Wednesday, July 26, 2006

God's will Part 2 - Constant and unchanging

In my God’s will part 1 post I left it that it is acceptable for God to have willed things into existence without implying imperfection. As we have discussed many times, when talking about metaphysical issues, all we need to do is show that a theory is possible. As the theory deals with issues that cannot be proven empirically, as long as it does not clash with science or logic, we are satisfied that it can be accepted. Rambam has shown that God having will is logically acceptable. We can therefore ontologically say that God willed everything. When we observe natural phenomena, analyze them and try to understand what caused them originally, we ascribe them to God’s will rather than spontaneity.

By attributing will to God we are essentially saying that God caused the Big Bang rather than it having come about spontaneously. It is a choice that we, as religious people make as it is not based on empirical evidence (see also my post on a related issue). It has many ramifications and consequences for the way we act and also how we react to events.

That being the case we need to define what we mean when we say that God has will. We have to realize that God’s will precedes Creation. God’s will caused Creation. In other words, God’s will is not temporal. Time is defined as: A non-spatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. (American Heritage Dictionaries). Time is therefore a measure of physical and changing events. Before physical existence there are no changing events and therefore no time. God’s will having preceded physicality is therefore not time dependent. It is always there. It is a constant.

This idea is very difficult for us, humans who live in a physical world, to grasp. The idea of eternity in itself is difficult enough. It becomes more difficult when we say that to God, even after Creation, nothing changed and time is still non- existent. In other words everything that happened and will happen is now, happening at this moment from God’s perspective. We say that because God, by definition is perfect, and therefore unchanging. We can now get a glimpse of why we have to constantly invoke the idea that God is transcendent and unknowable to us, why attributes are only words we use to convey a concept and why God’s will is equivocal. (For a discussion of this idea see my posts: and

So far we have defined God’s will as not being temporal and therefore as being constant and unchanging. Past and future are always in the present. This has tremendous impact in every area of thought. It affects how we understand providence, miracles, freedom of choice and consequently almost every area of our theology. If to God everything is happening now, He knows everything that to us is future, He knows how we will decide, and so where is our freedom of choice? Much more on all this in future posts.

It is important to keep in mind that we are only interpreting nature and events from our perspective, trying to work our way back to God. We however know that we will never learn anything about God’s essence. We can only deal with our observations and try to explain them ontologically. We do this to try to understand God’s thought and partake in His universe creatively, emulating Him.

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