Thursday 11 May 2023

God must be partial (for Christians)

People through history have wanted God to be everything, to encompass every-thing; but that cannot be so for Christians. 

For Christians God must be partial, because creation has a direction

(God is also 'partial' by another meaning of the word; in that the Christian God has preferences.) 

If God is everything, and includes everything, there can be no direction to creation - and thus not point to creation. It Just Is. 

And therefore there can be no values, no morality - neither good nor evil, no truth or lies - things merely are what they are; always such and going nowhere else, because there is nowhere else to go (because God is always, always has been, everywhere possible). 

The Christian God, however, is going somewhere: creation is for reasons, for purposes; and embodies values. Creation has purpose - therefore is not complete, is partial

The question is why, then, do so many Christians through history (from very early) try to insist that God is time-lessly everything, complete, self sufficient etc? 

Why do they - by this insistence - paint themselves into a corner of contradictions from which they can only mistake by asserting bizarre paradoxes about Time and such? 

Potentially there are many reasons, no doubt; but two I would highlight are that - from one side - early Christian theologians from the Greek and Roman (pagan) traditions already brought with them a ruling abstract concept of deity defined in terms of properties, which they then applied to the personal Christian God. Such a deity was an eternal unity - and philosophical attention was primarily directed at explaining (apparent) change within this whole (e.g. explaining illusion within truth, movement within stasis, form within 'chaos' etc). 

And from the other - Hebrew - side of Christian history; there was imposed-on Christianity an idea of God as an incomprehensible absolutist monarch; who would not tolerate dissent or questioning, and who demanded propitiation. 

This God required, above all, obedience: service, worship, submission to His will. 

For 'mere' Men to assert that (or even discuss whether) this God was limited in any way (such as that God was partial, incomplete, had desires, of restricted power/ knowledge/ foresight) was felt as a terrible disrespect, a blasphemy - a terrifying act of (futile) defiance, inviting retribution.  

For such reasons; Christianity saddled itself with an unsustainable yet dogmatic concept of God as complete. But God is not complete, is partial - and only when God is understood thus does Christianity make human sense...

And human sense is what Christianity must make. 

That is the point of what Jesus said, and did! 

Note added: The above can also be understood in terms of the development of human consciousness; which occurs through each person's lifespan and also through history. In particular the relationship between the offspring (Man) and parent (God) as it changes through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and into mature adulthood. The idea of God as complete, and its implications for attitudes and behaviours, is analogous to the way a young child regards his parents - all powerful, all knowing etc. This attitude of primary-obedience to absolute authority is absolutely appropriate at that phase of development; and also of Men in ancient history in relation to God - indeed nothing else is possible is goodness is to prevail. But such an attitude to parents is neither appropriate nor good for the mature adult; who archetypally needs to move towards become something more like a loving and committed 'friend' of his mother and father - ideally living, working, raising a family alongside, and with, his parents; adults among adults. Likewise is such an attitude inappropriate and wrong for modern Christians in relation to deity. As for offspring and parents, so for Men and God - best possibilities and good relationships change with development; as Men become more conscious, more separated from the group, more potentially autonomous and free. 

Further note: It may not be clear why I am saying this stuff. The reason is that I believe that false, incoherent, metaphysics has been a major cause of the massive loss of Christian faith all over the West and for a long time. When the foundations are incoherent, the superstructure cannot be strong - even when people are not aware of the nature of the problem. The contradictions of ancient and traditional Christian theology and doctrines are, by now, mainstream and unavoidable. Christians typically either ignore them; or use complex, abstract, false, and (all too often) at-root anti-Christian arguments to dispose of them. These arguments are not convincing anybody; least of all those who deploy them, who reveal by their attitude, opinions, behaviours - that they do not believe what they assert sufficiently to be strongly motivated. All the major churches have become net anti-Christian. 

The genie of doubt, despair and nihilism is out of the bottle, and cannot be shoved back: the status quo ante (the previous state of affairs) cannot be restored because Men have changed irrevocably, just as an adolescent is irrevocably different from the child he once was. The only way out of painful and conflicted adolescence is forward into adulthood. Likewise, the only way out from cultural nihilism is through doubt and despair - and out the other side.  


Francis Berger said...

What you state in the "further note" onward really needs to be taken seriously by all Christians.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - The trouble seems to be, that those who believe nothing has fundamentally changed in their church - and that obedience to that church remains primary as in earlier times; are oblivious to reality only because they themselves are moving in the same direction as secular society.

They have moved with their churches, by choice (even when they deny the choosing) and in doing so have rejected their personal responsibility for their own salvation.

It seems obvious that God will enable salvation for anyone who desires it - the problem is that people desire something else other than salvation instead, while thinking (vaguely) that they desire 'salvation'.

And once they cease to desire what Jesus offers, in practice they usually open themselves to demonic deceptions of many kinds.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - Yes, that makes sense. In my view, a big problem is the utter inability or unwillingness to separate what Jesus offers from the concept of institutionalized Christianity (despite everything).

The core belief that you cannot have one without the other runs deep, as does the conviction that the only way to avoid demonic deception is to abide by some Christian institution or tradition (despite everything).