Philosophical Implications of the Notion of Creator and Creation
What are the philosophical implications of presupposing the ground motive of Creation-Fall-Redemption (CFR)? Dooyeweerd believed that the three other ground motives of Western thought inevitably led to antinomy in philosophical thought because they presupposed that we could seek something within created reality that is self-dependent and on which all else depends. He presupposed CFR, not as a theological issue but as a philosophical.
In this page we look at some of the philosophical implications of presupposing Creation and Creator - at what thereby become fundamental philosophical issues, and what it allowed Dooyeweerd to consider in his philosophy.
Dooyeweerd's Notion of Creation and Creator
Creation presupposes a Creator. By Creator Dooyeweerd did not mean the Platonic idea of demiurge, a supernatural being who fashions the cosmos out of pre-existing material (whether matter or form), nor the Hindu idea of Ishvara, which is similar. Instead, he meant that Being who (or which) creates something separate from Itself starting from absolutely nothing.
Dooyeweerd saw the Creator as both distinct from yet related to the Creation. But what kind of relationship is it? Is it a monarchian one a la Aristotle, in which God is seen as the top of the hierarchy of beings, with ultimate authority? Is it the sum total of all perfections, as Scholastic thought believed? Is it as First Cause? Though Dooyeweerd did not spell it out clearly, it seems that he saw the Creator as
the Creetion. The first is to do with distinctness, the other three with relating and somewhat overlap, though each implies a different philosophical issue.
- loving and therefore dignifying
- engaging with
Dooyeweerd's idea of transcendence seems not unlike that of the neo-Platonist, Proclus, namely utterly ineffable, yet the source of all, beyond Existence and Unity because the source of both. But Dooyeweerd's notion of the Creator upholding, dignifying, loving and engaging with the Creation comes from his readings of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Though he did quote texts from these, he did not treat them as 'proof texts' but rather as indicative of the philosophical idea.
By 'upholding' the Creation, the Creator is actively, and all the time (if one can speak of time) keeping the Creation in existence and occurrence. This contrasts with the notion of a passive Creator who is merely First Cause. Philosophical issue: dependence; if the Creator upholds Creation then Creation depends on the Creator and nothing in it can be self-dependent.
'Loving and Dignifying' speak of the attitude the Creator has towards the Creation, which contrasts markedly with Aristotelian Monarchianism; even though the Creator has authority over Creation, He is concerned more with loving (in the sense of
agape, self-giving to the point of self-sacrifice). This implies that he is concerned more with giving the Creation dignity than his own dignity. This is where the contrast with Monarchianism is most clearly seen. Philosophical issue: God gives the Creation Being separate from himself and Freedom. Also, we can explain things in terms of created principles rather than always see whatever happens as done by God.
That the Creator 'engages with' the Creation distances Dooyeweerd from Proclus' idea of an utterly unknowable Deity towards one who reveals himself and enters human history (though Dooyeweerd refused to make that an excuse to avoid tough philosophical questions). Philosophical issues: do not presuppose that we can explain everything philosophically without reference to God, and allow that we can Know the Creator in some way.
What Creation Allowed Dooyeweerd to Consider
The presupposition of creation allowed Dooyeweerd to consider certain philosophical possibilities that are not allowed under the conventional dualistic ground motives. For example: meaning, and a cohering diversity.
We experience meaning. But philosophers have always had trouble accounting for it. Presupposing that there is no Creator (or that creation has only theological, and no philosophical, implications), then we can only start with Being or Process/Doing or we presuppose the autonomous human ego. It is impossible to derive Meaning from Being or Doing/Process (though evolutionist and systems theoretic thinkers have tried to do so). The autonomous human ego can (seemingly) be an origin of meaning - but eventually that meaning turns out to be meaningless. Either way, philosophical thought ends up in antinomy (at least, that seems to be the experience of the last 2,500 years). As a result, few philosophers have allowed themselves to consider meaning, and certainly not to examine meaning critically as a central part of their philosophy. (Some branches of subjectivism refer to 'meaning' but few examine what it is.) Notice how seldom 'meaning' occurs in the indices of philosophy monographs.
But if we presuppose we are part of a Creation, created by a Creator, then all that we are and do, all that Exists or Occurs, is most likely invested with the Meaning that the Creator gives. That means that philosophers who presuppose creation can allow themselves to make Meaning a central part of their philosophy, as Dooyeweerd did.
Dooyeweerd defined Meaning not as the content of symbols, nor as subjective attribution, but as 'referring beyond', ultimately to a Divine Source. (Our usual meaning of 'meaning', of subjective attribution, is part of this). This leads to Dooyeweerd's philosophical presupposition that Meaning, not Being, is the primary property of everything in Creation and his famous statement [NC,I:4, italics removed] that "Meaning is the being of all that is created and the nature even of our selfhood. It has a religious root and a divine origin."
See the discussion of meaning for more.
Diversity in coherence
What we experience, claimed Dooyeweerd, is diversity in coherence (or unity), an irreducible diversity that does not work against itself. But traditional philosophy has a problem accounting for it, and so philosophers do not usually allow themselves to think in terms of it. Suppose we wish to acknowledge the irreducible diversity of, say, fifteen aspects. If we presuppose there is no creator (or that creation has only theological, and no philosophical, implications), the probability that they all cohere with each other, and do not work against each other, is very small. Even though it might wish to account for both diversity and coherence, it does not allow itself to consider diversity in coherence possible. As a result, most philosophical thought finds itself tending to elevate either diversity or coherence in favour of the other, and end up eventually with either fragmentation that is tacitly assumed to cohere but for which coherence no satisfactory account can be given, or uniformity.
But if we presuppose a Creator, then diversity in coherence is possible, and if the Creator that loves the Creation, then it is most likely that the diversity will cohere and not work against itself. Thus those thinkers who adopt the CFR ground motive can allow themselves to consider diversity in coherence a possibility. This is perhaps why Dooyeweerd had no trouble with believing there are a number of irreducible aspects.
(NOTE: The 'incoherence' or disunity that we experience, Dooyeweerd explained by the two other parts of the CFR ground motive: the apparent disunity is a result of Fall; it is not inherent in Creation, nor is it ultimately inevitable, because of Redemption.)
The philosophical importance of coherence in diversity is that it allows for inter-aspect relationships like dependency and analogy, and shalom, or 'simultaneous realization of norms'.
Philosophical Implications of Relationship Between Creator and Creation
So we can allow ourselves to consider, philosophically, the possibility of Meaning as a topic of central importance, and of a cohering diversity. But what is the relationship between Creator and Creation? Clouser  discusses three possible types of relationship:
- Pagan: the Divine is part of Creation
- Eastern: the Creation is part of the Divine
- Judeo-Christian(-Islamic): Creation and Divine are distinct yet related.
Dooyeweerd takes the third view. In doing so, at least three general points can be made:
- The Creator invests Creation with Meaning. See above.
- The Enabling Framework. If Creation is created, we must pose the question, "What enables Creation to Exist, Occur, etc?" Dooyeweerd's view seems to have been that the Creator did not usually directly create entities or events and set them in place, but rather that he created a framework by which entities can come into being and events can occur. This leads us to rephrase that question as, "What is the framework within everything Exists or Occurs?" (c.f. Heidegger's 'Dasein'.) Some usual answers are "space and time" (Kant) or "the autonomous human ego" (subjectivism). But Dooyeweerd's answer was "The Divine gifts Creation with Law-Promise." Law-promise is of the form "If you do X then Y will result." It enables entities in Creation to have Freedom, in that what they do is not seen in terms of being-caused but rather in terms of responding laws and thereby a repercussion occurs. See the notion of subject.
- Note 1. The law-promise framework is not itself divine but created. This implies that God is not himself subject to those laws (not even the law of mathematics that tells us, for example that 1 can never equal 3).
- Note 2. To Kant, and to many physicists, space-time is the framework within everything exists and occurs, but to Dooyeweerd it is Law-Promise. So time and space must take on a different aura. Space, Dooyeweerd believed, exists or occurs because of functioning in the spatial aspect. Time is no longer a framework but a product of our functioning in any aspect; see Dooyeweerd's theory of Time.
- Note 3. Vollenhoven discusses this enabling framework in terms of a 'boundary' between God and Cosmos, so that we can define what is God and what is Creation. Like Dooyeweerd, he says that this boundary is Law.
- Finally, from the point of view of Creation, the relationship is one of dependence on the Creator for everything. This is the 'upholding' above. There is nothing within Creation - neither the things, the events nor even the law-framework that enables these - that is self-dependent nor self-sufficient. To treat anything as self-dependent leads to absolutization, reductionism and hypostatization, and consequent loss of meaning. This is why, for each aspect, we have a section commenting on its non-absoluteness.
(See also an earlier page discussing the relationship between God and Cosmos which have some useful bits to augment this page.)
There are also other philosophical implications of the notion of Creation and Creator, but these can be added later. In NC I:506-8, Dooyeweerd sets out in list form the "basic structure of the Christian transcendental ground-Idea ...", including:
- Archimedean point
- Religious attitude in philosophic thought
- Religious ground-motive
- Idea of the Origin
- Idea of the totality of meaning
- Idea of the coherence in the modal diversity of meaning with respect to the law- and subject-side of temporal reality
- The modal concept of law and subject.
This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments would be welcome.
Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
Number of visitors to these pages: . Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: 13 September 2004.
Last updated: 22 September 2004 expanded four characteristics of Creator.