The Significance of God’s Infinitude
Someone e-mailed me a question the other day that might initially seem like a child’s question but that actually touches on an extremely important, but often overlooked, point. It concerns the significance of God’s infinitude. (To avoid unnecessary philosophical conundrums, I want to be clear that I’m using “infinitude” as a synonym for “unlimited.”)
This person wondered how God could pay attention to her prayer when millions of people were probably praying at the same time. I responded by pointing out that the reason we humans can only effectively listen to one person at a time is because we have a finite brain with a finite amount of attention to spread around. If two people are talking to us at the same time, therefore, we have to divide our limited attention between the two, which means we can’t attend to either person very effectively. But God’s “brain” — and thus his power of attention — is infinite. Since you can’t fraction infinity (e.g. a third of infinity is still infinity), this means God can listen to each and every one of a trillion people talking to him as though EACH ONE were the ONLY one talking to him. He doesn’t have to spread his attention thin to cover all the individual prayers. When we talk to God, therefore, we may (and should) imagine having a completely private audience with him.
This application of the infinitude of God may seem rather obvious, since very few people (in my experience anyway) worry about God being overwhelmed with the chatter of millions of people praying. But the infinitude of God has other applications to issues that people seem to frequently struggle with.
For example, I’ve met many people who have trouble believing they’re “special” to God. They may accept that God loves them, but only in the general sense that he loves “the world.” Once we get clear on the infinitude of God’s love, however, we can see that God’s love for each person is as intense as it would be if they were the only person he ever created and loved. I find I sometimes experience a dimension of God personal love for me I’d otherwise miss by imagining myself in prayer as the only one God created and loves. If you ever struggle with this issue, I encourage you to try this.
The final application of the infinitude of God that I’ll mention in this blog (I’m saving a fourth for my next blog) concerns the way it changes how we might think about the future. I’ve written about this application elsewhere (see, for example, my essay in Eddy, P & Beilby, J [eds], Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (IVP, 2001) so I’ll just touch on it here.
If you’ve read any of the popular books critiquing Open Theism, you’ll quickly come across the objection that a believer can’t trust a limited God who faces a partly open future. If God faces a future partly comprised of possibilities, the refrain goes, then God can only guess at what will come to pass and can’t promise to work all things together for the better (Rom. 8:28). God can only promise this if he foreknows with certainty all that will happen.
Can you see how this objection is premised on the assumption that God possesses limited intelligence? If God has infinite intelligence, he doesn’t have to spread his intelligence thin to cover possibilities the way humans do. Since you can’t fraction infinity, the infinitely intelligent God is able to attend to each and every one of a gazillion possibilities as though each one were the only possibility he had to attend to. This means he anticipates each possibility, or series of possibilities, as perfectly as if it was the settled future of the classical view. He doesn’t lose anything. God is as prepared for each and every possible event in the future as he would be if he foreknew it as a certainty from all eternity.
In other words, only a God of limited intelligence would be better prepared for the future if he foreknew it as a certainty.
Just like only a God of limited intelligence could answer prayers better if there was only one person praying instead of millions.
And just like only a God of limited love could love a person more if they were the only one he created rather than one among billions.
Think about it.