June 18, 2013 by Zerub Roberts
“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.