Sung reality; second, with an assumption that God only

Sung Joon Park

Fr. Himes

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Intro to Christian Theology I

December 14 2017

Final Essay

1.   Anselm’s
Proslogion is often misinterpreted as a philosophical argument. What, in fact,
is it? What difference does this make to how we read and interpret the work?

 

             Anselm’s Proslogian is famous for and considered as
philosophical argument that uses ontology to prove the existence of God. However,
he did not structure the text to suggest a thesis arguing God’s actuality, but rather
to ponder about attributes of God and initiate the others into the thorough
contemplation of God. Anselm does bring up the reasoning process of God’s
existence and uses an a priori explanation to validate it; however, he does so
not to dispute about the existence, but to propose a way to contemplate God and
illustrate a practice that is both intellectual and spiritual exercise.

Anselm’s
ontological argument is indeed intended to contemplate God not to just convince
the existence of God. Anselm’s controversial assertion begins by defining God
as “a being than which no greater being can be conceived.” Then, he specifies
underlying steps from the definition: first, God, a being than which no greater
being can be conceived, is the greatest being that can either exists in the
mind only or exists in the mind and in the reality; second, with an assumption
that God only exists in the mind only, a being that can also be conceived to
exist both in the mind and in the reality will be greater than God who exists
in the understanding only; this premise contradicts the definition since God is
the only greatest being that can be thought of; hence, God is “the” being, than
which no greater being can be conceived, who exists in both understanding and
reality.

These
coherent steps have had discords for several reasons. First, Anselm only
assumes the situation where God exists, in the premise that he uses; it was
either God exists in the mind only or exists in both mind and reality, and does
not use if God did not exist. Also, these deliberation of God’s existence have
arouse only from the definition, not from theoretical analysis; the definition
of God, which Anselm wholeheartedly believes to be true, was not logically
proven. However, this path of reasoning is based on the fact that the readers
of his text, or people who he is writing to, believes in God and at least have
minimum understanding of God. Anselm provides logical direction to those
believers and suggests them a rational guidance for deeper contemplation of God
instead of proving the actuality of God from the beginning. Anselm’s
presupposition of people having faith and his reflection of God’s existence verify
that he has written the Proslogion as a prayer to cogitate God profoundly.

For the
same reason, Anselm implies that believing in God is not just spiritual
exercise but also intellectual exercise. When reading the scripture or pray to God,
Anselm demonstrates that prayer and emotional exercise are obviously important
part of one’s spirituality, but he or she also needs to meditate on God and
develop his or her thoughts of God, just like the course of thoughts that Anselm
expanded from the definition of God. Belief in God requires not only religious
practice and prayer that strengthens the personal relationship with God, but
also theoretical and knowledgeable development of intellectual activity that
expands understanding and affiliation with God.

             The genre of the text is clearly demonstrated; in the
beginning of his book, Anselm addresses God, “Teach me to seek you, and reveal
yourself to me, when I seek you, for I cannot seek you, except you teach me,
nor find you, except you reveal yourself” (CH1, Proslogion). The theme of the
book is a prayer to God and to ponder about Him and His mysteries. However, Proslogion
has been misinterpreted as a philosophical argument to prove God’s actual
presence because of his ontological argument on existence of God. Nonetheless, Anselm
undoubtedly illustrates his logical thought process, seemingly philosophical
argument, not to actually prove the existence of God, but to navigate the
believers to the intellectual exercise and profound contemplation of God.

 

2. “Univocal predication is
impossible between God and creatures… Neither, on the other hand, are names
applied to God and creatures in a purely equivocal sense, as some have said…
Therefore it must be said that these names are said of God and of creatures in
an analogous sense, that is,
according to proportion.

Explain the three kinds of
predication according to Thomas and show why the only possible language about
God is analogical.

 

             In his greatest work, Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas introduces three kinds of
predication about God: univocal, equivocal, and analogical. Univocal means to
have only one possible meaning. Thus, a univocal predication shows that a word
that describes two different contexts means the same thing. Equivocal means to
have more than one interpretation. An equivocal predication represents a word illustrating
two contexts has completely different meanings. Analogical means a comparison
between two concepts, typically for the purpose of explanation or
clarification. Analogical predication conveys similar characteristic and
concept through comparison. Although all predications sound conceivable, Thomas
Aquinas claims that when applying names to God, He cannot be described in
neither of univocal or equivocal predication, but only in analogical term.

             Aquinas clearly draws a line and affirms that it is
“impossible” to name God in univocal predication. For instance, Aquinas uses
the term “wise” as an example. We do call a man wise and also call God wise. According
to the definition of univocal language, the two “wises” should propose same
meaning. However, the concept of wise of man certainly fall shorts in the
degree when compared to that of wise of God. Every term we use to describe
things will never be in full degree when applied to God. Moreover, Aquinas
asserts that names applied to God and creatures cannot be in purely equivocal
sense. If the names were completely unrelated, we would never be able to know
or demonstrate about God at all. For instance, using the same example, wise of
man and of God might show difference in certain extend, but are not mutually
exclusive and cannot deny the relatedness. Therefore, when referring to God, univocal
and equivocal predication are both impossible, since the names applied to God
and to creatures are definitely distinct in the degree but analogous in some
proportion.

             As neither of univocal and equivocal language are
plausible, Aquinas insists that the only possible language to predicate God is through
analogical predication. Although we, as the created beings, have limited
intuition a knowledge to portray perfect image and notion of God, the first
cause of all beings, analogical predication allows us to express God without
hastily concluding His nature or undermining His omnipotence. For example,
analogy is like describing a taste of an apple to someone who has never tasted
it before; one might describe it as a red round fruit that is crunchier than
pear, juicier than banana, and sweeter than melon. These analogies do not give
exact characterization of an apple, but do provide corresponding concepts. In
the same sense, when indicating God, only analogy predication enables us to
apply words to God. In conclusion, the names we apply to God are different in
the degree but comparable in some scale, causing both univocal and equivocal
predications impossible. Although analogy also does not fully clarify God as a
whole, it is the only possible way to apply names to God to some extent.