Paradox in (in)fallability

[size=75]DISCLAIMER: I am a Catholic. I am not trieing to defile, deface, debase, upset, destory, et cetera any beliefs one might have about God. I have already made my conclusion about the following paradox, and just want to know what other people think. END DISCLAIMER[/size]

If man is fallable, and God is infallable ((in)fallabity, both ideas created by man), then how do we know that God is really infallable? More over, how do we know that we are fallable?


It is not too difficult to acknowledge that we make errors. And if we make errors, we are necessarily fallible (analytic statement).

As for God, how can we know that he exists? The question should be: how can we know that an infallible being (a being so defined) exists? Answer: by faith, or by some demonstration which I am not acquainted with.

Why do we make errors? Because there are some things we do not know. But it is held traditonally that God is omniscient.

So the question becomes: how can we know that an omniscient being exists.

Yes, but in being fallable, how are we to know, as an unshakable truth, that an infallable being can exist. How can we prove our faith?

Why are you concerned with proving your faith?

You don’t believe that faith is beyond reason?

I’m not concerned in proving faith. I am merely posing a paradox.

What I should’ve said is, “How can our faith prove that God is infallable.”

That would have been my question. Why is it assumed that man is fallable? Does this concept not come from religion which is created by mankind in the first place? It’s not that I disagree with religious doctrine, it’s more that somehow it feels incomplete to say that we are only fallable. I was thinking this morning about the great paradox of life. Life is a paradox but we can learn from it. To say that we are merely fallable is to deny that we are also infallable. Faith comes from our own heart, it is not believing that the sky is blue, but rather it’s the knowledge that we are the sky and therefore we have understanding why the sky is blue. We are not separate from the sky in the same way that we are not separate from God. If we are not seperate from God, we know God. To attribute silly words like infallable to God is to miss the point.


This thread is a perfect example of socratic teaching…so many have been converted from one belief to another due to it. A question such as “how can our faith prove that god is infallible” is just as incompatible as “how can our faith prove that god doesn’t exist or does exist and is fallible?”

I thought it was interesting of you Peter to perform this attempt to convert anyone who would fall for it - even if that desire was a subconcious thought, it is still prevelant in your line of questioning.


You are having to make many assumptions about the concept of god to create (construct) your paradox. There are any number of cultures whose views would find no paradox. Indeed, there wouldn’t even be a question.

Faith can be expressed by constructed ‘evidence’, or as is common practice, in spite of so-called evidence. We may have conditional truths, fallable and infallable understandings, but ultimate truth and the ineffable that which is (god) may reach beyond our constructs and renders paradox as meaningless.


Hi PtP,
“everyone is fallible to some degree” means that everyone is capable of making an error - the assumption that God is infallible means that God is unable to make an error. The Jewish God, however, is said to have regrets.

It seems to me that you are assuming that yor concept of God to be unmoving and distant, which is the only way to achieve infallibility. Once you enter into personal relationship and come close, regrets and therefore error are possible.

Therefore you need to ask what your God is - distant, unmoving and infallible or close, merciful and fallible.


If creatures other than God have free will (some degree of authority over 'how things are'), then isn't it possible for God to have regrets without making a mistake?

Peter- Does your argument treat God different than anything else? For example, you say we are fallible, therefore how can we know God exists. Couldn't you just as well say 'We are fallible, therefore how do we know the grass is green'? Do you think questions about God have a special kind or degree of doubt, or are you really making a statement about how we can know [i]anything[/i]?

Hi Uccisore,

In the sense that regret is a loss and longing for someone or something gone, or a feeling of disappointment or distress about something that one wishes could be different, you could be right that this doesn’t constitute a mistake. But for an omniscient God, wouldn’t it constitute an error of judgement?

I find the discussion about omniscience and consquent infallibility means to take the discussion out of the OT context. The OT God is capable of anger and dissapointment at the behaviour of Israel, which is a bit strange when having total knowledge or knowing everything. This is, to my mind, only explainable in that God is described in the Bible in human terms, whilst remaining the Ineffable.

This is important because God is ‘discovered’ by means of the individual attributes that are revealed and put together to form a whole - without knowing what the whole is. It is like having bits of a jig-saw puzzle without knowing what the final outcome will be. The names of God are said in Rabbinic tradition to indicate the various ‘identities’ of God. Trinitarians could say the same about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If these attributes conflict in any way, we can’t yet say whether our concept God is a contradiction in itself, because we don’t know the whole story.


It may be that God's being dissappointed is a necessary risk to creating creatures with free will. IF that's the case, then creating free will [i]in general[/i] would have to be evaluated, in terms of whatever God is getting out of it, and whether or not it outweighs the dissappointment.  If you accept that having creatures with free will is something God enjoys very much, then it's possible for God to be dissappointed from time to time, even if he makes the best possible choices available to Him. 
A true example of a mistake on God's part would be something that He comes to regret doing because of it's [i]natural[/i] consequences, and not because other free beings messed things up. 
I agree. It seems to me that either these are anthropomorphizations of God that correspond to something about Him, even if that something isn't exactly a human emotion, or else God's knowledge doesn't extend to the future actions of free Beings. 
 A question about ineffebility- is it a statement about God, or a statement about us? That is, do you claim that humans are such that they cannot know God, or do you claim that God is such that he cannot be known? If they sound like the same thing, I apologize, but they are quite different in my mind. For example, the first way of stating it leaves room for the possibility that God is just as the Bible says He is, and the second rules that out as an option. 
I want to say something about God's experience of time, but I don't know how to formulate my idea. It seems to me that if God experiences all of time at once, instead of sequentially (something I'm not sure I believe, by the way), that affects the notion of mistake and regret. I mean we couldn't exactly say that God was happy at [i]this[/i] time, but then things changed and he god angry[i] later[/i]. Again, I don't understand the signifigance of this, but it seems there's a point to be had in there somewhere. :wink: 

That’s certainly true, and it’s a risk we run with calling out contradictions in the first place. Finding a contradiction in the nature of God would have to be a very precise, obvious contradiction, or else it can be attributed to not knowing the whole story, as you say.

:laughing: That wasn’t my original intention, but I suppose such a conversation could do such a thing.

This is what I was getting at. Very good Bob. Haha. This was part test of faith for those who do believe, and part “see what I get.”

Hi Peter

Are you causing trouble? :slight_smile:

Fallible from

I guess I would have to say that humans including me are fallible. As far as God is concerned, Meister Eckhart, in the quote below, expresses my understanding of God much better than I ever could. Creation itself is inside God so to speak and its mechanics are necessarily designed to result in overlap leading to clash or suffering. Some could call it error but I see it as unfortunate necessary universal justice.

So I see man within creation as fallible but God, not within creation but outside of it, time, and space, as infallible if for no other reason then that fallibility occurs within time and space.

Hi Uccisore,

Pardon my breaking in, but I’m not clear that, having said ineffable, we can then impute qualities without risking reification. It would seem that ineffable is just that - ineffable.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t inject some construct to satisfy this or that need, but it would be a construct of circular reasoning to ‘get around’ the meaning of ineffable. Rather like the scientific speculation on the attributes inside a black hole.


 Well, that's kind of my question.  When we say "God is ineffable" are we really saying something about God (and can we, without being in contradiction) or are we instead saying something about human limitations?  If we are saying something about human knowledge, then it could still be that God is loving, kind, and all that- we just are unable to know that for certain.  If we [i]are[/i] saying something about God, then he can't be any of those things, because those are things that humans can understand.
And yes, there is a risk of reification either way you go. But then, I don't believe in ineffebility and that's one of the main reasons why.  But then, my question isn't an attempt to 'trick' Bob into claiming attributes to God. My question is what exactly the word ineffable means in the first place as he uses it. If applying the term 'ineffable' to a thing involves giving that thing qualities, and is thus self-refuting, that's my contention but not my fault.

Is perfection impossible?

Does perfection require knowing all outcomes thereby rendering only one possible path?

If this is so then does that mean that for those that believe in free will perfection should be impossible?

Could it then be argued that under these conditions the omniscient god cannot exist?

I’m thinking off the cuff based on those two statements above…

A good topic for another thread, I have a thing or two to say about it.


I can’t speak for Bob, but for me, ineffable includes awareness at two levels. I am aware of something. I am aware that I cannot know that something.

I’ve tried to figure out if that is simply a design limitation of me (us) or that which is (god) and finally realized that part of what is ineffable is the answer to that question. Even in my awareness, silence is the only truthful answer. With this realization, I have ceased to look for “God” and have focussed on the universe as I find it. As you know, I find eastern thought to be tremendously helpful in the ‘seeing’ of that which is. Not in the naming, but in the way of looking. Oddly enough, as soon as I stopped looking, I found that which is, or what we westerners call “God”. Not the god of the bible (although he’s in there. Ask Bob), but that intuitive understanding and connection with all that is. My language is different, full of of metaphors and seemingly deliberate vagueness. This comes with a different way of thinking, not western at all. I rarely think about what we call “God” in the western sense of the word, but am keenly aware of that which is almost constantly. My true understanding falls to silence. Only in this forum, trying to get past the knowings and the abstractions, does the term “god” even occur to me. That which is is both ineffable and silent.


Hi all,
Uccisore wrote:

Ineffable means not capable of being put into words. The Bible, of course, gives God names according to the attributes that are discovered in a certain situation, these include both Lord of Hosts and Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, but also images like land, rocks, a shield, a fortress, a mother eagle urging on her young, a mother hen protecting her chicks. God is said to be like a farmer, like a shepherd, like a father or like a mother.

In all of these images, I have the feeling that the writers of the OT would have written ‘for me’ God is like … There are many stories that contain ideas concerning God, what is most important is that these do not become idols. In fact, the command not to make an image of God supports the statement that he is ineffable. Idols or graven images are hardfast and leave no room for the imagination, whereas the OT as well as the parables of Jesus encourage the imagination. This is saying that the reality behind the metaphor remains ineffable, but let yourself be inspired by the imagination, speculate what attributes God may have - but don’t make these images into an idol. Discover what identities God can have in communicating with you, but don’t try to bind him. Seek the awareness of his spirit, but understand that this “ruach ha kodesh” blows where ever it wants.

Tentative wrote:

That is what I mean too. As soon as I am looking for something in particular, I run the risk of missing the ‘current identity’ of God as he is addressing me. If I open up my mind to the fact that God, being none of the metaphors, could just as well be all of them, I suddenly realise that any exclusiveness I try to maintain could may well block out God as he chooses to be perceived today.