Can a Finite Mind Understand an Infinite God?

2

June 18, 2013 by Zerub Roberts

old-man-thinking1

“How can a finite man understand an infinite God?!” – 

This is a very common response that many theists offer, when faced with some really tough questions from the skeptic, like the problem of gratuitous evil, for example. I think such a reply is inadequate and not well-thought-out. Here are my reasons –

1. Finitude or rather Infinitude are properties of discrete, quantifiable objects/ attributes. “The number of stars” could be finite or infinite, or “The number of people” etc.. What does it mean to say that man is finite? How is God infinite? You could say He’s infinite in size, but then He’s non-spatial. Maybe infinite in love? – but love is neither discrete nor quantifiable. How about infinite in wisdom? This could work. I’ll get to in the next point.

It’s the same kind of fallacy you commit when you say things like – “The number 3 is yellow” or “The Taj Mahal is jealous of the Eiffel tower” etc. Numbers don’t have the property of color and buildings don’t experience jealousy. Similarly, Homo Sapiens don’t have the property of “finitude/infinitude”, or any biological species, for that matter.

2. The theist might then respond saying that what he actually refers to, is man’s knowledge, or the “things man can understand/comprehend”. Then, he might show a way to quantify knowledge, and make it into discrete propositions, like for example – the number of facts you might know – and that could be argued to be finite in quantity. Whereas God, on the other hand would know an infinite set of facts.

My response – a) I, in fact think that we all have infinite knowledge! Seriously! I shall defend this claim at length, soon. b) I don’t think that the number of things man could comprehend is also finite. I shall defend this too, later.

3. Another reason – Finitude/infinitude is certainly not a property of thoughts or concepts. Thoughts and concepts have no mass, size etc. When I try to understand God, or some object X, I’m not exactly understanding God or the object X, but rather “the concept” of God or object X.

What I mean is that we don’t understand objects (which have sizes and shapes), but we understand concepts of those objects (to which the property of finitude doesn’t apply).

So, I see no reason why the vast difference between the relative “size” (in whatever sense) of us and God should even matter in my quest for understanding Him.

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2 thoughts on “Can a Finite Mind Understand an Infinite God?

  1. theEqualizer says:

    This post is a poorly written post – the arguments presented clearly demonstrate the misunderstanding of the question. I was hoping for some really thought out literature!

    How can a finite mind comprehend the workings of an infinite mind?

    Finite mind – being limited in knowledge
    Infinite mind – all knowing and all encompassing (omniscient, omnipotent)

    So to put this in to context…

    1) People will say, God does not exist because he does nothing to prevent or punish those who do bad things.

    On the other hand,

    2) It was God’s working to not punish but later use them as a tool to do good things

    How could we ever know? You should be answering – we can’t know… and that is the capacity of a finite mind. We can make predictions and correlations but we can never know the full outcome.

    If we always knew things were going to work out, we would never worry… Don’t you think a being of infinite capacity could possibly act like this?

    Food for though.

    • That would be a different question – more specifically a theodicy for the Problem of Evil. I wasn’t attempting to answer that. The question was “Can a finite mind understand an Infinite God” – about the supposedly logical constraints that restrict our understanding.

      If I were talking about the Problem of Evil or any such specific question, what you’ve said would’ve been a decent answer. But that wasn’t the issue at hand.

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Zerub Roberts

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