God at War in Ithilien, Part 2

william-blake-great-architect-of-the-universe-demiurge-gnostic-mormon-ldsIn his 2nd and 3rd Posts Tait summarizes Greg’s Scriptural case for a warfare cosmology and makes a few critical remarks, the most revealing of which (from his Part 3) is:

“A case can be made that this is perilously close to the ancient heresy of Manicheanism, which taught that certain kinds of animals and other aspects of the physical world were created by Satan and not by God.”

Tait acknowledges that Greg doesn’t explicitly make the claim that Satan has powers to created ex nihilo, and there’s no question of Greg’s affirming a ontological dualism here. But we share Tait’s suspicions. It does seem to be the case for Greg that Satan is functionally equivalent to the Demiurge in Hellenisitc (Platonic & Neoplanotic) and Gnostic thought, where the Demiurge is responsible for fashioning and maintaining the material universe. Greg views Satan as contracted/covenanted to function in precisely this sense, administrating God’s purposes for the physical world, sustaining and maintaining the material order and its laws until such a time as that order achieves its God-intended end. From where I sit that’s basically viewing Satan as a demiurge. Functionally speaking he is ascribed the presence and powers which the NT actually attributes to the Logos relative to sustaining the material universe.

When Satan rebelled he took the entire material order with him. It is God’s original covenant with Satan that leaves him in office as the administrator of what he has turned a deformed and perverted form of matter/energy. Greg takes the “subjugation” of creation to “futility” or “corruption” in Romans 8.20 as a reference to a primal cosmic rebellion in which an originally good creation came under the corrupting influence of its now fallen proprietor, Satan. Satan subjects creation to corruption and frustration. Even the 2nd law of thermodynamics is, for Greg, the agency of Satan seeking to increasingly pervert and warp creation towards violence and death.

Greg wouldn’t buy into the Gnostic view of matter as inherently evil, but that’s pocket change in comparison with the powers Greg supposes Satan has over matter/energy. Think of it in terms of Greg’s process metaphysics in the “reconstructed” sense he argues for in Trinity & Process. The scaffolding is all there. The created order is most fundamentally ‘actual occasions’ which are the most basic units of reality as temporal becoming. Enter the warfare cosmology. Satan administrates every ‘actual occasion’, every ‘act of becoming’ within creation. Satan essentially mediates the world’s “becoming,” having the power to pervert it in directions it was not intended (i.e., “red in tooth and claw”). Satan thus shares in constituting the collapse of every wave function. That’s a demiurge’s measure of power over the physical universe. I wonder how many people are really thinking through this. The entirety of the material cosmos, on the quantum level, is the scene or warfare between the divine will and fallen/evil demonic wills. That places Satan (or one or more of some subservient malevolent beings) at every material event in the universe right down to the collapse of quantum particles. This is how the “wills of evil fallen agents” are directly responsible for hurricanes, tornadoes, the creation and mutation of deadly viruses, the movement of tectonic plates and even the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

To question this cosmology is not to say our existence is not engulfed in a war between good and evil, or that there are no malevolent spiritual forces working at cross-purposes with God in the world. But it is to relativize their influence within a wider cosmology that views Christ the Logos, not Satan as functional demiurge, as the sustaining intelligence and personal presence that mediates the world’s becoming.

(Picture here.)

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