Is There a Metaphysics of Christianity?

Editor’s Note: This is part 3 in our Lyceum Disputation series on metaphysics and the Christian. Stay tuned for further installments which can be found here when available. As with all our work, the London Lyceum publishes a range of viewpoints to encourage thinking.


Your average Barnes & Noble patron signs up for Metaphysics 101 at university. She reads the syllabus (ha!) and is surprised to see no assigned readings on healing crystals, horoscopes, or astral projection. “Huh. These must be discussed in class,” she thinks. She dutifully attends all lectures (ha!), but the professor mentions nothing of the like; not even essential oils. The final exam consists of a single prompt: State Leibniz’s Law, and use it to prove that two things you might think are the same are actually distinct. She fails.

What is metaphysics, then, if not what is typically categorized as such in popular bookstores? It is, first of all, a branch of philosophy alongside ethics, epistemology, political theory, and so on. Historically speaking, the subjects Aristotle covered in Ta Meta ta Phusika (lit. “After/beyond the physics”) are the rational investigation of the nature of divinity, the nature of being qua being, and the most basic principles of logic and causality that underlie all of reality. Speaking more broadly, contemporary philosophers Rob Koons and Timothy Pickavance say metaphysics is “about what exists and what existing things are like, in their most fundamental features and relationships.”[1] Perhaps even better (and more reminiscent of Aristotle’s “First Principles”), Theodore Sider and Earl Conee say “metaphysics is about the most explanatory basic necessities and possibilities.”[2] This is perhaps better for two reasons. First, Sider and Conee rightly draw attention to the fact that metaphysics is an explanatory enterprise. Metaphysics is about what exists (what we might call its descriptive enterprise), but it is also about “what grounds what,” to use Jonathan Schaffer’s phrase.[3] Second, Sider and Conee rightly draw attention to the fact that metaphysics is about the broadest of modal domains—the deepest, most basic or fundamental aspects of reality.[4] And most philosophers today think that domain is much broader than what can be scratched and sniffed via methods of the physical sciences. For example, ‘∀F(Fx ↔ Fy) → x = y’ seems like a deeper truth about reality than ‘c = 186,000mps’. We can at least conceive of scenarios where light travels faster or slower than it in fact does. We cannot conceive of scenarios where a book about astrology called Naming and Necessity is the same book by that title as the one Saul Kripke in fact wrote.

This short essay is about metaphysics and Christianity. Assuming liberal and postmodern theologians are wrong (and they are, of course), the Christian religion, traditionally conceived, makes claims about objective reality that are metaphysical. Among those claims are the existence of God, creation, the reality of good and evil, the atonement and resurrection of God incarnate, and postmortem survival of human persons. Much has been written about the metaphysics of each of these claims. But Christianity isn’t merely a set of claims. The claims are parts of a story.[5] Some say it’s the greatest story ever told. Accordingly, focusing on just the metaphysics of the individual claims could leave us with a radically incomplete picture of the Christian metaphysical scheme of things, just as focusing on individual organisms without mentioning evolution would leave us with a radically incomplete picture of biology. So let’s think about the big picture. Is there a metaphysics of Christianity, that is, the Christian story as a whole?

***

Immediately we confront a problem: any summary of the Christian story risks being unduly prosaic, oversimplified, and reductionistic. But we can’t say nothing! So I’ll risk this logline: After His creatures abuse their freedom and go astray, a perfect tri-personal God—Father, Son, and Spirit—offers reconciliation via the Son as an incarnate mediator to all who accept it. Others have summarized the basic story arc as consisting of three parts: creation, fall, and reconciliation. This isn’t bad, as far as heuristics go. We will come to more detail in due course, but even at this level of generality, important observations can be made. I’ll focus on one that seems to me to be especially illuminating as far as the metaphysics of Christianity is concerned.

The act of creation implies that the creator regards His creation as better to be than not. No creative act or product thereof is value-neutral. Thus we are told right up front that God looked upon His creation and saw that it was good (cf. 1 Tim 4:4). The value of creation is also evident by the fact that, well, God clearly values it. He does not abandon it when it goes awry. Quite the contrary; He goes to great pains to set it aright. Further, ‘going awry’ and ‘setting aright’ are themselves evaluative notions with significant implications: God desires and intends creation to be a certain way, and there’s value in its being that way. What way is this? We needn’t guess, for it is also an important part of the Christian story that God has revealed to us the answer. As theologian Cornelius Plantinga summarizes it, the answer we find in the Bible is that God intends that:

all nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God, and delight in God. … The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.[6]

“In its Christian understanding,” Plantinga continues, this ideal extends to “the constitution and internal relations” of virtually everything, both things in themselves and things in relation to all else. “In a shalomic state each entity would have its own integrity or structured wholeness, and each would also possess many edifying relations to other entities.”[7] This certainly seems to be how things are in John’s vision of the eschaton (the end in both the temporal and teleological sense), where he, like the prophet Isaiah before him, envisions the lion lying with the lamb, feasts of plenty, and God living amidst His people in a place with no more sin, death, sadness, or pain. This is the “good news of peace” which Christians preached to Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 10:36; Eph 2:17). “Can the conclusion be avoided,” Nicholas Wolterstoff asks rhetorically, “that not only is shalom God’s cause in the world but that all who believe Jesus will, along with him, engage in the works of shalom? Shalom is both God’s cause in the world and our human calling.”[8] Suppose this is roughly correct; creation is valuable, there is a way things ought to be, there is value in their being that way, and this ‘way’ is roughly as just described. We could then understand the metaphysics of Christianity to be, in large part at least, the metaphysics of shalomic states, or perhaps the metaphysics of shalom more broadly.

Maybe “the metaphysics of shalomic states” doesn’t sound all that different from what our Barnes & Noble patron associates with the topic. But really what we’re talking about here is a metaphysics of value, or axiology.[9] From beginning to end the Christian story is shot through with evaluative assumptions about what is good (and bad), not just in the ethical sense concerning right and wrong but in a more general sense concerning the value or goodness of things. What does it mean for things to be good in this latter sense? Consideration of paradigmatic examples is instructive. A good painting unites a diversity of form, textures, colors, and tones into a beautiful image. A musical symphony unifies across time a diversity of sounds into a pleasing score. A good novel will tie together various themes, plots, and characters into a meaningful narrative. A good scientific theory is one that unifies a diverse range of phenomena or data. Good health is when all of one’s body parts and organs work together to achieve their proper ends. Similarly, a good team is one whose members work together to achieve a common goal. Knowledge is good because it is the unity of true beliefs with their reasons (warrant, justification). Good ecosystems are complex, and often very delicate, equilibria of resources and organisms. Plato, recall, maintained that a good soul is one whose appetitive, spirited, and rational parts are ordered properly. Something similar is true, he argued, at the level of society at large. The common theme is obvious. Where there is goodness, there is unity in diversity. In fact, as Robert Nozick points out, “the English word ‘good’ stems from a root, ‘Ghedh’, meaning ‘to unite, join, fit, to bring together’.”[10] To be more specific, goodness is intimately connected to certain kinds of mereological structures called organic unities.[11] Badness is then naturally understood as the antithesis of organic unity, i.e., whatever is responsible for dis-unity, dis-organization, corruption, destruction, disharmony, strife, and so on.

The view that the value or goodness of things consists in their being organic unities has a rich and venerable history, though of course it is not always expressed in these terms.[12] But it seems to me that the view is correct,[13] and commends itself as the axiological framework underlying much of the Christian story. Shalomic states, as described, are organic unities. Shalom in general, we could say, is the all-encompassing organic unity made up of all other organic unities. Consider the presence of this framework throughout the story arc of creation, fall, and reconciliation.

Creation. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void. A succession of creative acts follows (creative acts are by nature acts of unification and ordering), and in each case God calls the result good. The process culminates with God taking stock of all that he had made, which is now a teaming, harmonious ecosystem. He calls it very good. God then forms man from the dust of the earth and breathes into him the breath of life, united body with soul, and he becomes a living being. Man continues God’s work by establishing rule and maintaining order in the garden. But it was not good for man to be alone, so he is given woman as a suitable helper. The two are united and become one flesh. They are fruitful and multiply.

Fall. A daimonion (lit., ‘disrupting or rending one’) comes between God and humanity. Consequently, the twin antitheses of goodness enter creation: sin and death. Sin is the breaking of God’s law and order. The etymological root of harmartia is literally ‘no part of.’ Man is expelled from the garden out into a world now subject to these agents of disunity. Physical death is the separation of body from soul. Spiritual death is separation from fellowship with God. Hell is separation from fellowship with God forever. The summum malum is both, irreversible death twice over: eternal separation from body and eternal separation from God (cf. Matt 10:28). Such is the fate, I speculate, of Satan and those who choose likeness to him rather than God.[14] Such is also the fate, I speculate, that Satan foolishly thought God incarnate would share when His body was rent from soul on the cross, and Father was rent from Son with the sins of mankind.

Reconciliation. If death is essentially separation caused by sin, undoing it requires a reunion. Spiritual death is undone by being reunited with God. This is what happened on the cross. At-one-ment. Physical death is undone by reuniting soul with body. This is what happened in the tomb. Resurrection. While what Christ accomplished on the cross makes possible our spiritual reunion with God now, His resurrection serves as the example and promise of our own victory over physical death in the future upon His return. In the meantime, we are to be united in one body, the church, and of one mind, Christ’s, clothed in virtue and, above all, love, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14). Thus the summum bonum is the permanent reversal of death twice over: reuniting body with soul and joining fellowship with God forever.

At every point we see goodness associated with unity, order, and harmony, and badness, the opposite. Thus, the Christian story’s evaluative assumptions about what is good and bad fit remarkably well within the axiological framework of value as organic unity.

Before moving on to a glaring omission in our discussion thus far, it behooves us to mention that the Christian story itself, like all stories, is an organic unity. Two observations about this. First, stories are vehicles of meaning and purpose. If our lives and the events of history have any objective meaning, it is to be found in their being part of a larger story,[15] a good one in particular—i.e., one in which things make sense and are ultimately worth it. This leads to the second observation. The success of theodicies—answers to “Why does God permit evil?”—crucially depend on the Christian story being an organic unity. A common claim in theodicies, maybe even an essential one, is that an overall good state of affairs can be one that includes intrinsically bad things. Courage, for example, is a great good, but it requires fear, which is bad. But the goodness of courage is greater than the badness of fear, so a world with fear is greater than one without. This is true on the grand scale, where great goods are available only in worlds that contain evil, sin, and suffering. Chief among those great goods, Christians argue, are the great goods of divine incarnation and atonement. Such goods, in the words of Alvin Plantinga, make Christianity not just the greatest story ever told, but “the greatest story that could be told.”[16] Perhaps you disagree. Harry Potter is pretty high up there in the rankings. The present point is that theodicies like this seem to presuppose G. E. Moore’s Principle of Organic Unities, which says the value of a whole is not always the sum of the value of its parts—it can greatly exceed it.[17]

Now to the glaring omission: in our reflection on the metaphysics of the Christian story, we have said almost nothing about the metaphysics of its author—the Triune God—the paragon of goodness! We will now fill this lacuna and, at the same time, make good on Leibniz’s quip that “metaphysics is natural theology.”

***

For any x, if x is good (is valuable, has value), then x is an organic unity. Organic unities have mereological structure. Thus, for any x, if x is good, then x has mereological structure. God is good. You see where this is going. But this path will seem to some too perilous to go down; so perilous, in fact, as to warrant rejecting the metaphysics of value that I’ve suggested underlies the Christian story. If our metaphysics of the good applies not to The Good, what good is it? It would be nice, then, if we had independent metaphysical reason for thinking God has mereological structure; another path to the same destination, as it were. Thankfully, there is such a path, and it begins, appropriately enough, with what Martin Heidegger said is the most fundamental question of metaphysics, the question that Leibniz said is the first one we should ask: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

If this question isn’t to be dismissed as absurd or meaningless, we must accept, Leibniz urged, as the first principle of metaphysics, the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): everything that exists has an explanation. And the PSR has been used as a premise in powerful cosmological arguments for the existence of God. For example, if the PSR is true, then all contingent reality has an explanation. But no contingent being can be the explanation of all contingent reality, since it would be among the contingent things that needs explaining. So the only thing that can explain all contingent reality is a necessary being. So, there’s a necessary being. Well and good. But suppose we press further and ask, “What’s the explanation of the necessary being?” Well it can’t be another necessary being, and the explanation of that one another necessary being, and ad infinitum; that defers explanation indefinitely. So it must be a necessary being whose explanation is wholly “in itself”.

But how can something have its explanation wholly “in itself”? What internal to a thing can explain a thing’s existence? The most obvious candidate here is a thing’s parts.[18] We explain the existence of things by appealing to their parts all the time. For example, the explanation of a wall will appeal to its bricks. The explanation of a musical score will appeal to its notes. The explanation of a proton will appeal to its quarks. And so on. OK, but now we’re faced with the question: What explains the parts? Parts can’t explain parts to infinity, since again that would defer explanation indefinitely. But neither can they explain each other in a viciously circular way, where part A explains part B and vice versa. That’s like the old problem of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Are we out of options, then?

No—and this is where things get very interesting. There is a form of mutual explanation that isn’t viciously circular. Consider the north and south poles of a magnet. The poles do explain each other, but not only each other. There’s a third thing in the explanatory picture, namely, the magnetic field. So each pole is partially explained by the other, but also by the magnetic field. Or consider the relationship between volume, density, and mass. Each quantity is partially explained by another, but also the third. This same ‘ternary and partial’ structure is present in certain subatomic particles such as baryons, where each of their three quarks partially depend on each other. Of course, the objects in these examples are also explained by things outside themselves, but the general lesson is that non-vicious mutual explanation is more web-like than circular, and requires a minimum of three things in that web-like structure. Thus, if the being that exists wholly in itself is explained by its parts and its parts are explained by each other, then this being must have a minimum of three parts in a web-like structure.

Why not more than three parts? In answer, we can appeal to what could rightly be seen as the second principle of metaphysics behind the PSR, the Principle of Simplicity (POS): do not postulate more than what’s necessary to explain something. Why think the three parts are the three persons of the Trinity? In answer, we can appeal to The Argument from Very Suspicious Metaphysical Coincidence: it just so happens that the world’s most dominant religion has it that there is only one God who is necessary and—wouldn’t you know it—also three somethings, namely, three persons. What are the odds?

So goodness as organic unity and the PSR are alternative paths to the same destination of God having mereological structure, and the latter path even tells us what the structure is like: tripartite. But do not these paths run the peril of trampling over the doctrine of divine simplicity? All I can say is: one man’s peril is another man’s pleasure (as it happens, schadenfreude is a classic example of Moore’s Principle of Organic Unities). For too long the Christian has let his metaphysics of God be indistinguishable from the generic God of the Philosophers, as if there were no radical difference between an absolutely simple God in which there are no real distinctions and a tri-personal God in which there are certainly three. No amount of fancy metaphysical footwork can resolve that naked contradiction, and no Latin fig leaf from Aquinas’ Summas can hide it. Arthur Lovejoy is surely correct that the austere God of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics has “almost nothing in common with the God of the Sermon on the Mount—though by one of the strangest and most momentous paradoxes in Western history, the philosophical theology of Christendom identified them”.[19]

***

I have suggested that the Christian story has a common axiological theme throughout its main characters and events (Triune God, creation, daimonia, incarnation, atonement, resurrection, afterlife). Isn’t this what we should expect given that the author of the story, the metaphysically fundamental being, is Himself supremely good? It borders on the logically incoherent to suppose that a supremely good (and omniscient, and omnipotent, etc.) being could create anything less than very good (again, cf. 1 Tim 4:4).[20] So the question isn’t: is there an axiological framework underlying the Christian story? Of course there is. Rather, the question is: which axiological framework underlies the Christian story? I have suggested it is goodness as organic unity.

In fact, this seems even more fundamental than even our first and second principles of metaphysics, the PSR and POS, for even these are (arguably) true for axiological reasons; that is to say, it is better that they be true than not—“better” being understood in terms of higher degree of organic unity (more valuable, good). Why is the PSR true? Because when things have reasons, they are more organically unified. Nozick: “If something happens at random, without reason, it lacks tight connection with what came earlier, and hence the whole is of lesser organic unity.”[21] Why is POS true? Because when things are efficient, they are more organically unified. Leibniz: “A good architect [is one] who makes use of his location and the funds set aside for a building in the most advantageous manner, allowing nothing improper or lacking in the beauty of which it is capable; a good householder [is one] who makes use of his holdings in such a way that there remains nothing uncultivated and sterile; a learned author [is one] who includes the greatest number of truths in the smallest possible volume.”[22] Therefore, however precisely we state it as a principle, value as organic unity has a strong claim to being the zero principle in the Christian metaphysical scheme of things, rather like how the number zero (along with the successor function) generates the whole natural number series. This analogy is actually quite apt, since goodness is by nature generative or “self-diffusive” (bonum est diffusivum sui)—a fact that will no doubt figure into an explanation of why the triune God creates in the first place. “The great and universal end of God’s creating the world,” says Jonathan Edwards, “was to communicate Himself … the supreme harmony of all.”[23]*


[1] Robert Koons and Timothy Pickavance, Metaphysics: The Fundamentals (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), p. 1.

[2] Theodore Sider and Earl Conee, Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics (Oxford, 2nd ed., 2014), p. 236.

[3] Where “grounds” is understood to an explanatory relation distinctively metaphysical in character. See Jonathan Schaffer, “On What Grounds What,” in Chalmers, et al., Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology (Oxford, 2009), pp. 347-383.

[4] Recall the infamous pre-Socratic disputes over Urstoff, the ultimate, fundamental nature of all things. Thales purportedly thought everything really just boils down to water. But you can’t boil anything without heat, so Heraclitus thought fire was even more basic. But fire needs air, so … And so on. A more modern dispute, though one that itself has ancient roots, concerns mind. Most philosophers today would think of questions about the mind and its relation to nature as belonging either to philosophy of mind or epistemology; but for Berkeley or Bradley or Leibniz, it was a preeminent question of metaphysics. Why is that? Because they thought of mind as a fundamental feature of reality, whereas most philosophers today do not. And it was probably those debates over idealism that influenced the description of metaphysics, popular in the 20th century, as the attempt to get beyond mere appearances to reality itself. But even this description retained the core idea of metaphysics as the attempt to get at the deeper or more fundamental aspects of reality.

[5] As emphasized recently by Gregory Ganssle, Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations (IVP, 2017) and Paul Gould, A Good and True Story (Brazos, 2022).

[6] Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1995), pp. 9-10.

[7] Ibid., p. 10.

[8] Nicholas Woltersorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace (Eerdmans, 1983), p. 72.

[9] Or what Nicholas Rescher calls evaluative or axiological metaphysics, which is concerned with not merely describing and categorizing what exists, but ranking things according to their metaphysical value. See his On Explaining Existence (Ontos Verlag, 2013) for explication and defense, including a brief survey of historical precedents. As I see it, if theism is true, axiological considerations are at the heart of the explanatory enterprise of metaphysics, since God wouldn’t actualize or create anything if it weren’t better to be than not.

[10] Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 418.

[11] How should we understand “intimately connected to”? Does value emerge from organic unities? Does it supervene on them? Is it grounded in them? Organic unities are so-called, by the way, because the relevant kind of unity-in-diversity is characteristic of biological organisms, which are “wholes whose parts are related and homeostatically regulated in intricate and complicated ways, unified through time despite changes in the parts.” Nozick, Philosophical Explanations, pp. 416-17. Even a stubborn mereological nihilist like Peter van Inwagen is impressed enough by the unity found in living organisms to afford them exceptional ontological status.

[12] The view is also widely held among contemporary philosophers writing on the topic. The more controversial questions concern whether, and how, value can be formally computed. An excellent collection of essays is Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen and Michael J. Zimmerman (eds.), Recent Work on Intrinsic Value (Springer, 2005).

[13] The arguments for the view are (i) confirmation by paradigmatic examples of value, and (ii) when qualified to account for degrees (degree of value tracks degree of organic unity), it matches our intuitive value-rankings (God > angels > humans > higher-mammals > reptiles and birds > plant life > rocks > …). For details, see Nozick, idem.

[14] The Bible seems to imply that a state of disembodiment for created persons—including angels—is bad. Paul refers to it as a state of nakedness for humans (2 Cor 5:3). As for angels, recall that before being cast out of a man, demons begged Jesus to cast them into a herd of swine out of mercy (Matt 8:31), implying that embodiment, even in swine, is preferable to disembodiment. Furthermore, William Lane Craig notes that Luke 20:36 and Mark 12:25 (“When the dead rise, … they will be like the angels in heaven”) may mean that the resurrected will be like angels in having supernatural bodies. After all, Biblical descriptions of angels are very similar to the descriptions of Jesus’ resurrected body—glorious, immortal, possessing superhuman powers, being able to appear and disappear in space, and so on. In fact, 2 Baruch 51:5, 8-10 explicitly makes the comparison. See Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Edwin Mellen, 2002), pp. 250-251. We may add also that appearances of the resurrected Christ struck fear in the disciples (Luke 24:36-38; Rev 1:17), just as angels do when they appear to men.

[15] A defense of this point is Joshua Seachris, “The Meaning of Life as Narrative: A New Proposal for Interpreting Philosophy’s ‘Primary’ Question,” Philo 12 (2009), pp. 5-23.

[16] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies (Oxford, 2011), p. 59. Plantinga’s full treatment of this theodicy is “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa’”, in van Inwagen (ed.), Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil (Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 1-25.

[17] Other philosophers have explicitly drawn attention to this principle as playing a key role in theodicies. The landmark paper here is Roderick Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” in Adams and Adams (eds.), The Problem of Evil (Oxford, 1990), pp. 53-68. For insightful appeal to organic unities in constructing a theodicy distinctively aesthetic in character, see Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell, 1999), pp. 21ff and pp. 129ff. A sober adjudication of Chisholm’s (and Adams’) use of the principle of organic unities in the service of theodicies is William Hasker, The Triumph of God Over Evil (IVP, 2008), pp. 215ff.

[18] Though we must be careful, because sometimes things can be explained by their parts and sometimes not. See F. H. van Eemeren and Bart Garssen, “The Fallacies of Composition and Division Revisited,” Cogency: Journal of Reasoning and Argumentation 1/1 (2009), pp. 23-42. By ‘part’ I mean proper part (x is proper part of y IFF x is a part of y and xy). Beyond this, I leave the meaning of ‘part’ at a broad and intuitive level. I assume it’s perfectly coherent to suppose immaterial things can have parts (e.g., souls, ghosts, angels, ideas, concepts, mathematical formulae, possible worlds, geometric objects, etc.) and that having parts need not entail assemblage or the possibility of dissolution.

[19] Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Harvard, 1936), p. 5. Robert Burns tells part of the sad story: “The ‘unbelievers’ against whose ‘ridicule’ [Aquinas] wished to protect the Christian cause by not trying to offer rational proof for the Trinity were undoubtedly the Muslim and Jewish philosophers, whose approach he so much admired and imitated. What he probably did not fully appreciate is that their arguments for the divine simplicity which he adopted, and which would have been the basis for their ‘ridicule’, had by no means emerged in a neutral context but had been forged as weapons in a battle against the doctrine of the Trinity… Ironically then, Thomas accepted as the deliverances of authentic natural reasoning a tradition which had been formed specifically to counter the Trinitarian theism in which he believed.” See “The Divine Simplicity in St. Thomas,” Religious Studies 25/3 (1989), p. 287.

[20] This is not to suggest that God must create the best, as some have thought (e.g., Plato, Leibniz). See Robert Adams, “Must God Create the Best?” Philosophical Review 81/3 (1972), pp. 317-322. See also Plantinga, “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa’”.

[21] Nozick, Philosophical Explanations, p. 421.

[22] Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, 5. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (tr. and ed), Philosophical Essays (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1989), p. 38. Cf. On the Ultimate Origination of things, idem., pp. 150-151.

[23] Quoted in Amy Plantinga Pauw, The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2002), p. 85.
*Many thanks to Elizabeth McIntosh and T. Allan Hillman for feedback and discussion. Thanks also to Jordan Steffaniak for his kind invitation to contribute to this series.

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