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Man created free, yet also with 'rules'?

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#21 Owen Jones

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 04:46 PM

I'm not a linguist but I think apeiron and infinite have disctinctly different connotations.  I think of apeiron as that state of creation when the earth was without form or void, i.e. undifferentiated.  I really question whether Cicero's translation of apeiron to infinite is apt.  In the Aristototelian hierarchy of being you have:


Divine Nous

Psyche -- Noetic

Psyche -- Passions

Animal nature

Vegetative nature

Inorganic nature

Apeiron -- Depth


So when using the definition "boundless" with respect to apeiron, it really refers to undifferentiated formlessness.  The kind of underlying stuff that God orders and puts into its proper form and place and purpose.  In a certain sense, it means chaos. 


Now, far be it for me to criticize St. Gregory of Nyssa.  In fact, discovering "The Life of Moses" was my first step in an 8 year trek toward Orthodoxy.  But just as a personal point of privilege, I prefer other words than infinite to refer to God. 

#22 Lakis Papas

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 08:42 PM

You're right about the Aristotelian view. 
But I think it's too difficult to combine it with the patristic theology and use of terms. 
Since, Aristotle accepted only potential infinity, while Fathers of Church accepted completed infinity, there is a gap that is very difficult to cover. For Church, infinity is an actuality that can be experienced (although this experience is never completed). But for Aristotle infinity is only a potentiality and it does not exist at all. 
I understand that Aristotle talks about nature, while Church talks about non-natural concepts. 

#23 Owen Jones

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 09:17 PM

I realize it's conventional wisdom that Aristotle is purely dealing with natural things, and that the divine realm in its perfection has nothing to do with imperfect nature, having only set it in motion, but that would be incorrect. 


In any case, the issue of infinity came up in a discussion of free will and the infinity of created man and created nature as if God sets up a contradiction.  So we have already seen how the misappropriation of infinity as a theological concept gets things very muddled.  And infinity is not a proper translation of the classical Greek apeiron, IMHO.  The apeiron should never be treated as if referring to the Godhead. 


Isaac Newton muddled the concept the most by asserting, in support of the Cambridge Platonists against their critics, that space was Absolute (i.e. infinite).  He thought what he was doing was protecting God by asserting that absolute space was the medium by which God was in perfect touch with His creation, but the result has been just the opposite.  If the universe is infinite in time and space, you don't need God.  And in fact every modern secularist ideology is predicated on the theory of absolute space and time as asserted by Newton.  This is what permits ideologues to claim that human intellect has infinite potential, and that history has infinite potential, always progressing, always evolving toward perfection. You have created a completely immanentized concept of the human, and of history.  And of course with that, all of the classical concepts of human free will are trashed.  Man is an ever evolving machine, merely responding to stimuli and pressure which inevitably makes him stronger and smarter and better, and the people who are crushed by history are relegated to the "dust bin."   These become the "rules" i.e. the laws of an immanentized nature that govern human existence, instead of Divine Law. 


Now, obviously, that's not what we mean in the liturgy when we refer to God as infinite.  I just think it's a poor choice of words.  There are indeed spatial metaphors that we can apply to God, such as "Beyond" and there are noetic categories, such as "unknowable" but when we try to apply the term infinite to God, what does that mean?  The term infinite in that context is itself incomprehensible, whether we are speaking of either space or time because both space and time are created things, and God is Uncreated.  You see it muddles our thinking because by using the word infinite, we are forced to think in spatial terms and in time lapse terms about God.  So I think it an unfortunate accident that it entered into our theological vocabulary.  Boundless doesn't quite cut it either, unless we are making up new meanings for words. 

Edited by Owen Jones, 24 March 2013 - 09:21 PM.

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