Saturday, October 06, 2012

Omnipotence is really cool

Once you think about it.

The classical Western God, built out of the Bible and Greek philosophy, is omnipotent.

One of the qualities of this idea must be that for God to "do" anything, the action will be utterly and completely effortless. To create a universe out of nothing and to maintain it in existence in all its unimaginable complexity of space-time must "cost" God nothing. For Him, it's as easy as pi.

It really is a mind-boggling idea, once you  reduce the unavoidable anthropomorphism. To create a one pound block of lead out of nothing or to create the universe(s) out of nothing are equally "easy" for the omnipotent God.
Barbara Walters: What was it wike, duwing those six days, Lord, cweating the heavens and the earth and all theirw awway? 
Lord: No sweat. I'm doing it now.

One of the crucial differences between the Catholic Trinity and the Muslim Allah is that the Christian God is rational, while the Islamic Deity is volitional. There are no grounds in Islam for forbidding Allah from decreeing that henceforth 2+2=5. He is Sheer Will.

(One rarely noted but salient point is that the Koran never calls Allah "Father." Not once. One more nail in the coffin of WeAllWorshipTheSameGod.)

God the Father Son and Holy Ghost can do long as it is consistent with God's own nature as Being Itself. The law of non-contradiction doesn't bind him, but reflects him. He is able to do whatever is doable. So he can't make a square circle or create a rock too heavy for him to lift. Thank God.

This was the basic point of Benedict XVI's famous "Muslims are violent" speech back in 2006* to the Regensberg science faculty.The Son of God is also the Image and Word of God, in Greek, logos...and logos requires rationality, order, intelligibility. So the world this God made --through the Logos Christ-- can be reliably known by the human intellect made in God's image. Some say this is why the West is where science has flourished. Postmodern voluntarism and Islamic voluntarism are both enemies of Western civilization.

*Which offended some Muslims, who reacted by violence. I suppose if your Deity is not bound by rationality or the law of non-contradiction, why should the followers be?


Anonymous said...

Another distinction I see is that while Christianity assumes God a spirit of Truth, and Christ is The Way, Truth, Life … Islam conceives God as spreading either truth or untruth depending on what he feel like doing (One of the Names being The Deceiver). Non-believers are those he has chosen to make incapable of belief, e.g.

To take it further, Islam conceives of God’s omnipotence as releasing him from making any sense at all. He can send divine revelations but alter them later and as often as he likes. And there’s an interesting issue of predestination and culpability:

Muhammad believes that everything is predetermined. “Evil one is he who is evil in his mother’s womb” (6393). Each person passes through a series of stages. “The constituents of one of you are collected for forty days in his mother’s womb in the form of blood, after which it becomes a lump of flesh and forty days later Allah sends His angel to it with instructions concerning four things ... his livelihood, his death, his deeds, his fortune and misfortune.” As a result, it may even happen that a very good man who deserves Paradise and is only a cubit away from Paradise will suddenly be overcome by what destiny has written and begin to act like a denizen of hell. And, of course, the reverse may also happen (6390).
The Prophet assures us that “Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in” (6421).
Here is another theological riddle and another answer. If everything of men is decreed in advance, then “would it not be an injustice to punish them?” Muhammad replies: “Everything is created by Allah and lies in His power. He would not be questioned as to what He does, but they [His creatures] would be questioned” (6406).
He will not be questioned, but you will be questioned, so there. I guess this stops much theological inquiry from the get-go.

For a third notion of omnipotence and creation, we sail to Hindustan, where the more philosophical men among the natives ponder what motives a deity could have in creating things. It couldn’t be like most human purposes, which are plans for filling needs – and a deity would not have any. The divine must partake, then, in the sphere or purposeless activity; All of creation is a matter of “creative play,” “spontaneous sportive activity,” “aimless display.”:

This would seem to imply that one best imitates the Divine when one does something just for the Hell of it.


USMaleSF said...

Good points all, and true. (At least until Allah decrees otherwise.)

Anonymous said...

I re-saw this old post...and was just remembering a mullah describing how "If Allah had willed us to worship idols, then it would be a sin for us not to worship idols." -- an issue that in Western theology would not even be a question.


DrAndroSF said...

Certainly in post-Aquinas Catholic theology, where the creator of reason can transcend reason but never contradict reason. As they taught us in catechism, God can't do either a. the impossible or b. what is contrary to his nature.

Not sure about Luther and Calvin's God.

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