This post is the first in a series meant to highlight potential absurdities of a Christian conception of God where “Christian” here is being used as an umbrella term for any faith that affirms or endorses a view of God based on the Bible.

Although it sounds funny, game theory is actually a branch of mathematics. In a very broad sense, one could summarize game theory as the study and analysis of strategic decision making. As the name suggests, this includes decision making in the context of games (often two person zero sum games), but also has powerful applications in military strategy and economics. The player of any relevant sort of “game” aims to maximize a desirable outcome.

To some extent the matter of a personal creator God can be cast in terms of a game where the assumption is that God is a rational being who intends to create a world with beings possessing some measure of “free will”.  he objective, then, is to do so in a manner which, in general, is consistent with “his” nature and, more specifically, fulfills “his” wishes (which depend upon “his” nature).  Right away it is evident that for an omnipotent, omniscient being, winning the game should be of no consequence. The only rules of the game are determined by God's nature along with whatever further rules “he” imposes.

So what are God's wishes? According to most flavors of Christianity, God desires to be in a personal relationship with his creatures as a result of loving them. Now, along with free will (we'll ignore all the issues surrounding this idea) comes some measure of risk in that while one may wish for relationship the other party may not reciprocate. Even so, it is hard to imagine  any well-formed creature would decline to know the greatest of possible beings. So, what might we expect creation to be like if God is to maximally fulfill his wishes? In other words, how would God play the game?

A first conundrum is in the type of creation we see — i.e. a physical reality. I think it safe to say that the unanimous Christian perspective is that God is wholly other than “his” creation. God is a “spirit” (whatever that is) whereas his” creatures are material. It is, however, maintained that humans possess a spirit/soul, but this only punctuates the problem: why the physical side at all? It would be much easier to see and relate to God if we simply existed in the spiritual realm. It would be much easier not to fall into doubt if we were not distracted by what comes with the natural, but directly apprehended the spiritual instead.

In the next post I'll delineate some further problems (in more detail) that indicate that the state of affairs runs counter to what we would expect if a rational God were seeking to maximally realize “his” wishes.

63 Comments

  1. I feel like I’m dumping a bomb and running. Mormons believe God has a body! After reading this article and reading the comments you left on my last article, I think this is relevant to mention!

  2. Ah yes, I believe I did know this. Nevertheless, is it not supposed to be a “spiritual” body? Also, I would wonder how God could be omnipresent if “He” was confined to a body. Or, do you not hold to the omnipresence of God?

  3. Great post Ryan! Fascinating idea using game theory and theology. My first thought is that there’s a contradiction in applying game theory to God. Since God is outside of matter, space, and time, it would follow that he is also outside of any mathematical framework. I see math as part of the framework of spacetime. Therefore game theory would not apply to God.

  4. Ryan welcome to the Spokane Faith & Values community, I hope you enjoy your interaction with readers and writers here. One note of advice and request to help in the oncoming dialouging and debating, if I may.

    Starting out your relationship with readers by setting up an adversarial posture by designating a huge part of this community as believing ‘absurduties’ seems painfully ungracious and particularly egotistical.

    I’m just saying.

    But if you come to the community for an intellectual fight, than I’m sure you will find plenty of capable and willing Pugilists.

    But he who draws the proverbial sword, constantly in his life, ends up bleeding on someone greater’s more able, quicker and experienced blade. It’s the law and inescapable gamble of the way of warlike people.

    For me your beginning course of thought and debate is going to stumble over the incarnation. But I’ll wait for you to show your full hand before engaging a partial argument.

    So get on with it, lay out your treatise which will once and for all, like no other greater mind before you, silence all reasonable doubt, open the heavens to wisdom and liberate us ignorant masses from the shackles of evil religion.

  5. Bruce – One could maintain that God is outside of spacetime, but from that it would not follow that God is beyond or outside of mathematics/reason. Such a conclusion is crucially dependent upon your premise that mathematics is part of spacetime, a position I think untenable and self-defeating. Once you allow God to be “beyond” reason, you now have forfeited any possible way of talking about God meaningfully. I also don’t believe that you’d be able to meaningfully make the meta-statement that mathematics/reason is confined to spacetime unless it were beyond spacetime. Thus, I think my application of game theory stands.

  6. Eric –

    Pointing out potential absurdities need not be ungracious nor egotistical. One might instead view it as being helpful. It is no more (indeed less) arrogant than the person of faith insisting that he/she is unmistakably in possession of absolute truth, couldn’t possibly be wrong and pretends that it makes sense that there are divine punishments awaiting those who disagree.

    I am very willing to risk drawing said proverbial sword, not because I am certain that I will vest all who stand against me, but because I am eager to discover the truth over and above “respecting” beliefs simply because they are believed. If I fall upon the sword of someone greater, then, counter to what the analogy portrays, I have gained something; I will have hopefully gained greater insight, knowledge and understanding and will hopefully be closer to what is actually true.

  7. This looks familiar. I recently posted some insights I have about faith, free will, and the ontology of personhood which I think can show another conclusion, but I will set that aside.

    What I am interested in knowing is whether or not you think your position is actually strengthened by your statement that no one would reasonably reject a relationship with an ultimate being.

    In my mind when I hear this argument it makes me think of necessity and authority. If it is true then what you are saying is that people are rationally compelled to want to be “in” with God, so to speak.

    How do you think this effects genuine relationship? In my mind, a relationship should be founded on love which tends to be indetermined and unauthoritative.

    What I wonder is if I were an ultimate being would I want people to love me because they had no choice to or because they want to be in relationship with me for the good of the relationship itself. What do you think?

  8. Corbin –

    I do believe that is what I meant. What well-formed being would not freely choose or desire to know the greatest of possible beings? It seems difficult to cast the matter of free will in terms of determined vs undetermined. While determinism is the usual culprit for killing free will, indeterminacy can also be a killer. I would hardly say that randomness allows for free will any more the fatalism.

    So, I don’t believe rational compulsion eliminates free will in any relevant sense, since we are rational beings and want to believe and act rationally. The idea is not that any well-formed being would have no choice, but simply no reason to desire not being in such a relationship.

  9. Let’s look at the example of pi. First of all, pi is an irrational number, showing that there are inherent problems with math’s capability to ‘perfectly’ describe reality. Second, pi is related to a circle, namely the diameter and the circumference. A circle is an element of spacetime. A circle does not exist outside of spacetime, and by this example and by inference math does not exist outside of spacetime.

    Now we can say that a circle might exist outside of spacetime in a Platonic sense, but this is no longer math, and since the time of Kant it is not even philosophy, it is theology. I will make the statement that anything outside of spacetime is theology. Science and math as hard disciplines do not exist outside of spacetime.

    Today we have a proliferation of theoretical physicists and mathematicians postulating a “theory of everything.” Many of these theories include the concept of the multiverse, for example. But the multiverse is not science and it is not math. It cannot be proven and most likely will never be proven. It is not known whether anything outside of our universe conforms to the same laws of math or physics that exist inside the universe and inside of spacetime. Such speculations are not math and science. They are and will always be theology.

  10. Bruce – That pi is an irrational number in no way shows any deficiency in the capability of mathematics to describe reality. I have no idea where you are getting such an idea. It is not even the sole purpose of math to describe our universe. I am equally perplexed by your claim that a circle is an element of spacetime. This doesn’t make any sense. Nor does it makes sense to say that existing in a platonic sense is theology. That is a complete misnomer.

    If math were merely confined to spacetime, then it would be completely determined by the laws of spacetime, but we have mathematical systems that have nothing to do with spacetime or its laws; they are a completely different nature. I’m sorry, but it is false that mathematics is confined to spacetime. It is a self-defeating position.

    Furthermore, the multiverse very much is scientific and mathematical, which is why it is considered in terms of mathematics. The theory naturally arises out of all of our best models and is what is suggested by the mathematics.

  11. Furthermore, you have not answered the objection that it makes any sense to speak of God as being beyond reason. To do so is to do quite a bit more than shoot yourself in the foot. It is to commit suicide.

  12. Let me clarify Bruce. If game theory (or anything like it) cannot be applied to God, then you are saying that there is no way to rationally analyze what one might expect on the view that God exists. You seem to be saying that God is not a rational being at all and as a result is completely unpredictable. This leads to terrible consequences. You now have no way of telling if one religion is true over another or whether any is true for that matter. You cannot claim that the bible means anything and you cannot say anything positive about God, such as that “He” is loving. By saying that we cannot rationally expect anything you are saying that we can expect everything, which is useless.

  13. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan, First, nice use of game theory. I have to applaud your creativity as many of the new GNU atheist have grown wearisome using the same tried argument. Now to your point.”Even so, it is hard to imagine any well-formed creature would decline to know the greatest of possible beings.”

    I highlight this as this is the chewing gum that holds together the whole thread together. I hope you are aware of Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s work on Behavioral economics. Game theory as tool is running into some major problems, according its models, the last recession should not have happened. What rational creature would run up Credit Default Swaps. Mr. Greenspan said it best when ask why the bankers shot their own feet, saying the was wrong when he thought Bankers would always act in a rational manner. They did not and we all paid for it. It seemed the older Enlightenment model of humans being rational beings does not fit the evidence. Most of the arguments against God can best summed up, “If I created the the world, I could have done it better.”

    Finally, how do you explain “God” ? Today, Billions of people prayed to God and gathered together. What is the orgin of this God. Projection, or power of the dominate elite

    I wish I could continue, but it is off to Bible study.

  14. Ernesto – I would very much agree with you that humans are not always rational. In fact, we are very often irrational. We are subject to fear, paranoia, emotions, bad arguments, delusions, etc. It often takes a lot of work, focus and training for humans to obtain the level of rationality they do. But pointing this out only serves to make my point. It shows that we are, in a very real sense, not as well-formed as one might expect given a perfect God. God is the one who is supposed to be supremely and unfalteringly rational. But even as we are, I do believe that almost no human would decline a relationship with the greatest of possible beings if it was known that such a being exists.

    I don’t really see how your summary of the arguments against God is any refutation. Rather, given what we are supposed to accept about God we do know of better ways the world could have been to accomplish the alleged goals of this God! Thus, either the claims concerning what God desires are wrong or the claims about the sort of being “He” is are wrong or there just isn’t a God at all.

    To answer your closing questions, I think it likely that “God” or god concepts are artifacts of our primitive minds and experiences. I believe it was likely just a first attempt to understand the world. It was natural for humans to assign agency to the unknown. In a word, yes, projection. From there it evolved into all sorts of things.

  15. There is simply no way of knowing if the laws of physics or math apply outside the realm of spacetime. Science and math require testable hypotheses and provable axioms. These do not exist outside of spacetime. The multiverse has been called a pseudoscience by many respected physicists and scientists, not just me.

    Theology depends upon revelation and faith. Yes, theology can make use of logic and philosophy, and I say it should, but in the end a knowledge statement is accepted by faith. This is one reason revelation and religion are so important to society, because we simply have no access to knowledge outside of matter and energy.

  16. Bruce –

    Yes, we can know, because mathematics depends upon nothing about our spacetime. We are perfectly able to reason about things outside of spacetime and about things that have nothing to do with spacetime. Furthermore, mathematics does not require “testable hypothesis” or provable axioms. In fact, axioms by definition are not provable. You do not prove an axiom. Instead you start with an axiom and prove theorems based on axioms. I cannot think of a single mathematician or physicist who agree with what you are saying.

    Of course our laws of physics would not apply outside of our spacetime, but it is sheer folly to suggest that mathematics suddenly does not hold. All this would mean is that there is no “outside” of our spacetime and therefore still no God.

    Since mathematics neither depends upon revelation or faith, it is not theology.

  17. “There is simply no way of knowing if the laws of physics or math apply outside the realm of spacetime… we simply have no access to knowledge outside of matter and energy.”

    Then you cannot know that God exists outside of spacetime.

  18. Bruce, I get the feeling you are just being obdurate and that you seem to lend me no credibility in my own area of study is somewhat insulting. Your position on math is self-defeating.

    On your view God would actually not exist, so you must be an atheist now. Either that or you believe God to be confined to spacetime as well. If reason cannot extend to outside of spacetime, then anything beyond spacetime is unintelligible. The statement God exists outside of spacetime becomes meaningless. I therefore have no further need to argue with you because you have destroyed your own position.

  19. You are comfortable with the idea that a relationship of love should be compelled upon someone else? There is a reason we have words like sugar daddy, gold digger, cradle robber, and others. Love seems best defined when we eliminate as much determinants as possible. I think the ultimate love would be equally ultimately indeterminate.

  20. Corbin –

    That depends upon what you mean by “compelled”. I think it impossible not to be compelled by something. People often speak of being compelled by love. Does that mean we should eliminate love now too because now some mysterious freedom has been lost? It is good to be compelled by things which are a part of our nature such as reason and love. If you eliminate all determinants you are left with randomness and that is not freedom either, nor does it allow for genuine relationship, since there is nothing stable to rely on.

  21. Love compels us, but it does so differently than authority. When we are compelled by love it represents our “true self” or “inner being”, but when we are compelled by authority it represents the determinants that have control over different aspects of our lives.

    When you say that no man would rationally deny a relationship with an ultimate being it makes me think that God has the best love potion ever. So what I am wondering is if a relationship built on a love potion is still genuine?

    I don’t think it is. I think that because God loves us being in relationship with Him has to be a choice. Reason isn’t good enough. We need to have faith.

  22. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan,
    much of your argument points to the limits of human language and not much of anything else. All language, even math, breakdown logically, Godel was a good example. By selectively using the breakdown in language for only religion and not in the other domains of human knowledge you play a disingenuous. I can show that “God does not Exist.” is in reality an ILLOGICAL statement using the same breakdown in human language. Though much like the argument against God, it would only show the limits of language. If you want, I will do it, but it will accomplish nothing, except to show the limits of language.

    Though I am glad you put your cards down and said God is “artifacts of our primitive minds.”

    Why?

    Because that is an old Victorian Myth and the work of Dr. Andrew Newberg has blown an evidence hole so large as to render that theory in the same place in history as belief in Santa Claus and Scientific Creationism. His use of MRI has shown that people having a religious experience and use they different parts of the brain and in the case of monks and nuns in deep prayer and meditation, a HIGHER brain activity in the areas of the brain that house the higher functions. It is no wonder that Dawkins and the GNU atheist don’t deal his research or the Logic of Wittgenstein. They must know that they advancement in human knowledge blows up their attempt to pull the world of knowledge back the Victorian age. Sorry for them, but the linguistic turn did happen. Sorry for them, that neurobiology is destroying their belief structure. But can we at least move into the 21 century? The 19th and early 20th century weren’t all that fun.

  23. Ryan, I wasn’t intending to be in any way insulting and I apologize if I come across that way. But at some point you have to admit that reasoning beyond spacetime or outside of our known universe is speculative, and is akin to the same theology you are trying to refute with respect to hard science. I don’t put it down as an intellectual pursuit, but at the same time I’m not going to change my religion over its conjectures.

  24. Ernesto –

    In what way does my argument only point to limits in human language? Like Bruce with Kant, Wittgenstein seems to be your philosopher god. I see no reason to take him as the supreme authority as even his work has been criticized. It won’t due for you to simply say, “well you’re just arguing about language issues, so God belief is perfectly justified”. Also, you need to be careful using Godel. Many have misused his ideas for lack of understanding.

    Now, why is the statement: God does not exist, illogical? Are there limits to natural language, sure, but I don’t see how that helps you in any way.

    As for the origins of belief in God, I don’t see how your supposed “evidence” refutes anything I have said. Of course it uses our higher reasoning faculties. That’s why I said it was an early attempt at understanding the world. Such an endeavor, no matter how misguided, would surely proceed from our higher faculties. Lower animals cannot speculate at all, so I don’t see how Dr. Newberg’s work is especially relevant. Besides, such work only applies to modern belief which has certainly become more sophisticated, but how does that tell us about its origins?

  25. If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.
    — Albert Einstein

    I know it’s appears simplistic but I think there’s deep wisdom in it, especially coming from such a mind.

  26. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan, it seem s you are unfamiliar with the linguistic turn in Philosophy. No, I do not view Wittgenstein (By the way the most important Logician since Artistole) as Philosopher God. Yet, one cannot do philosophy without understand the nature of language. Your whole argument has to do with language and the definition of God. Yet, the word God is embedded in several language games, to which you kind of ignore.

    Here is the proof of the illogical nature of “God does not exist.” The claim has to assign a meaning to “God” in order for it mean anything and in the assigning of meaning you are granting it some sort of existence to the word. So in order to say or write “God” there has to be an existence to it. Then to turn right around and say that it doesn’t is self contradictory or to say that all uses of the God are invalid, which of course is absurd. Example, If I make a claim about Bernie Madoff, the ponzi scheme master, that his God was money. It does not fit within the use of God that the New Atheist want. Think how silly it is then for someone to say the claim about Madoff is invalid because God does exist. It is nonsense to say that use of the word God is non-existence in that context.

    Of course the GNU atheist will complain that my use of language is not what they meant, but this is the reality. It is a very common use of the word God. So, the Atheist must parse what is use of the word God they want to say does not exist from what use is legitimate. So they go round about into the nature of “God” question, not into the existence of God question. What do we mean when we use the word God. Suddenly they are force to make claims about God that have to be defended.

    There is a reason for the lengthy use of double speak in Dawkins’s God Delusion about Einstein’s use of the word God. Clearly, Albert Einstein had a concept of God, close to the pantheistic concept of Spinoza, but since Dawkins wants to argue that Science is oppose to any belief structure of God, so he has to make sure this well respected scientist can’t be a theist. Dawkins works hard to say that Einstein’s use God was not how really theistic, and Einstein was an Atheist. Sorry Dawkins, but pantheist is still a concept of God and Einstein was a theist. Saying that his concept of God was not like classical Monotheism does not save him. Einstein had a similar concept to some Christians, Buddhist or other religions and that does not make him a practitioner of those faith, but he never the less Einstein had a concept of God. Though Dawkins adventures in double speak and non-rational thinking does show how he has an inkling of the problem that comes from language.

    Of course, since use of God is embedded in several language games, then the use of the word God has to be defined by the rules within the language game, but it cannot say anything about the uses in other language games. Or the argument about God can only be about the nature of God and not about existence of God. Is God a word that means source of motivation or being ie Saying Madonna the singer’s God is the God Fame, or God is simply a projection of our wishes and sense of powerlessness or the God of the Gaps, an explanation of knowledge that is a mystery. None of those fit how Christians use the word. Yet, Trinity of Christianity or Allah of the Islam are not within these uses of God that Gnu Atheist try to force it into. What the atheist is left arguing is that the St Anselm’s use of God in his proofs is illogical, but since few practice and use the word like St Anselm, then the atheist has accomplished little. Either “God does not exist.” is a nonsensical statement or so narrow to a small language game as to be useless. The third alternative is that it is embedded in a language game that plays within itself a language game called GNU atheism, and has no relevance to the rest of the world. In short, it is a meme in the classical way that Dawkin’s defined meme in his 1975 book Selfish Gene.

  27. Ernesto – Thanks for clarifying. Though, you seem to be attacking a straw man. All you have pointed out is the importance of defining terms. Perhaps you just missed it, but I quite clearly indicated this at the beginning where I specifically said that I was addressing a conception of God based on the Bible and pointing out possible absurdities. Furthermore, you seem to have misapprehended my agenda. Nowhere did I make the blanket assertion that God does not exist, which you claim is an illogical statement if left unqualified. Again, I specifically indicated that there are potential absurdities with the biblical conception of God. Obviously, if I am right, this doesn’t prove that no God exists, but I never claimed that it did. Don’t mistake me for being THAT ambitious right out of the gate.

    I do believe that it is wrong, however, to say that the issue here is just a matter of the limitations of language. Also, you say:

    “Here is the proof of the illogical nature of “God does not exist.” The claim has to assign a meaning to “God” in order for it mean anything and in the assigning of meaning you are granting it some sort of existence to the word. So in order to say or write “God” there has to be an existence to it. Then to turn right around and say that it doesn’t is self contradictory…”

    This isn’t quite accurate. By defining a term one is not committed to supposing that the thing defined exists. The concept may exist (in that it is internally consistent), but it need have no correspondent in reality. Thus, it is not correct to say that claiming something does not exist is a contradiction. You are equivocating on the term “exists”. Is it logically absurd to deny that unicorns exist? Unless you mean that I am denying that a God concept exists in which case you are mistaken.

    In your rant about Dawkins and Einstein you seem to fall prey to your own reasoning. You claim that Einstein was a theist because he had some conception or meaning for the term “God”. But this depends on your definition of “theist”, which I believe is inadequate. This is why we also have terms like “deist”, “pantheist”, “panentheist”, etc. Generally, “theist” is better used to indicate a belief in a personal God among other things and in this regard Dawkins is correct: Einstein was not a theist. Furthermore, I believe you are missing the point of Dawkins remarks. The reason he goes to so much trouble (in my opinion) is not to somehow cover up the idea that Einstein believed in some form of “God”, but rather to disabuse various believers of the idea that appealing to Einstein somehow bolsters their view of God.

    Overall, I’m not trying to prove that “God” does not exist (that cannot really be done), though I think we can rule out some concepts. Rather, I am making a probabilistic argument that certain types of “God” likely do not exist and further that there aren’t any very good reasons for thinking that that they do.

  28. Why bodies? don’t take this as a statement on Mormon belief, but one of my thoughts on the purposes of bodies is being co-creators with God. Maybe God could have created a body for each person, however He does that, but instead He let’s us help Him with that through pro-creation. So there’s a reason for having bodies: the blessing of having kids.

  29. Ernesto Tinajero

    “In your rant about Dawkins and Einstein you seem to fall prey to your own reasoning. You claim that Einstein was a theist because he had some conception or meaning for the term “God”. But this depends on your definition of “theist”, which I believe is inadequate. ”
    Huh????
    This is not my definition, but the common definition, and common usage.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism It is also standard in the history of religion. It does not fit how Dawkins wants to use the word, but whatever. He is also famous for saying he really did not read theology, history of religion or philosophy of religion, (His famous quip about leprechaunology) So by your definition all Hindus are really Atheists. News to them. Strange how dogma moves thought into blind ideology. My favorite example come from Dawkins, again. In his understanding of Evolution he got into an argument with Stephen Jay Gould about Dr. Gould’s concepts of Spandrels. For Dawkins, by-products could not explain such development of snail shells, all developments creatures have had to be from Natural Selection. That is what his biology said. His emotional dislike of Religion made only one exception to his Evolution theory, namely Religion. Irony is rich.

    Second, by the way omnipotent, omniscient are not Biblical ideas, but come out of St. Anselm, hence why I used them since you used them.

    Thirdly, you ask if Unicorn exist, Of course they exist as fiction. The intentionality of unicorn stories are to entertain. Remember the famous essay “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.”

    Finally, I appreciate your honesty “Overall, I’m not trying to prove that “God” does not exist (that cannot really be done),” Which is all I was trying to say. I do hope you continue to look at the extraordinary views of what God means that exists within monotheistic religion with an open mind. You will find a large diversity of thought and opinion.

  30. Ernesto –

    From Wikipedia: “Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1] In a more specific sense, theism is a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God’s relationship to the universe.[2] [3][4] Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe.”

    This is pretty well what I said. Yes, there are conceptions that are more general, but it seems that this supports what I was saying. As for Hindus, I don’t know why they would be atheist on my view. Rather they would be polytheists.

    You say: “Second, by the way omnipotent, omniscient are not Biblical ideas, but come out of St. Anselm, hence why I used them since you used them.”

    Actually, they are biblical ideas and many theologians and apologists use the bible to support such ideas.

    You say: “Thirdly, you ask if Unicorn exist, Of course they exist as fiction. The intentionality of unicorn stories are to entertain. Remember the famous essay “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.” ”

    I offer the same response as you seem to have ignored the surrounding paragraph: “By defining a term one is not committed to supposing that the thing defined exists. The concept may exist (in that it is internally consistent), but it need have no correspondent in reality. Thus, it is not correct to say that claiming something does not exist is a contradiction. You are equivocating on the term “exists”.”

  31. Physical bodies con list: Addiction, pain, illness
    Physical bodies pro list: Babies!! And lessons learned from experiencing both pain and joy.

    Non-physical bodies: meh.

  32. Also I would imagine creating a new spirit is quite difficult but I’ve heard making a body is a very simple process, my parents did it four times.

  33. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan,
    “Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1] In a more specific sense, theism is a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God’s relationship to the universe.”

    Please be more careful in your reading. Language is a living thing, yes, but the definition is within its usage and by its field.
    The key is the phrase “at Least” which means there can be more in the broader sense and in the narrow sense, pantheism, deist and panetheism
    all fit, which is why they are listed as such. If I am not mistaken there was no mention of a Personal God EVEN in the narrow sense either. You wanted to limit God to a even more narrow view of monotheism, so narrow as to render it a God that few if any theists hold.

    Earlier you got mad at Bruce for doubting your knowledge of your field and the number pi. I would ask the same respect to my field.

    You made a claim that “they are biblical ideas and many theologians and apologists use the bible to support such ideas.” It is now up to you to support it, Since you offered no proof. just a dangling proposition I can’t answer. (by the way the using El Shaddat or almighy does not help you cause the actual meaning of it is multibreasted one, different sense than all powerful to say the least.) In most cases you will find it means power we humans can’t understand. That is why many of the arguments (including you own) take the form if God is all powerful … then … with a listing of a contradiction within the term all powerful not God as such. Example If god is all powerful can he make a rock he can’t pick up.
    So, I wait you proof.

    On the existence question, once we lose the sense of literalism you see the world opening up in many shades. Does Captain Kirk exists? Yes, as a TV character. You make the same error that many of the biblical literalists do. The Bible is concern with asking four questions and if defines itself by asking those. I will limit myself to predominate one in the New Testament. “What is the good life?” It answers by saying follow Jesus, and describes who Jesus is. Jesus uses parables and stories all geared to answer that question. Its form follows this function. Since Star Trek defined itself as Sci FI then you take as Sci Fi. If the New Testament offers the answer to how to live the good life, that is what defines it. Dawkins wants to define it as science, which of course is silly. As silly as his anti-Harry Potter rant. He thinks that Harry Potter is anti-science what with magic and wizards. (the fact that it is fiction seems not to factor) I can’t make this stuff up.

    Dawkins did not go out of his way to say that Einstein was an Atheist because of wanting to take away an appeal. Dawkins believes that Science and Theism are a opposed. (Evidence stands against him as great scientist then and now have the full range of atheist, agnostic, deist … and monotheist. But whatever.) Here was a giant of science being a pantheist. So, he went Orwell and minitruth on Einstein. We know this through Andrew Few affair. Dr Few, toward the end of his life, turned toward an idea of God very similar to Einstein and Dawkins took this as a betrayal and a sign of Few’s declining mental capacities.

  34. Ernesto –

    *sigh*, I feel as though you are not reading my comments very carefully. I specifically admitted that the term “theism” can be used in a more general sense, but much of what wikipedia said supported what I said – i.e. that theism is often used in a restricted sense to indicate a belief in a personal God. See specifically: “Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe.”

    You say: ” You wanted to limit God to a even more narrow view of monotheism, so narrow as to render it a God that few if any theists hold.”

    I have no problem coming right out and saying that this is absurd. Almost every theologian and apologist I have read or listened to holds to the view of God that I put forth. Consider, for instance, William Lane Craig, perhaps the most prominent Christian apologist alive. Also, Norman Geisler, another prominent Christian apologist. Pretty well, every pastor I’ve ever heard speaks of God in the same terms I did.

    Furthermore, did I argue for an internal contradiction to the notion of omnipotence? No. In fact, I left the term undefined because my argument actually did not very much depend upon the various shades of meaning that the term can assume. All I really assumed is that God is powerful enough to actualize “His” wishes. If you want to argue for a significantly less powerful being who can make mistakes or fail to accomplish certain things, be my guest.

    Back to the existence question, you still aren’t reading what I am saying. I specifically distinguished between different kinds of existence and was careful to point out which one I meant.

    As for Dawkins, I really don’t care. I know he believes that science and theism are opposed and to some extent I think he is right. Whatever his motives were for saying what he did about Einstein I still think it was good of him to chastise certain religious folk for appealing to Einstein as somehow supporting their version of theism.

  35. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan, if you know William Lane Craig, then you know William Lane Craig follows Flint and Freddoso’s definition of omnipotence. Key to their definition is that God cannot actualize logically impossible states of affairs, such as making a round square or the use of Game theory to reveal similar illogical paradoxes, which are inherent in language. William Lane Craig does not put forward a God that is a priori illogical and the one you put forward is. They are very different definition. So, you can continue to put out how since God can’t create a rock he can’t pick up then God can’t exist. but this is not what a theologians mean by omnipotence. The sad thing is that you don’t see it. You think that your concept of God is the same God that people worship on Sunday.

    Black is white. Torture is justified but really not torture (Sam Harris). Atheists are the only brights (Dennett). Francis Collins is a clown. (PZ Myers, which is strange considering Dr. Collins orchestrated the mapping of the human Genome and PZ is famous for putting a nail through a communion cracker.) God is a virus (Dawkins among others) Welcome to the Brave New World of Gnu Atheists.

    I have share why I am passionate about opposing the GNU agenda.

    The reality is that I tended to ignore them for the most part. They offered very little in the way anything new or interesting. Nothing that Bertrand Russell hadn’t said and said ten times more effectively. But, when they went after Dr. Collins with a vengeance, I realize I had to speak up. Dr Collins is one of most brilliant scientist of our times. His work both gene mapping and his work with NF-1 (the condition my son has) has had a profound effect on my and my family’s life. He also is a Christian. When his name was put to head the NIH, the GNU atheist came out in a nasty way opposing him. Harris wrote Op-eds. He was called stupid and ignorant. Of course, I felt very protective, specially when they trotted nothing more than tired arguments against God and by extension believers. Even after all that the GNU Atheist put him through, he offered his help to Hitchens and his battle with cancer. He did it because he is a profoundly humane man. Anyone who works with him will attest to that. I know I will not convince you of faith. But I wish you would realize that saying to someone that their faith is absurd, you would show even a small shred of the same humanity.

  36. Ernesto –

    No, the sad thing is, you keep attacking straw men! I know very well what Craig’s position is and if you had asked me, I would have given the same definition of omnipotence. Nowhere did I offer any a priori illogical conception of God. That is your own fallacious reading of my position. Nowhere did I mention God actualizing a logically impossible state of affairs. In fact, I have no idea why you are bringing up the rock paradox as I didn’t use it nor did I argue for anything similar to it.

    My position is rather as follows:
    Let “God” stand for the being conceived of by the Christian position. Among other things this God is believed to be omnipotent (i.e. able to accomplish anything logically possible), omniscient (i.e. God knows the truth value of all propositions with respect to any possible world), rational (i.e. God makes the best decisions to accomplish “His” ends), omnibenevolent (God desires good for “His” creatures). It is also specifically believed that God desires to be in relationship with all “His” human creatures. Let S be the state of affairs representing the maximal realization of God’s wishes. That is, where the world is such that the most people will know God exists and will reciprocate “His” desire for relationship. Now
    1. If God exists, then S should be realized. This follows from God’s attributes and desires.
    2. S is not realized. The world is not as one would expect if this sort of God existed.
    3. Therefore, it is likely that such a God does not exist.

    Now I would say that it is also the case that the Christian view is internally inconsistent in that holding to the view of God that most Christians do is inconsistent with the notion of Hell that is also often held, but I’ll get to that in one of my posts.

    Finally, you keep bringing up various atheists and what/who they attack, but I’m not sure why. I don’t really see how it is relevant.

  37. I should also make explicit note that the state of affairs S is not logically impossible, nor is realizing S logically impossible. Thus, I am not making any sort of “rock-paradox” argument.

  38. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan,
    It seems that we are at empasse. I will leave it at you have not convinced me either logically nor by the force of your argument. I know I was not trying to defend my faith or trying to convince you. I reacted to being called a holder of absurd concepts. Going around in circles is not very helpful. I remember what Martin Buber said about a man that lives in ideas. So that’s that. I wish you the best.

  39. Ernesto –

    Well I care about being accurate, so what exactly has not convinced you? Are you talking about my post or my defense of the method? If it is the post itself, then remember, I’m not finished yet. If you are still questioning the overall method, then I’m interested in what the hang up is.

  40. Ernesto –

    Let me also say that I in no way intended to offend you. I think very highly of you and believe you to be very intelligent and worth hearing out. My statement that there are absurdities in the Christian position was not intended to imply that you are an irrational person. My statement was not flippant or meant to be controversial. Rather it reflects a genuine belief about the worldview. These are genuine objections. We are all liable to believe absurd things (which prima facia may not appear so), which is why it is important to discuss these matters so that we help each other out. Who knows, it may be that I am the one holding to absurdities. I am eager to find out.

  41. Ryan, I hesitate to step in and distract even briefly from the discussion, but going back to one of the earliest comments: for informational purposes – Mormons believe God has a physical body, like we do, but perfect and glorified. We also believe in His omnipresence. I hope that doesn’t seem contradictory to anyone. Fifty years ago, even twenty years ago, yes; but with the technology of today, it’s not so hard to imagine the possibilities available to God.

  42. Diane -

    The Bible clearly states that God is spirit, which contradicts your position. Or, do you define “spirit” as “perfect, glorified physicality”? If so, then what does that mean?

    Furthermore, it very much is impossible to be omnipresent and have a body. It is not a matter of technology, it is a matter of inconsistency. They are mutually exclusive concepts.

  43. Furthermore Diane, if God has a physical body, then God must be subject to the laws of physics. Do you really mean to suggest that God is made up of atoms just like we are? If so, then entropy requires that God will eventually “die”. Also, if God is physical, then where did the physical world come from?

  44. Ryan, I am addressing your question from another post. I will turn the question around and ask you, if you do not believe there is a god outside of the boundaries of the universe, why do you have confidence that there is logic or math outside the boundaries of the universe, and what proof do you have of that assertion?

  45. Bruce –

    The short answer is, as I pointed out earlier, that to deny this is self-defeating. It cannot rationally be denied.

    I also think you are muddying up terms. You seem to have this idea that math and logic are somehow LOCATED outside of spacetime in the same sense that, say, my car is located outside of my house. It would be better to say that logic and math apply outside of spacetime. This is required by the very idea of suggesting that there IS an “outside” of spacetime that can somehow be distinguished from spacetime. Otherwise, “outside” is simply a meaningless term or is indistinguishable from nothing at all in which case why even use the term? Non logical states of affairs cannot exist. It is an impossibility.

    I have also argued that math is not dependent upon the laws of spacetime. We have mathematical systems that are completely unrelated to spacetime and we know that there are other possible spacetimes other than ours that are consistent and could exist.

    Now, back to you. If you deny this, then God is irrational and unpredictable (really, “He” couldn’t exist at all, but we’ll ignore that for the moment). So, your whole belief crumbles to pieces anyway and I don’t even need game theory to make the very true statement that your beliefs would literally be absurd.

  46. You can make the conjecture that math is not dependent upon the laws of spacetime, but how do you know this to be the case? It is an impossible situation to test. Physics and science must be verified through a testable hypothesis. If math is to be applied to reality it must be proven to be the case through testing and experimentation.

    I also don’t think you can know that you have mathematical systems that are unrelated to spacetime because there is no way to take them out of spacetime to see if this is indeed the case. Likewise, i do not see how you can know that there are other possible spacetimes.

    God cannot be proven either irrational or rational, predictable or unpredictable.

  47. Bruce, you don’t need to be able to “take them out of spacetime” because there would be no meaningful “outside” if reason didn’t already apply.

    There are other possible spacetimes because we have models of them.

    If God cannot be proven to be one or the other, then I rest my case. I don’t even need game theory to make my point. You are left with absurd and frightening beliefs.

  48. If you maintain that logic does not apply outside of spacetime, but then go on to assert that God exists outside of spacetime, then you have made a logical statement about something concerning outside of spacetime. You are saying:
    Outside of spacetime is such that it contains (at least) one being, namely God. But you have now contradicted yourself. So, either logic must extend beyond spacetime or there is no God (or meaningful “outside”) beyond spacetime.

  49. Models do not prove anything to me. There are models of string theory also and that has not been proven. It may or may not be the case, we don’t know yet.

    You also don’t know if there is any meaningful “outside” of spacetime or not. These things are theoretical and speculative. They may represent reality, and they may not. We don’t know.

    Christian theology rests upon faith in authority of inspiration. Whether God can be proven or not has never been the focus of theology. Yes there were some philosophers who put together proofs, but theology never lived or died by the results.

    My assertion that God is outside of spacetime is not a contradiction because I am not the one maintaining that God can be proven or disproven by logic. Perhaps I am wrong? God may be somewhere else, perhaps in one of those other spacetimes you’ve postulated. How would I know? I’m stuck in this spacetime, so I don’t really know anything at all. My assertion is that you don’t either. You cannot prove or disprove math outside of spacetime and you cannot prove or disprove God outside of spacetime.

  50. Consistent models indicate that there are other POSSIBLE spacetimes which differ from ours.

    Christian theology cannot rest upon authority or anything for that matter. Without a rational God you have no basis for anything. You would be left with utterly blind faith, which would most likely be misplaced. If that is all you have, then I’ll pass.

    Furthermore, the whole enterprise of theology would be one meaningless endeavor, a waste of time. You’d be trying to say things and make logical sense of something that cannot be talked about because logic does not apply. You have sunk the entire ship.

    And yes, your claim IS a contradiction. You don’t need to be maintaining that God can or cannot be proven. All you need to be doing is making a logical statement such as X exists. Really, I’m left wondering why you believe in God at all?!

  51. Once again, consistent math models do not amount to scientific proof. You have no evidence that those models represent anything in reality.

    And once again, Christian theology can and does rest on authority, inspiration, and faith, whether you accept it or not. That is how it works. Science and math in the modern age are actually outgrowths of this system. Logic in the Middle Ages was conceived to work because it was an attribute of God not some universal attribute of itself as you see it. Math in the Middle Ages rested on the authority and inspiration of Scripture. This was how Baise Pascal conceived his work.

    If neither of us are willing to give on these matters then we are at an impasse.

  52. Perhaps the difference is that you logic and reason as above God, as if God would need to obey the laws of reason?

    The Middle Age Christian viewpoint was that logic was an aspect of God’s character. Logic and math worked because of who God is.

    So the difference would be that in your view, God bows down to reason, whereas in the Christian view, reason bows down to God.

    I don’t know if that helps or not.

  53. “Once again, consistent math models do not amount to scientific proof. You have no evidence that those models represent anything in reality.”

    This is why I said “possible”. Math cannot simply be an artifact of this world if we can devise completely different spacetimes. Also, what do you mean by “reality”? What is “reality”?

    “And once again, Christian theology can and does rest on authority, inspiration, and faith, whether you accept it or not. That is how it works.”

    Well you can believe it does, but you’d be mistaken on your view. There is no such thing as “authority”. With an inherently irrational God or with no way of knowing (a) If such a being exists and (b) if such a being is rational or predictable, then to say that Christianity rests on authority is meaningless.

    “Science and math in the modern age are actually outgrowths of this system.”

    Not true. This is misleading. For some, religion may have been a motivation, but as a subject matter it never was, nor could it have been, an outgrowth of religion.

    “Logic in the Middle Ages was conceived to work because it was an attribute of God not some universal attribute of itself as you see it.”

    False. And even if it were true, logic was developed long before the middle ages and was not viewed the way you are suggesting.

    ” Math in the Middle Ages rested on the authority and inspiration of Scripture. This was how Baise Pascal conceived his work. ”

    Absolutely false. The foundations of math have never rested upon or been argued for on the basis of scripture. Again, math far precedes the Middle ages and the Bible.

    “Perhaps the difference is that you logic and reason as above God, as if God would need to obey the laws of reason?”

    Absolutely! And any Christian Philosopher/apologist will agree with me. See for instance, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler (A Thomist by the way), Alvin Plantinga, Ravi Zacharias, William Dembski, Doug Geivett, Richard Swinburne, just to name a few. These are some of the best Christian thinkers and all would agree with my position. In fact, my position about God and logic is heavily influenced by these thinkers.

    “Logic and math worked because of who God is.

    So the difference would be that in your view, God bows down to reason, whereas in the Christian view, reason bows down to God. ”

    Nope. The view you are espousing is most definitely not THE Christian view. In fact, I would say it is a minority view, at least amongst academic Christianity.

  54. It appears we are at an impasse. We just have different views and it’s probably not going to be resolved here. I wish you the best in your debates.

  55. Ryan, I don’t want to enter the debate, I was just sharing a piece of information. If we were to debate, you would surely win, not because you are right, but because you are more intelligent, better educated, and a better debater than I am.

    I will touch on one point, though, since I wasn’t clear enough in my earlier comment. To paraphrase the great hair splitter Bill Clinton, “it depends on what you mean by omnipresent.” From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: OMNIPRESENCE. Since Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father and God the Son are gloriously embodied persons, they do not believe them to be bodily omnipresent. They do affirm, rather, that their power is immanent “in all and through all things” and is the power “by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:6, 7, 13, 40-41). By their knowledge and power, and through the influence of the Holy Ghost, they are omnipresent.

  56. That’s the purpose to the holy spirit… God can’t be everywhere *physically,* (I’m sure he can be aware of everything, he is all powerful and all aware and everything) so that’s the role of the holy spirit. As a spirit, he could be with everyone at once, if everyone welcomed him, to provide comfort and teaching moments in our hearts and minds.
    I like to think of people with savant capabilities and other things. There are people who have memorized every word they ever read. It is fascinating and beautiful and gives us a glimpse of what a body is capable of. :)

  57. You have never heard of the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost before? If so, there’s probably a wikipedia entry that would give you a general Christian definition. The nutshell Mormon definition is that he (prefered to “it”) is the third member of the Godhead or Trinity, along with God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and is a separate and distinct entity, as they each are. If you’d like to know more of the Mormon view of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, here is a link: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Holy_Ghost

  58. Diane –

    I have certainly heard of the Holy Spirit (Ghost). I was a Christian for most my life and even went to Bible college. To miss that would be a remarkable feat! No, what I asked was, what is the H.S. supposed to BE? Knowing about something doesn’t entail having a clue about what it is. According to you, the H.S. must be a very different kind of entity, since God supposedly is a quasi-physical being with a body and the H.S. is, well, a “spirit”. Your link says that the H.S. is a “spirit man” or “personage of spirit”, but this is quite unhelpful. What on earth is that supposed to be or mean? As an aside, how on earth is a physical being suppose to father spirit children? It seems to me that this only confuses matters rather than alleviates them.

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