If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Religion: Classical Theism, Part 2 (In Favor of Classical Theism)

In this video, Elmar Kremer (University of Toronto) introduces two theories of the nature of God: classical theism and theistic personalism. In part 2, he considers several arguments for and against classical theism.

Speaker: Dr. Elmar Kremer, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto.

Want to join the conversation?

  • leaf green style avatar for user José Capablanca
    How does at the third premise follows from the other two? The only way to do it would be to assume that simple things can only act once or something but I detect a missing premise to the effect that if something is simple it can't act more than once, which I find philosophically dubious. Maybe God could create two parallel universes ex-nihilo, why would that make him non-simple in the relevant sense?

    I also don't understand how the proposition 4 is derived. Even if they are different why can't godly causation and creature causation be two different types of the single genus causation, like chihuahuas and bulldogs are two distinct kinds of dogs. Just because two kinds are distinct, it doesn't mean they can't be subsumed under a more general kind. And I have similar doubts about the derivation of proposition 5.
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Residuum
    How do people who follow classical theism justify what parts of religious texts are metaphorical and which are to be read 'as is'? It's not like it is directly said in the books.
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Corey Piper
    Why does composites have to come after combination of parts? what if i travelled back in time the things that are whole would break into parts. to disagree would mean to believe time is completely one directional or at least the origin is always at the side of time where things cant be broken down any further. but if they cant be broken down further, that sounds like the end to me? couldnt god be a being traveling back in time?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot ada style avatar for user Katey Gordon
      Wow that is a very interesting and valid point. I have to say I am always questioning while still believing in God and Jesus I don't follow any religion or believe in the bible itself as I never like Titles. But great question could we say in Fact the God is a Time traveler? Also how did Jesus turn water into wine there are so many questions I happen to believe in Science more but there is definately for me allot of questions like you many even have suggested God is a Alien. Lets not forget that God is in fact Alien to us he is not nor ever be like us so what is God then?
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

(intro music) Hello! My name is Elmar Kremer. I'm a professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Toronto. In the last session, I set forth the philosophical approach to the nature of god known as "classical theism," and contrasted it with the main modern alternative known as "theistic personalism." In this segment, I want to go on to an argument in favor of classical theism. It begins with the premise that god is the first being, in the sense that all other things depend on god, and god does not depend on anything. It follows that (Proposition One) god causes the entire world of dependent things ex nihilo. It also follows that god is simple, i.e., not composite in any way. Proposition 2 follows because, in Aquinas' words, “every composite is posterior to its component parts and dependent on them.” >From the first two propositions, it follows that (Proposition Three) there is only one causal act in god, and by it he causes ex nihilo whatever exists apart from himself. Therefore, god and a creature are not causes in the same sense of the word. But god causes as a person, that is, causes intelligently and voluntarily. It follows that god and a creature are not persons in the same sense of the word. Proposition five is sufficient to show that theistic personalism is mistaken. But it does not yet establish the more general claim that no positive descriptive expression is true of god and creatures in the same sense. To establish that more general claim is no easy task. But according to Aquinas, if a positive description is true of a creature, the property or perfection it signifies exists in the creature as distinct from other properties, whereas proposition two makes it clear that all perfections exist in god in a united way. For example, when we apply the term “wise” to man, Aquinas says, we signify some perfection distinct from a man's essence, and distinct from his power and existence and from all similar things. By contrast, god's wisdom is not distinct from his essence or power or existence. Hence, the expression “is wise,” or any other positive description, can not be true of god and a creature in the same sense. By this argument, we've arrived at (Proposition Six) no positive descriptive expression is true of god and a creature in exactly the same sense. Let me then, next, consider some objections to classical theism. The first can be summed up in a slogan: “The god of the classical theists is not the god of the bible.” The second objection is that classical theism makes god so mysterious that we can not think about him in a coherent way. If either argument is sound, then obviously classical theism is not an acceptable way of thinking about the god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In raising the first objection, theistic personalists do not deny that many of the statements about god in the bible are metaphorical. Classical theists agree that many statements about god in the bible are metaphorical. They also agree that some are not metaphorical, including the statement that god loves the world. But they hold that the non-metaphorical statements must be read in the light of the difference between god and created things. This view is born out by the meaning of the word “loves.” Love enriches and fulfills human beings. It is what we are made for. But love does not enrich or fulfill god. For god, as the classical theist Robert Sokolowski puts it, "is capable of existing in undiminished goodness "and greatness even if the world had not been.” In this view, god's love is not an enrichment of god, but rather the pure overflow of god's goodness, something quite unlike love in any created being. Turning to the second objection, classical theists agree that god is mysterious and cannot be comprehended. But that god is mysterious does not mean he cannot be thought about in a coherent way. Rather, it means that our understanding will never be equal to or exhaust what god is. Many philosophers, including Descartes, have thought that human freedom is also mysterious in that way. Aquinas and Descartes compare our inability to comprehend god conceptually with our inability to embrace a mountain. You can touch a mountain, but you can't get your arms around it. It remains possible, according to classical theism, that god should reveal truths about himself that human beings could never discover by the use of their natural cognitive abilities. Christian classical theists believe that all of revelation can be found in the bible, if it is properly interpreted. But, to quote Sokolowski again, they also believe that "the most fundamental "intellectual requirement for understanding "the bible is that it be read in the light "of the Christian distinction between god and the world." Subtitles by the Amara.org community