Is There Something Wrong with the Concept of God?
ghostgeek: I don't intend to raise the question of whether God exists or not. Others have tried that, with the invariable result that nothing is resolved. Of more interest to me is whether the definition of God generally trotted out, and the notion of human free will, are incompatible.
(Edited by ghostgeek)
orkanen: That would depend on how one defines the god in question. If the god is depicted as all seeing, or all knowing, free will generally tends to go out the window.
ghostgeek: Have a quick look around the web and you find the attributes of God generally include the following: Omniscience; Omipotence; Omnibenevolence. In fact, God is supposed to be perfect, without flaw or failling. It is also clear that human beings are held to have free will, which means that we mortals must pay for our sins in the next life. There is just one problem with all this. If God knows everything and can do anything then He would have known, before the act of Creation itself, how everything unfolds and would have been able to change the outcome had He wished. This is known as Theological Determinism. Thus God got to choose our actions and we have no "free will." Therefore, we should not be punished for what we do, for it was all pre-ordained. So if people get sent to Hell to be punished for "Wickedness," that is itself unjust, and therefore wicked. They had no choice in what they did, which means God would be behaving in an evil manner. But doesn't this contradict His omnibenevolence? To get out of this dilemma requires that human beings do indeed possess free will, which in turn demands that God be a less than perfect being. So out goes omniscience and omnipotence, and probably a fair bit more as well. The only conlusion to be drawn from this is that the definition of God is wrong.
ghostgeek: There does indeed seem much effort, by the religiously inclined, directed at explaining the meaning of the book that is supposed to be giving us the explanations.
CoIin: It's a good question, Ghostgeek. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, in what sense can humans be "free". Can we surprise God? Can we do things that he doesn't want us to do? Can he prevent a free agent from committing certain acts? If he can't, he would appear not to be all-powerful, but if he can, how can the agent be said to be "free"?
J. L. Mackie examines this very question during his fascinating analysis of the entire "problem of evil" - a useful antidote to the endless facile theodicies we regularly see here on Wireclub.
"This leads us to what I call the Paradox of Omnipotence: can an omnipotent being make things which he cannot subsequently control? Or, what is practically equivalent to this, can an omnipotent being make rules which then bind himself? (These are practically equivalent because any such rules could be regarded as setting certain things beyond his control, and vice versa.) The second of these formulations is relevant to the suggestions that we have already met, that an omnipotent God creates the rules of logic or causal laws, and is then bound by them.
It is clear that this is a paradox: the questions cannot be answered satisfactorily either in the affirmative or in the negative. If we answer "Yes", it follows that if God actually makes things which he cannot control, or makes rules which bind himself, he is not omnipotent once he has made them: there are then things which he cannot do. But if we answer "No", we are immediately asserting that there are things which he cannot do, that is to say that he is already not omnipotent."
It cannot be replied that the question which sets this paradox is not a proper question. It would make perfectly good sense to say that a human mechanic has made a machine which he cannot control: if there is any difficulty about the question it lies in the notion of omnipotence itself.
ghostgeek: Can an omnipotent God create a stone that is too heavy for Him to lift? If He can, then there's something He can't do; lift the stone. If He can't, then there's something He can't do; create such a stone. Either way, there's something God can't do, which means He isn't omnipotent.
(Edited by ghostgeek)
CoIin: The more thoughtful theists are quite comfortable, I believe, with the notion of omnipotence construed as being able to do anything THAT CAN BE DONE, i.e. anything that is LOGICALLY possible.
I wouldn't consider it a failing on the old duffer's part that he can't create a circle that isn't round or a cat that isn't feline
ghostgeek: A reasonable attitude but it does somewhat diminish the grandeur of God. Carry on at this rate and I'll start feeling sorry for the old buffer.
ghostgeek: The problem of evil neatly shows the mess it's possible to get in by refusing to adjust one's thinking to the available evidence. By insisting that God is all good, all knowing and all powerful, one is forced into explaining away the evident injustice and suffering in the world as somehow not His fault. This reminds me of the old geocentric view of the heavens, with everything revolving around a central Earth. Trying to explain the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies became extremely burdensome with this theory. By finally accepting a heliocentric model, with the Earth revolving around the Sun, everything finally made sense. Do the same with God, by limiting His powers and attributes, and evil ceases to be the great problem it appears. Instead, it becomes something outside the control of God.
CoIin: Yes, I agree. Excessive devotion to a hypothesis often compels the devotee to defend absurd conclusions (and not just the religious do this).
For example, if I was particularly committed to the hypothesis "all swans are white" and it was pointed out to me that non-white birds that look awfully like swans have been discovered somewhere, I have a choice to make:-
1. Abandon or adjust my hypothesis
2. Defend my hypothesis
I could defend the hypothesis in any number of ways. I could claim that these birds-that-look-awfully-like-swans are not swans. I could claim they are genuine white swans that have been painted another colour. I could claim that the apparent non-white swans ARE white but that the observers suffer from some visual impediment, etc, etc.
The result of this over-zealous defence is that I'll probably make myself appear very silly to reasonable people.
And I'd suggest, as I think you do yourself, Ghost, this is how defenders of the omnipotent and omnibenevolent god hypothesis appear when they try to justify the very obvious and multifarious evils around us.
("Children burning in fires for no apparent reason isn't really bad, You just don't see the bigger picture" )
sixty 9 yrs of wanda: sure . . . why not ??? . . . none of the concepts of god that are trotted out begin to cover the situation adequately . . . my opinion ?? . . . self will is and always will be within the bounds of 'god's will' we just dont understand how capacious His will is ! !
Im not a determinist because I dont believe any of it's 'preordained' . . . the only thing preordained is the 'patterns' that self will conforms to, i.e., selfish, self serving, appetitive etc. etc. . . .
But the general way things fall out, which appears random from our limited viewpoint, is always within the infinite confines of 'god's will'. Our self will is the 'prima materia' which He takes and works with and shapes into perfect.
ghostgeek: What if we could explain the ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and God leading His chosen people in a pillar of cloud and fire, by ascribing it to a natural event, a volcanic eruption. What if we added that the story of Moses being found in a basket was probably a retelling of a similar tale of Sargon of Akkad, who lived some time during the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. Would we start to wonder if Moses was even a real person? And if he wasn't, would we wonder where the Jews got the Ten Commandments from?
chay chayi: Besides its nonsense and not reality, also, all at once ?? in the exact time when Moses told he should let them out ?? And the sea split on the minute they were there ???
ghostgeek: You refer to a story that can be explained by a natural event. One doesn't need God to account for what was written in the Bible.
ghostgeek: The story of Moses was a thousand years in the making. It's a garbled account of a natural event. As for your question, I didn't know you'd asked one.
chay chayi: i'll paste it -- all at once ?? in the exact time when Moses told he should let them out ?? And the sea split on the minute they were there ???
ghostgeek: And did any of this happen? Is it history or just a story for telling around the campfire at night? You shouldn't take everything that's written down as the gospel truth. I don't believe it so why should you Chayiii?
chay chayi: Because Moses lived about 3,000 years ago, the world was not born yesterday, or 100 years ago, the world existed 3,000 years ago, and all the millions Jews transferred all what happened from Generation to Generation, including the Torah Moses wrote
orkanen: Archaeological finds say otherwise, Chayi i i, is the ground in Israel lying, or are the books lying?
chay chayi: People who handle Archaeology lie, make false mathematics, false assumptions, false theories and imaginations