Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Marriage of Time & Eternity

In Norris Clarke's The Philosophical Approach to God there is a helpful section that attempts to reconcile (orthodox) Christianity with process philosophy. For on the one hand, "process thought contains a number of basic insights that can and should be fruitfully recognized by Christian theism."

However, it is nevertheless "in serious tension, if not incompatibility, with traditional Christian theism on several key points..."

This is consistent with what I've said in the past -- that while Whitehead was one of my biggest influences, I could never be a "Whiteheadian" per se. You could say that certain aspects of process philosophy help me get past certain personal impasses in Christianity, while certain doctrines of Christianity help me get past the dodgier aspects of process philosophy.

Whitehead is probably more compatible with, say, Buddhism than Christianity, for like Buddhism he posits a world of pure process with no substantial reality underneath. But to jump ahead a bit, I am personal where he is impersonal, and trinitarian where he is... uni-processual, or something. I suppose that makes us Trinitarian Personalists, which about sums up the Secret Raccoon Doctrine.

By the way, I am still laboring under this manflu, so I'm hoping that much of this post can just consist of playgiarizing with Clarke instead of having to think for myself.

Here is a nice passage that clears up that whole predestination problem, which comes down to the nature of God's omnipotence:

"The actual carrying out of divine providence (and predestination) can take place... by persuasion, by luring to the good, not by coercion.....

"God determines the general set of goals He wishes to achieve, the goals at which he aims the universe, and knows that in general he will be able to achieve by His suasive power, but does not determine ahead of time in detail just whether or how each particular creature will achieve its share or not in this overall goal."

In keeping with the spirit of jazz, "Divine providence unfolds by constant instantaneous 'improvisation' of the divine mind and will -- from His always contemporaneous eternal now -- precisely to fit the actual ongoing activities, especially the free ones, of the creaturely players in the world drama" (or cosmic jazz combo).

One big issue is whether God changes. Process philosophy says Yes, of course, while orthodox Christianity says No Way. But the latter makes no sense to a Trinitarian Personalist, since God is not only related, but is relationship as such. And to be "in relationship" means to be relative to someone else.

Even so, the process philosophers are, in my opinion, a little too facile in positing a God of constant change.

For Clarke, "our metaphysics of God must certainly allow us to say that in some real and genuine way God is affected positively by what we do, that He receives love from us and experiences joy precisely because of our responses..."

However, "God does not become a more or less perfect being because of the love we return to him and the joy He experiences" therefrom.

As I've said before, if we can change but God can't, it means that we have a capacity that is denied God. Which can't be right.

God is Person, and "to receive love as a person... is not at all an imperfection, but precisely a dimension of the perfection of personal being as lovingly responsive." God never stops being "infinite perfection," it's just that the perfection of personal being is love and all it implies.

In a trinitarian perspective, the Father never stops sharing and receiving his love. If the cosmos is a fractal of God -- in that every wee part will be a reflection of the Whole We -- then this would explain how "God's 'receiving' from us, being delighted at our response to His love," equates to "His original delight in sharing with us in His eternal now His own original power of loving and infinite goodness which has come back to him in return."

Or as Blake said, eternity is in love with the productions of time.


It's the culture said...

I like the idea of the universe as art. It doesn’t feed, defend or shelter any creator, just gives them something interesting (and meaningful?) to do when all else is irrelevant.

julie said...

Yes, just so

mushroom said...

God changes -- I want to say, in us, which may not convey what I mean. Anyway, otherwise, why would He have gone beyond Adam or given Adam the capacity to reproduce? Angels -- as best I can figure, are more static. There may not be a path of angelic development or angelic evolution. All of God's creative evolution comes to a focus in the sons of Adam.

Or possibly I need more coffee. I always need more coffee.

It's the culture said...

Angels come from a different dimension? Anything's possible.

I got into it once with a guy for a while and we sort of concluded that Jesus must be to us, as our spiritual selves are to God. Our physical self must form some kind of spiritual personality trait, or spiritual organ... some kind of vital influence dictated by the laws of the universe, which becomes quite important after physical existence is spent. That attachment never disappears. He called it a metaphysical anchor point. God has apparently allowed himself to be subject to the same circumstances in this greatest work of art.

But, like the 2D being trying to figure out 3D space I can only guess. Or as Bob suggests, feel that truth.

ted said...

Didn't Don Colacho mention something like theology has no function in resolving conflict, but in showing its necessity? That works for me.

It's the culture said...

Whoops. I typed that wrong. We are to Jesus, as our spiritual selves are to God. Same dynamics going on.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's right to say that Buddhism 'posits a world of pure process with no substantial reality underneath'.  The Mahayana definitely subscribes to an Absolute and one which is not impersonal but, rather, 'supra-personal' and subject to change under certain conditions. I've recently come across a couple of works representing the more 'theistic' dimension of this tradition (in the form of Shin Buddhism), written by a priest who apparently was a Buddhist disciple of Frithjof Schuon. I certainly found some compelling parallels with what Bob is talking about:

These works helped me to understand that Buddhism in the West has been hijacked by the secular left (including the ghastly Deepak Chopra types) and does not represent the more 'personalist', devotional and metaphysical view embodied in its traditional forms as taught and practiced in the East. In fact, Schuon himself felt that the Pure Land form of Buddhism (of which Shin is the largest school), was the only Eastern religion suitable for Westerners.

Allena said...

" I suppose that makes us Trinitarian Personalists, which about sums up the Secret Raccoon Doctrine."

I like that. ☺️

Leslie Godwin said...

Mushroom: I recently wrote about what the Church says about angels, which may not be what you were asking about, but the official position is that they are beings of pure spirit and therefore cannot change. In fact, they make their choice to turn toward or away from God, and they cannot "change their mind" because they are not in time like humans. So we can evolve and become better (or worse) over time, but angels are what they are eternally. I found that last part interesting, because at first glance it can seem odd or unfair that they can't change their decision to follow God's will or disobey Him. That paper was one of the "lighter" topics I wrote on for my Spring class, but it was very interesting. The Bible mentions angels quite a bit, so it's surprising to me that Protestants don't accept that doctrine anymore. In a Bible study book we are using in my Bible study (I'm the only Catholic), the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire with the angel was interpreted (in the book we use) as Jesus in there with them rather than an angel, which it says it was right there in the Book. I'm kind of curious about why they dropped angels..will have to investigate.

julie said...

Leslie, isn't it interesting to be in a Bible study with mostly Protestants? They have some funny blind spots; in my study of Exodus last year, when we talked about what the manna represented not one person considered the Eucharist. Instead, they all thought it represented the Bible. I quite appreciated their perspective, even if I didn't always agree with their conclusions. They are studying John next fall, so I may go back.