Friday, May 27, 2016

Divine Freedom

If God was determined by his nature to create the world, then, for God to be God, he had to create the world. In that case, a reality where God does not create is a reality without God. On the other hand, if God was not determined by his nature to create the world, then, since he surely was not determined to create the world by anything else, it is unclear why God did create the world. It would seem odd, in that case, to praise God for creating the world, since, per hypothesis, God creating the world was not required for God to be God, and, given that to be God is to be morally and otherwise perfect, thus could not have increased his perfection.

The problem is this:
1. If God is determined by his nature to create, then there can be no God without the world.
2. If God is not determined by his nature to create, then there is no reason to praise God for creating.
3. God is not dependent on anything outside himself for his being as he is.
4. There is reason to praise God for creating (we seem to do it, and the psalms include praises of God for his deeds in general).

The problem is that we must take either the antecedent to 1. or the antecedent to 2. as true, and yet the consequent of 1. conflicts with 3., and the consequent of 2. conflicts with 4., and we tend to take both 3. and 4. to be true. There are, however, multiple possible solutions.

The easiest would be to deny that 1. and 3. conflict. Such a response would be to say that just because there can be no world where God exists and does not create does not make God dependent on the world. That is, God being dependent on X is a stronger notion than God logically entailing the truth of the proposition that X exists.

Another option might be to press the relation between 2. and 4., and affirm that God is not determined to create the world. This requires holding that, while the fact that God created increases his praiseworthiness, it does not increase his glory or holiness. One must then argue that praiseworthiness is a relational property, holding where God's glory or holiness are made evident, and thus that praiseworthiness is not applicable in the same way where no world exists. One must allow that the Son can praise the Father, etc., but this may be avoided by appeal to the idea that the Son already perfectly knows the Father's gloriousness and holiness, and so holds him infinitely praiseworthy without external evidences. We, however, praise God for his creative work because such work evidences his glory to us, where we require some amount of evidence in order to come to rightly see that God is praiseworthy. Here, then, that God created the world gives us reason to praise him, yet it does not increase his praiseworthiness as seen from within the Godhead.

I am inclined to think, however, that this second route won't hold up. I take it that praise for someone on account of their doing some action is based on the idea that the action is evidence for a praiseworthy characteristic about that person. It is evidence for this characteristic precisely because that characteristic had something to do with the person's performance of the action in question. It is, then, precisely insofar as creation evidences God's divinity that creation gives us reason to praise God.

If we desire to explain creation, then we must presume that God's character determined his creative work. Otherwise, creation will not actually be explained. Any explanation of why God created will be incomplete if God was not determined by his nature to create. It may explain the possibility of creation, how it was not contrary to God's nature to create, but it will not explain the actual fact of creation. If creation is left mysterious, on the other hand, it is just as mysterious what characteristic of God we might be praising God on account of in praising him for creation.

Therefore, if we are to praise God for creation, then we should grant that God's nature compelled him to create, and we should hold that this does not entail that he is dependent on creation for his divinity or existence.

Ordinarily God's being free in a libertarian sense is supposed to be strongly motivated by problems such as his otherwise dependency on the created world. I have argued in this post that we ought to reject God's libertarian freedom in this case, and instead pursue alternative conceptions of what is involved in the relation of dependency. If God is not free in the libertarian sense for creating the world, then it is reasonable to suppose that he is not libertarianly free for any other actions either.