Classical theists assume that God is an agent whose activity makes a causal difference in the world. Whether we must accept the notion of God as cause and, if we do, what the implications are for how we think of the metaphysics of the divine and the prospects for human agents to have a robust form of free will. Willem Drees aims at offering a non-theistic way of thinking about the divine that takes ontological naturalism as both a resource and as a constraint on our theorizing about the divine.
Focusing on both the cosmological and axiological dimensions of our conception of the divine, Drees considers two different ways of de-emphasizing or rejecting some traditional ways of thinking about the divine. First, he considers how we might think about the divine in non-causal terms as the ground of existence rather than in causal terms as the creator and first cause of the universe. This proposal is reminiscent of the proposal put forward by Paul Tillich. But there are differences. For one, Drees eschews taking the ground of existence as being revelatory in the same way it is for Tillich.
Drees then proposes an axiological framework that shifts from thinking in terms of a divine judge to thinking of the divine perspective as sub specie aeternitatis, a perspective that is not a particular perspective, and “thus not serving a particular self-interest”. The divine perspective is impartial regarding the interests and concerns of agents. This perspective, in turn, is a model for our own perspective vis-àvis others and provides a framework for the impartial evaluation of our own behavior and the behavior of others.
Drees proposes a religious outlook that integrates both of the two perspectives on the divine he discusses into a single vision of divine reality that he claims is consistent with naturalism.