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Saturday, May 02, 2015

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"If all beings have been created ex nihilo by the self-existent One, then, given that the One cannot create itself, it follows that the One does not exist and thus cannot be self-existent."

But isn't the whole point of (1) to say that God is *not* a being (ens)? If so, there's no reason to think that God would fall under the scope of the "all" in "all beings". The trouble with (1), it seems to me, is not so much that it is false--it's just misleading; for it might imply that "being" (ens) is somehow not identical with "created-by-God". As I understand it, Fr. Kimel's argument is using "being among beings" as shorthand for something like "created-by-God".

Bill, I really appreciate your recent postings and your interaction with my original post. A couple of questions about your first formulation of my, no doubt inadequate argument. You state that the conclusion is self-refuting: "If all beings have been created ex nihilo by the self-existent One, then, given that the One cannot create itself, it follows that the One does not exist and thus cannot be self-existent." But it appears to me that it is only self-refuting if we assume from the outset that God is a being, one of many beings. But clearly I cannot and do not mean that. If the proposition "God is not a being among being" is what we seek to prove or disprove, then we must avoid any suggestion ahead of time that he is "a being."

My questions for you: what does it mean to be "a being"? Perhaps we might even put God aside for the moment (I'm sure he won't mind too much). How are beings differentiated from each other? May we speak of them as finite existents?

Bringing God back into the mix: If instead of relying exclusively on his self-existence, I were to specify God by all his his formal features (simplicity, eternity, self-existence, immutability, infinitude, oneness), does that change matters?

But I agree that at this point I have no demonstrated that the assertion of divine transcendence excludes the idea of God being "a being," though I have begun my attempt to do so in most recent article (https://goo.gl/R6XA2A) and will be following this up with a couple more articles that I hope will at least indicate ("demonstrate" is too much to hope for) why I believe that the Christian understanding of God implies the problematic nature of "a being" language when used of the Creator. I look forward to any thoughts you and your readers might have about my most recent article and the ones to follow.

>>You state that the conclusion is self-refuting: "If all beings have been created ex nihilo by the self-existent One, then, given that the One cannot create itself, it follows that the One does not exist and thus cannot be self-existent." But it appears to me that it is only self-refuting if we assume from the outset that God is a being, one of many beings. But clearly I cannot and do not mean that. If the proposition "God is not a being among being" is what we seek to prove or disprove, then we must avoid any suggestion ahead of time that he is "a being." <<

You describe God as self-existent. I agree. But if God is self-existent, then God exists. To exist = to be. Therefore, God is. But you say it is paganism to think of God as being. So I say you are contradicting yourself. You are committed to saying that God is, but you also say that God is not being.

I think you are confusing two positions. One is Thomist, the other Pseudo-Dionysian.

Thomist: God is self-subsistent Being. This implies that God is not a being among beings, but it does not imply that God is not. God is, and creatures are. To say that God is not a being among beings is to say that God's mode of Being is different from the mode of Being of creatures.

Pseudo-Dionysus: God is beyond every being. This implies that God is not only not a being among beings, but also that God is not. For if God is beyond every being, then God cannot be the being that is identical to Being, i.e. ipsum esse subsistens, self-subsistent Being. When we say that God is self-subsistent Being what we mean is that God = Being and that God is (exists). Both!

>>My questions for you: what does it mean to be "a being"? Perhaps we might even put God aside for the moment (I'm sure he won't mind too much). How are beings differentiated from each other? May we speak of them as finite existents?<<

A being is anything that is, anything at all, of whatever category. There are different theories about what makes numerically different beings numerically different. I don't see that we need to go into this, as fascinating as it is.

One cannot identify beings with finite existents if God exists and is infinite. What we can say is that every creature is a finite existent (being).

It may help to distinguish three grades of divine transcendence with Grade One the lowest.

Grade One. Tuggy and Rhoda no doubt think of God as transcendent, but they think that God's transcendence is adequately secured by the fact that, while God is a being among beings, he has properties that distinguish him from every creature: the omni-attributes, metaphysical necessity, etc. but not simplicity, and perhaps not eternity.

I take it we would both say that Grade One is not enough.

Grade Two: God is not a being among beings, but Being itself. This implies the divine simplicity. On this Thomistic conception God is more transcendent than on the first approach. Why? Becasuse he transcends the general-metaphysical scheme that is appropriate to creatures.

Grade Three: God is so radically transcendent that he in no sense is. As Pseudo-Dionysus says in the Divinee Names, "God is not." God is radically other, other than every being including the being that is self-subsistent Being.

As I see it, you are waffling between Grades Two and Three. Or maybe you are plumping for Grade Three.

You tell me.

I reject One but I haven't decided between Two and Three. But I'm not waffling since I see the difference between them. It is the difference between analogy and the via negativa.

"But you say it is paganism to think of God as being." Bill, I don't think I said anything like this, but if I did, please direct me to it so I can correct it. What I think I did write is that paganism understands divinity within the continuum of being, but that's not quite the same thing as saying that paganism identifies God as Being, at least not in the way as understood by Augustine or Aquinas.

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