Unknowns

In his 2014 book Describing Gods, Graham Oppy presents the “divine liar” paradox, by SUNY philosopher Patrick Grim:

1. X believes that (1) is not true.

If we suppose that (1) is true, then this tells us that X believes that (1) is not true. But if an omniscient being believes that (1) is not true, then it follows that (1) is not true. So the assumption that (1) is true leads to a contradiction.

Suppose instead that (1) is not true. That is, suppose that it’s not the case that X believes that (1) is not true. If an omniscient being fails to believe that (1) is not true, then it’s not true that (1) is not true. So this alternative also leads to a contradiction.

But, on the assumption that there is an omniscient being X, either it’s the case that (1) is true or it’s the case that (1) is not true.

“So, on pain of contradiction,” Oppy explains, “we seem driven to the conclusion that there is no omniscient being X.”

(Also: Patrick Grim, “Some Neglected Problems of Omniscience,” American Philosophical Quarterly 20:3 [July 1983], 265-276.)

Devotion

In 1711, Belgian abbott Lucas de Vriese filled an unpublished book with 3,100 anagrams composed on phrases taken from the Latin version of the Bible. Page 81 is called the “echo page,” because the first word of each line echoes the last word of the preceding line. Each line is an anagram of the opening sentence of “Hail Mary”: Ave Maria gratia plena dominus tecum (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee) occurring in Luke 1:28. Impressively, the whole thing is also an acrostic — taking the first letter of each line spells out the original quotation:

Amacula ter munda, ita per omnia viges.
Viges, enormi mulcta Adami pura enata.
Enata Malis pura vige, ac merito Munda.

Munda Mater emicas, o pura Geniti Aula.
Aula Dei micat, nota summe pura, Regina.
Regina, o Tu pura macula, et Dia Immensa.
Immensa, o Tu diva integre pura ac alma.
Alma ter unice pura Summa io Dei Gnata.

Gnata Dei, pura es communi a Mali reatu.
Reatu magno pura, micat sine lue Adami.
Adami sine omni macula pura, rege tuta.
Tuta o pergas alma ac nimia munda jure.
Iure mero Genita munda a culpis, Amata.
Amata veni Summa Regina, delicto pura.

Pura et ter divina o gemmas, Amica luna.
Luna pura (mira dico) Agni Stemmate Eva.
Eva, i matris culpa e gremio munda nata.
Nata maledicti pura, o vere Summi Agna.
Agna Coeli summa, et Avi ter pura damni.

Damni tu pura Regia es, et a macula omni.
Omni reatu, ac Avi plagis e matre munda.
Munda tu pia merito maculae es ignara.
Ignara culpae mera, o Summi Tu Dei Nata
Nata Pura Medica, et gloria Summa veni.
Veni multa munda, Pia et a gremio Sacra.
Sacra nimie munda, alme pura vige tota.

Tota piaculis munda mera, germina Eva.
Eva o simul prima et munda genita, Cara.
Cara, imo Summi Nata, et digne pura, vale.
Vale, o mendi pura Mater, ac Vitis Magna.
Magna, o sic pura ad literam, vive. Amen.

Here’s a rough translation, from City University of Hong Kong mathematician Felipe Cucker’s Manifold Mirrors: The Crossing Paths of the Arts and Mathematics:

Thrice clean from stain, that is why you blossom.
You blossom after being born free of Adam’s great curse.
Born of sinners, you blossom pure and clean, due to your own merit.

Clean you shine, Mother, oh pure Temple of the Only Begotten Son.
God’s Temple shines, famous for its great purity, oh Queen.
Oh Queen, you who are free of stain, incommensurable Divine.
Oh incommensurable, you are divine, immaculately pure and nourishing.
Nourishing, thrice peerlessly pure, oh greatest daughter of God.

Daughter of God, you are free from original sin.
Free from the greatest sin, you shine free from Adam’s curse.
Pure, clean of Adam’s stain, protected queen.
Continue protected, oh nourishing and so justly clean.
Justly Daughter free from guilt, Beloved.
Come, oh Beloved, greatest Queen, free from guilt.

Pure and thrice divine, you are adorned with gems, oh loving moon.
Pure moon (I speak of marvelous deeds), Eve of the Lamb’s lineage.
Eve, go, born free from guilt in her mother’s womb.
Born free from blame, truly Lamb of the Highest.
Greatest Lamb of Heaven and thrice free from the Ancestor’s harm.

You, oh, Queen, are free from harm and from stain.
From all sin and from the Ancestor’s calamities you are free since birth.
Clean through your own merit pious, you have not known any stain.
Merely ignorant of the guilt, oh you, born from God the Highest.
Born Pure, Healer, come also oh Highest in glory.
Come clean from punishment, Pious and Holy from your mother’s womb.
Sacred, mightily clean, motherly pure, you live protected.

Bloom protected, you, the only one clean from expiatory punishment, Eve.
Oh Eve, first born as well as clean, Beloved.
Beloved, truly born from the Highest and fittingly pure, be strong.
Be strong, oh Mother free from fault, and Great Vineyard.
Great, oh truly pure, live. Amen.

(Via Walter Begley’s Biblia Anagrammatica, or, The Anagramatic Bible, 1904.)

Q&A

In 2011, journalist Alex Renton’s 6-year-old daughter Lulu passed him a letter and asked him to see that it reached the addressee:

To God how did you get invented?

From Lulu

He sent the letter to family members, Christian friends, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Catholic Church. None sent a satisfactory reply. Then he sent it to the Anglican Communion and received this response from Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury:

Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off. I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

Archbishop Rowan

Renton read it to Lulu. “It went down well,” he wrote later. “What worked particularly was the idea of ‘God’s story.’

“‘Well?’ I asked when we reached the end. ‘What do you think?’ She thought a little. ‘Well, I have very different ideas. But he has a good one.'”

Credit

“The first author would like to acknowledge and thank Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, for the encouragement, inspiration, and occasional hint that were necessary to complete this article. The second author, however, specifically disclaims this acknowledgement.”

— Michael I. Hartley and Dimitri Leemans, “Quotients of a Universal Locally Projective Polytope of Type {5, 3, 5},” Mathematische Zeitschrift 247:4 (2004), 663-674

Nowhere Man

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In 1819, as a riposte to David Hume’s skepticism of the Gospel history, Richard Whately published Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte:

‘But what shall we say to the testimony of those many respectable persons who went to Plymouth on purpose, and saw Buonaparte with their own eyes? must they not trust their senses?’ I would not disparage either the eyesight or the veracity of these gentlemen. I am ready to allow that they went to Plymouth for the purpose of seeing Buonaparte; nay, more, that they actually rowed out into the harbour in a boat, and came alongside of a man-of-war, on whose deck they saw a man in a cocked hat, who, they were told, was Buonaparte. This is the utmost point to which their testimony goes; how they ascertained that this man in the cocked hat had gone through all the marvellous and romantic adventures with which we have so long been amused, we are not told.

“Let those, then, who pretend to philosophical freedom of inquiry, who scorn to rest their opinions on popular belief, and to shelter themselves under the example of the unthinking multitude, consider carefully, each one for himself, what is the evidence proposed to himself in particular, for the existence of such a person as Napoleon Buonaparte: — I do not mean, whether there ever was a person bearing that name, for that is a question of no consequence; but whether any such person ever performed all the wonderful things attributed to him; — let him then weigh well the objections to that evidence, (of which I have given but a hasty and imperfect sketch,) and if he then finds it amount to anything more than a probability, I have only to congratulate him on his easy faith.”

The whole thing is here.

Endless

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[A]ccording to the standard traditions, being in hell is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. As with less horrendous evils, the first question is how such an evil is, or could be, justified. The theological portrayals of hell make this question the most difficult for the theist to address. Ordinary pain and evil, it may be thought, can be accounted for if events in the future ‘make up for’ what leads to them, but the evil of hell leads nowhere; at no point in the future will something of value make up for the evil of hell or will some reward be granted to those who endure the suffering of hell. Hell is apparently paradigmatic as an example of truly pointless, gratuitous evil. Thus arises the problem of hell.

— Jonathan L. Kvanvig, The Problem of Hell, 1993

Engine Trouble

In John Milton’s 1637’s poem “Lycidas,” corrupt clergy are threatened with a obscure punishment:

The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
Besides what the grim Woolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing sed,
But that two-handed engine at the door,
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.

What is the “two-handed engine”? That’s been a riddle for nearly 400 years. In 1950, Oberlin College philologist W. Arthur Turner collected 10 possibilities, ranging from the nations England and Scotland to “[t]he sheep-hook, which in Milton’s day apparently had an iron spud on the straight end and could be used as a weapon.” Turner himself thought that “the only engine which does meet all the requirements is the lock on St. Peter’s door (or the power of the lock), to which he carries the key.” But there’s still no strong consensus.

(W. Arthur Turner, “Milton’s Two-Handed Engine,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 49:4 [October 1950], 562-565.)

“De Nyew Testament”

We Fada wa dey een heaben,
leh ebreybody hona ya name.
We pray dat soon ya gwine
rule oba de wol.
Wasoneba ting ya wahn,
leh um be so een dis wol
same like dey een heaben.
Gii we de food wa we need
dis day yah en ebry day.
Fagib we fa we sin,
same like we da fagib
dem people wa do bad ta we.
Leh we dohn hab haad test
wen Satan try we.
Keep we fom ebil.

From the New Testament in Gullah. The whole book is here.

First Things First

One may wonder at the oddity of an argument from orderliness. The theist innocently demands a cause for orderliness, forgetting, of course, that ’cause’ presupposes ‘orderliness.’ Without the laws of causality, no causes would be operative. The laws of causality must therefore exist before any cause can operate. Therefore the laws of causality cannot be the result of any cause. These are laws which cannot be caused even by God.

— B.C. Johnson, The Atheist Debater’s Handbook, 1983

In the Beginning

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What was God doing before he made heaven and earth? … if (God) did nothing, why did he not continue in this way … forever … ? If any new motion arise in God, or a new will is formed in him, to the end of establishing creation which he had never established previously … then (God) is not truly … eternal. Yet if it were God’s sempiternal will for the creature to exist, why is not the creature sempiternal also?

— Augustine, Confessions