Quote of the Day (James Rowe Adams)

“I don’t think we can describe God in any way. Human saying that God exists is to me a nonsense statement. That would mean that God is somehow confined within our intellectual capacities. The only thing we can do is say we have experiences and talk about some of those experiences by using God language. It is the only way we have to talk about such wonders as how we find ourselves at one with each other and the universe” (James Rowe Adams, quoted in Gary Stern, Can God Intervene? How Religion Explains Natural Disasters (Westport: Praeger, 2007) p.99).
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12438981322009430784 Tim Ricchuiti

    See, I just don’t understand statements like that. As if attempting to describe something is to limit it to just that something. Or as if applying a label to something is to immediately and completely define it. By the same logic, human beings couldn’t describe anything as infinite (e.g., the number system, the universe, etc.) without simultaneously removing that property.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I think the case of God is unique because we are dealing with the transcendent. If two cells in our body could talk to us, they could debate the existence of something greater than themselves, “in whom they live, and move, and exist”. But none of their language would actually be able to describe what it means to live as a human being or to experience reality on our level. Even “alive” would not come close, because we are alive in a significantly different manner and experience than an individual cell is.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08014885672703727636 Ken Brown

    To support James on this, imagine if we ever successfully created conscious artificial life in a virtual world. The virtual creatures might be capable of learning of our existence, but almost anything they might say to one another about us would be seriously limited and distorted by their perspective. So it is with us and God. BTW, such observations also point out the difficulty of neatly separating God’s actions and “natural forces” – for if we (the programmers) were to interact with the virtual world we created, would the inhabitants of that world not quite easily perceive and explain (away) our actions as those of yet another program? Thinking about how we could possibly convince them of our transcendence (or any other of our attributes), is a very revealing exercise….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12438981322009430784 Tim Ricchuiti

    i guess perhaps i’m misreading the quote. my only point is that i don’t see how the action of humans attempting to make statements about God or describe him through language in any way limit him. the statements themselves will of course be limited, but will not be limiting.to jump off of what Ken was saying, i think that while the virtual creatures’ perspectives would be limited and distorted, the amount they were limited and distorted would depend on how they were made. if one of our goals in making them was to enable them to have a fairly good idea of their maker, then their perspectives likely wouldn’t be that limited or distorted (assuming we did a decent job).also, Ken, which James! :)