• YuZhonglu
    219
    A Pope in the 20th Century, let's say Pope John Paul II writes an article about God. Obviously he's writing about the God in the Christian Bible. From his perspective he's writing about an universal God, a God that applies to everyone. You may not agree, but that's not the point of this discussion.

    My point goes more like this: Popes in the 15th century were also writing about the God in the Christain Bible, too. That's reasonable, right? Also, when Pope John Paul II writes his article about God, he obviously believes that he's thinking about the same God as the Pope in the 15th century. That's reasonable too, right?

    But are they actually writing about the same 'God?' I didn't make this thread to discuss the existence of 'God,' and personally I don't care if you agree with Pope John Paul II or not. What I am really wondering is:

    Is Pope John Paul II's concept of God the same as the 15th century Pope's concept of God? If you argue there concepts are different, then doesn't that mean that each Pope is writing about a different God?
  • Valentinus
    471
    Popes have a tough job. Management is a scam.
    I would direct your question to Augustine or Aquinas.
    They carried the water.
    There have been other developments.
    What do you want to know?
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    Ok. Is Augustine writing about the same God as Aquinas? Are modern scholars of the Bible thinking of the same God as scholars of the Bible of the, uh, medieval centuries?

    And more broadly:

    When two people on a philosophy discussion forum discuss God, to what extent are they discussing the "same" God?

    EDIT: Maybe the reason people can't agree is because each person is talking about a different God.
  • Fooloso4
    848


    The pious person might answer that they are talking about the God but each according to his own understanding or according to his own way of expressing what goes beyond all human attempts to express.

    But I agree that if there are different concepts of God then to treat them all as if they are all about the same entity or Being or ground or source of being or what have you is problematic.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    Here's another problem: The pious might believe they're talking about the same God (from different angles). But to everyone else, it looks like each individual is talking about a different God.

    I mean, if two people write about God differently, then doesn't that mean that the two people are each writing about a different God? They may not agree to that, but to everyone else that's what it looks like.

    EDIT: BTW, I'm planning to take this thread beyond the immediate question. For example, if two philosophers write about free will differently, then doesn't that mean each philosopher is writing about a DIFFERENT free will? Perhaps the reason philosophers can't agree on a definition of "free will" is because each philosopher is defining a different "free will."
  • Valentinus
    471
    Ok. Is Augustine writing about the same God as Aquinas?YuZhonglu

    Well, my reading of the City of God does not fit with the idea of just war. Does that add up to a different God?

    If the relationship is so much dependent upon what I think is right at one point or or another, why bother at all?

    Just fold "God" into other stuff and carry on.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    I couldn't understand what you're saying. Um, the grammar needs work. Could you phrase that differently?
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    Too much passive tense.
  • Valentinus
    471
    Have you read the City of God?
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    No. So that's another reason why I don't understand what you're saying.
  • Valentinus
    471
    Are you familiar with Aquinas's argument for Just War?
  • Valentinus
    471
    Active enough?
  • Valentinus
    471
    Tomorrow, then.
    I will try to represent.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    Ok. I'll try to understand.
  • Wayfarer
    7.8k
    There have always been many paradoxes in respect of the nature of the 'ultimate reality' in theistic traditions. Historically, the way that God was depicted in the Bible was in accordance with the testimonies of the various witnesses and prophets who make up the main narrators of the Old and New Testament. When Christianity became a mass religion in the aftermath of Constantine's conversion, then it was necessary to accommodate it within a philosophical context which was intelligible to those audiences. To that end, many elements of Greek philosophy were amalgamated with Christian theology via the Greek-speaking theologians, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others, which gave rise to Christian theology proper, and in turn the classical forms of philosophical theology which arguably reached their most mature expression in Aquinas. And I think there's a fair degree of unanimity about the meaning of the name 'God' in that domain of discourse, but it takes a lot of study to understand it.

    One author who has made a recent attempt is David Bentley Hart, in his 2012 book The Experience of God, which describes God in terms of being “the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things.” He also argues in this book that this description is cross-cultural and very similar to expressions of theistic faith in other traditions such as Advaita Vedanta and Islam.

    That said, there is also a sense in which any idea of God is said to be radically insufficient, insofar as whatever else God is, He is beyond any human conception. So according to Paul Tillich, God is not 'the Christian God' or 'the Muslim God' or anything of the kind.

    "Religion is direction or movement toward the ultimate or the unconditional. And God rightly defined might be called the Unconditional. God, in the true sense, is indefinable. Since the Unconditional precedes our minds and precedes all created things, God cannot be confined by the mind or by words. Tillich sees God as Being-Itself, or the "Ground of all Being." For this reason there cannot be "a" God. There cannot even be a "highest God," for even that concept is limiting. We cannot make an object out of God. And the moment we say he is the highest God or anything else, we have made him an object. Thus, beyond the God of the Christian or the God of the Jews, there is the "God beyond God." This God cannot be said to exist or not to exist in the sense that we "exist". Either statement is limiting. We cannot make a thing out of God, no matter how holy this thing may be, because there still remains something behind the holy thing which is its ground or basis, the "ground of being."

    Of course, the response to that is, 'what is he talking about? If it's so "unknowable" then what use is it to anyone?' To which the answer is, the reason such notions are embedded in religious discourse, is because to understand them requires both practice and immersion in the cultural milieu in which they're meaningful. Which is pretty well lost to the modern world, in which we mainly live through symbolic forms and images which have no intrinsic meaning. That is why these ideas are very hard to understand - their meaning only can ever become clear through participation (which is the purpose of ritual).
  • Daniel Cox
    129
    I like David Bentley Hart.
  • emancipate
    117
    Same God, different perspectives. As is to be expected from the finite positions we all share.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    @ Wayfarer: I actually have a friend (sorta) who went to graduate theology school. What you say about Christianity sounds about right. It was at the Council of Nicea or something that the Church at the time decided which chapters of the Bible to include, right? From what I read Emperor Constantine was getting pretty pissed that these argumentative church elders couldn't agree on a state doctrine so he was like: "alright you fools, do it or else." Etc. etc. I don't have the details but I do have a general sketch of what happened then.

    In regards to the second half, the argument that Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc. are all looking at the "same" God, but from different perspectives (and that of course all human perspectives are flawed and incomplete) is something I'm familiar with. But, you know, if you're not pious, from the written evidence you can just as easily argue that each person or side is arguing about a different God. There are significant differences between Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, all of which is well documented. The only major similarity is that they all claim to be about "The One True God" as a tactic to demonstrate their superiority over alternatives like the other religions and atheism/agnosticism.

    @Emancipate. But why do you assume that? From the written evidence, I can easily argue that the reason people have different perspectives of God is because each person is writing about a different God.

    I mean, when a person writes about God they're writing about their concept of God, correct? Since their concepts of God differ, then naturally that means each person is writing about a different God.
  • emancipate
    117
    I mean, when a person writes about God they're writing about their concept of God, correct? Since their concepts of God differ, then naturally that means each person is writing about a different GodYuZhonglu

    Well if you take the position that God is infinite and man is finite, then all of man's different conceptions of God can be thought of as a perspective. Each individual has a unique finite slice (perspective) of the whole infinite. Everyone has a different turn of the kaleidoscope. The Hindus represent this well with many, many Gods as facets of an infinite reality (or God). Ultimate reality as multiplicity.
  • Possibility
    311
    For many who discuss God, I think the term refers to a concept they are making an attempt to explain, insofar as they understand or experience it - recognising that not everyone is likely to experience and therefore articulate this same concept in the same way. For these people, I would imagine written descriptions of ‘God’ are evidence only of subjective experience, including culturally shared experiences, education and other discussions about God. The God they refer to (whether they ‘believe’ or not) is not designed to stand up to logical scrutiny, but to evolve and adjust to their awareness and experiences. It remains a concept that exists regardless, and encompasses their personal response to other descriptions of the same concept.

    For others, God refers to something or someone much more concrete and defined, with specific properties that are ‘objectively’ established or stated, and as such are rarely up for discussion. In this respect they are not discussing the same God: neither with the first group nor, I would imagine, with others who discuss God in this way. Whether they accept or reject its existence, they are not seeking any more information about the God they have apparently defined (even if that definition cannot be articulated, either clearly or logically). Any additional information they encounter will be immediately assessed based on whether it contradicts or correlates with their definition.

    This is in my experience, anyway.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    @ emancipate

    I don't take a position on God, whether he exists or not, or whether he's finite or not. I'm actually ok with most other people's positions on it. If you're Hindu or atheist or Christian, that's great. As an agnostic, I'm ok with all sides. But my position can be summarized like this: "obviously humans can't see the infinite. I agree with you. But since I can't see it, and you can't see it, and no one can see it, and no one can really talk about it, then why spend the effort? If the infinite can't be comprehended, why try? Shouldn't more effort be spent on subjects we can measure (i.e. finite subjects) such as: [EDIT]

    On a biological/physical level, what exactly makes people want to discuss God in the first place?

    And, neurologically, when two people discuss God, are they using the 'same' parts of the brain, or are they using different ones?

    And, if they have happened to be using different parts of the brain when they discuss God, doesn't that mean each person is discussing a different "God?"
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    I suspect the neurobiological patterns of these two types of people, when they talk about God, will differ.
  • emancipate
    117
    I don't take a position on God, whether he exists or not, or whether he's finite or not.YuZhonglu

    I think you do. As I think everyone must. Because to exist, is to have experience and the way one experiences reality is their unique position of God.

    But since I can't see it, and you can't see it, and no one can see it, and no one can really talk about it, then why spend the effort? If the infinite can't be comprehended, why try?YuZhonglu

    I didn't say you can't see it.

    You can perhaps not understand, or experience God in absolute totality (though some would argue you can and I am not going to dispute that). Still, you can explore God as a finite being and experience all that comes with that.
  • Possibility
    311
    In my opinion, some people ‘see’ the particle, others ‘see’ the wave...
  • hachit
    195

    Pope is writing about a different God?

    No, as long as they stick to the Nicene Creed there the same God. However the Catholic Church has the problem were every Pope can change the doctrine as he sees fit.
  • BrianW
    799


    Is the God of the Bible one God? I mean, is Moses' God identical to Elijah's, Isaiah's or Jesus' God? If so, how do we know that their concepts of God are identical?
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    The point is there concepts of God are not identical. Similar perhaps, but not identical. Elijah and Isaiah each wrote and thought about Jehovah differently.
  • YuZhonglu
    219
    But even if they stick to the Nicene Creed, if each Pope writes about God differently, then doesn't that mean each Pope is thinking of a different concept of God?

    Of course, each Pope believes they're talking about the same God as the previous Pope. But the written evidence suggests otherwise.
  • BrianW
    799
    The point is there concepts of God are not identical. Similar perhaps, but not identical. Elijah and Isaiah each wrote and thought about Jehovah differently.YuZhonglu

    Could it mean there are different Gods in the Bible?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.