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God Is a Physical Being

Discussion in 'Controversial Christian Theology' started by JAL, May 17, 2020.

  1. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    The church father Tertullian (200 AD) was rightly a staunch materialist who realized that all of the biblical data - not just some of it, literally all of it - favors a wholly physical God. In fact the entire exegetical case for an immaterial God is predicated on the blatant, exegetically unsupportable mistranslation of the terms pneuma and ruach (breath/wind) as "spirit", due to the influence of a Platonic philosophy known as The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity (DDS). The term "spirit" is, in a nutshell, an English term unjustifiable exegetically. Moreover the human soul (i.e. the human pneuma) is truistically/tautologically material on an essentially empirical basis - for example Tertullian's tautological argument for the materiality of the human soul has never been refuted.

    Understand that I'm a staunch Trinitarian, like Tertullian. In fact:
    (1) Tertullian is the first person known to use the word Trinity.
    (2) Phillip Schaff, one of the world's foremost experts on othodoxy, considered Tertullian to be one of the best defenders of orthodoxy in church history.

    This discussion began on another thread closed at the request of the opening poster. I will copy some of that material, as it pertains to my posts, over to this thread.
     
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  2. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    And let's keep some perspective here. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There is no burden of proof on materialists because the existence of material object is not an extraordinary claim. Matter is something we see every day. Whereas immaterialism - the idea that some kind of magical, non-material substance exists - is a VERY extraordinary claim, and thus should be backed with extraordinary amounts of biblical evidence. Except - zero evidence exists!
     
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  3. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Several church fathers acknowledged that angels are physical - and yet God (normally) keeps them hidden from material instruments. Therefore I wouldn't expect material instruments to detect any change in weight when He extricates the human soul from the dead or dying body.
     
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  4. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    In harmony with DDS, you are caught up in a philosophically idealistic view of God that doesn't necessarily represent the real world. For example, God need not be omnipresent in the absolute sense to be an effective ruler and administer justice perfectly. Rather, He merely needs to have His hand on every particle of matter in the universe as to monitor and supervise it closely.

    DDS evolved because most of the church fathers felt that God had to conform to THEIR philosophical ideals. They never stopped to ask themselves whether such a God isn't a contradiction in terms or contradicts the biblical data.

    Let's take for example the topic you raised here - omnipresence. According to Charles Hodge, the orthodox view, which he accepted, is that God fills all space repletely/plenally. Thus the fullness of God is fully present at every point in space (as opposed to being more or less sparsely distributed, volumetrically, throughout space). This assumption flatly contradicts the biblical data. How so? It contradicts the notion of an outpouring of the Third Person. If God is already fully present everywhere, there is no meaningful sense in which He can translocate. In fact Jesus foretold Pentecost as trading places. Meaning, the Son would return to the throne and, in His stead, the Third person would descend down here. And that's precisely what happened. First we have the translocation of the Son - and it's a wholly physical event...

    "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight" (Acts 1)

    ...followed by the translocation of the Third Person, just one chapter later:

    "They saw what seemed to be tongues of Fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy [Wind]" (Acts 2).

    Outpourings also contradict a 2nd facet of DDS - the claim that God is indivisible into parts. The concept of trading places indicates that God is divisible into parts. For example 120 separate tongues of Fire descended.

    Again, 100% of the biblical data favors a material God. And indeed, if He is material, then your objection to Mormonism seems blunted, since two material objects cannot fully occupy the same space - thus something less than replete/plenal omnipresence is only to be expected.
     
  5. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    And there you have it. 100% of the biblical data points to physical substances such as thrones, but it's all dismissed out of hand because a heathen philosopher named Plato didn't much care for material things. It's not that Tertullian anthropomorphized God, it's rather that the church Platonized Him. I take it you don't believe this passage either:

    "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank (Ex 24).

    His feet rested on real, solid pavement. Same idea as sitting on a throne. What now of angels? Can they sit down? Can they rest their feet?

    "There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow" (Mat 28).

    I'd like to know - as did Tertullian - how an intangible angel has hands tangible enough to push a rock, and a body tangible enough to sit on it? But okay, I'd imagine you don't believe that passage either?

    It would be nice if leadership were simply a bit more honest. When they stand up in the pulpit with a Bible sitting in front of them - and fail to stack at last one of Plato's books on top of it - they are misleading us to believe that all their doctrines came from Scripture, when in fact several of them can be traced only to Plato.
     
  6. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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  7. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Paidiske: You're just regurgitating Platonistic ideals. That's not the same thing as demonstrating them to be facts of Scripture.

    God spoke? Hmm....several billion people speak every day. That makes for a lot of examples of speech over the years. Can you cite me an example where speech is not a material dynamic using, for example, vocal cords? An example where it doesn't involve sonic energy radiating from a specific geographical location, typically a visible body of matter? Hebrews tells us, "At that time his voice shook the earth" referring to how God's Voice sonically shook Mt Sinai. But again, you don't believe the Scriptures. You believe Plato.

    Did you draw that conclusion from the Bible, or from Plato? For example there is no clear evidence of creation ex nihilo in Genesis as acknowledged, for example, in the ISBE, authored by 200 evangelical scholars.

    Then you must think God is stupid. Have you ever heard of idolatry? Are you aware it was a serious problem in Israel? So let me get this straight. In your view, God's technique of putting an end to idolatry was to stimulate, in the minds of His people, false idolatrous images of Himself sitting on a throne? For example:

    "As I looked,“thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat, His clothing was as white as snow, the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him." (Dan 7)
     
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  8. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Oh God indeed created. But as the ISBE noted, Genesis has no evidence for creation ex nihilo.

    Ok so earlier you said God spoke. Now it's just a "metaphor". Yes, 100% of the Bible is materialistic, but we can dismiss that 100% as a metaphor - essentially misleading - because, after all, who needs the Bible for doctrine? Why should I look to the Bible for information about God when I can simply ask Plato?
     
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  9. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    God is incomprehensible? Both quantitatively and qualitatively? Then you're theology is facing much bigger problems than exegetical materialism. For example I do not understand God's love quantitatively - I cannot grasp the full measure of it - but I certainly understand it qualitatively. I know what love is, it means kindness. Otherwise, none of us have hope.

    If the position of mainstream theologians is that God is incomprehensible (even qualitatively), then they need SHUT UP. They need to desist from teaching. It is a contradiction, on the one hand, to express multiple positive assertions (doctrines) about God, on the one hand, while claiming, on the other, that He is incomprehensible. Again, this calls for the honesty in the pulpit - the preacher, at minimum, should say, "I really have no idea what I'm talking about."

    You cannot have it both ways.
     
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  10. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Every theology is on a bit of shaky ground at some point. Let's start with one that WORKS, nay, one that works the best, in terms of both internal logical consistency and biblical harmony. For example, do you believe that God can at least push a pencil? You don't, right? Because logically speaking, an immaterial hand is too intangible to push a tangible object.

    Inform us? You're implying that these biblical "metaphors", as you call them, essentially MISINFORM us. They positively assert what is NOT to be believed about God, even in historical, factual, empirical contexts such as the 70 elders looking at His feet resting on pavement.
     
  11. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    That doesn't eliminate the dilemma. If we're speaking gibberish because God is incomprehensible, then thing to do is SHUT UP and let someone else speak. (Like me). Look, when faced with a choice between two theological propositions, the one more comprehensible than the other, we should gravitate towards the one that is more so. Otherwise if repeatedly choose the less comprehensible one, we put ourselves on a downslope definitely ending in total gibberish/nonsense.
     
  12. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    The question is whether God, by direct agency - and thus without the help of a third party or intermediary agent - can push a pencil. Your best "answer" is that God "causes" the pencil to move without "pushing" it. You've basically admitted that an immaterial God cannot push a pencil. That's a problemmatical claim. Secondly, you've spoken gibberish, by insinuating that God moves the pencil without pushing/pulling it. Here's my definition of a cult. A cult is an organization that subscribes to at least one belief that appears to be unwarranted, unintelligible, or contrary to fact - and yet everyone in the group walks around pretending it's okay! Pretending that, "Isn't it obvious that our position is the correct one!" You face a HUGE burden of proof, then, every time you speak apparent gibberish - explain how it's not an empty cultic statement, akin to anyone who says something like "Trust in The Force, Luke!".

    Thirdly, it flies in the face of the biblical data. The Bible clearly teaches that God DOES in fact push pencils! First we'll look at an indirect example. Suppose you had magical power - you could simply speak a miracle into being. In that case, would you bother to venture into my vicinity to heal my body? No. You'd just speak the words from afar. You would approach me only if you needed to use your own hands to physically heal me. How does God do miracles, according to the Bible? Magically, from afar? Or does He travel to the geographical location? Per the Scripture, He SENDS FORTH His Third Person to do the work. (For example the Third Person fell on Samson every time he needed supernatural strength). He certainly speaks, but the role of the speech is to send forth (literally exhale) the divine Word/Breath into the geographical vicinity to perform the miracle, who then returns to the throne (see Isaiah 55:11).

    Let's look at a concrete example. The true name of the Third Person, as noted in the OP, is not the Holy Spirit but the Holy Breath/Wind. The Red Sea did not part instantly. Rather a wind slowly pushed the waters apart over the course of an entire evening. According to Moses, that wind was a blast of Breath from God's nostrils (Ex 15). This is God physically pushing a pencil - by direct agency. The word that Moses used for Breath in that passage is the SAME WORD blatantly mistranslated "The Holy Spirit" for 2,000 years.

    You say that God doesn't push pencils. That doctrine could not possibly have come from Scripture. It flatly contradicts the biblical data, and clearly came from Plato.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  13. Carl Emerson

    Carl Emerson Well-Known Member

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    Can you define physical please?
     
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  14. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Tangible, and thus capable of impacting/colliding with other (tangible) objects, capable of pushing/pulling other objects by means of coming into direct contact with them, just as you might touch any material object with your own hand.

    Physical substances thus sustain a sphere/field of integrity resistant to penetration, change, etc and thus are, for example, unyielding if the applied pressure, impact,or momentum isn't sufficient to disturb them.

    You should also be aware of the technical definition of "spirit" (nonphysical/immaterial substance) as understood in DDS - and thus understood by the whole mainstream church - for 2,000 years. Not only is spirit intangible, it has no size and shape. It has no extension in space. This is pure gibberish because, for example, the human soul is located within the body and must therefore be positioned at one point in the body or another (no matter how small the point). Therefore the soul must have some size and shape. (Actually in my view it is more or less sparsely diffused throughout the human body).
     
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  15. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I actually am a bit of a Platonic idealist, so I'd strongly contest this claim. I have come to accept the reality of matter as an article of faith, but even so, we really don't have any clear idea of what it is, given the weirdness of modern physics. I'm also not above borrowing from Berkeley (and Kant) and pointing out that all we actually have direct access to is our own mental impressions, so it's technically the materialist who is positing the existence of something that it frankly doesn't seem possible to define except through mathematics.

    In short, you absolutely do have a burden of proof if you are going to posit the existence of a material God. As a classical theist, I really have no idea how such a proposition would even work conceptually. Is this material God a necessarily existing being that would exist in every possible world, and if so... how? What is it about matter that would make its existence a metaphysical necessity? Did matter exist before this material God? Could the material God cease to exist?

    I am very, very old school, and do believe that Christianity fulfills the promise of Platonism, but if I weren't a Platonist, I would be an atheist, and the Bible would have no authority to me whatsoever. Therefore, I don't think you should be taking for granted that you don't need to provide extra-biblical reasons to believe in the existence of the material God that you are positing. I would need rational reasons to believe that such an entity even could exist.

    I'm also curious at to how you get Trinitarianism to work, given that you believe God is material. I don't know of any way to make sense of it at all except through something like divine simplicity.
     
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  16. Carl Emerson

    Carl Emerson Well-Known Member

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    If God pre-existed time and space then He cant be essentially physical.
     
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  17. PloverWing

    PloverWing Episcopalian

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    For clarity, can I ask about your acronyms? What are DDS and ISBE? (Google gave me Illinois State Board of Education, but that can't be right...)
     
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  18. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    Not borrowing from Berkeley or Kant but perhaps from - Hegel? I see him cited in your signature.

    Look, the idealism of someone like Hegel - the theory that reality consists of mere immaterial ideas rather than real matter - won't prove terribly useful to you if someone hits you in the head with a baseball bat. It's a useless theory because it doesn't change the reality of the material dynamics that we are forced to live with 24 hours a day. For instance, that philosophical theory certainly didn't prevent an atomic bomb from falling on Hiroshima killing 200,000 people.

    Look, I can't address everyone - every possible set of assumptions. The majority of Christians do believe that their material bodies are real, not imagined/delusioned, and that's the kind of audience I'm addressing here. This is not to deny that we sometimes imagine things. Dreams are the obvious example. But I concur with those who believe themselves to often awaken from their dreams to confront a real material world.

    If you're some kind of Hegelian idealist, or a solipsist, perhaps my quarrel is not with you. For example, how can I disprove the solipsist, who claims I'm just a figment of his imagination? I cannot, and don't much care to try.

    Can I disprove Hegel's idealism? Well, for one thing, who is having these ideas? Just God? Are we all God? Or, if I'm a figment of His imagination, how is it that I'm thinking with my own mind right now? Or maybe I am God, doing this thinking, as are you? This doesn't seem to be fruitful.

    Look, if you accept that we are real - not just figments of God's imagination - there's a burden of proof on you to explain how reality "works" without physical dynamics, because physical substances are the ground of individuation. Right? Examples.
    (1) Retribution/wrath. Consider the cross. How did God manage to pour His wrath out on Christ ALONE? He physically targeted Christ's body - a specific geographical location. No one else suffered the cross, because Christ's body is what physically separated/individuated Christ from everyone else.
    (2) Intercommunication. Same problem here. Both God and man have the ability to target a single individual with a message - physically!. If we are all some kind of immaterial nothingness, such individuated communication would seem logically impossible.

    I beg to differ with you, therefore, when you claim that there is burden of proof on me to establish materialism. Ridiculous. The burden of proof is on anyone who wants to claim immaterialism in the face of all the material evidence confronting us 24 hours a day.


    See above.


    Oh. It's a big problem? Ordinary matter is something hard to conceive? But you find creation ex nihilo to be a perfectly straightforward claim? Let's conside that claim. Suppose you asked your wife or kid, "I need to fix something. Please grab me a hammer from the empty toolbox." Wouldn't they say you're off your rocker?

    Creation ex nihilo violates the principle of identity. Suppose God sends me, Jal, back into nothingness. He then pulls 5 Jals out of that same nothingness. Which one of us five is the real Jal? Which one should pay for Jal's crimes?

    A materialistic world view, such as mine, isn't susceptible to such logical contradictions and incoherence. Matter is the basis of individuation. As such, there will never - can never be - more than one Jal. I am numerically distinct from every other piece of matter in existence.

    No sir. No proof is needed to establish the theory that material objects exist. The burden of proof is on those who claim that magical, immaterial substances dreamed up in Plato's fairytale land somehow exist in real life. Certainly there is no scriptural support for that gibberish.
     
  19. JAL

    JAL Veteran Supporter

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    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
    DDS was defined in the OP - the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.
     
  20. topher694

    topher694 Go Turtle!

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    Thanks for the laugh
     
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