Is God Perfect? - J.P. Moreland

J.P. Moreland - Philosophy of Mind

J.P. Moreland

James Porter Moreland is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

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J.P.
Moreland

Philosopher, Biola University

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Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Why does God have to be perfect?

J.P. Moreland:

Well, I'm not sure that's the right question.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

It's my question.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, bless your heart, the question isn't why does he have to be, but what does it mean for him to be? So when we describe God as perfect, we mean that the attributes that he possesses -- his being wise and kind and gentle and just and fair - He possesses these to a degree such that it's impossible for him to have them to a greater degree.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

That means that God cannot improve in these categories?

J.P. Moreland:

That's right.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Now -- to me that might be an imperfection, because you can't get better.

J.P. Moreland:

In fact, the medieval theologians said that there are a lot of things that we can do that God can't do. For example, I can grow in courage. He can't. I can run a hundred-yard dash. He can't. But of course, in the next breath they said this really isn't a limitation on God, it's a limitation on me, because the only reason that I can grow in courage is because I don't have all I can have. The only reason I can run a hundred-yard dash is because I'm not in all the places in space at the same time.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Let's talk about God's development, because God has certain stages, because -- you didn't exist forever, and now there's a sphere of existence in which JP Moreland exists.

J.P. Moreland:

That's right.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, in God's perception of things, God has changed, or God has, I would say improved, because JP Moreland has come into existence.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, I think what we have to do is to try to explain how a being could be self-contained and still have experiences that are meaningful and enjoyable to God. It's almost like adding 50 to infinity doesn't increase infinity. So I would say that God's life is enriched by my presence, but not as I would be enriched in the sense that with the privation of that enrichment, there is something lacking that makes my life less perfect.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

I think the problem comes to how you're defining perfection, because there is a tendency sometimes to define perfection as changeless.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, God is not static. When God creates the world, he dynamically interacts with it. He derives joy from interacting with us, enjoying his creation.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So you're defining perfection as something that is as perfect as it can be now, but it becomes a better perfection, like a higher level of infinity?

J.P. Moreland:

The concepts of "better" don't apply to it, because the concept of being better only applies to a finite -- All those things represent changes in God, but they don't represent growth or improvement in some way such that he is not perfect.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, the God that you believe in would be as legitimate a god as a proper recipient of worship, even if God never did anything, but just remained in this pre-creation condition, just with God and whoever else?

J.P. Moreland:

In fact, only that kind of a god is worthy of complete worship, and here's why. Suppose God were capable of improving, and suppose that my worship of God was directed toward his worthiness; his excellence, and I was worshiping him, but I knew that in 15 years he would be smarter and better and kinder, and just -- he would have grown. Well then, my worship should grow as well. So that the worship I would give him now should be limited ....it's only a maximally perfect being, that is incapable of improving that would be worthy of my total allegiance; otherwise I ought to hedge my bets a bit, knowing that maybe down the road I should be worshiping him more fully, because he'll be better than he is now.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

You might hold back a little bit.

J.P. Moreland:

Right.

Transcript

View TranscriptHide TranscriptDownload Transcript (PDF)Select All and Copy To Clipboard
Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Why does God have to be perfect?

J.P. Moreland:

Well, I'm not sure that's the right question.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

It's my question.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, bless your heart, the question isn't why does he have to be, but what does it mean for him to be? So when we describe God as perfect, we mean that the attributes that he possesses -- his being wise and kind and gentle and just and fair - He possesses these to a degree such that it's impossible for him to have them to a greater degree.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

That means that God cannot improve in these categories?

J.P. Moreland:

That's right.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Now -- to me that might be an imperfection, because you can't get better.

J.P. Moreland:

In fact, the medieval theologians said that there are a lot of things that we can do that God can't do. For example, I can grow in courage. He can't. I can run a hundred-yard dash. He can't. But of course, in the next breath they said this really isn't a limitation on God, it's a limitation on me, because the only reason that I can grow in courage is because I don't have all I can have. The only reason I can run a hundred-yard dash is because I'm not in all the places in space at the same time.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

Let's talk about God's development, because God has certain stages, because -- you didn't exist forever, and now there's a sphere of existence in which JP Moreland exists.

J.P. Moreland:

That's right.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, in God's perception of things, God has changed, or God has, I would say improved, because JP Moreland has come into existence.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, I think what we have to do is to try to explain how a being could be self-contained and still have experiences that are meaningful and enjoyable to God. It's almost like adding 50 to infinity doesn't increase infinity. So I would say that God's life is enriched by my presence, but not as I would be enriched in the sense that with the privation of that enrichment, there is something lacking that makes my life less perfect.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

I think the problem comes to how you're defining perfection, because there is a tendency sometimes to define perfection as changeless.

J.P. Moreland:

Well, God is not static. When God creates the world, he dynamically interacts with it. He derives joy from interacting with us, enjoying his creation.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So you're defining perfection as something that is as perfect as it can be now, but it becomes a better perfection, like a higher level of infinity?

J.P. Moreland:

The concepts of "better" don't apply to it, because the concept of being better only applies to a finite -- All those things represent changes in God, but they don't represent growth or improvement in some way such that he is not perfect.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

So, the God that you believe in would be as legitimate a god as a proper recipient of worship, even if God never did anything, but just remained in this pre-creation condition, just with God and whoever else?

J.P. Moreland:

In fact, only that kind of a god is worthy of complete worship, and here's why. Suppose God were capable of improving, and suppose that my worship of God was directed toward his worthiness; his excellence, and I was worshiping him, but I knew that in 15 years he would be smarter and better and kinder, and just -- he would have grown. Well then, my worship should grow as well. So that the worship I would give him now should be limited ....it's only a maximally perfect being, that is incapable of improving that would be worthy of my total allegiance; otherwise I ought to hedge my bets a bit, knowing that maybe down the road I should be worshiping him more fully, because he'll be better than he is now.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:

You might hold back a little bit.

J.P. Moreland:

Right.