About Me

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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Friday, 17 February 2012

Excellent book on divine simplicity

Here are the details of a new book on the doctrine of divine simplicity. It is excellent (I have read it twice and will almost certainly read it a third time).

All it lacks is a discussion of the Trinity and the author is currently writing on that issue.

Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's Absoluteness

By James E. Dolezal


Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011

The doctrine of divine simplicity has long played a crucial role in Western Christianity's understanding of God. It claimed that by denying that God is composed of parts Christians are able to account for his absolute self-sufficiency and his ultimate sufficiency as the absolute Creator of the world. If God were a composite being then something other than the Godhead itself would be required to explain or account for God. If this were the case then God would not be most absolute and would not be able to adequately know or account for himself without reference to something other than himself. This book develops these arguments by examining the implications of divine simplicity for God's existence, attributes, knowledge, and will. Along the way there is extensive interaction with older writers, such as Thomas Aquinas and the Reformed scholastics, as well as more recent philosophers and theologians. An attempt is made to answer some of the currently popular criticisms of divine simplicity and to reassert the vital importance of continuing to confess that God is without parts, even in the modern philosophical-theological milieu.

"Dr. James Dolezal's treatment of divine simplicity, which provides a defense of this doctrine in perhaps its strongest form, is a first-rate piece of work . . . [It] is the best full-length philosophical treatment of divine simplicity that I know."
-Paul Helm
Teaching Fellow
Regent College, Vancouver

"James E. Dolezal has authored a philosophically rigorous and theologically thorough defense of divine simplicity, and he has done so for positive reasons. For Dolezal, the whole rationale for defending the simplicity of God is to assure that we actually come to know, though not fully comprehend, God as he truly is—the God of reason and revelation, the God of the Christian philosophical and theological tradition. Dolezal has made a very admirable and extremely significant contribution to the discussion of God's simplicity."
-Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Cap.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Newsflash: God is timeless . . . I think

OK. This won't strike many of you as very exciting but it's exciting for me. Since about 1986 I have been dithering on the issue of whether God is timeless or everlasting (temporal but without beginning and end).

At first I was a convinced Open Theist (before that kind of terminology was being used by anyone). So I thought that God was everlasting but within time. I also thought that he did not know the future completely because it was not there to know.

I fairly quickly abandoned a full-blooded open theism and came to affirm total divine foreknowledge but was agnostic on the issue of divine timelessness and related doctrines.

Ever since then I have remained agnostic. I always had a soft spot for classical theism but . . . well, you know.

Anyway, after twenty-five years of pondering and being agnostic I think that I have finally come down on the timeless side of the discussion.

Worse than that — I am very sympathetic to that most neglected and despised of all classical Christian doctrines, divine simplicity. That is to say that God is not composed of parts but is an indivisible unity. His essence and his existence are one and the same (and are identical with his attributes). Still not quite convinced on this one (it is a notoriously difficult doctrine that many philosophers claim is incoherent) but the doctrine holds strong appeal.

In the end it came down to reading more and more patristic and medieval theology and finding the vision of God that dominated the tradition resonated.

Still unsure on matters of human freewill (compatibilism or libertarianism or . . . what?). I don't really mind which is true (I don't think that divine timelessness rules out libertarian views of freewill, though I am aware that some would disagree) but I would like to know what is right.

Not sure why I am bothering to blog this but classical theism sure is fun.

Conor Cunningham on "Did Darwin Kill God?" (BBC)

This is good.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Did Plato Reject the Material World?

I regularly read about the evils of "Platonic dualism" with its claimed rejection of materiality and particularity. But is this reading of Plato fair?

Arguably, for Plato the material world participates in the world of the Forms and the transcendant realm thus invests the particular with value and meaning.

As Catherine Pickstock notes,

As well as demonstrating that Plato did not wish to drive a wedge between form and appearance, the strongly positive view of methexis (participation) in Phaedrus frees him from the charge of otherworldliness and total withdrawal from physicality, for the philosophic ascent does not result in a “loss” of love for particular beautiful things, since the particular participates in Beauty itself. Thus the philosopher is synonymous with the lover of beauty, as also with one of a musical or loving nature (248d). Although, as Socrates acknowledges, the philosopher separates himself from human interests, turning his attention toward the divine, and is often thought to be insane, it is precisely within the physical world that he recognizes a likeness to the realities, and then is “stricken with amazement and cannot control himself” (241a).

Catherine Pickstock, After Writing, 14.

Perhaps we need a revival of Christian Platonism.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Divine action and quantum theory

Similarly, we should avoid the idea of quantum indeterminacy being the privileged place for divine intervention. This idea fails to correctly distinguish between physical and theological categories, and so is unsatisfying as much for the scientist as it is for the believer. Trying to fit divine action into the gaps in the scientific description clearly shows a confusion of primary and secondary causes: God is not an additional causal factor alongside the entities that populate the world. His action is therefore not in competition with the established natural order; it is manifested just as much in his providential sustaining as it is by a miracle, should one occur. Looking for "gaps" in the picture which science gives us, and invoking God to explain them, is more deistic than theistic: a solid understanding of creation allows us to reject any kind of idea of a “God of the gaps.”

Lydia Jaeger, What the Heavens Declare: Science in the Light of Creation (Eugene, OR: Cascade, forthcoming)
This is an extract from a forthcoming book by a very gifted scholar (a theologian, philosopher, and scientist fluent in several languages) called Lydia Jaeger. It is a very thought provoking set of reflections on the idea of laws of nature in connection with the theological concept of creation. Well worth a read, whatever you think of her basic thesis.

The quote above is more of an aside than the centre of a discussion but it does address a proposal from some (e.g., Keith Ward) that we can locate divine action at the quantum level.