As I do every Spring Semester, I am teaching my Modern Philosophy class. While the Modern era was marked by the rise of what is regarded as modern science, it was also a time of great faith. Philosophers such as Descartes and scientists such as Newton advanced arguments for God’s existence and considered the impact of science on religion.
Currently, we are discussing Spinoza in class. Spinoza presents a rather interesting view of God in that he, Spinoza, is a pantheist. On his view, everything is God. This view contrasts sharply with the usual monotheistic view in which God exists apart from His creation (and, of course, us). For Spinoza, there is no such distinction-there is but one substance and this is God.
Having thought about his view and his argument for years, I still find it interesting and fairly powerful. In fact, his arguments seem to indicate that if we exist independently of God, then God cannot be perfect. The argument, which is so easy that it must be suspected, is as follows:
God is supposed to infinitely perfect and lacking in nothing. But, suppose that I exist apart from God. If so, God is lacking all that I am. In other words, my existence apart from God diminishes what He has and thus entails He is less than infinitely perfect. However, if I am part of God, then this would lead to pantheism. But that seems like madness.
One might object and say that God is perfect even if I exist apart from Him because all his qualities are so much greater than mine. While he does not have what I am, what He has is infinitely greater. To use an analogy, one might say that my wealthy makes Bill Gates less rich because he does not have my meager wealth. Obviously, Gates is still vastly wealthy.
In reply, while God would be vastly more than I, he would still lack all that I am, because I am not a part of Him. Going with the wealthy analogy, Gates is super wealthy, but as long as I have even one penny that he lacks, his wealth is still diminished (even if only by one cent).
Another obvious tactic would be to define “perfection” in such a way that God could still be perfect and yet I (and the rest of you) can exist apart from him. In this case, perfection would be having all qualities to perfection-excluding those qualities that God lacks because we are not part of Him.
Yet another tactic would be to use the idea of eminent containment (having a quality in what we would call a “virtual” manner today as opposed to having the quality “for real”). On this view, God would have all our qualities without being us. Naturally, this might then lead someone to wonder why we would exist apart from God if He has all our qualities as well.
In any case, this is just a bit of rambling inspired by Spinoza…and that half marathon I ran Sunday (and presumably God did too).