Mysticism & Infinity (Intelligent Christian)


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The Mystical Formation of Paul Tillich

Augustine therefore, seeing the above inconsistency, rejects the attribution of limits on God and any sense of evil attributed to Him. God will be a Divine Creator and any evil in the universe is simply a privation of the Good that cannot be associated directly either with nature or matter — since a perfectly Good God created them both. Since God is also omniscient and all knowing, he knows that the fall from grace in the garden of Eden will happen, but he still endows us with free will and gives us dominion over the Earth because he is a personal creator who loves us.

In the Confessions , moreover, Augustine explicitly takes issue with the limitations set on God within the Neoplatonic framework. And if they were not good at all then there would be nothing in them to corrupt. The upshot is the following: Whatever exists is good, and evil is not a substance in either a Neoplatonic or Aristotelian sense. Evil is a privation of the good of being. Since God is perfectly good, he will save us from ultimate corruption.

Niebuhr , For Augustine this means that God is a highest, infinite being, in a new sense.

God is simultaneously omnipotent and eternal. Since God also creates us willingly out of his divine essence though the divine will , God becomes a personal God. Garvey , She goes on to contrast this with the ideas of Plotinus a Neoplatonic thinker and his notion of the One, which is his interpretation of the Form of the Good.

It is nonetheless to Plato and Neoplatonism that Augustine will turn to make sense of the infinite and of Christian cosmology. Like the Neoplatonists, he accepts an actual infinity. In merging these two traditions, Augustine focuses on Plato and Neoplatonic ideas to the extent that he can be described as a Christian Neoplatonist.

His strategy strongly parallels the earlier approach of Plotinus who made the Forms united in the absolute infinite One. In Christianity, God is a divine, transcendental being who is perfect in every regard, and thus it can be argued that he exemplifies the supreme perfection of every concept, like Justice, Beauty, Health, etc. So it is not a hard stretch for a Christian to define the Forms, which are described by Plato as also being the epitome of these concepts, as entities which exist through God.

This is very similar to the Platonic notion of the Form of the Good as the perfect manifestation of Goodness in itself which is the source of all other inferior goodness as it is manifested in reality. In Christianity, there is also a very similar belief that the highest form of goodness, God, is the source of all worldly goodness. This is shown in the first passage in the Bible which states that after God created the universe, he claimed that everything he created was good in the Book of Genesis.

As the source of all goodness, Augustine interprets this to mean that not only was every object in nature that God created good, but also all human beings have this good in their nature because they too are a creation of God. This position gives Augustine a framework to understand reality, one that makes sense of the cosmos as a whole and informs the philosophical understanding of humanity and nature.

Humans are finite, nature is finite, God is infinite. Unlike these earlier authors, Augustine thinks that nature as a whole serves a purpose given to it from the outside by God.

In the Confessions , Chapter 9, we find Augustine stressing the omnipotence and high divinity of God. God is a creator, the creator of the world that he brings into being out of nothing. This notion of creation from nothing: ex nihilo , is the one idea that the Greek tradition never had. Not even Plotinus could attribute true creation to the One, nor did the Vedantic tradition give this power to Brahman there is no ex nihilo creation in Hinduism.

According to the pagans the view that time had a creation and nature came from into being out of a divine will was so unusual and irrational that they tended to mock Christians for holding it. If he just felt bored and decided to create after an eternity how could it have been a true eternity that he existed, and why would a perfect, all knowing, God change his mind or become bored in the first place? Augustine answers: The will of God is not a creature: it is prior to every creature, since nothing would be created unless the will of the Creator first so willed.

This is a good question. The past and future moments of things is not true Being. Here Augustine takes an Aristotelian view of time and nature, reducing them to a special kind of potentiality that is never fully as real as substance. But like Plotinus, Augustine thinks that true Being, or Platonic perfection, exists only in God and God exists beyond time and nature.

However the question of the eternity of the world and the cyclical pagan theory of time is only addressed by Augustine in the City of God. If God is actually infinite, then He is superior to time and space- he is transcendent of nature.

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The Neoplatonic theory of the One and its Tri-fold emanation into reality [that we saw in Plotinus ] is also seen by Augustine to both parallel and anticipate the revealed nature of the one true faith, i. Thus, the Christian conception of the one God as three persons, claims Augustine, was foreshadowed and anticipated by the Neoplatonist tradition. By this Good all good things were created; but they are not simple, and for that reason they are changeable.

Augustine distinguishes what is made from what is begotten emanated? What is begotten in God, we are told, is the Son and the Holy Spirit. These are not made they are equally eternal. There Augustine tries to reach some kind of intellectual understanding of what it means to have One ultimate transcendent, personal and infinite substance, that also is or has three essential aspects — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


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On the Trinity begins Books with some Biblical exegesis, ends with an articulation of some original and influential thoughts on human cognition and the nature of mind Books but includes, at its heart, some stimulating discussions in epistemology and metaphysics Books The metaphysical books raise the main problem. In the classical tradition, things are said by reference to substance if they are real beings. Things are also said by way of relation —however, as Aristotle makes clear, relations are dependent upon substances.

Taking the infinite nature of God, the triad is first God and then metaphorically the Father but also the Holy Spirit and the Son. But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not in the triad as parts with the triad being one substance. There are three substances - three modes of being - that are also one.

How can the substance contain these three natures? The answer is that the first substance as the primary being of God is infinite.

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Bk V, chp. Three substances in One. This is a problem because it goes against reason. For one thing, God is his own essence, divinely simple, non-composite, omnipotent, purely Good and purely intelligent De Trin. Bk VII, 3, This doctrine of divine simplicity seems difficult to reconcile with the Triad that is God.

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For a clue to the resolution of the problem we can turn to the De civitate Dei City of God. Granting that the above holds Augustine is now free to reason from analogy. In this way, Augustine says, our mind has a plurality of acts within it but is yet still one unified thing. For example, when you search for a film, we use your search information and location to show the most relevant cinemas near you. We also use this information to show you ads for similar films you may like in the future.

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What is the relative absolute regarding religion? Can the universal language of the mystics serve us when we study the various conceptualizations of the Divine in different cultures to find the nuggets of gold in each and weave Ariadne's tread between them?

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Is it possible to see glimpses of a theology of religions in accord with a philosophy metaphysics of religions? The test of a worldview is not whether it corresponds with reality, a phrase that has no meaning, but whether it makes possible certain kinds of experiences , whether it enables one to orient oneself to the world in certain ways.

Moreover, it follows that one cannot compare the truth of one religion with that of another ; one can only embrace a way of life. Postmodernists deny the autonomy of presence. So if the traditional super-essentiality of God "existing" beyond all possible being and absence of being is not maintained, the most interesting theology is negative Derrida states that his "ni, ni" has no purpose, certainly not to come to a super-essential absolute being.

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