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? 

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