Independence, a Theology

Both cosmological arguments and miracles argue from events in the world to divinity. In this we see the true account of the miracle as the extraordinary experience or mode of consciousness, though this miraculous experience makes the world it breaks into ambiguous. The point of the miracle is that the miraculous only reveals what is always present, but there is a tendency in the mind to slip into taking it in exactly the opposite way. If the divine is miraculous then the everyday world of sense experience becomes the shadow or absence of divinity. Nature is the world into which divinity intrudes and so the miracle is not a revelation but violation.

I’m not critiquing this idea, or at least not entirely. Creation gives being and so has to allow for a robust sense of creaturely independence. Our view of creation can’t be limited to an emanation from the first cause or the extension of an action of an unmoved mover but has to find some way for the world to be merely natural. The dependence of creation on God cannot make created substances into divine accidents, and creation being a relation can’t be opposed to creation being a substance. Many strains of Islamic or Christian theology are uncomfortable with this and would prefer a world where being is not given but only radiates.

Orthodox Christianity was always kept from this sort of monism by trinitarianism. The principiation of the Son is not opposed to his divinity, which becomes the ultimate a fortiori for the autonomy of the natural world. If even God can come forth from God or if even trinitarian persons can have being from another then an independent creation with its being from another should be no problem. Trinitarianism and creation are mirror mysteries, showing different modalities of how coming forth from another does not rule out existing for oneself.

The ontology if gift approximates the mystery. Being is separate and independent while having an origin in another, in a way that a gift can be something that’s ours without being out of our substance. There is some sense in which the miracle is a violation that reclaims the mundane for the theophanic, which is why Scriptural miracles would tend to clump around the times when God is re-orienting the trajectory of salvation history. The rest of the time is lived in memory of what the Lord has done and the anticipation of what he is to do.

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