Metaphysics

Clement Endorses the Platonic Ascent

From Stomata Book 5

Now the sacrifice which is acceptable to God is unswerving abstraction from the body and its passions. This is the really true piety. And is not, on this account, philosophy rightly called by Socrates the practice of Death? For he who neither employs his eyes in the exercise of thought, nor draws aught from his other senses, but with pure mind itself applies to objects, practises the true philosophy. This is, then, the import of the silence of five years prescribed by Pythagoras, which he enjoined on his disciples; that, abstracting themselves from the objects of sense, they might with the mind alone contemplate the Deity. It was from Moses that the chief of the Greeks drew these philosophical tenets. For he commands holocausts to be skinned and divided into parts. For the gnostic soul must be consecrated to the light, stript of the integuments of matter, devoid of the frivolousness of the body and of all the passions, which are acquired through vain and lying opinions, and divested of the lusts of the flesh. But the most of men, clothed with what is perishable, like cockles, and rolled all round in a ball in their excesses, like hedgehogs, entertain the same ideas of the blessed and incorruptible God as of themselves. But it has escaped their notice, though they be near us, that God has bestowed on us ten thousand things in which He does not share: birth, being Himself unborn; food, He wanting nothing; and growth, He being always equal; and long life and immortality, He being immortal and incapable of growing old. Wherefore let no one imagine that hands, and feet, and mouth, and eyes, and going in and coming out, and resentments and threats, are said by the Hebrews to be attributes of God. By no means; but that certain of these appellations are used more sacredly in an allegorical sense, which, as the discourse proceeds, we shall explain at the proper time.

Atheist Criticizes Categories of Contingency

From George H Smith:

A major flaw in the contingency argument lies in its artificial dichotomy between necessary and contingent existence. To say that something exists contingently makes sense only within the sphere of volitional action. So, for example, we might say that a building exists contingently, meaning that, if certain men had decided to act differently, the building would never have been constructed. With this exception, however, the idea of contingent existence has no application. Everything exists necessarily. 17 In using the distinction between necessary and contingent existence as part of his argument, the theist smuggles in a crucial premise. He assumes that there are, in effect, two kinds of existence: deficient and sufficient. He then argues that the universe is metaphysically deficient, that it does not exist necessarily, so we must infer the existence of a transcendent necessary being. Thus, in his original distinction between necessary and contingent existence, the theist assumes beforehand that natural existence requires an explanation. In using the necessary-contingent dichotomy in his argument, the theist is asking that a major point of controversy be conceded to him without argument. If the dichotomy is challenged, the contingency argument can go nowhere. If one rejects the notion of contingent existence (in the sense here described), there is no reason to posit a transcendent, necessary being. As Copleston puts it, “if one refuses even to sit down at the chess-board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be checkmated.”

Smith, George H.. Atheism: The Case Against God (The Skeptic’s Bookshelf) (pp. 251-252). Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

Soskice on Genesis and Metaphysics

It should be stated at the outset that the Hebrew Scriptures generally are little concerned with questions of metaphysics or scientific cosmology. In the first chapters of Genesis God calls light from the formless void, separating it from darkness, and names the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. God divides the waters from dry land, creates the sun and moon, living creatures and, in a culmination of this creative work, humankind, male and female, in God’s own image. In the Book of Genesis this sequence forms the prolegomena for the calling of Abram, renamed at that time Abraham, which marks the creation of the people, Israel, through whom God’s blessings will be shed on the world. These narratives do not probe the metaphysics of space and time, or even present a consistent view on the origin of matter. They are more concerned to show the relationship of all things to God and to each other, and to establish that the creation is ‘good’ and the work of a beneficent God. They tell us something about the created order, but also something about the nature of God.

Janet M. Soskice, “Creation and the God of Abraham”, [Chapter 2] Cambridge University Press, New York , © Cambridge University Press 2010