Friday, 14 September 2018

Agency is the main limitation and constraint on divine knowledge and power ('omni-science/ potence')

Regular readers will know that I regard the characterisation of 'an omni-God' - that is a God described in terms of abstract absolutes such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence - as a wrong, tendentious, harm-tending error of mainstream Christianity. God is not all-knowing, not all-powerful - and one major and vital limitation on God is agency, or Free Will.

God's knowledge and power is rooted in his being The Creator; and the crux of the problem for mainstream Christianity is that if God created Free Will, if he created the 'mechanism' of agency - and because creation is something on-going and continuous (not something done once in the past then left), then God would have knowledge of and power over Free would... But then agency would not be truly autonomous and free: merely just another expression of God's ongoing creation...

To me, the above mainstream Christian explanation is seriously incoherent; and given the importance of Free Will to Christianity, we need to try and do better... 

Since (as I assume) agency is real and will is indeed free; then these need to be regarded as Not having been created and sustained by God. But instead, agents with free will are pre-existent to God's creation - already-there when creation began - used-by God in doing creation, but not made-by God.

So; the nature of reality is that God's creation is the means by which he pursues his divine plan, a plan to have children and to raise them to become divine like himself (and this has now been fully accomplished by Jesus Christ - so all Men have a model and method) - working-around the constraint, a 'constraint' which is itself necessary for full divinity, of Man's agency.

Thus we have God's creation, inhabited by living, conscious agents with (various degrees of) Free Will - God controlling many aspects of the situation, but neither knowing nor controlling the 'inner workings' of agency.

In other words the real-self is divine, and opaque to God the creator. God must therefore pursue his goals 'indirectly'. However, this indirectness is a feature, not a bug, since it is only genuine free-agents who can fulfil God's plan.

(The alternative being a universe of unfree, wholly-controlled automata; fake/ simulated persons merely.) 

And insofar as reality consists of many agent beings of many kinds - including what we currently (mainstream) think of as minerals, vegetables, and animals; which are alive and conscious to different degrees and in different ways - the nature of reality consists of God setting up situations and responding to the consequences of agency, in a continually purposive but not-predetermined fashion.

It explains why Free Will is a necessary part of the plan; God had to work-around agency in order that the plan could be achieved; and without Free Will there could have been no plan for divinisation.

This description seems to me an exact fit for the nature of reality as I perceive and understand it; which is why I share it here.


13 comments:

  1. By coincidence, I just today reread Valentin Tomberg's letter on "The Emperor," which makes basically the same point you are making here: that the inescapable fact of agency means that God is not actually omnipotent, and that a strict insistence on his omnipotence is a serious distortion of the Christian message.

    "The worship of the idol of power conceived of as the superman, above all when one identifies oneself with it, is relatively inoffensive — being, fundamentally, infantile. But this is not so with the other category of power worshippers, namely those who project this ideal onto God himself. Their faith in God depends only on the *power* of God; if God was powerless, they would not believe in him. It is they who teach that God has created souls predestined to eternal damnation and others predestined to salvation; it is they who make God responsible for the entire history of the human race, including all its atrocities. God, they say, 'chastises' his disobedient children by means of wars, revolutions, tyrannies and other similar things. How could it be otherwise? God is almighty, therefore all that happens is only able to happen through his action or with his consent.

    "The idol of power has such a hold on some human minds that they prefer a God who is a mixture of good and evil, provided that he is powerful, to a God of love who governs only by the intrinsic authority of the Divine — by truth, beauty and goodness — i.e. they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the *crucified* God."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I still fail to see how my knowledge of what someone has done makes me responsible for them having done it.

    This is practically the first moral lesson that children must learn, just because their parents know they will lie about something, that doesn't justify lying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I build a simulation with no RNG, the agents in the simulation have no free will beyond what I, the builder, have. Thus I have total moral responsibility for the actions of the agents.

      Mercifully, it seems we are not in such a simulation. Parents cannot know *for sure* that their children will lie about something: there are at least a countably infinite number of distinct possible future histories in which they will not lie, no matter how strong the temptation.

      Also, causality and time do not work the way people generally think -- it is possible to affect the *past* by observing it.

      -- Robert Brockman

      Delete
  3. "But instead, agents with free will are pre-existent to God's creation - already-there when creation began - used-by God in doing creation, but not made-by God."

    I find this really difficult to accept. I know you have thought about this long and hard, but as a concept it worries me a lot. It seems to make God 'less than' I have been taught to think he is. If agents with free will existed before God's creation, and he did not make them, then who did? Were they created, or were they just always existent? If they have always existed, are they different from God? Are they co-equal? If they are co-equal, are they potentially creators somewhere else, rather than in God's creation? If they are, then it makes me think that they (and I include God in 'they') may not be the real God - that there is something above and beyond the 'they', who is the one true God - the one uncreated being, who created all the rest.

    I have rambled on to give you an idea of the thoughts your blog triggered in the hope that you can answer the questions I've asked, even if your answers worry me and undermine what I thought I knew. Because that is what your concept of God does to me, and I suspect it would to many others. I'm sure you must know that, but that shouldn't stop you telling it how you think it is, and I really do want to know your answers to my questions.

    Tobias

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think I will stand aside here, because the comments so far seem to address and answer each other quite nicely!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite what you say about standing aside, I still have questions seething around my head.

      If God isn’t almighty, and all other beings were not created by him, why did God get to create the universe, and the other beings did not?

      Or did they create?

      If they did, was it on God’s orders?

      Indeed, is God at the top of a hierarchy of being, or not?

      Did God create out of nothing, or was there some ‘stuff’ for him to shape that was just always there? (If so bang goes the big bang theory of physics).

      Or did he create the stuff and then act on it to create the universe (big bang theory in play again)?

      While God was creating, what were the other uncreated beings doing?

      Why don’t we hear about them?

      Or do we? Are they angels, or are they us, or are they something else?

      Did they help God to create? (Are they still doing it?)

      Where? Here? Somewhere else?

      Are they Gods too?

      What is a God? Is it a creator who initiates a creation, and then gets others to help?

      Is there/can there be more than one creation?

      You have a habit of quietly saying something, and setting off a fizz-pot of thoughts.

      Delete
    2. "It seems to make God 'less than' I have been taught to think he is."
      Yes, and that is entirely the wrong thing to be worried about.

      "If agents with free will existed before God's creation, and he did not make them, then who did? Were they created, or were they just always existent? If they have always existed, are they different from God? Are they co-equal?"

      If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.- Abraham 3:18-19

      "If they are co-equal, are they potentially creators somewhere else, rather than in God's creation? If they are, then it makes me think that they (and I include God in 'they') may not be the real God - that there is something above and beyond the 'they', who is the one true God - the one uncreated being, who created all the rest."

      Why are you more worried about tracking down an Unknown God, who may or may not have initiated the creation of the universe, than your Heavenly Father, who loves you?

      "If God isn’t almighty, and all other beings were not created by him, why did God get to create the universe, and the other beings did not?"
      See Abraham 19.

      "Did God create out of nothing, or was there some ‘stuff’ for him to shape that was just always there?"
      If your soul is eternal and uncreated, it follows that the substance of the universe is the same, since we were made from the same dust.

      "While God was creating, what were the other uncreated beings doing? Why don’t we hear about them?"
      That's the other uncreated beings' business.

      "Or do we? Are they angels, or are they us, or are they something else? Did they help God to create? (Are they still doing it?)"
      Yes.

      "Where? Here? Somewhere else?"
      Here.

      "Are they Gods too?"
      Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?- John 10:34

      "What is a God?"
      God is love.- 1 John 4:8

      "Is there/can there be more than one creation?"
      And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many. But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.- Moses 1:33-35

      I hope these answers are helpful.

      -Carter Craft

      Delete
    3. I should clarify that Carter's refs to Abraham and Moses concern the Mormon scripture The Pearl of Great Price

      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp?lang=eng

      Delete
  5. I am not concerned with the uniqueness of God, monotheism as opposed to polytheism, simply because I believe that Justice (which is not of itself creative) is immutable. Thus any being that is like God in power is also like God in justice.

    I see no reason that the same should hold true of mercy, which is the quality humans generally mean when they laud the goodness of God. Without power derived from justice, mercy is mere fatuity, nothing more than the uncritical adoration a puppy displays towards whoever feeds it. Conversely, one may well imagine (and encounter, if unlucky enough) beings whose pure justice is not tempered with much in the way of mercy.

    But this is all a digression based on the false notion that omniscience is directly convertible to omnipotence. There is no logical necessity of such a direct conversion of knowledge to overt power. That was the point I made above, that knowing what someone will do is not the same as power to force them to do otherwise.

    There is a specific and very severe theological difficulty with the idea that Free Will must be unpredictable even to God. But I will submit a lesser but more accessible problem.

    Did God really know Christ would willingly submit to the burden of Atoning for the sins of mankind, or did Christ actually make His sublime choice of His own Free Will?

    If we insist that "or" be exclusive, such that only one of those conditions can be true, the entire doctrine of Christianity is left in tatters. Not entirely impossible to turn into a religion, there are strains of 'Christianity' which would have little difficult rejecting one or the other proposition, though I find them less than fully credible.

    My own objection remains simpler, I simply do not see that I am more "free" to make my own choices by my own will when I allow myself to remain ignorant right up to the point where the 'choice' becomes irrevocable. Failing to accurately predict what I will choose instead makes me rather suspect that the decision was the result of circumstances other than my own will.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @CCL You ask "Did God really know Christ would willingly submit to the burden of Atoning for the sins of mankind, or did Christ actually make His sublime choice of His own Free Will?"

    I don't regard 'atoning for the sins of mankind' as an adequate description of what Christ primarily did. That aside, clearly Christ had to make the choice from his free will, or else it was not a choice; consequently, God did not 'know' the outcome in one sense, but Christ being who he was, in another sense he knew the outcome.

    But - because time is real - nobody knows anything in the way claimed by those who say that God sees all things past present and future - such knowledge is an abstraction based on a physics analogy: it makes no real sense.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @ Tobias, these questions are given my answers in other posts on this blog - but these answers can be derived from a relatively simple set of metaphysical assumptions; so I suppose the thing is to start with them and work them through to your own satisfaction.

    In contrast, the mainstream Christian 'omni' ideas derive from a different set of primary assumptions about what a monotheistic God 'must be like' or the kind of God that pre-Christians deemed worthy of worship - they don't derive from scripture, or from Jesus's teaching.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If God didn't really know beforehand that Christ would indeed undertake the Atonement, then it would also be impossible to know beforehand that the Atonement would be effective.

    In other words, it wouldn't be possible to know whether there had been any point in the world at all until the end. There being no alternatives, we should just pin our hopes on that unknown. But we ought have no confidence in doing so, nor should God claim that we can.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @CCL - For my specific views to make sense requires that someone shares the metaphysical assumptions that underly them. By my assumptions this is a non-problem.

    ReplyDelete