Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spectre Argument about Trinity

From guest blogger, Shao.

The puzzle of Trinity is that God, Holy Ghost and Jesus are three different entities but are also considered one thing. How do we explain that three is one and one is three? I am thinking about a video game that I play regularly and it might help explain the problem. 

So in the game of DOTA (acronym for "Defense of the Ancient", a very popular esports), there is a character called Spectre, which is a ghost-like hero in the game. This hero's ultimate skill is called haunt, which she is able to create doppelgangers omnipresently on the whole battle field behind each enemy hero. All the doppelgangers share certain percentage of Spectre's primary attributes: like 30% of her strength, agility and intelligence. Plus, all the doppelgangers have certain percentage of the powers of from Specter's gears. So for instance, if Spectre has a gear called Radiance, which will dole holy damage every second to her nearby enemies, once she popped her ultimate skill, all her doppelgangers can also do that but just less powerful. Besides shared attributes and power, Spectre can instantly teleport to, or maybe in other words, reincarnates, one of her doppelgangers and thus the doppelganger that she reincarnated suddenly became her. This hero is very powerful due to her ultimate skill that she can be omnipresent during the battle and all her doppelgangers can also be herself. 

I think this is a good analogy to the Trinity problem. First, God and Jesus are distinct entities just like Spectre and her doppelgangers. Additionally, although Jesus is capable of certain divine power, like cure a blind woman or heal the wounds, Jesus seems to be less powerful than God due to the fact that he was crucified by the Romans and if he is indeed God he should be invincible.  Similarily, Spectre's doppelgangers are weaker than her and do less damage, and they are not able to actively use any skills of Spectre, although passive skills and passive power (by saying passive I mean the player does not actively click any keys on the keyboard and the skill and power just have the effects automatically) of the gears still apply to doppelgangers. So, since Jesus resurrected after his crucifixion, it feels a lot like Spectre is able to instantly reincarnate to her doppelgangers and makes one of them her. 

So basically, I think my analogy suggests that it might be the case that Jesus is like a doppelganger of God that he shares certain attributes and power of God but at the same time less powerful than God. However, he is still God due to the fact that God can just become Jesus anytime he wants to and makes Jesus God himself. I think this analogy solves Christina's argument that Clark Kent and Superman is just one person but Jesus and God seems to be different entities that they can talk to each other. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Some Thoughts About the Cosmological Argument

From guest blogger, Shanni.

The cosmological argument wants to assert that based on our observations we are able to conclude that there is no thing that moves without an initial mover. By applying this to god and nature we are able to conclude that the universe could not have begun or been “put into motion” without having something start the process (i.e. god). This leads one to the problem of having an infinite regress of movers/creators. If nothing can move without something causing the moving, and by analogy, nothing can therefore be created without a creator than who created god? Not only who created god, but who created gods creator and so on and so forth? I would like to claim that the problem of infinite regress is not a serious problem for a theist for the following two reasons. Firstly, regress is not a problem to the theist since the main objective is to come to the conclusion that there is a god. Meaning, if there is an infinite regress of intelligent designers as long as at some point there was a designer who made the most intelligent being that we now define as god than it doesn’t matter that our god wasn’t the initial being. While this may change some theological arguments for how the universe came to be regress doesn’t undermine the actual argument that there is a god and that he exists. This leads to the second reason regress isn’t a problem. There seems to be a notion that if god’s creators went back infinitely than god would never have been created since he would be the final product. I would like to argue against this because god creators and his creations go on an infinite scale ranging both directions both in the past and the future. If the creators do in fact go back infinitely, like time does, than it would still serve true that all of the things that god has put in motion will go on infinitely in the opposite direction. Therefore, god isn’t the end of the line of infinite progression. Rather, god and everything created after him are simply ticks on the infinite scale of time and creation. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gratuitous Evils

From guest blogger, Adam.

Some people disagree that there is evil in the world, so there would be no argument to oppose God if someone held firm with this belief. I would say that most people agree that there is evil in this world. Evil can be both necessary (ie evil that brings about greater good) and gratuitous (ie innocent fawn suffers in the woods for no human to witness). I argue that for God to be all-PKG he would not allow so much of these gratuitous and natural evils to exist. Either God does not possess the power to change and/or alter the physical laws he is said to have created, or God is not all good. These types of gratuitous evils (fawn) serve no purpose to make humans or the world a better place. It is not part of human free will to chose whether the fawn suffers or not, it is simply natural evil. Some people could object that there is no such thing as gratuitous evil, and the things that we do not cause or did not witness, we could have witnessed had we made other choices in exerting our free will. To this I would say that this amount of natural evil is too much. I agree that some compassion and good may come from evil, but there is no reason for there to be this amount of it, if there exists an all-Powerful, all-Knowing, and especially all-Good God.

God's Omniscience and Free Will

From guest blogger, Christina.

In Nelson Pike’s article "Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action" he argues that if we accept that God exists and is omniscient, then we must concede that we do not have free will.  According to Pike, if I went for a run on Saturday God knew 100 years ago that I would go for a run on that particular day. Our definition of God as omniscient means God could not have been mistaken about me going for a run on Saturday and if this is the case, it would appear that maybe I didn’t really have a choice about going for a run, maybe I do not actually have free will in my actions. Although it seems from this argument that I did not have the power to do something other than my run on Saturday, I believe we can add another attribute to God that will allow both his omniscience and our free will.

I would argue that it is possible for God to exist in time and space differently than how we view time and space.  In our minds time is linear and our interaction on Earth are finite. However, it is possible that God is omnipresent, meaning present in all places at all times. If this were the case, God could exist 100 years ago at and simultaneously when I went running. In this view God is viewing me at  and, similarly to me viewing different people in the same room together. I could tell you what each of them is doing at that very moment. Therefore, if it is possible for God to be omnipresent, then I do have free will to choose my actions and God is able to know what actions I am performing at any given time, because he is present at all times simultaneously. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

In Defense of Evil

From guest blogger, Maham.

God’s existence is most often called into question with the problem of evil: “If God exists, and he is good, then how can he allow all the terrible things to happen in the world that happen?” From this it is ultimately concluded that either God does not exist or God is not good. The arguments that we raise in defense of this attack then, all entail some of the following usually:

1. God created the best possible world
2. Evil is not something inherently “bad” but simply the absence of good
3. God does not support the existence of evil, he simply allows it to exist
4. Satan is largely responsible for most evil etc.
All these positions further raise questions about the extent of God’s power, God’s freedom, God’s “sense” in creating Satan, what “grand” plan is God taking us towards that we can not see, etc. Wherein the end of that attack will simply result in someone raising the question of the seven-year-old child drowning or getting cancer and dying; where no explanation from God’s end or any end helps justify the need for such an event to ever happen. Silver linings is not going to suffice for the people who have been directly affected by the evil, attackers will gleefully spout.

In the midst of this, I want to consider perhaps a radically foolish position. One that I feel is necessary for us to be able to have the world that we do have and appreciate it; rather than advocating for better worlds that are well and good in theory but will always be impossible to achieve.

Evil is necessary. For human beings to understand the world as they currently do, with our un-quenching appreciation and hunt for the “good,” evil and suffering is unimaginably necessary. I fail to see how we can simply have or even recognize good, without an intimate knowledge of evil and suffering.

The appreciation of life stemmed from when the first insult to it was struck by it being taken in cold blood; the appreciation for one’s own freedom was realized when human dignity and honor was indelicately attacked. We assume that these things were present inherently within us from day one, which is an unwise assumption to make. Appreciation for the good was realized only when evil came into existence as stark contrast.

My position doesn’t call for evil to be allowed to run rampant, far from it. It is why we also have accountability, justice systems and moral responsibility as well. They are there to curb human evil, progressive technology to help against natural evil and so on. But my position at least explains why evil necessarily exists, must exist, and why we cannot possibly call on God to have made a world without it. For such a world to exist would not be as we see the world today, or even what we wager the many possible worlds will be, but a utopia difficult to live in.

A Reply to the Stone Paradox Using the Free Will Defense

From guest blogger, Joe.

Could an omnipotent being create a stone too heavy to lift? This can be answered in one of two ways.

1.     If the answer is no, then there is something that this being could not do and is therefore not omnipotent.
2.     If the answer is yes, then such a being would no longer be omnipotent as there would be an activity that he or she could not do.

While this obviously seems quite paradoxical, it can be a real concern for the theist as omnipotence is often taken to constitute part of God’s essence. Supposing that omnipotence is part of God’s essence, failure to have this attribute would seem to entail that God, as traditionally conceived, cannot exist. In this blog post I aim to show that the question ought not prevent the theist from sleeping at night. In order to do so, I will appeal to Paul Tidman’s discussion of Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense.

Through Plantinga’s writing, Tidman shows that the existence of evil is compatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God. Tidman is able to do so by spelling out a common assumption which Plantinga calls a Leibniz’ Lapse. Tidman via Plantinga claims that this assumption "is to assume that it follows from the fact that God is omnipotent that He can bring about any possible world He pleases" (303).

This assumption is problematic for the following reason. Suppose that there are worlds, one of which is possible and one of which is actual (Tidman, 303). Further suppose that some individual, Bob, exists in or is roughly located within each world. In each world, Bob finds himself in the same situation and this situation was brought about by an omnipotent being called God. In both cases, Bob is choosing what to eat for breakfast. In the first world, Bob chooses to eat a banana for breakfast. In the second world, Bob chooses to eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Both worlds contain roughly the same individual, but in each world a different choice is made. Therefore, the state of affairs that obtains is not ‘up to’ God, rather it is up to Bob. God cannot make it the case that Bob freely chooses to eat the banana because strictly speaking it would not be a free act if it were caused (Tidman, 404). The same holds in the instance where Bob chooses to eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast.

The main point of this is that there are certain states of affairs that even an omnipotent being cannot bring about. This, I believe, shows why the question concerning the stone requires too much. In this case, omnipotence seems to consist in the ability to do a task that is logically impossible. Much like a Leibniz’ Lapse, this demand is problematic. If omnipotence consists in the ability to do what is logically impossible, God could ‘make’ a world in which bachelors were married males. But this seems rather odd from my perspective because it would entail that God could bring about even odder states of affairs, one in which modus ponens was invalid. My overall point is that omnipotence ought to be viewed solely in terms of what is logically possible. Not only is this more parsimonious, it also rules out ‘odd’ states of affairs wherein the rules of logic don’t apply.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Different Accounts of 'Omnipotence'

From guest blogger, Nic. 

Absolutism is the idea that an omnipotent being is able to to do anything including things that are logically impossible. This means that the omnipotent being would be able to make a squared circle and create an immovable rock. This is an interesting view because God is commonly described as being an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient being. This means God can do anything, is perfectly good, and knows everything respectively.

The common way for philosophers to reject absolutism is to appeal to the counterexamples of the squared circle and immovable rock. In the example of the squared circle, it seems impossible to create an object that has both the necessary and sufficient properties of a square while at the same time having the necessary and sufficient properties of a circle. An absolutist would need to maintain that God can make a squared circle, but this is logically impossible so the absolutist seems to be wrong in this case. God also would need to be able to create a rock that God is to able to lift, but if God can do anything God should certainly be able to lift the rock. This now creates a problem because either God cannot lift the rock or God cannot create the rock; in both cases God would no longer be omnipotent.

There are non-absolutist ways to maintain that God is omnipotent, including this definition: God can do anything that is logically possible. This formulation still falls prey to the immoveable rock problem and therefore doesn’t get God’s omnipotence out of jeopardy. 

Another formulation of God’s omnipotence is stated: God can do anything that is possible for that being to do. This means that God could do anything that an omnipotent being could logically do therefore creating the squared circle or immoveable rock are both not things that God could do. The interesting part here is that God now cannot do something that non omnipotent beings can do, that is create an immoveable rock. Its actually quite easy for human to create an immoveable rock just by chiseling out a large boulder from a mountain side.

Even this loosest of all the definition of omnipotence has a problem. God is an omnipotent being God should at least be able to to perform all of the tasks that a non omnipotent being can perform. God cannot create an immoveable rock but humans (non omnipotent beings) can create an immoveable rock. Therefore, God does not achieve the necessary conditions for omnipotence. 

It seems that all of the definitions of omnipotence have problems that undermine the desired power of Gods ability. In the strictest definition of omnipotence God’s power creates logical impossibilities but in the loosened definition God doesn’t seem to have enough power. I think this is sufficient evidence to reject the claim that God is an omnipotent being. This certainly create a different picture of God but I don’t see a reason that God must be omnipotent. God can still be very powerful and in fact be the most powerful of all beings without having the condition of omnipotence.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Does God Care About Football?

From guest blogger, John.

After almost every football game, you hear the players say something along the lines of, “I just want to thank God for helping me and my team to win the game today.” By most definitions, God is an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being. Does God really care about something as inconsequential as a sporting event? The sports culture revolves around the idea that winning is good, while losing is bad.  Therefore, since God does good towards those who do good, the team who has done the most good should win. Many feel God will bless the righteous with victories and reward players like Russell Wilson, a very faithful football player, with a health and successful career. Sometimes however, the good guy doesn’t win. The Patriots are one of the most hated teams in the NFL. They are known for lying and cheating, both considered, by most accounts, “bad” things. God then should punish them, yet they have been one of the most successful teams of the 21st century.  On the other hand, Tim Tebow is never afraid to show his faith. After every touchdown, he gets down on his knee and prays.  He has done a ton for his community and his religious faith. By most accounts, Tebow is the epitome of a “good” player, yet he is considered one of the worst players to start at quarterback. So either God doesn’t care about football/sports in general, or God doesn’t exist.

You may argue, God has bigger concerns to worry about, such as children starving in Africa. As an omnipotent and omniscient god, should he not have the power to influence both situations? Maybe then he wishes for us to have the free will to push ourselves harder to win. What then is the point of praying before a game, or thanking God after a touchdown? It comes down to the players believing God is rewarding them for being good, while the people watching at home want to believe they contributed to their team winning, with their prayers.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Does God’s Omnibenevolence Contradict His Omnipotence?

From guest blogger, TJ.

If God cannot do certain things because he is “all-good” than it seems that he is not all-powerful.  There are a certain number of things that it seems God cannot do.  God cannot sin therefore he is not all-powerful. 

One might argue, God is all powerful therefore he can do all “doable” things.  God is also all-good therefore bad things are not “doable.”  Thus, God’s omnibenevolence does not contradict his omnipotence. 

However, one could now argue that the fact that God cannot do bad things takes away from his free will.  And it seems that a being with free will is somewhat “more good” than a being without free will.  For example, as we discussed a person with a switch in their head that keeps them from doing bad doesn’t seem as good as a person that has no switch but chooses do good over bad.  Why?  Because the person with the choice seems to have more power.  He can do bad things as well as good things (he can do more).  Also, he has the choice and chooses to good.  That seems “more good” than the person that can only do good.

I would argue that God does have free will, and that he is omnibenevolent and omnipotent.  He is capable of doing good things as well bad things therefore God does have free will and he is omnipotent.  And the fact that God chooses to do good things over bad things makes him “more good.”  However, God does sometimes choose to do evil.  This does not make him any less good because these evils are necessary for there to be good.  They are morally justified.  In order fot there to be good there must be bad.  There is always a purpose.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

God's Omnipotence and A Worry in Considering Possible Worlds

From guest blogger, Lindsey.

There are several ways that one can go about trying to prove God’s omnipotence, but with each argument in favor of it, there seems to be a counter-argument as well. In Concerning the Preservation of God’s Omnipotence, Steinberg states that,
The doctrine of God’s omnipotence would appear to imply that God is able to do anything. Numerous attempts to refute this doctrine have been made by offering purported examples of things that God cannot do…
1.      God cannot do what is logically impossible
2.      God cannot do things that are incompatible with being essentially omnipotent
3.      God cannot do things that are incompatible with being essentially omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent” (Steinberg 2007).

One may argue with the third point on a definitional basis. By saying that God cannot do things that are incompatible with these “omni-X” characteristics, it is implying that there is something that God cannot do. This is in tension with the initial statement that God’s omnipotence makes Him able to do anything. If being omnibenevolent means that He cannot sin, it would seem that He cannot be both omnibenevolent and omnipotent.

God does not sin in this world but does this mean that He does not or He cannot? Those wishing to argue the point say that they cannot imagine a possible world where God would, for example, commit a murder—something that could be said to be a sin across the board. They would argue that there is no possible world in which God would do this act because it is so bad that it would always constitute a sin. Again, if God were to sin He would not be considered omnibenevolent which is thought to be a necessary characteristic of His. Because there is no possible world that one can imagine, the argument says that He must not be able to sin.

I argue that this ‘possible worlds’ scenario can get out of hand. By saying “I can imagine a possible world where X” or “I cannot imagine a possible world where X” one lets their imagination—which is seemingly limitless—do all the work rather than actual logic. Does it not seem possible that one imagines a possible world where our logic does not apply and 2+2 could equal 7? It does not make sense in our world but a world where this is so could feasibly be imagined. Similarly, perhaps we can imagine a possible world where God commits a murder but it is not a sin. I think that rather than trying to imagine possible worlds where something may or may not happen we ought to look to this world to form arguments for God’s existence. We are not attempting to prove His existence in another world but in this one. By getting caught up in thinking about what could be the case in possible worlds and using these conceptions (often without any grounding in reality) the usage of logic and experiences to prove the existence of God falls by the wayside. The possible worlds objection may be helpful in some cases, but one ought not get carried away with using it because there is always a possible world that could be imagined to disprove an argument—but does it really do any work if such a world does not exist anywhere but in one’s imagination? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Value of Evil Forces

From guest blogger, Daniel.

The obvious question and objection to Satan and his cohorts being the cause of evil in the world, as brought up in Alvin Platinga’s paper "Satan," is why an omnipotent, all-good deity would allow evil forces to exist in the world from the onset. It is even stated that a creature who has more power, even if it is used for evil purposes, is more valuable to their world than a creature who is less powerful but uses its freedom and what power it does have for the good. The term “valuable” is an interesting one with regards to this topic. If a being has more control over the occurrences in their world, for better or for worse, then they are indeed more valuable in that respect. However, we must look at the world valuable as adding value to the whole rather than prescribing it independently based on a creature’s power and freedom first and then gauging how it contributes and uses that power second. Looking at the word valuable from this angle the argument can be made that even the smallest creature with the smallest amount of freedom and power, if used for good, is more valuable than any creature with a greater amount of power and freedom that works against God’s values.

The analogy used to explain the suffering caused to the people of the twentieth century Soviet Union to achieve a Marxist utopia can also be scaled to explain ‘natural evils.’ These maladies, natural disasters, disease etc., cannot be attributed to human action. Perhaps it is likely that God created Satan and his cohorts to do what he cannot, namely the evil acts that must sometimes be inflicted as a means to an end that is only known to God. Take the great flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or any of the other ‘bad’ natural things that happened in the bible that humans would not know were for the greater good unless God had told us so; the cause for God’s allowing of these events could not possibly be known to humans and as such we perceive unexplained natural disasters as bad things. There is, at least some likelihood, that God created and allows these creatures to operate for reasons we are simply not able to comprehend.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Incompatibility of Omnipotence and Omnibenevolence

From guest blogger, Timothy.

Since our discussion in lecture last Thursday, I’ve been considering how one might reconcile traditional theology with the potential incompatibility between God’s omnipotence and omnibenevolence. No answer I can think of succeeds in making these two concepts compatible. The problem stems from God being all powerful, and thus having the capacity to do evil things, and God being all good, and not ever actually doing anything evil. If we take these two attributes to necessary to God being God, then we run into the modal issues we discussed.

We might say that God is able to do evil, he simply never chooses the evil action. But if God is free to choose the evil action, there must be some possible world where God does take the evil action. However, if God’s omnibenevolence is a necessary property, it must be the case that God never does anything evil in all possible worlds. This creates a contradiction suggests that it cannot be the case that both omnipotence and omnibenevolence are necessary properties of God. Either God is all powerful and can perform evil actions, or God is all good and lacks the capacity to perform evil actions.

Another move that was suggested in lecture was to adopt a Divine Command Theory of morality. I’m not as familiar with modern conceptions of Divine Command Theory, but the basic theory runs into problems of moral arbitrariness, which is what allows it to potentially reconcile the problem of omnipotence and omnibenevolence. However, I feel most religious believers would want to resist a claim that morality is arbitrary. Again, we can either accept that whatever God does in any possible world is what is morally right and there is no necessary moral truths, or we accept that omnipotence and omnibenevolence is not compatible.

One final move we might take is to say that God is not the type of being that can perform evil actions. This seems to be in line with the view of omnipotence that says a being can do anything that is in its power to do. This doesn’t seem to diminish God’s power with regard to any other being. Consider the heavy stone or, as I prefer, a more absurd example: can God cook a chili so spicy that He can’t eat it? It’s relatively uncontroversial that God isn’t the type of being that eats chili. And I think creating a universe makes God a more powerful being than one that cooks chili or lifts heavy stones. However, the problem here is it already seems to remove omnibenevolence as a property of God. If we say God is not the type of being that performs evil actions, it seems we would also be saying that God is not the type of being that performs moral actions. Thus, God we cannot say that God always performs good actions, just as we could not say God never performs evil actions. In this case, God’s actions would be morally neutral. Here we avoid the problem by accepting a conclusion that is not compatible with traditional theology.