Sunday, June 03, 2012

Trinity Sunday and philosophy: God is not a solitude

The problem of the One and the Many resolved: it was a false problem from the beginning.

James Weldon Johnson's classic poem, "The Creation" (from God's Trombones, 1927) may have been clever; but it got it all wrong when it came to God:
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely -
I'll make me a world.

* * * * * * *

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I'm lonely still.

... Till he thought: I'll make me a man!
So God had to create Adam and Eve because He was lonely?? For fellowship?? Please. Poetic maybe; but bad theology. How could God be God if He needed anything?

Msgr. Robert Sokolowski does better: he speaks of the distinction between Creator and 'everything' as "the Christian distinction," different from any distinction between individual creatures:
When we turn away from the world or from the whole and turn toward God, toward the other term of the distinction that comes to light in Christian belief, we begin to appreciate the strangeness of the distinction itself. In the distinctions that occur normally within the setting of the world, each term distinguished is what it is precisely by not being that which it is distinguishable from. Its being is established partially by its otherness, and therefore its being depends on its distinction from others." (The God of Faith and Reason, p. 32)
This is elucidated by Ilse Nina Bulhof and Laurens ten Kate in Flight of the Gods: Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Theology, p. 105, n. 13, as follows:
Sokolowski shows that this is an implication of Anselm's formula which states that God is "id quo nihil maius cogitari possit" (that than which nothing greater can be thought). We could formulate this implication as follows: (God plus the world, the creatures) is not 'greater' than God alone. Or: (God plus the world, the creatures) cannot be understood as greater than God alone. The contingency and gratuity of the being of creatures cannot be formulated more sharply; of God it says that He is "nullo alio indigens" (in need of no one or nothing else) and that He must be "benevolens" (benevolent) because He created without needing to do so. (The God of Faith, 6-10, emphasis added).
שמע ישראל: ה 'אלוהינו ה' אחד: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29). "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). One God. Three Persons. Not lonely. A self-sufficient divine fellowship of Three Persons in One God. Absolutely free, overflowing in love, generosity, and grace.