Thursday, December 06, 2012

Can God become human? No.

Once again, I find myself embroiled in a (fun) Twitter argument, regarding something that seems obvious and elementary to me. This time the fight is with a trio of Chabadniks, and the point I am trying to make is that God can't become human (See Note Below)

The first piece of evidence I attempted to enter was Rambam, Yesodai Hatorah 1:7 which reads as follows:
ואלוהינו ברוך שמו, הואיל וכוחו אין לו קץ ואינו פוסק, שהרי הגלגל סובב תמיד, אין כוחו כוח גוף. והואיל ואינו גוף, לא יארעו מאורעות הגופות כדי שיהא נחלק ונפרד מאחר; לפיכך אי אפשר שיהיה אלא אחד. וידיעת דבר זה--מצות עשה, שנאמר "ה' אלוהינו, ה' אחד"
The Chabad website gives the following translation (of the entire piece, which I did not include above):
This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world. 
If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form. 
Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one. 
The knowledge of this concept fulfills a positive commandment, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:4]: "[Hear, Israel,] God is our Lord, God is one.
Key Takeaways:

1) God is One and we are commanded to accept that he is One
2) From the fact that He is One it follows that he can never be anything else.
3) Were He to take a human form, He would cease to be One, as a human is "divided into different portions and dimensions"; furthermore
4) God is all powerful. Were He to take a human form, He would cease to be all powerful, as humans are not all powerful, therefore:
4) God can never take a human form.  

Really, it should have ended here. Right? Could Rambam be any clearer?  But instead the Chabadniks entered a pair of silly objections.

First, they presented a variation on the omnipotence paradox, claiming that the Rambam was limiting God. 

They said (paraphrase): "If God is omnipotent  that means he can do anything, taking a human from included." 

The problem here is that they misunderstand and misuse the word "omnipotent." When we say God is omnipotent we don't mean that he can do anything at all. What we mean is he can do anything that is actually possible. For instance, God can't create a female stallion. By definition, a stallion is male. A female stallion is no longer a stallion. Such a thing can't exist. Its a formal contradiction. The idea, therefore, of a "female stallion" is meaningless.  Similarly God, by definition, is One. A God that is human is no longer One and, therefore, no longer God. A "human God," like a "female stallion," is meaningless. 

Next, they attempted to argue that the world we know and understand is subject to being changed at God's will so though it may be true that right now that there can't be any such thing as a female stallion or a human God, our omnipotent God can make up new rules, should he wish, under which such things are possible. Here is how @bentzyshemtov put it (over several tweets) the context Rambam is saying that Gd isnt "currently" "only a person", but it doesn't say anywhere that he can't be if He wishes to do so....Difference between "isn't" and "can't ever be".  [When Rambam said] "can't ever b" [he means] due to the *current* "rules" which He created and therefore can change any moment. [Rambam] said: אי אפשר, but that is within the parameters and constraints of our "current" system. All of that can be altered at His will
At the end of Inherit the Wind, Mathew Brady makes the same point with more eloquence, saying, "Natural law was born in the mind of the Creator. He can change it—cancel it—use it as he pleases!"  but all this does is push off the question. What difference does it make if God becomes human before or after he changes the rules of the universe? The problem still stands: If God is One he can't be human, as a human being isn't One. And if @bentzyshemtov is suggesting that the new rules of the universe will allow for a new, currently impossible to fathom definition of the word human, then @bentzyshemtov is still conceding that God can't become human, as under the new rules a human, perforce, isn't actually a human at all!

Old Universe Rules
A human can't be One; therefore God can't become human

Proposed New Universe Rules
A human can be One; therefore God can become human

The Fallacy
The new rules "human" isn't what we understand as human as, by definition, a human can't be One. This new rules human is something else, something that goes by the name human, something that is One. As a result, the old point (that God can't be anything but One) remains true

Note below:  I don't want to put together a whole big disclaimer but yeah, of course, its true that some bold names say God really can be human. I think the Rambam's argument defeats them.


The Bray of Fundie said...


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