13

Apophatic theology holds that God is so far beyond human comprehension that He can only be described in negative terms.

The "problem of the creator of God" posits that if everything requires a cause, then God must also require a cause. If God exists without a cause or explanation, why can't the universe exist without a cause or explanation?

In response, one might argue that God designed and created the very principles of logic itself, rendering our logical theories of causation inapplicable to God. Therefore, it may be posited that God's existence, origin, or nonexistence transcends human reasoning.

However, this perspective implies that God is entirely incomprehensible to humans, as we would be unable to understand or comprehend a deity that transcends the very principles of logic. This might be a necessary concession if the alternatives are to believe that the creator of the universe also requires a cause (leading to an infinite regress of causes) or that the universe emerged without a cause.

My question is: is it philosophically acceptable to propose that, to avoid an infinite regress of causes and the problems associated with God having an infinite past, logic itself is contingent upon and created by God, thereby suggesting that the existence of an uncaused God or the reason for God's existence rather than non-existence can be explained by the premise that God transcends human logic and reasoning? Is this a valid philosophical position to hold? Thank you for your responses.

15
  • 2
    It still doesn't answer the question of how God can exist if everything requires a creator, it's just sweeping it under the rug. In other words, we're not saying everything requires a creator, we're saying everything we can observe and comprehend requires a creator, but for things we can't? "Don't worry about it, just look the other way". We're not trying to answer the question of how it all began so much as push the question outside the bounds of our ability to understand it.
    – komodosp
    Commented Jun 26 at 8:48
  • 2
    @emesupap Your re-titling is apt — it exposes all the blowhard answers. But strictly speaking it's not proper as it nonsensicalizes existing answers
    – Rushi
    Commented Jun 27 at 11:46
  • 1
    @emusupap The new title seems to be useless, IMHO. We don't know the limits of human reasoning, so how can we know what transcends it? It might even be circular -- determining our limits could be beyond our limits.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 27 at 14:36
  • 1
    @emesupap I suppose so. But that last paragraph just seems like circular gibberish to me. Can we assume God is unknowable, and that's why we don't understand this stuff? You can assume anything you want.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 27 at 16:13
  • 1
    Given that you can define a 'god' any way you like, then of course. You can define a god that travels FTL, generates sophons at will, "has the power to cloud men's minds" ( :-) ). So what's the point, even philosophically? Commented Jun 27 at 20:38

11 Answers 11

42

Short answer: it's just a special pleading. So the answer is no.

Long answer: apophatic theology is nothing more than an elaborate exercise in intellectual cowardice. It's a clever trick employed by theologians to avoid the glaring logical inconsistencies in their beliefs about a supreme being. The so-called 'problem of the creator of God' is indeed a formidable challenge to theistic belief. It exposes the fundamental flaw in the cosmological argument for God's existence. If everything requires a cause, and God is the ultimate cause, then what caused God? And if God doesn't require a cause, then why does the universe require one? It's a logical trap from which theists have been unsuccessfully trying to extricate themselves for centuries.

Now, apophatic theology attempts to sidestep this problem by claiming that God is beyond human comprehension and can only be described in negative terms. But this is nothing more than a cop-out. It's equivalent to saying, 'My beliefs don't have to make sense because the subject of my beliefs is beyond sense-making.' It's a get-out-of-jail-free card for logical inconsistency.

The claim that God designed the very principles of logic, thus rendering them inapplicable to Him, is particularly egregious. It's a classic example of special pleading - creating an arbitrary exception to a general rule to save one's argument from refutation. It's also self-defeating. If God is truly beyond logic, then we can make no positive claims about Him whatsoever, including the claim that He exists or that He created the universe.

Moreover, if we accept that God is entirely incomprehensible to humans, as this view suggests, then what exactly are we worshipping? An unknowable, incomprehensible entity that may or may not exist, may or may not have created the universe, and may or may not care about human affairs? This is not theology; it's absurdism masquerading as profound insight.

The alternatives you present - an infinite regress of causes or a universe without a cause - are indeed challenging concepts. But they are far more intellectually honest and coherent than positing an incomprehensible deity as a pseudo-explanation.

20
  • 16
    +1 I have never read before such a clear, convincing and short summary of all the logical fallacies around the god-concept.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jun 25 at 12:55
  • 6
    "What caused the initial cause" challenges not-creationist theories as well. What caused the Big Bang? The only theory it doesn't challenge is the one claiming the universe has always existed. Commented Jun 27 at 5:24
  • 6
    @HolyBlackCat Nobody knows what caused the big bang (which is a bit of a misnomer anyway) - the difference between scientists and god-botherers is that we admit to not knowing.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Commented Jun 27 at 9:25
  • 4
    "Moreover, if we accept that God is entirely incomprehensible to humans, as this view suggests" Saying God is entirely incomprehensible is different from saying the entirety of God is incomprehensible. It's not necessary for everything about God to be incomprehensible for this view to make logical sense, only that there are some aspects that are incomprehensible. Commented Jun 27 at 13:09
  • 6
    I'm not going to defend apophatic theology, but this answer makes highly overblown claims without considering well-known arguments to the contrary. "It's a logical trap from which theists have been unsuccessfully trying to extricate themselves for centuries." Really? Citation needed. What theologians have claimed that everything requires a cause? By contrast, a common formulation is that "everything that begins to exist requires a cause." (See Kalam cosmological argument.)
    – LarsH
    Commented Jun 27 at 21:16
20

The problem with the apophatic view is not so much a lack of coherence as a lack of meaning. By definition, it puts itself beyond criticism by placing its subject outside the sphere of human understanding. In doing so, it puts itself beyond appreciation and validation too.

1
  • Yes, perfect unreachable things are just not very interesting.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jun 28 at 0:53
9

If we can posit that God is entirely incomprehensible to humans, why can't we similarly posit that the universe is entirely incomprehensible to humans? It's just as good a way of getting out of the conundrum that apophetic theology is supposed to solve.

Apophetic theology seems to be just another "God of the gaps" solution: when we find ourselves unable to explain something, we assume that God did it.

But the history of science has shown that we have regularly been able to close these gaps. There are still many open questions, and we often raise new ones as we find the answers to old ones, but there's no reason to believe that progress in science will come to a halt. So if experience is a guide, a better assumption is that we'll continue to close these gaps and don't need to assume that there are utterly inexplainable phenomena.

And even if there are, we don't need to believe in a God as the explanation. A much simpler explanation is that some problems are just really hard, and humans have limits. For instance, discoveries in physics often require experiments that need enormous amounts of energy, and we may reach limits of their feasibility. And cosmology doesn't really admit itself to direct experimentation (we can't create a star or black hole in the lab), all we can do is observe from afar. We have some ideas about how abiogenesis might have occurred, but this is something else that may be infeasible to replicate experimentally, and it didn't leave fossil evidence.

But in general, betting against human ingenuity is usually a losing proposition. If there's a God, it seems like it endowed us with reasoning sufficient to comprehend almost anything.

13
  • 2
    @Make42 I remember hearing a few decades ago about the upcoming "end of science", because we've discovered almost everything. Yet we do keep discovering new things, and opening new questions. Some of it is less practical, but we don't know what we don't know yet.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 25 at 16:08
  • 1
    I'm not sure what I said that implies otherwise. Physics research is getting harder because it requires more and more energy. OTOH, research in AI seems to be speeding up lately -- technology has finally caught up to its needs.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 25 at 16:19
  • 1
    @Make42 Veering off the original question but I cannot resist a remark: The feeling that we are approaching a state of having found everything there is to find has in the past preceded periods of fundamental new discoveries. As an example, I think, one can take the late 19th century. Commented Jun 26 at 12:56
  • 1
    @Make42 Mostly by being humble and being aware of the limitations inherent in an observer of their own times ;-). Commented Jun 26 at 14:14
  • 1
    @ojdo While I appreciate that there's a difference between physics and computer science, AI is closely related to studying the phenomena of intelligence, consciousness, etc. If you're a materialist, these are physical manifestations.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 26 at 16:05
6

The existence of the universe has one of three explanations:

  1. The universe itself has no cause.
  2. The universe exists via an infinite regress of causes.
  3. The universe stemmed from something with no cause.

Therefore we are faced with either accepting an infinite regress of causes, or a thing that exists with no cause. In any case, we're beyond human understanding (or mine at least). It doesn't take a theologian to put us in this situation, we're there by simple reasoning.

Believers in God go with option 3, for a variety of reasons elaborated by theologians such as Thomas Acquinas.

7
  • No, the universe can also have a finite chain of causes. Logically, if option 3 is possible for the universe, it is also possible for the cause of the universe if there was one, or for that one's cause. Believersa fo with option 3 chosing their personally favorite pet god out of religious zeal, not out of logic. Even if there was a god of humans, that god could have come into existence 10.000 years ago, there is no evidence linking that god to the time of the big bang, which could be the work of other gods.
    – tkruse
    Commented Jun 27 at 6:39
  • Also a cause without a prior cause does not have to be a god, does not need reasons or purpose, dies not even need a lot of power, the way a spark can make fireworks explode, the power being in the fireworks, not the spark. Theologicians are the marketing agents of a cult.
    – tkruse
    Commented Jun 27 at 6:45
  • 3
    @tkruse "a finite chain of causes" is basically 3 with extra steps. If it is finite, it's because at some point you find something with no cause, and you could call everything before that "the universe". Thus, 3.
    – Jemox
    Commented Jun 27 at 7:41
  • Sure, but your answer makes it as if there can only be one step before this universe, and that had to be god. That's a theological fallacy.
    – tkruse
    Commented Jun 27 at 9:14
  • This is (the closest to) a reasonable answer. +1. But there's a 4 option — the universe doesn't exist. This is not to push some extreme solipsistic/nihilistic outlook but just a basic reification fallacy : Just because I see a bunch of things in front of me I needn't jump to reifying the bunch as a separate thing. Especially when it comes to a supercollection of all possible things, basic set theory warns us that just as Cantor's set of all sets is an absurd set the bunch of all things should at least be suspect
    – Rushi
    Commented Jun 27 at 11:59
5
  1. One cannot characterize an object just by negation, i.e. only to enumerate what the object is not like and which properties the object does not have. Proceeding in this way does not ensure the existence of the object.

    On the contrary, first one needs to establish the existence of an object. Then one can discuss which properties apply and which do not apply to the object.

    Hence theology which takes refuge in apophatic theology shows that it is at its wit's end.

  2. A second problem is to suspend the principle of sufficient reason by positioning a self-caused object (causa sui). That’s an ad-hoc decision at which point to break the chain of causality. See also the former question Not believing in god as the root cause of the universe.

4
  • "Hence taking refuge to apophatic theology shows that theology is at its wit’s end." This inference relies on a couple of faulty assumptions. One is that theology in general takes refuge in apophatic theology, which is far from being the case. A great deal of theology has no problem making positive statements about God. Another is that theology in general is concerned with proving that God exists, or that belief in God's existence is a reasonable position to hold. Certainly that is a concern of a part of theology, but there is much more to it than that.
    – LarsH
    Commented Jul 1 at 21:07
  • @LarsH I did not say "that theology in general takes refuge in apophatic theology". I mean: Theology which takes refuge in apophatic theology shows that theology is at its wit's end. If you think, that this meaning of my original sentence is not clear, then I'm prepared to clarify what I mean.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jul 1 at 23:13
  • Thanks for being willing to clarify. Yes, it sounds like you are saying that theology (unqualified) takes refuge in apophatic theology.
    – LarsH
    Commented Jul 2 at 0:05
  • 1
    @LarsH I clarified the mistakable sentence.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Jul 2 at 3:37
3

This answer is both to the original good question and to Groovy's egregious answer, if I may apply his own rude and insulting language against him.

I fail to understand how it got so many upvotes.

The answer is quite simple - the position that God transcends reason is reasonable - pun intended.

In all major religions I am aware of, God is inherently and fundamentally transcendent to human reason and logic, and beyond human comprehension—a fundamental feature, not a 'copout.' Religious texts from Hindu Advaita Vedanta, Islamic Sufism, and Judaism consistently affirm this.

In Hinduism:

"Subtler than the subtlest is this Self, and beyond all logic." - Katha Upanishad - circa 5th century BCE

In Sufism:

"failure dogs the analytic mind, Which whimpers like a child born deaf and blind." - The Conference of the Birds - circa 1177 CE

In Judaism:

In Jewish Hasidism the following statement is interpreted as conveying God's transcendence:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD; For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

כִּ֣י לֹ֤א מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי֙ מַחְשְׁב֣וֹתֵיכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א דַרְכֵיכֶ֖ם דְּרָכָ֑י נְאֻ֖ם יְהֹוָֽה׃ כִּֽי־גָבְה֥וּ שָׁמַ֖יִם מֵאָ֑רֶץ כֵּ֣ן גָּבְה֤וּ דְרָכַי֙ מִדַּרְכֵיכֶ֔ם וּמַחְשְׁבֹתַ֖י מִמַּחְשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃

Maimonides, a uniquely famous medieval Jewish philosopher, explains the reason for apophatic descriptions of God, and asserts its transcendence:

"You must bear in mind, that by affirming anything of God, you are removed from Him in two respects; first, whatever you affirm, is only a perfection in relation to us; secondly, He does not possess anything superadded to this essence; His essence includes all His perfections, as we have shown. Since it is a well-known fact that even that knowledge of God which is accessible to man cannot be attained except by negations, and that negations do not convey a true idea of the being to which they refer, all people, both of past and present generations, declared that God cannot be the object of human comprehension" - Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed - circa 1190 CE

And here is another philosopher and genius:

"reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go so far as to realize that." - Blaise Pascal

Such a list can go on and on indefinitely.

Secondly, many scientists, philosophers, and thinkers believe that reality transcends logic. Thus, I would add that if this principle applies to nature, it naturally extends to God as well, rendering the anti-religious attacks and tirades in Groovy's and others' responses silly.

One such thinker is Noam Chomsky. Here is an excerpt of him describing his own opinion, via Newton and John Locke, in Science, Mind, and Limits of Understanding:

All of this is normal science, and like much normal science, it was soon shown to be incorrect. Newton demonstrated that one of the two substances does not exist: res extensa. The properties of matter, Newton showed, escape the bounds of the mechanical philosophy. To account for them it is necessary to resort to interaction without contact. Not surprisingly, Newton was condemned by the great physicists of the day for invoking the despised occult properties of the neo-scholastics. Newton largely agreed. He regarded action at a distance, in his words, as “so great an Absurdity, that I believe no Man who has in philosophical matters a competent Faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it.” Newton however argued that these ideas, though absurd, were not “occult” in the traditional despised sense. Nevertheless, by invoking this absurdity, we concede that we do not understand the phenomena of the material world. To quote one standard scholarly source, “By 'understand’ Newton still meant what his critics meant: 'understand in mechanical terms of contact action’.”

It is commonly believed that Newton showed that the world is a machine, following mechanical principles, and that we can therefore dismiss “the ghost in the machine,” the mind, with appropriate ridicule. The facts are the opposite: Newton exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact. The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form. Newton knew this very well, and so did his great contemporaries.

John Locke wrote that we remain in “incurable ignorance of what we desire to know” about matter and its effects, and no “science of bodies [that provides true explanations is] within our reach.” Nevertheless, he continued, he was “convinced by the judicious Mr. Newton’s incomparable book, that it is too bold a presumption to limit God’s power, in this point, by my narrow conceptions.” Though gravitation of matter to matter is “inconceivable to me,” nevertheless, as Newton demonstrated, we must recognize that it is within God’s power “to put into bodies, powers and ways of operations, above what can be derived from our idea of body, or can be explained by what we know of matter.” And thanks to Newton’s work, we know that God “has done so.” The properties of the material world are “inconceivable to us,” but real nevertheless. Newton understood the quandary. For the rest of his life, he sought some way to overcome the absurdity, suggesting various possibilities, but not committing himself to any of them because he could not show how they might work and, as he always insisted, he would not “feign hypotheses” beyond what can be experimentally established.

Another memorable quote is from a lecture by the famous physicist Richard Feynman:

"Nature is absurd: What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school. It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my physics students don't understand it. . . That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does. Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd... It's the way nature works. If you want to know how nature works, we looked at it, carefully. Looking at it, that's the way it looks. You don't like it? Go somewhere else, to another universe where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy. I can't help it, okay?"

Here again, these are merely two quotes from an endless multitude.

While there may surely be philosophers who respond to such suggestions with bursts of slurs and foul language, none of them owns philosophy.

1
  • let us not be too concerned with stupidity
    – andrós
    Commented Jul 3 at 0:00
2

What's the point of having a god if it can't transcend human logic and reasoning? And "transcending" human logic and reasoning can be a good way to point blame at someone or something other than oneself.

From my experience and secular research, gods were created specifically to place responsibility for things which humans couldn't understand with their then-current logic and reasoning. Pre-modern humans didn't understand cosmology/astronomy, physics, the weather, random chance, and quite a few other things like we do now, so they created something they could blame for all of it, even the good things, and called it a god.

"My god made it rain so my crops could grow." - Beneficial/weather

"Your god killed my dog." - Blame/accidents

"Your god caused the sun to go away!" - Fear/omens

"My god brought my spouse to me." - Feelings/pheromones

And then people were allowed to ask why god took the dog when it was so much a part of the family, and the answer could always be "because god is god, and god's plans are not for us to know".

Q: "Why did god send me my spouse, then cause them to hate me so much?"
A: "Because god is god, and god's plans are not for us to know."

The above example specifically allows the person being left to shift responsibility from themselves to god. It doesn't matter if there was physical or mental abuse, unapproved adultery, or anything else, just that there was a scapegoat to alleviate guilty feelings and avoid ever learning or changing anything.

Q: "Why did god not let my farm get rain?"
Q: "Why did god flood my farm?"
A: "Because god is god, and god's plans are not for us to know."

"Thank god for ending the drought and letting my crops get the much needed rain!"

Q: "Why did god end the drought this year and not last year?"
Q: "Why did god let so many people starve to death?"
Q: "Why was there even a drought?"
A: "Because god is god, and god's plans are not for us to know."

So, because "god's plans are not for us to know," it's a requirement that the god in question transcends human logic and reasoning.

You may think this sounds a lot like the Christian god, but all other religions have a god/goddess or multiple gods/goddesses that handles these aspects of life, too. And most of those gods and goddesses have more human-like attributes than the Christian god.

Roman, Greek, and Hindu gods have plenty of human-like attributes, but they also have "quirks" that humans can't understand. If they were relegated to only human logic and reasoning, they wouldn't be gods, just "messengers from god", or something like that. FYI, Buddha isn't a god, just a teacher.

The god of war can cause wars just because it wants death and destruction, rather than rulers being greedy, stupid, and/or incompetent.

The sun god can take away the light of day, because people don't understand solar eclipses.

The weather god can send a tornado or hurricane, because people don't understand high and low pressure weather systems.

All that used to be beyond human logic and reasoning, but now we know better. (Well, some of us, anyway.) And the same answer is used when people ask about things that aren't in religious texts, because "god's plans are not for us to know" is so open-ended that there isn't anything it can't be used as an answer.

BTW, humans can transcend what other's believe to be logic and reasoning. Some are held up as genius and others are thought to be insane, or at least mentally unbalanced. And the definition of genius and insane has changed over the years. What once may have been considered insane may now be considered genius, and vice versa. Some of this can even be seen when looking at the actions or attributes of gods. But I'm getting off topic, I think.

0
0

This question is complex and multifaceted. Although God is incomprehensible in many ways but is also perfectly logical and reasonable in several other ways. Those who believe in God know that if they surrender to God they will have a life in higher realms of existence. The conditions for higher existence are perfectly logical and reasonable. However if we ask how did the God came into being ? What caused God ? Then we run into trouble. In classical theism God is an eternal being. Believing in God solves many incomprehensible problems of Science like Hard problem of consciousness , origin of Universe , social evolution, altruism etc..

To me personally God has a magnanimous heart. God is comprehensible to me in this way. Although I do not fully understand God but there are many aspects which I do understand.

Therefore it is wrong to say that God is absolutely incomprehensible and that all its actions transcend logic and reasoning.

2
  • A thing that is partly incomprehensible is incomprehensible - a "thing" that partly transcends logic, totally transcends logic. that is basic logic.
    – nir
    Commented Jul 3 at 7:05
  • @nir Depends on the logic
    – Rushi
    Commented Jul 3 at 8:30
0

Yes, necessarily, but not in the way that you described.

Your proposition is interesting, and in some ways on the right track, but it moves past the easier and more obvious explanation, that God is the only reason that we can even reason about anything at all and our understanding is limited to a particular function. It follows then that the full comprehension of God was simply never intended to be a part of that function. This does not mean, however, that we can have no comprehension of positive attributes of God. Furthermore, it is not accurate to say that all things must have a cause.

Everything might not have a cause

We don't know that all things have a cause, so it would only be some artificial reasoning which would make it seem as if they do. This misconception seems to come from some models which try to exclude gods or other supernatural things, but in turn end up creating a paradox for their own models. I have heard at least one astrophysicist claim that the current models are showing that our universe and matter as we know it did have a starting point, but that says nothing about things that are not matter as we know it, including a God.

Limits of understanding

I think that another problem is that you are making the common mistake of presuming that we do have some generally applicable ability to reason without asking the cause. If we do have the ability to reason, then it seems that it would be reasonable to ask how we got this ability and how we are justified in holding this belief. Once we do this, not only can we rule out some irrational beliefs (which in my estimation include things like Naturalism), and we can get a better picture about what it is that we can reason.

Understanding from a Naturalistic model

If the Naturalistic/Evolutionary model of how our minds were formed were true, then it would imply that we have some sort of heuristic that tends to believe true things, perhaps insofar as they help us to pass on genes (and with the seemingly ad hoc presumption that believing true things at least typically does lead to that end). In that respect, it's probably a matter of luck whether the correctness of our reasoning were applicable to philosophical things at all, or things outside physical survival. Even so, if that model were true, it seems to have also created predominately minds which believe that there is at least some God and that such is a creator being, and that overall this creator being or beings is good. In this model, though, we would have to be skeptical of any particular knowledge that does not transcend our logic which is not directly related to our daily survival. For instance, we should be at least a little bit skeptical that Mathematics work so well for science.

Understanding from a Theistic model

For those who believe that a God exists, they often do not need to rely upon the Naturalistic or unguided Evolutionist models as they do not reject the notion that our universe and our minds were created by forces which we cannot replicate. In these models, our minds were created by a creator being. There are too many possibilities here to describe, but if we consider, for example, the Christian God, then we would believe that such is a God of order and a God of wisdom who created the universe with these attributes and created us in his image (that is, having some subset of his attributes), including our ability to accurately reason. In fact, the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG) would go further to say that this is the only rationally satisfactory justification for our ability to reason and debate about the world. If such is true, then it would stand to reason that such God, specifically the one I mentioned, would create us with the ability to understand some aspects of himself, and that, presuming he cared about us and he is good and he is just, he provided us some specific information about some of these attributes.

These attributes which we could understand, however, would merely be a subset of the totality of God. We don't even understand all the attributes of a water molecule yet, so knowledge of anything actually transcends human understanding. But we can understand sufficiently for some end. In the Christian perspective, we can understand the attributes of God and the basics of God's nature, such as the fact that God is self-sufficient and unchanging, without beginning or end.

Conclusion

No matter which way you approach it, we necessarily have a limit to our understanding. However, we also have good reason to believe in at least some aspects of God's attributes. We have no reason that I can discern to presume that we would know better in the negative than we would in the positive as this seems to require further ad hoc presumptions that aren't warranted by either model.

0

To the upvoted claims that it is "special pleading"

Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception to a general or universal principle, without justifying the special exception.

I am not a theist, but one assumes they have some reasons for apophaticism, even if unsound.

2
  • @Philip Groovy has vandalized many of andros' posts FYI. Commented Jul 3 at 22:25
  • Yes, thank you. I hope I caught the last of them now.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 4 at 7:00
0

To transcend reason is to attack reason (because you need need to destroy it entirely to transcend it) and as Chesterton put it (in Father Brown's words) to attack reason is simply "bad theology":

“How in blazes do you know all these horrors?” cried Flambeau.

The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.

“Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose,” he said. “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren’t a priest.”

“What?” asked the thief, almost gaping.

“You attacked reason,” said Father Brown. “It’s bad theology.”

And it's bad theology even if that theology is a negation.

The reason that God created the universe, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is that God wills His creations to participate in His creation. That is a reason for creation, if there were no creation, there would be nothing to participate in. There is no "God-concept", the only conception we can prove is our own. God stands on His own (or in the Trinitarian sense "with Himself"), and we are His concepts.

The fact that God stands outside of a conception of time does not mean He stands outside a conception of logic.

For example, the old "can God square a circle" question has a simple answer, no. And in apophiatic theology, can we imagine God being so logical that He could square a circle? No. Can we imagine God being so illogical that He would square a cirlce? No.

But that is only through special revelation that we (i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims) believe that God cannot and will not deny Himself.

And this is the point of learning about God, rather than just thinking about God. You don't get stuck on the points that He had to enter into history to clear up.


I do have one nitpick with your question where you wrote "infinite past" that, is a contradiction in terms. To have a past implies time passing, since time is a concept created by God (in a theological sense). So we can say God is eternal, but we can't say that God has an infinite past. https://www.difference.wiki/eternal-vs-infinite/

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .