Thoughts and Deeds of god Humanity and a Rock

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It is also bold to the point of audacity, as one would expect of a systematic and unforgiving critique of the traditional philosophical conceptions of God, the human being and the universe, and, above all, of the religions and the theological and moral beliefs grounded thereupon. What Spinoza intends to demonstrate in the strongest sense of that word is the truth about God, nature and especially ourselves; and the highest principles of society, religion and the good life.

Despite the great deal of metaphysics, physics, anthropology and psychology that take up Parts One through Three, Spinoza took the crucial message of the work to be ethical in nature. It consists in showing that our happiness and well-being lie not in a life enslaved to the passions and to the transitory goods we ordinarily pursue; nor in the related unreflective attachment to the superstitions that pass as religion, but rather in the life of reason.

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To clarify and support these broadly ethical conclusions, however, Spinoza must first demystify the universe and show it for what it really is. This requires laying out some metaphysical foundations, the project of Part One. From these, the first proposition necessarily follows, and every subsequent proposition can be demonstrated using only what precedes it. References to the Ethics will be by part I—V , proposition p , definition d , scholium s and corollary c. In propositions one through fifteen of Part One, Spinoza presents the basic elements of his picture of God. God is the infinite, necessarily existing that is, uncaused , unique substance of the universe.

There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God. Proposition 2 : Two substances having different attributes have nothing in common with one another. In other words, if two substances differ in nature, then they have nothing in common. Proposition 3 : If things have nothing in common with one another, one of them cannot be the cause of the other. Proposition 4 : Two or more distinct things are distinguished from one another, either by a difference in the attributes [i. Proposition 5 : In nature, there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

Proposition 9 : The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it. Proposition 10 : Each attribute of a substance must be conceived through itself. Proposition 11 : God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. But this, by proposition 7, is absurd. Therefore, God necessarily exists, q.

Proposition 12 : No attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided. Proposition 13 : A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible. This proof that God—an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being—is the only substance of the universe proceeds in three simple steps.

First, establish that no two substances can share an attribute or essence Ip5. Then, prove that there is a substance with infinite attributes i. It follows, in conclusion, that the existence of that infinite substance precludes the existence of any other substance. For if there were to be a second substance, it would have to have some attribute or essence. But since God has all possible attributes, then the attribute to be possessed by this second substance would be one of the attributes already possessed by God.

But it has already been established that no two substances can have the same attribute. Therefore, there can be, besides God, no such second substance. If God is the only substance, and by axiom 1 whatever is, is either a substance or in a substance, then everything else must be in God. As soon as this preliminary conclusion has been established, Spinoza immediately reveals the objective of his attack. But how far they wander from the true knowledge of God, is sufficiently established by what has already been demonstrated.

Much of the technical language of Part One is, to all appearances, right out of Descartes. But even the most devoted Cartesian would have had a hard time understanding the full import of propositions one through fifteen. Spinoza was sensitive to the strangeness of this kind of talk, not to mention the philosophical problems to which it gives rise. When a person feels pain, does it follow that the pain is ultimately just a property of God, and thus that God feels pain?

According to the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of divinity, God is a transcendent creator, a being who causes a world distinct from himself to come into being by creating it out of nothing. God produces that world by a spontaneous act of free will, and could just as easily have not created anything outside himself.

The existence of the world is, thus, mathematically necessary. It is impossible that God should exist but not the world.

This does not mean that God does not cause the world to come into being freely, since nothing outside of God constrains him to bring it into existence. But Spinoza does deny that God creates the world by some arbitrary and undetermined act of free will. God could not have done otherwise.

There are no possible alternatives to the actual world, and absolutely no contingency or spontaneity within that world. Everything is absolutely and necessarily determined. Ip33 : Things could have been produced by God in no other way, and in no other order than they have been produced. There are, however, differences in the way things depend on God. They include the most general laws of the universe, together governing all things in all ways.

From the attribute of extension there follow the principles governing all extended objects the truths of geometry and laws governing the motion and rest of bodies the laws of physics ; from the attribute of thought, there follow laws of thought understood by commentators to be either the laws of logic or the laws of psychology. Particular and individual things are causally more remote from God.

More precisely, they are finite modes. There are two causal orders or dimensions governing the production and actions of particular things. On the other hand, each particular thing is determined to act and to be acted upon by other particular things. Thus, the actual behavior of a body in motion is a function not just of the universal laws of motion, but also of the other bodies in motion and rest surrounding it and with which it comes into contact.

It is an ambiguous phrase, since Spinoza could be read as trying either to divinize nature or to naturalize God. There are, Spinoza insists, two sides of Nature. First, there is the active, productive aspect of the universe—God and his attributes, from which all else follows. Strictly speaking, this is identical with God. There is some debate in the literature about whether God is also to be identified with Natura naturata.

Outside of Nature, there is nothing, and everything that exists is a part of Nature and is brought into being by Nature with a deterministic necessity. Because of the necessity inherent in Nature, there is no teleology in the universe. God or Nature does not act for any ends, and things do not exist for any set purposes.

(18-1) Introduction

God is not some goal-oriented planner who then judges things by how well they conform to his purposes. Things happen only because of Nature and its laws. People] find—both in themselves and outside themselves—many means that are very helpful in seeking their own advantage, e.

And knowing that they had found these means, not provided them for themselves, they had reason to believe that there was someone else who had prepared those means for their use. For after they considered things as means, they could not believe that the things had made themselves; but from the means they were accustomed to prepare for themselves, they had to infer that there was a ruler, or a number of rulers of nature, endowed with human freedom, who had taken care of all things for them, and made all things for their use.

And since they had never heard anything about the temperament of these rulers, they had to judge it from their own. Hence, they maintained that the Gods direct all things for the use of men in order to bind men to them and be held by men in the highest honor. So it has happened that each of them has thought up from his own temperament different ways of worshipping God, so that God might love them above all the rest, and direct the whole of Nature according to the needs of their blind desire and insatiable greed.

Thus this prejudice was changed into superstition, and struck deep roots in their minds. I, Appendix. A judging God who has plans and acts purposively is a God to be obeyed and placated. Opportunistic preachers are then able to play on our hopes and fears in the face of such a God. They prescribe ways of acting that are calculated to avoid being punished by that God and earn his rewards. Nor does God perform miracles, since there are no, and cannot be, departures whatsoever from the necessary course of nature. This would be for God or Nature to act against itself, which is absurd. The belief in miracles is due only to ignorance of the true causes of phenomena.

This is strong language, and Spinoza is clearly aware of the risks of his position. The same preachers who take advantage of our credulity will fulminate against anyone who tries to pull aside the curtain and reveal the truths of Nature. For they know that if ignorance is taken away, then foolish wonder, the only means they have of arguing and defending their authority is also taken away.

It is not clear, however, that this is the proper way to look at his conception of God. Of course, Spinoza is not a traditional theist, for whom God is a transcendent being. In general, pantheism is the view that rejects the transcendence of God. According to the pantheist, God is, in some way, identical with the world. There may be aspects of God that are ontologically or epistemologically distinct from the world, but for pantheism this must not imply that God is essentially separate from the world.

The pantheist is also likely to reject any kind of anthropomorphizing of God, or attributing to the deity psychological and moral characteristics modeled on human nature. Within this general framework, it is possible to distinguish two varieties of pantheism. First, pantheism can be understood as the denial of any distinction whatsoever between God and the natural world and the assertion that God is in fact identical with everything that exists. This is reductive pantheism. Second, pantheism can be understood as asserting that God is distinct from the world and its natural contents but nonetheless contained or immanent within them, perhaps in the way in which water is contained in a saturated sponge.

God is everything and everywhere, on this version, by virtue of being within everything. This is immanentist pantheism; it involves that claim that nature contains within itself, in addition to its natural elements, an immanent supernatural and divine element. Is Spinoza, then, a pantheist? For Spinoza, there is nothing but Nature and its attributes and modes. And within Nature there can certainly be nothing that is supernatural. If Spinoza is seeking to eliminate anything, it is that which is above or beyond nature, which escapes the laws and processes of nature. But is he a pantheist in the first, reductive sense?

The issue of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature i. After all, if pantheism is the view that God is everything, then Spinoza is a pantheist only if he identifies God with all of Nature. Indeed, this is exactly how the issue is often framed.

Both those who believe that Spinoza is a pantheist and those who believe that he is not a pantheist focus on the question of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature, including the infinite and finite modes of Natura naturata , or only with substance and attributes Natura naturans but not the modes. Thus, it has been argued that Spinoza is not a pantheist, because God is to be identified only with substance and its attributes, the most universal, active causal principles of Nature, and not with any modes of substance.

Other scholars have argued that Spinoza is a pantheist, just because he does identify God with the whole of nature. Finite things, on this reading, while caused by the eternal, necessary and active aspects of Nature, are not identical with God or substance, but rather are its effects. But this is not the interesting sense in which Spinoza is not a pantheist. For even if Spinoza does indeed identify God with the whole of Nature, it does not follow that Spinoza is a pantheist.

God is identical either with all of Nature or with only a part of Nature; for this reason, Spinoza shares something with the reductive pantheist.

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But—and this is the important point—even the atheist can, without too much difficulty, admit that God is nothing but Nature. Reductive pantheism and atheism maintain extensionally equivalent ontologies. And however one reads the relationship between God and Nature in Spinoza, it is a mistake to call him a pantheist in so far as pantheism is still a kind of religious theism.

What really distinguishes the pantheist from the atheist is that the pantheist does not reject as inappropriate the religious psychological attitudes demanded by theism. Rather, the pantheist simply asserts that God—conceived as a being before which one is to adopt an attitude of worshipful awe—is or is in Nature. Spinoza does not believe that worshipful awe or religious reverence is an appropriate attitude to take before God or Nature.

There is nothing holy or sacred about Nature, and it is certainly not the object of a religious experience. The key to discovering and experiencing God, for Spinoza, is philosophy and science, not religious awe and worshipful submission. The latter give rise only to superstitious behavior and subservience to ecclesiastic authorities; the former leads to enlightenment, freedom and true blessedness i. In Part Two, Spinoza turns to the origin and nature of the human being. The two attributes of God of which we have knowledge are extension and thought.

This, in itself, involves what would have been an astounding thesis in the eyes of his contemporaries, one that was usually misunderstood and always vilified. According to one interpretation, God is indeed material, even matter itself, but this does not imply that God is or has a body. Another interpretation, however, one which will be adopted here, is that what is in God is not matter per se, but extension as an essence. And extension and thought are two distinct essences that have absolutely nothing in common.

The modes or expressions of extension are physical bodies; the modes of thought are ideas. Because extension and thought have nothing in common, the two realms of matter and mind are causally closed systems. Everything that is extended follows from the attribute of extension alone. Every bodily event is part of an infinite causal series of bodily events and is determined only by the nature of extension and its laws, in conjunction with its relations to other extended bodies.

Similarly, every idea follows only from the attribute of thought. Any idea is an integral part of an infinite series of ideas and is determined by the nature of thought and its laws, along with its relations to other ideas.

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There is, in other words, no causal interaction between bodies and ideas, between the physical and the mental. There is, however, a thoroughgoing correlation and parallelism between the two series. For every mode in extension that is a relatively stable collection of matter, there is a corresponding mode in thought.

Every material thing thus has its own particular idea—an eternal adequate idea—that expresses or represents it. As he explains,. One kind of extended body, however, is significantly more complex than any others in its composition and in its dispositions to act and be acted upon. That complexity is reflected in its corresponding idea. In one foolish, blind, faithless choice this generation of Israel lost it all. Read now the tragedy of Israel.

It should make every righteous soul of every age weep for these foolish people. Look into your own heart and see if the tragedy of Israel could not be repeated in your own life. At this point in history, Israel was just a few months out of Egypt, and they had been given the law of God. The Lord indicated that it was then time to go in and possess the promised land.

He commanded that a reconnaissance group be sent into Canaan to reconnoiter the land. The evidence of the richness of the land was irrefutable, and the spies even brought back a cluster of grapes carried on a staff between two men to demonstrate the beauty and richness of the produce see Numbers Yet the spies, except for Joshua and Caleb, reported that, despite the richness of the land, there was no hope for driving out the inhabitants.

Such an exaggerated report of itself was bad enough and demonstrated the lack of faith of the ten men who gave it. But the national tragedy began when Israel hearkened to their report. Nor did the murmuring stop there. A movement was started to reject Moses and choose a leader that would take them back to Egypt see Numbers and Nehemiah , which suggest that they actually chose the leaders who would take them back. When Joshua and Caleb tried to counteract the effect of the negative report, the congregation sought to have them stoned see Numbers Little wonder that the anger of the Lord was kindled.

In a great intercessory prayer, Moses pleaded for mercy for his people see Numbers — He did not excuse the behavior of his people, but only emphasized the long-suffering mercy of the Lord. Israel was spared destruction but lost the privilege of immediately entering the promised land.

For the next thirty-eight years they were to wander in the harsh wilderness of Sinai. But they would not, and so all above the age of twenty who had repudiated the power of the Lord, except Joshua and Caleb, were to die in the wilderness. And yet, their mourning was not that of true repentance, as the events which immediately follow show. But Moses indicated that it was too late. The Lord had retracted the commandment to go up and possess the land, and, therefore, if they went up then, they would go without His power.


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Then came the second stage of the tragedy. The Israelites had just lost the right to enter the promised land because they had refused to follow the Lord. Recorded here is the actual application of the various sacrificial offerings prescribed in Leviticus 1 through 7. That is, they were to be excommunicated from the camp of Israel see v. In some cases the sin also required the death penalty.

It was not a sin committed in ignorance or weakness, but a deliberate refusal to obey the word of the Lord. This law thus teaches, on an individual basis, the same lesson taught Israel collectively; that is, when persons or nation despise the word of the Lord and willfully sin, they will be cut off from God and not be counted part of His covenant people.

They will suffer spiritual death. To stone a man for violation of the Sabbath seems a harsh punishment. But in its historical context, two things are significant. Moses had just given the law for willful rebellion against God. Did this man know the law of the Sabbath? Moses had clearly taught earlier that one who violated the Sabbath was to be put to death see Exodus —15 ; But think for a moment of what had just happened to Israel. They, as a nation, had despised the word of the Lord, first, by refusing to go up against the Canaanites when the Lord had told them to, and second, by going up against them after the Lord had told them not to.

Thus Israel had been denied entry into the promised land. Now, an individual despised the word of the Lord and refused to enter the rest required on the Sabbath. Just as Israel was to suffer death in the wilderness for their rebellion, so a rebellious individual must be punished with the same punishment.

Otherwise, God would be inconsistent. A symbol is one thing that represents another. One use of symbols is to remind us of our important commitments. Israel practiced the law of sacrifice for a similar reason. Similarly, the Lord commanded wandering Israel to fringe the borders of their garments so that when they looked upon the fringes they would be reminded of the commandments of the Lord see v.

Clothing is used to cover, protect, and beautify. To put fringes on an article of clothing symbolized that an individual is clothed, or covered, with the commandments of God.


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The ribbon of blue also symbolically suggested concepts of deep importance. Blue signifies the heavens and so symbolizes the spiritual realm or godliness see Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia, s. Up to this time, Israel was constantly murmuring and complaining, but apparently this was a greater attempt to replace Moses as the one chosen by God to lead His people. Had the insurrection been led by just any Israelite, it would have been serious enough, but Korah was a Levite, one who held the holy priesthood, and should therefore have been one of those in the forefront of obedience rather than of rebellion.

Instead of having a sense of awe and gratitude that he had the honor of being a Levite, Korah and those with him sought to take the higher priesthood and the leadership of Israel unto themselves. This was a serious crisis in the political and religious life of Israel, and the Lord chose to deal with it in a direct and dramatic manner. The Lord commanded both Aaron and the legitimate priesthood holders and Korah and those who followed him to bring censers and incense to the tabernacle.

A censer was a small metal container made to hold hot coals taken from the altar of the tabernacle. During the tabernacle service, the officiating priest was required to sprinkle incense on the burning coals on the altar of incense, which stood directly in front of the veil of the tabernacle. Other scriptures indicate that the burning of incense was a symbol of prayer see Revelation ; —4 ; Psalm , suggesting that God can only be approached in holy supplication. In that instance, false worshipers were asked to call upon God for a sign that Baal had power.

Here, Korah and his supporters were asked to bring fire before the Lord as a symbol of their prayers and supplication for His support of their cause. Instead, the earth opened up and swallowed the leaders of the rebellion see Numbers —33 , and fire came down and consumed the other two hundred and fifty who presumed to take priesthood power unto themselves see v. One cannot help but stand in disbelief at the hardness of the hearts of Israel.

Yet, in the face of that miraculous power, they murmured and said that Moses and Aaron had killed the true servants of the Lord see v. One also cannot help but marvel at the patience and long-suffering of the Lord. In the rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, the Lord gave two miraculous demonstrations that showed Israel without question whom He had chosen to lead His people. First, Korah and those who joined him in the rebellion were killed by being either swallowed in the earth or consumed by fire. The scriptures state that nearly fifteen thousand people died trying to prove that Moses and Aaron were not the ones who should lead Israel.

I might promise to pick you up at , then get a flat tire on my way to your house. We can make promises, then something else comes up to keep us from keeping our word. But nothing can stop God. He is sovereign over every molecule in the universe. He is sovereign over the angels of heaven and every demon.

Because God is all-powerful, nothing can stop him from fulfilling his promises. Therefore we can trust God. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Revelation It would be a scary universe if God were not infinitely wise. But because he is, he knows what is best to do in every situation. Because he is infinitely wise, his promises are perfect.

Because he is infinitely wise, everything he has said is true and perfect and best for us. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it 1 Corinthians God is faithful.

What a wonderful truth. We can stake our lives upon his faithfulness. When I was a kid, my dad would have to travel for work and he would tell us he would bring a toy home for us. I forgot to get your toy!

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But God will never disappoint us. He will never forget to fulfill his every good promise. Therefore we can trust in him. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love 1 John So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him 1 John Again, what a scary universe this would be if God were not loving.

But because he is, we can trust him. We can trust that every single thing he does in our lives, he does and allows and works to our good because he loves us. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us Romans In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins 1 John The fact that God gave his most precious gift to us is the ultimate proof of his love. If God gave us the most precious gift he could give us, will he not give us every other good thing? Because God gave Jesus to pay for our sins and give us eternal life, we can trust him.

A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he Deuteronomy The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate Job If I had to go to court before a judge who had a reputation for being unjust I would be terrified. But God is infinitely and totally just. He is righteous. He always does the right thing.

He will never do anything unjust. He is The Rock — all his ways are justice. He never does anything wrong. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope Jeremiah Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

What a wonderful reason to trust our God! He has bags and bags of grace stored up for us, that he is just waiting to pour out on us. He has good plans for us, plans which nothing can stop him from fulfilling. So we can trust him. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ Philippians And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit 2 Corinthians God not only has good plans for us, but his great plan is to conform us to Christ.

Yes, he has plans to provide for us and protect us, but what could be more encouraging than knowing God is making us into the likeness of his Son, and that every single thing we go through is part of that plan?