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Thursday, December 24, 2015

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Is this an appropriate analogy?
I have an elder brother whom I do not meet until I am an adult. We have DNA tests and establish that we share the same mother and father.
Neither of us know our father. Our mother has told one of us that our father is Christian, the other that he is a Muslim. We both acknowledge the same father but our ideas about his identity differ. We cannot both be right; in fact we may both be wrong.
A Merry Christmas to you, Bill.

Happy Christmas!

I agree that an atheist, who holds that there are zero Gods, would still agree that Hindus worship Vishnu, Christians worship God (=Yahweh), the ancient Greeks worshipped Zeus etc etc.

So yes.

PJ,

In this case one of you has a false belief about your common father. You acknowledge the same father; it is just that one of you thinks he is Muslim, the other that he is Christian. He can't be both, of course, but this is consistent with you referring to and acknowledging the paternity of one and the same man.

So the analogy is not appropriate.

The mistake of Beckwith and Tuggy is to think that analogies like this are appropriate. They think that Muslims and Christians are referring to the same God, but that either Christians or Muslims have some false beliefs about the one God to whom they are both referring.

In your case, you KNOW that you and your brother have the same father. But in the religious case we don't know that there is one God that both Ms and Xs refer to and worship. That is a crucial difference. Beckwith and Tuggy are open to the charge of begging the question: they just assume that the Ms and the Xs refer to the same God, when that is precisely the question!

Obviously, difference in beliefs does not entail sameness of referent, a point I have already made more than once, when it is merely consistent with sameness of referent. Tuggy makes this mistake. It is an easy mistake to make. I point to my table and say to Tuggy, "This table is solid oak!" He replies, "No, there is some particle board in the mix." Clearly one of us has a false belief about one and the same referent of the demonstrative phrase 'this desk.'

In this case the identity and existence of the referent is clear; in the God case it is not. No one will say that Tuggy and I are referring to two different desks, or to an existent desk and a nonexistent desk; but one could reasonably say that in the Muslim vs Christian case. It is entirely reasonable to say that what the Muslim refers to with 'Allah' does not exist. And vice versa.

London Ed,

Very good. We are on the same page.

Happy/Merry Xmas!

I am struggling a bit with 'worship' being a verb of success, though. For a start, 'worship' is a term for different sorts of activites. E.g. think of what goes on in a typical Sunday service. It involves forms of address, and I agree that you cannot address someone without there being someone to address. On the other hand it also involves reverence or praise, and I think you can admire someone or hold them in reverence without there being such a person, in the same way that we can be said to admire some of Jane Austen's characters (or to loathe them).

As for prayer, you remember the agnostic's prayer? ("O God, if there is a God, save my soul if I have a soul.")

Of course, I did not say that 'worship' is a verb of success.

>>I agree that you cannot address someone without there being someone to address.<<

None of this is very clear. Suppose I sincerely pray: Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. I am addressing the Lord, no? And this is the case whether or not there is any Lord.

Presumably I cannot sincerely address a person if I am convinced that there is no such person; but if I sincerely address a person it does not follow that the person exists.

Dear Bill,
Hi, I saw your nice posts on this topic, and I thought I'd drop in.

"But one thing is clear to me: one cannot resolve the question whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God with "a flick of the philosophical wrist" to borrow a cute phrase from Lydia McGrew (my only distaff reader?) who dropped it in an earlier comment thread.

There is no 'quickie' solution here, with all due respect to Michael Rea and Francis Beckwith and Dale Tuggy et al. "

Like you, I also originally took Rea to be arguing that Chrisitans and Muslims worship the same God. On a closer reading, however, he seems to be a little more careful, arguing that the arguments that they DON'T worship the same God are poor, and that whether they do is not clear enough to be straightforwardly ruled out by Wheaton's statement of faith. So, I didn't take him to be arguing positively that Christians and Muslims ARE worshipping the same God. Then it follows, in the third paragraph, that he's not begging any questions, since he's not putting forth any positive point. I take him to just be clarifying some things in that paragraph.
-Andrew Moon

>>Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. I am addressing the Lord, no?
OK.

Thanks, D. I should re-read Rea's article.

In response to D.:

The statement by Rea, that "In other words, everyone who worships a God worships the same God, no matter how different their views about God might be" is manifestly false even if his intent was not (surprisingly enough) to argue that Muslims and Christians definitely do worship the same God. And note that, if this statement were true, then it _would_ follow that Christians and Muslims _do_ worship the same God, so why would he _not_ draw that conclusion from it? In fact, the series of sentences that B.V. quotes from Rea _is_ structured as an argument:

"Christians and Muslims have very different beliefs about God; but they agree on this much: there is exactly one God. This common point of agreement is logically equivalent to [the] thesis that all Gods are the same God. In other words, everyone who worships a God worships the same God, no matter how different their views about God might be."

This paragraph uses the concept of what is "logically equivalent," and the "in other words" functions as a "therefore."

But from the fact that two people or groups of people worship "exactly one God" it does not follow that they both succeed in worshiping the same God.

So there is really no salvaging what Rea says here by simply saying that he did not intend to argue that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God.

Certainly as the article goes on he makes much of the alleged insufficiency of the Wheaton statement to insure the result that the two groups do _not_ worship the same God. But his earlier statements constitute an argument which, if it worked, would deliver the conclusion that they do.

Doesn't Beckwith make exactly the same error? He writes:

Because, according to the classical theist, there can only in principle be one God, Christians, Jews, and Muslims who embrace classical theism must be worshipping the same God.

Ed,

Yes, he makes the same mistake. Suppose we mean by 'God' the uncreated creator of the universe. Clearly, for a monotheist, there can only be one being who satisfies this description. But if it is the Muslim God who satisfies it, then it cannot be the Christian God. Why? Because the one existent God cannot be both triune and non-triune, possibly such as to be incarnated in a human being and not possibly such as to be incarnated in a human being, and so on.

But what if 'God' and its translations into Hebrew, Arabic, German, etc. is a Millian tag that somehow refers to its referent directly without the mediation of any descriptive content associated with the name by the user of the name. Then Beckwith's point would be trivially true, wouldn't it?

Trivially true, but useless for resolving the non-trivial question whether Christian and Muslim worship the same God.

The same God cannot be bare of all attributes. Necessarily God has attributes. Those of his attributes he has essentially are bound up with his very identity. The Xian God, for example, is essentially triune, and indeed necessarily triune (because he is a necessary being).

One gets the impression that Beckwith & Co. are thinking of God as something like a bare particular.

Lydia,

Thank you for responding in detail to D. You and I are in agreement.

>>The same God cannot be bare of all attributes. Necessarily God has attributes. Those of his attributes he has essentially are bound up with his very identity. The Xian God, for example, is essentially triune, and indeed necessarily triune (because he is a necessary being).

One gets the impression that Beckwith & Co. are thinking of God as something like a bare particular.<<

This is exactly what I see as the core problem.

And this core problem is connected with the nature of reference, both linguistic reference and thinking reference.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that God is not just any old object, but the transcendent Absolute Reality. The notion that 'God' is a proper name that 'picks him out' from other objects borders on the absurd.

For Aquinas, God is self-subsistent Being itself, not a being among beings, not just another nominatum among nominata. God cannot be just another object term of a naming relation, the same relation that connects a thoughtful use of 'London' and the great English city.

This may be a re-post; a new laptop for xmas has some bugs - I just look at it and it does stuff, seemingly, like send off a post before I'm finished!

I meant to say that for the Christian, the person and work of Jesus Christ, not the purported Trinity, is the sine qua non of who God is. The Father is 'the only true God', in the words of Jesus, and the Son is the perfect reflection of the Father's nature. (My first comment to this thread concerned that fact). It is THAT relationship, not a creedal formulation, that can be emphasized when asking a Muslim if he worships the same God as the Xn.

If one is a theistic personalist, then the same God problem is as complex and difficult as you state. Within the framework in which theistic personalism is a legitimate "orthodox" option for Christians, you can forget about the Muslims and ask the question whether Brian Davies, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Brian Leftow and John Sanders worship the same God. Plantinga, for example, believes that Platonic ideas exist independently of God. In that case, Aquinas is closer to Al-Ghazali than he is to Plantinga, even though Plantinga refers to his project as "Augustinian Christianity" and the "Calvin/Aquinas model."

But if one is a classical theist, then it is not that difficult. My illustrations presupposed the classical theism uncontroversially embraced by the three major monotheistic faiths until recently.

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