A Stranger on My Own Home Planet
Or as Chesterton said, "There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic."
Which is why Obama's defenders naturally call him a "pragmatist," of all things, the purpose being to throw a shroud of mystification over his dogmatism -- to blur, not clarify.
Chesterton also observed that "the main problem for philosophers" is how to reconcile -- or tolerate -- the following orthoparadox: how to "contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honor of being our own town?
"We need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable."
On that same fortuitous page we read that "All things grow more paradoxical as we approach the central truth." I know exactly what GK means, but again, mere paradox can be employed in the defense of mystification. In contrast, orthoparadoxy combines the utmost in clarity with the last weird in mystery: wonder and welcome, fascination and comfort, weirdness and security, strangers in our own hometown.
With that in mind, to what does the word God refer? Correct: it is a Mystery. But does this mean we can say nothing about God -- or that talk of God amounts to so much nothing? How then do we even have the word? We are not pneumababbling deconstructionists: we believe that words have referents in reality and that reality is intelligible in the form of words.
The problem, I suppose, is that God is the reality, so it is not possible to stand outside that reality in order to "refer" to it. Good point.
Still, we reject this as needless mystification: all wonder and no welcome. It is simultaneously too weird and not weird enough. Because what would be really weird is if creatures could have genuine insight into their Creator.
I will cut to the chase and say that I am entirely persuaded (with important modifications) by Harshorne's conception of God as not absolute, except insofar as he is absolute relativity. Furthermore, to posit God as absolute-absolute is to drain both God and world of all mystery, except in the annoying sense of "why does He bother?"
Because if God knows exactly how everything is going to play out, then there is no contingency: all is necessity, right down to the most infinitesimal decimal. This post, for example, was written before the foundation of the world. Which I would suggest is abject mystification, or in other words, grandiose cosmic bullshit.
What I don't quite get is how people in the Judeo-Christian stream would go for this conception, for revelation reveals some rather astonishing facts about God. There are many, but some of the critical ones are that he is person; that he is creator; that he is love; and that (for Christians) he is three. But the absolute in the philosophical sense could be none of these things.
What is also interesting is that the Christians most likely to embrace the notion of God as philosophical absolute are fundamentalists who are otherwise extremely wary about philosophical contamination of Christianity. But the idea of an unchanging Absolute is again a Greek import.
One of our teachstones is that man is the image and likeness of the Creator. The orthodox conception is that the image is analogous to the potential, whereas likeness is its actualization, i.e., theosis.
Now, if God is the unchanging absolute, this would imply that the best man would be the one who is likewise immutable, not subject to change or suffering, radically complete, an ainsoferable gnosis-all. First of all, that would be impossible, short of death. But even if possible, would it be admirable?
Besides, what is a person? Is a person without social relations even conceivable? No.
This is not to suggest that God is not absolute, because he is. But one of Hartshorne's excellent orthoparadoxes is not only that his relativity -- his capacity for real relationship -- is absolute, but that relativity both surpasses and includes his absoluteness -- just like any other person!
You might say that God's absoluteness is analogous to "character" in a human being. Character is what doesn't change, what endures over time despite changing circumstances. So to say, for example, that God is "good," or "love," or "creativity," is to refer to absoluteness, except converted into a dynamic verb instead of a static noun, so to speak.
Can love ever be static? Creativity? Knowledge? Speech? Life? I wouldn't even say that God is three so much as perpetually three-ing. And there is no unchanging noun behind or above this verbal dynamism, on pain of God not being a subjective Person-in-relation but an impersonal object.
Strangers on our own wondrous home planet: