God’s Consistency

Hello, what do you make of these common objections to the nature of God? I’m acquainted with Aquinas’ Five Ways, but it’s always good to get refreshed on some concepts:

  1. Can a perfect being create something? He has no needs or wants.
  2. Can an unchangable being create something? He cannot have changing intentions. He created at one time and now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe because He did it already. Why?
  3. Can an unchangable being be omniscient? (His knowledge can’t change) = what is true changes all the time (age for example)
  4. Can God be transcendent (nowhere in space) and omnipresent (everywhere in space)?
  5. Can God be transcendent (beyond space and time) and yet act in time? = He can’t be imminent in space and time
  6. Can God be omniscient and have free will? (He knows all the actions He will perform, so He can’t do otherwise)
  7. Is God all merciful (treat every offender with less severity than he/she deserves) and all just? (treat every offender with exactly the severity he/she deserves).

What do we make of the God in the Bible as He has: emotions, changes his mind, loves, hates, condemns, forgives, throws rocks, etc? How do we know God of the First Cause is personal?

What do you make of the thesis of secularization (against the “God-sized hole argument”):

  • Religion doesn’t provide existential security, but instead thrives on existential insecurity: poverty, ignorance, fear, instability, and risk. The poorest nations are the most religious.
  • A society with existential security (stability, safety, education, healthcare, job security) doesn’t need God (Scandinavia for example).

God is necessary for meaning = Ecclesiastes says life without God is meaningless:

  • Start of the objection: It actually says life is meaningless with God = “whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so people fear before Him.”
  • He has already decided what your meaning & purpose will be. This is good for a sheep or a slave, but detestable to those who already have their own purposes.

The answer to the first seven questions is simple: God exists outside the laws of time and space, and of cause and effect as we know them. What would be logical if He were merely a super human is not logical when applied to Him.

1 Like

Scandanavia doesn’t need God? With all their material security something must be missing. How to explain all the alcoholism depression, abortion, suicide, pornography? The void left when God is rejected tries to be filled with self indulgence but ultimately leads to emptiness. Another rich country Iceland murders 100 percent of babies identified with down syndrome. If all humans aren’t recognized as equal in dignity due to being soul infused creations of God, then it’s up to humans to decide who is worthy to live.

Mother Theresa quote:

“The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people,” she told me, as the fan whirred above us, trying to alleviate the unbearable heat of that Indian city.

Emptiness

“You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and
emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the
physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is.

“What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”

Mother Teresa cited the case of a woman who died alone in her home in Australia. Her body lay for weeks before being found. The cats were actually eating her flesh when the body was discovered. “To me, any country which allows a thing like that to happen is the poorest. And people who allow that are committing pure murder.

“Our poor people would never allow it.”

1 Like

What do you make of the claim about basing morality on God makes it subjective:

(Asserting the definition of objective morality is: “grounded in something beyond human attitudes”)

“God-based morality is a subjective moral theory, because it’s grounded in the attitudes or nature of a person: namely, God. This is the divine command theory.

An alien-in-the-sky morality would qualify as an ‘objective’ theory of morality, because morality would be grounded in something beyond human attitudes.”

There seems to be 2 objections to this argument:

“(I) False dilemma and (II) It is not in God’s nature.

Regarding (I): This is [William Lane] Craig’s view. He says that God and the good are identical. The good is not just a property of following God’s commands; the good is identical to the property of following God’s commands. However, this regresses to the second horn, since this does not escape the problem of arbitrariness. As long as morality is not sovereign, God can still command what he pleases, and morality is still based on his desires (i.e. is subjective).

Regarding (II): This is the dominant theological defense. God does not command genocide etc. because it is not in his nature; he loves people and do not wish them harm, so there are limits to what he commands; this removes the arbitrariness problem. However, this presupposes some intrinsic value in love, or justice, or whatever value is used to limit the set of possible divine commands. So this regresses to the first horn, where intrinstic value (from which we derive morality) exists separately from God, though God may exemplify such values.

Any Aquinas answers out here?

He certainly has no needs or unfulfilled desires. Sure. And?

  1. Can an unchangable being create something? He cannot have changing intentions. He created at one time and now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe because He did it already. Why?

He didn’t create at one time and stop.

  1. Can an unchangable being be omniscient? (His knowledge can’t change) = what is true changes all the time (age for example)

Like the last point, it assumes God is temporal.

  1. Can God be transcendent (nowhere in space) and omnipresent (everywhere in space)?

Yes.

  1. Can God be transcendent (beyond space and time) and yet act in time? = He can’t be imminent in space and time

Yes.

  1. Can God be omniscient and have free will? (He knows all the actions He will perform, so He can’t do otherwise)

Yes.

  1. Is God all merciful (treat every offender with less severity than he/she deserves) and all just? (treat every offender with exactly the severity he/she deserves).

He is both, though the definitions are nonsense.

Almost every objection extends from not understanding that time is a created thing and keeps trying to insert God as being within it.

Yeah, Aquinas rejects both horns of the dilemma and goes with a third way related to the convertibility of being and goodness and natural law.

Could you expand on that or provide some Aquinas reading material? I know where you’re coming from, but it’s good for me to read his words. I gotta read the Summa one of these days…

On bypassing the horns… this isn’t Aquinas specifically. I’m not sure it even references Aquinas. But it has bearing on this topic.

Thank you!

What do we make of the God in the Bible as He has: emotions, changes his mind , loves, hates, condemns, forgives, throws rocks, etc? Why is God (presumably the Father) perceived as a literal human person in the Old Testament?

Based on Aquinas, how do we know God of the First Cause is personal ?

This is a bit of an oversimplification as there are books in the Old Testament that present God in a much less anthropomorphic way, and do present him in a much more transcendent way. And that’s just it, such descriptions are anthropomorphic descriptions for the first readers. God is not actually changing his mind, but how people put themselves in relation to God changes, and God, while unchanging eternally, may have communicated different things to man at different points in time for us.

When I first approached Aquinas his theology seemed very cold and distant. Perhaps because I was used to thinking of God as simply a superior, more powerful human person. However, the better I understood Aquinas the more I came to see how his theology showed God’s immanence, love, and goodness being communicated in a way perfectly superior to and beyond human action. Communicated in and as his whole being and self rather. And through Aquinas we can see obviously he is intellectually and such. So a will and not indifferent.

I know I’m not diving into specifics. That would really require a book. While I do like Edward Feser, his approach tends to emphasize the technical. W. Norris Clarke’s The One and the Many really helped to draw out God’s personalism for me. Sorry to be throwing out book recommendations.

1 Like

Here is an argument about reductionism as the “disbelief in fundamentally complicated things… the doctrine of non-reductionism is a confusion, rather than a way that things could be, but aren’t.”

“[Suppose some]one comes to you and says: ‘Intelligent Design is excluded from being science a priori, because it is ‘supernatural’, and science only deals in ‘natural’ explanations’…

“‘[S]upernatural’ explanation appeals to ontologically basic mental things, mental entities that cannot be reduced to nonmental entities. This is the difference, for example, between saying that water rolls downhill because it wants to be lower and setting forth differential equations that claim to describe only motions, not desires. It’s the difference between saying that a tree puts forth leaves because of a tree spirit, versus examining plant biochemistry… (emphasis mine)

[N]aturalism’ means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, “supernaturalism” means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things. (emphasis mine)

[The] reductionist thesis as follows: human minds create multi-level models of reality in which high-level patterns and low-level patterns are separately and explicitly represented. A physicist knows Newton’s equation for gravity, Einstein’s equation for gravity, and the derivation of the former as a low-speed approximation of the latter. But these three separate mental representations, are only a convenience of human cognition. It is not that reality itself has an Einstein equation that governs at high speeds, a Newton equation that governs at low speeds, and a “bridging law” that smooths the interface. Reality itself has only a single level, Einsteinian gravity. It is only the Mind Projection Fallacy that makes some people talk as if the higher levels could have a separate existence—different levels of organization can have separate representations in human maps, but the territory itself is a single unified low-level mathematical object.

Suppose that the Mind Projection Fallacy was not a fallacy, but simply true.

Suppose that a 747 had a fundamental physical existence apart from the quarks making up the 747.

What experimental observations would you expect to make, if you found yourself in such a universe?

If you can’t come up with a good answer to that, it’s not observation that’s ruling out “non-reductionist” beliefs, but a priori logical incoherence. If you can’t say what predictions the ‘non-reductionist’ model makes, how can you say that experimental evidence rules it out?

(Continued…)

My thesis is that non-reductionism is a confusion; and once you realize that an idea is a confusion, it becomes a tad difficult to envision what the universe would look like if the confusion were true. Maybe I’ve got some multi-level model of the world, and the multi-level model has a one-to-one direct correspondence with the causal elements of the physics? But once all the rules are specified, why wouldn’t the model just flatten out into yet another list of fundamental things and their interactions? Does everything I can see in the model, like a 747 or a human mind, have to become a separate real thing? But what if I see a pattern in that new supersystem?

Supernaturalism is a special case of non-reductionism, where it is not 747s that are irreducible, but just (some) mental things. Religion is a special case of supernaturalism, where the irreducible mental things are God(s) and souls…

If I propose the existence of a powerful entity with the ability to survey and alter each element of our observed universe, but with the entity reducible to nonmental parts that interact with the elements of our universe in a lawful way; if I propose that this entity wants certain particular things, but ‘wants’ using a brain composed of particles and fields; then this is not yet a religion, just a naturalistic hypothesis about a naturalistic Matrix…

But now we get to the dilemma: if the staid conventional… understanding of physics and the brain is correct, there’s no way in principle that a human being can concretely envision, and derive testable experimental predictions about, an alternate universe in which things are irreducibly mental. Because, if the… normal model is correct, your brain is made of quarks, and so your brain will only be able to envision and concretely predict things that can predicted by quarks. You will only ever be able to construct models made of interacting simple things…

The basic error of anthropomorphism, and the reason why supernatural explanations sound much simpler than they really are is your brain using itself as an opaque black box to predict other things labeled ‘mindful’. Because you already have big, complicated webs of neural circuitry that implement your ‘wanting’ things, it seems like you can easily describe water that ‘wants’ to flow downhill—the one word ‘want’ acts as a lever to set your own complicated wanting-machinery in motion…

The irreducibility of the intelligent designer is not an indispensable part of the ID hypothesis. For every irreducible God that can be proposed by the IDers, there exists a corresponding reducible alien that behaves in accordance with the same predictions—since the IDers themselves are reducible; to the extent I believe reductionism is in fact correct, which is a rather strong extent, I must expect to discover reducible formulations of all supposedly supernatural predictive models.” (emphasis mine)

Apologies if this argument seems garbled, I’m not sure what to think of it.

Another way to put reductionism:

“And the way that algorithm feels from inside, is that the airplane would seem to be made up of many levels at once, interacting with each other.

The way a belief feels from inside , is that you seem to be looking straight at reality. When it actually seems that you’re looking at a belief, as such, you are really experiencing a belief about belief.

So when your mind simultaneously believes explicit descriptions of many different levels, and believes explicit rules for transiting between levels, as part of an efficient combined model, it feels like you are seeing a system that is made of different level descriptions and their rules for interaction.

But this is just the brain trying to be efficiently compress an object that it cannot remotely begin to model on a fundamental level. The airplane is too large. Even a hydrogen atom would be too large. Quark-to-quark interactions are insanely intractable. You can’t handle the truth.

What should we make of reductionism?

Reductionism can’t properly account for the nature of reality, not is a reductionist philosophy of nature/science even coherent, because reductionism would exclude any such philosophy.

He’s making a bunch of philosophical statements which implicitly are non-redicible themselves to fundamental particles and their interactions.

Ever read up on theist philosophy instead of just atheist philosophy?

What do you mean? And tbh I’m not sure of good theistic material, I’m open to suggestions.

What should I make of the above definitions of naturalism and supernaturalism? Are they reasonable?

I have found David Bentley Hart very good on these fronts, specifically his book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. His section on counsciousness is the longest, and he addressed every common physicalist/materialist theory of consciousness widely discussed in 2013. Highly recommended!

One of his main points relevant to what you bring up above is that 1st person experiences do not seem dissolvable into 3rd person narratives of reality. What, out there in the world, accounts for the interior phenomenal experience in my mind? Let’s say that I’m in a reverie perceiving a rose garden. What, simply considering the physics and chemistry of the rose garden itself, generates my interior phenomenal experience? This could be reduced meaningfully to physical and chemical facts about the objects and my brain? That doesn’t seem obvious at all. In fact, it seems inconceivable.

1 Like

And love, liberty, courage, beauty, good and evil, truth, justice, happiness, equality, progress, logic, ideas, language, relation, opinion, imagination, war and peace, one and the many, same and other, necessity and contingency, universal and particular…and this list of non-physical, non-scientific realities of our common human experience could really go on and on and on.

Any attempt to reduce human experience to the “natural” or physical only is obnoxious and the approach of a simpleton (not to put too fine a point on it :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:). What do the sciences have to say about the universal categories of thought and experience that I listed above? If the answer isn’t “nothing,” then it’s as close to being nothing so as to be altogether negligible. And yet, all humans both think about and readily experience life utilizing all those categories as real and some of them to be the most important (eg, love, justice, liberty).

1 Like

What do you make of this argument of free will and God?:

“God’s foreknowledge implies that there is only one possible future: the only events that can happen are the ones God knows will occur. It is this that is incompatible with the kind of freedom most people believe in. The Boethian solution therefore can only work if it allows there to be more than one possible future. And yet it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t.

To begin with, the Boethian solution is a perfect “have your cake and eat it too” kind of move. It is an attempt to find a way for God to know the future (while it is still the future) without, however, knowing it beforehand. Contrast this with ‘open theism,’ which says that God only knows what happens once it happens (and thus does not know the future). The Boethian claims that God knows everything that happens because he ‘sees’ it happening — just like the open theist does. However, because God sees it, not as it is happening , but rather from outside of time, he supposedly does not have to wait until it happens. Simple, right?

Not so fast. Here’s the problem: if there is more than one possible future, then there is more than one set of future events compatible with what is happening right now. But from God’s timeless vantage point, what is happening now and what happens in the future are combined into one overall set of events. Thus, from his vantage point, there isn’t more than one possible set of events in the future to go along with the present. Our present is combined with one-and-only-one possible tomorrow, since they are together present before God’s eyes. It follows that there can only be one possible future — and therefore, no free will.

By analogy, when we watch a movie, it seems that the characters are making free decisions — but of course we know that they aren’t: there is only one possible set of events that can play out, since the entire movie is already on the reel. If God is outside of time looking at it as a whole, he is seeing it much the same way as we would see a movie reel. The scenes of our lives are all already there, and thus can only turn out one way. The Boethian solution therefore implies that there is only one possible set of events for us to perform. It doesn’t avoid theological determinism.”

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.