God—The Perfect Imperfection

For this paper I will assume that God is perfect, the creator of everything, and the source of all that is good. But can such a being exist? I will attempt to show that the very idea of the Christian-Muslim deity is, in itself, a paradox (which implies that this version of God cannot exist), and I will reply to some objections against my argument.

First I must establish the foundation of my argument: what is perfection? By definition, perfection means: to be without flaw; complete; thorough; cannot be improved upon, does not want or need. Like “infinity,” perfection is both a self-defining word, and an absolute that either is or is not. A whole thing (every aspect of a thing) cannot be partially infinite; neither can it be partially perfect. Unlike infinity, something can be close to perfect, or closer to being perfect than another thing, but this still does not make it perfect in all respects. Scoring close to a perfect score on a test is still an imperfect score. There can also be aspects of a thing/being that are perfect, but this, again, does not make the entire thing/being perfect. A person can have perfect skin, or perfect love for another. This does not indicate the perfection of the person, only an aspect of that person.

Furthermore, if a perfect being did something imperfect, the action would cause the being itself to cease to be perfect; having done something imperfect (to create an imperfection is to make one’s self imperfect for having done something imperfect). Thus, a perfect being cannot create something imperfect.

According to the Hebrew Bible, God is the creator of everything (Genesis 1:1-2:3; cf. Colossians 1:16-17). The creation of a thing demands for the desire for that thing to exist. However, a being that wants is not perfect, as shown above. The Earth is constantly changing. Earthquakes and volcanoes help relieve built-up tectonic pressure. Without earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural pressure-relieving occurrences, the pressure in the Earth could build up until it exploded. The Earth is constantly being altered to a new, different state of being which is better than the last due to the circumstances of the internal workings of the planet. Floods renew soil, making the land more fertile for crops. If the Earth were perfect, it would not need to change. It would not need to release pressure causing massive earthquakes and exploding volcanoes. This would be a perfect world for us to live in.

The Earth is a very complex system (a combination of related parts organized into a complex whole) which is in a constant state of flux, as shown above. A perfect system has no flaw; it cannot be improved upon, and has no need for anything. A perfect system would generate the exact amount of heat and pressure needed to sustain itself. It would have no need of change because it is already perfect. A perfect system cannot change, as change demands entering a state that is either (1) improved upon, (2) worsened, or (3) at the same level but in a different form. The first two demonstrate having a lack of something, which is an imperfect aspect. The third demonstrates the necessary conditions for perfect systems. A perfect system cannot be perfect in two different ways. For example, it could not be just as good for our nervous system to use wires instead of nerves. “The necessary conditions for perfect systems” is another topic, for another day.

Some opponents to this view might say that all of these changes are neither good nor bad – they’re just changes. And if they’re not changing for the better, then this is not a problem, since a thing created by a perfect being cannot be improved upon.

God created the Earth to sustain life (Isaiah 45:18) and for mankind rule over (Genesis 1:26-30). As God cannot create anything imperfect, he must have created the perfect environment for the stewards of the Earth to inhabit. Evidence of improvements being done to the environment in order to sustain human life can be seen in lands that do not benefit from the renewing forces of natural disasters: the Middle East and Australia. These lands suffer from soil devoid of the nutrients required for farming. Drastic changes and improvements to the environment had to be taken in these areas in order to sustain human life. While mankind was given dominion over the Earth and every living thing, thus having the capacity to modify environments in order to reside in harsh, uninhabitable parts, it is the fact that mankind can make improvements to a system that was made for us to dominate. Thus, God created something that is able to be improved upon, and is therefore imperfect.

Having perfect aspects does not make the being wholly perfect. For example: a person can achieve a perfect score on a test, or an apple pie can have the perfect amount of sugar. Those perfect aspects do not make the test-taker or pie perfect. Nothing a perfect being does or creates can be improved upon, for if it could be improved upon it would not be perfect. A perfect being cannot do something better than the first time it did it. It cannot, for example, paint a portrait one day, and then paint a better portrait the next. To paint a better portrait the next day would show that the original portrait could be improved upon, thus the perfect being arguably lacked perfection from the beginning. What a perfect being can do, it must always be able to do.

Now that the essence of “what perfection is”, or as Plato might say, the Form of perfection has been established, “what God is” must be established. While the physical makeup, or lack thereof, of the Christian-Muslim God is widely contested, God’s attributes are plainly listed in the scriptures. According to the Bible, God is: just (Jeremiah 9:24), love (1 John 4:8) eternal (Psalm 90:1-2), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), omniscient (Mark 5:10), the source of true goodness (Psalm 16:2), perfect (Matthew 5:48; Quran 12:6), and forgiving (Exodus 34:7). God also has some attributes which we would presumably find bad and immoral in anyone else: hatred (Jeremiah 44:3-4; Quran 9:46), jealousy (Exodus 20:4-5), being feared (Psalm 130:4), demands obedience or death (Ezekiel 18:19-20). These contradictory attributes (just-forgiving; loving-hateful; source of good-obey or die, etc.) provide God with paradoxical characteristics, which are contradictory and so irrational, and therefore implausible in a perfect being.

God is unable to regret having done anything, since everything God does is perfect (Psalm 18:30), God would know about any potential problems in advance, and would thus be able to create whatever situation necessary in order to avoid his repenting later. In the story of Noah’s ark we learn that God repented for having created the human race (Genesis 6:8-7), and then caused the near extermination of the mankind to correct the mistake (Genesis 6). God flooded the Earth, killing every living thing that was not on the ark with Noah. Knowing the human race would fail God, and would have to start the human race anew, leaves us with two possibilities: either (a) God knew that the human race would fail and God created them anyway (in which case God did not have the ability to prevent the quasi-genocide of the human race and is not omnipotent); or (b) God did not know the human race would fail (which explains why God would have to start anew, and why God did not start the human race from the point after the flood), which means God would not be omniscient. Thus, in either case, God’s qualities are inconsistent, and thus paradoxical.

Some opponents to this view, such as Leibniz, have objected that imperfection in the universe was part of God’s plan, and does not make God imperfect (p. 361). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Leibniz argues that in order to be the best being, which God is, God chose this world (universe) as the best, so it’s the best. Sickness must exist in order to appreciate health, bitter food in order to know sweet, non-bitter food. Thus, we must have some evil in order to know what good is.

“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). This verse in the bible shows us that God’s plan is perfect, without flaw. As stated earlier, it cannot want for anything or be improved upon. If God intended for the plan to include imperfection would mean that imperfection is integral to perfection, since “His way is perfect.” If God’s plan is perfect because it has imperfect aspects, then in order for something to be perfect, it must also have imperfect aspects. Something that is imperfect, however, cannot also be perfect.

Evil must exist in order for good to exist implies that in order for God (the source of all that is good) to exist, his polar opposite must also exist or God could not be. This, once again, puts a limitation on God. Furthermore, we do not need to experience pain to know what feels good, nor do we need to experience the sorrow of death in order to appreciate the beauty of birth.

Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are infinite; their capacities cannot be quantified. For example, omnipotent means “almighty or infinite in power.” This means that an omnipotent being could not say he or she had “X” amount of powers, or an omnipresent being would not be able to go to only “X” amount of places. These aspects, while all-encompassing, are not what make a being perfect. A being can be omnipotent and still have flaws, due to its lack of capabilities. God, however, is perfect as well as omnipotent. To say that God cannot do something is to negate that omnipotence. Therefore, “God can’t…” is a paradoxical statement, which means God must be able to hate and love at the same time (not necessarily in the same respect), or be right and wrong. If God creates or does something imperfect, then there is some aspect of God that is imperfect, and thus God is imperfect. However, for a being to be perfect, as well as omnipotent, that being must be able to do anything and still have no imperfection, in any aspect. If a person could say about a perfect, omnipotent being, “It could have done ___ better,” this would signify an aspect of that being that could be improved upon.

I defined “perfection” as, to be without flaw, and argued that God is paradoxical. A perfect, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being cannot exist because of the paradoxical limitations required for such a proposition. To accept God as such a being necessitates a change in the very meaning of “perfection.” Included were the objections I hear most when I first present my views, and hope to have sufficiently answered each objection. How, then, was the universe created? Through the perfection of random chance, but, as with the conditions for a perfect system, that is another topic, for another day.