Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 4

            This will be the last blog post in this series. I hope that all who have read any or all of them have found them somewhat interesting, and they might even stimulate some positive thoughts.
            Now in my last post I decided that whatever considerations by which we decided whether or not God “does what is best” it is not really terribly relevant to the bigger point, and really, it wasn’t to the point made in the last post (given we understand “morally right” as “doing and intending what is best in whatever circumstances one finds oneself”). But in this post it could not be more relevant. For, if we reject the divine command ethic, and in light of no alternative except for some standard for what is best that is distinct from God, we fall precisely into Thomas McCall’s trap for us, that is, that we deny divine aseity. And I certainly don’t want to do that, nor intend to, but fear we might be dangerously close to doing it nonetheless. But, let us explore the options as I see them, and then decide whether we have escaped, or whether the this whole series of blogs is how NOT to reason about these issues J
            Now I am going to use two terms that will apply to two distinct, but related, issues that we will be talking about in this last post. We will be talking generally and generically about God’s motivations for creating any world and His criteria for creating any world. In this discussion we then have two issues and also how these issues relate to one another, namely why God creates at all and how God determines what to create. In this discussion I will use two broad categories to throw out some ideas, and the two terms for distinguishing and connecting the various relationships between God’s motivation and a criterion for creation, are “Himself” and “others” (this is going to be a fairly brief post, by the way, just in case some reader is getting concerned for the space I am using to say what I am "going to" write about).
            Now with this basic groundwork laid, I am assuming that everyone has been powerfully convinced by my last post (just kidding) that if God is omnibenevolent, then He must create the a world that is not possible (or feasible, as we shall see) that there be a better one. And we will just take for granted that God is omnibenevolent. With these qualifications made, I see at least four possible ways to look at the relationship of why God creates and how God creates, or, God’s motivation for creation and His criterion for how He creates a world in which there is none better. The first I will speak of is the one it seems that McCall in his first article sees as Piper’s position. That is, that the motivation that God has for creating is for Himself, and the criteria by which He creates a good world is concerning Himself (His glory, let’s say). In this instance, one may rightly call God’s aseity into question, although, I must say, I cannot see how it is necessarily the case that this position leads to undermining God’s aseity. On this position, it is merely irrelevant to appeal to the suffering in the world as a problem for this being a world in which it is not possible that there be a better, for, the creature’s happiness or misery isn’t intrinsically a part of the criteria or motivation. Another position would be that God’s motivation for creating is Himself, but the criteria by which He creates (the criteria for a best possible world) is other’s outside Himself (their good). Maybe a reader can supply me with an example of a group or person who holds to this view. Since I don’t have someone or some-group off the top of my head, I will move on. Third, there are those who believe that God’s motivation for creating is others, and the criterion for the creating (a good world) is Himself, that is, that He is maximally glorified. This seems to be Piper’s actual position according to his article. Thus, the good of this world for the redeemed is God being most glorified in them when they are most satisfied in Him. For the damned, though it grieves God in a way (in itself), in another way it glorifies Him and thus, it seems, adds to the qualitative and quantitative joy, delight, etc, of all the rest of creation. It is hard to see how this works for the damned, but nevertheless it is an option (Piper doesn’t say that this is exactly how His position works by the way, and so I am just giving a possibility on this view). The final option I wish to discuss is that the motivation for creating the world on God’s part is others, and the criteria for determining a world is others. This is the view of several Wesleyan Arminians that I know. God creates to share His love with others, and the world is good only if the persons He creates freely love Him, and are one with His inner-Trinitarian life. In this case, one could appeal to molinism (a position that I am interested in) and say that this is the best feasible world in which this criterion is satisfied.
Out of the four, all might be possible so that aseity is held consistently with omnibenevolence, but the best options to me seem to be 1, 3, and 4. Three seems hardest out of this group because of the issue of the damned, but, given Calvinism, this is not really an issue. And so, given one accepts Calvinism, we can affirm via 3, omnibenevolence and aseity (because “others” doesn’t, though it could have, referred to the whole human race). Option 1 seems impersonal and narcissistic of God, but it has being consistent going for it (so God’s a tyrant, but we don’t have a problem with either aseity or omnibenevolence, omnibenevolence being defined as Him doing what is best for Himself, say, to maximize His glory). The fourth option also allows us to keep aseity and omnibenevolence, and also allows God to grant each person freedom. The tragedy of this world is the tragedy of human freedom. A fault of this position is just that it suggests that even though it is logically possible that there is a world better than this one (more saved, less pain suffering and evil) it is not feasible.
All of these options still doesn’t help us with the issue of telling the person on the street that it is either not possible or not feasible that there be a world that it is better than this one. But that may have to be the price we pay for being consistent and holding a high view of God.

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