instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cause the Bible tells me so
WARNING: This post contains violence against basic philosophical concepts that may be too intense for some Aristotelians. Reader discretion is advised.
The previous post is by way of introducing something not quite entirely unlike the Four Causes into the discussion of Jesus' four promises that whatever His disciples ask will be given.

If we look at the first promise -- "And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." -- we find it mentions two things that might come to be: a request from a disciple; and an action from Jesus. We could then ask what would cause these two things?

And if we're writing informally on a blog, we might get away with suggesting that the material cause of the request -- what the request is made out of, if we can speak of requests being made out of something -- is a desire on the part of the disciple. This desire is turned into a request, so to speak.

What produces the request? The disciple, of course, who makes the request to Jesus. I think, though, we need to recognize that making a request to Jesus isn't exactly like making a request to a hot dog vendor. Jesus gives examples of asking -- the widow before the unjust judge, the neighbor knocking in the middle of the night -- that suggest there's more to it than simply asking once and immediately receiving.

The form of the request also involves more than the form of any common or garden request. Specifically, the form is a participation in the Son's dependence on the Father. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you" is the pre-condition Jesus attaches to His promise in John 15:7. The request that will be answered is the request of a heart that has been formed in the image of Christ (which also impacts the material cause, since such a heart will be constrained in what it desires).

Finally, why does the request exist? In order to obtain what is requested. (See, I can give a simple answer to a simple question.)

Now briefly to the response of Jesus, Who will do what His disciples ask. His response can be said to come from His love, its form is of love (agape, even), it is caused by His sovereign power, and it is done "so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

As the warning suggests, this is a speculative post, and even as I'm writing it I can see all sorts of ways it could be tidied up or counter-argued. Of the eight causes proposed, there are really only three I'm interested in developing: the formal cause of a request being Christ's presence in the disciple's heart; the efficient cause of a request being determined prayer; and the final cause of the response being the glory of God. Those three together seem to me to contain the whole meaning of the promise.

But let me just add this bit of wordplay: If the stuff out of which God responds to a request is His love (which is to say, Himself), then this means there is potential in Him, "stuff" lying around ready to be made into something else. Since this isn't possible, it follows that God responds to such requests from eternity, making them a part of His eternal will. Which brings us right back to the idea that a disciple of Jesus will not ask for anything God won't grant anyway.