Ultimate Reality: I Think it Moved
If only for my own benefit, I would like to take time to review why I think God not only changes, but must be the very essence of change.
As we've discussed before, changelessness tends to get a free ride -- and change an unfair reputation -- because of the ancient Greeks. In turn, the early fathers, because they wanted to show that Christianity could be reconciled with the most prestigious philosophy of the time, identified the Judeo-Christian God with the Greek/Neoplatonic One.
But if we simply take the Bible as it is, and develop a metaphysic from that, then I don't see how anyone could affirm that God in no way changes.
And yet, this is still the Official View. Through the application of pure reason, contemporary Thomists affirm that because things obviously change, this necessitates the existence of an unchanged; or, because things move, there must be an unmoved mover, otherwise we end in an absurd infinite regress in which we have effects with no cause.
But I think God goes to all the trouble of revealing himself as Trinity for a reason. If the Trinity is the foundation of existence, then surely this must imply some kind of ceaselessly creative change, no? In other words, the first cause is not a substance or a thing, but a process -- not a noun but a verb.
Verb, of course, is cognate to word. Just sayin'.
Hartshorne covers this topic in his Creative Synthesis & Philosophic Method (which I do not recommend -- too turgid and diffuse). He points out that "Prior to the twentieth century, scarcely any philosopher... saw in the idea of creativity a fundamental principle, a category applicable to all reality."
It wasn't really until Whitehead, and I suppose Bergson before, that process, creativity, and evolution began to be appreciated in their own right.
Now, the moment I encountered Whitehead, I concluded that what he was saying Must Be True. Not all of it -- I am not a Whiteheadian -- but at least the broad outlines. I'm trying to think back on when I first bumped into him... must have been in the early 1980s, and he has been an implicit touchstone ever since (as has Polanyi).
I don't know, maybe I'm a little effed up in the head, but someone needs to explain to me how God can "create" without undergoing change. It seems to me that there is no way to squeeze creativity out of a changeless entity, unless you just play word games.
Let's look at it in a purely logical manner: the world isn't necessary, but rather, contingent. We can all agree on that. It didn't have to come into being. Rather, God had a choice.
Or, maybe you are suggesting that God had the choice of whether or not to be creative, and that if he had chosen not to create, then there would be no such thing as creativity? Nevertheless, this implies the possibility of creating, i.e., potential (which, in the traditional view, God is not supposed to have; rather, he is all act and no potency).
I just remembered my key takeaway from reading Whitehead: it is that ultimate reality is subject rather than object. This goes to the discussion in the last post, and to my rejection of Matt Ridley's vision of cosmic evolution: for him, it is as if it is objects all the way down, whereas for Whitehead, it is subjects all the way down.
To be precise, subject-object is one of our primordial cosmic complementarities. However, as with all cosmic complementarities, one must be prior, and in this case it is the subject, because you cannot get a subject out of an object, but you can get objects from the subject.
Now, to say that ultimate reality is subjective is but a step away from saying it is Person. Looking at the Trinity, we can say that it is one process with three "objects" (in a manner of speaking). Or better, there is this subject-object vector at the very heart of reality. When a person relates to another person, it is in the form of both subject and object.
Back to the divine creativity: "a free agent must create something in himself, even if he decides not to create anything else; for the decision, if free, is itself a creation."
For Hartshorne, the implication is that "freedom is self-creation," or in other words, freedom means not being determined by outside agents. To the extent one is determined, one is not free. So God is either changeless or he is free.
It seems to me that to be made in the image of God is to be invited to participate in God's trinitarian nature.
Or, let's turn it around and suppose that the God of whom we are the image and likeness is the unmoved mover. In this view, "God influences all things, nothing influences God. For him there are no 'stimuli'..." Is this how God wants us to be? An unchangeable absolute? How can something that is admirable in God be sociopathic for humans?
I read somewhere over the weekend that the Father is God beyond us, the Son God with us, and the Spirit God in us. How in particular can God be with us without being truly open to us?
Hartshorne completely inverts the traditional view in a way that I find quite appealing. That is, instead of being the distant and absolute unmoved mover, God is the most relative thing conceivable, as in relationship. He is related to everything and everyone, most intensely to human persons.
And although Hartshorne nowhere mentions the Trinity, God's relatedness must be because he is intensely related even -- or quintessentially -- to himself: ultimate reality is pure relationship and therefore "relativity." It moves.