Friday, February 10, 2012

Robert Jenson on How the Biblical God Avoids the "Universal Moral Disaster" of "Omnipotent Egocentricity"

"It is the fact of God's Trinity which requires that his concluding gift to us, should he make one, must be inclusion in his own life, the gift not of something other than God but of 'all he is' [Luther]. The triune God does not and indeed cannot beneficently affect us causally; for him, causal action, with its intrinsic distancing, would mean exclusion from himself and so cursing rather than blessing. The goal of all the biblical God's ways is the glory of God. Were an otherwise biblical God -- contrary of course to possibility -- monadic, his intention of his own glory would be a sort of omnipotent egocentricity, and the reality of God would be a universal moral disaster. But God's glorification of himself is instead supreme blessing because the triune God can and does include creatures in that glory."

--Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology: Volume 2: The Works of God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 311


  1. Reading this stuff makes me face palm. Now, I need to go find this and read it! I'm sending the book bill to you. ;)

  2. I am not sure I follow the idea that affecting us causally would result in intrinsic distancing. But I may just be in a terminological muddle. This passage made me think back to this bit of Kathryn Tanner as contrast (maybe?).

    "The perfection of created life, the perfection of he creature inits difference form God, increases with the perfection of relationship with God: the closer the better.

    This non-competitive relation between creatures and God is possible, it seems, only if God is the fecund provider of all that the creature is in itself; the creature in its giftedness, in its goodness does not compete with God's gift-fullness and goodness because God is the giver of all that the creature is for the good. This relationship of total giver to total gift is possible, in turn, only if God and creatures are, so to speak, on different levels of being and different planes of causality – something that God's transcendence implies.

    …The creature's receiving from God does not then require its passivity in the world: God's activity as the giver of ourselves need not come at the expense of our own activity. Instead, the creature receives from God its very activity as a good."

  3. Kara,

    I see Jenson's position, though not identical, as in many ways consonant with Tanner's project. In her words, God wants to give us the good of God's own life and does so through increasingly intimate relationships between God and us, trinitarianly performed and articulated. That sounds about right to me, re: Jenson. Perhaps it's simply the causal effect language that throws a wrench into things.