August 22, 2015

God's Hierarchy and Man's

Hierarchy. In his article at Bad Catholic, An Idiotic Hierarchy, Marc Barnes describes the word's use, today, as if it's "Greek for 'storm troopers' or 'really bad STDs.'" Far from a bad word, "hierarchy" has it's roots in Judeo-Christian religion. If we go back to Old Testament times (or at least Greek translation of Old Testament times), we find "hierarkhes" referring to the high priest.


In the late 400s or early 500s AD, Pseudo-Dionysius (writing as St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a convert of St. Paul) pens De Coelesti Hierarchia. This work, On the Celestial Hierarchy, uses the Latin word "hierachia" to refer to the organization of the angels.

This is our word. And it's a positive word. It didn't start off referring to oppressive governments or organizations but to God's order. Marc Barnes does a great job of explaining the differences, and I recommend you read the article.


God established an order in the beginning. He gave form to the earth. He established order in space and on earth. He established order in the animal kingdom. He established order in humankind through the family. He created order within our bodies and minds. Why should we quail at order in the Church or among the angels?

Yes, order can be abused. Families can have bad fathers. Churches can have bad leaders. There were some bad popes and plenty (one out of three, c.f. Rev 12:4) of bad angels. That says nothing of the quality of the hierarchy, only of the failures of individuals with free will. It speaks to our own failings and warns us to be mindful of how we were created. We all fall within the lower ranks of some hierarchy and the upper ranks of some. I am the father and husband in my family. I am the professor in my class. I am also a layman in my parish and diocese, a loyal (by God's grace) son of the Church. I'm a fairly bright human, but I'm a moron compared to my guardian angel. (Why don't I listen to him more often?)  It is our pride that tells us we must sit at the top of every hierarchy or else we're losing. It is our pride that tells us that every hierarchy is a con, a way to gather power and exploit people. God's order is always for our good; it is man's order that can fail us.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_angelic_hierarchy#/media/File:Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_Virgin.jpg

August 11, 2015

Is God Intelligent?

I tried cooking breakfast the other day. (Mind you, normally I'm a great cook.) After a few minutes over the electric griddle and stove, I found that the bacon was almost done but the eggs were still raw. What happened? After some investigation, I discovered that I'd hit the switch on the power strip by accident; the griddle was no longer hot. With the griddle turned off, it cannot cook eggs.  Why?  It cannot cook eggs, because it doesn't have any heat to transfer into the eggs. It has no heat to give them.

My cold griddle has the potential for heat. I never just crack eggs on the countertop (at least not on purpose!) because it doesn't have the potential which the griddle has. It couldn't get up to cooking temperature, but the griddle could.  However, potential is not enough. Eggs in potential aren't cooked. A griddle in potential isn't hot. Without actual heat, I don't get breakfast.

Each of us had the potential to exist, and that potential was made actual. We received existence. However, there must be some actual existence from which existence can be received. In the Argument from Movement, we argue to this source that has existence rather than receiving it from elsewhere.

Now, what about intelligence?

We exhibit intelligence ourselves. We design things and impart that intelligence, in some way, onto them, like my griddle imparts heat to my breakfast. This is especially evident now, in the time of smart cars and smart phones and so forth. We put some measure of intelligence into the things we make, so they can act intelligently.

Not only that, but we exhibit intelligence that we trust. We trust it far more than any product of mere randomness. We treat our minds like a man-made bridge that will get safely somewhere, rather than like a fallen log which might collapse under our feet.

Where did that come from? Where did this intelligence come from? If we were made by some kind of God, and we were made with intelligence, then God must also possess intelligence. He must have it in order to give it.

The question of God's intelligence seems to hinge on whether or not you accept an idea: you cannot give what you do not have. (More formally, this is the principle of proportional causality: the effect you get cannot exceed the cause.)  Now, we're not talking, yet, about a personal God. This being could be an impersonal intelligence--some kind of logical machine.  So far, all we have is an intelligent creator, capable of giving that intelligence to some of it's creations, and giving intelligibility and order to the universe.