ESSE and us

ESSE and us

      In explaining his vision of the “Creator-creature” relationship, Thomas Aquinas centers on the fact that God is “being,” “existence” — in Latin, ESSE.  Both God and creatures exist by one and the same esse — God.  He calls the esse of creatures “common esse; he doesn’t call it “created esse.”  Esse cannot be created, for it is God.

     He calls God by a different name: “subsistent esse.”  The distinction between the two he says, while real, is “formal;for what are “distinct” in each case are the forms or essences not the existence.   The existenceesseis the same.  Esse, is God, and by nature infinite.  But because the created “forms” (essen­ces) which exist by esse are radically different from God’s “essence,” esse is activated in each in radi­cally different ways.  “Com­mon esse” is God’s infinite esse attenuated or “constricted” by the finite and limited “forms” that it enlivens; we might think of the way electrical voltage is reduced by the resistance of the work-load it is energizing.  “Sub­sis­­tent esse,” however, since it is the self-actuation of infinite superes­sen­tiality, has no limits.  For both Creator and creatures it is the same Esse — God — but it “acts” differ­ently in each case.  That is the significance of the distinction.  It is not easy to imagine.

     Today the hypothesis about the dualities of “matter and form” and “essence and existence” is discar­ded as incompatible with modern science.  Thomas’ vision, built on that hypothesis, is likewise dis­missed as a series of mediaeval thought experiments, in the same category as alchemy and of interest only to the antiquarian. 

But we have to realize these ethereal ruminations were a highly significant factor in the formation of the Western view of the world.  They shaped and colored the way we “picture” reality; and “God’ was an intrin­sic part of that picture.  What kind of “God” did Aquinas’ “distinctions” picture? 

Aquinas was not much help here for he claimed to paint no pic­ture at all.  He was trying to find a way to say that even though esse is the same, “God” was not creation; they were “distinct.”   His distinction was an exercise in abstract thought, not appearance.  Appearance enga­ges the imagination not just the intellect.  What may be metaphysically distinct and its “formal” distinc­tion clear to mediaeval metaphysi­cians, can be misleading to the rest of us because the word “distinct” causes us to con­jure images of creatures as “entities independent of God” as if they had their own esse.  We “think” in pic­tures, as Wittgenstein said, and so we tend to imagine esse as if it were some “thing” that distinct entities “have,” given to them by God, like money in the pocket or a level of electrical charge, or more poetically, an intensity of light or a degree of beauty.  But these images, even the more refined ones, are faulty.

Let’s take the favorite example of the Fathers: light.  To imagine common esse, we may “picture” each created “thing” illuminated and made visible by light, to a degree of intensity proportionate to the level of conscious autonomy of each “essence”  — a rock, a plant, an animal, a human — each progressively brighter.  Correspondingly, subsistent esse, “God,” would be likened to a super-brilliant light source, like the sun, which we cannot even look at because it blinds us; its intensity totally exceeds our ability to see.  The analogy seems to work because this “un-seeable” light which makes objects visible is the sun’s light, it is not theirs; just as we exist by the unknowable God’s act of existing, it is not ours. 

The analogy’s aptness ends abruptly, however, because we tend to imagine it in two ways that are erroneous: we think of light as if it were (1) some “thing” showered on (2) independently existing entities.  That is not faithful to the reality.  Let me explain.  We naturally picture the sun as an independent object shining on other indepen­dently existing objects.  But in the case of esse it is the very existence of those objects that is the real point of the analogy, not their visibility.  Esse is the existence of the existent itself, it is not a subsequent “quality” bestowed on a prior existing thing, the way light is.  Nothing exists before it is actuated with esse. Therefore the analogy “limps.” 

But it is hobbled by another error: esse is not a “thing;” it is “act” (that is the scholastic word; we might say, “energy”).  The sun makes all things “visible” by its shin-ing, God makes all things “be” by “his” be-ing. That the very esse of things is God’s own act of existing makes the relationship existentially dynamic, not static.  It makes the usual image of “God’s presence” a gross understatement because our relationship is more suffusive, more inclusive, more intimate, more “indistinct,” than even the image of the sun making the rapturously beautiful earth “shine” for our delighted eyes.  It is our being — this “presence” is us.  The light shining from visible objects “participates” in the sun’s shin-ing; the existence of things “participates” in God’s be-ing.  We ride on God’s existing as on eagle’s wings.

Whatever imagery we use will turn our conceptualizations into metaphor.  Some metaphors are better than others, and in an historical context like ours where religious imagery is flat-out anthropomorphic (I prefer the word, “humanoid“) like that of “the book,” they can be totally misleading.  Judging from the way “God” acts (or better, does not act), “God” is infinitely more like sunlight than like a near eastern warlord.  But, as we’ve been seeing, even sunlight fails to represent the full picture of what “participation in being” means.

This speaks to the heart of what theology is all about: finding the proper ways to think of and imagine the reality “in which we live and move and have our being.”  But we are not adrift on a sea of unknowables here.  For we always have the reality right in front of our eyes against which we can check our imagery.  I believe that’s how Aquinas did it; we can do it too.

The human imagination is a powerful force.  It allows us to picture things that we cannot see and perhaps do not exist.  We may use it to imagine entities and forces to explain why things are behaving the way they do.  But are they real?  What is real is, in the first place, the way things right before our eyes are behaving. That is our anchor.  That is what we are trying to understand.

What if …

      So let’s do our own “thought experiment.”  Let’s temporarily de-activate our imagina­tion.  Keeping all other things equal, what if we just relieve ourselves of the burden of searching for an adequate metaphor for Thomas’ “distinction.”  What if the esse, both common and self-subsistent, can be “pictured” as we see it actually func­tioning in the real world right in front of our eyes?  In other words, what if we let the real world be the me­ta­­phor, the imagery of the relationships within esse … what kind of picture would that paint for us?

”God’s” esse would be the existential energy of matter which (1) is neither created nor destroyed (and therefore approximates esse in se subsistens).  (2) It displays its existential self-embrace in a universal conatus sese conservandi (impulse for self-preservation) observable by us in every living thing, including ourselves, as a drive to survive responsible for all creative evolution in the universe.  Existential energy, esse, has in fact evolved (“created”) every aspect of this astonishing cosmos which includes earth’s bio­sphere and noo­sphere. This existential energy is indisputably (3) the sustaining matrix in which “we live and move and have our being;” it dis­plays (4) such a self-emptying availability (kenosis) that others exist in and by its own existing.  The human cona­tus, derived from matter’s existential energy, translates to our love of our life.  It may also be reasonably said to (5) account for our universal “sense of the sacred” directed at our be-ing and all those things that support it …

In this case, Dawkins et al., would be right.  There is only “one thing” visible out there, matter’s existential energy, and the phenomena we have heretofore assigned to a separate unseen and unverified “second substance” and separate world where it was thought to reside, are in fact expressions of the properties of material energy esse itself.  There is no “mind-body” problem, nor two worlds to explain it, be­cause there are not two diametrically opposed “substances” to reconcile.  The world is exactly as we see it: the creative unfolding of esse.

In this case, also, the perennial philosophy would be right.  The dualism-idealism of western philoso­phy will be seen to be an understandable case of “reification ” … by that I mean the virtually unavoidable projection of the existence of invisible separate “things” (like the “soul”) employed in order to be faithful to the existence and character of inexplicable phenomena that have no apparent source other than the mater­ial bundle from which they emanate.  This reification created an imaginary parallel world and a “God-entity­-person” whose “distinctness” was translated into “separate­ness” to explain things.  But, once under­stood, features of the perennial philo­sophy (like “divine imman­ence” and “participation in being”) as we are seeing, will be found to reflect the true inter-rela­tion­ships within material energy and bring us closer to an actual picture of how and why we perceive the material universe as sacred. 

And in this case, finally, religion would also be right.  The myriad of invisible “facts” adduced by reli­gion, whether accepted as factual or not, will be seen to have a real and abiding relevance as powerful evocative archetypal metaphors (the reprise of “myths” that are very ancient in origin like the presence of “god-men” among us heralded by “virgin-births” etc.).  These “facts” poetically and therefore from a human relational point of view, aptly and accurately elicit attitudes conducive to a correct and intense relation­ship to esse with its five “divine” identifiers mentioned above.  They also represent a human solidarity that spans the centuries and embraces all human traditions in the search for the Sacred.

So could we say that “matter’s energy” itself and the cosmos it has evolved, is God’s “personally chosen” metaphor? … what the Irish theologian and mystic, Eriúgena, called “The Mask of God”?  (A mask like those at a masquerade, that seem to hide, but are really meant to reveal.)  It answers the question, what is “God” like?  And it says, “God” is like this living, dynamic cosmos, neither more nor less, exactly as it is and exactly as we observe it actively unfolding before our astonished eyes. There is nothing else to “see.” “God” is distinct only insofar as “he” is its existential energy — its esse palpable for us in the conatusIn all other respects, we are not distinguish­able. “God” is not a separate rational (discursively reasoning and sequentially choosing) entity-person like us.  “God” is not a “he” or a “she” or an “it.”  Esse is a transcendent subjectivity at the core of material reality that displays a boundless generosity of creative energy which is endlessly extruding new realities … and unable to be anything other than what “it” is: Esse — the “Pure Act” of existing.

.  .  .

In January 2010,  200,000 Haitians, the majority children and among the poorest people on the face of the earth, were crushed to death by falling buildings in a massive earthquake that struck the densely popu­lated city of Port-au-Prince.

Some called the slaughter “incomprehensible.”  No one quibbled; it was a word that betrays an unspoken, all-too-common assump­tion: “God” somehow “permitted” those people to die in that way because “he” did nothing to prevent it.  How could “he” have allowed such a thing to happen?  That is the significance of the word.  It implies a moral judgment … on “God” and on God’s universe.

But I say what is “incomprehensible” is the image of “God” it assumes — a false “picture” we have fabricated for ourselves. 

The imaginary, all-powerful, humanoid miracle-worker of naïve supernatural theism did nothing be­cause that “God” does not exist.  The real “God,” Aquinas’ vision suggests, is present as esse, and only as esse, in all the things esse energizes — a flower, or a cloud … or an earthquake!   Recently The Washington Post reported that:

More than seven months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, an estimated 1.3 million Haitians — 15 percent of the population — are still living in tents or under leaky tarps, unable to protect themselves from the Caribbean’s relentless summer rains, even though foreign governments and charities have pledged billions of dollars for relief and reconstruction.

But esse also energizes human beings.  “God’s” esse is the existential energy of those who are re­spon­ding … and those who are not!  

There were no miracles here, neither physical nor moral.  We believe in “God”?  We do well.  But we must be careful what we imagine “God” is like.

 

Tony Equale

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THE DESCENT OF GOD (II)

THE DESCENT OF GOD (II)

 In Chapter 6 of Christianity and Science John Haught’s insistence on the “divine descent” leaves no room for immanence.  God, for Haught, is distinct from the world and totally “other” — transcendent.   It is only the “descent” that allows God to relate to this other.  “Divine Descent” is a mechanism for reconciling the transcendent all-powerful “God,” identified as “spirit,” with the world of matter discovered by modern science.  Haught’s solution is not that God suffuses the world, but that God wills to be humble and relate to what is so far beneath him.   

He claims to want evolution “to open us to a new understanding of God.”  But the “new understanding” he offers is simply to claim “God’s” intentions and choices are different from the traditional i.e., God chose evolution rather than intelligent design, but all else remains the same.  In no way does “divine descent” challenge the nature of the traditional all-powerful separate and transcendent “God” of our popular (not necessarily theological) tradition.  His God is exclusively transcendent like its “revelatory sources” (which apparently means “the Book.”)  Here is Haught’s articulation of it:

 … if theology remains true to its revelatory sources, it must also envisage the divine descent as the ground of creation itself.  That is, even as a condition of there being any world distinct from God at all, the omnipotent and omnipresent Creator must be humble and self-effacing enough to allow for both the existence of something other than God, and an ongoing relationship to that other.  If the creation is to be truly other than God. and not just an accessory attached to God’s own being, then the divine omnipotence and omnipresence would become “small” enough to allow room for what is truly distinct from God — although it must be added that this self-constraint is paradoxically a function of God’s greatness.  It is out of the infinite largesse of the divine humility, therefore, that the otherness of the world is “longed” into being by God.  Creation is God’s “letting be” of the world, a release that makes possible a dialogical relationship (and hence an intimate communion) of God with the finite, created “other.”  (p.93)

      Haughts’ repeated insistence on the “otherness” of creation not only leaves out the long immanentist tradition that includes Gregory of Nyssa, Pseudo-Dionysius, John Scotus Eriúgena, Marguerite Porete, Johannes Eckhart, Nicolas of Cusa and many others, there is also no acknowledgement that Thomas Aquinas himself had presented a vision of creation as an internal occurrence within the Trinity.  Creation for Aquinas is entirely internal to God.  In fact it is an intrinsic part of the trinitarian processions.  Don’t take my word for it, check it out:  Summa Theologíae I, q.44, “De processione creaturarum a Deo,” and q.45, “De modo emanationis rerum a primo principio.” Creation for Aquinas is not an act or action, much less the production of distinct entities.  it is a metaphysical relationship of dependency among otherwise indistinguishable “being.”  The metaphysical distinctions are entirely exhausted in the relationship of dependency.  

 Unde Deus, creando, producit res sine motu.  Subtracto autem motu ab actione et passione, nihil remanet nisi relatio, ut dictum est (a.2 ad 2).  Unde relinquuntur quod creatio in creatura non sit nisi relatio quaedam ad Creatorem, ut ad principium sui esse. (ST I,q.45,a.3,cWhen God creates he produces things without motion.  Now when motion is removed from action and passion, only relation remains, as was said above (a.2 ad 2). Hence creation in the creature is only a certain relation to the creator as to the principle of its being.

 The a.2 ad 2 to which he refers (in the same q.45) says:

 … creatio non est mutatio nisi secundum modum intelligendi tantum.  … oportet quod, subtracto motu, non remanet nisi diversae habitudines in creante et creato.  Ceation is not change except after a manner of speaking. … once “motion” is withdrawn, there remain only the diverse relations in the creator and the creature.

For Aquinas there are no other distinctions.  There is no material, physical distinction between God and creation.  They are distinct, but not as separate “entities.” God and creatures cannot be separate “entities” because the created universe does not have its own “esse,” and all “esse” is God himself.

 Haught stresses repeatedly that the world is “other than” God.  It is, for him, the very reason why God created. For Haught, God creates the world as “other,” and must humble himself in order to do so and then “relate” to it.  For Aquinas, on the other hand,  the relationship is primordial and constitutive; it’s the relationship that makes things be.  The world exists as an emanation of the divine esse, part of the generation of the Word, and so God and material creation are genetically related from the very “moment” of the trinitarian processions themselves.  We are ab initio “part” of God by participation in his esse!  This is catholic tradition.

For Haught, the world and God are related as two distinct “entities.”  That can only be true if each is “outside” the other.  Notice he uses the word “omnipresence” and not immanence.  To further clarify this issue of immanence, let me offer the following extended quote from Raimundo Panikkar, Catholic priest and theologian, from his 1973 book, The Trinity in the Religious Experience of Man, (Orbis) p.30-33:

      In practice the modern West most often interprets the idea of transcendence in terms of pure exteriority ― God the Other, God on high ― and the idea of immanence in terms of pure interiority ― a .sort of divine presence within the soul, an ‘inner’ presence which leads in the final analysis to another exteriority, only in the opposite sense. In this conception, in fact, ‘God within’ transcends the human subject no less certainly than does ‘God without’, the only difference being that, instead of situating the Other above, one now conceives him in another ‘outside’ that one calls ‘inside’ which is the inexorable con­­sequence of applying any form of spatial imagery to the mystery of God. We, in this system, become somehow at the centre: above, Transcendence, below, Imman­ence.

      This conception of transcendence and immanence that makes God-transcendent ‘exterior’ and God-immanent ‘interior’, i.e. the soul’s tenant, is however extremely narrow and limited. It is without doubt incapable of accounting for what the mystics of all times and of all culturo-religious contexts have experienced of the true transcendence and immanence of God.

      Divine immanence, truly speaking, does not refer to a God who is as it were, enclosed in our inner being, while at the same time irrevocably separated from us just like God in his transcendent or exterior aspect. Nor can true divine transcendence be reduced to the aspect of exteriority or even the ‘otherness’ of God. The authentic notion of transcendence surmounts all human barriers and situates God in the light inaccessible of which St Paul speaks, in the deep shadows of the Dionysian mystery-cult, on the other shore of the river, to use a phrase of the Upanishads or from the Buddha ― in a word, beyond any ‘real relationship’. Transcendence implies heterogeneity between God and man, and rejects any relatedness which is at the root of all religious anthropomorphism whether iconolatrous or personalist. True divine transcendence does not stem from the so-called natural and rational order; wherefore, if one is not willing to go beyond that order, one is unable, speaking absolutely, either to say or think anything about the Absolute.  …

      If transcendence is truly transcendence, immanence is not a negative transcendence but a true and irreducible immanence. An immanent God cannot be a God-Person, ‘someone’ with whom I could have ‘personal’ relationship, a God-Other. I cannot speak to an immanent God. If I attempt to do so I cause this im­manence to vanish because I am rendering it other and exterior. I cannot think of God-immanent for, if I try, I make him the object of my thought and project him before and outside me. God immanent cannot be someone existing or living in me, as if he were hidden or enclosed within me. Obviously, neither transcendence nor immanence is special, nor do they belong to any ontological category. To say with St Augustine that God is intimior intimo meo (more interior than my inmost being) is still, insufficient to express true immanence, for God-immanent cannot be any where, beyond or behind, without his immanence vanish­ing. He is not intimior; the most one could say is that he is intimissimum. The immanence of God is something quite other than any notion of his ‘dwelling’ in us. God-immanent has no need of renting a place in my soul or waiting patiently till I allow him a little spot ‘within’ where he may come and dwell. The idea of indwelling is merely a very pale and distant reflection of true immanence. Man is not the host of an immanent God. The traditional concept of ‘God’ is itself so linked by usage to the common notion of transcendence outlined above that it is only improperly speaking that the immanent aspect of the Absolute can receive the name of ‘God’. For example, the name Creator attributed to God (to the transcendent God) cannot be pre­dicated of the immanent Divinity, for how could it possibly create itself?

      The Absolute is not only God in the sense of Other, Transcendent, Someone, a Person who is beyond and so Master, Lord, Creator, Father ― terms, these, which correspond to the ideas of disciple, servant, creature, son ― but, according to the terminology of the Upanishads it is also and quite as much atman, the Self, aham, I, brahman, the ultimate Ground of everything. In a word, God and brahman are the same Reality seen as it were from two opposed perspectives, God being the summit and brahman the base of the triangle representing the Divinity.

      We are thus confronted with the option of either reserving the name God to designate the dimension of transcendence, suprem­acy, otherness of the Absolute while finding another name such as brahman, atman, Ground, Foundation to signify the dimension of immanence, or of enlarging the meaning of the word God to in­clude also this second dimension. The first solution would un­doubtedly simplify certain difficulties. It would clarify, for a start, the dialogue between so-called monotheistic religions which lean heavily upon the notion of transcendence and those others which stress more strongly the dimension of immanence. However, such a simplification even within the ‘monotheistic’ religions would not account for all the richness of their own traditions. One cannot ignore the sufism of islam and still less can one put to one side the mystical experiences of judaism and christianity.

     Frankly, I feel forced to say that, for Haught as a Catholic theologian to conspicuously exclude the theological category of divine immanence in a discussion on creation is either a purposeful attempt to reinforce the anthropomorphic theist God of popular imagery, or an inexcusable ignorance.  One may validly nuance the interpretation of this traditional concept, but to omit it entirely and with such explicit insistence, drains the solutions he proposes of all substance.  The “Descent of God,” according to Aquinas would be an entirely superfluous accretion, perhaps admissible as a metaphor, a catechetical tool, a limping analogy that would require immediate correction. 

 God is the energy of existence at the core of matter.  That is what makes it be … and what makes it, like him, want to be … which makes it survive … which makes it evolve … and our astonishing cosmos, energized by esse, has thus self-extruded from the first micro-instant of the big bang.  Haught’s “descent of God” is a deus ex machina that derives from and serves to reinforce an anthropomorphic image of God — precisely the current ecclesiastical image that cannot conflate with science.

THE DESCENT OF GOD

THE DESCENT OF GOD

 In chapter 3 of his 2007 study called Christianity and Scence: toward a theology of nature, Catholic theologian John F.Haught of Georgetown University introduces the notion of divine kenosis.  Kenosis is a Greek word referring to the self-emptying of Christ in a hymn quoted in “Paul’s” letter to the Philipians, chapter 2.  Haught says the term is validly extended to the Godhead itself.  Kenosis is a metaphor that can be taken in many senses.  I use it myself.  But when Haught speaks of the kenosis of “God” he explicitly refers to it as a “restraint,” a “self-restric­tion” that “God” imposes upon himself which is meant to explain matter’s autonomous self-elabora­tion — the random variation, natural selection and “deep time” that characterizes all development in the universe especially biological evolution. 

 To speak about “restraint” implies a “definition” of God as changeable, willful, rational, “choosing” to be “humble,” even as “he” always remains capable of an all powerful intervention.  Haught claims he is changing the definition of power from physical manipulation to “the power to effect change from within,” but he continues to speak as if such a change is a personal choice and decision of a God who, on background, remains ever the Almighty One, Creator of heaven and earth, not obligated to such “humility.” Haught always describes the exercise of this “new definition of power” with words like “descent,” “humility,” “self-efface­ment,” “restraint,” “self-restriction.”  While such imagery is poetically appealing, it unambiguously evokes an anthropomorphic vision that in every respect re-presents unchanged the “active” intervening, providential “God” of the Book.  It doesn’t change the definition of “God’s” nature one bit, only his “moral” choices.  This “God,” instead of saying “let there be light,” said “let there be evolution;” but all else remains the same. 

      “The Descent of God” (a phrase he takes from other authors) is the catch-all he uses for this notion of a kenotic self-emptying God.  It refers to divine “humility” but please note: the very term necessarily speaks of it not as the nature of God, but rather as “God’s” voluntary choice.  This is where my problems with his “approach” begin to take wings.

 I ask: what gives him the right to claim that God “descended” from what he really is, all-powerful, to what he “chose” to become, powerless?  If God does not exercise “power” in the conventional sense, why isn’t that a direct revelation of what God is like, viz., powerless by nature?  Does Haught know “what” God is?  Aquinas says quite the opposite: “Sed quia nos non scimus de Deo quid es, …  indiget demonstrari per ea quae sunt magis nota quoad nos … scilicet per effectus.  Since we do not know what God is … we must discern it from what we do know, … namely his effects.”

      Let’s take a look at one such “effect,” the Haitan earthquake of January 2010.  By Haught’s criteria he must claim that God “restrained” himself from acting to prevent the catastrophe that killed 200,000 of the most destitute people on the globe, most of whom were children.  In this case the “effect” showed that, in fact, “God” did nothing.  Haught claims “God” “chose” to be powerless, and that’s supposed to be some kind of consolation for us, because it is a display of God’s “humility.”  Did God consult with the Haitians about how they would have liked to be consoled under the circumstances?  … perhaps a little less restraint and a little more almighty manipulative power?  Haught’s claim is utterly absurd.  If you grant the existence of a benevolent God, which is the fundamental message of Jesus and supposedly the premise of all Haught’s ruminations, looking directly at this effect you are logically forced to say, not that God “chose” to be powerless, but that either there is no “God” at all, or that “he” really is powerless.  The effect reveals the cause.  If there is a good “God,” “he” is powerless.  That’s not the way he chooses to be, that’s the way “he” has to be, because that’s the way “he” is.  Saying anything else belies the benevolence of God by any human standards except the double-talk designed to preserve traditional formulas.

 Now, by taking Thomas’ advice and looking at “God’s” effects, especially as revealed by modern science which gives us more accurate knowledge about “God’s” effects than we have ever had before, we can see quite clearly that God is powerless because he is identified with whatever configuration of matter’s energy happens to be at issue always and everywhere in the vast expanse of the universe and the immeasurable depths of astronomical time.  If we were talking about human beings, “God” is the existential energy of the material configuration that is humanity, its intellectual and moral capabilities and social emanations.  In the Haitian earthquake, “God” was the energy of plate tectonics and the force vectors of falling buildings and fragile human flesh.  God is, by his effects, quite obviously not a rational personal entity apart from and capable of acting upon the particular configurations of matter-energy that were active in the event.  If “God” is anything, “he” is the existential energy made available for the configurations of matter to be and to be what they are.  God is the being of the things that are.  He does nothing.

    If you say “God” could have, but voluntarily chose not to intervene in the earthquake, then, pardon me, but you are calling “God” a moral cretin.  And I, for one, will not sit quietly while this level of blasphemy is perpetrated for no other purpose than to preserve the formulatiuons of institutions to which we cling obsessively, not because they reveal the real “God,” but because they justify our sense of superiority, our disdain for others as inferior, and the arrogant assurance that “we alone are blessed” with the divine right to rule over all others and to plunder their lands in order to do so. 

 What is Haught saying? … that “God” decided to let thousands and thousands of helpless individuals die in order to maintain some abstract “non-interventionist” stance to accommodate the respected professor’s hypothesis?  This is utterly ridiculous.  Face the facts as revealed in the effects.  Either there is no “God” at all, or the “God” that really is, is not a moral agent as we understand the term i.e., “he” does not reason, he does not choose, he does not change his mind, he does not make decisions and he does not intervene in human affairs … because it’s not what “he” is like.  This is the real “God” as known through his effects.  The real God, as Aquinas counseled, is identified with the natural order.  It’s up to the theologian to try to understand it and explain it.  But it does not make not make it one bit more intelligible to claim some ludicrous “fact” about a “God” that no one knows except through his effects. Such inane “explanations” are gross puerile antropomorphisms that are internally incoherent, and of no value except to maintain the traditional formulations of a self-divinizing socio-political projection called western Christianity — the ideological product of the Roman Empire and justification for its political program — not the message of Jesus the Nazarene.