Statesboro, GA, USA
alright are you sure you want to get me started? lol.
I wouldn't seperate the concept of God from The Universe on first thinking. That's because I've always believed that 'God' meant 'Truth'.
Well I'm not at all suggesting a total separation of God and the Universe which would amount to some form of gnosticism or extreme deism, where God is wholly "other". But I am suggesting that we avoid the mistake of thinking that God and the Cosmos are the same thing. Without some kind of division, we lose the distinctions between good and evil, personal and impersonal, rationality and irrationality ... just to name a few. Even your statement about truth ends up begging the question of authority, and whether truth is not merely what we say it is. And though such distinctions are still made by those who hold a pantheistic or monistic view of reality, it is done so in spite of their belief rather than in accordance with it. G.K. Chesterton in his book "Orthodoxy" put it this way:
"It is ... here that Buddhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liberty and love. Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say "little children love one another" rather than to tell one large person to love himself. This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; that for the Buddhist or Theosophist personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. The world-soul of the Theosophists asks man to love it only in order that man may throw himself into it. But the divine centre of Christianity actually threw man out of it in order that he might love it. The oriental deity is like a giant who should have lost his leg or hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with him. We come back to the same tireless note touching the nature of Christianity; all modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls. But according to orthodox Christianity this separation between God and man is sacred, because this is eternal. That a man may love God it is necessary that there should be not only a God to be loved, but a man to love him."
"This is the meaning of that almost insane happiness in the eyes of the mediaeval saint in the picture. This is the meaning of the sealed eyes of the superb Buddhist image. The Christian saint is happy because he has verily been cut off from the world; he is separate from things and is staring at them in astonishment. But why should the Buddhist saint be astonished at things? -- since there is really only one thing, and that being impersonal can hardly be astonished at itself. There have been many pantheist poems suggesting wonder, but no really successful ones. The pantheist cannot wonder, for he cannot praise God or praise anything as really distinct from himself. Our immediate business here, however, is with the effect of this Christian admiration (which strikes outwards, towards a deity distinct from the worshipper) upon the general need for ethical activity and social reform. And surely its effect is sufficiently obvious. There is no real possibility of getting out of pantheism, any special impulse to moral action. For pantheism implies in its nature that one thing is as good as another; whereas action implies in its nature that one thing is greatly preferable to another."
Of course I realize that Chesterton spoke of Buddhism in his descriptions, and we are not talking about Buddhism per se. But a monistic system of any kind which excludes God from it's thinking comes upon the same kinds of questions and dead-ends. That's why, I think, that the Post-Enlightenment materialistic West has embraced Eastern Pantheism even if it is divorced from it's Hindu-Buddhist religious roots.
"unique dignity of being human". Is this to do with our own ideas of the Divine?
Yes and no. If it merely has to do with our ideas of the divine, then it begs the question of whether or not these are only our ideas. Or are they truly reflective of a reality that transcends us and nature. I think that's why the existentialist philosophers struggled so much with purpose and meaning ... and the neo-orthodox theologians who followed their lead. The difference is, the Existentialist philosophers had already abandoned God, while the Neo-orthodox kept the word but abandoned the content ... making "god" a euphemism for the human spirit, or abstract truth, or the "all". Ask Reb about John Shelby Spong, he's a paragon of neo-orthodoxy.
But I don't think the religious language of the Neo-orthodox serves to help them out of Nietzsche's challenge ... to get rid of the vestiges of something you've already professed not to believe in.
So ultimately I think it has to do with Divinity's idea of "us", not the other way around. It's the Biblical assertion that God created man "in his own image". And that's why I think ultimately we are distinquished from the dirt we walk upon.
It may be possible for the compatibility between free will and cause and effect.
I don't see how unless it has been given to us. Determinism doesn't allow even a mote outside of its tyranny. It's a hermetically sealed reality if everything is viewed naturalistically. Your thoughts about determinism would be determined just as steadfastly as any other natural process.
But I agree with you actually (I'm playing the devil's advocate), but only because I think human choice (that is not absolutely determined) is a gift of God.
Good choices reflect truths, in accordance to what I consider your comment to mean, Stephanos. (I would joke that humans are farthest from God, on that tip, though!)
Right on both counts. We're closest to him in one sense, which makes our choices all the more grievous. A stranger's abuse hurts nothing like a lover's betrayal. So in that sense we are the closest / farthest beings from God that I can think of. But this is best expressed in the Christian doctrine of Special Creation, the Fall, the incarnation of God in Christ, and reconciliation. The romance of lovers may resume.