With God All Things Are... Necessary?
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.