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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Does God Know What It Is Like To Be Me?

I am curious whether or not it makes philosophical sense to say that "God knows what it is like to be me," i.e. God knows what it is like to not be God, but a specific individual person – and not in the abstract or in Jesus Christ, but in this or that individual person: Fred Unger here, or Patricia Spacey there; and I am curious how significant the answer is theologically.

I can already say how significant the answer is to me personally: it is of cosmic import. For it has direct bearing on whether or not I can call my experience “secret” and, I suppose, either take pride or despair at the unchangeable and helpless exclusivity of experienced person-hood. The question determines whether I am the unique and sole participant in something in the universe that not even God can share in, or whether God shares in that too.

Here is my attempt at an answer. I submit, however, that at any point in time God could explode the categories I use below.

If God knows me better than I know myself, does it not then follow that he does not know me as I know me? God may know me inside and out, but does this not mean he cannot know what it is like to be me who does not know myself inside out? So then – because there is, after all, no one other than God who might possibly come close to partaking in the “me-ness” of me – is not my experience of myself truly an absolutely and irrevocably unique “thing” in all of creation and what transcends creation? How mind-blowing if that is true...

And it does seem to be true, for we end up making God’s omnipotence and omniscience strangely meaningless if he can make circles squares, create a boulder too big for him to lift, and experience my experience, that is, what it is like to be me, this particular finite, mortal human being. Even if he does have a kind of internal access to my consciousness and even if he is (in a sense hopelessly beyond my understanding) more intimate to myself than I am to myself, God is still God in doing all this and knowing all this... isn’t he? It would, if this were true, be to encroach upon nonsense if we extended God’s power and empathetic genius to the ability to experience my experience.

This is more than the question of qualia in general – Does God know what it is like to be a bat? Of course! – but a question of a deeper, more specific qualia, namely, my qualia, my own personal qualia which (and this is precisely part of its nature, precisely the part that I am questioning whether God can share) I could never know as such because I can compare it to no other qualia. Given this, we might say: God can compare qualias, and therefore he cannot experience what it is like not to be able to compare qualias. He cannot make a circle a square. These are not weakness but only nonsense.

Ok, so here is where God explodes the categories...

In fact, God is capable of knowing not-God; God the Almighty, in Jesus Christ, knows weakness. This event disturbs our categories, for within the categories it is impossible – “nonsense” as I have said. There seems to be a problem, therefore, an unforeseen shortcoming, in this analytic language which says to God something like, “you cannot make a being greater than yourself!” And here is the problem: we can never get to the point where we may even say this to God, for we never get to God! God is always already greater than the god we think we are addressing. And this is the reason: (God ) > (God + The World) - according to Pannenberg's formula. The language we use to say to God, “you cannot make a being greater than yourself” objectifies God; however, this formula, which is the formula of the via ementia, preserves the idea of the True Infinite, for God in being infinite must necessarily be always greater than anything we could call him, even the infinite! This is the definition that protects God from being an object.

Therefore, in answer to the question, we must bow before the inexpressible. 

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