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How do we know there's a God? What is he like?

Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby Foxy » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:59 pm

The subject-object relationship breaks the notion of being "the All".

You make this a measure of accounting, at which point my notions of Job are moot. For reference, I was talking about the part where god restores job's life. But we speak of accounting, which is shitty because God as omniscient omnipotent deity has known the totality of all transactions and has chosen the times and ways in which they become unbalanced and yet still feels fine with causing suffering to restore the balance that he chose to send out of alignment.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:08 pm

It's not that God chose to cause suffering. It was these people's utter corruption and unmitigated evil (Gn. 6.5) that had cause the imbalance, and the only way to rectify it. If I use an analogy that is applicable but can't be pressed too hard, if water becomes so polluted and, let's say, radioactive, it cannot be purified and is good only to be destroyed. There is no hope to bring it back to purity or drinkability. (You get my point, so don't go into the science of water purification.) The imbalance to the cosmos, in this specific case, the earth, is so great that it can only be re-aligned by starting over. So God didn't choose to cause suffering. Judgment was the only recourse left. God had already tried the influence of godly people (Gn. 4.26b, 5.22-24 [cf. Jude 1.11-16], 6.9 [cf. 2 Peter 2.5]), and he tried speaking to them directly (Gn. 4.6-7). Nothing worked. Judgment was the only recourse if civilization were to be saved.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby Walrus » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:13 pm

> This is true, but communication is a different event. It is always, by definition and nature, an interpretive event. "Perfect" is the wrong term to try to capture the dynamics of communication.

Not when the source of the communication, by definition, knows literally everything and has power over literally everything. In this instance the ONLY way it could be misunderstood is if it desired it. I don't think you follow the omni ideas to their logical conclusions if you reject this.

> You don't seem to be allowing for the place of reason in human being or the dynamic of free will.

What does free will have to do with it? You can know about something and reject it.

> God can communicate however he wants, but if he's communicating with us, the "audience" is always human. Always and unavoidably.

God can ONLY communicate perfectly if he's a perfect being. If there IS perfection and god IS it it can't be anything other than that. That's what makes it perfect - its state of perfection. If it acts imperfectly in any way it's no longer perfect.

> You are stealing away free will and reason. It sounds like you want to be born omniscient. But if you protest and say, "No, we'd still be able to learn," then you are contradicting yourself, for we are not, then, born with all of this knowledge pre-baked.

Addressed above. I should be born with perfect knowledge of something perfect if it AT ALL wants me to know about it. Everything else could be imperfect but that CAN'T be. To deny this is to turn the idea of perfection into an absurdity. This ONE thing would literally have to be instilled, and yet it's not.

> I still think "perfect" is an inadequate term to use in this situation, because communication necessarily involves the source, the means, and the target. All 3 would have to be perfect for there to be "perfect" communication, but since in this case the target is always a human, the equation is damaged from the get go, and there is no such thing as "perfect" communication, regardless of the purity and perfection of the source.

It's the only term that's relevant. If god isn't perfect or only capable of perfection (which a perfect being would be), then it's not god anymore by the classical definitions.

> Now, now. I'm trying to reason with you. If you don't want to discuss, why did you enter the discussion?

My point was a reasonable one. It is entirely possibly that this is just idle speculation and the idea of perfect by its very nature is simply absurd. You might not like the possibility but acting weirdly offended isn't a rebuttal. In fact, I feel like it actually supports the point.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:21 pm

> Not when the source of the communication, by definition, knows literally everything and has power over literally everything.

You still don't seem to get it. No matter how omnipotent and omniscience the source of the communication is, it is being received by imperfect people. Anything, even perfection, can be distorted by humans. Anything. Humanity's imperfection is where the system breaks down.

> I don't think you follow the omni ideas to their logical conclusions if you reject this.

God's omniscience doesn't migrate to us. We have limited knowledge. God's omnipotence doesn't migrate to us. We have limited power. I understand his "omni's" perfectly well. We are imperfect, and that's where it breaks down, not on God's end.

> has power over literally everything

No he doesn't. This seems where you are understanding God's omnipotence. It doesn’t mean there are no limits to what God can do (Mk. 6.5). It means God is able to do all things that are proper objects of his power. It is no contradiction that God can realize whatever is possible, and that no number of actualized possibilities exhausts his power. God can realize whatever is possible. The omnipotence of God is all-sufficient power. He is able to overcome apparently insurmountable problems. He has complete power over nature, though often he lets nature take its course, because that’s what He created it to do. He has power over the course of history. He has the power to change human personality, but only as individuals allow. He has the power to conquer death and sin, and to save a human soul for eternity. He has power over the spiritual realm.

What all of this means is that God’s will is never frustrated. What he chooses to do, he accomplishes, for he has the ability to do it.

There are, however, certain qualifications of this all-powerful character of God. He cannot arbitrarily do anything whatsoever that we may conceive of.

- He can’t do what is logically absurd or contradictory (like make a square circle or a married bachelor)
- He can’t act contrary to his nature. Self-contradiction is not possible.
- He cannot fail to do what he has promised
- He cannot interfere with the freedom of man. Otherwise we’re not free.
- He cannot change the past

As for God's omniscience, God's omniscience doesn't mean that we are robots without choice. His knowledge doesn't imply causality. Knowledge is not causative. No matter how much I know, or anyone knows, it doesn't CAUSE anything unless power or force is applied. Because I know you love chocolate and will pick the chocolate dessert over the apple crisp doesn't mean I made you do it. I just may know you so well that I know what you will choose. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that our lives are predetermined and that we are not free agents. There is also nothing in the Bible to suggest that God's makes us do what we do. We are free agents, and the choices we get to make regarding spiritual truths are real choices.

Jeremiah 18.1-12 is instructive in this way, even pertaining to prophecies, let alone issues like salvation. Our freedom and free will are so vibrant that despite the Lord's purposes, God adjusts his plan and actions based on our responses.

> God can ONLY communicate perfectly if he's a perfect being.

This may be true, but his communication cannot be guaranteed to be received perfectly since the recipients of the communication are imperfect.

> I should be born with perfect knowledge of something perfect if it AT ALL wants me to know about it.

This is how humanity started out, but we are the ones who changed it. Now it has to be different. We messed it up, we made such direct transmission impossible without further intervention from God and a learning curve.

> It's the only term that's relevant.

It isn't, it's just the only one you keep choosing.

> If god isn't perfect or only capable of perfection (which a perfect being would be), then it's not god anymore by the classical definitions.

God is perfect and is capable of perfection, and he is God by classical definitions.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby Walrus » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:21 pm

> You still don't seem to get it. No matter how omnipotent and omniscience the source of the communication is, it is being received by imperfect people. Anything, even perfection, can be distorted by humans. Anything. Humanity's imperfection is where the system breaks down.

I do get it, I just find the argument nonsensical. Just because someone is imperfect doesn't mean that they can't clearly understand communication. You failed to address the point I was making: If ANYONE understands, anyone with the capacity to understand can be convinced. People with the capacity to understand aren't convinced. Therefore, if god is a perfect being who communicates perfectly, he MUST be choosing NOT to clearly communicate to those who have the capacity to understand.

> God's omniscience doesn't migrate to us. We have limited knowledge. God's omnipotence doesn't migrate to us. We have limited power. I understand his "omni's" perfectly well. We are imperfect, and that's where it breaks down, not on God's end.

I don't know why you're saying this since it's entirely irrelevant to the point I was making. There is nothing god can't not do (include communicate clearly to imperfect being) if he's omni and perfect. Your restricted deity isn't something I'd call god.

> No he doesn't.

Case in point.

> This seems where you are understanding God's omnipotence. It doesn’t mean there are no limits to what God can do (Mk. 6.5). It means God is able to do all things that are proper objects of his power. It is no contradiction that God can realize whatever is possible, and that no number of actualized possibilities exhausts his power. God can realize whatever is possible. The omnipotence of God is all-sufficient power. He is able to overcome apparently insurmountable problems. He has complete power over nature, though often he lets nature take its course, because that’s what He created it to do. He has power over the course of history. He has the power to change human personality, but only as individuals allow. He has the power to conquer death and sin, and to save a human soul for eternity. He has power over the spiritual realm.

> This step-back from the true meaning of the term omnipotence as it's classically and formally understood is something I'm aware of. What I view it as is a retreat from an illogical concept (all-powerful) because 'omnipotence' like 'perfection' is probably just a nonsensical construct, so much so that theists have had to modify and change the usage of the term so much that it doesn't mean the same thing anymore. To me, this isn't an explanation of a concept, this is a failure of theism and just more evidence that the classical and modern versions of god aren't only both different, but absurd.

> What all of this means is that God’s will is never frustrated. What he chooses to do, he accomplishes, for he has the ability to do it.

So not omnipotence, as I said, but 'all powerful within this series of constructed rules to make the concept sound more logical'. Got it.
There are, however, certain qualifications of this all-powerful character of God. He cannot arbitrarily do anything whatsoever that we may conceive of.

> He can’t do what is logically absurd or contradictory (like make a square circle or a married bachelor) He can’t act contrary to his nature. Self-contradiction is not possible. He cannot fail to do what he has promised He cannot interfere with the freedom of man. Otherwise we’re not free. He cannot change the past

If god is the author of all things he must be the author of logic and therefore would be transcendent to logic, or else you're not arguing for a perfect or transcendent god, but a far more limited one. If god is a product or bound by logic, even if it is a very powerful being, I'd argue it couldn't possibly have created the entirety of the universe nor the laws that govern it - therefore I wouldn't call it god.
Logically speaking, I'm again arriving at the far more likely conclusion that the being you're describing simply cannot exist.

> As for God's omniscience, God's omniscience doesn't mean that we are robots without choice. His knowledge doesn't imply causality. Knowledge is not causative. No matter how much I know, or anyone knows, it doesn't CAUSE anything unless power or force is applied. Because I know you love chocolate and will pick the chocolate dessert over the apple crisp doesn't mean I made you do it. I just may know you so well that I know what you will choose. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that our lives are predetermined and that we are not free agents. There is also nothing in the Bible to suggest that God's makes us do what we do. We are free agents, and the choices we get to make regarding spiritual truths are real choices.

I already addressed free will so I'll just state that you're just stating a position over again without delving into what I actually said about it. I will point out that your statement that 'nothing in the bible suggest that our lives are predetermined' isn't agreed upon - probably because the bible isn't very clear (and most definitely imperfect in its construction). If you're going to argue otherwise you have to entirely ignore the theology of predetermination.

> Jeremiah 18.1-12 is instructive in this way, even pertaining to prophecies, let alone issues like salvation. Our freedom and free will are so vibrant that despite the Lord's purposes, God adjusts his plan and actions based on our responses.

Logically absurd. If god knows all and has infinite power of creation he HAD to have created things knowing their entire layout and HAD to have chosen this universe in which everything he knew would happen would actually happen, including every bad / nasty thing /etc. If you're going to deny this I'll just throw out there that, again, I feel like we're not describing a being I'd call god, because 'perfect' requires 'unchanging'. Suggesting god would 'adjust' based on us means he would necessarily have to be in a state of flux.

If your version of 'perfect' allows for change, I personally believe you don't know the meaning of the word your using because if something is perfect it can't be 'more' or 'less' or 'different' perfect. It can only be in a static state of perfection.

> This may be true, but his communication cannot be guaranteed to be received perfectly since the recipients of the communication are imperfect.

Addressed above.

> This is how humanity started out, but we are the ones who changed it. Now it has to be different. We messed it up, we made such direct transmission impossible without further intervention from God and a learning curve.

Actually, humanity started out as a link in a chain of a series of biological changes with about 100+ members of the species which were able to interbreed. It's not biologically or functionally possible for a species to develop from less than a few dozen humans, throwing out a large amount of the adam and eve story. That said, it's irrelevant since scholars of near-eastern literature largely agree that genesis is poetic and not meant to be literal.

> It isn't, it's just the only one you keep choosing.

This is stated, not argued.

>God is perfect and is capable of perfection, and he is God by classical definitions.

Same as above. If you want to justify the position you can do so by addressing the logical inconsistencies (perfect but changing, all-powerful but constrained), but if you can't I'm not sure how I can believe what your saying, and I'm also not sure how you can believe it since those above categories are logically self-refuting based on how you're explaining and defining them.

I'll state it again: Your version of perfect seems to be 'perfectly limited' and your version of omnipotent seems to be 'powerfully limited'. These ideas seem to be flat-out absurd.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:01 pm

> I do get it, I just find the argument nonsensical. Just because someone is imperfect doesn't mean that they can't clearly understand communication.

Let me try the analogy. Suppose I am holding an exquisite cut glass goblet (for the sake of analogy)—perfect in every way. I am the maker of this goblet, and it's perfect. I toss it across the room to you. Now it's out of my hands. Now it's up to you whether it stays perfect or not. You might catch it, and we're all good. But you may bobble it and drop it. You may also hit it with a bat and smash it to smithereens. Once it leaves me, my control over it is done. If you choose to ruin it, or even if you ruin it accidentally, that is no fault of mine (for the sake of the analogy).

> There is nothing god can't not do (include communicate clearly to imperfect being) if he's omni and perfect.

As I said, there are plenty of things God can't do. For instance, God cannot possibly be not-God. That doesn't make him less than God.

> If you're going to argue otherwise you have to entirely ignore the theology of predetermination.

The theology of predestination pertains to salvation, not to all of life. We're not robots; our lives are not predetermined.

> Logically absurd. If god knows all and has infinite power of creation he HAD to have created things knowing their entire layout and HAD to have chosen this universe in which everything he knew would happen would actually happen, including every bad / nasty thing /etc.

Again, knowledge is not causative. Because God is not bound by time and can "see" the time continuum doesn't mean that we are robots being determined by his sovereignty.

> If you're going to deny this I'll just throw out there that, again, I feel like we're not describing a being I'd call god, because 'perfect' requires 'unchanging'.

Not necessarily at all. If I want to create a perfect goblet, I can make it with a stem or not, a rim or not, large or small, and after I've made it, I can even change it into another perfect form. Perfection is not bound to one singularity.

> It can only be in a static state of perfection.

Wow, I don't agree with this at all. A perfect storm is in constant flux. A perfect sunset is always changing. The change actually adds to its perfection. Two perfect people (if there were such a thing) could be different from each other, and they can keep growing and changing without losing their "perfection". A perfect love can adapt to various situations.

> Actually, humanity started out as a link in a chain of a series of biological changes with about 100+ members of the species which were able to interbreed. It's not biologically or functionally possible for a species to develop from less than a few dozen humans,

Well, I agree with you here. I don't believe that humanity came from a single pair. But our discussion of Genesis 2 would have to be in a different discussion forum. I'm not sure there's room for it here with everything else. I believe that Adam and Eve were historical beings, but not the first hominids. As such, they were selected out from among the others, God breathed into them his breath of life, and they became the archetypes (not allegories or metaphors) of humanity. We humans are the ones who messed up and continue to mess up God's perfect communications.

> That said, it's irrelevant since scholars of near-eastern literature largely agree that genesis is poetic and not meant to be literal.

This is another discussion. I don't agree in the least. A recently theory by Dr. John Walton (https://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Genes ... dpSrc=srch) is finding great reception in the Christian community. It takes a fascinating approach to Genesis 1 with which I agree. But there isn't room in this post for a discussion of it.

> you can do so by addressing the logical inconsistencies (perfect but changing, all-powerful but constrained)

Already done. Addressed above.

> categories are logically self-refuting based on how you're explaining and defining them.

Just 4 days ago some research by Stephen Hawking was published. He says "There is no time before the start of time as time was always present," and "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary."

Likewise, I have not postulated logically self-refuting propositions, but have shown that omnipotence doesn't mean that God can do everything, nor does perfection imply stasis. In this context, "perfect" only relates to the illocution, and "omnipotence" is his all-sufficient power and that no number of actualized possibilities exhausts his power. God can realize whatever is possible, and of course He is limited by the logic (not the absurdity) of self-contradiction.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby Foxy » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:39 am

First of all, thank you for the detailed answers. You're articulating well and clearly don't hold to the kinds of dogma that I'm more frequently having to get around. Much appreciated.

What limitations to God's omnipotence and omniscience caused him to create a universe that was destined to be imbalanced?
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:47 am

God, by classical definition, is eternal and uncreated. Therefore anything that is created is, by definition, not God (which equals less than God, and therefore not sharing His attributes, at least not to the state of perfection). Therefore it is impossible for God to create a world incapable of potential flaw, incapable of using free will to a solely righteous end, and therefore incapable of a possible deleterious change of course and result. Only God is impervious, by definition (immutable), to such things. The maximal state of affairs is a world designed for success, designed for integral relationship with God to provide all the wisdom and help necessary for success (though the potential for crash is always real). This maximally consistent state of affairs also includes a plan that, should the world go askew, there is a reliable and effective plan of restoration. This is exactly the world the Bible describes.
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby Foxy » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:51 pm

It's a leap in logic to say that eternal and uncreated are the prerequisites for perfection and that a perfect being is incapable of creating something that is perfect in all ways save for the uncreated portion.

Perhaps this is the true state of affairs, but then Christians need to rescind their grandiose notions of calling god perfect omnsicient and omnipotent as you have just demonstrated a worldview in which those things do not hold. The worldview is much more sound, however, and I commend you on it
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Re: Can the gods be misunderstood?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 21, 2018 4:25 pm

It's probably superfluous for me to say I disagree. If only God can be God, and only God is perfect, then anything not God is less than perfect. That's not a leap in logic at all.

If only God is incapable of degeneration because of his perfection, then any created thing is capable of degeneration. This is no guarantee that it will, but it is capable of it.

> then Christians need to rescind their grandiose notions of calling god perfect omnsicient and omnipotent as you have just demonstrated a worldview in which those things do not hold.

This doesn't follow at all. Our grandiose notions of God's perfection are warranted. What does work is claiming that those grandiose notions can be passed to any part of creation, including humanity.


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