Monthly Archives: January 2018

God (Letter 11)



Sir Tom, Old Bean,

Let us clear a few things up before we go on.

Firstly I think we should steer clear of the Trinity for now so as not to muddy the waters (and that doctrine has some muddy waters to explore!) and I think it is something none of us have a clear understanding of and therefore not a good way of explaining God at this point.

Secondly, you say that you have not considered your faith philosophically, but all doctrine is philosophical. If you can even a quick squizz about the Nicene Creed you’ll see ‘Neoplatonism’ and ‘Stoicism’ bandied about. Ultimately for us to understand the things of God we have to think philosophically. What I’m saying is, I think you have without realising.

So, back to the big question: What are God’s characteristics that do not have to exist simply in relation to us?

Well what are some of his characteristics?

Love, justice, mercy, anger, wrath, compassion, righteousness, jealousy; what of these would we say are innate and which are dependent?

If one was stranded on a desert island could you be called compassionate? Or righteous? Do these qualities only exist when there is someone to be compassionate or righteous to? If you are alone then the only just thing to do is whatever you want. Whatever you do will be just because you are the definition of Justice.

It is a tough call because we can never see ourselves outside of a society to know whether justice or jealousy etc are innate characteristics.

Love is innate, I believe. I think you can trace back a lot of your attributes to whether you are, at heart, a loving person. The Bible says that God is love and I believe that that is a characteristic one can have whether alone or in community. I think it is possible for God to be a loving entity whether creation exists or not. An innately loving being is going to be a just and compassionate being when confronted with society.

So why is this important?

  1. it doesn’t exist and that’s madness.
  2. Our current understanding of God comes from the Early Church Fathers who were both Catholic (we wouldn’t accept their teachings on Apostolic succession today, why should we accept their other doctrines?) and Neoplatonists.
  3. I think it affects our understanding of other doctrines such as the Trinity and the existence of evil. For too long we have placed doctrine as our blueprint and twisted and stretched the Bible to fit over it, rather than the other way around.

Finally to address two other points of yours; I agree with your explanation of the existence of evil, though I feel the matter is complicated with God’s admission to a knowledge of good and evil in Genesis.  The idea that God could exist in a space with other similar beings that are promised not to interfere in this Universe (thus making God true when He says there are no other Gods) is something I considered for the last letter, but left it out as I thought it was hardcore philosophy enough already.

SMASH

Dangerous

 


God (Letter 10)



Dangerous old chap,

Apologies for my tardy response. This is mainly down to the fact that I am certainly no philosopher and in fact, have never really interacted with ‘God’ or ‘faith’ from a philosophical standpoint. Although I experienced a definite, ‘one-minute-I-thought-it-was-a-load-of-rubbish-the-next-I-believed,’ conversion to Christianity, I guess my Christian upbringing had prepared me to accept the Christian God unthinkingly in a sense and I was used to a kind of authoritarian, top-down belief in an afterlife and a deity. That said, many many people do ask questions about faith in a philosophical manner, so you raise some very worthy questions, which I will attempt to tackle.

I think God certainly exists and flourishes independent of anything around him, whether that be his creation or his dwelling place (wherever or whatever that may be). He is the pure essence of goodness, graciousness and so on and much of these attributes are expressed within the Trinity, towards the other parts of the Godhead (as a British preacher has clumsily put it: ‘God’s a community’).

So I see it that everything within God’s creation is an expression of these attributes. Of course this raises the question of how evil (or at least the choice to do evil) could have been created by a good God, but my answer to this would go something like this: true, free love involves the possibility to choose not to love. So God created beings with the freedom to walk away from him, which they duly did and God already had a rescue plan up his sleeve.

Aside from Trinitarian theology (the argument that God exists as three, so that love and grace can exist within him, as the three members of the Godhead express their love for one another), there has to also be the possibility that ‘there are others.’ In the Bible, we have the story of how God made and reached out to the inhabitants of our world. But what if there are other worlds, other spheres, other beings we know nothing of and within which God existed and exists quite separate from us? So much of the Bible is God saying to us, “my ways are above yours…now you see dimly, one day you’ll see in full.” What if there are other modes of operation, other levels of the universe which we have yet to discover and perhaps never will, til the end?


God (Letter 9)



Sir Tom,

SMASHY

Hope all is well with you. So we turn our (probably greatest) minds (of the 21st Century) to the notion of God. And I say notion because it’s fascinating to consider what we really know about Him. I think a ‘notion’ is perhaps all we can get.

Here’s where it gets interesting. As far as I can find, there is no standard theology or doctrine of God outside of creation. Meaning that all of our concepts of God’s character are in contrast to His creation.

Consider this: is God perfect? No. Not in the way we consider perfection; before creation He was perfect because He was the only thing to exist, after creation He is perfect because He is the measuring stick. Does that make sense? Perhaps goodness is easier to contend with. The Bible says God is the ultimate in goodness, but surely this is only because He is the definition of goodness. He literally cannot be bad, because anything He does or is is the definition of goodness.

The point here is that if we were to go through the characteristics of God, how many of them can we say exist without creation?

I hope you have your philosophical hat on because we need to go somewhere else at this point…

Before creation was God the only thing to exist or did he exist within a space? Think about it, in terms of pure theology the first is right, but in terms of working theology the second is right. I say this because we generally follow the idea of God being in Heaven and therefore existing in space (though not time). Think of a piece of paper, either God is the piece of paper or God is a drawing on the piece of paper

Why is this important? Well, I think there is a difference between a God that is without. A God that is without can be reactionary to the space around Him; He has a choice of how to be and thusly chooses to be just, good etc. A God that just is, is all that existed is defined not by choices, but, as said above, simply by His attributes. It comes down to this, Jesus was perfect because He lived within a space and chose to do God’s will, chose to live like God; but God has no choice, He just is, which isn’t perfection (though of course it is by default).

I think it has to be the latter, that only God existed otherwise the space around Him has an effect and therefore God is not what the Bible purports Him to be (though this raises the interesting idea that literally anything could exist, but God only tells us about Himself; everything we know about God comes from Him so we can never verify it’s truth).

It has interesting effects on our theology in terms of how could everything go so wrong? If He knows everything (due to perfection) then He would know that it was doomed to failure. What if, however, He did not know until after He had created?

Think about it, could God know anything other than Himself if only He existed? What about Genesis 3:22 where God says that man ‘has become like us, knowing good from evil’? Could God know such a concept of evil if only He existed and everything He is is good?

Another interesting thing to come from this is: where is creation. If we go back to the paper analogy and God is a drawing within the paper then He can create the Universe within another part of that paper; if, however, He is the paper then the Universe must exist within the fabric of God because you can’t draw a picture outside of the paper only on it. For Him to create the Universe outside of himself would be to create space outside of Himself which would necessitate space existing outside of Himself.

So we go back to our original question, what characteristics did God have before Creation? What characteristics can one have that are not dependent on others?

SMASH

Dangerous


Episode 3 – What is the Bible?



In this episode ‘Dangerous’ and Sir Tom explicitly state they won’t talk about Biblical inerrancy and then talk about it a lot.

As they do however, they cover many topics such as ‘what is the Bible?’; ‘How should we use it?’; ‘What is the core message of the Bible?’ and ‘Did the Apostle Paul get invited to parties?’

Ask questions; leave comments; accuse us of heresy on Facebook (unspokenchurch); Twitter (@unspoken_church) or email (unspokenchurch@gmail.com)