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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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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7. Suffering

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub

 

An important aspect of the previous chapter is its emphasis on the fact that sinfulness, in the sense that involves moral blameworthiness, is first and foremost a characteristic of acts of will. This is not to say that culpability can properly be said to pertain only to decision and volition. Often, when we speak of sin we have in mind actions that are objectively forbidden: things like unjustified violence, drunkenness, dishonesty, abuse of authority, selfishness, and so forth. Such actions are certainly blameworthy in normal circumstances, and of course they extend beyond the will: they consist in bringing about actual harm in the world. But where such acts are sinful in the strong sense, the sense of being culpable, their sinfulness is derived from the acts of will upon which they are founded. Thus, the attitude of rebellion that attends sinful acts of will is at the bottom of all morally evil action, in the sense of “moral evil” that puts us at enmity with God. And we have seen that this attitude, the attitude of a sinful will, is defeated in the eventual destiny the sinner himself chooses—in his repentance or in his reprobation, as the case may be. But what of the harm done in the world? Sin in the objective sense, the sense that signifies an act forbidden by the moral law, typically involves such harm—most often to other persons—and that kind of evil is not defeated by the sinner's turning over a new leaf. Furthermore, we have yet to address the issue of natural evil, of evil that does not owe its origin to moral agency but rather arises through the normal operations of the physical and biological world. What kind of theodicy is possible on these fronts?

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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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