Rational Scientific Theories from Theism



25 Paul Davies God and the New Physics, Dent (London), 1983, p223. 
26 The capital letters are not essential - they are only used to remind the reader. 
27 David Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, part IV. His Philo, however, uses this validity to draw the opposite conclusion, as he continues ''and the sooner we arrive at that Divine Being, so much the better.'' 
28 It is this error which is schematically portrayed in Genesis 3.5ff, as a forseeable but avoidable mistake. To make this mistake is to argue from appearances, and to appropriate life and wisdom to oneself, to become 'as God'. 
29 I am not discussing here the problem of how evils arise in the first place: see note [1]. 
30 It may seem that we have the paradox of 'double agency' discussed by Jeffrey C. Eaton in ''The Problem of Miracles and the Paradox of Double Agency'' Modern Theology, 1 (1985) pp 211-222. Eaton suggests the solution is to see that ''God acts upon the world in such a way as to cause the world to make itself''. The DDI solution is more specific, explaining how God's (principal) agency acts according to our own (instrumental) 'agency', giving rise to the appearance of a paradoxical 'double agency' only if principal and instrumental causations are conflated. 
31 Item 10 above gives a more satisfactory view of (non-arbitrary) Divine Omnipotence. Further discussion, however, will be continued elsewhere. 
33 See A.J. Freddoso ''Medieval Aristotelianism and the Case Against Secondary Causation in Nature'', pp. 74 - 118 in T.V. Morris (ed.) Divine and Human Action, Cornell U.P., 1988. For more discussion see notes 4 & 12 in van Inwagen (ref. [8]). 

Theology: The Divine and Creation

This web page and the previous one clarify the previously given article 
The Consistency Of Physical Law With Divine Immanence
in the light of the principles of Theistic Science.
Changed sentences are in red.

Here is  an outline of the theistic theological case and the arguments for its support. As the case begins by an identification of God as Life Itself, a few words about what I mean by 'life' are in order. We postulate that  'life' is essentially dynamic, akin to a set of causal and dynamic powers, rather than a static entity. This means that 'life' is also in the dispositional category, although it is clearly not a simple example of this category[24].

Note that according to our postulates, God's Life is not just Divine Omnipotence, but is something like Love and Wisdom Themselves, from which Omnipotence can be derived. Thus, analogously to the way the theistic thesis has particular dispositions derived from Divine Omnipotence according to actual circumstances, it could be that Omnipotence is derived from the essential Love and Wisdom according to the 'spiritual circumstances'. This possibility enables the meaning of 'derived disposition' to be extended, and allows natural dispositions (and 'natural life', as sets of dispositions) to be as a whole derivable from the Divine Life Itself. The terms 'life' and 'life itself' are used here as nouns, but again they should be regarded as dispositional words referring to intrinsic capacities to love, understand and act etc. 

It is important here to remember also the distinction between 'component' and 'derived' dispositions as presented previously here and here. I am not considering the thesis that the Divine Life is composed or consists of natural dispositions, only that, since the Divine may have to use such dispositions in certain circumstances, God should be able to generate these 'derived dispositions' where appropriate. 

Summary of the Argument

The assumptions in this argument derive from the postulates of theism.
God is Life Itself. He thus lives from himself (in the sense of not living as a consequence of anything else). 
God cannot make created things have life in themselves, as then they would not be distinct from Him. For suppose 
God did create something that lived from itself. Then 
That thing would have as one of its attributes life itself. So 
That thing would have as one if its attributes God. Thus 
That thing would not be distinct from God.
There are beings (e.g. human beings) distinct from God, yet with the appearance of life. 
God can 'provide' our life, which is our set of dispositions to act, think, and will. 
All our life is provided by God, and there is no life apart from God. If we take the principle that 'one is at least where one acts', God would be immanent in His creation. Being eternal Life Itself, He is also transcendent of His creation. 
God does provide our life 'in accord with what is actual about ourselves', 
by the DDI thesis

"The dispositions of an object are those derivatives of Divine Power that accord with what is actual about that object"
Once our life is provided, we have to choose which dispositions to realise (using our understanding of consequences, purposes etc). This is a freedom (given also by God): to act for good or for bad purposes. The result of exercising that freedom is something actual about us, and makes us (by the DDI thesis) into what we are. 
The distinction between the transcendent God and the finite creation depends on the distinction between the actual forms of created things and their received life. Thus we have neither pantheism nor deism, but what is I hope a thorough-going theism: 'God in everything'. 
Life with God may be Infinite Love and Wisdom, but with progressively simpler actualities, simpler and more rudimentary dispositional derivatives of this Life can be operative. The dispositions of physical objects are thus simple, as their actual forms are simple. 
God is omnipotent in the sense that He is able to do all things from Himself, and the power of all others is derived from Him. This omnipotence is more specific than the power do to anything logically possible. Rather, since he is the source of all rules how powers operate, he always works within his own rules, according to His own Nature. 
To describe God as Life Itself is to give one of His lesser known perfections, but it is a perfection because, as we know in theistic science, with God this Life consists of Love and Wisdom Themselves. Note that we are not identifying God as the sum of all finite lives, as some kind of 'world soul', or as the 'supreme holistic concept'[25], but as the source of all life (love and wisdom) in the world. There might not have been a world, but God would not necessarily be different in that case. That God is Life Itself is consonant with the Christian belief ''All that came to be was alive with his life'' (John 1.2f), as in John 14.6. It is also presupposed by John 5.26 (''For as the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself''). 

The next step is to see that such a God is logically unable to make distinct beings have life in themselves. For if there were any life itself in created things, this would be Life Itself[26] and hence continuous with God, and that which is continuous with God is God. This is a logical consequence of God being all Life Itself, and thus cannot be regarded as a limitation of Divine Omnipotence. 

Of course, this does not mean that it is a priori inconceivable to talk of natural things having life itself as one of their properties, and thus acting from themselves. It is only that if there is a God who is life itself, then anything distinct from him does not in fact have such a life. The validity of this inference was seen by Hume[27]: ''By supposing it [the present material world] to contain the principle of its order within itself, we really assert it to be God''. 

God's provision of our life is logically possible, and thus could be within the range of His omnipotence. The logical consequence of God being life itself is thus that all our life must be provided by him, and that there is no life, of any kind, apart from him (cf. Christian belief in John 15.5 ''Without me you can do nothing'', and John 3.27 ''A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven''). Note that this means it is an error to think we live entirely from ourselves, from our own life, though perhaps an error easy[28] to make as it certainly appears 'as if' that were the case. 

The thesis of Divine Dispositional Immanence is that God does provide life, and that the variability of the reception is according to some actual feature of the recipient. This process is implied by the theological doctrine of life according to works (Matthew 16.27: ''He shall reward every man according to his works'', and in many other places). The 'reward' here is be 'life from God', and this follows the pattern of the DDI thesis, as this 'life' is provided 'according to what one actually does'. In fact, it is amusing to note that this is more in agreement with the quantum mechanical version of the DDI thesis, than with the Newtonian version. For in quantum theory too, the dispositional state (the wave function) is given according to past events: the 'life' of a quantum object is 'rewarded' according to its 'works', not according to its spatial shape. Note that in this overall theory, the 'according to' relation is used in (at least) two stages: dispositional 'life' is first provided according to spatial form and/or past events, then these dispositions act according to circumstances to produce new actual events. It is these definite historical events which are the final effects, and are what is terminal and permanent with respect to Divine Power. 

The Problem of Evil

Perhaps the main theological objection to the present theistic postulates (indeed to any theistic account) would be that it seems to involve God in some way in all physical processes, including those that might be random, destructive, or even evil. This is a problem if we believe that God is wholly benevolent. 

As a preliminary step, I use the 'free will' defence: even with the DDI thesis, God is not 'acting through' the world, but gives all natural beings (whatever their kind) freedom and life to act as they wish[22]. As Christian belief has in Matthew 5.45, ''he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust''. Of course, this does not mean that 'the just and the unjust' are treated identically and have the same sets of dispositions and intentions. Rather, as they will perform different acts and have different actual forms, by the DDI principle they will have different dispositions, and then lead the different lives of their choice. Just because He sustains the consequences of many actions does not mean that He wants them to happen that way, only that He seems to prefer continued existence of people concerned, rather than their non-existence. 

We may also ask how certain beings have dispositions which tend to act contrary to the Divine intentions, given that all dispositions derive from the Divine, and given that there are no evil or contrary intentions in the Divine Life. We certainly agree that a benevolent God would permit certain contrary intentions, but wonder how these could ever persist in a universe governed by the DDI principle[29]. One may wonder for example how selfish dispositions could be sustained, when there is no selfishness in God. I believe that the answer lies in seeing that certain dispositions, to look after oneself for example, have a good use in certain contexts, and may well be derivable from the Divine Life at certain stages. They only perform good uses, however, when they are coordinated and governed by prior derivative dispositions, such as intentions to be useful to others. This is the way they may be linked in the Divine Life, but it is possible that some persons may be such that they can only 'receive' the dispositions to look after oneself, and not the prior dispositions that are supposed to govern them. If these persons are still to live, then they can only be alive with a restricted fragment of the Divine Life, a fragment that in this case will act with regard to one person only. This fragment by itself, and derivatives from it in its 'uncoordinated' state, may well be disposed contrary to the original Divine intentions. These subsequent contrary derivatives are only indirectly generated from the Divine Life, via the continued existence of the persons concerned. The Divine benevolence is maintained, provided we do not forget that these contrary dispositions are derived via the (good) disposition to give (some kind of) life to all persons, and that they are not a permanent component of the original Divine. 

Does not God only provide spiritual life?

Another objection to the theistic thesis might be that we would expect the life provided by God to be only 'spiritual' and/or 'rational', and that these are completely different from the natural dispositions under discussion here, which have physical consequences. The reply is that God does provide these kinds of life too, but, by the DDI thesis nevertheless, since there are corresponding spiritual or rational 'actualities' for their reception. Discussion of these distinct actual forms - how humans have 'souls' and 'intellects' - is started in the web page on discrete degrees. In any case, since God is 'God of heaven and earth', we know that extremely simple derivatives of His power are the physical dispositions: ''All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth'' (Matthew 28.18). 

Theism and Pantheism

A third objection might be that nature can now no longer be properly distinguished from God, and thus it is too easy to say '' ... really, nature is God.'' Against this, we have all the distinctions between Source and receptacle, between Life and act, between cause and effect, and between principal cause and instrumental 'cause'[30]. As discussed in previously, there is no identity between the categories of dispositions and of events, even though dispositions are within and give rise to all events. Nature itself must be taken to be the collection of finite actualities in the world, and it is only by the theistic thesis that this nature is that which has its source of change within itself. As long as we distinguish these sets of events from their received dispositions 'within', then there is no difficulty. Problems only arise when dispositions themselves are regarded not only 'as if' natural, but also essentially natural. As remarked above, this is a mistake easily made, for, given the theistic thesis, a great deal of what is called natural is in fact continually derivative from God. 

Kinds of Omnipotence

It may seem that the strict application of the theistic postulates is a restriction on Divine omnipotence and freedom. Why should God not have the power to do whatever is conceivable?[31] Why should He not do what He likes with His creation, giving as much life as He pleases to any or all beings, irrespective of their actual form, spatial shape, or past deeds? Apart from the question of whether it is 'fair' to treat different beings in such a erratic manner, to raise this objection is to ask the long-standing question of what it is (if anything) that humans in their present condition can do to receive God's 'reward'. For if there is nothing they can do, then any reward or reception must in the end be arbitrary. I think it might be generally agreed that faith without works is dead, and this dependence on works could be in accordance with the DDI thesis as suggested above, with 'what is actual' being the historical events actually performed by a being.

It is necessary here to distinguish between acts as agents and as patients, where acts of agency are those performed from the agents own loves. This distinction relies on distinct spiritual and rational degrees to render such loves actual and permanent as distinct from the physical events themselves, as discussed above. 

Concurrentism and Occasionalism

There have been long debates[33] concerning the relation of Divine and natural causations. Aquinas has followed Aristotle in asserting that physical objects have their own powers, and that God, in his sustaining of the world, cooperates with these powers. al-Ghazali and later Malebranche, however, held that all natural powers are really God acting, so that He is the only cause of natural processes. Previous natural events are only the occasion for God acting, hence the name occasionalism. 

The present theistic thesis lies part way between these two views. According to it, the natural powers of an object do arise on the occasion of its past events. But then these are the powers of the object, which function in an Aristotelean fashion as the nature of that object, and which science can investigate. By having in this manner two (or more) stages between the Divine source and actual events, a initial occasionalism can give rise to physical objects having real natures which can act as true causes. 

www.TheisticScience.org Author: Ian J. Thompson, Email: IanT at TheisticScience.org