Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ruling the Rules

I am dead set on posting three times this month, but since summer, for me, means partial brain atrophy, I am using some musings I jotted out before the summer hit. The question being debated here was whether God follows the rules or makes the rules. Rules, in this case, pertains to the rules and laws of logic, math, and morality.

I actually kinda like the concise, if choppy, format of this, so I think I'll just leave it mostly be.

1. If "rules" exist outside of God, then:
a) Something exists that is outside of God's control (therefore, God is not omnipotent?)
b) Something exists that God did not create (therefore God is not the sole creator?)
c) Something is higher and more fundamental than God (something is more foundational than God?)

How can rules exist without something to govern? Can there be "good" or "bad" if there is nothing to define? This seems nonsensical to me. Rules cannot exist solely as concepts. There must be something they affect in order for them to really exist. If rules exist outside of God, they exist in conjunction with God, and cannot be separated from Him. They did not exist "before" Him or in any way without Him.

What about logic and mathematics? God does [appear to] break the rules of math on several occasions, such as with the two fish and the five loaves of bread. Either the multiplication of the food was not quite so supernatural as is often interpreted, or God was able to break these rules. Could God break rules He did not create and has no power over? God can manipulate His creation, but it seems doubtful that He could change or ignore something He is bound by.

It seems that the rules cannot exist above and beyond God.


2. If God created the "rules", then God could have hypothetically decided that murder was good. This is not a concept my brain can handle. Admittedly, this is not an airtight argument.

Perhaps God created math and logic rules, but is subject to moral rules. God CANNOT break moral rules or else sin would be a moot point. Yet if God is not subject to logic or math, then sin is still a moot point because God is not bound by the concepts of "if...then" or "B therefore C", rendering justice arbitrary.

Can a naturally all-good God create a "Bad"? How can He create something that is completely foreign to His nature? Why would an all-powerful God bind Himself by His own rules? If God created the good and the bad before choosing to embrace only the good, then God is not unchanging and was not always completely good.

General conclusion: God neither created the rules nor obeys rules that exist beyond Him. The rules exist with Him, perhaps as a part of Him, since existing only side-by-side but apart from God still entails that someone or something else is setting the standard. If the rules are a part of God's personality, then God Himself is the source of Logic and the Good, etc., in a fashion after Plato's Forms. God quite literally is Good and is Logic, though Logic and Good are not God. God would be essentially the living form of these concepts, from which everything else is taken and which holds all else together.

I'm not totally happy with this conclusion because it doesn't quite shut down the possibilities of evil being good or pi equaling 7. Suppose that these had randomly been the nature of God's personality. But then again, if God had said that evil was good, would we know any different? I suppose at some point there has to be a self-causing cause, and I don't know what that would be if not God Himself. It might be a little easier to cause yourself if you exist outside of time.

“Anything that happens happens, anything that in happening causes something else to happen causes something else to happen, and anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again. Although not necessarily in chronological order." Douglas Adams


CavDawg said...

Hi, Carla!

Mormonism has kind of a unique take on this question, but I will keep it to myself for the time being, because I wanted to analyze this using information that all Christians would (probably) agree on.

In a blog post I did awhile ago, I argued that God does follow rules, otherwise the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of humanity was by definition unnecessary. However, I don't think that fully treats the question.

Your argument, for example, is completely valid. If God follows rules (even self-imposed ones) it would seem to call into question His supremacy, which is absolute.

I would argue that the fact that God follows a code of conduct does not actually challenge His authority over the universe. For example, would we say that God is incapable of sin? If He's incapable of sin, then He's not really omnipotent, because there are things He cannot do. However, if He were to sin, would that change His nature as God? Would He cease to be God? To me, it feels self-evident that God follows a set of rules.

A counter-argument to that (and I think you argue your point very well) would be that what God does is not sin, because it is God doing it. The scriptures have several examples of God killing humans, but we accept that this was actually righteous action He was taking.

In addition, dealing with the question of Jesus' sacrifice, maybe it was necessary because God decided it was necessary, because He knew that it would be the most efficacious way to teach and save His children.

Anyway, in the end, I think it really is just a question of semantics, but it's fun mental exercise.

art said...

If God is love, can God hate? If God decides to hate, does that redefine love? Is God all knowing? If he knows all things, is there anything that God can learn? If God is unchanging, can he stop creating? If he keeps creating new things, does that make him bigger?

There is the old question, "Can God create a rock so big that even he can't move it?" Anyway you answer the question will result in a paradox.

I think a lot if this is as CavDawg says "semantics". Perhaps God is who he is and our words and rules are just human attempts to describe him. God can do whatever he wants but remains true to himself.