God’s Superfluity in Creating the Universe

God’s Superfluity in Creating the Universe March 21, 2019

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I have previously formulated such logical arguments showing the inconsistency of the classic understanding of God, particularly a God who moves from an eternal (a-temporal) existence, to creating time (and space) and living within the framework of such dimensions.

This is an argument that actually has a twofold set of ramifications, one concerning desires and intentions, and the other concerning the ontology of perfection.

I will set the first out here today, as I have done before.

1) God existed as an ontologically perfect being, causally prior to creating the world.
2) There is nothing more perfect than the state of affairs in 1)
3) God intended to change the state of affairs to create the world (spacetime)
4) God, as a perfect being, cannot do anything or create anything imperfectly
5) The state of affairs with the world is ontologically less perfect than the pure perfection of the state of affairs with God

5) implies an incoherence since God, in a perfect state where nothing greater can be conceived or realised, creates the world. How and why would a perfect being want to change the state of affairs to an ontology that is less than perfect? One can only surmise from this that either God does not exist, or God is not perfect, or that the universe retains the state of ontological perfection upon creation. The last option is patently wrong, surely, since the Christian claims that humans are fallen, inescapably prone to sin. This cannot be as perfect as one can be! The Christian claim is that man is imperfect, that we are not synonymous with the perfection of God. And so surely the universe does not continue the state of perfection. The other two option pretty much invalidate notions of a theistic state of affairs.

1) and 2) seem to be pretty much taken as standard, although I will have more to say on this in my next post on perfection, since I think the whole concept is inherently flawed and incoherent.

3) seems to be the generally accepted understanding of temporal creation from an a-temporal state of affairs, as according to theists like Craig.

4) follows from 1) in being a necessary characteristic of God’s ontological status.

A Reply: Superfluity

One potential answer to this conundrum has been proposed to me by one of my friends over the years. The idea is to accept that God doesn’t have any needs or desires, any form of lacking. However, what God does have is an abundance of love; an abundance of creativity, waiting to explode out into the world. Indeed, my friend likened the creation of the universe to a divine orgasm.

This manoeuvre is an attempt to get around the idea that God would have a lack and replace that lack with something that is actually overflowing. There is something that God has too much of. In this case, it might be love or creativity, or the joy of making, building or creating.

The first thing to say is that the creation of this universe appears not to be necessary. It appears that God did not have a lack or a need to create this universe. Instead, it is almost as if it is a fanciful pastime, something to give joy to God but where God has no lack of joy. This is rather hard to reconcile with the sheer volume of pain and suffering that takes place within the world. If we are a fanciful overflowing of God’s creative juices, then the collateral damage s pretty dammed high.

If we take this idea seriously that God would have no lacks, then GodWorld, where God merely exists in a zone with no other contingent apparatus, would have no need for joy.

I suppose one thing could be said: this universe might be what leads God to have no lack of joy. This is the universe that fills the joy shaped hole in GodWorld. I’ve talked about this before in claiming that this universe, if God exists, is equally as necessary as God. If God has a nature and intentions that flow necessarily from that nature, and this universe is always going to be an intention of God, then this universe is ostensibly equally as necessary as God (see my linked article for more information on this).

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really help the superfluity argument as far as God is concerned because it appears that the universe is merely an integral part of God himself. There is no overflowing of God’s love that produces the universe; it is just the necessary balancing of the equation of needs.

Let’s see of an analogy might work here. Imagine that I have so much love for my friends, so much joie de vivre, but I want to go to the pub and see them one night. I don’t need to see them because I am not asking in social communication, joy, friendship or any other property. I’m just simply bubbling over with love from my fellow men. I go and see them and this love is imbued in the ensuing relationship and meeting with them.

However, you might notice that there is still a desire here. There is still a desire for me to want to go out and make use of this superfluous excitement or love or whatever it is that I have. Perhaps the whole nature of this problem evaporates if we concede that God can have desires, that he can have intentions that he needs fulfilling. But if we accept that complete perfection entails that God has no desires or needs or lacks that require fulfilling, then God would feel no need or desire to do anything with that superfluous energy or love or whatever it is.

I get what the theist is trying to do here, in trying to wriggle out of this problem. I am just somewhat underwhelmed by the enterprise. I cannot see that, in having too much of some positive property, God would put that to use in creating something that clearly has an awful lot of pain and suffering. Unless anyone else can help me out here, I’m not sure that this superfluity argument particularly holds.

If this universe is an orgasm of overflowing joy, then I kind of understand why Catholics have so much guilt…

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