We thus have three different ways to explain the “relation” between the cosmos and its Creator: Plato’s idea of God as a Divine Artisan, the idea that God created the world from sheer nothing, and the idea of the world as an emanation from God. Chapter 4 begins with a discussion about the Argument from Design, as presented by David Hume, the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher. I concur with his conclusion that while the legitimate scope of the Argument from Design is very limited, when correctly formulated it is nonetheless a persuasive argument for the existence of a cosmic Intelligence that we might call God. Given that it is reasonable to think of the cosmos as having an Intelligent cause, we may inquire as to what is the relation between the cosmos and such an Intelligent cause. This leads to a comparison between the three possibilities we have already discussed. I first compare Plato’s portrayal of God as a divine Artisan with the Biblically inspired doctrine of “creation from nothing” and find in favour of the latter, because it solves the problems raised in Plato’s account. I next compare “creation from nothing” with the idea, taught by the Neoplatonists, but also found in the Upanishads, that the world is an “emanation from the Divine”. My argument is that the concept of the world as a “divine emanation” is a viable possibility with a number of advantages over the idea that the world is a creation “from nothing”. My proposal is that our understanding of God should be widened to include the idea that God is the intelligent cause of the cosmos and is its material cause as well. In other words, the Maker is also the material.
The idea of the world as an emanation of God is not without some philosophical challenges, which I try to address. Its chief benefit, which I discuss in chapter 5, is that the idea of the world as God manifest as form recovers the lost immanence of God and it restores the conception, common to many ancient cultures, of the world as a sacred place.