Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Gods v.2

This is what happens when, over the course of a few weeks, I am assigned Descartes and Milton and then get into a long discussion about redemption and multiple arguments about free-will. You get to decide whether my idea-digestive-tract produces analogous results to my food-digestive-tract.

The following is an examination of the Judeo-Christian understanding of God. How Islamic monotheism or Hindu polytheism and it’s offshoots would relate I do not know, as I am not anything approaching thoroughly read in those traditions.
The basis of the total trust in and devotion to God demanded by Judeo-Christian religion is the nature of God as omnipotent, omniscient, eternally unchanging and loving.
It thus follows that whatever happens, God is totally in control and will always do what is best, no matter how insane things seem to us at the time. And things seem extremely insane. The world is in no way an ok place, the only way God can be good and the world be the way be evil is that the evil is part of a process toward a higher good. Any lessening in our ability to trust God must then result in a breakdown in our faith in this process, and therefore any notion of God as good.
Unfortunately there is a contradiction at the very core of this definition of God. No being can be both loving and unchanging, and without both total trust is irrational.
Without being infinitely loving God’s motives cannot be trusted.
Without being eternally unchanging God’s control cannot be trusted.
The bible frequently speaks of God being affected by the actions of men, being grieved, made angry, pleased etc. If he is eternally all-powerful and all-knowing this makes no sense what-so-ever. All of these emotions require some element of surprise, of the unexpected. For such a god there could be no unexpected, and therefore no emotional response. Love however, demands these responses; love demands affection. If one cannot be affected one cannot love. And if one is able to be affected one cannot be unchanging. Thus if God is loving, we are able to change him, and therefore, because change opens the possibility for error by calling his omnipotence and omniscience into question, he cannot be fully trusted.
Likewise, if we hold that he is eternally unchanging, he cannot love us and therefore cannot be trusted because his intensions will always be suspect.
Of course the radical determinism I find logically necessary in the causal (rational and mechanistic) understanding of the universe makes resistance to God on these ground futile. In a Miltonic sense, no matter how much we rebel we can never get away from God’s will. This of course takes the latter of the two options for the nature of God - whatever love the eternal God has for men he is outside of the time-space continuum and cannot be affected by us (If the opposite were to be assumed, and God was inside the time-space continuum, we would be faced with the impossible task of proving his physical existence), therefore his love is fundamentally different from ours and not able to be understood.
This incomprehensible love, as well as any more general appeal to the mystery of divinity (i.e. God is beyond all your logic), has the similar effect of negating rational trust. I cannot (and it is irrational to) trust something I do not understand.
Fortunately, the existence of this sort of person-God is not necessary. The various proofs of God I have come into contact with, Thomistic (relating to ultimate origins), Ontological (relating to the inherent necessities of perfection), or Cartesian (establishing the existence of perfection and infinity and positing that there must be a being to possess these things because they are not present in our world) are not all that convincing and regardless, prove the existence of only the most shadowy, Aristotelian prime-mover type deity.
In conclusion - the two options for the theistic structure of the universe are:
1. Deistic Agnosticism - there must be something that started the universe, we can call it God if you like; other that that, God is unknowable.
2. We are trapped in a nightmare scenario akin to that of Satan in Paradise Lost, unable to justify a trust in God and utterly incapable of escaping his will. Doomed to hell, internal and external, until God deigns to destroy us.
The second option does have a certain philosophically masochistic appeal to it but for the sake of my sanity I’m leaning toward the first.

1 comment:

  1. I think you need to define "changing." Are you talking about changing as how the winds change direction yet still blow? Or do you mean that winds sometimes stop and then we can't call them winds anymore? An being pleased or angered or grieved does not mean being surprised. You could be grieved because something turned out the way you expected it to (say, like the failure of the supercommittee). And there is disagreement about how omniscience works. You should be more specific about what version of the general umbrella of the Judeo-Christian perspective of God you mean.