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10/08/2017 2:40 pm  #1


Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

1.  Creation is the act of bringing from potential to actual
2.  Potential requires an actual to exist within.
3.  God is fully actual
4.  God is the only actual being.
5.  No potential exists
6.  God cannot have brought anything from potential to actual
7.  God is not the creator

Seems like God has to either be a mixture of potential and actual, or there has to be another uncreated actual being to bear potential besides God.  Thoughts, critiques?

 

Last edited by Nowwhat? (10/08/2017 2:48 pm)

 

10/08/2017 6:23 pm  #2


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

Creation ex nihilo does not involve any prior potentials. It's not as if God is taking some actual state and actualizing its potential to exist otherwise. No, creation ex nihilo implies the bringing into being of something that did not previously exist in any respect. Change or motion is the actualization of a potential. So I think the first premise confuses change with creation. I would say more but I'm at work and I'm doing this on the sly.

 

10/08/2017 11:49 pm  #3


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

RomanJoe wrote:

Creation ex nihilo does not involve any prior potentials. It's not as if God is taking some actual state and actualizing its potential to exist otherwise. No, creation ex nihilo implies the bringing into being of something that did not previously exist in any respect. Change or motion is the actualization of a potential. So I think the first premise confuses change with creation. I would say more but I'm at work and I'm doing this on the sly.

But that which is neither actual nor potential is logically impossible (even God himself is included in the actual/potential dichotomy) and God's omnipotence does not include the logicallly impossible.  If it did, it would mean that God was a mix of rational and irrational, and God is not a mixture.

Also, if creation is not change, then God's creation did not change nothing, and nothing remains, and that's logically incompatible with the existence of anything.  So a creation that is not change is no creation at all.
 

Last edited by Nowwhat? (10/09/2017 12:42 am)

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10/09/2017 1:34 am  #4


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

Nowwhat? wrote:

But that which is neither actual nor potential is logically impossible (even God himself is included in the actual/potential dichotomy) and God's omnipotence does not include the logicallly impossible.  If it did, it would mean that God was a mix of rational and irrational, and God is not a mixture.
 

What do you mean logically impossible? Do you mean, as the first of the Thomistic theses states, being is divided by actuality and potentiality, therefore the only thing that lacks both actuality and potentiality is non-being, and God can't create something out of non-being? If so, then this is just patently false. God does not need any pre-existing subject matter to work on, to transform into what is our cosmos--rather he creates out of nothing. Now for us finite beings we can only transform, we can only take pre-existing matter and sculpt it, so to speak, into different forms (e.g. wood is cut and transformed into a house). Now for God, he can create from nothing precisely because his essence is his existence, he is pure actuality. Being existence and pure actuality itself, all he needs to do is create limiting principles (i.e. essence and potency) in order have beings that participate in existence. 

Nowwhat? wrote:

Also, if creation is not change, then God's creation did not change nothing, and nothing remains, and that's logically incompatible with the existence of anything.  So a creation that is not change is no creation at all.
 

God's eternal act of creation is not something in time. God, being pure act, is timeless and immutable. He sustains creation in being. Bringing in terms such as 'change' implies that God acts in a way akin to beings that are compounds of act and potency, which is false.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with classical theism because, and I don't mean to be rude, it seems like you're attacking caricatures and misunderstandings of God and his nature. For starters I would suggest picking up Edward Feser's book Aquinas or even his latest one Five Proofs of the Existence of God

Last edited by RomanJoe (10/09/2017 1:36 am)

 

10/09/2017 4:46 am  #5


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

Nowwhat? wrote:

1.  3.  God is fully actual

The problem with your argument lies with the ambiguity in this premise. When Thomists and Aristotelians in general claim God is pure actuality what they are actually claiming is that God has no dispositions/passive potencies which could in principle be actualised (in other words that God has all possible powers or capacities - active as opposed to passive potencies was the term Thomists used) not that all of God's powers are being actualised.

To give what I stress is an analogy:

1. A man who does not have the capacity to blow glass = a man who is potentialy, or has a dispostion to be, a glass blower

2. A man who has the power to blow glass, is actually a glass blower, but is not presently blowing glass = a man who is in active potency to glass blowing

3. A man who has the power to blow glass, is actually a glass blower, and is presently excerising that power by blowing glass = a man who is actually glass blowing

God's being pure actuality corrosponds to the second option and not the third. Your first premise then can be read it two ways

1A. The act of Creation implies the excercise of a power

1B. The act of creation implies the realisation of a disposition

1A follows from Thomism but 1B doesn't.

Nowwhat? wrote:

Also, if creation is not change, then God's creation did not change nothing, and nothing remains, and that's logically incompatible with the existence of anything.  So a creation that is not change is no creation at all.
 

Of course creation is change; it's just not change of a prior existing substance. I assume what you mean by 'God's creation did not change nothing' is that no different state-of-affairs held before and after creation. which is I agree is nonsense.

Last edited by DanielCC (10/09/2017 8:10 am)

 

10/09/2017 3:21 pm  #6


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

Nowwhat? wrote:

1.  Creation is the act of bringing from potential to actual
 

I can't speak for classical theism as a whole, but I agree with RomanJoe when it comes to the Catholic tradition: creation is not the act of bringing from potential to actual. Creation is, in a sense, not a matter of "bringing to be" at all, if that has to imply a process, a "before and after". An orthodox Catholic (also, I suspect, an orthodox Orthodox, and most Protestants) will deny your first premise as a matter of doctrine.

 

10/11/2017 1:19 am  #7


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

RomanJoe wrote:

Creation ex nihilo does not involve any prior potentials.

I agree with the OP that there is a problem. The way I would formulate the problem: Creatio ex nihilo is contradictory to ex nihilo nihil fit. You either hold to the one or to the other. I happen to hold to the other. Maybe someone here has a way to reconcile the two?

 

10/11/2017 6:26 am  #8


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

seigneur wrote:

RomanJoe wrote:

Creation ex nihilo does not involve any prior potentials.

I agree with the OP that there is a problem. The way I would formulate the problem: Creatio ex nihilo is contradictory to ex nihilo nihil fit. You either hold to the one or to the other. I happen to hold to the other. Maybe someone here has a way to reconcile the two?

Why should there be a problem? That reminds me of a weak objection village atheists sometimes give when they thinking they are trying to be clever: if everything has a material cause then the universe must have a material course.

All the theist is committed to is the weaker claim of casual principle (actually a restricted version of the PSR) that no entity comes to be without a reason for its coming to be from another entity - nothing can just come into being randomly.

 

10/11/2017 11:32 am  #9


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

I feel like there would only be a problem if one conceived of creatio ex nihilo as something coming into existence with no prior cause at all. That is, something coming into existence from nothing in the strict sense.  However, the theist uses the term creatio ex nihilo not in reference to God creating something in the finite sense of taking a pre existing subject matter and merely transforming it (changing its form), but rather in reference to God being the source of a suppositum's matter and form insofar as he ultimately sustains all beings in existence. So it's creation from nothing because there isn't *something* God uses to create beings.

 

10/11/2017 7:47 pm  #10


Re: Can the God of classical theism really be the creator?

Hello Nowwhat, interesting topic, but I think your 4. is badly formulated. Do you mean that God is the only being that is fully actual? There are many beings that are "in act" and no longer in potency with respect to some predicate. But I think you're getting at a real problem.

Daniel CC, can you expand on what you wrote in #5 and give some citations? What you wrote seems wrong about Aristotle. The Unmoved Mover of Meta. Lambda 7 is not merely actual by first actuality; it is wholly actual. Its "ousia" is "energeia" or "in energeia," depending on how one thinks the text should be printed.

And it does not ring true of what I understand of Aquinas. God is not on a level with the geometer who has mastered geometry but isn't thinking about it right now. Your glass blower analogy introduces a temporal variable that does not apply to God. To hold that God has powers that, under some circumstances, are not actualized doesn't seem congruent with the texts I've read. 

I'm wondering whether you are proposing this in order to avoid the consequence that God undergoes some change when he actualizes His power to create. 

Any citations you can provide will be much appreciated.

 

 

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