Monday 14 February 2022

Agency is a must for real Christians - the Omni-God is possible, but optional

[Adapted from a comment I made at William Wildblood's blog:]

There is no problem about believing in agency and the Omni-God - so long as agency is really believed. 

The problem with the Omni-God concept comes (and this seems to have happened in many times and places, and to be a tendency in many denominations - Catholic and Reformed) when Christians in practice value their concept of God's power above the absolute requirement for free will/ agency.

And then they move Christianity towards conceptualizing Christianity (and Christian societies) as almost wholly about obedience to rulers/ rules, submission to divine (and/or church) authority, and a conviction of life as ruled by fate/ predestination

Such people lose sight of the fact that it is, and must be, a personal choice to follow Jesus Christ. 

One cannot be a genuine Christian without a solid and in-practice belief in the reality of agency. 

The other problem is those people who are prevented from becoming (or remaining) Christian by their conviction that it makes no sense to insist on both an Omni-God and free agency.

Because, as Francis Berger says in the comments linked above: The perceived power of God is largely a matter of speculation/ rationalization, but we experience free will and agency as personal and real.   

I want such people to know that one can be a good and real Christian without regarding God in that power-defined way. 

In other words; one can be a good and real Christian while regarding God as The Creator of this world - but neither omnipotent, nor a creator from nothing. 

In yet other words; I am engaged in making space for a different kind of Christianity that is expressed in terms of different metaphysical convictions from the mainstream and traditional.

(Convictions that which I also happen to believe are true! Or true-er - at any rate.)


Lucinda said...

For strategic resistance against evil, some personalities may be just fine with believing God made agency. But those inclined to atheism probably have to work out why God is trustworthy.

I, myself, am not inclined to atheism. But I prefer to believe God is not omni because it's more appealing to think God is fighting an evil he didn't invent. Maybe because I'm a woman, and therefore sensitive to faked male impressiveness, knocking down strawmen, etc.

Anyway, I think your God is more trustworthy.

Nathanael said...

I think it's good thing Bruce that you share your views and questions against classical theology, even though I may not agree totally with what you are suggesting. I don't see that real unity is rooted in agreement on theological systems anyway.. I think it's way healthier in our times to have a community that both acknowledges God and accepts theological difference, than a godless unity for example.

I think I also share your distaste of a sort of 'weaponisation of omniscience' that demands one stop thinking, and obey the rules unquestioningly, submits to the authorities. It reminds me of the 'love of ease' that Steiner warns about.

Likewise I also have a distaste for those who seem to rebel against everything, and don't seem to be able to discern the 'Good in the Bad' so to speak.

Phil said...

The Scholastics used to debate questions like, "Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?" I think perhaps God is omnipotent until he says something. Then He has bound Himself. He will not break His word, so anything He has said stands. Now if in order for us to have agency (free will) He has to not look at certain aspects of the future (our future, then He won't. So He won't say something that conflicts with what He said before, & He will do what is necessary to bring it to pass.
Is this any help?

Dave Bagwill said...

Bruce, I was struck by a sentence from Brunton's Notebooks - 'The Quest' (#258 in that book):

"Authority and Individuality need not contend in a person's mind"

I'd like to rephrase that a bit: "Omni-God and personal Freedom need not contend in a Christian's mind".

heyjames4 said...

I recently saw a similar sentiment expressed in drastically different terms, in one of the last places you might expect it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@heyjames - Yes but similarity often, as here, actually means 'completely different'!