Nelson.... I ran across this article and would like you to read it and I would love to read your thoughts on it..and anyone else who would like to comment.....I'm not very good at explaining myself to theist all the time, I normally just say what i think. Your so knowledgable and I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you. http://www.saintaquinas.com/omnipotence.html
first of all, thanks for the kind words! i'd love to read the link and tell you what i think. i very much appreciate you seeking my thoughts. i'm interested in what you think of the essay too. i'm no less interested in what any other members think of it too.
right off the bat the author tells us of the extent to which he is willing to be intellectually honest. the default position on any question is skepticism. the author refuses to take that stance. he says, "The reader should also be aware, that many of the problems with God’s omnipotence proceed from conflicts with his other "great-making" qualities. One possible solution to some of these conflicts is to abandon one of the properties which conflict. Another possible solution is to abandon Christianity entirely. As a devoted Catholic, I will not consider these "solutions" as valid alternatives." he plainly says that there are two possible solutions that he will flat refuse to even give due consideration because they don't fit it with his dogmatic presuppositions of what is true. this is deep intellectual dishonesty. whatever follows after having started out making this kind of statement will always be pure rationalization; it will be an exercise is explaining away the problems rather than undertaking an honest appraisal of the problems. with that in mind let's consider the content of the essay itself.
regarding problem 1-
in my experience, it is generally accepted by theologians and atheologians (skeptics who challenge theologians on theological grounds) that the classic "can god make a rock so heavy he can't lift it?" question doesn't call into question god's omnipotence because the question is a logical impossibility. it is considered no limitation on god's omnipotence to say that he can't do something that's a logical absurdity.
from there things just get silly.
he begins by formulating an argument in order to redefine the meaning of omnipotence. first of all, why is it that our current definition of omnipotence won't suffice? does the author really think we're going to let him out of the problem by simply redefining omnipotence so that the problem no longer exists? nevertheless, we let him continue for pure entertainment value.
his argument fails from his first premise (P1)! "The cosmological argument proves the existence of a completely actualized God." it does??? WOW! that's incredible. let me get down on my knees and clasp my hands in prayer then! of course the cosmological argument doesn't prove the existence of a god, much less a completely actualized god. give me a break. an argument rests on the validity of each of it's premises. if any of the premises is false, or if any of them is formed in such a way that a logical fallacy has been committed, the argument fails.
at this point i think it's really best to lay out his argument and see how badly it fails.
P1. The cosmological argument proves the existence of a completely actualized God.
the cosmological argument for the existence of god proves nothing and never has. much less has it proved a completely actualized god. if we are to accept this first premise as true the author would first need to submit the cosmological argument he's claiming proves his completely actualized god exists. [P2.]By the term "actualized God" we mean that God has no potentiality, only actuality. In this sense, God cannot change.
arguing by fiat. god cannot change? who says so? how does anyone know such a thing? C1. A being of total actuality is entirely simple because of his unchanging nature.
in what sense is something that doesn't change automatically entirely simple much less simple at all? simply saying so doesn't make it true. P3. By entirely simple we mean that God’s nature is entirely simple.
so he says but doesn't offer any reason for us to accept as true. P4. If the nature of God is entirely simple, then all the divine attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, etc.) which describe his nature are entirely simple.
"IF..." since he hasn't established the "if" as true the "then" simply doesn't follow. P5. The divine attributes of God’s nature can only be entirely simple if the divine attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence.
huh? maybe this makes sense to some people but perhaps you have to speak Christianese. C2. The divine attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence.
he starts out with an unsubstantiated claim that the cosmological argument for the existence of a god not only proves god's existence but proves a god who is completely actualized. then he jumps instantly and without warrant from this completely actualized god that started the universe right to his god, the god of the Catholic faith. what follows after that is worthless because it stands or falls on the validity of the first premise.
remember when i pointed out at the beginning that he wasn't going to be intellectually honest? here's a perfect example in the very next paragraph: "One solution to this problem is to admit that God CAN sin, it’s just that he refrains from doing so. Unfortunately, if we accept this solution then that means that it is conceptually possible that God could stop refraining from sinning and start sinning whenever he wants. Could you imagine a "God" who stopped refraining from sinning and started raping, pillaging and destroying randomly? Certainly this is not the Christian God! I submit that we have no reason to accept this alternative as true."
why is there no reason to accept the alternative as true? simply because it doesn't fit with your preconceived notion of the truth of Catholic Christian dogma?
i actually laughed out loud at this next part:
"Now the skeptic may argue that it is ridiculous to keep redefining God’s omnipotence to suit the Christian position." Ah, so he's aware that he's simply redefining omnipotence in order to suit his preconceptions. how will he defend himself?
"In response, I offer the following argument:"
P1: The divine attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence.
they are? that's what he tried to prove with his first "argument" (hard to call it an argument at all really). P2: Both omnipotence and omni-benevolence are divine attributes
according to traditional Christian dogma they are, sure. on what grounds do we know that for sure? C1: By premise 1, it follows that omnipotence and omni-benevolence are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence.
you've got to be kidding...
"I have already proved that premise 1 is true previously in this paper."
no. no you haven't. not even remotely.
"Thus, the above argument is both logical and sound."
no. no it isn't. not even remotely.
and now we come to it; what he's been leading us to all along:
"The above argument shows that omnipotence and omni-benevolence are not conflicting qualities in God’s nature. Instead, these properties are our human way of understanding the infinite nature of God. We can’t grasp the infinite nature of God with our finite intellects, so we must resort to assigning properties such as "power" and "goodness" to God’s nature. Thus we are justified in redefining God’s omnipotence as:
Def : God can do anything logically possible which does not conflict with his nature."
so, in essence, we CAN'T understand god with our finite intellects. consequently we assign properties to god's nature as a sort of place-holder for our understanding of god's infinite nature. however, we are apparently justified in saying that we CAN understand this infinite god as being able to do anything logically possible which doesn't conflict with his nature of which we haven't the ability to grasp due to our finite intellects.
one wonders what anyone is justified in saying that god can or can't do, that is, what does or does not conflict with his nature, in light of the fact that we haven't the faculties to be able to grasp his nature!
problem 2: the problem of evil.
once again intellectual honestly is an issue.
"A second way to solve the problem is to deny premise 2. One could accept that God is not all-good or all-powerful or all-knowing. For example, a God which is not all-good is not bound by his nature to create only good; he could create both good and evil. In a sense, if a Catholic were to take this position then he has already granted victory to the atheist. A Catholic must remember that it is an article of faith that God is all-good. In a similar manner, a Catholic cannot abandon the definition of God’s power and knowledge. Therefore, a Catholic defender of the belief in God cannot reject premise 2."
he says plainly that no matter what reasonable logical argumentation indicate, what simple experience dictates, since it's an article of faith that god is all-good, denying premise 2 is just out of the question.
such a person is hardly worthy of a response.
the rest of his points i'll cite and briefly address.
quoting Augustine he says, "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil."
despite saying that the rejection of premise 1 was not an acceptable solution this seems to be just what he's doing. after all evil is the absence, the very opposite, of good. in redefining evil to mean simply evil as it only appears to be evil from our perspective but from which really flows more good according to the great sweep of things from god's perspective, in what sense is this evil at all? regardless, the author specifically says, as do most Christians, that god is all-good. in what sense then is a being all-good when that being allows evil to exist having the power to do otherwise? if i have information about a horrific crime soon to be committed and i fail through inaction to stop the crime can i be said to be all-good? can i be said to be all-good if some good arises as a consequence of this evil? bear in mind that the action i would have to perform to prevent the crime wouldn't be a time consuming strenuous activity but rather i could simply wave a magic wand and the crime would be prevented.
"If it can be shown that God draws a greater good from these evils, or that these evils do not conflict with the divine benevolence, then we can successfully show that the conclusion of the problem of evil does not follow from the premises."
how would anyone be able to show that god draws greater good from the evil in the world? 11 million people were murdered by the Nazis; who is that weighs that evil- each of those 11 million a man woman or child with hopes, dreams, and memories- against whatever good it can be said to have produced?
simply saying that good comes as a result of evil doesn't solve the problem.
and still, this seems to suggest that evil is sometimes a necessary consequence of good- in order for some good to exist so must some evil exist. in his "Evil and Omnipotence" J.L. Mackie makes the point that, "It would be a causal law that you cannot have a certain end without a certain means, so that if God has to introduce evil as a means to good, he must be subject to at least some causal laws." after all, if god could produce the same good without the attending evil, and if he is indeed omnipotent and all-good, then why wouldn't he do so?
"God permits free-will because he deems it a greater good to create creatures of will than to eliminate all possibility of evil."
this implies that Freedom is a greater good than is the absence of evil, not a case that's easily made. and, too, why couldn't god have simply created humans with free-will but in such a way that they would always freely choose the good as opposed to making choices that would lead to evil? this of course assumes that god has indeed given humans free-will to begin with but there are numerous instances in the bible where Yahweh can be found to "hardening the hearts" of a person or people in order that they will do what he wants them to as opposed to what they might normally have done without his interference. in what sense is this free-will? if god typically allows us our free-will choices but occasionally feels it necessary to intervene then why can't he intervene to prevent our free-will choices that would lead to evil?
finally, presumably there's still free-will in heaven. surely there's no evil in heaven. how is it that free-will and the lack of evil coexist in heaven? does god intervene in heaven to ensure the absence of evil? then why can't he do so on earth as well?
"Christian doctrine does tie the existence of death and natural evil to the choice of a man; namely Adam, the first member of the human race."
invoking the doctrine of original sin is essentially the same thing as the free-will defense just dealt with. whether Adam was the first human or the 10 trillionth human the objections are the same. of course there is inherent in this the disgusting notion of punishing the human race in its entirety for the crime of one person. if being just is covered under "all-good" then surely this is a problem.
"[I]f a person experiences the unavoidable suffering of life, they can the suffering to draw themselves closer to God. A person bereft of the joys of the world can either despair or avail themselves to the deeper joy in God."
he seems to be saying that evil exists in the word so as to draw us close(r) to god. in that case are we justified in finding in this concept that god cares more about how many followers he has than about the evil in the world? this sounds rather like the ends justify the means.
"Evil is not a tangible thing created by a good God."
here at the end he's denying the existence of evil something he said he would not do because, "it is a defined dogma of the Church that evil exists in our world as the direct result of the devil. Thus a rejection of premise 1 seems out of the question."
which is it? does evil exist or doesn't it?
it's late as i write this but hopefully from my response you can see how none of the author's silliness resolves anything. what's more, he's framed his essay as if he's responding to skeptics, presumably these skeptics would be skeptical about the very existence of god, of Satan, of Adam, while rejecting the bible as an authoritative source, and yet his "resolution" to the problem of evil points to each of these.
thanks for showing us all the link. it's amazing the lengths people will go to in order to justify their ancient superstitions. you really get a sense of his overall mindset from a sentence on his "about the webmaster" page: "Few nonbelievers are willing to study religion and philosophy enough to choose wisely between theism and atheism." of course there's no question as to what he feels would constitute a wise choice between theism and atheism. and don't you just love the idea that atheists have chosen unwisely only insofar as they aren't educated in religion and philosophy? atheists are those who haven't studied enough to realize the truth of theism. hilarious.
Thank you nelson, as always a wonderful response....It's amazing to me how millions of people can't see that god is one huge contradiction after another. On twitter i have met many atheist, and i gotta say, they are more versed on religion than most theist . I think thats awesome.
i find the same thing. it's the knowledge that comes when you think critically about things as opposed to the tortured rationalizations that come from defending your unevidenced dogmatically held preconceptions.