Two formal arguments: universalism with trinitarian theology


#1

This is actually an excerpt from a discussion I had with Bob Wilson a few years ago (late November, 2008) here on the forum, where I laid out two formal arguments linking universalism with orthodox trinitarian theology.

I got tired of trying to hunt them up whenever I wanted to reference them, so I’m copying them over to this new thread for ease of reference. :wink:

The first argument attempts to show how I arrived at (some kind of) universalism as a deductively logical corollary from ortho-trin theology. i.e., as a matter of my personal history, it was working out the logical corollaries of ortho-trin in this fashion which first landed me on believing universalism to be true rather than just sorta-vaguely-hoping-somehow-it-might-be-true. :slight_smile: Before then I believed I ought to still affirm some kind of hopeless final condemnation (despite some significant scriptural testimony apparently otherwise!–since after all there’s also some significant scriptural testimony apparently in favor of hopeless condemnation, too), even if I wasn’t sure exactly what kind I ought to affirm.

P(roposition)1.) Supernaturalistic theism is true. (Setting aside how one gets to this proposition, which would require prior metaphysical analysis.)

P2.) Theism involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality; distinct from atheism which involves either no behavior or only unintentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality. (Also requires prior analysis.)

P3.) God is a self-begetting, self-begotten interpersonal unity. I.e. at least binitarian theism is true. (Should be established on prior analysis. Note that because the entity is singular and personal, singular-personal terms can be used in reference to the entity, which when being spoken of corporately should be considered singular.)

C(onclusion)1.) God’s self-begetting and self-begotten-ness involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality. (from P2, P3)

C2.) God’s self-begetting and self-begotten-ness involves intentional behavior at the foundation of His reality, too. (from P1 (if true, God is real), C1.) i.e., what philosophers call “positive aseity” is true: God depends upon His own action for self-existence.

P4.) Not-God entities exist. (Exclusively implied by reaching P1; i.e. “naturalistic theism” aka pantheism isn’t true.)

P5.) Some not-God entities (included within P4) are also persons. (Should be established, insofar as possible, on prior analysis. Incidentally, I would analyze this proposition and counter-propositions before arriving at P1 etc. One result is the discovery that this can only be self-reflexively presumed, not proven; although hypothetical counter-presumptions can be analyzed and rejected as incompatible with claims tacitly made in argumentation.)

C3.) All not-God persons depend upon God’s intentional self-begetting and self-begotten behavior for existence, including as persons. (from C1, P5.)

C4.) God’s own self-existence depends on the Persons of God acting to fulfill cooperative interpersonal unity. (From P3 (God exists as an interpersonal unity), C2.)

C5.) God would cease to exist if any or all of the Persons acted against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity. (implied by C4.)

O(bservation)1.) I exist.

C6.) I can be sure God (in any Person or corporately) will never act against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons. (from C3, C4, C5, O1.)

O2.) I sometimes act against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons (i.e. against fair-togetherness, i.e. “unrighteously”).

C7.) I sometimes act against the foundation of all reality, including my own. (from O2, C3.)

C8.) My action against the foundation of all reality, including my own, leads to my cessation of existence, without intervention from God. (from C3, C5 (implied subordinate parallel), C7.)

C9.) God intervenes to save me, the doer of non-fair-togetherness, from cessation of existence (from O1, C7, C8.)

H(ypothesis)1.) God eventually chooses to allow me to cease to exist (at least as a person), or acts to take me (at least as a person) out of existence. (Note that this covers annihilationistic versions of Calvinistic soteriology as well as Arminianistic soteriology, practically speaking; the difference between the two being God’s original intention regarding the ultimate salvation of the sinner from sin.)

H2.) God keeps me in existence as a person; but either refuses to ever act to lead me to fair-togetherness, or else gives up acting toward this end. (Note that this covers non-annihilationistic versions of Calvinistic and Arminianistic soteriology. Note that “Calvinistic” and “Arminianistic” are meant to broadly cover principly similar doctrinal sets of salvation and condemnation in groups or denominations not historically Calvinist or Arminian per se.)

H3.) God keeps me in existence as a person; and persistently acts to lead me to fair-togetherness with other persons (including with Himself).

O3.) If H1, then contra C6.

O4.) If H2, then contra C6.

O5.) If H3, then no contradictions through C9.

C10.) If set through C9 is true, and if set H1-3 is exhaustive as a response from God to my sin, then H3 must be true.

H3 is perhaps the most minimal definition of theistic universalism. The argument as provided doesn’t specifically attempt to go further with inferring more particular details about the doctrine. (e.g. is there a purgatory?–is that hell?–is ultra-universalism true instead?–what, if anything, is the responsibility of the sinner in this?–can we be sure God will succeed at this? etc.)


Trinitarian Christianity leads to... Calv? Kath? (Arm? {g})
Simple but lovely thought
Trinitarian Christianity leads to Universalism? (Or not?)
"The Prodigal Gospel of Rob Bell" (aka JRP's long review)
What Persuaded You?
#2

This is my second formal argument from that thread. It doesn’t arrive deductively at universalism, but rather illustrates that ortho-trin theology (if true) offers the most assurance of universalism being true compared to other philosophies and theologies (broadly categorized).

P(roposition) 1.) Salvation (per se) of a person requires that the person to be saved must be saved by at least one person.

O(bservation) 1.) P1 requires some kind of interpersonal union between the saving person and the person to be saved (even if the union is minimal).

O2.) The intentions of derivative persons may fail insofar as they may be trumped by the behavior of the ground upon which the derivative persons depend for existence.

C(onclusion) 1.) Other things being equal, a person to be saved has better assurance of finally being saved (whatever ‘salvation’ is supposed to mean) in proportion to the characteristics of the ultimate ground of reality. (from P1, O1, O2.)

P2.) ‘Salvation’ involves doing some kind of good to the person being saved.

C2.) Other things being equal, a person to be saved has better assurance of finally being saved in proportion to the likelihood that the characteristics of the ultimate ground of reality involve doing good to persons. (from C1, P2.)

Subsequent hypotheses shall thus address the result of C2 by considering various ideas about the ground of all reality.

H(ypothesis) 1.) The ground of reality is not personal at all. (i.e. naturalistic or supernaturalistic atheism is true.)

C3.) If H1 is true, the ground of reality offers no assurance at all that a person may be saved. (from H1, C1.)

H2.) The ground of reality is such that a derivative person’s “personhood” is some kind of declension or fall, to be reversed.

O3.) If H2 is true, the personhood of the derivative person should cease to exist eventually.

C4.) If H2 is true, the ground of reality is such that the person to be ‘saved’ will cease to exist eventually instead. (from H2, O3.)

O4.) If a person ceases to exist, that person no longer can be the receiver of good done to that person.

C5.) If H2 is true, the ground of reality offers (less than!) no assurance at all that a person (as such) may be saved. (from C2, C4, O4.)

H3.) The independent ground of some reality is personal, but it has nothing to do with the system of reality in which the person to be saved exists. (i.e. cosmological dualism or some other limited-multiple-IF philosophy is true, with God being one of the IFs)

C6.) If H3 is true, the existence of an ultimate God is completely irrelevant to whether a derivative person in that other system of reality (not dependent on God for its existence) may be saved. (from H3, C1)

H4.) The ground of reality is (somehow) personal and non-personal.

O5.) Any expectation of behavior of the H4 ground of reality is perfectly balanced by its equal and opposite characteristics.

C7.) If H4 is true, the ground of reality offers no particular assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H4, O5.)

H5.) The ground of reality is personal, but God refuses to have anything to do with this system of reality other than being (in some way) its originator. (i.e. minimal deism is true.)

C8.) If H5 is true, the ground of reality offers less than no assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H5.)

H6.) The ground of reality is personal, but although God is interested in subordinate realities, God refuses to act in regard to the operations of those subordinate realities. (i.e. nominal deism is true.)

O6.) A derivative person, as a derivative person, must exist in a subordinate system of reality, one way or another.

C9.) If H6 is true, the ground of reality offers less than no assurance that a person may be saved. (from C1, H6, O6.)

H7.) Entities more powerful than human persons exist, but the ground of reality is still essentially as stated in one of the previous hypotheses.

C10.) If H7 is true, the ground of reality is at best irrelevant to the salvation of a person; and might offer less than no assurance of the salvation of a person. (from H7, C{3:9})

H8.) Some theism more immanent than nominal deism is true; but God is primarily concerned with the mere exercise of effective power.

O7.) Someone needing ‘salvation’ is at least being threatened by an effective exercise of power (one way or another).

C11.) If H8 is true, the ground of reality offers no assurance that a person may be saved; and maybe even less than no assurance! (from H8, O7, C11.)

H9.) God exists, but is not in Himself a unity of Persons.

O8.) If H9 is true, then God has nothing intrinsically to do with unity between persons.

C12.) If H9 is true, the ground of reality offers (at best) less assurance that a person may be saved, than if God had intrinsically to do with unity between persons. (from H9, O8, C1, maybe also C2.)

H10.) God exists, and is in Himself a unity of Persons; but this unity has nothing to do with His own self-existence.

O9.) If H10 is true, then God could act finally against unity among persons, without acting against the ground of His own self-existence.

C13.) If H10 is true, the ground of reality offers (at best) less assurance that a person may be saved, than if God’s own self-existence had intrinsically to do with unity between persons. (from H10, O9, C1, maybe also C2.)

H11.) God exists, and is in Himself a unity of Persons, and this unity has something to do with His own self-existence (i.e. positive aseity is true, and God exists at least as God self-begetting and God self-begotten).

C14.) If H11 is true, the ground of reality offers more assurance that a person (even an enemy of God) may sooner or later finally be saved, than all previous hypotheses. (from C1, maybe also C2, H11, C{3:13})

Note: one could continue this line of reasoning a bit further to find how trinitarian theism is superior to binitarian theism for such an assurance as well.

O10.) If H11 is true, then any action by such a God that resulted in the final severing and/or non-restoration of unity between persons (whether between Himself and derivative persons or between derivative persons and each other), would involve God acting against His own ground of self-existence.

O11.) An entity that acts against the ground of its own existence, will cease to exist, unless the ground of its existence behaves in such a way as to prevent the cessation of its existence.

O12.) A self-existent entity has nothing to save it from the cessation of its existence if It acts against the ground of its own existence.

O13.) If H11 is true, then all reality, including the past and present existence of derivative entities, depends on God’s continuing existence for existence.

P3.) I am a derivative entity. (ideally should be established by another analysis.)

P4.) I exist. (Self-reflexive claim tacitly necessary for any personally responsible argumentation.)

C15.) If H11 is true, God shall certainly continue persistently acting toward restoration of interpersonal unity, where some derivative entity is acting toward breaking this unity. (from O10, O11, O12, O13, P3, P4.)

P5.) Hypotheses presented in this argument concerning the existence and characteristics of God, are sufficiently exhaustive as relevant options.

C16.) H11 (aside from expansions into trinitarian theism where relevant), if true, offers exclusively certain assurance that God shall persistently act toward the restoration of interpersonal unity, where some derivative entity is acting toward breaking this unity. (from C15, P5.)


#3

Jason,
In your first formal argument, I’m not seeing how P3 is necessary for C1


#4

You may be looking at C1 from slightly the wrong angle. Formal deductive arguments of this sort (there may be other deductive argument forms) are about putting together the contents of prior elements to discover necessary implications of their combinations.

So, to give the classic syllogism as an illustration:

P1.) Socrates is a man.
P2.) All men are mortal.

If both these propositions are true (and insofar as there are no further relevant propositions to consider, which is another way of potentially challenging the propriety of the conclusion) then they can be put together to discover:

C1.) Socrates is mortal. (From P1, Socrates is a man; and P2, all men, including Socrates if he is a man, are mortal.)

The question then is whether C1 (in my first formal argument) properly puts together the elements of the prior propositions.

Here they are again (without some of the explanatory details), so readers won’t have to scroll all the way up to find them for consideration:

P(roposition)1.) Supernaturalistic theism is true.

P2.) Theism involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality.

P3.) God is a self-begetting, self-begotten interpersonal unity. I.e. at least binitarian theism is true.

P1, as it happens, isn’t strictly needed for C1, which is why I don’t reference it in the justification summary. (And actually P1 has two elements presented for truth which would have to be established: ‘supernaturalism’ and ‘theism’. When C2 comes around, I am only applying one of those sub-elements at that time, namely the truth of theism, not necessarily the truth of supernaturalism. Strictly speaking I would redesign P1 and subsequent references to be more precisely particular about this, but I simplified it since my goal for this argument is to consider corollaries from principle doctrines of ortho-trin, which may at least be hypothetically presumed true for sake of argumentative consideration, so long as I am not trying to argue for those propositions by means of this deduction. This is aside from your question, but I thought I should take a moment to head off some other critiques while I was passing by. :slight_smile: )

Putting together P2 and P3: God’s self-begetting, self-begotten interpersonal unity (the presented content of P3) “involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality” (the presented content of P2 in regard to theism compared to atheism).

(Sidenote: An unstated middle portion for putting the two contents together, would be something like “‘God’ is a name for the entity which the concept of ‘theism’ is primarily about.” I simplified the presentation again to save some steps, this time because I don’t expect anyone will seriously challenge the validity of the overall argument based on this unstated stage.)

If putting those two propositions together resulted in an obvious contradiction, I wouldn’t call the combination a ‘conclusion’, and I probably wouldn’t bother putting them together; but if the form of the argument nevertheless required that I put those two propositions together, then I would mark it as a (Con)flict of premises beyond which the argument could not proceed without resolution somehow. (Similarly, if various conclusions contradicted one another I would mark Cons thereby, too.)

Since putting those two propositions together results in no obvious contradiction (though a challenge could be attempted along that line, of course), I present the combination of the concepts as ©onclusion 1 with a tacit appeal to the validity of acknowledging their combination in this way. In a way, the conclusion is even a little simpler than the classic Socratic syllogism! (Since the conclusion of the classic syllogism isn’t presented in the form of putting both propositions together. In another way the classic syllogism is simpler because it resolves an unstated combination of the propositions from something like “The man Socrates is mortal like all men” into “Socrates is mortal”.)

Is that more helpful? The bottom line is that formally I’m just putting together the propositions to show what happens when they’re both accepted. “P3 is necessary for C1” only in the sense that P3 is being at least hypothetically accepted to be true for purposes of consideration. If P3 isn’t being accepted as true, then the argument never gets to C1 at all! :laughing:

(Thus while a unitarian or a modalist, for example, might hypothetically accept P3 ‘for purposes of argument’, they are under no obligation at all to accept C1 as actually being true, nor anything else subsequently or consequently dependent on either C1 or P3 more directly, because they would challenge the actual truth of the argument back at P3 to begin with. They could even agree that the whole argument is entirely valid, and even that the propositions are relevantly exhaustive–but since they don’t actually agree P3 is true, then they would fail the argument at that point, for anything more than hypothetical consideration. And they would be entirely correct to do so, formally speaking.)


#5

Ah, Ok. I just thought that C1 could be true without P3 necessarily being true. It would seem to me that the only necessary thing for C1 to be true is to show that P2 is true. But maybe I’m not understanding something correctly about the form of formal arguments.


#6

Considering that C1 is formally composed of primary elements from P3 as well as from P2, then yes P3 would have to be true for C1 to be true.

It’s worth considering of course what (if anything) would follow as salvational corollaries if P3 is disregarded. (In other words, if only mere monotheism is regarded as true, plus supernaturalism per P1.) The first conclusion would be necessarily different in form from C1, though.

(Indeed, C1 minus P3 elements is just P2 restated, and thus is no conclusion at all, except insofar as the truth of P2 has already been concluded before starting this line of thought.)

Unitarians of various types (including non-Christian ones like Islam or counter-trinitarian Judaism), or modalists of various types, are entirely welcome to try working out the salvational corollaries of their positions, too. :slight_smile: The formal argument we’re talking about, though, starts with ortho-trin (broadly considered) being proposed to be true (at least hypothetically).


#7

Well, except that you’ve stated it as at least binitarian rather than trinitarian per se. P2 states only that theism involves intentional behavior, which I believe God is capable of even as a uni-personal entity. God’s intentional behavior was demonstrated through creation through His word.


#8

“At least binitarian” is not exclusive of “trinitarian”. :slight_smile: And as I pointed out elsewhere, while I do believe the existence of the Holy Spirit is important (and even necessary) for the sake of universalism, too, its (or rather His) existence is not necessary for the argument as given so far to reach the conclusion that it does.

Alright. So, now try getting C1, as stated, from P2, without referencing P3 (or something essentially like it). Remember, there’s nothing about God’s “self-begetting and self-begotten-ness” in P2 (or in P1 either). Consequently, there’s no way to get that into C1 anymore if P3 is disregarded.

Alternately, you could (as I said) start from P1 and P2 and see where (and/or how far) you go without P3 (and so without either C1 or C2 as stated). But it’s just impossible to have C1 (or C2 for that matter) as stated without P3.

Let’s experiment a bit and remove P3, while keeping P1 and P2, and see what happens.

P(roposition)1.) Supernaturalistic theism is true. (Setting aside how one gets to this proposition, which would require prior metaphysical analysis.)

P2.) Theism involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality; distinct from atheism which involves either no behavior or only unintentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality. (Also requires prior analysis.)

P3.) [ignored for this consideration]

C(onclusion)1.) [ignored, since it required P3]

C2.) [ignored, since it required C1]

P4.) Not-God entities exist. (Exclusively implied by reaching P1; i.e. “naturalistic theism” aka pantheism isn’t true.)

P5.) Some not-God entities (included within P4) are also persons. (Should be established, insofar as possible, on prior analysis. Incidentally, I would analyze this proposition and counter-propositions before arriving at P1 etc. One result is the discovery that this can only be self-reflexively presumed, not proven; although hypothetical counter-presumptions can be analyzed and rejected as incompatible with claims tacitly made in argumentation.)

C3.) [ignored, since it required C1]

C3-r(evision) 1.) All not-God persons depend upon God’s intentional behavior for existence, including as persons.

C4.) [ignored, since it required C2, P3]

At this point we’ve got a bit of a problem because the final shape of the argument requires the involvement of God’s own self-existence, which has not been introduced without P3. We could however try…

C4-r1.) God’s own existence as the foundation of all reality involves intentional behavior. (from P1, theism is true; P2)

In order to have an argument distinctly different from one involving ortho-trin, however, we would have to introduce something like:

O1.) [replacing the original O1 until later] God’s own intentional behavior as self-existence could be described as God being both a self-begetting and a self-begotten entity without this necessarily involving the existence of at least two distinct persons of God, thus without necessarily proposing God as being an interpersonal unity. (i.e. God’s Fatherhood and Sonship could be only modalistic.)

Another Proposition could be added at this point to ensure that we are definitely not talking about an ortho-trin God (or ortho-bin, so far, rather) – something like “Px.) God is not an interpersonal unity”, which might be imported having been previously established as a conclusion by another argument of course. But let’s save that for later and just keep things agnostic at the moment.

Some conclusions could be drawn about how God would cease to exist if God stopped intentionally acting to exist; but I don’t see how that in itself would be relevant to the question of salvation of persons other than God. Thus there is no point (yet?) introducing a revised version of C5.

O2.) I exist [originally O1]

C6.) [ignored, as requiring too many other original conclusions]

C6-r1.) I can be sure God will never act to contravene His own intentional behavior. (from O2, since I have to exist to be sure about anything :wink: ; C4-r1)

O3.) [originally O2] I sometimes act against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons (i.e. against fair-togetherness, i.e. “unrighteously”).

C7.) [ignored, as requiring original C3]

After this, things go to pieces pretty quickly, and I don’t see how to recover from it. My unrighteousness turns out to have no connection, pro or con, to God; nor would any righteousness I do! My justice and my injustice are simply irrelevant to anything of God’s fundamental reality, which in turn has no relevance with fair-togetherness between persons (and maybe has nothing to do with fair-togetherness at all, depending on how hard this was pushed previously in the revised argument!)

Consequently, unlike with C7 in my original argument, I would not be acting against the foundation of all reality (including my own reality) if I do what is unjust. Similarly, any injustice of mine would not lead to the cessation of my own existence without intervention from God. True, it might still tic off God for me to do that (depending on whether God decides, as a secondary matter, to support fair-togetherness between persons and to oppose non-fair-togetherness). But there would be no conclusion like C9, where we may be sure that God intervenes to save me, the doer of non-fair-togetherness. Why should He bother?–nothing in the argument gives any reason for that anymore. He might do so out of affection (though again, why would He bother caring about someone who opposes His own quite secondary interest in supporting fair-togetherness between persons? It couldn’t be because He is in fact intrinsically love; that was disregarded long ago in the revision.) But His affection, especially for a sinner such as me, would be technically spurious at best. Even whimsical, at best.

The only way I could be sure of God’s salvation of me, the person who is a sinner, would be if God Himself certainly would never act (including whenever He does wrath and punishment) against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons. (As per C6.) The challenge for the non-trinitarian is to somehow reach C6 without the fulfillment of cooperative interpersonal unity between persons being fundamentally intrinsic to God’s own self-existence (i.e. without God being essentially love).

I do not think this is going to be logically possible; not without tacitly importing that position back in somewhere.

Fortunately, as an orthodox trinitarian, this is not at all a problem for me. :smiley: If what I believe about God is true, this is part of the theological package, in every way prior to the question of what God may be expected to do in regard to sinners. If orthodox trinitarianism is true, God will surely and certainly always act toward saving sinners from sin, and will never stop acting toward the fulfillment of their salvation.


#9

I clearly missed something, and now have a headache after reading that.
I wasn’t even considering the second part of the argument, but merely the first part up to C1. You reach C1 evidently via P1-3, but it’s still not clear to me how P3 is necessary to C1. Regardless of how C1 interacts with the rest of the argument beyond that, you’ve lost me by the time we get to C1, let alone beyond it! :blush:


#10

Okay, try this: what’s C1? What are the ideas being presented as a conclusion there?

(Also, keep in mind that I am not trying to argue for P3. You may be asking something like, ‘But why include P3 at all?’ The short answer is, ‘Because I’m checking to see what follows from a theology that includes the doctrine of P3.’ If I don’t include P3, I can’t be checking to see what follows from a theology that includes the doctrine of P3. :wink: The very much longer answer would be, ‘Because I ran an argument already somewhere else that ended up concluding that doctrine, which I am now importing into this argument as P3.’ You may not be really trying to ask why I am including P3; but in case you are, this paragraph may be more helpful than for the illustration I have in mind by asking the question above.)


#11

Hi Jason,

The Orthodox (as in Eastern), and probably most Catholics, would have problems with C2 in your first argument. As I understand it, C2 says that the triune being of God (the begetting of the Son, for example) occurs on the level of volition and not that of nature, so God’s fundamental reality (his existence?) is itself an effect of a cause, that cause being God’s intentional choice. God is self-sufficient (aseity) because he positively chooses, intentionally, to be so.

I could be wrong, but wasn’t one point of contention between Arius and Athanasius this very point? That is, Arius made the begetting of the Son a matter of ‘volition’ (of intention) whereas Athanasius rejected this and made it a matter of ‘nature’ (as did the later Fathers). This was how Athanasius differentiated between the divine being of the Son and the non-divine being of Creation—the former was begotten ‘by nature’ while the latter derives its being by the ‘will’ of God. God ‘chooses’ to create. But he doesn’t so ‘choose’ to exist per se, or to beget the Son.

I’m not sure how one would account for the very existence of God by grounding it positively in the intentional volition of that God. To say God exists because he intends to do so is to logically presuppose a faculty of volition that does the choosing/intending prior to the existing, which seems self-contradictory.

But maybe you mean to say God intends to be triune in a manner that’s different than how he intends to create the world. Not sure. I agree with you that God acts intentionally. I’m just not sure I’d want to ground God’s own existence and triune being in divine intentionality.

Tom


#12

Actually, the positive aseity of God seems more accepted among the EOx than in the West, or so I had gathered. But yes, privative aseity is by far more popular in the West, and certainly has many Eastern advocates.

Other than “and not that of nature”, your description of the position in that paragraph is quite accurate. I would never say that the level of volition is not that of God’s nature, since after all one main point to positive aseity is that God’s fundamental nature is volitional.

I would also say that practically the whole point to theism vs. atheism is the volitional quality or character or nature of the most fundamental reality. It is God’s rationally intentional action that most clearly distinguishes theism from atheism, where fundamental reality does not intentionally act but is either static or else only automatically (and eternally?) reactive and counterreactive. To say that the Independent Fact, the ultimate and final ground of all reality, intentionally acts (thus is distinguishable from a philosophy where the IF doesn’t intentionally act, i.e. theism vs. atheism), yet this Sentient IF is merely static at the level of Its essential existence, is to claim no fundamental difference between atheism and theism philosophically. For if rationality is acknowledged at all in an atheistic philosophy, it must be derived from a fundamentally non-rational foundation, and in principle that is no different from the idea of a fundamentally non-rational foundation doing rationally intentional volitional actions itself.

I did however point out that the two keys to positive aseity (P2 and P3) should be arrived at as conclusions by prior argumentation before doing this argument. If a privative aseitist wishes to challenge C2, they will have to decide which proposition they wish to deny as untrue. Not a problem for Muslims, merely monotheistic Jews, or unitarian Christians of various stripes (or modalists either I suppose). Rather more of a problem for trinitarians to pick from. :wink:

(Other options would be to challenge the validity of C2 from its precedents; or to establish that relevant propositions have not been included which will alter C2 to something substantially different.)

Arius’ claim, actually, involved precisely the idea that the begetting of the Son was a matter of volition AND NOT nature: it is not God’s essential nature to be self-begetting and self-begotten in His own self-existence. Arius couldn’t have possibly affirmed that while remaining his flavor of unitarian. At least he would have had to shift to modalism, which is something he was actually very hot to deny was true. (Much of his point of complaint was that a bishop in his area was preaching what amounted to modalism–which on investigation after the fact seems to have been true–to which he strenuously objected; but, in the estimation of us ortho-trins anyway, he leapt off the horse on the other side. Anglican Rowan Williams, now the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a fine and detailed analysis of the Arian controversy a while back, that’s worth looking into for many of the technical and historical issues involved.)

Athanasius defended the position that the generation of the Son was a matter of God’s nature, but I don’t recall him denying that it was also a matter of God’s volition. That would either entail the Father begetting the Son by unintentional automatic reaction, or else the Father not acting to beget the Son at all (which would involve either mere modalism or else cosmological bi-theism; consequently it would be self-refuting for Athanasius, who denied either of those positions.)

As an aside, for those who don’t know: the Arian dispute wasn’t first and foremost about the Incarnation, in principle, although that was obviously a highly important topic, too. But what the Incarnation could and could not be, metaphysically speaking, follows from what the nature of the Son is in relation to the Father eternally speaking.

Anyway, while it isn’t impossible Ath was in fact incompetent enough to undercut his own position by denying the volition of the Father’s generation of the Son, I couldn’t agree with him if he did. :wink: As a general rule, though, ortho-trin theologians (along with non-trinitarian ones, both Arian and modalist) have affirmed the volitional generation of the Son by the Father (whatever that generation is supposed to mean), even when they denied (as was admittedly popular to do, thanks to pickups from Greek philosophical tradition, especially Aristotle) that God actively generates Himself but only exists statically.

(Note: from what I gather, it’s actually somewhat debatable whether Aristotle meant to teach that the final reality existed statically or whether he only meant to teach that subordinate reality did not affect it reactively. i.e., whether the Mover was Unmoving or only Unmoved. This is related to the debate over whether Aristotle was meaning to teach some kind of theism, or atheism, or agnosticism on the topic.)

While it may be true that Ath denied that God chooses to exist per se, I don’t think he denied that the Father chooses to beget the Son. That would be far too obviously self-refuting far too quickly. Also, among other problems previously mentioned, such a position would also run totally against the idea of the Father graciously giving the Son for our sakes in Incarnation.

Only because you’ve accidentally imported a temporal sequence of events. Positive aseity doesn’t involve God existing prior to His choice to exist, no moreso than the Father exists prior to the Son in any ortho-trin theology despite begetting the Son.

Putting it another way: orthodox trinitarians are dead set on affirming that the Son is begotten by the Father (and most of us, myself included, understand this to involve the hierarchical superiority of the Father to the Son, though not a superiority of nature or essence). The Son doesn’t just exist statically in parallel with the Father, or else we’d be talking about two powers in heaven, i.e. cosmological bi-theism. (Which, incidentally, was something else Arius was hot to attack because he thought trinitarians were going that way when not engaging in modalism. Arius’ main problem with modalism, by the way, was that it gutted the reality of the testimony of the personal distinction of Christ in the scriptures, leaving Christ’s own testimony to be some kind of sham. He just didn’t know quite what to do with the strong affirmations of deity in the same scriptures for Christ, and eventually lost his case because it could be argued that he was also reducing the testimony of Christ and the apostles to some kind of sham. Due to the ortho-trin side not being able to come up with a sufficiently coherent theological presentation of trinitarianism yet, however, the Arian side retained a major amount of influence in the society of the church for a long time. It wasn’t the trinitarians who kept successfully voting to banish Athanasius, for example. :wink: )

But even though all ortho-trins (as such) agree that the Son doesn’t just exist statically as a second God in heaven in relation to the Father, neither do any of us (as ortho-trins per se) consider the Father to have existed first and then (in temporal sequence) the Son. The Father’s generation of the Son happens as an eternal action of the Father.

(This, by the way, is exactly why the most prevalent analogies about the relationship of the Persons of God, among trinitarian scholars for many centuries, were chemical, biochemical and radiant: analogies later criticized for their lack of personal quality, thus for lack of an actually personal volition–see the work of Sergius Bulgakov for example–but not for trying to get across the notion of the active generation of the Son and the Spirit by the Father. Static examples of the relationship between the Persons, such as my geometrical analogy of how representing a Mountain Dew can in 2D tends to get one or another thing wrong about the reality of the can, were not nearly as popular in the early centuries of Christian theology.)

I’m saying that, too; but the principles of active generation are not altogether different. Otherwise there would be a problematic discontinuity between the existence of God and the existence of not-God entities, leading to a denial of God’s creation of Nature at all. (Typically this route passes first through nominal deism, into minimal deism, and thence to cosmological God/Nature dualism, if it doesn’t dispense with the existence of God altogether in favor of the obvious existence of not-God Nature. Another option would be to go the route of pantheism, i.e. naturalistic theism, instead of supernaturalistic theism.)

I’ll be going into a lot more detail on this issue when I get around to posting up Section Three of my Sword to the Heart metaphysic (i.e. Series 300 of the BSM entries). Suffice to say at the moment that I’m quite satisfied and impressed with the principle connections between the relationship of the Son and the Father; the sacrifice of the Son; the creation of Nature; a two-nature Incarnation (fully God and fully Man); and the volitional self-sacrifice of the Son on the cross. Also at stake is the quality and character of the “love” of God.