Divine Perfection and Creation

Heythrop Journal 57 (1):122-134 (2016)

Abstract

Proclus (c.412-485) once offered an argument that Christians took to stand against the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo based on the eternity of the world and God’s perfection. John Philoponus (c.490-570) objected to this on various grounds. Part of this discussion can shed light on contemporary issues in philosophical theology on divine perfection and creation. First I will examine Proclus’ dilemma and John Philoponus’ response. I will argue that Philoponus’ fails to rebut Proclus’ dilemma. The problem is that presentism is incompatible with divine simplicity, timelessness, and a strong doctrine of immutability. From there I will look at how this discussion bears on contemporary understandings of divine perfection and creation, and argue that there are at least two possible ways contemporary philosophical theologians can try to get around the dilemma. One option is to adopt four-dimensional eternalism and maintain the traditional account of the divine perfections. I argue that this option suffers from difficulties that are not compatible with Christian belief. The other option is to keep presentism and modify the divine perfections. I argue that this option is possible and preferable since our understanding of the divine perfections must be modified in light of divine revelation and the incarnation.

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R. T. Mullins
University of St. Andrews

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