Just finished The Irrational Atheist and my head is racing with thoughts. Particularly where he talked about omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. I’ve heard a couple of vague summaries about how God interacts with the world. Vox’s was the most detailed and understandable of the bunch as far as God more sitting back and watching (not exactly, but you get the idea). Omniderigence, was it?
Anyway, I wanted to hear your thoughts about that. How do you understand God interacting with the world?
Mm, I don’t think I understand it. I do understand Vox’s explanation, I just don’t have any reason to believe that’s the way it works. Logic gets kinda weird when you’re talking about a being who can create logic itself. Unfortunately, I’ve given this a lot of thought without coming up with a lot of answers. Most likely, I’m limited by my philosophical and theological ignorance. Need to read buku books, but never enough time…
Omniderigence is a voxicon neologism for the belief that God has all three traits: omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Vox’s idea can be referred to as the “God as video game designer” theory.
Out of laziness, I’ll quote some comments that I’ve written before:
The biblical stance seems to strike a middle ground between God being a casual observer (having just set the place up and letting it run; free will) and being a complete control freak (determining every event in every person’s life; determinism).
We find that there are events that he has predetermined, events that he has for whatever reason decided to allow to pass unchecked, and events that he has not predetermined but interferes in (as was often the case when he was angry with the Israelites).
I would not be the first to say that the common evangelical stance of god being a control freak who has predetermined every second of every person’s life has been extremely damaging to both believers and nonbelievers. This stance is usually justified by quoting Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
First of all, it is important to mention that Paul is a fallible human being, unlike Jesus. Therefore, like much of the Old Testament, we need not take his words to be strictly the words of God. He said as much himself (Rom 7:15-20), which we can take as a complete logical proof (either he is right in saying that he is sometimes wrong or he is wrong in saying that he is wrong). My best guess is it is more correct to view his advice with the same sort of skepticism as Solomon’s (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon). I suppose we could do worse than to live up to his standard, but the point remains.
Zeke has suggested a “best-of” series. I’ve finally decided on a method to accomplish this.
I’ve put a lot of thought into the subject, and I still don’t understand it fully.
The subject of free will vs. determination* is incredibly difficult to understand. I believe compatibilism is the only possible explanation that encompasses all phenomena in life and Scripture. However, understanding requires a great deal of reflection. Saturation drives reflection, so off we go into example land.
Divine judgment is taken as biblical fact**. Thus, we can ask what God’s level of involvement was in splitting the Red Sea. Did he split it on the spot with an invisible spatula? Did he send a great wind from across the Indian Ocean that was perfectly formed? Did he decide before time began that a butterfly’s wings would flap in the 15th century B.C., culminating in that strange geological event, never to be seen again? (That Elijah thing was similar in form, but it was a distinctly different geological occurrence.)
I have said for years now that it is a matter of perspective. Even if my divine spatula theory is true, an omniscient God would have known before time began that he was going to use the divine spatula on that day, for that reason. Thus, if God is omniscient with respect to time, the difference is merely God’s preference for using prescience, wind, a spatula, or whatever else an omniscient being can come up with. But is God omniscient***?
I will let the question stand. By the same reasoning by which we induce his existence, we know that he is inscrutable to human reason because he does not necessarily follow the rules of causality. Thus, any answer would be axiomatic at best, and misleading at worst.
In any case, the important question is whether we influence our own fates.
*Determinism’s scope is defined by the knowledge held by us, the only sapient beings we know of. That’s a key point worth explaining in another post. (The natural question is whether we forsake our free will by getting knowledge. I guarantee that’s not a problem for the amount of knowledge we can possess, but I may still return to the topic. In a deterministic world, presumably a theoretical computational machine could know everything.)
**Meaning every word in the Bible is accepted as true and literal. A point of obvious contention, that.
***Another poignant question is whether God can have free will. Ludwig von Mises has a thing or two to say about that, which I’ve quoted here: http://newguy153.xanga.com/736782074/augustine-would-laugh-at-this/. So much in this life to understand and write!
And this summary would be incomplete without the Mises quote:
“Scholastic philosophers and theologians and likewise Theists and Deists of the age of reason conceived an absolute and perfect being, unchangeable, omnipotent, and omniscient, and yet planning and acting aiming at ends and employing means for the attainment of these ends. But action can only be imputed to a discontented being and repeated action only to a being who lacks the power to remove his uneasiness once and for all at one stroke. An acting being is discontented and therefore not almighty. If he were content, he would not act, and if he were almighty, he would have long since radically removed his discontent. For an all-powerful being there is no pressure to choose between various states of uneasiness; he is not under the necessity of acquiescing to the lesser evil. Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything ans to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations. But this is incompatible with the very concept of action. For an almighty being the categories ofends and means do not exist. He is above all human comprehension, concepts and understanding. For the almighty being every “means” readers unlimited services, he can apply every “means” for the attainment of any ends, he can achieve any end without the employment of any means. It is beyond the faculties of the human mind to think the concept of almightyness consistently to its ultimate logical consequences. The paradoxes are insoluble. Has the almighty being the power to achieve something which is immune to his later interference? If he has this power then there are limits to his might and he is no longer almighty. If he lacks this power, he is by virtue of this fact alone not almighty.
Are omnipotence and omniscienc compatible? Omniscience presupposes that all future happenings are already unalterably determined. If there is omniscience, omnipotence is inconceivable. Impotence to change anything in the predetermined course of events would restrict the power of any agent.”
Ludwig von Mises