Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Multi-headed Deus

Today's post is a response to this article.
 What has philosophy of religion to tell us? It's a genuine question, but my introduction thus far implies it almost creates its own neutral God figure that is in fact worshipped by none, but intensely studied. 

It seems to me you cannot solve the Deus issue. For all I KNOW, neither might be correct. In fact, they may both even be wrong about deus existing at all, in which case the discussion, were we to somehow have access to this information of a deus-free ultimate reality, would concern two incompatible views, yet united in their subject matter (number of identities, creator, or whatever) and ultimate reality.

If the Spinoza Deus had two heads and the Aquinas Deus had three, but it was somehow known that in fact such a being did not exist at all (with any number of heads), then this fictitious "knower" could correctly infer that the Spinoza and Aquinas Deuses are indeed not the same Deus, since the only reality behind the two-headed and three-headed beings is experiential, and these two experiences differ.

If we now downgrade the knower to a regular sceptic, who doesn't know the gods/God views are fictitious but suspects it, then we have three incompatible views, but each view sharing some points of agreement. E.g the sceptic and three-headed view both believe that the two-headed view is only an experiential reality and not an ultimate one. The two-headed and three-headed views agree that a multi-headed Deus ultimately exists independently to their own existence as experiential mortal beings.

Anyone for an orange deus?😉

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A case for development of my position on earlier-is-better: the Divine Name

Some may have noticed that I have been interested in what is sometimes referred to as "the Divine Name". According to the Bible, God revealed himself to Moses that he could say that I AM sent him (Exodus 3:14). Somehow (certainly similar Hebrew letters) this became something like "Yahweh".

Psalm 83:16 and 18 confirm something quite special and, well, you might say basic, but the Divine name really is confirmed as Yahweh... **IN HEBREW**. So why on Earth do most Bibles not stick with that, a name's a name, right? Well, there is some real textual and Jewish history to get into. One key element is that not all the displaced Jewish communities would later speak Hebrew. Before Christ, several (at least six) Greek translations were undertaken. We have but shreds of textual evidence about these early translations, but one thing is very clear: translation of the Divine name was a most delicate task. Not only that, but the Pentateuch passages pertaining to the non-profaning of God's name (e.g. see Exodus 20:17) were corrupted somehow into Greek - probably out of reverence for the Holy God - so as to no longer read don't profane (or misuse) God's name (otherwise you'll die), but don't even mention it (or you'll die). Various textual solutions were offered (although for oral practice scholars are still left mainly guessing), although none of the scant shreds I mentioned include Kyrios ("LORD", even though one of them has a space that some scholars think could have been exactly filled with the Greek letters).

So how is my viewpoint widening? Well, with regard to New Testament exegesis, I have always felt a strong allegiance to the earliest textual form found. A new earlier manuscript may shed light on an earlier form of the text, and maybe even alter the text. With respect to authorial intention, I have also been consistently against any form of eisegesis whatsoever. Earlier is better.

But the Divine Name case represents an interesting problem for the Protestant biblical student. Is it possible that the earliest form of the text is NOT always the most biblical and preferred rendering?
Compare LXX Psalm 83:16 and 18 to Hebrews 1:4. It is the same word used for "name" in both cases. We should remember that the Hebrews author is consistently quoting and particularly faithful to the LXX text (see my evidence to that effect in examining the ARCHE evidence here). I don't think we have any reason to believe that he even knew Hebrew or Aramaic. So, when he talks about "the name that he inherited", I now believe he might well be referring to Kyrios (anarthrously), because that IS the Divine Name he seems to know. (No-one I know of is arguing that Yahweh got translated to Kyrios because of Jesus!!). Jesus is the Son of God (Hebrews 1:5). Being begotten of your father gives you his name, be that naturally or otherwise, and with the name comes special inheritance of the first born.

If Kyrios has a special role to play in connecting the Old and New Testaments, and exegeting the Old with (and without) the New Testament layering, then it seems more than legitimate to consider the preservation of the later tradition of Kyrios, albeit only anarthrously (I.e. ditching the "the" in "the LORD" in the Old Testament and "the Lord" in the New when demonstrably linked to Yahweh). The fact I still don't budge on the issue of articles does mean that I have a serious translation problem. The article is undeniably helpful to flow in some sentences, like calling on the name of the LORD. But I insist we can no longer do away with Biblical tradition when it purposefully maintains the linguistic properies of a name, even when guised in a title. After some practice in the Psalms, I am already getting used to the anarthrous LORD.

So I prefer calling on LORD's name. See, for example, what Luke does with this translation when he writes Acts 2:21. There is no "the", and there is not even a "[the]".

Of course, and I hope I have fully died to any sense of Greek slobbery, this could just be an untranslatable problem. My preference for awkward English is that it highlights the intended preservation of the name, and who knows, potentially awkward Greek too. It also will help distinguish intended Yahweh references from more day-to-day usages of Lord.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The word "incarnation"

Hi, sorry it's been a while. I'm very pleased and honoured that my post questioning the Holy Spirit's personhood as a "lover" in the Social Trinitarian "dance", was finally published on the blog as a guest post. Until Dale offered, I would never have considered that a likely outcome, but it certainly did generate a good deal of discussion, and I hope also thought and reflection about what we claim must biblically be the case.

Today is a quick post from an online etymological dictionary site on the word "incarnation":
incarnation (n.) Look up incarnation at

c. 1300, "embodiment of God in the person of Christ," from Old French incarnacion "the Incarnation" (12c.), from Late Latin incarnationem (nominative incarnatio), "act of being made flesh" (used by Church writers especially in reference to God in Christ; source also of Spanish encarnacion, Italian incarnazione), noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin incarnari "be made flesh," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + caro (genitive carnis) "flesh" (see carnage). Glossed in Old English as inflæscnes, inlichomung. As "person or thing that is the embodiment" (of some quality, deity, etc.) from 1742.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Movie review: A Matter Of Faith [2014].

I knew from previous reviews that the film might not be amazing, but for me the issues involved are interesting so I decided to brave it out and see (much to the chagrin of my wife). It really is every bit as bad as people have said, not just in wooden actors (the best actor for me actually doesn't have any major role), but also clumsy plot development. But that's just the beginning I'm afraid. This film attempts to villainise the biology lecturer character, giving him some really underhand and evil intentions. This is implied to be necessarily attached to the theory of evolution - that it is an evil plot to undermine the truth. This is then placed in sharp contrast with the humility of the student's father, who accepts the challenge for what culminates in a total anticlimax (and farce) of a debate with the aforementioned biology lecturer. There were a couple of good points from both sides in this debate, but anyone interested in a Christian vs atheist science debate can do soooooo much better on youtube or Unbelievable podcast for a real informative exchange on the issues.

I'm a Christian. I believe God made the whole universe. I do not believe the Bible is a science textbook, it's so much better than that. There are so many examples of powerful symbolism, hyperbole and anthropomorphism that reveal deeper truth in a way a stupid shallow film like this never could! (The student's father even gets his knickers in a twist at the mention of the word "story").

I would never EVER show this to a non-Christian.

Here's the trailer if for some reason you are still interested!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Do God and Christ love the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps the greatest issue for Social Trinitarians with respect to the Holy Spirit is "his" personhood. Generally, in defence of this personhood, they point to passages that do indeed seem to imply a certain someone, capable of emotion and saying things, for example. These occasional references to which these Trinitarians point are - initially - suggestive of personhood, for sure. To my mind, however, there are two significant "buts", and I think Pastor Finnegan touches on the first:
1. The rarity of the suggestive occurrences relative to the more impersonal and dissuasive ones.
2. The absence of love evidenced between the Father or Son and the (or their) Spirit.
It is on this second point that I have not yet found significant concern within the Trinitarian literature - but perhaps with good reason. Social Trinitarians in particular should have an issue here. They claim that these three literal persons are bound together in a profound and infinite love that permits a oneness appropriate to singular pronouns. But there is a problem here, well and truly shoved under the carpet – where is the love of the Father or of the Son for his (or their) Spirit in the Bible?

Since the initial discussion generated by this post on the trinities facebook page, it has been argued defensively, and perhaps predictably, that the Spirit must be a distinct person because of the personal language with which this Spirit is sometimes associated. There are assumptions underlying this sort of approach that I think can be outlined as follows:
·        The opposing team (me) believes that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force (or just an impersonal force)
·        Personal language of the Holy Spirit obliterates such crazy ideas.
I remain open. I honestly don't mind if the Holy Spirit has full personhood in the same sense as the Father and the Son. I think that would be pretty cool and I find the social Trinitarian rhetoric both captivating and inspiring. If, however, there is a reason why there is no Biblical evidence for HS personhood in the inter-divine-persons relations, then the empowering presence of the highly personal God (and Son) at work in people's lives could still be personal. For me, that would remain inspiring and captivating.

Thus for Social Trinitarians, this should amount to a serious problem. They claim that Trinity is a most beautiful and delicate "dance" of humble love and collaboration. But it is not enough to point to a few potential occurrences of Holy Spirit personhood to justify the love dance. In order to fill a seemingly gaping hole in Social Trinitarian theology, solid evidence needs to be provided for love of the Father and Son for the Spirit. Where is that evidence?