God Made the Mountains

I was talking with a friend about the subject of Christian Esotericism after watching a video in which Jonathan Pageau talked with a few others about the subject and he mentioned the old esoteric idea that King Solomon used the power of God to force demons to build the Temple. I found this a very strange idea not merely for the obvious reasons, but also because it just doesn’t make sense. If God wanted to delegate the construction of the temple to some creatures and it wasn’t to men, why would he give this privilege to demons? Why wouldn’t he give this privilege to angels?

God certainly doesn’t need to delegate the construction of the temple to anyone. Aside from it being the obvious consequence of God’s omnipotence, it’s also quite visible in the way that God was often worshiped on mountains, and God made the mountains. God had no qualms about making places to worship Him, he just refrained from making all of them, giving it as a privilege to some creatures to imitate, in a small way, the mighty places of worship that God made.

Why on earth would God force this privilege of imitating Him onto angels who rejected Him, rather than give it to angels who would want it?

This, ultimately, seems to be the problem with Christian esotericism—it’s just esotericism, with Christian trappings. At the end of the day, there’s no good reason to make a deal with a devil, even if you think you can cheat the devil. (Yes, the magicians thought that they were merely forcing the devil to do their bidding rather than making a deal with it, but really that’s just a deal in which the devil doesn’t get anything. If God were actually guaranteeing the devil’s good behavior, then you’re actually forcing God to do your bidding and the demon is just a puppet. It’s an even worse idea to try to control God than it is to try to make a deal with a devil.)

Contingency and Space

The natural theology argument for the existence of God from contingency and necessity rests on the existence of something contingent. This is remarkably easy to supply, since any telling of this argument is, itself, contingent, and supplies the necessary contingent thing. However, explaining why it is contingent sometimes confuses people, because the non-existence of the contingent thing at some point in time is most typically used.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but it can accidentally mislead people into thinking that the causal chain that must be finite (since there cannot be an actual infinity) is a temporal chain of causation. E.g. I’m here because of my parents, who are here because of their parents, and so on back to the Big Bang, which is here because of God. This can be helpful to illustrate the concept of a causal chain, but it’s not the kind that’s actually used in the argument, since it’s not the sort referenced by “actual infinity”. What’s discussed is why the contingent thing is here, now, as in, what is giving it the power to exist this moment. It cannot be something that doesn’t exist, because things which don’t exist have no power. So it must be something that also exists right now. That thing which exists right now can either be contingent or necessary, and if contingent, it too must be dependent for its existence on something else which also exists right now. And so on; this is what must terminate in something necessary because there cannot be an actual infinity.

Something that my attention was drawn to by a commentor asking me a question in one of my videos is that one can use the existence of a thing in one part of space but not another as a demonstration of contingency. If a thing were necessary and not contingent, it would exist at every point in space, since a particular location cannot cause a necessary thing to not exist. Thus anything which is someplace but not another must be contingent. The advantage to demonstrating contingency in this fashion is that space is simultaneous, and a temporal sequence will not be suggested. It is possible, then, that a person will not be accidentally led astray into thinking of a temporal sequence of events where the argument about how an actual infinity cannot exist is less clear, since the moments of time don’t exist side-by-side. (From our perspective; all moments are present to God in His eternity, of course.)

Thoughts on the Soul, While Hunting

A quick video I made while bow hunting while the deer weren’t coming. I share some thoughts on the soul, and how some people go wrong by thinking of the soul like a ghost in a machine, or like some sort of physical pure-energy matter that operates the body in a purely physical way, except not physical. I also talk about how everyone actually believes in the soul, because being a strict materialist would be absurd, and give examples.

It’s never Too Late at Amatopia

Over at Amatopia Alexander Hellene has an interesting post about repentance with the fascinating (if long) story of Saint Mary. It’s worth a read.

I must confess that the intellectual problem of repentance has never really bothered me; I can’t conceive of a sin being stronger than God’s ability to fix it. But, for that reason, I do really like stories of repentance, because they demonstrate the mighty power of God.

Faith is Sometimes a Practical Virtue

Back in the fall, as the weather was getting cold and plants were dying off I bought some flower bulbs and planted them in a newly open spot by my house. This spring, they’ve bloomed, justifying the effort involved. (Already done are some crocus, in the foreground, and not yet done is some weeding.)

I also planted some tulips next to some rhododendron bushes.

Back when I planted them things were cold and there was not much green to be seen. The bulbs I planted were brown and gave no visual hint of the flowers that would come forth from them. In order to get the tulips in spring, I needed to trust that the brown balls I was planting in the cold dirt were alive, and would stay alive, and would in fact put forth beautiful flowers come spring-time.

It is often under-appreciated how practical a virtue faith is. For some reason people talk as if the practical virtue of faith and the theological virtue of faith were somehow utterly unlike each other. In both cases they amount to trust in previously known evidence during the immediate absence of that evidence. We trust that God’s purposes are good because we know that His purposes are good because He is good, even though we can’t see that in the moment because all we can see is suffering or pain, such as weeds growing among the flowers or deer eating the leaves on one’s recently planted apple trees. This is not really different in kind from knowing that a brown ball is alive despite looking dead and when planted in the cold dirt will take root and put forth beautiful flowers when—despite the world growing colder and darker—it will one day be warm enough for flowers to bloom.

Chemical Composition, or, Substance and Accidents

The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation means that in the Eucharist, when the priest speaks Christ’s words of consecration (“this is my body”, “this is my blood”) over the bread and wine on the alter, the power of Christ is invoked, by the authority he gave to his apostles and they delegated to their successors and they delegated to the priests whom they consecrate, and it changes the bread and wine on the alter to become the body and blood of Christ. (This is sometimes called the “real presence.”) Much difficulty arises over exactly what is meant because the bread doesn’t turn into muscle tissue and the wine doesn’t develop red blood cells.

The Eastern Orthodox basically just say “it’s a mystery” and leave it at that. (I liked the styling I saw someplace, “eeeet’sss aaaaa myyyysssterrrryyyyy”.) The Catholic Church says that it’s a mystery, but it gives a few helpful details. You can actually see this in the word “transubstantiation.”

“Transubstantiation” is derived from two words: “trans” and “substance”. “Trans” meaning “change” and “substance” being that part of being which is not the accidents. Accidents, in this case, not meaning “something unintended” but rather the properties a thing has which, if they were changed or removed, would not make the thing something else. A chair might be made out of wood, but if you made it out of plastic it would still be a chair. The ability to hold up someone sitting is the substance of a chair, the material it is made out of is an accident (again, not in the colloquial sense of accident but in a technical sense). You can also do the reverse. You can take the wood a chair is made out of and rearrange it into a collection of splintery spikes protruding up. It has the same accidents (the wood), but the substance has changed. “Transubstantiation” just means that the accidents (the gluten, starch, etc. in the bread and the water, sugar, alcohol, etc. in the wine) remain the same but the substance—what it is—is what has changed.

Or, to put this more simply: in the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ has the same chemical composition as bread and wine. Something to consider, when trying to understand this, is that a living human being has exactly the same chemical composition as a human corpse.

The Problem of Evil: Depression

This video is a response to a question. Gadowscar asked, “[M]y question regarding the problem of evil would be triggered by my own personal experience and be fairly narrow, and be an inquiry into how God can allow for such rampant depression among society. I wholeheartedly believe God exists with my intellect, there’s no doubt in my mind that He exists. However, because I suffer with depression(to the point of being suicidal at times), I have difficulty on an emotional and spiritual level believing that God loves me. How would you answer this?”

Here’s my answer.