Nature of God


Sam Storms has written an insightful analysis of the idea that we can or should “forgive God.”  While a few snippets cannot do it justice, the heart of his argument is as follows: 

First of all, let me say that I understand where this sort of question comes from. I understand how people quite often are confused by what God does or doesn’t do. … But my struggle is with the language of “forgiving God.” For one thing, I don’t find it ever used in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause before we incorporate such language into our Christian vocabulary or allow it to shape our theology or our understanding of spiritual formation.

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Many atheists assert that an eternal universe is explanatorily equivalent to an eternal God.  For example, Sagan once asked, “If we say that God has always been, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always been?”[1]  And just recently, two prominent atheists made the same claim.  In his new book, A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence Krauss writes, “[T]he declaration of a First Cause still leaves open the question, ‘Who created the Creator?’ After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?”[2]  Victor Stenger agrees with Krauss:

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In the latest edition of Philosophia Christi[1], Jerry Walls argues that no Christian should be a theological determinist.  What is a theological determinist?  It’s someone who believes that God’s sovereignty extends meticulously to every aspect of the world, including human “choice.”  The problem with determinism is that it eliminates human freedom since there are factors external to humans sufficient to determine our choices, such that we could not do otherwise (or even want to do otherwise since even our desires are the product of God’s sovereign acts).

Most theological determinists are compatibilists.  Compatibilists think determinism can be reconciled with free will: If one acts according to their desires, then their choices are free.  But this is a veneer.  At best this shows that we may feel like we our will is free, even though it is not.  The fact remains that both our desires and our choices are determined by God wholly independent of our own volition.  It should be no surprise when our desires match our actions when God has determined both.  Given theological determinism, there can be no freedom of human will, despite attempts by some to evade the obvious.

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How do we know God is good rather than evil?  After all, there is a mix of both good and evil in the world.  Which one is God responsible for?  As Christians, we look to the Bible to tell us about God’s moral nature, but what if we didn’t have Scripture?  Could we discern that God is good from natural theology alone?  Yes, and here’s how.

Most people would agree that the concept of God is best described as “the greatest conceivable being.”  If we posited a being, Q, as God, and yet we could conceive of another being, X, who is greater than being Q, then being X—not being Q—must be the true God since nothing can be greater than God.  If God qua God is the greatest conceivable being, then He must be omnibenevolent (OB) because it is greater to be good than it is to be evil, and it is greater to be all-good than it is to be partially good.  So if there is a God, He must be OB.[1]

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I was listening to a debate between George Williamson and William Lane Craig on the existence of God.  Williamson argued that the concept of God is incoherent.  He claimed omniscience would require that God possess all empirical knowledge (experiential, know-how), and yet God clearly does not know what it is like to play basketball, ride a bike, or sin.  Craig responded that the classical definition of omniscience holds that God knows all true propositions, not that He knows all experiences.  Williamson counters that theists have so defined omniscience only to escape the logical absurdities involved in a being who is truly omniscient.  So is the classical definition ad hoc as Williamson claims?  No.  There is good reason to limit omniscience to propositional knowledge.

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I have made two attempts at offering a rational argument for monotheism.  The first one failed, and Scalia challenged my second one.  I did not respond to his challenge immediately because I knew it would require some additional thought.  After putting it off for a while I have given it some additional thought, and concluded that my second attempt failed as well.   

I’ve been working on some additional arguments, but haven’t thought them through entirely.  If you were following the previous post, you might be interested in checking out the comments section again for my response to Scalia’s objection, and my new proposals.  Hopefully you can weigh in on their strengths and weaknesses.  If they seem to be sound, perhaps I’ll make them the subject of another post, “Omnipotence and Monotheism III”!

I was listening to a podcast by Jim Wallace from PleaseConvinceMe.com the other day on my way to work.  He was talking about atheists’ stock objection to the cosmological arguments[1]: “Well, then, who caused God?”

Wallace pointed out that the question itself is meaningless.  He illustrates his point by asking, What sound does silence make?  Silence is soundless, of course, so it makes no sense to ask what kind of sound it makes.  Likewise, the question, Who created God? is a meaningless question because by definition God is an eternal, uncreated being.  To ask, Who caused God?, then, is to ask, Who caused the Uncreated Being to exist? which is meaningless.

For additional information on responding to the “Who made God?” objection, read my post “Inexcusable Ignorance Part II.”


[1]Which argue that the universe needs a cause, and that cause is God.

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