Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Combining the Arguments from Being and from Love

We now look at the consequences of combining the Arguments from Being and from Love within theism. The first argument from Being concluded that all our being is because of God’s being:
  1. God is Being itself (Postulate 3)
  2. We (as individuals) have being (as, we exist).
  3. Therefore, our being either is, or depends on (derives from), God (Being itself).
The second argument from Love concluded that we are distinct from God:
  1. God loves us unselfishly (from Postulate 3), 
  2. Unselfish loves cannot love only themselves, 
  3. Therefore, we must be separate from God in some ways: God is not us.
There is a prima facie problem here. How can we share God’s being if we are necessarily distinct from Him?  If we are other than God, it would appear that we are separate beings. How can that be true, if the essence of our being (namely being itself) is identical to God?

The resolution of this paradox is the key to understanding theism from the philosophical point of view. We can verbally affirm both Arguments, but if they contradict each other, then we would have a logical set of statements containing a contradiction. Since from such a set any statement could be derived, and we understand nothing, our task should be to offer a resolution to this paradox. This paradox is particularly poignant because it is one that God himself had to resolve before he could create anything. How could he create beings whom he could love?  It is a real problem, not just ours, so we look at how God solved the problem.

Part of the solution will be to find a way that we can be close enough to God, without become identical with him. This talk of being ‘close enough’ is in fact a spatial metaphor, and such metaphors may not strictly apply in reality. However, as an aid to understanding, we can give several more visual metaphors which begin to suggest how a solution may be possible, indeed implemented, in our world.

We may imagine that we are ‘adjacent’ to God and maybe even ‘touching’ him. This equates to our not being continuous with God, but rather contiguous. There must be very close connections between God and us, connections sufficient to transplant being from God to ourselves but with still enough differences remaining that we are not part of God.

Another metaphor is that ‘God is within us,’ but this is a metaphor often open to multiple interpretations because of multiple meanings of the word ‘in’. My own favorite here is to think of us creatures (all of the finite world, in fact) as ‘hollow inside’, and as God filling up that hollow in a way that keeps him distinct from us. This is again a touching metaphor, but is now restricted to an interior space which is only vaguely conceived. The concept of interior spaces is one which will recur later.

Whatever spatial metaphor we use to picture our relation to God, it must include that, despite our existence being distinct from God, we are still in some way connected with the divine. This is possible if God sustains our being, even though we have some separation. What is the meaning of ‘sustain’?  Is this something that God does once at the start of the universe or something that happens all the time?  And is it something that God does automatically just by existing, or does it require some continual active contributions from God?  Does it require contributions from us? There is much to discuss further.

Adapted from chapter 9 of Starting Science From God.

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