Can a human understand God? The argument from creation
Anne Kim is our Guest contributor this week. Anne is one of the very first members of the CARE.. She may well be the first person I told about the idea when I first had it. She was the first to join, back when the group was about arguing with atheists on CARM that one site. She runs her own blog, , Heart, Mind. Soul, Strength.(where she is "weekend fisher") She has a strong readership. She is Lutheran and is one of the best at personal evangelism I've seem., She loves God and is a good friend.
I've been introduced to an atheist blog where the poster, an ex-Christian, was recently considering whether it's possible to know God. After he mulls over some time-and-eternity questions in creation, he puts forward this argument:
Besides, wouldn’t it be better for someone like God to have fellowship with an equal? Only another Creator could truly understand a Creator, right? Yes, only a deity could fully know and appreciate another deity. Created beings, which by definition are lesser beings, could never really know a deity anyway.
He considers his views to be self-evident to anyone with the most basic thinking skills ("This is Logic 101"). (Most people consider their views to be obvious and beyond rational dispute. Considering how many different starting points and premises we all have, really, very few things are beyond rational dispute.)
The reason I quote this fellow's argument is that he speaks for a lot of people, including some groups of Christians, when he says that. I think that deserves a look.
"Wouldn't it be better for someone like God to have fellowship with an equal?" Let's say yes, and see where it goes. A problem comes up pretty quickly, though, if we go with the view of any monotheistic religion: God has no equal. But what if he could make someone who was as close as possible to equal? Sure, too late and the ship already sailed on whether the other person(s) would be eternal. And creating someone exactly like God is self-contradictory: God wasn't created, therefore any created being is already not exactly like him. But if we bracket the parts that are literally impossible or self-contradictory like that, is it possible to make a creature that is enough like God to have meaningful fellowship with God?
So God made man in his image, like God did God make man: male and female he created them. (Genesis)
Keep in mind that I'm not arguing that an atheist should take the Bible's word that it happened; I'm interested in whether it shows God as trying to make someone like himself.
But are people capable of understanding God? The aspects of God that we can understand are in some way like us. We understand God in roles such as father, king, bridegroom, husband ... all human relationships, all understandable parts of the system in which we live. On the view that God has some role in describing himself in the Bible, God is seen as someone we can relate to. On the view that he created the world, he may also have filled it with analogies to himself that we can come to understand.
What exactly goes into the "image of God"? It's not spelled out for us. But we know at that point that God is a creator, and that he sets things in order so that the world flourishes. He also makes a garden -- and instructs the people to fill the world and rule over it. (I expect that his instructions to fill the earth and rule it, originally, would have resulted in the whole earth being made into various kinds of gardens and orchards and parks, based on Eden which is the pattern of "ruling" that people had seen.)
If God is Creator, then someone made in his image would also be a creator. Mankind is the most creative mind that we see at work on the planet. We have created works of music, painting, architecture, stained glass, literature, and drama. We have minds that are capable of imagination and fantasy. We have developed musical instruments and engineering techniques. Not many of our gardens are compared to Eden ... apparently the hanging gardens of Babylon once were worthy of notice, a masterpiece in that kind of living art.
Along the same lines: If God is in possession of all knowledge, then someone made in his image would also seek knowledge. If God is love, then someone made in his image would also be capable of love. If God is self-determining ... how far is it possible for a created being to be self-determining? And if God transcended the isolation of being the only Being like himself ... Is mankind hardwired to try to transcend our own limits?
We're lesser beings; we don't really understand all there is to know of God.
We know in part ... now we see through a glass, darkly (Paul, I Corinthians 13:9, 12)
But there are promises that our capacity to understand will grow.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known. (Paul, I Corinthians 13:12)