Is God omniscient or limited?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by BlackHeart, Sep 18, 2003.

  1. BlackHeart

    BlackHeart New Member

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    Omnipotent God?

    Says who? Why would a "creator of everything" (which I'm assuming is what you mean by "God") have to be loving at all? Why would he have to be *all*-powerful, and not just powerful enough to create a universe? What would make him all-knowing?

    More importantly--why do people assume these are traits of their God? I often wonder where the "all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving" concept came from. (Some folks add "all-present, or swap one of the other two for it.) If God was "all-knowing," then the rules set in the Garden of Eden are nothing more than a cruel joke played on mankind. If he's "all-powerful," then the deaths of infants from dysentary are just more cruelty. If he's "all-loving," then the stories of Hell indicate some serious schizoprenia.

    However, if he's *none* of these things--if he's got tremendous power, but not enough to do everything he wants; if he's very wise & knowledgeable, but doesn't know what people will chose in a given situation; if he loves his chosen people, but despises those who are evil--then the stories, and the reality we live in, make sense.
     
  2. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Is God Omnipotent or Limited?

    Ah, no, Blackheart - the same can be applied to any perception of Divinity. The idea of a fractional, limited, Divinity, only makes sense if the universe itself makes no sense. Death seems to be a particular issue of contention - there's already a discussion on the topic in this thread, where you're welcome to argue the case there.

    Anyway, I'll open a new thread on the issue of omnipotent vs limited Deity in the "Religion Central" board (soon to be "General Theology").
     
  3. arete

    arete New Member

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    Personally, if God is not all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, etc. (depending on how each of those conepts is defined) then that god is not sufficient to answer the kind of questions I have about the nature of the universe we live in. Or as you put it, I want the 'reality we live in (to) make sense.' I want to know why there is such incredible diversity. I want to know why the categories of good and evil exist. I want to know why I am 'personal' while so much of what I see around me is 'impersonal'. I want to know virtue and I want to understand love.

    The 'limited' god is no god at all, or at best is one among many. 'One god among many' strikes me as subject to the same limitations as the Greek & Roman (or even Hindu) pantheons. Ultimately they are too small to become a sufficient reference point to give sufficient meaning to any of the particulars of my experience. Taking the one among many approach I would just as soon consider myself to be God. (Not an uncommon solution to these problems.)
     
  4. BlackHeart

    BlackHeart New Member

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    And you think a deity would have to be "infinite" to know the answers to these things? Not just "vast beyond the imagination of man?" Or is that close enough to infinite that you consider them the same thing?

    I don't think a deity would have to know *everything* to understand the nature of man & the universe. Or that a deity would have to be all-powerful, to be able to help those he likes and punish those he dislikes. "Ability to throw planets around like ping-pong balls & spark atoms into life" is plenty powerful enough to do that... that still doesn't assume infinite power. "Knows the true meaning of the human condition" doesn't, to me, imply "knows absolutely everything there has ever been or could be to know."

    B'sides, those who talk about the "limited" nature of the Greek, Roman & Hindu Gods have generally never met them. They're not infinite (except for Brahma, but that's a whole 'nuther ball o' wax)... but that doesn't mean cultivating a relationship with them is useless, any more than you would avoid ties to your city council because they're not the President.
     
  5. Elizabeth May

    Elizabeth May New Member

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    If there are smaller gods then aren't they just like the saints?
     
  6. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    i think that QM (quatum mechanics) and the implications of UP (uncertanity principle) effectively demonstrate that God is not Omniscient.

    the UP combined with a Copenhagen interpetation of QM would indicate that, though some of the properties of a fundamental particle can be known, all of it's properties cannot be known at the same time.

    presuming for sake of argument that God created the universe, He created it in such a way as that He wouldn't know the outcome of every event.. thus, in effect, ensuring free will, but limiting Himself. quite an interesting paradox there, don't you think?

    if you take a flashlight and shine it at a mirror, most of the photons are reflected, however, some pass through the mirror. it is impossible to know which photon will pass through the mirror and which will be refelected and we can repeat this experiment with differnt mirrors and the photon will never be known until it has passed through the mirror.
     
  7. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    An interesting thought - excepting that if God is considered to exist outside of time, and therefore all time can be considered to have happened for the Divine Mind - then would that not imply that God therefore is quite aware of what the whole collections of events actually resulted in? Even more profound - perhaps - is that the very act of a Divine Mind observing the universe has in itself collapsed the wave-functions of the universe?

    Perhaps inaccurate, but a suitably cheeky tease. :)
     
  8. sachetm

    sachetm New Member

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    This is only true if one assumes that God, exists within time. If, however, time is an essential distinction between God, the creator, and His creation, then by definition, He woul be all-everything.
     
  9. sachetm

    sachetm New Member

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    I didn't read this post before writing mine but when I did read it, assumed it was in response to mine until I realized it had been written before. Spooky!

    Since we live within time, I doubt we have the ability to conceive of timelessness, much less the relationship between the two. Even "the present" is an illusion because as soon as it's conceived, it's already gone. The closest we can come, is likely some abstraction that lies outside of our experience and may or may not have anything to do with the reality of timelessness.

    Then again, I have no idea what "wave-functions of the universe" means. :p
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Spiritus ubi vult spirat

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    Metaphysics, in its purest forms, states the following:

    God is Absolute, in that nothing can be added, nothing taken away, there is no augmentation, no diminution.

    God is Infinite in that there is no constraint, no boundary, no limitation.

    From these two, everything else follows.

    With regard to omniscience or omnipotence, God is 'outside' time and space, which are both limitations determined by finitude.

    If God is not omniscienct or not omnipotent, then there is some form of limit or containment active on God which is itself more powerful than God, and thus must necessarily be God, so the argument is self-defeating.

    No-one can know the Deity in its esse ('is-ness' - as it is to itself), but only indirectly through observation of nature, or directly as revealed through the great traditions.
     
  11. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    That's a very good frame of reference, Thomas. Somehow it reminds myself of the opening of the Tao Te Ching very much.
     
  12. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste,

    even allowing this, God still cannot know all the properties of a particle due to the UP. if we posit that God created the universe (which i'm sitpulating is true for the sake of the argument) then he also created it in such a fashion that He cannot know all the properties of a particle. this is something that we observe in creation, not apart from it, as it were.

    this is probably a good thing for Christians as this allows for free will... an omi-max God necessarily precludes such a thing.
     
  13. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Thomas,

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/2606/meta_def.htm

    Definition of Metaphysics (from the Webster's Unabridged)
    "[The term was first used, is is believed, by Andronicus of Rhodes, the editor of Aristotle's works, as a name for that part of his writings which came after the Physics.] That division of philosophy which includes ontology, the science of being, and cosmology, or the science of the fundamental causes and processes in things; in a looser serse, all of the more abstruse philosophical diciplines, in a narrower sense, ontology alone."

    "The primary meaning of metaphysics is derived from those discussions by Aristotle, which he himself called the Fifst Philosophy, or Theology, and which deal with the nature of being, with cause or genisis, and with the existence of God. Later metaphysics was understood as the science of the supersensible. By Albertus Magnus it was called the 'transphysical science', and Aquinas considered it to be concerned with the cognition of God."

    "Scholastic philosophy in general understood it as the science of being in itself, that is, as 'ontology', a meaning which, with some difference of interpretation is still retained."

    "The Rennaisance resulted in two developments. in Germany, Cristian Wolff divided metaphysics into ontology, psychology, cosmology, and natural or rational theology. In England Bacon defined it as the quest or study of formal and final causes, contrasting with it natural philosophy as treating efficient and material causes."

    "As philosophy recieved from Descartes its peculiarly epistemological character, the conception of metaphysics altered from the science of being to the science of the conditions of knowledge. In England, owing to the prevalence of psychological problems, it became pratically identified with the analytical psychology of the time; while in Germany Kant's 'Critique' asserted its trancendental province as the science of pure, or apriori, reason."

    "The notion that metaphysics is concerned with that which transcends experience led to the positivistic denial of the possibility of metaphysical knowledge, while the critical spirit and logical point of view of Kant cuased metaphysics to be identified with the logic by Hegel. Schopenhauer and later writers have insisted that metaphysics is concerned with analysis of experience in the broad sense, and this empirical view is largely held by modern writers."

    from the above we can see that metaphysics is not solely concerned with God, per se, rather with the supramundane aspects of knowledge. you are basing your definition of metaphysics on your presumed existence of God. however, metaphysics are also discussed and used by those with no theistic belief, therefore the meaning has to be more inclusive than that which has been offered.

    moreover, there are things that God cannot do.. for instance, God cannot draw a square circle. Omnipotence means that God has the ability to do anything that is logical, Omniscience means that God has the ability to know anything that is logical. things that aren't logical are removed from the equation.

    more directly, we even see it in the various scriptures that God cannot do anything... usually it's by His own decree. for instance, God cannot lie because He says that He won't..... though that could be a lie, in an of itself, that would be a different thread.

    perhaps, and this is simply speculation for the sake of speculation, God could constrain Himself if He chose to... and from our observations of His creation, He has.
     
  14. emong

    emong New Member

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    The real question is: Can I come to terms with the fact that it doesn't matter?

    If God is limited, in what way would that knowledge effect me?
    And are His limitations (if any) a reflection of my own? That is to say that if God is limited, then I must be. If He is omniscient, therfore so am I.

    If we limit God, we limit ourselves.
     
  15. Nogodnomasters

    Nogodnomasters New Member

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    The Omni-everything god was a Greek invention. This was not god of the Old Testament who didn't see all. The problem arose when they attempted to combine this concept with the newly acquired god "satan". Now there was a problem. Evil existed and god was no longer the cause of evil, as he was before. God now takes on a superhuman morality. Face it, in the Bible YHWH was one mean SOB- now he becomes a picture of goodness.

    The Zorastrian religion dealt with the idea that evil existed, but god was not powerful enough to defeat it. They would be equal in strength until the end time when "the word" would born and join the good side to defeat evil.

    In Christianity it became awkward. God created the evil side, but didn't intend for it to be evil, except for the fact he knows all and it was part of his plan. This gives man something called "free will" as opposed to the "pay by the hour will?"

    So a whole knew concept must be introduced. The problem still exists, god who is perfect deliberately made an imperfect being. God who is good, created evil. God who is all powerful can defeat evil at any time, but does not. This is absurd.

    Now if "God" is not omni everything, then by our modern definition "he" would not be "God." So then we must eliminate the idea God is somehow "good" in order to eliminate this absurdity in religion. God would be neutral as is nature and does not play a role in our lives. The Deists had this already figured out centuries ago.
     
  16. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Certainly I would be far more inclined to perceive God as a far more neutral figure - "good" and "evil" as irrelevant as making morality judgements on the cycles of Nature itself.

    However, the whole polar distinction between Deism and Pantheism I see as an artificial one. Perhaps it works for some, but persons like myself find Deism and Pantheism far too limited, and prone to becoming linguistic arguments, rather than theological ones - as per Wittgenstein's arguments of philosophy being a "critique of language", so theological niches becomes less about metaphysical perceptions of what may or may not constitute Ultimate Divinity, as much as arguments over the actual application of certain semantics.

    However, something to bear very much in mind is the not too common experience of feeling some intermediary working on behalf of Divinity, and with humankind. To some this may be the Saints, the Angels, animistic spirits or demi-gods. I would even personally consider that intuition itself could be required as an intermediary process between self and Divinity. However perceived, I often feel that this element is very much missing from certain perceptions of Divinity. Deism itself is incapable of deciding what is and is not actually supernatural, whereas Pantheism itself is unable to consider the existence of Divinty beyond the immediate boundaries of the universe. In short, there's room for a far wider perception of God in metaphysical philosophy that has yet to be properly considered.

    2c.
     
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Spiritus ubi vult spirat

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    This is the definition that the traditionalists use, as do most theology.

    Furthermore theologians and traditionalists agree that a non-theistic notion of metaphysics is a self-determined limitation and not acceptable.
    hardly ideal, but because a philosopher decides he doesn't believe in God, that does not give him the right to alter the definitions of terms which are founded on the belief of the Transcendant.

    This is a well-tried argument, and was defeated long ago. It falls on the principle that that a 'square circle' is an error in definition, and thus renders itself nonsensical, rather than impossible.

    Another classic poses 'what happens when the irresistible force meets and immovable object?' - the answer being that you can have one or the other, but logically, not both, and might as well say 'what happens when Tuesday arrives on a Friday afternoon?'

    It's a linguistic trick, that's all.

    Lastly, the realisation of a given possibility, in a relative universe, precludes the realisation of other, contrary possibilities, but this is a limit of contingency, not of God. It might well be the case that god creates other universes wherein alternative possibilities are realised (Quantum Mechanics points to this possibility)

    pax,
    Thomas
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Spiritus ubi vult spirat

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    An argument states that if God creates anything, other than himself, then it cannot be 'perfect' because it is not God, who is the sum of all perfection.

    Scripture tells us however, that what God created he saw as 'good' - so the point is that perfection can exist, in a limited and contingent fashion, outside of God - as can Good, Beauty, Truth and Reality. It doesn't have to be God to be perfect, it simply has to be what it is.

    Thomas
     
  19. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Thomas,

    thank you for the post.

    i disagree as evidenced by the initial use of the word, as far as we can tell, in the editing of Aristotles works... this necessarily implies a non-theistic interpetation of the concept.

    many theists like to proclaim the metaphyisical ground as their sole purview, i think that they are mistaken. metaphysics are not confined to the discussion of theistic deity rather it is a philosophical discipline that can conform itself to a theistic expression or a non-theistic expression.

    it's along the same lines as the "can God make a rock so heavy that He can't lift it?". it's a nonsensical question because it's not logical when using accepted definitions of God however that also makes it impossible at the same time. it is both, nonsensical and impossible.

    that is, perhaps, where we are disagreeing... you are seeing things as A or B whereas i'm seeing things as A AND B.

    correct.. and it also a limit of God. I didn't create Quantum particles that behave the way that they do... and if we posit that such things are created, and the Christian God as the creatOR, then God created Quantum particles in such a fashion that He could not determine the outcome of an event beyond a probility. people may not like this idea.. and for a long time physicists rejected it.. the evidence, however, overwhelmed them and they accepted it as a valid theory.

    this, of course, allows free will for without the Quantum variables, every outcome would be predictable, especially for God which would negate the very idea of free will.

    now... i'm not suggesting that there is free will, however, it is a concept that finds plenty of support within most of the Christian tradition.
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Spiritus ubi vult spirat

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    Pax Vajradhara -

    Generally in the West the concept of metaphysics has move beyond Aristolean concepts - much in the same way that 'gnosis' has moved beyond its Platonic definition.

    The term itself means 'beyond physics' and thus applies to all speculation on First and final Causes - even if Aristotle's view was somewhat limited in that regard.

    Not strictly necessary I think - but again this is a matter of perspective. The Traditionalist School hold that metaphysics is beyond all form and all definition - and thus beyond theism as the expression of a personal God, hence their, and my, deployment od such terms as 'Absolute', 'Infinite' and 'All-Possible' in discussion - not ideal terms, perhaps, but the best we have to hand.

    Sorry - I'm not sure I understand you here.

    But surely this posits God as contained within his own creation?

    In a recent TV programme (on the soul, as it happens) they spoke to a number of physicists who all agreed that there is something 'fundamentally missing' from Quantum Physics as it is currently understood - so in my view a science that is acknowledged as incomplete by its own scientists displays man's limit - not God's.

    The notion of 'free will' exists within the bounds of possibility - which from a Christian perspective is determined by the Creator. Thus God need not know whether you turn left or right, the point being that left or right are the only possibilities available in this cosmos - as determined by God.

    Of course modern psycho-whatever is getting closer and closer to saying that man has no free will because he acts according to his nature and his education, environment, etc. etc. - in my view, in the end, the only expression of free will shall be the acceptance or denial of God - but that's just idle speculation.

    Thomas
     

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