Now that that is cleared up, we can take a look at Stephen Webb’s article with the same title over at First Things. He opens:
Classical theism, with its identification of God with infinity, has developed a reputation for emphasizing divine transcendence to the point of making God nearly unknowable. The problem with this judgment is that infinity—as in, God is infinitely unknowable—does not admit to degrees. An infinite God is not like an unimaginably large number that we could count to if only we had enough time. Nor is an infinite God like the largest possible number we know, or at least know well enough to use in any practical way.
The crux of the problem is God being incomprehensible. The infinite God Who is wholly transcendent is also, therefore, wholly unrelatable. You cannot enter into a relationship with one you cannot know. When you get right down to it, there is no point in praying and, therefore, no point in religion. This is the problem that the Greeks encountered and one of the ways Greek philosophy was redeemed by Christian doctrine. The Greeks while being religiously polytheistic were philosophically monotheistic. However, this one god, the god of the philosophers, was not accessible to the people. It ultimately made not only religion irrelevant, but philosophy as well. With the Incarnation though the one God Who is infinite, eternal, and wholly inaccessible and unknowable became man. His condescension became our ascension. An ascension of the whole man rooted and invigorated by the Ascension of the Incarnate One. This is an ascension of our intellect, will, passions, body, soul, and of every other aspect of man save sin. In short, it is the divinization of man. In our secular and materialist world the concept of God as being unrelatable is the norm. It is all the more unfortunate then that it would be encountered in an article in First Things written by a professor of philosophy and religion who is a Catholic (if we are to take Wikipedia’s word for it).
At the end of his article, Dr. Webb concludes that God is not infinite, but rather it is our potential knowledge of Him that is. He ends saying:
Aristotle denied that anything that actually exists can be infinite, although he accepted a potential infinity, in the sense of a series that continues without any logical ending. Following Aristotle, perhaps the best we can mean by calling God infinite is that our knowledge and enjoyment of his presence will never be exhausted. God is like a hypercube whose dimensions, if ever mapped for the purposes of notation, would have no apparent numerical end. If so, then it is not quite accurate to say that God is infinite, but it would make some sense to say that our potential knowledge of God most certainly is.
What Dr. Webb has done (whether intended or not) is attempt to confine God to overcome the problem of the gap which exists between Him and us. He commits the error of the Greeks by his seeking to correct it through reduction. God, however, cannot be reduced to anything nor confined by anything. Dr. Webb’s own conception of God and his interpretation of theology seems too physical. He says, “Theologians in the tradition of classical theism claim that God is also greater than the known universe, but can they propose a rational way of demonstrating that God is greater than Graham’s number?” The problem with this question is that Graham’s number is itself confined by creation. God is not greater than the known universe in the sense of being bigger. He is neither bigger nor smaller. He does not exceed the boundaries, is not confined by the boundaries, nor is He the boundaries of the universe. He is greater in the sense of being wholly other than it, as well as the universe having been produced by Him and being entirely dependent on Him for its continued being.
The true answer to this problem is – as stated above – the Incarnation. The union of God and man, the Uncreated and created, in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. Dr. Webb seems to have forgotten about Him and instead has looked to pure philosophy for his answers; but pure philosophy in the end leads only to confusion. I think he does this because he doesn’t like apophatic theology. He says, “Such a God might exist—philosophers still debate whether Anselm’s statement can serve as the basis for a proof of God’s necessary existence—but we cannot know anything positive about him [emphasis mine]. Attributing infinity to God and negative theology go hand in hand;” and a little later, “God’s infinity is infinitely receding, according to Przywara’s perspective. Knowing God is not just analogous to knowing what infinity is, since we can have some idea of that. No, the infinite God must be infinitely unknowable.” Apophatic theology, however, is the reality of our finiteness in relation to the Infinite. It is our humility in the presence of the Mystery. And this is why the fathers, doctors, and all the saints of the Church have affirmed that God cannot be grasped by our intellects, but He most certainly and wonderfully can be grasped by our love. As for Dr. Webb’s god, a god who is infinite only in the sense of my potential knowledge is not worth my worshipping at all, for in the end that god is only a thing that happens to be bigger than me.