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Monday, January 01, 2018


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Although you probably know this already (but others may not), Dr. Vallicella, there are those who have argued, on grounds purely from natural theory, that God is better viewed as masculine than feminine because of His relationship to the world. Of course, the philosopher's God, having no sex organs, is neither male nor female strictly speaking; however, God is a kind of living thing and analogously a person. Edward Feser, for example, has argued on this topic this way.

The view is based on a comparison is between pantheism and monotheism. A pantheistic god, being identical to nature, changes as nature changes and is therefore dependent upon the world in its identity and not separate from it. A biological mother is, in a way, passive in sex. She is also affected physiologically when having the baby. It's just a biological fact that the mother is closer to the child in the process of development. She changes with creating a child. There's a dependency. Conversely, a monotheistic God, while the creator of the world, is not dependent upon the world in any way and is utterly separate from it. A biological father, in way, is active in sex. As the father he doesn't change physiologically with the conception, growth, and birth of the child. There is a radical separation and independence.

So given that God is at least a person (i.e., not a "it"), we can say, in natural theology, that God is better viewed as male symbolically. And in that symbolism, we're not obviously falling into a totally naive anthropomorphism.

Or maybe it's a patriarchal conspiracy!!!

Anyway, the theological dimension to this is very perplexing to me. The Christian God is male. If Jesus is God and also man, it seems we must conclude that God might not really be immaterial after all. (Are we not ending up in contradictions? Of course, this is another---far more complex----topic.)

Thanks for the comments, George.

>>God is a kind of living thing<< Yes, but the problem is to make sense of this given that God cannot be biologically alive. We need a concept of life that is not constrained by the science of biology. Presumably it will have to be via some sort of analogy. And then we get problems about analogical discourse.

I like what you say in your 2nd para.

Did you read my section "Is God immaterial?" We seem to be converging on the same puzzle.

You're welcome, sir.

I did read the entire post, including your recent Christian koan.

You're right: the idea of "living" is also a difficulty, though I was applying it in an analogous way. That might not be too much of a relative problem. (Or maybe "analogical discourse" is?) What is, however, is the Trinity. You raised materiality and sex, from this theological dimension. All of that is perplexing; if we accept it as true, we obviously have reason to assign the male pronoun.

While I find Thomistic natural theology and metaphysics highly satisfying, I find it difficult to connect it with a Christian understanding of God. Maybe I'm missing something? Far smarter people than I think you can link them together. One of the reasons that I reject, e.g., Mormonism is precisely because their conception of god(s) cannot fit---even more obviously so---into natural theology.

What you are on to, I think, is the old problem of the relation of the God of the philosophers to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Here is one approach to the issue: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/06/pascal-and-buber-on-the-god-of-the-philosophers.html

From the blog entry:

"So while we tend to think of God and the Persons of the Trinity as wholly immaterial and sexless when we prescind from the Incarnation and Ascension, God after these events includes a material and indeed sexually male element. This is a further reason to think that 'he' is an appropriate pronoun to apply to God."

It is a further reason for the Christian to think that; not so much for the non-Christian.

That's right.

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