St. Augustine


Discovering God


 

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How God May Be Known

God may be known subjectively through the teaching system of the Holy Spirit. The individual who is concerned to understand his or her own existence in the world and follows the guidance of the Spirit will come to an understanding of God. This understanding will be a development of earlier teaching of the Truth and will integrate seamlessly with the set of understandings within the intellect. No special problems of truth arise when this method is followed since the individual will have confidence in the Inner Teacher.

The problem, as far as objective knowledge is concerned, is that all knowledge arises in the subjective intellect, and never in any objectively visible way, and expressions of the subjective intellect may be distorted. This subjective knowledge may satisfy subjective truth criteria, but provides no opportunity for cross-checking at the level of objective knowledge, which is a requirement for a theory of knowledge.  

However, it is possible to isolate a problem found in common experience and to investigate and define that problem, and then to use that problem as the basis for questions which result in knowledge of God. The quality of the responses given subjectively by the Holy Spirit may then be tested against that problem definition and solution specification in the ordinary way. Objective knowledge of God may therefore be achieved by the same problem solving method that works for all problems of experience.

The following discussion is a description of how theists discover and learn about God using the ordinary methods of Augustinian knowledge theory.

 

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The Revelation of God

hristianity claims to know of God, and about God, because God Himself reveals this knowledge to human beings. Earlier in this Overview the function of the Holy Spirit was discussed and St.Augustine's claim regarding Divine Illumination of the intellect was seen to be corroborated. All knowledge, including knowledge of God, comes from the one Divine Source. The Revelation of God is a normal case of Divine enlightenment of the intellect.

Revelation is of two sorts. The first kind is the gift of understanding as a free act of God, and the second is in the form of answers in response to the questions of individuals. The promptings of God which are seen as the operation of the conscience are simple examples of free acts of God. The free acts of God are, by definition, not predictable and are therefore not a matter for epistemological rules. Knowledge of God and God's Acts can be achieved by the correct operation of the Augustinian problem solving method.

Theologians and other students of religion come to the question of God with some knowledge amounting to an expert religious understanding, and with clearly defined purposes which give rise to questions. These questions are defined according to the problem solving method. The questions, both original and supplementary, are submitted to the Source of Understanding in the form of a series of solution specifications. The resulting answers constitute a flow of understanding of God which appears as an act of revelation. The inquiries of individuals whose intellects are developed to the requisite standard of understanding can lead, therefore, to revelation through method. Methodical revelation is a continuing opportunity for individuals to learn about God.

Revelation is absolutely true since it emanates from the moral God. From the point of view of objective knowledge the claim to truth rests on the proper operation of the problem solving method. Its truth may be checked in the usual ways since answers must satisfy the solution specification. Answers must also account for all known phenomena that bear on the problem as detailed in the problem definition and must advance the purpose of the inquiry.

Theological inquiry begins with questions about the origin and meaning of human life. When pursued through the Augustinian epistemological method answers can be obtained to these questions through the Inner Light. 

 

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The Moral Problem of the Human Situation

Revelation differs from the more usual answers to questions by the fact that it is prompted by the human moral problem for which God has full responsibility. God is a responsible and moral being and God, through the Inner Teacher, is the only possible source of answers. 

The nature of revelation is that of an explanation. It explains why everybody is in this common situation in the Cosmos. Humanity has not created the situation it finds itself in. There is too much suffering and unhappiness in the world to see life as an obvious and unqualified benefit.

Human beings ought to understand what it is that is going on which results in the emergence of sensitive and intelligent individuals into a three dimensional universe, and finding themselves beset with problems.  Humanity's main problem is lack of knowledge which carries with it a consequent powerlessness.  People are morally entitled to an explanation and it is provided in a complete and clear form. 

The moral problem of the human situation in the world is a real problem of experience which may be investigated, defined, and understood. Using the Augustinian method a solution specification may be constructed to requisition the solution in the normal way.  

The problem may be restated as that of the situation of the sensitive and intelligent individual, rather than that of the race, in the three dimensional universe. The method comes to a solution either way, and those solutions are approximately the same. The general case offers a greater scope for supplementary questioning and is preferred for objective knowledge.

The purpose to understand the human situation in the world leads to the discovery and understanding of God, and God's acts. This is true for any and all individuals and this explains the widespread knowledge of God. 

 

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The Explanation of the Human Situation

The Infinite Spirit and the Primitive Situation

Revelation describes the Acts of God that have produced the situation of humanity in the world. Supplementary questions may be asked in the tradition of faith seeking understanding. Through these the theologian comes to understand why God acts as described in revelation.

From the point of view of epistemology the Infinite Spirit is a moral being with infinite power, and the will to exercise that power intelligently and morally. For epistemology power is given by knowledge and the will is the motivation to understand and choose.

The number of actual possibilities available to the Infinite Spirit is infinite. These possibilities may be divided into good and evil possibilities. The number of each sort of possibility is also infinite. Power is the ability to will and realise any possibility, good or bad. Power and creativity are the same. It is within the power of the Infinite Spirit to realise any and all possibilities. The Infinite Spirit is rational and moral and wills only the good possibilities. The explanation for evil in the world is that it is willed by others than God.

The Purposes of God.

The explanation of God's purposes given in revelation, comes as a description of a series of acts performed by a supernatural entity. 

God desired to extend His Being into every one of the infinity of good possibilities, realising and experiencing those possibilities. The philosophy of God is based on Love of His Creation which implies the identification of God with His manifestations or expressions. The Love includes the making possible to all His creations of everything that those manifestations could desire for themselves. The risk and the suffering, as well as the joys, belong to God as the creator and the created.

Self-creating Beings

One of the possibilities of God is a community of intelligent and potentially unlimited beings. These  new beings are required by the moral rules to take full responsibility for themselves and to create themselves. In practice this was achieved through the intermediate stage of generating one being, the Christ. Absolute potential was given to the Christ, to be realised as power in time through interaction with the Holy Spirit Who is the Guardian of the Power and Knowledge. Absolute power can realise any possibility, good or evil.

The Christ, having created Himself and, in doing so become aware of God's purposes, set about the generation of a multiplicity of beings. These beings are generated from the Christ's own spiritual resources and so fulfil the minimum condition of self-creation. The record of the development of life shows a series of intermediate stages in the progress towards the aim of a species of self-managing beings. The creation of human beings brought into being a species with the potential to decide and create its own future. This potential must be realised through understanding and knowledge. The Christ no longer controls the destiny of life solely but shares the responsibility with human beings. As participators in Christ every individual shares co-equally the gift of absolute power although historically individual achievement of knowledge and power is generally small.

With the creation of Man the Christ has arrived at the point of a self-creating community of intelligent and potentially unlimited beings. The achievement will be fully realised when those beings are rational and moral. The ultimate objective, for human beings, is defined as the community of eternally living moral beings in the care of God, pursuing moral ends of their own choosing.

 

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The Analysis of the Revelation of God

The Revelation of God explains everything that humanity needs to know and ought to know to understand its situation in the world. The extent and depth of the understanding of Revelation that is achieved by the inquirer depends on the questions that are asked, and the amount of thought that has been put into the study strategy. This plan, however, evolves since it is modified by the evaluation of the responses to earlier questions. Different individuals may ask different questions depending, not only on different interests, but also on different attitudes. These attitudes may vary from the overly pious to the cold and hard-nosed. 

Life is, for many, a hard business and the information gained from Revelation ought to be useful as well as true. In particular, if God is not to be seen as remote and otiose, it ought to be clear how God is involved with the world in an ongoing way. 

Revelation describes the creation of the universe as an act of God and gives the conditions for change. It describes the creation of life and the purposes that are being pursued, and it describes the assistance that is available from God and the conditions on which it is given.

The theologian constructs the model of fundamental reality, based on the Holy Trinity, from his understanding of revelation. Fundamental reality provides the framework for created reality as a whole and is the interface between the Infinite God and His creation, explaining God's ongoing relationships to the world. 

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The Holy Trinity of God

The Christian analysis of God's actions in the world revolves around the three channels through which God acts. The first is Love and the power to help individuals; the second is Knowledge and the teaching function; the third is Life and the capacity for choice and growth. This analysis shows God acting in distinctly different ways. The one God takes three different roles in creation which, because they act at arm's length from each other, are seen as three persons. 

The theology of the Holy Trinity explains the relationships of these Persons to the Primitive Infinite God. It describes the world of the Intellect and knowledge in terms of the Holy Spirit. It sees Life and the creation of species and individuals in terms of the Christ. It explains Love and power in the world as the province of God the Father.

Diagram FT6.1 shows the relationship of the Persons of God to the Mind of God which manifests the world of experience. The Cosmos and the Creative Source are subsystems of the Mind. 

Diagram FT6.2 shows the relationship of the intellect to the Mind of God. The intellect is a project of the Mind and exists within it. All individual thought, including prayer, takes place within the Mind of God and the intellect through thought may communicate instantly with the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

The theory of fundamental reality, based on the Holy Trinity, shows how God's acts are carried through to produce the picture of reality as it appears to systematic knowledge. The rational corpus of knowledge itself can be traced back to God's acts, and from there to God's purposes. The fact that knowledge is a complete and orderly system stems, in part, from the fact that God intends that human beings should understand.

Christianity intervenes in objective knowledge or culture by defining the purposes of God in relation to that culture, and in describing the work of God in physical and intellectual reality. Christianity is a knowledge-based religion which seeks to explain all aspects of human experience. Christian knowledge is therefore progressive towards deeper understanding of the truth where truth is defined as the meaning of reality. It is the argument of Christianity that the knowledge of God's activity in human reality is a necessary foundation for all human knowledge of reality. Without this knowledge there can only be ignorance, conflict, and the denial of all moral law and restraint. With it the whole enterprise of life makes sense and best actions may be determined.

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The Creation of the Cosmos

The Act of Ordination by the Holy Spirit brought the Physical Universe into existence and created the means for giving effect to the purpose of the Infinite Spirit. As in all creative acts the Holy Spirit responds to the purpose by creating an unlimited set of possibilities that fulfil the specific purpose, and the task of the Christ, or the individual in Christ, is to make the choice of the desired possibility by specifying an objective. The objective, and therefore the chosen possibility, may change, and does change frequently, over time.

Created reality is therefore a set of physical possibilities and physical reality as it is perceived represents a chosen subset of those possibilities. The problem that lies before the Christ and humanity, as partakers in Christ, is to determine the best, and therefore the most desirable, set of possibilities.

Created reality constitutes a complex problem of understanding which has to be solved by the normal problem solving process. Christian knowledge is, in part, the understanding of the progress made so far in solving that problem. 

There is a relationship between the different succeeding states of Created Reality, which is that each state is specified by the Christ in furtherance of the Divine Plan, which ensures the progressive development of higher forms of life. Each state of the Creation is therefore a solution to a solution specification formed by the Christ. The Holy Spirit does not initiate any change in the Creation, but executes all changes.

 

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The Theory of Life

Karl Popper has said that the primary activity of evolution is problem solving. This is consistent with the rational understanding of the Cosmos as a problem set.  The framework for research is given by the set of problems that have been solved in the creation of each species. The Christ has developed life to the stage where it has become capable of deciding its own future development.

 Lifeform development is based on the solving of problems. Every advance in the physical and mental powers of lifeforms marks the solution of a problem. The order in which these problems have been solved, based on increasing power to function in the physical and mental realities, gives the record of development in time. The chain of problem-and-solution combinations defines the development path of each species back to the original act of creation of life.

The problem is given by the ecological niche, and the limitations of current lifeforms. This problem parallels the theoretical crisis situation in which the existing theory cannot account for a new problem and a new theory is required which explains both the problem and the field covered by the old theory. In this development the solution to the lifeform problem is a new species which matches the ecological niche.

The solution, which is the new species, makes use of past solutions just as a new theory makes use of past theories, but it is also the solution to a new problem. As an example, the path of development from the Kittyhawk to the Jumbo jet contains a series of problem solutions in the forms of now obsolete aircraft, but the Jumbo represents the solution to a new problem definition and solution specification. The relationship between successive aircraft on the development path does not involve physical transformation, but successive respecification and new creation. Each succeeding aircraft incorporates new ideas and new technology and is a product of creative design. Innovation in both technology and lifeform development is based on problem solving.

The true solution to the ecological problem is knowledge. Each new species in the development path is an advance in knowledge. Physical and intellectual progress are both, therefore, based on increasing knowledge.

In practice, the ecological niche supports a range of variations of the species, resulting from the permutations of genes, but all forms within this range are true solutions which are knowledge. True solutions express the best behaviours for survival. These best behaviours are integral with the capabilities of the lifeform, as specified, and are the optimum with regard to the possibilities offered by the niche. Knowledge is power and always expresses the best actions.

Forms outside the range are errors which are not supported by the niche. Error is disabling. While natural selection performs the same function as in Darwin's theory, it serves to keep the special solution true to knowledge. In this sense, it is a quality assurance mechanism. It might be described as the elimination of the false. The test is experience.

In treating the development of life as a quite normal exercise in problem solving it is then consistent to regard the development of human beings as an integral part of the rational epistemological project, which has physical and intellectual knowledge components. Psychology and biology study respectively the mental and physical components of the same knowledge development programme. Science contributes to this programme with the objective of empowering life itself to participate in the work of creation. Life, empowered by knowledge, becomes self-creating.

Creative problem solving and not random change is the key to the explanation of life development.

 

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The Need for Knowledge

The division of the Infinite Power of God into the Will and the Power in the Moral Universe is repeated in the birth of every human infant. Children come into the world understanding nothing, but having a will, are therefore capable of forming purposes. By pursuing the purpose of understanding they gain power. Human beings, in a similar way to the Christ, have the facility to obtain new understanding from the Holy Spirit, otherwise called the Inner Light, subject only to the ability to specify the understanding that is wanted. Each individual makes use of that facility, generally without understanding its mechanics. The understanding of how it is done can improve the flow of true and useful understanding. Augustinian knowledge theory provides that understanding.

Progress in secular knowledge has not been continuous but has tended to long periods of stasis, punctuated by occasional advances. The last major advance in physics occurred in the early 20th century, and left the discipline suspended between two incompatible theories. Technology, based on problem-solving, has done much better. Religion has hardly progressed at all, relying almost completely on knowledge preserved from the distant past.

Augustinian knowledge theory describes how God teaches the people through the system of the Creative Source. This has been the case throughout the Christian era and the failure to recognise, accept, and employ this God-given means to the truth has constituted a religious inadequacy on the part of many Christians. God has, in effect, been excluded from participation in thinking about God. It has never been the case that the truth content of the Bible is an alternative to the direct teaching of God and to substitute the Bible for Divine Teaching is to turn away from the Living God.

The conclusions do not, in any way, devalue the Scriptures which at one time defined the Christian religion, a role it no longer fills since Christianity has become fragmented into many parts. The Holy Bible still has a part to play in religious education. As religious knowledge, the Christian Scriptures amount to a textbook, the function of which is to describe God and show the religious student how to enter into a personal relationship with God. Through studies of this textbook, the Holy Spirit will impart the basic understandings of the Christian religion. 

However, it is an old and obscure textbook which causes more difficulties of understanding for the student than it should. This is evidenced by the needs for a body of professional interpreters and a large library of explanatory materials to assist the student understanding. A new and simplified approach to the teaching of the Gospel is overdue, based on knowledge gained through the direct teaching of God.

 

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The Reality of the Good

Reality, as it is found in the universe, is neutral to the human interest. This is a consequence of the morality of self-creation which prohibits any interference by God unless it is requested and expected. Monotheistic thinking postulates an alternative reality given and supported by a good God. The study of this reality produces the understanding that the Power of God, in pursing its commitment to the support of every individual, has created an ordered reality which offers the optimum conditions for human life. The differences between the neutral and God-given realities are manifested in the flow of experience as perceived by individuals and cultures. 

The quality of experience improves across the spectrum of models of reality given by the extremes of the neutral creation and the Kingdom of God. That improved experience parallels the differences between the experiences of the champion and the loser in a game such as tennis where both players share the same physical reality but the flow of experience results in success and happiness for one and failure and dejection for the other.

Only thinking beings can take advantage of this good reality and then only to the extent of their moral understanding. The prerequisite is trust in the love and morality of God the Father, and belief in the willingness of God to help them.

The Kingdom of God and Self-Determination

The theory of the powerful and benevolent God is common to the monotheistic religions. Christianity also pictures a new and closer relationship between the individual and God. Christianity has a message which originated with Jesus that it seeks to communicate to every individual. Jesus revealed the existence of the Kingdom of God on earth, for entry to which the personal attributes of love and morality are the only requisites. The relationship between the reality of the Good and the Kingdom of God appears to be one of degree. The beneficiaries of the Good are religious individuals living a normal life on earth, but free from the disadvantages of the neutral reality. The candidates for entry into the Kingdom are spiritual individuals for whom God is the only Power.

The conditions for entry into the Kingdom are stated in the Great Commandments. The relation of the great commandments to one another is a simple one. The first presupposes that man has discovered God as his Father. Only the Father who cares for his children can be loved in the way that is thought of in the first commandment. But the discovery of God as Father carries along with it the discovery of neighbours as brethren, and to see them in this way is to love them. It is a new relation towards men, created by a new relation to God.

The Kingdom of God is the highest form of given reality and represents that reality that the individual would wish for himself, if he understood all the possibilities for choice, and all the possible consequences of his choices of behaviours. The willing by human beings of the effective achievement of the Will of God in its entirety, seen as the Divine Plan for Creation, must result in this perfect reality. It is an existing reality, and entry into it is open to all.

 

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Absolute Truth and Knowledge

There is an immediate reality and an ultimate reality. Immediate reality, as created reality, is transient, always changing in response to the acts of the Christ, individuals and groups. As manifestations of the Infinite Spirit reality for individuals is the ultimate reality of God. The ultimate reality is unchangeable. Therefore what is known of the ultimate reality is absolute, and knowledge of immediate reality is relative to human needs and purposes.

Truth is the accurate understanding of reality. Since understanding and meaning are equivalent, truth is the accurate meaning of reality. To know the truth about reality is to know what it means. The meanings of ultimate, fundamental and created realities as given in Augustinian theory amount to the truth. Since these meanings are not subject to change they are absolute and the truth they give is absolute. Truthful understanding is equivalent to knowledge and absolutely truthful understanding is absolute knowledge. The status of absolute truth and knowledge is claimed for the understandings of reality as defined above.

 

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The Following Pages

The next page defines the Psychology of Knowledge.

The last page summarises the Augustinian Theory of Knowledge.

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