THINKING ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE DIVINE

Note:  'Traditional' or 'Classical' Theism in the following refers, for convenience of debate, to the kind of theism to be found in the first 26 questions or so of Aquinas' Summa Theologiae.   It is not by any means meant to represent the full complexity or richness of the Christian theistic tradition, let alone that of Judaism or Islam.  It is a massive simplication, for stimulating some discussion of the issues.  Nor does it necessarily represent the full complexity and subtilty of Aquinas' own Christian theism.

Index:

1. Some key 'negative' attributes:
(A)  Meaning
       Simplicity, Immutability and Impassivity, Eternity
(B) Consequences:
       For Divine Knowledge, Divine Willing and Divine Power
(C) Reasons for accepting the attributes, despite the consequences
(D) Some discussion and critique of such reasons
        What the Proofs conclude, Because God is Perfect, and
        Because Time is Limitation

2. Divine Power
(A) Traditional Theism
(B) Discussion: towards a more critical viewpoint?
        (a) The Extent of the Divine Power
        (b) The Mode of Operation of Divine Power
        (c)  The 'Intentionality' of Divine Power

3. God's Knowing and the Relationship between God and World
(I) God's Knowing
    (A) Traditional Theism
    (B) Discussion
(II) The Relationship God-World
    (A) Traditional Theism
    (B) Process or Neo-Classical Theism
    (C) A Heideggerian Interpretation


1. Some key negative attributes: Simplicity, Immutability, Eternity.

Immediately after his famous 'Five Ways', Aquinas sets out to say something about the nature of the God whose existence he has just shown.  He starts with what are usually called 'Negative Attributes', on the grounds that "we know better of God what God is not than what God is".  Whether it is a good idea to do the Negative Way before the Affirmative Way in theology is debatable.  However, for the sake of discussion we will follow the same pattern.

(A)Meaning:

SIMPLICITY: God is altogether 'Simple', meaning

(a) no composition or division in God:

God is not a composite being, like we are. No spatial or temporal or metaphysical composition.

No composition of spatial parts or temporal moments: spatial and temporal simplicity: God is not a body, nor does God have the divine life a moment at a time.

No distinction of matter and form: no matter in God;

no distinction of substance and accidents: not one way today and another way tomorrow, God is what God is;

no distinction of essence and existence: God is his/her own existence, in God essence and existence are identical.

All these =, for want of a better name, metaphysical simplicity, lack of any of the kinds of division or composition that a metaphysican might predicate of things in the created world.
 

(b) property simplicity:

the divine attributes are identical with each other, though different to us they refer to the self-same divine reality, it is only because of the weakness of our intellect that we cannot see how they might be identical. E.g. justice and mercy, power and goodness, intellect and will.

The divine Actuality, which is Pure Act, is justice and mercy, power and goodness, intellect and will, knowledge and love. If we attribute justice to God we must do it in such a way as to be reconciliable with God's mercy, and vice versa, even though we don't see how they might be reconciled.

Property simplicity is already implied in lack of composition of any kind: any opposition of properties would have to be based in some kind of composition within God Him/Her self.
 
 

IMMUTABILITY AND IMPASSIVITY: God is altogether immutable and impassive.

(a) Immutable: unchangeable, not only doesn't change but can't change.

God alone is altogether unchangeable. Whatever else, all creatures are mutable by the power of the Creator, in whose power is their existence and non-existence.

(b) Impassive: simply, cannot be changed from without, cannot be changed by anything else.

Immutable: neither from without nor from within, cannot change or be changed. No change from without, no self-development or degeneration either. God being perfect is all that God can be or want to be.
 

ETERNITY: God is eternal.


(a) eternal =

1)timeless, not in time, the category of time does not apply to God;

 2)God has his/her life all at once, not successively, one part after another.

Cf. Boethius' defn of eternity: interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio, the total, simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life.

(b) eternity is not the same as everlasting: eternal has two characteristics:

 -without beginning and end;

 -without succession, simultaneously whole.

Eternity is simultaneously whole; time, even everlasting time, is not so.

(c) the eternity of God is not the same as that of a Platonic Idea, to which the category of time does not apply either. Platonic Ideas, e.g. the objects of maths are eternal because abstract. God is eternal because of the way God has his/her life, immutably and all at once. Eternity = another name for temporal simplicity, not having life moment by moment.
 

(d) eternity truly and properly belongs only to God, because God alone is altogether immutable.

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(B) Some of the Consequences following on from acceptance of these key negative attributes:

 

(i)there is no distinction between God's knowledge of God and God's knowledge of creation.


How can this be? The solution usually given is that God in knowing the Divine Nature knows as well all the ways in which that nature might be imitated, and in knowing the Divine Will knows all the ways in which the Divine Nature has in fact been imitated, in so far as this depends on the Divine Will. So God does not have to go outside God in order to know creation
 

(ii)there is no distinction between God's willing of Him/Her self and God's willing of creation.


How possible: the object of the divine will is the Divine Goodness, which is the Divine Essence. As God knows things apart from God by knowing God's own essence, so S/He wills things apart from Her/His Self by will His/Her own goodness. Not just creation as a whole but your goodness and my goodness are included in God's will for God's goodness.
 

(iii) there is no passivity at all in the divine knowing nor responsiveness in the divine willing

--see above, God does not have to go outside God. Objects are conformed to the knowing and the willing rather than the knowing and the willing conformed to the objects.

(iv)God has the fulness of active power, but no passive power.

Active power: the ability to effect things, God can effect whatever is logically possible. Passive power: the ability to be affected by things. No sensitivity or compassion in God, except metaphorically.

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(C)REASONS for accepting even so that God has these key negative attributes:

 

(a) SIMPLICITY is to protect God from the possibility or potentiality for change or non-existence.


Composition implies potentiality for change or non-existence, that is composition implies mutability:

But there is no potentiality in God, a complete lack of potentiality, and therefore of composition. [Thomas introduces Simplicity before Immutability, but in fact uses the same arguments for both (see below) with the exception of an argument deriving immutability from simplicity. But the actual arguments are more directly related to immutability than simplicity itself, so Thomas has actually got himself into a bit of a circle.]

There is also a further reason for 'property simplicity': to stop the properties limiting each other, which would be inconsistent in a direct fashion with the divine perfection. But the main reason for simplicity, apparently, is to protect God from potentiality for change or non-existence, which is to say to protect the Divine immutability.
 

(b) ETERNITY: for St Thomas, eternity follows immutability also:

:time is the measure of movement or change, but in God there is no change or succession.


But one may make an argument direct from perfection: it is more perfect for God to be eternal, to have the total, simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life, than to have the divine life moment by moment. So God must be eternal: otherwise God would not be that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Having done this, you could then derive immutability from eternity if you wanted to: God not being in time can't change.

And of course, Eternity and Temporal Simplicity are two words for the same thing.
 
 

(c) IMMUTABILITY: Thomas gives three reasons:


(1) WHAT THE PROOFS PROVE: the existence of an unchanging ultimate source of change, of a non-dependent or uncaused cause and of a necessary being, necessary a se. (Cf. first three of the Five Ways.) Change implies dependence, in so far as nothing brings itself from potentiality to act (nothing gives what it hasn't got), so a non-dependent cause must be unchanging; and so must a necessary being necessary a se.

Mascall: unless you say there is a God like this, everything is absurd. The choice is between mystery and absurdity.

(2) BECAUSE GOD IS SIMPLE: if God changed it would have to be a change in one part while another part remained the same, which would require soem kind of composition.

(3) BECAUSE GOD IS INFINITELY PERFECT: "because everything which is moved acquires something by its movement, and attains to what it had not attained previously. But since God is infinite, comprehending in Himself all the plenitude of perfection of all being, He cannot acquire anything new, nor extend Himself to anything whereto He was not extended previously. Hence movement in no way belongs to Him."

--this line of argument to be found first in Plato, Republic, Book II, paragraph 381: if God is perfect God can't lack anything, so any change could only be for the worse. But someone who could change for the worse wouldn't be perfect either. So God can't change at all.

We know God is Infinitely Perfect from the 4th Way, though it can also be deduced from the notion of metaphysical simplicity which includes the idea that God is Ipsum Esse Subsistens, no distinction between Essence and Esse, when this idea is properly understood.

Beyond this, cf. Anselm: it is implied in the very concept of God, which is required by the needs of worship, God = Something than which nothing greater can be conceived (where 'greater' = 'better' or 'more perfect'). Cf. also Descartes, God = supremely perfect being.

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(D) Some discussion of these arguments:


The main reason for simplicity is to protect the Divine from all potentiality for change or non-existence = to stop God from being mutable. In any case St Thomas uses similar arguments for both. And in the Summa Theologiae anyway Eternity is derived from Immutability. So we will concentrate our attention on Arguments (1) and (3) for Immutability, = Arguments (1) and (2) for Simplicity. For more discussion in brief, see menu.
 

IMMUTABILITY AND SIMPLICITY

(a) W.r.t. (1) WHAT THE PROOFS PROVE:


The difficulty here is that what the proofs prove would seem to be dependent on the metaphysical context within which they are elaborated. For example, the choice of an unchanging changer versus Plato's soul as self-changing source of change in others is dependent on the Aristotelian analysis of change. According to Aristotle, whatever is in process of change is being changed by something else, in so far as change is transition from potentiality to act. This analysis itself goes back to Parmenides: what is, is, what is not, is not; nothing new really happens, nothing whose full pre-conditions were not already there.

Hartshorne for example also manages to make use of a Cosmological Argument, as well as Ontological, Design, and Arguments from Truth, Beauty and a Moral Argument.
 

For process thinkers generally:


* .everything is a little bit self-creative, not only God. Everything is a more or less creative taking into account of its total environment, to which environment it in turn contributes.

.* there has to be some element in the causal structure of the universe, a very strong element of Creativity, which is in no way dependent on the rest of the universe = the 'primordial nature' of God. However there is no good reason for thinking that the First Cause, the actual entity responsible for this uncaused causal influence which makes the universe possible and decides what kind of universe, does not have another side to Him/Her which is dependent in some way on the universe which S/he brought into existence, = the 'consequent nature' of God.

* .the existence of God is necessary, but not what kind of God in actual fact, not the 'actuality', which is partly self-determined in an unconditional fashion, partly dependent on the decisions of the creatures which God knows and enjoys/'suffers', and on the conditioned self-determined (creative taking into account) Divine Response to this.
 

(b) W.r.t. (3) BECAUSE GOD IS PERFECT:

This depends on what is to be meant by 'perfect' in the case of God. Plato's argument may apply to perfect things, e.g. a perfect colour scheme, but not to perfect persons or even perfect higher animals. It may be that the kind of perfection which St Thomas has in mind is actually incoherent (Hartshorne), and even if not so, not the kind of perfection we would want a supremely perfect personal God to have.

* .There is a kind of responsiveness or relationality implying genuine sensitivity to the environment (meaning an element of passivity) which increases rather than decreases as we go up the scale. Not that we are bashed by the environment: we are stong enough to cope with it without it putting us down. Creativity in response (versus just reaction) and sensitivity to what is actually going on in people and in the environment without being battered by it, are not opposites but actually increase together. Perhaps perfection includes the perfection of responsiveness, most adequate responsiveness, rather than no responsiveness at all, the integration of the perfection of both active and passive power.

* .what is going on here is that high grade entities have 'relational attributes'. The interesting thing about relational attributes when it comes to perfection is that 'perfect' in this case applies to the character of the relation. E.g. knowing, wise, loving, fatherly, motherly, sisterly, brotherly, faithful, like a rock, kind. The abstract character of the relation remains the same, but what the character means in actual fact for the person and his/her action depends on the other side of the relationship. It may be that perfect requires that the kind of action needed changes and in some cases even that he or she changes: when a situation changes, what counts as a perfect response and what counts as perfect responsiveness changes.

* .to be as accurate as we can in respect of this alternative modelling of the Divine (more accurate than my article in Compass), we need to distinguish three kinds of attributes:

1/ ethical attributes: the character remains the same through thick and thin --God does not get more just or more merciful or more faithful. But the policies and concrete actions change and indeed must change with the situation, as required by the abstract character. The kind of action changes but you probably wouldn't say, he or she changes: or perhaps, "God being God changes in respect of his/her action but not in her/his inner character."

2/ cognitive and aesthetic attributes: God will always know everything there is to be known, but what God knows depends on what there is and this is not entirely determined by God. When creatures decide something, creatures bring about an addition to what God knows. Similarly with what God enjoys: God enjoys/suffers and creatively responds to whatever there is to enjoy/suffer, but what there is to enjoy/suffer does not depend entirely on God. So creatures bring about an addition to what God enjoys/suffers, and to the enjoyment itself?? "more joy in Heaven"??

In these cases you would be inclined to say, he or she changes. Perfect implies that God will always know everything and enjoy everything and respond in a perfect way to everything, but does not rule out an increase in God's knowledge or even the divine enjoyment, 'joy in heaven'. It does rule out any change in the general character of the divine response, but even here does not rule out but indeed demands changes in concrete actions and policies as the situation and kind of situation changes.

.

* The only way I can see to escape this is to give all initiative to God, including initiative for evil. In such a case we could deny all genuine responsiveness to God. But would we still regard such a God as perfect?

* .the definition of infinite perfection as "comprehending in Himself all the plenitude of perfection of all being" may not be coherent anyway. Enjoyment depends on the order of the actual or real events and not just on the events themselves --e.g. you/me inside listening to the lecture or outside enjoying the sunshine. Even if everything down to the last detail evil included depends entirely on God, what God precisely knows as real and enjoys is going to depend on what God decides to create, this world rather than some other possible world. Unless this precise world in all its precise detail is the only logically possible world so any other world would be self-contradictory (even stronger than Leibniz), in which case God is completely constrained in respect of what world to create; or unless God creates an infinity of worlds, every possible event in every possible order, every logically possible world (Spinoza), in which case God is not free to create or not to create. Or else what God knows as real is not different with creation than without creation, the logically possible but not real is just as real (or just as unreal) to God as the real.

* .for Process thinkers, God still remains perfect, in the sense of an unsurpassable kind of being, not conceivably surpassable except perhaps by Him/Herself at a later stage the distinctions made above having been made, which notion does allow sensitivity. God can't get worse, but there may be certain additions to what God knows and enjoys and in this sense God may 'get better', surpass Him/Herself, perhaps infinite self-surpassing, perhaps a dynamic self-surpassing unsurpassable Trinity which shares their life with and shares in the life of all their creatures.

 The other notion of an unsurpassable actual being, not conceivably surpassable even by itself at a later stage, which does rule out change, is regarded both as incoherent and in any case as having implications which actually make it less worthy as an object of worship and love with all ones heart and mind and strength and soul. Religion requires only an unsurpassable kind of being, and only bad philosophy requires any more.
 

ETERNITY


Why would we want God to be eternal? Perhaps because of human experience of the oppression of time. Time seems to be associated with corruption and perishing and getting old: everything passes, nothing lasts. Also with separation - so many hours away from our friends. Also with inconstancy and unreliability and not being secure. Eternal life = a life not subject to change and decay. But time/change need not be experienced like this: the necessity is that you retain what has gone before, that there is no 'perishing', nor capacity for getting worse, and that it be sufficiently absorbing to cut out the noise for without.

Comparison: when we are so absorbed in something that we don't notice the passage of time; e.g. music, study, or a loving relationship, or mystical exstasy, or even some movies, we don't want it to end. The happenings flow into each other so smoothly and so absorbingly that we don't notice that hours have gone by.

Possibility deriving from this comparison: far from prohibiting involvement, perhaps it is the very intensity of the involvement that leads to a loss of the sense of time. Perhaps God is so involved, so much still in touch with what has gone before and what will happen, that his/her specious present = cosmic time.

The notion of 'specious present' from William James, the idea that consciousness has a thickness. See also Edmund Husserl: retention-attention-protention. In experiences of loss of sense of time, the past is retained in consciousness and the present moves smoothly into the future: everything is so smooth and wonderful and there is nothing to distract us. The sense of perishing comes only when it is all over. But God is like in an absorbing movie in which nothing is lost and which has no end.

Maybe 'eternal' is a different way of having or living time, rather than being entirely outside of time. And we share in 'eternal life' even in the here and now not by getting out of life but by living it in a certain way, the way in which Jesus lived it already.
 


2. DIVINE POWER

(A) Traditional Theism: cf. Summa Theologiae I, XXV.


* .in God there is active power to the highest degree, active power being the principle of acting upon something else; but there is no passive power or principle of being acted upon by something else, since whatever is passive is deficient and imperfect ("everything is passive in so far as it is deficient and imperfect").

* .the active power of God is infinite, in so far as it is not limited by anything that receives it [but not in the Spinozistic sense of producing everything it could produce, an infinite number of modes in an infinite number of attributes].

* .God is OMNIPOTENT, which is to say that God can do anything which is logically possible, whatever does not imply a contradiction in terms. E.g. God can't make the past not to have been, because that does imply a contradiction, according to St Thomas.

* .God can do what God in fact does not do: in the sense that the present course of events in no way is produced by God from any necessity. Other things could well have happened, had God willed them, and God could have willed them had God wanted to. If God wills them, then they happen, but God didn't have to will them.

* .the power of God always acts in accordance with the Divine Wisdom and Goodness: power and wisdom and goodness are in fact the same. But this does not restrict God to any particular order: the Divine Goodness, which is the end of creation, is an end exceeding beyond all proportion things created.

* .this is to say that God can always do better than what God does: there will always be a gap between God and any participation in the goodness of God. So God cannot be required to do the better, only something which is good.

God can make each of the things made by God better. Of course, if God makes a human being, God makes a human being, not an angel; but God could have made people more virtuous and wise than the ones God has made, and can make things better than human beings or angels or whatever God may in fact have made.
 

(B) DISCUSSION


(I) That God's wisdom and goodness make such meager demands on God would seem to rob these attributes from most of their meaning: we appear to be sacrificing goodness and wisdom in favour of elevating power. Perfect goodness, in accordance with the way analogous predication usually operates, should mean, at least as good as the best human being we can imagine, and then better; but we require even of human beings that they strive for perfection, not just do something which is merely good.

Whatever about the philosophy of it, this is certainly not biblical. Compare Mt 7/7-11; also Mt 5/48.

So, in spite of it sounding so logical, there would appear to be something radically wrong.

(II) the problem might be, probably is, that we are not being sufficiently critical in respect of our concept of power and the perfection of power --neither in the church, nor in respect of the divine. Our conception of power and the perfection of power is modelled on Middle Eastern and Roman kingly and imperial despotism rather than anything to be found in the life and teaching of Jesus; who came to serve, not to be served; or in a well functioning modern participatory democracy for that matter.

Before we start predicating power of God, let's first work out what genuine power is, as critically as possible, and what the perfection of power might be. Following the lead of Hartshorne, I'll try to do both of these at once, starting with a certain conception of the perfection of power.

We want to ascribe to God not just any old power, but the perfection of power.

To define the perfection of power, you have to take more into account than the extent of the power --also the mode of operation of the power has to be perfect, and also the intentionality or general directedness of the power we ascribe.
 

(a) the EXTENT of Divine Power:


1) firstly we probably do not want God to have all the power, in the sense of doing everything, making all the decisions: not to wipe out everything in the universe, like Stalin or some ancient despot (or the Vatican at times!) to do away or try to do away with all alternative points of power.

But if this is so, if there are alternative creativities, then God is going to need the fulness of passive power as well as the fulness of active power, to be fully in contact with what the other partly independent centres of power are doing.

Like the Good Shepherd, or like Master Jesus, to take full account of the limitations and possibilities and needs of the people he or she leads, the fulness of Persuasive-Responsive Love, to draw us on by overwhelming generosity, control of the situation taking largely the form of persuading and enabling and affirming and empowering and luring us and all creatures on to the good.
 

2) Some of the Possibilities:


(0) no limitation of divine power.

(i) God can do anything which is logically possible, in the universe as it is, but there is a self-limitation of the extent of the divine power, in so far as the perfection of power, genuine divine power, does not consist in doing everything or making all the decisions. A self-limitation in the name of perfection of power itself.

(ii) God having the universe that there is, including genuinely free creatures, involves a self-limitation of the divine power. Power is limited not for its own sake in the name of perfection of power but in favour of wisdom and goodness.

(= John Hick: God could make 'free' creatures to always 'freely' do the good, but this would not be as valuable as what God has actually done, certainly not to God, nor to anyone else who knew about the 'arrangement'. It would be no more valuable than the arranged praise and esteem of a hyponitized patient.)

(iii) God having any universe at all involves some self-limitation of the divine power, but God does not have to create. (= my view, but you probably need an intra-divine life.) There are metaphysical limitations on divine power involved in the decision to create, but God does not have to create. The perfection of power in any universe would involve God not making all the decisions, but God could have avoided this situation by not making a universe. The choice of limitation is a divine choice, rather than metaphysically imposed, an example of overwhelming divine generosity, but God has no choice once the decision to create is made, which makes it even more generous.

(iv) God has to create, so there are in fact metaphysical limitations on the divine power, which even God cannot avoid, not just self-limitations. (= normal process view) But creating the actual universe, including high grade creatures with consciousness and what we call freedom, may involve some self-limitations on top of this, in the name of wisdom and goodness.

Take account also of Griffin's distinction between bringing about any state of affairs which is logically possible and doing any action which is logically possible: these are two different things. Depending on how we define terms like 'actuality', and 'genuinely free', and 'true accident', they no longer coincide in what they enable. The distinction is valuable, in so far as it does enable us to recoup something like the traditional doctrine of omnipotence and still hold to positions (ii), (iii) or (iv).
 

(b) the MODE OF OPERATION of Divine Power:

: how does God's power operate? What is God's power like? According to what analogy or analogies is it most appropriate to conceive it's mode of operation?

Of course, we could say with Hume: power = one event following another. But that's a statement about the fact of the power, not an analogy for understanding it. How does God get the one event to follow the other?

Well, what do we know about power or influence, about ways of getting one event to follow another?

Two or three ideas (cf. Hartshorne, 14/11/1978).

(i) the power of one person's thoughts and feelings on another. To be influenced here = to be aware of another individual and his/her ideas and feelings;

the way to influence another = to get the other to be aware of you and of your ideas and feelings.

Why influenced:

* .the beauty of the ideas themselves

* .the trust inspired by the person

* .our love for the person in question, the beauty of the person themselves

* .by what we think might happen if we don't -- so this may turn into the brutal analogy, so we do have to make some distinctions. There are different ways for people to influence each other, which will be differently valued. Cf. Gadamer's three kinds of interpersonal relationship, the best kind relying on the objective value of what a person has to give, of what they stand for and what they are, rather than force or fear of force.

Application to the Divine: God influences the creatures by getting creatures to intuit/feel/sense something in God, analogous to what we mean when we talk about sympathy: to think the thoughts and feel the feelings of another. And it is because the Divine, or what we feel of the divine, is felt as objectively good, objectively valuable, that we are attracted to it, influenced by it.

Not just adult human beings, but also children, and even animals such as dogs and cats = the best kind of power and therefore to be predicated preferentially of God?

One advantage of this is that it's a non-brutal, refined idea of power: otherwise either brutal or pure magic, or perhaps a third possibility to be looked at in a moment.

(ii) the brutal analogy, power based on force and the fear of force. An inferior form of power, esp. in the family, and even in politics, to be resorted to only in extraordinary circumstances when other modes of operating power fail.

Coercion: necessary however sometimes with social and even with personal relations, to protect ourselves and esp. to protect others. But should we idolize it? While it may have some use - God on the side of the poor and oppressed, judgement on the oppressors as the other side of the preferential option for the poor - there are dangers in making it the prime analogy for divine power. Not the least of these dangers is the reflection of our conception of God back into interpersonal and social relations.

(iii) the influence of our thoughts and feelings on our bodies, the relationship between mind and body.

Compare Sallie McFague, and esp. Grace Jantzen, God;s World, God's Body., as well as Charles Hartshorne. The idea first found in Plato with his idea of World Soul, the World as the Body of God, God as the Soul of the World.

This also is a non-brutal analogy, and has certain advantages over the first as giving greater emphasis to the superiority of the Divine vis a vis ourselves and the rest of nature, while still allowing an influence both ways.

Its main disadvantage is that in spite of experiencing it every single waking moment, we don't know how it works: why do thoughts and feelings have influence on bodily behaviour, what is our power over our bodies, why do the cells and organs 'care about' what is going on in the mind, and vice versa?

There are a number of different theories in respect of what is nowadays more usually posed as the 'mind-brain' problem, the relation to the body being supposedly mediated through the brain. Probably the most useful for us as base for an analogy is the dualist interactionist theory of Sir John Eccles and Karl Popper: mind as working on the quantum level, a very light touch, to alter the probability distribution of neuron firings in a certain part of the brain. This is very easy to generalize in a Hartshorne-like way, God is to the whole universe as mind is to that section of the brain, this very light touch explaining both the statistical laws of nature and the gentle lure of conscience. And God is also in touch with what is going on in the universe, in much the same way as mind is in touch with that section of the brain. Persuasive responsive love, o so gentle and yet strong enough to bring about the Cosmic Laws and facilitate and enable the evolutionary process.

Whitehead and Hartshorne: this third analogy is best understood as a variety of the first:

 :all influence whatever of one actuality with another is analogous to the way my thoughts may influence your thought, my feelings your feelings.

 :this holds for body-mind as well - if it is to be influenced, the cell has got to, so to speak, feel our feelings, and vice versa, allowing for different grades of feeling.

All influence in Nature comes by way of something like sympathy, in a literal but analogous sense - one actuality participates in the feelings of another, making allowances for different grades of feeling, with only the higher grades as self-conscious. God influences even bits of matter by getting Her/Himself felt, or 'prehended' as they say, in some way or another. This something like sympathy is what is responsible for the laws of nature, explaining also their statistical form. If not this, then we don't have the faintest notion of how God influences pieces of matter and are using the word 'power' to fill a gap in knowledge.

So the DIVINE POWER: not power as in magic or as in brute force, but influence by the beauty S/HE is, and the beauty of their thought and feelings, and this by way of sympathy, generalized feeling. God as fascinating, interesting, offers values that others can appreciate, is the most powerful because intrinsically the most interesting, as well as being cosmically available. Though the causal relationship, the persuasion of the lure, is not so strong as to reduce the creativity of everything else to zero. We are always influenced by God - as intimate as the relation of one of my bodily parts to myself: though God is not the only case of influence and not the only one to decide.

Cf. Plato: God as "persuading" the world, like the Demiurge "persuading" necessity.

Cf. Aristotle: influence of God on the world as analogous to the influence of the beloved on the lover, like Aristotle's prime mover, only going both ways.

Cf. Whitehead: the power of God as the "worship" S/HE inspires: what inspires the worship is not power but this essentially fascinating most creative form of mind/spirit.

For the power of God as persuasion, cf. also the life story of the prophets Jonah and Jeremiah.

We could try magic as a fourth analogy, but we don't experience magic, let alone understand it.
 
 

(c) the INTENTIONALITY of Divine Power, its general directedness.

* .the height of power, directed towards bad ends, is diabolical rather than divine. So defining divine power has to include an element on the intentionality of the power.

* .How we do this will depend on other features of our philosophical theology.

In the process conception, the general directedness of divine power is to strike a balance in each case and overall between minimizing the risk of harm and maximizing the possibility of good, a balance between risk and opportunity. Divine wisdom and goodness, which is included in the notion of specifically divine power, is the optimization of chance.
 

3. GOD'S KNOWING, AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD AND WORLD.

 

(I) GOD'S KNOWING


(A) traditional theism:

1) God knows Him/Herself through Him/Herself and S/HE knows things other than Him/Herself by knowing Him/Herself

 :in knowing God, God knows all the ways in which God's own perfection can be shared by others,

and God also knows God's own will, so also knows the ways in which God's own perfection has been or is being shared by others = everything there is to be known.

Also, unlike our knowledge, God's knowledge, the knowing itself, is creative in respect of existence: the knowledge of God is the cause of things, rather than things being the cause of knowledge as they are with us --otherwise God would not be impassive.

2) but how can God possibly know future contingent things and if God does know them from eternity how can they be contingent? Even more so, future free contingincies.

Aquinas admits: whoever knows a contingent effect in its cause has merely a conjectural knowledge of it.

But God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their cause but also as each one of them is actually in itself, and to explain this, Thomas appeals to God's eternity:

God knows contingent things not successively, as they are in their own being, as we do; but simultaneously. The reason is because God's knowledge is measured by eternity and eternity being simultaneously whole comprises all time. Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity -- because God's glance is carried over all things as they are in their presentiality. It is as if Time and History are a road on the bottom of a high mountain and we are on that road, but God is at the top of the mountain, seeing the whole road all at once.

Thus, contingent things are infallibly known by God, inasmuch as they are subject to the divine sight in their presentiality; and yet they are future contingent things in relation to their own causes.
 

(B) Discussion


(i) St Thomas' doctrine seems to imply that the future, including the free contingent future, already is, and that time is not real: a spatializing of time, like seeing from the mountaintop to use Thomas' own illustration. But there are philosophers for whom all statements, including statements about the future, have either one of two values, true or false; indeed this is the usual position for a logician to take, though it is also possible to have many valued logics.

(ii) if contingent things are infallibly known and the knowledge of God is the cause of things rather than vice versa, then how is it that contingent things are genuinely contingent?

Foreknowledge is not a problem: in the traditional presentation, there is no such thing, God is not in time. The difficulty is with the idea: the knowledge of God is the cause of things; alternatively: God knows things by knowing God's own will.

The problem comes from try to maintain the impassivity or immutability of God even in the case of knowing.

Either .God has decided everything,

or .God doesn't know everything (Aristotle)

or .some of the things God knows are known in some other way.

Eternity does not help with this problem.

One solution is that God causes free actions from within so to speak, rather than from without like other causes: God is the ground of the causality of the creatures, including free creatures, rather than in competition with the causality of the creatures.

[Strictly speaking, then, God is not a Being amongst other beings, is not the Highest Being but something other than a Being or a Thing, something entirely different, not on the hierarchy but founding everything in the supposed hierarchy. Apparent implication, not always drawn because of its uncomfortable overtones: while God may be Personal, S/HE is not a person in the Boethius sense of an individual substance of a rational nature.]

The only problem with this resolution is that it only works for good: it does not work for evil. Either God causes evil, or God doesn't know about evil or evil at least has to be known in some other way.

God could still know evil by knowing God's own will, that God's will extends so far and no further. But that God's will extends so far and no further is decided by the decisions of the creatures, the first initiative for evil on their part. So the escape doesn't last very long. We are left with a dilemma: either God's knowing or God's willing contains an element of passivity or dependence or sensitivity to what is being decided in the created world. Seeing that knowing and willing are supposed to be the same in God, we would have in fact to say, both: there is some passivity in the divine knowing, at least in the case of evil decisions of the creatures, which makes the divine knowing more like the usual sense of knowing.

(iii) the effort to maintain the immutability or impassivity of God even in the case of knowing, as St Thomas admits and as process thinkers are wont to emphasize, reverses in some respects the usual relationship of knower and known. Usually in knowledge, it is the knower who undergoes a change, while the known stays the same -- except nowadays with sub-atomic phenomena, where the attempt to know inevitably affects the known. In technical language, the relationship knower-known is a real relationship from the side of the knower since s/he is changed within by their knowing; but only a logical or rational or notional relationship from the side of the known, which except for quantum phenomena remains the same as it was before. Nothing happens to the object known when it gets known, though something happens to the knower.

In the case of God's knowing however, the usual roles of known and knower are reversed: a real relationship on the side of what is known, but only a logical relationship on the side of God. The known is the one which is affected by the knowing, indeed created by the knowing, but the knower is not changed in any way.

This is very strange: perhaps we should no longer call this knowing??

[the paradigm case of a notional relation, sometimes called an 'external' relation = spatial contiguity. Apart from slight gravitational pull, it makes no difference to either stone that there is another stone one foot away. With high grade beings, purely external relationship is rarely realized except when they are asleep, and even then they may be in some kind of real or internal relationship to their immediate environment. Normally we are in some kind of internal relationship with our local social and natural environments, taking account of them and at least their major components in a more or less peculiar, more or less creative fashion. This would tend to make God the great exception: suddenly all relationships become external.]
 

II. THE RELATIONSHIP GOD-WORLD, TRANSCENDENCE AND IMMANENCE

(A) Traditional or Classical Theism

1) this structure of real relationship on our side and only logical relationship on God's side is taken as qualifying generally the relationship God-World:

:it is a real relation on our side, the most real of real relations, the most intensive and intimate - the world is affected by God;

but it is only a logical relation on the side of God: that there is a world and that things happen in it has no effect on the divine being - God is not affected by the world.

This is very strange, but it is the price to be paid for protecting the impassivity and Platonic perfection and independence of deity: perfection implies impassivity and independence: things are passive in so far as they are deficient and imperfect,

perfection is required for the needs of worship,

and all three of them are thought to be required by certain proofs.

God can't be affected by what God knows or what God loves or in the knowing of what God knows or in the loving of what God loves.

2) the Divine TRANSCENDENCE and IMMANENCE:

IMMANENCE = the real relation on our part: God is closer to me than I am to myself, at the core of my being (the Koran: closer than the jugular vein).

TRANSCENDENCE = the difference and the unrelatedness on the side of God 1)God is totally other, the world is not part of God, nor is God a part of the world; and also totally different, not a same level cause, not a being amongst the beings.

 2)the world has no effect on God, the relation to the world is only a logical relation on the part of God.

As conceived in classical theism, these are not opposed: on the contrary, it is because God is so totally different and so totally other that God can be so totally immanent in absolutely everything; because God is not a being amongst the beings God does not compete, in so far as God is not the kind of thing which needs to compete.

(B)Process or Neo-Classical Theism

Thomist/Classical Theism: only a 'one way' real relation.
God in relation to world:  relatio rationis, a 'relation of reason' only, in so far as God is not affected by world: not a 'real relation
World in relation to God: relatio realis, a real relation, indeed the most real of real relations in
 W----------------->G
W<<<-----------------G
 

Process/Neo-Classical Theism: a real relation going both ways:
 relatio realis World affected by God

 relatio realis God affected by world

W ---------------->>>G
W<<<----------------G

 relatio realis World affected by God

(ii) Within Whitehead-Hartshorne,

* the IMMANENCE is mutual, though not the same: "It is as true to say that the World is in God, as it is that God is in the World";

* TRANSCENDENCE is also mutual: neither is the other. God's primordial nature is unconditioned by the world and explains that it is and that it is the way it is. God's consequent nature is conditioned by the world and in a strong sense 'contains' the world, but is still other than the world. And the world, in a much less intense sense, 'contains' God but is still other than God, not the same actual entity or series of such.

* PAN-EN-THEISM: God contains the world - S/HE knows and enjoys it (= Consequent Nature)

 the world contains God - its components 'prehend' the divine, take it into account in their own self-constitution. (= Primordial+Projective Nature)

 Cf. Acts 17/28, 1 Cor. 15/28. also Eph. 4/6.

but not PAN-THEISM: non-identity, they are not the same:

* .the Divine is other than the complex nexus of cosmic occasions which prehend Divine actual entity or series of actual entities prehend, and which are in turn prehended by the Divine actual entity or series of such.

* . the analogy or model is the relationship between mind/soul and body: the soul contains the body -- it knows and enjoys it, has it 'in' itself, in mind so to speak;

 the body contains the soul/mind -- it prehends or feels what is going on in the mind/soul, takes it into account in its own moment by moment constitution;

 but the body is not the soul and nor is soul the body.

In process theism, the relation of 'prehension' which is a one way internal relation, explains both the otherness and the immanence.

(iii) w.r.t. the world being contained in God, everything is in God, God as a kind of all-inclusive reality,

the medievals had a way of avoiding this: things knowns are intentionally in the knower, but not really.

According to Hartshorne, this is only a concession to the deficiency of the human way of knowing: if I really knew a happening without qualification I would have it in my mind, have all its values and all its enjoyments. In our case there is always some negative prehension, only a small amount of data is usually allowed in, because we can only cope with so much. But in God's case there is no negative prehension: everything is felt, and felt in its full detail, though not felt as God's but as ours.

Yet it would not be me and I would not be it, so pantheism is avoided. The subject, the knowing event, is always a creation over and above the multiplicity of events known. God in knowing all the creatures is one actuality knowing the many actualities, "includes them all in a creative synthesis".

Also, knowing for Hartshorne, as in perception and memory, always gives us the past: God is aware of our experiences only as they come to completion, not in the process of happening. So there is a moment in which the creature is outside God. But as soon as it is a fact for anyone it is a fact for God, and there is no 'negative prehension' in God.

Unlike with process thinking, there is no problem with this about divine knowledge and creaturely freedom: until we make our decisions, they are not facts and God doesn't, indeed can't know them, there is nothing there to be known. When we make them, they become facts and God does know them in all their detail, lets them come entirely into unconcealedness, and creatively takes them into account in God's own life prior to the Divine response.

(C) an Heideggerian interpretation (cf. John Macquarrie)

(i) a Heideggerian interpretation would be much more up front than the majority of traditional theism in insisting on the difference between Being and the beings, on not reducing Being to the highest being. The conception of Being is also rather different than that of St Thomas:

BEING = the issing, the blooming, the shattering banging lightening lightning blossoming emerging unconcealing, which gives forth World and human being in the world.

In religious language, as it seems to me, this is not so much 'God' as 'creation', or even better, the Creator-creating, the Redeemer-redeeming, the Sanctifier-sanctifying, the Divine-in-action, the Economic-God (which for Christians = Economic Trinity);

* this is Personal (rather than a person) in that

-the giving is intelligent,

 -the giving manifests a feeling for beauty,

 -the giving may be experienced as gracious: makes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on just and unjust alike,

 -the giving may be experienced as calling us to goodness: be merciful, love your enemies, be perfect,

which we may say is personal in a way which is a dialectical synthesis of both male and female.

This is all we can talk about, the Economic God. Language stops and we bow down and worship, or love with all our heart and soul. When we put a pronoun or noun in front of it in the illusion of getting back to God-in-and-for-HIM/HER-self, we immediately make God into a thing, a particular being, which then in turn requires a blossoming, a shattering, a lightning, an emerging, an answer to the child's question, "who made God?"

Yet the Economic God is itself experienced as gracious, and in that sense we can say, God didn't have to create the world. But only worship and love, only the will breaks through to God-in-and-for-themselves, words don't.

(ii) the Being, this God-giving, is other than that which is given, the cosmic process, the things, human being:

other then - the things are the result,

and different to - not itself a thing, nor the activity of a thing. You have to think the difference.

 = the Divine TRANSCENDENCE, if you like.

For Heidegger himself, at least, Being and beings are nevertheless not to be thought apart from each other: Being is always the Being of the beings,

 = the Divine IMMANENCE, without which there would be neither world nor human being in the world. But God is not a being nor the totality of beings, not an essent nor a nexus of essents, neither world nor anything in the world.

(iii) Finally, Being according to Heidegger waits on the letting be of Dasein, itself something that Being gives, in order to come into unconcealedness as it wills. Human being = "the shepherd of Being".

A Hartshornean-Whiteheadian would not make such a great distinction between human beings and the rest of nature, would regard Heidegger as still to anthropocentric, and would extend this analysis to other 'actual entities' and series of such.

Either way, it seems that a Heideggerian interpretation would envisage a real relation in both directions (cf. Process), though, closer to traditional theism the world is much more and much more deeply affected than is Being.

Note that even in Whitehead, all we can do is either live up to or depart from the Divine Lure, = the call of the good on/in this occasion in this situation. We may live up to it, or depart from it in the direction either of unnecessary triviality or disharmony, for either or both of ourselves and what we may affect, given the way we have been affected. So that it seems that even with Process Theism, God has the first initiative for good -- even though the doing good, the living up to how we are given, is our own work, our own fault, our own responsibility, as much as not living up to it.

My preference is that we create our life as a work of art, and that the Divine Lure is a lure in a certain direction, but not to a completely specified course of action in the circumstances. The lure enables and empowers the creative response, beyond anything given in the past, God as principle of possibility and of novelty, but does not pre-envisage it in precise detail.