May 18, 2023
“Things happen. To the extent that they reflect the Divine Values, God redeems them, and to the extent that an event is redeemed, it 'is' God’s will.”
We talk a lot about the ‘Will of God;’ we say things like, “God willing, if God wills it, by the will of God, I come to do your will, not my will but Thine, it is the will of God.” We approach the subject of God’s will as a new employee might react to an employer’s directives, or as a child might respond to a parent’s command.
This has precisely nothing to do with the will of God! God does not will particular events. That’s where we (creation) come in. By our actions (or lack thereof), we (i.e., ‘intentional beings’) give rise to events. The will of God has nothing to do with it. If events were determined by God’s will, then we would have no control over, and, therefore, no responsibility for our actions. The world would not be real; it would merely be a simulation in the mind of God.
The Bible is a record of God’s relationship with creation in general and with humanity in particular. If the material world is merely the equivalent of a computer simulation, then the Bible is nothing other than an ancient version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
This does not mean that God has no ‘will.’ Far from it, God is the prototype and source of all will. God’s will is the mother of all willing. Whenever we will some trickle, we tap into God’s infinite reservoir.
Every event transforms the world. In the language of Machiavelli, events are means, the world is the end. God does not know from means – again, that’s our realm. I’m headed to New York for a conference. The organizers couldn’t care less how I get there, as long as I’m where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.
Likewise, God! He is focused solely on ends, and he measures ends solely in terms of the ‘divine values’ of beauty, truth, and justice. Oh, and BTW, God does not grade on a curve!
Ultimately, God will redeem our actions, our events, our lives. Along the way, whatever injects beauty into the world, whatever fills it with truth, whatever restores the just order of things, is good, and therefore the will of God.
God’s will is eternal. There is no being without it. It is also efficient. Like a new age smelter, God extracts from events whatever is good; the rest is slag. Every real event contains at least a Spark of Good (Shekinah); therefore, every event, to the extent that it is real, is redeemed.
There are no ‘evil events’ but that does not mean that there is no ‘evil.’ The very last words of the paradigmatic Christian prayer make that abundantly clear: “Deliver us from evil!” Evil is an anti-event. It attempts to abort events in embryo and, failing that, to divert their course. It is friction; it is resistance; it is noise; it is ‘tilt;’ it is entropy!
Faith and reason tell us that God’s will will be all in all. The imperfect events of this world will be redeemed. Que sera, sera! Whatever happens, happens! And whatever happens, to the extent that it happens, will be redeemed, and whatever is redeemed, is God’s Will.
So God wills just two things: goodness and redemption. God’s will couples the Divine Values (above) with the redemption of all genuine events. Events are real to the extent that they exhibit the Divine Values, and events are redeemed to the extent that they are real.
One of the west’s last great systematic philosophers, Alfred North Whitehead, built an entire cosmology around these notions. He called the Divine Values, God’s primordial nature, and the redeemed events, God’s consequent nature: two sides, one coin!
In Whitehead-speak: the redeemed events that make up God’s consequent nature exhibit perfectly in aggregate the Divine Values that make up God’s primordial nature. Therefore, whatever happens, to the extent that it is real, is redeemed, and to the extent that it is redeemed, it is the will of God.