Category Archives: Analytic Theology Project

The Philosophy of the Hebrew Bible

I no longer find myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and (awfully) hot Mediterranean climate of Pasadena, rather I find myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and (awfully) hot Mediterranean climate of Jerusalem. So why am I here? To engage with a similar sort of project that the AT project is engaged with at Fuller Seminary; I am here to think through the relationship between Scripture, analytic philosophy, and the life of faith.

Jerusalem

On June 12th-23rd a group of Christian and Jewish scholars whose expertise range from biblical studies, to political philosophy, to analytic theology gathered to discuss Yoram Hazony’s book, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

In this book Hazony contends that western culture has made a major mistake in not seeing the Hebrew Bible as a significant philosophical work. Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Plotinus’s Enneads are all part of the Western philosophical cannon, but why isn’t the Hebrew bible? Hazony argues the reason this is so is because the Hebrew Bible has been deemed a “work of revelation” as opposed to a “work of reason.”

 

YSSAccording to Hazony the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures are “in fact closer to being works of reason than anything else.” (Hazony, 3) He laments the fact that Western culture, due to Christian influence, has read the reason-revelation-dichotomy into the Hebrew scriptures. This dichotomy, in turn, has affected the standing of Hebrew Scriptures within public spheres. By turning back to conceiving the Hebrew Scriptures as a work of reason, Hazony hopes to restore its standing in public dialogue. Not only does Hazony argue that the Hebrew Scriptures are works of reason, rather he argues that “Hebrew Scriptures can (and should) be read as works of philosophy, with an aim to discovering what they have to say to the broader discourse concerning the nature of the world and the just life for man.” (4)

Hazony’s attempt at constructing a philosophy of Hebrew Scriptures has two major parts, which respectively, make up the structure of his work as an introduction to the philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. First, Hazony provides a methodological framework by which we can begin to read the Hebrew Scriptures as works of philosophy. He then proceeds to provide some examples of how the authors of scripture were engaging philosophical discourse. This latter part addresses topics like metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy. In addressing such topics, he provides plenty of fodder for further reflection by philosophers and analytic theologians.

Dome of the Rock

Over the next few days I hope to write a bit more about the sort of project Hazony is engaged in, so you can expect a few blogs either on the ideas in the book, or ideas that have come out of this workshop and the conference following the workshop.

Some Reflections on “Divine Impassibility and the Uninfluenced Love of God”

On Wednesday March 8th the Analytic Theology Seminar had the pleasure of hosting Ryan Mullins, the Director of Communications and Research Fellow at the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology at the University of St. Andrews. Mullins endured an unbearably long flight across the pond, yet he managed to deliver a stimulating paperfb_img_1483804409430-169x300 that generated much discussion during the second portion of our seminar. In his paper, titled, “Divine Impassibility and the Uninfluenced Love of God,” Mullins made a case for a passible God. He argued that even while granting impassibilists their favored definition of love as benevolence + union, this definition pushes the impassibilist towards a passibilist God. In order to make a case for this thesis he engaged in several moves.

The first move he made was to articulate the doctrine of divine impassibility in a charitable manner. He noted that there are three common themes that make up the core of this doctrine: 1) God cannot suffer, 2) God cannot be moved, nor acted upon, by anything ad extra to the divine nature, and 3) God lacks passions. This last core component of the doctrine draws most of Mullins’s attention. He was primarily concerned with how impassibilists treat “love.” William Shedd, for instance, concludes that God lacks passions, yet God has the emotion of love. Mullins then made his way through various historical examples to explain how impassibilists attempted to attribute love to an impassible God. His survey of how this has been done historically lead him to modify the third core theme of the doctrine to “it is metaphysically impossible for God to have an emotion that is irrational, immoral, or that disrupts His perfect happiness.”

You can read the rest of the blog over at Fuller’s Analytic Theology Webpage.

Review of Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective by Mark Cortez

Cortez, Mark. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 272, $27.99, paperback.

christ-anthro

Marc Cortez is currently associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. His prior works include Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2010) and Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and Its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate (T&T Clark, 2008). As the title of these previous monographs indicate, Cortez has an interest in theological anthropology. The recently published Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology represents his third full length contribution to this field.

What makes us human? This is a question upon which much ink has been spilled. Most studies attempting to answer this question have tended focus on one of several topics: 1) human origins, 2) ethics, and 3) the imago dei. What Cortez brings to this already oversaturated field is a rethinking of the methodology upon which so many of these studies are founded. Cortez’s approach to theological anthropology is strictly Christological.

You can read the rest of the review at the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies.

Love: Creaturely and Divine

On the fifth week of the AT Seminar Series Sameer Yadav, Assistant Professor of Religious

sameeryadav
Sameer Yadav

Studies at Westmont University, delivered a paper titled “Love: Creaturely and Divine.” In his paper Yadav dealt with Schellenberg’s divine hiddenness argument by providing what could be called a “Plantingian Divine Imaging Defense.”

An Overview of “Love: Creaturely and Divine”

Although not new, the problem of Divine Hiddenness (DH) became the subject of extensive philosophical discussion when J.L. Schellenberg published his book, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, in 1993. Schellenberg and others who put forth this argument appeal to existence of non-resistant non-believers as evidence for the non-existence of a perfectly loving God. We can summarize the main idea of DH as:

If God is perfectly Loving, then non-resistant non-belief does not exist. But it seems as though non-resistant non-belief does exist. Therefore, a perfectly loving God does not exist.

You can read the rest of this post over at Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.

The Herzl Institute – Young Scholars Workshop

Today I got word that I was accepted to be a participant at the Herzel Institute (Jerusalem) Young Scholar’s Workshop and Conference on Revelation at Mt. Sinai:

It is with great pleasure that I am writing to inform you that we are able to offer you a place at our Young Scholars Workshop which will take place in Jerusalem on June 12-22, 2017. The workshop will involve a week of classroom seminars and discussions, visits to key sites in Jerusalem, as well as an international conference at which leading scholars in Jewish Philosophical Theology from around the world will present. Our program includes lunches and informal meetings, and plenty of time to engage others in conversation.

During the workshop, participants will present a 15-20 minute symposium paper in response to reading materials that will be sent out prior to the workshop. The paper will be presented in a classroom seminar for discussion by workshop participants and scholars.

We will be discussing topics such as: “The Bible as Philosophy?” “The Metaphysics of Hebrew Scripture”; “Is the Biblical God Perfect Being?”; “What Does It Mean for God to Speak?”; “Bible as a Tradition of Inquiry”; “Approaching God Through Metaphor”; “God’s Plans, Failures and Alliances”; “Should God Be Our King?”; “Discovering a Name of God”; “Who Makes Things Happen in the Bible?”

I would never have imagined I would be going to Israel for a theological conference, let alone have the expenses covered by a scholarship. This is such an amazing opportunity. If you are wondering what the Herzl Institute is, here is some info:

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The Herzl Institute will serve as a hub of collaboration, research and joint learning for Jewish scholars, clergy, lay leadership and students who seek better answers to the challenges ahead through a more rigorous engagement with the riches of Hebrew Scripture and rabbinic sources.

The Herzl Institute welcomes the participation of Christian and other non-Jewish scholars and students who see the sources of Judaism as offering an opportunity for foundational renewal within the context of their own nations and faith traditions. The Herzl Institute will conduct an array of intensive outreach activities, including public events, publications, and new media platforms aimed at bringing the fruits of its work to a broad public in Israel and abroad.

Divine Love and Personality

On 1/18 the Analytic Theology Seminar was treated to a talk by Michael Rea. Rea, who is giving this year’s Gifford Lectures presented the seminar with a version of one of the lectures he will be presenting in that series. Here are some notes from his talk.

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Oliver Crisp (Left), Michael Rea (Middle), along with Daffy Duck making a Cameo (back, center)

Divine Love & Personality

Goal: Examine the nature of divine love with an eye to the problem of divine hiddenness.

  • The fact that God has a personality give some reasons to doubt the divine hiddenness problem.

 

Main premise: If a perfectly loving God exists then there is a God who is always open to a personal relationship with everyone.

  • There is no non-resistant non-belief (God will always do something the remove all obstacles for non-belief/relationship.)
  • Schellenberg – the minimum God could do is give people evidence that he exists.
  • There should be no one who is non-resistant and non-believing. But there is non-resistant non-belief. (i.e. I wish I could believe, but I can’t)
  • Therefore there is no perfectly loving God

 

Support for the Main Premise

  • Divine love is an idealized version of some important kind of human love
    • (Transcendence undercuts our reasons for accepting this claim)

 

Thesis

  • Divine Love is not ideal human love

 

Love

  • Focusing on the best kind of human love, whatever that is… specifically whatever kind is most apt to be identified in its ideal form, with divine love.
  • Eleanore Stump ID’s two desires as being part of love:
    • Desire for the good of the beloved & desire for union with the beloved
  • Two Stipulations:
    • God desires union with human beings
    • God desires our good
    • At least one of these desires is essential to the best forms of human loves
  • Divine Love = whatever kind of love a perfect being would have for a person or group
  • Ideal love = kind of love 1 person would have for another if she were to have an ideal way the property of loving that particular person

 

Idealization

  • Idealization of simple traits – removal of relevant limitations
  • Idealization of complex traits – removal of relevant limitations + idealization of competent properties

 

Ideal Love

  • Limitless desire for the good of the beloved, desire for union with the beloved, or both.
  • Limitless desire – One who limitlessly desires something desires it in a way that eclipses in priority and strength desires focused on anyone or anything else

 

Ideal Human Lovers

  • We have limited capacity to endure interpersonal union
    • So…. Desire for union with someone can conflict with desire for their good.
  • We have limited cognitive and causal powers
    • So…
  • In the divine case these are not a problem

 

Divine Love as Ideal Love

  • If God loves us ideally, God is maximally oriented toward our good or maximally oriented toward union with us or both.
  • Wessling on Supreme Love
    • When God has supreme love for a person, He desires her highest good, and his character generates no contradictory desire of equal or greater strength….God therefore does all that is morally permissible and metaphysically possible to fulfill this desire.
  • Susan Wolf on Moral Saints
    • Someone maximally devoted to improving the welfare of others to the exclusion of the promotion of her own interests – (sainthood is not rational or desirable for human beings)
  • Could God be a Moral Saint?
    • God has unlimited resources
    • God has unlimited cognitive capacity
    • God does not need anything
    • So what is the problem?
      • The Problem is Divine Personality
    • Sainthood Implies Self-Annihilation
      • “The pursuit of Moral sainthood seems to require either the lack or denial of the existence of identifiable, personal self.”
      • IF God is genuinely personal, and has distinctive personality, it stands to reasons that God has interests, desires, and projects not necessarily oriented around he interest of others.
      • IF God has personality, then divine interests might conflict with human interests.
    • Opportunistic Sainthood?
      • If God is devoted to our good just so long as there are not conflicts between divine and human interests, then God is not maximally devoted to our good.
    • God is Not a Saint
      • If divine & human goods do conflict, it is no more rational, good, or desirable for God to pursue sainthood than for human beings to pursue it…. In fact, it would be bad for God to pursue sainthood. It would be irrational.
    • Maximal Devotion to Union?
      • Could God be limitlessly devoted to pursuing union with each of us?

 

Second Objection

  • There is no reason to think we are fitting objects for unlimited desire for union
  • Even if we are fitting objects, we are not maximally fitting objects for such a desire

 

Main Conclusion

  • A perfect being would not be maximally devoted to pursuing our good or our union
  • A perfect being would not love human beings in an ideal way
  • In fact, we have good a priori reason to think that a perfect being would priorities our good or union with us at all.
  • That God loves human beings at all is an article of faith, not philosophy.

 

An Unexpected Conclusion?

  • The Christian tradition never affirmed that union with human beings is the proper object of maximal devotion… or of human goods either.
  • Is the conclusion unpleasant? A God who prioritizes divine good over human goods doesn’t seem like a God who loves us enough.

 

Whence the Conflict?

  • What divine projects might take priority over the promotion of our good? We can speculate, but this is precisely the corner of space of possible goods about which we can most expect to be in the dark.

 

No Possible Conflict?

  • It is by no means obvious that the best interest of one person can conflict with another, because love creates a common set of real interests. – Thomas Talbott
  • If Talbott is right, then lovers quite literally lose themselves in their relationship. So this seems implausible.

 

How non-ideal can divine love be and still be called love?

  • There have to be some boundaries on what behavior can plausibly count as loving.
  • Why think we can identify those boundaries a priori?
  • We should ask instead what signs of love can be identified in God’s (alleged) ways of relating to various kinds of people, and what narratives can be told about these relationships to support positively valanced analogies.

 

 

“God is justified in permitting Divine hiddenness even if it doesn’t promote any human good.”