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God is Incorporeal

Mind without Body?

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It is commonly taken for granted that, when talking about God, we are discussing a being who has no body and is not in any way constructed from matter or energy — both of which are features of the “created universe” rather than the “uncreated God.” This attribute of incorporeality should not be taken for granted, however, because it has important implications for other divine characteristics.

In many ancient religions, gods were often perceived as having bodies of some sort, even if those bodies differed from the bodies of humans. Even in more philosophical conceptions of God, some unity between God and matter was regarded as a necessary consequence of the belief that the world was somehow an aspect of God. When Greek philosophers began to propose an absolutely perfect God, however, it was concluded that such perfection was not compatible with a material body.

After all, matter and energy have limitations and are susceptible to change — two attributes which philosophers specifically denied as applying to God. Therefore, it was argued that God is not matter, is not energy, and does not have any kind of body — but God is Mind. The idea of God as Mind rather than Body is consistent with the traditional dualist view of Mind and Body being entirely different substances, often accompanied by the further idea that Mind is prior to and superior to Body.

God, of course, is the ultimate Mind — far surpassing in every respect the Mind which we understand ourselves to have. God’s actions, God’s intentions, and God’s will are all extensions of the ultimate incorporeal Mind which lies behind the very structure of our reality. At least, that is the basic idea behind philosophical theism — but does it make any sense?

The premise that God is Mind without Body suffers from many of the same objections raised against the argument that human beings have a dual nature between mind and body. We have no experience of minds without bodies and all scientific evidence points to the conclusion that the existence of mind is dependent upon matter — making the existence of a disembodied mind like God rather unlikely.

Even if a disembodied mind were possible, how could interaction between mind and matter be explained if they really are completely and utterly different kinds of things? How can immaterial Mind affect or change matter in any way? Perhaps we need to postulate some third kind of substance which mediates between Mind and Matter, even between the Mind of God and the matter of the universe — but the more substances beyond mere matter that we have to postulate, the less realistic and reasonable our theories become.

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