Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The God of the Philosophers

          When a philosopher tells me that an uncaused cause made the world, I encounter several theological problems.  First is the concept the world-whole, which views the world as “a thing,” not as “all things.”  When all things came into existence, it was not “a thing” that was made, but “all things” that were made.   By so speaking and arguing, the philosopher is seeking a singular cause to a singular thing, which might not be the case at all, either with all things or with their making(s).  The Biblical account of creation is not a singular making, but a series of makings that is progressive and in stages -- the makings of several things, not one.  The philosopher’s alleged making of “one thing” (world) is different from the series of makings of Biblical creation.  Further, the “one thing” thus made is finite and to explain the origin of a finite effect requires only a finite cause, which is not the God of the Bible.  Second, when the philosopher mentions “making,” the making alluded to here is a making within a causal nexus, the sort of making with which our cause/effect analysis has normal connection.  Normally, when we talk about making, we talk about making out of pre-existing matter, as when a sculptor makes a statue out of pre-existing granite, employing a hammer and a chisel to do so, or as when a contractor builds a house out of wood, glass, shaped metal, rubber, etc.  When we speak about cause and effect of this sort, we are not speaking about Biblical creation, which does not entail pre-existent matter.  While our cause/effect reasonings and explanations always entail some material cause, Biblical creation does not.  Cause/effect, as we normally employ it, is irrelevant to Biblical creation which is a creating, not a making, and to which our cause/effect explanations (as normally employed, and as the philosopher employs them here) are something very different.  Creation out of nothing is not what we normally mean when we invoke cause and effect, which stand at the root of the philosopher’s argument.  To get philosophically to God creating the world, we must have a cause/effect sequence without a material cause, but we do not.  Our explanations yield no such results, nor can they.  Third, the “cause” thus allegedly reached is not the God of the Bible -- the infinite, articulate, multi-Personal Elohim Who, in His unsearchable plurality-in-unity, spoke the universe into existence.  All we get, if we get anything at all, is a mere finite, inarticulate, impersonal cause.  In short, with the philosophical conclusion that an uncaused cause made the world, I object to the philosopher’s use of the words “cause,” “made,” and “world,” none of which seem properly commensurate with Biblical doctrine and usage.
           To paraphrase Emil Brunner, any god reached by reason is a mere reason-god, which is always an idol.   Unlike the God of the Bible, Aristotle’s god does not speak, love, or feel.  It cannot become flesh, is not multi-Personal, and did not exist before the world.  To Aristotle, remember, the world is eternal.

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