Only an Unchanging God Can Explain Existence

Jason Micheli —  October 3, 2014 — 4 Comments

Untitled31David Bentley Hart (heretofore: DBH) was one of my first professors of theology back when I was a college student at UVA. He was just completing his PhD whilst I had about 24 months of being a Christian under my belt.

Standing in front of a huge wave that knocks you on your ass on the beach, you get up realizing the ocean is a whole hell of a lot bigger than you thought.

That’s how I felt with DBH. He left me feeling for aches, knowing the Christian intellectual tradition is richer, deeper and broader than I could imagine.

For those of you who will feel about DBH as I did back in the day, I offer you these $$$ quotes:

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1.

“Nothing less than a strictly immutable (unchanging) God can provide the explanation of the world’s existence, and that, in consequence, the world must be, in the fullest sense, contingent and altogether unnecessary to God.

Various objections….complain that, on such a view, God could not have the intimate interest and concern with his creatures that is manifested in the Christian religion…while this would certainly be true if God was a finite being, it is not true if God is infinite. I do not believe that this is a logic that theology can intelligibly forsake.”

2.

“The first problem [in believing that God intended sin and evil in order to manifest redemption, i.e. Adam’s fault was to display the glory of the Cross] is that it reduces God to a being whose nature is not love (even if at the end of the day he turns out to be loving)…and should not evoke love in return.

If God’s identity is constituted in his triumph over evil [if God predestined that he should be the crucified God] then evil belongs eternally to God’s identity.

And his goodness is not goodness as such but a reaction…One risks here converting the Christian God into a god of sacrifice…a god forged in such fires may evoke fear and awe, but not genuine desire.”

3.

“A God who can become, who can acquire determinations, who has his future as potential and realizes his future through dramatic self-transcendence- a God who changes and suffers, that is- is not God but a god.

Christianity in this respect has always quite properly been identified as atheism.”

“God does not have to suffer or change in order to love us or show us mercy- he loved us when we were not, and by this very ‘mercy’ created us- and so, as love, he can overcome all suffering. Love is not a reaction [for God] but is the possibility of our every action. God’s love requires no pathos to evoke it, no evil to make it good [because God IS Love].”

Jason Micheli

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4 responses to Only an Unchanging God Can Explain Existence

  1. My issue with this is that it’s doctrine of God is entirely too abstract and is simply the classic natural theology (analogia entis) of Aquinas’ doctrine of God I take issue with.

    I concur with the notion that creation should be and can be only thought of as wholly unnecessary to God; after all, God’s supreme freedom should always be upheld. However, I still think Christology should be supralapsarian and that is where Aquinas’ doctrine of God begins to show its weakness. That is to say, God is the Son in the beginning and he is the Son before he is Creator; otherwise you are left with a God who is a brute creator prior to the unchangingness of the covenant of grace in the Son chosen before time in (yes) God’s supreme freedom to do so. It is not enough to simply say that God is for us; we must say that God is for us in the way God chose to be for us. A God behind the back of Jesus delimits our doctrine of God in a way I think inappropriate (and unevangelical…but I’m sure that does not hurt your feelings).

    Being Creator is new. Otherwise, it seems for me you end up with an inappropriately abstract doctrine of God behind the back of Jesus as a brute creator. If we use Aquinas’ sort of analogical reasoning, God’s people can then only relate to God’s works (per accidens) rather than his personage as the Son; which should be viewed as the lens God became Creator as a post priori.

    If my wife forgives me for some abuse I perform in my ignorance, I can certainly bare the benefits of her grace by relating externally to her works but I could not give a “doctrine of wife” if the extent of my knowledge of her is merely externally related to her good works of grace. The greater truth, as far as I see it, is that God intervenes *personally* through the Father of the Son by the Holy Spirit. As much as I favor Aquinas and his total thrashing of the Molinists, his doctrine of God is entirely too abstract for it to be truly Trinitarian.

  2. A priori*

  3. And I think DBH suffers the same fate. This is, once again, where Reformed peeps divide from the mutualism of the Arminians and Orthodox.

  4. For me, the question remains, where did evil come from and why?

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