All these processes of generation, retention and selection can be usefully imaged
by the ‘flowing’ of life from God into us as receptacles that retain
that life until it operates. The different discrete degrees can be imaged as successive
pools in a chain of waterfalls: pools which keep the flow for a short period before
it flows on down to later stages. This is the reason for waterfalls being used as
the cover picture. The flow of water conveys aspects of the ‘influx of life’, in
that the ‘being’ of the later degrees is dependent on the previous ones. The image
of water influx is not accurate, however, when it comes to the discreteness
of the successive degrees, since water flow is indeed continuous, and not discrete.18.2Nevertheless,
we henceforth use the term ‘influx’ to refer to the general manner in which God
sustains and enlivens the world.
The traditional view of God creating the world is different. It is by fiat,
taking literally the commands ‘fiat lux: let there be light,’ and so on.
Theologians have usually separated the question of how God sustains the existence
of things from the question of their dynamical properties. These properties are
taken to give rise to secondary causation, which is assumed to be independent of
whatever primary causation there is from God.
The creation of substantial objects nevertheless involves God giving them their
being (since he is being itself). There can be no power without substance nor without
some kind of presence. It is impossible that God sustains merely the existences
of things while at the same time remaining completely absent. We discussed presence
in Section 15.2. In the theism of this book, we claim the
immanence of God, by which all things are sustained, is less an abstract metaphysical
principle and much more the immediate and mediate re-generation of life by continual
influx from God. The sustaining of being by re-generation does allow this, as long
as the beginning of the chain is in the presence of God.