Understanding Salvation Differently

In my last post I showed some of the problems with the popular conception of the atonement. This post I hope to offer an alternative understanding of the atonement.  Now this would be sheer madness if I was offering some theory of my own that I had come up with last week.  Instead, I would offer something far older than myself, a theory that has existed in the church since the beginning. For those familiar with different theories of the cross, the term Christus Victor might be the most fitting for this theory.  However, it is not exactly the theory identified by Gustav Aulen in his book of the same name.  It is something more.

The popular modern conception of the cross, which dates back to the Reformation, is familiar to almost everyone.  God is angry with us, wants to smash us to bits, and has every right to do so.  So Jesus comes in, takes the smashing for us, and the problem is solved.  The more ancient understanding of the cross is that it is the place where Jesus confronts human sin, suffering, and death, as well as the dark powers of the earth, and overcomes them.  Jesus takes on human suffering as the fulfillment of His incarnation, drawing us to Him in His suffering.

This meeting of God and human suffering, death, and guilt, is all based on the fact that Jesus, as God, is stronger than all of these things.  But He must become a human being to experience them in Himself.  He must be the one who suffers, experiences guilt, shame, sorrow, loss, and the perceived abandonment of God.  He must take on a body that can suffer and die so that He may directly encounter this suffering and death in Himself.  Then, once he has died, He overcomes the suffering and death in the resurrection. (1)

By doing all of this as a human being, Christ transforms our human nature and binds it closely to his divine nature.  In other words, humanity is now in the trinity by means of Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection.  By dying he has confronted human death in himself, and overcome it by his divinity.  That divine overcoming is shared with us, and we are grafted into it, being allowed to now become, as St. Peter says, partakers of the Divine nature.  The divine nature of Jesus is shared with all of us, so that our sin, suffering, and death, may be overcome by his victory.

Of course, this is not merely a simple pardoning then of sins.  Our sins are forgiven by Christ, and his death works in a mysterious way to blot out sin.  But this is not the only thing.  We are not simply made legally righteous before God, but invited to share in God’s own person so that we are transformed into Christ in the world.  All of this seems very clear in John’s Gospel.

This image of redemption does not put us in the hands of an angry God.  Instead, it puts us as people who endangered our own existence by doing evil.  We undermined our own beings by disconnecting ourselves from God who is the very root and ground of our being.  By being in conflict with God, for in God being and goodness are one, we have lost our ground for goodness and existence.  Thus we do evil, and we die.  In other words, “the wages of sin is death.”

Christ comes to fix all of that by binding us tightly to Him in goodness and being.  The result is that we begin a journey of life that transcends what we understand of human life.  We are called to be humans bound up in the divine life of God.  None of this requires a God who is wrathful against humanity.  None of it requires that we think of ourselves as dung or worthy of God’s terrible wrath.  Instead, we are loved people, far more valuable to God than merely people He wants to see in some kind of legal relationship with Himself.  He says to us, as the New Testament makes clear, “you are one flesh with me” by making humanity in the Church His bride.

As well, all of the problems listed in the last article, do not pertain.  Instead, there is one consistent act of creation, redemption, and glorification.  God creates so that we might partake of God. When we fall, God acts to restore the relationship in reality, not merely in a legal fiction. And we then begin to partake of God’s life here and now, with a great hope that we will partake of it without limit after the resurrection.

(1)  All of this may be found in St. Athanasius, as well as much of it seen in St. Cyril as well as Maximus the Confessor and others.

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The Angriest of Gods

I’m taking a break from my hobby of debating atheists to return to my main area of study, that of discussing modern theological topics from a systematic perspective in dialog with the ancient church.  Way simpler than showing skeptics that their epistemological position is self contradictory, right?  So let’s get into it.

The general view of the atonement (that process by which humans are brought back into right relationship with God) inherited from the Reformation and preached in many modern American Evangelical Churches, goes something like this:  God made people, people did bad things, and that made God angry.  Now God is an infinite God, and if God gets angry, God gets infinitely angry.  And God is a just God, and thus infinitely Just.  Now an infinitely Just and Angry God is not a God you want on your case.  So, humanity is in something of a pickle.  We might try to appease God, but we’ve made the terrible mistake, being finite beings, of angering an infinite being.  No matter what we do, we can’t get out of this mess.

In pops Jesus, who knows how to appease God, being one of the persons of the three-person God.  Jesus tells us that we’ve got to love each other, obey his commandments, and generally be willing to put up with a lot of crap because we follow him.  But then, of course, none of that matters because the big bad enemy of humanity, God, is out to get us and there’s no getting around Him by being nice and doing good, and loving our neighbor.  Instead, Jesus has got to take on the infinite wrath and justice of God so that we don’t have to.  Jesus is also God, and therefore infinitely able to suffer, which pleases the Father, the first person of the Trinity, because now he’s got a worthwhile target for his wrath who is both human (and therefore the just target of wrath) and God (and therefore able to infinitely suffer).  For God had a problem.  If God was infinitely angry and infinitely just, how would he manage to extract infinite punishment from finite creatures?  Well, the answer was going to be “let them suffer…forever.”

And despite there being literally dozens of problems with this model of God, Jesus, Sin, and Judgment, here is where the traditional model meets what appears to be an insurmountable problem.  For if human beings are to suffer forever, God’s wrath will never be satisfied.  For, if God’s wrath is infinite, it takes infinite justice to appease it.  Now, in the case of the “Jesus Shield” model (where Jesus stands in front of us and takes the brunt of God’s wrath) instead of us, Jesus, being infinite, can “take” the infinite wrath of God in a satisfactory way (hence the name “Satisfaction theory”).  God is satisfied in that His Wrath and Judgment have met an appropriate target.  But with the rest of humanity, if God is pouring out His infinite wrath, that wrath can never be satisfied.

There might be some nodding their heads and saying “yes, that’s why they will burn FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  But this leaves God in a sticky position.  For if God’s wrath is not satisfied, does that not place God in a position of lack?  Does God not then depend on humanity in order for His wrath to be satisfied?  And, that’s one hell of a dependence, because it can never be fulfilled.  For no matter how long a finite human burns in hell, infinite satisfaction can never be achieved.  (This is one part of what we call the Kalam argument  “An actual infinity cannot be achieved by incremental addition.” (The other part of that argument isn’t relevant here).  We use this argument against an infinite regress of time.  Well, it also works on an infinite progress of suffering.  No matter how long a finite number of humans suffer, that suffering will never reach infinity.)

While the human side of this has been focused on to show why hell must be forever, the divine side of this has not been realized in the theory.  God has nothing like the right material to work out God’s wrath or justice on.  One would need an actual infinitude of human beings (which is ostensibly impossible) or an actual infinitude of time in which to punish a finite number of humans (also impossible, as shown above).

Thus we find that God must be a very frustrated God.  We are also left with some questions.

1.  If Jesus takes all the wrath for humanity, why is there still some left over for those burning in Hell?

2.  If God’s wrath is never to be appeased, why not let everyone but one guy go, to burn forever?  For burning billions for finite amount of time, no matter how big that finite amount of time can be (which must be the state of any temporal reality in hell, that of the incremental addition of instants), can no more satisfy God’s wrath than the burning of one person…or no people.  For a finite set taken from an infinitude does not lessen the infinitude.  But if we insist on a single person, well, there’s always that Jesus fellow who took all that suffering before.  Again, why does his suffering not suffice for everyone?  And if it does, how can there be any left over for all those people who didn’t accept him?

3.  If God is eternal and unchanging, is not this wrath which must be appeased somehow eternally part of God?  But if it is dependent on our sin, did we change God?  If not, and God is eternally wrathful, doesn’t that take away God’s ability to be called “All Good and loving?” since God is wrathful logically prior to the creation of humanity who deserves the wrath?

4.  Why isn’t Jesus wrathful with us?  If He is the perfect image of the Father, why does there seem to be a difference between the Son, who wants to make nice, and the Father who wants to burn us all alive?  Doesn’t this seem in contradiction to the scriptural statement that God does not desire the death of a sinner?

5.  If the answer to all of this is “Jesus DID do enough, we just need to accept it” in what way do those two things connect logically?  If what is being dealt with is a legal element, there is never any question that the victim must accept his pardon.  He cannot make the headsman chop his head off, or the guards strap him into the chair and pull the switch.  He may insist over and over that they don’t exist, or that they have no authority, or that their authority is a sham and a miscarriage of justice.  But there is no instance in which a legal decision made by a court is somehow dependent on the acquitted man agreeing that he is acquitted. The acceptance of Jesus’ life giving work does not fit in this model when we consider it.  It does in another model, one put forward by the ancient church, and for understandable reasons.  But not this one.

One sees the problem.  The traditional narrative of Substitution or Satisfaction atonement is fraught with dozens of problems.  This isn’t the largest, this is merely a funny little piece of a much larger picture of all sorts of things wrong with an interpretation of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that divorces itself from the first millennium of the Church’s understanding.

We should instead take some cues from the early church in understanding how the reconciliation between humanity and God works, and I’ll touch on that in my next post on the restoration of humanity.

Closed and Contradicted

Contradicted

One of the more difficult things about debating with many atheists is the very practical self-contradiction of certain positions they can take[1].  For example, I posted several months ago about someone who argued that “Only an idiot believes that things which cannot be/aren’t proved to exist are facts[2]”  and more recently a gentleman who I have debated with on my last post has argued on his blog “If something is 100% truth then it is not scientifically testable, thus not true. We can only say that things are 99.9(repeating)% truth, but not completely true[3].”  Now, one must ask very simply, how does he know that what he is saying is true?  He seems to say it with the authority of an agreed upon reality, but it is a reality which does not live up to its own test.

In other words, is his statement verifiable only to the point of 99.9(repeating)%?  Has his statement been shown to be consistently true through repeated independent experimentation?  Is there some doubt in his mind that, if further evidence appeared, we might find that his statement is untrue?

The answer, of course, is “no” to all of these questions.  The reason is that the statement “if something is 100% truth, then it is not scientifically testable, thus not true” is not a scientific statement.  It is a philosophical statement.  It has philosophical assumptions that it rests on, like “truth can only be gotten at by scientific means.”  Of course this is a self-contradictory philosophical statement, for it does not rest on scientific experimentation.  It thus fails its own rigorous standards.

This assumption and philosophical position is rampant throughout much atheistic debate.  And it reflects a move to subsume all human knowledge under the rule of scientific discovery.  But there is a category confusion here, as human knowledge is composed of two elements, pieces of information (premises), and the relationships between each piece of information (conclusions).  Now, science can give us new pieces of information, but the relationships between those pieces are left to logic.  And, as much as atheists claim “rationality” as their watchword, they have fallen into a very obvious and illogical blunder by attempting to subsume the logical connections under the rule of the pieces of information.  But this simply will not stand.

For it is only by the laws of logic that we see how things relate, and only by building on apriori truths that we can know anything at all.  Now, by arguing that “the only truth worth knowing is scientific truth” they are in fact obeying the basic laws of logic by asserting an a priori truth, one which is not assailable by any outside means.  However, we need not assail it by outside means, as it destroys itself internally by invalidating itself as a philosophical position.  If all philosophical positions are invalid, as they cannot prove themselves scientifically, so then too is the position that all philosophical positions are invalid.

So as to not be accused of a lack of rigor, let us simply state the argument in its most basic form.

1.  Truth can only be attained through scientific means

2.  Statement 1 is not attainable by scientific means

Conclusion:  Statement 1 is not true, and is self contradictory.

The basic pattern follows for all self contradictory statements:

1.  Only x is true.

2.  Statement 1 is not x.

Conclusion:  1 is not true, and is self contradictory.

This also follows for the basic structure of the negation of all truth:

1.  No statements are true.

2.  Statement 1 is a statement

Conclusion: Statement 1 is not true, and is self contradictory.

That this should not be obvious to anyone arguing for the “rational” position is shocking.  That they do not readily admit to it is not.  For to admit that their view of “worthwhile truth” is itself merely a philosophy (and a self-contradictory one at that) will remove the mystique that what they are doing is SCIENCE, that word that carries with it so much weight in the modern world.  They pass off as professional science done well what is actually amateur philosophy done poorly.

And this is the reason why science can never be sufficient for human purpose.  It is a category of facts, not truth.  Truth belongs to the realm of logic, not experimentation.  Now this too is an a priori position.  However, we can see very clearly that it is not self contradictory, as the statement “truth may be gotten by logical means” is not self-defeating.  It does not prove itself to be true, of course.  And we should point out that there are many positions like this that we fundamentally disagree with.

1.   Josh is the only person who can be right.

2.   Josh is the one who claims statement 1.

3.  Claim 1 is not self contradictory.

The reasoning may be valid here, but anyone knows that the reasoning is not sound.  So the point is not that “truth comes through logic” must be true, but that it is not self-contradictory where the opposite is self contradictory.  And since those are the only two possibilities, we conclude that “truth comes through logic” must be true, because its opposite is self-contradictory.

There seem to be two stances that a skeptic can take here.

1.  “Truth comes from logic, that’s fine.  But logic is incredibly unreliable at delivering that truth, so let’s rely on something else.”  The problem is, once more, how do you know?  You would have to argue from experience here, but that is very shaky ground for a skeptic.  Experience can be falsified.  And if we concede that logic is unreliable at delivering truth (which I do not actually concede), then how can we rely on it to tell us that science is the reliable source of information?

2.  A skeptic might argue that we need to show some evidence that this is the case.  We need not, in fact.  The reason we need not is because we accept that truth can come from logical means, not merely from factual evidence.  We can maintain this without evidence, but with logical certitude without self contradiction.  They however, cannot even say “I will not believe it without scientific evidence because only scientific evidence is truth” because the “because” that connects “I will not believe it without scientific evidence” and “only scientific evidence is truth” is a logical connection, not a scientific connection.

Closed

Now this brings me to the second point of a philosophy based purely on naturalism that insists that no other thing exists.  It can explain everything by means of itself.  This may sound like a positive, but when compared to the other systems that can explain everything, one sees how destructive it is to both rational thought and public discourse.  For the other systems which explain everything by means of themselves are Solipsism and modern Biblical Fundamentalism.

Both a naturalist and a solipsist can explain everything in the universe by means of their own philosophy and make room for no other.  The Solipsist says “I am the only thing that exists, and I, though at my current moment do not know how I am doing it, create all of the sense data that I experience.  Thus, even external verification or lack of verification of my experience is invalid, for it too must come through my senses.  Do you slap me?  I feel it, but that is merely sense data that I am imagining for myself.  Do you tell a different story of an event?  It does not matter, for the event never really happened.”  The naturalist says “you have spiritual experience?  That is really just natural experience.  You have seen miracles?  You are deceived by nature.  You believe historical documents about miracles?  We all know they don’t happen, so once again you are deceived.”

The modern Biblical Fundamentalist does the same when confronted with dinosaur bones or evolution.  They say that the Devil is at work, that God has placed things in the world to test our Biblical faith.  They say that people are deceived by anything other than the Bible.  Their mode of interpreting the Bible explains absolutely everything, and you can say nothing to them to bring them out of the tunnel vision of their monomania.

The closed systems then answer in the same ways, and interestingly enough, with the same paranoid and conspiratorial suspicions.  It is no wonder that paranoia itself is a disorder once diagnosed as a monomania.  If everyone is out to get you, no one, no matter how they tell you that they are not out to get you, can appear as a friend.  No information can come in but that which is filtered through the one single lense that you allow for.

Now what we do with closed systems is first, admit that they might, by logic, be true.  For there is no way to prove them false.  One cannot prove by logic that the outside world does in fact exist.  One cannot prove by science that God or the supernatural exists.  Thus we must admit with all rigor that they are possible systems.  But then, that is as far as we can go with them.  For from their little self-referential positions, they can answer all questions, and they do it in the same way.

They may shout “Yes!  Of course we can answer all questions, that is our point!  You should listen to us!”  But it will not do.  The paranoid person can explain all of your actions as well, sitting in his chair, back to the wall, staring out his window to make sure that “they” aren’t coming for him.  If you say you are a friend, he says you are part of the conspiracy.  If you shake him to get him from his madness, he laughs and says that you have revealed yourself  as part of the plot.  If you can explain all things by a single lens, you really fail to explain anything.

Next, it seems, we should then say about them as Confucious does “Those whose courses are different cannot lay plans for one another.” (Analects 15).  Their course, like the course of a Solipsist, is different.  Their system is closed; they can explain all things without room for other kinds of knowledge.  Our system, however, is open, and makes room for their knowledge, and the knowledge of logic, of experience, and of that special kind of experience called inter-personal experience.

Thus we come to what is an impasse, but it is an impasse between the actually open minded, who accept many sources of information, and the solipsist/naturalist/fundamentalist, who insists on only one piece of information.

Response

There seem to be two ways of responding to this post.  First, a Scientific Naturalist or Positivist might try to argue logically.  This will not do.  They have stated that logic is not useful at getting to truth.  Why then do they insist on using it?  I invite them to stick to their guns, and to argue without logic.  Show me that scientific evidence is a superior source of truth than logic by doing so without logic.  If it really is what they claim, they should be able to show quite easily how this is the case through only evidence.

The problem, of course, is that all argumentation is rooted in logic.  One cannot say “if…then” without using logic.  One cannot say “I answer that…” without logic.  Nor can one even respond without the ground/consequent relationship underlying one’s response.  For the “if…then” of “If I wish to answer, I must respond” or “because I want to show him to be wrong, I will write…” is the ground consequent relationship.  We can see this here.

1.  I wish to answer an argument

2.  To answer an argument I must write/speak the answer

3.  I must then write/speak

All of this happens at such a basic level of human thought that we don’t notice it.  We simply do it.  But that is my point.  You cannot get at truth except by logic.  You can experience things, you can test things, but they do not have “truth” without the logical process that every thought of our minds use.  To show that science is superior, one must somehow stop using logic to how it is inferior to evidence.

The second way is to deny that their system is closed and to accuse theism of a closed system.  This will not work.  For theism allows for unknowns, and allows for doubt.  We allow that information can come from many different sources.  We explain dinosaur bones by science, we explain picnics by way of sunny days and groups of friends, and we explain miracles by way of the supernatural.  We are open to many sources of information.  We utilize all four of Aristotle’s causes, not just one.  And thus our system is open, embracing science, embracing logic, and embracing experience.

In other words, our system is human.


[1] Having argued against the position of fundamentalists myself, I appreciate the frustration they must often feel when arguing against us as well.

[2] http://theologian78.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/truthandtruth/ The current post is an expansion of the ideas contained in this post from last July.

[3] http://garrettspeaks.com/  There is another problem here, of course, other than the one I am going to focus on here in this post.  It is the self-contradiction of the statement “if something is 100% true, it is not true” which equates truth and falsehood with each other.  This is not only an illogical statement, it is also a logically destructive statement, which functions simply and practically the same as the rest of this post indicates the larger philosophical statement does.

Myopia


Intelligent Falling is not a thing.  It’s a joke, from start to finish found in this article from the Onion:  http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/ from seven years ago.  Recently a friend of mine posted it to facebook, and got me thinking about our modern debate regarding faith and reason, or science and religion.  I think the topic has been clouded in the popular discussion, and perhaps needs some clarification.

First, it should be understood that there are really two main camps in this debate, the first is exemplified by the position of the Evangelical Fundamentalist1.  The second is that of the Scientific Naturalist.

These two camps can be summed up by the following positions.  Evangelical Fundamentalists view the direct cause of many things in the universe to be the intervention of God.  This includes intelligent design, the appearance of dinosaur bones, and the apparent age of the earth due to the flood of Noah.  The answer to the question: “Why did this happen?” is, from this position: “God did it.”

On the other side, the Scientific Naturalist side, very similar to the old Logical Positivist view, sees that things happen because of simple cause and effect.  This includes the appearance of logical human thought, art, and religion.  The answer to the question: “Why did this happen” is, from this position: “The universe did it.”

The first view thinks that the lense by which to understand the universe is a particular way of interpreting the Bible.  They, of course, would not put it that way.  They would say that it is “the Bible” that is their lense through which they see.  But the truth is that any text, no matter how clear, involves a layer of interpretation.  That is simply how the human mind works.  It is demonstrably clear that Fundamentalist Evangelicals view the bible in a very particular way, and use very particular tools to interpret it.  They reject historical critical, source, and literary methods for understanding the meaning of the text.  They reject the traditions of the Church from the Patristic through the medieval and Reformation periods on how to interpret the bible.  Instead they use tools which are ironically as modern as the scientific ones they are arguing against.

The second view thinks that the lense by which to understand the universe is a particular way of interpreting scientific data.  They, of course, would not put it that way.  They would say that it is “Science” that is their lense through which they see.  But the truth is that any data, no matter how simple, involves a layer of interpretation.  This is simply how the human mind works.  It is demonstrably clear that Scientific Naturalists view scientific data in a very particular way, and use particular tools to interpret it.  They reject philosophical and logical methods of understanding causation.  They reject the more Aristotelian models of thought that have shaped western thinkers for a millennium, and the platonic ones that have shaped them for two millennia.  Instead they use tools which are as modern as the ones they are arguing against.

Now, the modern debate of science and religion really boils down to the opposition of these two particular views, or one of these views versus a more moderate position on either side.  Thus fundamentalist evangelicals can be just as opposed to a Scientific Naturalist as to a Christian theologian arguing for anything from historical critical methods for interpreting the Bible to an allegorical understanding of Genesis 2-3 that embraces early paleolithic human culture.

As well, the Scientific Naturalist will be at odds both with a Fundamentalist Evangelical or a Jewish Physicist who leaves room for the intervention of God in the universe, or the appearance of human thought and reason.

It is important to note that these two positions are modern positions, arising out of the period of the enlightenment, and are not representative of a perennial struggle between reason and religion.  In fact, reason and faith have lived quite happy lives together for millennia.  The problem lies in equating reason with Scientific Naturalism (or its predecessor, Logical Positivism) and faith with Evangelical Fundamentalism.

If we define our terms such that they are opposed to each other, they will of course, be opposed.  But they need not be defined that way.  Faith need not be simply “That which rejects reason” but instead “trust in a person or persons” which is how the Bible originally framed it.  Human beings had faith in Jesus because Jesus is faithful.  In fact the term “the faith of Jesus Christ” is a rather confusing one in the New Testament.  It can mean a number of different things, none of which are “that which rejects reason.”

As well, reason can be defined not simply as “that which goes by the facts” but as “a mode of thought which attempts to link ideas by the rules of logic.”  This involves the ground->consequent or proposition->conclusion relationship.  Everything from syllogisms to contra-positives are included here.

Interestingly enough, neither of the modern views seem to hold to these broader definitions.  Faith in Jesus, for Fundamentalist Evanglicals, is faith in a mechanism for which Jesus is the proper instrumentation: Salvation.  For Scientific Naturalists, reason does not mean formal logic, otherwise the many logical contradictions in their position would be immediately obvious.

What both of these perspectives have in common, beyond the parallel descriptions given above, is that they are mono-causal in their approaches.  This means that, as we have seen, when we ask “why” a thing happened, there is one ultimate answer: God, or the Universe.

People have not always thought like this.  You might ask how this little essay got written.  Well, if you ask a Fundamentalist, you might get the answer that “God’s sovereignty ordained for it to happen.”  If you ask a Scientific Naturalist, you might receive something like “Due to causation regressing to the first moment of time, nothing could happen except this essay at this exact moment.”

But the reality is that there are multiple reasons as to “why” the essay got written.  When people knew their Aristotle, they would have identified the different causes for the essay.  There would be the material cause…which in this case is mostly electrons and bits of silicon, since I’m writing on a computer, not paper.  The material cause is its material, or what it is made of.  There is the formal cause…the “essay-ness” of the essay, or its form.  There is the efficient cause, and that’s me.  I’m writing it, I’m making the essay happen.  And finally there is the final cause, which is the goal of the essay.  The formal cause is also called a Telos, or a purpose/reason.

Each of these explains why a thing came to pass.  And you can see that all of them are necessary to get at why this essay exists.  However, both Evangelical Fundamentalism and Scientific Naturalism both ignore some causes.  For Evangelical Fundamentalism, the Efficient cause is sufficient.  “God does it.”  For Scientific Naturalism, the material cause is sufficient “It’s made up of things which have certain properties.”

Now, of course, applying Aristotle’s four causes to the universe is just one more particular way of looking at the universe, a particular way of reading texts or interpreting data.  However, when applied, it simply does away with the debate of “Science vs. Religion” or “Reason vs. Faith.”  It can see the universe as having a multitude of causes, each complementary to the other.

Most of us do not in our daily lives obey the myopia of these two polar positions.  We will often flit from one cause to the next, and we will often do it without much thought.  This belies the two extremes of Scientific Naturalism and Evangelical Fundamentalism.  They are alien to natural human thought.  Instead, what is natural, and far more human, is to understand that things may have many causes without being contradictory.  You see, Aristotle was not prescribing four causes…he was describing how the universe works.  We might argue whether or not his four causes are sufficient…but we would, and do, impoverish ourselves if we throw out three of them.  Any three.

1.  It should be noted, as per the comments below, that there are those who identify themselves as Evangelical Fundamentalist who do not fully fit into the picture presented here.  Most specifically in the area of an attitude toward the uses of historical and source criticism in Scriptural studies.