Thursday, September 6, 2012

I AM: Grace and Mercy

This post is an approach to the nature to God from a philosophical point of view beginning with attempting to make the "unmoved mover" argument for the existence of God make sense. Thus, the trajectory begins at "How can there be an unmoved mover?" and ends with an exploration of what the resulting argument/answer leads to.

Why is There a God?

Everything conceivable object, or being, or thing, or concept, falls into one of two categories: caused or uncaused. Whatever prime mover is believed in, whatever one believes exists first, must still be in one of these two categories. Now, it seems reasonable to think that a thing, having been caused by a certain input of energy, requires no more energy to cause it to cease to exist.

Now, if a thing or being is uncaused, that is the same as saying it was caused by nothing. Shall we say that the prime mover is such? That seems to lead to a belief that the prime mover, whether chance (which is nothing), or science, or God, may cease it or his existence for no reason. A Christian who is living for God, with the hope of a new heaven and new earth, cannot suppose this of God.

On the other hand, can a Christian say that God is caused? If he were caused by another, then he would not be God, but instead the one who caused his existence would be. If he was not caused by another, and he was not caused by nothing, then what can we say? That he caused himself? But a thing that does not exist cannot cause, and a thing that already exist no longer has any need to cause itself.

The solution seems to be to assume that God simultaneously causes himself and comes into being. Both must be after the other, however, but our notions of time do not allow for such. Thus, suppose God to be unconstrained by time. Just as we say he is omnipresent in space, so also in time. Thus God, being, chooses to be. An eternal present in which God makes himself be existent.

Avoiding Exploding Brains


It is helpful at this point to point out two relevant ways in which a thing may be caused. This is required to get to the point where the conclusion of that last paragraph may be expressed satisfactorily by a being limited by time.

First, a thing may be caused to begin to be. This is the only way that the word was used in this post up to now. Cause leads to effect. Lives that were not before, begin to be. This does not seem to fit what is meant by God causing himself, at least not quite.

Second, a thing may be caused to continue to be. Breathing is part of what causes humans to continue to be. But if God only causes himself to continue to be, the question of whether he is caused, or uncaused, or some third option, remains unresolved.

Since God is supposed, at this point, to be unconstrained by time, it is now efficient to look at what these two types of cause become without respect to time. Without time, there cannot be truly said to be a beginning, nor a continuing. There is no before. The two types of cause become identical. Truly God, by no power but his own, IS.

How Should we then View Him?

Since we exist within, and are constrained by, time, talking about God as he is, unconstrained by time, is difficult to say the least, especially when talking of God causing himself. It would also be nice to see whether this idea of God's relation to time is useful, apart from providing some explanation as to why God introduces himself as I AM WHO I AM.

It is important to note that God being unconstrained by time does not mean that he is not in time. I am sitting in a room. There is air outside this room. There is also, of course, air in this room, or I would be getting out of it instead of typing. In the same way, God is in time, but he is also outside of time. He is beyond, or unconstrained by time. There is still a distinction between the two, which I note largely because it is likely to come up in future posts. This distinction, which, along with his being omnipresent and near to us, becomes important in some ways to understanding who God is. His omnipresence and his being outside of time are a large part of his transcendence, while his nearness to each of us, and his being in time, are a large part of his immanence. These are not different persons of God, Though Christ coming as God with us is in many ways because of God being immanent. It is closer to how Christ is fully man and fully God.

What does God's causing of himself look like to us? From our point of view, he already is. He created creation, past tense. If he is the sustainer of his own being, then he is the ultimate sustainer. It is easily supposed from here that it is in his nature to sustain. He sustains his people, he sustains the world, even the most wicked are sustained by God, as is shown by the fact that they do not cease to be. Thus God's grace and mercy flow naturally from his being the source for his own being.

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