Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Presentism and the Cross

  1. It is important for Christian life that one unite one’s daily sacrifices with Christ’s sufferings on the cross.

  2. Uniting one’s sufferings with something non-existent is not important for Christian life.

  3. So, Christ’s sufferings on the cross are a part of reality.

  4. So, presentism is false.


Christopher Michael said...

4 does not follow from 3 because of the Mass.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Actually, I think the presence of Christ's sufferings in the Mass is also problematic for presentists.

There are both metaphysically weighty and metaphysically light accounts of the way the Mass makes Christ's sufferings on the Cross present to us, and as far as I know both can be orthodox (unlike for transsubstantiation, where the metaphysically light account is heterodox).

A metaphysically heavy account is basically some form of spacetime-bending or time-travel. Time-travel and spacetime-bending are both generally seen as very problematic for presentists.

A metaphysically light account, on the other hand, is also problematic, because it is difficult to see how something that, according to presentists, is literally nonexistent can be made present, except in an illusory kind of way.

That said, consider a time when no Mass is being said. For instance, perhaps, a typical non-Sunday in the time of the early Church. Then the Christian should still unite with Christ's sufferings, even though Christ's sufferings aren't being made present by any Mass.

Guarded Acumen said...

One possible theological objection to the eternalist conception of time could run as follows: under an eternalist conception of time, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, alongside His subsequent triumph over death, would appear to be negated given that the entirety of creation could not be said to be purged of evil and this seems to stand contra to Paul's statement in I Corinthians 15:55, that "Death is swallowed up in victory!" Dr. William Lane Craig, in the closing chapter of his book, titled, 'The Tenseless Theory of Time', has written the following objection: "On the B-Theory of Time, evil is never really vanquished from the world: it exists just as sturdily as ever at its various locations in space-time, even if those locations are all earlier than some point in cosmic time. Creation is never really purged of evil on this view; at most it can be said that evil only infects those parts of creation which are earlier than certain other events. But the stain is indelible. It is unclear how we can say with Paul, 'Death is swallowed up in victory!' (I Cor. 15.55) when Death is never really done away with on a B-Theory of Time." Thoughts on this possible objection Dr. Pruss?

Michael Gonzalez said...


The statement "Christ's suffering exists" is false, because "exists" is in the present tense. If you add " the past", then the statement becomes meaningless, for the same reason. It is evident that, if the apostle Paul (for example) were to say that we should "unite our daily sacrifices with Christ's sacrifice", there is no chance at all that he would mean this in non-presentist terms (indeed, I contend that there is no meaningful way to do that).

So, what does such a sentence mean, when uttered by a normal and competent user of the language? It means to unite our daily sacrifices with what we know did happen. Of course it isn't happening anymore. But, it happened, and the world now is irrevocably and importantly a world in which Christ's sacrifice did happen (viz., there are causal consequences that reverberate in the present).

With regard to presentism: If a presentist has expressed herself by saying "presentism means that the present is all that is real, and that the past and future do not exist", they have simultaneously stated a tautology (the past and future cannot exist, because "exist" is in the present tense) and clouded the issue at the same time. The past has echoes that continue to exist; causal consequences that make/explain the world as it is rather than the other ways it could have been.

Alexander R Pruss said...

MG: Yes, but we should unite ourselves with Christ's sacrifice, not just with the reverberations of it.

GA: I think a constitutive part of the glory of the redeemed world is that it contains the Cross: if the price the presentist has to pay for having no evil is not having the sacrifice of the Cross in the world any more, that's not a price worth paying. Many philosophers of religion have been wisely talking about how God _defeats_ evil. Defeating evil is neither outweighing it nor outwaiting it. When the evil is defeated, the evil is in some sense "still there", constituting the defeat of it as a defeat (rather than an outwaiting).

Moreover, the traditional theist typically thinks that evil is always a privation of good. But if evil is a privation, then on eternalism there is, literally, no evil at all. Of course, you might say: Even though evil doesn't exist, reality will always be deprived of good on the eternalist (or growing block) picture. Maybe, but it seems that the fact of _having sinned_ is a deprivation of the good of _never having sinned_. And the fact of _having sinned_ will always be with us. I am not confident of this argument, though.

Finally, if there is a hell, then presumably the people in hell will eternally be morally imperfect. And that's an evil.

Michael Gonzalez said...

I'm not sure where the phrase "unite ourselves with Christ's sacrifice" comes from; but, a precondition of being required to do X is that X make sense. If we are of the same mind as the Christ when he faced his great sacrifice, then there are perfectly meaningful senses in which we are "united" with the sacrifice itself. If the statement has to mean "stand in some relation to a sacrifice that exists" then it also means "stand in some relation to a sacrifice that exists now" (since "exists" is identical to "exists now").

Griffin the Grey said...

Christ's suffering is not purely physical and it transcends the natural world and time.

That Christ is not now actually physically suffering does not therefore prevent us from uniting to the eternal spiritual reality of the suffering.

Indeed, if the unity demanded was physical and temporal unity, such as immortalised in La Pieta, then it would be absolutely impossible and so for Christianity to be true it must be something other than phsyical and temporal unity that is required.