Rowan on God (I think)

what I understand him to be saying is this: (I have blockquoted it, for as much clarity as possible, but the paraphrase is mine. Subsequent quotes are his.)

God is neither a fact amongst other facts, nor an explanation of any particular thing in the world as we encounter it. God is in this sense removed from the causal world entirely.

The facts of the world, taken as a whole, are unendurable (Ivan Karamazov) but the fact of the world is glorious. Somehow, by working with the glory, we can transcend, redeem the facts, even as we are part of them. This is what Christ showed. We have a purpose that is not our own and that often cuts painfully across it: the real — God’s — purpose for our lives is loving attention to the world in front of us.

The only alternative to such loving attention is the will, which leads to hell through solipsism because the distinctive quality of the will is that it uses things for its own purpose and not for theirs.

This makes a difficulty with God, of course: are we to imagine him having a will that uses us for his purposes? No, says Rowan: “Alyosha is right in refusing the idea that any particular suffering can be seen as a means to someone else’s purpose (even God’s).” On the other hand it’s not clear what’s left once we detach entirely someone’s value to God, which is their real value, from their value to themselves and other created beings. To say that God thinks a child with meningitis is infinitely valuable is very small comfort to the child, or to its parents. They would settle for its just being valuable enough for Him to save. Rowan sees this objection: “But what kind of creation is it that produces personal identities that are so valuable for their own sake or in their own right that their value is totally detached from whatever fate lies in store for them?”

I’m not sure, though, that I understand his answer, which is that “created subject mirror that gratuity of God’s own being; they exist so that God may delight in them and they in each other, although none of this is necessary for any goal.” If created beings exist “so that” God may do anything, that seems clearly to imply a goal; but if “none of this is necessary for any goal” then it can’t be necessary that they exist for Him to delight in them — oh my aching head! — start again: if God is perfection, then His delight must be the greatest delight there can possibly be; but in that case it cannot be increased by creating anything. So to that extent it is entirely unnecessary that anything should exist. At least it is unnecessary to God, which would tend to imply that it is not really necessary to us to exist since he is the only thing wholly real — a conclusion which seems to imply the necessary, eternal existence of my headache.

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3 Responses to Rowan on God (I think)

  1. Simple Country Vicar says:

    I’ll take that as a No to the next Alpha Course invitation then?

  2. acb says:

    You still haven’t translated the previous quotes into English: no Alpha for you, either. I wil try and format the stuff above more clearly.

  3. Louise says:

    Once upon a time your job would have been so much easier!

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