Part IV: Examples of Philosophical Theology
Lesson 10: Monistic and Creational World Views
1) Aristotle arrived at a valid First Science or metaphysics that could unify human knowledge by demonstrating within the foundational part of natural science that material being is caused by the real existence of an immaterial First Cause, as well as showing in his psychology that the human soul is also immaterial. Yet his paganism and his adoption of the hypothesis of an eternal material universe seems to have prevented him from an explicit and full understanding of God as Creator and of the immortality of the human spiritual soul. St. Thomas Aquinas was able to show that these truths were the logical consequences of the Aristotelian foundations of natural science. Hence he was further able to perfect Aristotle's metaphysics or First Science of Being as the analogical concept that includes both material and immaterial being. This enables the Christian theologian to show that the principal Old Testament teaching that God is the Creator is in accordance with human reason and thus to overcome the pantheism and monism that is found in all the world religions except Judaism, and Christianity and Islam derived from Judaism. Without this rational world-view the Creation no longer speaks to us of the Creator. The efforts of some apologists such as Karl Rahner or Hans Küng to argue for the existence of God on subjective grounds ("religious experience," hope, etc.) are not false but are inadequate to meet the atheistic objections of modern science and culture.
2) While Thomistic metaphysics establishes the existence of God as Creator, some still object that this cannot solve the problem of evil in the world. Consequently some theologians try to meet this objection by adopting the process philosophy proposed by Alfred North Whitehead. According to process philosophy the existence of God is a hypothesis justified as probable by the historicist, evolutionary view of modern science. It hypothesizes that the supreme principal is not God but Creativity. This Creativity is supremely exemplified in God who has an antecedent nature consisting of an infinite number of "eternal objects" like Plato's eternal Ideas. Yet, unlike Plato's Ideas, these at first exist chaotically without order. God, therefore, in his creativity forms his actual consequent nature by the creating the material universe in which these ideas are realized in various combinations or "actual occasions" or events of history. These last only for a brief quantum of time and then perish, although their effects are taken up in other "actual occasions" and they survive in God's memory as the immortal historical ordering of objects in his consequent nature. God as the supreme actual occasion is the only Person. Human beings are not persons but only streams of consciousness made up of actual occasions each of which, even material events like an atom or molecule, have a conscious aspect (panpsychism). This process conception of God and the universe is thus supposed to solve the problem of evil because God only has the power to initiate or give a direction to the formation of actual occasions that, since they also are endowed with Creativity, then develop freely on their own, sometimes constructively sometimes deconstructively without God's control. While it is certainly true that Christian theology must today, as has been argued in previous lessons, take full account of the modern scientific and evolutionary view of the world, it is difficult to see how process philosophy can help do this since it solves the problem of evil only by denying God's power to help us overcome evil, reduces the human being to a non-person, and makes only God immortal and happy.
3) Much the same can be said for the thought of Teilhard de Chardin who tried to incorporate evolution into theology, but only on the basis of a mistaken view of what science says about evolution, since Teilhard thought there is a "law" of evolution while modern science considers it a product of chance events. He also adopted panpsychism in order to explain how the spiritual emerges from matter without direct creation by God. Both Whitehead and Teilhard tried to explain the moral evil in the world philosophically, while Aquinas shows that it is a mystery that does not contradict the goodness of God, since he made us free to do evil as well as good and in his omnipotence can bring a greater good out of any evil creatures can produce. It is a mystery that cannot be fully solved by reason, but only by revealed doctrine of why God permitted original sin. Thus the problem of evil is only solved only by the revelation God permitted us to sin (felix culpa, the blessed fault) only because he knew that in his omnipotence he could bring a greater good into the universe, namely the Incarnation of his Divine Son, our Savior. Thus Thomist philosophy provides more satisfactory ways of proving by reason that God exists and that this truth is not contradicted by the moral evil in the world than does process philosophy or Teilhard's evolutionism that was based on the "life philosophy" of Henri Bergson.
Read Jaki, the Savior of Science, Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-88. NOTE: I warmly agree with Jaki's principal thesis in this brilliant work but in my opinion he relies too much on the view of Duhem that natural science only "saves the appearances." Hence Jaki assigns to metaphysics the proof of the existence of the First Cause that Aristotle and Aquinas assigned to the foundational part of natural science. Without such a basis in science, metaphysics is open to the many attacks that are made on it today and which Jaki does not adequately answer. The strength of Jaki's work, however, is to show how Christian faith in the Creator motivated the origins of modern science.
1) How does Thomist thought complete the foundations of natural science according to Aristotle and his metaphysics by establishing God as Creator of the universe out of nothing?
2) Why is process philosophy an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?
3) Why is the evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin also an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?
4) How can the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who knew nothing of the modern scientific theories of biological or cosmological evolution, be shown not to contradict them but to enable theologians to make use of them?
5) What is "panpsychism" and what are the objections to it?