Monday, August 16, 2010

Where does it say...? #1

This is the first in an occasional series of short posts asking the simple question

'Where does it say [such and such] in the bible?'

I believe that many current 'Biblically based' Christian beliefs are based on nothing of the sort.

So where does it say that God is infinite?

Lots of Christians believe this, but where does it say it?


Ryan McKenzie said...

How about Revelation 22:13, where Jesus says "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end"?

Or Psalm 102:25-27, where David says "Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end"?

"I am the beginning and the end" - Jesus.

"Your years have no end" - David

So the Bible might not (or it might) use the word "infinite", but surely Jesus' statement sums up the answer for you?

Ricky Carvel said...

Thanks Ryan, but I think you're answering where it says that God is 'eternal' or 'everlasting' (i.e. unending in time) rather than infinite (i.e. physically without end in space).

Infinity, as far as I am concerned, is a mathematical concept that really has no equivalent in reality. If God were truly infinite, then there could be nothing that wasn't (part of) God.

So, given that neither of us are pantheists (I assume), we're agreed that we (as physical people) are not part of God, the can on juice on my table is not part of God, etc.

However, the flip-side of that reasoning is that God must be finite. Which is an assertion that many Christians wouldn't be happy with.

Ryan McKenzie said...

Nope, not into pantheism or panentheism. The mathematical concept of infinity is lost on me (though I get where you're coming from).

I'll pray you get an answer on this one!! :-)

Jonathan Elliot said...

Interesting question, and right now I got nothing.
I'm aware of the "Open Theology" movement which asserts God may not know the future 100%, but that's different.
I wonder what we'd lose if God were not infinite? I mean God is still "bigger" than the universe, in whatever sense that means.
Also, I'm not so bothered about God being 'part of us'. Isn't there stuff in theology about God's immanence? I think God can be both within and "beyond", without it breaking orthodoxy. Then again, I'm rusty.

Thanks, found your blog while searching for Post-Evangelical stuff.

Jonathan from Spritzophrenia

Anonymous said...

As I understand it infinite is a synonym of unbounded, that is to say without end.

Numbers are infinite. Hypothetically you could keep on counting forever, so long as you could come up with names for the new numbers, yet I am not a number and neither is the juice on your table. Maybe you could argue that numbers are not "real" in the sense I suggest God is, that would be a fair question, and one I can't answer.

When I, personally, refer to God as infinite it is not a call to his "size", but rather His "age". If I was to count how old God is I could go on forever. leaving Him infinite.

Is God Infinite in relation to everything? No. But most folk don't claim Him to be.

Josh W said...

Well the bible implies that he is without limit in places where he is present in psalms, with the rhetorical "where can I go to escape your presence".

Also being present in the same place as God presumably does not require you to be a part of him, like a magnetic field potential and a gravitational field potential can be in the same place but not be a component of each other.

As far as I can tell the infinity of God (at least as far as the bible supports) is his constant surpassing of our finite actions to understand or reach the limits of him, he is effectively infinite because he is always bigger!

Ricky Carvel said...


Thanks for the comments.

As I've said before on this blog, I have big issues with using Psalm 139 to justify the infiniteness of God. "Where can I go to escape your presence?" introduces a human element - is God's presence only where people are (he dwells in the praises of his people, remember?)? Does that mean he is absent where there are no people?

Is God at the bottom of the sea? On the Moon? In deepest space? In black holes? In the vast unending nothingness beyond the limits of the universe? In the heart of the sun? Psalm 139 cannot answer this, as the 'I' cannot go to any of those places.

I'm not even sure that Psalm 139 can be used to justify that God is always present with unbelievers, it was written by a believer. Maybe its only believers that can't get away from his presence...

And as for the gravitational / magnetic field analogy, I quite like that, but remember that such fields need a physical something to generate them, and they are also not infinite. You can't invoke the field without the physical. And also, while a magnetic field is strong in some places, it must be weak in others - something that many Christians would not be happy asserting about God. Indeed, if you get far enough away from the source of the field, there will come a point where the field is so weak as to be negligible. Does this apply to God too?

And finally, the 'God is always bigger' reasoning is why, I suspect, Christians now invoke the infinite. As our understanding of the Universe has grown, we have had to increase the size of our concept of God.I don't believe God is bigger now than he was 2000 years ago, but I am pretty sure that contemporary believers imagine him to be bigger than ancient believers did.