The Indefinable God

The argument that first made me interested in counter apologetics was the moral argument. This argument was used as a basis for affirming the conclusion that homosexuality was just as wrong as lying, stealing, or being a drunkard. For without some “objective” standard by which to measure right and wrong, nothing can be said to be right or wrong, and the Bible, of course, is just that standard. Or so the argument goes.

This objection to atheism claims that without God we are doomed to tumble in to moral relativism, which theists equate with moral nihilism. Or to put it in non-philosophy speak: without God as a foundation for morality, there’s no reason to think anything is right or wrong. This, of course, means we would have no reason to get upset over people smashing babies on rocks or buying Jersey Shore merchandise.

I’ve encountered many theists who have a passionate dislike for anything that resembles relativist thought, which to them is usually anything that attempts to define a term in a way they don’t agree with. Marriage is between a man and a woman, because that’s how the Bible (supposedly) defines marriage. Right and wrong are defined and measured based on the relationship between the action and God’s commandments. To define right and wrong in any other terms is to redefine right and wrong, according to their view. In fact, to many theists, God isn’t just the the basis for moral truths, but for all truth.

Yet when debating the concept of God, a curious thing happens: these same theists become very open to redefining all sorts of terms.

Consider one of the classic objections posed to theists: the omnipotence paradox. Can God create a stone so heavy he can’t lift it? The typical response to this question is to argue that to create a stone so heavy he couldn’t lift it would be a logical contradiction. Omnipotence, they say, doesn’t really mean “unlimited” power, but rather it means the ability to do anything that is logically possible. In other words they redefine omnipotence. You will get similar arguments when discussing some of the nastier bits of the Old Testament, or questioning the other paradoxical properties of God, such as the Omniscience Paradox. The apologist will redefine whatever property you’re questioning into something that doesn’t sound so bat shit crazy.

In debates with theists, watch for phrases like “it depends on what you mean by…”, or “that’s not what we mean by…”, etc. When you hear those types of phrases, chances are someone is trying to redefine a term to suit their purpose.

So what makes someone who is usually repulsed by redefinition start redefining things? I suspect it is the inevitable result of defending a belief that has no foundation in reality. God belief is sometimes based on scripture, and sometimes based on pure imagination. It’s often difficult to tell the difference. But in either case, there are no testable observations behind the claims.

Anyone can claim anything they want about God. I could even claim that God is a square circle, and if you say that is logically impossible I’ll just argue that you simply don’t understand what I mean by square or circle. Who are you to judge the nature of God, after all? You do not have perfect knowledge of God, so how do you know He isn’t a square circle? This is just one reason God is indefinable.

Related Arguments:

Further Reading: