In two previous posts “God's Omnipotence and the Rules of the Game of Existence” and “Nothing can come out of nothing - or can it?” I attempted to tackle questions on apparent contradictions of God's nature and powers. Now I shall try to elaborate on these issues, however under a different set of circumstances and with the aid of the French philosopher René Descartes.
First of all, we humans are firmly situated in both time and space and are not fully aware of the consequences of our actions at any given time. For example, we have certain wills (or desires, needs), but the results are usually separated in space and time. I will (or have a sensation) that I am hungry; depending on the level of hunger, my response can happen quickly or can be delayed, at least for a while. Nonetheless, it is absolutely necessary to satisfy this need for survival, and the outcome will have to be food at some point of time. The question is not whether or not I am going to eat, but when.
On the other hand, I may will (or have the intention) to go to Europe. In this case, there are various additional factors involved with this decision. I would have to contemplate it more precisely and look at it from different angles, and it can possibly be negated without my own survival at peril. I would need to go to a travel agent (or two), reserve the ticket, make adjustments at work and personal life, and so on. Because I cannot clearly foresee what the results of my actions are going to be, I need to carefully plan and schedule this trip.
But at anytime I might come to the conclusion that I do not want to or rather should not go to Europe and replace the initial will with a more convenient or appropriate one, going to South America instead. I might even justify this new decision of mine on rational or economic grounds. In fact, I would not regard it as a contradiction since I merely decided to change my mind about the subject.
However, when it comes to God's existence the rules and circumstances are quite different. First of all, I must agree with Boethius' conception that God exists “outside of time.” It is generally assumed that before the Big Bang, there was neither time nor space. If God were to exist in time and space like us humans, then He would not have been able to exist before the Big Bang, and as a result, not be the creator of the universe.
But there is another reason why the laws of physics would not apply to God. C. S. Lewis claims that God Himself has created those laws, but He would be bound to them equally as we are. We could, for example, not expect God to act in illogical or inconsistent ways. Even He could not act on illogical propositions, such as creating a rock that not even He himself could carry.
However, I disagree slightly with his phrasing and shall try to arrive at the same conclusion via a different path. Let us return to our initial question and relationship of will and action. As humans are limited in their perspective, they need to change their mind due to new incoming information. But should God do so, it would be a fundamental inherent contradiction to His nature and powers. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He could not simply change His mind or be surprised at the outcome of certain events. He simply would have known or foreseen it or rather nobody else could have been the Author of those particular events. For example, God not being rooted in linear time, He must have known at Genesis what would take place thereafter and even “planned” the Great Flood and the death of Jesus in advance.
When it comes to will and action, I would like to resort to one of Descartes' observations that the will and action of God are the same event and happen simultaneously. God, unlike us, does not reflect and then decide; God's idea is the action itself in the same manner that the action is already embedded in the idea.
At the beginning of the existence of the universe, God simply uttered “Let there be light.” His Word was enough for the universe to be created, and all has been set in motion thereafter. He would have created the laws of physics as both Descartes and Lewis claim. However, it would not be a limitation on God's part. He would be able to suspend the laws of physics if He wanted to.
Yet that would be in return a contradiction of His own Essence. In fact, miracles would either not exist or be premeditated, and hence already be part of His will in the first place. In such a conception of God, it would become illogical for Him to change His mind, to intervene and create a miracle because that would imply an admission of error.
As such, we can see that God would have to exist outside of time, where linear time (past, present and future) would not apply to Him. His actions (and probably to a certain degree ours) would be determined either by Him in advance, or it would be the result of complex interactions within an elaborate system of forces, yet all already foreseen by Him. Whether we have free will or not is beyond the scope here, and I reserve that idea for a future discussion.
I am aware that such concepts as explained above may be in open conflict with the notions of a Christian God. In fact, He could be seen as the prime motor of Aristotle or the perfect engineer of the scientific age. Nietzsche might also be validated with his term that “God is dead” and that He may have left us with a cold, impersonal, unfeeling universe since God's hands would be bound so-to-speak from acting within this world. Personally, I believe that it would be wise to strip away anthropomorphic descriptions of God, where He would be prey to aspects of human emotions, such as anger and pride.
If God does exist (and I am proposing here that He does) He would exist not on our terms, but on His own; our limited human perspective, endlessly bound to time and space and cause and effect, would make our own views rather blurry and undefined when it comes to questions about God's existence.