…it is impossible not to notice how close the concept of the UR at which we have arrived stands to what the theistic traditions have meant by the notion of God. Theists conceive ultimate reality as an infinite personal reality, a reality that has no intrinsic need of the others whom it freely and lovingly creates. We seem then to have arrived at, or close to, a theistic view of UR. Indeed, this theism or almost-theism might also be said to have a “christological tinge,” insofar as it conceives the UR as intrinsically involving the compassionate and self-giving relation to others that is associated in Christian thought, with the character and actions of a particular human being. – Clayton and Knapp pg. 42
This is where Clayton and Knapp have landed after their first two chapters. It could be said that these two chapters serve as a response to the first of five reasons for doubt that the authors raised at the beginning of their book, namely science. Indeed, the author’s arrival at a view of the ultimate reality as a mindlike, personal and benevolent (non)being has come by means of a scientific, or more specifically, a cosmological examination of the universe we find ourselves in.
What about the problem of evil? Does the reality of suffering in the world serve as a barrier to theism? How do Clayton and Knapp deal with this problem?
To answer this question the authors lay out an argument for divine action that is essential to the rest of their argument throughout the remainder of the book. Essentially, it could be summarized as follows: The purpose (or at least one of the purposes) God created our universe was to bring about the existence of finite rational agents capable of entering into communion with God’s self. It would seem that God has achieved that purpose by creating a universe in which events are consistently governed by the laws of nature. It is hard to imagine how beings with rational agency could evolve in a world without such regularities and laws or, in other words, in a world in which God could intervene and break the laws of nature whenever God pleases.
Let us assume for a second that God can and does break the laws of nature in order to bring about the greater good. For example, let us say that God intervened in order to stop the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 from ever happening. It must be asked: if God has this type of power why does he not use it more often? Indeed, it would seem that such an action would then require God to act in order to alleviate suffering in any and all instances. Of course, if God did indeed intervene in all instances then we are faced with our first problem once more: a universe without the regularities of natural laws cannot yield rationally autonomous creatures like ourselves.
To summarize: God cannot act in such a way as to break the laws of nature. If he did it once he would be obligated to do it every time and if he did it every time then we would be left with a lawless universe unable to allow for the evolution of rationally autonomous creatures.
If not in this way then how does God act? This will be the topic of my next post.