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Friday, July 5, 2013

The Problem of the One and the Many: Watch Tower Unitarianism

The Unitarian god of the Jehovah's Witnesses


The Watch Tower (WT; Jehovah's Witnesses), by proclaiming a single person unitarian god, has a theology that rests upon unity, or oneness, as the ultimate provenance of reality. So in the end the unity has ontic and epistemic sway over the plurality within the WT view of reality. The implication is that the WT view of God cannot account for all the particulars and diversity that is an indispensable part of all reality; nothing can be truly distinguished or differentiated. Yet this is self-defeating considering that one has to make a distinction between that which the WT deems as true or false. Without an ontic ground that accounts for the equal ultimacy of unity and diversity, in principle, truth cannot be discerned, which is an assertion of truth, hence the WT’s view of god collapses on itself. However Christian triune theism (CT) affirms an ontology where neither the one (unity) nor the many (plurality) is ultimate and more dominant over the other. Unity and diversity are the two characteristics of the material and immaterial world as equal ultimate features of reality.
Unlike the WT theism, CT doesn’t plunge into self-defeat forasmuch as it doesn’t avow unity in the Godhead over diversity. The WT is stuck with a theology that posits the one (unity) as the ultimate over the many (plurality).
In the doctrine of the Trinity we know that God reveals both an ultimate unity and plurality as the one God in three persons. And this ontic foundation is expressed in the universe as well as that which is transcendent (e.g., the laws of logic are one yet exist as many: LOI, LEM, and the LNC; moral law is one law existing in Ten Commandments; numbers: there is one number “seven” yet an infinite number of “sevens.”). All things and entities, as aspects of the one and the many, are derivative from God’s ontology: the one and the many have equal ultimacy at the most basic position and this truth, in principle, alone delivers the a priori environment for intelligibility and epistemic rights.

Unified Eternal Truths In Diversity

Truth is a unified plurality: if truth is eternal, and it is, then an eternal unitarian god lacks the unified/diversity within its nature to account for the unified diversity of truth.
One example:

The statement that “all men are mortal” is a truth. Additionally, the statement that “Tom is mortal” is a particular aspect of the unified truth about the mortality of all men. It seems that any use of an “all” that has a particular within its set, to be an eternal truth would require a unified/diverse truth-source to account for such.
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The Laws of Logic are eternally one as the Laws of Logic; yet they are a plurality of individual single laws: the law of non-contradiction, law of identity, law of excluded middle. These laws are an eternal unified diversity. WT theism lacks the divine eternal resource to be the ultimate explanation for the laws of logic.

James Anderson’s Summary and Application of Van Til’s One and Many Apologetic
Erudite scholar James Anderson summarizes Cornelius Van Til’s thought on the one and the many:
• The ontology of the universe is such that either (a) unity is ultimate and not plurality, or (b) plurality is ultimate and not unity, or (c) unity and plurality are co-ultimate.
• If unity is ultimate and not plurality, then knowledge of the universe (even in part) is impossible.
• If plurality is ultimate and not unity, then knowledge of the universe (even in part) is impossible.
• Knowledge of the universe is not impossible.
• Therefore, the ontology of the universe must be such that unity and plurality are co-ultimate (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, pp. 25-26).
And I would interpolate that only the triune God, as the eternal infinite being with the ontic character of unity in diversity in equal ultimacy, can be the ground and fount of reality. The WT fails to trust in the triune God; consequently it fails to account for all things within the universe and reality itself.

The Trinity: The Foundation for the One and the Many

God Said, “Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
And the LORD God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of Us...” (Genesis 3:22).

We baptize in the name (a singular word) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (plurality of persons). The unity of the particulars is grounded in the being of God. There is a unity and a diversity in God and there is a unity and diversity in the cosmos. The cosmos is called the “universe.” It is a unity and a diversity. A unity and a diversity make up the physical reality. The cosmos, as a finite reflection of God, has unity that is on par with the diversity because in the nature of the triune God there are no particulars not in equal relationship with the universals: there is nothing universal that is not equally ultimate in the particulars. God said, “Let Us (plural) make man in Our (plural) image (singular) and Our (plural) likeness (singular).” Since the triune God created the cosmos no aspect of the universe is more ultimate than the other. The unity in the universe is equal with the diversity in the universe. They are equal because the triune God created and sustains them. All non-Christian worldviews sacrifice the unity for the diversity or the diversity for the unity. Only the tri-personal God has the ontic attributes that can provide the solution to the problem of the one and the many; a feature that is manifested everywhere in the universe. Thus other systems of thought, including the WT’s, are false.
There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and these three are one God; the same in substance, equal in power and glory (Westminster Shorter Catechism).
The God of the Bible in Trinity is the starting point for epistemology, apologetics, and philosophy. The triune God is reflected and revealed everywhere in the material and immaterial worlds. The Trinity “confronts” humanity and all creation everywhere at all times. You cannot look into a microscope or a telescope or a mathematical table and fail to encounter the truth of God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The triune God is the foundation and the solution to the problem of the one and the many. The triune God is the solution and not the problem. Within the being of the tri-personal God: unity and diversity, the one and the many are equally ultimate and infinite.

The Puzzle of the One and the Many

As we have seen, the rational problem of the one and many has been a knotty dilemma since the classical Greeks. And from Hume to Russell, modern thinkers have been perplexed to explain whether unity has priority or diversity. Men have pondered the question, “Why does unity contain diversity?” Absent the doctrine of the Trinity no one has found a compelling answer for the basis of the unity of the diverse parts and the thing that brings all this together. Some say that unity has the greater priority (Hinduism) while others declare that the diversity has the greater priority (Mormonism). Opposing these notions is the unity and diversity that is structured in the material world and in the immaterial world. The equal and universal ultimacy of all things is grounded and proceeds from the Trinity. Where unity and particularity harmoniously and infinitely coalesce, associate, commune, and inter-adhere.

Monism, Oneness, and Illusion

If one rejects Christian theism, one must be bound to a radical diversity or a sharp and unbending unity. If everything is ultimately composed of non-relating particulars, there is no place for laws and perceptual norms. This is self-nullifying: one must use laws (the laws of logic) to assert such a claim. In touching communication, this radical diversity cannot unify brute facts and words. This unity is required in person to person communication. Consequently the denial of the necessity of the laws of logic in communication is also self-rebutting for it requires the use of these laws.
The doctrine of the incarnation asserts that God took on flesh. The doctrine of monism asserts that out of God flesh and matter appeared, and eventually they must return to (or into) God. Monism implies that God is somehow incomplete (Gary North: None Dare Call it Witchcraft, p. 63). 
Religious Monism 
What moves, what falls, what stands, what breathes, what does not breathe, what—many are its forms—this, growth together, becomes just One (R.C. Zaehner: Hindu Scriptures, p. 39).
If ... all is one absolute reality, Brahman, why should man search for moksha? Logically, this pantheistic monism has a terrible defect, because, if all things are part of Brahman, the escape from samsara would be utterly unnecessary and meaningless (Yong Kim: Oriental Thought, p. 12).
The idea that everything is one and all the diversity is an illusion is another option (Hinduism and Buddhism). Yet to toss away all the particulars is to toss away the particular theory itself. It saws off the plank it’s resting on. This monism cannot be true for it defeats itself. If one truly believed that all is one and diversity is a mere illusion, why do Hindu’s and Buddhists look both ways before they cross the street? Why do they flee from a house on fire? Why do they swim away from sharks? If the monist gets hit by a bus (or consumed by fire or eaten) and all that is left of him is a big stain, this helps him meet his goal of oneness with the world. Plus he should not fear pain, since the bus, fire, and shark are just illusions. There are no particular things such as buses, fire, and sharks. Obviously this is nonsense. One would not live long if one attempted to live out monism, additionally it is rationally self-demolishing.

Equal Ultimate Actuality of the One and the Many
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
God is a supremely self-comprehensive and self-contained unity. There is but one God. God is an absolute personality. There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Within the being of God, diversity is no more primary than unity. God is a tri-unity. The persons of the one God are mutually eternal and exhaustive of one another. The Holy Spirit and the Son are ontologically equal with God the Father. This is the answer and resolution to the problem of the one and the many.

“The whole problem of knowledge has constantly been that of bringing the one and the many together.” Why is there one organism made of many cells? Why is the one universe composed of many galaxies? Why is the category of numbers, one, and yet there are countless numbers? The quandary of the one and many, unity and diversity has been around for as long as man has brooded over unified particulars. Van Til adds: “The whole problem of philosophy may be summed up in the question of the relation of the unity to diversity; the so-called problem of the one and the many receives a definite answer from the doctrine of the simplicity of God.” The polytheism of WT (Jehovah and a god) cannot endow its adherents with the solution, it only adds to the epistemological predicament.

There is both unity and diversity, a one and a many, within all things in the world. And this is an analogous finite expression of the nature of the triune God: Three persons (diversity) within one God (unity). He is the reason we discover a unity and diversity in the uni-verse (this word is a compound of unity - diversity). Van Til directs us to the truth that “in this universe we deal with a derivative one and many, which can be brought into fruitful relation with one another because, back of both, we have God the original One and Many.” Since the theology of the WT sacrifices diversity in favor of unity, the JW’s system of theology is false.

The Rational Underpinning: God in Trinity
There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and these three are one God; the same in substance, equal in power and glory (Westminster Shorter Catechism). 
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). 
The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (Genesis 11:7-8).
The God revealed in scripture is the standard for truth, philosophy, and science, not pastor Russell who claimed that all Christianity is apostate and only his group is teaching God’s word. Every simple task and every piece of routine communication presupposes the triune God because we use logic, predication, and morality in all those endeavors. God is the precondition for all logic, predication, and morality. If we presuppose anything other than the triune God as our starting point, we end up with absurdity and contradictory affirmations. God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is inescapable if we want to make sense out of our world. If we reject the triune God and embrace JW theology, we end up asserting our own theoretical demise. Deny the tri-personal God and we commit logical suicide. Beginning with any starting point or presupposition other than the Trinity is self-defeating.
God Analogically Reveals Aspects of His Being in Nature
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).
The WT’s notion of a small god alongside a big god is not revealed in scripture and is not reflected in the creation. The majesty of creation looms over these false gods. In the universe we find a tri-unity composed of time, space, and matter. Each aspect is comprised of its own tri-unity. In the universe these are three distinct dynamics. All three of these are also divided by three. Space is comprised of height, width, and depth - a tri-unity. All is space, yet a distinct aspect of space. Matter is comprised of solid, liquid, and gas which make up a tri-unity of matter. Time is past, present, and future. Each “time” is fully time. We can see God’s nature reflected in His creation. The Trinity is not a problem, but the solution to all epistemic issues; the Lord is the starting point and the finishing point. The Lord God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

The Trinity: The True God

Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting (Psalm 93:2).
Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5).

The WT’s deity does not maintain and manage all things in the cosmos co-instantaneously. Christ sustains and holds all things together. This is the reason that mathematical truth applies to the physical sciences and physics. Christ lays the foundation so that rational mankind can trust and utilize mathematics and physics. The diverse parts (diversity of particular things - the many) and specific applications of mathematics agree (unity - the one) with one another because of the tri-unity of God. Without God, one could not study mathematics because it is a study of the unity and the diversity in our world. The eternal and infinite God is the absolute precondition that makes mathematics possible, not the JW’s notion of a large god and a diminutive god

The WT’s translation of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word ... and the word was a god.” The biblical Christian understands this to be unambiguous blasphemy. The true follower of Jesus has the duty to protect and fence God’s name (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Matthew 28:19). This means confronting religious profanation. This is an unpleasant task that wins no friends from the ultra-tolerant-cultural-guardians. God is Holy and He calls His followers to stand up for righteousness even if it means doing the out of favor obligation of correcting religious error when well-meaning cultists knock on your door.
The God of scripture is not a God that we would construct if we were left to our own understanding (as the WT). The WT’s god is devaluated into a large god and a small god. Christian theology declares a revelation from a source that transcends mankind: the Bible. Christians must proclaim that God is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: one God, inimitable, and indivisible; unaccompanied in brilliant glory, clad in magnificence, might, and perfect sanctity. Men should revere Yahweh forasmuch as the triune God reveals so much of His nature that is awesome and fear-provoking; righteous and inflexible.