[Milton-L] potestas ordinata, potestas absoluta, reason, and arbitratry commands

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sun Jul 13 22:05:38 EDT 2008

Jeffery: I think making sure we understand one another is probably the
best place to start, yes.

> For instance, I don't think that I've stated that "many common objects are
> holy," but if I have, then please quote me in context so that I can see what
> I meant.

What you said in your previous post was:

<<Many common things are pure already or can be purified.>>

And I conflated "pure" with "holy," which you may not have intended,
but in your paragraph below from the next post you seem to do that:

> I would say that common objects can be purified and set apart. They
> are then considered holy by imitation of the divine -- and they can even
> become filled with the force of holiness if God so chooses. In a state of
> holiness, they are no longer called common.

When you say that common objects can be purified and set apart, and
are then considered holy, that seems to me to be a conflation of
holiness and purity.  However, you do distinguish between two types of
holiness, and are probably only thinking of holiness in one sense.

I'm not sure that holiness is a thing that God emanates in either the
Hebrew Scriptures or the NT, but is rather God's fundamental nature.
All things, being created by God, share this nature in their
originally created form.

> I think that for Leviticus, the "common" refers to the basic substance of
> the world. This substance can be imbued by the holy or the impure -- though
> not both simultaneously. It can also be pure. (The system gets a bit more
> complex than this, but let's ignore the complexity for the moment.)

I'd like to see some support for what you say above.  There cannot be
"impure" substances created that way by God unless:

1. By "impure" you intend no reference at all to moral deficiency, but
your last response to Alan Horn seems to indicate otherwise.


2. There is a second and equally powerful God who also creates stuff,


3. God himself is partly evil in a moral sense.

The second and third options are alien to the Mosaic law.

> I don't understand this statement:

<< What makes the "people" common or holy is not some innate quality,
but a purification process by which they are set aside for use by God.
- Jim R>>

> You seem to be using common and holy to mean the same thing, but you must
> mean something else.

I'm not sure how I can be saying the common and the holy are the same
thing when a common object must undergo a purification process before
it can be made holy.  In the Levitical system this purification
process involved various kinds of sacrifice, etc.  Of course I am
speaking about earthly objects that become identified as holy -- say,
an altar, objects used in temple worship, priests, etc. -- and not
angels or God.

> As for the following passage, I think that you're
> attributing some things to me that I haven't stated (though we agree that
> some things cannot be sanctified):

<< I agree with you that some objects cannot be made holy in the
Levitical system (such as swine), but it is highly problematic to
consider these as being ontologically or morally deficient somehow,
and even worse to say that they were created by God this way. All
common objects, pure or impure, as created are "good." Not all "good"
objects are holy. We can say swine are "tainted by impurity" if we
understand this to mean ritual impurity, but I don't think we can say
they were created by God to be morally impure. I don't think that
would be consistent with any theology represented in either the Hebrew
scriptures or the New Testament. -Jim R>>

> Concerning your remarks "problematic to consider" and "even worse to say," I
> don't think these describe what I've been offering in my posts. The
> Levitical system does not explain how the world came to be tainted by
> impurity. The impurity is a given and Leviticus provides the rules for
> dealing with it.

Well, yes, but I don't believe I said anything about how anything came
to be tainted.  Some things have just been identified as ritually
impure.  A pig cannot become tainted.  Its own actions are morally
neutral.  Pigs are not moral agents.

I think you see the Levitical system as a variant of gnosticism, in
which some objects are especially imbued with light while others may
be the opposite (as in the Manichean system).  I think the Levitical
system is the polar opposite of this.

> Impurity, at any rate, is not good. It is a dynamic force opposed to the  holy.

This reinforces my suspicion that you're viewing the Levitical system
as a variant of gnostic religions.  There are no dynamic forces that
exist on their own that are in opposition to the holy.  Everything
that exists has been created by God and, so long as it exists,
participates in the good.  This is not to say that any form of
impurity, ritual or otherwise, is good in itself, but that the thing
that we identify as impure always shares to some extent in God's
goodness simply by virtue of being created by God.  As a result,
impurity is either a relational or a ritual status, but not an
ontological status.  I believe this is Augustine's argument about the
nature of evil in bk 7 of the Confessions.  However, to say that
impurity is a "dynamic force opposed to the good" is to give impurity
some kind of existence as a thing in the world, an ontological status.

> One could attempt to argue that impurity is a consequence of the fall, but I
> don't see that explicit in the Old Testament . . . not do I see it explicit
> in the New Testament.
> Jeffery Hodges

Certain spirits are said to be "impure" in both the OT and the NT, I
think -- certainly the NT.  This being the case, impurity would be
ascribed to certain beings prior to the fall.

I do think ritual impurity comes to be associated with spiritual or
moral impurity in the NT period and gets carried forward from there,
but I think we need to distinguish this development from its origins.

Jim R

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