Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why God is Good

Why is God good? How does God know what is good? How can God have free will if He can never sin (James 1:13)? And why can God never sin, but humans can?

The answer to these questions depends on a good philosophical understanding of who God is. One thing to remember is that God is infinite - an *actual* infinite. God is infinity, and infinity happens to wear a crown, so to speak. That is, infinity happens to be conscious, to feel emotions, love, pain, and so on, and this infinite being is everywhere and rules forever and ever. Bit of a big assumption from a non-religious point of view, but this is religious talk here.

A second very important thing to remember is that human reasoning is finite. Now, there's a big difference between finiteness and infiniteness. The finite deals with the finite and can't interact with the infinite without help from the infinite; the infinite deals with the infinite and through God's power can deal with the finite. They've very different concepts and the finite certainly can't imagine infinity well. This was shown by the paradox of the Grand Hotel by David Hilbert, designed to illustrate the absurdities of an actual infinity. Suppose that you have an 'Infinite Hotel' with a guest in every room. Are all the rooms occupied? No, because people can always move to the next room, 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and so on when someone new arrives. You can never fill an infinite hotel with any finite number of guests, because there'll always be room. Similarly, you can never reach infinity with your mind, because you can always add a zero on to the number you just thought of.

We see the infinite with our finite reasoning 'through a glass darkly' so to speak. We have a fairly good mathematical idea of what infinity is. Georg Cantor for example made some very good strides in understanding infinity with his theory of infinite sets, and Aristotle and others made great contributions. Most of what mathematicians know about infinity comes from these people. We don't see infinity very well because we use finite reasoning to understand it. Ultimately finite reasoning looks at everything with, well, finite reasoning. So finite reasoning looks at infinity with finite reasoning, which like a mirror reflects our finite understanding back to us. So we know infinity is there, and not much else. We have no idea what an actual infinity would really be like, or any great insights into the ways of existing that an actual infinity might have.

Christians believe (according to the philosophical interpretation of this essay) that infinity has a name: I AM - God, spoken about in the Bible. Unbeknownst to finite reasoning, from infinity comes consciousness, love, free will, morality, and everything that God is like. Why? That's how actual infinites 'are'. We can never, of course, work this out with finite reasoning, because finite reasoning always sees everything finitely, and we're talking about the infinite here...

When God made us in His image, He gave us a soul that is infinite like He is, through the power of the infinite. From the soul we get everything that makes us similar to God: love, free will, consciousness, our moral sense, and so on. And we get everything that makes us different to God from the finite world.

But why would God make us different to Him? Because there can be only one infinity, there can be only one God, and God is that God (Deu 6:4). So God alone can be all infinite, infinite in every respect. Our reasoning, knowledge, understanding, and body *had* to be made finite because we cannot be all-infinite like God.

It's because every creature had to be made partly finite that God had to give all his creatures finite reasoning and understanding. That is, create an infinite-finite connection through His power. There's something about having infinite reasoning that is one and the same with being fully infinite, and only God can be fully infinite. The fact all creatures must have finite reasoning means that only God can know some things - see Matt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only". Also see Ecclesiastes 3:11 "God has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end". I.e. our soul is infinite, but our reasoning is finite, because only God can be fully infinite.

But then how can we have our *own* soul if we borrow our soul from God? Through the interaction between our soul and a finite body, our soul takes on its own personality separate from God. God makes this finite body, like the universe, out of an infinitely lesser part of Himself, through His power, and through His power our body is connected to that which is infinite.

Our physical bodies and soul work together to make our personality. Through our bodies, we get reasoning and knowledge which interacts with our infinite soul, the infinite soul then makes a free choice, and this choice is 'understood' by the body and gets carried out. The body sometimes appears to do what the soul does, so for instance, we have an emotional part of the brain, but only because the soul needs something to work with when God empowers it to interact with the body-brain. So we get 'brainy stuff'. But the brain never achieves what the soul does, it only appears to because God wants our brain and soul to interact, and the soul uses 'brainy stuff' to do so. Without a soul, a body is no more than a very complicated biological computer, with nobody 'in there'.

Animals have a soul as well as humans, but for some reason aren't morally responsible (Job 39:13-17.)

Now on to some of the questions in the opening of this essay.

Why is God good?

Because God is infinite, He has infinite reasoning and infinite logic.

God applies infinite concepts and infinite logic to infinite things. So, God applies His understanding of the infinite to the soul.

Using His infinite logic, God sees our infinite souls as they really are. He sees humans as they really are behind their physical bodies.

God made us in His image so that if anyone sees a soul as it really is, then that person knows that soul must be loved unconditionally forever and ever. So because God sees our souls as they really are, He knows that He must love us unconditionally forever.

God applies finite reasoning to the finite, and infinite reasoning to the infinite. The way an infinite soul is, it should be loved unconditionally forever.

God can never sin because He can never fail to see a soul as it really is. Because God knows everything, He cannot know something that is false. So God cannot fail to see a soul for what it is. Because of the way souls are, every soul deserves unconditional love, so God must recognise this and be perfectly good towards us.

This doesn't take away from God's free will, it's just that God will never act on a lie, and will never believe a lie. So He can never fail to respect a soul as it is. He can never choose not to love a soul, because that would involve choosing to believe a lie about the infinite soul.

So how does God know what is good?

Love comes from infinity. Every actual infinite knows about love, because that's 'just' how infinity works (this is obviously a mystery to our finite reasoning, but that's because our reasoning must be created finite, as explained earlier.)

It's hard to know how God makes a soul. The point is that He always makes it in such a way that it deserves unconditional love.

That's basically how God knows what is good. It comes from recognising a truth about the way persons are made, from God on high to all creatures down below with a soul. Anyone who recognises this truth about persons, and sees people as they really are, must love them completely (none of us can do this in practice without the Holy Spirit).

How can God have free will if He can never sin?

If God knows that people should always be loved unconditionally, then how can He be free to go against this knowledge? How can He ever choose?

Something to note here is that free will comes from the infinite world, from our soul, so it's not what we think it is. Ironically, to learn about free will, one must humble one's finite reasoning and accept that, like a child can't know many facts about the universe, we can't know the infinite soul through our reason (Matt 18:3).

We feel that we have free will in our intuitions, in our soul. More than that, we have no idea how free will works, and never can or will. God alone knows how it works, because God alone is all-infinite. You'd have to be all-infinite to fully comprehend something from an infinite soul like free will with your reasoning (there are many things that only God can know - Matt 24:36).

So it's safe to say that what we think free will is with our reasoning, and what we think it isn't with our reasoning, has no claim to being right. Our gut instinct is right, but only when it's unfiltered by the distortions given to us by our finite reasoning, since we can delude ourselves into changing our intuitions.

This is where this objection comes from: when we look at free will we divide it up into parts. You have someone's beliefs, someone's desires, and knowledge that they might be suppressing or encouraging. But these are finite distinctions. The truth is, that belief, desire, and knowledge are all part of a single indivisible whole that is called our 'free will'. And our 'free will' is itself a single indivisible whole with everything that we get from the infinite world, including our moral sense and consciousness. For there are no distinctions in infinity. Ten plus infinity is infinity, infinity minus ten is infinity. That shows that you can't make distinctions in infinity, like you can in finite understanding, because infinity is always infinity, nothing more, nothing less. So distinctions of free will into beliefs, desires, and knowledge are baseless.

So God not only *knows* that everyone should be loved unconditionally because He sees people as they really are, He also *chooses* to do that. The fact that God cannot fail to know that everyone should be loved unconditionally doesn't detract from God's freedom. Because distinguishing knowledge from desire, choice, and belief is a baseless distinction that comes from finite reasoning trying to understand the distinction-less - the infinite.

God can never believe a lie, so He can never sin. But God also chooses never to sin. If this sounds strange, then it should be seen as a mystery of infinity.

Why can God never sin, but humans can?

Because human reasoning is finite we cannot see people with our reason (although we do see people accurately with our moral intuitions, that come from the soul). We can never understand infinite logic, and yet infinite logic is what is needed to truly understand a soul. So if we search around, and try to find out how we should act towards others, then we will never work out that people deserve unconditional love using *only* our reason.

We can never see people the way that God does with limited (finite) reasoning (without faith). This makes it impossible to act towards people as they really are (as partly infinite beings).

Some of us are good relative to other humans, but none of us can compare to how good God is, because God sees and acts towards people as they really are. Whereas we literally *cannot* choose to go with our moral ideals all the time, because without infinite reasoning there's simply no way to will ourselves to do that.

But if that's true then how can sinning be up to us? Humans are surely helpless with our finite reasoning!

That comment doesn't follow, because we all have sovereign free will, so no one is forced to sin. Only God can violate that sovereign will, and He will never do so. So we are fully responsible for our sins when we sin, in the mystery of moral responsibility (to finite reasoning).

Our sins are made *possible* by finite reasoning, but never *ensured* or *necessitated* by finite reasoning. We can choose. And everyone chooses to sin.

In sum, this is why all humans can and do sin but not God.

How then can anyone be saved? If we accept the Holy Spirit, then He can allow us to see people the way that we would if we had infinite reasoning, through our faith and emotions. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" - 1 John 3:2.



Blogger Mariano said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

My name is Mariano and I am an amateur apologist.

I run 15 different blogs covering various apologetics topics and place any of them in your links section.

I have one page that serves as my main repository, please take a look and, if you are so inclined either link to it or to whichever particular blogs you consider relevant to your purposes.

You may also contact me, if you wish, at rddbug@gmail.com

Feel free to delete this comment so that my links are not foisted upon your blog.


Thank you for your time and attention and may the Messiah Jesus richly bless you,



Post a Comment

<< Home