Author Topic: Disproving pantheism?  (Read 312 times)

Offline Daniel

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Disproving pantheism?
« on: June 10, 2018, 10:11:23 AM »
1.) Does anyone know of a good and thorough proof refuting pantheism, without appealing to revelation? I know that St. Augustine brought up a few good points in his treatise On the City of God, but I am not sure whether he ever gave a complete argument. (I suppose I should go back and re-read those chapters...)

2.) Is there any way of proving that God is a creator and that God interacts with His creation? Obviously the world exists, so we know either that the world was created by God (i.e. the Christian view) or else that the world is God (i.e. pantheism). But both views seemingly lead to contradictions...
 
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Offline Serviam

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2018, 11:11:10 AM »
Look into the Law of Non-Contradiction and how a pantheistic religion is basically amoral since both vice and virtue are a part of "god", both good and evil, truth and falsehood, both benevolence and malice and so on. Then one could argue against pantheism from the basis of natural law. It's what I do anyway.

The presentation above obviously does not go into depth and I'll try and find some documents that further explain my point.

“Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.” - Avicenna.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 11:14:28 AM by Serviam »
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Online Xavier

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2018, 12:29:23 PM »
Oh yes, go with the 3rd and 4th way of St. Thomas. (I) Every being that exists contingently (began to exist, can possibly not exist) was caused by another. (II) it is impossible that every being in existence exists contingently, otherwise the series goes back to infinity (iii) therefore, we arrive at the first cause of the universe, Who must exist non-contingently, i.e. necessarily, without beginning or end. In the fourth way, which you can look up, St. Thomas proves God is Goodness itself and so the direct first cause of every good act, Holiness, Justice, Truth, Love etc in the same way.

 Also, for 2, you can use the method where the Doctor proves that God alone is actus purus - pure act in Whom there is no potentiality - and every creature by contrast has some admixture of potentiality. Here, we have a perfectly clear distinction between every creature no matter how elevated - even the Blessed Virgin Mary - and her transcendental Creator. The Creator is without beginning or end; He is immutably and essentially Good, while creatures have a lot of different qualities, are in perpetual flux and changeable; rational creatures frequently freely choose evil and thus are distinguished from God by that means also; the conscience God gave us and the natural law we discern on it also testifies to a God Who is immutable Goodness and source of the moral law; reason also shows contingent creatures are enabled to be good only by His action, though they are true second causes of all naturally good acts; all this, even in the order of nature. It is clear the Creator and His creation are substantially distinct, from the fact of their different properties and nature, contra pantheism.

Beyond this, revelation beautifully confirms the truths we know from nature and lifts us up to thoughts infinitely more sublime and elevated. It shows God made us for perfect union with Him, by knowing and loving Him above all things. And the end and purpose of our lives is to attain this union of love between His Spirit and ours, which is now made possible to us because God became Man in Our Lord Jesus Christ. This confirms God is perfect Goodness and Holiness and shows we too can attain to a state in heaven where, in union with Him, we too shall be good, holy and perfect as He is perfect, and forevermore.
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, implores those who receive Holy Communion daily, or at least weekly, to offer their lives … Promise 4: "On the day they offer their lives, their loved ones suffering in Purgatory will be released." … TEXT OF THE LIFE OFFERING: "My dear Jesus, before the Holy Trinity, Our Heavenly Mother, and the whole Heavenly Court, united with your most precious Blood and your sacrifice on Calvary, I hereby offer my whole life to the intention of your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Together with my life, I place at your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the suffering of my entire life for the adoration and supplication of the Holy Trinity, for unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and priests, for good priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world. O my Jesus, please accept my life sacrifice and my offerings and give me your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death." Amen.
https://www.avemariamaternostra.com/life-offering-promises.html It is recommended that you make this life offering as soon as you feel ready, and to renew it from time to time. A Morning offering: "O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You the prayers, works, joys and suffering of this day, for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church.  Amen."
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2018, 08:08:55 AM »
Thank you Serviam and Xavier.

Look into the Law of Non-Contradiction and how a pantheistic religion is basically amoral since both vice and virtue are a part of "god", both good and evil, truth and falsehood, both benevolence and malice and so on. Then one could argue against pantheism from the basis of natural law. It's what I do anyway.

The presentation above obviously does not go into depth and I'll try and find some documents that further explain my point.
Yes, I believe this was one of the points that St. Augustine brought up. But I'm wondering whether this argument is solid? The law of non-contradiction says that two mutually-exclusive predicates cannot exist in a single subject at the same time and in the same way. But pantheism posits that the various emanations are in some sense distinct from their source and from each other. So here it seems that we are talking about two mutually-exclusive predicates existing in a single subject at the same time but not in the same way.

Oh yes, go with the 3rd and 4th way of St. Thomas. (I) Every being that exists contingently (began to exist, can possibly not exist) was caused by another. (II) it is impossible that every being in existence exists contingently, otherwise the series goes back to infinity (iii) therefore, we arrive at the first cause of the universe, Who must exist non-contingently, i.e. necessarily, without beginning or end. In the fourth way, which you can look up, St. Thomas proves God is Goodness itself and so the direct first cause of every good act, Holiness, Justice, Truth, Love etc in the same way.

 Also, for 2, you can use the method where the Doctor proves that God alone is actus purus - pure act in Whom there is no potentiality - and every creature by contrast has some admixture of potentiality. Here, we have a perfectly clear distinction between every creature no matter how elevated - even the Blessed Virgin Mary - and her transcendental Creator. The Creator is without beginning or end; He is immutably and essentially Good, while creatures have a lot of different qualities, are in perpetual flux and changeable; rational creatures frequently freely choose evil and thus are distinguished from God by that means also; the conscience God gave us and the natural law we discern on it also testifies to a God Who is immutable Goodness and source of the moral law; reason also shows contingent creatures are enabled to be good only by His action, though they are true second causes of all naturally good acts; all this, even in the order of nature. It is clear the Creator and His creation are substantially distinct, from the fact of their different properties and nature, contra pantheism.
I see. But this only works if we accept the Aristotelian theory of potency and act, correct? Suppose a person rejects that theory and adopts something more along the lines of Parmenides's theory of changelessness. According to Parmenides there are no contingent beings. So it follows that everything is God.
 

Offline james03

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2018, 03:48:10 PM »
Quote
I see. But this only works if we accept the Aristotelian theory of potency and act, correct? Suppose a person rejects that theory and adopts something more along the lines of Parmenides's theory of changelessness. According to Parmenides there are no contingent beings. So it follows that everything is God.

So flip it.  In order to accept pantheism, you have to reject cause and effect.  So the scientific method is wrong.  Also, you'll have a huge problem believing time exists.  If you are willing to accept (reject) all of that, then you can be a pantheist.  You've come up with a good apologetic.

There is actually a savor of pantheism in Thomistic belief in that God is Goodness itself and Existence itself.  The distinction is that creation is separate from God.  But in a way, created things participate in God.  So if you look at the beauty of a flower, that beauty is a participation in Goodness, which is God.  However the flower is not God.  This is my future area to consider, and I think it will be an effective rejection of the heathen beliefs. 
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

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Offline Serviam

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2018, 06:20:14 PM »
So in other words: "Augustine and Aquinas don't quite do it for me, got anything better?" Because thats way above my pay grade.
Wish you all the best with it though and hope you find a refutation that meets your standards.

I don't mean to come off snarky, if it comes off that way. So if you do find a rock solid argument against pantheism then do please share it :)
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Offline Gardener

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2018, 07:04:39 PM »
So in other words: "Augustine and Aquinas don't quite do it for me, got anything better?" Because thats way above my pay grade.
Wish you all the best with it though and hope you find a refutation that meets your standards.

I don't mean to come off snarky, if it comes off that way. So if you do find a rock solid argument against pantheism then do please share it :)

It's about one's intended audience, not whether or not Augustine and Aquinas "don't quite do it for me". At the end of the day, name dropping them isn't going to wow someone who doesn't care about their philosophical and theological weight.

How an argument gets explained in a Catholic context is not necessarily how an argument *should* be explained in a secular context if it is just a philosophical look-see. I'm not saying to water down Catholic doctrine, but to look for ways which make sense to an audience when dealing specifically with their error.
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Offline Serviam

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2018, 07:12:08 PM »
So in other words: "Augustine and Aquinas don't quite do it for me, got anything better?" Because thats way above my pay grade.
Wish you all the best with it though and hope you find a refutation that meets your standards.

I don't mean to come off snarky, if it comes off that way. So if you do find a rock solid argument against pantheism then do please share it :)

It's about one's intended audience, not whether or not Augustine and Aquinas "don't quite do it for me". At the end of the day, name dropping them isn't going to wow someone who doesn't care about their philosophical and theological weight.

How an argument gets explained in a Catholic context is not necessarily how an argument *should* be explained in a secular context if it is just a philosophical look-see. I'm not saying to water down Catholic doctrine, but to look for ways which make sense to an audience when dealing specifically with their error.

I fully agree.

We are still faced with a problem, looking to argue from a common ground but both parties don't agree on principles. Best I could do is "namedrop" figures of authority that we here on this forum at least agree on. But finding an all-inclusive argument that speaks to all audiences is out of my league and if such an argument is found by someone more capable I'd be very interested to be made aware of it. Thats all.

If both Aquinas and Augustine are found wanting I'm perhaps not too optimistic such an argument exists. It's like proving 1+1=2 to someone when the other party doesn't agree on the definition of "1" or "+".

Anyway, carry on.
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Offline Gardener

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2018, 07:52:22 PM »
Could probably be done without relying on the authority of Augustine or Aquinas, and merely establishing what the target audience believes, and then massaging the argument based on what the target audience believes.

In any apologetics we run into the problem of objective objections, as understood in a macro sense (what most apologetics q&a style books are geared towards, a la  Frs. Rumble and Carty), and subjective objections as understood when we try to force-fit those objective objections.

Understanding someone's position prior to argument is pretty key. Otherwise one goes in with a chess move when someone is playing checkers, or vice versa, and they start calling foul. Unfortunately for the post-Vat 2 crowd, they never move beyond the probing dialogue of rhetorical recon and thus never attack.
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Offline Serviam

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2018, 08:36:04 PM »
Very true. Point I'm making is that we should not merely establish what the target audience believes if it means we base our arguments on what they hold to be true when their beliefs and their "true" is based on error, which it is. I don't see how one can refute error with error, or with an argument based on error. So a common ground is needed that both parties believe to be objective truth.

Meeting someone half way or going down to their level of falsehood in order to formulate an argument leads to more falsehood.

Though I am not saying that is what you are advocating. I think we are actually in agreement on how to approach this, but perhaps I am either too jaded or cynical to believe it is at all possible.

Or just too tired.
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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2018, 10:27:03 PM »
Very true. Point I'm making is that we should not merely establish what the target audience believes if it means we base our arguments on what they hold to be true when their beliefs and their "true" is based on error, which it is. I don't see how one can refute error with error, or with an argument based on error. So a common ground is needed that both parties believe to be objective truth.

Meeting someone half way or going down to their level of falsehood in order to formulate an argument leads to more falsehood.

Though I am not saying that is what you are advocating. I think we are actually in agreement on how to approach this, but perhaps I am either too jaded or cynical to believe it is at all possible.

Or just too tired.


TL;DR at bottom

Think of building. One must have a foundation to begin. When we come upon the swampy or uneven ground of a belief system with no real solid foundation, we cannot succeed by immediately trying to frame out the building, or even pouring the foundation. We must first pump out the swamp water or even out the ground. We have to conduct a site survey of the geological area to determine what is and isn't possible. We have to determine what all is needed to sustain a building, or even the project as it's ongoing. That may include things like building a dam to keep the water away if its a flowing source. That may include planting grasses or trees to provide a root system to keep the top soil from washing away in a heavy rain post-building, etc.

Far too often I believe, we see the site-manager trailer of pre-packaged apologetics and don't realize that won't work for what we want. It's a place to come back to, but it's not the actual site and intention per se. It's a building of sorts, we want a building, building sucks and is hard, so let's just be lazy and plop the trailer on the site and call it good. No big surprise when the potential occupant says, "uh... no."

Ultimately, we need to have a person-based focus. Merely tilting at the windmills of ideology is fine for the academic -- we rely on their work to do a lot of the reconnoitering of enemy territory. But it's insufficient once the monkey wrench of people get thrown in the mix. Just because some belief system teaches X doesn't mean the person to whom we speak understands X as X. They might understand X as merely x or X as xy. etc. Unfortunately, the awareness of this requires more than just placing a person in a box and saying, "This is what you believe." We must instead ask, "It is my understanding that your belief system adheres to X, and that means X(description). Do I understand your position correctly?" From there, we might indeed only be able to defend against attacks on certain principles of the faith:
Quote
Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.
(ST1, Q1, Art 8)

The person to whom we speak is the ground (their soul). What use is it to throw seed when we see rocks all over, or thornbushes, or that it's by the side of the road, or swamped? But we have a choice: we can say forget it or we can begin that process of making the site suitable for the building up of truth in that soul. Don't be surprised when you plop down the site-management trailer and the ground scoffs. That defense of principles is part of that process. It might involve the feeling of the thorn's sting when we hack at them while armored. For if we are not fully armored, and using our tools correctly, we might not know to use the shield of faith to push back the tops of those thorns to access the stalks near the roots when we hack at them with "the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God)". If we act unjustly, the rocks we are picking up wil bruise our chests and cause abrasions, due to the lack of the breastplate of justice. If we do not have on the shoes of the Gospel of Peace, we will continually find our path oozing the puddles of stagnant, unliving water between our toes, which the world drinks and yet thirsts, wondering at their sickness. And if we attempt anything without our loins being gird by truth, we shall expose our very sensitive parts to attack. We must wear the helmet of salvation so that the birds of the air cannot drop pebbles on our heads during the work. (Pulling from Ephesians 6 for the armor of God).

Now the swampy ground must be pumped dry. If one is awash in a sin, we must begin by attempting, somehow and somewhere, to show the ground it is better for building if it is dry and not mired in the swamp of the world. We must, in a sense, befriend a person and act ourselves as a dam as much as possible. Where there is aridity, we must plant, through charity, grasses in order to keep the top soil of that soul from washing away in a rain. We simply must till and toil. We should not expect to succeed in a day, nor should we attempt it lest our failure seem as if a failure of building itself.

In other words, we cannot forsake the people for the easy ideological victory. It's a dangerous process, too. We could end up with the error of the modern Jesuits, who dug so much they forgot to build, and ended up making a pit for swamp water. Or worse, dug so far they found themselves in Hell. We could also turn our nose and end up with the error of Calvin: what is, shall be. Que sera sera. Burn in hell, cus if God wanted you to be saved you wouldn't be covered in thorns.

We shouldn't concede anything. Not one jot or tittle. Not one iota. Especially not for the purpose of fitting in with the goal of eventually trying a bait and switch conversion tactic. That, in actuality, was one of the tenets of Americanism (something I wish trads would actually study, instead of using it as a filler word for whatever they don't like since they're a russophile or germanophile, or dislike certain problems with our country). But that doesn't mean we cannot have a respectful interaction and relationship with a person. We should shirk extremes from truth. But that doesn't mean that if someone deems truth extreme, we should shirk it.

We simply cannot be satisfied with single wide trailers on a piece of dirt. It won't work. That's trailer-park Catholicism, eventually. No, we must actually work and build. That takes a while. But it's ultimately what we are here to do. Pre-packaged won't work. All souls must be met where they are, yes. But we shouldn't roll in that mud like modern prelates. We should be respectful, yes. But we shouldn't affirm sin like modern prelates. We should proclaim the truth, yes. But we shouldn't beat the life out of someone with it like some seem to think is proper. Nor should we hide it in order to fit in, or be accepted.

tl;dr: Understanding an ideology from a 10,000 ft view is laziness if it stops there. Eventually we must go down and talk to people. The view will be different. That will require a different approach. Parachutes get us to the ground, but they don't help us once there. And as all parachutists know, when you're about to hit the ground , bend the knees (pray), tuck the chin (humble yourself), cover your face by grabbing the risers (recognize the awesome power of God, this is not your doing), and when you hit, roll (depend on the full Armor of God), cut the cords, unsheath your rifle, and get to work.
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Offline jovan66102

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2018, 02:46:04 AM »
Americanism (something I wish trads would actually study, instead of using it as a filler word for whatever they don't like since they're a russophile or germanophile, or dislike certain problems with our country).

Oh, how totally I agree!
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Offline Greg

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2018, 04:47:30 AM »
My wife doesn't wear pants.

So there's nothing to disprove.
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2018, 07:38:45 AM »
So flip it.  In order to accept pantheism, you have to reject cause and effect.  So the scientific method is wrong.  Also, you'll have a huge problem believing time exists.
Not if you accept four-dimensionalism. The four-dimensionalist takes the world to be a four-dimensional object (time is an axis, existing in exactly the same way that height, width, and depth exist). But since we humans are bound in time, we can only ever observe a single three-dimensional "slice" of the world. (Kind of like Flatland...) So to us it appears that the world is changing and that there are causes and effects, though objectively the world is unchanging and there are no causes or effects.


But there are possible problems concerning time for Christians as well:

- I once came across a Hindu (or maybe a Buddhist) who held that God's immutability is incompatible with the Christian idea of God as a Creator. I can't recall his exact argument (so hopefully I'm not distorting this), but what he was basically saying was: God is currently either not-creating or creating. But God cannot move from not-creating to creating. Therefore, if God is now not-creating, then God was always not-creating, and so He never created the world, though the world exists; yet if God is now creating (as Christians hold), then God was always creating, so the world must be co-eternal with God; and so in either case the world is God.
I am wondering how we answer this sort of objection?

(A similar issue is raised when considering miracles. God cannot move from not-performing-a-miracle to performing-a-miracle. Yet God is evidently not always performing-a-miracle.)

- Then there's Boëthius's issue of human freedom and God's foreknowledge, which (as far as I'm aware) neither he nor St. Thomas ever answered. The problem is this: If God knows today what you will choose tomorrow, then either your future choice was caused by God, or else your future choice is the cause of God's present foreknowledge. The former cannot be the case, since we have free will. But the latter cannot be the case either, since that's absurd (God is absolutely uncaused).
Is anybody aware whether any philosopher or theologian has ever successfully resolved this?
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 07:44:21 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline james03

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Re: Disproving pantheism?
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2018, 02:12:26 PM »
Quote
time is an axis, existing in exactly the same way that height, width, and depth exist
  This is stupid.  Time is the measurement of change within the material world.

Quote
I am wondering how we answer this sort of objection?
The objection is absurd.  Go back to the "objection" and note all of the temporal language.  Remove the temporal language and then try to restate the "objection".

Quote
Is anybody aware whether any philosopher or theologian has ever successfully resolved this?
Yeah, St. Thomas answered this.  I believe in Q24 in de Veritate.  I should tell you to do your own homework, but here's the cliff notes:  Yes, we are the cause of God's "Foreknowledge" as we have Free Will.  However God is the First Cause.  God doesn't have "fore"knowledge as God is already there.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

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