A freely choosing God? (was: Faith, Evolution, and Tax Dollars?)

From: Thomas Pearson <pearson@panam.edu>
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 13:50:50 EDT

On Tuesday, April 6, 2004, George Murphy wrote:

>>>It is belief
in creatio ex nihilo that makes it possible to say that God freely
chooses for there to
be an other with whom God will be in loving communion. This is why
Athanasius can say:

        "For God is good, or rather is essentially the source of
goodness: nor could
one that is good be niggardly of anything: whence, grudging existence
to none, He has
made all things out of nothing by His own Word, Jesus Christ our

I'm not sure I'm reading you correctly here, George, but isn't there an
implicit contradiction between any claim that "God freely chooses," and
the words of Athanasius? If Athanasius is right, then God is
constrained by his own nature; specifically, by the goodness of his
nature. In that sense, Athanasius is telling us what God can't do, not
what God "freely chooses" to do.

Ever since the voluntarist account of God began to emerge among figures
like Abelard at the turn of the twelfth century, it seems to me that
there has been a something profoundly incommensurate between that
voluntarist portrayal of God, and the more traditional picture of God as
defined by his attributes (including omnipotence and perfect goodness).
If God is a "free chooser" in any meaningful sense, then it's hard to
see how God can be limited by the demands of his nature, as described by
his attributes.

Perhaps this is exactly the point you were making, George; but I
couldn't quite tell.

One other, related thing. You quoted Emil Brunner as saying:

>>>"This, however, means that God does not wish to occupy the whole of
Space Himself, but that He wills to make room for other forms of
existence. In doing so He limits Himself. . ."<<<

I have never understood the concept that God "limits himself." I can
understand the concept that God may be limited by circumstances outside
of himself, or limited by his own given nature, but not that God is the
freely acting agent that limits his own agency (unless Brunner is
reiterating a dubious paradox, such as the familiar "Can God make a rock
so heavy that he cannot lift it?"). What is it in God that can produce
this "limit," and what is it that is being limited? The whole concept
seems oxymoronic to me, given orthodox Christian teaching.

George, were you offering this citation from Brunner because you agree
with his argument here? Or for some other reason?

Tom Pearson


Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas
e-mail: pearson@panam.edu
Received on Tue Apr 6 13:51:25 2004

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