Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

Pro Divine Voluntarianism

I’ll never understand the allergy to divine voluntarianism which most Christians suffer from.

Right from the start when I became a Christian, even from a relatively philosophically uninformed and naive point of view, divine voluntarianism is simply the most obvious theistic, nevermind Christian, truth. If there is indeed a God, then God must be the most important entity there is who surpasses and overrides every other concerns, values and entities in this world.

If the divine supremacy and sovereignty over all things does not entail divine voluntarianism, then I have no idea what it means to speak of the divine being supreme over the world and every entity in it.

It seems that many Christians treat God as a mere afterthought, a theoretical entity which ropes in after the fact to explain our prior convictions and beliefs or worldviews, etc, rather than being the first thing one discerns in order to determine the meaning of the rest. It is nothing more than a nice mental ornament which one purchases to “pretty up” one’s philosophical inventory after filling it with stuff made by pre-Christian reflection, effectively a literal “God of the gaps” to cover up the blank spaces in one’s mental house when one cant explain something with one’s present theoretical systems, or needs something to make the whole thing more beautiful or aesthetically pleasing.

As Laplace once said when asked by Napoleon why did he not mention God in his mathematical treatise on celestial motion, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.”

To be fair to the real Laplace, the popularised version of his reply is actually a distortion, the following is a more accurate account of what happened, and that Laplace was not dismissing God per se but his active intervention to maintain the celestial systems. Laplace’s mechanics “covered up the holes” as it were in Newton’s celestial mechanics and didn’t require God to step in here and there to restore order.

Here, I believe, is what truly happened. Newton, believing that the secular perturbations which he had sketched out in his theory would in the long run end up destroying the solar system, says somewhere that God was obliged to intervene from time to time to remedy the evil and somehow keep the system working properly. This, however, was a pure supposition suggested to Newton by an incomplete view of the conditions of the stability of our little world. Science was not yet advanced enough at that time to bring these conditions into full view. But Laplace, who had discovered them by a deep analysis, would have replied to the First Consul that Newton had wrongly invoked the intervention of God to adjust from time to time the machine of the world (la machine du monde) and that he, Laplace, had no need of such an assumption. It was not God, therefore, that Laplace treated as a hypothesis, but his intervention in a certain place.

This of course seems to me to be essentially right,  if there is to be a true Creator-creature distinction, the Creator cannot be constantly roped in to “maintain” the system, it must possess its own integrity and meaning which doesn’t require the God hypothesis to keep explaining the currently unexplainable.

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This entry was posted on September 12, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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