The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Bite-Sized Metaphysics (Series 302)

[This is the start of Section Three, Creation and the Second Person. An index with links to all parts of the work as they are posted can be found [url=]here.]

[This series begins Chapter 23, “The Unity”.]

[Entry 1]

Recently I have been talking about what it means for foundational reality to be self-existent. And for various reasons, I have concluded I ought to believe that the foundational reality, the one Independent Fact of all existence, must not only be privatively self-existent, but positively self-sustaining–especially if (as I have also concluded) I ought to believe the IF is rationally active.

If, therefore, God (the rationally active Independent Fact) is self-sustaining, then I conclude that the most fundamentally basic action of God is His own ‘upkeep’, so to speak. Without this action, no other actions of God would be possible. Because this action remains eternally successful, all other actions of God are possible. If God acts in any other fashions than this, then He can act in those fashions only because He continually acts in this fashion.

‘To actively cause to be’ is ‘to create’. God is His own Creator, as well as ours and everything else’s.

[Entry 2]

But many languages (including my own) have a distinctive word for a certain type of creation–the type wherein the creator creates (or the producer produces) something of its own kind.

In English, we call this special variation of creation ‘begetting’. A man begets men; but he creates a chair. We say he creates a statue, even though the statue is in many ways like a man, because the statue is nevertheless not the same kind of thing the man is.

When God creates Himself from all eternity, what He creates obviously is ‘the same kind of thing’ God is, in the deepest possible sense of the phrase: for what the self-existent God eternally creates, or generates, at the most primary possible level, is Himself God.

I may therefore metaphorically (though usefully) distinguish this special action from other actions He may take, and say thus: God begets Himself, and He creates everything else.

Putting it another way around, God is not ‘created’, but is self-begotten; whatever is ‘created’, is not-God (if anything not-God exists at all). This is how I will typically limit my use of ‘creation’ and its cognates, hereafter.

[Entry 3; finale for this series]

Now notice a unique feature of the Self-Existent: we have in plain view before us a conceptual action line, with a cause and a result on either ‘side’, although the cause and result are effectively the same at this (necessarily) irreducible level. If we wish to recognize the two sides of this action line, we may cogently do so by saying that in this way God is the Self-Begettor; and in that way God is the Self-Begotten.

And because I should not forget that God (as an active sentience) is a Person, I should simultaneously affirm that a Person is the Begettor and a Person is the Begotten.

I may therefore metaphorically (but usefully and adequately) describe God as both Father and Son.

Now let me see to what extent such a characteristic of Him is necessary, and to what limits I can develop this doctrine, along lines I have already established.

Next up: the interpersonal Unity of God]

And could it thus be, that the act of begetting, which denotes movement and change is what causes time to be, as time, according to some, exists only in correlation to change. Thus the begotten, Son, is the creator, and all that exists in time, materially and otherwise, is the consequence of the begotten. The begettor is like the hidden part of the iceberg, out of time, or with a different relation to time, but connected to time through the begotten, the visible part. Could this be why Jesus said “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only”? Jesus, therefore, of the same essence as the father but in a different relation to time?

Would that, however, put the begotten eternally in time, and as such also give him a three-dimensional aspect to it, an actual body, which would explain the various theophanies as physical representations of God in the OT? Was it the eternal embodiment of God in the Son that they were seeing? Dan 3:25

As for that supposition you hinted at (if anything not-God exists at all), it is very interesting because in effect the Son is the one through whom all things were made and trough whom all things subsist, and Paul said “there is nothing unclean of itself” and “all things are pure unto the pure”, so that sin and uncleanness are a human perception due to his disfunctionality without God. My only problem is that if I take this too far, along with it come strange implications common to some eastern philosophies.

Forgive me for butting in. I really don’t have the wherewithal to sustain a discourse with you on this. I lack the proper terminology on one side, and the grey matter on the other, but I was tempted by your daring theory.

Yes, I think I saw you discussing elsewhere the notion of time and the Incarnation. :slight_smile:

I’m definitely one of the people who believe God exists transcendently independent to any natural time; although my belief in positive aseity (the actively ongoing self-begetting of God as the ground of all reality) does lend itself to the notion that God generates His own eternal time, for want of a better word. (I know there are some conceptual problems with that, too, so I don’t insist on it, but I do acknowledge that it may be a proper paradox appropriate to the characteristics of the Independent Fact grounding all reality. For more preliminary discussion on the IF in my book, look for relevant chapters back in Section One.)

The transcendence of God, combined with the Incarnation (which I’m not talking about yet in Section Three/Series 300, by the way), would also lend itself to the notion of the visible YHWH (the action of God, the second Person of God) not only being able to manifest prior to the Incarnation, but manifesting in the Incarnate Person of Christ (since from God’s eternal perspective this has ‘already happened’). I am not yet sure that this would necessarily be the case–obviously, if God manifests as the cloud of glory, or as a pillar of smoke and fire, He isn’t manifesting as the Incarnation, so He doesn’t have to manifest as the Incarnation. (This depends on concluding from exegesis that YHWH Most High is somehow directly manifesting in such incidents, of course, which is far beyond the scope of Sword to the Heart to establish, although I occasionally mention it as a theoretical example.) Does that mean He doesn’t have to operate Incarnately (after the fact from God’s perspective, but before the fact from our perspective within natural history) if He operates in some nominally or ostensibly ‘human’ way?–eating a meal with Abraham for example? Even theologians who acknowledge that the Incarnate Christ could possibly do so (and theologians have occasionally held this throughout Christian history), are split on whether He must do so. Maybe it would be more proper for God to merely manifest, not operate Incarnately, before the Incarnation (temporally speaking). I can see, or at least intuit, there is a respectable argument along that line. But I can also see, or at least intuit, a respectable argument along the line that, since God does Incarnate and brings up the Incarnation into the eternal reality of the Deity (a position that orthodox trinitarianism ultimately insisted upon, and which I agree with), the 2nd Person must in representing the truth of God operate as the Incarnation for any situations where He objectively manifests as human. Those would be instance of God pre-operating post-Incarnation, so to speak, not pre-Incarnating. (God doesn’t go through a virgin birth and growth to manhood every time, or any time, that He appears to someone in the OT, no moreso than He does whenever He appears or will appear after His Resurrection.)

I think I agree with that, yes. I’m not quite yet at the actual event of creation in my account, because at the chapter you’re reading I haven’t yet formally concluded whether I should accept supernaturalistic or naturalistic theism to be true (the latter being pantheism of some sort). But when I do come to conclude in favor of supernaturalism later in this same Section/Series (it’s a “Section” in the book of course–and for your convenience I recommend you download the full pdf, which should be available at the index page for this Series), I conclude that the creation of not-God systems (and then entities within that system) depends on the Son sacrificing Himself in a distinctly different way congruent with His eternal self-sacrifice in surrendering to the Father: and this sacrifice would create temporal sequentiality and processes.

Consequently, yes, the Son (and the whole Trinity through the Son, but the Son especially and particularly) is intimately connected as the Son to every point of natural space/time. This is another way of stating the orthodox doctrine of God’s omnipresence and immanence as well as God’s full transcendence–over against pantheism on one hand, and nominal deism on the other which in affirming supernaturalism separates God from immanence even when acknowledging omnipresence or at least omniscience. In orthodox trinitarianism God’s omnipresence and omniscience amount to basically the same thing: God might still be omniscient even if God was not omnipresent, and so to that extent might also be said to be omnipresent in a way, but God would not be omnipresent in the intimate union with not-God nature that orthodox theology implies.

If this all sounds like it fits extremely well with the Incarnation, even though I’m not even talking about the Incarnation yet (and won’t until Section Five): there’s a reason for that. :mrgreen:

(I’m following the lead of my teacher Lewis in working out these concepts, who in turn was summarizing a large number of Christian theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, on the topic. Much of what I argue in this Section is an expansion on his chapter “The Great Miracle” from Miracles: A Preliminary Study. In that and his subsequent chapters Lewis is not only borrowing heavily from prior Christian theologians and mystics, but is directly borrowing and re-presenting material from George MacDonald’s The Miracles of Our Lord. I am very much in a MacDonald/Lewis school of theology here. :smiley:)

But I’m not trying to argue these things so that I can arrive at the Incarnation. That would invalidate the purpose of the book, which was to self-critically evaluate how much I can reasonably believe of Christian theology in a fashion that people who do not accept the authoritative testimony of the scriptures could also in principle accept. (And I had a very beloved person of that sort specifically in mind when I first wrote this, although I did not consciously know at the time how much I loved her. :slight_smile: That took most of another two years after writing this.)

I thought I should break out some topics post by post instead of glomping them all at once. :ugeek: :mrgreen:

I would say no, not in regard to the 2nd Person eternally. The Incarnation is a special-case situation with its own special limitations and characteristics. There would definitely be an divine irony of humility here, in that the Person most directly ‘connected’ (so to speak) to Creation and God’s omniscient omnipresence in relation to all time and space, doesn’t at this point in time and in this ‘condition’ (strictly speaking, having voluntarily poured Himself out for purposes of Incarnation) ‘know’ precisely when something is going to happen in space/time. When the Incarnate Son’s condition changes (during the Resurrection and Ascension) full omniscience would be granted to the human expression and operation of the Son.

But: even in the Incarnation full omniscience could be granted to the humanity of the Son by virtue of the full deity of the Son. We see that being talked about in the Gospels occasionally, too.

The connecting point, is that the Son, whether Incarnate or not, receives everything from the Father, and doesn’t seek anything more than what the Father gives Him. This is also talked about in the scriptures; and I make much the same point here eventually in Section Three (talking about the Son in His primary reality as the 2nd Person of God) as well as more explicitly later in Section Five (which is about the Incarnation). George MacDonald also makes exactly this point in his Unspoken Sermons when talking about the meaning of the Temptation in the wilderness: the Son must not try to do things, even what would normally be good things, apart from the Father.

If the Father grants that the Son Incarnate should know something (beyond what is humanly possible, although even that capability is also a gift from God to any of us!), then the Son knows it. Which is exactly the same principle as the Son’s relationship to the Father at the level of God’s own self-existence. If the Father chooses not to reveal something to the Incarnate Son, then He must either draw inferences or make educated guesses or be agnostic about the matter, just like anyone else, until whenever the Father reveals it to Him.

I wasn’t really intending to hint at anything; I was only trying to be rigorous about not having arrived at a decision between supernaturalism or naturalism yet in the progression of the argument so far, and I didn’t want to beg the question in favor of supernaturalism before concluding in favor of supernaturalism.

Since naturalistic theism would be pantheism, then naturally(!) the implications of naturalistic theism would be more like eastern philosophies of pantheism. But I conclude in favor of supernaturalism instead later in the Section.

It is in fact Lewis who first got me thinking on the relation of God and time. I was intrigued by his explanations, which I found clearer and more forward thinking than any I had read before, though they also gave rise to more questions. In any case I got more that I was bargaining for and for this I do thank you. Sorry I did not realise in advance the full contest of your writing, which I chanced upon by a search. I will go back to it and look into the correlated material. For now you have given me some useful answers and some other things that I will need to process gradually. Thanks again.

Yes, you’re somewhere literally in the middle of an 870 page book there! (Plus another 25ish pages, if you include the Kodachi as a more informal restatement of the argument of Section Two–which I totally included when posting the book to this forum. :mrgreen: )

Section Three (aka Series 300) isn’t a bad place to jump on, though, since most people are willing to at least provisionally grant that some kind of theism is true (which is the whole point to Section Two/Series 200). And unless someone is really hardcore about metaphysics, Section One could be skipped, too, even though there are a ton of important topics in there. (It’s the second longest section of chapters in the book.) I frequently recap and summarize previously established points in order to explain why they affect the current discussion.

So if you wanted to find an efficient place to jump in and skip as much as possible (somewhere between 408 and 430 pages depending on whether the Kodachi is included), Chapter 22 (the first of Section Three) would be my recommendation. That’s where I start building up to orthodox trinitarian theism in distinction from every other category of theism on the metaphysical market.

(The fastest way to download the whole book for free is to click on the Sword to the Heart hyperlink in my signature down there. It’ll take you to a page on the forum that features the whole book as an attachment. Then just search for chapter 22. :ugeek: )

Thanks, got it! Seem like I’ll be quite busy reading for a while. I’ll start from chapter 22, as you suggested. I have another question, however. I’ve noticed that in the universalistic camp there are slightly different approaches to the soteriological question. I just finished reading the book you recommended earlier “Beyond Hell”. It was fantastic… the best I read so far. It not only harmonised scripture more extensively than anything I had read so far but it really moved me. I really felt not only emotionally and intellectually stimulated by it, but as if God was speaking to my heart and saying “this is me”. Anyway, I noticed that there was a sort of “salvation” prayer there, if you may call it so, and that it did give a rather different soteriological understanding than Talbott, Purcell or Young. In which chapter, or other entry, can I find the essence of your soterioolgy? I know Universalism does deal vastly about the subject of salavtion for all, But I’d be inetrested to hear how you view more specifically the question of atonement and how humans get to partake of it, how it works, in which order and so forth.Thanks again.

Right. (Um… I don’t think I was the one to recommend Hope Beyond Hell to you, as I still haven’t read it myself. But if it was helpful to you, great. :smiley: )

Section Four (the longest set of chapters in the book) is about ethics (and about the Holy Spirit). The first several chapters (31 to 36) are an extended digression about the three basic kinds of ethical theories and why each of them have serious problems. Chapter 37, “Returning To The God Of Justice”, synchs back up with where I had developed the argument at the end of Section Three.

So one place to begin would be there, as that’s where I finally solidly connect morality not only to theism but to binitarian theism; but the topics lead to another couple of chapters establishing and discussing the Third Person of God, before I’m finally ready to talk about sin starting in chapter 40 (page 638 in your edition, “An Introduction To The Concept Of Sin”.)

I spend some chapters talking about contradiction and ethical failure; the choice of the Good and other choices; the waging and the wages of sin; a digression on the argument from evil in light of the developing argument; sin and death; the death of sin and other deaths; the highest death (that of the Son in self-sacrifice) compared to sin; the fall of me and the fall of Man; and what results we could expect as a result of the original sinners.

I think it’s late in chapter 45 when I start talking about atonement per se. There are just a bunch of other things that have to be established first, in order to provide a context for talking about atonement with God! And even then I spend a couple more chapters talking about the children of the first sinners, and the sinners before the first human sinners!–but I’m doing so in context of a preparatory notion of the need for atonement.

And that forms the context for the first chapters of Section Five, which is about inferring (in light of the preceding argument) what we can and should reasonably expect, within a variational range, for atonement. (Chapter 48 recaps what has been arrived at so far, and sets up the discussion for this final section; Chapter 49 is “The Genesis of Atonement”, which begins incorporating what has been discussed so far about the need for atonement into an expectation of what God would do about it. That’s page 783 of your copy.)

I’m mentioning all this because it’s quite arguable about where you should start! No later than chapter 49, but several places back to chapter 37 might be appropriate.

I will say that Section Five, especially starting in chapter 49, is where I start being more poetic in my presentation and less dryly analytical. :slight_smile: So in your case, I guess I would recommend starting there and going forward: I still try hard to be rigorously consistent to the principles and conclusions I have already developed, even though I’m being more dramatic about it. As Dorothy Sayers said, though, the theology is the drama!

I make a rather shocking-sounding claim about propitiation in the current 3rd draft of that chapter, btw, which I have just noted I didn’t footnote in the text, but which I talked about in a footnote comment at the Cadre. Opps!! :laughing:

For my rather dry but technically intensive look at the terms “propitiation” and “atonement/reconciliation” in the NT, you can go here on the forum for a thread on analyzing the instances of “propitiation” (which is rather more difficult grammatically). There’s a link at the top of that thread for my sister thread on analyzing the instances of “atonement” in the NT.