The Western Gods

Western Concepts of God
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Most people want to be their own god and be ruler of their own life. Some people want to be a god to others too and tell them what to do. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God. The fact is written all across human history; but it is written more plainly across that recent history of Russia; which was created by Lenin. There the Government is the God, and all the more the God, because it proclaims aloud in accents of thunder, like every other God worth worshiping, the one essential commandment: Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world.

But, above all, they will worship the strongest thing in the world. And, by the very nature of the Bolshevist and many other modern systems, as well as by the practical working of almost any system, the State will be strongest thing in the world. The whole tendency of men is to treat the solitary State as the solitary standard.

The West Dies With Its Gods

That men may protest against law, it is necessary that they should believe in justice; that they may believe in justice beyond law, it is necessary that they should believe in a justice beyond the land of living men. You can impose the rule of the Bolshevist as you can impose the rule of the Bourbons; but it is equally an imposition. You can even make its subjects contented, as opium would make them contented. But if you are to have anything like divine discontent, then it must really be divine.

Anything that really comes from below must really come from above. There is nothing new under the sun. You can trace the same savagery from the Muslim world to what came before it in the Assyrian empire, the same quest for empire in Iran that you saw from the Persian empire. I just wish that GOD, in His wisdom and omnipotence, would be just a bit more media-savvy in this day and age. Why does He insist on taking such a hands-off approach? We have one Book which has been translated and re-translated, interpreted and re-interpreted, until hardly anyone can agree on what it means.

We have dozens of Christian denominations, each with its own unique take on what God expects of us. There is a wide variety of contemporary social and economic issues I sure would like to get His opinion on. Well, Chuck, all those are good questions. I have had all those questions too. There are others along those lines I still have.

I have found that these kinds of questions are the new atheists nail in the coffin against Christians. But I also have never found a new atheist that has a worldview that I personally envy. There are good answers to these. The bigger question is do you really want answers or do you want to drive a nail into a coffin?

First off, would you be kind enough to point-out, in either the New or Old Testament, where it states explicitly just exactly WHEN the universe was created, let alone this biosphere? Am I correct in that assumption Chuck?? Ever thought about that? And one last observation: How about you Chuck?? I pray you will…soon sir! The so called right wing Hegelians rejected pantheism and interpreted Hegel in a way consistent with theism. Left wing Hegelians associated the Absolute with material reality. Ludwig Feuerbach said that people create the concept of God and project it onto reality.

Karl Marx made religion both a product and a tool of oppression, the "opium of the people. Like a narcotic, it insulates them from the pain but it also makes people incapable of dealing with the cause of that pain.

Furthermore, religion legitimates the status quo. Friedrich Nietzsche rejected belief in God as weak and untenable. He believed his times witnessed the death of God as a cultural force, yet at the same time he feared the outcome. He did not think that God died in the sense that He once existed and at some point ceased to exist, but that modern society regarded God as irrelevant. Sigmund Freud regarded God as a projection of the mind, a product of wishful thinking. The pre-scientific mind, for example, finds it easier to cope with an anthropomorphized universe.

It is easier to suppose that a personal being is in control than to face seemingly capricious forces of nature. But when humanity grows into a more scientific understanding of the universe, such beliefs will be discarded. Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and others thus did not try to rationally defeat belief in God. Rather, they sought to explain its origins and the personal motives of believers.

In the early twentieth century, logical positivism narrowed the scope of meaning in a way that made belief in God subjective by definition. Besides tautologies only empirically verifiable statements were said to be true or false. Ludwig Wittgenstein was initially sympathetic to linking meaning to verifiability. He held that language is static and pictures reality. This limits what can be meaningfully expressed in language and excludes propositions about such things as ethics, aesthetics, and the meaning of life.

On such topics, "one must be silent. In this way language is more like doing than picturing. Because this necessarily gives language and meaning a social dimension, concepts of God are bound to their use within, for example, a believing community. On this view it is possible to claim that to know "God" is not to know the existence and attributes of a metaphysical being, but the use of a term and its connections to a life style.

Classical theism is found in the Greeks since Plato; in the Judaism of Philo , Maimonides, and others; in Christian orthodoxy generally, and in Islam as early as al-Kindi. Discussions of God in classical theism have centered on a number of specific attributes. The working assumption from the Greeks onward has been that God is the most perfect possible being. There is an implicit question as to whether perfections are coherent such that they can exist in one person. If they are not, God would have all perfections possible for a single being.

In more theologically oriented thinkers, the assumption that God is a perfect being serves not to formulate the concept of God but only to fill in what is given in revelation. The Reformers, for example, depended heavily on revelation because of their conviction that the human mind is darkened by corruption and therefore is inadequate to shape concepts of God. God has no body from Latin, incorporale , or is non-physical. This is a central tenet of monotheistic religions, which insist that any references to God's eyes, ears, mind, and the like are anthropomorphic.

Christian belief in the incarnation is a unique case in which God takes on human form in Christ. While some regard God's incorporeality as true analytically that is, true by the very definition of the word "God" , others derive it from one or more other attributes. Accordingly, God cannot be corporeal because that would preclude his being eternal, immutable, and simple, for example.

Furthermore, if God were corporeal and omnipresent, it would seem that all physical things would be part of God. Others derive divine incorporeality from an apparent incorporeal element of human nature, termed the soul or spirit. God has no parts or real distinctions. The neo-Platonist Plotinus regarded God as therefore characterless, but Christianity generally recognizes the legitimacy of talk of attributes. For Aquinas, to be simple God must be among other things incorporeal as well as identical to his nature, not a member of a class that shares a common nature.

Aquinas said that God has the perfections we ascribe to him, but that they exist in him in an incomprehensible unity such that we cannot understand the reality behind our statements. When we ascribe goodness to God, goodness does not mean exactly what it does when we ascribe it to a creature univocal meaning , nor does it mean something entirely different eqivocal meaning. Its meaning is analogical: Maimonides insisted on equivocal meaning only, with the result that negative attributes alone can be ascribed to God.

Yet he recognized that even negative attribution gives some understanding of the divine being. In Islam, most philosophers such as al-Farabi accepted divine simplicity, whereas most theologians rejected it. Some used it to reject the Trinity. Augustine had recognized a potential conflict between simplicity and the Trinity, but believed the resolution lay in proper understanding of the Trinity. Monotheism maintains that there is one God.

To this Christianity adds that there is a threefold distinction within one God. Stated roughly, God is one substance in three persons. Aquinas argued that there cannot be two gods because neither would be absolutely perfect since one would have a quality that the other lacked Summa Theologica Ia, 11, 3. Richard Swinburne says that theism is a simpler hypothesis than polytheism, the latter positing more beings with various capabilities and relations. Theism is therefore more likely since simpler hypotheses turn out to be true more often. Moreover, the universe exhibits a unity, in its universal natural laws for example.

This unity argues for one deity as its originator The Existence of God , , pp. Biblical authors spoke of God remembering the past, knowing the future, and acting in the present. According to early Christian thought, God exists forever, without beginning or end. For him events are past, present, and future. Later Christian thought, under the influence of Platonism it is said, held that God exists not inside time, but outside it.

God is atemporal in that for him everything is simultaneous, there being no past, present, or future. This later view was held by Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas; and classically expressed by Boethius, "Eternity is the complete and total possession of unending life all at once" Consolation of Philosophy , V, vi. Boethius regarded a timeless being as superior because it does not lack a past and future; its entire existence is in a timeless present. In modern times the timeless view has been defended by E.

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Consequently, something understood as true philosophically may be untrue theologically, and vice versa. View or edit your browsing history. The Greek gods and goddesses normally took on human form and lived in a society similar to human society. Since to be free is to be undetermined by anything outside oneself, God is free because nothing can be outside him; and God alone is free because everything within the whole is the way it is by necessity. Humans participate in this universal mind and only it, not the soul, is immortal.

Arguments in favor include: Arguments for the earlier view, that God is eternal but exists within time, include: Those who accept the view that God is outside time are able to argue that God cannot change because any change would have to take place inside time. The view that God is an absolutely perfect being can also lead to the conclusion that he cannot change: Simplicity can be grounds for accepting divine immutability since the only things subject to change are things with parts.

Immutability has been taken in a strong sense to mean that if a predicate p applies to God at any time then it must apply at every time.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

But this is so broad that it brings into the discussion of immutability things that, while changing, are in no way changing within God. For example, "Smith believes in God" could be false yesterday and true today, yet nothing within God has changed. God is immutable in a weaker and less problematic sense if it is required only that he does not change in his character and purpose. The weaker sense fits well with the view that God exists in time, since he could be considered immutable yet begin an action, forgive a person, and so on.

Thus, predicates like, "God is protecting r from harm" could be the case at one time but not another and God would still be immutable. The stronger sense of immutability fits well with a God outside of time.

The claim that God can do anything has been the subject of a number of qualifications. First, many affirm the biblical view that God cannot do what is morally contrary to his nature. Similar to Anselm Proslogion 7 , Aquinas says that God cannot sin because he is omnipotent, since sin is a falling short of perfection Summa Theologica , Ia. Nelson Pike says that it is logically possible for God to sin but he would not do what is against his nature.

Aquinas also says that God cannot do other things that corporeal beings can do. And, he cannot do what is logically impossible, such as make a square circle. Descartes is one of the few to hold the contrary view, that the laws of mathematics and logic are subject to the will of God Descartes' Conversation with Burman , 22, Perhaps the most significant challenge to omnipotence involves the existence of evil. It seems evil would not exist if God is both good and omnipotent.

Process theology denies omnipotence, Christian Science denies the ultimate reality of evil, and some post-Holocaust thinking seems to question the goodness of God. Augustine defends the orthodox Christian concept of God on grounds that he did what was good in creating free beings yet they used their freedom to do evil.

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Some suffering is the just consequence of sin. Furthermore, where evil is a lack of good we cannot ask why God created it since it is merely the absence of something. Aquinas, Leibniz and others recognize that some good things exist only in the presence of certain types of evil. For example, forgiveness exists only where there is sin. In the light of these secondary goods, Leibniz argues that out of all the possible worlds God created the one with the best possible balance of good and evil.

Some thinkers appeal to a future life to settle apparent discrepancies in the balance of good over evil. God's future blessing, it is said, can more than make up for suffering in this world. William Alston develops the idea that as limited beings we are incapable of discerning-and therefore questioning-whether God has sufficient reasons for allowing the evil that exists.

While a few like Avicenna and Averroes seem to have held that a God who lacks certain types of knowledge would be more perfect, most have claimed that God knows everything. This is sometimes refined, for example, to the claim that God knows everything that is logically possible to know. An area of concern going back to Aristotle On Interpretation 9 is the claim that propositions about future contingent events that is, those whose causes are not determined by past events have no truth value.

If so they are unknowable, even by an omniscient being a view held in modern times by so called Open Theism. Some have claimed that even if future events have a truth value, they are logically unknowable. Of special concern is the relationship between omniscience and human free will: To solve this, Boethius and Aquinas appealed to the concept of God's timelessness, which entails that none of God's knowledge is past or future. Aquinas also said that God determines all events and determines that they will be done freely. De Molina objected that this amounts to removing free will.

He constructed his own view, which said that God's knowledge is logically prior to his decree of what will be. God knows what an individual will do in all possible circumstances a capacity called middle knowledge , and he decrees those circumstances in which a person freely cooperates with the divine plan.

Thus foreknowledge is compatible with free will. Others have conceded that foreknowledge is incompatible with free will but claim that God voluntarily limits his knowledge of future events so that there can still be freedom. This makes omniscience a matter of having an ability to know rather than having specific knowledge.

Another solution to the problem of omniscience and freedom challenges the idea that God's knowledge limits future free actions in any way. While God knows necessarily that I will do x tomorrow that does not entail that it is necessary I do x. What God knows is what I will freely choose to do. So God knows today that I will do x tomorrow because tomorrow I will freely choose to do x. But if tomorrow I choose to do y , then today God knows that tomorrow I will do y. This view is consistent with what we know about less than infallible knowledge of future events.

I may know that a person will choose steak over bologna though I in no way influenced their choice. Various views have been held as to whether God can be affected by outside influences. Because Aristotle regarded change as inconsistent with perfection, he concluded that God could not be affected by anything outside himself. Furthermore, God engages not in feeling, but thinking, and he himself is the object of his contemplation. God is thus unaffected by the world in any way.

The Stoics ruled out divine passibility because they regarded imperturbability as a virtue, and God must be the supreme example of it. John of Damascus agreed that God is imperturbable, but stressed it is because he is sovereign, not because he is uncaring. Aquinas accepted Aristotle's view that God cannot change and is impassible. He can act, but nothing can act upon him. So emotions that proceed from God, such as love and joy, are in God; but other emotions such as anger and sadness can be ascribed to him only metaphorically. Early, medieval, and Reformation Christianity generally affirmed that because God could not suffer, Christ suffered in his humanity but not in his divine nature.

However, the idea that God is unaffected by the world is being rethought in modern times. Moltmann, who was for a time a German prisoner of war, and Kitamori, a Japanese thinker, both witnessed World War II and its aftermath. They concluded that God must be moved by suffering. Richard Creel defends impassibility as being uncontrolled by outside influences. He says, among other things, that: God has emotions but they are not controlled by anything outside himself, he takes into account the ultimate good that will come from suffering, suffering does not make love more admirable, a God who suffers would be more appropriately an object of pity than of worship, justice does not require passibility because it need not be based on emotion; and omniscience does not require passibility because God need know only that a person has an emotion, he does not need to experience it.

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A mediating position would allow emotion in God but not control of him in any way by creatures. God would be affected by the world but only in the way and to the extent he allows. Whereas classical Greek religion ascribed to the gods very human foibles, theism from Plato onward has affirmed that God is purely good and could not be the author of anything evil Republic.

In Judaism divine goodness is thought to be manifested especially in the giving of the law Torah. In Islam it is thought to be manifested in divine revelation of truth through the prophets, especially as revealed in the Qur'an. And in Christianity it is manifested in the gracious granting of Christ as the way of salvation. While goodness encompasses all moral perfection e. The Reformers, and Protestantism generally, stressed that God's desire for the benefit of creatures is dependent not on their merits but purely on divine love. Divine love is not only irrespective of merit but it is shown most clearly where it is entirely unmerited, as in grace shown to fallen humanity.

Therefore divine forgiveness and redemption are taken as the highest expressions of benevolence. Benevolence intersects with omnipotence in providence, wherein God orders events for good ends. It also raises the possibility of a clash between the divine and human wills, as when a person spurns God's action in the world.

Divine goodness raises the question of whether God wills x because it is good, or x is good because God wills it. The former seems to weaken divine sovereignty, but the latter seems to make goodness arbitrary.

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The arbitrariness may be somewhat relieved if God's will is understood as bounded by his unchanging character. God would not, for example, decide to make torturing for enjoyment right since his nature forever condemns it. The issue has implications for divine command ethics, according to which acts are right or wrong because God commands or forbids them as opposed to, for example, a competing view that acts are right or wrong according to whether they promote the greatest happiness.

As to our knowledge of divine goodness, Aquinas separates the order of being from the order of knowing: For Aquinas, this requires an analogical as opposed to an equivocal relationship between divine and human goodness. For Kant, divine goodness is known as a postulate of pure practical reason: God must be there to reward virtue and punish evil.

The greatest challenge to belief in divine goodness has been the fact that evil exists, or more recently, the amount and type of evil rather than the mere fact of it. The problem is lessened if it is acknowledged that divine goodness does not require that each creature always be made to experience as much happiness as it is capable of experiencing. Reasons may include, for example, that: Western Concepts of God Western concepts of God have ranged from the detached transcendent demiurge of Aristotle to the pantheism of Spinoza.

Sources of Western Concepts of God Sources of western concepts of the divine have been threefold: Greeks At the dawn of philosophy, the Ionian Greeks sought to understand the true nature of the cosmos and its manifestations of both change and permanence. Early Christian Thought Early Christians regarded Greek religion as holding views unworthy of God, but they were divided as to Greek philosophy. Medieval Thought Islamic Neoplatonist al-Farabi held that universals are in things and have no existence apart from particulars. The chilly lord of the underworld was among the few Greek gods to come across as dispassionate.

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He was not the ultimate judge of the souls that wandered his domain nor did he mete out their punishments for sins committed during their mortal lives. He was, however, cunning; he tricked Persephone into eating enchanted pomegranate seeds so that she would have to remain with him for a portion of the year. The queen goddess of Olympus, Hera was both sister and wife to Zeus.

Her Roman equivalent was Juno. Like many gods in the Greek pantheon, Hermes presided over multiple spheres. He was a pastoral figure, responsible for protecting livestock, and was also associated with fertility, music, luck, and deception. In the Odyssey , he is depicted as a messenger god.

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His Roman equivalent was Mercury. Poseidon is best known as the Greek sea god, but he was also the god of horses and of earthquakes. Thus, many of his temples were inland. And he had some seriously strange children. Though humanoid, he fathered both the winged horse Pegasus by Medusa, no less and the Cyclops Polyphemus, who is blinded by Odysseus and his crew in the Odyssey. His Roman equivalent was Neptune. With the assistance of Hades and Poseidon, Zeus overthrew his father, Cronus, king of the Titans, and became the chief deity in a new pantheon comprising mostly his siblings and children.

In addition to controlling the weather, Zeus was noted for his chronic infidelity to his sister-wife, Hera.