With or without limits?
According to classic Christian theology reason is deficient in telling us about the nature of God. We are either too stupid or sinful to know God on our own and thus the only method to know God is through his revelation to us about himself. All we can know is what he tells us.
How do we know he is telling the truth? They will tell us we know because his nature requires him to tell the truth. Again, how do we know that? Remember our only means of conprehending this deity is through what the deity himself reveals to us. What if the nature of the deity is that of a trickster, jocker, deceiver, or even a liar?
We could ask how do we determine when an individual is like this. But the problem with that is that with man we have a yardstick by which we can measure his nature. It’s called reality. If what he says doesn’t conform with reality we dismiss what he says. Depending on what else we can figure out we might decide he is joking around or viciously deceptive.
We can’t do that with this deity. They also tell us that what is real is entirely dependent on the will of the deity. He also has the ability to change our perceptions of reality by making things appear different from what they truly are. We have no yardstick. We can’t measure this deity against reality since he is the author of reality and can change it or manipulate it.
So when we attempt to know anything about this God, says the theologians, we are doomed to fail. We can only know what he tells us. And we can only hope he tells us the truth. They call that reassuring. It is supposed to give us hope. But in the end we can only know the nature of God to the extent that he wants us to know him. And we can never actually know whether what he reveals is real or illusionary. We can only hope but never know anything.
And what do we even mean by the “nature” of God. When we speak of a nature for various entities we speak of the very traits that make up its substance. A rock has a nature but it has no ability to define that nature. It simply is. Even man is largely at the mercy of his nature. We can choose certain things in life but other things are beyond choice. I have blue eyes. I have always had blue eyes and no doubt will die with blue eyes. That is the way it is. I can wish myself 12 fingers but won’t have them.
There some aspects of my nature over which I do have some sovereignty. I can choose to think or not to think. I can ignore evidence or consider it. I can jog and maybe lose a few pounds. I can certainly end my life if I so desired. But there are vast areas over which I have no control.
What about this deity? Does he choose his own traits? Supposedly he chose to become a man. So can he choose to become anything? Can he change his nature? If he can’t change his nature then what prevents him from doing so? It can’t be his own will that prevents it since if his will is totally sovereign he can choose to have a different nature.
A tree can chose none of its attributes. It simply is. Man can change some attributes, particularly those which are caused by action or are the result of values and thoughts. But most of his nature is unchangeable. He has no ability to change it. Is God so hampered?
Is God limited by the nature of God? If so can we rightfully say he is sovereign? If God is totally sovereign, and if morality and law are determined solely by his will, as theologians often argue, then it would seem he can manipulate his own nature as well. This is not simply changing his mind. This is a reassembling of his very nature.
We acknowledge human limitations. In fact we say we are limited by nature. It is our very nature which prevents us from changing many important aspects of ourselves. In reality we acknowledge that the nature of existence is superior to the will of any entity within nature. We even speak of the laws of nature, that is those “rules” which we discover that tell us how things operate according to their very specific attributes. Nature is sovereign. This doesn’t mean we can’t manipulate it or try to change it. But we have to comprehend it and manipulate it according to its own laws if we are to have any success at all.
But if God is the creator of nature then is he the creator of his own nature? Or is there a higher nature which even he is bound to obey? And if there is a higher nature which he must obey is he sovereign? In fact, is he god? To have a “nature” is to have specific attributes and to have an attribute is a limitation. But god supposedly is without limitations. Yet to have no nature at all is to not exist.