Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Punting to the infinity of God

Sometimes, people settle the issue of the incarnation or the trinity by appealing to God's infinite nature. They say the incarnation is possible because God is infinite. I don't see how being infinite solves the problem of the incarnation. I don't see what they have to do with each other. My impression is that the reasoning goes something like this: The incarnation is something we don't understand. Infinity is also something we don't understand. Therefore, if God is infinite, then lots of things can be true of God that we don't understand.

When people say that God is infinite, I must admit that I don't know what they mean. There are a few possible things people might mean by saying God is infinite.

Infinite size

Well, God is not a physical being, so he doesn't literally have size. The Bible talks in anthropomorphic languages when it says that a Temple was built for him to dwell in, but that the whole heavens cannot contain him. I get the impression that these are figures of speech. But even if it's true, what does size have to do with the problem of the incarnation? I don't get it.

Infinite duration

If time has always existed, and God has always existed in it, then God has existed for an infinite amount of time. But if God doesn't exist in time, or if God created time, then he hasn't really existed for an infinite amount of time. There isn't an infinite amount of time for God to have existed in, if God created time. If time itself is finite, then nobody could have existed for an infinite amount of time. But even if God has existed for an infinite amount of time, I don't see what that has to do with the problem of the incarnation or how it solves it.

Infinite attributes

God is said to have infinite love, infinite power, infinite knowledge, and infinite goodness. Just about anything that can be said about God, it is commonly said he has it infinitely. But saying, for example, that God has infinite love is ambiguous. Are we referring to the depth of his love or to the scope of his love, or both? It seems to me that it's not possible for God's love to be infinite in scope, because there aren't an infinite number of beings for God to love. If his love is infinite, then it's infinite in depth, not scope.

But how does infinite love solve the problem of the incarnation? Perhaps infinite power solves it. One might argue that if God has infinite power, then he has the power to engage in logical impossibility. But power has nothing to do with logic. Our inability to do draw four-sided triangles, for example, has nothing to do with a lack of power.

Sometimes I think that when we say God is infinitely good, holy, or just, we don't mean "infinite" in a literal sense. We're just using it qualitatively, not quantitatively. We mean that God is wholly, completely, and perfectly good, holy, and just. I don't know what it would mean for God to be infinitely good in a literal sense. A circle isn't infinitely round; rather, it's completely or perfectly round. In the same way, God is perfectly and completely good.

Infinite number

There's only one God, and there are only three persons in the Trinity, so this one is easy to rule out. Besides, after reading about the kalam cosmological argument, it doesn't seem that it's possible for there to be an infinite number of things.

I sometimes think the only reason people punt to "infinity" to solve the problem of the incarnation and the trinity is because infinity is one of those things that's hard to understand. Since it's such a mystery to us, we figure anything is possible in the infinite, so we throw all of our logical difficulties in the infinite, and we don't even worry about explaining what we're talking about.

2 Comments:

At 5/04/2005 12:50 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

But how does infinite love solve the problem of the incarnation? Perhaps infinite power solves it. One might argue that if God has infinite power, then he has the power to engage in logical impossibility. But power has nothing to do with logic. Our inability to do draw four-sided triangles, for example, has nothing to do with a lack of power.

Infinite power could mean something like infinite types of 'powers', e.g. 'superhero'-type powers. One of these powers could be to subvert logic.

Also, when someone says "I trust that He understands although I don't" (and often quote the verse in the OT about secret things that we were not meant to understand) I think what they are often saying is that humans lack the intelligence to comprehend God fully. So it is currently beyond our ability to understand God.

So, to apply that to the resurrection or the trinity, a common reponse would be "I don't quite understand it, but that's my fault, I'll trust God is right even though I don't really get it."

I'm not quite sure they are punting it to simple mystery.

 
At 5/05/2005 2:14 AM , Blogger Mike - HotFudgeSunday.com said...

I've only read two Sproul books, the one I mentioned yesterday and THE HOLINESS OF GOD. In one of them, (I forget which one, Sproul makes the argument that God is not infinitely loving. (I just looked, and I can't find it in THE HOLINESS OF GOD, so I think it might be in NOT A CHANCE.) If I remember right, Sproul said some of God's attributes couldn't co-exist if they were possessed to an infinite degree. For instance, if He were infinitely loving, He wouldn't condemn anyone, period. He is also just, which tempers his love. (I need to get that book back from my dad!)

This is an interesting topic. Just the other day I was contemplating whether God really knows all there is to know. Because, there is an awful lot of data in every nook and cranny of the universe, and I can't imagine God, or any other being, would have any use for it.

To illustrate, most higher biological systems have billions of activities of various levels of abstraction going on within them at any given time. (Maybe trillions?) What level would a mind like God's focus on?

For instance, I'm typing right now to symbolically represent thoughts I'm having. And part of my brain is doing language processing functions, retrieving words that match, and attempting to retrieve their spellings. And parts of my brain are taking care of controlling my biological system, breathing, moving my eyes, etc. And doing this work in my brain, of course, are cells that are at the same time, at a "local level," processing oxygen and nutrition from my blood.

You get the point. And the computer I'm working with has layers and layers of complexity and design abstractions in the way it operates.

God may be able to understand and be aware of all that, but I can't imagine He'd want to. Has He read every book ever written? (Every draft of every web page ever created?) Does He have to witness every sin committed? I suppose He does, if He knows the number of hairs on my head. But just thinking about it, late at night here, I'd kind of hate to be Him. Maybe the "hairs on the head" thing is only for the objects of His love.

Maybe a good way to explain what I'm thinking is, most of the time I use my computer, I don't think about or monitor what's going on inside the hardware. The same with my car. But if my computer or my car breaks down, I open them up, see what's going on, and do some repairs. It seems to me, God is the best possible mechanic, but that doesn't mean He's under the hood constantly.

Another interesting question is if God has multiple threads of consciousness. (Thread is a software term to describe a single activity being executed.) The human brain is capable of doing multiple things at once, but our ability to do multiple things consciously is really limited.

These sorts of questions illustrate for me how many things we don't know about the nature of God's existence.

 

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