In my previous post I listed ten theses that I thought could form a basis for a coherent creationist approach. Evidently, I use “thesis” and “theses” in their common usage such as “statement(s)”, or “idea(s)”. Given the concise format used in formulating these statements, I thought it would be necessary to explain them, one by one, for a better understanding of the points I intended to make.
Thesis 1: God is the only Supreme Being, unborn and unmade. He is both Transcendent (He is beyond space and time) and Immanent (He reveals Himself in Creation and sustains it).
This thesis is actually the hardest to develop or to comment on because we are dealing with a subject that is outside of our capacity to understand or define. At the same time, I considered appropriate to set a basis for our creationist approach, since before we talk about Creation we need to mention the Creator. Humans always engaged in what could be considered the highest level of meditation, that of thinking about God, however, our mind and our language are incapable of fully grasping the concept of God. It follows that “Supreme Being” or “Divine Being” or even the “Absolute Being” are not quite appropriate terms, as much as there are no appropriate terms for God to start with, and do not subscribe to the notions of “being” as defined by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), where being is mostly defined by temporality as it applies to human beings.
In attempting to understand God, scholars use two main theological approaches: the apophatic approach, also known as negative theology, which uses “negative” terminology, i.e. what God is not, and the cataphatic approach, also known as positive theology, which uses “positive” terminology when referring to God, i.e. what God is. In the Bible we find both apophatic and cataphatic statements. These statements contradict each other, yet some scholars consider that they are complementary to each other.
Moses Maimonides (1120-1190) is perhaps the first Hebrew scholar who uses apophatic statements about God, suggesting in his best known work The Guide for the Perplexed that God is unknowable to man, therefore we cannot make any direct statements regarding God, nor can we attach any positive attributes to God. Citing Psalm 65, Maimonides concludes that the highest form of praise we can give God is silence (citation). Later, Wittgenstein asserts something similar in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (the seventh statement) saying “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence”. In Jewish belief, God is the Creator (Genesis 1, 1; Isaiah 44, 24) who is outside of Creation, a transcendent God who is outside of space and time, as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan also states. Among the names used for God in the Old Testament, the most used name is YHWH, or the Tetragrammaton, (“[He] was being”) which, along with the similar expression in Exodus 3, 14 (I Am the One I Am), “refer to God in his ‘negative attributes’, as absolutely independent and uncreated,”, as Wikipedia puts it. Starting from the 3rd Century B.C. and especially after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., the Jews are not even allowed to pronounce this name, so instead of YHWE they use the name Adonai (“My Lord”) when they pray or read the Torah, or in other occasions they use HaShem (“The Name”).
An important concept of the Old Testament is the Unity of God expressed in Deuteronomy 6, 4: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one“, which Maimonides considers to be a positive command, and explained by Kaplan as “God is a most perfect and absolute Unity”. No attribute we can think of can be “added” to God because it would imply plurality; therefore “according to Maimonides, there can be no plurality of faculties, moral dispositions, or essential attributes in God” (citation). Being separate and different from all that is created, the attributes asserted to God refer to God’s actions, not his Being. When we find expressions like in Genesis 1, 26, “Let us make humankind in our image”, that does not mean a hint to plurality in the Godhead, as later Christianity would assert under the influence of the concept of Trinity. The NET Bible commentary says: “In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8) (citation).
As we enter the New Testament, most statements about God are cataphatic in nature (they use “positive” terminology) thus, we are dealing with opposing views about God compared to the Old Testament. As Wikipedia puts it, “To speak of God or the divine kataphatically is thought by some to be by its nature a form of limiting to God or divine. This was one of the core tenets of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. By defining what God or the divine is we limit the unlimited. A kataphatic way to express God would be that God is love. The apophatic way would be to state that God is not hate (although such description can be accused of the same dualism). Or to say that God is not love, as he transcends even our notion of love. Ultimately, one would come to remove even the notion of the Trinity, or of saying that God is one, because The Divine is above numberhood”. The main issue with the cataphatic approach resides in the concept of Trinity and the Immanence of God, which mainly states that God, who is transcendent and cannot be seen or approached in His Being, becomes Immanent in the incarnate person of Jesus the Christ, as stated by John 1, 1. This means that Jesus is the Logos, fully God and with God, and the concept has resonance in Jesus’ words in John 8, 58: “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!’”, which is clearly connected with Exodus 3, 14. The reaction from the Judeans, picking up stones to throw at Jesus for blasphemy, confirms that in this occasion “I am” is an explicit claim to Divinity. As John 1, 3 states, the Logos/Jesus is the Creator, thus Judaism will never accept this concept because it is in contradiction with the principle “God is One”. As Christians, we accept the doctrine of Trinity, generally speaking, but there is no consensus regarding what exactly Trinity means. A general description would define Trinity as God’s manifestations in Creation, Redemption, and Revelation, which I find acceptable; therefore we can say that Immanence of God is manifested in Creation and in Creation’s constant sustaining.