The Biblical God is not infinite

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Irish1975
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The Biblical God is not infinite

Post by Irish1975 » Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:33 pm

Our predominant concept of God as an infinite being does not line up with what scripture has to say. I read somewhere that God is never named or described in the Bible as infinite. Quite the contrary. The first chapters of Genesis, which are normative for all monotheistic religions, give us a very different account of God. For the Bible, water and darkness are lying around when God decides to step in and “create the heavens and the earth.” His first act is to say, “let there be light,” upon which follows his first thought “that it was good,” and then he divides the light from the darkness. But the darkness was already there before God started creating. There was water and chaos and darkness before any actual creating gets underway. So this is very much a god who does not create the universe in the way imagined by conventional Augustinian/medieval/modern theology, where God exists in perfect eternity and then suddenly creates time and aeons and all the forms of finitude. No. YHWH is able to create light, and light as goodness, over against a mysterious and unexplained pre-existing canvas of darkness and wate and chaos.

This is a very interesting type of god. But not infinite. And not a source of all existence.

Geocalyx
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Re: The Biblical God is not infinite

Post by Geocalyx » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:57 pm

Darkness and water both mean death to ancient laymen. Which is practical non-existence (in platonist's sense, if the last human being died, there would've been no more world) but here in particular it could imply God's canvas is ashes of a defeated universe.

In that sense, nothing really exists, as everything that did is dead.

On the subject of water, I find it interesting, how a fisherman is supposed to bring you life by bringing you out of water, and do what the OT God did without creating anything. The Carpenter is just the main dude's dad. He plays a marginal role, it's the fisher dude that matters in NT. A philosophical move is made herein from Plato to Aristotle, where focus is shifted from omnipotent creator to the prime mover, instead - the "first thought" - and the religion is thus no longer subject to traditional creation-based theologies.

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Irish1975
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Re: The Biblical God is not infinite

Post by Irish1975 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:00 am

Geocalyx wrote:
Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:57 pm
Darkness and water both mean death to ancient laymen. Which is practical non-existence (in platonist's sense, if the last human being died, there would've been no more world) but here in particular it could imply God's canvas is ashes of a defeated universe.

In that sense, nothing really exists, as everything that did is dead.
But darkness does exist for YHWH. It just seems to be something he didn't create. When he created the light, he had to separate it from the darkness.

It's obviously very important to YHWH to keep human beings away from the dark of evil and in the light of goodness. His first attempt is to keep them good by keeping them ignorant of evil. So he forbids eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which somehow he cannot refrain from planting in the middle of the garden where he creates Adam and Eve. But that effort fails, so then he has to give us the law. YHWH uses bargaining ("covenant"), promises, and threats to try to force the children of Israel to obey the law, so that they can stay in the light, which YHWH created specially for them, and not stray into the darkness, which he did not create at all.

This too fails.

For a few centuries, after the exile, YHWH seems to be more of an Abraxas figure, a synthesis of light and dark, good and evil. Job and Isaiah 45.

But then the God of pure light returns with the NT. A God that is "pure light" (1 John) cannot help also being consumed with rage at the darkness of the present world (1 Thess, Romans, Revelation). The God of Light is a God of Wrath. Right through the end of John's apocalypse, God is always extremely upset that his creation didn't go the way it was supposed to.

davidmartin
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Re: The Biblical God is not infinite

Post by davidmartin » Wed Oct 21, 2020 4:59 pm

I think there's two tools to go along with this question
The first is our choice of interpretation of a scriptural passage without questioning it's divine origin and there is a massive amount of scope here for different conclusions (especially when seeing something as symbolic not literal)
The second isn't open to biblical literalists, but it's to see scripture as being written by man along the ages - although one could try and get away with it by suggesting man still interprets what God is inspiring and yet leaves his own imprint (or that God adapts his message as man evolves), and then we apply our interpretation of that
I don't really see the two as being that fundamentally different as they might appear if one is not trying to undermine divine inspiration of some form or another

Using the 1st tool it wouldn't be hard to justify a belief in an infinite God of the bible by taking the passages that seem to support that view, or just pointing to the apparent infinity of the universe. There's nothing really stopping anyone from taking this view, although it may risk a little pantheism that's usually fairly harmless and at least you won't end up in the gnostic camp

I think there is also some component of the 2nd tool that's at play and scripture in some sense reflects man's attempt to know God
So i don't feel a need to try and build up an idea of God through his portrayal in scripture using scripture alone as a source - i view this as impossible because of the variability in the portrayal you highlighted. Ultimately there's a need for another source outside of scripture which is the experiential route. You can see that in the Psalms - did God write those or David? or any religious service or believer you can shake a stick at. they all tap into the experiential source and this can end up influencing one about God's nature and how to then interpret scripture (which bits you think need the most emphasis to discern God's true nature).
Many of my Christian friends are convinced God is a God of pure love and do not see the wrath at all, not even when it's literally in the scripture and this isn't really a problem to them in the least. They see God this way and that is all there is to it. It wouldn't matter how God appeared in the bible, they eat the scripture up all the same. I think all this goes to show we choose, or are inspired, as to what we believe God's nature really is because scripturally alone one could get different ideas about it. It ultimately comes back to us otherwise other people will choose for us and maybe they have always tried to it's also true we have always had the choice. i don't know if this helps

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