On 1/18 the Analytic Theology Seminar was treated to a talk by Michael Rea. Rea, who is giving this year’s Gifford Lectures presented the seminar with a version of one of the lectures he will be presenting in that series. Here are some notes from his talk.
Divine Love & Personality
Goal: Examine the nature of divine love with an eye to the problem of divine hiddenness.
- The fact that God has a personality give some reasons to doubt the divine hiddenness problem.
Main premise: If a perfectly loving God exists then there is a God who is always open to a personal relationship with everyone.
- There is no non-resistant non-belief (God will always do something the remove all obstacles for non-belief/relationship.)
- Schellenberg – the minimum God could do is give people evidence that he exists.
- There should be no one who is non-resistant and non-believing. But there is non-resistant non-belief. (i.e. I wish I could believe, but I can’t)
- Therefore there is no perfectly loving God
Support for the Main Premise
- Divine love is an idealized version of some important kind of human love
- (Transcendence undercuts our reasons for accepting this claim)
- Divine Love is not ideal human love
- Focusing on the best kind of human love, whatever that is… specifically whatever kind is most apt to be identified in its ideal form, with divine love.
- Eleanore Stump ID’s two desires as being part of love:
- Desire for the good of the beloved & desire for union with the beloved
- Two Stipulations:
- God desires union with human beings
- God desires our good
- At least one of these desires is essential to the best forms of human loves
- Divine Love = whatever kind of love a perfect being would have for a person or group
- Ideal love = kind of love 1 person would have for another if she were to have an ideal way the property of loving that particular person
- Idealization of simple traits – removal of relevant limitations
- Idealization of complex traits – removal of relevant limitations + idealization of competent properties
- Limitless desire for the good of the beloved, desire for union with the beloved, or both.
- Limitless desire – One who limitlessly desires something desires it in a way that eclipses in priority and strength desires focused on anyone or anything else
Ideal Human Lovers
- We have limited capacity to endure interpersonal union
- So…. Desire for union with someone can conflict with desire for their good.
- We have limited cognitive and causal powers
- In the divine case these are not a problem
Divine Love as Ideal Love
- If God loves us ideally, God is maximally oriented toward our good or maximally oriented toward union with us or both.
- Wessling on Supreme Love
- When God has supreme love for a person, He desires her highest good, and his character generates no contradictory desire of equal or greater strength….God therefore does all that is morally permissible and metaphysically possible to fulfill this desire.
- Susan Wolf on Moral Saints
- Someone maximally devoted to improving the welfare of others to the exclusion of the promotion of her own interests – (sainthood is not rational or desirable for human beings)
- Could God be a Moral Saint?
- God has unlimited resources
- God has unlimited cognitive capacity
- God does not need anything
- So what is the problem?
- The Problem is Divine Personality
- Sainthood Implies Self-Annihilation
- “The pursuit of Moral sainthood seems to require either the lack or denial of the existence of identifiable, personal self.”
- IF God is genuinely personal, and has distinctive personality, it stands to reasons that God has interests, desires, and projects not necessarily oriented around he interest of others.
- IF God has personality, then divine interests might conflict with human interests.
- Opportunistic Sainthood?
- If God is devoted to our good just so long as there are not conflicts between divine and human interests, then God is not maximally devoted to our good.
- God is Not a Saint
- If divine & human goods do conflict, it is no more rational, good, or desirable for God to pursue sainthood than for human beings to pursue it…. In fact, it would be bad for God to pursue sainthood. It would be irrational.
- Maximal Devotion to Union?
- Could God be limitlessly devoted to pursuing union with each of us?
- There is no reason to think we are fitting objects for unlimited desire for union
- Even if we are fitting objects, we are not maximally fitting objects for such a desire
- A perfect being would not be maximally devoted to pursuing our good or our union
- A perfect being would not love human beings in an ideal way
- In fact, we have good a priori reason to think that a perfect being would priorities our good or union with us at all.
- That God loves human beings at all is an article of faith, not philosophy.
An Unexpected Conclusion?
- The Christian tradition never affirmed that union with human beings is the proper object of maximal devotion… or of human goods either.
- Is the conclusion unpleasant? A God who prioritizes divine good over human goods doesn’t seem like a God who loves us enough.
Whence the Conflict?
- What divine projects might take priority over the promotion of our good? We can speculate, but this is precisely the corner of space of possible goods about which we can most expect to be in the dark.
No Possible Conflict?
- It is by no means obvious that the best interest of one person can conflict with another, because love creates a common set of real interests. – Thomas Talbott
- If Talbott is right, then lovers quite literally lose themselves in their relationship. So this seems implausible.
How non-ideal can divine love be and still be called love?
- There have to be some boundaries on what behavior can plausibly count as loving.
- Why think we can identify those boundaries a priori?
- We should ask instead what signs of love can be identified in God’s (alleged) ways of relating to various kinds of people, and what narratives can be told about these relationships to support positively valanced analogies.
“God is justified in permitting Divine hiddenness even if it doesn’t promote any human good.”