Still Talking About Logic
Seriously? I almost feel bad for what I’m about to do here. So on the one hand you’re speaking about a God that is unchanging and has no likeness (Jeremiah 10:6, Isaiah 46:9). Then later you talk about the divine nature, which is infinite and unchanging, adopting the nature of humanity, and thus the divine nature having at some point an end to its old nature without humanity and therefore can’t really be called infinite and unchanging anymore. Then you assert that in taking up the nature of humanity, it included everything that comes with it including being finite, all the while having the divine nature maintaining its infinity. — Mr. Mohamed Ghilan
I take it he’s not a fan.
The above is an extract from the discussion that is happening here. I have just given my wonderful Triangle-Box analogy and to this Mr. Ghilan has claimed that God would still be undergoing change; ergo Christians have just violated the law of non-contradiction (in reference to the Hypostatic Union). We should note that at this moment, the individual has not in fact given any argument for how this is the case nor has he clarified what manner of change he is referring to: whether intrinsic or extrinsic (i.e. a Cambridge change). Within the following we will assume that he is against both forms of change.
That said, at this point it would prove wise to actually set out some definitions for if such isn’t done then, as Mr. Ghilan has kindly pointed out earlier, “we risk talking past one another.” With that in mind, we must first define what we mean by change.
Change can concisely be defined as the process of becoming different. Now there are actually two types of change and what the aforementioned definition primarily has in view is intrinsic change. Intrinsic Change is a change in being (that is to say essence/nature etc.)—a definitive change in one’s ontology. This is the type we most often think about when we speaking of a thing undergoing change. The second form of change is an extrinsic change (i.e. Cambridge change) and this form of change deals with change that is actualized outside of a person, place or thing. Here is an example of what is meant by a cambridge change (compliments of wikipedia):
Suppose that at t1, person A is 180cm tall and person B is 175cm tall, while at time t2 A is still 180cm tall but B has grown to be 185cm tall. Since the predicate `is taller than B’ is true of A at t1 but not true of A at t2, A has changed according to the Cambridge change definition of “change”—he has gone from being taller than B to not being taller than B.
Intuitively, however, it is only person B, and not person A, who has changed: B has grown by 10cm, but A has stayed the same. This problem with Cambridge changes is usually thought to call for a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic, or natural and non-natural, properties. Given such a distinction, it is possible to define “real” change by requiring that the predicate involved express an intrinsic property, like being 175cm tall, rather than an extrinsic property, like being taller than B.
Now the above certainly does do a better job in defining extrinsic change than my—in retrospect—pathetic attempt. Now why is all of this at all important? Well because the Abrahamic religions hold it as an article of faith that God is incapable of change and yet of these, Christianity quite famously holds that this very same unchanging God did in fact assume a human nature some two thousand years ago. Is this a violation of logic? The Christian says no.
Defining the Immutability of God:
When it is said that God cannot change, we simply mean to say that God cannot fail to possess his great-making attributes; that is, that his nature cannot be altered. These qualities are inherent in his nature and as such, God as he is in himself (i.e. intrinsically), cannot undergo any alteration. Now I have placed the phrase, “as he is in himself” in italics partly because this will go a long way in explaining the Christian understanding and also because this is completely true, and far more precise than the vague phrase, “God does not change.” Once again, if God cannot lose his divine attributes, and if these attributes are inherent in the nature of God, then it follows that God cannot experience any change within the divine essence (for by listing God’s various attributes what we really are enumerating is what God truly is/possesses). As such, the phrase “as he is in himself” should be understood as “the divine essence”. I trust that so far, nothing I have said is contentious and if this is the case, then so far, we can list the following as that which has been agreed upon:
1. God does not change.
2. In the above point, what we mean by ‘God’, is “the divine nature” and what we mean by ‘change’, is “fail to possess the attributes inherent in the divine nature.”*
* If it should happen that one finds qualms with the above wording, particularly the part about the word ‘God’ really referring to the divine nature/the divine attributes, then I would remind them to think about what is meant by the word ‘change.’
I certainly do understand that I am repeating myself yet such is the case when one seeks to make a logical argument. They must make certain that all the premises are explained to the best of one’s ability and God knows, I would not have needed to write this post if I had not rushed through my first response. Luckily for us, we have in fact accomplished much and in breaking down what is really meant by the teaching of the immutability of God, we have gone a long way in demonstrating how the Muslim fails to grasp the intricacies of logic when it comes to decrying the Hypostatic Union as contrary to logic.
Of the Hypostatic Union:
The Hypostatic Union posits that the Son took on a human nature aside from his divine nature–such that there now resided two conflicting natures within the person that is Christ Jesus. As can be seen from Mr. Mohamed Ghilan’s comment, he claims that such would introduce change (though he doesn’t explicitly mention what type of change he has in view) within the being of God. Assuming that what he has in mind is inherent change within the divine nature, then our first objection would be that such a claim is blatantly false. By definition, to take on a second nature does not imply changing the first nature at all. This can be readily seen from my, much-maligned, analogy of the Triangle-Box:
Keeping in line with my wish for simplicity, let us imagine a triangle. Now we all know the nature of a triangle i.e. it’s attributes, the things that make a triangle a triangle as opposed to a rectangle or circle. Good. Now let us at this point imagine a box. Once more we know what is the nature of a box and furthermore, we are also aware that the nature of a box is in direct contradiction to the nature of a triangle. Now suppose that we were to place the triangle within the box, would we then have a confusion, a mixing, an intermingling of the two essences/natures? No, we would possess one unit (the Triangle-Box if you would like) with the essences of both objects intact.
The triangle would not cease to be a triangle and neither would the box cease to be a box—on the contrary we would now have a unit that possesses in its being the very attributes of both in that it is not half a box and half a triangle but rather a full (perfect) triangle and a full (perfect) box. A veritable Triangle-Box, wherein the unit is one but the essences are two.
In just the same manner does the Christian speak of God becoming man. God did not cease being God, he did not convert the divine essence into a human essence; instead he took on a second nature aside from his divine nature. As such in the unit that is the individual, Christ Jesus, there are two natures with contradicting attributes simultaneously present. As with the Triangle-Box, Jesus can claim the otherwise mutually exclusive prerogatives that come with each nature because of them being simultaneously existent in his being. Such that he can increase in knowledge as man, but always have known all things as God. Such that he can pray to the Father as man, yet have no need to do so as God. Such that should he will it, he is able to give his life unto death as man, and yet death never having any power or hold over him as God.
He does everything as the God-Man—mystery upon mystery. In short, He is both three-sided and four-sided at the same time.
Now logic dictates that to take on a second nature need not mean intrinsically changing the first. Furthermore, logic also stipulates that contradictory qualities can in fact be true of a single object (as has been shown in my previous post, and to which Mr. Ghilan subsequently agreed) as long as the referent is not the same thing. At this time, I am reminded of a wonderful thing that Mr. Ghilan had said:
Here is the problem with your example of the divided paper: you wouldn’t say that it’s black and not black at the same time when you’re referring to the paper as a whole. Instead, you would say it’s a black AND WHITE paper.
Nevermind the fact that he has misunderstood both myself and logic in the above (for even when speaking of the paper as a whole, one can never get away from speaking of its parts. As such, to call something ‘black and white’ would mean that this thing is black and not black at the same time for we know that ‘white’—among other things—means ‘not black’. ) the important thing we have here is that we find ourselves with a tacit admission that a single unit (in this case the sheet of paper) can possess in it’s being, two contradictory natures (that is, whiteness and blackness) simultaneously. We also see the above truth in my Triangle-Box example. We have a single unit (the triangle-box) which perfectly and fully possesses the contradictory natures of a triangle and a box within its being. These are indeed basic principles of logic.
I seem to have overlooked something and so before it is claimed that I have wilfully ignored his point, let us deal with it now:
So let me get this straight, having two things, whole in nature, but inside each other without a mixing/intermingling of the two essences/natures is what God is. How is your box/triangle example any different from the example of a lady who is 8-months pregnant? There is a whole being inside of her that is part of her that aside from genetic resemblance is not taking all her qualities on. They’re 2 in 1. You’re still finding yourself forced to make silly analogies to explain an illogical and incoherent theology. Moreover, you’re violating your assertion from your Bible that there is no one like God. — Mr. Mohamed Ghilan
I must confess that I’m having troubling seeing his point in the above. Is Mr. Ghilan asserting that there are two human natures within the woman? If so then this only goes to show that this individual is dealing with things he does not understand. No matter how many children a pregnant woman has within her, all these participate within the single human nature—i.e. humanity. Currently there exist some 7 billion people on the planet and yet what we have are not 7 billion human natures, but rather 7 billion participants within the single human nature.
Mr. Ghilan’s problem is that he doesn’t seem to know the difference between a person and a nature/essence. A person is, “who one is”, and a nature is “what one is.” As such, unlike with my Triangle-Box example (or the Hypostatic Union for that matter), we do not find ourselves with a case of two different essences/natures subsisting within one unit/being, but merely one nature (which incidentally is shared by both the mother and her child). Yet what exactly does the matter of the pregnant woman have to do with my point? From what I can make of the nonsense above, the author mistakenly thinks that I’m trying to say that nothing is vaguely resembling to God (as such he brings up the matter of the pregnant woman as some sort of, in hindsight, unsuccessful rebuttal) and this is not the case (as I he certainly knows for I had explicitly said as much in my earlier response to him). I trust that this was a simple mistake on his part instead of willful deception.
Regarding your analogy, it is in fact ridiculous. You’re putting an entity within another then claiming they are one because they’re inside each other. I fail to see how that logically follows. — Ibid.
Again I must sincerely ask the Muslim to stop embarrassing himself. To begin with, an entity is a being and as such the word cannot be used to speak of natures but let us ignore this and assume that this is merely an oversight on the part of Mr. Ghilan. Furthermore, I am not in fact claiming that the two natures become one. I would sincerely like to ask where at all this individual gets such an idea from. Can he quote me to such an effect? What about the fact that I quite explicitly state that we really do have two natures and not one? Recall: “Now suppose that we were to place the triangle within the box, would we then have a confusion, a mixing, an intermingling of the two essences/natures? No, we would possess one unit (the Triangle-Box if you would like) with the essences of both objects intact. […] As such in the unit that is the individual, Christ Jesus, there are two natures with contradicting attributes simultaneously present. As with the Triangle-Box, Jesus can claim the otherwise mutually exclusive prerogatives that come with each nature because of them being simultaneously existent in his being.” And I could go on but suffice to say that my replies to Mr. Ghilan have been replete with explicit statements to the effect that the two natures do not suddenly become one nature. This is not only logically sound but it also steers clear of implying the Monophysite heresy. I certainly don’t know how I could have made myself any clearer and yet the odd thing here is that earlier in his reply, Mr. Ghilan admits himself to be quite aware of the fact that we are always dealing with two natures and not one:
“So let me get this straight, having two things, whole in nature, but inside each other without a mixing/intermingling of the two essences/natures is what God is. How is your box/triangle example any different from the example of a lady who is 8-months pregnant? There is a whole being inside of her that is part of her that aside from genetic resemblance is not taking all her qualities on.”
In the above the author quite clearly speaks of two distinct natures! How then does he seemingly forget all about this later on? I certainly am not omniscient but at present must understand his claim as simple deception to save face before his readership.
If Jesus Christ was just a representation of a human quality that God took upon Himself, then it’s more appropriate to say that the box took to itself a new color. Moreover, your analogy does represent an inherent change in the divine essence in that you can no longer speak of an empty box, but a box-triangle if you would like to refer to it as a single unit, or just speak of it as two separate units; a box AND a triangle. — Mr. Ghilan
Notice how once again the individual displays his misunderstanding of the analogy. If one were to read the Triangle-Box example carefully, it would readily become apparent that the divine nature in this example is the triangle and not the box! We start with a triangle and then add a box to it just as the divine second person of the Trinity assumed a human nature later on at some point in time. The issue really is quite clear. If then the divine nature really is referring to the triangle, then the above objection doesn’t hold up. Also, Mr. Ghilan now wants to present us with a cambridge change, and imply that such is an inherent change. An inherent change within the divine nature would imply that it has lost some of its attributes and we are still waiting for proof that such is the case. What the author has in view in the above, is merely a change of title. In becoming man, the divine son gained the title of theanthropos—the God-man just as in becoming one unit the triangle gained the title of Triangle-box. This is strictly a change in one’s title (i.e. assuming a new relationship) and is not representative of an inherent change. If such weren’t true, then the title that God assumed in creating the world (that being the titles of creator and sustainer) would also imply an inherent change in God’s nature (for he did not possess the title of creator before creating the world just as one does not possess the title of husband until one is married) yet Muslims don’t claim this. Please, let us give rest to self-serving arguments.
Moreover, if we were to apply the proposition of the Trinity onto your analogy, both the box and triangle must share the all too important quality of divinity, otherwise it would be crazy for you to be worshipping Jesus Christ. — Ibid.
At this point we are introduced to, perhaps, the most inane statement so far. The simple answer is no, the human nature does not need to become divine so that one can worship Jesus Christ. God is worshipped for his divine nature: for being our creator, our sustainer, for being perfect as he is in himself, for loving us and taking care of us, for saving us from sin etc. all these are still true of the Son even as he is now the God-man. Christ is worshipped for his divine nature and not for his humanity, simple as that.
So either we speak of the box AND triangle being both equally divine, which is preposterous because that would mean we have two Gods, or we speak of a box-triangle that is wholly divine, which means that neither an empty box nor a lone triangle can be divine on their own. Basically, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. — Ibid.
It would seem that the author is having a hard time understanding the logic and so let us try to make things as simple as possible for him. I will reproduce the author’s words here while replacing the word ‘divine’ with ‘three-sided’ and the word ‘God’ with ‘triangle’. In so doing, we will once again see how much trouble the general Muslim position has with logic: “So either we speak of the box AND triangle being both equally [three-sided], which is preposterous because that would mean we have two [triangles], or we speak of a box-triangle that is wholly [three-sided], which means that neither an empty box nor a lone triangle can be [three-sided] on their own. Basically, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
At times I find myself simply astounded by the level of ignorance that Mr. Ghilan displays. Look how vacuous and ridiculous his objection becomes when we keep things simple and remove ourselves from loaded words such as divine nature, human nature etc. The reality is that when speaking of the unit that is the Triangle-Box (or the God-man), we can in fact say that this unit is three-sided (or divine). When we speak of an individual nature within this unit, we can only say that the triangle (the divine nature) is three-sided (divine). It is however in virtue of the unit, the Triangle-Box (the God-man), possessing three-sidedness (divinity) as an attribute, that we can at all speak of it having three sides (having divinity; being God). In short, we speak of the Triangle-box (the God-man) being three-sided or four-sided (divine or human) in reference to a specific nature. Hey, doesn’t this sound a lot like the very thing Mr. Ghilan admitted to be true of a sheet of paper in the following:
Here is the problem with your example of the divided paper: you wouldn’t say that it’s black and not black at the same time when you’re referring to the paper as a whole. Instead, you would say it’s a black AND WHITE paper, which is different than saying it’s black and not black. The former would add a second property to the paper, while the latter negates the very quality it affirms. If you’re going to speak about each side, you would have to indicate whether the side is black OR white.
Here again is proof for my claim that the Muslim ought to be learning logic at the knee of the Christian. For when we pick apart their arguments we find that they were but smoke and mirrors. Truly, Mr. Ghilan never ceases to amaze me.
So where then does this leave our would-be authority on logic? Well although Mr. Ghilan certainly couldn’t claim—well let me rephrase that: although Mr. Ghilan certainly couldn’t prove through reason that an inherent change within the divine nature must have occurred (such that God had lost any of his perfections) he could still in fact claim that even extrinsic change is denied of God.
Such a statement would only furthermore accentuate the desperate situation that the Muslim now finds himself in seeing as extrinsic change, for one thing, has to do with a change in relation between two things. Just as the Hypostatic Union is merely a cambridge change where all that changes is the relation between the divine nature and the human nature (these natures now being united—not diluted nor mixed together to form a hybrid—within the unit/person that is Jesus Christ) so is God’s relation as Creator and Sustainer of the world an example of an extrinsic change. Yes, post creation God did come into a new relationship that he did not previously possess (that of being the sustainer of the world) for creation did not yet exist and as such there was nothing to sustain. This however does not mean that any inherent change has taken place within the divine nature but rather merely an extrinsic change.
Now, the Christian is not asking the Muslim to believe that God really did assume a human nature (though this certainly would be for the best, especially if one cares at all for their eternal soul), we are merely pleading with them to cease making flagrantly erroneous claims about the Hypostatic Union being illogical. Such claims are a clear abuse of logic and, quite frankly, embarrassing.
For the Muslim: a Puzzle
Now we understand that according to Islam, it is impossible for God to enter his creation because how could the infinite become finite so as to enter his creation, because if he were to take on the properties of his creation, he would cease to be God, et cetera, et cetera (might one say, yada, yada, yada?). If such is the case, could Muslims explain this (please read the section in red)?
It clearly says that Allah will take on a shape. Now a shape consists of something which is constrained by certain dimensions; these being length, width, height and so forth. Furthermore, we understand that length, width, height refer to area/space and such did not always exist. They are a creation of Allah. If then Allah can take on a shape (i.e. limit himself to certain dimensions) and as such exhibit the properties of what he has created (i.e. area/space) then has he changed the divine nature? Clearly Allah has just changed from how he existed before having created anything, to taking on the very properties of his creation and if any change in God must mean an inherent change in the divine nature then this must mean that Allah too is guilty of losing his divine attributes. Now of course Muslims will not like this but how will they explain away those clear statements by their Prophet?
If the divine nature does not in fact change, then Allah must actually momentarily take on some other nature/properties (in this particular case: dimension—which is actually an aspect of his creation: space) while still possessing the divine nature. Hmm, now what does this sound like? Muslims, could you please give us Christians a logical explanation for this apparent contradiction?
Of course Muslims won’t be able to come up with a response—other than perhaps, waxing poetic about the esoteric nature of hadiths and how these can often be unclear, or how you need to be able to read Arabic to understand what is really being said, or something equally as ridiculous—seeing as it is either the case that Allah does not change at all (and as such Muhammad is a liar), or he can assume a certain shape (and as such exhibit properties of his creation) without this impinging on his divine qualities.
Divine nature. Box-triangle analogies. Contradictions being accepted as logical. Mental gymnastics that deserve an Olympics gold medal. […] I’ll leave it to the readers to determine who “refuted” who. I’m convinced that I’ve deconstructed your so-called arguments and shown them to be weak enough to be discarded. — Mr. Mohamed Ghilan
Essentially, such is the response to the argument I have maintained above (I certainly encourage the reader to read his full comment). Having realized that he can no longer maintain an argument for the illogical nature of the Hypostatic Union, he now claims that the analogy I have used throughout this post is mere mental gymnastics. Note, dear reader, once again that there is no proof as to why (and if such an analogy was indeed mental gymnastic why then was he seemingly fine with trying to refute it before I set out to systematically dismantle his claims one by one through this post?).
Furthermore, what such an analogy has to do with are principles of logic—such hold true irrespective of what is being discussed as long as the factors are properly defined. We are not in fact saying that God is a box or a triangle but rather that the same principles of identity and non-contradiction (and I suppose also the principle of excluded middle) that operate in the Triangle-box analogy also hold true for the being of God. Any student of logic would know as much and yet Mr. Ghilan pretends otherwise. Make no mistake about this, dear reader: in deriding my analogy, Mr. Ghilan is attempting to draw one away from the crucial principles of thought which are presented therein for he understands that he has been completely refuted. Alas, when one can’t defend their point, I suppose that ridicule is the next best course to undertake.
Finally, the individual makes the claim that he has deconstructed my argument and shown it to be faulty. There’s not much I can say to that except that those who have bothered to read this post certainly know otherwise.