What makes us think God is perfect?

Bookworm posted a discussion of the Episcopal Church’s tacit admission that God isn’t perfect.  That raises the question:  Why should we believe He is?

Assume there is a God.  Personally, I’m skeptical, but assume it.  Assume God created the universe.  This replaces a great mystery (where the universe came from) with an even greater mystery (where God came from), but assume it.  Assume that God is still actively and personally involved in the creation of each of us individually.  I don’t see a lot of evidence of that, but assume it.

If those assumptions are true, then God is a pretty powerful fellow.  But does that make Him perfect?  After all, we are fond of saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  God has the ultimate absolute power.  How do we know He has not been ultimately corrupted?  Even if He hasn’t been, how do we know that he never makes mistakes?  Just because He has the power to create a human being, it doesn’t follow that He has the power to create each of them exactly as he wants them.  Returning to the subject of Bookworm’s post, even if He could create every person exactly as He wanted them to be, who is to say He doesn’t want to put men in women’s bodies and women in men’s bodies? Maybe He’s just playing with us.  Maybe He’s just experimenting to see how we’ll react.  After all, it is a basic tenant of Episcopal faith that He creates each of us as an imperfect creature. Maybe this is just another imperfection that He quite intentionally, not mistakenly at all, put into some of us.  Why do we automatically assume this was a mistake?

Anyway, why should we think that God is perfect in His power, or even good in His intentions?  How do we know?  What evidence is there, either way?

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Comments

  1. TREGONSEE says

    It is interesting to ask where the difference is between a god, and god-like.  In other words, do you worship them, or just treat them with the same respect/feat you treat any great power or device.  Whether you ask people who are secular or religious, it always results in a fun conversation.

  2. Charles Martel says

    DQ, I love it when questions about God are posed as though the questioner knows how a God should, would, or could act, based on a thoroughly human point of view.
     
    For example, if God has absolute power, then couldn’t He become corrupted by power? After all, since we know humans do, what’s to stop God from becoming corrupt? (Never mind the question of what is the source of corruption, which would have to be external to God since God is self-sufficient. One could justifiably assume that total self-sufficiency would rule out any inclination to start acting like a tyrant.)
     
    The question about where God came from is fun to ask, but no human mind can conceive of existence that has no beginning. We have go back endlessly, with Now God coming from Then God, coming from Before Then God, coming from Before Before Then God, etc. The more practical question, which many cosmologists are frantically trying to avoid answering, is what caused the Big Bang?
     
    The Episcopal Church does not teach that God creates each of us imperfect. When it was a Christian denomination, it believed that man was created perfectly but blew that perfection by sinning in Eden (the Fall). The current crop of druids running the church are the ones who believe that man is perfect and that all sexual expression (except for maybe pedophilia) is a manifestation of God’s desire that we amuse ourselves experimenting endlessly with which orifices–natural or surgically created–we can insert our Tab A’s into.  
     
    As to whether God is “good in his intentions,” I have no way of knowing what you mean. You haven’t defined the good, nor have you defined “mistakes.” Could you elaborate?
     

  3. jj says

    We don’t know – there’s a paucity of evidence either way.
     
    As for mistakes – much of the scripture we have is insane, certainly; but then who knows where that came from, who wrote it, or what it’s trying to report.  The Old Testament provides evidence of, and reports out on, mistake after mistake after mistake – but there’s no way to know what or who they were (truly) talking about.  Coulda been God, coulda been his second cousin, coulda been life-forms from the planet Wambeeno – coulda been almost anything.  They were strikingly exact observers, but strikingly inexact philosophers, and no good at all at discerning meanings.  If their account of the development of the human race is to be believed, then it looks like we lurched from one mistake or bit of idiocy to the next, the next, the next, more or less as though everybody was full-time drunk in those days, and God doesn’t make mistakes: He’s just crazy.  But I’ve waltzed us through part of the Old Testament in an earlier post, so don’t need to do it again.  “Crazy” is putting it kindly.
     
    I would define an action as a mistake if, once having done/established/promulgated/declared/created it, God came to repent of it as originally done/established, etc., and decided it needed to be altered or modified.  The need to do so is manifest evidence that it wasn’t done right the first time, which might be seen as a weakness in someone whose advertising claims omnipotence and all the rest it claims for Him.  And, evidently, He’s repented more than once of a lot of what has to do with humanity – and many an individual human – to the point where He once decided to end the whole experiment.  But that was a resolution to which He couldn’t stick.  Michael and Gabriel talked Him out of it, or something.  So He decided to save a sample and drown the rest, failing to foresee, I guess, that the race would resume being unendurable as soon as they’d multiplied enough to repopulate a bit.  A mistake?  I don’t know.  Obviously the initial wrath that led to the conclusion to terminate was a mistake, because He re-thought it, and modified it.
     
    Or maybe none of it ever happened and our biblical forefathers were too heavily into the pomegranate juice again – who knows?  And that right there is the big reason you can’t ever tell anything about Him, or get a straight answer: there is no historical evidence of any Godly behavior that makes any sense, or even allows two and two to reliably make four.  So there we are, without a basis of comparison, so who the hell can tell anything? 

  4. says

    I had to laugh at your opening line, CM.  A “thoroughly human point of view” is all we have to work with.  Of course we don’t KNOW how a God should, would or could act.  We don’t even KNOW (at least I don’t) whether God, in the sense of the personalized Judeo-Christian God as opposed to an impersonal force that caused the Big Bang, even exists.  But that shouldn’t disqualify us from asking reasonable questions, which is all I did above.  If we can’t discuss God from a human point of view, we can’t discuss Him at all. 

    The reference to “mistakes” was related to Bookworm’s post, where she accused the Episcopal Church of admitting that God made mistakes, so I didn’t think it required any other explanation.  If you want a definition, I suppose God would make a mistake if He did something intending one consequence, only to have another consequence actually happen.  I was suggesting maybe transgender people exist not because God made a mistake but because He wants them to exist. 

    As for “good in his intentions” I suppose I meant a very limited subset of “good” – does God want for His human creations that which is best for those creations?  How do we know God isn’t just toying with us, or that He cares about us at all? People a lot smarter that I am have endlessly debated why God allows evil to exist in the world.  Maybe He just doesn’t care.  Or maybe He enjoys seeing the battle between good and evil waged in our lives and our souls.  I have no idea.  I’m asking if the readers have any idea and, if so, what they base their views on.  

  5. Charles Martel says

    DQ, I would not dispute that we can only surmise and reason about God from our human vantage. My intent was to point out that all of these discussions start out with suppositions that God must have motives or thoughts like ours, or might suffer consequences like ours, such as becoming corrupt because that’s what happens to powerful humans.
     
    Your questions are reasonable in the sense that we all start from where we are. But I have to assume that you consider yourself a cosmic accident, the result of purely random processes initiated (if at all) by an utterly unknown and unknowable source.
     
    If so—and I admit that I don’t know what you think about purpose or origins—I still would contend that if we want to discuss an infinite and omnipotent being, purely as a recreation for our pointlessly assembled minds, we may want to resist the tendency to control the speculation by saying, “I can’t imagine a God who is concerned with puny human beings,” or “I just don’t see how an omnipotent being could resist the temptation to become X.” 
     
    Of course we can’t. We’re back at your thoroughly human point of view, which seems to provide no helpful input into the discussion. Perhaps we could try to imagine God from a different point of view. We do it when we “imagine” the Big Bang, that trillionth of a second when all time, space, and energy were compressed into a primordial speck no larger than an atom, and the laws of universe had yet to come into existence.
     
    I cannot imagine what such compression would feel like, or how it could possibly come to be. But I can conceive of it even though it has nothing to do with my human sense of what seems possible. Perhaps we can extend the same ability to conceive of impossible things to our speculations about God.
     
     

  6. MacG says

    CM “The question about where God came from is fun to ask, but no human mind can conceive of existence that has no beginning” 

    THe best I can do is that God being spirit is not subject to the laws that our physical world is.  God made our time dimension and our perception of it because we are subjected to it.  Being subjected to this is why we are at a loos to logically think beyond where did God come from?  That matters not. What does matter is that He is and like or not we are in relationship to HIm.  It is just wheter we partcapate or not. 

    God existing before time is not bound by its constraints.

    JJ “to the point where He once decided to end the whole experiment.  But that was a resolution to which He couldn’t stick.  Michael and Gabriel talked Him out of it, or something. ”

    What are you referring to?  Michale and Gabriel are not in hte flood story at all.  I see your caveat “or something”  but this is the kind of thing where people get so cock sure of themselves without having read it in the last 30 years.  30 years brings on a lot of new filters through which to read nad interpret not to mention claering up some of those “or somethings”.

    The record does indicate that God was grieved about the flood and vowed to not use method again.  Does His self limiting mean He made a mistake?  What is clear is that He took no pleasure in it and vowed to not do it again.

    The pomegranate juice comment is the old they were eating mushrooms or had mass hallucinations canard.  The record stands on it’s own.  There is ample evidence to support what is written now is what was written then.  So we have what they intended to convey to their contemporaries and beyond.  The quality and quantity of whole copied and fragments is beyond any other work of antiquity.  But to benefit from it one must treat it with more respect than the telephone game at a slumber party.

    DQ,  being a laywer you know about testimony, what make a good witness and what makes a bad witness.  If you really are interested in gettng a glimmer of the quality of the Old and New testament records and whether they faithfull represent what happened then look up what Simon Greenleaf had to say about it – in particular the ressurection of Jesus.  If you accept his theories then you may have a beter understanding of the assured reliance that those who follow have on the written word. 

    Frank Morrison “Who Moved the Stone?” is a modern day approach to this as wellas “The Case for the Resurrection” by Lee Strobel.  THe New Testament Documents – Are they Reliable?” By FF Bruce is a scholarly approace.

    The Scripture says that God cannot be tempted.  So I rule out corruption. :)

  7. jj says

    Don’t be too literal or anything, Mac – I’ll begin to think you’re humorless.  Yes (sigh) – I did actually notice that neither Mike nor Gabe were mentioned as being present in the story.  Thirty years, thirty days, or thirty centuries doesn’t change that they’re not there.  Okay?  And the old testament, being as self-contradictory and disorganized as it is, seems generally best approached with a good leaven of humor, because it rarely makes sense – even the humans are hardly ever prey to logic – and it often enough makes the guy they proposed to worship look like an idiot. 
     
    When I’m advancing a canard I’ll let you know: you won’t have to dig for it.
     
    One thing the last thirty years has done is provide pretty solid evidence that the whole flood episode – and a few others as well – were all steals from Sumerian history. 
     
    I’ll agree: the quality and quantity of fragments is beyond any other work of antiquity – except those it isn’t.  The Pyramid Texts are better and more complete; and we have libraries of stuff from the Sumerians; both older than anything produced by anybody dumb enough to get lost in an area smaller than Rhode Island for forty years.

  8. Danny Lemieux says

    My own take is that the question cannot be answered, as the very nature of God takes us into dimensions that we can neither discern nor comprehend, other than that which has been shared with us through revelation, personal and otherwise.

  9. MacG says

    JJ “One thing the last thirty years has done is provide pretty solid evidence that the whole flood episode – and a few others as well – were all steals from Sumerian history. ”

    Maybe not  but parallel records of the same incident.

  10. roylofquist says

    First question: Is there a God? There are no even remotely plausible explanations for the creation of DNA given the known natural laws – except for supernatural intervention. If you don’t buy this please read

    http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/DNAPerspectives.pdf

    It’s a bit of a slog.

    Second question: Is God omnipotent and/or omniscient? Consider the Demiurge.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demiurge

    The Demiurge is an artisan or craftsman or producer. He is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. This view comports more closely with our human experience. If God were omnipotent would we live in a chaotic, seemingly cruel, world? If God were omniscient why did it take 3 billion years more or less to produce homo sapiens? God appears to be a cosmic tinkerer. To draw an analogy consider wheeled vehicles. From Wiley’s wheel in the BC comic strip to the vast variety of modern transportation we see incremental improvements. To an alien archaeologist the fossil record of vehicles would appear much like the fossil record of life on earth – evolution.

    Was evolution random? 

    Genesis 1:26 (King James): “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” God had a goal. It just took a bit of R&D to get there.

    Free will? Why would God spend eons to produce a puppet show?

    OK, fire away.

     

  11. Navy Bob says

    In words of Karen Armstrong, (I paraphrase here)The task of religion is to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no easy explanations.  It will not work automatically, it is a practical discipline whose insights are derived not from abstract speculation but from dedicated intellectual behavior and a compassionate liefestyle that enables us to break out of the restraints of selfhood. 

  12. MacG says

    “If God were omnipotent would we live in a chaotic, seemingly cruel, world?”

    Omnipotence is not that God can do anything but rather he can do anything which does not violate His nature.  and He will not voilate His own purposes “MT 26:52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
     

    “If God were omniscient why did it take 3 billion years more or less to produce homo sapiens? ”  All I know is that hetero sapiens were first :)   Omniscient – knowing all.  This is a good question to ask the Creator cuz Genesis is not a western science book with chronicled notes and peer review but rather an outline of the creation.  It states that all of a sudden there was a creation as does the big bang except God made his own dirt.  It states that things reproduce after their own kind something we have observed for millenia now.  It stands that a creator that could make his own dirt and animal could also add adaptive coding into the DNA for thing like frogs changing sexes to continue the line but we still do  not have solid trans-special fossil records.  After billions of years one would think that there would be at the very least a decent ratio by now to back up the idea.  It even supports the pangea and it break up.  How did humans know about that?  
    At any rate omni-science not mad-science is what God possesses, why and how he chose to do it is beyond my comprehension.  It maybe that he is making new species even to today:  ‘Jn5:16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
    That maybe a stretch on my part but I think it it is a statement against the set-it-and-forget-it Demiruge.

    “Free will? Why would God spend eons to produce a puppet show?”

    Oxymoron if I ever saw one.
     
     

  13. BrianE says

    “But does that make Him perfect?  After all, we are fond of saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  God has the ultimate absolute power.  How do we know He has not been ultimately corrupted?  Even if He hasn’t been, how do we know that he never makes mistakes?  Just because He has the power to create a human being, it doesn’t follow that He has the power to create each of them exactly as he wants them.”


    I’ve heard a game analogy- God’s game, God’s rules.


    By definition as Creator he would be perfect. The only way He wouldn’t be if compared to something else that was Perfect.


    I doubt that you disagree with God’s choices would be sufficient to call his choices in question.
     
     
    As to God’s perfection, Jesus is offered as evidence. He was tempted in every way man is, and did not yield. Is that the perfection you were referring to?
     
     
    It certainly would have been easier for us all if God had not created us with a will that can act outside His. But then we wouldn’t be who we are. At some core of this is God’s love, demonstrated by God’s sacrifice on our behalf. Since love requires action, it stands as the definition of love, by which all other acts of love should be compared.
     
     
    It seems the Old Testament speaks of God’s Righteousness, the New Testament speaks of God’s Mercy. They are not mutually exclusive and both exist perfectly together.

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