Friday, July 28, 2017

Omward Bound

In the previous post we veered into the question of predestination, which comes down to how we can reconcile our freedom and God's omniscience. There are any number of skillful ways to dodge the question, similar to the pretzel logic people deploy in order to deal with the existence of evil in light of God's omnipotence.

Eh. I have my own ways of circling that square. For example, the first thing the Bible tells us about God is that he creates. I would call this a Big Hint.

In fact, I seriously doubt that God cannot not create, meaning that he is an infinite and inexhaustible source of novelty and surprise, even -- or especially -- to himSelf. As I mentioned in a comment, some things are awesomer than omniscience, one of them being creativity. Frankly, omniscience would constitute a mega-life sentence of infinite and eternal boredom, of total stasis.

For Schuon, the existence of evil is at once unavoidable and impermissible. That is, the creation is necessarily more or less distant from the Creator, and this distance, you might say, is measured in degrees of evil. In other words, evil is a privation, a privation that is ultimately "necessary" if we are to be truly free.

It's like light and shadow. Light doesn't "create" shadow, but nevertheless, the privation of shadowhood occurs wherever there is light. Likewise necessity and accident. Contingency must be parasitic on necessity, because the converse is impossible.

Now, everything is ultimately the Divine Substance, or Godstuff. But if one looks at it the wrong way, this can be as intellectually barren as flatland materialism.

Rather, "If we compare the Divine Substance with water," writes Schuon, "accidents may be likened to waves, drops, snow, or ice..." From the standpoint of transcendence we're all wet, but from the perspective of immanence we are like snowflakes, each one a unique and unrepeatable instantiation of the Principle. Religion -- good religion, anyway -- respects this complementarity.

Predestination tries to deal with the complementarity by eliminating it and defaulting to transcendence. But it seems to me that the incarnation of the Word is the last word in this complementarity: it is as if the Sovereign Good -- AKA Love -- instead of abiding in his timelessness only at the top, prolongs itself all the way to the furthest reaches of manifestation, to hell even. For they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, 'God with us.'

Not only is Godwithus, but God is the very ground and possibility of withus, which is to say Trinity. For what is the Trinity but an eternal perichoresis of I AM He as You Are He as You Are Me and We Are all together?

The point is, otherness is built into God. That's what you call a profound metaphysical point, one full of implications.

Conversely, it is easy to reconcile omniscience with a theological monism, the one simply entailing the other. But how is a trinitarian God different from this tedious oneness? For starters, the Father doesn't "entail" the Son, as in some logical necessity. Rather, he begets him, which is another martyr entirely, for God is the ultimate Fertile Egghead, infertility and absence of creativity being a privation. And there are many ways to be fruitful!

Some if not most people will reject my approach as heterodox instead of orthoparadoxical. But what if creation isn't linear but circular -- as if God throws himself into being, and the spiritual journey involves the return adventure, which is ultimately God's return to himself? Is this a Permissible Thought?

I'll just quote this passage from one of our favorites, W. Norris Clarke, regarding the moment-to-moment structure of the Journey, which has two main phases. First, the Many are

projected outward from the One, their Infinite Source, by creation.... This can be called the Journey away from Home, where creatures actively unfold their diverse dynamic natures as finite participants in the divine perfection and as centers of self-expressive and self-communicating action and intention with each other, thus forming a universe (uni-versum in Latin = turned toward unity)...

This is (immediately!) followed by

The Journey of the Many back again towards reunion with the One, their Source, drawn by this same Source through the pull of the Good built in to the very nature of every being through the mediation of final causation [AKA the Great Attractor].

Thus God as the ultimate One now appears as both the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and End, at once the Source and Goal of the restless dynamism of all of nature, of all finite beings.... And since the journey Home, back toward the Source again, can never be the same as the journey away from Home, the structure of the total journey [is] aptly imaged in the form of a circle...

So, I guess you could say that God is omniscient with regard to Alpha and Omega. But in between, anything might happen!


Gagdad Bob said...

Yeah, I "created" him, but I never know what he'll do next.

Anonymous said...

Great post, as usual. You are a fount of creativity, much like your Father. You touch on the problem of boredom, which, as I parse it, is an important factor in the cosmos.

To wit, avoidance of boredom could be a high priority for God, and our existence might be much of the solution. Evil, as we know, is highly fascinating to people. It is a deviation from the norm which requires action to correct. Every work of fiction, and every life, will have conflict. Evil, possibly, could function in the cosmos as a plot device. Although a privation, it leads to interesting outcomes.

Another aside is space-time, which is thought to be a loaf (already baked, and done from end to end). Therefore we traverse the slices (in one direction only, thanks to entropy), but these slices are pre-existent. Probably God can see the whole loaf (boring), so He creates beings who are surprised by everything, and revels in this vicariously? It's a thought. But it creates havoc for the concept of free-will.

Oh well, my three cents worth. Anyhoo, you are a superb entertainer with your writing craft, and I'm sure God appreciates you greatly.

julie said...

What is laughter but the sound of delighted surprise? As to otherness, is surprise even possible without it? Much less creativity and all the rest.

julie said...

Re. the boy, is he ever still? Amazing!

EbonyRaptor said...

Anon said "He creates beings who are surprised by everything, and revels in this vicariously?"

That gets to the question of why God created us - specifically beings with free will. I can plausibly understand the creativity God expresses as part of His nature, but why not stop plants and fish and such - why create the inexorable troublemakers that we humans are? Vicarious pleasure seems to sell God short, and by a fair margin. Doesn't it?

Gagdad Bob said...

It just occurs to me that in creating time, perhaps God creates a modality detached from his own omniscience. Contra Einstein, he does play dice with the universe. Seems like a stimulating way to spend eternity.

Gagdad Bob said...

Good piece on Trump, or at least it expresses my sentiments better than I could. Also jibes with Scott Adams' prediction of Hitler --> incompetence --> OH LORDY, CHAOS!

Gagdad Bob said...

I was rereading Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues over the weekend, and it is even better than I had remembered. Highly raccoomended.

julie said...

Re. Trump, Vanderleun has a helpful list this morning of a few of the modest accomplishments of the first six months. Many of which were news to me, since they didn't revolve around Russia Russia Russia or the latest shocking tweet from America's most uncouth president ever.

The jobs stuff is heartening. I have a nephew who is trying to figure out what to do with his life, and considering becoming a mechanic. He doesn't need college, he needs tech school or an apprenticeship; looks like this is a great time to get started.

Gagdad Bob said...

There's also a page at Conservapedia devoted to his accomplishments.

Unknown said...

Humans are created with a mission,the mission of understanding the meaning of things,including the human thing, to move from there to understand the one who created the things. God knows no boredom.the perfect, the self sufficient. Boredom is humans creation, it sets in,once the human forgets the mission. He is the necessary and we are the contingent and contingents need to be careful as not to throw at the necessary anything that runs contrary to his nature since his nature is unknowable and has no comparable. The way away from him is not the same way back to him. The descending way is not like the ascending way. We have been given consciousness to appreciate his consciousness. Here is where prayer is used to express the appreciation. Life is a participating platform where humans help each other to find the true meaningful way to him. Somebody said most people are out of order but they are so mindless until you tell them they are out of order and this can not be said until one leaves his disorder. It is a personal journey of truth to meet the truth and words are our vehicles to the one who created the words, so we have to be very careful how to use the words.

mushroom said...

Wow, the boy is going to mop the floor with American Ninja Warrior.

Who was it that compared trying to comprehend God is like trying to comprehend the ocean by filling a teacup with it?

Calvin, while an admirable person in many respects, did a lot of damage to Christianity, too. Being raised as a Southern Baptist, I think I always understood that the only good a lot of doctrines are is to get you to question them.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not only is the Boy planning on being on American Ninja Warrior, he's already working on a good sob story for the show -- maybe something about being raised by an eccentric father who was always buried in books and preoccupied with religion.

julie said...

That's one thing I find annoying about the American version. It's nice to know a little about the contestants, especially the ones who keep coming back, but the last couple episodes I watched it seemed like the obstacles were just filler for the favored life stories. Sometimes you just want to watch a guy hang on by his fingertips and make it through seemingly impossibly obstacles.

Gagdad Bob said...

Like the sob stories in the Olympics, it's all about demographics -- getting the non-sports fan interested in the sport.

julie said...

Result: fewer people than ever are watching. There's a place for sob stories, even in sports. It just shouldn't be in the middle of the game.