Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AL5

[But then, what is scandal?

Scandals are crucial distractions.  They are like gargoyles on the facade of a church.  They repulse yet mark an entrance.  To focus on them is to remain on the outside.  To seek them out is to find an entrance.

The scandal itself serves as a barrier to seeing below the surface.  Yet, scandals are located at places where one should be looking.

How do we look below the surface?  How do we enter the door denoted by scandal?

Read the text with an attitude of forgiveness.   You will find insights in the text that were unknown (at least consciously) to the author.  These ideas linger below the surface.  They might have been embraced, if the author could have seen past the gargoyles.

This brings me to an interlude.

For the next few weeks, this blog will consider Jeremy Alberg’s book Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses (2013).

This book is all about scandal.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AL3

[This is one lesson: When it comes to our moment in eternity, we are all provincials.  De Chardin and Schoonenberg were both “universal men” in the middle of the 20th century.  We must read them with a sense of forgiveness, for imagining that they were “universal”.  After all, modern Western intellectuals in the 20th century posed as “universal” thinkers.

Such an idea was presumptuous.  Maybe, we ought call it “scandalous”.

The issue is not that modern Western intellectuals were monstrously wrong.

Nor is the issue the fact that that Schoonenberg cannot account for his scholastic and modern claims.  He knows that the claims are true because they resolve centuries of controversy.  He knows that they are true because of scientific advance.  But he cannot account for them.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AL2

[Consider these differences:

A versus B:  “Order” versus “Chaos”

A1 versus A2: “Designed Order” versus “Spontaneous Order”

A2A versus A2B: “Spontaneous Order viewed through eyes evolved to see design” versus “Spontaneous Order viewed through the lens of statistics, that is, chance and necessity, devoid of instrumental causes and formal requirements”

What are the options?

To me, Schoonenberg and de Chardin concluded that only the options A1 and A2B could be entertained.  But they bridled at that conclusion.

Suprasovereign Christianity promoted A1. The (infra)sovereign “Believers of Reason” promoted A2B.

My guess is that de Chardin wanted Christians to see that option A2B made sense, hoping that it could be transcended.

My guess is that Schoonenberg would have articulated option A2A if he knew what we know fifty years later.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AL1

Summary of text [comment] page 47

[Neither Schoonenberg nor de Chardin had the advantage of knowing Friedrich von Hayek’s concept of “spontaneous order” or John Deely’s ideas in semiotics or even key points in that must-read book: An Archaeology of the Fall.

I find it amazing they got as far as they did.

Their efforts may be seen as trials, attempting to forge a “button” to go into the “buttonhole” of “Creation”, once the button of tradition slipped from its mooring.

Neither “creationism” (with its Augustinian exclusion of evolutionary change) nor “pure chance and necessity” (with its Modern exclusion of our evolved sensibilities, that is, our evolved capacity to see design) worked.

Schoonenberg and de Chardin refused to choose between divine determinism and purposeless accidents of nature.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AK

Summary of text [comment] pages 46 & 47

[This section (1.6) on “Analogy of Sin and Physical Evil” proved difficult because the relation between the two is not one of analogy.  Rather, any model of moral evil must incorporate natural evil.

Schoonenberg went to the desk of de Chardin for insight into natural evil (that is, “failures due to limitations and challenges in biological spontaneous orders”) and found a quote that could be modeled as interscoping nested forms.

He then got stumped on how to bring this insight back to the level of freedom and morality, concluding that statistical necessity belonged freedom and morality. Then, in the next paragraph, he changed his view.

Finally, he set out some criteria that would have to be met in order for natural evil to be incorporated into moral evil.

Notably, the intersecting nested form meets that criteria.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AJ2

Summary of text [comment] pages 46 & 47

[I am looking at how the intersecting nested forms clarify Schoonenberg’s text about “statistical necessity” not fully describing the moral dimension of evil.

In the previous blog, I suggested that the horizontal axis was subject to “statistical necessity”.  In addition, the horizontal axis interscoped, so that statistics applied to more than one interscoping nested form.

In contrast to the horizontal axis, the vertical, moral religious axis, is categorical.

The vertical axis of the intersecting nested forms meets with the horizontal axis in the realm of actuality.

The other two categories in the vertical nested forms, normal context (thinkdivine_or_group) and possibility (consciencespecified), act like a voltage that is applied to a transistor (sin or virtue).  Small changes can produce magnified consequences, to the point where the horizontal axis may be in the state of “on” or “off”.

If that is not a categorical attribute (that is, one where statistical variation is reduced to two options, so statistics no longer seems to apply), I don’t know what is.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on the phenomena, entitled The Tipping Point.

The take home point is that a little moral turpitude can cause a lot of natural evil, (and maybe visa versa) depending on conditions and luck (that is, bad luck).  The worst scenario rarely happens, because spontaneous orders, including the cultural orders of unconstrained complexity, adapt.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AJ1

Summary of text [comment] pages 46 & 47

Schoonenberg argued that this added “level” [now “dimension”] of morals and freedom does not have the character of “statistical necessity”.

[The complete intersecting nested form, as developed in prior blogs, may be helpful.

Take the last point first.

The horizontal axis of lawessential3(human action2(disposition1)) has the character of de Chardin’s “statistical necessity”; including, both metaphysical (limitations) and physical (challenges) evil.

Lawessential3(human action2((disposition1)) also encompasses interscoping nested forms, covering a range of nested forms, each with its own natural evils.

This explains a question that I have held since formulating the idea of “intersecting nested forms”:  Why do they appear to apply to a wide range of topics, including individuals, institutions, and societies?

Well. this would be expected if the horizontal axis of the intersecting nested forms interscoped.

The horizontal axis of the intersecting nested forms interscopes with other nested forms.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AI

Summary of text [comment] page 46

[Schoonenberg’s waffling, described in the previous blogs, leads to a question:

What makes the spontaneous order of human culture (in unconstrained complexity) different from the spontaneous orders of biology (of ecology, environment and matter – as well as – perhaps, of the human culture in constrained complexity)?

Schoonenberg did not know that he formulated a question that has never been asked before (1962). Still, he listed some fundamentals that could go into an answer.]

The free person possesses ‘his’ own value for eternity.

Each person is touched by the grace of God, who wishes for all ‘men’ to be saved.

Sin and virtue manifest attributes (especially, the final impenitence or total self-giving, respectively) that do not fit into the concept of “statistical necessity” because they are categorical attributes.

[To me, these criteria indicate that freedom and morality in our current Lebenswelt mark another dimension in addition to the dimensions of ecology-environment-matter.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.6AH

Summary of text [comment] pages 45 and 46

Schoonenberg asks: Can the same act be both unavoidable (similar to natural evil) and guilty (pertaining to the level of freedom and morals)?

He concludes: No, because that would violate the concept of free will.  But his conclusion is conflicted.  He agrees with de Chardin that “moral evil must parallel natural evil” (in that it must entail statistical necessity).  Yet, that would imply that “moral statistical necessity” violates freedom.

The conflict is highlighted by the rhetorical side-step that immediately followed: “It may be true that for one saint, a large number of good (but not necessarily “saintly”) people are needed, but it is not true that for a large number of good people, an even greater number of damned are required.”