Theology


I am a Christian and endorse classical theism (as opposed to theistic personalism / neotheism), Thomism, neo-Aristotelian essentialism and hylemorphism as metaphysics, and natural law theory as ethics:

 

God is the metaphysically ultimate, greatest possible "being" (which no greater can be conceived), uncreated and uncaused, necessarily existing, timeless (eternal), changeless (immutable and impassible), immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (not in the sense of being spatially extended), omnibenevolent (Goodness itself),  endowed with freedom of the will, and worthy of worship. God is pure actuality (actus purus) without any potentiality or accidents (except for accidental Cambridge properties), and he is not a species of any genus, thus not A being among beings but subsistent Being itself (his essence is existence). God is triune (Trinity), but not composed of parts or different attributes (divine simplicity). God is the first cause and unmoved mover, not depending on anything outside of himself (aseity), who created out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) everything that exists apart from himself, and sustains it in being from moment to moment (creatio continua). God created human beings with a rational soul and free will, who freely decided to turn against God and became the ancestors of all humans, who inherited the inclination to sin. The second person of the Trinity (Logos) became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelt among us. Jesus is fully God and fully man (hypostatic union), which means that he is one person with two natures and two wills (dyothelitism). Jesus died a sacrificial death for our sins, and was bodily resurrected (not reanimated) by God as vindication of his claims to divinity. Humans either refuse or accept Jesus' atonement, which fulfills the perfect justness of God, and receive divine forgiveness, which fulfills the perfect grace of God. To those, who refuse this gift and reject God, God will say "thy will be done" and they will spend eternity separated from God (hell) as the source of all Good and Being, while those who accept through faith in Jesus Christ alone, are invited into an everlasting fellowship with God (heaven) and will enjoy an infinite Good ("beatific vision"). I agree with N.T. Wright that the good news of the Gospels includes the message that Christianity is not about the temporally disembodied life immediately after death, but about the embodied eternal "life after life after death", when Christ brings an end to (mundane) history with the general resurrection, final judgement, and the New Heavens and New Earth. Christianity is not only about individual redemption, but about God's plan for the redemption of all of creation, in which we participate.

 

God's necessary existence is best established by Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics and classical theism, which is why I am somewhat skeptical of Anselmian "perfect being theology" and the Ontological Argument, because they are based on an anthropomorphic concept of God and an incorrect view of the relation between actuality and modality. God's necessary existence implies that he cannot fail to exist, he cannot not exist. Therefore, God does not need an explanation outside of his own nature. Also God does not need a cause, because he was not created and did not begin to exist. Therefore, the common but naive objection "Who created God?" by Richard Dawkins and his internet infidel followership completely fails. If God would have a cause he would not be ultimate and thus not be God. God is by definition the uncaused cause. Also God is by definition eternal and therefore never came into being. Asking how God came to be is to fail to understand who God is.

 

Omnipotence does not imply the ability to do the logical impossible. Thus, God cannot commit suicide, God cannot create a squared circle, he cannot create a stone he cannot lift, he cannot make 2+2=5 true, and he cannot act against his nature, e.g. sin or lie.

 

Contrary to a common objection, the doctrine of the Trinity is not incoherent, as it does not say that God is one person and three persons. It rather is to be understood as God is one "what" (one nature or essence) and three "whos" (three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), which clearly involves no logical contradiction and also does not contradict monotheism. Apart from scriptural justification, Richard Swinburne provided a philosophical justification for the superiority of a trinitarian over a unitarian God, which aligns well with the Church fathers understanding of the three persons as lover (Father), beloved (Son), and their shared bond of love (Holy Spirit). The three divine persons do not have three different centers of consciousness and no different will, but represent subsisting relations within God. However, the second person of the Trinity, since having assumed a second human nature, indeed does have two distinct centers of consciousness and will (divine and human), because these belong to the nature and not to the person. Since both natures a united in hypostatic union in one divine person, Mary did not give birth to the human nature of Christ but to his divine person, and likewise it was not Christ's human nature that died on the cross but the divine person. Only persons, not natures, can be born and can die. Therefore, Mary indeed is the Mother of God and it was God, who died for us on the cross.

 

Concerning the relation of God to abstract objects I subscribe to scholastic realism (divine conceptualism) in combination with the notion of non-propositional knowledge that is required by divine simplicity.

 

In terms of eschatology I subscribe to covenantal theology with partial preterism and amillenialism. I affirm the reality of hell and its eternity, as well as the reality of Satan and demonic forces.

 

I consider libertarian free will as crucial foundation for a satisfying theodicy (free will defense) and for human moral accountability. I think that the only coherent metaphysical explanation for God's foreknowledge and human free will is found in (Bañezian) Thomism. I reject Molinism (e.g., endorsed by William Lane Craig), which not only violates divine sovereignty, but indeed conflicts with divine simplicity and aseity, because a part of divine knowledge would depend on human choices and thus on creation.

 

What about miracles?

Based on an anti-supernaturalist bias, it has become a modern fad among liberal Christians to doubt or even deny most of the reports about miraculous events in the Bible, and to transform Christianity into a kind of New Age feel-good spirituality with Jesus as illuminated teacher. However, if there is an omnipotent God, who created the universe from nothing, all other miracles are mere child's play. I reject ontological naturalism and endorse supernaturalism. Therefore, I have no reason to doubt Biblical miracles, provided they are reported as historical events and not in the context of parables, poetry, or other genres that are clearly not meant to be taken literally.

 

Interpretation of Genesis 1-11:

I acknowledge that Genesis 1-11 is not ancient myth or poetry but written as prose narrative so that  a literal reading of Genesis 1-11 as true history seems like the most natural exegesis of scripture, and Genesis also provides the foundation for essential Christian doctrines. However, this would require a satisfying solution to several apparent scriptural problems in Genesis, including the different order of creation events between Genesis 1 and 2, the hardly deniable fact that Genesis 1 describes a typical ancient Near East cosmology with a solid sky dome, the question of the purpose of the tree of life if there was no death before the Fall, and clear allegorical elements (e.g., God walking in the Garden of Eden, tree of knowledge, etc.). Furthermore, it cannot be denied that a vast amount of empirical evidence from nature contradicts a Young Earth Creationist view, a global Flood, and a dispersal of man from the tower of Babel.

 

If Biblical Creation (YEC) should be true, the conflicting evidence from nature would IMHO best be explained with the fact that we cannot trust a fallen nature that is ruled by the prince of this world and great deceiver. Another possibility is that God provided sufficient light (in scripture) for those who want to see, and sufficient darkness (in nature) for those who don't. Anyway, I reject the Augustinian view of two divinely authored books (scripture and nature) that cannot contradict each other. The misleading evidence from nature would not imply that God is deceiving us, because God explicitly revealed truth in scripture, and also because nature has a non-propositional character and thus cannot lie. The fundamental question would thus be: do you rather trust the infallible Word of God or the fallible word of fallen man (incl. science)?

 

Because of the above mentioned problems I am still undecided concerning the question of OEC vs YEC, and furthermore consider this issue as of secondary importance compared to Gospel.

 

What about Adam and Eve?

In agreement with Christian doctrine, I affirm a literal first human pair and a literal Fall of man. I consider the origin of this first human pair as a supernatural event, that not only involved intelligent design of the material body, but also the special creation and infusion of the first human souls. This first human pair was placed by God in a special environment (Garden of Eden as a kind of temple) and endowed with preternatural gifts (infused knowledge, immortality, and integrity of passions) and the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace and thus righteousness. These gifts were lost after the Fall (original sin).

 

What about Natural Science and Secular History?

I agree with methodological naturalism only in experimental science (studying how the world works), but deny naturalism and allow for supernaturalist explanations in historical science (how things came to be), where we should follow the evidence wherever it leads (compare my blog post on The Lamoureux-Delusion).

 

What about Biblical inerrancy?

The divine inspiration of scripture is strongly corroborated by the historical evidence for the resurrection and by fulfilled prophecy (e.g., Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53Psalms 22Daniel 9). I affirm the inerrancy of scripture (in everything that it teaches, which may be different from a literalistic reading), but this of course only applies to the original texts and does not exclude that our modern Bible may contain copyist errors and later additions. Also in every case the particulars of ancient language and historical context, the intended audience and theological message, and especially the literary genre (history, biography, poetry, allegory, parable, fable, or apocalyptic literature) must be considered for a proper interpretation of scripture. I subscribe to the historico-grammatical approach of interpretation of scripture.

 

What is my approach to apologetics?

I am convinced that classical (evidential) approach to apologetics is of crucial importance in todays secular world that is more and more hostile to supernaturalism, theism, and religion, and therefore requires good evidence to convince unbelievers and doubters. However, I also greatly sympathize with the purely philosophical approach of Thomism (Aquinas' Five ways) that is independent of any empirical findings, and even with Presuppositional Apologetics, which emphasizes that without assuming the truth of the Bible we would not even have a rational basis to reason in the first place.