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The Theological Definition of GOD - the Abrahamic One
Posted: 11 June 2006 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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[size=18:6aea1b8d06][color=darkblue:6aea1b8d06]In reading the thread on Atheism and Fundamentalism either Chris or Doug commented it was not possible to define God theologically. I’ve always accepted that sort of challenge and most often fallen flat on my face.

The God of Abraham was so respected never was his name to be spoken aloud. We learned that a name for him was Yahweh, another was Jehovah, but all of these were only nom de plumes in fact his name is not in the book.

The God of Abraham is a male, he is all powerful. He can control all aspects of our reality, he can grow forests, cause volcanoes to explode, bring rain to parched deserts, raise people from the dead, heal the sick, he is the giver of the law [mosaic] he is infinitely good, his opposite, Satan is infinitely evil.

This is the interesting part-

he exists in eternity, There is no time in god’s place because he is eternal. Were he not eternal this god would be no different than us, just more powerful.

He has but a single all encompassing thought. If he had more than one thought, that is if he changed his mind, he wouldn’t be eternal. Then he isn’t very special because the human spirit will exist in the same sort of aeviternity as his where time is the measure of the passage of time between changing thoughts.

Back to God: IF

He is eternal with but a single all encompassing thought.

How can he act in temporal space?

How does the notion of personal responsibility for sin fit into that definition of god. If he has but a single thought he surely knows what we are going to do before we do it. If he is all powerful how can we be personally responsible for our actions?

I’m sure you all will examine the various aspects of this theological definition of the all powerful god of Abraham, it is a summary of the definition of him learned in 1955-56 theology courses.

Have a go at it guys. If it gets too hot on some sub part move it to another thread please.
Jim
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Posted: 11 June 2006 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Theological Definition of GOD - the Abrahamic One

In reading the thread on Atheism and Fundamentalism either Chris or Doug commented it was not possible to define God theologically. I’ve always accepted that sort of challenge and most often fallen flat on my face.

The God of Abraham was so respected never was his name to be spoken aloud. We learned that a name for him was Yahweh, another was Jehovah, but all of these were only nom de plumes in fact his name is not in the book.

The God of Abraham is a male, he is all powerful. He can control all aspects of our reality, he can grow forests, cause volcanoes to explode, bring rain to parched deserts, raise people from the dead, heal the sick, he is the giver of the law [mosaic] he is infinitely good, his opposite, Satan is infinitely evil.

This is the interesting part-

he exists in eternity, There is no time in god’s place because he is eternal. Were he not eternal this god would be no different than us, just more powerful.

He has but a single all encompassing thought. If he had more than one thought, that is if he changed his mind, he wouldn’t be eternal. Then he isn’t very special because the human spirit will exist in the same sort of aeviternity as his where time is the measure of the passage of time between changing thoughts.

Back to God: IF

He is eternal with but a single all encompassing thought.

How can he act in temporal space?

How does the notion of personal responsibility for sin fit into that definition of god. If he has but a single thought he surely knows what we are going to do before we do it. If he is all powerful how can we be personally responsible for our actions?

I’m sure you all will examine the various aspects of this theological definition of the all powerful god of Abraham, it is a summary of the definition of him learned in 1955-56 theology courses.

Have a go at it guys. If it gets too hot on some sub part move it to another thread please.
Jim

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Posted: 11 June 2006 05:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Some bones to pick (all for fun).

If something is said to exist outside of our space-time it then becomes plausible (even likely) that the laws we find and meanings we ascribe inside of this space-time will have no meaning or impact outside of it. In science the idea of space-time has no meaning at the singularity before the rapid expansion took place. All our current laws and understandings of physics fail to describe this “period” even our language breaks down.

Satan was not depicted as opposite to Abraham’s god, but a servant of god and there is even great debate in Christian circles about that now. Read The Origins of Satan by Elain Pagels for more. Early Christianity was very active in transforming the idea from a messenger into an evil and using the term to claim heresy from opposing Christian sects.

A large part of the reason why many religions (not just the traditional Abrahamic) call god nameless or un-nameable is to get at a core idea that all human descriptions fall horribly short of their mark at describing god. Thus every all powerful comes with an admission that it is a faulty description. Like how the balloon and dots model of a closed universe is a faulty description, It is a metaphor.

I would have voted for at least two of those choices listed which is always the problem with poles, many force an incorrect answer, they force us to describe our beliefs in closest match rather than in ideal terms.

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Posted: 11 June 2006 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Oh and to be fair to Doug, I think you are referring to something I said but it is also far from the mark of what either Doug or I were getting at. I was proposing that many theist schools of thought say that god cannot be described in anything other than metaphor. Often theists concur that to depict god in human terms is to reduce god and thus often a blasphemy (like the famous cartoons) and always futile. If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him, is a representation of this idea. 

I believe Doug was arguing that many theists do describe god and that is the same description that he uses to counter their arguments.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 12:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think that’s right ...

Yes, it’s true Jim that some theists posit an “eternal” god. The problem is that (as you point out) an eternal god exists outside of time ...

eternal = having no temporal properties

everlasting = existing at all times
            = having all temporal properties

Do we have some examples of things that purportedly exist “eternally”? Yes, numbers, mathematical object, abstracta. The number four isn’t the sort of thing (if it exists) to exist in 1996, to cause something in 1940 and not in 1942, to be green for an hour, to smell like roses in May ... it’s the sort of thing that exists in the abstract, a-temporally.

If god exists like numbers or abstracta do, there is a fatal problem: there is no way to make sense of his supposed presence in history. If god is like a number, he can’t have beliefs or desires that come and go. He can’t answer prayers at particular times. He can’t have created the universe at a particular time. He can’t love one people at one time, and hate another people at another. He can’t have intervened at a particular time with Jesus.

Why not? Because all of these involve actions at a particular time and not at other times. Yet the definition of eternality is that it is without temporal properties.

Really, the Abrahamic god is an everlasting god, one that exists not eternally (outside of time) but at all times, always. He is like a being that thinks, desires, acts, and never dies.

The idea of the eternal god is similar to a sort of neo-platonic notion of god as The Good, or god as love, or somesuch thing. That’s fine as far as it goes, but really it doesn’t mesh at all with believers’ ordinary conceptions of what god is supposed to do.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Two links to get at the points (oddly perhaps) that both Doug and I are making.

 


 

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Posted: 12 June 2006 03:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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But even around the same time as your definition was provided we had Vatican II   ,

Don’t popes redefine doctrine regularly to address, well anything including the definition of god?

Hasn’t sectarianism has been a hallmark of religion of every stripe throughout time.

The crux of my biscuit (to quote Zappa) is that even if you can nail down a dominant theological definition of god for the Catholic church (actually I think it would be up to the sitting Pope to decide) You still would not have nailed down the definition for say Eastern Orthodoxy, let alone Islam or Judaism.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Chris,
What you say is true the theology is in the church’s hands and the definitions change, look at Augustine and then Aquinas, (his view of the insertion of the soul in the fetus is consistent with Roe v Wade) but that isn’t really the point.

We have the JCI god, all agree the god they worship is the same god but no agreement is conceivable among or even between the religions on his theological description, I think that’s a better word than definition.

Then toss in the Protestant churches that describe the god they worship, congregation by congregation and what sort of true religion can any rational human being adhere to?

I was taught there could be only a single correct description of god. I’m sure that’s the position of the other religions as well. If that’s the position of all of the religions what is the description?

They should speak up!
Jim

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Posted: 12 June 2006 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]
We have the JCI god, all agree the god they worship is the same god but no agreement is conceivable among or even between the religions on his theological description, I think that’s a better word than definition.

This is a real puzzler. It’s true that many of the more liberal believers want to say that all three JCI religions worship the same god. But that can’t be so if, for example, the Moslems say that Christians are “infidels”, or that “there is only one god who is Allah”. After all, they call him “Allah” partly to distinguish him from the Christian god and Jewish Yahweh.

It’s also not true if Christians are out trying to convert Jews and Moslems. After all, what’s the point of converting someone if they are already praying to the same guy you are?

I think there is something they (generally) all agree on, what I would call the rough theology of god. They all generally agree that god is the all knowing, all powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe. They agree that he answers prayer, performs miracles, has beliefs and desires; in other words, that god is a “person” in the philosophical sense of having (or being) a mind. They agree that he is everlasting and can act at all places.

So if they all generally agree on this sort of basic rough theology, what is it that separates their concepts of god? What makes them want to convert or kill each other?

It has to do with god’s history.

For the Jews, god provided the covenant but has not returned to earth to speak with any prophet after the Torah (Old Testament). Christ and Mohammed were basically both impostors, and neither have any important insight into god, nor are they prophets nor divine.

For the Christians, god had a son, Christ, who died for our sins and was carried up to heaven. God, in part, is Christ. But Mohammed was an impostor.

For the Moslems, god is not Christ since Christ was not divine; OTOH god did speak to Mohammed, who was god’s last prophet.

So although they do agree about the general rough theology of god, I don’t think that they see them all praying to the same guy—they have a different conception of what god did in the world, and that separates them.

Of course, one can say that it’s an issue of semantics: some will say it’s the same god in all three cases, and the only question is what actions he has taken in the world. Others will say they’re three different guys, and if you believe in Allah you ipso facto don’t believe in Yahweh, and vice versa. The first is the more liberal take, the second the more conservative or fundamentalist take.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]
We have the JCI god, all agree the god they worship is the same god but no agreement is conceivable among or even between the religions on his theological description, I think that’s a better word than definition.

This is a real puzzler. It’s true that many of the more liberal believers want to say that all three JCI religions worship the same god. But that can’t be so if, for example, the Moslems say that Christians are “infidels”, or that “there is only one god who is Allah”. After all, they call him “Allah” partly to distinguish him from the Christian god and Jewish Yahweh.

It’s also not true if Christians are out trying to convert Jews and Moslems. After all, what’s the point of converting someone if they are already praying to the same guy you are?

I think there is something they (generally) all agree on, what I would call the rough theology of god. They all generally agree that god is the all knowing, all powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe. They agree that he answers prayer, performs miracles, has beliefs and desires; in other words, that god is a “person” in the philosophical sense of having (or being) a mind. They agree that he is everlasting and can act at all places.

So if they all generally agree on this sort of basic rough theology, what is it that separates their concepts of god? What makes them want to convert or kill each other?

It has to do with god’s history.

For the Jews, god provided the covenant but has not returned to earth to speak with any prophet after the Torah (Old Testament). Christ and Mohammed were basically both impostors, and neither have any important insight into god, nor are they prophets nor divine.

For the Christians, god had a son, Christ, who died for our sins and was carried up to heaven. God, in part, is Christ. But Mohammed was an impostor.

For the Moslems, god is not Christ since Christ was not divine; OTOH god did speak to Mohammed, who was god’s last prophet.

So although they do agree about the general rough theology of god, I don’t think that they see them all praying to the same guy—they have a different conception of what god did in the world, and that separates them.

Of course, one can say that it’s an issue of semantics: some will say it’s the same god in all three cases, and the only question is what actions he has taken in the world. Others will say they’re three different guys, and if you believe in Allah you ipso facto don’t believe in Yahweh, and vice versa. The first is the more liberal take, the second the more conservative or fundamentalist take.

jim & doug,
I have sorted this out for my own satisfaction.
1. The God of the Jews is not the God of the Christians because they reject The Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.
2. The God of the Muslims is not the God of the Christians because they also reject The Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.
3. The God of the Muslims is not the God of the Jews because the Muslim’s God is named Allah not Jehova, Yewah or whatever.
4. The God of the Christians is not the God of the Jews or Muslims because the Christians say that God assumed human form which both Jews and Muslims say was not possible.

I hope this will help solve this “puzzler”.
Bob

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Posted: 12 June 2006 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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One of the points I keep driving at is the idea that if one were to take an “in your own words” survey, lets say of any Catholic parish, you would find nearly as many different descriptions of god as you find parishioners. Much like we here found so many different (and often apparently conflicted) answers to the “what do you call yourself” poll.

I think that church is usually much more about community than cohesive doctrine. That is why most churches push really hard for a “personal god.”

In other posts I have noted that I am gay. My mother is a devout, wholly faith based (she just wont ask herself the hard questions), Catholic; but somehow her devotion to the church is not a factor in her accepting my sexuality or even prevented her from coming to my wedding. She has even gone as far as to disagree with the idea that I am a sinner or am going to hell for my sexuality.

I am also a survivor of serial sexual abuse by priests, and this event while horrible for her has not shaken her faith in the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

Go figure.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 09:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Gods distinguishable characteristics

Dougsmith wrote

[quote author=“dougsmith”]So although they do agree about the general rough theology of god, I don’t think that they see them all praying to the same guy—they have a different conception of what god did in the world, and that separates them.

Of course, one can say that it’s an issue of semantics some will say it’s the same god in all three cases, and the only question is what actions he has taken in the world. Others will say they’re three different guys, and if you believe in Allah you ipso facto don’t believe in Yahweh, and vice versa. The first is the more liberal take, the second the more conservative or fundamentalist take.

In my impression of religious history I think the origins of Christianity and Islam is the “underdog” trying to become the SUPERIOR person of the community.

Take Islam for example.  Prophet Muhammad belonged to the same dominant tribe (Quraish) that ruled Mecca at the time. Certainly many of the laws governing that society were ‘crude’ but in keeping with the harsh environment of the Arabian desert. If Muhammad merely wanted to change the system of laws he could have successfully managed to do it within the system.

However if you look closely at the class system within Quraishi society you will notice that the clan in which Muhammad belonged did not feature prominently in the tribe.

Muhammed briliantly took a formulae that was successful (i.e. God of Judaism and Christianity) and made the neccesary changes to claim it exclusively for his clan of the Qurashi tribe. I meant that overnight you have a man claiming to be “high and mighty” over his fellow tribesman. It was a formulae to readily attract members of his own clan and other disgruntled clans. It was also important for Muhammad not to merely take his tribe and convert them to Christianity but to find a unique formulae that Muslims could claim as their own. This Muhammad successfuly forged in his +/- 23 years. 

I am not very familiar with Christian history but could this also apply to Jesus and his clan amongst the Jews in Jerusalem.

It would also explain why it was important not to have a “one God fits all” but instead a “one God with a variety of distinguishable features” that suit each particular tribe’s characteristics.

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Posted: 12 June 2006 10:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Re: Gods distinguishable characteristics

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]
I am not very familiar with Christian history but could this also apply to Jesus and his clan amongst the Jews in Jerusalem.

It can be said about the verious Christian sects that claimed to be the true followers of Jesus, at least up until the First Council of Nicaea with a high degree of certainty.

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Posted: 13 June 2006 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Sorry to hear about your story, Chris. Sounds awful.

I think you’re right that on the whole for the parishioners, church (religion) is more about community than theology. I have had many long discussions with people in religious studies programs who are leery about investigating any sort of philosophical theology, since they view religion as basically a sociological phenomenon, and when you look at the practitioners, there is no real “cohesive doctrine” as you say. They prefer to investigate the wider practice.

OTOH there is a very cohesive doctrine to the Catholic Church; there are cohesive doctrines in much other church and religious hierarchy. And there are many accomplished theologians and philosophers who see it as their mission to provide rational bases or apologetics for religious doctrines, from the Tibetan Buddhist monks to Hindu pandits and western professors of philosophy. They are investigating what one Christian professor of mine termed “the rational kernel” of religious belief.

In a sense these are separate issues: community history and theological philosophy. Both are important and interesting, although I find the latter more congenial to my thinking.

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Posted: 13 June 2006 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Sorry to hear about your story, Chris. Sounds awful.

Thanks. I have this idea that my life experiences have probably been no worse than average and I have been able to take away considerably more fulfillment than many, no matter what happened to me decades ago (or last week).

That said I only brought it up to illustrate the point that I think most people have an abstract and highly adaptive “relationship” to their personal god. They will accept most doctrine without consideration if it does not appear to apply to their own situation. This goes to the adaptive nature of god throughout theology. The god had to be practical to survive. That as much as anything else is why the concept as presented from the top is like the shifting sands.

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Posted: 14 June 2006 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’ve read and re-read this thread and think we all might agree on this proposition:

Jews, Christians and Muslims might agree they worship the god of the book, (The book is the bible, [old and new testament] and the quran, with or without the shirahs) The disagreement among them involves how they describe that god.


Unless you all have great objection my aim with this post was to see if we could agree that theological descriptions of god are and have been out and about. That’s been accomplished.

I agree that each of the major JCI’s descriptions of the god they support is different and that the description changes from time to time at least in the Christian one, and within the various sub-divisions of each J, C, and I the description changes as well. (protestant, reform, sunni, shia, bahai etc.)

Finally I agree that within those divisions the theology of the religion is not important. What is important is the society and its moral theology. (the wedge issues)

That is for another topic.
Jim

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