The second half of this post is comprised of a comment of mine taken from spiritualtyranny.com, where we are discussing this issue, along with others, in the comments thread of John Immel’s latest post. You can view it here.
Another commenter there posited the notion that utter self-sacrifice is the absolute standard of moral good; and that God alone possesses the ability to achieve it. The example he used was Christ on the cross, which John summarily dismantled. I likewise inserted my disagreement with this perspective, which presumes that Christ profited nothing in sacrificing Himself for mankind; that His sacrifice was of no actual value or benefit to Him, and therefore qualified as meeting the requirements of the moral benchmark. I thought this a massive stretch of logic, to the point of breaking it altogether. I went on to explain why this assumption is not only wrong but impossible by pointing out that since existence is absolute– you ARE, and thus you cannot be what you are NOT; and you possess no inherent ability to be what you are NOT whilst being what you ARE…for this is a contradiction in terms–yes, since existence is absolute, one cannot sacrifice himself to the point of NON-existence–of literally NOTHING–which is the rank opposite of absolute existence, and which, by definition, cannot exist. That nothing cannot actually exist is axiomatic. For if it existed, it would be something. Which…no.
In other words, Christ cannot sacrifice himself into non-being, which is precisely what absolute altruism demands. Christ’s sacrifice is a categorical extension of His SELF, not a denial of it. Further, it was a choice, which means he must have had a reason for doing it, and that reason is inexorably a part of the object of His sacrifice: man. Which means that humanity cannot possess zero value to Him; for it is the existence of humanity which is the necessary cause of Christ’s having a reason for sacrificing Himself. Meaning, without man, the sacrifice is irrelevant and pointless…utterly devoid of any definition at all. Man is the root purpose of the sacrifice. It was for man, and thus man must possess not only some value to Christ, but ALL the relevant value by which the sacrifice has any meaning. And this must then mean that the benefit to Christ personally is utterly apparent…for if there is no benefit to Christ for sacrificing Himself for man, then there is no reason, which makes the sacrifice irrelevant and meaningless. Where there is value, there MUST be benefit.
I then extrapolated this idea to the false assumption that God does not “need” man; that God’s creative process was of ZERO value to Himself, of ZERO benefit, and therefore constitutes an act of perfect altruism, of absolute self-sacrifice. Benefiting Him nothing, it was a total denial of Himself.
This is categorically impossible, and this is how I explained it:
The idea of exclusive external-to-man absolute forces RULING him at any given moment is the Achilles heal of all determinists philosophies. Be it one force (the Standard Model of Physics which reveals a “nature” which “governs”) or several of them (depravity, grace, God’s will), either all at once (Christians are both “sinners” and “righteous), or temporally (depravity morphing into righteousness).
Finally, God’s altruism.
Why would God create anything in the first place if He gets no benefit from it? This would make creation the single greatest act of irrelevancy ever perpetrated. If God derives NO benefit from His work then there can be no point to the creative process whatsoever. Which makes God the author of nonsense. If Creation is absolutely irrelevant TO the Maker, then Creation is itself, irrelevant TO ANYTHING, including itself. It is purposefully designed to be irrelevant…meaningless, useless.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that Creation cannot even be defined as existing; for “to be itself” indicates a purpose…a purpose which is precluded if we assume that it is of ZERO benefit or value to God; God possessing no reason to create it. If God has no reason for it to BE, then its creation is predicated on NO meaning nor purpose,not even “to be itself”, which equals nothing.
But if we concede that we do exist we must ask why. But more than that we must ask: who gets to decide why? God does…which means God’s creation of man cannot be utterly altruistic. Man must pose some objective, legitimate value to God in order for man’s existence to have been manifest in the first place.
Some may argue: okay, man exists to be absolutely altruistic, for this is the moral benchmark…to utterly sacrifice himself to God, because God is the greatest GOOD (making everything else ipso facto “less good”, which demands either an impossible value hierarchy to the absolute of GOOD (moral relativism), or making everything else patently evil, which makes God the creator of evil). To sacrifice not only what he has but what he is to God is man’s purpose. But this is nothing more than the same argument worded a different way. This argument simply says that man was created in order to NOT be himself. He was created as himself, so that he could utterly deny himself for God’s glory. On its face, ridiculous!
Why create man in the first place? If man’s greatest moral good is to fully deny himself–to be NOT himself–then why even bother with him at all? It is an act of utter divine insanity. No…if man exists as himself then he is divinely intended to BE HIMSELF. And no one and nothing else. His metaphysical singularity is SELF, and as an absolute, the point of the SELF is: to be.
And who gets to decide what that looks like? Man does. Because ACTION is a direct function of the absolute of his BEING, which is the root source and purpose of man. Anything else is mysticism…and impossible to argue rationally.