Is god perfect and changeless? This is the fifth of a series of short posts about whether gods exist and why the question is an important one.
Many theists believe that their god is perfect and changeless. But if it is perfect, then it would not want to do anything, because it would have no need or desire to do anything.
|Photo – Stellar nursery NGC 6357 composite image from NASA|
But if such a god is changeless, then it could not do anything, including creating a universe, because it would have to change in order to do so.
Could such a god simply will a physical universe into existence without changing? No, because that act of will would be a change of mind. And in any case, a change of mind would have no way of generating or interacting with physical matter.
So we would have a perfect god that can not change or create anything, and doesn’t want to change or create anything anyway.
Could such a god be changeless, but it changed when it created the universe? No, because then it would be false to say that it is changeless. Or could it change back to being changeless? Would that be another change? And how would those changes happen if it was changeless?
The more that we examine it, the more incoherent the idea of a perfect and changeless god seems.
|Michael Nugent is Chair of Atheist Ireland|
To be perfect, do you need to be One Thing (like an indestructible particle) or can you be composed of a number of things, so God would be like a number of metaphysical particles? If He has different features, then there's a case there for different components together making a whole. So if you acknowledge this, you say: oh well God is just one thing, those different features are just apparent; or, God has no features, whether you can comprehend that or not. Or you allow that it's possible that He has parts. This is a slippery slope, because it brings up questions about the nature of change.ReplyDelete
To address the conundrum of God doing stuff but never actually changing, you could evoke the ancient Greeks' philosophy war over whether or not change exists. On the one side, one thing (A) cannot become a thing that it is not (B), it must somehow be the same thing, therefore change is an illusion; on the other side, nothing is fixed, everything is always in flux (nought may endure but Mutability). Leucippus and Democritus then argued that all things are made up of little atoms that never change themselves, but were always in motion. This motion results in different arrangements of the atoms (or particles) which gives the appearance of change. Thus motion, not change, provides the explanation for why things appear different.
Now I know God is supposed to be One, but he's also a father and a creator and a kind of shepherd. I think it's reasonable to say He has many different sides.
To account for the differences, you could allow that God has parts that themselves are changeless, and that are arranged and rearranged in perfect motion. In my mind that brings about the question: does motion necessarily entail change?
A symphony is an arrangement of musical notes. As they are performed the notes don't change, they just are the same notes they always have been. But the whole composition is given through motion. And so, I think it's also true that a symphony is something different to an arrangement of musical notes.
"Now I know God is supposed to be One, but he's also a father and a creator and a kind of shepherd. I think it's reasonable to say He has many different sides."ReplyDelete
This basically says God can be anything he wants to be. This, in turn, allows any religion to claim that God is as they see him and all others are wrong - with disastrous consequences for mankind. This God of division cannot co-exist with a perfect God and therefore must be an invention of man.
However, all the evidence points to a God, who, if it exists, is indifferent to anything that happens on earth. For instance in the present Covid plague, a billion prayers a day are offered to the supposed all-powerful, all loving, interventionist God of the Theists - and are simply ignored. At least a million decent people will suffer an early and horrible death, without even a decent funeral to follow.
On the other hand, the spread of the Covid plague, and the existence of other natural disasters like the many forms of cancer, is consistent with the existence of the indifferent God of the Deists - but does not, of course, confirm that God's existence. However, the probability is that if a God exists, it is the indifferent God of the Deists and whether we believe in God, or whether God actually exists, makes absolutely no difference to our daily lives.
Often when something terrible happens, when someone suffers, dies, and the circumstances are so cruel you have trouble just getting your head around the fact that it is even taking place, someone will ask: what kind of god does this? How could God let something like this happen? Responsibility is a given. God is held responsible. The answer to the question is often something like: the workings of God's mind are a mystery; you don't have access to that. The mysterious workings... yet still, the evidence is before your very eyes. This is a horrific thing; it could never be a right thing.
Amazingly, in this situation faith is what a lot of people hold onto as they tumble through the depths of grief. So faith isn't about trusting your God to do the right thing by those you love, here on earth (because demonstrably, that doesn't always happen). Rather, faith is something that is given irrespective of circumstances. Putting aside the idea of faith tied to a promise of an afterlife, where the terrible wrongs of this world are set right, you have faith that is one-way. I think this kind of faith is something more than solace. I think it's a very strong response to a seemingly indifferent universe.