January 8, 2013

"Is God happy?"

"The question is not absurd."
... If He is not indifferent, but subject to emotion like us, He must live in a constant state of sorrow when He witnesses human suffering....

If, on the other hand, He is perfectly immutable, He cannot be perturbed by our misery; He must therefore be indifferent. But if He is indifferent, how can He be a loving father? And if He is not immutable, then He takes part in our suffering, and feels sorrow.


Tim said...


A form of "presentism" applied to theology.

Where does one get the idea that human logic applies to God?

(and yes, I know what the atheists will say, so save it...lol)

Brew Master said...


If you ascribe emotion to God, he will be encompass all emotional possibilities, and all at the same time.


MCO said...

Well, the first commenter questions why "human logic applies to God," but I was wondering that such logic should apply to the writer of the linked article.

The brief excerpt here makes several assumptions that I would question. Does immutability in an infinite God really necessitate imperturbability and indifference, as those terms would be applied to a finite being. And, does a lack of changing emotions really correspond to a lack of loving? Is loving predominately an emotion, either in human or divine terms?

chickelit said...

Bob Dylan famously once said that happiness was overrated. I believe he was talking about human happiness.

I'll bet the Polish dude has seen a lot of unhappiness. He looks old enough.

Bob Ellison said...

What Tim said. Don't argue that something outside the rules must obey the rules. More so, don't try to apply those rules to explain said entity's behavior.

befinne said...

From "Hannah and Her Sisters;"

If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.

Anonymous said...

Who is this guy to pontificate so?

No Christian would say that Christ is the "true God of the Christians" -- most would consider that heresy. Almost no Christian, I suspect, would agree that Christ was "not happy in any recognizable sense."

This is blather.

Anonymous said...

Quote for previous:

"The true God of the Christians, Jesus Christ, was not happy in any recognizable sense. He was embodied and suffered pain, he shared the suffering of his fellow men, and he died on the cross."

Paul said...

Asking of God is happy or unhappy or indifferent is judging by MAN'S standards, not Gods.

See God does not view human life like we do. The SOUL is everything, the flesh nothing.

And that is why when people say how can God let this or that happen, well He takes a longer view.

Happy? Maybe a better word is content. He started the ball rolling a real long time ago when the universe was the size of a pea. He knows how it ends to.

But He gave us free will, free to do good or bad.

And when we have huge problems it is not God's fault, it is ours. For we cause our own problems, not God.

n.n said...

The question is indeed absurd. A mortal man would presume to know God's will. The mortal man also fails to comprehend that his mortal existence is temporal. Perhaps the mortal man defines his existence by his short Earthly life and the sentient pleasures it affords. Then why would this mortal man, who obviously does not have faith in God, pretend to care of God's nature and affairs?

edutcher said...

Old story - two guys in a plane flying over a crossroads obscured by tall hedges. 2 cars race toward it at right angles and miss each other by inches. One guy turns to the other and says, "Now I know how God feels".

I don't doubt he gets awfully frustrated, but he must have a great sense of humor and it must be gratifying when that intellect and free will things works out.

Chip Ahoy said...

If He's not indifferent He's emotional, if He's immutable then He's un-perturbable, then indifferent, but still a loving father.

God just now said there's a word for that and He thinks it all at once with no contradiction at all where He lives. It's a dimension thing.


Oh. He sez, "Don't probe too hard in areas for which you're ill equipped," He's seen "more than one philosopher flameout right there on the shores of salvation."

I go, "I do not know what that means."

And He goes, "See."

EDH said...
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EDH said...

"Is God happy?"

That means all those clever bumper stickers saying "...and boy is She pissed" were wrong?

Pogo said...

"But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt.

It is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god.

They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

jimspice said...

Yes, asking those questions is absurd, just as asking them about Santa would be absurd.

Balfegor said...

"Is God happy?"

There is, I believe, good authority that he is angry.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Jesus doesn't weep because of His being happy.

William said...

Is your computer program happy?...Hegel stated that God is mankind seeking consciousnss.....It does seem passing strange that so much of our universe is rational and predictible. If it just happened one would expect a lot more chaos or, for that matter, just nothing.......On the news tonight some astronomer claimed that one out of six stars had planetary systems similar to ours. He gave some huge number like sixteen billion. So there's a good chance there's other intelligent life forms out there. Perhaps one of them, millions of years older than us, invented earth beings as an amusing, if somewhat violent, evolutionary game for pre schoolers on his home planet.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Ask a God of the water Missy "Berkeley" Franklin.

Ask Her now, P.B. (pre-Berkeley)

traditionalguy said...

This nice theologian is a Buddhist. He is deceived by the Nirvana feelings he gets during chants and yoga stretches and affirms the crafty circular arguments of Buddha gurus that make god into a pantheistic non being. He is lost.

Christian revelation knows that the man Jesus is God and he was seen being emotionally moved by compassion for hurting men and women and using His power of the Holy Spirit anointing to heal them and set them free from bondage.

Love could be seen as God's passionate emotional outreach. When there is a passionate response of faith to that outreach, then there is great rejoicing in Heaven.

Then there is the astonishment of God upon meeting a man or woman with faith in His Word. That is one sort of an emotion felt by God.

Predestination Calvinists will argue with that, but I still think we surprise God at times.

Archilochus said...

Speaking of Calvinists:

In saying that some fallaway into superstition, I mean not to insinuate that their excessiveabsurdity frees them from guilt; for the blindness under which theylabour is almost invariably accompanied with vain pride andstubbornness. Mingled vanity and pride appear in this, that whenmiserable men do seek after God, instead of ascending higher thanthemselves as they ought to do, they measure him by their own carnalstupidity, and neglecting solid inquiry, fly off to indulge theircuriosity in vain speculation. Hence, they do not conceive of him inthe character in which he is manifested, but imagine him to bewhatever their own rashness has devised. This abyss standing open,they cannot move one footstep without rushing headlong todestruction. With such an idea of God, nothing which they mayattempt to offer in the way of worship or obedience can have anyvalue in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but, insteadof him, the dream and figment of their own heart. This corruptprocedure is admirably described by Paul, when he says, that"thinking to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1: 22.)

Jane said...
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Jane said...

There was a man named St. Nicholas. People made up exaggerated stories in the last few centuries, yes, but the person was real to begin with.

Jesus was a real person. As a student of history I find his story to be utterly fantastic - it's unlike any other story written at the time. His contemporaries wrote similar accounts of his life that were witnessed first-hand. I find his story too riveting and fantastic to *not* believe it in its entirety.

As for the God/happy question, His biggest promise about heaven is that we will laugh and have no more tears. Since He's infinite and eternal, I imagine He can see that more clearly than we. Our emotions are copies of His since we are made in His image, but we are limited here, so I don't think we understand sorrow, happiness, or joy quite like He does. His "emotions" seem more purposeful, and ours are sometimes based on what we had for dinner.

Paddy O said...

Or, even better, there's this.

Christianity doesn't really talk about happiness.

But it does talk about joy.

Joy is not the same as happiness, but there's happiness somewhere in the midst of that. Joy is also able to comprehend and envelop more complex and even contradictory emotions than just happiness.

Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Where does fruit come from, if not the source. Also, with joy is love. And with love is peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Now, if you were experiencing all those things would you be happy?

If you saw someone who rejected those or wasn't experiencing those, would you instantly lose them? Or would such an experience motivate you to participate and share and invite someone into those same experiences?

cathy said...

Behind this question is whether God expected there to be an original fall away from Him. He didn't expect it at all and is desperately sorrowful and in hope of a total return to his intended creation.

Nini said...
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Nini said...
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Nini said...

Let me share to you (i'm not here to preach) our ideas regarding the points raised by prof Althouse from the linked article.

From Jaiva Dharma (the constitutional function of the living being) by Bhaktivinode Thakur, who was a high court judge in late 19th century in Orissa, India, before he became involved in presenting the principles of the Gaudiya Vaishnava theology to the English speaking world.

Formlessness, immutability and inactivity simply comprise the material conception of what is opposite to our conception of material qualities, so they are themselves a type of material quality. However, Sri Krishna (God) also has qualities that are of an altogether different nature.

Sri Krishna’s (meaning, He who is all-attractive) transcendental body is composed of eternity, consciousness and bliss, without even a trace of material qualities. He is not subject to material time and space. On the contrary, he exists fully at all places and in all times simultaneously. His form and existence are the embodiment of absolute non-duality.

One can ask: if the jiva (the living being) performs karma (action or deed) and experiences pain and pleasures, where is the question of Isvara’s (another name for God, meaning the controller) active involvement?

The answer would be that the jiva is the instrumental cause, and when he performs karma, Isvara acts as the efficient cause and arranges for the fruits of the karma that the jiva is eligible to enjoy. Isvara also arranges for the future karma for which the jiva has become eligible.

Robert Cook said...

Is is an absurd question, of course. Assuming (strictly for argument's sake) there is a god, he, or more accurately, it, is so vast and as beyond our comprehension as we are to a microbe. We understand the universe around us through our own perspective of time and sense and intellect...all limited, and unique to us. A creature who lives and dies in a matter of days or weeks, or who sees in the infrared spectrum, or who can hear above or below the sonic frequencies we can, assuming it were aware as we are, would have a completely different perspective on the world in which it exits than we do.

Just as we anthropomorphize animals, particularly our pets, and assume they look at us as we do at them, we anthropomorphize god. Assuming his/her/its existence at all, it is nothing like we imagine, and thus the god we discuss or worship is of our own creation and imagination, a projection of our fears and hopes.

Rusty said...

If g*d is indeed infinite,then there is nothing that g*d is incapable of. but to ascribe anything to g*d is to limit g*d.

sparrow said...

Of course He feels sorrow for our sins and heartache for the loss of us. The author of emotion has shared our humanity and with it emotion. He's perfectly at peace within himself but desires to share His joy with us. His sorrow is due to our refusal rejection of him in favor of the world.

BTW logic applies to God - it is one of the ways He is revealed to us. He gave us a mind to use to pursue love and life.

sparrow said...

Catholic tradition has it that Christ was indeed serene even happy on the cross because in death He gave up all attachment to the world, honor etc. Father Barron (he has a PBS series in Catholicism) calls it a "high paradox". In this there is an overlap between the Zen concept of detachment and Christian sense of being dead to the world.

Harsh Pencil said...

It is possible that God sees all the suffering in the world the way a parent sees a two-year-old wailing about about a stubbed toe or having to take a nap. He knows the child is suffering and knows exactly why, but also sees this suffering in relation to everything else: the stubbed toe is a temporary thing and the child will grow into a happy life. Put differently, if I can be perfectly happy even though I see my child clearly suffering from a stubbed toe or having to get a shot, why can't God be happy even though He just witnessed a massacre? To us, like the child with the stubbed toe, the massacre is devastating, but God knows how it will all work out in the end, sees it all in context, and is fine with it.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I've been giving this topic a lot of thought, since I'm a pretty unhappy guy myself. But I have more questions than answers.

I mean, what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

TMink said...

Christ did suffer and die for me, and you.

But it is clear that the Trinity have joy. Look at a night sky, walk behind a duck, have sex with your spouse.

God is happy, and he died so that we might be happy with him.

He is also sad about the suffering and pain in this world due to sin.

So he made a way out!


Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Astonishing hubris to attribute human emotions to the Creator, is it not?

I've concluded that God does exist, but that He does not believe in people.

Susan Stewart Rich said...

happiness is a metaphysical impossibility

Mitch H. said...

I like the sally about joy versus happiness, but the writer the Professor links to just seems to have a rather binary mindset that is uncomfortable with infinities and paradox. I would rather think that the hypothetical omnipresent, omniscient deity would have enough emotional room within itself for all emotions and emotional states without over-straining excessively.

Now, Siddhartha wouldn't, but the Buddha was a finite being. Christ was also apparently, while incarnate, finite. This I find rather strange, on thinking about it: why wouldn't a portion of a once-infinite entity, poured within the confines of finity, have found his new state such a utter totality of agony which should have made his bawl of birth echo from the big bang to the heat death. The scale should have made the tortured hours of the cross as an anthill beside Vesuvius.

The sacrifice wasn't the cross or the death, it was the birth.

pduggie said...

God is pure Act, and IS his attributes. He is not acted on by those outside him. You can't hurt him by sneaking up on him and hitting him.

Methadras said...

If God is to be a loving god, he must therefore be a happy god. However, there are numerous occasions where he does become angry and even states what will stir his ire. However, this likens one of those philosophical questions like, "Can God make a rock heavy enough that even he can't lift?" Well, the answer is no and why would he want to? Besides, we know the largest and heaviest objects in the universe are black holes and even those have a lower limit and it looks like a galactic upper limit based on galaxy size. However, if he he can lift a black hole, then I think the question answer itself.

One thing that strikes me oddly is when God told Moses that "You shall not put any Gods before me..." which has the distinct implication that there are/were other Gods that this particular God did not want his believers to worship, hence golden calf. He did proclaim himself as a jealous God once before I believe too.

Methadras said...

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Astonishing hubris to attribute human emotions to the Creator, is it not?

I've concluded that God does exist, but that He does not believe in people.

The problem with people who ascribe human emotion to a divine being is that they don't even know what hubris is. Also the idea that you don't believe that God believes in people is possibly due to that people might be SOYLENT GREEN!!!

Sorry, had to get that in there.

Deb said...

G-d 101.

In my book, G-d is unknowable. STill people have tried.
We are haunted by Isaiah's warning (40:25), "To whom, then, can you liken Me, to whom can I be compared?", and later (55:8‑9), "For My plans are not your plans, nor are My ways your ways…But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are My ways high above your ways and My plans above your plans." The assumption that God's nature can be conveyed in a literal way by our natural language is as idolatrous as building a golden calf.