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What Does Creation from Nothing Really Mean?

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April 17, 2014 Tags: Creation & Origins, Divine Action & Purpose, Earth, Universe & Time
What Does Creation from Nothing Really Mean?

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

God, the great mathematician, wields his compass to impose order on the chaotic and unformed matter from which he made the world. Although Christians have often adopted this aspect of Plato’s thought, the only biblical text depicting God explicitly in this manner is in the Apocrypha: “thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:21). Nevertheless, this might be the single most frequently quoted biblical text on the part of scientists since Christians began doing science in the Middle Ages. Bible moralisée de Tolède (ca. 1252-70), Primate Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo, Spain.

The last selection ended rather abruptly, with Ted Peters identifying the “challenge” to the Christian teaching of creation from nothing that “came from two competitors to the Christian view in the early centuries of the church: dualism and pantheism.” Today’s selection examines those two challengers, starting with Plato’s dualism of God and nature, as seen in his great dialogue, Timaeus, in which a slave named Timaeus tells a creation story. Plato’s god is called δημιουργός, or “Demiurge,” the same Greek word used in Hebrews 11:10 (“For he [Abraham] looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God”). The Demiurge orders pre-existent, chaotic, uncreated matter using pre-existing, uncreated ideas, including certain geometrical forms. Because matter is recalcitrant (it resists his efforts), he is not wholly successful. As a result, the world is not completely intelligible, for it merely “participates” in form. This has significant consequences for Plato’s view of scientific knowledge, implying that genuine “knowledge” of physical nature is ultimately impossible, but I’ll pass over that for now. Suffice it to say that the conception of God and nature in Genesis differs fundamentally.

The Platonic Solids
In Plato’s Timaeus, the Demiurge creates three-dimensional atoms for each of the four chemical elements (earth, air, fire, and water). He uses two kinds of triangles—one equilateral and the other isosceles (combined in pairs to form squares)—to assemble the faces of four of the five regular polyhedra that are consequently known as the “Platonic solids.” The fifth solid, the dodecahedron with its twelve pentagonal faces, becomes the body of the heavens, with each face carrying one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

In spite of this, Timaeus is the single most important work in all of Greek philosophy, if we consider the magnitude of its influence on Christian thought down to the Renaissance. Prior to the High Middle Ages, it was the only work of Plato for which a large portion existed in Latin translation. Thus, whenever Augustine mentions Plato, he’s talking about Timaeus. Nearly all the works of Aristotle and Galen were likewise unavailable to scholars in the Latin West. Christian scholars regarded Timaeus as a Greek Genesis, ultimately inspired by the influence of Moses, from whom (it was widely believed) the Egyptians and the Greeks had obtained much of their knowledge in the first place.

About halfway through this selection, Peters explains the distinction between generation and creation, analogous to the distinction between reproducing and making. The Nicene Creed gets at the same thing, when it refers to Jesus as “begotten, not made.” Christians believe that a personal, immaterial God lies behind the impersonal, material world. Unlike the whole of creation, however, Jesus is “of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made,” to borrow again from the Creed.

Now, let’s hear what Peters has to say:

God and the Demiurge

The heart of dualism is the belief that God or the gods create the cosmos by ordering pre-existing matter—the word “cosmos” means order. For Plato, it was the demiurge which fashioned the stuff of the world into an ordered habitat. This is dualistic because it posits two or more equally fundamental or eternal principles, the world stuff as well as the divine being.

The heart of pantheism (or monism) is that everything is fundamentally identical with the divine. But, by identifying God and the world, pantheism collapses all the plurality and multiplicity of the cosmos into a singular unity, and this singularity finally denies the independent reality of the world and its history.

In apologetic reaction to dualism and pantheism the early Christian thinkers proffered the concept of creatio ex nihilo. Against the dualists, the apologists held that God is the sole source of all finite existence, of matter as well as form. There is no pre-existing matter [that is] co-eternal with and separate from the divine. If the God of salvation is truly the Lord of all, then he must also be the source of all. Theophilus of Antioch in the middle of the second century, for example, praised Plato for acknowledging that God is uncreated. But then he criticized Plato for averring that matter is coeval with God, because that would make matter equal to God. “But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases.” [Theophilus, Autolycus, book 2, chap. 4.]

William Blake, Elohim Creating Adam (1795/c.1805), Tate Gallery, London

Against the pantheists, in parallel fashion, the Christians held that the world is not divine. It is a creation, brought into existence by God but something separate from and over against God. The world is not equa-eternal with God, because it has an absolute beginning and is distinct from God. Irenaeus put it this way: “But the things established are distinct from Him who has established them, and what have been made [are distinct] from Him who has made them. For He is Himself uncreated, both without beginning and end, and lacking nothing. He is Himself sufficient for this very thing, existence; but the things which have been made by Him have received a beginning … He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord; but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume the appellation which belongs to the Creator.” [Against Heresies, book 3, chapter 10.]

This led the apologists to distinguish between generation and creation. “Generation,” coming from the root meaning to give birth, suggests that the begetter produces out of its essence an offspring which shares that same essence. But, in contrast, terms such as “creating” or “making” mean that the creator produces something which is other, i.e., a creature of dissimilar nature. The patristic apologists applied the term “generation” to the perichoresis within the divine life of the Trinity but not to creative activity without. Hence, John of Damascus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_Damascus) could state emphatically that the creation is not derived from the essence of God, but it is rather brought into existence out of nothing. [Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, book 1, chapter 8.]

The upshot of all this is that, for the Christian, creator and created are not the same thing. And, more importantly, what is created is fully dependent upon its creator. The cosmos is not ontologically independent. One way to make this point is to draw a contrast between eternity and time: God is eternal, whereas the cosmos is temporal. The world, which is not God, has not existed for all eternity alongside of God. Thus, says Theophilus and Irenaeus, there needs to be an initial point of origin, a point at which something first appears, i.e., an absolute beginning. Following in this train, Augustine can write doxologically: “in the Beginning, which is of you, in your Wisdom, which is born of your substance, you created something, and that something out of nothing. You made heaven and earth, not out of yourself, for then they would have been equal to your only begotten, and through this equal also to you.... There is nothing beyond you from which you might make them, O God, one Trinity and triunal Unity. Therefore, you created heaven and earth out of nothing…” [Confessions, book 12, chapter 7.]

Thus, the creation is just that, a creation, which had a definite “sunrise” and could, if God were so to will, also have a final “sunset.” For Augustine, the creation of all things from nothing includes the phenomenon of time. Time is not eternal. Time comes into existence when material in motion comes into existence. Neither time nor space are containers into which we dump the course of events; rather, they themselves belong to the finitude of the created order. Time starts when space starts. The result is that creatio ex nihilo—looked at from inside the creation, our only perspective!—has come to refer to a singular beginning of time and space, as well as to the matter and form out of which all the things of the world are made.

Horace Pippin, The Holy Mountain, III (1945), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. A veteran of World War One, the great African-American painter Horace Pippin often looked to the Bible for an alternative to the grim battlefields of France, especially to the haunting vision of the peaceable kingdom found in the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. Here, in the third version of his painting of that scene, we find “a God who redeems, who creates a free people out of slavery and who raises the dead to life,” as Ted Peters puts it, the omnipotent God who made the universe out of nothing, and who will remake it again someday. Note the cluster of crosses in the woods behind the shepherd’s crook—a faint but visible reminder of the world that has been transformed into the peaceable kingdom.

In saying this it is essential to look back and note the path we have taken: we began with the experience of a God who redeems, who creates a free people out of slavery and who raises the dead to life. On the basis of these intracosmic events, we have drawn inferences regarding God’s relation to the cosmos as a whole. The motive of the Christian theologian is not in the first instance to produce a general theory of the origin of the universe. Rather, when the question of the origin of the universe is raised the answer offered must be consistent with what we know to have been revealed by God in the event of raising Jesus from the dead on Easter. We need to keep in mind just what stake the theologian has in the discussion of cosmology.

Looking Ahead

At this point, you’re probably breathless, and perhaps you’re wondering what all this has to do with cosmology. Hang in there. Cosmology’s coming.

References and Credits

Excerpts from Ted Peters, “On Creating the Cosmos,” in Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding (1988), ed. Robert John Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne, S.J., copyright Vatican Observatory Foundation, are reproduced by kind permission of Ted Peters and Vatican Observatory Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts involves removing the odd sentence or two, or in some cases entire paragraphs—which I indicate by putting [SNIP] or an ellipsis at the appropriate point(s). I also insert annotations where warranted [enclosed in square brackets] to provide background information, often citing information from Peters’ own footnotes when it’s important for our readers.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #85097

April 17th 2014

The ancients did an excellent job of making the change from the ancient cosmology to the modern one, of avoiding the trap of pantheism and the creation of Western dualism which is the basis of Western culture and science.

The question remeains, Where to we go from here?  Is any system of thought perfect, even if it is based on a combination of Greek philosophy and Christian theology?

It is my observation that it is time to move on.  For instance the basic issue for Western dualism is the mind/body question.  Western dualism soes not have a place for the human spirit its scheme. 

I asked a speaker in seminary some time ago after he has spoken at length about mind and body, “Where is the spirit in all this?”  The response I received was, “The spirit is a sub compartment of the mind.”  Paul spent much too much time talking about the importance of the spirit to have it subbordinated to the mind.   

Western dualism solves the problem of pantheism because it make reality Two instead of One.  What it does not do is solve the problem of change.  Dualism is either or, one or the other.  It does not provide a means of transition from one to the other.  This is what Darwinism has done and ruptured our dualistic understanding of reality.

If and I believe that it is the role of this cosmology to make sense of Christian redemption, the dualism is not sufficient.  Redemption requires the coordinated actions of the Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer, and Spirit/Transformer.  One cannot explain salvation by only one or even two of the persons of the Trinity. 

Even when we do something like write this blog it is the result of the combined actions of the mind, body, and spirit.  

To move on from a dualistic Platonic world view to a Triune Christian one does not seem like a big thing, however it does move us out of our comfort zone.  On the other hand I see this as the best alternative to those who are pushing strongly for the monistic pantheistic view against the largely discredited dualist one.         

Jon Garvey - #85105

April 18th 2014


Peters’ approach that “if a (ie divine redemptive acts), then certain other theological truths follow,” is a good one, and introduces us well to the creative way in which the Fathers mined the best of philosophy to build a coherent intellectual and spiritual system.

Two points from that. Firstly, it’s often forgotten how far Scripture takes the same course, though as revelation rather than philsophical argument. The Fathers were not wrong to see philosophy in the word, whether or not Plato etc actually accesses it.

Nevertheless there is a developing metaphysical clarity as the Bible progresses: the relatively uncritical use by Genesis of the limited “order from chaos” cosmology of the ANE (its theological agenda is rather different) becomes an implicit ex nihilo creation by the New Testament, sufficient to confirm the thinking of those like Augustine against the various Greek alternatives.

Secondly, in modern times, by down-playing the hard work and genius of those early theologians, it seems, theologians have opened the way to far less coherent and rigorously Christian understandings of both God and nature. You mentioned the heterodoxy of much of the science faith discussion apart from Peters, Russell and Polkinghorne yourself in #1. Most Christians think philosophy, like Henry Ford’s history, is bunk.

Ed Feser points this out very clearly (from his specifically Roman and Thomist viewpoint, but just as relevant to Evangelicals I think) in a recent lecture here.

Ted Davis - #85192

April 22nd 2014


Re: the importance of philosophy. Among many important, worthwhile things I’ve learned from Bob Russell is that philosophy mediates the conversation between science and theology. My own formal study of philosophy was unfortunately minimal (and focused sharply on philosophy of science), but I’m an historian of natural philosophy so I’ve had to go well beyond that.

Philosophy is crucial.

Ted Davis - #85193

April 22nd 2014

I should have added, when certain anti-theist voices dismiss the value of philosophy, vis-a-vis science, it reveals both their own ignorance of philosophy (having just confessed to mine) and their consequent inability to see that they are themselves doing philosophy (let alone religion, but I’ll leave that out here). Doing it very poorly. A case in point is physicist Larry Krauss, whose philosophical naivety will come up in my my next column.

Jon Garvey - #85194

April 22nd 2014


In medical training we didn’t even get PoS… that’s why doctors tend to be so boring. We’re all of us operating outside our comfort zones, running to keep up with all that’s relevant to science-faith matters. But I’m convinced that those interested in origins (or more widely, in creation) simply need to refuse to accept the watertight academic compartments we’ve built up in the last century or two. Life, the universe and everything is intrinsically quite a diverse subject.

I guess each specialised field is a lifetime’s work in itself (Michael Polanyi pointed out that at any mathematical conference, any one particant was likely to understand only 10% of the papers, and that was back in the 1950s). But in the “bad old days” of the medieval centuries, to get any degree you had to do nat. phil., maths, philosophy and metaphysics before you could even touch, say, theology. We can hardly boast about the breadth of our academic culture when scientists don’t even recognise what a limited metaphysical and philosophical system they’ve bought into… and committed the whole culture to as well, it seems.

There surely has to be some way in which our thinkers can at least be noddingly conversant with the basis of our access to knowledge - and for our Christian thinkers that includes theology of course.

I look forward to your critique of Krauss - probably less caustic than Feser’s comment that Dawkins is “the man who wouldn’t know metaphysics from Metamucil”!

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85107

April 18th 2014


The issue is not disparaging the past.  We must look to the past to determine where we are and to look to the future.

However there are times when we see that the past is limited and God is calling us to break with the old ways and make a new beginning based on the bedrock of our faith. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

I am glad that Ted Peters has pointed out that the Fathers based their choice of philosophical cosmology on the soteriology of Christianity.  They were very right to say that pantheism and monism are wrong and I dread the consequences if today’s thinking falls into that trap as some have.

But then there is another dualistic trap which says is A is wrong, then B must be right.  Either one or the other.  Sadly mind/body dualism does not fly either, which is the reason philosophy is bankrupt.  It has run out of answers.

The Fathers not only based their choice of cosmology on soteriology, but also their invaluable contribution to theology, which is the Trinity, on their unique understanding of God and how God works.  My point is that if they came up with the answer of TWO for cosmology and THREE for Trinity based on the same evidence of soteriology, then something is amiss.

If one accepts the Two Books, if one accepts Jesus as the LOGOS, then the Three of the Trinity deserves at least a try to understand cosmology.

The situation as I see it is this.  Christianity is a Relational Faith based on our Covenant in Jesus Christ.  However philosophy is not relational, but bassed on Being.  Science also was not relational.

But today Science shows that the universe is relational, fulfilling the Two Books.  We need to convert philosophy into a relatonal system to unite Christianity, Philosophy, and Science once more and quiet those who say Christianity has no role in life.

Thge biggest problem however is for those who want to cling to the belief that God is Absolute, even though the Bible says God is not.       

Eddie - #85196

April 22nd 2014

Roger wrote:

“Sadly mind/body dualism does not fly either, which is the reason philosophy is bankrupt.  It has run out of answers.”

This is an uninformed statement.  Philosophy as such is not committed to mind/body dualism.  That is only one of the possible positions that philosophers over the centuries have taken.  In fact, anyone conversant with the past 100 years of academic philosophy would probably say that mind/body dualism has been very much out of fashion.

And of course, the claim that “philosophy is bankrupt” is ludicrous, and utterly unsubstantiated.  Only someone extremely well-versed in the history of philosophy from ancient times to the present would be entitled to make such a sweeping generalization.  Is Roger such a person?

One might with some plausibility claim that certain schools of philosophy have proved bankrupt (e.g., logical positivism of the sort once advocated by Ayer), but a sweeping judgment that philosophy as such is bankrupt is as foolish as a judgment that “theology is bankrupt” or “chemistry is bankrupt.”

Ted is right:  philosophy is the natural interface between science and theology in the science/theology discussions we need to have.  And this is actually very much in line with Christian tradition; from the Platonism and Stoicism of early Christianity to the Aristotelianism of the Scholastics, and the revived Platonism of the Renaissance and the 17th century, Christian thinkers have always tried to articulate their views both of God and of nature in philosophical terms.  It’s actually the bad influence of Kant that established the strict segregation of the natural sciences on one hand, and theology on the other hand, because Kant gutted philosophy of much of its traditional content, leaving it with little to say about how to join the two.  And of course, the modern university is heavily built around Kantian epistemology.  The difficulty that science/theology conversation encounters in our era is a symptom of a faulty educational system.  Scientists and theologians don’t know how to talk to each other because they have no common language.  This was not the case before Kant implicitly justified the complete excision of all philosophical content from scientific studies.  

Roger’s argument is seriously wrong.  We need more, not less, philosophy in these discussions.  Of course, much of modern university philosophy is deliberately written in impenetrable jargon, and even quasi-mathematical symbols, as specialists try to impress each other and climb up the academic ladder in accord with the careerist dictates of “publish or perish.”  This is especially the case with contemporary modern philosophy of science, which is notoriously indifferent to whether it is understood by practicing scientists themselves, by the general educated public, or even by philosophers from other branches of philosophy.  It has become a cliquish, in-group conversation within philosophy departments among narrow specialists in symbolic logic, Bayes’ Theorem, and the like.  That kind of philosophy is of little use for the general educated conversation that society today needs regarding science and theology.

But the original tradition of philosophy, the tradition of The Great Books, and of The Great Conversation (exemplified at places like Chicago, and St. John’s College)—that tradition is still highly relevant, and is exactly what theology/science discussion needs.   It’s also exactly the tradition that Christian theology needs to return to, after decades of aimless wandering through process philosophy, existentialism, Marxism, feminism, deconstructionism, etc.

In the 1960s, it was considered more important for a Christian theologian to have read revolutionary Marxist tracts than to have read Plato or Aristotle or Aquinas; it’s time to return to basics.  Christian theologians need to become metaphysicians again.  For the choice is not, as some modern theologians used to fondly imagine, between a metaphysical theology (allegedly abstract and useless) and a purely practical theology (based on good deeds of social justice and pious feelings of closeness to Jesus and the Holy Spirit); all theologies, willy-nilly, will be built consciously or unconsciously on metaphysical assumptions.  The choice is between a theology built on good metaphysics or one built on bad metaphysics.  Christian theology has been largely driven by bad metaphysics for several decades now, and even in some respects for the last few centuries; it’s time to get it back on a good metaphysical footing once again.  

Thus, I continue to reject Roger’s constantly hostile and unsubstantiated remarks about philosophy.

GJDS - #85144

April 20th 2014

I sometimes think that we have yet to fully comprehend the notion of creation out of nothing. The pagans wrestled with matter and motion, and I guess Plato (to me at least) was the first to recognise the intelligibility that makes the creation comprehensible to us.

The centrality of the creation out of nothing is correctly emphasised in this post by showing that it is ‘made by God’ who is its Creator (and the Creation wishes to be subject to His will). The early Christians had to labour a great deal to understand what ‘the only begotten Son’ means - but at this time, we understand some of this, in that God as the Son of God, is also understood as the Son of Man, who died for our sins.

Jon Garvey - #85182

April 22nd 2014


...the Creation wishes to be subject to His will

Am excellent point of yours, that. Having to mould a rebellious primal matter is a good recipe for natural evil (and hence the pre-Christian emphasis on the intrinsic malevolence of nature).

But if everything is from God, the goodness of creation in its totality follows - it was axiomatic for Christian theologians and apologists for the first 1500 years of the Church. The creation could only be the expression of his will, and so the mountains sang and the trees of the field clapped their hands. The lion served him just as joyfully as the lamb.

Somehow some pagan pessimism seems to have crept back into the Christian equation, whether that’s in the Creationist idea that nature was throughly ruined by the Fall (not found in Scripture or traditional theology) or the gloomy celebration of errors, waste, bad design and junk genomes by Christians sympathetic to evolution.

“The Creation wishes to be subject to his will” - a sentence worthy of lengthy meditation. It reflects the phrase in the ancient Anglican collect for peace - now sadly neglected for the most part -  “whose service is perfect freedom.” The patristic equivalent is “Cui servare, regnare est,” “...to whom to be in subjection is to reign.”

That’s the uniquely Christian concept of freedom, rather than the Renaissance idea of autonomy that rules in the west now. A good article on the difference here for those willing to think it through.

Ted Davis - #85187

April 22nd 2014

There’s more coming about this precise topic—the “bare logic of creatio ex nihilo”—in the next excerpt, around May 1.

GJDS - #85205

April 23rd 2014

The notion of nothing is in itself intriguing. Speaking for myself, I cannot contemplate ‘nothingness’, except for a vague notion of death which means I would not exist - this of course brings up contradictions, such as a dead person cannot know, and so on. Kant intoduced the dialectic, and the antimony of reason, while Hegel felt that negation was the rage, and Satre felt that an absence of a thing (with his odd notion that transedence invoked consciousness arising from the material, resulting in the being of nothingness - I should stop here).

It is an extraordinary aspect of human intellect that we can discuss creation from nothing, even within a theological context. I am convinced that this too is revealed to us, in that God created from this unknowable nothingness, and we as material beings are destined to become nothingness, unless God, in His infinite Grace, through His Son, saves humanity - the result however, is the very opposite (and not Kant’s transendent philosophy that he could not discover) in that salvation brings us into the very being itself - God’s eternal life.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85185

April 22nd 2014

Jon and GJDS,

I have been thinking about this question too.

One thing is clear and that is God could not have created something perfect, whether the universe or Adam without recreating Godself.  Only God can be perfect, so God cannot create Godself nor is there any need for two Gods.

God created the universe out of matter/energy, mind, and spirit and it was “good,” but not perfect. 

The physical is not perfect and so it changes.  God is able to take this into account and even take advantage of this so that God create a order through Jesus Christ the LOGOS that enables the universe to renew itself in order to make a positive history out of the natural changes in the universe.  

God created the universe and it was good, but not perfect.  It was good because sin, which is conscious rebellion against God, had not yet appeared.  It was imperfect because it was physical, which means change and death, and required governance by God and humans as God’s viceroy.

Thus the Creation is good yet imperfect because it is not God.  God created humans in the Image of God, which means that they can become perfect like God when we freely accept God’s Will. 

Heaven of course is more than a place, but as state where humanity and nature become perfect and live with God forever.  It is the state where whatever imperfections that exist in this this life are more than overcome by the Love, Joy, and Peace of God. 

It soes seem strange to me that some people think that a multiverse is perfectly feasible, but not heaven.  The multiverse would have a special portion set aside as hell also.   


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85219

April 23rd 2014

Edward wrote:

The choice is between a theology built on good metaphysics or one built on bad metaphysics.  Christian theology has been largely driven by bad metaphysics for several decades now, and even in some respects for the last few centuries; it’s time to get it back on a good metaphysical footing once again. 

I could not agree with you more.  I criticize philosophy in general terms and you criticize in specific terms.  You don’t have anything positive to say about modern philosophy so what is the difference.

Because you do not take me seriously you miss my call for a new philosophy built on a new foundation.  I not only criticize negatively, but try to suggest a positive alternative.  You as far as I can tell refuse to offer a positive alternative.

You claim to have all this knowledge.  You claim to know what is good metaphysics and what is not.  Yet when we find ourselves in the need as you say for a renewal of both philosophy and theology, what do you have to offer?

Such as I have I have put into three books.  It may not be the best answer, but it is an honest effort.  You don’t like it, not because you understand it and disagree, because I know you don’t understand it. 

As I have said before, do not criticize my thinking if you are not willing to put in the time and effort to understand what I think.  Otherwise you show a reckless disregard for the truth that is the same as lying. 

Fortunately here and elsewhere your criticiam of me is very hollow and absurd.  In many ways we agree in our views as to what is wrong, but you want to go back to some unclear past ideology and I want to go forward to a new mode of Biblical thinking.        


Eddie - #85226

April 24th 2014

You have not dealt with my criticism.  You made a false statement about philosophy.  I quoted it back to you, and explained in detail why it was false.  Nothing you have said above rescues the original quotation from falsehood.  It is sad that you are incapable of admitting error.  That’s all I have to say.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85229

April 24th 2014


I said that philosophy is bankrupt.

You failed to produce a single example of a modern philosophy which was not bankrupt, so how am I wrong?

[You failed to mention Existentialism for some reason.]

You think that philosophy can be revived, but fail to say how despite all your expertise.  I see your faith but where is your evidence?

Bankruptcy is bankrupt.  There is nothing untrue there.  Why are you so incapable of recognizing the truth?

Eddie - #85232

April 24th 2014

Thank you for admitting that you said “philosophy is bankrupt.”

Now prove that philosophy is bankrupt.

You also said that philosophy is bankrupt *because it holds to mind/body dualism*.

Now prove that philosophy (not “some philosophers” but “philosophy” period) holds to mind/body dualism.

The onus is on you to substantiate your claims, not on me to disprove them.  You must show that not just some philosophies, but all philosophies, are bankrupt; and you must show that not just some philosophies, but all philosophies, hold to mind/body dualism. 

If you cannot show these things, you should withdraw your claims.  

You cannot show these things.  

You therefore should withdraw your claims.

Do you have the inner moral fiber required to admit error and withdraw false claims?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85236

April 24th 2014


I make some general statements about philosophy which you want to make into claims of Absolute Truth.

You tried to show me that philosophy is not bankrupt, but end up demonstrating that it is.  Still you say that I should admit my error and withdraw false claims.  Do you want me to say that philosophy is alive and flourishing, when it is not?

The state of philosophy is clear and my statement is correct.

Now you want me to prove my statement that modern philosophy is bankrupt because it is based on Western Dualism.  You say that modern philosophy has lost its way because it is based on bad metaphysics.

I agree that this is the cause and Western Dualism is the basis if the bad metaphysics of modern philosophy in my view.  However if you want to know how Western Dualism is faulty, you have to take the time and effort to read at least one of my books.

You have not made your position concerning what is good metaphysics clear.  I have put my cards on the table for you and everyone else to see.

All that I ask is to have you examine it in the way I best present it.  I am sorry for you if that is too much to ask.

Eddie - #85238

April 24th 2014

Roger, I’m sorry to have to say this, but it appears to me that you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about philosophy.  I’ve established in conversation with you that you’ve read virtually none of the great philosophers of the past.  As for the philosophers of the present, you don’t seem to have the slightest inkling what is being talked about today in philosophy journals, at philosophy conferences, in philosophy departments, etc.  Everything you say about philosophy seems to be based on rumor and hearsay, not firsthand knowledge.  You should not be making statements about philosophy, and you should not be writing books about philosophy, if you do not have firsthand knowledge.

I have firsthand knowledge of philosophy.  I would gladly share it with you.  But you won’t let me.  So be it.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85243

April 25th 2014


I am not keeping you from doing anything.  If you have something to contribute about metaphysics go ahead.   

You read what I have written and we will talk.


Eddie - #85271

April 27th 2014

I will not read the book of any author who will never admit to error.  An absolute condition for my reading your book would be the admission of a significant number of errors in your statements on this site.   The first two retractions I would require are listed above.  Others I have given in other exchanges.  No retractions of error by you, no reading by me.  That makes it your call.  Best wishes.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85277

April 27th 2014


If you refuse to read anything by someone who refuses to admit his/her errors, you would not read your own writing.

As I have said consistently, you cannot say that I have made an error because you refuse to take the time and effort to understand anything that I say. 

You always try to avoid responsibility but God knows you cannot.

The real problem is that you have failed to suggest a real answer to the theological/philosophical issues of today.

We know what you are against “modernist,” but what are you for?  the old time thinking of Cliven Bundy?

Eddie - #85279

April 27th 2014

I have no idea who Cliven Bundy is; I only know Al Bundy.  And actually, Al’s philosophy of life is somewhat closer to reality than that of some forms of liberal Christianity running around these days.

I’m not against everything modern, but I am against people who blindly assume that modern is better, that the newest is the most improved, that we know more than the ancients, etc.  Most people who think they have adequately disposed of Plato and Aristotle haven’t even read them, but know them only from hearsay.  Most people who think modern theology is superior to traditional theology don’t know much traditional theology.  You’re a typical member of the modern chorus, wanting all of philosophy and theology to change to keep up with the times, even though you seem to know very little about traditional theology and next to nothing about traditional philosophy.  It never seems to occur to your tightly closed mind that the problem may not be with traditional philosophy and theology, but with the very assumptions of the modern age that you bow and scrape to.  I prescribe a double dose of Allan Bloom.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85280

April 28th 2014

Edward wrote:

I’m not against everything modern,

We know what you are against, primarily people who challenge your opinions. 

But what are you for, if you are not against everything modern? 

Eddie - #85282

April 28th 2014

I’m *for* honest, high-quality scholarship—and that means that no one should make factual claims about philosophy or theology, philosophers or theologians, that he or she cannot defend from primary sources.  I feel it is my duty to challenge all such claims where I happen to know, from my academic expertise, that they are erroneous.  A lover of truth would thank me for the corrections.  (When people correct me on the facts, I’m always grateful.)

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