Conversation Enders # 1: Useless Topics For the Philosophically-Oriented Individual

I’ve been watching that series that my local PBS station has been airing lately, called Closer to Truth. It’s about philosophy and all that stuff that shut-ins and insomniacs like to watch at god-awful hours of the night. Needless to say, I’ve been watching faithfully. There’s alot about the show that deals with philosophy in general, about existence and minds and souls… but alot of it revolves around questions about God. If there is a God, how powerful is God, and so forth. I think that for many people, the subject of God isn’t one that they sit and muse about — at least not to the extent that philosophers do. For most people, I think, they don’t need alot of the ultimately useless arguments that philosophers drag out and debate without ever solving or answering anything. Religious arguments are filled with all sorts of meaningless debates: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? how powerful is God? is it possible that God can create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it? There aren’t answers to these questions because the questions themselves are unanswerable. or more to the point, pointless. The point of asking, I think, is purely for entertainment. I think that it’s a distraction. If we spend so much of our time arguing about angels on pins and whether God can do a Sisyphus impersonation, we aren’t spending our time coveting our neighbor’s wife, resenting and hating our parents for our messed-up childhoods, or masturbating. So taking up so much time, I suppose, is pleasing to God. Unfortunately, taking up so much time on these questions is not so entertaining for us, as I’m sure that the guy who takes these debates way too seriously will inevitably ruin the collective fun to be had by anyone else within their vicinity. However, if we look at the “debate” philosophically, we’d see that it is fun (for awhile, anyway) to play around with genuine philosophically debatable topics such as the nature of existence — our own and God’s. But, sometimes we find that throwing out one of those useless questions actually helps us to thnk about the legitimate questions. Some time ago, I had a rather spirited discussion with a classmate about the question whether God can create a rock so heavy that he is unable to lift it. We both understood that the question itself is pointless, and more to the point, it is unanswerable. But, despite my objections to the question itself, I held that the answer is yes. God can indeed create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it. The point of asking, for those who aren’t familiar with this supposed biblical conundrum, is to get to God’s omnipotence. How powerful is God is the question. Uh oh. There’s trouble. The immediate objection is supposed to be how can a being that is all-powerful create an object that he cannot lift? If there is at least one object that an all-powerful being cannot lift, then he is not all-powerful. If he is not all-powerful, then he is not God (since God is supposed to be so). This is supposed to be a smackdown. But I say, as Hamlet told Horatio, “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of by mere humans”. (I think that’s what he said). I say that the God that I used to believe in is exactly that — all-powerful, which means that there is no thing that he cannot do. This no thing includes creating contradictions. I know, red flag right there. The philosopher is screaming that we cannot create contradictions. That’s right. We can’t. We cannot be alive and dead. We cannot be in two places at once. God can. (If you beileve the Trinity, the idea of God being alive and dead simultaneously becomes apparent when you thinbk about the crucifixion of Christ. At least for 3 days, God was alive and dead). God can be everywhere and nowhere (kind of like the internet) in space. God is everywhere but nowhere in time. I can’t be anywhere but at this one place at a particular point in time, but that’s because I am human, and I am bound by laws that God put in place for humans to follow. Unless I am illiterate, nowhere in any religious text includes the expressed words that God is also bound by his own laws. The fact that I see the world in a certain way leads me to assume that the way I see things is the way that it must be for everything else. There’s no reason why I should assume that my limited capacities should also apply to God. (Especially given the fact that God is not human). The fact that we cannot understand God’s power does not give us reason to doubt that God possesses capabilities to do things that we cannot. (We readily accept other things that we cannot do that God can like creating the universe and all that dwell within it). Wr mistakenly assume that God we can comprehend the power of God. That assumption is more than a little arrogant. The fact that God can do things that we cannot do or comprehend ( as in how a contradiction can be actualized) goes to prove that God is more powerful than we can possibly imagine. If it seems counterintuitive or just plain wrong that God can create something like a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it — congradulations! Your puny human mind can’t comprehend the awsome, unlimited power of the Creator! And that’s just my point. When I say that I believe that God is all powerful, I am asserting that he is all-powerful. There is not a believer or philosopher that will deny all-powerfulness to God’s attributes. But, they will simultaneously assert that God cannot do something like create contradictions. I wonder then, if they are saying that God’s powers are qualified? That is, God is something like 99.9% omnipotent? God can do everything, except he won’t do that ( and yes, I realize that I just took a line from a Meatloaf song). Is this what they’re saying? I suspect that, when a philosopher says that God cannot create too heavy rocks or any other contradictions (because for instance, he is bound by the laws of physics), he is saying that God’s power is limited. If you want to say that this universe is governed by a not-quite God (that is, he’s the 99.9% powerful God), then so be it.I’ll still maintain that the God I’d like to believe exists is one that, at any moment, could reverse gravity and turn humanity into living dead things. It’s just that he chooses to keep things the way that they are. But then, that’s another matter for another day. See how much time I wasted talking about all that just now?


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