Friday, March 01, 2013

Don't limit God

  photo imagesqtbnANd9GcSlVyierOQ2ZIkFDZxPh-PuzBMkiV-WPXYZ-PQ5gjhSelV0Ad-A.jpg


 ....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.

 Matt 13:58.

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.






10 comments:

Dave said...

So it's back to using one anthropomorphic and anthropocentric construct of God to debunk a different anthropomorphic and anthropocentric view of God?

"The point is even though he's not taxed in power he may be taxed in patience."

Really?

Trying to discuss the nature of God even with a more subtle and refined BGITS (Big Guy in the Sky) model is just reinforcing the very inappropriate framework causing the confusion in the first place. God is still "thinking", "feeling", and "acting" as if he were an object among other objects with a human-like aspect, just somehow above everything else. That model is inadequate and inappropriate for this particular area of theology.

If we go back to the model of God as an ocean of awareness moving at different speeds giving rise to different potentials that we recognize manifesting as matter and energy on one level and certain aspects captured or reflected by consciousness at another level, there is a different avenue for considering topics about what God "can" or "will" do.

Matter and energy sprout from this "God-matrix", channeling certain aspects of it into organic life. A materialist would pick something like the quantum field or gravity as the starting point, and not ask if organic life were echoing or resonating with some other phenomenon beyond the strict physical universe, but otherwise a materialist account of evolution would be about as good as we can get on the origin and diversity of life from our human perspective.

At this level, to talk about God choosing or wishing X, Y, Z in the evolution of stars or human beings would be as sensible as an acorn choosing to grow into an oak tree. God's "will" would really be synonymous with God's nature. The "physical world" would not necessarily be the only thing out there, with other dimensions of reality possible beyond human perception (or in some cases consistent or intelligible perception).

The question would be how different aspects of this larger reality can interact with each other, just as different aspects of physical reality are constrained in their interaction. The idea of God as a King or Father becomes deluded and dangerous when it is used to suggest God is a super-person who will reach down if God so chooses to break the laws of space and time to help some people but not others because of some secret of God's will. Bad, bad theology. BAD! *whacks on the nose with a newspaper*

[continued]

Dave said...

The issues of theodicy, God's limits, the credulity of miracles, and the like all come out of the particular lens one uses to see God. No one lens of the human mind, of human reason or imagination or intuition, is going to give a whole and undistorted view. When we use the wrong lens, our cultural constructs go bad. Sometimes very bad. They become misleading at best or idols, our own wooden Gods, at worst.

These misuses and abuses of God constructs are rightly mocked and derided, but that can in turn give the impression that any and all models of God are equally ridiculous, impotent, and rooted in ignorance. Hence more and more reasonable and intelligent folks abandon understanding or seeking God as a worthy project.

Looking at God's will/limits from the model I've suggested for this purpose, God is beyond human concepts of good and evil. There is nothing good or bad about a lion eating a gazelle, or a baby penguin dying in blizzard or an alien civilization dying as its planet is consumed by a fading sun. These are human overlays based on our capacity and tendency for empathy. As self-aware social animals, humans naturally base codes of ethics and morality on such empathy as well as the practical wisdom of getting along with each other and the world in which we live.

From a "God's eye" view, everything is happening all at once. Everything is starting, growing, dying, and being reborn. The beginning and the end are always leading to and from this basic ocean of awareness, like light being split into a rainbow through a prism then being reintegrated into white light. All is breaking apart yet coming together, unknown yet "known", never before existing yet "experienced", a mystery and yet "understood".

However, from a human's-eye view, things are partial, incomplete, going from some unknown beginning to some unseen end. There is uncertainty which we try to capture and bind with models of explanation. We think in binary opposition, so we think the answer to uncertainty is replacing it with certainty, and this extends to what we imagine to be logically possible, empirically observable, and morally sensed.

If in this framework we make God into a super-person, then God is bound by our sense of morality. God is bound by our sense of logic. God is bound by our desire for certainty. Thus God is, to use a vulgar colloquialism, a giant ass-hat unworthy of being sought or known because God doesn't save children from dying of hunger, or because God can't make a square circle, or because of the existence or lack of existence of free will (i.e. God isn't "in control" or God is in too much control).

[continued]

Metacrock said...

?The issues of theodicy, God's limits, the credulity of miracles, and the like all come out of the particular lens one uses to see God. No one lens of the human mind, of human reason or imagination or intuition, is going to give a whole and undistorted view. When we use the wrong lens, our cultural constructs go bad. Sometimes very bad. They become misleading at best or idols, our own wooden Gods, at worst."

your lens is no less distorting. This is just a perinatal problem.Until you have the experience you dont' know then you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what you learned and what you do know.

the only way to get around it is to understand the bridge of metaphor.


Dave said...

Of course, the idea that human morality is meant for humans and their interaction with each other and the world in which they live, not for God, will cause some people's heads to explode. But then, they in some way are insisting on God as the BMITK, even if God is placed beyond the actual sky into some abstract realm beyond time and space. An anthropomorphic and anthropocentric God-construct has been locked into place and is being used even where it is not helpful or appropriate. God really is, to them, just a super-person above all others.

Even from a Biblical tradition, we get the notion that God's thoughts and ways are not ours. And that the natural world is acceptable/as it should be (it is "good"). So here is where the rubber meets the road. Would the Biblical religions be appropriate for dogs who cannot read or use their imagination like we do? No. Would it work for some sentient alien species like the kind we see in science fiction/fantasy? Almost certainly no. The same is true for other sacred traditions humans have created. They make sense as being made by humans for humans.

I hear more heads exploding. But for those who insist that religions are cultural constructions that, among other things (like providing a platform for basic notions of reality, codifying and enforcing morality, and serving as a tool for generating social identity and social cohesion), give an expression of a society's collective experience of the divine, then the idea that we make up religion shouldn't be a big deal.

Thus, much of whatever is representing "God" in a religion is less about some transcendent power specifically, that power's personality, or preferences, or detailed plans for the future, so much as it is about the human condition in the face of recognizing the glimpses of such a transcendent reality. Thus the depiction of God and God's interaction with humans is filled with specifically human concerns and failings, questioning if and how our concerns might relate to such a transcendent power. There are clear attempts to have an image of God that legitimizes some political structure, or moral code, an image which can be manipulated. An image which fills the needs and desires of the human condition.

Thus each religion has many facets of meaning or use, some reinforcing a particular culture and societal structure, others describing a sense of greater depth to existence, some having other goals. Ritual participating within myths can likewise serve many of these functions. Thus sacred narratives operate on multiple levels of significance at once depending on the disposition of the participant. Culturally available images and assumptions about the world, including magic and miracles, are borrowed to try to paint an outline of something which defies ordinary perception. Separating out which elements were supposed to be literal, allegorical, metaphorical, pragmatic, moral, etc, even within a single story or account, is at times impossible and even counterproductive. At some level one must be willing to suspend disbelief and enter the sacred narrative on some level.

[continued]

Metacrock said...

So it's back to using one anthropomorphic and anthropocentric construct of God to debunk a different anthropomorphic and anthropocentric view of God?

consciousness is not anthropomorphic. there's illogical about assuming if God made us to commune with then there is an analogy between us and God. it's tying t alienating us form god and totally and reduce God ot mindless force that we might control is not honoring God it's destroying our ability to know him. That's limiting God. that's closing oneself off to the experiences,.

makes not real sense to say that any and all forms of consciousness are a priori anthropomorphic. there can't be any kind of higher meaning or anything we are meant to know. it's rejecting the noetic aspects of mystical experience.

the noetic qualities of the experience are just as real and just as much a part as the sense of undifferentiated unity.

Metacrock said...

"Of course, the idea that human morality is meant for humans and their interaction with each other and the world in which they live, not for God, will cause some people's heads to explode. But then, they in some way are insisting on God as the BMITK, even if God is placed beyond the actual sky into some abstract realm beyond time and space. An anthropomorphic and anthropocentric God-construct has been locked into place and is being used even where it is not helpful or appropriate. God really is, to them, just a super-person above all others.

Even from a Biblical tradition, we get the notion that God's thoughts and ways are not ours."

you are going much further. you are saying that God doesn't' have thoughts or ways and to even suggest he does is to have the BMIS. Even if the thoughts are super advance. unless God is a mindless force we can control then he's the BMIS. I think that's foolish.It's disproved by the noetic qualities.

Metacrock said...

"I hear more heads exploding. But for those who insist that religions are cultural constructions that, among other things (like providing a platform for basic notions of reality, codifying and enforcing morality, and serving as a tool for generating social identity and social cohesion), give an expression of a society's collective experience of the divine, then the idea that we make up religion shouldn't be a big deal."

Sure but then to say that means god is mindless dead force with no meaning and understating no will nothing like that. jsut a dead force like magnetism. he doesn't care if we rape babies. that's just a knee jerk reaction that's as bad or worse than the fundie stuff.

Love is the background of the moral universe. God is not saying "be a deontolgist" he may not give a damn about systemic ethics, but he's love and that is the background of the moral universe.

love can't be impersonal. the very concept of agape requires consciousness and feeling and motivations and volition. trying to denude the tradition of agape would be evil. that's trying to denude it of the basic nature of the experience.

Dave said...

Thus when we come to examples such as the miracles of the Hebrew prophets, or Jesus and his disciples, or the Buddha and his followers, or the powers of shaman, and so on, it can be very difficult to discern if the story is really about an actual healing event, or walking on water, etc, or not. It could both be a real event and have a symbolic meaning and a moral message, for instance, or it could be intended solely to have a symbolic meaning. Curing the blind is an excellent example of such a loaded miraculous account.

If one wishes to take the "it was real event" aspect seriously for some accounts, then one is back to the idea that humans would be an aspect of the divine reality, and the question is how humans can tap into other levels or aspects of this reality. If some people can tap into this through the effects of cultural constructs such as religion and myth, this can explain why humans always seem to be necessary in these accounts. Humans would be the conduits for channeling any kind of shift in the potential of what we assume to be a generally known and consistent view of existence.

It would also mean that God understands and cares for humans as, by, and through humans. God is the construct humans need to relate to this greater reality, so naturally God is constructed in a way that links human needs and sensibilities to the idea that there is more to existence than human needs and sensibilities. The idea of God sitting somewhere thinking about humans can be seen as a human construction making God relatable.

This doesn't mean God is just a handy trick, or that human morality is irrelevant. As part of the larger process of universal development and growth, our God-constructs (even if they are not standard religious ones) and our experiences with a sense of morality are appropriate for us. Using the ocean of awareness model of the divine, these things are part of that larger flow and flux. They are not arbitrary but they are specific to us and perhaps similar sentient beings. It isn't wrong therefore, in such a model, to say that God is love or that God knows us intimately. Rather we must appreciate that this is a unique human perspective on what we call God and that we mustn't limit the potential and power behind what we call God to our own limitations or purposes.

[end]

Dave said...

Post-script: When I have to break up a comment into smaller parts because of the character limit Blogger imposes, I place [continued] at the bottom of each piece to denote this. It means that another segment of the same thought is on the way. One problem with this is that when posts must be approved first, other replies can be dropped into queue and disrupt the order, so that part one might be separated by replies by other people from part two, and so on. That can make it hard to read the different segments in sequence.

I have noticed while adding the last couple of segments that Metacrock was already replying to the first few incomplete segments, though I haven't had a chance to read them yet. Again, this is the risk one takes trying to post a reply in multiple parts. But there is a simple work around.

To get a feel for the totality of what I am intending, just start with the first comment I made and skip down over other people's replies to the ones I've posted that say "continued" at the bottom until you get to the one that says "end". This will almost certainly help to forestall any premature questions or objections arising from the first few segments that are addressed in the latter ones.

Metacrock said...

It's not that I don't think your comments are all valuable. they are so long. I can't do a through job responding to all of them. I have to concentrate on bits of them at a time.