CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, chapter 25, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes chapter 26, "God's Relationship To Nature".]


Although I was unable (yet) to deductively remove from the option list the concept that what we call 'physical Nature' is God, I will remind you now that my own status as either a rebel (even if only occasional rebel) or as a deluded victim of illusion, indicates (even if nothing else did) that I am not fully divine in and of myself; and this indicates that at least two levels of reality, or two substantially different systems, exist: God and (in one way or another) not-God (namely myself).

Therefore, although I could only give a conceptual strike (not deduction) against 'practical pantheism' in the previous chapter, I do think I have deductively argued that pantheism must technically be false: not everything is fully God, because--as far as it is possible for me to tell--I am not God. Some type of relation that we may call Supernature-to-Nature, must therefore exist (even if, as might still be the case so far, what we call 'physical Nature' happens to be the 'supernatural' part of the relationship between the systems). The time has come for me to discover what necessary corollaries can be drawn from this position; and this will require thinking about the question: how can God effectively create something that is not-God?

To say the least, this is a tall order! It may also be my most controversial discussion; the implications somewhat unnerved me when I began putting together the pieces I had already uncovered. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I began to see that (despite the 'radical' look of the developing theory) it does hew, in the end, as close as I could wish to the doctrines of traditional Christianity (as well as those of some other theisms, to a certain extent).

Indeed, once I had picked over the implications more thoroughly, I began to see how some very traditional Christian mysticism statements could properly relate to a supernaturalistic theistic Unity; which has helped me reconcile, among other things, certain mysterious statements in the New Testament.

I realize (no one better!) that this sounds as if I am about to dive over the line into heresy; I can only beg the patience of my Christian brethren for a chapter or two, so I can show (in hindsight) that in fact I am ratifying some traditional Christian doctrines more strongly than ever.


Let me recap what I have established up to now:

The Independent Fact of reality is actively rational: God exists. Being the IF, God must be self-generative; and this necessity leads in turn to a conclusion that God must be a Unity of at least two Persons: the Begetting God (the Father, the God Who makes Himself) and the Begotten God (the Son, the God Who is made of Himself). Both of these Persons are distinctively real, not only modes of God's operation; yet they share the full attributes and singular reality (other than their conceptual position on either side of the self-generative action line) of ultimate Deity, including unity of mind and purpose. Except for a few special (although important) cases, if I talk about either God the Father or God the Son, I mean God Himself, fully God.

(I remind my reader, that I am not yet talking about an Incarnation of God, when I discuss this transPersonal unity-in-divinity of Father and Son.)

Now, how did God proceed in making something (such as myself) that is not-God, or not fully divine? As I have explained earlier, it is no use (as comfortable as we find the mental image) proposing some sort of void 'outside' God, into which He can create. That is not creation 'ex nihilo'; and if we seriously introduced it, we would find ourselves back to a cosmic dualism, and thence (as I have argued earlier) further back to a full theism anyway--and back to being without such things as an equally self-existent void for creation. Put another way, such a picture of 'a void' implies eventually that God has already created something that is not-God: the void. And the principles of such a not-God creation (although not necessarily creation of a 'void') are exactly what I am asking about now.

I think the conclusion is inescapable that if we insist on picturing some sort of 'history outside of history' (which frankly may be contradictive, but which recognition in turn may only mean that God is never not-creating--as He is certainly never not-generating, since He is ever and always generating Himself at least), then we must admit there was a 'time' (metaphorically speaking) when pantheism was true. Everything was God and fully God. But my own existence and properties as not-God indicate that this description 'no longer' (so to speak) represents reality accurately.

But if God was once Everything and Everything was fully God--and/or if it is nonsensical to state that something eternally not-God and not produced by God has always existed--then He can only have created not-God things by one method.

God's basic action must be to generate Himself fully. And I have concluded much earlier that it is nonsensical to propose that something eternally not-God existed for God to 'create into'. Yet I exist as evidence that something distinctively not-God can exist and thus was created.

God must therefore have ceased to generate Himself fully within a part of Himself.

This sounds immediately like an inconsistency (within a ‘part’ of God?--the Independent Fact can’t be comprised of ‘parts’!), so I will explore and refine it piecemeal.

Does this 'ceasing' count as an action, per se? The intent to do so certainly flags it as an action. But it is a very special type of action. Remember the created boulder from one of my earlier discussions (in Section One): God could choose not to lift it. We need only examine this type of event from the perspectives of our own minds to see that this choice is an action; but the action is a choice to not take some other action. This may result in a paradox, but not a contradiction.

Neither (and this is unspeakably important) would such a paradox be an utterly new thing within the self-consistent system of the Unity!

From eternity the 2nd Person of the Unity--God Begotten, or 'The Son'--must, as a Person, make a constant corollary choice whether or not to surrender to the Unity as the 'Unity'. It is utterly necessary for this Person to make such a submission, in order for anything else to be accomplished, and even for God's self-existence to continue; because to refuse to submit in Unity to the 1st Person (the Begetting Father) would mean the breakdown of the self-sustaining Unity of God, and God Himself would cease to exist.

From all eternity, then, God plunges Himself (I am speaking of both Self-generating Persons in the Divine Unity singularly considered) in a sort of death-to-self which is nevertheless entirely necessary for God Himself to live--and so which must also be necessary for anything else produced by God to be created and maintained.

Let me point out once more that to make this argument I am not appealing to mystical authority and/or 'scripture'. I am using some of the language of certain scriptures, and of centuries of subsequent documents about theology; but I am trying to show that this language can be applied to the concepts, having been developed out of the concepts, for usefully understanding fundamental reality in a logically coherent way that is also factually accurate (so far as I have been accounting in facts) For all intents and purposes at this point, the Christian New Testament (and subsequent documents, and the events within our history which all these documents claim to attest to) need not even exist. If you, my reader, are sceptical of those documents, then set them aside, at least for a while. How much fairer can I be? I am only asking you to check my logical math, to ensure I am adding up conclusions correctly on grounds which, in principle, are accessible to anyone.

To continue (and to repeat): because I am obligated, in order to avoid contradictions, to avoid proposing multiple separate Independent Facts (such as God and the Void); and because I am obligated to nevertheless recognize the existence of God and not-God entities (with myself as one example of a clearly not-God entity); then I therefore conclude that God must willingly choose to cease doing something in regard to Himself, thus in effect submitting Himself through death, in order that something distinctively not-God (yet intimately bound to God) begins to exist as such. For such a proposal to be true, it must not be inconsistent with God's most basic action as God; but on further consideration, one Personal aspect (not a 'part' in the sense of distinctly existent components, but still a distinctively real Person) of God does in fact already enact a death, a submission: the Son willingly and always chooses, as part of the ground of all possible existence, to submit to the Father (God Self-begotten to God Self-begetting).

So for God (and specially in and through the Person of the Son) to sacrificially act in self-submission for the sake of generating something not-God, would be a logically coherent though distinctly different action, too. Although of course, being a distinctively (not utterly) different action it will be done to a distinctively different degree (and in a different 'direction', so to speak).

My initial way of trying to put it, that “God ceases to generate Himself fully within a part of Himself”, is certainly not accurate in saying “within a part”. But a real yet unified distinction in the single Independent reality of God is the key not only to God’s active Self-existence but also to active creation of that which is not-God.

This being the case, I conclude that this deduction does not entail the intrinsic inconsistency of a contradiction: God must have chosen to stop doing something within the fullness of His fully divine and active infinity--thus creating a part, a not-God partition (one might say), from Himself, which would no longer be fully divine.

This willed abdication by God (different from, but related to and provided for by the Son's eternal abdication to the Father as a function of God's singular self-existent interPersonal Unity) I have described as partial. But why should I say that God has chosen to cease doing something (not ceased doing everything) within this selection of Himself?

Simply put, if God ceased to do everything within this proposed subsystem, the burgeoning subsystem would not continue to exist at all! God's direct activity is still required to maintain this new subsystem in existence; the subsystem is intimately and ontologically dependent upon Him. Whatever positive or negative properties it has, is due to His willed choice. He could choose to re-assert the totality of Himself throughout the 'region', at any or all points, to any extent--and thus, several generally pantheistic doctrines are (or could be) quite correct. I could be resolved utterly back into the Absolute; and I would at that point lose my own distinctiveness (as some pantheistic teachers correctly point out the result to be--if that ever happened).

If this happened, however, 'I' (per se) would cease to exist--which would negate the whole point of my creation to begin with, and would certainly not benefit 'me' in any conceivable fashion. Nor would it benefit God, either: if I add 1 back to infinity, the result is still infinity with no change in infinity's property characteristics. Still, it could happen.

But such a creation as I have deduced is not pantheism; because this created 'region', whatever properties it may have, is not 'fully' divine: God is acting in such a way for not-God entities (for example myself) to exist.

(Again, language so easily misleads here. It isn't that God has a part within Himself on which He can make such operations; on the contrary, by choosing to create, God generates something that may (with some inadequacy of language) be called a 'part', although unlike the generation of the Son, this generation is not-God.)

Would it be possible for God to do this throughout the whole of His infiniteness? No: there must remain something of God (and this 'something' would, by the way, remain infinitely 'large') that is not any kind of willed declension. Something must remain fully divine, Self-begetting and Self-begotten, to sufficiently ground this derivative partiality.

So, for all practical purposes (up to and including the purposes of God Himself), this new region must be considered to be something 'not-God'. It is created; not (self-)begotten.

If this creation could choose to abdicate itself in a manner similar to the 2nd Person (the only God-Begotten), then all sorts of wonderfully (even 'terribly'!) good things might happen, within this creation and to this creation; but the results would not and could not be exactly the same as the chief primary result of God's chief primary action. This creation could, quite simply, be (or come to be) eternally only like the Son. But that is a consideration for later.

That God can do this, I am in no doubt whatsoever. That God has done this in some fashion, I can attest to by my own existence as 'not-God'.

But can I go further? What type of creation can I deduce that God has created? In my next chapter I will consider the relations between myself and God, and perhaps between myself and this subsystem or 'Nature'.


[Next up: an argument from disparity]

7 comments:

Registering for comment tracking.

I probably won't be putting up the next SttH post until next year (2011).

That God is a plurality-in-unity also follows from the objective reality of morality. For, morality is both inter-personal and relational.

Goodness, Mr Pratt! Our thinking seems to be more alike than either of us may have imagined.

Except on one (admittedly very significant) doctrinal detail, Ilion, I always thought our thinking was pretty similar. {g} Probably thanks to C. S. Lewis.

(For those who don't know, soteriologically I'm a universalist and Ilion is not. Lewis wasn't either, of course, but his beloved "Teacher", George MacDonald, very strongly was.)

And yes, I agree with your point on morality, too. I'll be getting to that later in Section Four, although from the opposite directional thrust: the interpersonality (already established here in Section Three) of the Independent Fact (i.e. God), the single ground of all reality, turns out to be hugely important in resolving problems with various ethical theories, including problems with ethical theories based on sheer monotheism. (You would surely know that already; but I thought I'd mention it for sake of other readers.)

Actually, I already posted up most of those chapters in a 2nd edition a few years ago here on the Cadre. If you're curious, you can read those 2nd edition chapters by using the link at the top of each entry to the table of contents; and scroll down to Section Four. I'll be updating those chapters to a 3rd edition, including fitting in a major piece of doctrine on the Holy Spirit that I couldn't figure out how to arrive at along this line of argumentation in earlier editions. Now, in this 3rd edition, I could have gone straight from the generation of the 2nd to the procession of the 3rd Person directly in the argument!--but I'm still choosing to deal with some other conceptual issues first. And doing it this way keeps the topical structure of each Section neatly nestled, too.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and thanks for the comments!

JRP

Incidentally, in case any readers missed the hints in the opening paragraphs of this chapter, I'll be settling the question solidly in favor of the evident system of Nature being a derivative creation of God, and so in favor of conventional supernaturalism, not too long from now in this Section.

But I thought I'd be cheating to rush on to doing that yet, even with the huge conceptual strike against "Nature" being God from the last chapter. Better to nail that in, and eliminate the special version of 'supernaturalistic pantheism' (so to speak) I'm still allowing as a theoretical possibility, as I go along deveoping points.

JRP

"Except on one (admittedly very significant) doctrinal detail, Ilion, I always thought our thinking was pretty similar. {g}"

Well, there is also that nasty habit you've deveopled (or surrendered to) in academia of using "gender inclusive language."

Only (as I explained the last time you complained about this) in the sense that I treat my examples as being narrative (if fictional and brief) characters and so as having a gender. Mainly it's helpful for keeping track of which example I'm talking about, so as to minimize risk in following the pronoun trail (so to speak). But also real people of both genders hold philosophical positions. So I'll often randomly assign a gender to one example and then shift to the next gender for the next example.

And in regard to your other remark when you last complained about this practice: while out of a habit of chivalry I usually prefer not to put the feminine on the 'bad' side of an example, I do in fact occasionally do that in this book.

I mean, insofar as I have any 'narrative characters' on the 'bad' side of an example: when I talk about sins, I'm pretty sure I always either use generalized and so non-gendered language-- rapists and murderers per se, not 'he' or 'she' as a murderer or rapist--or else I refer to myself as the personal example!

But so far as being on the wrong side of a philosophical position goes (or what I believe to be the wrong side!), I'd venture to say that there are almost as many such female 'characters' in the book as males. (Almost: I'd be surprised if the numbers were exactly equal, due to chivalry habits.)


On the other hand, someone reading my novel might notice that proportionate to the number of developed characters my female characters tend to be key sinners more often than my males! I'm fairly sure my next two (drafted but currently unpublished) novels in that trilogy don't improve that relative percentage much. Heck, the woman who is arguably the main protagonist of the whole first trilogy is a traitor, torturer, murderer, liar, adulterer and even rapist. Another main female protagonist in Book 3 shifts (even if relatively briefly) into genocidal rebellion against God, purely by her own explicit choice. The other chief protagonist of the first trilogy (introduced in Book 2) is a woman who starts off with some dangerous flaws and begins a slow spiral into evil out of a wilfull insistence on hatred against some other characters (including the main protagonist).

So I'm hardly pretending that women are paragons of perfection, in either my fiction or my non-fiction; and my varying gender usage in non-fictional examples is actually intended against reducing men and women (both) to impersonal neutralities. (Which is why I rarely if ever use "him or her" or compound variants like that in my examples.)

JRP

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