Important Notice: WonderCafe has Closed

The United Church has sadly come to the decision that WonderCafe needed to close and all new discussion ended June 2014. Read More...

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Supernatural. More or More than natural?

Hi Gang,

 

Of all the terms that we might employ in a theological debate the term supernatural is one that I have the most problem with.

 

I get that the word itself has a number of definitions.  I don't get why only one seems to apply.

 

Specifically the following definition:  outside the natural order.

 

For me using this particular definition in a theological context begins with the problem of deliberately limiting what we tend to think of as unlimited.  It would suggest that we can know all of God that there is to know and all that we know is best defined as "natural."

 

Personally speaking I tend to use the term supernatural sparingly and tend to ascribe it to the realm of God which I have no knowledge of.  For example, I believe in the doctrine of predestination and according to that doctrine God has elected individuals to salvation.  The manner by which God choose to elect some and pass over others is, in my use of the term, supernatural.  By which I mean it appears to be natural for God to do that electing although the process of that electing is not something to which I am privy or can make inquiry to.

 

It is a realm of God which I trust exists even though I have no way of knowing how it operates.

 

In that way I tend to think that supernatural is to God as superstructure is to a building.  It is a part of the whole (therefore not outside or beyond) and yet it is a different part of the whole.

 

The superstructure of any building is, by definition, the part of a building or construction above that buildings basement or foundation.

 

What I particularly like about this definition and its comparison to supernatural (particularly when referencing God) is that the superstructure doesn't necessarily need to be complete to belong to the building.

 

Likewise the supernatural (things we know incompletely about God) still have their place even though it might not be complete.  In this I see supernatural as being akin to mystery.  It notes that something exists although we may not be able to discern precisely what that something is.

 

I dislike the way the word supernatural gets tossed around so freely.  If I am honest about it though, often what people are labelling as supernatural is something that they believe is completely natural though different than what we tend to think of as natural.

 

I would be interested in hearing your respectful thoughts on the matter.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

Share this

Comments

paradox3's picture

paradox3

image

Hello RevJohn, 

 

Panentheism comes to mind as a poster who often uses the term "classic supernaturalism".  I understand him to mean the "guy in the sky" or "person-type being" view of God. 

 

Before encountering this use of the term here on wondercafe, I always thought that supernatural meant things like seances and ouija boards. 

Witch's picture

Witch

image

I agree it can be a clumsy and imprecise word. Even more so if you happen to be a Pantheist like me.

paradox3's picture

paradox3

image

Yes, it is another example of the limitations of finite words to describe the infinite or ultimate.

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

Supernatural tends to be used to mean "beyond nature", that is, something that is simply outside of the realm of nature and therefore science. Classical notions of God often seem to place God as a Creator who exists outside of Creation/Nature, hence the use of the term to refer to that view of God.

 

I don't believe in any kind of supernatural in this sense. All things, to my mind, must exist within or in relationship to the world of Nature. I will admit to the possibility of things that are beyond our current knowledge/understanding of Nature or that are known in ways other than the traditional methods of natural science, but those are only supernatural to the extent that we limit our definition of Nature to what we currently know about it. For instance, radios and cell phones could well be classed as supernatural by beings who lack any kind of knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum and the means of generating various kinds of waves within that spectrum, but still ultimately fall within Nature.

 

The existence, then, of something that appears supernatural is not, IMHO, a sign that there is anything beyond Nature so much as our definition of nature is too limited. So, I tend to reject the notion of any kind of supernatural per se.

 

Mendalla

 

Poguru's picture

Poguru

image

Hi John,

You are quite correct in that people often identify things they do not understand as supernatural.  If they understood them, they would no longer be supernatural.

 

The Hindu religion has idientified many things which we, as ordinary folk, would describe as supernatural.  some of these "siddhis" are as follows:

  • Reducing one's body even to the size of an atom
  • Expanding one's body to an infinitely large size
  • Becoming infinitely heavy
  • Becoming almost weightless
  • Having unrestricted access to all places
  • Realizing whatever one desires
  • Possessing absolute lordship;
  • The power to subjugate all
  • Being undisturbed by hunger, thirst, and other bodily disturbances
  • Hearing things far away
  • Seeing things far away
  • Moving the body wherever thought goes
  • Assuming any form desired
  • Entering the bodies of others
  • Dying when one desires
  • Witnessing and participating in the pastimes of God
  • Perfect accomplishment of one's determination
  • Orders or Commands being unimpeded

I suppose we could add to the list from the Christian experience the following:

Raising the dead, walking on water, healing the sick, turning water into wine, etc.

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

Supernatural suggests a spiritual realm to me.

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

waterfall wrote:

Supernatural suggests a spiritual realm to me.

 

But does a spiritual realm have to exist outside Nature, or could it just be a part of Nature that hasn't registered on science's radar yet, causing us to think of it as supernatural (my idea of our definition of Nature being too narrow)? Or is it merely a psychological state that falls squarely within nature since it is a function of the brain?

 

Mendalla

 

Neo's picture

Neo

image

Mendalla wrote:

But does a spiritual realm have to exist outside Nature, or could it just be a part of Nature that hasn't registered on science's radar yet, causing us to think of it as supernatural (my idea of our definition of Nature being too narrow)? 

 

I think the answer to this is both yes and no.

 

There are still parts of nature that science has on its radar but has not quite put their finger on yet. I'm talking here about the dark energy and dark matter that science has predicted to be present but hasn't proven yet. In the end, I suspect, science will discover this so called "dark" energy and find that it's not dark at all, in fact it's more likely be a realm of light like few have ever seen before. This, I believe, will be the discovery of the light of the soul, proving once and for all that our physical bodies are but a reflection of a body of light within.

 

With that said, I believe that there are still unmanifest aspects to our being that go beyond nature, if the latter is defined as everything or anything that has form. This formless aspect of our being has been described by the Jewish faith as the divine "Spark of God", that inner Light of Divinity that lay deep within our "heart of hearts".

 

 

 

RussP's picture

RussP

image

Mendalla

 

Had you picked up a walkie-talkie 500 years ago and spoken to a friend.  You would have been accussed of being a witch, using magic, and probably ended up toasting marshmallows too close to home.

 

The universe is, what, 13.75 billion years old.  What lies beyond that?  The supernatural?  God?  Just because we can't see past the event horizon doesn't mean something is there, or not there.  Back to faith.

 

I agree with you, either it is something we know, or it is something we don't know.  Not knowing doesn't automatically mean something exists out there.  We just haven't seen it yet.

 

But then that is why I am in the UCC, on the rather left edge.  Like a touchdown in football, the foot just in.

 

IT

 

 

Russ

 

 

 

 

thedaver's picture

thedaver

image

 I remember in a course on ethics I took, we decided to designate miracles as "actions that operate beyond natural law" or "actions that suspend natural law"  The supernatural , I suspect would fall under the same definition(s)

InannaWhimsey's picture

InannaWhimsey

image

There are known knowns (exoplanets used to be unknown, but now we can do fantastic things like this).

 

There are known unknowns (eg. dark matter -- we know what it isn't).

 

And then there are unknown unknowns.

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

Mendalla wrote:

waterfall wrote:

Supernatural suggests a spiritual realm to me.

 

But does a spiritual realm have to exist outside Nature, or could it just be a part of Nature that hasn't registered on science's radar yet, causing us to think of it as supernatural (my idea of our definition of Nature being too narrow)? Or is it merely a psychological state that falls squarely within nature since it is a function of the brain?

 

Mendalla

 

 

Or could it be that we do not or ever will possess(in our present form) the ability to confirm another reality that we do not have the ability or "hardware" to enter or explore?

 

That would mean experiencing the supernatural would be different than being supernatural.

 

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

double post

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

InannaWhimsey wrote:

There are known knowns (exoplanets used to be unknown, but now we can do fantastic things like this).

 

There are known unknowns (eg. dark matter -- we know what it isn't).

 

And then there are unknown unknowns.

 

But being an unknown unknown doesn't make it supernatural. It makes it unknown and perhaps part of a realm that we can call "mystery". Calling it supernatural, IMHO, is trying to make it a known, trying to categorize it and make it knowable. If we are willing to file it under "unknown" or "mystery", we leave the door open to further exploration and explanation and therefore it makes for a much richer spirituality than if we file it under "supernatural" and try to explain it in those terms, which may ultimately turn out to be incorrect when we do find out how it fits into Nature. The unknown is, then, not beyond Nature, but merely the part of Nature we don't yet understand.

 

Mendalla

 

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

waterfall wrote:

Mendalla wrote:

waterfall wrote:

Supernatural suggests a spiritual realm to me.

 

But does a spiritual realm have to exist outside Nature, or could it just be a part of Nature that hasn't registered on science's radar yet, causing us to think of it as supernatural (my idea of our definition of Nature being too narrow)? Or is it merely a psychological state that falls squarely within nature since it is a function of the brain?

 

Mendalla

 

 

Or could it be that we do not or ever will possess(in our present form) the ability to confirm another reality that we do not have the ability or "hardware" to enter or explore?

 

That would mean experiencing the supernatural would be different than being supernatural.

 

 

 

It's a possibility but unlikely. Too many things once claimed to be supernatural have ultimately ended up in the realm of natural science for me to really think that there is anything that is really beyond nature. And, again, if there are things that are not knowable using empirical science, then does that mean Nature should be limited to what is knowable by  empirical science?

 

In ancient societies, gods/goddesses were not necessarily thought of as being "beyond nature". Indeed, they were intrinsic to the natural world (rivers, trees, glades could all be home to deities). Nature encompassed them and they were a part of Nature. Ritual and magic were part of the human relationship to Nature, not to something beyond that nature. The division between natural and supernatural is, arguably, another manifestation of Western dualistic thought.

 

Mendalla

 

InannaWhimsey's picture

InannaWhimsey

image

Mendalla,

 

maybe the term supernatural is a pataphor?

Arminius's picture

Arminius

image

Even those of us who don't believe in supernaturalism admit that there are aspects to the natural reality that are unknown and perhaps unknowable.

 

If, as I believe, reality is in a state of nonduality or synthesis, then this state is not analytically knowable simply because synthesis is antithetical to analysis.

 

Reality would then be a mystery which we truthfully experience but can't truthfully define. I would call such a reality divine or supernal rather than supernatural.

 

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

InannaWhimsey wrote:

Mendalla,

 

maybe the term supernatural is a pataphor?

 

Assuming you mean the first definition (an extended metaphor that creates its own context), it's an argument that could be made. I doubt that it has anything to do with lizards' tails breaking off, though .

Mendalla

 

RussP's picture

RussP

image

Mendalla

 

Unless Christian religion has grown so long that the tail that breaks off grows a new religion.

 

IT

 

 

Russ

Neo's picture

Neo

image

Arminius wrote:

Even those of us who don't believe in supernaturalism admit that there are aspects to the natural reality that are unknown and perhaps unknowable.

 

If, as I believe, reality is in a state of nonduality or synthesis, then this state is not analytically knowable simply because synthesis is antithetical to analysis.

 

Reality would then be a mystery which we truthfully experience but can't truthfully define. I would call such a reality divine or supernal rather than supernatural.

 

 

I was kind of thinking this way early when I read these comments. If all matter is frozen energy, in it's natural state, then something super-natural could be the result of an unfreezing and perhaps a re-freezing (into a different form) of this energy. Walking on water or raising someone from the dead could be accomplished if one had complete mastery over this energy of matter.

 

 

 

RussP's picture

RussP

image

Neo

 

Or the simple process of entropy has dropped the temperature to the point where the matter is frozen for good.  There is no outside force, short of the Big Crunch, that will thaw it again.

 

And there IT be, the super-natural, the Big Crunch.  Opposite of Big Bang.  the two together.... IT

 

IT

 

 

Russ

Neo's picture

Neo

image

We manipulate matter all the time, in our own crude way, through heat and chemical reactions. Energy can be altered with energy. It's not that difficult. Doing it without blast furnaces or test tubes is the key to making it super-natural. The power of the mind is an untapped resource that we're only beginning to understand. 

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

RussP wrote:

Mendalla

 

Unless Christian religion has grown so long that the tail that breaks off grows a new religion.

 

IT

 

 

Russ

 

Actually, that's kind of how UU'ism got started .

 

Mendalla

 

Neo's picture

Neo

image

RussP wrote:

Neo

 

Or the simple process of entropy has dropped the temperature to the point where the matter is frozen for good.  There is no outside force, short of the Big Crunch, that will thaw it again.

 

And there IT be, the super-natural, the Big Crunch.  Opposite of Big Bang.  the two together.... IT

 

IT

 

 

Russ

 

I just re-read you post Russ, I assumed something else the first time.

 

I guess it would be a hell of a deep freeze if it needed the energy of the Big Bang to unfreeze it.

 

The Big Bang and the Big Crunch are als known in Hindu myth as the Great Inbreathing and Outbreathing of BRAMHA. Who must be one pretty big DUDE if our whole universe is result of HIS exhaling.

Witch's picture

Witch

image

RussP wrote:

Had you picked up a walkie-talkie 500 years ago and spoken to a friend.  You would have been accussed of being a witch,

 

I had a very similar experience with my first cell phone.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Witch,

 

Witch wrote:

I had a very similar experience with my first cell phone.

 

They had cell phones 500 years ago?

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

Mate's picture

Mate

image

From "The Spiritual Brain" by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard.

 

"To say that an event is 'supernatural' is to say that it comes from above or outside of nature.  Theistic religions assume--as a starting point-- that God is above nature (supernatural).  So events caused by the direct, unmediated action of God are supernatural by definition.

 

However, as cosmologist Rocky Kolb, of the University of Chicago, noted recently, we don't understand 95% of nature (dark matter, and dark energy)  Uner the circumstances, it is a stretch to declare phenomenon identified in a laboratory 'supernatural' merelly because it does not ift an established materialist paradigm

 

Many materialists have argued that action at  a distanc is impossible therefore psi must be supernatural.  But, they say, the supernatural does not exist, and thereforre psi does not exist.  So the laboratory results must be wrong.  Indeed, the driving force behind many attempts to discredit psi appears to be fear of the supernatural.'"  p176

 

Indeed a very interesting book.  It would also appear to be supported by neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor. 

 

Just some interesting thoughts.  The book is worth a read.

 

Shalom

mate

 

 

Mate's picture

Mate

image

John

 

Excellent thread. 

 

BTW the book by Beauregard was required reading for a class at VST.

 

Shalom

mate

Elanorgold's picture

Elanorgold

image

I think of things like ghosts, esp, telekenesis and that sort of thing when I think of the supernatural. All very interesting subjects.

Mate's picture

Mate

image

British psychologists recently presented a paper showing the reality of ESP.  That was from a news cast.  I haven't looked it up yet.

 

Shalom

mate

Berserk's picture

Berserk

image

The question of whether miracles can violate natural law is epistemologically meaningless until it is specified which miracle claims can be dismissed without investigation as violations of natural law.  Otherwise, no matter how implausible and unprecedented the miracle, it can be rationalized on the grounds that a previously unknown natural law can explain it.  For any concept of "miracle" to be meaningful and helpful, it must be testable and hence falsifiable at least in principle. 

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Poguru,

 

Poguru wrote:

Hi John,

You are quite correct in that people often identify things they do not understand as supernatural.  If they understood them, they would no longer be supernatural.

 

On one level I agree with you.  I'm just not sure that it is as simple as that.

 

I remember in a stats course during high-school having to work out the probabilites for flipping a coin, two coins, five coins and the like.  Not included in those calculations was determining the probability of a coin landing neither heads up or tails up but on its side.

 

The reason being that the probability is very low.

 

And yet, even though the probability is very low the possibility exists.

 

I think this is my real problem with the term supernatural.  I understand it to mean that there is minimum probability but not impossibility while others seem only to see it in terms of possibility and even then in the starkness of possible or impossible.

 

They then go on to lump the miraculous in with the impossible and I think that is simply too black and white for reality to support.

 

So it is possible for a coin to land on it's edge no matter how improbable.  Does that make the coin landing on its edge a miracle?  If we define a miracle as being something highly unusual then it is that.  I have never seen it happen.  I don't know how many others have and even if I meet several people who claim to have seen it how do I prove the veracity of their claim?  Do I need witnesses?

 

Trying to repeat the phenomenon is going to be painstakingly tedious and there are going to be variables in my controlled experiment and the natural environment in which the phenomenon is reported to happen.

 

Things larger than flipping a coin would be, I think, a tad more difficult to reproduce.

 

An example upthread is the story of the person sitting up in the morgue after having been pronounced dead.  From where I sit there is a need to sit a doctor down and talk to them about what constitutes dead and not automatically a miracle.

 

And yet, somebody so close to death that a trained professional would miss life signs shouldn't be improving from medical non-attention.

 

How do I begin to calculate the probabilities involved in such a story?  How many times has the doctor sent living people to the morgue and how many times have they sat up again?  Where would I find those states?

 

I'm guessing this is another instance where the improbable does not equal the impossible.

 

I've seen things that I can't explain.  Have I seen the supernatural as in impossible or the supernatural as in improbable?

 

I've felt things that I believe I can explain yet couldn't prove because I cannot control the presence of other things.  Is what I felt a figment of my own imagination or have I touched something that is beyond my meagre ability to control?

 

I wouldn't rule out the figment option.  I wonder though, if I can repicate the sensation using external stimuli when none of such stimuli was present at the initial experience how have I proven or disproven the reality of what I felt?

 

I don't live for the supernatural.  Whether it is impossible or highly improbable it doesn't seem to be at my beck and call.

 

I don't count on it but neither do I bet against it.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

LBmuskoka's picture

LBmuskoka

image

Mendalla wrote:

But being an unknown unknown doesn't make it supernatural. It makes it unknown and perhaps part of a realm that we can call "mystery". Calling it supernatural, IMHO, is trying to make it a known, trying to categorize it and make it knowable. If we are willing to file it under "unknown" or "mystery", we leave the door open to further exploration and explanation and therefore it makes for a much richer spirituality than if we file it under "supernatural" and try to explain it in those terms, which may ultimately turn out to be incorrect when we do find out how it fits into Nature. The unknown is, then, not beyond Nature, but merely the part of Nature we don't yet understand.

 

Wonderfully written Mendalla and ties in  nicely with what Rev John writes

revjohn wrote:

So it is possible for a coin to land on it's edge no matter how improbable.  Does that make the coin landing on its edge a miracle?  If we define a miracle as being something highly unusual then it is that.  I have never seen it happen.  I don't know how many others have and even if I meet several people who claim to have seen it how do I prove the veracity of their claim?  Do I need witnesses?

 

Trying to repeat the phenomenon is going to be painstakingly tedious and there are going to be variables in my controlled experiment and the natural environment in which the phenomenon is reported to happen.

 

 

I believe a natural human trait is to explain what happens around us.  Our language has developed out of this need and expands to fill in the blanks.  When confronted with events that are not easily identifiable the choice becomes to label them as "supernatural" and leave it there or, as Mendalla alludes to, the other choice is to continue searching for the answers.

 

Somethings can be natural and yet miraculous; for me the variety of life on this planet is a good example.

 

 

LB


Horatio:
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!


Hamlet:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

     William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5

Witch's picture

Witch

image

revjohn wrote:

Hi Witch,

 

Witch wrote:

I had a very similar experience with my first cell phone.

 

They had cell phones 500 years ago?

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

Of course.

 

But texting, twitter, and facebook hadn't been invented yet, so the cell phone really didn't catch on until much later.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Witch,

 

Witch wrote:

Of course.

 

But texting, twitter, and facebook hadn't been invented yet, so the cell phone really didn't catch on until much later.

 

I suppose with the primitive technology of the time they weren't exactly portable either which means that not seeing one is quite understandable.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

Panentheism's picture

Panentheism

image

I have not read all the posts for John's opening is luring me.  

I am surprised by his use of supernaturalism.  It may be there is no apophtic theology (negative) given.  This is to suggest what God is not. 

 

For example God is not omnipotent.  Omnipotent means God is the sole source of what is... God has all the power and all power is derived from God .... God is first and final cause of what is ... there is creation out of nothing.  This is one of the basic points of supernaturalism ( classical)

Then there is the supernatualism of extreme voluntarism, the universe of finite beings exist solely to the divine will.  To put it negatively, does evolution suggest a process where is there is emergence out of what is?  If so what does this do to the idea of sole source.  This is not to deny that emergence does mean many sources, and thus the divine aim can be part of the emerging process.

 

God is immutuable and in Godself is all that God needs.  If one says no to this it opens the idea of relationality - God needs the world and is effected by the world.  It is as true to say God causes things to happen in the world as to say the world causes things to happen in Godself.

 

In apophatic theology one does not claim too much for our knowledge of God, so in one sense the otherness and the transcendence of God is honored.  There is a mystery that is.  Having said that one can go on to say that mystery does seek to be known out of the aim of God.  God does effect the world through natural processes, not supernaturally.To be supernatural is to stand outside natural processes and effect them unmoved.  Now it is true the movement of God is love but the effect of that love in every moment is dependent on the response of those loved - God cannot force love ( here is a form of negative theology)

If God cannot force love unilaterally then God's power must be understood as naturally effective.   God can be omnipresent, that is in all things without out that presence being unilateral - or force and the only actor in the becoming of what is. We have true power that comes from existence and is shaped by our will, just as God has a will to good and is shaped by God;s power - one finite the other infinite.  God cannot do away with free will or creativity as those are a metaphysical given - comes with existence.

 

Grace can be understood not as predestination in the sense of having fixed the outcome - that is the final cause or outcome and is beyond free will, but that the Grace of God is constant in every moment luring the universe into more beauty.  The outcome though is not fixed but potential.   This does not deny that all are elected by Grace.  God is the source of all potentiality for good and dependent on the world to actualize it.   Supernaturalism means God is the only source and actor and negative theology would ask why then is there evil?  God is not the only source.  Nor is there an evil force with the power of God -  Evil is not in God as if there was an two sided divinity.   When one says what is not then one can create metaphors out of how we have thought about God and what religious literature has pictured God, including the trajectory found in the bible.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Panentheism

 

Panentheism wrote:

For example God is not omnipotent.  Omnipotent means God is the sole source of what is...

 

Where precisely does that definition of omnipotent come from?  My dictionary says "all powerful" certainly, I have never interpreted that as having all of the powerful.  My dictionary also defines as "having great or unlimited power."

 

Panentheism wrote:

God has all the power and all power is derived from God .... God is first and final cause of what is ... there is creation out of nothing.  This is one of the basic points of supernaturalism ( classical)

 

None of which I am actually advocating in the discussion.

 

My concern at this point is how one draws the line between what is deemed natural/possible and what would be supernatural/impossible.  My line of thinking at this point is that while these multiple continuum exist I am not entirely confident that they are absolutely parallel.

 

I've been thinking whether the difference between the two is similar to our understanding that God is both immanent and transcendant.  I do not, at this point in time, have an idea of how that similarity, if it exists, is to be expressed.

 

Panentheism wrote:

God is immutuable and in Godself is all that God needs.  If one says no to this it opens the idea of relationality - God needs the world and is effected by the world.  It is as true to say God causes things to happen in the world as to say the world causes things to happen in Godself.

 

Fair enough.  Let's run with this.  What are the limits to what God may cause to happen in the world?  For that matter, what are the limits to what the world may cause in Godself?

 

Panentheism wrote:

In apophatic theology one does not claim too much for our knowledge of God, so in one sense the otherness and the transcendence of God is honored.  There is a mystery that is. 

 

Which I'm quite comfortable with.  My goal in the thread is not to claim too much or, as a matter of fact, any knowledge of God.  It is to wrestle with the proper use of the supernatural and whether the relationship between the two is a continuity (in much the same way structure, substructure and superstructure are a continuity) or a discontinuity.

 

Panentheism wrote:

God does effect the world through natural processes, not supernaturally.To be supernatural is to stand outside natural processes and effect them unmoved.

 

Here is some kind of progress in that it appears you are structuring a continuous reality in which God is effected even as God effects over and against a discontinuous reality in which God is the unmoved mover.

 

That is not exactly the same definition of supernatural that I start with.  Nor do I think that the notion of unmoved mover (either the Aristotelian or Aquinian versions) is entirely satisfactory.  The philosophy might be tight but it rather ignores the physics of movement.

 

Stepping beyond Aristotle who believed that an unmoving object (potential energy) can impart that energy to other objects without going kinetic in some regard we can see that objects with massive potential energy can make things happen when all that potential becomes kinetic.  What would be a relatively gentle push from the perspective of the pusher can be felt as a rather forceful push from the perspective of the pushee.

 

The relative amounts of power in each object can appear as one object completely and totally dwarfing the power of the other.  So maybe omnipotence is not an exact word since the weaker of the two has some is there still not a tremendous disparity in a) power held and b) impact made?

 

If so then I think we are not far from where I enter with my puzzlement.  How great a disparity in the natural can there be before we start to see things that are not normative?  Hence the coin metaphor which admittedly is not perfect.

 

A coin can land face up or face down or on its edge.  Those are the three possibilities and while the face up and face down are probably more normative on edge is not unnatural (It would be if I couldn't balance a coin on its edge) though it is improbable.

 

Panentheism wrote:

Now it is true the movement of God is love but the effect of that love in every moment is dependent on the response of those loved - God cannot force love ( here is a form of negative theology)

 

Fair enough.  Love is not forced.  Love is still given.  Can that giving not overwhelm?

 

Panentheism wrote:

We have true power that comes from existence and is shaped by our will, just as God has a will to good and is shaped by God;s power - one finite the other infinite.

 

Here is as good a place as any to camp out for a bit.

 

What are the bounds of the infinite?  What are the bounds of the finite?  Are they not bounded in some part by the will?  Would the bounds of the infinite not demonstrate a greater will by comparison to the finite?  Do each exert an equal force?

 

Panentheism wrote:

God cannot do away with free will or creativity as those are a metaphysical given - comes with existence.

 

Well, no.  Although what was created free doesn't necessarily remain free.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

"A coin can land face up or face down or on its edge.  Those are the three possibilities and while the face up and face down are probably more normative on edge is not unnatural (It would be if I couldn't balance a coin on its edge) though it is improbable."

 

In space that coin might not ever land.

Witch's picture

Witch

image

waterfall wrote:

In space that coin might not ever land.

 

In space.... no one can hear you yell "heads!"

RussP's picture

RussP

image

revjohn

 

Panentheism wrote:

God has all the power and all power is derived from God .... God is first and final cause of what is ... there is creation out of nothing.  This is one of the basic points of supernaturalism ( classical)

 

None of which I am actually advocating in the discussion.

 

My concern at this point is how one draws the line between what is deemed natural/possible and what would be supernatural/impossible.  My line of thinking at this point is that while these multiple continuum exist I am not entirely confident that they are absolutely parallel.

 

I've been thinking whether the difference between the two is similar to our understanding that God is both immanent and transcendant.  I do not, at this point in time, have an idea of how that similarity, if it exists, is to be expressed.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------

 

Now if you subscribe to the vacuum genesis theory and zero energy universe, you could have creation out of nothing.  Your dividing line becomes very thin indeed.  The theories aren't impossible, just very, very improbable, but it only had to happen once, and here we are.

 

So God becomes the Big Bang and Big Crunch.

 

Not sure where the heck it puts you, though.

 

IT

 

 

Russ

LBmuskoka's picture

LBmuskoka

image

RussP wrote:

So God becomes the Big Bang and Big Crunch.

 

Not sure where the heck it puts you, though.

 

Stuck between a rock and a hard place or...

 

as I like to say, situation normal

Panentheism's picture

Panentheism

image

I go back to my point - supernatural theism has  a specific meaning on which a whole theology rests.  -  another name is classical theism.  This is the theism most argue against or reject.  It has implications for how we understand the world. miracles, providence of God etc.  But when the foundation of classical theism is found wanting many give up the construction.

 

There are methods of reconstruction, some of which include classical theism, like some neoorthodoxy - God as wholly Other.   What they do, like classical theism, is want to protect the otherness of God, the mystery of God.  But to protect that we need not say God is unknowable, but must using negative theology remember that our descriptions are not the full story but way station in the construction, and some constructions are better than others. 

 

Supernaturalism is to make God beyond the nature and unrelated in essence to the natural... God is a force that at God's desire intervenes from time to time. This causes problems with the possibility of intervention, because it reduces it to unnatural or supernatural acts.  It is possible to come up with a theory of intervention that is naturalistic - but that is another story.  One can go to emergence biological theory to find the connections of how a divine reality can interact naturally.

 

Back to supernatural or classical theism - the first problem is omnipotent - is God the decider of all events? Thus our power is not real as efficacious.  In supernaturalism and coupled with perfect power all that is divinely willed - whatever happens is divinely made to happen.  God is the sole cause of what is.

 

One can reconstruct perfect in power to say God's power is only persuasive.  Further free will and actual entity power is not given by God but is metaphysically.  Actual entities have real power that is theirs and in a relational universe with many actors what becomes is a product of that becoming and God as Love Supreme offers to each nonosecond the possible of beauty.

Perfect means God is the source of novel beauty and is the aim directed at each moment.  In Godself rests the harmony of harmonies Here would be Grace.

All knowing is another problem of supernaturalism.  If all knowing means the ability to know the future and influence the future than that raises why does God allow war since God both knows it will actually come and what it looks like and has the power to stop it.  One can change all knowing to knowing only what actual has happened.  This though does not deny that God is also the source of other potentials ( possibilities) and has to work with what actual is done with the potentials. 

 

Unchangable and unsympathetic are also part of classical theism. Unchangeable means perfection is an unchanged essence rather than perfect fit for this moment.  This means while God is constant in love, God must respond to what actually happens thus is mutable.  Unsympathetic has meant God does not need the world  Love for classical theism means love does not sympathizes and is not made happy by our joy, or grieves with us.  Immutuable means untouched in God's inner being.  This is bad physics and astronomy and psychology.  This is the unmoved mover.

 

Of course these ideas of classical theism are constructs and apophatic theology helps  to find a better foundation when we say God is not supernatural.  Here the fun begins again of trying ot construct aproximate images for our sense of God - a God worthy of worship.   One solution is God is a projection and thus a form of non or post theism.  Another solution is open theism which revises the neo orthodox trajectory, and another is some form of panentheism and another is pantheism.  Then again for some the whole project when one finds supernaturalism wanting is not worth the adventure.

LBmuskoka's picture

LBmuskoka

image

Thank you Panentheism for that post...

Panentheism wrote:

It is possible to come up with a theory of intervention that is naturalistic - but that is another story.  One can go to emergence biological theory to find the connections of how a divine reality can interact naturally.

 

Would you be willing to delve into this aspect further?

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Panentheism,

 

Panentheism wrote:

I go back to my point - supernatural theism has  a specific meaning on which a whole theology rests.  -  another name is classical theism.  This is the theism most argue against or reject.  It has implications for how we understand the world. miracles, providence of God etc.  But when the foundation of classical theism is found wanting many give up the construction.

 

Which is fair.  Although I'm not quite certain how it answers the question I asked.

 

Panentheism wrote:

There are methods of reconstruction, some of which include classical theism, like some neoorthodoxy - God as wholly Other.   What they do, like classical theism, is want to protect the otherness of God, the mystery of God.  But to protect that we need not say God is unknowable, but must using negative theology remember that our descriptions are not the full story but way station in the construction, and some constructions are better than others. 

 

Fair enough.  The whole of God is unknowable correct?  We can come up with statements in our theologies that say, " God would not do this" or "God will do this" and yet God is not bound by the statements we make about God.  What we really mean when we make such statements is actually more along the lines of, "I do not believe God would do this because . . ." or, I believe God would do this because . . ."

 

I think that the only advantage in the reformulation is that it has been through a process of thought were previous notions have been tested and found to be either wanting or sufficient.  And even then the determination of what is wanting and what is sufficient amounts, in the end, to a personal choice no matter how informed it may claim to be.

 

So while the whole of God is unknowable there are dimensions of God which can be known and by the process of extrapolation we can guess about the dimensions which are unknown.  Bearing in mind that even the best guess is still just a guess and can be quite wrong.

 

Panentheism wrote:

Supernaturalism is to make God beyond the nature and unrelated in essence to the natural... 

 

Fair enough.  That is what supernaturalism does.  Supernaturalism is not what defines supernatural though.  Supernaturalism would of necessity have a definition of what is supernatural I do not think, however; that we are bound by that definition.

 

Panentheism wrote:

God is a force that at God's desire intervenes from time to time.

 

I'm not sure I follow this point.  Did you mean to use God is a force or Supernatural is a force?

 

Panentheism wrote:

This causes problems with the possibility of intervention, because it reduces it to unnatural or supernatural acts. 

 

I'm thinking that this is where the centre of my argument is revolving.  I'm not convinced that the supernatural is intended to be thought of as separate from natural so much as an extension of the natural.  In much the same way (sorry if I am beating a dead metaphor here) the superstructure of a building is intended to be connected to the substructure of a building and the sum of the sub and super is simply the structure.

 

Panentheism wrote:

It is possible to come up with a theory of intervention that is naturalistic - but that is another story.  One can go to emergence biological theory to find the connections of how a divine reality can interact naturally.

 

I'll go sniff around there in a bit.

 

I don't know if my initial imaginings will be affirmed by my inspection but  I will admit that I can think (or I imagine that I can think of it) of another possible theory of intervention that is naturalistic.  Optically it doesn't look a whole lot different from what supernaturalism might describe.  There would be metaphysically given differences sure.  I'm wondering if those differences are all that large.  Does it feel different when a left-hander thumps your noggin with a slushball than it does when a right-hander does the same?

 

panentheism wrote:

Back to supernatural or classical theism - the first problem is omnipotent - is God the decider of all events?

 

Is this an ominpotence problem or a deterministic problem?  Again I'm not buying into the notion that omnipotence actually means that one has all power and others have none.  I can see such a disparity in power differential that it would appear that one has all the power and the other has none.  The ability to overwhelm or even be overwhelmed doesn't mean that one has all and the other has none.

 

Panentheism wrote:

Thus our power is not real as efficacious.

 

Not in all things no.  Again that isn't us being completely powerless.  It would be us being completely powerless to do all things.

 

Panentheism wrote:

In supernaturalism and coupled with perfect power all that is divinely willed - whatever happens is divinely made to happen.  God is the sole cause of what is.

 

Which is the Aristotelian and Aquinian paradigm.  The primary mover is responsible for all movement.  That model fails when laid alongside the scriptural narratives that we employ.  There are other movers at play apart from the primary mover.

 

Panentheism wrote:

One can reconstruct perfect in power to say God's power is only persuasive.

 

Agreed.

 

Panentheism wrote:

Further free will

 

I suspect that you are really trying to push my buttons here 

 

panentheism wrote:

and actual entity power is not given by God but is metaphysically. 

 

Let's hang out here for a second or two.

 

Actual entity power is not given by God but is a metaphysical necessity.  Accepting that premise are we forced to accept that what is metaphysically given is metaphysically complete?  Free will for example.  Is it a metaphysical necessity that the will given is free and if it is a metaphysical necessity is it also a metaphysical necessity that the will remain free?

 

I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from but for those following along at home . . .

 

I, and my theological forebears, have never argued that free will never existed.  We have argued that free will is more or less extinct.  The will that remains is now bound and captive to any number of influences and it is highly unlikely that any will ever experience a freed will unless the grace of God sets them free.

 

I could spin that using the language you have shared here.  As I am not adept at using your theological language I hesitate to do so since I would most likely end up misrepresenting your point.

 

I, and my theological forebears, apply that understanding of free will to a Creation, Fall, Redemption paradigm which we understand as being universal (everyone participates in it whether they like it or not).

 

Is it fair to say that the paradigm you offer rejects the notion of the Creation, Fall, Redemption paradigm on a universal level and instead frames it on a particular or individual level?  I'm not trying to lable you as an Arminian so I can easily dismiss you.  Or, does the idea of a fall have broader connotations than the individual?

 

panentheism wrote:

Actual entities have real power that is theirs and in a relational universe with many actors what becomes is a product of that becoming and God as Love Supreme offers to each nonosecond the possible of beauty.

 

That is just one possibility of many though isn't it?  If all entities have a power of their own then they have the ability to resist the persuasion of God and so there is more contained in each nanosecond than the possibility of beauty.  There is also the possibility of ugliness is there not?

 

panentheism wrote:

Perfect means God is the source of novel beauty and is the aim directed at each moment.  In Godself rests the harmony of harmonies Here would be Grace.

 

I think that is a fairly radical redefinition of perfect.  I'm not opposed to it I'm just saying that is not what the word perfect conveys to me when I hear it.

 

panentheism wrote:

All knowing is another problem of supernaturalism.  If all knowing means the ability to know the future and influence the future than that raises why does God allow war since God both knows it will actually come and what it looks like and has the power to stop it.

 

Which takes us right back to the unknown dimension of God and whether or not we fully comprehend what goes on in God's mind in such futures.

 

panentheism wrote:

One can change all knowing to knowing only what actual has happened.  This though does not deny that God is also the source of other potentials ( possibilities) and has to work with what actual is done with the potentials. 

 

Sure one can make that change.  It seems to rob God of a predictive ability that even you and I have.  That predictive ability is based on how well we know another.  You, as a good father, have an idea of how your children will react to certain situations.  You may have even, as a good father, conditioned your children to react in a certain way to a certain situation.

 

Which while not even remotely making you omniscient is you having more knowledge than what actually has happened.  You have a rather rudimentary foreknowledge of events yet to transpire.  It still exists only as a possibility since it has not come to pass.  Not all possibilities have an equal chance of coming to be do they?

 

God being present in every nanosecond does, I think, influence the possibility and potential of the next nanosecond even to the point of eliminating what, just the nanosecond before, was once a possibility.

 

panentheism wrote:

Unchangable and unsympathetic are also part of classical theism. Unchangeable means perfection is an unchanged essence rather than perfect fit for this moment.

 

Which I have never been happy with.  I have tended to limit the unchangeable to the character of God which, at least to me, still allows God to be an individual and throw a curve at us everynow and then (by that I mean a surprise as to who God is and not a surprise God is making us do this).  That doesn't appear to me to be all that worrisome if I cannot know the totality of God.  It would only be in the curveball that I would see that God has something more than the high heat.

 

panentheism wrote:

This means while God is constant in love, God must respond to what actually happens thus is mutable.

 

Agreed.

 

panentheism wrote:

Unsympathetic has meant God does not need the world  Love for classical theism means love does not sympathizes and is not made happy by our joy, or grieves with us.

 

I think that is a bizarre read of love (I'm not blaming you for it) made possible only by the philosophy of the stoics.  It certainly does not fit with the narrative of scripture.  At the same time God is not, apparently, easily changed.  So perhaps we are once again looking at a mutability which is more along the lines of steel or titanium rather than lead or gold.  Or even has the ability to swing between those two relative abilities based on the will of God.

 

panentheism wrote:

Immutuable means untouched in God's inner being.  This is bad physics and astronomy and psychology.  This is the unmoved mover.

 

Agreed.

 

panentheism wrote:

Here the fun begins again of trying ot construct aproximate images for our sense of God - a God worthy of worship.

 

I guess that is what I am doing on a personal level then.  I'll have to get me one of your dictionaries as you use words in ways that I don't easily track.  "Fun" for example.  

 

I'm sure when I get to someplace more stable it will be fun to go back and review just how I got there.  The getting there itself seems more like work.

 

panentheism wrote:

One solution is God is a projection and thus a form of non or post theism.

 

I`m not sure that solution holds any appeal for me.

 

I think that you have bounced the concept of open theism off me before.  It sounds vaguely familiar.  I`ll have to do more sniffing in that quarter.

 

Thanks for the conversation.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

Sooooooooooooo, if God gets to change ("his mind"), does that equal a lie? Or are we just told "half truths" to get to the real truth? (which we can never achieve because God might change that again)

 

Mutable= changable; inclined to mutate

 

 

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

double post

 

 

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi Waterfall,

 

waterfall wrote:

Sooooooooooooo, if God gets to change ("his mind"), does that equal a lie?

 

I suppose that would depend on how God's mind was changed.

 

If for example God is really steamed and says, "I will wipe you out." and then in the middle of that process sees a lot of pain and suffering and relents has God lied or has God's grace won out?

 

Or suppose God says, "I will always be your God" and in a fit of anger about something we had done which offends or wounds God then says, "I never knew you." is God lying or is God speaking the truth?

 

Changing one's mind is allowed without anyone having to lie.  Unless of course one has said I will never change my mind then changing one's mind is a lie.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

waterfall's picture

waterfall

image

revjohn wrote:

Hi Waterfall,

 

waterfall wrote:

Sooooooooooooo, if God gets to change ("his mind"), does that equal a lie?

 

I suppose that would depend on how God's mind was changed.

 

If for example God is really steamed and says, "I will wipe you out." and then in the middle of that process sees a lot of pain and suffering and relents has God lied or has God's grace won out?

 

Or suppose God says, "I will always be your God" and in a fit of anger about something we had done which offends or wounds God then says, "I never knew you." is God lying or is God speaking the truth?

 

Changing one's mind is allowed without anyone having to lie.  Unless of course one has said I will never change my mind then changing one's mind is a lie.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

But has God really changed his mind?(eg. noah's flood) Doesn't God just delay his "punishment" which allows US to change and this is his mercy?

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

image

waterfall wrote:

Sooooooooooooo, if God gets to change ("his mind"), does that equal a lie? Or are we just told "half truths" to get to the real truth? (which we can never achieve because God might change that again)

 

Mutable= changable; inclined to mutate

 

 

Changing your mind is, as RevJohn suggests, not lying. Just because I was a theistic Christian and I'm now an agnostic UU doesn't mean I was lying before. I means my response to the world changed as I learned more and as the world around me changed. I could lie and say that I'd changed my mind when I hadn't or, as John suggests, lie and say that my mind never changes (I've never met a human yet who hadn't changed his/her mind at some point). But changing my mind is not, in and of itself, lying.

 

Changing your mind is responding to changing conditions. The process/panentheist view is that God is not a static being because Creation is not static. Your statement about telling half truths to get to the whole truth isn't really valid because in a changing, evolving universe, "truth" can change. Since Creation is evolving and changing, God must change to respond to changes in the world. One way he could respond to change is by changing His mind just as we would. He would no more be lying than we would.

 

Of course, that's one viewpoint (albeit one that I find rather appealing on many levels). Other viewpoints might say that God is static and it's our view of/understanding of Him that changes.

 

Mendalla

 

revjohn's picture

revjohn

image

Hi waterfall,

 

waterfall wrote:

But has God really changed his mind?(eg. noah's flood) Doesn't God just delay his "punishment" which allows US to change and this is his mercy?

 

That, I guess, is one of many questions that arises out of our not knowing God completely.

 

By delaying punishment and allowing us to change is God condoning what we have done before or is God saying I really don't want to do this but if you push me far enough there will be no holding back?

 

Being merciful is not a change of mind if mercy is in God's nature.  Being merciful would be a change of mind if God was not merciful in nature.

 

If God has the option to change between mercy or judgment then when does that option get taken away?

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

Back to Religion and Faith topics
cafe