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Author Topic: God: Intelligible or Beyond Intelligible?  (Read 1109 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 07, 2009, 05:08:39 PM »

"God, for Augustine, is fundamentally intelligible, i.e., accessible to the mind. He is to be identified with the Plotinian level of universal mind, or Nous. But among the Neo-platonists of the Christian Greek world, God is beyond Nous. He is to be identified only with the transcendent One. In Dionysius the Areopagite...the level of Nous corresponds to the created angelic realm. Augustine, committed to the intelligibility of God, dispenses with the Plotinian One. For him the ultimate divine level is Nous. But Dionysius and his Greek successors conceive of God as transcending Nous, and therefore as being in his essence inaccessible to the human mind."

Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis, Norman Russell, 118.

Ah, that explains a lot.
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2009, 05:23:11 PM »

Did it for me.
the basis of Orthdoox Theology: "According to Orthodoxy, the natural theology of man is agnosticism, because finite man cannot comprehend the infinite God. But it does not lead to agnosticism, because God has revealed himself"

A comprehended god cannot be God.
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« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2009, 07:44:25 PM »

As if Augustine didn't look bad enough already....

*sigh*
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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2009, 07:45:21 PM »

I wonder if this is at all connected to Thomas Aquinas saying that we could perceive the divine essence?
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2009, 12:22:35 PM »

Saint Augustine, like all Church Fathers, thought that while we can understand part of the mystery of God, God is utterly incomprehensible.

To illustrate this, there is a story of the great Saint walking on the seashore. He was trying to ponder the Holy Trinity for his treatise on the subject and having a hard time penetrating the mystery's depth. He stumbled upon a small child with a bucket and the child asked the Bishop what he was doing walking the seashore. Saint Augustine told the child he was trying to understand the Trinity at which the child laughed and replied "I'll sooner empty the sea with this bucket than you will understand the mystery." At this point the child disappeared and Augustine realized it was an angel sent to guide him.

No Church Father or Saint ever taught that we can understand the mysteries of God fully, though we can know some limited things about God.
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2009, 06:29:22 AM »

God is knowable; not because we can know Him, but because He knows us.

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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2009, 01:36:47 PM »

"God, for Augustine, is fundamentally intelligible, i.e., accessible to the mind. He is to be identified with the Plotinian level of universal mind, or Nous. But among the Neo-platonists of the Christian Greek world, God is beyond Nous. He is to be identified only with the transcendent One. In Dionysius the Areopagite...the level of Nous corresponds to the created angelic realm. Augustine, committed to the intelligibility of God, dispenses with the Plotinian One. For him the ultimate divine level is Nous. But Dionysius and his Greek successors conceive of God as transcending Nous, and therefore as being in his essence inaccessible to the human mind."

Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis, Norman Russell, 118.

Ah, that explains a lot.
God is supremely knowable in and of himself. The problem is not in God but in us. We are limited so we can only have some limited knowledge of God. God is like blinding like. Light does illuminate, but when it is blinding we can not see it. Only a flash of that light is aprehended.
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2009, 02:13:50 PM »

"God, for Augustine, is fundamentally intelligible, i.e., accessible to the mind. He is to be identified with the Plotinian level of universal mind, or Nous.

Norman's definitely the man to talk to about these matters. In other words, he's right.

But I would just point out that "intelligibility" and "accessibility to the mind" mean something totally different in Plotinian philosophy than they do in common English. Intelligible is a technical term, referring to the true, universal, pure and perfect realm of the Forms -- not to an average person's capability to figure out a logical conundrum. Late antique people understood Christian theology within an entirely different epistemological framework than that taken for granted by your average, post-Scientific-Revolution-modern dude.
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2009, 02:24:25 PM »

"God, for Augustine, is fundamentally intelligible, i.e., accessible to the mind. He is to be identified with the Plotinian level of universal mind, or Nous. But among the Neo-platonists of the Christian Greek world, God is beyond Nous. He is to be identified only with the transcendent One. In Dionysius the Areopagite...the level of Nous corresponds to the created angelic realm. Augustine, committed to the intelligibility of God, dispenses with the Plotinian One. For him the ultimate divine level is Nous. But Dionysius and his Greek successors conceive of God as transcending Nous, and therefore as being in his essence inaccessible to the human mind."

Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis, Norman Russell, 118.

Ah, that explains a lot.
God is supremely knowable in and of himself. The problem is not in God but in us. We are limited so we can only have some limited knowledge of God. God is like blinding like. Light does illuminate, but when it is blinding we can not see it. Only a flash of that light is aprehended.

I agree with this. I'd also add that even in the midst of the most blinding light we know warmth, and we know that we are no longer in darkness. It is incomprhensible, but we know the presence of Light through the experience of its brightness and warmth. Our repsonse to this divine radiance should be nothing more than to bathe in it, be still in it, and embrace it. Although it can be painfully excruciating at times, we know intuitively that this Light is good. We dare not dissect it like the common artifacts of creation. We dare not even attempt to describe it beyond what we know: it is warm, it is illuminating, it is awesome, it is good. It has shone upon us, and we are fools if we flee it.

Selam
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2009, 02:36:17 PM »

....Although it can be painfully excruciating at times, we know intuitively that this Light is good. We dare not dissect it like the common artifacts of creation. We dare not even attempt to describe it beyond what we know....
So, you're saying God is knowable, to some degree, but that there is something about God "beyond what we know"?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2009, 02:37:19 PM by Jetavan » Logged

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In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
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Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2009, 03:42:32 PM »

....Although it can be painfully excruciating at times, we know intuitively that this Light is good. We dare not dissect it like the common artifacts of creation. We dare not even attempt to describe it beyond what we know....
So, you're saying God is knowable, to some degree, but that there is something about God "beyond what we know"?

Yes. I hope that's not unOrthodox to believe this.

As I said above, God is knowable, not because we can know Him but because He knows us. Does that make sense?

Selam
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