4) Immutability vs. Love:
3. An immutable being cannot be affected by events.
4. To be all-loving, it must be possible for a being to be affected by events.
5. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be all-loving (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (190)
My reply: St. Thomas solves this problem in an exceedingly simple way: “a thing has existence, or any kind of good, only inasmuch as it is willed by God. To every existing thing, then, God wills some good. Hence, since to love anything is nothing else than to will good to that thing, it is manifest that God loves everything that exists.” (ST, I, 20, 2) Clearly, no immediate threat to the immutability of God is present in this understanding.
However, Drange asks us to consider the concept of love as “agape, which is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others.” (190) Such love must exist in God. But how is it manifested, and how is it compatible with immutability?
The proof is in the 3 sacrifices of God the Son. Each time a potency was introduced in Him which reduced Him to almost nothing, yet in actualizing this potency, the Son was reborn in glory.
The first death uplifted His intellect. The Son was blinded and yet upon choosing to take part in creation, He obtained in addition to His natural vision and full comprehension of God the free knowledge of the world that He could not have otherwise. The reason why the Son was in ultimate control, taking the natural and middle knowledge as inputs and directing both the Father and the Holy Spirit, was that the world was made for Him, and He is its ruler.
The second near-death occurred at His conception. The Son was reduced from God to a zygote. His power was thus dialed down to zero, yet upon His embrace of life and public ministry (perhaps at His baptism), Jesus grew up with the omnipotence equal to the Father’s, as manifested by His subsequent miracles. That’s the sense of “kenosis.”
His final death and self-sacrifice occurred through the Christ’s passion on the cross. He was tempted with hating mankind yet found us worthy at the end by rising from the dead, loving us with His will so much as to draw all unto Himself as branches to His vine.
God therefore is absolutely immutable by His 2nd-level nature, but can be made mutable by 3rd-level goodness. Since God is by nature pure act, any potency added to Him all but destroys His nature, but each time His nature was restored along with the world without end.
God’s self-sacrificial agape for us has therefore been demonstrated in action 3 times. Each death and rebirth changed God, but having accomplished all, God’s love for us now is once more immutable. “To sorrow, therefore, over the misery of others belongs not to God; but it does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery, whatever be the defect we call by that name,” says St. Thomas (ST, I, 21, 3).
5) Transcendence vs. Omnipresence:
1. If God exists, then he is transcendent (i.e., outside space and time).
2. If God exists, then he is omnipresent.
3. To be transcendent, a being cannot exist anywhere in space.
4. To be omnipresent, a being must exist everywhere in space.
5. Hence, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omnipresent (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (191)
My reply: Drange himself points out that premise 3 is vulnerable: “a being could be partly inside space and partly outside.” However, he finds this idea incoherent.
Let’s then clarify both concepts. God is present in each point in space both materially and spiritually. For material omnipresence, see
If God were omnipresent as simple 1st-level matter, then He would by that fact exclude all other bodies from space. It follows that He is omnipresent rather as rest energy.
This divine energy or wave-vibration permeates all things and all space. Its very universality within all created “fabric of reality” makes it ordinarily undetectable by us.
Regarding spiritual omnipresence, God is everywhere by “essence, presence, and power”: by essence which is existence, “inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being.” (ST, I, 8, 3) “But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing… Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.” (1) St. Thomas summarizes this point: “God is in all things by His power, inasmuch as all things are subject to His power; He is by His presence in all things, as all things are bare and open to His eyes; He is in all things by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being.” (3)
Transcendence means that God is not contained in the universe in any sense whatsoever, that He is not the world-soul, that He is “above all things by the excellence of His nature,” (1, reply 1) yet, unlike in the philosophy of process theism, the world does not also transcend God, since all things pre-exist in God as in the first cause.
6) Transcendence vs. Personhood:
3. If something is transcendent, then it cannot exist and perform actions within time.
4. But a person (or personal being) must exist and perform actions within time.
5. Therefore, something that is transcendent cannot be a person (or personal being) (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, …
My reply: The previous argument considered space; this one deals with time.
Now premise 4 is an unhappy one. God exists in eternity and would remain a person or rather the Trinity even without creation. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would each possess their own intellect, power, and will, and so would be persons.
Again, God does not exist “partly inside time and partly outside time,” a straw man of an objection to his own argument that Drange considers (which I agree would be incoherent). God’s eternity consists in “simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life,” i.e., a package of past, present, future, and timelessness wrapped into a single moment in which God lives and is in pure act. See, for example,
What Drange probably means is that a transcendent eternal God cannot be related to by us, if He cannot come down to our human temporal level.
But one of the perks of being thus eternal or transcendent with respect to time is precisely the ability to inspect all 4 time periods from a vantage point. A being as absolutely superior as God can always communicate with His creatures.
Drange mentions a related argument that opposes transcendence and freedom. As already argued, God ad intra has a will, but no free will, because He does not need freedom, being perfectly happy. Freedom is needed to choose between pleasures, to pick one and for its sake reluctantly sacrifice all others. But as Mises argued,
For an [ad intra] all-powerful being there is no pressure to choose between various states of uneasiness; he is not under the necessity of acquiescing in the lesser evil. Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything and to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations.
But this is incompatible with the very concept of action. For an almighty being the categories of ends and means do not exist. …
For the almighty being every “means” renders unlimited services, he can apply every “means” for the attainment of any ends, he can achieve every end without the employment of any means. (HA, 69)
But ad extra, in relation with the created universe, God is free by having chosen and created (again, as part of the Son’s death and rebirth) the best possible world out of an infinitude of all possibilities, by issuing grace to the just, and by governing the communion of saints in both time in this life and aeviternity in the next according to His counsel.
Thus, God is both transcendent away from and immanent within the world.