. That's already a step above polytheism.

We must then consider the divine nature. If the nature has the attribute "omniscient", then the three Persons all know all things. If each Person is also a perfect hypostasization of the divine character, and thereby of goodness, then the three will all know the course of action that is most good in a situation and will thereby perfectly do the course of action which is most good because of the divine character. All three will therefore cooperate.

But, one might object, does this mean that God does not have the free will to act sinfully, and thereby be an imperfect hypostasization of the divine nature, and thereby break up the doctrine of perichoresis? The answer given by the philosophy of religion is that, since God is omniscient, and since God has foreknowledge, then God already knows, or more precisely, the three persons already know, what course of action they will take in all future events. If God ever will take a less than perfect course of action, God already knows. And if God already knows this but has not changed it, God already is less than morally perfect. But we claim that God is already morally perfect, which would suggest (even entail?) that God will always be morally perfect. Therefore, the doctrine of perichoresis stands.

Now, I do believe that this would make Trinitarian monotheism different from polytheism in several ways. First, surveying the polytheistic religions I am aware of, I see none of them claiming a doctrine similar to perichoresis. Even if they philosophically could claim this, it seems they don't and therefore they risk multiple teleologies in a way that Christianity doesn't. Second, I see no philosophical basis for a doctrine similar to perichoresis in polytheistic religion. It seems the different Gods are just that: different. They have different natures (and in the case of dualistic religions, they have opposite natures). Therefore, it would seem that they would instantiate persons with very different modes of existence. They certainly would not draw on a single identical nature to form a single being in the way the Trinity does. Of course, someone following a polytheistic religion could put forward an argument to defend the unity of telos, and then we could assess its validity. But, for now, I am unaware of such an argument or of how I might construct one myself. Third, some polytheistic religions ascribe creation to a single god, which would be a form of henotheism which might allow for one telos. Then I believe such a henotheistic form of polytheism would fall subject to my comments on love, noted below.
theopoesis wrote: Having done so, we run into the Euthyphro dilemma, which argues from a false dichotomy that morality would be meaningless if derived from God. I resolve this dilemma through the suggestion that God acts according to his character. In patristic thought, you could explain this by claiming that God's actions are Personal, and undertaken by the Three Persons of the Trinity, who are perfect hypostasizations of the divine nature and character. Thus, they work in perfect harmony according to a real moral standard that is not contingent on their will nor is external to their nature (thereby defeating Euthyphro as I understand it).
Ionian_Tradition wrote: If the standard of human morality is rooted in God's nature and character then it follows that every action which is conducive with God's nature and character is by definition "moral" or "good". Therefore, it can never be said that anything which is conducive with God's nature and character is "immoral" if emulated by man. Yet in scripture we observe a quality which is conducive with the nature and character of God which would not be considered moral if emulated by man:


Deuteronomy 32:35

To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.



Romans 12:19

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "Vengeance belongeth to me; I will repay," says the Lord.



Proverbs 20:22

Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.



It seems apparent that what is conducive with the nature and character of God (vengeance) is not permitted, and therefore, immoral for man to replicate. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature and character forms the standard which instructs human morality. Morality, in this context, is measured by whether or not a man remains obedient to God's command. Thus the Euphythro dilemma stands.
This is a fascinating objection. I think it's mistaken in assuming that if human morality's content is based on God's character, then human morality must be identical to divine morality.

Let's say that it is a moral truth that "if one is omniscient, and perfectly good, one is qualified to judge." Human beings are not omniscient, nor perfectly good, therefore they would not be qualified to judge. It would seem that this statement could apply to both humans and God and yield different moral actions to be undertaken by each. God's communication in telling humans not to judge need not be the source of that moral truth, nor of a particular moral obligation not to judge. Rather, it could just be the presentation of that truth to humans.

Let me see if I can explain in Augustinian terms: If God's nature is omniscient, God's judgment is simply stating what is true: someone who is sinful is "off the mark", or not fulfilling their purpose, and therefore is tending toward non-being, and as a result of this move away from God is tending toward despair, falsehood, and evil. A human being, created in the image of God, but not created as God, is not omniscient. Therefore, human judgment might not be a statement of something true. If this judgment is a statement of falsehood, and if such a statement turns one away from God and therefore away from existence, then such a statement would lead one (1) to not fulfill one's God-given purpose; (2) to not fulfill the "ought" of covenantal moral obligation derived from that purpose; and (3) to reduce the extent to which one reflects the character of God as the image of God by reducing one's degree of existence as that image.

I believe that such a formulation would explain why different moral courses of action would be taken, while still explaining how moral obligation is rooted in a shared human and divine desire, in telos, and ultimately in the character of God and not His command. I could be wrong.
theopoesis wrote: The trinity is necessary first because without the three persons instantiating the same nature, there could be division and teleology would break down. But why not simple monotheism, as in Islam or Judaism?

The answer is in considering that "God is love." If we defeat Euthyphro by referring to God's character, then we would hope that God's character was loving in order to maintain any degree of morality as we know it.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: This is a rather small quibble but if morality is rooted in God's character then we should "hope" nothing in regard to what characteristics ought be manifested within that character. "Love" being an attribute of God's character is more or less circumstantial in this context. If malice or deceit happened to be attributes of God's intrinsic character then these qualities would be "moral" by definition. If we maintain that love, by its own nature, is intrinsically "good", and its antithesis is intrinsically "evil", and that God's character must reflect a character of love and not malice in order to be considered truly moral, then your argument will have found its negation.
I think this part of my argument is less a philosophical argument, and more an appeal to what we already know. This would be an appeal to what Christians would call general revelation, or prevenient grace. If anything is moral, love is moral, and if morality finds its basis in God's nature and character, then God's nature and character is loving, and the Trinity makes this possible in a way that sharp monotheism doesn't. It's more intuitive based on the fact that we know love is good, not on any philosophical necessity (though some would argue as much, such as Bernard Lonergan I believe). I'm not talking about possible worlds, about what could be good, but rather about what we all think is good, in the world we live in with the God who, I believe, exists in this world.

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Wonderfully detailed response theopoesis. Most impressive. :)




theopoesis wrote:
theopoesis wrote:
(1) The Trinity: Though it is common to suggest that there are trinities in multiple religions, I am not convinced of the same through my reading in comparative religion. A triad is distinct from a Trinity. I am convinced that teleology helps us overcome Hume's objection that we cannot deduce "ought" from "is". We can do so through this logical form: If moral agent A wants outcome O, A ought to do O. If outcome O is the teleological purpose of that agent, and if failing to act according to one's purpose is in fact self-destructive, then we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G (from whom teleology originates). It is cooperative in the Christian metaphysic, and it truly can move from is to ought.

Ionian_Tradition wrote:
While I grant that one can construct a rationale which would oblige one to act in accordance with one's teleological purpose, I do not believe the logical form you've put forward is sufficient in establishing an objective moral "ought" from the "is" of God's nature. The "ought" seems predicated upon a subjective desire to achieve the conditions attainable through O. If moral agent A subjectively desires an outcome which is conducive for actualizing the conditions only acquired through O, then it follows that that A "ought" to perform actions in keeping with O. Yet if, for any reason, moral agent A does not subjectively desire said conditions, it equally follows that A "ought not" perform actions in keeping with O. The "ought" is acquired through an analysis of A's subjective desires, from which a rational conclusion regarding how best to behave is derive. It is not derived from an objective obligation seated in God's nature. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature provides an "objective obligation" for man to act in accordance with his teleological purpose...Rather, it is a "rational obligation", produced from the subjective mind of man, which instructs human behavior according to the desires of the individual ...Desires which may or may not align with the purpose prescribed for man by God.


I believe it does show that there is a way to get from "is" to "ought", and also that we must qualify exactly what this way consists of. In the way I have formulated it, the obligation derives from the desires of human beings. If I want to have a relationship with God (and thereby to have existence, goodness, joy, and truth), then I ought to follow my purpose. But my purpose is given by God, and the specific character that I must therefore strive to develop through repeated specific moral actions is a character and set of actions derived from the character of God. So the moral system itself derives both from the character of God and from the will of humans.


As I stated previously, the fact that purpose is prescribed by God is more or less incidental. The "ought" is driven solely by the subjective desire of the individual to acquire the benefits made available only through compliance with God's purpose. If one desires relationship with God, and the pleasantries therein, it follows that he/she ought to act in accordance with God's purpose. If one desires the converse then it follows that he/she ought to abstain from acting in a manner conducive with the purposes of God. Though a moral system can indeed be derived from the character of God, a rational obligation to adopt such a system is derived solely from the subjective mind of the individual. Thus it cannot be said that an obligation to act in accordance with the purposes of God is derived from his nature. God's nature constitutes the "is", the "ought" is predicated upon desire alone.


theopoesis wrote:
In my "theological ethics" class in seminary, the professor, Sam Wells, suggested that there were three broad schools of theological ethics. The first, which he called the "universal" or the "dominant" strain indicated that there was a universal divine law which all peoples in all times and places were required to obey. Typically, this universal moral law was discernible through the help of reason. The second group was called "subversive ethics" and rooted ethics in a particular perspective overcoming what that perspective considered the pseudo-universal tradition. In this group would belong feminist theology, liberation theology (which is rooted in the perspective of the poor), black theology, mujerista theology, womanist theology, Latino/a theology, etc. The third group believed that ethics was made possible through a specific community, and denied any universally applicable law. However, the group also denied that the community must adopt a particular subversive perspective; Rather, the community is the church. Therefore, the third group is called "ecclesial ethics."



This is a very important distinction to draw. To be sure, my argument above would not preserve a universal ethic, and I am skeptical that it could preserve a subversive ethic. This is not to say that there aren't arguments that might do so, but rather that the arguments I am putting forward do not do so. And I do not think this is a problem. After all, the logical form I have presented above is taken from Alasdair MacIntyre, who is classified in the third group by Wells (and indeed is very influential on others in that group, such as Stanley Hauerwas). Others claim MacIntyre is a communitarian.



So what does that mean? That means that the moral system deriving from the character of God and from the willingness of humanity is a covenant, which establishes the moral obligation known as the law, a written explanation of the telos of humankind. This covenant is like a contract, entered through the mutual desires of both parties. The covenant with God should be attractive to all people, and the law is the source of joy (Psalm 119:16), truth (Psalm 119:30), and goodness (Psalm 119:30 -> just to show that these principles are in the Bible when it speaks of the law). As Paul says, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law" (Romans 7:7). Prior to the law, we are lawless (greek anomos - we are without a law), we have missed the mark (greek amartema), we are without worship (greek asebo), we are unrightous (greek adikos, which can mean "useless"), we have fallen away (greek parapipto), all of these things can be interpreted to indicate that we are not conforming to our purpose. We are alogoi (Greek for lacking the logos, which can be reason or the ordering principle) according to Jude 1:10. But once we come into a relationship with God by our desire and according to our purpose, there is a specific way in which we must live: a moral system created by God's design and our desire. We are under the law as a guide (the greek word for this derives from pedagogy).


I must admit your theological erudition is most impressive and your case is aptly made that a moral system can indeed be derived from the nature of God. However I must maintain that this system would carry with it no objective obligation for men to observe its precepts. Again, given that subjective desire is the means by which a rational obligation to adopt this system is established, an objectively binding moral obligation for all men to conform to their divinely ordained purpose is effectively made forfeit as a result. The subjective nature of desire allows for an equally valid obligation to form which would prompt one to reject a moral system derived from God's nature. It is this fact which demonstrates the deficiency of the logical form you've presented in establishing an objective moral "ought" derived solely from God's nature.




theopoesis wrote:
What of those who do not desire existence, goodness, beauty, and truth? They are then objects of God's wrath, which many Christians interpret to mean that they are given over to their desires (This is the language of Romans 1:24 for example). If they do not want existence, goodness, beauty, or truth, they are without a law, free to do anything, but destined to receive what they desire: hell, a place of evil and darkness, ugliness and suffering, deception and falsehood. Perhaps even a place of annihilation. The judgment towards those outside of the covenant is different than the judgement of those within the covenant, according to Biblical terms. The former are anomos, without a law. "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). The later are paranomos, transgressors of the law. They are unable to fulfill their purpose despite their desire to fulfill their moral obligation, and they are dependent on God's grace.


Indeed, such may very well be the fate of those whose desires are antithetical to that which has been purposed by God. Yet it stands, none the less, that their desires (though ultimately destructive) do provide them with a valid obligation to act in a manner which is deleterious to the actualization of their teleological purpose, as per the logic upon which you've built your argument. You seem to be focusing on the "is" when the discussion calls for a consideration of the "ought". The man who's desires are in opposition to the will of God may suffer a terrible fate, this I do not dispute, but if obligation is rooted in subjective desire (which your argument requires), this fact is more or less irrelevant. Your argument demands that a man ought to act in accordance with his desires, regardless of whether they conform to the wishes of God.


It might be argued that a man would never desire the fate that surely awaits him if he rejects his teleological purpose in life, therefore all men are obligated to act in accordance with God's purpose because all men desire the preservation of both their life and their joy. But I believe such a response betrays a lack of appreciation for the complexity of human desire. Often our desires for immediate gratification supersede our desires for the long term benefits derived through delayed gratification. Consider the smoker, it is well known to smokers that smoking is detrimental to their long term, and perhaps even immediate, health. Yet this fact does not deter the avid smoker from partaking of yet another cigarette. Why? Often what we desire most is not in the best interest of our long term benefit. Sometimes, we desire something so intensely that the obvious long term consequences are accepted for the sake of gratification in the now. Thus it is quite possible that a man could know that acting in opposition to his divinely ordained purpose will result in his destruction, yet still his desires could remain in stark opposition to that which has been purposed for him. (This is all under the assumption that all men know, with relative certainty, that acting in opposition to their teleological purpose will prove destructive. We would be hard pressed to demonstrate that all men possess such knowledge. Given that desire is informed by knowledge, it is possible that men could desire what is contrary to their purpose by virtue of a lack of knowledge regarding the consequences).




theopoesis wrote:
I'd also like to make two theological foot notes. First, if we take the strongest reformed approach (double predestination), then God is behind the desires of those who want to fulfill their purpose, and of those who do not want to fulfill their purpose. I think such a formulation would introduce levels of God's purpose: there would be a creative purpose which would include the intrinsic Augustinian design related to truth, goodness, beauty, and existence discussed above. Second, there would be a salvific purpose, related to whether one fulfilled the creative purpose. Defending this would involve much more intense discussions of divine will, and of the relation between the divine will and divine character. I don't see the need to present this at the present time. However, it could resolve your claim that some people's desires would be against God's purpose. Perhaps they would be against the creative purpose, and therefore not a basis for moral obligation, but still according to God's salvific purpose.


Given my unfamiliarity with this concept, I would require further clarification regarding this position in order to issue a valid critique (provided such can be formulated).


theopoesis wrote:
Second, I'd like to note that natural law theory, along the lines of Aquinas, could perhaps suggest that the moral obligation which MacIntyre reduces to a communal moral obligation could be universally derived through reason. Certain desires are rationally superior, and as rational creatures we, given time, will come to possess these desires, which would then obligate us to certain acts to fulfill those desires. Thus, the God-bestowed rational principle, though subjective, can reach objective truth as to which moral obligation we rationally should select for ourselves. I'm not one to defend natural theology, but I do think that someone who believes it might be able to overcome the subjectivist objection you mentioned above in a different way than I have.


It seems to me one would first need to point to an objective obligation which dictates that "one ought to act only in accordance with the most rational of their desires. I see no reason why this must be so. With that said, even if an "ought" could be established for the aforementioned, I am skeptical that it could be shown to be derived from the nature and character of God given that it seems desire would still be that from which obligation is ultimately derived.




theopoesis wrote:
theopoesis wrote:
Now, suppose that you were to hold to a polytheistic view of the world, or an atheistic view. You could potentially run into problems with the teleological component of this whole metaphysic. If there were two distinct sources of creation, there could potentially be two distinct purposes, two distinct teleologies, and two distinct moral systems. Therefore, for moral coherence, we would need to posit a single source of teleology: monotheism.

Ionian_Tradition wrote:
If teleology is prescribed by the mind of God through conscious volition, then the same problem which exists for polytheism exists for trinitarian monotheism given that at least two members of the trinity (father and son) have been shown in scripture to possess separate and distinct minds which harbor mutually independent wills (John 6:38 & Luke 22:42 come to mind). It follows then that it is at least possible for two, or even three, distinct teleologies to emerges from these minds. If we contend that the minds which comprise the trinity prescribe teleology through shared consensus, or some heirarchical authoritative structure within the trinity through which decisions are filtered, then I fail to see why the same could not be true for a polytheistic account of teleology. This would seem to render the notion that moral coherency can only be acquired through trinitarian monotheism more or less unsubstantiated.


Orthodox theology would, in fact, make things more complicated than this even. First, orthodox theology, in claiming that Father, Son, and Spirit are all Persons, would claim that each would have three wills as three divine Persons. To complicate things more, in the incarnation, Jesus took on the fullness of human nature. To quote a rather famous patristic maxim from Gregory of Nazianzus: "That which he did not assume, he did not redeem." Thus, contrary to the later heresy of monothelitism (Greek for "one will"), Jesus had two wills: a human and a divine. Thus, we have four wills to consider. The question remains whether it is possible for these four wills to will something different, and thereby to create several teloi, or purposes, for human kind.


One thing regarding the incarnation has puzzled me and it is the notion of one person (Jesus) possessing two wills (one human and one divine). Will is predicated upon knowledge, which is seated in the mind. Therefore if Jesus wills divinely, this will emanates from a divine mind. Similarly, if Jesus wills in his humanity then this will emanates from a human mind. Thus the paradox ensues of one person possessing two minds simultaneously. Personhood is the product of a singular mind, therefore the singular person of Jesus Christ cannot exist simultaneously as two separate and distinct minds. By dictates of logic, either the mind of Jesus is human, or it is divine. If we maintain that it is both human and divine, in the same way that a man can be both tall and skinny, then we cannot say that Jesus possesses two separate and distinct wills. But I suppose this is a bit of a departure from our discussion.


theopoesis wrote:


I will respond to the three divine wills in two ways. First, I will point out the theological category that theologically resolves the challenge, and then I will note some philosophical points that may validate the theological claim.



Theologically, one way that the unity of the Trinity is described is called perichoresis (in Greek), or circumincessio (in Latin). There's not a great English translation, but Ive heard "mutual interpenetration" comes close. I'll just stick with perichoresis. Anyway, the doctrine claims that all three Persons of the Trinity work in perfect harmony in everything they do. To cite a few brief examples, we see the scriptures attribute activity to the Father, Son and Spirit in creating. Likewise, Jesus claims he was sent by the Father, by the Spirit, and by his own will. The Spirit is sent by the Father, by the Son, and it goes where it wishes. And so forth. The basic doctrine would declare that, by virtue of being the Trinity, the three Persons and the three wills are going to act in agreement, and therefore there can't be a conflicting telos in the same way that there could be with polytheism.



How would we philosophically justify the doctrine of perichoresis? The first thing to note is that the doctrine has an ontological basis. The Three Persons are eternal hypostasizations of One Being. There is One God, who is Tri-Personal. The unity is then based not just in their shared activity, but in their shared nature and being. That's already a step above polytheism.


As I stated previously, personhood is the product of a singular mind. One mind can no more express three persons simultaneously then three minds can simultaneously express one singular person. The three minds of the trinity, might possess an identical essence (divinity) but they remain separate and distinct entities. 3 entities cannot truly be 1 entity lest a violation of the law of non-contradiction result. As such, I believe naming the three members of the trinity "one being" is somewhat misleading. They share one divinity as we human beings share "one humanity ", but they cannot exist as one singular being lest we abandon logic.


theopoesis wrote:
We must then consider the divine nature. If the nature has the attribute "omniscient", then the three Persons all know all things. If each Person is also a perfect hypostasization of the divine character, and thereby of goodness, then the three will all know the course of action that is most good in a situation and will thereby perfectly do the course of action which is most good because of the divine character. All three will therefore cooperate.


Would not performing the action which is "most good" simply be whatever is performed by God, given that the nature and character of God is intrinsically good? The necessity for recognizing what is "most good" by way of omniscience seems somewhat superfluous...Unless of course you're implying that there is a standard of ultimate good which exists beyond God's nature by which God's goodness is measured and which God himself refers to in his omniscience when determining a course of action intended to be "most good"...But then this would falsify your argument entirely.

With that said, I fail to see why this could not apply to Polytheism as well.


theopoesis wrote:
But, one might object, does this mean that God does not have the free will to act sinfully, and thereby be an imperfect hypostasization of the divine nature, and thereby break up the doctrine of perichoresis? The answer given by the philosophy of religion is that, since God is omniscient, and since God has foreknowledge, then God already knows, or more precisely, the three persons already know, what course of action they will take in all future events. If God ever will take a less than perfect course of action, God already knows. And if God already knows this but has not changed it, God already is less than morally perfect. But we claim that God is already morally perfect, which would suggest (even entail?) that God will always be morally perfect. Therefore, the doctrine of perichoresis stands.


Again, how could God sin if goodness is rooted solely in his nature and character? How then is God's omniscience relevant? How could God take a "less than perfect course of action" when any action committed by God is by definition "morally perfect"? How is God's knowledge relevant to his moral quality in the absence of a standard of perfection (point of reference) which might serve to measure the moral quality of his actions?


theopoesis wrote:
Now, I do believe that this would make Trinitarian monotheism different from polytheism in several ways. First, surveying the polytheistic religions I am aware of, I see none of them claiming a doctrine similar to perichoresis. Even if they philosophically could claim this, it seems they don't and therefore they risk multiple teleologies in a way that Christianity doesn't.


If we claim that the nature and character of divinity is both omniscience and moral perfection then I fail to see how your argument above could not be made in support of Polytheistic Gods...Though I believe in order for it to be made valid, in either case, your initial argument must first be abandoned.




theopoesis wrote:
Second, I see no philosophical basis for a doctrine similar to perichoresis in polytheistic religion. It seems the different Gods are just that: different. They have different natures (and in the case of dualistic religions, they have opposite natures). Therefore, it would seem that they would instantiate persons with very different modes of existence. They certainly would not draw on a single identical nature to form a single being in the way the Trinity does.


Different in person perhaps but not in essence. If we define divinity as possessing at least moral perfection and omniscience, then it is not impossible that a set of separate and distinct Gods could , by virtue of their nature and character, contrive one identical theological purpose for man kind through a mutually shared consensus. In fact, given what I've argued above, I would contend that, if the trinity wills anything, it must be done through this very method if logic is to be preserved.




theopoesis wrote:
theopoesis wrote:
Having done so, we run into the Euthyphro dilemma, which argues from a false dichotomy that morality would be meaningless if derived from God. I resolve this dilemma through the suggestion that God acts according to his character. In patristic thought, you could explain this by claiming that God's actions are Personal, and undertaken by the Three Persons of the Trinity, who are perfect hypostasizations of the divine nature and character. Thus, they work in perfect harmony according to a real moral standard that is not contingent on their will nor is external to their nature (thereby defeating Euthyphro as I understand it).

Ionian_Tradition wrote:
If the standard of human morality is rooted in God's nature and character then it follows that every action which is conducive with God's nature and character is by definition "moral" or "good". Therefore, it can never be said that anything which is conducive with God's nature and character is "immoral" if emulated by man. Yet in scripture we observe a quality which is conducive with the nature and character of God which would not be considered moral if emulated by man:





Deuteronomy 32:35



To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.






Romans 12:19



Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "Vengeance belongeth to me; I will repay," says the Lord.







Proverbs 20:22



Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.






It seems apparent that what is conducive with the nature and character of God (vengeance) is not permitted, and therefore, immoral for man to replicate. As such, it cannot be said that God's nature and character forms the standard which instructs human morality. Morality, in this context, is measured by whether or not a man remains obedient to God's command. Thus the Euphythro dilemma stands.


This is a fascinating objection. I think it's mistaken in assuming that if human morality's content is based on God's character, then human morality must be identical to divine morality.



Let's say that it is a moral truth that "if one is omniscient, and perfectly good, one is qualified to judge." Human beings are not omniscient, nor perfectly good, therefore they would not be qualified to judge.


I think you've more or less underscored my point. The act of vengeance is conducive with the nature and character of God, if we say that God's attributes render him fit to enact vengeance while maintaining that human beings are not fit to enact vengeance then we will have demonstrated that what is fit for God to perform is not fit for a human beings to emulate. Therefore what is fit for God (what is conducive with his attributes...or nature and character) is not the standard which instructs human behavior. Given that you affirmed previously that any action which reflects the nature and character of the Christian God is by definition moral, this argument seems self defeating.






theopoesis wrote:
theopoesis wrote:
The trinity is necessary first because without the three persons instantiating the same nature, there could be division and teleology would break down. But why not simple monotheism, as in Islam or Judaism?



The answer is in considering that "God is love." If we defeat Euthyphro by referring to God's character, then we would hope that God's character was loving in order to maintain any degree of morality as we know it.

Ionian_Tradition wrote:
This is a rather small quibble but if morality is rooted in God's character then we should "hope" nothing in regard to what characteristics ought be manifested within that character. "Love" being an attribute of God's character is more or less circumstantial in this context. If malice or deceit happened to be attributes of God's intrinsic character then these qualities would be "moral" by definition. If we maintain that love, by its own nature, is intrinsically "good", and its antithesis is intrinsically "evil", and that God's character must reflect a character of love and not malice in order to be considered truly moral, then your argument will have found its negation.


I think this part of my argument is less a philosophical argument, and more an appeal to what we already know. This would be an appeal to what Christians would call general revelation, or prevenient grace. If anything is moral, love is moral, and if morality finds its basis in God's nature and character, then God's nature and character is loving, and the Trinity makes this possible in a way that sharp monotheism doesn't. It's more intuitive based on the fact that we know love is good, not on any philosophical necessity (though some would argue as much, such as Bernard Lonergan I believe). I'm not talking about possible worlds, about what could be good, but rather about what we all think is good, in the world we live in with the God who, I believe, exists in this world.


Fair enough.

theopoesis
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Post #9

Post by theopoesis »

Thank you for the time you spent in responding to my post and for the thorough work you put in. It's becoming clear that, in order to truly explain the argument I initially presented, I should have first done an extensive explanation of the Trinity and of the particular form of Christian metaphysics that I am appealing to. It's a bit late, but I'll try to do so now as I respond to your latter objections, in hope that it will make things more clear.
theopoesis wrote: I believe it does show that there is a way to get from "is" to "ought", and also that we must qualify exactly what this way consists of. In the way I have formulated it, the obligation derives from the desires of human beings. If I want to have a relationship with God (and thereby to have existence, goodness, joy, and truth), then I ought to follow my purpose. But my purpose is given by God, and the specific character that I must therefore strive to develop through repeated specific moral actions is a character and set of actions derived from the character of God. So the moral system itself derives both from the character of God and from the will of humans.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: As I stated previously, the fact that purpose is prescribed by God is more or less incidental. The "ought" is driven solely by the subjective desire of the individual to acquire the benefits made available only through compliance with God's purpose. If one desires relationship with God, and the pleasantries therein, it follows that he/she ought to act in accordance with God's purpose. If one desires the converse then it follows that he/she ought to abstain from acting in a manner conducive with the purposes of God. Though a moral system can indeed be derived from the character of God, a rational obligation to adopt such a system is derived solely from the subjective mind of the individual. Thus it cannot be said that an obligation to act in accordance with the purposes of God is derived from his nature. God's nature constitutes the "is", the "ought" is predicated upon desire alone.
I'm starting to understand the problem here, and the fault is my own for not catching it in the proposed topic of our debate...

If you look at my initial argument, I do not claim anywhere that there is objective universal obligation to do the good, or that this obligation is rooted in God's character. Rather, I say "we can formulate a moral system based on a mutual desire of agent A for his/her own benefit, and of God G." Right up front I tried to be clear to suggest that the obligation was covenental, rooted in mutual desire. In that sense, I don't see that noting that the obligation is subjective is really an objection to my initial argument. Can you explain why it is? Had I claimed an objective obligation, I would think that this would be a refutation of my initial argument. Since I did not claim as much, I think I need some dots connected.

Moreover, I am still not convinced that " the fact that purpose is prescribed by God is more or less incidental." I have suggested that there is an objective, real "good" in the world, and that only living according to this objective, real good will have any positive outcome. Thus, if we desire the positive outcomes which are the benefit of doing good, we subjectively enter the covenant with God, but the content of that covenant is beyond our control. This is quite important because it negates moral relativism. There is only one good, and though we can create any number of social conventions by which we might establish obligation, only one such contract will actually be good. When we come to God, there is no negotiating of the terms of the covenant, no haggling over what we should and should not do. I'm not advocating a system where, as long as you believe in God, then you're free to do pretty much whatever you want. Rather, if you subjectively enter into covenant with God, there are objective things that you must therefore do. And I think that is quite important.

A final note: This had not occurred to me until now, but as a result of our discussion it has helped me to see things a bit more clearly... Perhaps one consequence of how I am describing things is that one is always obligated to oneself to act as one sees fit, but some self-chosen actions are self-destructive, while others are not. Only when we desire to fulfill our purpose can we be said to be obligated also according to the plan of God. This would then all be a result of God's given human beings freedom.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: I must admit your theological erudition is most impressive and your case is aptly made that a moral system can indeed be derived from the nature of God. However I must maintain that this system would carry with it no objective obligation for men to observe its precepts. Again, given that subjective desire is the means by which a rational obligation to adopt this system is established, an objectively binding moral obligation for all men to conform to their divinely ordained purpose is effectively made forfeit as a result. The subjective nature of desire allows for an equally valid obligation to form which would prompt one to reject a moral system derived from God's nature. It is this fact which demonstrates the deficiency of the logical form you've presented in establishing an objective moral "ought" derived solely from God's nature.
Can I ask you to rephrase the objection? Here's how I interpret what I'm doing with Hume and MacIntyre. Maybe it will be helpful in clarifying what I am thinking, so you can explain the objection in another way.

Christians: God has given the world a specific purpose, which includes conforming to some extent to the character of God. This is the objective moral standard of the universe.

David Hume: Even if there is an objective moral standard, we cannot move from the existence of the standard, the fact that it is, to a logical argument for why we ought to follow that standard. Since we can't move from is to ought, there doesn't seem to be any obligation.

Alasdair MacIntyre: Though the standard itself is objective, the obligation is subjectively derived from a human rationale for adopting that standard. It is subjective, communitarian, covenental. But there is still a way to move from the objective standard to an obligation: If a person desires outcome O, he ought to do X. If O is linked in some way to the moral standard, then a person can be subjectively obligated to fulfill that standard by his own subjective choice.

Me (Adding to MacIntyre): Coupled with Augustinianism, we should be able to construct the subjective obligation so that: (1) the outcome of subjectively choosing to covenentally fulfill one's purpose is such that it should be universally appealing; (2) ultimately only one self-selected course of action will objectively be moral: that which corresponds to our purpose; and (3) when choosing freely to not conform to that standard, one is choosing hell and is objectively not good.

I certainly may have claimed in an earlier post that there was an objective ought, but I don't see where I did so, nor do I remember doing so. I also didn't intend to do so. I'll happily retract that formulation of my argument if I misspoke. Otherwise, I can't see where your objection relates to my above summary.
theopoesis wrote:
What of those who do not desire existence, goodness, beauty, and truth? They are then objects of God's wrath, which many Christians interpret to mean that they are given over to their desires (This is the language of Romans 1:24 for example). If they do not want existence, goodness, beauty, or truth, they are without a law, free to do anything, but destined to receive what they desire: hell, a place of evil and darkness, ugliness and suffering, deception and falsehood. Perhaps even a place of annihilation. The judgment towards those outside of the covenant is different than the judgement of those within the covenant, according to Biblical terms. The former are anomos, without a law. "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). The later are paranomos, transgressors of the law. They are unable to fulfill their purpose despite their desire to fulfill their moral obligation, and they are dependent on God's grace.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: Indeed, such may very well be the fate of those whose desires are antithetical to that which has been purposed by God. Yet it stands, none the less, that their desires (though ultimately destructive) do provide them with a valid obligation to act in a manner which is deleterious to the actualization of their teleological purpose, as per the logic upon which you've built your argument. You seem to be focusing on the "is" when the discussion calls for a consideration of the "ought". The man who's desires are in opposition to the will of God may suffer a terrible fate, this I do not dispute, but if obligation is rooted in subjective desire (which your argument requires), this fact is more or less irrelevant.
My intention here was to focus on the "is" in order to demonstrate that what I was saying was not just invented out of thin air. One interpretation of the Bible would make sin teleological. It is relevant insofar as it demonstrates that Christianity can be interpreted as having traditionally linked the content of good moral action or evil immoral actions with fulfilling one's purpose.

When I speak of covenants, however, I am speaking of the "ought." I am referring to that part of Christian tradition which has interpreted obligation as subjectively based on the mutual desires of God and His people. I do that also to show that this interpretation can fit with the history of Christian thought, and isn't something I make up.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: It might be argued that a man would never desire the fate that surely awaits him if he rejects his teleological purpose in life, therefore all men are obligated to act in accordance with God's purpose because all men desire the preservation of both their life and their joy. But I believe such a response betrays a lack of appreciation for the complexity of human desire. Often our desires for immediate gratification supersede our desires for the long term benefits derived through delayed gratification. Consider the smoker, it is well known to smokers that smoking is detrimental to their long term, and perhaps even immediate, health. Yet this fact does not deter the avid smoker from partaking of yet another cigarette. Why? Often what we desire most is not in the best interest of our long term benefit. Sometimes, we desire something so intensely that the obvious long term consequences are accepted for the sake of gratification in the now. Thus it is quite possible that a man could know that acting in opposition to his divinely ordained purpose will result in his destruction, yet still his desires could remain in stark opposition to that which has been purposed for him. (This is all under the assumption that all men know, with relative certainty, that acting in opposition to their teleological purpose will prove destructive. We would be hard pressed to demonstrate that all men possess such knowledge. Given that desire is informed by knowledge, it is possible that men could desire what is contrary to their purpose by virtue of a lack of knowledge regarding the consequences).
A well reasoned argument.

It would contradict a universalist view of my argument. However, I'll just stick to the claim that obligation is covenental, not universal.

Just so the reader is aware, the early church in particular wrote huge, elaborate discussions of desires and discussed the ways that they were corrupted by sin. I'm not competent to explain these things at the moment, but I suspect Gregory of Nyssa or Maximus the Confessor has developed a system that could overcome this objection. Since I can't reproduce the argument and it might not even work anyway, so I'll cede that your point is correct Ionian_Tradition. But in case anyone wants to dig deeper, just thought I'd mention those sources. Could make for a good future dialogue.
theopoesis wrote: Second, I'd like to note that natural law theory, along the lines of Aquinas, could perhaps suggest that the moral obligation which MacIntyre reduces to a communal moral obligation could be universally derived through reason. Certain desires are rationally superior, and as rational creatures we, given time, will come to possess these desires, which would then obligate us to certain acts to fulfill those desires. Thus, the God-bestowed rational principle, though subjective, can reach objective truth as to which moral obligation we rationally should select for ourselves. I'm not one to defend natural theology, but I do think that someone who believes it might be able to overcome the subjectivist objection you mentioned above in a different way than I have.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: It seems to me one would first need to point to an objective obligation which dictates that "one ought to act only in accordance with the most rational of their desires." I see no reason why this must be so. With that said, even if an "ought" could be established for the aforementioned, I am skeptical that it could be shown to be derived from the nature and character of God given that it seems desire would still be that from which obligation is ultimately derived.
Good thing I'd said I didn't plan to defend natural theology, because I think it just got destroyed. Well reasoned again.

theopoesis wrote: Orthodox theology would, in fact, make things more complicated than this even. First, orthodox theology, in claiming that Father, Son, and Spirit are all Persons, would claim that each would have three wills as three divine Persons. To complicate things more, in the incarnation, Jesus took on the fullness of human nature. To quote a rather famous patristic maxim from Gregory of Nazianzus: "That which he did not assume, he did not redeem." Thus, contrary to the later heresy of monothelitism (Greek for "one will"), Jesus had two wills: a human and a divine. Thus, we have four wills to consider. The question remains whether it is possible for these four wills to will something different, and thereby to create several teloi, or purposes, for human kind.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: One thing regarding the incarnation has puzzled me and it is the notion of one person (Jesus) possessing two wills (one human and one divine). Will is predicated upon knowledge, which is seated in the mind. Therefore if Jesus wills divinely, this will emanates from a divine mind. Similarly, if Jesus wills in his humanity then this will emanates from a human mind. Thus the paradox ensues of one person possessing two minds simultaneously. Personhood is the product of a singular mind, therefore the singular person of Jesus Christ cannot exist simultaneously as two separate and distinct minds. By dictates of logic, either the mind of Jesus is human, or it is divine. If we maintain that it is both human and divine, in the same way that a man can be both tall and skinny, then we cannot say that Jesus possesses two separate and distinct wills. But I suppose this is a bit of a departure from our discussion.
Orthodox theology would also claim that Jesus has two minds (against Appollinarianism). However, the patristic idea of a person does not require a single mind per person, but I'll go more in depth into the idea of person below. For now I'll suggest to you the book by Thomas Morris: The Logic of God Incarnate. Morris suggests that Jesus had two ranges of consciousness, the divine accessing the human, but the human not the divine. It is an interesting read addressing these questions, and I do not find that your objections necessarily hold true as a result of it.
theopoesis wrote: I will respond to the three divine wills in two ways. First, I will point out the theological category that theologically resolves the challenge, and then I will note some philosophical points that may validate the theological claim.



Theologically, one way that the unity of the Trinity is described is called perichoresis (in Greek), or circumincessio (in Latin). There's not a great English translation, but Ive heard "mutual interpenetration" comes close. I'll just stick with perichoresis. Anyway, the doctrine claims that all three Persons of the Trinity work in perfect harmony in everything they do. To cite a few brief examples, we see the scriptures attribute activity to the Father, Son and Spirit in creating. Likewise, Jesus claims he was sent by the Father, by the Spirit, and by his own will. The Spirit is sent by the Father, by the Son, and it goes where it wishes. And so forth. The basic doctrine would declare that, by virtue of being the Trinity, the three Persons and the three wills are going to act in agreement, and therefore there can't be a conflicting telos in the same way that there could be with polytheism.



How would we philosophically justify the doctrine of perichoresis? The first thing to note is that the doctrine has an ontological basis. The Three Persons are eternal hypostasizations of One Being. There is One God, who is Tri-Personal. The unity is then based not just in their shared activity, but in their shared nature and being. That's already a step above polytheism.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: As I stated previously, personhood is the product of a singular mind. One mind can no more express three persons simultaneously then three minds can simultaneously express one singular person. The three minds of the trinity, might possess an identical essence (divinity) but they remain separate and distinct entities. 3 entities cannot truly be 1 entity lest a violation of the law of non-contradiction result. As such, I believe naming the three members of the trinity "one being" is somewhat misleading. They share one divinity as we human beings share "one humanity ", but they cannot exist as one singular being lest we abandon logic.
Greek thought is unlike our modern conception of the person. Today, when we say "person" we mean something close to "individual." Thus, by our definition, when you say that the three minds "remain separate and distinct entities" you argue well. However, we must make some effort to uncover the patristic idea of the person, which was not equivalent with an entity. Furthermore, since it was this idea of the person that was in mind when the formula "one being eternally subsisting in three persons" was formulated, if "persons" does not mean entities, we can avoid the "one entity cannot be three entities" problem so often thrown at the doctrine of the Trinity today. It seems your objection is a more sophisticated version of this objection. I'll note several important ideas here:

(1) Partly as a result of materialism replacing dualism, when we think of a person today we think of a body, a material thing, an entity, with certain properties that make it a "person." It has a mind (i.e. a brain), emotions (i.e. glands), language and the ability to communicate (which themselves arise from the brain, ears, and voice box). Therefore, one set of mind, glands, and communicative biological aparatus yields one person. In antiquity, dualism and especially theological discussions of God painted a different picture. God is considered immaterial, so God's properties do not derive from specific concrete organs or anything. Personhood is not defined as having a brain, but as being self-conscious and other-conscious. To be a person is to have the property of being conscious in this way and thus of being able to relate to others and to one's self as other. It is not to possess certain material organs, etc. It is rather to possess a certain capacity as transcendent to this ontological nature.

(2) For patristic theologians, being was an ontological category, and personhood was an existential category. "Being" refers to what a thing is, its quiddity. "Person" refers to how a thing is, its subsistence. Thus, oxygen has eight electrons and eight protons. The protons are essential properties which an atom must have to be oxygen. The electrons are accidental, which in some instances may not all be present if an atom of oxygen has a charge. This is the being of oxygen. However, these properties, this being, exists in a certain way at a certain time, and this existence is described by a number of mathematical formulas that attempt to calculate where the subatomic particles are, how fast they are moving, what their energy level is, etc. This same being or nature of oxygen has a specific existence in which this being manifests itself through time and space. The patristic claim is that one single being, one entity, exists in such a way that it is tri-personal. The being of God refers to a single entity with specific capacities which eternally manifest themselves in a tri-personal way.

(3) Patristic doctrine claimed that God was simple, i.e. indivisible. Partly this was an appeal to Neo-platonism, but partly it was a recognition that an immaterial thing cannot be divided, only material things are divisible. In this way, the tri-personal subsistence of the Godhead did not divide the Godhead into three beings because the Godhead was indivisible and must eternally exist as one Being.

Using this formulation, I think I have described the Trinity in such a way that it is not three entities with the same properties but different from one another. Rather it is one being ontologically, numerically one in essence, which manifests itself tri-personally, i.e. having the capacity of self-transcendence three times over.
theopoesis wrote: We must then consider the divine nature. If the nature has the attribute "omniscient", then the three Persons all know all things. If each Person is also a perfect hypostasization of the divine character, and thereby of goodness, then the three will all know the course of action that is most good in a situation and will thereby perfectly do the course of action which is most good because of the divine character. All three will therefore cooperate.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: Would not performing the action which is "most good" simply be whatever is performed by God, given that the nature and character of God is intrinsically good? The necessity for recognizing what is "most good" by way of omniscience seems somewhat superfluous...Unless of course you're implying that there is a standard of ultimate good which exists beyond God's nature by which God's goodness is measured and which God himself refers to in his omniscience when determining a course of action intended to be "most good"...But then this would falsify your argument entirely.

With that said, I fail to see why this could not apply to Polytheism as well.
Traditionally, Christian thought has suggested that what happens existentially can have ontological ramifications. In other words, what we do in space/time can effect our nature and essence. So at the time of the fall, a turn away from God in history existentially resulted in an ontological depravation of our nature. Or to use another example, an atomic reaction in oxygen in space/time/history can change its nature to that of another element. In this way, God's omniscience is relevant. God's persons hypostasize the divine nature, but in doing so they have the capacity to influence the divine nature, to change it so to speak. However, by virtue of omniscience, the persons know they will never change this nature but will always perfectly manifest it, and therefore will be perfectly good in nature and in existence, in quality and in action.

I'll mention polytheism below.
theopoesis wrote: But, one might object, does this mean that God does not have the free will to act sinfully, and thereby be an imperfect hypostasization of the divine nature, and thereby break up the doctrine of perichoresis? The answer given by the philosophy of religion is that, since God is omniscient, and since God has foreknowledge, then God already knows, or more precisely, the three persons already know, what course of action they will take in all future events. If God ever will take a less than perfect course of action, God already knows. And if God already knows this but has not changed it, God already is less than morally perfect. But we claim that God is already morally perfect, which would suggest (even entail?) that God will always be morally perfect. Therefore, the doctrine of perichoresis stands.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: Again, how could God sin if goodness is rooted solely in his nature and character? How then is God's omniscience relevant? How could God take a "less than perfect course of action" when any action committed by God is by definition "morally perfect"? How is God's knowledge relevant to his moral quality in the absence of a standard of perfection (point of reference) which might serve to measure the moral quality of his actions?
God could take a less than perfect course of action if in doing so God no longer manifested the divine character, but rather diminished it through the action.

theopoesis wrote: Now, I do believe that this would make Trinitarian monotheism different from polytheism in several ways. First, surveying the polytheistic religions I am aware of, I see none of them claiming a doctrine similar to perichoresis. Even if they philosophically could claim this, it seems they don't and therefore they risk multiple teleologies in a way that Christianity doesn't.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: If we claim that the nature and character of divinity is both omniscience and moral perfection then I fail to see how your argument above could not be made in support of Polytheistic Gods...Though I believe in order for it to be made valid, in either case, your initial argument must first be abandoned.
I think I have shown that my claims are in line with my initial argument.

The end conclusion of this, by the way, is that if the Trinity exists as I have claimed, and one Person of the Trinity takes a course of action which diminished the divine character, the two other Persons of the Trinity, who draw on the identical being (numerically and essentially), would assume the same new, diminished character instantiated by the First person. In this way, the Trinity has an existential unity unparalleled by any polytheistic religion in general.

I think, though, rather than discussing polytheism in general, a legitimate counterexample would be a specific polytheistic religion. Is there a polytheistic religion which would posit such a degree of unity in diversity? One which, doctrinally, would virtually guarantee the impossibility of two purposes/teloi? I am unaware of one.
theopoesis wrote: Second, I see no philosophical basis for a doctrine similar to perichoresis in polytheistic religion. It seems the different Gods are just that: different. They have different natures (and in the case of dualistic religions, they have opposite natures). Therefore, it would seem that they would instantiate persons with very different modes of existence. They certainly would not draw on a single identical nature to form a single being in the way the Trinity does.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: Different in person perhaps but not in essence. If we define divinity as possessing at least moral perfection and omniscience, then it is not impossible that a set of separate and distinct Gods could , by virtue of their nature and character, contrive one identical theological purpose for man kind through a mutually shared consensus. In fact, given what I've argued above, I would contend that, if the trinity wills anything, it must be done through this very method if logic is to be preserved.
I think how you have defined person, mind, and will above is not the way that the doctrine of the Trinity defines person, mind, and will. As such, it is a straw man of sorts.

Furthermore, even if the members of the polytheistic pantheon all embody moral perfect consensus, is there any example of a polytheistic religion that actually claims this?

And finally, can we really say that the moral character of the polytheistic gods is identical if the gods themselves aren't identical? Either they are identical and therefore one, or they aren't and therefore we maintain the possibility of division.
theopoesis wrote:Let's say that it is a moral truth that "if one is omniscient, and perfectly good, one is qualified to judge." Human beings are not omniscient, nor perfectly good, therefore they would not be qualified to judge.
Ionian_Tradition wrote: I think you've more or less underscored my point. The act of vengeance is conducive with the nature and character of God, if we say that God's attributes render him fit to enact vengeance while maintaining that human beings are not fit to enact vengeance then we will have demonstrated that what is fit for God to perform is not fit for a human beings to emulate. Therefore what is fit for God (what is conducive with his attributes...or nature and character) is not the standard which instructs human behavior. Given that you affirmed previously that any action which reflects the nature and character of the Christian God is by definition moral, this argument seems self defeating.
You have skipped the bulk of my response. You have also misrepresented what I affirmed earlier. In post 4 you asked, "Would you say that human beings 'do good' when they reflect the glory and beauty of God which is seated in his Nature?" I wrote in post 5: "A more precise way to phrase it might be that they are good when they reflect the glory and beauty of God."

God's nature is the standard for defining what people are good, and what people are not. However, people are not created God, they are created in the image of God. They are good insofar as they reflect his character (glory and beauty), but only God maximally instantiates the character of God, and therefore only God is maximally good, and does the things which a maximally good being does. Humans will always be less than maximally good, and so cannot do the things which only a maximally good being can do, such as judge.

theopoesis
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Post #10

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oops... double posted.

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