....Mixing it up from the abstruse Tillich stuff, let's talk the knitty gritty of faith. Someone on a board innocently asked me to talk about ways I think God is limited. I have said that God is limited by logical necessity. This question made me think "I don't wan to sit around thinking up ways God might be limited." That reminded me of a passage about when Jesus went back to his hometown.
Matthew 13:58 says: "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." I've always wondered this passage as a hint about this passage. The Greek sense here does not imply that he was unable to merely that he did not do them.
I've often thought some occultist would make that into an argument for psychic powers. Why would unbelief limit God in what he could do? Yet it does. Our unbelief limits God why should it not limit Jesus? Perhaphs we could get some insight from this passage about prayer in general.
....The Greek says: epoihsen (Aor Act 3 Sg) meaning He-DOES, other terms imply "not many mighty works" the real point is the causal factor, it says "dia" meaning "through or by the agency of" their unbelief. We might say "he does not many mighty works as a result of or due to the agency of their unbelief." The thing that struck me was the implication is not on the issue of ability. It doesn't say "He didn't have the power to do it." it says "he was not doing them (mighty works) becuase of their unbelief." Why would unbelief limit Christ and why limit God?
.... I am sure that God would not find persuading me taxing. He made the entire universe would he find it taxing to persuade anyone? Yet I'm sure it would take less effort to do the latter than the former. The point is even though he's not taxed in power he may be taxed in patience. Why do great works when the result will be denial? The atheist attitude of constantly doubt the attitude that as long as I can find one thing to dought all the evidence in the world for God is negated, is just negating the help they could have. Yet I wonder how much my own attitude is negating God's help though lack of faith and I don't even see it because I think of myself as a man of faith?
....When I argue that God is limited by logical necessity it's only becuase logical necessity marks the limit on what makes sense to talk about. It makes no sense to talk about self contradictory ideas. Saying that God is limited by logical necessity is just the same as saying that God can't do impossibly contradictory things like make square circles, smell next Thursday, or have his cake and eat it too. Although I think probably God could do that latter one. As for square circles one guy on my message board tried to show that one can encircle an objective point with a square arrangement of points. But that's not the issue, the issue is a round shape that is also square at the same time. Now those things are not possible to do, so in trying to limit God from doing them one is not limiting God in a way that would real constrain the divine will. I'm sure God knows he can't smell next Thursday and he doesn't care too. Of course it could be that we just don't know how to do such things because they are beyond us, God who is beyond our understand them can do them. If that's true, fine I wont be heart broken. If that is the case then I'm sure God can make a rock so big he can't lift it and still not violate the kind of omnipotence that atheists seek to trap him with. That's my point in answering that kind of atheist sophistry; it's nonsense and omnipotent doesn't mean "the ability to do nonsense."
....Most of the way we limit God are based upon our own limitations, not those of logic. Most of the secret limits we put on God but don't even think about or confront ourselves with are the limits of God's love of us. We can't imagine God could love us. At least not until we experience God's love first hand. Many studies have shown that atheists have low self esteem and that people who have negative images of God also have negative self images. I think the basis for that is the kind of thinking that says "if he really loved me he would make me good enough that I wouldn't feel so bad about being me." The inability to accept ourselves leads to rejection of God, even though most atheists would never admit that. Moreover, pastors have told me that their parishioners will say God loves everyone but me. So we limit God in ways that accord with our own self esteem limits. One of the first thing that began change in my life after being born again was the statement by my friend Judy who led me to the Lord, "you can't love your neighbor as yourself without loving yourself."
....Then we limit God in ways that close off possibilities becuase society and perhaps our own experience tells us those avenues are closed. I'm talking about miracles and answers to prayer. When I've told the story of my father and the big Christmas miracle atheists will often say I'm lying. When I tell them the doctor who was not a believer said "this is the first time I've used the term miracle in my practice but his has to be a miracle," they say "O well he didn't really go to medical school." Or "he wasn't much of a doctor." As though one of the requirements for graduating from medical school is disbelief. What had happened? My father had a massive heart attack while in the hospital having had a smaller heart attack. He was 89 years old at the time. He was clinically dead for 11 minutes, then they shocked his heart and he came back. The miracle wasn't so much coming back but that he came bounding back with a strong rhythmical heart beat when it has been totally arrhythmical and weak as paper. For a guy his age in his shape it just doesn't happen.
....Every atheist I've told that too has acted like "I'm glad your had lived but there's no reason to see that as a miracle." Why not? Well becuase miracles just don't happen. That's circular reasoning. They are really just saying "because we have always disregarded what God does in our lives in the past then were are justified in continuing to do so." We limit God then say he doesn't do things like that. I just can't see purposely saying "God doesn't' do that." I can see working toward some end rather than just sitting there and hoping for a miracle but I can't see giving up hope to trust that God will work things out in some way. One of the first lessons on the road to faith has to be don't close off God's help by limiting God to your fear or your imagination.