God as the First Secularist

Some day I hope to write a book on why God was the first atheist (and why, as a consequence, the problem with unbelieving atheism is that it is inadequately atheistic). Brian Leftow in God and Necessity (Oxford UP, 2012) touches on the kind of reasoning I have in mind in an argument that might be taken to suggest that God was also the first “secularist.”

That there is something non-divine is a secular truth. That possibly there is something non-divine is a secular modal truth. It appears that God’s nature is sufficient to make it true, or at least to guarantee the production of a truth-maker for it (as in Leibniz). If that is right, then as God necessarily has His nature, this modal truth is itself necessary, and its necessity stems from God’s nature. (275)

Any non-divine truth on Leftow’s definition is a “secular” truth. Ironically, Leftow’s central purpose in his book is to give these secular truths as radical a theological origin as he can: God “thinks up” or invents the secular truths about the nature or content of his creatures rather than discovering or having them given to him, whether inside or outside of the divine nature. The secular is secular because God invents it as such, setting it free, as it were, in its non-divine secularity. For Leftow, however, what is not a secular truth is the very possibility of secularism itself, for the possibility God has of creating something other than himself is itself a “divine” truth, i.e., a possibility that God doesn’t “think up” but has a necessary consequence of his nature.

If my earlier ruminations on Anselm are correct, however, such that before God created there was not God and nothing, but only God, and that the very difference between creaturely existence and creaturely non-existence is of divine and even inter-Trinitarian invention, then it raises the question not only as to whether God invents the possibilities that creatures are able to be, but whether the very possibility of creaturehood, that is, of there being something other than God, is something that God also “thinks up” in and with his act of creation. On this conjecture, God might turn out to be an even greater “secularist” than Leftow allows, for in addition to the non-divine truths of creaturely kinds and essences, God would also be the cause of the (now) non-divine and hence secular truth of there possibly being something other than God, regardless of what kind of thing that it is.


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