11 Chapters
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1. The Case for a Creator

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

This book is about the concept of a creator as it has been usually construed in the Western theological tradition, broadly speaking. I wish to explore the idea that the world and all that pertains to it—indeed, anything that exists in any way—owes its being and sustenance to the act of an all-powerful being whose own existence requires no explanation, and whose nature is as perfect as we can conceive it to be. I shall argue that the existence and act of such a creator dovetails perfectly with a properly scientific conception of the world, that it supports a robust conception of human free agency, that it permits a satisfying theodicy, and that it ultimately leads to the classical conception of God as a perfectly simple yet personal being. This project is best begun by arguing that the world is indeed a product of creation. Efforts to demonstrate that this is so tend to fall under two major headings. Cosmological arguments cite as evidence the sheer existence of things, and contend that it may be accounted for by the activity of an all-powerful creator. Teleological arguments dwell on the structure or design of the world, holding that this is to be accounted for by postulating an intelligent designer. I will have an occasional remark on teleology in this chapter, but my main purpose here is to develop an argument of the first kind: I maintain that the best—indeed, to our knowledge, the only—adequate explanation for the existence of the world is the creative action of an all-powerful, personal being of the sort we call God.

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6. Sin

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

Traditional belief has it that God's providential care of the world is complete and meticulous: that each event in the history of creation is governed down to the finest detail by a completely loving and fully engaged Father, who wants only what is best for his creatures. If the previous chapter is correct, theists can uphold that belief and argue at the same time that rational creatures enjoy libertarian free will. We possess legitimate freedom as agents, but our actions remain entirely subject to God's will as creator. How, then, can he avoid implication in our wrongdoing? Indeed, why is he not what the Westminster Confession of Faith is at pains to deny: namely, the very “author or approver of sin,” and preeminently at fault for it? And even if it is possible to exonerate God from outright guilt in the matter, what could constitute a justification for the occurrence of sin? How can we possibly claim that it serves our good for God to will that we commit acts that are wrong? If, as it now appears, he could in fact have populated the universe according to J. L. Mackie's suggestion, with creatures none of whom would ever choose evil, why did he choose to do the exact opposite? Where is the love in a divine Father who involves all of his creatures in moral failure—some, as it appears, even to their eternal detriment? These are daunting questions, to which we should not assume our position as creatures will permit a completely satisfying answer. I think, however, that it is possible to make real progress with them.

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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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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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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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