Is God really perfect?

I wasn’t entirely sure whether to put this in GQ or here but since virtually religious threads involve some measure of argument I thought I’d err on the side of caution. Apologies to the mods if I shouldn’t have placed this here.

While this has doubtless occurred to countless people throughout the ages, it’s only just occurred to me now and there don’t seem to be any other threads about it so…

Christians seem to take it as axiomatic that God is perfect. Things that are perfect cannot change without becoming less perfect. When God sent himself to earth as Jesus and became part deity, part human, he undoubtedly changed in some form and as such must have become less perfect.

Am I mistaken? If I’m correct it seems that Christians cannot claim that God is perfect.

Since God has not been shown to me, I feel free to comment on His possible features rather than those of a particular creed.

Yeah, there are plenty of scenarios under which a being could be sufficiently powerful as to be considered a god, but yet not be perfect. Even some of these could be considered the God of the Testaments.

Then again, it is possible that God is perfect and is the God of the Testaments, but that is highly unlikely, under the rubric of pre-existing logical systems for evaluating perfection.

Of course, logical systems for evaluating perfection also exist which state that since God is God, He is by definition perfect. I don’t subscribe to this hypothesis, though.

Perfect in what way?
We can’t judge whether God is perfect in terms of godliness, nor can God be perfect in every natural way unless God actually is everything.

If you require that every single variable aspect of God be in a state of perfection then God would have to be completely inanimate. But if God has even a single trait that is immeasurable then God would be able to change while still remaining at maximum perfection. If only the essential characteristics of God need be perfect then God could change a great deal whilst staying fundamentally the same. Add to that the notions of pre-destination and God being outside of time and you could even argue that God never changed.

Of course, then there’s still the question of what makes each attribute perfect, whether something could be perfect whilst also being human and even whether something conscious is truly ‘perfect’ if it has never known what it feels like to wrong someone.

I think the OP’s basic logic is incorrect - in a changing universe, the meaning of perfection must change along with it, as it is relative to its surroundings. When discussing a perfect, omnipotent diety, this order of cause and effect can be reversed. Therefeore, if God changes, the universe alters to accomodate Him and He remains perfect.

I’m no Christian, but that seems like a logical approach.

The God of Abraham seems to be very clearly less than perfect. A perfect god would be able to set the initial conditions of the universe so as to bring about any desired result, becaue it would have perfect knowledge of the causal relationship between each state of the universe and the next, and thus predict perfectly the state of the universe at any future time. Yet the God of Abraham is repeatedly interfering with events, tinkering in minor ways, and this does not appear to be something a “perfect” deity would need to do. A perfect deity could simply set the initial conditions of the universe and set the rule(s) by which each state follows from the previous state, and thereby create any world he/it wished.

Additionally, it appears that human beings can do something the God of Abraham cannot do: act immorally. If we can do something that God cannot do, are we not more powerful than God? Isn’t God then rendered imperfect?

A perfect god would not intervene in the universe after creating it, because it would be able to create any universe it desired by setting the initial conditions. If a god needs to tinker with the universe, this indicates imperfection very clearly.

To play God’s Advocate here, isn’t it possible that there do not exist initial conditions sufficient to achieve the desired results? Thus God must interfere from outside the system in order for things to proceed as planned.

Or course, if you define God as omnipotent, then this line of reasoning doesn’t hold water. Which raises the question: Does perfection imply omnipotence?

If a perfect god existed it would never have the need to create other beings.

And it certainly wouldn’t create a fucked up confused mess like the one *we * have going on.

the Lord is a drama queen! The chain of events in Exodus is very interesting. God says that he purposefully “hardens” the Pharoah’s heart, so that he will refuse to let the Israelites go free. He could have struck fear into the Pharoah’s heart after 2 plagues instead of 10. However, he probably would have been known as the “god of frogs” instead of God. When looked at from this perspective, it is like He intentionally made it more difficult for the Israelites to escape - by doing this created a situation that made a name for himself basically, he created a story worth passing down from generation.

I suppose he could have just snapped his fingers, and poofed every israelites out of egypt and into the promised land, right? It is God’s intention to make himself known to his people.

Think about another way, suppose you’re going to give $20 to your favorite niece on her birthday. Are you going to discreetly leave a twenty next to her car so that she sees it after she leaves work? She’ll get your gift, but she’ll never know who it was from. That would be a backwards, anti-social, cold and uninteresting way to give her your gift. Instead, your probably going to stick it in a fancy card and sign it , “LOVE REXDART”. You don’t hide from the people you love.

Maybe if he can’t act immorally, but I’d wager to say that he can, but simply chooses not to.

Actually, I once asked a priest God unfairly punished Pharaoh for not letting his people go, when it was God himself who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The answer I got made sense, to me anyway. He said that God actually didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart. He said that from the writers perspective, the thought of defying God was totally absurd to him. It would be like standing in front of any on coming tornado and challenging it. Therefore, each time Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go free, then to the writer, the only logical explanation was that God was hardening his heart, since he couldn’t conceive of someone defying the will of God oh his own free will.

God oh his own free will. should read God of his own free will. of course.

I’d say that, by definition, God cannot act immorally. One of the attributes of God is perfect good. Therefore, whatever God does is moral, whether that’s flicking over full baby carriages into oncoming traffic or healing all cases of cancer in the world. If God does it, it’s good.

Did you ask the obvious followup question?
What other parts of the Bible did those ancient writers get wrong?


Well, besides the fact that that’s begging the question, perfect omnipotence and perfect goodness are pretty much mutually exclusive. Unless of course you believe that murder and slavery are good, if God allows it. Which pretty much voids any natural-language definition of good.

I should have noted before that as far as my personal beliefs go, this whole thread is an exercise in pure mental masturbation, as I’m an agnostic (Agnostic Apathetic, actually…I don’t know and I don’t care). But I took up the argument that most of the people who actually do believe in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God do…that anything God does is good by definition.

It kind of short-circuits the whole premise, but what can ya do? :confused:

Well, look at it this way, there are some of us who believe that while the scriptures were inspired by God, the writters, in this case the writter of Exodus I believe it is, would still interject their own views and opinions from time to time because being inspired isn’t the same thing as taking dictation. Actually, I’m having a hard time articulating what I’m trying to say, but I hope that you get the idea.

A Perfect what?

Perfect is not a term that stands on it’s own. It always implies some prespecified ideal to which the object of the adjective is being compared, and found to match. That is, like “purpose,” “perfect” is a word rooted in subjectivity: a judgement/appraisal of a particular subject, not an objective reality.

If so, then those who praise God for being good and imply that this actually conveys meaning are engaging in the worst form of equivocation.

Which means that a being CAN be:

  1. always good.
  2. freely choosing to always be good.

If, therefore, it is possible, then why isn’t humanity such that it always chooses to do good, of it’s own free choice (whatever THAT means)? Solving the problem of perfection of ability just opens up a bigger can of worms in theodicy.

Of course, that’s assuming that it really makes sense to say both that something CAN do x, but always by definition will not do it. If point 2 is accepted, doesn’t it make sense to reject the idea that God CAN act immorally, and thus lacks the abilities that humans have?

The horns of the dilemma:[ul][li]There exist imperfect, physical entities, but these are not part of God, since they would make God imperfect.[/li]I can conceive of something which is physically perfect in every respect. This is clearly more perfect than God, since it has a physical part as well![/ul] One can sit on either horn until one becomes extremely uncomfortable. My advice is to leave this bull alone altogether.

You know, upon reflection, you’re right on this point. There is at least one thing a god couldn’t do merely by setting initial conditions and letting nature take its course, and that’s making his/its presence known by undertaking supernatural acts.

Of course, the god of the Israelites would appear to be slacking off a little lately if that were his purpose.

Still, one must wonder with all the problems that arise when one supposes a “perfect” god, from what perfect means in the first place, to whether it has any relevant meaning at all, to how to resolve contradictions it presents…how did people continue to believe in a perfect god for centuries upon centuries? Makes the Norse and the Greeks seem a little better in hindsight :wink: