Thursday, March 31, 2022

Against the slander of Owen Strachan by "Reformed" people and leaders

Dr. Owen Strachan is a Calvinistic Baptist who has not only refused, but has also doubled down on the contended teaching of Eternal Functional Submission (EFS). As a former president of CBMW (Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), he also focuses on the need for proper gender roles and functions. The first antagonizes the Thomists, and the second many Americans. It is foolishness to think that even in supposed conservative Reformed circles in America, the taint of liberalism has not taken hold. After all, the feminist Aimee Byrd came out from one of the most conservative Presbyterian denominations in the US, the OPC. Having studied in America and watched as America went down the toilet on maintaining any semblance of morality, I can almost confidently say that conservative Americans (in other words, all but the most ultra-conservative Americans) are by and large more liberal than moderates outside the West. It has been astonishing for me to see how LGBTQ issues for example are tolerated even within conservative Christianity in the West, but I digress.

Jesus said we are to love each other. Evidently, when it comes to Dr. Strachan, that commandment does not apply. After Strachan posted a perfectly fine tweet, uncontroversial in most places outside the Western world, some smart alec 'Reformed' guy decided to attack it, making changes to the sentences in his effort to "correct" them. Now, I do not know whether John Reasnor is the one who has created this hack job. But he tweeted it, and evidently think this is some knock-down argument against the supposed 'Pelagian heresy' of Dr. Strachan.

It is perfectly clear by anyone who has passed reading comprehension in high school and college that Dr. Strachan is talking about it in the context of human society. To use theological jargon, the context of what he has tweeted is in the area of Practical Theology or Pragmatics, on the same level as the household codes. In other words, these are sentences meant to be applied in interpersonal relationships. That this is true is confirmed by the author himself as follows:

It is abundantly clear what Dr. Strachan has said. Anyone with even the slightest amount of comprehension skill should be able to pick up on the context of the tweet. However, this is to misjudge the opposition. It seems that for many people, lying is a perfectly legitimate tool when it comes to fighting who one deems the enemy. Unfortunately, this includes John Reasnor, who through his "edits," made it seem as if Strachan is claiming that Man, the male species, is the foundation and savior of the human race. To make such an obvious error of comprehension smacks of malice, because it is just impossible for anyone to read what Strachan has said and think he is talking about salvation. This is especially so for John Reasnor, who is "founder and editor" at a website promoting Theonomy (LambsReign), and "is a former cohost of the Cross and Crown Radio podcast and has contributed his writing to Christian worldview websites such as The New City Times."

I find it hard to believe anyone who claimed to have done theological podcasts and contributed articles on theological topics has a lower reading commprehension level than a 12 year old. Whether through idiocy or malice, what Reasnor has done is a sin. It is a violation of the 9th commandment. Now, does this mean that Strachan is beyond correction, or that one is to agree with him on all things? No, but the bare minimum for Christian engagement is to tell the truth. Disagree with Strachan as you please, but lying about what he has said, and doing so when it is abundantly clear what Strachan meant, is despicable. Those who created this libelous edited picture, as well as those who share them, are to repent of their lies against another Christian brother. Again, you are NOT asked to agree with Strachan's view, but at the bare minimum, tell the truth!

As for John Reasnor, I find it interesting that Lambs Reign is essentially the "ministry" of "public theologian" Joel McDurmon. I have not examined enough about the issues, but for some time now, something smells real bad on Theonomy mountain (that is, besides the obvious error of Theonomy). I truly wonder whether theonomists think that breaking the 9th commandment is acceptable when done "against the enemy."

Monday, March 28, 2022

David Bradshaw: The Transformation of energeia into esse in the West

… how energeia as it is found in Plotinus and Porphyry was transformed into the medieval (and especially Thomistic) concept of esse, the ”act of being.” Tracing this history will reveal a major and relatively little noticed source of medieval thought. At the same time it will be important to notice what the developments we are tracing leave behind. At each stage there is a king of sloughing off of unwanted metaphysics. This is usually done silently, so that a reader not familiar with the earlier texts will be unaware of how key concepts have been removed from their original setting and radically simplified. [David Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom, 97]

In effect we find in [Marius - DHC] Victorinus a further specification of the energein katharon of the Anonymous Commentary [on Pamenides -DHC]. This energein now turns out to be esse, the unlimited and uncircumscribed being of the Father, from which is derived all the limited and circumscribed being (ὄν) found in the Son. Such esse is anything but “being” conceived as a static condition of existence; it is a kind of inwardly directed activity, containing implicitly life and intelligence as well as existence. In thinking itself it manifests itself as what it is, giving rise to the triad of ese, vivere, and intellegere – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Oddly enough, then, despite all the accretions of Neoplatonism, we are not too far from the self-thinking thought of Aristotle’s Prime Mover. The divine self-intellection remains the activity par excellence, the one that precedes all others, giving rise by virtue of its necessary intrinsic structure to the intelligible order and plurality of the world. (Ibid., 115)

According to David Bradshaw's resarch, it seems that there is a shift in the West (after Plotinus) to turn activity into being, energeia into esse. This is troubling for many reasons, but it would answer the question of how pure act is interpreted in Classical Theism to be a rejection of divine choices and activity outside the being of God.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

On ontology and realism

I have been busy with work and other stuff in real life, so unfortunately I cannot read and write as much as I would like to. I still get involved in Twitter discussions though, so this recent exchange has been helpful in illustrating one main issue of contention I have with classical theism.

Classical Theism, being formed in the Middle Ages and mostly complete by the high Middle Ages in the time of Thomas Aquinas, assumes a realist ontology. Everything that exist has real existence. A thing is made up of a substance and its accidents. Aristotelians focus on the fourfold causation that underlie each thing, and all things are explained by Aristotelian causation. As long as something exists, it must have a cause—material, formal, efficient and/or final.

Such an embrace of Aristotelian ontology commits the Classical Theist to assume that everything that is a thing must have real existence and be explanable by the four causes. But the problem arises as to whether all things have real existence at all. Just because something is a "thing," a noun, does not necessarrily mean that it has real existence. Now, here we are not talking about things like unicorns, which do not exist in this world but can be conceived to exist in a possible world. Rather, we are talking about things that exist in this world, but I would assert they do not have real existence at all.

In my interaction with Joshua Sommer, I had listed three things: Light, Gravity, and Color. But for the purpose of this post, I would like to look at a slightly more expanded list of Shadow, Light, Color and Gravity. It is my assertion that these things are examples of things that exist and yet do not have real (or ontological) existence. They are actual phenomena, but not things that have real ontological existence. These function as counter-examples to the idea that all things can be explained by Aristotelian causation, and each must have essences of their own.

What is a shadow? In physics, a "shadow" is an artifact formed when light to an object is blocked by another object. A "shadow" is not a thing as it has no mass or substance, energy or form. A "shadow" is an area where there is absence of light where the obstruction has cut off the light. During a solar eclipse, the moon moved across the day sky casting a shadow upon the surface of the earth, which we perceive as a solar eclipse when the day dimmed to twilight for a few moments during a full solar eclipse.

An interesting fact about shadows is that they can "move" faster than the speed of light. In a thought experiment, a huge screen with a height of a few light years is placed about 10 AU away from the earth. A cosmic laser flashlight is put in the place of the sun and shone upon the earth. The flashlight oscillates vertically 1 AU up and 1 AU down, with an average move speed of a quarter of the speed of light (c), as follows:

In this figure, the shadow of the earth will oscillate down and up as the torchlight oscillates up and down. This shadow will be moving up and down the screen faster than the speed of light, since the earth is closer to the rapidly moving torchlight than the screen. But we know that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, so how is that possible? It is possible because shadows are not real things. Shadows emerge from the relation of light source to obstruction of light. They are "real" in the sense that they exist, but they are not real in the sense that they have no essence or form. When a shadow moves "faster than light," what is physically moving is not the shadow but the light from the cosmic flashlight, which travels at the speed of light.

It can be argued that shadows are artifacts, so of course they have no essence. Well, let us look at the case of light. Light is a thing that everyone who is not blind can perceive. But what exactly is light? For some time, light was considered a wave, which was easily to understand until we discovered that light does not need a medium to propagate, which poses a problem for a traditonal understanding of waves. The wave-particle duality of light, with the discovery of the photon through the photo-electric effect, complicates matters even more. While hard to understand, scientists however have the relative luxury of ignoring how their findings affect our understanding of ontology. Philosphers and theologians do not have that luxury. So how do Aristotelians deal with the issue of light? That is a very good question.

The main problem with light and photons is that light is not matter; photons have no mass (effective mass through using Einstein's famous equation is not the same as actual mass). Photons are also transient particles, since they are present only when light is shining, unlike protons and neutrons that are always present as matter. How can something that has no matter has an essence? Light has no form either, and one does not even directly measure light. Light is measured by the amount of illumination (or energy) it gives, which is to say the amount of light is a measurement of its effect not the thing itself. Measuring luminosity involves taking in light, and the amount of light taken cannot be measured and then put back into the system, but rather the light is "used up" as its effect is measured.

Color is another interesting phenomenon. In modern physics, we understand that color is what our minds perceive through receiving light waves into our eyes that have the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum. In other words, color is subjective, as it requires a subject to perceive it. Color is still universally recognized in the sense that all men will see grass under the light of the sun to be greeen. However, it is universal not because it is an objective truth but because all human eyes work that way. Since it is perceived by the brain, it is always possible that an animal with a differently wired brain and eye will perceive different colors differently. Red might be invisible, blue might be greenish, and Ultra-Violet seen as blue to such an animal. Our actual perception of color will be different from that animal's perception, and who gets to determine which color is the "true" color of the grass under the light of the Sun?

Color as such is an emergent property at best. Unlike shadow or light, it also subjective. Therefore, it has no form and no essence, for there is no such thing as an objective property of "whiteness," "greenness" or that of any other color, for "whitenesss" for one creature may be "orangeness" for another creature. Yet, we have an objective idea of what these colors are, even though they are not objective, which shows that one does not have to have form or substance to conceptually exist.

Lastly, we look at gravity. Ever since Isaac Newton discovered his laws on gravity, we knew that gravity is proportional to mass but not why that is the case. With Einstein's contribution, we now know that gravity is merely the curvature of curved space-time, and the curvature is caused by the mass of the object. This new understanding of gravity however puts gravity in the same category as "Shadow," as something that is an artifact of something else. In the case of gravity, gravity is an artifact of curved space time. Since space time is curved, an object in order to preserve its space-time trajectory must curve towards the object distorting space time.

Recently, there has been an interesting discovery of something matching the hypothetical gravity waves by LIGO. However, such a discovery has no bearing on our perceptions of gravity since the gravity waves could very likely be a shock wave transmitted through the space-time fabric of the universe. From all these, we can clearly state that gravity has no essence and no form. As with "shadow," they exist as real physical phenomenon, but they don't have the essence and form Aristotelian essences require.

In conclusion, I believe I have shown four physical phenomena that actually occur, yet have no form and no essence. The fact is that actual occurence makes no difference as to whether something exists ontologically, which is to say it would have a real essence. Modern physics have shattered the naive ontological realism of Aristotle, and as it fails, so too should we be critical of classical theism with its many unspoken philosophical assumptions.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Mea Culpa

I must apologize to anyone who has commented on my blog for the last 4 years or so. It seems that Blogger did not inform me of comments awaiting moderation, and these have piled up, unknown to me. I have now realized this, and am taking steps to rectify the problem so that it hopefully will not happen again.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Satire on "Christian Nationalism"

All of the statements taken from Stephen Wolfe's thread, if you substitute Ukraine with America, were talking points of Evangelicals attacking the bodeyman of "Christian Nationalism." The point is not to belittle the plight of Ukraine, but to show the utter hypocrisy of all who punch right and "respectfully engage" the left. Retreating behind supposed "Two Kingdoms" theology is a cop-out. Two Kingdoms theory, as articulated by Dr. VanDrunen, teaches that God rules both kingdoms differently, thus the Church as an Institution is not to partake in politics. Two Kingdoms does not state that Christians should not be involved in politics, just that the Church as an Institution should not be politicking. Furthermore, if the poitical quietists are right, then there should be equal denunciation of ALL political involvement, including "racial reconciliation," immigrant issues (both legal and illegal), pro-Democrat lobbying, labor issues, anything regarding COVID vaccines and mandates (both for and against) and others. I have yet to see anyone consistently being "non-political" from the regime side.

James White on "Reformed Thomists"

Dr. James White has done a one hour episode on the issue on "Reformed Thomists" as follows:

While it is true that many Reformed Scholastics are Aristotelians, that does not make them Thomists. In fact, Aristotelianism was used more as a tool than as the philosophy in which to interpret everything. That is why Witsius can talk about the will of the Father and the will of the Son, without worrying about whether that runs afoul of the idea that God has only one will.