Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion
Edited By Sebastian Kolodziejczyk and Janusz Salamon
Do the Results of Divine Actions Have Preceding Causes?
Daniel von Wachter
I. The divine willing view
Assume that the universe had a beginning and that that beginning was caused by God. Was there then an event that caused the beginning of the universe? More generally, if God causes an event E in the universe beginning at t, is there then an event C beginning before t which causes E? The usual answer is yes, I shall argue that the true answer is no. God can bring about events in the universe in a certain sense ‘directly’ so that they have no preceding cause.
The usual view we find, for example, in Hofmann and Rosenkrantz’s book Divine Attributes (2002):
Necessarily, if an agent, A, intentionally [...] brings about an event [...], then A performs such an action either by deciding (or choosing) to do so or by endeavoring (or willing) to do so. Thus, if God exists, then he performs actions [...] via his decisions or endeavorings. (Hoffman and Rosenkrantz 2002: 103)
The authors proceed to argue that to endeavour something is to engage in a ‘volitional activity’, and ‘a volitional activity of God would be an intrinsic change in him’ (pp. 103 f). Only things in time can change, therefore God is in time.
Richard Swinburne gives a similar argument for God being in time: God’s ‘acting must be prior to the effects that his action causes’ (Swinburne 1993: 216), because causes are earlier than their effects....
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