Tuesday, September 30, 2014

With God All Things Are... Necessary?

A small error slipped past our editor in yesterday's post: I said I was plagiarizing with Schuon's Logic and Transcendence, when I meant From the Divine to the Human. Otherwise, the post is imbued with the usual infallibility, and carries the nihil bobstat and dodgy Imprimatur of Toots. Both books, by the way, are among Schuon's best.

As we've suggested before, it seems that what most troubles people about a process theology is that it seems to limit God's omnipotence and omniscience. Well, maybe. It depends upon how one defines those terms. There are, however, compensations.

For example, if everything is necessary, then nothing is possible. In other words, everything has to happen just as it does, so deal with it.

I was thinking about this over the weekend. What are we to make of the crack that with God all things are possible? If one were a Muslim or Christian predestineer, one would have to say "with God all things are necessary," and that it is our task to simply resign ourselves to these things and to endure them.

But to say that all things are possible with God is to say something with metaphysical implications, for it is to say that "possibility" exists in God.

But this is precisely what classical theologians do not say: rather, God for them is by definition radically complete and lacking in nothing, so how could he contain possibility? As the ArisThomists say, God is pure act, with no potency: "God is changeless because change means passage from potency to act..."

I don't know about that. Maybe it's temperamental: just as apparent limitations on God's omnipotence make a certain kind of person uncomfortable, this notion of utter changelessness gives me the willies.

But it's not just a feeling and a preference; rather, a logical absurdity; there are also the many passages in scripture that describe God as changing -- not in his essence or his primordial nature, of course, but in what Hartshorne would call his "consequent nature."

The picture just entered my thoughtspace of the planets orbiting the sun, held in place by the force of gravity. However, the gravity works both ways: just as the sun "pulls" the earth, the earth pulls the sun, albeit in a comparatively fractional way. Likewise, when you jump up in the air, your body pulls at the earth, just as the earth pulls back.

So, perhaps creation "changes" God in that way: infinitesimally, but still more than zero.

Schuon bats around some of these ideas in a chapter called The Problem of Possibility. Again, if everything is necessary then nothing is possible, so your problem is solved (because problems aren't possible, only necessary).

I suppose this has a certain appeal for a certain type of person. Again, Islam means surrender, i.e., to the radical necessity of Allah's inscrutable whimsy. There's even a certain element of this in Christianity, i.e., "Thy will be done," but it is in the form of a request and a petition, not just a resignation to cosmic inevitability, or a one-sided surrender to Fate.

After all, some things are truly inevitable, which is precisely how we can know that some things are not inevitable, i.e., that they are possible. It is good and healthy to reconcile ourselves to the inevitable, but I don't see how that could be true of the possible, because the latter invites our active participation. In my view, this explains the superiority of the Christian west over the Muslim middle east, because again, recognition of divine possibility -- and our participation in it -- changes everything.

We can still say that God is necessary being, except that this necessary being contains infinite possibility. I would even analogize this to father and mother, the former connoting the unchanging absolute, the latter connoting the divine mercy, and mercy is only possible because of a passionate connection.

In other words, to feel mercy is to be moved, and to be moved is to be changed. But change is precisely what God cannot do if the orthodox view is correct.

Even for God to "know" us requires a change on his part, for what is knowledge but conformity of the subject to the object (or in this case, another subject)? The classical view is that God already knows everything, so there can be no real relationship of knowing us. Rather, it's just God knowing himself, but even then that's an abuse of the term, because knowledge is change.

Here is how Schuon describes the innards of the Godhead, which I find quite compatible with a modified process theology:

"God is both absolute Necessity and infinite Possibility; in the first respect, He transcends everything that is merely possible, whereas, in the second respect, He is, not a given possibility," but rather, "Possibility as such." In other words, in an orthoparadoxical sense, God's necessity includes possibility (which is nearly synonymous with freedom).

After all, if God chooses to create this world instead of that one, that is the actualization of a possibility. Would it be of absolutely no consequence to God if he had created the other world? Then why bother? It flattens everything and turns God into the ultimate nihilist.

Another way Schuon handles this question is to essentially posit "two sides," so to speak, of God. I have always analogized this to our own consciousness, which is always necessarily two-sided as well, i.e., conscious vs. un- and supra-conscious.

In God, this would take the form of Being and of Beyond-Being. Beyond-Being would in turn correspond to God's unchanging essence, whereas Being would correspond to our Creator-God, the personal God, the God to whom we can truly relate and who can truly relate to us (like the sun and planet alluded to above).

Schuon: "We would say consequently that Being is Possibility purely and simply; possibility necessary in itself, but contingent in its increasingly relative contents..."

Again, possibility as such is necessary, but not this or that possibility, hence the reason for prayer. For if there is no possibility of change in God -- if he is complete necessity -- then prayer can only be an exercise in futility.

Or consider the Trinity itself: is it just an unchanging circle, like God chasing his own tail? Or is it an eternally deepening spiral of love?

In conclusion, I would suggest that possibility is the phase space of divine infinitude.

****

Also, the classical God would be a bit like Obama, with no need to attend his intelligence briefings because of his omniscience.

16 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

A small error slipped past our editor in yesterday's post

Doh! I kept thinking I should look that up and read the chapter, too.

9/30/2014 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

On the subject of intelligence: excellent piece today by SultanKnish.

9/30/2014 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

But it's not just a feeling and a preference; rather, a logical absurdity; there are also the many passages in scripture that describe God as changing -- not in his essence or his primordial nature, of course, but in what Hartshorne would call his "consequent nature."

Yes. Actually, to the whole post.

9/30/2014 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Olden Ears said...

In God, this would take the form of Being and of Beyond-Being.

Thank you, Bob. This is very helpful. I have often sensed this but not verbalized it in a way I was comfortable with. I had thought of there being a "God beyond God," but that didn't feel right. So I tried thinking along the lines of "non-Being" as somehow being a manifestation of deity, but that didn't compute. How could non-Being be manifest at all? Being and Beyond-Being, however, makes a lot more sense to me and comes closer to my intuition.

9/30/2014 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is a great post.

...it is in the form of a request and a petition, not just a resignation to cosmic inevitability, or a one-sided surrender to Fate.

Thy will be done, as Jesus expressed it is an acknowledgement of dependence upon the infinitely greater wisdom and understanding of God. There in the garden, Jesus was looking at the pain of the cross and the horror of death, in particular a separation from the Father such as He had never experienced. He said, "I'd just as soon not go through that." And who could blame Him.

He said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass. Nevertheless, Thy will be done."

Our perspective is so limited and so tied to our desire not to suffer -- and who can blame us -- that we may not fully appreciate the comprehensive picture. So we pray for the mercies, blessings, and intervention of God -- for the possible, but especially for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. That has to be the best thing.

9/30/2014 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...this notion of utter changelessness gives me the willies."

Yep.

"But it's not just a feeling and a preference; rather, a logical absurdity; there are also the many passages in scripture that describe God as changing -- not in his essence or his primordial nature, of course, but in what Hartshorne would call his "consequent nature.""

It's impossible to imagine how absurd the consequences of God's inability to change would be... in one sense, he'd be condemning himself to hell on earth.

9/30/2014 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

John:

Just tell us what you think. No lengthy appeals to authority. Thanks.

9/30/2014 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Meanwhile, that guy in Oklahoma who beheaded a woman last week was totally not engaged in Islamic violence. Just workplace violence. No true Muslim would take the Koran literally.

9/30/2014 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

God without possibility would be a restricted god, unable to break out of the box of necessity, i.e. Allah.

9/30/2014 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am afraid that box has already been opened. Pretty much everything asked for, and much that cannot be reasoned with.
Ebola and Jihad in the heartland. Blasphemy on the Temple Mount.
Mortals, and Immortals. One in common. A price that must be paid.
If that was everywhere and everywhen at once, there would be no hope. Just sleep.
Maybe not what gets saved, just what is willing to pay.

9/30/2014 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Just workplace violence. No true Muslim would take the Koran literally.

Beheadings are probably not as uncommon in Oklahoma as one might think at first glance. The difference is they usually involve beer and a chainsaw.

9/30/2014 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

w

10/01/2014 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Here I thought I would be recovering, reading and commenting since I got home and thus far I have mostly just slept.

Well, at least I feel stronger everyday. Soon I'll be back in ship shape.

Excellent post, Bob. Thanks.

10/01/2014 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Takes a little time :) Sleep is one of the best things you can be doing right now.

10/01/2014 03:28:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Finnell said...

THE DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF WATER BAPTISM BY STEVE FINNELL

What is the definition and the purpose of water baptism under the New Covenant?

THE DEFINITION?

Baptism as defined in the Scriptures.

Acts 8:36 And, as they went on their way they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, Look, here is water; what is there to hinder me from being immersed? (Ref: The Better Version of The New Testament by Chester Estes)

The definition of baptism is to be immersed in water.

Acts 8:36 As they went along the road they came to some water;and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (Ref: NASB)

The definition of water baptism under the New Covenant is immersion in water.

Romans 6:4 We were, therefore, buried with him by immersion into that death; that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, thus we also should walk in newness of life. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

In water baptism, believers in Christ are buried by immersion in water. This symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Ref: NASB)

To be buried through baptism makes it clear that water baptism is immersion. Men cannot be buried under a sprinkle or by having water poured over them.

Colossians 2:12 Having been buried with him by immersion, by which also you were raised up with him, through the belief of the strong working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

Water baptism is a burial by immersion.

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Ref: NASB)

Baptism is a burial by immersion.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF WATER BAPTISM?

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Let each one of you repent and be immersed, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ref: The Better Version Of The New Testament by Chester Estes)

One purpose of water baptism is in order to have sin forgiven.

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ref: NASB)

A reason to be baptized in water is so your sins may be forgiven.


Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been immersed into Christ, have put on Christ. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

One purpose of water baptism is to put on Christ.

Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Ref: NASB)

A purpose for water baptism is so men can be clothed with Christ.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed, and has been immersed, will be saved..... (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

A purpose of water baptism is in order to be saved.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.... (Ref: NASB)

One reason to be baptized in water is so that you may be saved from the punishment of your sins.


YES, WATER BAPTISM (IMMERSION IN WATER) IS ESSENTIAL TO BE SAVED.


you are invited to follow my blog. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

10/13/2014 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Aaaand that's precisely the sort of thing that gives people the Jesus Willies. Now with more Spam.

10/13/2014 02:03:00 PM  

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