Google
 
Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Subjectivity of the Divine Will part 1

I have talked about the inherently subjectivity of the divine will before, but I don't think I've ever written a full account of it anywhere except in my (yet to be released) book on presuppositionalism. So I will do it here.

First, we have to define the terms "subjective" and "objective". The generally accepted metaphysical definition is that something subjective is directly dependent on a will. My appreciation for ice cream, for example, is subjective because it is a direct product of my will - but the fact that I do possess such an appreciation is objective, since it is not a product of my will but rather a measurable mental fact.

An objective fact, therefore, is not directly dependent on a will. I may will something to change, and effect such a change through natural agency, but it still exists independently from my will. I may decide to, say, repaint a wall, but the colour of the wall (whatever it is) is a fact regardless of my mind states.

Where does objectivity come from ? The fact that we can be objective stems from the existence of an objective reality that co-exists with our will. The proposition "when I throw a ball, it falls back down" is an objective truth derived from gravity, which is part of natural laws. If there were no natural laws, then we couldn't possibly be objective. I cannot create objectivity, and I cannot destroy it. This leads to what I call the Law of Conservation of Objectivity, which I describe in my book as such :

Objectivity cannot be created nor destroyed.
Furthermore, the amount of objectivity that can be generated is proportional to the amount of objectivity that exists.

The first proposition has been demonstrated insofar as objectivity cannot be created, but perhaps one could argue that a god could destroy a set of objective facts S after coming into existence (by destroying an objective universe, for instance). But gods are also said to be omniscient. If this is true, then any hypothetical god would have atemporal, objective knowledge of S (supposing S does not contain any indexicals or other tricky stuff of this sort). So even if S is destroyed, the knowledge of S in this god's mind is preserved forever. Thus objectivity is not destroyed, but only transformed.


The main point here is that objectivity is not an existent but designates ontological subsets. You can create or destroy a tree. You can't create or destroy the fact that said tree is in fact part of a dream you're having. You can only end the dream. It is quite impossible to make the tree "real". You can grow a tree but it would be a wholly different tree, with a completely different ontological status.

So now let's look at how this relates to the theistic ontology. The standard God scenario starts with an uncaused will without any material facts (remembering, of course, that God is "supernatural", whatever that means). There is, therefore, no objectivity whatsoever at this point. But if we start with no objectivity, then no objectivity can be created. As a will, whatever God does from that point can only be contained within its will.

To illustrate this, take the end point, which is the existence of this universe. As I said, from our worldview we say that natural law provides the objective basis for knowledge. But if the universe is a product of the divine will, then there is no such thing as natural law. God could make it so that 1+1=3 (or becomes so in the future), or that some things thrown in the air don't fall back down, or that the Sun does not rise (as it does in the Bible).

To quote famous theologian Cornelius Van Til (thanks to Dawson Bethrick for the quote):

God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws (...) that we need in order to make room for miracles.
The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed., p. 27


Miracles require us to deny the concept of inalienable natural law within the self-contained materialist context, therefore we should deny it, and give God the freedom to "set a new relation" between facts. Which is exactly like we've been saying all along. If God exists, then there is no knowledge possible, no confidence possible, and ultimately no meaning.

Continue to part 2.

Post a Comment


3 Comments:

At 6/22/2006 9:13 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Hello Franc,

As always, I enjoy your blog, especially when you expose the inherent absurdity of the Christian worldview.

You wrote:

"But if the universe is a product of the divine will, then there is no such thing as natural law. God could make it so that 1+1=3 (or becomes so in the future), or that some things thrown in the air don't fall back down, or that the Sun does not rise (as it does in the Bible)."

Consider what Van Til declares:

"God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relations to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws, of the temporal one and many, imbedded as it is in that idea of God in which we profess to believe, that we need in order to make room for miracles. And miracles are at the heart of the Christian position." (The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed., p. 27)

If laws are "created," then obviously they must also be "contingent." The outworn "but God's laws are based on his nature" line doesn't work, since when it comes to "God's nature," the only standard is purely acontextual and purely referenceless. But if natural laws are "contingent," then so is what theists call "absolute truth," because in the final analysis everything is determined by "God's will," which obeys no external constraints. With the Christian god, its own wanting is its only standard. In other words, pure subjectivism. Since any objects that exist are creations of the divine will, the deity's wishing essentially holds primacy over everything external to itself.

Consider how devastating the implications of all this would be for inductive thought if it were true (yes, I realize that the very concept of truth implies the falsehood of such schemes, but bear with me for argument's sake). Suppose god takes the fact that the light bulb in my lamp requires electricity to make it operate, and sets it in a new relation to the laws of electrical conductivity which said god itself created. It can do this “at any time,” says Van Til. Said god can tweak the relationship between the laws of electrical conductivity and the operating requirements of my lamp’s light bulb such that it no longer needs to be plugged into the lamp’s socket in order to emit light. God could make it so that the light bulb emits light if I stick it in a glass of water, glue it to a banjo, plant it in the daisy garden, bury it in a plate of noodles, cover it with tooth paste, sneeze on it, or anything else one can imagine. These are simply examples of “new relations to created law,” and Van Til, profound scholar that he was, tells us that “there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done.” It is this kind of plastic malleability of law and fact, such that they can be blurred beyond recognition into any new shape the ruling subject fancies, that Christians “need in order to make room for miracles,” which are “at the heart of the Christian position.”

Yep, it’s got cartoon universe written all over it.

My choice to turn on my lamp is based on the assumption that the facts and laws which govern the operation of light bulbs will not be messed with by an invisible magic being. Thus, induction assumes the non-cartoon universe of atheism. Therefore, when the Christian behaves in like manner as do I, he is essentially borrowing from my atheistic worldview in order to reach his desired ends. On the Christian worldview, it would make just as much sense to expect the light bulb to work as the result of embedding two peppercorns in an unripe cranberry as it would to turn the switch on the lamp. For unless the Christian believer is omniscient, he wouldn’t know “God’s plan,” and therefore he wouldn’t know when his god next plans to “take one fact and set it into new relations to created law.” So in response to TAG, far from having anything legitimate to offer insofar as an “account” for induction is concerned, its own worldview premises would simply render induction completely arbitrary and wholly unreliable. On Christianity’s premises, induction would have less worth than old wives’ tales and common superstition.

Regards,
Dawson

 
At 6/23/2006 11:37 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Once again Dawson you express this in far better words than I ever could. ;)

I will add that quote to my entry, because it's a great case in point.

 
At 6/23/2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Oooooh nice! I love how you explained that even if God destroyed an objective thing, he would have memory of it and it would merely change forms.

And yes, as usual, Dawson expresses this problem beautifully and clearly with his subjective cartoon universe examples, and slays it with Van Til's own statements.

Bravo!

 

Trackbacks:

Create a Link

<< Home