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Is God Perfect?
June 25, 2006 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Is God perfect?

Most, if not all, major bible-based religions (christianity, judeism, islam) believe that their scriptures are the unerring words of God. That, in some sense, the Quran, Bible and Talmud are 100% perfect and true because they are the words of God, who is infallible.

I'm looking for scriptural references that specifically state that God is infallible. There are plenty stating that he is omniscient or omnipresent. Those don't count. Being all-seeing and all-knowing doesn't prevent one from making mistakes. Ideally, the statement would come from somebody speaking in the name of God, such as a prophet. I don't recall ever reading a passage that specifically states God's infallibility. Does it exist?
posted by fatbobsmith to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total)
 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies a (written) doctrine of Papal infallibility. If (their) God's not perfect, it would be impossible for the Pope to rule the Church without "making mistakes", at least without contradiction.

Gnosticism holds the idea of an imperfect creator God ("Demiurge") that is the offspring of perfect, unknowable entities. You can read more about it here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:15 PM on June 25, 2006


On God not changing his mind or lying.

Since there's no higher authority in these religions, I think the issue is your definition of "perfect". If God is the highest authority on goodness any decision he makes must be the right one. If he never changes his mind, all of his decisions are "correct", which would make him perfect.

(from an atheist)
posted by null terminated at 6:18 PM on June 25, 2006


If one believes that God is the infinite expression of every imaginable trait, then God is perfect. Because He, She, It, or They lack(s) no quality or quantity. Infallibility does not express perfection. Perfection is simply a state impossible to improve or expand.

God's perfection is not a function or reflection of the texts that speak of God. That would appear to be a dead-end in terms of this particular line of inquiry.
posted by the sobsister at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2006


According to Wikipedia: "Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible are the words omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent used to define God in a systematic sense...Similarly, the New Testament contains little systematic theology: little or no philosophical or rigorous definition of God is given, nor of how God acts in the world"
posted by thewittyname at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2006


As the scientist of the group, I should at least point out the concept of relativity would probably apply here. If you remove the concept of perfection from the human perspective and change the reference frame to that of a higher authority, you can set that reference frame to be the perfect one.

This doesn't really answer the question, but hopefully offers a different perspective.
posted by galimatias at 6:27 PM on June 25, 2006


"As for God, His way is Perfect," 2 Samuel 22:31

The same phrase exactly, Psalm 18:30


"His work is perfect" from Deuteronomy 32:4

This is what a Bible Gateway link to "God, Perfection of" brings up, but it doesn't really seem to cover the issue.

I don't know about other faiths who consider their gods perfect, at least in detail, though the Prophets and Sons of God in many have been depicted as above temptation. Most references I can find to perfection on Bible Gateway and this searchable Koran refer to him making others perfect or followers being perfect with God.

Personally, I lean neopagan but do believe in an over-father God, and do not believe the gods are without fault (the Judaic/Christian Deity, at the very least, has a horrible temper). Also, it depends what you mean by "perfect." If perfection precludes sexuality, as some seem to believe, that implies less-than-wholeness in my own worldview. Even perfection is subjective.
posted by Cricket at 6:35 PM on June 25, 2006


Only basing this on the 2-3 philosophy & religion classes i've taken but He is perfect. That's why he is God and you are not.

Well according to Paul and Mark anyway. Human beings can never be perfect like Him in his eyes.
posted by eatcake at 6:35 PM on June 25, 2006


Matthew 5:48 (Jesus): Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

There are a lot of passages comparing God to lesser spirits or the devil, such as 1 John 4, which refer to God as the spirit of truth and these other spirits as those of falsehood.
posted by heatherann at 6:38 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


You get the cookie heatherann. Exactly what I was searching for. This has turned into a much more interesting discussion than I anticipated though.
posted by fatbobsmith at 6:41 PM on June 25, 2006


If God were perfect, he wouldn't have created the human knee or spine. They are both atrociously poorly-designed.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on June 25, 2006


It all depends on what the original word that was translated into English means. I don't read Greek or Hebrew or anything, so I can't help you there. It also depends on what you mean by "infallible", but I searched for "perfect" and "perfection" because I thought it might be an acceptable substitute.

Here are some from the KJV:
2 Corinthians 13:9
For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.

Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Mind you, I am not a theologian or a believer.
posted by Hildago at 6:59 PM on June 25, 2006


If God were perfect, he wouldn't have created the human knee or spine. They are both atrociously poorly-designed.

He designed them that way to test us, silly.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:14 PM on June 25, 2006


That, in some sense, the Quran, Bible and Talmud are 100% perfect and true because they are the words of God, who is infallible.

The Talmud is not considered the word of God; it's a very different text than the Quran or the Greek scriptures. Here's Wikipedia's article on it.
posted by clockzero at 7:16 PM on June 25, 2006


A quick search of The Holy Koran reveals only seven hits for "perfect" - none of which seems to meet your requirements. "Infallible" scored a big fat zero.

That was only one guy's translation, though. I would guess that the concept exists, but either I am using the wrong keywords, or else the concept is built up from a number of separate elements - eg if you are all-knowing & infinitely just, it seems that you cannot make an imperfect judgement.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2006


Well if he's not, he should consult the Pope.
posted by kookoobirdz at 7:36 PM on June 25, 2006


Justice Robert Jackson once said of the United States Supreme Court: "We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final." In the same way, the fact of the supremacy of the biblical diety naturally implies its perfection. If there is no higher power, there can be no more correct authority.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:48 PM on June 25, 2006


If there is no higher power, there can be no more correct authority

Though it's worth noting that without first establishing His infallibility, we can't trust Him when he says there's no higher power.
posted by Hildago at 8:31 PM on June 25, 2006


Exactly what I was searching for.

Not really. Like Hildago said, you really ought to check the original Greek/Hebrew/whatever of that passage before noting a later English translation as "specifically stating" what you wanted to find. The translation issues are not trivial.
posted by mediareport at 8:59 PM on June 25, 2006


I think that at this point, the deity referred to by Christians is perfect by definition. That is, if someday someone meets the deity referred to and it isn't perfect, then the Christian's God can be said not to exist, i.e. a victory for atheists. That's if the Christian deity is best described by theology.

If instead of theology, one takes Biblical exegesis to pick out the entity referred to as the Christian God, then either a) God may not be perfect, or b) perfection is a lot different than any typical human concept of perfection.

But is "perfection" implied by being a deity in general? Definitely not. The Greek gods were terribly imperfect, as are many Hindu and other gods.
posted by ontic at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2006


The Quran speaks incessantly about the attributes (or names) of God, most of which express perfection in some sense or another. You could try looking through the 99 Names of Allah or the Most Beautiful Names of Allah, all of which are compiled from the Quran. Here's a link with Quran citations.

I think the question is largely semantics: if God declares Himself to be The All-knowing [al-Alim], The All-powerful [al-Qadir] and The Infinitely Good [al-Barr], that pretty much rules out the possibility of a mistake, does it not? To make a mistake, one must intend something wrong, negating goodness, lack the ability to enforce one's will, negating power, or not know how to do it right, negating knowledge. I guess I disagree with your premise that:
There are plenty stating that he is omniscient or omnipresent. Those don't count. Being all-seeing and all-knowing doesn't prevent one from making mistakes.
posted by BinGregory at 12:19 AM on June 26, 2006


Cites, since you asked:

Al-Alim: Quran 3:92 "By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth God knoweth it well [al-Alim]"

Al-Qadir: Quran 46:33 "See they not that God, Who created the heavens and the earth, and never wearied with their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yea, verily He has power over all things [al-Qadir]"

Al-Barr: Quran 52:28 "Truly, we did call unto Him from of old: truly it is He, the Beneficent [al-Barr], the Merciful!"

Translation by Yusuf Ali, brackets are mine.
posted by BinGregory at 12:30 AM on June 26, 2006


Yes, according to the Orthodox Jewish Belief, Hashem (G-d) is perfect.

(btw Judaism is mispelled in your tags.)
posted by Izzmeister at 5:04 AM on June 26, 2006


If (S)He is perfect, as in omniponent, (S)He sure is a bastard.
posted by lodev at 6:30 AM on June 26, 2006


God says in EZEKIEL 20:25-26:

"I imposed on them statutes that were not good statutes, and laws by which they could not win life. I let them defile themselves with gifts to idols; I made them surrender their eldest sons to them so that I might fill them with horror. Thus they would know that I am the Lord."

So yes, either not perfect, or a bastard.

Although I love Jack Miles' assertion that later on Job shamed the Lord for being so terrible, hence His inspiring Him to atone through Christ.
posted by hermitosis at 7:58 AM on June 26, 2006


If God were perfect, he wouldn't have created the human knee or spine. They are both atrociously poorly-designed.

Maybe we're just not doing what they are designed for. Hardly God's fault.
posted by hermitosis at 7:59 AM on June 26, 2006


How could God failrly judge us if He wasn't all-knowing, all-seeing and perfect? He is perfect.
posted by rinkjustice at 8:20 AM on June 26, 2006


How could God failrly judge us if He wasn't all-knowing, all-seeing and perfect? He is perfect.

Circular logic, though.
posted by Hildago at 2:36 PM on June 26, 2006


Circular logic, though.

Ridiculously circular logic, I'd say. rinkjustice, you really need to rethink your notion of proof, and perhaps if proof is even relevant in cases of faith. Bottom line: your comment proves nothing.
posted by mediareport at 7:29 PM on June 26, 2006


Ridiculously circular logic, I'd say. rinkjustice, you really need to rethink your notion of proof, and perhaps if proof is even relevant in cases of faith. Bottom line: your comment proves nothing.

The question is "Is God Perfect?", which makes the assumption that God exists.

God does exist btw, and His Son Jesus Christ did pay the terrible price for sin in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, and He did conquer death. I can't prove this to you, but you can prove this to yourself by having faith:

"He manifesteth Himself unto all those who believe in Him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith" (2 Ne. 26:13)

Faith is the currency of heaven. It's what buys miracles and new lives and a pure knowledge of God's existance. Without faith, you can have nothing.
posted by rinkjustice at 8:06 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 PM on June 26, 2006


(Oops, sorry, thought I was in the blue. I'm done here.)
posted by mediareport at 9:01 PM on June 26, 2006


This is my experience. 1. there is a God.2 He is perfect.
3. And he can be a mean son of a bitch. 4. try to stay out of his way when he's on a tear
posted by zackdog at 10:52 PM on June 26, 2006


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