Thursday, August 18, 2016

Do you want to read something interesting about "efficiency"

Lately I have been spending a lot of time trying to better understand the early chapters of Genesis and the nature of sin. This is because it appears so critical to the foundations of writers of technology from a Christian perspective. In part this involved taking a class with John Walton  at Regent College this summer.

I won't go into it much here but Walton is becoming known for is his recent work outlining his understanding that the early chapters of Genesis are not primarily talking about the creation of material matter. Instead, he claims that the chapters are outlining a view that God creating an orderly functional home for humans and animals. As he states in his book "The Lost World of Adam and Eve" this is the difference between a House and a Home story. We have for a long time read Genesis as a house story - structure, plumbing etc. Walton wants us to see it as a home story - order and function. God creating an ordered place for animals and humans. 

Now, in attempting to understand the extent to which Walton has extended what has already been discussed about Genesis, I started to read what other OT Hebrew competent scholars would say of Genesis 1, so I got hold of "The Search For Order" by Dumbrell. Dumbrell was a Prof at Australia's Moore College - hardly a 'liberal' seminary.

Any follower of the topic of Christianity and technology would be familiar that for Ellul (as one example) one of the big problems is that the drive for technology as he perceives it is that - it is all about efficiency. I think his view exaggerates its significance but I won't pursue that here.

Anyway, what I want to highlight in this post is the following quote from Dumbrell.
The word ţôb (good) has a very broad range of meanings, and the translation of it must depend entirely on the immediate context. The adjective, which can certainly mean aesthetical or ethical good, need not be understood in terms of perfection in the context of Genesis 1. However, ţôb would be the word to use if one wanted to convey the concept of ultimate perfection (whatever that would mean, since it presupposes a standard of comparison). If ţôb in Genesis 1 conveys the concept of a perfect universe, the concept is without parallel in the Old Testament. In the context of Genesis 1:31 the meaning of ţôb is best taken as “efficient” (Kohler and Baumgartner 1958: 349). Thus, the emphasis in the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 is upon the complete correspondence between divine intention and the universe, which was suitable to fulfil the purpose for which it was brought into being (1994: 20-21). 
I can't help but see this at the very least as humourous and heading towards a large dose of irony. The devastating criticism of modern technology by Ellul was that it was efficient. 

However, it seems like when you read in Genesis 1 "and it was good" we could equally translate it as ... "and it was efficient"

So God saw what he had made and saw that it was functional and efficient - oh dear.....

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Norris Clarke S.J. #4

Norris Clarke describes himself as a metaphysican not predominantly a theologian.
The difference may take some explaining.

"One and the Many" (2001)

“although the scope of the metaphysical is universal, embracing all being, its method of investigation is strictly philosophical. i.e. drawing on the resources of natural reason alone as applied to our common human experience, without taking its data or its conclusions from any higher source of wisdom transcending the human, such as divine revelation and its theological explication. Should the metaphysician as a personal thinker, however, judge these to be authentic, they should be respected; and occasionally they can be sources of new illumination on the deeper meaning of the natural order itself, so as to stimulate natural reason to look more deeply into our human experience to discern what it may have overlooked before. This is to respect the great guiding principle of medieval Christian thinkers’ who were both theologians and philosophers, namely that God has spoken to us in two great books: The Book of Nature where created things speak to us directly, and the The Book of Revelation, where God himself reveals to us his own inner nature , his free gifts and special plans for humanity. These two books written by the same author can not contradict each other.

Clarke’s life’s work was devoted to as he called it the ‘creative retrieval’ of Thomistic thought.

"Explorations in Metaphysics: Being God: Person" (1994)

p107. The modern church in exploring ways to better connect with the wider population has reconnected with its long tradition of emphaising relationality. Relationships between the trinity, us and God and  us as collective individuals in need to be a community. But this leaves us somewhat unembodied. 

Clarke seems to me to offer a way out of this without denying relationality.

Explorations in Metaphysics. 
"To Be is to be substance in relation".

Thus, for humans as material substance to exist and have relationship is be be physical and not mere vapour. Indeed as Clarke implies the second you materially exist you exist within a complex web of relations. Indeed this completely is true and more and more fields of science have begun to emphasis substance-in-relation network analysis over the last 20 years or so – but Clarke provides us with a metaphysical interpretation not a sociological one.

In every finite (created) substance there is a more primordial relation of receptivity constitutive of its very being before it can pour over into action at all: namely, that it has received its very act of existence from another, ultimately from God, the source of all existence. Thus we should describe every created being as possessing its own existence from another, in itself and oriented toward others – a triadic rather than just a dyadic structure.