God’s Mode Of Causation

An implication to be drawn from my previous post is that God’s mode of causation is sui generis. God’s will is the causal means by which creation comes into existence, and God’s will is identical with his being, and as such is not a “will” in the sense we apply it to people, but rather is “something like a will”. Thus, God is the cause of the universe, but how he is so is unique, and in some sense unknown to us.

There are further implications to be drawn from this. In jurisprudence, we consider murderers guilty, even if they don’t kill someone with their bare hands. If you intentionally cause ¬†events that you know would cause the death of someone, then you are responsible, regardless of what those intervening events were. So, if you pull a trigger that shoots a bullet that shatters someone’s skull and brain, you are responsible, because you initiated that sequence.

On the other hand, we do not consider people guilty of murder if they merely influenced someone to go and commit a murder, perhaps through some rash talk. They might be guilty of some kind of moral wrong, but they are not thereby murderers.

This means that we recognize there are different kinds of causes, and the differences between them have real moral relevance as to whether guilt transfers to the cause further back in the causal chain.

In both of these examples, we are using the terms “cause” in their normal sense, as the apply to created realities. We know, based on the kind of cause we are discussing, whether full moral responsibility applies to them. In the case of God, however, we only know that has “something like a will”. The cause of the universe is “something like” what we know created realities to be. We know that it is like a cause in that the will of God explains the existence of the created world. And we know it is not like a cause in that it is identical with other properties we would say could not be causes (i.e., the attribute of being good, in the created world, is causally inert, because it is not a substance but a property). Further, we know it is unlike other causes, in that it is the only example we know of where an agent’s merely willing something causes it to exist. There is no reason, however, to assume that these are the only ways in which God’s mode of causation is unlike created modes of causation. This, in turn, leaves open the possibility that it is crucially unlike created realities in being subject to the transfer of moral¬†responsibility, even while being a sufficient cause for the existence of the universe. And if there is sufficient proof for both the existence a good and almighty God, and for the existence of evil, then we can conclude that this possibility is an actuality.