An Existential God New Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion. John Davenport November 17, 2007. Two Fundamental Questions in Religion. Does God (or the divine) exist? Transcendence: Is there anything more to reality than the material world (i.e. matter-energy, space-time)?
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An Existential GodNew Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion
November 17, 2007
Transcendence: Is there anything more to reality than the material world (i.e. matter-energy, space-time)?
2. What does “God” properly mean? (what is it whose existence we are debating)?
(a) this includes the idea that the divine is the ultimate origin of all things, but the later idea of creation ex nihilo is a more radical extension of the basic cosmogenic idea;
(b) but it also includes the idea of the divine power as the ultimate owner, possessor, and thus destining power in reality: all rightful authority or sovereignty originates with the divine.
The Archaic Sacred as “Wierd” in northern European Mythology
The “Wierd” (which we find in Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon poems such as “the Wanderer,” and in norse mythology) means roughly fate or destiny.
It is the divine reality that stands behind the gods, the because the source of reality is the ultimate owner and controller of all things, which is uncontrollable by human beings: God is the unappropriable appropriator of Being itself.
It is represented by mythic symbols such as dragons, sacred trees, and three Fates (Norns) (e.g. Shakespeare’s three “weird sisters” in MacBeth).
It is the law that prevents misappropriation of divine right from prevailing.
Likewise in archaic mythology, the “profane” is the opposite of the sacred because it attempts to misappropriate divine authority by owning or dominating free beings and destroying the order set up in creation.
The archaic conception of norse mythology, and the very different “Lord of Hosts” in the Torah, both contrast with the “God of Philosophers” in Greek and Christian thought.
Perfect Being Theology in the western traditions (a brief summary)
In other words, since we start from the concept of God as perfect, this concept implies that God cannot change: any change in him would imply imperfection: “Obviously a perfect being cannot get better. Nor can he get worse since He’d be corruptible now if He could….God cannot gain a new property or perform a new action without that property or action adding to His goodness as a being or agent” (Katherine Rogers, “Anselmian Eternalism,” Faith and Philosophy 24 no. 1 (January, 2007): 2-27, p.10)
Søren Kierkegaard Martin Buber Emmanuel Levinas Mircea Eliade Danish existentialist Jewish existentialist Jewish alterity ethicist German mythographer
Charles Hartshore, Process Theologian
William Hasker, Philosopher of Religion, defender of “open theism”
From the Process Theology of Hartshorne (inspired by Whitehead) the existential model takes a basic alternative to the static conception of perfection that is the keystone of the standard Anselmian model.
The process concept of perfection fits well with the idea emphasized by the biblical traditions and religious existentialists that God is the Ultimate Person, rather than an abstract principle like Plato’s “Form of the Good” or a maximal combination of value-properties.
The Levinasian idea of Alterity and Open Theism’s emphasis on divine personhood provide a way of applying the process conception of perfection to the relation between God, created persons, and the natural world.
Finally, in his most famous book, titled Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard (though a pseudonym) argues that the distinguishing mark of religious faith is found in Abraham’s trust that God will ensure the promised ethical outcome – that Isaac live to father a great nation – despite the obstacle constituted by the demand to sacrifice him (or “by virtue of the absurd”).
The Risk-Taker version of the Free Will Defense for Moral Evil (and perhaps natural evil too)
1. Divine foreknowledge of future choices (“simple foreknowledge”) are incompatible with leeway libertarian freedom and thus with moral responsibility.
(A) Omniscient foreknowledge that I will vote for the democratic candidate in 2008 makes it temporally impossible that I will choose to vote for the republican candidate instead (this is like the necessity of the past, which not even God can change on standard western theism).
(b) Omniscient divine knowledge of what (to us) are choices still to be made in the future make these choices inevitable in a similar fashion, removing human freedom.
Results of our Analysis