What, then, of the universe? What is its ontological status and what, supposedly, is the relation it bears to God? In the last chapter, in discussing the problem of finding out just what God’s attributes are, the assumption was made that the universe was created holus-bolus, out of nothing. This view may, itself, take two quite different forms and, indeed, may even be challenged by a rival picture, stemming from Plato’s Timaeus, that God does the best he can with a recalcitrant, pre-existing matter which can never quite be brought up to scratch. The latter cosmology, also, may take several different turns, each with its own logical peculiarities. The whole issue, then, of the relation of God to the world, and the bearing this has on the question of their ontological dependence or independence, requires closer examination. It will be convenient, in undertaking this, to revert to the facile but flawed analogy between man and God.
It was argued that we are liable to be much too impressed by the supposed ontological analogy, where both terms are taken as spirits, and that we should examine closely the question of how exactly humans and God do things. It is not merely a matter of grandeur—if that—that God brings order to the universe while Wren could only manage such edifices as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Naval College. If we look at the causal stories involved in the two cases, the analogy falters. Consider a human who is doing something that introduces order into the world, e.g. filling in a tax form. According to the dualist interactionist account, what happens when a human person wilfully and successfully fills in a form is that their mind consciously forms an intention to perform this action and, also, as a separate matter, causally interacts with its brain. The brain, in the usual physiological story, then sets up impulses in the appropriate nerves which cause