I have really enjoyed your comments to me in this thread. I think they have the potential to push the conversation up another whole notch, so thank you. I'm not sure how many comments it is going to take me to deal with everything you've raised, but I think we need to settle back for a very long trip.
Before we settle in, as someone who has regularly had people take offence at how I've said things on threads, I find using the scare quotes ' ' useful when I want to distance myself from something I'm saying in a thread. We're so used to journalists stating the side they like without the quotes and the side they don't like with the quotes that just using the quotes can often remove possible offence. e.g. 'Martin's "creaturely" view of God' or 'Mark's "mystery" view of God' I think takes most of the sting out of a one word summary. It seems to have cut down on the number of people I've unnecessarily offended, so something like that might work.
I’m afraid that I’m going to have to (very respectfully) disagree with both your position and Martin’s. Let me see if I can outline more clearly what I believe is a third (and more reformed) way through this semantic entanglement :)Hee! I love third ways, and especially when they're more reformed than me. :) So the student has exceeded the teacher! Well then my young padawan, the force is clearly strong with you, lead the way. (And another thanks is in order: I always wanted to say that.)
I don’t think, however, that you have avoided apophatic theology in your formulation. You’re position is essentially (at this point) no different from the analogia entis of the scholastics.You had to go and introduce analogia entis into this whole debate didn'tcha? This is going to take some words to address, because there's a huge amount at stake here.
The problem with saying, as you have done at least twice now,I don't think I am forced to do that all. I don't work out what 'father' means by creating a list of all the ways that it differs from every other word. I don't break every concept down into its bits, determine every bit in the puzzle and then construct a meaning of the word by putting those bits together in the right order. That's the usual empirical foundationalism nonesense (hello Hume) that I reject completely. I just 'get' what fatherhood is. I mightn't even be able to explain what it is well to someone else. I mightn't know where all the boundaries of the concept are and answer every possible question about it. But I still 'get' what it means to say - "This man is my father." And when I say, "God is my Father", I don't think that I either go, "Here's the core semantic meaning of fatherhood, and that carries through to God" (univocal approach) or I go "Here's all the ways that God's fatherhood is different from all other fatherhoods" (your view of how analogical has to work). I just get that God is my Father. And that it's different but the same as my human father. Discovering those differences and similarities is something that I grow into over time as I reflect, but I start by just getting the reality directly through the word 'father' and getting that it's speaking of something quite different than earlier occurences of the word.
The words mean something similar when used of God but not the same.
is that immediately we are forced to qualify in what way the words are similar, and in what way they are different. If you try to do this, you quickly discover that it is an impossible task to positively qualify their differences. You are left with only negative statements about God.
I think words have the power to put me in touch with the reality or concept they name more or less directly. I get a sense of the thing more or less at the start, and over time begin to grasp its shape and boundaries as I get more familiar with it. Objects, especially God, reveal themselves to me through language. They don't sit there passively as I construct a concept to reach out to them. I think my understanding of language is so different from yours at this point that I can't find a way to respond to your critique other than to say, "Nup, it's not like that at all."
Perhaps an example might help. God is good. But not good like a good book - he isn’t enjoyable to read. And not good like a human - he doesn’t conform to the moral order for which he was created in relationship to his creator. In what way is God then good? He is in fact not good in any way in which we might apply the word to anything else. So God’s goodness fits into a semantic category all on its own, and is therefore beyond our ability to define. As far as I can see, this is where the analogia entis leaves us. He is good perhaps in some way similarly to us, but we can’t say positively how.I respectfully disagree with your position here. :) God's moral order in creation is an expression and subset of his own goodness, justice, love, et al. God's not restrained or contained by his Law, sure. But that doesn't mean that the goodness of the Law of God is not grounded in the goodness of God. God doesn't murder. God doesn't lie. God is love. God does not acquit the guilty or condemn the innocent. Now, God's goodness transcends his Law, and so somehow the election of his people to eternal life and his passing over the unrighteous is good and just; the existence of sin in the world is good and right; the suffering we undergo that God could stop at any moment is good and right - all at some level above what the Law defines for human life.
But none of that is apophatic. The Law is a genuine expression of the goodness of God - they aren't arbitrary rules God's just whistled up for us. They are an expression into this creation of God's goodness to shape our human life. So God's goodness simply has to be more than the Law because God's 'life' is not a human life. But God is not less good than the Law or differently good than the Law, it's just that he's God and that's a very different 'job description' than we have. He's good in ways that apply particularly to being God - ways that we just can't grasp. But if that's apophatic (negative theology) then that means that God can't be good until the Law applies the exact same way to him that it does to us. And that really is disastrous - the price tag there for univocal language is just way too steep.
However, what prevents Calvin from descending into apophaticism at this point isn’t the analogia entis, Calvin won’t resort to this at all, in fact. What saves him at this point is his strong distinction between person and nature. When Calvin discusses the goodness of God (Inst. I.x.2) he claims that God is good in precisely the same way that we are good, because his goodness is seen in his personal relationship to us. The language can be univocal at this point because God is truly in his persons how he is towards us. Ultimately it’s the incarnation that allows us to speak positively of God, because it is the incarnation that proves that human language (and indeed humanity in general) is a fit vehicle for the description of God - as he relates in his persons.Okay, I've read, and reread I.x.2 and if I've got the section and chapter right I can't see anything that resembles what you are saying here. Can you give me the quotes from there that lead you to say:
What you're claiming here runs strongly counter to my impression of Calvin's theology. My view lines up more with what Paul Helm says in John Calvin's Ideas, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004 p31
At the same time, Aquinas and Calvin are to be distinguished from a number of modern philosophical theologians because their use of the distinction between God in himself and God as he is towards us signals the existence of a substantive ‘epistemic gap’ between God and ourselves. Those who acknowledge this distinction understand that it involves the recognition of cognitive limitations on our part…[all of this] is not acknowledge in some modern philosophical theology.This is far more where I think Calvin is. Helm might have some details wrong, but his basic gist of Calvin's theology 'rings true' of my reading of Calvin. And it's somewhere around here that I think is probably where I should be as well.
There are perhaps two interconnected reasons for this. One is that modern philosophical discussion of the concept of God takes for granted that the language necessary to elucidate the concept of God is typically univocal. Modern philosophical theologians resist accounts of language about God that involve a theory of analogy or accommodation, for example. They prefer accounts that are univocal even while they stress human cognitive limitations.
In both Aquinas and Calvin some of the human language about God is univocal, but it is couched mainly in negative terms. But apart from this (what we might call) ‘negative core,’ all other language about God is analogical or accommodated language, with elements of univocity but also with elements of equivocity. Modern discussion recognizes that we readily employ metaphors, similes, and analogies when talking about God; nevertheless, it takes there to be a univocal core that is usually much more extensive than that envisaged by Aquinas or Calvin, for it embraces the entire concept of God. Consequently, when we say that God is wise, or all-good, it is presumed that what is predicated of God has the same meaning as what is predicated of individuals distinct from God. Only in this way, it is believed, can we have a rigorous or philosophically controlled account of our thought about God.
Behind this view of language lies a metaphysical thesis that involves a suspicion of, if not an outright rejection of, the idea of divine simplicity and with that a rejection of divine timeless eternity and of any strong sense of divine immutability and divine impassibility. Consequently, much modern philosophical theology takes God to be more human-like than the God of Calvin or Aquinas: he exists in time, he has a memory, he hopes and (perhaps) fears, he acts and reacts to the actions of his creatures. Human language, developed by reference to empirically identifiable states of affairs and the changes they undergo, is not then put under very much strain when it is applied to God.
This allows us to avoid Martin’s creaturely God as well. The incarnation doesn’t reveal the divine nature. It reveals the divine persons - the divine Son in human nature - through whom we meet the Father and the Spirit. Thus we know God personally, and positively - but we don’t know at all what God is in Christ.Okay. Martin is wrong because the univocal approach ends up with God as a creature. I am wrong because the analogical approach is actually the equivocal approach and ends up with a God about whom we can't say anything with positive content. So the third way is to do one bankrupt approach at one point and the other bankrupt approach at another. We can't say anything at all about God's omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, immutability, aseity, omnipresence and the like. But when it comes to God's love, justice, holiness, goodness and the like then "he is good in precisely the same way we are good," he's a mirror image of us.
Therefore, if we are speaking about the nature of God, then I think I am going with your use of language. We are going to be left with an equivocal use of language. Perhaps there is a sense in which the analogia entis will help us. I doubt it, but someone smarter than me will have to figure that out.
However, if we are speaking about the persons of God then I am going with Martin. God is a person in the same way that we are because we are created in his image for a personal relationship with him, and because the second person of the trinity took on human flesh, and human language, in order to reveal the Father.
You've really stessed this because it appears in your next comment to me as well:
You are talking about personal categories, and the reason our language about God works so well when we use personal categories is that God is a person. Not in some way different to us being persons. But in exactly the same way that we are persons.
When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple, God was angry in exactly the same way that we are angry (except without sin).There's two basic problems here. First is 'person'. From what I can see, the early church fathers (particularly the Greek speaking ones) didn't even think the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all 'persons' in the same way as each other. One of the Cappadocians (I think) even went so far as to say that there are not Three, but One and One and One. This is because everything that is common to the three persons is part of the being that is common to all three. So if 'personhood' was a quality identical in all three persons, then it would cease to be connected to personhood. 'Father' 'Son' and 'Spirit' aren't three names in the way that John, Jack, and Frank are for three identical persons. They don't simply describe some qualities that three people who are all persons in the same way. They are name the reality that is different between each one so named. If you like, the Father is a person in a fatherly way. The Son is a sonly way. And the Spirit in spiritally way. Contemporary social trinities just ignores this and treats them as though they are a community of three individuals who really really love each. If the three persons of the Godhead were persons in the exact same way we are then you would have tritheism.
The other problem is what seems to be there in your 'personal qualities'. God is not loving, angry, good, wise et al. in the same way we are. Our anger could never justify sending someone to Hell, even if it was perfect. God's does. An eternal judgment for sins caused by finite creatures in a finite creation. Jesus' anger towards the money-changers definitely reveals the anger of God towards them, but it hardly exhausts it. They and us wait for judgment day to see that terror unfold.
More than that, we acquire goodness, wisdom, love, mercy, justice and the like from outside us. They are qualities we can have more or less of, and acquire from outside ourselves. But Christ is Wisdom. God is love. These aren't just qualities God acquired. God has eternally been identical to these attributes. That's why he's the source of all these things in us and in creation - we acquire them through participation in God. This step in your position goes far beyond anything anyone has alleged about Martin's univocality. This really is to make God's personal qualities - his morality, so to speak - purely and entirely human. I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that this is 'more reformed.'
This is where I stretch out my hands from within the folds of my robe, shoot lightning from my fingertips at you and declare, "Feel the power of the analogia entis!"