Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD

Program

School of Religion

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Stephen T. Davis

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Anselm Kyongsuk Min

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Philip Clayton

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Paul Helm

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Philip R. Olsson

Abstract

This study articulates a God-concept in the tradition of classical Christian theism, contending with calls to modify significantly or revise classical constructions. Attention falls upon two closely related divine attributes that have, especially in recent decades, come under philosophical and theological attack – God’s timelessness and impassibility (inability to suffer). Is the “classical” Lord truly Immanuel, i.e. with us? This general question motivates the study.

The opening three chapters analyze aspects of the God-concepts put forth by Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. Apparent tensions between a timeless transcendence and an affirming union of the Trinity with creation are countenanced, with an eye to doing justice to both doctrines. Chapter One examines the idea of divine timelessness and corresponding thoughts about temporal reality found in the Confessions, supplementing Augustinian transcendence with the creational and eschatological insights of two other Church Fathers. Chapter Two documents Aquinas’s affirmation of both God’s strong immutability and the non-necessity of creation, while questioning whether he affirms these in a logically consistent way. Chapter Three then follows the contours of Calvin’s Trinitarianism and Christology, reflecting on the Triune Creator’s gracious “wedding” of himself to the whole work of creation.

The final three chapters operate within the fields of philosophy and philosophical theology. Chapter Four commends a tenseless (or B) theory of time, highlighting several problems surrounding tensed (or A) theories of time. But this former view implies that there is no “official present,” leaving no apparent room for the presence of the timeless God with times and temporally located agents. Thus Chapter Five seeks to address classical eternalism’s “present problem.” The conclusion is reached that the temporally absent God’s “present problem” can be resolved by embracing a “risk-free” understanding of divine providence, best understood in terms of a “Reformed decree” that strongly actualizes all non-divine entities and events. Chapter Six begins by wrestling with what implications the timelessness doctrine might have for “responsive” divine compassion and ends by proposing that the infinite God “embraces” the finite world not by way of a panentheistic inclusion but in some ways more akin to a husband’s attentive care for his wife.

DOI

10.5642/cguetd/38

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