God’s continual donation of being

“… God does not fabricate a self-sustaining universe, but rather brings all things into being and maintains them in existence.  When we’re awestruck by the flower’s bloom or the ant’s relentless determination or a friend’s sly smile, we’re participating in the miracle of existence, God’s continual donation of being.”

R.R. Reno, “The Public Square”, First Things, November 2013, p. 6.

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8 thoughts on “God’s continual donation of being

  1. I realize that this idea of instant-by-instant maintaining in existence seems to be entailed by classical theology, but it seems like an ‘intolerable doctrine’ (my own short hand term) when you start to recognize that this supposedly also applies to *everything* including the most horrible act that anybody has ever perpetrated upon anyone else, or the most extreme suffering any child has ever experienced. If this becomes a focus of consideration, then it becomes very difficult to regard God as loving us. My sense is that when people expound this doctrine they are trying to wow people with the amazing and awe-inspiring power of God etc. – but they aren’t really thinking about the equal application of this description to torturers and psychotic depressives.

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  2. Actually I did think of those things. In fact I considered not posting it for that reason.

    But I think Reno’s point is that when we experience good things, we can be conscious that it is God who brings them to us and makes us capable of enjoying them. Obviously we also experience bad things, but we’re already aware of the Problem of Evil and don’t ascribe evil to God directly, in the way we ascribe good to him.

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    • For me, the absolute beauty of God’s love shines through in the experience of bad things…because they may well serve to turn us back toward God. Without the existence of bad things..what need would we have of God?

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      • Yes – but why do bad things have to be *so* bad – there is no adequate and comprehensible reason why a wholly good AND omnipotent God could not have made the bad things less bad.

        (My answer is that God is wholly good but not onmipotent, and does not sustain everything all the time; and that is an idea not necessary to nor entailed by Christianity.)

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  3. I believe acts of wrongdoing and evil are evidences of God’s bestowal of moral agency or free will upon his children and that he weeps over the suffering here on earth. Thus, the devil is the author and influencer of all things bad, while God influences and inspires all things good, beautiful, and light. It’s quite incredible, actually, that in his omnipotence, God does not override personal choice, but is certainly there to help us when we choose right, forgive us when we do wrong, and heal us – either in this life or the next – when we suffer the negative consequences of others’ harmful actions. That healing will come to the earth and all living things as well.

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  4. Bruce:

    Are you saying then that if God could prevent all evil events from occurring, he would? Or are you saying, perhaps, that he would put a limit on the degree of evil permitted? That he would say in effect, “You can be evil to each other, but not THAT evil?” If the latter, how do you suppose he would enforce the limit?

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    • Not exactly either of these – more the point that all of the valuable aspects of evil could be achieved without the extremes of evil and suffering of which humans are capable. By analogy, if you want to strengthen your chiuldren you might make an adevnture playground, or send them on a tough camping trip in the rain; but you wouldn’t pit chasms and spikes in the playground to catch them if they fell; you wouldn’t set a forest fire to encircle their tents. My point is that the degree of some evils, and the possible degree of human suffering, are sometimes far too great to be explicable in terms of ‘doing us good’.

      A clear and simple explanation to this problem is that God cannot prevent all evil at all times. The reason/s for this constraint can them be explored – but I think the attempt to preserve any strong form of omnipotence in the face of the degree of sufferings tends to lead to people finding it very difficult or impossible to regard God as wholly good and loving.

      For most purposes, this is enough – but if the question is pursued and pursued, then people will regard the above explanation as simply passing the buck, pushing the explanation back one step rather than confronting the problem.

      e.g. if Satan is used as the proximate cause of many evils, which he is, then some may ask why did God make Satan and why does he permit him to do this.

      In the end, I think the enquirer is pushed to make a choice between omnipotence and love – and this choice turns out to be related to other matters such as the reality of free will.

      Either God is metaphysically conceptualized as outside of everything else, making and doing everything that is and happens; or else God is seens as inside of reality and constrained by some aspects of reality – such that there is opposition and evil because not all things are made by God; some He has to work-with.

      Neither of these positions is entirely satisfactory! But that seems to be as far as human thought can go.

      My preference is for God as wholly loving, since this seems most easily consistent with the core of Christianity; so I must accept that He is constrained.

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  5. Bruce:

    I’m leery of turning this into a debate on the problem of evil, which I’m not sure I’m equipped to engage in. But I will say that based on the scriptures, I believe God’s omnipotence is entailed by Christianity. For example he created the heavens and the earth. But even assuming for the sake of argument that this only applies to our earth and its atmosphere, and that he merely formed it rather than creating it ex nihilo — it seems to me that if he has the power to form the planet, the land and the sea, and all living creatures that dwell therein and who fly in the firmament; and if he has total awareness of what occurs on the earth, which seems to be entailed by his ability to hear the prayers of anyone at any time — given these premises it seems to me that he should have the power to stop or limit any evil thing which may be occurring on the earth at any given moment. Yet he evidently chooses not to.

    Or do you deny one or more of my premises?

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