The Paradoxical Nature Of God

Updated on November 21, 2016
Sam Wickstrom profile image

Sam was a Christian for 15 years and was motivated by fear of hell-fire to be certain of whether or not God exists.

What is a paradox?

A paradox is a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

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God's Qualities

Omnipotence

  • Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth."
  • Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Omnipresence

  • Jeremiah 23:24 "Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?" declares the Lord "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the Lord."
  • Proverbs 15:3 "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good."


Perfect Benevolence

  • Psalm 18:30 "As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him."
  • Matthew 5:48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."


Omniscience

  • Isaiah 46:9-10 “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."
  • Prov 16:4 "The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil."
  • Psalm 147:4-5 “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Omniscience

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines omniscient as knowing everything : having unlimited understanding or knowledge.

In monotheistic religions we typically find that God is omniscient, and at the same time humans have free will.

God's omniscient nature means that he knows everything. He knew what you would look like before you were born. He knew which animals would be on the earth before he created it. Now this is where things get controversial. God knew Lucifer and some angels would rebel against him. Before God created anything in existence he knew the exact number of souls that would be cast into the lake of fire and that would be brought up into everlasting paradise.

How is this paradoxical? The premises of human free will, and God's omniscience are blatantly contradictory and inconsistent. The interconnected nature of God's knowledge and human behavior causes one to question the morality of his testing of sentient beings even when he knows the outcome of the test in advance.

Starving Ethiopians
Starving Ethiopians

Omnipresence and Perfect Benevolence

God's omnipresence means that he is everywhere at the same time, he observes all things in all places without the restrictions of space or time.

God is perfectly good, he can do no wrong, and his morality is absolute and unquestionably flawless.

God is watching children starve to death, women getting beaten and raped, and people calling out to him as they are about to end their own lives. This is paradoxical because with the two premises of omnipresence and perfect benevolence, we know God should do something about these events. After all, he is watching, and he is righteous enough to do something about it. And yet, he doesn't. This means omnipresence and perfect benevolence are mutually exclusive or self contradictory, these two attributes cannot occur simultaneously in our current reality without being logically unacceptable.

Matthew 25:21 KJV His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Matthew 25:21 KJV His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Free Will

God gives us free will. We have the free will to choose between infinite paradise or suffering. This is often overlooked, and so I'll compare this to a human event.

Imagine we are having a vote for the next president of the United States. Upon going to vote, you observe the two choices on the ballot. You can put a check-mark next to president so and so, or you can put a check-mark next to death. You are told that it is your choice to make out of your own free will. You say that you are not going to vote, and that you would like to leave the country. You are immediately shot six times in the chest and die from internal hemorrhaging. The people who are voting see this and quickly put a check-mark next to president so and so. Although they are terrified, they recognize that it's an act of their free will to vote for the president.

This example is an analogy for the choice between heaven and hell.

In heaven natural human free will is impossible. In heaven you cannot chose to hurt others, or to feel pain or suffering. You do not have the free will to do so. People will predictably respond to this saying that you will not want to sin or experience hardship or distress in heaven. Well in that case, couldn't this system of perfect paradise with free will have been utilized in the garden of Eden? People will then say, well, then you'd be a robot because of the lack of free will. Well, then you are a robot in heaven. See how free will is a paradoxical aspect of theism?

Trivial Paradoxes

Can God:

  • create a rock so big he can't lift it?
  • create a box with contents unknown to him?
  • create a space which he cannot enter?
  • kill himself?
  • terminate his plan at any point?

WARNING: Blasphemy, Heresy, And Sacrilege!

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    • profile image

      Troy Isaac 

      3 months ago

      Hi Sam, My comment is on your definition of the word paradox. I realize it’s been a while since you posted this, and you may have developed some other feelings on the subject. Please bear with my choppy writing and try to understand me as best you can.

      I was looking up the definition of the word paradox after thinking in my head that God's way (the God of the Bible) seems to be of a paradoxical nature, and that this may be a big reason why there is so much disagreement on the subject of God. I was surprised to find that the accepted definition of paradox is itself a contradiction, but only because the definition accepts opposite usages of the word. That is to say the "first" definition given for paradox is opposite to the "second". See if you agree:

      Paradox --- 1. a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true. --- Definition 2. a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory. --- The first definition is — sounds absurd but is true — where the second definition is — sounds true but is not true. I hope you can see how these two definitions are opposites. Why do they belong to the same word? I don't know yet, but I plan to look into it. I think that in the end, a paradox is simply something that seems one way, but in truth, turns out to be its perceived opposite. What pertains to you here, is that you've chosen the definition that supports your feelings on the matter. From this understanding you've made your foundation, on top of which all of your logical expounding sits. But aside from this, the larger assumption you've made while building your foundation, is that you yourself hold the objectively true and accurate definition of the word "good”. I believe this might just be the source of this whole debate over God making any sense or not. This may be what the forbidden fruit story in the Bible was referring to; If you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will be like God, knowing(deciding) both good and evil. Adam and Eve departing from God’s will for them in eating the fruit, is in fact them deciding for themselves what is good for them. For example, if a father takes his five year old to the dentist, the five year old might not want to go or even be angry when leaving the dentist. That doesn’t meant that what the father is doing isn’t ultimately good for the child. I’ll offer another example: we see evil exists, so how could a good God create evil and still call his entire creation good? How is evil good? Well, for love to exist, we need to have the free will to choose it. Choice is a requirement of love. Free will also allows us to make the opposite choice. The problem is, we don't always understand when we are making that opposite choice. A loving God who made a world in which evil exists, is an example of something seemingly self-contradictory that in the end, could be sound and true. This is where faith and the after life come in. I personally choose to have faith that all the hardship we see in the world, is worth what God is instilling in us. And if there’s an afterlife, then all the pain takes on a different feel. We only interpret hardship as challenge, and troubles as opportunity to grow, when we allow the Holy Ghost into our bodies and we have the anchor and promise of Jesus Christ embedded in our hearts and minds.

      I believe your search is a search for truth. There can be no proof that God exists and no proof that he doesn’t. We do however have evidence to look at in every discipline of learning to make a choice for ourselves. We can choose to be honest in our assessment of the evidence, as a scientist should be.

      I think that you’re suffering from the same thing that kept me from understanding the true nature of the Bible and God. I was judging God based off all the poor examples of him in humans. It was only after I began to have my own experience with God and his book that I could see what it was. It’s very worth pointing out, that I don't think the depiction of hell that we all grew up hearing is biblical, though I'm still looking into it. Heaven either, for that matter. Clear definitions, where we can get them, is crucial to our choices being ultimately good for us. A personal relationship with God is much more crucial and may just be the point of our existence itself. The Bible says, God SPOKE all of this into existence. Our material reality is therefore made from words in this description. I think you’ll find that anything we as humans create, has to first exists as words in our minds. Those words represent understandings of what those words are made of, aka definitions. For example, you need to know the nature, or truest definition of the word “steel” to include it in your plans for a sky scraper. If you believe the word “wood” means, a very strong alloy of metal, you’ll be in trouble when your supplies for the sky scraper arrive on site.

      So what is the definition of good? If Lucifer admits to living within God’s creation, then why does he feel the right to redefine the word good? If we need common definitions to get along in this world, then who’s definitions should we agree upon? Hitler’s? Ghandi’s? Mine? Yours? The Rothchild’s and Rockfellar’s? Good is as good as the person who defines it. I choose the good of God. May God bless you abundantly.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      2 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

      I know right! The guy who does those videos is a comical genius

    • Akwasi Maru profile image

      Akwasi Maru 

      2 years ago from Macon, Georgia

      Man that's a hilarious video, I'm all laughs.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      2 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

      Well I'm not frustrated, its just that you don't seem to understand that God created satan. And God knew that lucifer would rebel before he created anything. God is out side of our space and time, and as the ultimate creator, he is indeed responsible for each and every occurrence in this universe. If you deny that, you're denying God's power and the fact that he created everything. I'm not actually a christian or anything, but If I'm going to debate these ideas, I'm going to accept that God exists for the purpose of thought experiments.

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 

      2 years ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      I certainly can’t disprove anything and I wasn't trying to debunk your article. These are real paradoxes, but they’re is an answer to every question and I just felt impelled to share what I think the answers are. Its up to everyone to ask God for discernment and come up with their own conclusion. Satan wants you to blame God for the Worlds hardships when satan is entirely to blame. These paradoxes belong to him and he loves to leave us distraught and in disillusion. I think I’ve said enough here I will have to write a hub on this issue to give a better explanation of why I don’t believe God posseses these attributes and how this isn’t a contradiction. I hope I haven’t frustrated you with my opinion and I look forward to more of your future writing.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      2 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

      You haven't disproven anything in my article. None of it. I'm not just stumbling across paradoxes, these are real issues that have been pondered by thinkers and theologians alike for thousands of years. So you're going to have to show me verses that contradict the qualities of God found in the verses I've presented, if you want to debunk my article with scripture. And yet, if you do that, you're just proving that the bible contains contradictions, which is another paradox, because it shows that God's word is imperfect, meaning God is imperfect.

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 

      2 years ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      Your concept of heaven isn’t biblical and I’ll share why. Jesus will return, there will be a battle and everyone who’s dead will rise from their graves for judgement. Satan and his angles will be thrown into a pit for a while. All Bad people are destroyed. Jesus and 144,000 saints will rule over an Earthly kingdom. There will be a 1000 year period where we grow spiritually and unlearn sin. After this period satan and his angles will have to be released and we will be given a final choice whether we want to remain on the paradise Earth. Even then people will chose to join satan and will prefer destruction. Finally good and evil are separated completely, when satan and his angles are cast into the abyss. So you see only 144,000 saints will rule from heaven but free will won’t be an issues as they are spotless.

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 

      2 years ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      That awesome I love scripture and great examples. The theme will leave many perplexed, those who don’t understand Gods true dynamics. He’s not omnipresent in our sense of the word. His holly spirit is everywhere as he can watch and intervene when he’s invited for a holly purpose. He’s not omniscience. He defiantly knows everything but the concept of him knowing everything thats going to happen before hand doesn’t aline with scripture. There were times when he regretted creating us. God always has a plan but he certainly didn’t know the snake would enter the garden and didn’t have control over that snake. We as believers are encouraged to trust in his plan throughout the Bible. He’s not omnipotent. His power is limited by the actions of fallen angles who are trying to overthrow him. You really need to use discernment when your stumbling across these paradoxes because its very easy to be deceived and fall away from Jesus. After reading a believer needs to have faith and hold onto the concept that Gods love is the truest thing in the universe, or they may find themselves floating in the hopeless boat of atheists and following the wide road to destruction.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      2 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

      Thank you, check my updates.

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 

      2 years ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      Very well written! I just started following you yesterday and look forwarding to reading more in the future. I suggest you add some scriptures to this hub and give some example of his omniscience and omnipresence. It will certainly get your word count up. Personally I’m not sure Gods either of these things or is he omnipotent. I’m a believer and I love rightly dividing the word of truth. Thanks for the read Sam. Till next time.

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