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2. Creation and the Natural Order

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

If we think the existence of a creator is at all likely, it is worthwhile to try to understand as well as we can the nature of creation, and the relationship between God's activity as creator and the doings of the things he creates. That can be a challenging task. The common view of creation is pretty ingenuous: we tend to think of God as a temporal being who, by fiat, put the world in place “in the beginning,” along with whatever principles of operation it might have required, and then “rested.” The scriptural credentials of this view are, of course, impeccable, and it makes for a nice division of labor between God and the world. He is responsible for the world's beginning, and—at least to the extent that it works deterministically—for its subsequent history as well. But he is responsible for the latter only indirectly, for on this picture the things that make up the world have robust and independent natures. They survive and function on their own; and they have the capacity to react to influences that surround them, as well as to effect change in other entities. Indeed, but for occasional acts of intervention—to bring the course of nature into line with human needs, perhaps, or to demonstrate his presence and power to the hard of heart—there is really rather little for God to do in such a world. Such non-engagement has, of course, a certain suspicious quality: one would expect the loving God of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic heritages to be a little more doting, a little more involved with the world. But it also guarantees that the products of creation will be entities of real substance and power, fully capable of independent existence and action.

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9. Creation and the Moral Order

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

The account of the creator we have been developing is one of a God whose activity in making the universe is completely free and spontaneous, constrained by nothing and distinguished by total mastery over all that he creates. If such an account is correct, we should also expect that God will turn out to be the source of morality—of the rightness of what is right and the wrongness of what is wrong. If he is not—that is, if right and wrong have standing independent of God's will—his sovereignty will be diminished and our earlier argument for divine impeccability will be ruined. For if moral principles have standing independent of God's will, then presumably he, as a rational being, is bound by them just as we are, so that his conduct is subject to strictures not of his own making. Only if God's creative fiat is the source of the moral order can this result be avoided. That God should be the source of morality is also in keeping with the account of sin developed in chapter 6, according to which the crucial defining feature of wrongdoing is rebellion against God, from whose dictates the moral law takes its origin. This account would lose much of its force if it turned out that in issuing moral injunctions to us, God is only passing along information from some other source. Our rebellion in sinning would then be far less of a personal affront to God. It would finally be directed not against our creator, but only against an ideal—which, whatever its provenance and however important it may be, can never be more than an abstraction. Finally, if the principles that define right and wrong can be shown to issue from God, there may be an additional bonus: perhaps we will get help in dealing with the thorny problems that have plagued moral epistemology throughout the modern era.

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10. Creation and the Conceptual Order

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

In Chapters 8 and 9 we have seen two significant reasons for claiming that God is the creator not only of concrete entities and events that make up our world—things like trees, tornados, sunsets, and persons—but also of the natures of those things. First, such a claim is demanded if we are to hold that God truly creates the world, rather than simply manufacturing it from a plan that is not of his own making or is produced via some rote exercise on his part. Second, although there are good reasons for treating the injunctions of morality as commands that emanate from God, fending off charges of arbitrariness requires that those commands supervene on the nature of rational agents, and the relationships and circumstances in which they find themselves. If this is so then God can be the author of morality only if he is also the author of our nature, and the nature of all that surrounds us. But there is a third and much more important reason for holding such a view: if it is true, then not just the realm of the concrete but also that of the abstract owes whatever being it has to the creative activity of God. This furnishes a provenance for abstracta, whose origin is otherwise liable to have no accounting, and at the same time places God in a transcendent position even with respect to logical and mathematical reality—exactly what we should expect of an absolutely perfect being who is the foundation of all that is. In these final chapters, then, I wish to defend as fully as possible the claim that God is indeed the author of the natures of things—that is, what are usually called universals—along with the rest of what Alvin Plantinga has called the Platonic horde, the entire panoply of entities that compose conceptual reality. It is best to address this issue in two stages. The present chapter will focus on God's relationship to abstracta exemplified in the products of creation, and the implications of claiming they owe their being to him. Chapter 11 will take up the relationship between God and those properties exemplified in his own nature, about which special problems arise.

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5. Free Will and Divine Sovereignty

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

A satisfactory resolution of the problems canvassed in the last chapter can be had in only one way: by according God an active role as creator in the production of human action. To revert to the Openness view would be to give away too much—to accede, in effect, to the anti-theist's objection that belief in the God of tradition cannot be sustained in the face of the world's sin and suffering. And nothing short of a full involvement in the operations of creaturely wills seems consistent with the omniscience and sovereignty appropriate to a God who is as perfect as we can imagine him to be. But what shall we then say about libertarian freedom, which in the standard free-will defense places the primary responsibility for moral evil on us, and insulates God from our sinfulness? One option is simply to drop the idea of libertarianism, and opt for a completely different notion of human freedom. That was the reaction of Jonathan Edwards, who would never have accorded less than complete sovereignty to God, and whose version of free will is straightforward Lockean compatibilism.1 Compatibilist freedom is a conditional matter: I am free in acting just in case I would have done otherwise if some causal condition had been different—if, for example, I had chosen to behave differently, or if behaving differently had been my strongest desire. This kind of account permits both my action and the choice that led to it to have been determined, in which case they simply form part of the natural causal order. If that is all there is to free will, God can easily be complete master of the universe, as well as fully cognizant of all that occurs in it, for he can make the world a completely deterministic affair, in which all that will ever occur is fixed from the beginning in accordance with natural law.

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11. Divine Will and Divine Simplicity

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

The primary purpose of this final chapter is to examine God's relationship as creator to those universals that characterize his own nature. In part, the motivation for so doing is simply to complete the task, begun in chapter 10, of determining the extent to which God can legitimately be held to be the creator of the of the conceptual order—that is, of universals, sets, propositions, and other abstracta. As regards those denizens of the Platonic realm that pertain to the divine nature this promises to be a tricky business. On the one hand, it would strain credibility to hold that although, as was argued in the last chapter, God does create those natures that pertain to creaturely reality, he depends for his own being on universals whose provenance is independent of his will. Such a dichotomy has an artificial ring. Moreover, to accept it would be to capitulate at last on the issue of God's complete sovereignty over all things, which we have thus far been able to defend. On the other hand, to portray God as in any way creatively disposed with respect to his own essence is to court the danger of making God self-creating, which is surely impossible. We need to discern whether a course between these extremes can be charted.

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