Thursday, September 19, 2013

An argument against Christian materialism on a pro-life view

  1. No one is saved who does not have a love for God in this life.
  2. If materialism is true, early human embryos do not have a love for God.
  3. At least some, perhaps all, people who die as early embryos are saved.
  4. So, materialism is false.
One might think that in premise (2), the antecedent isn't doing any work: that it is simply true that early embryos do not have a love for God. Not so. For if love for God is a matter of a certain orientation of the soul towards God, then people who do not have a brain might nonetheless have a love for God.

One might even try to run the argument with young infants instead of embryos. But there, I think, the argument could run into difficulty. For it may be that a young infant's brain hardware is sufficiently developed to love God, but simply does not have the software for it. And God could miraculously give the infant the software. I suppose the Christian materialist could think that God could miraculously join the embryo with a brain, perhaps a brain in another dimension. But it is not clear that that both such an embryo would then be one of us humans and that brain would be its brain.


Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

I'm not entirely sure what it means for the soul of an embryo to have an orientation to love God—do souls of embryos have thoughts, for example?, and if not, then is it that they are capable of developing in such a way as to have them?—but to the extent that I do, I don't see why an embryo, itself, couldn't have such an orientation to love God.

Alexander R Pruss said...


Love seems to be a mental state, so it seems that the souls of embryos need to be able to have a mental state, even before there is any brain.

I suppose God could miraculously influence a single-celled human being so that it would be determined to develop a love for God as soon as an adequate mind is present. But a potential for love for God is not love for God.

I don't know what love for God is.

Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

That's interesting, Alex. I'm not entirely sure that love is essentially a mental state. Suppose so. Then it's an interesting entailment of the pro-life view, as you've drawn it out here, that persons have mental states from the first moment God creates them. On the face of it, it doesn't seem that way. But perhaps we just don't remember? Or perhaps introspective access is not necessary?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I love my family and know most of the multiplication even while asleep. So I certainly do believe in unconscious mental states. But I don't know if this state of love is conscious or not. Or the state might be conscious but not self-conscious. And if Aquinas (and modern neuroscience) is right about the corporeal basis of memory, barring a further miracle, there would be no memory, since there is no brain to record the memory.

But it's not actually a consequence of the pro-life view plus Christianity that persons have mental states from the first moment of creation, but only that they *can*. Even if God saves all who die as embryos (I only assumed in the argument that he saved at least some), he might not give the grace to love him to all embryos, but only to those that he foresees will die, and even to those maybe not right away.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

"No one is saved who does not have a love for God in this life . . . For if love for God is a matter of a certain orientation of the soul towards God. . ."

I came across this while browsing the Magnificat for May 2013. It is the meditation for 24 May and it is an excerpt from some writing by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis:

"For the Christian, married eros must imitate Christ's divine eros, which equates love and self oblation . . . . in both Christian marriage and consecrated celibacy, natura human eros is redeemed by being united with the divine eros . . . Not only are divine love and human passion not incompatible; there is no truly Christian faith and experience that does not have passionate love at it's center, love in the image of Christ's own.

What is the author trying to say here?