Saturday, July 21, 2012

The one thing we should know about God

God is Love

All the theistic religions teach that God loves the believers, who are those who follow his commands and love him in return. They also teach that God is continually producing goods and trying to give them to believers and unbelievers alike. This strongly suggests that God loves them all, in the sense of desiring good for them all. This love persists whatever may have been the reason for the unbelief and, hence, whether or not the love is even accepted or reciprocated by the person. God offers a ‘covenant of love’ to all.

Love Itself

It is another step now to assert not only that ‘God loves all’ but that God is Love Itself. This is certainly not an a priori or obvious truth, and it is most explicit in Christianity (notably in 1 John 4:16).  Many now seem to have gotten the message, and the identification of God with Love is now one of the central tenets of theism. We therefore adopt 

Postulate 6  God is Love.

To say that God is Love, is to say that God’s inmost nature is to be loving, however it may initially appear to us with recalcitrant wills and limited vision. If God’s inmost nature is Love, then, because he is being itself, that being must also be Love itself. As was discussed previously, this Love that is God is not a mere emotional state of attraction or feeling good but rather a burning desire to give all of his own to be used by finite beings, for their delight for a long as possible. It is an unconditional love and is not based on feelings or emotions. God loves us all because God is love. The idea that God is Love is not traditionally recognized in philosophical theology. It was not present in Aristotle’s concept of an Unmoved Mover who kept the world in motion. Aquinas allows that ‘in God there is Love’, but makes God’s loving to be unlike ours: to be an act rather than a ‘passion of the appetitive soul’. Most systematic theology starts by defining God as the omniscient and omnipotent being, and the connection between such and a God of Love takes a while to construct. Now, however, the identification of God with Love Itself is taken as one of the primary postulates of our theism. Pope Benedict XVI published “Deus Caritas Est" (“God is Love”) in 2005, asserting in its first sentence that “these words .. express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith.”

Sadly, this cannot be emphasized enough, since it is even denied in the more recent deist and pandeist views. Love is not just a biochemical response to certain stimuli, but the underlying nature of all spiritual beings. And of God, more so.

Love and substance

We now apply an  ontological power analysis of  to the case of God. In that analysis, we saw how the underlying power or propensity of a being could be identified as the substance of that being. That analysis dealt with physical dispositions since it was based on generalizing how science analyzes causes. Once we allow that non-physical beings can exist, exactly the same logic follows for mental, spiritual and divine beings.  We therefore argue:  
  1. The underlying power or propensity is the true substance of that being.
  2. The underlying power or propensity of God is love.
  3. Therefore, love is the true substance of God
This is to conclude that divine Love is the substance of God. It is the substratum in terms of which he exists and is the subject of all his properties. We are not saying that ‘God was formed out of this substance (love)’, because there was never such a forming event in the past. Rather, God is love itself and always has been. We say that we can intellectually distinguish (in God’s present being) the Love that is the basis or substance of that being.   (You may perhaps feel qualms at using the same logic for all cases including that of God, but this is justified when we follow from the previous post that we are an image of God and hence have some functional and structural similarities. More of this later.)

Then, because created objects are a kind of image of God, we can conclude that something like love is the substance of all things in the world. In a nutshell, ‘Love makes the World go Around.’ This is not to say that love is the direct mover of every natural object and the immediate instigator of every natural event. Rather that something like love does these things. For minds, the ‘something like love’ can be loves, desires and motivations that we know are significant in human life. For physics, the ‘something like love’ could be deepest principles of energy, force and propensity that keep the physical world moving. These are grand claims: that desires, propensities and energies are ‘images of love’, and that they respectively are the substance of humans as well as of all animate and inanimate objects. Fleshing out and understanding the details of these claims, especially concerning the relations between the mental and the physical, is the task of theistic science. This task, I take up in my new book "Starting Science From God".

Adapted from chapter 11 of Starting Science From God.

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