The Divine Exception: Spirit in the Sky

Update:   The informal theme for these  last few posts has been to put not pictures, but videos of songs connected (often tenuously) to the topic of the day.  I had a draft for this which I’d forgotten about, and forgot the music I’d prepared for this post.  Thus, I’m returning it, and modifying the title to reflect it.  Enjoy!

Back here, we saw what I consider a conundrum:  If we posit an immortal being, it seems that if that being makes a permanent, irrevocable choice of the form “I will never, throughout all eternity, do X,” then whether the being keeps its promise or fails, either result seems to undermine the idea of free will.  This is important in discussing universalism, since a universalist will want to make two metaphysical assumptions:  one, that a damned being in Hell could, in principle, change its mind; but a being in Heaven would not ever choose to do so.  The asymmetry here needs to be address, as do the issues touching on free will.  Before I do that, though, I want to claim an exception:  None of these potential paradoxes applies to God.

In order to support this contention, I had to make a slight detour.  Here I discussed the traditional understanding that God must always be seen as analogical to us in any attributes posited of Him.  He may “live”, “love”, “think”, and so on; but these words always must be understood as analogies, expressing something different when applied to God, as opposed to when they are applied to us.  Even “exist” must be understood analogically.

Then I moved on to look at the mode of God’s existence.  God, unlike us, is a necessary being.  This means that He contains no potentiality, but is pure actuality.  To put it another way, He encompasses all possibilities “simultaneously” (to use a temporal word that does not apply to God), so He is all that He is in all ways at all times.  In short, He can never be other than He is.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating something I noted some time ago and alluded to in the last paragraph:  It is extremely important to remember that God is completely out of time, and can never be said to be in it, connected to it, or related to it in any way we can understand.  God’s existence is essentially “all at once”

I now assert that, given the preceding, the following is true:

God, unlike any other being, can make eternal and irrevocable choices (“I will never do X”; “I will always do Y”)  without contradictions or any diminishing of His free will. 

God’s “will” and “choices” are analogues to what those terms mean for us.  Moreover, given His transcendence of time and given that God is pure actuality–that He cannot be other than He is–we cannot speak of Him as changing His mind “later”.  There is no “later” or “earlier” for God.  There is no contradiction of His free will, either–since God is truly eternal, and pure actuality, His unchanging being is an eternal manifestation of His will, which cannot be other than it is.  Therefore, God can make irrevocable choices with no contradiction.

Now it might be pointed out that the Bible describes God as changing His mind many times; and even on the more theological level, one might argue that God relates to humanity in different ways in different eras.  However, this change is only apparent, caused by our perceptions.  The shape of the moon doesn’t change; its motion with respect to Earth and the sun makes its shape appear to change over the course of the month.  Likewise, God is as He is, always–our perceptions of Him in His interactions with us are what change.

Thus, for God, the problem of eternal choices is no problem.  It’s when we move to humans and angels that we need to face these issues.  I want to argue that angels–and perhaps humans in the afterlife do not experience time as we do now, but that they don’t experience it as God does, either.  That’s what I want to look at next.

Part of the series “You Pays Your Money and Takes Your Chances: Free Will

Posted on 20/08/2013, in Christianity, metaphysics, philosophy, religion, theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

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