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8. Divine Freedom

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

There are at least two reasons for preferring a theology that seeks to maximize God's freedom in his activity as creator. From the point of view of the present project, perhaps the most pressing is that if God is not free, then neither are we. It was claimed in chapter 5 that even though their actions fall under God's sovereignty, rational agents still enjoy what deserves to be called libertarian freedom. This is so, it was argued, because God's act of willing that I choose as I do is related to my action not as nomic cause to effect, but as will to content. This relationship is too close to undo free will, because in it God's action is not an independent, determining condition of what I do. Rather, his creative fiat provides for the existence of my acts of will in a way that preserves all meaningful conditions of robust free choice. Suppose, however, that God's own will in this process is determined by extraneous circumstances. Perhaps there is some good he is compelled to choose, so that his own volition as to how creation will go is rendered unfree. If that were so, then the game would finally be lost as far as my own freedom is concerned. For on the model of chapter 5, my own decisions are locked up with God's as the content of his will as creator, so that anything which determines him determines me as well.

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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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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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4. Evil, Freedom, and Foreknowledge

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

The argument of the foregoing chapters is in line with what theists have traditionally claimed: that God is the creator of heaven and earth and all that they contain, and that whatever occurs in the universe does so under divine providence—that is, under God's sovereign guidance and control. But believers usually assert more than this. They hold that God governs creation as a loving father, working all things for good. Moreover, it is said, God is an absolutely perfect being. He is, first of all, omniscient or all-knowing: he knows of all truths that they are true and of all falsehoods that they are false, whether they pertain to the past, present or future. And God's knowledge does not change. Nothing is learned or forgotten with him; what he knows, he knows from eternity and infallibly. Second, God is omnipotent or all-powerful: that is, on the usual understanding, anything that is logically possible, he can do. Finally and perhaps most important, God is perfectly good in both will and achievement: in all circumstances he acts for the best, intending the best possible outcome, and his will is not thwarted. Given these suppositions, we can only expect that creation will be ordained to perfect good: that as creator God pitches his efforts, which none can resist, toward accomplishing the greatest good imaginable, and hence that the world in which we find ourselves is, as Leibniz put it, the best of all possible worlds.

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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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