God Speaks. You Live. Have Faith.

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In the Bible, faith is not said to be needed in order to believe that God exists. Rather, faith is needed to believe that what God says is true. This is the greatest temptation to doubt: “Did God really say…?”

God speaks, and if He didn’t, we wouldn’t exist. The atheist says he doesn’t believe in God. That’s what he thinks, but what he really doesn’t believe in is that God speaks, and speaks truthfully. God’s existence goes without saying — God is the unspoken Speaker. The atheist would disagree, but that’s because the conditions of proof for God in his mind are incompatible with reality. The atheist demands that God be an objective product of speech. Whose speech? No one’s.

“The atheist says, ‘Believe me that there is no God.’… He invokes your and my belief in the power to speak the truth… Atheism is self-contradictory, because to speak means to believe in God — to say something that has validity before and after my physical existence.”
~Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Related reading: God’s Idea; The Kingdom of Speech; Past & Future: Connected by Speech

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God’s Idea

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In StarTrek, the characters are able to go from their ship to a planet’s surface almost instantly via the transporter device. The transporter works by converting the matter of a person into energy, beaming that energy to a target location, and then rematerializing the person. Now, there is an interesting philosophical question that arises from this method of transportation: If the physical brain of the person being transported is taken apart molecule by molecule, atom by atom, then what happens to that person’s consciousness? If consciousness cannot exist without matter, as some propose, then is the transported person’s consciousness obliterated in the matter-to-energy conversion, which could then be considered death? If so, what rematerializes at the other end?

Another angle on this thought experiment is from the film The Prestige.(Spoiler Alert!) In that film, one of the main characters, Robert Angier, has a machine which enables him to perfectly clone himself. He uses that machine to perform a magic trick in which he disappears on stage and then reappears at the back of the theatre behind the audience. Of course it is an amazing trick as he would have no time to get back there so fast. But, it is really his clone who appears. Meanwhile, the original Angier on stage falls through a trap door below the machine into an awaiting water tank, which closes and locks, thus drowning him. The clone goes on to perform the trick again the next show, clones himself, drowns, and so on and so on. Why would he do something so crazy? Well, you have to watch the film. The real question is: Does Robert Angier still exist after the first cloning?

I had an uncle, Uncle Fred, who was my dad’s older brother. He moved to Canada from Germany after WW2 to start a new life. In Canada, he started his own electrical company, which he ran for a couple of decades before handing it over to his sons and retiring. Late in his life he had Alzheimer’s disease. The disease progressed to the point where he believed his wife was his mother, he still owned his electrical company, his sons were his business partners, and he still lived in Germany. Because of the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s, his identity and his consciousness became a chaotic mix and match of various events throughout his lifetime. Did my Uncle Fred still exist at that point? Or, had the real man died already?

There is no doubt that my consciousness, my identity, and my personality are dependant on my brain. If my brain is damaged or functions abnormally, I change. It is a bit disturbing to think about. What happens if my brain is irreversibly damaged? What happens when my brain dies?

As a Christian, I believe that I will remain even after my brain dies. How is this possible? It is only possible if I exist primarily, first and foremost, not as a physical being, but as an idea of God. I suppose you could call that idea a spirit.

I’m speculating now of course, but I believe God’s ideas are not like our ideas. For God, His ideas are so perfect, and so powerful, they all become realities. God does not have half-baked ideas floating around in His mind with which, through trial and error, He comes up with final decisions. God’s ideas are perfect from conception; and being perfect from conception, they become immediate realities. Or, if they are delayed realities, that is only because God wants them to be delayed. The Bible would call these ideas of God His Word. (See Isaiah 55:8-11)

Jonathan Edwards wrote, in his essay on the Trinity, in regards to the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity:

“…God perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of Himself, as it were an exact image and representation of Himself ever before Him and in actual view, and from hence arises a most pure and perfect act or energy in the Godhead, which is the Divine love, complacence and joy. The knowledge or view which God has of Himself must necessarily be conceived to be something distinct from His mere direct existence. There must be something that answers to our reflection. The reflection as we reflect on our own minds carries something of imperfection in it. However, if God beholds Himself so as thence to have delight and joy in Himself He must become his own object. There must be a duplicity. There is God and the idea of God, if it be proper to call a conception of that that is purely spiritual an idea.”

Basically, what Edwards is saying is that God’s idea of Himself is so perfect that it becomes a Second Person, just as real as the First. And the love expressed between the First Person and the Second Person is so perfect, that it itself becomes a Third Person, just as real as the other Two. That’s the Trinity: Father (First), Son (Second), and Holy Spirit (Third).

I exist as an idea of God. An idea so perfect, it becomes real. This is my source of life. The physical is how God brought the idea of me into being, but the idea of me is not based on the physical. Also, the idea of me will never be extinguished — from the moment of my conception, I will always exist. Why? Because God will never forget me.

As a Christian, I believe that when I die, when my brain dies, I will still exist. Exactly in what form I will exist, I don’t know, but I will still be the same I I am today, conscious and aware. Then, sometime in the future, I will be resurrected in a new body, with brain and all. And when I am resurrected, I will not be a Swampman.

The Swampman is a philosophical thought experiment put forth by Donald Davidson in the 1980s…

“The experiment goes like this. Suppose Davidson went for a walk in a swamp and gets hit by a lightning bolt, and consequently dies. Coincidentally, at the very same moment this happens, in another part of the swamp, the lightening rearranges some molecules into the same form of Davidson’s body, copying every structure completely. This ‘being’ is the Swampman, which looks exactly like Davidson to the smallest respects, and it walks out of the swamp. Is this being Davidson? Is this being a being, that is, is this being a person? Does this being have the same thoughts as Davidson? Does this being have thoughts at all? Davidson’s own answer leans towards negative towards all of these questions.
“The reason Davidson opines that the Swampman is not Davidson, and in fact, the Swampman might not even be a person, is because Davidson holds that that Swampman is incapable of cognitive thought, because the Swampman has no causal history, and a being needs causal history of thoughts to have any cognizance in the first place. So while the Swampman’s utterances may feel like they have meaning, according to Davidson, they actually don’t. The Swampman’s propositions are thus not genuine according to Davidson. Davidson while claiming the Swampman’s utterances have no meaning, does not actually outright doubt Swampman’s personhood, yet refers to the Swampman as an ‘it’ rather than as a ‘he’ and it seems to regard the Swampman as not having meaningful qualia.”*

At my resurrection, the idea of me, which has always been and will always be sustained by God whether I am in physical form or not, will be placed once again into a physical body. I will not be a clone, or a replica. My consciousness will be an uninterrupted flow of existence from now until then.

One could argue that God will take the exact same atoms of my original body at the time of my death and use those same atoms to recreate my new body. Why not? It doesn’t really matter I suppose — the atoms which made up my body as a child will probably have all been replaced by the time I am an old man.

If I buy a motorcycle, and over the course of 20 years, replace every part of that motorcycle, is it still the same motorcycle?

The idea remains.

*See Donald Davidson – Swampman

The Origin of Speech (Book Review)

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Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote some amazing books, and this might be my favourite so far. In The Origin of Speech, ERH illustrates that speech, and its creation, is the power which holds a civilization together.

For this book review, I’ll start by copying the Editor’s Postscript found on page 128…

Speech begins with vocatives and imperatives. It begins with formal speech which moves men to action and is embodied in ritual. Our grammar books on the other hand begin with the nominative and the pronoun I. The nominative is only usable when an experience is over. I can only respond as an I after I have been addressed as thou. I is the last pronoun a child learns to use.

We discovered that our systems of formal logic are skewed by accepting this distortion of our grammarians. The beginning vocative and lyric stages of all experience are thus called illogical even though they are essential before the narrative and nominative (abstract) modes can be applied. Common sense or daily talk is a derivative of formal speech.

Gender identifies the required participants in living interaction and is not synonymous with sex. Neuter is not a third sex but refers to all dead things. Thus grammar is a mirror of the stages of human experience. Inspiration through a vocative or imperative addresses us as thou, then forces us to respond as an I, makes us report as we, and at the end a story speaks of us as they. Thus we are conjugated through the stages of experience.

Instead of mental health, we propose grammatical health. Grammatical health requires the ability of command, the ability to listen, the ability to act, and finally the ability to free ourselves from the command by telling our story. Only then are we ready to respond again. We demonstrated that grammatical ill health can lead to war, dictatorship, revolution and crisis — and showed how formal speech can overcome these four.

We used the image of a time cup created to be fulfilled and to be discarded in time. All social order depends on the power of invoked names to create never-ending series of such time cups.

The grammatical method does not supply a rule book for our behaviour but a method to help us understand our history, to differentiate between valid and invalid names, and to determine the response appropriate to the stage of a particular experience or event. It should create a whole series of new social sciences unhampered by our skewed logic which has been dominated by nominatives and I’s.

Grammatical experience changes us. In the world of today, there are people at many different stages of grammatical development, and our method offers them the hope of more successful cooperation and understanding. It gives us all a common history, a history aware of timing, and a foundation for a possible peace among men.

***

Rosenstock-Huessy describes the difference between “pre-formal” speech, “formal” speech, and “informal” (or post-formal) speech. Pre-formal speech is akin to animal speech: grunting and growling, pointing and nodding. Formal speech is man’s high speech: the naming of things, ceremonies, political structures. Informal speech is somewhat of a combination of pre-formal and formal, in which we relax things a bit to make it more “low brow”. In formal speech I call my parents Mother and Father; in informal speech I can call them mama and papa. Pronouns are then considered informal speech as well. The informal is founded on the formal.

ERH lists four diseases of speech: war, revolution, decay, and crisis. These diseases arise when speech is no longer possible, or is being suppressed. War occurs when two sides are no longer willing to speak to each other and the tension between them grows to violence. Revolution occurs when a young generation, wanting change, is not yet able to articulate through speech the change it wishes, and so turns to shouting, protests, and violence. Where the young create revolutions, the old create counter-revolutions. The values of the past are held up against the revolution, but they have grown hollow and meaningless. Those praising the old values do not themselves live them out, and haven’t for some time. This leads to decadence and decay. A crisis in society occurs when those with knowledge do not speak to those who have no knowledge — they do not tell them what to do.

Of course all four of these diseases are interrelated. The unwillingness of the revolutionary to respect the “old ways” is countered by the old genaration’s unwillingness to embrace the new. The unwillingness of two parties to speak in war, but yet still willing to speak within their own communities, is met with the unwillingness of the “haves” (re: knowledge) to speak with the “have-nots” within their own communities.

ERH offers remedies to these diseases: to the deafness of war, a willingness to listen; to the incoherent shouting of revolution, the ability to articulate; to the crisis of muteness, a willingness to entrust; and to the decadence of hollow lip service, the rejuvenation of values through new representatives. “If this is true,” ERH writes, “the original character of all language should be connected with man’s victory over these evils.” (Page 17) New speech is generated when one or more of these diseases occurs. In fact, it must if a solution to the disease is to be found.

ERH covers many other topics related to speech in this book. All of it is quite illuminating, and I highly recommend giving it a read. I give the book 5/5 stars.

For a set of notes covering the whole book, click here: ERH Fund, Notes on The Origin of Speech

Related reading…

Past & Future ~ Connected by Speech

The Relevance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

One Miracle of Speech