Wednesday 13 May 2020

The Supergod delusion - by WmJas Tychonievich

Some outstanding theological clarification on a vital topic from WmJas Tychonievich. What William calls the Supergod conceptualisation is what I have blogged about here under the name 'omni' God - that is, the idea that our God is abstractly defined as omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent etc.

By contrast, I believe in God as described in the New Testament (and the Old) who is The Creator and Our Father. Scripture does not use abstract terms from Greek and Roman philosophy to pre-define God; God is known by us as a person - not a set of attributes into-which the person of God must (for some reason) be hammered.

What William and I share is a foundation in Mormon theology - William due to upbringing, and me due to having discovered Mormon theology in middle age. But, for whatever reasons, you will seldom hear Mormons arguing against the Supergod concept in the kind of ultra-logical, no-holds-barred fashion that WmJas approaches the subject.

Yet, this is an extremely important matter; because many people are (permanently) deterred from becoming a Christian by the insistence of mainstream churches that the omni concept of God is absolutely necessary and non-negotiable. For most Catholics and Protestant priest, pastors and theologians alike: if you don't believe in Supergod then you are not a Christian.

I regard this claim as lazy, incoherent, deadly nonsense; and the fact that so many Christians for so many centuries have stuck with it makes no difference. It was, in my opinion, this intransigence over an incoherent assertion that led to the rise of the major monethistic rival to Christianity - which has now outstripped Christianity in size.

Christianity's most formidable rival asserts the much-more-coherent abstract omni-deity; that is not necessarily nor always Good - according to human evaluations; and is not our loving Father whom we may know personally. If the omni-God is insisted-upon and given priority by Christians, the rational result will be a Christianity that is a second-rate version of its rival.

If an individual Christian is happy with the omni God and it does not spoil their Christianity, then fine. We are not all called upon to attain coherence.

My objection is the exclusivist preaching of philosophy at the expense of religion; and the insistence that church members assent to non-sense.

In practice, most Christians fudge the question in real life; and also in practice many or most Christian laity do not believe, and never have believed, in Supergod - but instead implicitly the benevolent Father Creator, such as I (and William) regard as true. 

Anyway, WmJas has written an essay that I would have loved to write - so I endorse it without reservation.


Matthew T said...

I don't find the essay very convincing (at all). He looks to come to it from the wrong end, and what I mean is that, if the Omni-God is true, then one (or more) of the corollaries (which he calls "justifications") must be true, no matter how unconvincing he finds them personally.

The question then is: IS the Omni-God true, and why did people originally think so?

Bruce Charlton said...

@You seem to be engaging in distraction, by asking further questions which do not affect the argument.

The answers to your questions would be in the realm of history of ideas not philosophy.

My opinion is that the omni-god arguments came from pagan Greek philosophers such as Plato, were believed by Roman intellectuals, who (rather than abandon them) tried and failed to fit Christianity into their already existing abstract idea of God.

As for which is true, that depends on prior metaphysical assumptions. But if Supergod is true, Christianity is not.

Sean G. said...

I'd like just to highlight my favorite part of Williams post—

"But I nevertheless think it is important to stress that God forgives blasphemy, because blasphemophobia -- the undue fear of incurring the wrath of God through lèse-majesté -- is a major impediment to thinking clearly and honestly about God."

Clear and honest thinking is easily stifled by fear. If you seek honestly, with humility and repentance(metanoia), than fear not!

I'd like to hear a refutation from an Omni-God believing Christian. I don't think they would be satisfied with the way their arguments were presented.

All in all a great piece.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sean - By 'refutation' I think you mean counter-argument. There can be no engagement unless there is a metaphysical level discussion about fundamental assumptions. The it will be seen that the fundamental assumptions about the Supergod do Not come from scripture, or from the mission and work of Jesus. Nobody who read the Bible as a whole to learn from it, or studied the Fourth Gospel in particular, would derive an omni-god - it needs to be brought to the process as a prior assumption.

Sean G. said...

@Bruce That is exactly what I meant, yes! And I agree 100%.

Bruce Charlton said...



Thanks for the endorsement. It did cross my mind as I was composing the post that probably the only person in the world who would agree with it would be Bruce Charlton.

"But, for whatever reasons, you will seldom hear Mormons arguing against the Supergod concept in the kind of ultra-logical, no-holds-barred fashion that WmJas approaches the subject."

It's due to a desire to "build on common beliefs" rather than attack other versions of Christianity. When I was a missionary, we were taught to begin our first discussion by saying, "Most people believe in a Supreme Being, although they may call him by different names." It would have been more accurate to say, "Most people believe in someone or something they call 'God,' although they may mean any number of things by that word."

@Matthew T

"if the Omni-God is true, then one (or more) of the corollaries (which he calls "justifications") must be true, no matter how unconvincing he finds them personally."

Actually, I called them pure, unadulterated sophistry (the "justification" bit is from Milton). If you'd like to argue that they're anything other than that, I'd be happy to hear you out.

"The question then is: IS the Omni-God true,"

I thought I made it pretty clear that the answer is of course not.

"and why did people originally think so?"

Greek philosophy + blasphemophobia.

More charitably, children (and, presumably, primitive peoples) naturally think in superlatives ("Daddy knows everything, he's the best daddy in the whole world," etc.). These over-simple conceptions should have been set aside with intellectual maturity, but instead they were codified as axioms and defended with sophistry.

Adil said...


"Yet, this is an extremely important matter"

It is however more important to be right about matter than to be right about God, in the more immediate sense of the matter. A metaphysical flip switch, so to speak, that elicits matter from darkness to light and overcomes positivism.

Mere Thoughts said...

“By contrast, I believe in God as described in the New Testament (and the Old) who is The Creator and Our Father.“

Could you further explain how you reconcile your belief in the OT God with your beliefs in a Loving Father? It is clear that the creator in the OT is all-powerful and can do mighty acts, but is not a God of Love. I remember reading the book of Genesis for the first time and being appalled at what I read. Either the whole Old Testament is false and misinterpreted or the Loving Father you talk about is really a God of wrath, severity and judgment. I know you talk about not reading the bible literally, but this is the vast majority of the Old Testament. I think Marcion of Sinope had the best common sense interpretation of that problem. The Father of Jesus Christ is not the Creator described in the Old Testament. So what are your thoughts? Is the Old Testament just plain wrong and we should disregard or are there are two Gods? A creator God, who made this flawed world of sin, death and despair, and another God of the spiritual realm who was the real father of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffers according to the terms of the Creator’s law in order to win salvation for mankind. Jesus Christ himself seems to despise the material world, talking of love, self-abnegation, and asceticism. He seems to think the world is evil and that we need salvation. To me this speaks to two different Gods and Jesus was trying to save us from the wrathful Creator God of the material world.

Marlow Colt said...

Yes, nice article by WmJas. That needed to be said.

Atheists talk about earthly tragedy and it's relation to the divine as if it's akin to a malicious Santa Claus leaving coal in the stockings of nice children just so he can watch them cry on Christmas morning.

Sorry, atheists - but, God is not Santa!

Bruce Charlton said...

@MT - If you examine the phrase I used, I said I believe in God as depicted as Creator and Father - I did not say, and it is not the case, that I regard the Bible as definitive throughout. Indeed, I regard the Fourth Gospel (John) as primary, and all the rest of scripture ought to be read from the perspective which that establishes:

Faculty X said...

Reading the Old Testament reveals the nature of the one true God, seen in the world then as it is today.

One can't help but notice the parallels with Jehovah's Will in the Bible and what is happening today with the pandemic, the shut down of churches, the contortions of the economy and secular governments.

People may reject that depiction due to their own dispositions but I don't see how the overlap between the Old Testament and recent events isn't obvious.

Bruce Charlton said...

@FX - Things seem *incredibly* different from the Old Testament times.

For example, religion has near zero role to play in our world. Then there was zero bureaucracy - but now... Then there were probably about half a billion people in the world, probably less - who could be supported by simple herding and gardening-scale agriculture.

The world then was made of tens of thousands of tribes and nations who had no communication between them. We have a covert world government that successfully managed a near simultaneous coup in multiple nations.

The the OT world; life was about food, shelter, war and clans. In our world the major public issues include climate emergency, the trans agenda, media personalities and sport. And so on.

As Owen Barfield showed, everything is consistent with modern men thinking differently from ancient men, and this is reflected in the different ways that language works. He would say that the changes in men's mind drove the other changes. I agree.

Faculty X said...

Are things in fact different? Or do they just seem that way?

Outer circumstances have changed but those are mere externals. Biblically, the inner belief, the issue of a one true God, and the wavering from it are the crux.

If, according to the Old Testament, religion has near zero play what happens? That society crumbles and loses.

Those with religion win. Isn't that what we see with the believers in the Other Religion in Europe?

Looks the same to me.

What was the Tower of Babel in Genesis where everyone was starting to speak together? A world government of its time.

Doesn't the EU have a Tower of Babel construct as their Headquarters? Mocking the Old Testament God?

Yet I see a message sent that did the same to the EU as in Genesis: Spain and Italy and France and the UK are becoming separate nations again.

Looks the same to me.

Similarly, there are no serious debates about Super-God or Omni-God from the Old Testament perspective on the one true God.

Bruce Charlton said...

@FX. I certainly agree that those with religion win. But when religion is based on obedience to an institution, then what was a church can be corrupted into something else that is no longer a religion.