Personal introduction and first post: Musings about God's limitations, creation, theodicy and eschatology

Welcome!

Also @ThomasJayOord occasionally pops in himself :slight_smile:

You may also like the work of Steven Bouma-Prediger. While we don’t have much on end times theology on our website (creation-heavy!) we have had some eschatology stuff in relation to creation care, and you may find a kindred spirit there.

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Hi Alex and welcome. I’m an agnostic but I’ve always thought that whatever gave rise to God belief must be hard wired into our brains. But I agree with you, I don’t think any god can magic whatever she likes into existence. I lean toward locating God within our psyche. Consciousness gives rise to and supports what we call our “self”, why not what we call “God” too? That would account for efficacy of prayer and if that intra-psychic God was in touch with everything that is unconscious to us, that could account for its greater wisdom. But I personally don’t look to God for creation of creatures, atoms or galaxies. I’m content that He holds together the constancy of our experience mediating far more input than we ever could on our own.

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¡Bienvenido!

I think most Christians conceive of the laws of nature as something the have their source in God, not something the preexisted before creation and formed some sort of environment or constraint within which “God created everything that is.” Can you have laws of physics, pre-Big Bang without a material universe in which they operate? That seems like a meaningless abstraction. Laws are descriptions of how reality works, not some kind of entity or force that determines reality.

I think there is interesting philosophical and theological benefits in the “best possible world” speculation, but I don’t think it necessarily implies limitations on God from pre-time. It could just be that there are limits to the reality that God has created and chooses to interact with. The concepts of omniscience and omnipotence are speculative human constructs, not empirical descriptions of reality, so they may be flawed. Maybe the real problem is that our concept of God and his action is overly constrained by our constructs that attempt to describe his nature.

Agreed. And development from disorder and chaos toward an ordered and purposeful eschatological end overlays nicely with the scientific description of reality found in the evolutionary model.

None of this is unorthodox. These themes are echoed by many Christian writers and theologians and Bible scholars.

That is a Humean definition, not a biblical definition.

There’s a good discussion of the biblical sense of the word in Jim Stump’s recent article here:

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“Most”? A source for that claim would be welcomed. So, for that matter, would a working definition.

All in favor, say “Aye”.
Does everyone here agree that “the law of Non-contradiction” is a law of logic?

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By me, as well.

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Welcome. :slightly_smiling_face:

Something (typically addressed to YECs :slightly_smiling_face:) that might be at odds with some of your suggestions is why God created in the first place:

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No way! Great place. Nice meeting you, Phil!

That’s where I’ve been camping out lately too, haha.

Have a great vacation and hit me up when you get back so we can chat some more!

Thanks, Nickolaos! I like you iconography avatar. Are you Eastern Orthodox? I’ve been very much drawn to that tradition because of the room it makes for the mystery of God.

Despite what I put in my first post, I’m kind of agnostic about New Heaven and Earth, haha. Revelation is just so esoteric! But in light of this idea of redemption beyond Eden, I think the New Heaven and Earth have been coming since the fall, little by little. More so with the incarnation of the Christ. At some point I suppose we’ll be able to say “it is here!” but I think even then, the New Heaven and the New Earth will continue to progress into greater and and increasingly-faceted beauty.

I’m not super well read in theology but I know enough to throw out the word preterism. If I had to choose (again, I’m pretty agnostic about this), I’d say I’m a partial preterist. Some of what is in the book of Revelation seems to have come to pass historically, but it doesn’t appear to me that Revelation 21 and 22 have come to pass in any consequential way.

I will say, however, that it’s super interesting that the picture painted in both of those chapters is a city with gates through which the kings of the earth enter and through which the nations bring their glory and honor (Revelation 21:24-26); and that outside of these gates are murderers and those who love and practice falsehood (Revelation 22:15).

To me they sounds like the end of a zombie movie: the zombies have been defeated, everyone is celebrating but at the very last scene, a zombie hand comes out of a pile of rubble or something. In other words: there’s more to come :smile:. Further up and further in.

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Thanks for the welcome, Joshua! I’ve loved reading all of the responses and welcome. Truly a warm place. And interesting. Without any pushback, it wouldn’t be so interesting, would it? haha.

Absolutely! I agree :smile:. I would just say that it doesn’t apply to God because the question is illogical and God abides by logic. Maybe the reason he abides by logic is because it is at the very core of his nature along with love and goodness.

But why are you so confident he created them? Did he create love? Or is he love? Similarly, could he be physics and mathematics? If so, then physics and mathematics are not outside of him but are grounded in him, deeply constituted in his nature. I think you resonate with me when you say:

and


Touche, touche. I agree and I walk back that statement :slight_smile:.

I think the word “stuck” muddles things up. In that case, he is “stuck” loving us. Maybe a better way to put it would be that he is bound or limited by his own nature. Love. Goodness. Mathematics and physics? :slight_smile: In that case, he is simply creating out of his nature. And maybe this universe was the best that he could do. And yeah, that’s a lot of death and suffering. But beauty permeates the whole thing and oozes from every pore. And if creation is still progress and we are co-creators, then this is not the end. And that is good news.

Gracias, Josh! Very encouraging!

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I disbelieve that. There is good reason to think that he is omnitemporal, but that is not something we can comprehend and get our heads around, only apprehend a little. He definitely is inscrutable, as the Bible says in English translations in a couple of places (one OT and one NT, if I recall correctly). There is wonderful mystery in his providential dealings with us.

Nice to meet you, Mark! I kind-of-sort-of consider myself an agnostic who takes a leap of faith whenever I get to a fork in the road :slight_smile: . I’ve taken the atheist road at times. But I guess I’ve taken the theist road at least one time more than that :smile:.

Very interesting! I think there is so much we can discuss about consciousness and God. I think we would both agree that there is a rather under-appreciated relationship between the two that may help solve some important problems.

In my opinion, consciousness is one of the most powerful apologetics for God. As a scientist, I find it hard to think of how consciousness and abstract thought could have arisen from unconscious concrete matter.

Mechanistically speaking, the concrete giving rise to the abstract is a mind-bending quantum leap (pun intended) no matter how many times I revisit the problem. I think it really stands alone in terms of the nature of the problem. I don’t think that this proves God exists, but, at the very least, it is a darn interesting problem. I guess that’s why it’s called “the hard problem of consciousness,” haha.

Evolutionarily and computationally speaking, I don’t see why it wasn’t sufficient for us to be a complex neural network of logical functions sans consciousness. Like computers. One day we may be able to create AI that passes the Turing test (wherein we can’t distinguish AI from human minds). If so, how would we ever know that such a machine is conscious? The more interesting question is: does AI need to be conscious to pass the Turing test? To me, it’s very likely that it doesn’t have to be. And if not, then why was that not enough for evolution? In other words, why did evolution have to take a quantum leap from concrete material objects to consciousness if a neural network consisting of logical functions would suffice?

What a mind trip. The realization that I am a conscious being pondering my own consciousness takes me down theist road more often than not :upside_down_face:.

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¡Gracias! Thanks for your very clear and insightful responses!

Yes! I do too :raising_hand_man:. That’s what I meant when I said:

I agree that it doesn’t make much sense to think of them as external to God.

This is a good distinction! So maybe what I’m trying to say is that laws are descriptions of how God works in the observable universe. I don’t know if that makes it any better though :sweat_smile:.

Yay!

I’ll definitely check this out. Thanks!

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Aye!

I don’t have a source :sweat_smile:. However, do you not agree that most Christians accept that God cannot act outside of the rules of logic (see above), he cannot be evil, he cannot hate his creation, he cannot lie, he cannot be tempted. By definition, does agreeing with at least one of these statements not mean that one accepts “God is limited to some extent”? I would describe this as God being limited by his very own nature.

While I may not agree on everything in that quote, I really appreciated the point about creation being very good but not perfect. That is why, to me, it is not a big deal to say that this world is the best that he could do. It is a progressive creation and now we are co-creators. I can get excited about that!

I am aware that there is a lot of push back against open theism and that it is not a mainstream view. The purpose for which I included it in my list of examples of Christian beliefs on God’s limitations was as a stepping stone to the idea that I proposed.

I appreciate your point on the inscrutability of God and the wonderful mystery in his dealings! There is value in humility and in the awareness of our limited view of God and the universe. Yet, in the same breath, I say it is a glorious thing to seek to know God through nature, through Jesus, through reason, through the scriptures, through loving others :blush:.

Thank you very much!!! Im Eastern Orthodox but i keep it secret that i dont believe in Saints(its kinda tricky for me). So apart from that im

I agree. Some things have happened . Some put Nero as the antichrist as well but i dont know. Maybe he was one of many antichrists? Its a lot of symbplism and mystery and no one knows to be honest.

I have gone to some monasteries over the years that im christian(was an atheist before) and ive seen many eschatological books about Revelation although never read them for some reason.

Maybe we will get a sequel with Christs Return😆

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The difficulty I have with the notion of “God being limited by his very own nature” is that, IMO, an “unlimited God” would seem to be a conundrum and fair game for the assault of the heathen on Reason, justifiably. Consider:

  • Matthew 19:23-26. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • Genesis 18:14. “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you–in about a year–and Sarah will have a son.”
  • Job 42:2. “I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”
  • Jeremiah 32:17. “Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!”
  • Jeremiah 32:27. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?”
  • Zechariah 8:6. “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “If this is impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be impossible in My eyes?” declares the LORD of Hosts.”

Using Scripture to construct a ridiculous god, the heathen then attack him.

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Because it isn’t? Why call ourselves God? God likely gave us consciousness, not something we created on our own. BTW, what have we made from nothingness, anything? Have we made a single string, neutrino, electron, muon, anything, ever? How did we create consciousness?

Alex your musings cover just about all Christian theology (wow :innocent:). I think one point needs to be included in these musings that is imo central to musings on God, and that is we fail to speak correctly when we attribute human characteristics to God - I think the doctrine of simplicity may be useful. For example, limitations are understood within human experiences - Christians use either negative terms when speaking about God (ie God is not limited the way we may be, in terms of doing this or that). The creation is good in that it serves God’s purpose and allows us to be free to make choices, yet when we sin we impose bad outcomes to ourselves.

In any event, this outlook may be of interest to you.

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That’s a fair argument too, of course. :slight_smile:

Because I don’t believe that everything “that is” operates according to the laws of nature. God is outside of the laws of nature because He is outside of the universe. I believe that the laws of nature operate necessarily within the confines of the universe (but not necessarily outside) and He created the universe, which means He’s outside of the universe. And inside of it. Because He is both transcendent and immanent.

That’s a fair argument.

I’m not a physicist, to be certain. But no, I don’t believe He is either of those things. Rather, the universe He made operates according to those things. Though I am perfectly willing to believe that mathematics is a language that He created. Perhaps it was the first language, or even an eternal language because it is the language of God and God is forever.

“Stuck” may not have been a fair word. That’s my mistake–it was based on my perception of the position of God in that situation.

Haha, fair enough!

I am hesitant to admit this, if I’m going to be frank. I remember getting into a bit of trouble in a systematic theology class at a pretty conservative Christian Bible college because I said that God could do something contrary to His nature if He wanted, but He has no desire to do so, so He won’t. For example, He could choose to not be good. Needless to say, the professor didn’t like that and I got points taken off for it, lol.

I am hesitant to say that God is limited by His nature, but I also acknowledge the logic of it, and I recognize the potential conundrums of saying that God is limited by absolutely nothing, including His characteristics.

Suffering with a purpose, though. As opposed to a universe without God. I’ve never been too concerned about “the problem of evil” or “the problem of suffering” when it comes to God. What’s the alternative? That suffering is ultimately meaningless? Without purpose? No thanks.

EDIT: I misspoke when I said “I’ve never been too concerned”. I take the problem of evil very seriously, and suffering too. I simply don’t think that turning to atheism because of it is all that helpful.

You are correct. Thanks be to God.

@Alex. Physics and love are real regardless of whether God is. If He is, then He instantiates them. From forever. He has no choice. My faith looked like it was flatlining again most recently. Kierkegaard realized that existence is absurd. Leibniz’ Contingency Argument asks why is there something rather than nothing, why is there anything at all. That is primary. That comes first. The absurdity, the meaninglessness of existence. Even asking the question is meaningless. Physics and philosophy can’t help and neither can God. Ah HAH! That allows for a shadow of doubt in the darkness. Existence is beyond rationality. So it might as well be grounded by God : ) The unreasonableness, the improbability of God is secondary to that of anything at all. And here we are. The view is made possible by Jesus the lens.

Just a thought.

TIme for one of my linguistics tangents. When we talk about God creating love or evil or sin or physical laws, we need to remember that our language likes to nominalize EVENTS to create abstract nouns. These nouns are not essentially THINGS (even though we can use them as objects in sentences), and languages that don’t have abstract nouns would express the concepts behind them as verbs with predicates. Love doesn’t exist as an entity. Someone loves an object of love. Sin is not an entity. Someone violates God’s standard. Evil is an evaluation of the effects events have on creation, it’s not a THING in and of itself. Physical laws describe observable events, using complete predicates (subjects, verbs, objects), laws are not entities themselves that have their own existence as independent THINGS.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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