Skip to main content

On Views About Creation and Their Implications



Although admittedly limited, my experience with friends and students suggests that the average theist doesn't really understand the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Rather, they accept the view that God created the universe from something like a reservoir of energy within him. As the chart above illustrates, this has serious implications. For if you're like them, then you are not a classical Anselmian theist. Rather, you're either a pantheist, a panentheist, or a demiurgist

Now you might be fine with accepting that, but notice that you've also given up a lot in doing so. For example, you've given up most of natural theology. For now you accept that the stuff of the universe is eternal and uncreated.[1] But perhaps the deepest problems lie ahead. For now you have a choice: you can say that (a) the materials are at least part of God, or you can say that (b) they are distinct from God. If you accept (a), then it's now hard to distinguish you from other pantheists and panentheists that are very far from classical theism. But if you accept (b), then you accept that matter is either a brute fact or a necessary being, in which case, again, kiss the cosmological argument goodbye. You can also say goodbye to the radical dependence of creation upon Creator, as well as a substantial amount of awe toward the transcendence, greatness, and otherness God. 

On the other hand, you might want to sit tight with classical theism and hold on to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Your problem now is that the plausibility of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is on an epistemic par with the hypothesis that the universe popped into existence out of nothing without any cause whatsoever

So what's a classical theist to do? Probably the most sensible thing to do, if you are inclined to accept a religious conception of the world, is to reject classical theism and accept pantheism, panentheism, or (internalist or externalist) demiurgic theism. But then, again, it'll cost you a big cut in epistemic motivation and religious significance. Tough choices all around.
----------------------------------------
[1] If you accept the view of creation under discussion but you don't think the posited reservoir of energy within God is uncreated and eternal, then you think it either arose uncaused out of nothing, or you think God created the reservoir of energy within himself ex nihilo. The former view is incompatible with classical Anselmian theism; the latter reduces to the classical Anselmian theism, which is already accounted for on the chart. Read on for a critical problem with the latter's view of creation.

Comments

MontJoie said…
I don't see why matter is a brute fact or necessary being if it's distinct from God. Can you flesh that out? It doesn't seem to be a required consequence. It's distinct from God, and came into being at a particular time.
exapologist said…
Hi MontJoie,

Yes, there is room within logical space for such a view: God could've created the reservoir of energy within himself ex nihilo. I was going to add it, but ultimately left it out, as it reduces to the other options already represented on the chart. For it just reduces to classical theism. And the problem with such a view reduces to the same problem with the version of creation ex nihilo represented on the chart, viz., that creation of a reservoir of energy within God ex nihilo is on an epistemic par with such a reservoir coming into existence uncaused out of nothing.

Best,
EA
Joe said…
RC Sproul's mentor the late John Gersner saw this very problem that you bring up and said the only logically consistent position was panentheism. If I remember correctly I believe Gersner said he noticed the problem by reading Jonathan Edwards who he claimed was also a peanentheist.
exapologist said…
Thanks for the references, Joe!

Best,
EA

Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

CfP: Inquiry: New Work on the Existence of God

NEW WORK ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
In recent years, methods and concepts in logic, metaphysics and epistemology have become more and more sophisticated. For example, much new, subtle and interesting work has been done on modality, grounding, explanation and infinity, in both logic, metaphysics as well as epistemology. The three classical arguments for the existence of God – ontological arguments, cosmological arguments and fine-tuning arguments – all turn on issues of modality, grounding, explanation and infinity. In light of recent work, these arguments can - and to some extent have - become more sophisticated as well. Inquiry hereby calls for new and original papers in the intersection of recent work in logic, metaphysics and epistemology and the three main types of arguments for the existence of God. 


The deadline is 31 January 2017. Direct queries to einar.d.bohn at uia.no.

Andrew Moon's New Paper on Recent Work in Reformed Epistemology...

...in the latest issue of Philosophy Compass. Here's the abstract:
Reformed epistemology, roughly, is the thesis that religious belief can be rational without argument. After providing some background, I present Plantinga's defense of reformed epistemology and its influence on religious debunking arguments. I then discuss three objections to Plantinga's arguments that arise from the following topics: skeptical theism, cognitive science of religion, and basicality. I then show how reformed epistemology has recently been undergirded by a number of epistemological theories, including phenomenal conservatism and virtue epistemology. I end by noting that a good objection to reformed epistemology must criticize either a substantive epistemological theory or the application of that theory to religious belief; I also show that the famous Great Pumpkin Objection is an example of the former. And if a copy should make its way to my inbox...

UPDATE: Thanks!