Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lactantius on God's Instantiated Emotions

Lactantius reasons that God the Father must be passible (in a certain sense) if he is going to treat both his good and bad servants (i.e. human beings) in a just manner. He insists that a righteous God and Father must find pleasure regarding the pious acts of his servants but feel wrath for those acts which are not in accordance with divine law, those acts that do not promote human flourishing (De ira Dei 5). But if the Father is literally going to make a distinction in terms of the treatment that good and bad servants receive, then he must instantiate certain emotions. These states must be objectively differentiated in God lest he proves to be inanimate (Divinae institutiones 5.22.13). Since Lactantius is persuaded that some creatures—by dint of their actions—merit being hated or loved, he maintains that the Father must have actual emotions to qualify as a righteous deity (De ira Dei 6; Divinae institutiones 6.19.8). The only impassible entities
are those beings that are inanimate or dead. Neither rocks nor trees nor sand
can show emotions. However, Lactantius believes that the living God does
experience such variations within himself (De ira Dei 4). Furthermore, he
contends that where emotions do not exist, virtue cannot exist (Divinae
institutiones 6.15.9). The virtuous Father of all is thus moved (internally) as
he responds to virtuous or vicious human actions. His well-ordered experience of
phenomenal subjectivity ensures that evil will not obtain forever since God
apparently will treat evil and goodness in proportion to their respective dues
(De ira Dei 16).


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