I Swear I’m Going to Get Back to Work
Also, I have to do my taxes! Blech!
But Moff was talking about something in the comments the other day, and it’s been commanding my attention since then, and I’ve decided to work it out here, in a blog post. Complicated ideas consume me, and they make it hard for me to sleep. Hopefully, this will exercise them.
This one has to do with God, and the nature of the infinite.
Right, so, one of the biggest problems I’ve always had with the Christian Old & New Testament is God’s evolving relationship with humanity. He starts off like an angry, weird dad in Genesis and Exodus, and then kind of becomes an generally benign though occasionally strictly malicious king by the time you get to the late Old Testament, and then this cosmic entity of love and harmony by the time you get to the New Testament.
Obviously, this doesn’t make any sense to me. Something that is infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent doesn’t change. The concept doesn’t even make any sense–you have to exist inside of time in order to do that. And even if God were not infinite, but just omniscient and omnipotent, why wouldn’t he just look into the future, see the best version of himself that there is, and then be that? Anyway, mind boggling.
There are a couple of explanations for this change. One of them is anthropological: God’s relationship towards human beings changes according to how human beings understand nature and the universe. Back in the way Olde Days, when people are just exploding left and right from trichinosis and scabies, they figure God must be some insane jerk. As they get a better hold on what things are the crazy, unpredictable elements of nature and what things are within that control–and as they begin to move more and more of the natural world into human control–God becomes less malicious, more benign. By the time we get to Roman Days, where order seems pretty well-handled, it comes time for a new perspective on God.
That’s the explanation I think is most likely to be true, but not the one that I’m interested in right now.
One of them is the one that Moff suggested–that God changed his attitude towards human beings as he began to realize how hard it was to be human. This is implausible, of course, because God is omniscient. He can’t not know how hard it is to be human. By all accounts, he made the world with humans in mind, so being difficult living for humans has got to be part of the plan.
Hell, in certain cases, when God noticed people getting along a little too well, he actually went out and made things harder for them.
So, I don’t buy that. Exactly. But it gives me an idea that has a peculiar resonance.
Let’s say that I’m God, and I’m omniscient and omnipotent and bored. Because I think that if you’re omniscient and omnipotent, boredom is a pretty likely condition. I want to experience something new, but how can I do that when I’m God? How can I even experience a thing when time doesn’t even exist for me?
So, I do what any omnipotent being would do under those circumstances: I create a version of myself that is not entirely omniscient, omnipotent, or infinite–a kind of Deus Minor. I let him invent the world and try and run it, so that I can vicariously experience the uncertainty of what it’s like to try and run a world when I don’t know everything.
Infinite things are closed loops or circles; for me, as an infinite entity, everything is all one thing, and I’m just hanging out in it. Finite things are cascades or chains–causes and effects that lead forward in time. For the Other Me, the universe is a chain of being that starts at the top and works its way down–that’s because Other Me is not infinite.
You guys may recognize this as being what we call “Gnosticism.” This was an accident, I didn’t mean to rethink that idea. Anyway, the reason God is so weird in the Bible is because the God that the Bible is talking about doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s trying to make the best of his mandate, which is to create the universe, but he doesn’t know how things are going to turn out, and he doesn’t know how things are meant to turn out. He’s just muddling along like the rest of us, only higher up in the chain of being.
A God that’s not omnipotent who is running the world makes much, much more sense. It explains why he has to be incarnated and then sacrificed, why he can’t just fix the fucking problems that caused the huge mess that we’re in, &c, &c.
It also kind of explains what that Holy Ghost thing is about.