The doctrine of God asserts there to be a Being, usually supernatural in origin, who created all things and is the highest authority when it comes to all things. Some say he plays an active roll in history, others say he is silent.
God is said to have several essential qualities or universal properties. But these essential qualities break down when taken to the extreme and are therefore cannot be absolute. It is only ever inferred from scripture what God's nature is, though never explicitly stated anywhere. Rather, it is left to the theologian to concoct an answer.
- The property of omniscience ascribes God with knowing all things. However, it is not possible for God to know those things which are logically impossible. It is only possible for God to know those things which are logically possible. In the event that God knew both that which was logically possible and not possible then the nature of God would be paradoxical and self-contradictory. Additionally, there is absolutely no point for a omniscient God to put his creation through tests and trials when he already knows exactly what they are going to do in each scenario.
“If God were omniscient, if he knew everything and if he were a benevolent God, he would have disclosed all that knowledge to benefit mankind. The world would have been a better place for it. However, neither God nor his prophets went to such troubles.”—William, Xavier, World Religions KL 1427-1428
- The property of omnipresense ascribes God with being everywhere at once. However, if God were everywhere then all could lay claim to the notion that God is with them even in their most sinful and defiling acts. Furthermore there would be no need to call on the Lord considering that you only call somebody who is not there. The notion of God being everywhere serves only to confuse and rather justify mankind in any belief that would equate God with creation itself.
“By the omnipresense of the Deity, therefore, they mean his power of acting every where, though he exists no where.”—Priestley, Joseph, Disquisitions relating to matter and spirit 74
“We often find the presense of the Lord mentioned, as if there was upon earth some place where he particularly resided, or which he frequented.”—Priestley, Joseph, Disquisitions relating to matter and spirit 174
“In the same vein, God is omnipresent and so is the devil. Obviously, they cannot be mutually exclusive and have to coexist as a sort of very intimate amalgam.”—William, Xavier, World Religions KL 1352-1353
The property of omnipotence ascribes God with having the power to do whatever he wants. However, it is not possible for God to contradict himself nor to destroy himself. Nor does he have the power to create a stone he cannot lift.
“All things, it is said, are possible with God. This is one of the maxims of that religion which has perverted all the principles of truth and justice; but this maxim is not true, it is not possible, for instance, that God should destroy his own existence; it is not possible that he should act inconsistently with the properties and principles of nature. This extravagant assertion, instead of exalting the character of the Creator, would absolutely destroy it, by causing him to act without rule and without justice.”—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 67
“The natural philosopher Pliny the Elder (23–79) goes one step further than Hume in his Natural History by regarding the ability to commit suicide as the one advantage that man possesses over God. ‘God cannot commit suicide even if he wishes, but man can do so at any time he chooses’.”—Burton, Neel, Psychology Today - Can It Be Right to Commit Suicide? May 22, 2012
“Epicurus (341–270 BCE) pointed out that either god can prevent evil and injustice in this world, but he will not, or he wishes to prevent the evil and injustice in the world, but he cannot. Obviously, he cannot be just and omnipotent at the same time.”—William, Xavier, World Religions KL 1433-1434
What is clear is that nobody has a distinct idea of what constitutes the nature of God but everybody is ready and willing to say he exists.
“But this I am sure, to one that can form no determined ideas of what they stand for, they signify nothing at all; and all that he thinks he knows about them, is to him so much knowledge about nothing, and amounts at most but to a learned ignorance.”—Locke, John, Of the Conduct of the Understanding p. 71
“The concept of God has evolved with societies.”—William, Xavier, World Religions KL 1172-1173
“Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that 'God is the ultimate' or 'God is our better nature' or 'God is the universe.' Of course, like any other word, the word 'God' can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say that 'God is energy,' then you can find God in a lump of coal.”—Weinberg, Steven, Dreams of a Final Theory
The doctrine of miracles supposes that supernatural beings can perform works in nature. However, any supernatural work done in nature would be a violation of the laws of nature.
“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, by supernatural power.”—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 64
“Every sensible deviation from or contradiction to the known laws of nature, must be an evident and incontestable miracle.”—Farmer, Hugh, Dissertation on miracles p. 13
“A wonder-working God, who violates his own laws, and acts inconsistently with the principles which he himself has established, is no God at all.”—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 66
“Another distinction from monotheism is found in the Christian belief in miracles, in which God intervenes in history from outside nature. Ancient Roman philosophers and others since objected to this Christian doctrine as God violating his own natural laws.”—Natural Religion, Wikipedia
“Mankind have conceived to themselves certain laws, by which what they call nature is supposed to act, and that a miracle is something contrary to the operation and effect of those laws, but unless we know the whole extent of those laws, and of what are commonly called the powers of nature, we are not able to judge whether anything that may appear to us wonderful or miraculous be within or be beyond, or be contrary to, her natural power of acting.”—Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason p. 51
In the event a work was properly ascertained to be a miracle, the next problem that would arise would be to whom it should be ascribed. There is said to be many supernatural beings at work in the heavens above and hells below. It is possible that any supernatural work could be the offspring of either God or Satan or any one of their servants.
“If demons can inflict grievous diseases, deprive men of their reason and sense, render them dumb and blind, and cause them to suffer the most exquisite torments, they can work miracles: for the infliction of a disease by the agency of any spiritual being, answers to the definition of a miracle, as an affect produced in the system of nature, contrary to the general rules by which it is governed.”—Balfour, Walter, Three inquiries p. 241
“It cannot, with any appearance of reason, be supposed, that the Supreme Being would put it in the power of any malevolent demon (supposing such beings to exist) thus to deceive his creatures, and without reserving to himself the power of undeceiving them. For if such beings as these were permitted to work real miracles, or perform such works as men were unable to distinguish from real miracles, it was all that himself could do; so that the mischief would be without remedy.”—Priestly, Joseph, Discourses relating to the evidences of revealed religion pp. 240-241
When a miracle was alleged, it was usually ascribed to God if the miracle worked in favor of the person receiving it or ascribed to Satan if the miracle worked against the person receiving it. In this way, all good things are ascribed to God and all evil things are to Satan; two almost equal gods - one good, the other evil -- both feared.
The doctrine of prayer supposes that we can communicate with God in order to affect change. In any form of communication there is a path where by a message is sent to a receipt. But what path communications to God go through are uncertain and seem to vary.
What is the right way to pray?
It is commonly believed that messages can be sent to God either through simply thinking or through speaking; some believers choose to prayer in their heads and others out loud. In the event that God is able to read our thoughts, then it seems rather unnecessary for us to speak our minds to him.
There is one example in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 1:13, where God hears an unspoken prayer. While it says that the individual prayed with their heart, that can be attributed to a lack of knowledge concerning human anatomy. The ancients believed that the thinking faculty in man lay in his physical heart, but modern knowledge about human anatomy shows us that the thinking faculty in man lies in his brain. There are many examples in both the Old and New Testament where God hears a spoken prayer and some are even recorded.
Consistency with the nature of God
Supposing God to be omniscient or all-knowing, communication with him would be altogether unnecessary. If God already knows what we are going to speak before we speak it or knows what we are going to think before we think it then the need to deliver a personal message to him is pointless. In other words, if the receipt already has the message, there is no need to send it to him again.
Supposing God to be immutable or unchangable, asking him to give us something other than what he is already planning on giving us is again unnecessary since his mind is already made.
“What is the amount of all his prayers, but an attempt to make the Almighty change his mind, and act otherwise than he does?”—Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason p. 64
Pray for the probable
When a believer asks God for something and receives what he asked for, he finds himself in harmony with God, and sees no fault in himself. When a believer asks God for something and does not receive what he asked for, he finds himself at odds with God, and sees fault in himself. In the event that the believer finds fault with himself, he will either become disillusioned and give up, or he will become emboldened and try harder. Those that would try harder only become more fanatical; making ever increasing gestures toward God to find favor with him.
The solution then for the believer would be to pray for those things which have a higher probability of happening and are soon to come. In this way, prayers have a more likely chance of being answered. For example, if any man asks God for air to breathe every day, he will find himself in favor with God, or praying according to God's will, every day of his life - except for his last. The odds then of that prayer being answered are better than for any odds found in any Las Vegas casino. Those believers who pray for things which have a lower probability of happening and are far off, will rarely have their prayers answered and see themselves shamefully.
Efficacy of prayer
For the past 120 years or so the efficacy of prayer has been questioned by great scientific minds.
“Had prayers for the sick any notable effect, it is incredible but that the doctors, who are always on the watch for such things, should have observed it, and added their influence to that of the priests towards obtaining them for every sick man.”—Galton, Francis, Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer
“If prayerful habits had influence on temporal success, it is very probable, as we must again repeat, that insurance offices, of at least some descriptions, would long ago have discovered and made allowance for it. It would be most unwise, from a business point of view, to allow the devout, supposing their greater longevity even probable, to obtain annuities at the same low rates as the profane.”—Galton, Francis, Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer
There have been multiple scientific studies that have been done to determine whether or not prayer is effective in healing.
“In fact, there was already a similar prayer study under way in 2001. This one involved 799 patients in an American coronary care unit. Half of them unknowingly received 'intercessory prayer' from groups of healers for twenty-six weeks, and the other half received no such prayers. The number of deaths, heart attacks, and other serious complications were similar in both groups, which implied that prayers were having no effect.”—Singh, Simon, Trick or Treatment pp. 228-229
“And, in 2006, the results of a ten-year study costing $2.5 million were published by researchers studying the effect of prayer on over 1,000 cardiac bypass surgery patients at six American medical centers, including Harvard and the Mayo Clinic. Christian groups prayed for half the patients for several years, while the other half received no such prayers. Again, the average outcome was the same for both groups implying that prayers were ineffective.”—Singh, Simon, Trick or Treatment p. 229
The miracles depicted in the scripture are often produced as evidence for the divinity of its claims. And it is often required that believers of today have the same level of faith in the divine as the believers of the first century, even though the evidence each witnessed is different.
“If miracles be necessary in one age to establish the truth of Christianity, they are equally necessary in every age. If one country be favoured with supernatural proofs, all other countries are equally entitled to the same unequivocal, convincing, and demonstrative testimony.”—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 186
“But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is a revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is a revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.”—Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason p. 7
If the claims made by the scriptures were not so grandiose, the evidence required to believe them would not need to be as equally grandiose.
“In general, the more extraordinary any event appears to be, the more evidence we require of it.”—Priestley, Joseph, An History of Corruption on Christianity p. 450
There is not sufficient evidence from the nature of things to take the word of the writers at face value, especially given that most them were not eyewitnesses to the events they wrote about.
“Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.”—Why Scholars Doubt the Traditional Authors of the Gospel, Oxford Annotated Bible p. 1744
Furthermore, people who lived two thousand years ago believed many superstitious or faulty notions which have been proven wrong in the light of an increase in scientific knowledge. For example, they believed the earth to be flat and the sun to actually rise and fall each day.
“The proper parent of all superstition, and false religion, is, as I have observed ignorance of nature, and the true causes of events.”—Priestley, Joseph, Discourses relating to the evidences of revealed religion p. 100
Visions and dreams are often claimed as a source of evidence for the truth of the scriptures however such evidence is often unreliable. Not every dream that an individual dreams is true. And it would be unequal to assert that only those dreams that Jesus appeared in were reliable and all others were unreliable. Visions or daytime hallucinations suffer from the same problem.
“Since then appearances are so capable of deceiving, and things not real have a strong resemblance to things that are, nothing can be more inconsistent than to suppose that the Almighty would make use of means, such as are called miracles, that would subject the person who performed them to the suspicion or being an imposter, and the person who related them to be suspected of lying, and the doctrine intended to be supposed thereby to be suspected as a fabulous invention.”—Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason p. 52
What is most disturbing is that there exists no logical proof for the existence of God in any scripture. Even the first verse of the Old Testament presupposes that God exists without any justification for such a proposition.
“In the beginning God...”—Genesis 1:1
Attempts are usually made that use everything in existence as evidence for the existence of God: "The evidence is all around us." However, everything as evidence never has and never will provide a satisfying answer to the skeptical man. Such grandiose evidence can equally be used for the existence of any deity that has ever been worshiped by man and does more to hurt the belief in one God than it does to help it. Furthermore, the existence of one thing or many things does not prove the existence of another.
In the scriptures there are many things that are personified -- even God. He described as having a visible appearance and positional presence and yet at the same time is said to be invisible and to have an everywhere presence. It is stated that he is not a man, but everywhere he is personified as one. The scriptures lack any definitive answer about what constitutes God because he is often described as what he is said not to be. The simplest explanation for it would be that God is the personification of nature or the personification of that property in nature whereby we came to exist whether it be chaos, chance, evolution, an intelligent mind, a supreme being, etc. In the same fashion that Satan does not actually exist, but is only the personification of evil, it could equally be said that God does not actually exist, and that he is only the personification of good.
“They who would advance in knowledge, and not deceive and swell themselves with a little articulated air, should lay down this as a fundamental rule, not to take words for things, nor suppose that names in books signify real entities in nature, till they can frame clear and distinct ideas of those entities.”—Locke, John, The Conduct of the Understanding pp. 69-71
“The very usage of masculine gender, “he or him”, in relation to God confirms the conclusion that man created god in his own image, contrary to what is held by the scriptures.”—William, Xavier, World Religions KL 1181-1182
“Nothing can be plainer than that each nation gives to its gods its peculiar characteristics, and that every individual gives to his god his personal peculiarities.”—Ingersoll, Robert, The Gods and Other Lectures p. 26