Why Are Definitions of God Incoherent? [Questions That Haunt]

Why Are Definitions of God Incoherent? [Questions That Haunt] October 2, 2012

This week, a challenging entry for Questions That Haunt Christianity. This one is deeply theological, but also honest. I think it will give you and me a run for our money. It comes from Hugh:

It seems to me that as theologians struggle to abandon traditional notions of God as an old man with a beard in the sky, and yet retain belief in the scriptures (i.e. have their cake and eat it), they end up defining him right out of existence. We are told that “God is infinitely X” for every adjective X, that he is supremely simple and indivisible, that he “exists outside of time and space”, even that “by definition he cannot be defined”. It seems to me these assertions are incoherent and/or vacuous. Ransacking the dictionary for adjectives to throw at God is no way to come up with a consistent or meaningful definition.

At best, the god of the theologians is an abstract concept. Only abstract concepts, e.g. the concept of a perfect sphere, can arguably be said to exist outside of time and space, for example. But how can one have a personal relationship with an abstract concept? To summarize my question: aren’t “sophisticated” definitions of god inconsistent and incoherent and very far removed from the sort of god any rank-and-file believer would actually worship?

Please do your best to answer Hugh’s query in the comment section. I’ll weigh in on Friday, but your responses will inform mine.

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