Does God have contingent properties?

I’ll start by just asking my question simply: While God is a necessary being, as both classical theism and Christianity attest, does God have any contingent properties?

Here are a few thoughts I have. The Catechism plainly states in paragraph 1 that “Dues… hominem libere creavit” (“God… freely created man.”) Therefore, if God has the libertarian free will to create man, he must have had the free choice to not create man. (Question: While it is compatible with God’s nature to create man, did he have a choice at all if God’s nature necessitated the creation of man? It seems that in that case, he did not freely create man.) If God created man freely, then is the property “God created man” not a contingent property of God? (Otherwise, if it was necessary that God created man, is man too a necessary being?)

I hope nobody takes these ramblings the wrong way… I have only began looking into this sort of philosophy recently and have no delusions of my thoughts being that coherent. I hope that people have some thoughts and/or resources on this topic. Thanks in advance!

God is Love. He created us to love us. Did He have a choice? Yes. God is Love and so He created us.

I appreciate your reply! I’m just having a hard time finding an answer to my question in there. I agree that God is loving and by divine simplicity, He is Love. I also agree that He created us to love us. How does that follow if he had a choice or not? Furthermore, if “God is Love and so He created us [to love us]” means “God = Love -> He created us [to love us]” and clearly “He created us to love us -> God loves ->(by divine simplicity) God = Love.” But then if “He created us to love us” is logically equivalent with “God = Love,” then how could God have done otherwise? It would seem to be a necessary property of God that “he created us to love us.”

However, maybe “God = Love” is not a sufficient condition for “he created us to love us”?

In any case, my question was not about why God created us per se, but whether God has any contingent properties.

Thanks!

Why would anyone classify God’s will as libertarian free will? Is this an application of a human attribute to God?

God has free will since he freely chose to create man. We have divine attributes, such as love. Maybe we also have a divine attribute such as free will?

What kind of free will would you say God has?

God does have contingent properties, but all of his contingent properties are “Cambridge properties”.

The idea here is related to the idea of Cambridge change; if a change to an entity makes no intrinsic difference, then it is a “mere Cambridge change”. For example, if you grow taller than me while I stay the same, then I have become shorter than you, but the change was Cambridge.

Likewise, God’s contingent properties (like being a creator) are not intrinsic to him. This is kind of a tough topic to express briefly. By divine simplicity, God’s intellect and will are the same, and God only has one object of his intellect and will: himself. (So God wills his own goodness and knows himself.) Since the forms of created things exist virtually in God but do not necessitate his will in the way his goodness does, his willing of contingent things and his knowledge thereof are contingent. (They don’t have to obtain in all possible worlds.) The identity conditions for his intellect and will, though, are his necessary knowing and willing of himself, so his intellect and will (and therefore he himself) are the same in all possible worlds. So God is necessary but he has contingent “properties” (to use that term in the contemporary sense, rather than the scholastic sense, ie. “properties” being things that are predicated of a subject).

This is basically the “limit case” of human free action (on the libertarian, Thomist understanding). The intellect is the formal and final cause of the human will. Because the objects of the intellect are universalized, abstracted forms, though, they do not necessitate the will in particular cases; the will is only necessitated toward happiness and the aspect of the good. Particular goods may be viewed under different aspects.

No, this does not imply a " contingency " in God. Nothing complelled God to create the universe and nothing prevented him. He freely chose to do so. He saw that it was good to do so and he is always free to do good.

This is also what Divine Revelation tells us. And it is what Thomistic philosophy/theology also tell us.

Linus2nd

Thanks for your response. Even if this does not imply that God has contingent properties, I was wondering if God had any contingent properties. What do you think about that?

However, I would argue that it does imply a contingency. If God is free to create the universe, then he is free not to create the universe. So the universe does not have to exist, and God does not have to be the creator of it. Therefore, God as “creator” is a contingent property of God.

Wow! This is the type of response I was hoping for. Your right, this topic does seem tough to express (or grasp!) briefly.

So, your answer is that God does have contingent properties (in the way you clarified), but these in no way detract from his necessariness (if there is such a word…) These include “creator of the universe and man,” which does not actually change God (who is immutable) but only how he relates (and that he relates) to the universe and us.

Thanks for your answer! I’ll definitely need to think on it and read about these things more.

Yes. ‘Creator’ is a contingent property. Before the creation of the universe, God could not have been a creator. When nothing has been created, then there is no creator. A creator can only exist after the first thing has been created. Prior to that event, there can only be a ‘potential creator’ at most.

rossum

I guess that is a good point. I am curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

Hard to argue with.

Would I be wrong to ask, since God describes Himself as “I Am”, what would be contingent for Him, since He always knew the outcome of Creation and yet created out of His nature to Love?

There is a casual relationship between God and the universe; that is, God caused the universe. Does this necessarily imply a temporal component in this causation? God certainly proceeds the universe causally (and thus, “before” the universe is God), but does God proceed the universe temporally (what is “before” time in a temporal sense?)? One could put forth this argument.

God exists outside of time and does not change, somehow existing in an “eternal moment.” God causes some being subject to time and/or change to exist. God has existed with that being at every time and/or in its every state, and although that being is casually dependent on God, it and God have coexisted in this eternal moment. God as creator would not be contingent on the fact that he was once “not creator,” but rather if he could have in some way have not been a “creator.”

While I do not necessarily espouse this viewpoint, I’d be interested to hear oldcelt, rossum, and anyone else’s take on it.

I do not believe that God’s foreknowledge takes away free will (if such as thing exists), whether it be God’s or Man’s. I would think that the universe would be contingent if God freely created it, because God could have freely not created it. If God had to create the universe, then it wouldn’t seem so free, and the existence of the universe would seem to be logically equivalent with the existence of God. [Edit: And thus “God is creator” is a contingent property of God.]

I don’t agree with this because I don’t believe there was any time prior to God’s creating in the actual universe. God did not exist alone and then create the universe. God creates the universe. Strictly speaking, when we say “God creates the universe” we are speaking tenselessly and eternally.

For example, you say, “When nothing has been created, then there is no creator.” But when had nothing been created? It is impossible to identify a time. (This is consistent with either an infinite or finite past. If the past is finite, then it began, and there are still no times at which God doesn’t create, at least on the orthodox assumption that God creates time.)

God created the universe of creatures not according to a necessity of His own nature but because He freely chose to do so through His will. God wills His own infinite goodness necessarily but He does not will the existence of things outside Himself such as creatures necessarily. God freely chose to create creatures to communicate His goodness to them.
Thus it is written “who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). Now what we do by counsel we do not do necessarily.

I think that the Bible disagrees with you. If the Bible was written by an unchanging God, then it would read very differently:

On the first day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the second day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the third day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the fourth day …

An unchanging God cannot change, and so can never do anything different. Difference is change, and without change there can be no difference.

rossum

If there is no time, then a number of common words cease to have meaning. Words like “before”. In the absence of time we can no longer say, “God existed before creation”. It also becomes difficult to distinguish cause (which is before) from effect (which is after). If we cannot define either ‘before’ or ‘after’ then we cannot distinguish cause from effect. It becomes al logical to sat “time caused God,” as to say, “God caused time”. If we cannot determine which came first, then the two statements are indistinguishable.

For example, you say, “When nothing has been created, then there is no creator.” But when had nothing been created? It is impossible to identify a time. (This is consistent with either an infinite or finite past. If the past is finite, then it began, and there are still no times at which God doesn’t create, at least on the orthodox assumption that God creates time.)

You are correct. Any act of creation/causation is contingent on the existence of time. God alone cannot create; only God within time can create. Creation is an action within time. In the absence of time we cannot define change, and creation is, obviously, a change.

rossum

Firstly, I don’t think that the creation story in genesis should be taken as a historical or scientific account. However, even if it were to be taken as a literal account of what actually, literally happened, I don’t see how it “disagrees with [me].” Put in context:

1 **In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. **

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

The bolded text highlights the fact that, before the temporal account (first day, etc.), God creates the universe (“the heavens and the earth”). I don’t see how it is a contradictory viewpoint to hold that God creates time with the universe, and He Himself is outside of the time that he creates.

Again, I would disagree with you; casual relationships do not need a temporal component. Proofs in mathematics provide good examples. You may show that p->q is true, but that does not mean that q->p; in fact, you might show that p->q is true while q->p is generally false. In this case, p being true makes q true, but q being true not cause p to be true. Mathematical proofs deal with the logical relationship between abstract objects that are also outside of time and cannot be changed.

God is a necessary being, and he causes time to exist. Therefore, God exists “for all time.” But then… so has time. Time and God have, in fact, existed for the same amount of “time.” However, if one takes away time, God exists; on the other hand, if one takes away God, time fails to exist. This is why I say that “God causes time” without “God temporally proceeding time.”

I also disagree with you on semantics! Before and after are order relations, not just temporal ones! I think any set with some kind of order can certainly have a basic notion of “before” and “after.” Take the natural numbers {1,2,3…}. Clearly 1 comes before 2 without 1 necessarily coming before two in time (I can count backwards!). Take this idea of before and after as they relate to a causal chain:
For all a, b, and c
[INDENT]a comes before b if a causes b
a does not come before a
if a comes before b and b comes before c then a comes before c
if a comes before b then b comes not before a
if a does not come before b and a is not the same as b then a comes after b.

[/INDENT]
This defines a strict partial order for causal relationships without making reference to time. If we also take God as the necessary and sufficient cause for all contingent beings, then this set is also a directed set; that is, everything that is caused comes after something else (God). [Note: other order related words can be similarly defined.]

In this case, create and cause seem identical. As discussed above, I disagree that causation or any act thereof is necessarily contingent on the existence of time. God is able to cause time to exist, and this makes sense because time is contingent on God (and not the other way around.)

If you are not happy with Genesis as an example, then any action of God will do as an example. For instance, the parting of the Red Sea for Moses:

Moses leads the Israelites to the shore of the Red Sea and prays, “Oh Lord, part the sea for us that we may cross.”

God replies, “I am sorry, Moses, I cannot do that. I did not part the sea yesterday and since I am unchanging I cannot do anything different today. I do not change so I can only do today what I did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before…”

A God that acts must change. The Bible God acts, and so He cannot be unchanging.

God is a necessary being, and he causes time to exist.

I do not accept the concept of a “necessary being”. Primarily because it is useless. If God is necessary, then whatever God causes is also necessary. Hence the entire world is necessary.

How con a necessary God do something that is not necessary? If all of God is necessary, then God’s actions are also necessary – He has no choice about what He does. If His actions are not necessary, then He is not completely necessary, but is part necessary and part (the acting/non-acting part) not necessary.

I also disagree with you on semantics! Before and after are order relations, not just temporal ones! I think any set with some kind of order can certainly have a basic notion of “before” and “after.”

Sorry for not making myself clearer. We are discussing change, and change requires time. Hence my “before” and “after” are within time only. Change and time have a very intimate connection. Change is difference over time; non-change is non-difference in time.

In this case, create and cause seem identical. As discussed above, I disagree that causation or any act thereof is necessarily contingent on the existence of time.

If there is no time then how can you tell that something new (another time-related word) has come into existence? With no time, you cannot go “back in time” to see if it existed in the past – there is no past, no present and no future in the absence of time.

God is able to cause time to exist, and this makes sense because time is contingent on God (and not the other way around.)

How do you know that time is contingent on God, and not that God is contingent on time. How can you show that one preceded the other? How can you show that they are not simultaneous? The absence of time invalidates a great many common assumptions.

rossum

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