Friday, October 10, 2008

Our God is bigger than your god...

I went off on a bit of a rant in a comment on Chris's blog the other day. I feel a little bit bad about it. Sorry Chris.

But while that might not have been the best place to air this opinion, on reflection, I think I still have a point. I think that Christianity has been playing the "Our God's bigger than your god" game for so long that we now have an exaggerated and unrealistic view of our God.

I know that some of the readers of this blog will be thinking something along the lines of 'its impossible to have an exaggerated view of God, God is infinite...' at this point.

We've all (or many of us, at least) been taught - from an early age - that God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, as well as being infinite. Most of us accept that teaching.

But I contend that this is:
  1. Not actually biblical, and
  2. Not consistent with our experience of reality
I've heard an awful lot of atheist arguments recently that assert that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God cannot exist because [insert reasoning here]. Therefore God does not exist Q.E.D.

But at best, all that reasoning does is demonstrate that if there is a God, then he isn't all of the above. The atheists present the argument as black and white - either God is all those things or there is no God. The arguments allow no room for the possibility of (say) an omnibenevolent god, who is extremely (but not infinitely) powerful and knows an awful lot, possibly everything that has been or is currently, but not necessarily everything that will be. The arguments can't disprove that god.

I think that Christians are very good at exaggerating. God reveals himself as very strong, but we exaggerate him to be omnipotent. God demonstrates his ability to be with his people wherever they go, but we exaggerate this to omnipresence. God reveals his plans for future events and we exaggerate this to all-seeing-foreknowledge.

I've heard it said that many of the future prophecy statements in the bible are best understood in the sense of 'this is what I'm going to do in the future, and nothing you can do will prevent me from doing it' rather than 'this is what I have foreseen will happen'.

Just pause for a minute and consider, is the God you believe in actually consistent with the reality around you?


Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

> Sorry Chris.

No problem, my friend. You're welcome round at my blog any time.

I once had a heated argument with a good friend as to whether 0.999... reoccurring was identical to one or not [yes, I'm a fellow geek!]. This strikes me as a similar argument.

A little bit less than infinite is still infinite.

> Just pause for a minute and consider, is the God you believe in actually consistent with the reality around you?

I think that's the nub of the problem... which is why it is so important how you view the world, and what you allow to shape your concept of reality.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that they are an exaggeration, rather that they send you up the spout. We don't have a God who can do everything humanly concept-able, we have a God who does whatever he wants to, without anyone or anything being able to stop him. But we are fortunate enough to be able to like what he does. So rather than being defined by some abstract concept, God's actions are best described by his own nature specifically his will and personality, to which our categories are approximations.

Basically, God reserves the right to disobey our conceptual frameworks, and when he does, we shouldn't claim that therefore he doesn't exist, we should bring our ideas back to the evidence, which includes his self-revelation.

I'd be quite interested if you could post links to the arguments or summarise them, are they arguments from evil? Logical contradictions (unopenable lock etc) or something else?

Ricky Carvel said...

Josh, hello.

OK. Lets consider the case of the 2004 tsunami. It was a terrible 'natural' event. Loads of people died.

An Omniscient God would have known that the natural event would occur.

An Omnipresent God would be in the right place at the right time to influence the circumstances.

An Omnipotent God would be able to prevent the bad events from happening.

An Omnibenevolent God would want to spare his children from suffering.

But the tsunami actually happened, therefore either (a) there is no God, or (b) the God that is there is not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

Which is it?

I don't believe that God is all those omnis. I don't believe that the bible presents God as being all those omnis (except omnibenevolent).

The tsunami could have occurred inf God is very big, very knowledgable about the past (but not the future) and quite strong, but is not in all places at all times.

What do you think?