is God Perfect? (Part 2 of 2) - William A.Dembski

William A. Dembski - Science and Religion

William A. Dembski

William Albert Dembski is an American philosopher and theologian. He is currently a Professor of Culture & Science at the Southern Evangelical Seminary at Matthews, North Carolina, and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

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William A.
Dembski

Theologian, Southern Evangelical Seminary

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Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Again, these are vast subjects, but we just want to touch on these to see how they enrich or, or take away from the concept of God's perfection. Another, you mentioned about God's impassability, that He cannot be moved by us. You think that that's maybe wrong because description of the God can be moved, and it's not just metaphorical that God is really affected. Now, how does that juxtapose with the traditional view that I think you hold, that God is outside of time? Because if God is outside of time, then how can God change? Because if you're outside of time, you don't change, because change is a, is like a derivative of time.

William Dembski:

[crosstalk] Yeah, to say that God is outside of that time doesn't necessarily mean that God is only outside of time. I mean, certainly, as a Christian, I hold to the incarnation that God became a human being and entered time. So, in a sense, He gets it all. I mean, He's able to, He moves time, and He's also, also outside of time. And so, you know, I think they're mysteries with God, I mean, here you have a God who creates, creates the world, and is not constrained by the character He's given the world. I mean, in a sense He's, He's free, but He still works within that world. So, and I'm not, we're not going to get our mind around, you know, all these, these perfections, and the way God interacts with the world. But I think one thing I would say is, you know, these, a lot of these perfections, and I think what we do is we take some human quality, or some quality in the world, and we just, you know, just run it, run it up the flagpole, as high as it can go.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Right.

William Dembski:

And you know, I think in some cases, that's legitimate. But I'm not sure it holds across the board. You know, and I think as I see it, God has revealed Himself in history, has revealed Himself in scripture, and, and so this is, we need to take seriously what we find there, and some of the things there are paradoxical, because, you know, it does say that God does not change, and yet, it seems that he does respond. And He'll make, there will be statements, you know, I wish I hadn't done this, you know? So, but how do we, it's, but, you know, I think it's, it's simplistic to say, well, you know, this, this therefore, you know, basically this is just a human document, it doesn't hold together, and there's really no divine inspiration behind this. Or are there deeper truths in there? There are paradoxes, even in the divine life, that you know, we're just not going to make sense of. You know, when you invoke paradox and mystery, people say, well, you're just mystery mongering, you know, you're just throwing in the towel. But you know, the thing is, even on materialistic grounds, you've got lots of things you don't understand, you're not getting your mind around. It's your consciousness, which we discussed, you know, it's, so, I'm not sure in the end, we've got more mysteries or unresolved things than the materialists. You know, it's just we've got maybe different things that we're having, having a hard time juggling and— [crosstalk]

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

One of the traditional characteristics of God is God's so-called simplicity, that God doesn't have any parts. Is that a necessity, as far as the real substance of God, that He has no parts? That's it's all kind of the same stuff?

William Dembski:

Well, I mean the thing is, our experience of parts is usually material parts, you know, and then, you know, and certainly within the great monotheistic faiths, God is not a material being. God is a pure spirit, so it's, so I think you're going to have problems attributing parts to God. Now, the thing is, God does have thoughts, and those thoughts, it seems, can be quite complicated. You know, but so the complexity is in what God things and God affects in creation. But if it's not, I don't think it's in the being of God himself that we're going to be able to describe complexity or parts. I don't think it's—

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, you can have God as an absolute, simple, uniform, I don't know what word to use. And yet, having an enormity of complex thoughts about—

William Dembski:

Intentionalities.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

I mean, enormous numbers of things.

William Dembski:

Yeah. But, you know, even this notion of simplicity, I mean, you know, I think we have to be, I mean there's, in theology, there's what's called a, you know, I think cataphatic tradition, and the idea is that we approach God by negations. And there's something to that in that, you know, we, when we're saying God is simple, you know, I think it's not simple in the sense of some homogeneous slab of stone or something like that. You know, I mean, it's, the simplicity is, I don't think you can make sense of it quite that way. I mean it's that there are no parts, that God is not a material being which can be subdivided in various ways. I think that's one thing that's implied by that.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, if you would look at this whole idea of God's perfection, which is, is more of a traditional Christian development, philosophical development, than a pure scriptural one, I would say. How important is that?

William Dembski:

I think it is, it is, it's very important because if you're dealing with a God that's in some ways imperfect, that has, that you know, that's breaking down that same moral goodness or power. You know, I think you're going to have problems. I mean, a God who's not all powerful is one that can't give you any guarantees, you know, in terms of future afterlife, and a God who's not good—

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

I like guarantees.

William Dembski:

In some ways, you know, you might, you know, you're not going to be able to count on him. You know, so it's, you know, and so, I think, we certainly want them, you know, and it's, and I think then, you're going to have a job of explaining to do, why less than perfect, you know? I mean, so, so you know, you know, in a sense, I guess if you're going to say what's the simplest, it's the simplest explanation is to assume that God, you know, insofar, if God exists, is that He does have all the perfections, you know, so, you know, why, God, why oh why, could you solve the Poincaré conjecture in dimension 3, but you can't do the Riemann [ph] hypothesis, you know? I'm sorry, you know, if, is God a, a highly skilled but not fully competent mathematician? I mean, then how do you worship a God like that? You know, I think that becomes a problem as well.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, the simplest answer is that the perfections are needed.

William Dembski:

Yeah, but I mean, that, you know, that's, this is all very speculative. I mean, how—

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Sure.

William Dembski:

You know, how do we know that God has these perfections, you know, and again, I will look to Revelation. I mean, you know, I think the Revelation's pretty clear. God claims to be able to do all things that all things are subject to, so you got omniscience there, you got claims, total goodness. God, the omniscience is claimed also, that God knows the future, that can determine things. You know, so it seems that there are a lot of perfections which are born out and the relation though is whatever is revealing itself, they're being honest. You know, I think that's a question you've got to ask them, then awesome [ph]. But if you go with me that there is a God, and that God has revealed Himself in Christianity, then you know, I don't think the perfections are a big stretch. I think the much bigger challenge in our culture is to even get, get some sort of, you know, traditional Christianity on the table for a serious discussion.