Saturday 12 February 2022

If God is all-powerful, then why didn't He make everybody Already-Good? (Why Men were needed to co-create Heaven)

"Why didn't God make everybody Already-good?" is actually a deep and tough question that cuts to the heart of Christian theology.

Because if God was the Omni-God of traditional, orthodox and classical theology - then it is hard to understand why He so often creates indirectly, via a rigmarole of intermediate factors and choices - which so often go wrong. 

To be sure of good results; God surely ought to have 'cut to the chase' and made everything 'right' from the beginning?

So goes the question...

So, if God wanted to make Men Good on this earth - then why didn't he just make Good Men in the first place? 

Why make Men so weak, so prone to temptation; why place these weak Men is such bad situations? 

Why Make the path from sin to salvation, from earth to Heaven, such an obstacle course

And the real zinger: Why did an omnipotent God need Jesus Christ to be born, live, die, resurrect and ascend to Heaven in order that Men be offered salvation? Surely it would be much more efficient and certain for God to create Good Men directly into Heaven, without the 'rigmarole' of Christ's incarnation and Men's choices?

Such questions are obvious and (to the asker) valid knock-down arguments only when Christians emphasize that their God must be omnipotent. Valid; because the typical omni-Godite Christian responses to such questions nearly-always come across as irrelevant, weak or evasive. 

But I personally reject the Omni-God concept; therefore I believe we need explicitly to conceptualize God as needing Men (and Men's agency) in order to achieve the goals of divine creation

In other words; divine creation was conceived from the beginning as a work of cooperation between God and men: a work of co-creation. 

Or - the 'rigmarole' of contingencies and obstacles in life are not an unfortunate matter; but necessary to attaining the desired results. 

My argument it is rooted in the assumption that the essence of Christianity - the work of Christ - was that Men should be able to live the eternal resurrected life in Heaven

And the assumption that this goal of Heaven could not be achieved by God without the freely chosen help of Men. 

So I am emphasizing that God could not create Heaven directly; but only by many intermediate steps involving the free will of Men - especially only by including the work of Jesus Christ. 

In other words Jesus Christ is necessary to God's plans, and without Jesus Christ God's plans could not be achieved. 

(It is this insistence upon the creational necessity, and not merely the goodness, of Jesus Christ - that divides Christianity from Islam.) 

Thus, one aspect of God's non-omnipotence which Christians (I would say) need to acknowledge; is that Jesus Christ was necessary; that God could not do-without what Jesus did - and what Jesus the Man freely chose to do. 

The results made possible by Jesus Christ were not obtainable directly; and Jesus was a Man and needed to be a Man; a Man with agency - therefore, we have here a vital example of co-creation.

To put it another way: to get from God's creation to Heaven was not possible directly; but only via many intermediate steps where Men make free choices; and these intermediate steps include the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the incarnations, deaths and resurrections of all Men who wish for eternal life in Heaven. 

Heaven is the main objective of divine creation; and Heaven is the co-creation of God, Jesus Christ and all Men who inhabit it. 

In his most important work, God therefore works-with men, and by-means-of the agency of Men. 

God is the prime creator, and all other beings dwell within God's creation - that is what makes God God. But at the same time; the purpose of prime creation is that Men should co-create with God: that Men should (in other language) raise to become Sons and Daughters of God, as close as possible to the creative level of God (although always secondary, creating within already-established divine creation): active participants in the continuing work of creation.  

God is not 'omni', God would not want to be omni! - Because the goal of creation is Heaven; and Heaven is made-by and made-for co-creation; and co-creation is an ever-more active, conscious and powerful participation of Men in divine creating. 

Note: This post continues a line of discussion initiated over the past few days


Francis Berger said...

This addresses the essence of Christianity - the "the what it is" that classical theology either outright denies, obscures, or minimizes through its endless philosophical abstractions.

Classical, orthodox, traditional theology's "what it is" emphasizes a one-sided contingency - man depends on God and needs God for everything, while God does not depend on or need man for anything. Why? Because God is an entirely different category of being (he is a being and the source of all beings) that does not need or depend on anything or anyone in order to be or to become (but God has no need to become anything because he already is everything and anything that can be).

This immediately raises questions about why this Omnigod – who has no need of anything and who is perfectly fulfilled as an independent being – would bother with Creation in the first place.

Classical theology always pounds the table about logic, but then goes on to explain Creation as a gratuitous act of love, which is fascinating when you consider that gratuitous means both "free" and "superfluous." Thus, God created of his own free will, but Creation itself is not necessary to God and God would be perfectly content without it.

Having outlined all of that, classical theology then goes on to insist that man still matters (why would he?) and that God is still "relational" (why would He bother?)

So, why does man matter? Well, because God decided man matters, that why (no real "logical" explanation provided other than the notion that man should submissively worship God and thank God for everything and serve him even though God doesn’t depend on this worship, gratitude, or service).

Why does God want to establish relationships with us when he doesn't really need to? Well, because he loves us, even though he doesn't really need to love us because we are in an entirely different category of being and can never understand him. On top of that, it doesn't really matter if we love him or not because he doesn't depend on that love.

In fact, the only downside to not loving God is you end up spiritually destroying yourself -- but this spiritual destruction does not affect God in any way because he is perfectly and absolutely self-sufficient and not dependent on anything.

In my mind, this is not the essence – the what it is – of Christianity.

The essence of Christianity - "the what it is" (I dislike these philosophical terms, but don't know how else to put it) is relational - relationships between beings, most importantly, the relationship between the human and the divine – a relationship in which the human depends on the divine and the divine also depends on the human.

The basis of this relationship is love. Not love as a virtue or love as an emotion, but love that is a metaphysical reality. The kind of love that is only possible between beings who see themselves in each other, recognize a shared purpose, and freely commit to actively working toward a common goal – a common goal that elevates both the human and the divine.

mike.a said...

you say "God is the prime creator, and all other beings dwell within God's creation - that is what makes God God" ... my view is that god himself also dwells within god's creation, i.e., he is self-referential, not outside of himself or his creation. that introduces paradox, a good thing because it's more powerful than logic, but also means god and man inhabit the same universe. that seems to jibe with your idea of co-creation and free will and independence. it also means the universe encompasses everything, there is no "outside" other place where something like god can dwell, which is very natural and wholistic.

Deogolwulf said...

What do you mean by "omnipotence"?

I’m fairly sure Aquinas somewhere makes a complaint about the word, which I suppose he took up by need of tradition rather than glad choice. It certainly doesn’t fit well with his terminology or his understanding of what God is and is not (i.e., that God is pure act and has no potency).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - Me too.

If we are considering the essence, it is probably necessary to say something too about the direction of creation - the progression of creation from 'chaos' toward Heaven - that creation is a process of making it possible for loving relationships to develop and become permanent; and that Heaven is the place where this happens.

Where we are Now is an intermediate phase; where loving relationships are real but temporary, and mixed with evil/ sin which opposes the direction of creation. Thus the purpose of this intermediate phase is education/ learning aiming at Heaven: this mortal 'Earth is a school' to use William Wildblood's handy term.

Bruce Charlton said...

@mike "god himself also dwells within god's creation" - I agree, but this isn't paradoxical; it's just how things are.

'Paradox' is to be avoided if genuine understanding is sought - it usually just means confused or imprecise thinking.

@Deogol - For my meaning of omnipotence - if you want the best explanation it is obtainable from my usage, and by examining the previous blog posts to which I have linked.

A shorter indication is that omnipotence is one of the attributes of God according to several denominations/ churches in mainstream Christian theology - and it is linked to the concept of creation ex nihilo and that God is outside of creation (and of time).

This concept of deity predates Christianity. But the implication is that everything except for God is a creation of God, because God made every-thing.

And this is the basis of the division into creator and creature (God and e.g. a Man) - the creature being wholly-created by the creator. Specific attributed divine attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence (and others) - flow from this.

Nathanael said...

"God is not 'omni', God would not want to be omni!"

I disagree.

To claim that God *would not want* to be anything feels like a bit of a stretch.

To be omni does not make one a tyrant. In fact I can't think of anything more humble than the having the power and ability to destroy something but instead choosing to sacrifice self in search of reconciliation. On the flipside I can't think of anything more courageous than someone who doesnt have the power and ability to defend against destruction but still sacrifices self in search of reconciliation.

I have witnessed many confrontations in my life where a man A (superior in strength) decided not to beat up man B (weaker and actually instigating the confrontation). He wanted no worship or praise for *not* beating man B up, but instead tried to understand what the underlying motives were, and why man B was so angry and worked up.

Likewise I have seen it the other way, where man C (superior in strength and instigating the confrontation) decided to beat up man D (weaker in strength) and Man D still tried to understand what the underlying motives were, why the inner lack of control etc.

You are acknowledging God but also wanting to limit the abilities of what is traditionally known as God based on your metaphysics. In a sense you have a different God.

I have seen some metaphysical systems that remind me of yours in the alien/ufology circles. It goes like this: eternal souls (pluralism - we are gods) that participate on the springboard of existence, but have been trapped here by negative intelligence. Jesus came from a positive alien faction to break us free. Collectively, the whole thing makes up God-source. (abstract God)

Deogolwulf said...

In classical theism “omnipotence” means God has all powers or abilities, whereby it is understood that doing the impossible is not a power or an ability. More neatly, then, “omnipotence” is defined as the power or ability to do all things that can be logically done, and it is said that only God has this power. (Whilst God is pure act and is all that he can logically be within the bounds of his own being, i.e., He is perfect, Man is not.) God does not have the power or ability to be me or to make my choices; for such a power or ability is logically impossible.

Given his nature, which includes incorporeality, and my nature, which is not quite up to scratch, there are yet many things that I can do that God cannot: I can scratch my nose, smoke a pipe, and ride a bicycle. Multiply such things countless upon countless times for every creature in existence, and there you have your plurality: a very rich world indeed.

If you mean something different by “omnipotence”, then your attack against classical theism for teaching that God is “omnipotent” (i.e., in your sense: ?does and determines everything?) is an attack by false imputation, and thus has no force against your target. It attacks only what you have falsely imputed.

In order to show that God’s omnipotence (in the age-old traditional sense) and Man’s free will are incompatible, you need to show why God’s power to do all things that can be logically done precludes Man’s free will.

But it doesn’t preclude it. God is omnipotent (can do all things that can be logically done) and Man has free will: a state of affairs that is not only logically possible, but actual; for God willed it.

Deogolwulf said...

Choices are either my choices or they are not. God cannot determine my choices. For if what are called “my choices” are in fact God’s choices, then they are not my choices at all. They are either mine or his; they logically preclude one another. It would be logically impossible for them to be simultaneously my choices and his.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nat - Sooner or later you will have to read what I have written if you want to understand it! There is no point in projecting other ideas onto it just because they seem to share some vague superficial similarity!

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - I am arguing from the attributed nature of things - whereas you are making a deductive argument from definitions.

The fact that you can make a coherent argument starting from definitions says nothing about whether what you are saying makes coherent sense, when applied to a concept of God - when applied to reality.

Therefore, 'all you have done' is to assume that the agency of Men is real, and that omnipotence of God is true - and made a logical 'word-bridge' between them.

As I have already said, the attribution of creation from nothing is a vital element in the 'classical' conception of God. It is something which helps make clear the 'kind of God' that is being put forward.

When this has been grasped we can consider whether 'that kind of God' allows any space for free-will/ agency. And the answer is - I would say obviously - not; because there is nothing which is not of-God, God made and is responsible for every-thing. There is no room for any other agency.

This seems a *very* obvious things to many people, now and throughout history, and the response you have given just does not address the problem.

Luke said...

Then Heaven is not "where God is" but rather where God and Man are together, and then this is why Christ was needed, the Man who was able to join with God and co created Heaven with Him.

Dave Bagwill said...

Bruce, I spent a good week last year reading Tyron Inbody's book 'The Transforming God' - I expect you are familiar with it? - his thought tracks your philosophy very closely.
His book is a long meditation on the - apparent only imo - inability to reconcile suffering with true Creation ex Nihilo, performed by our all-powerful and wise Creator.
(As an aside, isn't it obvious than reducing said God to nothing more than a demiurge does not answer the fundamental question, that something exists at all, rather than nothing? Slight the Creator as a demiurge; one still is intellectually driven to ask 'where did it all begin - and was there a Who that did it?"

Isn't THAT the real question? I realize that I have repeatedly stressed the importance of the arguments in Spitzer's book, but they deal with THAT question. Until someone can show the invalidity of those arguments, I don't see any reason for addressing the 'downstream' problems.

Inbody correctly points out (and btw, I thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts, and the scholarship he demonstrated) that THAT question is the key to subsequent musings. In the world of process thought from Whitehead to current process philosophers, the intolerable question of evil is 'resolved' by, again in my opinion, a lack of courage in going deeper.

THAT question is a matter not of the interpretation of biblical texts, but by hard science and philosophy. There - I said it and, if I belonged to a church - I would no longer be welcomed as a pew-warmer. I'm not welcomed anyway, for other reasons, but still. :-)

I am not claiming that the existence (or more specifically, the non 'existence') of evil is not a huge metaphysical and ethical and existential problem! God knows I've struggled with it the past 50 years or so. But: it is imperative, I believe, that we start at the right place, the right climate of thought, before entangling ourselves in sub-optimal thinking.
Again - in my humble opinion. I totally understand your thoughts on this and I respect them because of course, I could be wrong. As could you.
Until I find a substantial error in Spitzer's argument - and I have some smart people going through those arguments - warning, you will need paper and pencil to follow them - I'm going to hold fast to a Creator in the true sense: not a craftsman, but a creator.
Gads what an interesting thread. We're lucky to have this place to discuss these things.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - "the fundamental question, that something exists at all, rather than nothing? "

That is Not the fundamental question - because it already assumes that the starting point was nothing.

The fundamental question is - what is the starting point. Something or nothing - and then the second question: if something - what?

If - as I and probably most people - believe - there *always was* 'something' then there is no need to explain 'why?' - indeed it *cannot* be explained why there is something, if something has always been the case.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - Dial back your tone, please!

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - I didn't mean you.

Jordan m said...

"God as needing Men (and Men's agency) in order to achieve the goals of divine creation"

If this is true then how can anyone have faith that the world isn't doomed? It is clear nearly everyone has forsaken God and the whole world is consumed by evil worse than perhaps ever before in human history. On top of this we must now believe that God isn't omnipotent and depends on our cooperation to bring about his plans for creation. If all that is true, we can safely conclude there is no hope given the state of creation. It is already over.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jm - You need to think this through. What you write does not make sense, but it is causing you to despair - which is a sin.

Jordan m said...

It isn't causing me to despair because I believe God is omnipotent. I'm pointing to what seems to be a problem in your theology.


1. God requires human cooperation to realize his goals for creation because he's too weak, inefficacious, etc. to bring about what he wants by his own power alone


2. that cooperation overwhelmingly isn't happening due to mass unbelief, apostasy, and so on

then I don't see how one can have much faith at all in God's ultimate triumph over evil. What is the basis for it?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jm - Don't worry about me. If you want to know why I am hope-full - read the blog.