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5/02/2016 6:55 pm  #1


God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Has anyone read this book? If so, would you recommend it?  If not, can you recommend a similar contemporary book that looks at the the best arguments for classical theism?

Here is a link to the Amazon page for the book in question: http://www.amazon.com/God-Necessity-Defense-Classical-Theism/dp/0761821740/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462232651&sr=8-1&keywords=classical+theism

 

5/02/2016 7:37 pm  #2


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

It is actually not entirely obvious that this is an argument for classical theism at all, whatever the title might say.

See the comment thread following this review, where the author shows up to answer a sophomoric atheist. Towards the end, this exchange occurs. Someone inquires:

Hi S. Parrish,

You said, 

"If God has necessary existence, this does not mean that he is the same as necessary existence--he has other properties as well. God is a substance, necessary existence is a property--they cannot be the same."

Your book is a defense of classical theism. Classical theists don't think God has properties. The classical God is a simple God. Moreover, on classical theism, in regards to the divine attributes, God's attributes carry no real distinction from one another. God's power is his goodness, which is his intellect, which is his eternity, and he himself carries no real distinction from any of these attributes.

This is the understanding of God is held by Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and many more. Heck, it's claimed by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and Vatican I (1869-70). This is part of what we come to know as classical theism, i think. But if what i say here is true, then how can we square it with your abovementioned quote? For there you speak of 'properties' which are distinct.

Best Regards,

-M

The author replies:

Michael Jordan. You make an interesting point. What I mean by classical theism is the view of God as a perfect being--omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevloent, etc. It is true that God is also described as simple. Actually, simplicity can mean several different, though related, things. I discuss divine simplicity on pages 37-39 and 73-76.

From what I understand, the traditional view of simplicity is that in God, all the attributes that we give to him, omniscience, omnipotence, etc., are really the same, identical thing. This view of God is defended by Barry Miller in "A Most Unlikely God." I consider this notion to be dubious, though I do defend another definition of simplicity. At any rate, to us, God's knowledge that Cleveland is in Ohio is different than his ability to create aardvarks, even if in God's nature, they are somehow the same thing. 

I think of classical theism as the view that God is a perfect being--the greatest possible being--of which there are several different though closely related concepts. If you do not, then call my view whatever you think best. 

Best Wishes

That just doesn't sound like classical theism at all. "[T]he view that God is a perfect being--the greatest possible being" is the hallmark of contemporary "Anselmianism," as it is sometimes today called. Most Anselmians--that is, most people who take natural theology to be about investigating the property of whatever falls under the concept "greatest possible being"--are theistic personalists.

Of course, one could argue that the instantiation of the concept "greatest possible being" really does entail a robustly classical theist conception of God--like Aquinas's. But it looks overwhelmingly like that is not what Parrish is arguing here, as he rather summarily dismissive of strong conceptions of simplicity. He does defend "another" definition of simplicity, which is consistent with being a true classical theist (since classical theism is not defined by or limited to Aquinas's or Barry Miller's conceptions of simplicity) but is also consistent with being a theistic personalist (since many theistic personalists would defend some sort of divine simplicity, even if they call it something else like "aseity"). That seems to be what is going on here; Parrish seems to be a straightforward theistic personalist who picked up the label "classical theist" somehow, perhaps not realizing that it has a technical sense that rules out his own position.

 

5/02/2016 7:51 pm  #3


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

On the topic of arguments for classical theism:

Ed Feser's forthcoming book Five Proofs of the Existence of God "(among other things) includes a detailed and systematic defense of divine simplicity against Plantinga, Craig, et al." (said here). I'm not sure when the book will actually come out though.

Parrish's reply quoted above mentioned Barry Miller, whose work I commend to you. He published a trilogy From Existence to GodA Most Unlikely God, and The Fullness of BeingExistence defends a cosmological argument. Unlikely defends divine simplicity. Fullness defends Miller's understanding of the predicate "_____ exists". Existence and Unlikely are (tragically) out of print and rather difficult to come by. However, Elmar Kremer has condensed all of Miller's theology into a single work, Analysis of Existing, which, I think, stands up well enough on its own. The problem with it is that it is enormously expensive, but if you have access to an academic library, you may be in the clear.

Though perhaps not what you're looking for, I have heard good things about Eleonore Stump's recently releated The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers.

I claimed that Anselmianism is generally theistic personalism; for confirmation, I suspect you can look to Anselmian Explorations, edited by Thomas V. Morris. A critique of that approach (which I also have not read) is Katherin A. Roger's Perfect Being Theology. (That is what theistic personalists often call the "Anselmian" approach to natural theology--perfect being theology. The notion of God as a perfect being is the sort of husk that has been extracted from the traditional conception--hence, Plantinga's ontological argument.)

 

5/02/2016 7:57 pm  #4


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Greg,

Thank you for bringing that to my attention.   That is disappointing.  

Can you or anyone recommend a better book?  I am not at all adverse to reading original sources (in fact, most often I find this preferable to contemporary summaries), but I am looking for a good sustained defense of classical theism by someone conversant with contemporary philosophy of religion and science.  It seems every defense of God debate/book/popular article is about Theistic personalism.

Any recommendations?

____________________

Edit: I posted this before I saw the above reply.  Any other thoughts/recommendations are welcome though!

Last edited by Brian (5/02/2016 7:57 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

5/02/2016 7:57 pm  #5


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Greg wrote:

Of course, one could argue that the instantiation of the concept "greatest possible being" really does entail a robustly classical theist conception of God--like Aquinas's.

I'd also note that, if one frames the Anselmian project in this way (as Anselmians do), the classical theist will immediately want to qualify it, shrinking from the idea of God "falling under" or "instantiating" concepts, as though he were distinct from his essence or his existence. That's why Barry Miller devotes an entire book to defending his own view of the predicate "_____ exists". He has to argue that singular existential propositions do not merely assert (as the post-Kantian tradition says they do) that something falls under a concept.

 

5/02/2016 8:06 pm  #6


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Greg,

Thanks.  Barry Miller looks extremely fascinating.

     Thread Starter
 

5/02/2016 8:20 pm  #7


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Hi Brian,
Dr. James Dolezal's "God without parts" talks about Classical theism a la Aquinas, Scholastic, but no science. However, Michael Dodds' "Unlocking Divine Action" also talks about Classical theism a la Aquinas along with contemporary science.
 

 

5/03/2016 7:09 am  #8


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

 I too have been looking at that book for a time. There's a couple of good posts about it over at J.W. Wartick's blog here. He - Parrish - is also the author of an interesting contempoary defense of Mind/Body Dualism.

Greg is correct in his claim about Parrish understanding of Classical Theism being broader than ours (although importantly it need not rule out the traditionall understanding): all Parrish appears to mean by that statement is that God is a metaphysicaly necessery being - this makes a lot of sense when one takes into account the fact that he was involved in a number of polmics against Mormon theologians, Richard Swinburne and others of that ilk who consider God to be a contingent being.

Greg wrote:

I claimed that Anselmianism is generally theistic personalism; for confirmation, I suspect you can look to Anselmian Explorations, edited by Thomas V. Morris. A critique of that approach (which I also have not read) is Katherin A. Roger's Perfect Being Theology. (That is what theistic personalists often call the "Anselmian" approach to natural theology--perfect being theology. The notion of God as a perfect being is the sort of husk that has been extracted from the traditional conception--hence, Plantinga's ontological argument.)

Yes, although I don't think that identification has as much to do with the Anselmian approach itself as much as it does Morris also being the author of an extremely influential polemic against Simplicity. I suspect something of that criticism is in the back of Parrish's mind when he God talks about God's capacity to create aardvarks being different from Divine Knowledge of Ohio (Morris animadversion being that if God is identical to his properties then properties like 'creating Socrates' becomes a matter of necessity).

The Protestant aversion to Divine Simplicity must come from Plantinga's Does God Have a Nature surely?

Last edited by DanielCC (5/03/2016 7:17 am)

 

5/03/2016 7:22 am  #9


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

Brian wrote:

Greg,

Thank you for bringing that to my attention.   That is disappointing.  

Can you or anyone recommend a better book?  I am not at all adverse to reading original sources (in fact, most often I find this preferable to contemporary summaries), but I am looking for a good sustained defense of classical theism by someone conversant with contemporary philosophy of religion and science.  It seems every defense of God debate/book/popular article is about Theistic personalism.

Any recommendations?

____________________

Edit: I posted this before I saw the above reply.  Any other thoughts/recommendations are welcome though!

Well I wouldn't advice against reading the Parrish - it contains sturdy defences of the PSR Cosmological Argument and the Modal Ontological Argument. Not specifically directed at you but to many people who are intuitively attracted to Classical Theism develop an a priori resistance against reading works by contemporary philosophers of religion, most of whom are theistic personalists, even though said works contain much of value they won’t' find elsewhere.

For other suggestions I would second Brony's recommendation of James Dolezal's work. If you want a book focusing on the Divine Attributes as understood by (some) Classical Theists verses general objections you might try Hugh McCann's Creation and the Sovereignty of God.

 If you have access to journal archives then I would urge you to check out as many of Brian Leftow's articles as you can. He no longer endorses such a strong form of Divine Simplicity (his modal theory requires divine mental events) but has written in defence of it in the past along with divers theistic arguments such as forms of the OA and the PSR Cosmological Argument.

Last edited by DanielCC (5/03/2016 7:32 am)

 

5/03/2016 8:40 am  #10


Re: God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish

DanielCC wrote:

Yes, although I don't think that identification has as much to do with the Anselmian approach itself as much as it does Morris also being the author of an extremely influential polemic against Simplicity. I suspect something of that criticism is in the back of Parrish's mind when he God talks about God's capacity to create aardvarks being different from Divine Knowledge of Ohio (Morris animadversion being that if God is identical to his properties then properties like 'creating Socrates' becomes a matter of necessity).

I think a broadly Anselmian approach could yield classical theism, but I think most people who talk about "Anselmianism" or "perfect being theology" today are theistic personalists (regardless of what our friend Anselm would have had to say about it). An example. I suspect it mainly has to do with Morris and Plantinga.

DanielCC wrote:

The Protestant aversion to Divine Simplicity must come from Plantinga's Does God Have a Nature surely?

Well, maybe. I suspect it also comes from an aversion to metaphysics. Perhaps also from Protestantism's general diffusiveness and the upward influence of moralistic therapeutic deism. (Sorry--that is perhaps unnecessarily cynical.)

 

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