[Milton-L] "Ontological superiority"
michael.bauman at hillsdale.edu
Wed Jul 19 15:56:33 EDT 2006
I wish simply to endorse the theologically incisive explanation offered by Jim R. regarding God's ontological superiority and the moral implications it entails. Jim has clealry and carefully pointed out the theological and philosophical pitfalls into which some of Milton's detractors occasionally fall. Not realizing the nature and extent of their own errors, and arguing from that flawed basis, they sometimes accuse Milton of mistakes he is not actually making.
Now, back to my lurking in the list's shadows.
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of James Rovira
Sent: Wed 7/19/2006 2:25 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "Ontological superiority"
Ontological priority assumes moral priority and is its basis -- the
two can't be separated like that. If God is the source of all being
and is himself, and alone, self-existent, then God is also the source
of all value and morality, both of which are reflected in the very
structure of existence, which necessarily reflects God's own nature
(since there is no other source).
If God were a creature like other creatures, then God would be a
tyrant. Since God is creator, and since creation is every moment
dependent upon him for its continued existence, as well as for its
meaning and value, then what would be tyrannical demands from a fellow
creature are instead a reflection of the structure of existence. To
neglect God's "demands" is to alienate oneself from all other
creatures, from nature, and from oneself. The ability to become so
alienated is itself a part of creaturely perfection, in that it is a
reflection of the freedom of God.
This type of thinking underlies traditional assumptions that God is
"right" in whatever judgment he makes; failure to properly engage this
kind of thinking usually flows from the unspoken assumption that God
is a creature among other creatures. Saying that God could "change
his mind" about what is right, as if the rules were arbitrary, is also
to misunderstand God as creator -- moral laws don't change any more
than the laws of gravity, because they are built in to the structure
of existence and flow from God's very nature. Morality is neither
arbitrarily determined by God nor exists above God in judgment of him:
it is an unchanging reflection of the character of God himself, which
does not change, as it is in his character to choose not to change.
I'm laying this out not because I expect agreement, of course, but
simply to help us avoid wasting time down avenues of argument that
miss the point. Satan's deceptions in PL are actually more to the
point: did God -really- create us? Did you see that happen? The way
to undermine what I've just presented is not to point out its
tautological nature (any statements about a self-existent, uncreated
God must be tautological, as God's being and attributes are
indivisible -- God is not a predicate and has no predicates), but to
question the basic premise itself -- that a self-existent God created
everything (without exception).
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