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David Bentley Hart - Is God a Person

Luke Breuer
2018-05-24 15:46 UTC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSHoDqF0xaY

From temi.com, only partially proofed.

Bob 00:00 David, you talk about, um, what you call mono-polytheism, which, others have talked about as a, theistic personalism in, a pejorative manner, a friendly perhaps, but pejorative in criticizing those—particularly some very distinguished philosophers of religion—who claimed that God is a person, and that to understand God as a person, is really to understand the nature of reality and that is not a trivial attribute of God, but a very fundamental one. You fundamentally disagree with that.

Hart 00:39 I don't disagree with that. God is personal. I disagree with this tradition of thinking about what persons are in classical traditions, that say that God is the fullness of all reality and that everything that exists in the world we experience exists more fully and it's more actual in its truer reality, and the essence of God would include personality in that God is in fact, infinitely personal—more personal than we are. If anything, we're fragmented in isolated instances of personal relation which are never complete, at least in this life. My objection is to those who think of God as a large psychological subjectivity who think that God has to be thought of as somebody who goes through changes of temperament or makes choices or experiences pathos in order to be a person. But none of the, none of the theistic traditions deny the personal nature of God, in the most vital sense, which is that God really knows and loves and this related to us.

Hart 01:56 And if you think about it, if you think of personhood as the capacity for relation, well in us then personhood is rather imperfectly expressed merely being psychological subjects. We also withhold from one another. We can't know one another. We cannot fully give ourselves to one another, as we ought—ideally. Ego, psychological empirical ego is quite often the enemy of personal existence, not it's ground. The people who are called theistic personalists by a very distinguished a Christian philosopher Brian Davies, and as you say, I call monopoly-theists, have reduced the idea of personality to psychology, to the empirical ego. And I think that's an inadequate notion, not only of God, but of personhood as such.

Bob 01:56 Is the fundamental distinguishing fact between the two—the nature of time, because

Hart 03:00 you believe that God is outside of time. That is, that is timeless, that God sees in this one moment, everything from all times cannot change. Therefore is that then the fundamental distinguishing aspect between the two kinds of personhood, 'cause you're saying God is a person, but in this enlarged sense of personhood, I have a sense that the nature of time is the critical distinguishing factor. Well, time is one of them. Yes. I mean, if God were a temporal being, who underwent changes and who could actually say at one moment, one thing at one moment, one another, then he would be a psychological subject. It's true. And then he would more closely resemble what some of the philosophers you've mentioned think of as a person. Uh, yeah. So time is very—Again though, if God is temporal, he's a contingent being. He's a conditioned being. He's not God.

Bob 03:59 You're making, you're making that very quick relationship and that's not clear. If God is in time, in some sense, that God does not have to be contingent, God can be ever everlasting, God could be present—

Hart 04:12 but that would not be necessary. I'm sorry. You know again, everlastingness as such would be a kind of factual necessity. Perhaps it would just happen to adhere in the nature of this being. That this being doesn't pass away. But I reject that as an inadequate notion of necessity for the divine. That's what Aristotelian—well Thomistic tradition seem to call "necessity by way of another thing" [which is not really necessity]. What I would call "happenstantial necessity", not "logical necessity" and I do believe that logical necessity is intrinsic to any proper definition of the divine. But that said, put them in time is tie your right. I mean, time is one of the issues. What else? Possibility. The notion that in order of when we react with one another in order to love one another, we have to be passable. That is a. for us, it's as much a passive is an active thing.

Hart 05:13 Quite often, in order to feel sympathy for someone else, you have to feel pain according to the picture of God that I believe is more coherent. God required. Does it require Ethel's? Is Love is the very infinite activity is he does he loves without the need of the negative, without the need for limitation. We participate in that reality in a finite way. And so it's going to be totally, entirely different or very, very different. Uh, and what else? Well, many in the true, many of these more recent theistic philosophers you mentioned, believe that a god must learn things about us, you know, in order to be properly. Personally, I don't see how that follows at all. I don't see why his omniscience somehow compromises his personal nature. So these, a lot of these arguments are simply a rather naive psychologists stick picture of what a person is applied on, a much larger scale to God.

Hart 06:33 And I don't think I, I simply don't think they hold logical water. So you talk about this is absolutely being of God being perfect love. Um, is that a, a deductive, logical necessity that God, that, that level, why is it that, why isn't it just some neutrality? Yeah, no, it couldn't. If you're, if you're, if you can find yourself to ontology, probably so, but there are other dimensions of experience of consciousness, a bliss that is a delight in the good, which are all. I've also, in all these traditions been taken of indication to the nature of the absolute what are the absolute orientations of consciousness? What is it that they crave the most fundamental level? What are, what is the transcendental logic of, of human desire and motivation. And when you reduce these to the ends, that seemed to be common to all acts of will, when you get away from their local motions, so to speak, uh, such as goodness.

Hart 07:33 These tend to be seen as indicative also of the nature of the absolute. Uh, and then of course, all these religions claim revelation to, I mean it, it would be, it would be a lie to say that all of these are simply deductions of reason. Obviously every theistic tradition believes that God generously reveals. That's a whole other category in the actual lived experience of these religions. They're not separable, uh, the, that there's the ascent of reason to God and the descent of grace to nature. Sure. And that makes sense. It's just that, that the very difficult to evaluate on a third person basis if you feel it. I can't argue with that, right? Uh, although even dogmatic traditions will make arguments not just from personal feeling, but also from certain kinds of historical claim, which then has to be verified in some sense. They all contradict. So I don't want to get involved. Many contradict, but many don't. So yeah, but, but you know, this is true. However, again, the definition of God is absolute. Remember, isn't confined just to the realm of ontology. There are, there it is inserted in all of these traditions that there are moral experiences, epistemological experiences which revealed more about the nature of God, but you don't discuss those under the category of ontology.