A Philosopher's Blog

God, Glory & Free Will

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on June 15, 2007

 One interesting theological and philosophical problem deals with the creation of humanity. To be specific, the problem is figuring out why God would create human beings.

One way to solve this problem is to consider the attributes of God. God is generally said to be all good, all powerful and all knowing. But, God is also claimed to have glory. The attribute of glory is rarely considered but plays a critical role in providing one account of why God might have created humans. This assumes, of course, that God exists and did, in fact, create humans.

 The German philosopher Leibniz claims in The Monadology that souls are part of the City of God. The rule of this City is, naturally enough God.

According to Leibniz, God’s wisdom and greatness do not require this City-His greatness and wisdom are presumably part of God’s nature and require nothing external to God. While Leibniz does not go into detail on this point, it seems reasonable to accept that God’s goodness rests in part on the existence of the City of God. After all, a part of moral goodness involves the relation between intelligent beings. If God was the only being in existence, then it might seem odd to regard Him as good or evil. Then again, perhaps a being could be good or evil in total isolation. Kant makes a reasonable argument that goodness is inherent to the Good Will and being with this will would be good, even if (at least according to Kant) it never actually did anything to anyone. So, it would seem that God could be good without humans. 

While God could be good without creating the world and humans, it would seem that He would not have glory. After all, glory is a relational property: a being has glory if and only if other beings know and admire it. God could have all His other properties but without other beings to know about Him and admire Him, He would, by the very nature of glory, have no glory.

Put roughly, God needed to create humans (and perhaps other beings) so that they would provide God with glory by knowing and admiring His greatness and goodness. This does create a bit of a problem.

If God needs to create humans so that He might have His glory, then it might seem that God is imperfect because He needs other beings to be complete. This is problematic for the notion of a perfect God. Of course, it can be argued that God is still perfect. After all, He fulfills his need by His own act of creation.

This proposed scenario also helps explain why humans would have free will. If God’s glory depends on humans (or other beings) admiring him, then it seems that these beings would need to be free to choose whether to admire God or not. After all, there would not be much glory in being “praised” by beings who must give such praise. To use an analogy, if I buy several MP3 players use them to play recordings that praise me, then I do not gain any glory. It is only if beings freely praise me that I gain glory. So, God needs us to be free in order to choose to praise Him.

 

This also provides a bit of an out in the case of the previously discussed problem of evil. Since God has to create free beings to praise Him, these beings can choose to take an opposite path-the path of evil. Thus, evil is permitted to exist in part because of God’s need for Glory.

God is, however, generous and is willing to share the glory with us. As Machiavelli said, God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of the glory that belongs to us.”

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Here are the relevant passages from The Monadology:

 

84. Hence it is that spirits are capable of entering into a sort of society with God, and that he is, in relation to them, not only what an inventor is to his machine (as God is in relation to the other creatures), but also what a prince is to his subjects, and even a father to his children.

85. Whence it is easy to conclude that the assembly of all spirits (esprits) must compose the City of God, that is, the most perfect state which is possible, under the most perfect of monarchs.

86. This City of God, this truly universal monarchy, is a moral world within the natural world, and the highest and most divine of the works of God; it is in this that the glory of God truly consists, for he would have none if this greatness and goodness were not known and admired by spirits. It is, too, in relation to this divine city that he properly has goodness; whereas his wisdom and his power are everywhere manifest.

 

 

 

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4 Responses

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  1. faithlk511 said, on June 15, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Can you explain why it is a “problem” in the first place? You are presupposing there is a problem simply because, I guess, we do exist. What is the problem here? As a graduate of philosophy I’m tired of seeing pointless drivel poured out of minds that could be used to help relieve the suffering and evil in the world…not question its very existence.

  2. mlabossi said, on June 15, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    The problem (in the philosophical usage of the term) is this: assuming that God exists and is perfect, etc, then why would God create human beings? It is part of the general question of “why are we here?” That question does not seem to be drivel at all.

    I do agree that academics do waste a lot of their mental horsepower on things that really do not matter and that they should do more to address real problems. But, academics should not be singled out-many people waste much of their time and energy on things like reality TV and such.

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  4. dhammett said, on November 27, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Are we truly free to praise Him or not, if, according to the Commandments, four or five of our most important obligations to God in this world involve worshiping Him? An atheist or an agnostic,should expect no repercussions in the afterlife?
    “. . .for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. . .”
    ” And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
    “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

    Which of the following is true freedom of choice?

    1/ A:”You can have this nice, fresh, organic carrot** if you tell me your name. If you don’t, you’ll be
    beaten to death with this big stick.” ##
    B: “I won’t give you my name.”
    C: “You’ve been given the opportunity to freely provide your name. Jailer, beat this man to death.”

    2/ A: “Please tell me your whole name.”
    B: “I’d prefer not to.”
    C: “Thank you for your honesty.”

    Now, assuming you are God Almighty, which of the above methods (not the questions, the methods) would seem designed to elicit the truest response?

    ** Heaven. Pearly gates/Streets of Gold
    ## Hell. Everlasting fire /Torture.


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