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Can We Affect God If God Is All Powerful?


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This question was posed on the Evangelical Christian board at beliefnet.

 

I see it as the "Can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it" conundrum. I know it's a fallacy, but I can't remember why.

 

The evangelical individual in the conversation believes that God is all powerful, but that we can affect God. For example, we can make him sad when we do wrong things. Most Christians believe this.

 

The non-Christian also believes that God is all powerful, but that we CANNOT affect God, because it's logically inconsistent. He says that if we can cause God to feel hurt then we are more powerful than God.

 

These are only the statements of the individual who believes we CANNOT affect God:

 

If God is all-powerful, how is it possible to do wrong against Him?

 

Why would an all-powerful God create laws that can be broken?

 

How can one rebel against or oppose that which is un-opposable?

 

If God is the source of all that is, then how can we be seperate from God?

 

The purpose of a law is to prevent certain behavior. If a law is broken it has failed. God is capable of making a law that can't be broken, yet He has not done so. Therefore, God has failed or He wants us to sin.

 

If the purpose of the law is not to prevent sin but rather to show us that sin is sinful then God must want us to sin otherwise He would prevent it. However, if showing us that sin is sinful is supposed to stop us from sinning, then God has failed because sin is alive and well. So, which one do you think is correct? Is God a failure or does He want us to sin?

 

I would question the premise that God needs to forgive at all. What is forgiveness? It is a response to a wrongdoing or offense to oneself by another. God would not logically allow Himself to be offended or opposed.

 

To offend someone or commit a crime against them is to have power over them. But in my model there is nothing more powerful than God. Therefore, God cannot be offended or victimized. There is logically nothing for God to forgive.

 

Why on earth would you allow yourself to be hurt or offended if the power is yours to decide how you feel? Do you enjoy feeling bad?

 

Now here’s a tough question for you: You believe God wants us to follow the 10 commandments. You also believe He gave us the freedom not to follow them if we don’t want to. Which one do you think is more important to God? Getting what He wants or letting us have what we want?

 

I know it's long. Thanks for reading.

 

I know the obvious answer is that God is not all powerful. Leaving that aside for now, however, can anyone see the fallacy in the following arguments? I feel that it is there, but I can't see it.

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This is admittedly from Matt Fox, the idea that since we are God's creation we share in "creating with God". (Not a quote of Fox's, just trying to get the idea. So that the way we affect God is that we share in one God has/is doing. Like the phrase in the doxology (the one we sing anyway), "Praise God for all that love has done". We are part of what love has done/ is doing-- we are, as I have heard said God's hands and feet in the world.

Actually Fox talks about co-creating with God.

 

I'm not sure that this poses a fallacy for your question but it is a possible answer. But it is an answer that rephrases the question.

 

--des

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Hmm, it seems I can't edit my post anymore. Anyway, the point I was making had to do with how or if we affect God and wasn't really meant to answer the other kind of questions.

 

There seems to me to be a fallacy in the argument somewhere too.

 

--des

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CS Lewis and John Eldridge would (I think!) both say that what is important to God is our relationship with him or our love for him. This could be mandated or built into the system, but then it would lose it's value. God pursues us in love. We have free will so that our love, when given in return (we love that He first loved us) has value.

 

Both of them (and I agree) see all of our pleasures in this world as faint shadows of the pleasures in heaven. The idea that our vices don't reflect us feeling too strongly, but not strongly enough.

 

If you're interested in this idea - read the Song of Songs as if it is you and God. Different but widely accepted; odd but so very touching.

 

John Eldridge is a conservative, excluvistic christian who writes books of grace (sadly he stops with believers, but the ideas are good) and passion. He agrees with Joesph Campbell that you should follow your bliss to find your place/mission in the world. His last book, Waking the Dead, is about spiritual warfare. Journey of Desire and The Sacred Romance are opening legalistic hearts all over the place.

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Cynthia

what is important to God is our relationship with him

 

The person I quoted from beliefnet had argued that it's not logical for us to be able to make God feel hurt.

 

A girl replied that "it isn't logical why an almighty God would give a crap about me either but he does."

 

He replied that "It is very logical for God to love you. Why did God create you if He did not care about you? Why would God go to the trouble of creating anything if it was not what He cared for?"

 

I couldn't find a flaw in this argument until I lay in bed trying to fall asleep.

 

Personally, I think the person at bnet limits God by saying that the only emotion God can FEEL is love. He is basically saying that omnipotence and love are logically compatible but that omnipotence and hate are not.

 

That's a fallacy. Love is not an objective neutral emotion.

 

I'm not saying that God doesn't love us, but I don't think LOVE is the bottom line reason LIFE was created.

 

The word that popped into my head last night was RELATIONSHIP or RELATING.

 

To relate, you have to have something to relate with or to. God was ONE. God created and so there was MORE than one. Now God could GIVE and RECEIVE.

 

RELATIONSHIP.

 

Relating can involve love, and if you truly love, then that which you truly love can also cause hurt.

 

The person at bnet is defining love as an objective, neutral emotion when it is not. He's saying basically, that positive emotions are OK for God, but that negative emotions are not.

 

He is LIMITING God.

 

Did I answer my own post?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Does this mean that God does not view things as either good or bad?

 

Does God look down on murder and say "Ahhh. I just LOVE that human." (Please excuse the anthropocentric language.)

 

I guess if I viewed God as an impersonal force that has no attatchment then it makes sense.

 

Only, I would remove love from that equation as well. I don't understand love that is that impersonal.

 

I'm trying to "picture" a non attatched form of love. I guess I can do it, but I think it is so neutral as to not even technically BE love anymore.

 

sigh. :(

 

Aletheia

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Geez...do I have to answer that? I was so proud with how short my last post was!

 

I think that you are on to something with the notion of 'relationship' being the reason for creation. Through relationship, God experiences. Does God categorize experiences into good or bad? Why should God do this? I do it because it simplifies my life. In my short-sightedness, I want to experience as many of the things that I consider to be good and as few of the things that I consider to be bad. I suspect God wants to experience all things.

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Geez...do I have to answer that? I was so proud with how short my last post was!

 

I was very impressed! :P

 

Oops! I jumped the gun.

 

Yeah. I shouldn't have taken so long in editing my post. LOL. Sorry.

 

A love that comes out of non-attachment is known to Christians as Unconditional love.

 

See, I don't equate unconditional love with non-attatched love. I can love my husband unconditionally, but it comes from being attatched to him, not from being unattatched.

 

Boy it's hard to put feelings into words.

 

don't understand your assumption that a God that loves unconditionally is impersonal.

 

I DON'T think unconditional love is impersonal.

 

I think God could love unconditionally and still be "hurt" by that which it loves.

 

I AM coming from a qualified dualistic perspective (which makes a big difference in how we think about things).

 

I don't think I am God experiencing life. I think I am a combination of God and "ex nihilo" creation. That ex nihilo part of me is "receptivity".

 

Are you familiar with the story of the Vessel and the Light? That's kinda how I view things. I think the universe (and us) are "part God" and part not.

 

Aletheia

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I'm grinding the old axiom of "if you love something, then let it go"

 

If I become attached to the outcome of any given situation, my peace depends on how things go. True? Like our buddy XianAnarchist explained in his words about process theology, we are all processes. You could rephrase that to say, "We are all situations".

I love my wife, but if I become attached to her (admittedly, I do) then my peace depends on her. She, as a situation, will not always go the way I want it to. I suppose unconditional love means loving someone no matter what they do and no matter how you feel. Personally, I have a hard time loving when I'm not at peace. So I see how unconditional love and unattached love are different, but for me they are inextricable.

 

When I am not attached, I am free to love her no matter what. I see this as similar to God's relationship with creation.

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I wonder if the apparent irreconcilabilities between God's being all powerful and our being able to be involved in an active "give and take" with God is part of what inspired Whitehead or Hartshorne with Process philosophy?

 

PantaRhea? XianAnarchist? Any thoughts?

 

Can God be all powerful and still be "attatched" to creation?

 

My "intuition" tells me yes. All the philosophical logistical conundrums say no.

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Aletheia:

 

The non-Christian also believes that God is all powerful, but that we CANNOT affect God, because it's logically inconsistent. He says that if we can cause God to feel hurt then we are more powerful than God.

 

Perhaps God chooses to care. Perhaps God chooses to allow him/herself to be vulnerable to hurting, because of that caring. Perhaps God has the power to remain unaffected by his/her creation, but chooses not to.

 

fatherman:

 

I think that you are on to something with the notion of 'relationship' being the reason for creation. Through relationship, God experiences. Does God categorize experiences into good or bad? Why should God do this? I do it because it simplifies my life. In my short-sightedness, I want to experience as many of the things that I consider to be good and as few of the things that I consider to be bad. I suspect God wants to experience all things.

 

Yup. And this would go right along with the idea that God has a choice in the matter and chooses to feel it all.

 

To fully feel may be one of many things God wants to experience. Though I have no way to know, I could postulate that what God feels, if anything, probably resembles the deep compassion borne of equanimity; and perhaps a deep pity that his beloved, to whom he has gifted free will, find it so difficult to find their path to his lasting peace.

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Perhaps God has the power to remain unaffected by his/her creation, but chooses not to.

 

Yes! I agree.

 

The person at Bnet was saying that God CANNOT choose to be affected because it would be illogical. He was basically saying that CHOICE is a rock God created that is too heavy for God to lift.

 

He went on to say, though, that since God is love, God can love, because that love is not a choice.

 

But if God IS LOVE, even without us, then why create at all? There had to be more to it than, as the person at bnet possited, love.

 

And this would go right along with the idea that God has a choice in the matter and chooses to feel it all.

 

Exactly. God has freewill. God can choose.

 

I think often, in an effort to define God as "love", we "take away" God's free will. If God IS love then God can't do anything other than love.

 

But, if in creating life in order to relate, God feels love, then God could also feel something other than love.

 

I would say that it was this desire to affect and to be affected, a desire to RELATE, that was the motivating force for creation.

 

deep compassion borne of equanimity; and perhaps a deep pity that his beloved, to whom he has gifted free will, find it so difficult to find their path to his lasting peace.

 

"Compassion and pity" might be better terms as compared to "love and hurt". Thanks for offering your insight. It has helped.

 

Aletheia

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Wow, go to work and miss a great discussion!

 

If you are looking for proof that God can feel more than love, check out the Old Testament. Bill Moyers' Genesis panel discussion (PBS and book form transcript) decided that a common theme in Genesis was God being royally (:>) ticked off by people.

 

My personal experience of God is not so much pity when I'm in a spot... "He" usually chuckles.

 

Cynthia

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Cynthia,

 

I work at home and so fortunately or unfortunately I'm always around this computer.

 

The Bible definitely teaches that God has emotion. Some emotion attributed to God is definitely the work of the authors. :rolleyes: I imagine that the "royally ticked off God" is the latter.

 

I love Bill Moyers and I refer to the Genesis panel discussion often. I wish I could find his interview with Huston Smith on DVD. I don't suppose you know if it's out there?

 

The person on bnet left Christianity because he could not reconcile an omnipotent God with a God that feels anything but love.

 

I don't see the problem. :D

 

Aletheia

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Aletheia - me neither. Besides, anthropomorphism comes so very naturally :>. I just don't think God can be completely known - if you meet the Buddha on the road...

 

I don't know about the DVD - I often have good luck with the used ones on Amazon. How're your Teaching Co. classes going?

 

Cynthia

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Cynthia,

 

I'm about 1/4 way through Lost Christianities". I could probably be finished by now, but I'm watching them with the hubby and he's gone all day. I'm really enjoying them.

 

I am absolutely loving Philip Yancey's "Invisible God" book! How he describes his faith in God could be my words. His struggles and how he's worded things has made me cry. I can't wait to read the book on Grace.

 

The book I'm reading was written in 2000. The grace book is a lot older. Do you know if his views have changed much between the two? I hope not, because I sure like his views in this one.

 

Aletheia

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I don't think so, it has been a couple of years since I read them though...

 

If you like Yancey, he wrote some great books with a hand surgeon/leprosy specialist/missionary Paul Brand. The Gift of Pain, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and , I think, one other. They are also fabulous.

 

Yancey has a special place in my heart. He was the first to make it clear to me that devoted christians could have all the same problems with institutional christianity that I do. He really opened up the option of faith within a community for me and, I think, made me much more aware that human institutions will always fail... but not necessarily for lack of trying. That is actually in the Westminster Confession also. For me, a critical point.

 

I started listening to Early Christianities (I have the audio 'cause I like to be able to move around... too many years in school to sit and watch a lecture :>) while I cleaned out old files today. He spends a lot of time setting up the class! I'm on # 4 and he is just getting started. I love the idea that christianity survived not because of the doctrine but because of the experience that transcends time. True to my experience (much to my surprise initially!).

 

Cynthia

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Re: the original post on this thread,

Here's some book titles that speak to this - all very good - some are from a process theology perspective, others are from the somewhat similar evangelical "openness theology" view:

 

Omnipotence & Other Theological Mistakes, Charles Hartshorne

Process Theology: A Basic Introduction, C. Robert Mesle

Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition, Johan Cobb, Jr & David Ray Griffin

God, Christ, Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness, Clark Pinnock

God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, Greg Boyd

 

See http://www.amazon.com to read reviews of these books,

but get them from your library or obtain them via your local independent bookstore.

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See also:

 

The Center for Process Studies - A Relational Worldview for the ...

... Purpose. The Center for Process Studies is a faculty center of Claremont School

of Theology, and affiliated with Claremont Graduate University. ...

http://www.ctr4process.org/

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BroRog

 

Thank you for the book recommendations. I lean towards Open View myself. Would you consider the two books you mentioned two of the best? I've done an Amazon search in the past and their are so many. I know that some denominations are twisting OV and using it to justify "failed prophecy". That is unfortunate.

 

Fatherman

 

Whoo hoo! My hubby told me it was only available on VHS. I'm a DVD snob, so I'm very excited. It'll have to wait though. I have the Teaching Company stuff to listen to and absorb first.

 

Cynthia

 

Thank you for the other Yancey book recommendations. Part of the reason I wandered over to the bnet Evangelical bulletin board was because of Yancey. I thought, if Yancey is an Evangelical and is this wonderful, maybe they have something to offer. I admit, I don't even know what "Evangelical" means and I have no idea what makes an Evangelical an Evangelical. LOL.

 

I got the Teaching Company stuff on DVD only because I learn better when I have to watch something. It helps keep me from getting distracted.

 

Aletheia

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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I beliieve evangelical literally means "good news" from the Greek??? Help me out somebody! :> I think that currently, while many people hear it as a political position, people who identify as evangelicals would tell you that their priority is the great commission. In other words, evangelicals believe that they are called to spread the good news. The only part I disagree with, or, better said, that makes me sad... is that the good news they are talking about has only to do with the Passion... not the path. Yancey, Lucado, Eldridge all write beautiful things. There is much to be learned if we (this is a tough one for me) can get off the high horse of "understanding" or being smart. Simple faith has a lot of beauty to it that I think I miss when I get on an intellectual bent.

 

Cynthia

Edited by Cynthia
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