Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Christianity 7 Times Incoherent?

This is a response in part to this post.

1.
Is it consistent to say that a perfect being would create something? A perfect being has no needs or wants, so how could he need or want to create a world and populate it with beings and demand worship and sacrifice from them?

Ambiguity out the wazoo here. You simply assert this without argument as well. Does a perfect being need anything for His existence? No. Obviously not.

Can a perfect being want things? Why not? It isn't impeding His perfection. It has no impact on His power. All it seems to point to is a volitional will. I say your assertion that a want is a sign of imperfection is false.

Does a perfect being require certain things of His creation? If those can be construed as needs, in that regard, I say that a perfect being needing certain things is not an issue either. Next.

2.
Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being would create something? If God is unchangeable, then he can’t have one set of intentions at one moment and then a new set of intentions at another. And yet God supposedly created at one time, but now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe, because he did it already. The idea of an unchangeable God that creates is incoherent.

On Christian theism, there was never a *TIME* when God changed in His decision to create something. Think back hard, Luke, hard to the Kalam argument and its nuances, like how there was no time without creation. There was no moment when He didn't have the intention to create. Also, even if my first response fails, if God had the intention, “to create the universe and then not create anything else” for eternity, then in doing what He did, His intentions never actually changed.

Also, when people speak of the unchanging nature of God, it is His essential attributes and moral nature. God is personal and has intentions and reactions like other personal beings. In that sense, it's not a problem to say God changes. In the sense He has an ultimate plan and impeccable character, those don't change. WLC says God is in time now. This isn't a problem either, unless you can show how changing in the way I have described is a lack of perfection.

3.
Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being can be omniscient? If God is unchangeable, then his knowledge can’t change. And yet what is true changes all the time, for example what is true about my age. So an unchanging being can’t be omniscient.

It's like you're not even trying here. Omniscience is knowledge of only and all true propositions. In that sense, God's "now" knowledge is changing, assuming He is in time (and might I remind you, Luke, that as a B theorist, it seems hard to actually see how you hold that things are changing in that way). God, at this moment, knows only and all true propositions. One of those is "Atheist Luke is now x years old." God still knows that "last year Atheist Luke was x years old." As I pointed out in number 2, it's hard to see how this is a problem with the ambiguity stripped from the assertion.

4.
Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and omnipresent? To be transcendent is to be nowhere in space, but to be omnipresent is to be everywhere in space.

Who is to say God isn't both? If omnipresence is to exist everywhere (even though you are being ungenerous even in that definition) then God would exist everywhere in the universe and anywhere that is beyond the universe as well. Say He created other universes, or in a separate realm of reality altogether as Hugh Ross argues. His power and influence are immediately present in all of those places. Another non issue.

5.
Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and yet acts in time? To be transcendent is to be beyond space and time, so a transcendent being can’t also be immanent in space and time.

Being transcendent doesn't entail not being able to act within that which you transcend. It simply shows you aren't constrained to that realm. Next.

6.
Is it consistent to say that God is omniscient and has free will? If God knows all the actions he will perform, then he cannot do otherwise, and therefore he is not free.

Fail fail fail. Why determinists (both theists and non-theists) and open theists continue to use this line of argumentation is beyond me, when it's quite clearly fallacious. It is modally fallacious, transferring necessity where it isn't warranted by the rules of logic, as I show here.

7.
Is it consistent to say that God is all-merciful and all-just? A perfectly just person treats every offender with exactly the severity he or she deserves, but an all-merciful person treats every offender with less severity than he or she deserves. What sense does it make to say that God is all-merciful and all-just?

Maybe you've heard of something called the cross of Christ...ring a bell, Luke? Place where God's justice and mercy meet? God is just in that His wrath is assuaged by the willing sacrifice of His perfect Son, and His mercy is shown by taking the sins and punishment of humanity on Himself, and then imputes His righteousness to us? Yeah, that one. Perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

That is one reason why Christianity is the only coherent form of theism.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. If Christians want to say their worldview is logically consistent, they certainly have their work cut out for them putting together a concept of God that is logically consistent.

No, these were all answered quite a while ago. It seems like you just aren't being serious anymore.

21 comments:

warrantedbelief said...

bossmanham,
I really appreciate your contribution on Commonsenseatheism.com. Keep it up, brother!
Dima

bethyada said...

Item 3 is balderdash.

Perhaps the domain nonsenseatheism.com is available?

bossmanham said...

Thank you, Dima.

bethyada,

If it is, maybe I could have it forward to my site here, lol.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

The question of whether or not Christianity is "essentially" incoherent is not very interesting. All sorts of false things are coherent in the sense of precise, unequivocal and internally consistent. (This objection applies as well to the argument you're addressing.)

The argument for incoherence is most effective as a subsidiary to a moral argument: in order to make some moral system acceptable, the proponent has to create inconsistent or necessarily vague definitions. Were the definitions precise and self-consistent, the moral system would become unacceptable.

Regarding Christianity, the Problem of Evil relies strongly on this form of dual argument: You can "escape" the PoE only if you make some aspect of the definition of Christianity vague or inconsistent. For example, the "mysterious good" rebuttal (i.e. God has some ultimate or essential good we cannot apprehend) makes the definition of "omnibenevolent" necessarily vague; similarly, the sovereignty argument renders the definition of "good" inconsistent: It is not morally acceptable for any human sovereign to have absolute or arbitrary power over his subjects.

Christianity can be made completely coherent, but at the cost of making it morally unacceptable.

bossmanham said...

Right, because God should want to settle for a lesser good at the expense of just making us a bunch of fat, torpid pets/puppets. Gotcha!

bossmanham said...

Not to mention the vague/nonexistent "morality beyond God" that you're appealing to.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

Could you perhaps be more specific? I'm not precisely sure where you're going.

bossmanham said...

In other words, who made your opinion the ontological basis of what ought to be done by God?

If God is omnibenevolent, and that means that He wants the greatest good possible, and the greatest good requires allowing some measure of evil, then what's the problem?

Your personal incredulity or inability to understand isn't an argument.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

I'm not really making an argument; it's just a comment sketching a mode of argument.

You're correct in a sense: I might have no idea what good is; my moral intuitions could well be entirely mistaken. But if I don't know what good is, then it's incoherent for me to call God good; God might just as easily be evil as good.

bossmanham said...

I might have no idea what good is; my moral intuitions could well be entirely mistaken

If this is the case, then it's ridiculous for you to call God out on what He allows.

But if I don't know what good is, then it's incoherent for me to call God good; God might just as easily be evil as good.

Of course this assumes that God isn't the basis of good. If God is the ontological basis of good, then what you said is incoherent.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

Read what I wrote. I'll repeat myself, with emphasis: "If I don't know what good is, then it is incoherent for me to call God good." In the same sense, it might be true that God really is kerfibble, but it is literally incoherent for me to call God even a little bit kerfibble, not to mention omnikerfibble. (Because, of course, I have no idea what "kerfibble" actually means.)

John said...

Hey bossmanham, I think your blog is great! You are doing excellent work here. I'm a closet agnostic who pretends to be a Christian for my mom's sake =) But I'm really interested to learn more about Christianity. Thanks for all these posts!

bossmanham said...

Larry, if "the good" is by definition what correlates to God's nature, then there isn't a problem knowing if God is good, because it then becomes a definitional thing. The moral argument leads to this conclusion. If God does not exist then objective moral values (OMV's) do not exist. But objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God exists. The classical theistic explanation is that God's very nature is what defines what is good.

In other words, if you conclude that God exists, then it's not hard to see that He is good.

But going back to your epistemic problem, not knowing what good is, this also makes using the problem of evil at the very least spurious, if not impossible. If you don't know if what happens is evil, then you can't use what you don't know is good or evil to argue against the existence of a good being. You simply don't know.

bossmanham said...

John, thank you. While I'm not sure I agree with being dishonest for the sake of someone's feelings, I do understand your love for your mother. I actually think that her intrinsic value, that you seem to recognize, would not exist if God did not exist. Perhaps pondering that could help you make your decision. Thanks for reading and for the kind comment.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

Larry, if "the good" is by definition what correlates to God's nature, then there isn't a problem knowing if God is good, because it then becomes a definitional thing.

I don't think you're precisely correct here. If "the good" is indeed by definition what correlates to God's nature, then we still have a problem knowing what is actually good; I've seen no reliable way to know what God's nature actually is; God's nature is often held to be fundamentally mysterious.

The moral argument leads to this conclusion. If God does not exist then objective moral values (OMV's) do not exist. But objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God exists.

The points of attack in any syllogism are its premises: How do we know that these premises are even plausible, much less actually true? Atheists typically accept an objective reality without the existence of God; why should they reject objective moral values without God. Attacking the second premise is more to my liking: why should we believe that specifically objective moral values do indeed exist?

And I have to ask what precisely you mean by "objective" in this sense.

In other words, if you conclude that God exists, then it's not hard to see that He is good.

I don't see this connection following from the previous argument. If you assume God is good, you cannot really "conclude" God is good; it's at best an banal tautology. If you add the premises that God is omnipotent and omniscient, then you must conclude that everything that happens, from natural disasters, to the Holocaust, to the rape of children is good.

Not knowing what good is, this also makes using the problem of evil at the very least spurious, if not impossible.

Not really. It's just one one fork of the implied possibilities, depending on subtleties of meaning. If we conclude that "God is good" entails that "I don't know what good means," we have proven a contradiction, an incoherence. It is a response to one particular defense against the PoE.

The PoE, of course, asserts that we do in fact know, at least to some extent, what is good, and we see the existence of good deficient in the world around us. The particular defense that we don't know what is good then becomes self-defeating: if we don't know what is good, then calling God "good" is itself incoherent.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

To a certain extent, if we hypothesize that the good is unknowable, the PoE fails. But it fails in no small part because it becomes unnecessary: The PoE is marshalled as a rebuttal to an omnibenevolent God, which itself becomes incoherent under the assumption. We need no rebuttal to an incoherent argument.

John said...

Larry says:

"If you assume God is good, you cannot really "conclude" God is good; it's at best an banal tautology."

--Isn't it that *if* a God exists then he would be the maximally greatest being, and it would necessarily follow that such a being would be good? So nothing is actually assumed or concluded, it just necessarily follows.

bossmanham said...

Larry,

then we still have a problem knowing what is actually good

No, because you've identified it. It is "indeed by definition what correlates to God's nature." Now, you may have a question about what God's nature is, but that's a different issue. "The good" is God's nature. Beyond that, you not knowing what God's nature is really is a moot point. If you don't know that, then you can't possibly know what evil is, and therefore I can't see how you're accusing anyone of allowing evil.

The points of attack in any syllogism are its premises

GASP!!!

How do we know that these premises are even plausible, much less actually true?

You think about them and their alternatives.

Atheists typically accept an objective reality without the existence of God;

Yet they can never tell you how those objective values are grounded or what makes them normative, not to mention how anyone would be held accountable to them in the long run.

why should they reject objective moral values without God

Because there's no way for there to be an objective morality without God.

Attacking the second premise is more to my liking: why should we believe that specifically objective moral values do indeed exist?

I'm glad, because it then makes your use of the problem of evil extremely ridiculous.

And I have to ask what precisely you mean by "objective" in this sense.

In spite of what anyone thinks.

If you add the premises that God is omnipotent and omniscient, then you must conclude that everything that happens, from natural disasters, to the Holocaust, to the rape of children is good.

That's pretty terrible logic. Can you please tell us how God being all powerful and all knowing means being all causing...omnicausative??

bossmanham said...

The PoE, of course, asserts that we do in fact know, at least to some extent, what is good, and we see the existence of good deficient in the world around us. The particular defense that we don't know what is good then becomes self-defeating: if we don't know what is good, then calling God "good" is itself incoherent.

Um, but you just said you don't know what good is...How could you know that evil even exists if you don't know what good is? You are claiming that certain events that happen are incompossible with an omnibenevolent being, but you just acknowledged you don't know what kind of events would be incompossible with an omnibenevolent being. At the very least, you're contradicting yourself.

And not knowing exactly what actions correlate to God's nature (what actions are good) does not entail that God doesn't have a nature (that he isn't "the good" as Plato would say). It's perfectly coherent to recognize that God's nature definitionally is the good, but to not exactly know the specifics of His nature. You'd have to find out what correlates to His nature to figure out what specific actions are good.

Analogically, you can know what the definition of a meter is without knowing specifically everything that is a meter in length.

To a certain extent, if we hypothesize that the good is unknowable, the PoE fails.

Of course anyone who says that is falling into self-referentially incoherent-ville.

But it fails in no small part because it becomes unnecessary: The PoE is marshalled as a rebuttal to an omnibenevolent God, which itself becomes incoherent under the assumption.

There has to be an objective standard to which the omnibenevolent being doesn't match up before you can say He fails to match it. The POE defeats itself, as I've shown.

John,

That is also another, better way to reason that God is good. A being of which no greater can be conceived would have to be all good, because if He wasn't you could conceive of a greater being (and then not be conceiving of the greatest being). God, by definition, is good if He exists.

Larry, a.k.a. The Barefoot Bum said...

We're more or less going in circles now.

etio said...

Good work!

The sixth point has been my object of investigation for some time.