Hello RZIM community!
I’ve recently sensed a current in Christian thinking that’s troublesome to me. I was wondering if you had thoughts on it.
What I’ve noticed is the vague suggestion that God is limitless. This sometimes seems like a natural claim. But to my mind, to be at all is to be limited. (To be anything is to not be another thing.)
To exist is to have a shape, and to have a shape is to have lines drawn around you like a cage. I suppose it is the fear of putting God in a cage that motivates thinkers to assert God’s limitless-ness. Perhaps they are trying to hallow his name. But do they not see that to have no limits is to have no shape, and to have no shape is to not exist?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Hello RZIM community!
YHWH is indeed bodyless. It is only through the Son that His glory is fully manifest. Don’t forget about the trinity. God is three persons. Each person is fully God. There is one God.
Jesus is just the physical manifestation of God the Father for the purpose of actually showing us His glory while the Holy Spirit is how God chooses to act.
The Father is like the mind of God, Jesus is like the body of God and the Holy Spirit is like the behavior of God.
So I would challenge you and say God the Father does not have a body and is completely limitless. Everything lacks something. The only thing God lacks is limits.
If you are speaking in a physical sense then no the Father doesn’t have a physical form or any physical limitations. We know this because space, time, and everything else was created by him. So he has to be space less, timeless, and immaterial in order to exist outside of it and be the creator of it. Now to exist doesn’t really mean to have shape. For example, math would still exist even if we never gave numbers shape. The laws of logic would still exist even if we didn’t have minds to think about them. Thoughts themselves don’t have shapes yet they exist.
Now if you are asking if there are things God can’t do of course. He can’t lie (Numbers 23:19). Here is a paragraph from the site cross examined that’s under the Christian apologist Frank Turek. The writer of this article explains things pretty well.
When we Christians say “God can do anything” we don’t mean literally everything. When we say that God can do the impossible, we don’t mean he can do the logically impossible. By impossible, we mean things like creating things out of nothing, keeping people in a fire from burning, having a guy walk on water, or make a 90 year old woman get pregnant and give birth to a healthy son, and things like that. We don’t mean God can do absolutely everything. We mean only what is logically possible (that is to say, things that are not contradictory concepts).
So when we speak of God we don’t mean that he can make a square circle. We mean that he can do things within logic. Here’s a link to the article I quoted so you can get a deeper understanding.
Here are 2 videos talking about God being infinite and if he can make mistakes. It’s explaining God’s nature which is what I think you are trying to understand. The subject of God being limitless is entering the realm of his nature I believe. Understanding God’s nature can take a life time of study and we still may only be touching the surface of who he is because he is the unmoved mover. But that doesn’t mean we can’t grasp enough of him to know what’s most important about him. That he is our God and loves us.
Hope this helps
Great question—I think I understand why you are troubled by this trend you perceive of people attributing “limitlessness” to God. If I understand correctly, it is not so much a question of whether there can be any limit to God’s capability, but rather a question of his nature (as @Luna suggested in the end of her reply), that is, his very being.
This is an assertion about identity or being (ontology). I think you have the right idea here. God, in revealing himself in scripture is in fact all the time saying in essence, “I am like this, not like that.” To say he is holy is to deny that he is capricious; to assert that he is righteousness is to say he is not wicked. His character or nature is not amorphous, boundless, “limitless”—he himself clearly self-discloses a personal identity / nature that is one way, not another. (This is where the self-disclosing God of scripture differs so sharply from the impersonal Absolute of many monisms—views (typically eastern) that all is One. In these views, we do see a model of the “limitless” Absolute… which, since all that is is One, diversity collapsed into an Absolute unity, is often articulated as “beyond good and evil.” It is as much being as nonbeing; it has no defining “limit” or character, but is simply All.)
I would suggest, however, that the terms shape and limit(less) are probably more confusing that helpful in this context. Shape disposes people to think corporeally or materially (as @Jesse_Means_God_Exists has articulated above) and limit(less) tends to connote power or ability which is a different question (which @Luna also raised). I think considering ontological (being) language—like identity, nature, defined character, and self-disclosure—would probably be a start toward clarifying the issue at hand.
I am curious if defining your terms together will help you and your conversation partner get on the same page, or at least get clarity on where the point of disagreement lies. With that, do you think reframing the language around this question in ontological (being / identity / nature) terms might help you better engage with someone holding this “limitless” view of God?
I think calling God infinite would be a more accurate way of expressing what I’m pretty sure people are meaning when they say He is limitless. The words are similar, but not identical.
You could say that God has abandoned the devils in hell to suffer the absence of His presence - and that would suggest that any manifestation of His being is excluded from that infernal realm - a limitation to His manifest presence, if you will.
But that in no way impairs His infinite nature which extends indefinitely in every other direction. Infinity minus the realm of hell is still infinity. Infinity minus any number of subsets would still be infinite.
Hope it helps!
I want to piggyback on what the other three have said and give clarity of my own understanding.
God the Father does not have limits. In this way, He is infinite. HOWEVER, the Father out of His Grace chooses to limit Himself for His creation. Further, God did not need to even create anything since He has perfect fellowship with Himself as the trinity for all eternity. The reason God chose to create us was explicitly for His own glory. He chose other elohim (gods or Spiritual creatures) like ourselves so that He could commune with us/them (humans and Spiritual beings). His desire is to fellowship with us. God gives us His will so that we will come to Him for His glory. In so giving us this freedom, He has limited Himself so that we (and Spiritual beings) can in some sense “call the shots” on His behalf. When I think of this I am overwhelmed with the love God bestows on His creation. It should strike us with awe that the creator of the universe gives us such privilege to rule with Him. He limited Himself for us! What a gift!
You’re right, by shape I in no way meant a specifically physical shape. Sorry for any confusion, I shouldn’t expect others to intuitively understand the metaphors in my head. @Lizibeth, I agree that I should work towards clearer language in this area. That is ironic, because I think what I’m really trying to address in my mind is the ambiguity made possible by semantics.
I don’t mean that God must have a phsycial shape. Rather, I feel that the use of words with implied but vague meaning can suggest a God that cannot really be talked about informatively. I want us to be aware and thoughtful about the words we use and the meanings behind them. For example, @Luna asserted the popular idea that God created time. When I examine this idea, however, I find I cannot imagine the action of creation without placing it within the context of time. (Creation is an act of change, after all.) Hence, the phrase “God created time” becomes to me semantic filler: nothing is stopping you from saying it, but it doesn’t really mean anything to me, because I don’t understand the words you are using. This, extended, is what I feel somtimes happens to God totally. The words spoken about him become meaningless, and while he is limitless on paper, he is really nothing in my imagination.
@IanW So you don’t believe God created time?
I’m thinking clarity on the terms here is key. In my mind, “creation” can only be imagined as a type of change occurring over time : for example, first there was darkness, then there was light. I think “creation” is a certain type of cause and effect. As far as I go, it can only be conceived of as occurring within the context of time. So it’s less that I don’t believe the phrase “God created time” is true, more that I don’t see what it means given the definitions above. In my mind, to assert that God “created” is to place him within time; to assert that he created “independent of time” is to defy the meaning of the word “create.”
Do you have a definition of “create” that would allow creation to occur independent of time?
Great discussion! I think people who use the term, limitless, are actually saying GOD is not subjected to the limits we humans labor under. Therefore, even what we consider logical would serve to constrain GOD to human thinking and logistics.
Humanity cannot define GOD. Human logic and constraints do not apply to GOD. They are used by GOD in His dealings with us. That’s conservatism that is mindful of our limits. (Psalms 103:14-16 kjv) But GOD is far beyond what brings order to our thinking or our conclusions. The earth is GOD’s footstool and we can be assured that the inhabitants of the earth, in the sum total of their knowledge cannot identify limits for GOD. (Isaiah 66:1 or Acts 7:48-50 kjv) It is another way of saying all line, logic, and living submits to the will of GOD. The constraints are for our protection. For understanding with our abilities. It is why we cannot view the face of GOD. That’s not because His face is not view-able, but rather the human eye can not view Him without destroying itself.
When I consider how the SPIRIT of GOD came upon a virgin and left her with a growing child. When the birth of that child was conscripted to come forth 9 months later; than it is clear that even natural laws of our physical world bow before the will of GOD. We call these things miraculous. From our perspective, if we were able to do the same; it would indeed be a miracle. But when GOD commands it, it is simply a matter of obedience. The created bowing in submission to its Creator. Our world was created to sustain the human condition, not identify limits that GOD must obey.
(A brief sampling.) “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 kjv.
@IanW Okay for more clarification I have to ask a few questions if that’s okay. Do you believe God existed prior to creating anything? Before God created anything do you still believe time existed? If so, do you think time is an attribute of God?
Hi Mr. Ion!
Gosh! What a very interesting discussion
I’ve so enjoyed reading all the posts. All of the comments and examples have really made me think and consider time and space in relation to God. Or is it God in relation to time and space.
I’m wondering if Mr. Ion is perhaps asking a question that we are all trying to answer in our three dimensional framework. Is it we are attempting to explain a limitless God based on how we percieve and define time which is being linear ? And in linear time God would not be limitless being there is a starting and ending point. But space/time isn’t linear. We define change and events in what we call time. Space/time is a collection of all points in the universe. Time exists here, for us as we percieve these points to intersect.
However time doesn’t really occur, therefore God is timeless and limitless being He isn’t encapusulated. The scripture referenced explained this long before advances in mathmatical genuis gave rise to quantum physics. Psalm 90:2 ’ Before the mountians were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting. ’ Hab 1:12 ’ are you not from everlasting ’ and 3:6 There are many references in scripture searches. John 4:24 ’ God is spirit.’ Spirit is timeless and unlimited.
In Revelations 1:8 ’ I am the Alpha and Omega-the Begining and the End.’ If the past is the begining and the future is the end, then time is an illusion as the past and the future have no point in time and is actually a circle/or spiral without a starting or ending point. Isn’t it mind boggling God gave John Quantum Physics in a simple verse ? Our God is infinate and limitless. 1Kings 8:27 ’ But will God indeed dwell on earth? Behold heaven and the highesnt heaven can not contain you; how much less this house that I have built.’ This verse makes clear, we are limited, but God is not.
Ask as many questions as you’d like! I appreciate you having this conversation with me.
- I can imagine no alternative.
- I can imagine no alternative. (The “before” term necessitates a context of time.)
- I’m not quite sure what you mean by this question, could you elaborate?
@IanW An Attribute is a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something. That’s the definition. So I’m asking if you think time is apart of God that it existed as one of his characteristics. If you do consider it an attribute how do you define eternity? Are the terms time and eternity interchangeable to you?
Are you asking if I believe that time originates in and emanates from God, the way an odor might emanate from a human? If so, then I think my answer would be no: I haven’t (yet) come across a reason to believe that time is an attribute of God in that sense. It is an odd concept for me to grasp.
However, I myself am always within time; being within it is an inherent part of me. In that way you could say that time is an attribute of mine. I would expect it to be an attribute of God in a similar way: it is something you always find around him or in him.
I definitely agree with you that if you even begin to speak of something you imply that it has some “limits”. If a thing had no defining characteristics or traits you wouldn’t even be able to begin to speak about it. How could you if you didn’t have a place to begin? Even a thing’s “limitlessness” is in a way something to define it by and effectively a limit. It’s a mind twister for sure but I personally would say based on that logic God does have limits. I mean he definitely shows us he has a specific nature that is exclusive from other natures. So in that regard he is “limited”. Just one of those things I think human understanding falls short because he isn’t limited by anything outside him because the buck ultimately stops with him. But he clearly has a specific nature so I think it’s just us not being able to fully comprehend God’s nature (thank goodness because if I could understand God’s nature that might be an insult to him).
Since the discussion seems to have morphed slightly toward a defining of the intrinsic attributes of God, I will offer that there are seven attributes that are typically used to describe Him. God is a personal Being Who is:
Omniscient (All knowing)
Omnipresent (Everywhere at once)
Eternal (“Everywhen” at once)
So it is true that these attributes do place certain limits on Him. Because He is holy, He cannot sin. Because He is all knowing, He can never be wrong. Because He is unchangeable, He can never… well, you get the idea.
Hope it helps!