[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, starting chapter 27, can be found here.]
[This entry concludes chapter 27, "My Relationship To Creation And To God".]
Here you and I are, reasoning together. The fact that we two derivative entities are doing this, leads me to conclude that one way or another this must reflect some (probably very many) true intentions of God when He created.
Specifically: what would God have to do, in order to get us into this position? The answers will tell us useful truths about the reality that overarches and encompasses you and I. (Notice, by the way, that I am once more applying the Golden Presumption, looking to deduct propositions which conflict with it.)
Whatever it means for me (and for you) to be an act-er, and yet be apparently derivative, and however God managed to accomplish this (which I am setting aside again just a little while longer), I am here. Thus God intended (at least generally speaking) for me to exist and to be a creature of this sort.
I must be in one of two exclusive states, though: I must be within the direct Unity, or I must be within some type of mediating subsystem.
If I was in the direct Unity, then I would have to be the 1st or 2nd Person of God, and so equivalent (except for my particular Person-ness) to the singular (trans- or inter-)Personal God; for there is no consistent way that God could create a derivative entity without deriving (that is, abdicating) in some sense. But I have already decided, that one way or another I must be not-God: I am neither the 2nd nor the 3rd nor the 23rd Person, if such Persons exist further than the 2nd, and I am certainly not the Father (or 1st Person)! The argument from disparity of illusion, along with other prior arguments, sinks that as an option for me.
(I will mention here that I could have gone directly from inferring the existence of a Second to a Third Person of God, for reasons I will get to in the next Section of chapters; but I will defer that until I have settled some other topics first as far as I can--not least of which is the lingering formal issue left over from Section Two! Namely, to what (if any) degree can it make sense to say that derivative act-ers can be produced by fundamental Action? I have made numerous strides along that line, but still more has to be done.)
Very well: I conclude that I must be either part, or the whole, of a mediant subsystem. Am I the mediant subsystem itself (or, rather, need I conclude some sort of 'mediation' even exists)?
Here I will reach a very interesting conclusion about the property of what might be called the First Created Thing: it of itself cannot be such that it takes actions.
Actions are first and foremost a property of God-as-God at His ultimate irreducible level of reality; and as I have already shown, God's action in creation involves choosing (paradoxically) not to do something, or (put another way) choosing to cease doing something. Certain actions of God do not take place--it is a sort of death, similar to yet distinctive from the eternal self-abdication of God to God which is His primary action and self-grounding capability.
If the first creation must be distinctive from the Begetting, then the chief distinction must therefore be that the behaviors of this created 'region' are reactive, not active. There can be no existent distinction more 'distinctive' (so to speak) than that. (Non-existence would be more distinctively different, in a way, but of course a non-existent entity does not exist to be distinctive.)
This means I cannot be the First Created Thing in and of myself: for I must presume I can act as part of the Golden Presumption, and if I postulated that I was non-sentient Nature (so to speak) then I would be contradicting the GP.
This also means, in passing, that Nature cannot be itself a sentient creature of God. The analogy of 'Mother' Nature turns out to be not quite as accurate as (and thus somewhat less adequate than) the analogy of 'Father' as God.
This does not mean there cannot be a feminine spirit indwelling our planet, or even some other large-but-non-total scope of the created system, so perhaps to that extent 'Mother Earth' may be feasibly personal; although of course establishing the truth of such a proposition is another question altogether! But, for the record, I have no problem with such a hypothesis. It is the 'cosmos' of our Nature that must be completely reactive, not the particular portion of it (however non-totally large that might be) upon or in which we live.
Yet this also means that a deductive strike has (I think) finally been leveled against even 'practical' pantheism.
Remember that I have already discovered, that with the real existence of sub/super-system relationships, pantheism as a branch of not-atheism was struck a deductive blow: because pantheism requires that only one system of reality exist, and yet I myself (if I take my behaviors seriously) illustrate the existence of at least one substantial subsystem. But, I speculated, perhaps what I call 'Nature' may still be fully divine and my derivativeness involves some other factor--this would be a 'practical' pantheism. At the time I did not think the evidence pointed that way, but those were abductive, not deductive, arguments. Now I find that a contradiction will spring up if I propose that there is no reactive mediatorial 'system' between 'my' sentience and God's. Thus, the field of Nature around me (which anyway seems to behave arbitrarily and thus non-rationally at its most particular) cannot be the fully divine.
Even if God did somehow raise the totality of a Natural system to personal rationality, she (applying gender language philosophically) would still be only a derivative creation produced and maintained by the substantially different self-existent superior (and philosophically ‘masculine’) Independent Fact. And this increasingly less-pantheistic theory of ‘practical pantheism’ would still need to involve a mediating system of reaction between the newly raised person of Nature, perhaps one she would be reborn into after some kind of death. God could, speculatively, continue expanding His kingdom (in a quite applicable way of speaking) without end in such a way (as well as in some other ways involving parallel created natural systems, not ever-increasing nested ones). But these total-system persons of Nature still would not be pantheism!--for pantheism, or naturalistic theism, must involve one and only one system of reality as the Self-existently rational Independent Fact. And these systemic Natures, even if raised by God to personhood eventually, would not be IFs, much less Self-existent in themselves.
A Mother Nature (or even a Mother Earth) being raised to rational personhood by God after creation, is highly speculative, of course. But I did need to follow out the logic of the concepts, once raised, to consider whether any qualitative difference could be made. The short of the matter (in more than one sense of that phrase!) is that God cannot create a pantheism; even if God created something that might feasibly be mistaken for a pantheism, the principles involved would be no different from what I must and should non-speculatively consider to be true about myself (quite literally ‘for sake of argument’). So back to considering myself I go.
For me to exist and be not-God (which both must be true), requires then at least that God (and especially at least a binitarian God) exists and a mediatorial system of reactive Nature exists; and that I exist within this Nature.
What else can I say about this Nature? It must be self-consistent to its own degree, for it is an expression of the intentions of God. In other words, I should expect to be able (in principle, at least) to discover real and distinct properties of Nature as Nature, which means that the relationship of the various reactions and counterreactions within it should fall into intelligible patterns. Furthermore, those patterns should (by being self-consistent) be reliable.
Yet I should not expect Nature to be impermeable to divine action; for it is only maintained at any given moment as 'Nature' by a deeply intimate divine (given!) action: its substance is formed from the active self-death of a Being Who from all eternity exhibits characteristics of self-willed life and death as part of His self-sustaining Unity.
Still, if such a Being wills this distinctively different kind of self-death (not the self-death of completing the 'circuit' of the Begotten to the Begetting), then there can only be self-imposed limits to how far He would choose to reinstate life into that new distinction. He could certainly choose at any time to fully reinstate divine life, in its infinite totality, throughout the distinctive subsystem--but that would be the end of the subsystem as a distinctive system. If God chooses to maintain His Creation as a distinctively created entity (not as He Himself), then He will not be re-assimilating the subsystem back into Himself.
Yet if God does not choose to reinstate that level (the ultimate level) of action within the system, still the channel remains open. And a channel that yet allows for such an ultimate reinstatement of action within the system, shall by default also allow for partial or lesser or more limited actions, by God, within that system, at any point and to any (self-consistent) degree He chooses. Indeed, as I have already pointed out, the very existence of that system as a derivative subsystem requires such a self-limited action on God's part, at all points within the system.
I know that such a doctrine runs somewhat counter to what we are commonly taught in our Western educations; but that is because we are heirs to a legacy founded on a number of cascading subtle conceptual errors. If we discount the notion of a Creator Who has created a self-consistent Nature, we nevertheless are left with the belief of Nature's self-consistency as a presumed (or at best merely induced) residuum. Furthermore when we work our sciences along the lines of this belief of ours about Nature, we gain many startling and impressive successes; as might very reasonably be expected, given Nature must be self-consistent (to its own degree, whatever that is).
It does not take many more steps, each focusing more narrowly on the subject and thus each discounting, for entirely practical purposes, the wider scope of truth, to reach a sort of culturally habitual tunnel-vision, where the mechanistic properties of a self-consistent (yet non-rational) Nature [u]seem[/u], thanks to the efficiency of natural relationships (which is only what one would expect from a self-consistent system, much more a well-designed one!), to be not merely self-consistent but self-sustaining. And once that perception of Nature is reached, God/Nature dualisms and naturalistic atheism (which each propose, in somewhat different yet similar ways, the outright impermeability of Nature's mechanism from 'outside') are not far behind. Even a dedicated theism may be devolved (with all good intentions, and even with some good reason) into a merely nominal deism.
My point is that there are not, and never have been, any good grounds for requiring this sort of exclusion of divine action within Nature. It is a conceptual illusion, rather like the following classic puzzle. Imagine you are shown a series of nine dots in three rows of three, each equidistantly placed from its nearest neighbor. (In other words, pretend that you have drawn a tic-tac-toe board and penciled in a dot at the center of every slot where you would otherwise drop an 'x' or 'o' to play the game.) If I ask you to draw four straight lines, in connected sequence (that is, without lifting your pencil between the drawing of each line) so that you will have passed through all nine dots by the end of your fourth line, you may fall prey to a conceptual illusion. Very many people, when given this challenge, will declare it to be impossible. When the solution is shown to them, they discover that to meet the challenge they must draw some lines out past where the dots are located.
"But that's cheating!" these people often exclaim. "You went outside the square!" No: there never was any square. There were nine dots, which our minds perceptively arranged, as a sort of convenient mental shorthand, into the general shape of a 'square'.
And the limits which, in the past 250 years or so, have very often been attributed to Nature (in terms of 'tampering' from 'outside'), come from a very similar type of (otherwise quite well-intentioned) misconception.
In today's society, we can use computers to help illustrate the same principles. A very complicated computer program (perhaps with similarly complicated computer hardware) can do very effective work with minimal tampering on our part--once the system has been set up. Yet, any computer system designer whose design results in the hampering or outright inability of his (or the operator's) intent to 'tamper with' (or 'manipulate') the system, would very likely be laughed to scorn--at best!
Imagine a system has been designed and set up to robotically mix cake batter. Due to unforeseen circumstances by the designer (for after all this designer is not omniscient and omnipresent!) the robotic arms end up eventually dumping flour and egg-whites at the wrong time in the wrong places. (There was no mistake, however, at the level of the computer's behavior; it was effectively accomplishing what, sooner or later, its program would automatically entail in relation to its environment--dumping cake mix on the floor.) The designer is sent for, and asked to fix the problem.
"Well, I can't", he replies. (I am told this is a real-life example, but this part did not happen in real life, fortunately.)
"Why not?" his customer asks with a dangerously flat glare.
"Because I didn't leave any way to input correctional commands."
"Okay, so rewrite the program code."
"I can't do that either; I didn't leave enough leeway in the code so that it could be altered without crashing."
"Our lawyers will be in touch..."
In reality, the better designed and more stably self-consistent a computer system is, the better it shall handle input from outside, in terms both of efficiency and detail of the input. Effective complexity of the system, far from being a necessary barrier to input, can invite input. (There are, of course, special types of effective complexity--such as protective codes for privacy--which hamper some kinds of input; but these are consciously intended from the first to do so within certain prescribed limits and for certain prescribed effects.)
Let me explain again, before I am misunderstood: this most recent illustration is not an argument on my part that, because of Nature's effective complexity, God must exist, or must be capable of actively affecting Nature. Those would be fallacious versions of the Argument from Design. I am only drawing parallels to illustrate the working-out of principles which I have already derived from a different direction. I am already persuaded, due to the metaphysical arguments I have been building since the start of Section Two, that God exists, and can affect Nature as sovereign Lord (so to speak). An illustrative analogy to help readers picture the application of these principles is not a further (much less the chief) argument in support of that claim.
Would God add effects to Nature, though? It is possible that God could have intended and designed and implemented a subsystem which goes through its own distinctively reactive processes without anything more than God's constant existential upkeep. I can even imagine an artistic delight on His part in doing so. Such a plan would also be in keeping with God's general character of self-abdication, which grounds (in several different-yet-related ways, going back to God's own self-existence) creation altogether.
However, merely because such a concept is not (as far as I can tell yet) inconsistent with what I am discovering of the divine character, does not mean it necessarily must be so. He could do something like that; or He might have other intentions. Either way, if God creates a reactive Nature, it will be automatically self-consistent; but that does not mean it will be inherently impermeable to His further effects, nor that He will necessarily never introduce more effects into the system.
Some computer designers create systems which run with minimum upkeep; but very many designers intend to do some type of work within (and by) that system themselves. If I load a digital video disc (DVD) into my computer, I can watch a movie; and that can certainly be a good thing, even though I do not contribute to what happens within the movie as such. Or the DVD may contain a game within which I can play. Although I do enjoy (merely) watching movies, I also recognize the game-playing to be potentially a much richer experience.
What God's intentions for Nature may (or must) be, I have not yet discovered through my argument. Until then, the question of God's possible 'interference' (if you like) in Nature remains open.
What I can say, at this particular point, with certainty, is that God will not interfere in a way that is inconsistent with His own character. Exactly what this can (or must) mean, remains to be discovered.
Having uncovered a bit more about the relationship of God to me--namely that the relationship requires a mediatorial and reactive Nature of some sort--I am in a position to begin accounting for some interesting paradoxes, and solving some dilemmas. Also, I have reached the point where I can further uncover (and to some degree ascertain) God's intentions by beginning to account for our (your and my) communal existence within this Nature.
[Next up: principles of a commonly shared Nature]
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[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, starting chapter 27, can be found here.]