God giver not seeker of value

william-sloane-coffin1I come back to William Coffin (pastor, Yale Chaplain, peace activist, writer) every year. Some writers spray buckshot and hope to hit something. Coffin was a sniper – every sentence a focused truth that strikes the center. He writes:

Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet; and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift…Because our value is a gift, we don’t have to prove ourselves, only to express ourselves, and what a world of difference there is between proving ourselves and expressing ourselves. (Emphasis mine)

That God’s love doesn’t seek our value but create it (and unconditionally so) may be the single most important truth I’ve been learning and growing in the past few years. The theological implications are profound, for what one must supposes God to be for it to be the case that he creates or gives all created things their value as opposed to seeking their value. It may be the deepest flaw and weakness of Process theology (and other ‘relational’ theologies, open and otherwise, of a passibilist persuasion) that they view God as enriching himself through the pursuit and realization of value that exists outside himself.

Happy New Year.

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7 comments on “God giver not seeker of value

  1. Norris Clarke has precisely the same critiques re: Hartshorne.

    At the same time, in the same way that he employs the esse naturale vs intentionale distinction, which seems consistent with open theism, he similarly draws a distinction between
    God’s infinitely intense interior joys (never rising higher in intensity of perfection) and its relational expressions, which do entail a divine enrichment via novel determinate modalities of expression of those joys, such finite modalities being limited participations in that infinite Source.

    This reminds me of Boyd’s distinctions between the intensity and scope of aesthetic experience as well as between definitional and constitutive (relational) dispositions, all consistent with my appreciation of the essence-energies distinctions.

    In my view, each such formal distinction (not quibbling with thomistic real-logical relations) may or may not reflect a divine contingency, for example, vis a vis the future (properly conceived!), mutability (of this or that attribute), im/passibility, a/temporality, or even enrichment. This is to suggest that your affirmation of open theism but denial of passibility, to me, is defensible and arguable.

    To the extent that Fr Clarke could be interpreted to be, using Boyd’s terms,
    affirming an enrichment of the divine aesthetic scope while denying same regarding intensity, especially given his recognition of one Source of value — could you abide that notion of enrichment? or passibility vis a vis the divine esse intentionale?

    Regarding most theological opinions (vs de fide), I don’t have a dog in such hunts. I’m still trying to understand the questions they raise.

    It seems to me that Orthodox approaches to panentheism (as indwelling w/sufficient ontological distinctions beyond just mereological distinctions) do not threaten classical theistic approaches to divine attributes, immutability, impassibility and so on.
    Because your open theism entails no theologic amendments to omniscience and only metaphysical reconceptions re: temporality, I don’t understand what obstacles could stand between your stances an Orthodoxy, whether as a classical theist or proper panentheist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      His section “God as changing” where he adopts the standard “Eternal Now” view is problematic. ‘Eternal contingent knowledge’?

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      • Clarke affirms divine contingency. I interpret his reference to the “eternal now” not so much as an argument for or against a/temporality but as his attempt to remain modally agnostic, temporally speaking.

        In other words, in affirming the THAT of divine contingency, i.e. openness, at the same time (ha ha), he’s saying that that affirmation is nontemporal, that it’s not taking a stance on HOW temporally thick or thin God’s now might be.

        For Clarke, the question of divine foreknowledge springs from a category error re: god-talk (needs to be decisively analogical). He otherwise certainly seems on board with the “open future” conception of the open theists.

        Clarke wouldn’t object to a temporal view of the divine relational consciousness, i.e. God as changing, as long as we’re only referring to esse intentionale and as long as God’s only affected — not improved — by relations with the world.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom, do you have some Scripture passages for your post? On your post, the following video might be of interest to you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLQmgPT-xOU

    Liked by 1 person

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