More on ‘can a perfect being create something imperfect’?

Christopher asked:

This question is a response to an answer I received from Jürgen Lawrenz about a perfect being and creation.

You stated that ‘God is a theological (theoretical and metaphysical) conception. Take him out of theory and into the world and you no longer have a God.’ But, if we are even to have the concept of god and have thoughts about god, then aren’t we already taking god out of the metaphysical realm and into the world since our thoughts are necessarily of this world? If I’m following your logic correctly, then simply conceiving of god automatically contradicts gods very existence.

Also you stated that, ‘This is not even mentioning that part where you speak of creating. Pure prejudice. What makes you state this assumption as if it was selfunderstood? Why should God create anything?’ I don’t understand what you mean by ‘pure prejudice,’ by me? I was certainly not trying to discriminate in any way, my assumptions about god creating us is based on religious texts. Also, I didn’t say anything about what god should or shouldn’t do, those who are religious believe he has already done the things I attributed to him. Were you trying to say that god was prejudice by creating this, but not that? Those are the only to implications/ interpretations of your statement I can find. Could you clarify please?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

Dear Christopher: With such difficult matters, it is imperative to cultivate a very clear and unambiguous language to avoid getting tangled up in a morass of confusions. If you will read your subsidiary question carefully, you may see that you have inadvertently claimed that human concepts create god — that by being thought of (and named), god exists. I doubt that this is what you wished to say.

You come closer to the mark with your remark about my logic, but then you spoil it with another careless articulation. What is ‘simply conceiving of god’? Do you really think that anyone could ‘simply’ conceive of god and have something intelligible in their mind? If you wish to follow the philosophical drift of these issues, you must go on and state the attributes of such a conception; and when you do this, you should notice before long that only human analogies and natural forces comes to mind, which this god may indeed transcend: But it is a very limited concept. Pursue this thought a little further and you will find yourself with an unintelligible concept on your hands, namely how you can state the conditions of existence of this god.

It is precisely from such difficulties that the medieval thinkers defined god as having negative attributes, in other words, all the attributes that you can think of are not of god, but only of what your puny thoughts can elaborate. The actual attributes of god would all be incomprehensible to us, because they are plainly not based in any experience we can have. Therefore if from this basis you makes claims that such an indefinable god actually exists, you have a limited god on your hands: not an actual god, but a self-contradictory bundle of notions and ideas taken from the physical world and mingled up with a confused metaphysical clutter.

As for creativity, my remark was not essentially directed to you personally. It is true that the default ‘conception’ of god assumes that god is creative. But for this to make sense, you must leave your literal understanding out of the picture and approach the matter from the symbolical angle. Creativity is a creature attribute; but god is not a creature. It is not not possible for us to conceive how god might have created the physical universe in any literal understanding of this notion. Some of the scholastics, who were very deep thinkers on these issues, also pronounced negatively on it. It is mere human naivety, indeed presumptuousness, for us to ‘conceive’ that god may be obliged to create the universe before we humans can ‘conceive’ that he must have created us and everything.

So the difference is that many (millions of) people believe in an intelligible ‘fatherly’ god because they have been taught and are not encouraged to question those teachings. Accordingly they spontaneously associate god with a vague notion of a supernatural analogue of humans. On the other hand there are thinkers who grapple their whole life long with the tangled web of self-contradictions in which they become involved the moment that words like ‘omniscience’ or ‘eternity’ come up. They are aware that words denote things, yet matters relating to god mostly do not denote, because our minds are not capacious enough to contain the required denotations. This is why religion is a matter of faith, not of belief, nor of science, nor of knowledge.


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