Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Define God in 138 words or less

OK, here goes...
The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
This in response to the question raised: What are God's traits?

I cheated, though - I lifted this from the London Baptist Confession of Faith.

(edited to add wit)

24 comments:

Kyle said...

Amen!

David Bryan said...

Very nice, but the boldfaced gives me pause:

"...a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions..."

Let us not neglect the Incarnation, wherein one of the Members of said Godhead was and yet remains circumscribed in flesh while yet infinite in divinity, still seated, circumscribed and all, at the right hand of the Father...

The corporeal need not include the carnal...

Rhology said...

True enough.

This text, though:

"...dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto..."

makes me think that this is referring more properly to the Father, since that is a direct biblical quote about the Father.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the London Baptists borrowed their phrasing from the Westminster Confession of Faith. (As in most cases, except for the sacraments and church gov't, of course.) ;-)

You can read the WCF here, if you so desire. http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

--Tony

Rhology said...

Yeah, but I like the Baptist one better. ;-)

Rhology said...

King of Ferrets said:

So, how do you justify defining God at all when part of your definition is that he is incomprehensible?


So, you pull one trait out of the entire explanation and crow "see?!!?? He's incomprehensible! This invalidates the rest! The authors were complete morons and couldn't even keep track of the word they inserted, even though they spent hundreds of hours on this document! Morons!" eh?

If you're at all familiar with the Christian doctrine of the God of the Bible, He's very vast. Man's reason and spirit are insufficient to comprehend anything even close to His vastness. Yet mysteriously God has revealed some things about Himself in the Bible. I'd describe it best this way. As it stands now, God has revealed a great deal about Himself. Yet He is infinite. So we know, say, 10,000 things about Him, and yet it's 10,000 divided by infinity.

If He hadn't revealed anything about Himself, we'd know next to nothing about Him. That would be 0 divided by infinity.
Both equations are functionally equal to zero, yet the former is larger than the latter.

In other words, when they say incomprehensible and things like that, they are referring to His vastness, to the comprehensibility of Him, not that we can know NOTHING about Him.

Hope that helps.

King of Ferrets said...

Hmmm. Would you say that his motivations are also incomprehensible?

Rhology said...

My answer would be similar to the one above. They are largely incomprehensible, yet He has revealed a lot about them as well.

King of Ferrets said...

For the sake of argument, I'll assume a god. If he reveals his motivations to you, and they are incomprehensible, isn't that more characteristic of a lie? Why should motivations be incomprehensible, if his motivations are based on infinite wisdom and goodness? Shouldn't we be able to understand his working toward the greater good instead of just saying "God works in mysterious ways"? (Feel free to correct me if you don't say that, or if I misunderstood your point)

Rhology said...

Yes, of course we'll need to assume God. I assume atheism all the time to make certain arguments, so yes, I agree. We agree on something! :-D

I would say that His motivations are entirely incomprehensible if He hasn't revealed them. However, He has revealed SOME of them, so they are sufficiently comprehensible as to be described and understood to an extent. Since we are dealing with an infinite being, however, we can never plumb the depths of it exhaustively.

The problem with seeing Him working towards the greater good is our great enemy - sin. Sin prevents us from participating in God's plan like we should, and it also limits our vision to see what God is doing and what God's priorities are. And when we don't want to see this or that, alot of the time we just don't see it. It's human nature. We are not God. So, we can trust God to work always towards the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, my favorite verse actually), but alot of the time, maybe even the majority or vast majority of the time, we fail to recognise it, don't want to recognise it, or just remain ignorant of those workings. So they're mysterious *to us*.

King of Ferrets said...

So it's mysterious because of sin. Fun.

So how do we know that God isn't lying about his motives?

Rhology said...

Yeah, sin sucks. No doubt about it. But that's the way it is.

As for the evil god thing, see here for a good treatment.

King of Ferrets said...

Not necessarily evil, but not necessarily good either. If God was Chaotic Neutral, to use nerd terms, or maybe even The Trickster and wasn't opposed to lying, how would you know it?

Rhology said...

Read the post to which I linked. It will answer those questions.

Paul C said...

"Answer those questions" in the sense of "not answer those questions", as a brief perusal of the comment thread will show.

Rhology said...

Let the reader judge, of course.

King of Ferrets said...

No it doesn't. Those deal specifically with an evil god. For example, life being miserable isn't a necessity of a neutral god, and as you say it's not alwasy true, but it happens in some cases, which would actually be evidence for a neutral god or no god controlling things.

I might address a little bit of that post in that thread later, when I have more time.

Rhology said...

OK.
You'll note that a great deal of the argument is that there is no real reason to think that truth is accessible to the human mind if there is not an all-good God who has revealed Himself and revealed certain things about the universe and reality. Plus there's the issue of knowing what good and evil even are.

King of Ferrets said...

First, that is not your argument in any way for most of it. But, if it were you argument, I'd refute it thus: Of course we can't be sure of the truth. Human perception is known to be fallible. But we can get as close as we can, assuming reality is in fact real and we have a decently accurate if somewhat flawed perception of it. And we can assume that because it's really rather pointless to assume otherwise. You can't really prove a hallucination is a hallucination from inside it.

I notice you brought up the point that if God is evil, you can't be sure you know the truth that he's evil (which doesn't make sense, actually, but I'm flinging it back at you anyway because it's your point); is there any reason to think that you know the truth about God being good?

Our version of good and evil is a direct consequence of the evolution of our society; as social animals, we need rules to govern ourselves, and we generally view breaking them as wrong. I'm pretty sure social contract theory has a bit to do with this; we are bound by the social contract basically not to harm others so they won't harm us. I'm pretty sure this is basically what Tom was eviscerating you over.

By the way, are we assuming the good God would be the Abrahamic god?

Rhology said...

Of course we can't be sure of the truth.

You mean, including that statement? Are you sure of the truth of it?


But we can get as close as we can, assuming reality is in fact real and we have a decently accurate if somewhat flawed perception of it.

Of course we can't be sure of the truth. So this could be totally false.


You can't really prove a hallucination is a hallucination from inside it.

Yes, and that's a serious problem for an atheist. Your worldview is vulnerable to the charge and possibility of solipsism, the brain-in-the-vat.


is there any reason to think that you know the truth about God being good?

Yes, b/c He has told me in the Bible that He is good.
And if He weren't good, then there's no reason to think that the truth is accessible to me or any human.


Our version of good and evil is a direct consequence of the evolution of our society;

That's just a naked assertion that you'll need to argue for.


as social animals, we need rules to govern ourselves, and we generally view breaking them as wrong.

Under atheism, sure. But that doesn't mean breaking them IS wrong. A colorblind person sees red wavelengths as grey. Doesn't mean the light wavelengths ARE grey.


I'm pretty sure social contract theory has a bit to do with this; we are bound by the social contract basically not to harm others so they won't harm us.

I don't suppose you'd be in a position to know that, since you didn't read my response.
Maybe you'd be interested in this post.


are we assuming the good God would be the Abrahamic god?

Yes.

King of Ferrets said...

What I meant by that first point was that we can't know truth about the outside world; there's always the possibility that it's not an accurate representation. But, because it would be pointless to assume otherwise, we assume it is.

Sure, brain in a jar is a possibility. It's a possibility with any worldview. It's not only a weakness of atheism.

The Bible is not a good enough source of information. Pi is not 3, insects do not have 4 legs, and men aren't missing a rib. Why should we trust it about God? And why should an evil or neutral God (hereafter referred to as a nongood God) not let us access the truth? Maybe, with a nongood God, part of what it does is lets us see the truth because the truth really isn't comfortable.

Tom has rather successfully argued for this, based on the parts I read up to your latest addition. I only read part of that. But, from what I saw, he's still winning. By the way, even morality based on your Bible is subject to the evolution of society; it allows slavery, but we view that as wrong. So people interpret it in ways that make it so that, for example, God dislikes slavery, but doesn't think he can dissuade people, so he sets down rules.

Objectively, there really isn't a right or wrong. Objectively, there is no evil. However, because we're social animals, we have things like empathy, so we understand that hurting is something we don't like, and we don't want other people to experience it (most of the time anyway; some people, especially those who fantasize about Hell, seem to have no problem with others experiencing pain) Our morality, the social contract, all that stuff, is basically based on the Golden Rule, which is based off our empathy. So we call infliction of the harms we wouldn't like to have inflicted on us evil. (There are a lot of different types of colorblindness, by the way, and I think the red one is actually red-green colorblindness)

Yay, double standards! I can make shit up as an ad hoc scenario, but it's automatically worse than a real scenario when someone supposes an ad hoc evil god scenario (and his scenario isn't even really ad hoc, it's an interpretation of the real world)!
Is there a reason this would evolve as a moral system? Why wouldn't the other cities destroy that city? How did they come up with the idea in the first place? If you can't answer these, then there really isn't any possible way for that to work as a refutation of evolving moral systems.

This is getting unwieldy....

Rhology said...

KoF,

Let me try to help. Brain in a vat is self-defeating. However, on atheism, there's no way to bring forth any evidence to disprove it, so you just have to assume it's not the case, but there is no reason to do so other than wishful thinking.
On Christianity, our fundamental axiom is that God exists and is good. He has told us that we're not mere brains in a vat. So actually, it is a weakness of atheism, but not of Christian theism.


Pi 3

Yawn. Bring me sthg I've never heard.


men aren't missing a rib.

Oh please. Prove *ADAM* wasn't.
Quote me the verse where the Bible claims that men are missing a rib.
Maybe your 15-yr old classmates are confounded by this kind of stuff, but you seriously need to get out more if you're going to play on this topic.
I have a rule around here. I've seen so many "biblical contradictions" thrown around that are completely meritless, I give every interlocutor 5 chances, that I'll answer. After that, I remind them they had their 5 and are out of opportunities. You didn't know the rule, so yours starts now. If you want me to take this seriously, give me your 5 best. Here's a hint - don't go to infidels.org or the Skeptics Annotated Bible. They're pretty pathetic.
See here for more information. And here.


And why should an evil or neutral God (hereafter referred to as a nongood God) not let us access the truth?

B/c he's evil and doesn't want us to.
there are plenty of reasons why we can't assume he automatically would, so that makes the worldview highly dubious.


even morality based on your Bible is subject to the evolution of society; it allows slavery, but we view that as wrong.

how does that have anythg to do with the evol of society?
Besides, THOSE societies in the Bible times thought slavery was OK. Who are you to judge them and on what basis?


there really isn't a right or wrong.

So slavery isn't wrong.
Neither is raping little girls. Thanks for sharing.


Objectively, there is no evil.

Try running a society THAT way.
Would you really think that if you'd lived thru the Holocaust? Talk about social conditioning! You've never seen true horror. If you had, I can't believe you'd be willing to say such inane things as this.


Our morality, the social contract, all that stuff, is basically based on the Golden Rule, which is based off our empathy. So we call infliction of the harms we wouldn't like to have inflicted on us evil.

And I might call it "good". Who's right and how can we know?
that's the big question that Tom hasn't yet answered. Maybe you'd like to try.


(There are a lot of different types of colorblindness, by the way, and I think the red one is actually red-green colorblindness)

There are lots of diff kinds of moralblindness too. You see raping children as bad, I see it as good and morally obligatory. Too bad there's no objective evil to inform us on whether one of us is right and one is wrong!


Is there a reason this would evolve as a moral system?

The people like it.
All sorts of moral systems have been held by diff societies.


Why wouldn't the other cities destroy that city?

Some do, some don't.
There could be innumerable reasons why.


How did they come up with the idea in the first place?

The same way you came up with your stupid idea that there's no objective evil - they imagined it. B/c they are sinful.

King of Ferrets said...

Where did God tell you you weren't a brain in a vat? If you can't provide evidence of God saying that, then you can't argue that at all. And if you bring up a source quoting God, I can argue it actually being God, and of course God telling the truth.

So God rounds to a single sig fig then? He could at least say 31. What about the insect legs? And since I asked that particular one prior to knowledge of that, would that count against my total?

I gave a reason why he might want us to see the truth; do you have a reason not to? Why wouldn't he let us see the truth, when the truth is whatever he wants it to be?

First, it has to deal with the evolution of society because the societies today don't approve, so they alter it to fit what they approve. This means the Bible is subject to the evolution of society, because it can be interpreted multiple different ways. Second, empathy. Same as the rest. Our version of morality is based on empathy. Their version of morality was based on empathy, but only for those they viewed as human (or possibly only those they viewed as God's chosen people, if they viewed others as human); since they specifically forbid enslaving other Israelites, they probably viewed others as subhuman, or at least not God's chosen. Science shows that they aren't better, so their reasoning for excluding the others from empathy is flawed.

Seriously, empathy. We don't want to be enslaved or raped. We have empathy. Ergo, we don't want other people to be enslaved or raped. Quick question: Do you think sociopaths, people who lack empathy, have trouble with morality? If not, why? If so, how do you explain it without our moral system being based on empathy?

There is no fucking right. It's all based on our empathy! Get it through your skull!

I see raping children as bad because it is not something I would want to have happen to me, and I emphasize with the victim. There's no objective way to evaluate that, it's just that most people don't want to be raped and therefore don't want other people to be raped.

The people like it? How did they come up with the idea? Why did they decide it was a fine thing to do in the first place? How do they survive if they have a violent culture that sees nothing wrong with rape and murder?

Give me some reasons. If you're going to make up ad-hoc crap, at least give me some way of evaluating it.

I came up with the idea of no objective evil by looking at the world and thinking as objectively as I could. There's no reason for evil to be objective, and the evidence actually goes the other way. Did they get the idea that raping and murdering little girls works to keep God happy because they tried it and it worked, or something? And if so, how the flying fuck did they get that idea in the first place? Why did they decide it might appease the gods? Is there a way they could reason out this idea?

By the way, looky! Divine command theory is, in fact, a pile of crap. It's probably more arbitrary than the idea of an empathy-based moral system.

One last thing: Our moral system is nowhere near perfect. Arguing divine command theory doesn't really work without arguing a currently perfect moral system, because otherwise all you can do is appeal to the future (argue for future revelations) for things that might not be perfect about our moral system. And appealing to the future is a fallacy.

Rhology said...

See here.