Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is God Evil?

Recently while in a thread at The Dawn Treader we got into a discussion about the problem of evil. I wanted to discuss the issue further but as it wouldn't be nice to start my own off-topic discussion on someone else's blog, I invited my friend Paul to come discuss it here. Here is a synopsis of our discussion:

Paul said: God commanded everything to happen, down to the smallest beat of a fly's wings; being omnipotent, omniscient, and outside time, he could not do otherwise. Hence, you would say, everything is good?

Civis said: When you say “God commanded everything to happen, down to the smallest beat of a fly's wings; being omnipotent, omniscient, and outside time, he could not do otherwise. Hence, you would say, everything is good?” surely you don’t mean that. Do you believe that God commanded the Holocaust? Millions of babies being aborted? The starvation of 11 million people in the Ukraine? Divorce? Fornication? Child molestation?

Paul said: Civis - yes, I mean exactly that, and I don't understand how it is logically possible to think otherwise. If I set a go-cart rolling down a hill, and can see that it's heading towards a car, you would rightly think that I'd meant it to hit that car - if I didn't I could have pointed it in a different direction.

Civis said: If I am showing my son how to ride a bike, at some point I have to stop holding him up. I have to give him a push and let him peddle and balance on his own. When I do this, I know that he is going to fall. He is going to fall a lot. He’ll get cut and bruised. He could even get hit by a car. Does this mean that I want him to fall or get hurt on his bike? No. I would rather that he not hurt himself. I do not directly will for him to get hurt. On the other hand, I want him to be a normal little boy and grow up to be a healthy man, so I permit him the freedom to ride his bike and allow him to be hurt from time to time. I permit it, though I would prefer that it not happen.

Alternatively, I could protect my son from all harm by keeping him in a padded bomb shelter and not let him do anything. I wouldn’t even let him read books because he could get a paper cut, and die of an infection. I also would not let him have any friends, because they would carry germs. The problem with this second plan is that if I followed it, my son would be something a great deal less than what I want him to be: a healthy adult.

I would say that God does not directly will bad things. I would say that he “permits” it. I think I have heard this referred to as his “permissive will.”

Paul said: the flaw in your analogy is that you don't make the 'rules' of cycling. A more appropriate version would be if you were teaching your son chess, and every time he made an illegal rule you stabbed him in the arm. That, as far as I know, would be a rule unique to you. Having settled on that, I don't think you could retain the excuse that you don't really want him to get hurt - you made the rules, knowing that he would fall afoul of them.

Civis said: Paul, it seems to me that you are confusing an arbitrary rule with a natural consequence.

Things work better when they act or are used according to their nature. Let me use another example to illustrate: I make a glass figurine and give it to my son. The purpose of this figurine is to be looked at for its beauty. My son wants to hang a picture in his room but can’t find a hammer. He then decides to use the figurine to drive the nail and it shatters into shards and cuts him. His cut is a natural consequence of the misuse of something.

If God wants to give us free will (for whatever reason), a part of that free will must be the freedom to misuse things and this causes pain. Just because you give someone freedom to make choices, does not mean you desire the choice the person makes or desire the consequences.

49 comments:

Rodak said...

"Just because you give someone freedom to make choices, does not mean you desire the choice the person makes or desire the consequences."

This is true. But it does not explain why God set the game up in the first place. Why create a creature with the capacity--in fact with the *propensity* to fail--and then condemn that creature to eternal suffering when it, predicatably, fails? If creation somehow *necessarily* entails such a grim scenario, then why become a Creator in the first place?
Also, even if we resolve that question, there remains the question of the existence of evils that are not contingent upon human morality in causing pain. Why did God create viruses and microbes that inflict disease states in other creatures? Why did God design a creation in which every creature must kill in order to live?
It is because I don't see good answers to these questions that I find myself in sympathy with dualistic religious philosophies.
I have sketched in a kind of outline of his on my blog, as I think that considerations of these issues is crucial to any meaningful examination of one's place in the universe.

Civis said...

Rodak,

Do you have a link to the comments you referenced?

You have mentioned a few important issues. Let me focus on the first first.

"This is true. But it does not explain why God set the game up in the first place. Why create a creature with the capacity--in fact with the *propensity* to fail--and then condemn that creature to eternal suffering when it, predicatably, fails? If creation somehow *necessarily* entails such a grim scenario, then why become a Creator in the first place?"

First, if you believe in God, it would follow that he may have reasons that are beyond our understanding. It is important to keep that in mind. To understand God is to be superior to God which, if God exists, cannot be the case: the creation could not be superior to the creator.

Second, that being said, for whatever reason, God wanted man to have free will to choose good or evil. If there were no possibility of chosing evil, there could be no free will.

You use the word "game". I know you are a fan of Plato, recall the dialog with Euthyphro. I don't want to read too much into what you are saying, but I would say that it is a mistake to say that X is right simply/only because God said so. There are a number of theists who belive in, and a number of non-theists and agnostics who reject religion based on, what I would call "The Divine Command Theory".

So then, this is not a game that God just made up. He did not create a world and make arbitrary rules to see if we could run the gauntlet.

Third, RE "and then condemn that creature to eternal suffering", it is important to remember that God made a way for man to avoid condemnation: forgiveness/redemption. While the angels by nature are not capable of turning back to God once they reject him, man has that capacity. The door is open for man to accept God's grace. The people who go to eternal punishment are those who chose to do so because they are not interested in eternity with God. For them, heaven would be contrary to what they want. This may sound like a rather odd statement. I think it was best expressed in a work of fiction called THE GREAT DIVORCE by C.S. Lewis.

Fourth, I think "the God who is out to zap you" is a distortion of Christianity.

Rodak said...

Civis--
My discussion of dualism on my blog begins with this post, and continues for several more:

http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2007/08/reflections-heresy.html

We can posit that, because God is God, it follows that anything done by God is "good" by definition.
The only remaining problem, then, is that God is reported to have done things, or ordered men to do things (genocide, for instance), which, if done by man of his own volition is considered to be evil.
If God is completely beyond good and evil, then we can't speak of God in terms of good and evil. And that's that.
If, however, we believe in a God that is Good and characterized as Love, then it is possible that *some* of our beliefs--particularly those coming from the Old Testament, about God are simply wrong. It is this possibility that I reflect upon in my blog. I also provide a number of links for anyone who wants to look into it in more depth than blog posts allow for.

"So then, this is not a game that God just made up. He did not create a world and make arbitrary rules to see if we could run the gauntlet."

How do we know this? The whole thing is complicated, of course, by God's omniscience. He would have known that Man would disobey Him in advance, which suggests that God's will opposed God's will, unless God deliberately created conditions in which evil, and human sin, were unavoidable.
Thus, God's omniscience is at odds with God's omnibenevolence.

Paul said...

rodak makes a good point, which I wanted to take just a little further:

"Why create a creature with the capacity--in fact with the *propensity* to fail--and then condemn that creature to eternal suffering when it, predictably, fails?"

I would argue with the word 'predictably' because it is much too weak. If I ask my kids to be quiet for an hour then, predictably, they will fail. That doesn't apply to God; it's not that he's *good* at knowing what will happen, he's literally *perfect*. Whatever you choose to do, whether you think you have free will or not (in fact whether you actually have free will or not), he already knows what your choice is.

I guess you could argue that just because he knows what your choice will be that doesn't mean he wants you to make it. Unfortunately he is also omnipotent, so if he really doesn't want you to make that choice he's infinitely capable of changing the entire universe, either now or when it first began, so that you wouldn't be presented with the situation, or given the same situation you would freely make a different decision. So the best you could reasonably argue is that God is indifferent to the choices you make. I have no problem with that idea, though it doesn't sound like the Christian ideal.

Rodak said...

Paul--
Rather than me trying to recapitualte it here in a combox, please take a look at:

http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2007/08/reflections-tree-of-knowledge-of-good.html

Paul said...

rodak - your post is an interesting one, and not something I'd thought about before. It ties in with another logic conundrum I've pondered, which is the idea of God testing us. Given that he is omniscient, he doesn't need to test us because he already knows what the answer would be - it would be like me testing to see if my living room floor would hold my weight.

Rodak said...

Paul--
Such considersations gave rise, I suppose, to the doctrine of double predestination; some created for salvation, some for damnation. Not a very satisfying doctrine, imo.

Civis said...

Paul and Rodak,

Are the two of you theists of atheists and/or how would you describe your relgious beliefs? I just want to make sure I know where you are both coming from.

Rodak,

"How do we know this [that it's not a game]?"

Are you familiar with the "Euthyphro dillema"? If not, I will try to summarize (I am assuming you probably know it better than I). It sounds like you are proceeding on the assumption that the Divine Command Theory is correct (i.e. X is right and Y is wrong IFF God says X is right and Y is wrong). If that is the case perhaps that would be a good place to begin discussion.

"God's omniscience is at odds with God's omnibenevolence."

Paul and I have discussed this point previously. Maybe we could put that thought on hold. Paul, you alluded to this point a moment ago as well. I'd like to come back to that point in a future post. I'll post our previous exchange like I did for this post if you think that works.

I'd like to say to both of you that this is a stimulating conversation and I've been troubled by some of the points you both mention but I think I have found some answers. I found particularly troubling some of the stuff in the Old Testament, and I realize that when you discuss this with people you often are met with simplistic answers that aren't much help. Been there.

To do justice to the topic, it seems to me we should take things one step at a time. It seems to me that the "Euthyphro dillema" and the "Divine Command Theory" is a good place to start. What do you two think?

Civis is now off to Rodak's blog to see what he can learn before lunch is over......

Civis said...

Rodak,

That was faster than I thought. I went to

http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2007/08/reflections-heresy.html

what other posts should I look at. Maybe you could give a list of posts.

Does that 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia Rock or what? So much information, so scholarly. And Newadvent.org! What a useful website!

Rodak said...

Civis--
If you just read through my posts in chronological order (from bottom to top, as they are arranged on the blog) you can follow my train of thought. There are a couple of incidental, off-topic, posts interspersed, but not many.

Civis said...

Gotcha.

Rodak said...

"It seems to me that the "Euthyphro dillema" and the "Divine Command Theory" is a good place to start. What do you two think?"

Civis--
Sounds good. Why don't you play Socrates and ask the questions.

Civis said...

Alright, I'll give it a shot:

Do you think that X is right and Y is wrong because God says so or do you think God say so because X is right and Y is wrong? Stated another way, is Y immoral because God says so or does God say that Y is immoral because it is immoral?

Rodak said...

In God, with God, of God, there is Truth and Goodness. Therefore, in God, with God, and of God, there is Objective Truth and Reality, with a capital "R".
On the level of the Creation, however, nothing is eternal, everything is in a state of flux, and there is no mind, on the material plane, that is capable of processing enough information at any given time to "know" anything more than an approximation of the "reality" of the current situation at hand.
A thing is Right because it is Good. But you and I, in our normal, workaday state, have no direct access to the Good. This is something achieved by saints, after long work and much prayer.

Civis said...

You say a thing is right because it is good. So then, you would say that God says that Y is immoral because it is immoral?

Rodak said...

I would say that any act involving a moral choice (i.e. not undertaken out of necessity) is moral if motivated by truth, goodness, and love, all of which are aspects of the One, which alone is Good.

Rodak said...

I am troubled by the whole concept of "God says." If we consider the Old Testament, for instance, we find God saying all kinds of things that we no longer hold to be true. Since God could neither be wrong, and since God, being eternal, is not subject to change, then it must be the case that these things were not actually said by God. The Jewish dietary laws are one example of this. I think that everything in creation is a mixture of good and not-good. When we are talking about morality, we can talk about good and evil. There is some question concerning whether evil partakes of objective reality, or whether evil is only a negation--an absence of good where there should be good. But I'm not sure what is meant by "God says..."

Rodak said...

To put it another way, because God is eternal, God cannot "say" anything. In order to "say" something, God would have to change. Therefore, when we say that God "said" something, what we must really be expressing is that we have somehow accessed a little piece of the Real--we have received a revelation of the Eternal True Ground of All Being.
I am of the opinion that human beings must work to make themselves capable of "tuning in" to Reality.

Dick said...

I come late to this thread (there are only so many minutes in a day), but I wonder as I read it if part of the difficulty posed by the problem of evil doesn't result from our concept of omniscience.

We wonder why God would have created the world as He did if He knew that things would turn out as they did. But perhaps the open theists are right in maintaining that God really didn't know what free moral agents would choose to do with their freedom.

He knew all the possibilities, of course, and what He would do given the realization of any of those possibilities, but which of them would actually occur, even He didn't know when He created the world.

In the traditional view of God's omniscience God seems to bear responsibility for the existence of pain and suffering because He could have created any world He wanted, including one where people were free but always chose to do the right thing. Nevertheless, He deliberately created one in which free agents would frequently choose to do bad things.

If, however, God didn't know what man would do with his freedom then perhaps He created the best world possible and let man create the moral environment which characterizes it.

I think there are problems with open theism, but it does help explain why God created a world in which He knew that people would do great evil.

Rodak said...

Dick--
Suppose that I make a beautifully landscaped garden out of my 40-acre back yard, complete with fountains and bowers and gazebos and rose trellesses, and then invite everybody I know to a big garden party--all well and good. But suppose that I knew it to be the case that my back 40, which was the only place I had available to plant my garden, was prone to the opening of sudden sinkholes which would swallow up any of my guests who happened to be standing on one when it opened.
While the analogy is imperfect, it seems to me that this is what material existence is like.
We can imagine a creator compared to whom we are infinitesimally small and weak, but who is nonetheless not perfect--as seen from our viewpoint--in any of his aspects. If such a god had likes and dislikes; if he had moods and passions; he would be seen to be mutable, and therefore, not perfect. BEYOND such a god, would be the perfect ground of all BEING.

Civis said...

RE: God's omniscience, I'm holding my comments till later, but you all go ahead. I think I'll make a new post and discuss the Divine Command Theory there.

Rodak said...

N.B.: My last comment did not pertain to God's omniscience, but to the rule of Necessity (or, to look at it from a different angle, the human subjugation to Fate) that is entailed in life on the material plane.

Dick said...

Rodak,

I know that a lot of theologians have held to the notion of God's immutability, so I'm reluctant to take issue with the concept.

Nevertheless, I don't see how God's perfection is contingent upon immutability. This seems to me to be less an idea derived from Biblical theology than from Greek philosophy.

It seems to me that if God is a personal being then He can't be immutable for if God does anything at all He's not immutable, and if He does nothing at all He's hardly worth thinking about much less worshipping.

Rodak said...

"This seems to me to be less an idea derived from Biblical theology than from Greek philosophy."

I would contend that Christianity as a whole is more derivative of Greek religious philosophy than from Judaism.

"It seems to me that if God is a personal being then He can't be immutable for if God does anything at all He's not immutable,"

If God is outside of space/time, then the verb "to do" means something very different with regard to God, than it does with regard to temporal creatures. Eternity is not something that our minds can comprehend.

"...and if He does nothing at all He's hardly worth thinking about much less worshipping."

I don't think that follows. In fact, I think that the opposite is true.

Rodak said...

Below is the opening paragraph of a book review of Robert Alter's new translation of "The Book of Psalms" from the October 1st edition of THE NEW YORKER:

"What is God like? Is he merciful, just, loving, vengeful, jealous? Is he a bodiless force, a cool watchmaker, or a hot interventionist, a doer with big opinions, a busy chap up in Heaven? Does he, for instance, approve of charity and disapprove of adultery? Or are these attributes instead like glass baubles that we throw against the statue of his invisibility, inevitably shattering into mere words? The medieval Jewish thinker Maimonides thought that it was futile to belittle God by giving him human attributes; to do so was to commit what later philosophers would call a category mistake. We cannot describe his essence; better to worship in reverent silence. 'Silence is praise to thee,' Maimonides wrote, quoting from the second verse of Psalm 65."

I find that I am at least one foot into the camp of Maimonides on the question of God's attributes.

Dick said...

Rodak said: "I find that I am at least one foot into the camp of Maimonides on the question of God's attributes."

Whatever the merits of Maimonides' view on this, I think it very difficult for a Christian to hold to it.

Jesus gave human attributes to God as did all of the New Testament writers. Jesus referred to God as a father, He said He was a moral Being, we are told He creates, loves, saves and gets angry, judges, rewards, etc. Perhaps most significantly, Jesus uses human stories to describe how God thinks and acts.

This is not to say that God is just a big human, but, on the other hand, if humans are made in God's image there must be some points of similarity.

Rodak said...

"Jesus gave human attributes to God as did all of the New Testament writers."

Dick--
Would you be so kind as to quote some of the scripture supporting this statement?
I think that, other than on those occasions where he was quoting Torah, Jesus rarely, if ever, characterizes God in human terms. It is true that he called God "father." As the Creator, and Ground of All Being, God is the "father." The Creator has established the Natural Law and when a human being has turned his heart towards the Truth, in love and obedience to the Natural Law, that human being is then attuned to God and can "hear" God speak, or "see" God's glory.
But Christ never has God "walking" in any gardens, or personally "smiting" any enemies, or actually "talking" audibly, etc.
Christ speaks in parables. He tells his inner circle of disciples that he speaks in parables to those who are not prepared to hear the truth. In these parables he often tells stories of masters, or kings, which are taken to be symbols for God. Thus it is assumed that Christ has given God human attributes. I would content that this is not the case. These stories are for rank beginners. They serve to persuade the uninitiated to make their first move toward conversion.
For St. Paul, even Jesus himself is almost completely transcendent. Paul had little interest in the earthly ministry of the Christ.
But, please--support your argument with the actual words of scripture, so that I can respond more specifically to your point.

Rodak said...

In the meantime, a post I added to my blog this morning addresses some of these issues:

http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2007/09/religion-all-greek-to-me.html

Paul said...

Wow, I'm away for a couple of days and look what happens! For background, I'm an atheist, raised in Christian schools in the UK, with an atheist father, mildly Christian mother, and now an atheist spouse. So my opinion of God is hypothetical - I'm interested in the logical implications of God as an abstract.

So, to abstracts. I base my understanding on the combination of omniscience and omnipotence, and the first disclaimer I will make is that I don't know if or why that would be considered the case.

Given omnipotence, good must be that which is defined by God, otherwise he would be unable to change that, rendering him merely very potent.

I have to confess I can't understand the idea that God can't do anything because it would imply change, which would make him not timeless. I believe that if God exists out of time that does not preclude him from change, in fact it would make the idea meaningless - he could intervene at a point in what we see as time, without it implying a before or after for him.

On a related note, I can't imagine that a Christian could be a Christian if he or she believed that God could do nothing; my understanding is that 'God the Creator' is worshipped, and if doing something is a violation of immutability, then there would be nothing to worship. But again, immutability denies omniscience, so pick your pillar :)

Civis said...

Paul!

Glad to have you back. Yeah, look what you started.

"I have to confess I can't understand the idea that God can't do anything because it would imply change, which would make him not timeless."

By sheer coincidence I was reading about this in the Summa Theologica last night. I think the thinking behind this is Aristotle and Aquinas' definition of time. Rather than screw this up, I'll reread and try to get it down and I'll also see if I can find the reference.

Rodak said...

Paul--
If God is perfect, then nothing can be added to God, including knowledge of, or participation in, a novel event--whether we speak of physical acts or mental events.
By the same token, if God is perfect, nothing can be substracted from God. The latter is more easily understood than the former, but both are derived from the same concept.
I tend to think that what humans take to be God acting, speaking, etc., is actually human consciousness getting a peak into eternity--tuning in to heaven's frequency, so to speak--and glimpsing that which forever IS.

Rodak said...

Paul--
Here is something Christian, Meister Eckhardt, that is quite similar to the idea of Maimonides that you cited:

"The Deity is absolute being without distinction of place or manner (ALKG, ii. 439-440). No predicate derived from finite being is applicable to the Deity; but this is therefore not mere negation or emptiness. Rather is finite being, as such, negation; and the Deity, as the negation of finite being, is the negation of negation, i.e. the absolute fullness of being."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrines_of_Meister_Eckhart

Rodak said...

CORRECTION: It was, of course, I who cited Maimonides earlier. It was *Dick* who suggested that a Christian could not hold the view attributed to Maimonides.
Paul had nothing to do with it. Sorry, Paul! ;-)

Dick said...

Rodak writes:

Would you be so kind as to quote some of the scripture supporting this statement?
I think that, other than on those occasions where he was quoting Torah, Jesus rarely, if ever, characterizes God in human terms...Christ never has God "walking" in any gardens, or personally "smiting" any enemies, or actually "talking" audibly, etc.


Jesus says of God that He has a will (Jn. 6:40), that He gives (Jn. 6:37) and forgives (Lord's prayer), approves (Jn. 12:43), loves (14:23), is morally perfect (Mat. 5:48), sends (Mat. 9:38), destroys (Mat.10:28), hides and reveals (Lk. 10:21). There's much more, and those are just examples of what Jesus says about God. The gospel writers themselves use other terms which are metaphors for God's action.

Rodak also states that:

In these parables [Jesus] often tells stories of masters, or kings, which are taken to be symbols for God. Thus it is assumed that Christ has given God human attributes. I would content that this is not the case. These stories are for rank beginners. They serve to persuade the uninitiated to make their first move toward conversion.

I agree that the language Christ uses is metaphorical, and that God cannot be exhaustively described using our vocabulary. But that's quite different than Maimonides' assertion that we can say nothing about God.

In Jesus' parables, God is portrayed as rewarding, punishing, rejoicing, etc. There's no Biblical reason to believe that God does not in some sense "do" these things. And if He does, then He is a personal God, one who acts.

Rodak said...

Dick--
God is personal because human beings are possessed of an immortal soul that has the potential to transcend this world and be in contact with the other.
Christ came to show us the Way to achieve that. The Holy Spirit, if we are able to sufficiently block out the interference of the world, in order to hear his small, still voice, is available to inspire, or "guide" us on the Way.

Dick said...

Rodak -

You wrote that: "God is personal because human beings are possessed of an immortal soul that has the potential to transcend this world and be in contact with the other."

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this. God is personal, in my view, not because of anything we are but because among His attributes are the traits which comprise personality.

God is aware of what is going on in the creation, He cares about what is going on, He acts in the creation to bring about what He wills. He experiences phenomena analogous to our emotions of anger, love, and joy. He is a moral being in that He always does what is in the best interest of His creation. He possesses a sense of justice, a sense of beauty, a sense of humor, etc.

A God that is completely transcendent, which has no properties of personality, could, for all we know, be the devil. We could say nothing about such a being - we couldn't say that He was good, or eternal, or necessary. We couldn't say he exists or that He is transcendent. We can't even say that we can't say anything about Him, for to say that is to say something about Him.

Rodak said...

Dick--
If God is as you say He is, then he's got a lot of 'splanin' to do.

Paul said...

The idea that God can neither add nor remove is an odd one. It seems we are trying to bind him to our own limitations. First, a point I know I keep harping on, is that he is omnipotent. Saying that "he can't" denies that omnipotence, which arguably denies his existence.

The second issue is the idea of:

"If God is perfect, then nothing can be added to God, including knowledge of, or participation in, a novel event--whether we speak of physical acts or mental events."

God is omniscient, and therefore has knowledge of all events, novel or otherwise. More important, however, is that God exists outside of time, and hence for him *nothing is novel*. Nothing can add or subtract not because God is limited, but because God is already the sum of all things, without the limits of our own time-bound natures.

Rodak said...

" Nothing can add or subtract not because God is limited, but because God is already the sum of all things, without the limits of our own time-bound natures."

Exactly. That's what I'm saying.
We can say that God "can't" make a rock too heavy for Him to lift. But that sentence makes sense only syntactically. Logically, it is absurd. This is the same thing, although not as obviously so, as saying that God can be limited to a specific action, at a specified time, in a limited location.

Rodak said...

What I'm saying is that when you are talking about God moving and acting, in time, like a limited being, you are talking on the surface level of myth. You might as well be talking about Zeus or Odin or Shiva.
Myth is the only way that we can talk about God that doesn't involve paradox born of mystery, beyond which our minds cannot penetrate in their normal state.
We can speak of the Utterly Transcendent only by analogy. But these analogy must be carefully monitored, or we end up by constructing a false God for ourselves and that false God becomes an idol.
It is best, therefore, as Christians, that we concentrate on Christ's life and message; and concentrate on those things as exemplars of what our own life should be; not what we should *do*, but what we should *be*. To the extent that we are what we should be, we will do what we should do.

Civis said...

Paul,

That there are some things that God can't do, does not affect his omnipotence. Some things by the nature of reality are impossible, like making a square circle.

Civis said...

Paul,

Aristotle/Aquinas' definition of time can be found at the Summa I.10.1

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1010.htm

It would seem that objection 6 contains the definition of time that you and I use in conversation.

Paul said...

Civis,

Do you think that reality exists outside of God, or that he made it? Do you think that God can not unmake reality, or bend it as he wishes? Do you think that's air you're breathing? (OK, ignore that last one, I'm trying to decide whether to watch The Matrix again!)

I'm constantly puzzled by the willingness of Christians to limit God's omnipotence. My knowledge of the Bible is very poor, but afaik it says pretty clear that God is OMNIpotent, not merely VERY powerful. That we struggle to comprehend this should always be considered our failing, not his. That squaring the circle is illogical is a failure of our logic, not a constraint of God's action.



Rodak,

I'm going to have to think some more - I'm confused about whether I agree or disagree with you, and it's making me lose my thread :)

Rodak said...

"That squaring the circle is illogical is a failure of our logic, not a constraint of God's action."


Paul--
A squared circle would no longer be a circle; ergo, God to say that God could square it is nonsensical.
God could, as you say, completely undo the universe and make it differently. But in a universe in which He has willed the circle to exist, even He can't square it.

Paul said...

rodak,

Again, you're trying to impose your limitations on God. I know that squaring the circle is nonsensical, just as I know that a human being born of a God is nonsensical (and I'm using the word in the strict sense you mean here; I'm not saying that it's silly, I'm saying that it makes no sense, because part of the definition of a human is that it comes from at 2 humans (one if you include possible cloning) and nothing else.

I'm being fairly generous there - turning water into wine would seem to be nonsensical, but I guess technically it could be done using molecular manipulation. So I hope it shows that once we move beyond physics and rely on logic, even you don't believe that logical impossibility is a barrier.

Rodak said...

Paul--
Logical impossibility *is* a barrier. It is no coincidence that mathematics and theology were once as one, and that Plato said "God is ever a geometer." In THIS universe, the circle cannot be squared. I don't think that either you, or I, can conceive of a universe in which 1 + 1 does not equal 2, and in which Pi is not 3.127.... (or whatever it is).
I agree with Wittgenstein who said words to the effect of "Concerning that of which we cannot know, we should not speak."
So far as we CAN know, the circle that cannot be squared is *intrinsic to Whom God is*. An unsquarable circle is also intrinsic to who we are, given that we are composed of the same stuff as is the rest of Creation.
We could not exist in a universe in which a circle could be squared. If you want to try to go outside of logic, you will have to leave OUR God and Man behind to do so.

Civis said...

Discussion of the "Divine Command Theory" and/or the "Euthyphro dillema" continues under the post "Is X wrong just because God Says So?"

Discussion of God's omnicience or the fact that he is all knowing continues at the psot called "If God is Good...?"

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