bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada

In part 11 of this series of posts I reviewed the overall structure of Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God, the case that he presented, along with coauthor Ronald Brooks, in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In this present post, I will once again review the overall structure of Geisler’s case, and will summarize a number of key problems with Geisler’s case.
================
For a more detailed analysis and critique of Geisler’s case, or of a specific argument in his case, see previous posts in this series:

INDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/25/index-geislers-five-ways/
================
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
On pages 15 through 26, Geisler presents five arguments for five conclusions.  I call this Phase  1 of this case.  Here are the five conclusions of the five initial arguments:

  • Something other than the universe caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • Something is a first uncaused cause of the present existence of the universe.
  • There is a Great Designer of the universe.
  • There is a supreme moral Lawgiver.
  • If God exists, then God exists and God is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
Note that the word “God” is being misused by Geisler in the statement of the fifth conclusion.  The purpose of his case is to prove that “God exists”, so a premise that begins, “If God exists, then…” is of no use in his case.
What he really means by the word “God” here is “the creator of the universe” or, more precisely: “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that causes the universe to continue to exist now.”  That this is what the word “God” means in his fifth argument can be seen in his comment about the significance of the fifth argument:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
The “argument from creation” is actually two cosmological arguments: the Kalam cosmological argument, and the Thomistic cosmological argument (to a sustaining cause of the current existence of the universe).  Thus, the antecedent of the fifth argument “If God exists…” really means: “If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that is also causing the universe to continue to exist now…”
As with MANY of the arguments that I have examined in Geisler’s case, he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense, which he does not bother to clarify or to define.  So, we have to examine the context of each such claim in his case to figure out what the hell he means each time he misuses the word “God”.  This is part of why I say that this case is a steaming pile of dog shit; Geisler does not bother to clarify or define the meaning of the most important word in his argument, and he continually shifts the meaning of this word at will, with no warning that he is doing so.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
ALL FIVE of Geisler’s arguments for the above five conclusions must be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If just one of those five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Furthermore, the soundness of all five of those arguments is NOT sufficient to prove that God exists; further arguments are needed.  None of the five basic arguments is sound, and none of the additional arguments that Geisler makes in order to get to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists” is sound, so his case for God is pure unadulterated crap from start to finish.
The basic reason why Geisler needs all five arguments to be sound, is that the concept of God is complex.  God, as understood in Christian theology, has several divine attributes, and so Geisler must show that there is one and only one being that has all of the main divine attributes.
There is no universally agreed upon list of the “main” divine attributes, but we can see what Geisler considers to be the main divine attributes in relation to his lists of God’s characteristics, and in relation to his five basic arguments.  Here is a key comment by Geisler listing several divine attributes:
…God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
A key attribute that Geisler left out of this list is “unlimited” (see WSA, p.27 & 28).
In view of his five basic arguments, Geisler implies that God also has the following key attributes or characteristics:

  • God caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • God causes the universe to continue to exist now.
  • God designed the universe.
  • God produced the laws of morality.
  • God is a necessary being.

Geisler’s description of God includes more than a dozen different divine attributes.  The existence of such a being cannot be established on the basis of just one simple argument.  That is why Geisler needs ALL FIVE of his basic arguments to be sound, plus a number of other additional arguments, in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If any one of his five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS. If one of his additional arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Geisler’s case depends on the soundness of MANY (about a dozen) different arguments.  If one of those MANY arguments is unsound, then Geisler’s case for God FAILS. As far as I can tell, none of his arguments are sound.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
Geisler represents his case as consisting of two main phases: first he proves that “God exists”, and next he proves that God has various divine attributes:
The first question that must be addressed in pre-evangelism is, “Does God exist?”  The second question is very closely related to the first: “If God exists, what kind of God is He?”  (WSA, p.15)
This argument [his Thomistic cosmological argument] shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  (WSA, p.19)
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence? (WSA, p.26)
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
This is completely idiotic and ass-backwards.  In order to prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there exists a being who has various divine attributes (e.g. all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, etc.).
Proving that there is a thing or being that caused the universe to begin to exist is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a thing or being that is causing the universe to continue to exist now is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a being who designed the universe (or some aspect of the universe) is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  The concept of God in Christian theology is a complex concept that implies a unique being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.  Thus proving that “God exists” in the context of a discussion about the truth of the Christian religion requires that one prove the existence of a being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.
Geisler is free to reject the Christian religion if he wishes, and  he is free to reject the traditional Christian concept of God as well.  He is free to invent his own personal concept of God, and to argue for the existence of that particular idiosyncratic God.  But if he wants to dump Christian theology and create his own new religion, then he needs to be very clear that this is what he is doing, and he would also need to provide a clear alternative definition or analysis of what he means by the word “God”, so that nobody would confuse Geisler’s new idiosyncratic concept of God with the traditional Christian concept of God.
Geisler, however, presents himself as a defender of the traditional Christian faith, so he clearly has no interest in inventing a new concept of God.  In the context of presenting apologetic arguments in support of the Christian faith, when Geisler asserts that “God exists”, he implies that there exists a being who has MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  Therefore, in order for Geisler to prove that “God exists”, he must prove that there exists exactly ONE being who possesses MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  He cannot prove that “God exists” without proving the existence of a being who, for example, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, the creator of the universe, etc.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
The first order of business is to clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments.  Here are the conclusions in Geisler’s own words:

1. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God. (WSA, p.16)

2. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.19)

3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p. 20)

4. Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.  (WSA, p.22)

5. Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist. (WSA, p.25)

These conclusions need to be cleaned up and clarified, so that we have a clear and accurate understanding of what they imply:

1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe (or some part or aspect of the universe) that existed prior to when the universe began to exist.

2a. There currently exists at least one uncaused cause for each finite, changing thing that currently exists.

3a. There existed (in the past) at least one Great Designer who designed some part or aspect of the universe. 

4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver who produced  at least some of the laws of morality.

5a. If there is (or ever was) a being that is (or was) the most perfect Being possible, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

Geisler provides dubious or unsound arguments for these five conclusions.  Furthermore, Geisler is very sloppy and unclear in his thinking, and so he infers significantly stronger conclusions that clearly do NOT follow logically from his five basic arguments:

1b. The entire universe was caused to begin to exist by EXACTLY ONE being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

2b. The current existence of the entire universe is caused by EXACTLY ONE currently existing being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

3b. There is EXACTLY ONE Great Designer who designed every part and aspect of the universe.

4b. There is EXACTLY ONE supreme lawgiver who produced all of the laws of morality.

5b. IF there is a being who caused the universe to begin to exist and who also causes the universe to continue to exist now, THEN that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
Geisler’s five arguments leave open the possibility that there were MANY beings involved in causing the beginning of the universe, and MANY beings involved in causing the continuing existence of the universe, and MANY beings who designed different parts and aspects of the universe, and MANY moral lawgivers who produced different moral laws.
Because the “divine attributes” are distributed differently among these different kinds of beings, Geisler cannot show that there is just ONE being who possesses ALL of the various divine attributes.  Furthermore, since the function of a particular kind of being could be spread out among MANY beings, we cannot infer that the required power or ability exists to a high or unlimited degree in any one such being.  If, for example, a team of one thousand beings worked together to design the human brain, then there might well have been no being who had enough knowledge or intelligence to design the human brain by itself.
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
On pages 26 and 27,  Geisler presents Phase 2 of his case.  He argues for three claims related to personal attributes of “God”:

  • God is very powerful.
  • God is very intelligent.
  • God is [morally] good.

Once again, Geisler misuses the word “God” here.  But he gives us a good clue as to what he means by “God” in his Phase 2 arguments:
The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
Geisler had argued in the previous paragraph that based on his two cosmological arguments “God” had great power.  Then Geisler uses his argument from design to try to show that “God” had great intelligence.  The above quoted statement implies that the word “God” is being used in the narrow sense of “whatever caused the universe”.  Roughly speaking, the conclusions that Geisler argues for in Phase 2 are more clearly stated as follows:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very powerful.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very intelligent.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is [morally] good.

So, Geisler is arguing that there exists a cause of the universe, and that this cause has various personal attributes that are part of the ordinary meaning of the word “God”.
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
A being that causes a universe to begin to exist is NOT necessarily the being that designed the universe; design and manufacturing are two separate functions in most companies that make products.  Making something is NOT the same as designing something.
The laws of nature could have been created by one being, while the laws of morality could have been created by a different being. There is no reason to believe that the cause of the existence of the universe is the same as the designer of the universe or the same as the moral lawgiver.
Because Geisler has NOT proven that these beings are all the same being, he cannot ascribe these various personal attributes (powerful, intelligent, and good) to just one being.  But in order to prove that God exists, he must show that there is ONE being who possesses all three of these personal attributes in an unlimited way, a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.
 
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Yet again, Geisler abuses the word “God” in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is how Geisler states the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

Clearly, he is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  As I argued above, what he actually means something like this:

  • If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the past) and that also causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), then that being is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
There is no reason to believe that a cause of the beginning of the universe must be a “perfect being”.  Let’s grant for the sake of argument that a “perfect being” must be a necessary being.  The question then becomes, “Does a perfect being exist?”
Geisler believes he has proven that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, but that tells us nothing about whether a perfect being exists.  The fact that the universe is finite and imperfect suggests the opposite conclusion, namely that the being that caused the beginning of the universe (if there were such a being) is something less than a perfect being.   In any case, Geisler has provided no reason to think that the cause of the beginning of the universe was a perfect being, so he has provided no reason to believe that there exists a perfect being, and thus Geisler has provided no reason to believe that there is a necessary being.
 
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
On pages 27-28, Geisler presents Phase 4 of his case.  There are two different sets of alleged implications that Geisler argues follow from the existence of a necessary being.  First there are implications related to God’s “metaphysical” attributes (as contrasted with God’s personal attributes above):

  • A necessary being is unchanging.
  • A necessary being is infinite.
  • A necessary being is eternal.
  • A necessary being is omnipresent.

Second, there are alleged conditional implications of the concept of a necessary being:

  • If a necessary being is powerful, then it is all-powerful.
  • If a necessary being is intelligent, then it is all-knowing.
  • If a necessary being is [morally] good, then it is perfectly [morally] good.

PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
We see this confusion in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the conclusion that a necessary being must be unchanging:
We said already that necessary existence means that He [God] cannot not exist–so He has no beginning and no end.  But it also means that He cannot ‘come to be’ in any other way.  He must be as He is necessarily.  He can’t become something new.  That removes all change from His being–He is unchanging.  (WSA, p.27)
The expression “come to be” is clearly AMBIGUOUS.  It can refer to something coming into existence, or it can refer to something undergoing a change in an attribute or characteristic.  The concept of a “necessary being” implies that the thing or being in question did not come into existence, will not cease to exist, and cannot cease to exist.  This concept does NOT imply that ALL of the characteristics or attributes of such a thing or being must remain unchanged.
An apple can change from being green to being red; this does NOT involve the apple coming into existence or ceasing to exist.  The apple continues to exist through the change in its color.  An apple can “come to be red” even though the apple previously existed and continues to exist.  Thus, the apple itself does NOT “come to be” when it changes color from green to red.
Geisler confuses and conflates two different meanings of the expression “come to be”.   The claim that an apple “came to be red” implies NOTHING about the apple coming to exist.  An apple can “come to be red” even if the apple has always existed, and will always exist.  The fact that some of the attributes of an apple can change, does NOT imply that the apple began to exist, nor that the apple will cease to exist.  Geisler draws an INVALID inference based on the AMBIGUITY of the expression “come to be”; he commits yet another fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this crappy bit of reasoning.
The same sort of confusion occurs again in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the view that a necessary being must have unlimited attributes:
Because of His [God’s] necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation. (WSA, p.28)
If something is a “necessary being”, that just means that it has existence in a necessary way; it does NOT mean that it has all of its attributes or characteristics in a necessary way.  Geisler again confuses the existence of something being necessary with its possession of its attributes being necessary.  The necessity of attributes does NOT logically follow from the necessity of a thing’s existence.
Geisler contradicts himself a few pages later, by implying that God’s attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is NOT a necessary attribute or characteristic:
…He [God] must be all that He is.  All that is in God’s nature is necessary, but anything that He does extends beyond His nature and is done by His free will.  One cannot even say that it was necessary for Him to create.  (WSA, p.31)
But if it was NOT necessary that God create the universe, then the divine attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is merely a contingent attribute, not a necessary attribute, and therefore God does NOT possess this particular attribute (of being the creator of the universe) “in a necessary way”.   Geisler clearly contradicts his earlier assertion that God “can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.”
Geisler then uses the conclusions from Phase 2 (the cause of the universe is very powerful, very intelligent, and morally good) along with the conclusion of Phase 3 (the cause of the universe is a necessary being) in combination with the conclusions from Phase 4 (a necessary being is unchanging, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, and if a necessary being is powerful, intelligent, and good then it must be all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good) in order to infer this conclusion:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is an unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent necessary being, that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good.

 
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
In a short paragraph on page 28, Geisler argues that there cannot be multiple beings of the sort that he thinks he has shown to exist:

  • There can be only one infinite Being.

Geisler’s argument for this conclusion is based on the following premise:

  • If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
Unlimited beings share many unlimited attributes, but one unlimited being can have an attribute that differs from another unlimited being, thus making it possible to distinguish the two beings as different and separate beings.
For example, since the attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is, according to Geisler (WSA, p.31), a logically contingent attribute of God, it is possible for there to exist both an unlimited being that is “the creator of the universe” and also an unlimited being that is NOT “the creator of the universe”.  Since these two beings would have at least one attribute that they don’t share, it would be possible to distinguish between these two unlimited beings.
Furthermore, according to traditional Christian doctrine, God consists of three different persons, but each of those persons is an unlimited person.  Although these three persons are unlimited, according to traditional Christian belief, it is possible to distinguish between these three persons: one is “the Father”, another “the Son”, and the third is “the Holy Spirit”.   It is logically inconsistent to allow that there can be three distinguishable unlimited persons, but at the same time to insist that there cannot possibly be two or more distinguishable unlimited beings.
In the case of the Trinity,  Christians believe that there are specific unique attributes possessed by each of the persons of the Trinity that make it possible to distinguish one from another.  But this implies that one unlimited person can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited person.  If so, then this implies that one unlimited being can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited being.  Clearly, the attribute of being “unlimited” does NOT dictate every attribute possessed by such a person or being.
 
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
Although Geisler never provides a definition of the word “God”, it is fairly clear that his concept of God is something like this:
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:

  • X caused the universe to begin to exist, and
  • X causes the universe to continue to exist, and
  • X is the great designer of the universe, and
  • X is the supreme moral lawgiver, and
  • X is a necessary being, and
  • X is the only unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent being, and
  • X is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good being.

So, the ultimate conclusion of Geisler’s case is this:

  • God exists.

Here, finally, the word “God” is being used in something like it’s ordinary sense.
PROBLEM 10:  Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
On the above Thomistic definition of “God”, God is both a person and an absolutely unchanging being.  But a person can make choices and decisions and perform actions and a person can communicate with other persons.  Something that is absolutely unchanging cannot make choices and decisions and perform actions, nor can such a thing communicate with other persons.  The idea of a person who is an absolutely unchanging being is INCOHERENT, it contains a logical self-contradiction.  Therefore, on this definition of “God” it is logically impossible for it to be the case that “God exists”.  The claim “God exists” would be a logically necessary falsehood, given Geisler’s concept of God.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN & REMEC Arguments: INDEX

1. Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
2. My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
3. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
4. Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
5. My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
6. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
7. My Rebuttal to Hinman’s Replies to My Objections about ABEAN and REMEC arguments
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/08/05/hinmans-replies-objections-abean-remec/

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?

Dr. Norman Geisler uses cosmological arguments to show that God is very powerful, and a teleological argument to show that God is very intelligent, and a moral argument to show that God is good (When Skeptics Ask [hereafter: WSA], p.26-27).  But in Phase 4 of his case, he has not yet attempted to show that God exists.  At best he has attempted to show that there is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and that this being is very powerful, very intelligent, and is morally good.  Geisler has failed miserably at this attempt, but that is what he was actually trying to establish, so far.
A final step in Phase 4 is his attempt to show that the being that caused the universe is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good:
Because of his necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning,  without change, and without limitation.  So while the argument from Creation tells us that He has power, the argument from being shows us that it is perfect, unlimited power.  The argument from design tells us that He is intelligent, but His necessity informs us that His knowledge is uncreated, unchanging, and infinite.  The moral order suggests that He is good, but the perfection of His being means that He must be all good in a perfect and unlimited way.  (WSA, p.28)
In the previous post I criticized Argument 3 of Phase 4, which included an inference to the conclusion that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist had no limitations.  That argument failed (in part) because it was based on a fallacy of equivocation on the phrase “to not be” (among other problems).  In this post I will consider a second argument that Geisler makes for a similar conclusion:
Argument 4 of Phase 4

90. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.

91. If a being B is a necessary being, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way.

92. If all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B without any limitation.

THEREFORE:

93. All of the attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has, are attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has without any limitation.

94.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness.

THEREFORE:

95. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness.

96.  If a being B has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, then being B is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

97. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

One standard objection to traditional arguments for the existence of God is that, at best, they only show the existence of a being with finite power, finite knowledge, and limited moral goodness.  The above argument is Geisler’s attempt to get around that standard objection.  His attempt, like every other argument in this case, fails.
First of all, premise (90) is doubly dubious, because (a) Geisler failed to show that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and (b) Geisler also failed to show that the being that caused the universe to exist (if there were such a being) was a necessary being.  The “Argument from Being” that Geisler presents is based on an analysis of the concept of “God”, but Geisler has not shown anything about God or the existence of God yet; he has only attempted to show the existence of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and he failed even at that lesser task.  Because Geisler is still working his way towards showing that God exists, he cannot make use of his “Argument from Being” to support the claim that the being who caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.  Therefore, premise (90) is doubly dubious, and provides a very shaky foundation for Argument 4 of Phase 4.
Premise (91) is also very dubious, for more than one reason.  First of all, this premise is NOT self-evidently true, so Geisler needs to provide reasons or evidence in support of (91), but he provides no such support for this premise.  Second, the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” is vague and unclear, so Geisler needs to provide a definition or clarification of what this phrase means, but he provides no definition or clarification of this phrase.  One cannot evaluate the truth of (91) unless and until the phrase “in a necessary way” is defined or clarified.
Third, if we interpret the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” as meaning that it is a necessary truth that the being in question has that attribute, then this leads to an apparent contradicition with Christian theology.   God, according to Christian theology, did NOT have to create the universe; God freely chose to create the universe, and was not compelled or necessitated to do so.  But one of God’s attributes is being the creator of the universe.  If God is a necessary being, as Geisler asserts, and thus each of God’s attributes corresponds to a necessary truth, then it is a necessary truth that “God created the universe” (or “If God exists, then God created the universe”).  But if this is a necessary truth, then it is logically impossible for God to NOT have created the universe, and thus God did NOT freely choose to create the universe, but was compelled to do so out of logical necessity.  Therefore, premise (91) contradicts a basic claim of Christian theology.
There are good reasons to believe that premise (92) is false, if we assume that (91) is true.  First, the number three is a necessary being, since it cannot not exist.  But the quantity represented by the number three is clearly limited; that is what makes it the number three, as opposed to the number four, or the number five thousand.  The number three is less than the number four, and it is this very limitation that constitutes the nature of the number three.  Thus, a necessary being can have a limitation.
Second, God is the creator of the universe and a necessary being, according to Geisler and according to Christian theology, but the universe is finite both in duration and in size.  If God’s power and knowledge are unlimited, then God could have created an infinite universe, but God, if God exists, created a finite universe.  So, even if God had the potential to create an infinite universe, it appears that he did not actualize that potential.  God’s attribute of being a “creator of stars, planets, and galaxies” is a limited attribute, not an infinite and unlimited attribute.   But in that case, premise (92) would be false, assuming premise (91) was true, because at least one attribute of a necessary being is limited and finite.
The conclusion (93) follows validly from the premises (90), (91), and (92), assuming that there are no equivocations, such as with the unclear phrase “in a necessary way”.  However, each of the three premises is dubious, so this argument for (93) fails.
Premise (94) is a question begging assumption, because Geisler has only attempted to show that the cause of the universe is powerful, the designer of the universe has knowledge, and the lawmaker of moral laws is morally good.  He has made no attempt to show that these three beings (if they exist) are one and the same being.   Geisler also failed to show that there was just one cause of the universe, just one designer of the universe, and just one moral lawmaker.  So, this premise is doubly dubious.  Geisler failed to show that there was just one of each of these types of beings, and Geisler failed to show that these three beings (or types of being) are all one and the same being.  Therefore, Geisler hasn’t even come close to showing that the cause of the universe is powerful AND knowledgable AND morally good.
Since both premise (93) and (94) are dubious, the argument for (95) fails.
Premise (96) appears to be true, but since Geisler failed to provide a solid argument for premise (95), his argument for (97) also fails, just like every other argument in his unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4

=====================
NOTE:
To avoid sounding overly aggressive and insulting,  I will not be repeating the evaluation that Dr. Geisler’s various arguments for the existence of God are a steaming pile of dog shit.  However, please understand that the fact that I refrain from writing such comments does NOT mean that no such thoughts come to my mind as I am reading and thinking about Dr. Geisler’s arguments; it just means that I am restraining myself from stating clearly and forcefully how I view his arguments, for the sake of etiquette and public decorum.
=======================
PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

In Part 13 of this series, I argued that Geisler’s arguments for these conclusions failed:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.

In this post,  I will argue that Geisler’s arguments for the following conclusions also fail:

  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Here is how Geisler argues for the first two of those conclusions:
Since a necessary being cannot not be, He can have no limits.  A limitation means “to not be” in some sense, and that is impossible–so He is infinite.  (WSA, p.27)
Phase 4 Argument #3

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

71.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

First of all, this argument is based on a dubious and unpoven premise: premise (54b), so the whole argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Second, there must be a problem somewhere with this argument, because the same logic can be used to prove an absurd conclusion:

A. The number six is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

81.  The number six cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

83.  The number six has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

85. The number six is an infinite being.

B.    There can be only one infinite being.  (according to Geisler: WSA, p.28)

C.    God is an infinite being. (according to Geisler: WSA, p.27)

THEREFORE:

86.  The number six is God. (!!)

The claim “The number six exists” is a necessary truth, so the existence of the number six is necessary; therefore, the number six is a necessary being.
But given Geisler’s logic and assumptions, it follows from the fact that the number six is a necessary being, that the number six is God!  But that is absurd.  God is a person, and the number six is NOT a person, so God cannot be the number six, and the number six cannot be God.  Thus, there must be at least one false premise or one invalid inference somewhere in Argument 3 of Phase 4.
If we clarify the premises of Geisler’s argument, we can see that there is at least one invalid inference in the argument.  Premises (70) and (72) are both in need of clarification.  First, let’s make it more clear that (70) is talking about existence:

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

Next, lets think about premise (72) to see if we can clarify that premise,  based on understanding the underlying logic of that premise:

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

A being might have a limitation related to knowledge, thus making the being fall short of possessing omniscience.  For example, a being might NOT know calculus, and thus fall short of possessing omniscience.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that knows calculus, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to knowledge.
A being might have a limitation related to power, thus making the being fall short of possessing omnipotence.  For example, a being might NOT have the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and thus fall short of possessing omnipotence.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that has the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to power.
Note that a being that fell short of omniscience could, nevertheless, exist.  Note that a being that fell short of omnipotence could, nevertheless, exist.  So, lacking some power or characteristic that is required in order to have infinite power or infinite knowledge does not imply the non-existence of the being in question.  I am not omniscient, nor am I omnipotent, but I do exist.  Thus, it appears that the phrase “not be” has a different meaning in premise (70) than in premise (72), and thus Geisler’s argument is invalid because of the fallacy of equivocation (if I had a nickel for every equivocation fallacy by Geisler, I could buy Bill Gates’ house on Lake Washington).
Here is a clarified version of Argument 3 of Phase 4 that makes the invalidity of Geisler’s logic more obvious:
Phase 4 Argument #3 RevA

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

THEREFORE:

71a.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not exist.

72a. A being B has a limitation related to characteristic C IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” a being with property P, where P is a property that B must have in order to have characteristic C to an infinite degree.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

Premise (71a) has no logical connection with premise (72a), because (71a) is talking about EXISTENCE, while (71a) is talking about having, or not having, some PROPERTY or characteristic.  Therefore, the inference from (71a) and (72a) to (73) is logically invalid, and this argument fails, like every single other argument that Geisler has presented in his case for God.  Geisler has yet again committed the fallacy of equivocation, because he plays fast-and-loose with the meanings of words and phrases, such as the phrase “not be”.
Argument 3 of Phase 4 clearly FAILS because (a) it is based on a dubious and unproven premise, premise (54b), and because (b) the logic of the argument is invalid.
Here is Geisler’s argument about omnipresence:
Also, He can’t be limited to categories like “here and there,” because unlimited being must be in all places at all times–therefore, He is omnipresent.  (WSA, p.27-28)
 
Phase 4 Argument #4

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

THEREFORE:

76. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations related to its location.

77. A being that has no limitations related to its location must be in all places at all times.

78.  A being that is in all places at all times is an omnipresent being.

THERFORE:

79. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an omnipresent being.

This argument is better than most given by Geisler in his case for God.  The main problem is that the initial premise (73) is controversial and questionable, and Geisler has failed in his previous attempt to provide a sound argument for (73).  So, this argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Premise (77) is not Geisler’s wording; it is my attempt to use the logic that we uncovered in clarifying premise (72) in order to clarify this present argument.
There does seem to be a bit of a problem with the truth of premise (77), at least as I have worded it.  Being confined to a particular location seems to be a kind of limitation.  We put people in prison, for example, to confine them, to limit their freedom.  As human beings, one aspect of our freedom and power is to be able to LEAVE a particular location when we wish to do so.  I can pick up my marbles and go home, if I get mad and don’t want to play anymore.  If a being MUST be in a particular location, then that being is confined to that location, and is not free to leave that location.  Thus it seems to be the case that a being that “has no limitations related to its location” would be a being that is able to leave a location and NOT be present at that location, whenever the being wishes to do so.  Thus, it is not clear to me that (77) is true.
Perhaps premise (77) could be modified to get around this objection.  I’m not sure.
My main objection to Argument 4 of Phase 4 is that it is based on the questionable and controversial premise (73), for which Geisler has failed to provide a solid argument.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler reformulates the argument from being as follows:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He [God] must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
 
PHASE 3 ARGUMENT
Both premise (50) and the conclusion (52) are conditional statements with the antecedent “If God exists…”.  So, in order to make use of this argument, Geisler must first prove that “God exists”, which he says he did with “the argument from Creation”:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
So, the conclusion of the argument from Creation is (allegedly) that “God exists” and this affirms the antecedent of premise (50) and the antecedent of the conclusion (52).  Because the claim that God is “a necessary being” is crucial for Geisler’s case, we should use premise (50) as the basis for the argument in Phase 3.
Phase 3 Argument – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54. God exists and we conceive of God as a necessary being.

 
This argument needs a little bit of tweaking to make it support Geisler’s desired conclusion:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 1

50a. IF God exists, THEN God exists and God is a necessary being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

 
As I have previously explained, in order for the logic of this Phase 3 argument to be VALID, the word “God” in  premise (53) must have the same meaning as the word “God” in the other premise of the argument, namely in premise (50a) and in the conclusion (54a). Because the truth of premise (53) is based on the argument from Creation, we know what the word “God” means in premise (53).  So, we can replace the word “God” in premise (53) with a phrase that clearly and accurately represents the being that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the argument from Creation:

53a.  There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

We must plug this same interpretation of the word “God” into the other premise and into the conclusion of the Phase 3 argument in order to maintain the logical validity of the argument:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 2

50b. IF there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago), THEN there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

53a. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

THEREFORE:

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

 
The above argument is UNSOUND because premise (50b) is FALSE, as I argued in the previous post.  Also, Geisler’s argument from Creation does NOT prove that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin, so premise (53a) is dubious and controversial.  Thus, the argument in Phase 3 of Geisler’s case for God FAILS, just like the arguments in Phase 1 and in Phase 2.  The first three phases of Geisler’s case constitute a big steaming pile of dog shit.  I have no expectation at this point that the next phases and arguments will be any better.
 
PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God.  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

Geisler’s argument for the claim that “God is unchanging” is brief (see WSA, page 27), as are all of his arguments in Phase 4:
Phase 4 Argument #1

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

THEREFORE

56.  God cannot “come to be” in any other way.

THEREFORE

57. God must be as He is necessarily.

THEREFORE

58.  God cannot become something new.

THEREFORE

59. God cannot change in any way.

THEREFORE

60.  God is unchanging.

Since the only argument that Geisler gives us in support of premise (54a) is UNSOUND, the truth of (54a) is questionable, so this whole line of reasoning rests upon a shaky foundation.
The inference from (54a) to (56) is also questionable.  Geisler provides no reason or justification for this inference, but the inference is NOT obviously correct or self-evident.  Furthermore, although Geisler does define the phrase “a necessary being”, his definition is not very helpful:  “must exist and cannot not exist”.  Because this definition is somewhat unclear, it is difficult to be confident that the alleged implications of being “a necessary being” are in fact logical implications.
This definition of “a necessary being” includes entities like the number three, because the number three “must exist and cannot not exist”.  It is a logically necessary truth that the number three exists.   Can the number three “come to be” in any other way (besides coming into existence)?  It certainly seems that the number three can “come to be” in a way that is other than coming into existence.  Yesterday my favorite number was the number seven, but today I’m tired of that number, and my new favorite number is the number three.  Thus, the number three has “come to be” my favorite number.  Thus, the inference from (54a) to (56) is not only questionable, it appears to be INVALID.
I understand that one can draw a distinction between ordinary properties on the one hand and relations on the other, and it is often thought that changes in relations are not REAL changes, or that they are a significantly different sort of change than the change of ordinary properties.  But Geisler has no discussion or justification of this inference, so there is no way to be clear about his conception of changes, and his understanding of the concept of “a necessary being” and how this concept works in terms of relations (like the number three becoming my favorite number).
The other inferences in this line of reasoning are also NOT obviously correct, nor are they self-evident.  But Geisler provides no clarification and no justification for any of these inferences.  So, this argument begins with a questionable premise, and procedes with several questionable inferences.  It is a dubious and unclear mess from start to finish.
But suppose that by some miracle Geisler was able to come up with a new and sound argument for premise (54a), and suppose that he was able to come up with clarifications and justifications that show each of these inferences to be correct.  In that case the conclusion that Geisler would have actually proven is this:

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

This conclusion would actually show that God does NOT exist.  Here is an argument that uses (60a) to prove that God does NOT exist:
Argument Against the Existence of God – Based on Unchanging First Cause

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

61.  IF a being X is unchanging, THEN being X is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

62. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

63. It is NOT the case that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

64. IF God exists, then the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

THEREFORE

65.  It is NOT the case that God exists.

Geisler would object to premise (61),  but the concept of “a person” implies a being that can make choices and perform actions, and the idea of “making a choice” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while making the choice, and the idea of “performing an action” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while performing the action.
So,  argument #1 of Phase 4 is highly questionable, but if it could be revised and made solid, it would provide the basis for a strong argument AGAINST the existence of God.
Phase 4 Argument #2

66. Time is just a way to measure change.

THEREFORE

67.  Without change, time is impossible.

60. God is unchanging.  (the conclusion from Argument #1 of Phase 4)

THEREFORE

68.  Time is impossible for God.

THEREFORE

69.  God is eternal.

 
Time is a very abstract concept and a difficult concept to understand, so premise (66) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident.  But Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this premise.  Similarly, the inference from (66) to (67) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident, and Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this inference.
Premise (60) is the conclusion of the very dubious argument #1 of Phase 4, so this premise remains questionable and has not been supported with a solid argument by Geisler.
The inference from (67) and (60) to (68) appears to be INVALID, because premise (67) talks about a circumstance in which there is NO CHANGE at all, but premise (60) does NOT assert that there is NO CHANGE at all, but rather that there is no change in God (or no change in the being that caused the universe to begin to exist).
Suppose there are no changes in the cause of the universe; that is compatible with there being changes in the universe (which clearly there have been).  Since there are changes in the universe, premise (67) is purely hypothetical and has no application to the way things actually are.  Changes occur, so time is possible.  In other words, premise (67) is too broad and general to warrant an inference in the specific case at hand, where one thing might be unchanging while everything else undergoes changes.
In order to repair this INVALID argument, we would need to have a more specific premise, such as this one:
70.  IF a being X never changes, THEN time does not pass for being X.
But this more specific claim is also more questionable than the premise that it replaces.  Even if the being that caused the universe to begin to exist never changes, since the universe itself constantly changes, it would seem to be the case that time would pass not only for the universe, but for the unchanging cause of the universe too.
For example, let’s call the first moment of the existence of the universe time T1.   Suppose that the first planets of the universe formed one billion years after T1.   Let’s call the moment that the first planet formed time T2.  The cause of the universe’s begining, did it’s great work at (or before) time T1, and clearly the first planet formed some time AFTER time T1.  Thus, the first planet formed some time AFTER the cause of the beginning of the universe did its great work.  The cause of the universe might not have changed one bit during the billion years between the beginning of the univese and the formation of the first planet, but it seems clear that the formation of the first planet occurred a long time after the cause of the universe brought the universe into existence, and this appears to imply that time did pass for the cause of the universe.
In fact, what makes the “unchangingness” of the cause of the universe impressive (in this scenario) is precisely the fact that it remained unchanged over a billion years of time.  If no time had passed at all, then there would be no reason to expect any changes in the cause of the universe, because changes take time.
Given the imaginary scenario where there is an unchanging cause of the universe, and a constantly changing universe, the more specific premise (70) appears to be false.  But Geisler needs a more specific premise like (70) in order to make argument #2 into a VALID argument.  So, it appears that the argument that Geisler actually gives us is INVALID, and that it may be rather difficult for Geisler to come up with a more specific version of premise (67) that would fix this problem.
The final inference from (68) to (69) is questionable.  The word “eternal” normally means “has always existed and will continue to exist forever”, but Geisler apparently interprets the word in an unusual way, to mean “outside of time”, which is a strange and difficult to understand idea.  Both (68) and (69) are unclear claims, so any inference from one to the other is suspect.  Unless and until Geisler can do a better job of explaining and clarifying these unclear and difficult to understand ideas, this inference will remain dubious.
Argument #2 of Phase 4 contains some dubious premises, at least two dubious inferences, and one INVALID inference.  Like all of his other arguments that we have considered so far, this one also FAILS, which is no surprise because every single argument that he has presented so far has had one or more serious flaws.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?

PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Geisler abuses the word “God” yet again in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

He is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  Perhaps, he actually means something like this:

  • Whatever caused the universe is a necessary being.

Because Geisler’s Phase 3 argument depends on “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1, we need to first take a closer look at that earlier argument.
 
THE ARGUMENTS FROM BEING 
While Geisler speaks of “The argument from being” (WSA, p.27),  he actually presents two different arguments with that title.  Here is the first argument:
Argument from Being #1 – Initial Version

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being.  

THEREFORE

47. … necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being.

(WSA, p.24-25.  NOTE: The numbering of the premises has been changed to fit my numbering scheme).
 
This argument, he tells us, “attempts to prove that God must exist by definition.” (WSA, p.24)   But this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, because the word “God” appears nowhere in this argument.  You cannot give an argument for the existence of God that never mentions “God”.
However, in introducing this argument, Geisler indicates that this argument is based on “the idea of God as a perfect Being” (WSA, p.24).   So, he appears to be suggesting a definition of the word “God” in relation to this argument from being.  The first premise of Argument from Being #1 uses the phrase “the most perfect Being possible”, so a definition of “God” corresponding to that precise phrase would be this:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

We could add this definition to the above argument, in order to produce an argument that actually talks about the existence of God:
Argument from Being #1 – Revision 1

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46a. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.  

THEREFORE

47a. Necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.

48. A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible.

THEREFORE

49. Necessary existence must be attributed to God.

 
Geisler rejects this argument, as an argument for the existence of God:
Now this argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence; but it fails to show that God actually exists.  (WSA, p.25)
At this point Geisler offers a second version of “The argument from Being”:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
Unlike the previous version of “The argument from Being”, this argument uses the word “God”, both in a premise, and in the conclusion.  What does the word “God” mean in this argument?  Geisler does not bother to provide a definition or clarification of what the word “God” means in this argument, so once again, we have to guess at what the hell Geisler means by this word in this argument.
There are three different possible meanings of the word “God” in the context of this argument.  One obvious interpretation is to use the definition implied by Geisler when he introduced the first version of “The argument from Being”:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

Let’s use this definition to clarify the second verion of the argument from being:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 1

50a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN we conceive of the most perfect being possible as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN the most perfect being possible must exist and cannot not exist.

 
This interpretation will not do.   The problem is that Geisler has provided no reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible exists”.  He has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of God, so if we understand “God” to mean “the most perfect being possible”, then Geisler has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of “the most perfect being possible”.  But if Geisler has provided no sound argument for the claim that “the most perfect being possible exists”, then the conclusion (52a) will be of no use:  “IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN….”  Such a conditional claim is useless given that there is no good reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible” exists.  Therefore, we must set aside this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, and look for other possible interpretations of the word “God” in that argument.
In Phase 3 of his case for God, Geisler makes a statement about how the “argument from being” functions in his case:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that he does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
According to Geisler, the existence of “God” is shown by “the argument from Creation” (in Phase 1 of his case) and then later (in Phases 3 and 4 of his case) “the argument from being” is used to show that this “God” has various significant attributes.  If that is how “the argument from being” functions in Geisler’s case for God, then the meaning of the word “God” in “the argument from being” is determined or constrained by whatever it is that was (allegedly) proven to exist by “the argument from Creation”.
There is a relay race here where a baton is handed off from “the argument from Creation” to “the argument from being”.   In order for these two arguments to coordinate with each other, in order for the logic of Geisler’s case to work, the meaning of the word “God” in premise (50) of the argument from being cannot mean anything other than whatever it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist in the argument from Creation.
The argument from Creation does NOT prove the existence of “the most perfect being possible”, so there is at least a second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered in trying to understand the second version of the argument from being. Roughly speaking, the second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered is this: “whatever caused the universe”.
But there are actually two different arguments given by Geisler that he refers to misleadingly as “the argument from Creation”. There are thus two different meanings of the word “God” that relate to what was (allegedly) proved to exist by the two arguments from Creation:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).
  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now). 

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 2

50b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN we conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50b) is false, and thus the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the universe to begin to exist.  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the universe to begin to exist.   An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  So, premise (50b) is clearly false, and this argument is UNSOUND, given that we interpret the word “God” here to mean “a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).”
What about the other possible interpretation of the word “God” based on what it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the other argument from Creation?  Let’s revise the second version of the argument from being using this other sense of the word “God”:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 3

50c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)  exists, THEN we conceive of a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) exists, THEN a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50c) is false, and the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  Therefore, if we understand the word “God” in the second version of the argument from being to mean “a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)”, then premise (50c) is false, and this argument is UNSOUND.
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENT FROM BEING
Both Aquinas and Geisler rightly reject the ontological argument for the existence of God.  Geisler calls ontological arguments “The argument from being”.  Geisler reformulates “The argument from being” so that it uses the word “God”, but as with various other arguments presented by Geisler, the meaning of the word “God” in the argument from being is UNCLEAR. (It is very clear at this point that Geisler simply does not give a shit about being clear, since he is constantly UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOS in the use of the most important word in his case).
There are three different possible interpretations of the word “God” that could be used to clarify the meaning of Geisler’s reformulated argument from being.  On the first interpretation, the argument is somewhat plausible, but the argument is USELESS to Geisler’s case, because he has given us no reason whatsoever to believe that “the most perfect being possible” actually exists.
Two other interpretations of the word “God” are based on what it is that Geisler (allegedly) proved to exist in his two arguments “from Creation”.  But on either of those interpretations, the first premise of the reformulated argument from being is FALSE, making Geisler’s reformulated argument from being UNSOUND.
Based on the above considerations the reformulated argument from being is either (a) plausible but USELESS for Geisler’s case, or (b) useful for Geisler’s case but is UNSOUND.   The argument from being is critical to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because it is supposed to provide support for a key claim in his case:

  • The creator (or whatever caused the universe to begin to exist) is a necessary being.

Since the one argument Geisler has for this claim is either USELESS for this purpose or is UNSOUND, Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS, once again, at this crucial juncture.

bookmark_borderDoes God Exist? Part 2

Here is a third option for breaking down the question “Does God exist?” (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the chart):
Does God Exist - 3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is a variation on Option 2 (see the previous post in this series).
In this analysis I stick with the process of simply adding on divine attributes to the creator in order to build up to the full traditional concept of God, or something close to the full traditional concept.*
This is roughly parallel to the step-by-step building up to the full traditional concept of God that Richard Swinburne does in his book The Coherence of Theism.  I have just left out a few of the divine attributes that Swinburne uses in his analysis of the concept of ‘God’, namely: perfect freedom, a source of moral obligation, immutable, and a necessary being.  While these are part of the full traditional concept of God, they don’t seem as central and important as the divine attributes used in the above chart, and I prefer to work with a simpler and more bare-bones concept of God.
Perfect freedom is probably implied by perfect goodness, since if God was like a robot that was programmed to always do what is best, then God’s goodness would be less than perfect.  If, on the other hand, being like a robot that was programmed to always do what is best does NOT make God’s goodness less than perfect, then there would be no big motivation for including this divine attribute in the analysis of the concept of God.  Swinburne argues that God’s being a source of moral obligation is implied by God being the creator of the universe, so Swinburne (at least) should not complain about dropping the attribute of being a source of moral obligation out of the analysis of the concept of God.
Immutability in the strong sense (the idea that God is absolutely unchanging and unchangable) is logically incompatible with God being a person, so I’m doing theists a favor by leaving that divine attribute out.  Immutability in the weaker sense of God’s moral character being unchanging would seem to be implied by the omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness of God, since a perfectly good person would resist becoming an evil person (or even a slightly bad person), and being omnipotent and omniscient would guarantee the success of this effort.  So, there seems to be no need to include immutability in the weaker sense in the analysis of the concept of God.
The divine attribute of necessary being is something philosophers and philosophically-inclined theologians enjoy discussing, but I don’t think this is of much importance to the typical religious believer.  The clearest and most obvious interpretation of ‘necessary being’ is that God’s existence is logically necessary, but this is clearly false, according to Swinburne, and I’m inclined to agree with him on that point.  So, we ought to leave ‘necessary being’ in that sense out of the analysis of the concept of God.
Swinburne discusses various other possible meanings of ‘necessary being’ in The Coherence of Theism, and settles on one interpretation, but on that interpretation it becomes impossible to prove that the claim that “God exists” is logically coherent, at least in the ordinary way of showing logical coherence.  Swinburne’s interpretation of ‘necessary being’ is difficult to understand, and appears to be somewhat arbitrary and ad hoc.  Given Swinburne’s understanding of ‘necessary being’, I don’t think the average believer would care much about whether God has or doesn’t have this attribute, and most people simply would not understand Swinburne’s concept of ‘necessary being’ anyway.
If we simply drop the divine attribute of necessary being from the definition of “God”, we are still left with a being that is very similar to the full traditional concept of God, but without the philosophical/logical issues that come along with this perplexing divine attribute.  One less problematic divine attribute means that it will be easier to make a case for the existence of God, so no Christian apologist or defender of theism should complain about my suggestion to focus on this simpler, more bare-bones conception of God.
 
* I have a somewhat robust notion of the divine attribute of being eternal.  What I mean by this attribute is that the being in question has always had the other divine attributes and will continue to have all of those other attributes forever.  So, the third question in the chart can be stated more clearly this way:
Did an eternally perfectly morally good, and eternally omnipotent, and eternally omniscient, eternally bodiless person create the universe?
Since perfect moral goodness and omniscience are characteristics that only a person can have, a being who was eternally perfectly morally good and eternally omniscient would of necessity also eternally be a person.
 

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 4

Previously, I argued that it is not possible to become eternal. Recall that a person P is eternal if and only if P has always existed and P will always continue to exist. Here is a step-by-step proof showing that it is impossible for a person to become eternal:
<————|———–|————–>
…………….t1………..t2
1. At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (supposition for indirect proof/reduction to absurdity)
2. At time t1 P is NOT eternal. (from 1)
3. At time t2 P is eternal. (from 1)
4. At t2 P exists. (from 3)
5. At every moment prior to t2 P exists. (from 3)
6. At every moment after t2 P exists. (from 3)
7. At t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists. (from 4, 5, and 6)
8. If at t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists, THEN at every moment P exists. (analytic truth)
9. At every moment P exists. (from 7 and 8)
10. EITHER at t1 P does not exist OR at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist OR at some moment after t1 P does not exist. (from 2)
11. If at t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
12. If at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
13. If at some moment after t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist.(analytic truth)
14. There is a moment when P does not exist. (from 10, 11, 12, 13)
15. Any moment when P does not exist is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (analytic truth)
16. There is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (from 14 and 15)
17. It is NOT the case that at every momement P exists. (from 16)
18. At every moment P exists AND it is NOT the case that at every moment P exists. (from 9 and 17)

19. The following statement is FALSE: At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (1 through 18, indirect proof/ reduction to absurdity, because 18 is a self-contradiction that was deduced from 1).
Thus, it is logically impossible for a person to become eternal.
I have been thinking about omnipotence and the idea of omnipotence as an essential property of some person.
Some of my thoughts remind me of the conversations that boys in Jr. high used to have: “What if Superman was to get into a fight with Batman? I think Superman could take one swing at Batman and knock him so hard that he would land a block away.” Such conversations seem silly and trivial, but in the case of philosophy, it can be helpful to have a childlike enjoyment of such imaginary scenarios. Imagination helps one to map out the logical boundaries of a concept, plus it makes thinking about God fun, even for an atheist.
We have previously seen that ‘existence’ appears to be an essential property for anything that in fact exists, so if ‘necessary existence’ means ‘having existence as an essential property’ then necessary existence is nothing special. We have also seen that ‘being eternal’ is an attribute that cannot be lost; once something is eternal, it will always be eternal (and will always have been eternal). So, again having the property of ‘being eternal’ as an essential property is nothing special, there is no other way of ‘being eternal’. One cannot have the property of ‘being eternal’ as an accidental property.
I eventually want to figure out what it means for a person to have the property of ‘being eternally omnipotent’ as an essential property. But before I tackle that challenge, it may be helpful to first consider the simpler property of just being omnipotent. After that I will consider the more complex idea of having the property of omnipotence as an essential property.
Being omnipotent does not mean that one can literally do anything. An omnipotent being cannot create a four-sided triangle. This is no limitation of power or ability. The idea of a four-sided triangle is incoherent, so the statement “John made a four-sided triangle” is an incoherent statement, a statement that contains a self-contradiciton.
Can an omnipotent being create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? I agree with Swinburne’s analysis of this traditional problem. The answer is: YES.
But in order to do so, the omnipotent being must make itself less than omnipotent. Time is the key missing ingredient in this puzzle. At one point in time an omnipotent being creates a massive rock, say a rock that has ten times the mass of our universe. Then the omnipotent being causes itself to have a certain degree of weakness- the inability to lift rocks that are ten times the mass of our universe. Now the being is unable to lift the massive rock. The being, however, has sacrificed its omnipotence in order to achieve this feat, but it is a feat that an omnipotent being can achieve.
The being started out as an omnipotent being, formed the objective of creating a rock that it could not lift, and then using its unlimited power acheived that objective. However, in order to achieve the objective the being must sacrifice its omnipotence.
There are various other limitations on what God can do. God cannot change the past. This is because changing the past would involve backwards causation, and backwards causation is logically impossible. So, again God’s inablility to change the past is not a weakness or lack of power. The problem is, rather, that sentences like “John changed the past” are incoherent; they involve a logical self-contradiction.
Omnipotence can come into conflict with other divine attributes. God is perfectly good, and so according to Aquinas and Swinburne God cannot do evil. God’s goodness thus creates a limitation on what God can do. Human beings can be unjust and cruel but God is not able to be unjust or cruel, on this view. So human beings can do some things that God is unable to do. But this is considered to be a ‘legitimate’ exception or limitation of God’s power. So, when Christians assert that ‘God is omnipotent’ they usually will allow that God’s perfect goodness creates constraints on what God can do.
One might say that God can do anything that it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE for a perfectly free and omniscient and perfectly good person to do.
I think there are some additional constraints on God’s power or ability to do things, but this clarification of ‘omnipotence’ covers the constraints that arise from God’s other divine attributes.
Can a person become omnipotent? or is omnipotence like the attribute of being eternal? One cannot become an eternal person, so perhaps it is also impossible for one to become an omnipotent person.
On the face of it, I don’t see an obvious problem with the idea of becoming omnipotent. Human beings have various powers and abilities. We can imagine becoming more and more powerful. One can imagine discovering one day that one can make objects ex nihilo (from nothing) just by willing the objects to appear. One can imagine stumbling on the power to move mountains or even planets by sheer willpower. Of course one could never have enough experiences to prove with certainty that one had become omnipotent, but we can imagine experiences that would strongly support this hypothesis. Thus, it seems perfectly conceivable that an ordinary human being could become an omnipotent person.
But once a person becomes omnipotent, one might think that they could never lose their omnipotence. We think of gaining great power as being like obtaining great wealth: someone else could take away what we have gained. But in the case of omnipotence, who could take that away? If I’m the biggest and strongest kid at school, then I don’t need to worry about a bully taking my lunch money, right? If I become omnipotent, then I don’t have to worry about any being taking away any of my power.
But what if there was another omnipotent person? Such a person, it would seem could take away my omnipotence, because our power would be equal, so I would not be like the biggest and strongest kid on the block, if there were other omnipotent persons who might want to take away some of my power.
However, there is an old puzzle about omnipotence that comes to mind: Can there be two omnipotent persons? It seems as if there can be no more than just one omnipotent person. Suppose that there are two omnipotent persons: John and Sara. John and Sara both simultaneously look at the same little gray rock resting on a desk. John wills the rock to immediately rise up into the sky, but Sara wills the rock to immediately plummet downward, through the desk and through the floor and the foundation, etc. These two objectives are not logically compatible with each other. The rock cannot both rise and fall at the same time. So, either the rock will rise and Sara’s will will be defeated by John’s will, or the rock will NOT rise and John’s will will be defeated by Sara’s will. At least one of them must fail to cause their desired outcome.
Let’s suppose that there can only be one omnipotent person in existence at any given point in time. Does that mean that becoming omnipotent, and thus being the one and only omnipotent person, would mean complete safety? Does this mean that I have no reason to fear losing some of my newly gained power? Sadly, it does not. Even if there can be at most only one omnipotent person, there is nothing to prevent some other person from being or becoming omniscient (all knowing).
If I have become omnipotent, I would still be in danger of losing my omnipotence if some other person was omniscient. This would set up the classic struggle between brains and brawn. The omniscient person would know everything about me, including my deepest secrets and my every thought. The omniscient person would know all of my weaknesses. The omniscient person would know every detail of my personal history. The omniscient person would know everything there was to know about human psychology and about how to persuade and manipulate other people. So, it is quite possible that an omniscient person could fool me into destroying myself or causing myself to become less than omnipotent, perhaps even getting me to make that other person into the one and only omnipotent person, and then that person would be both omniscient and omnipotent.
However, an omnipotent person does have a way to fight back. An omnipotent person could make himself or herself become omniscient. There is no obvious logical contradiction between there being two or more omniscient persons. Two people can know the same fact without there being any conflict or contradiction, for example. So, if an omnipotent person was concerned about the possibility of being fooled or manipulated by an omniscient person, then he or she could simply will it to be the case that he or she immediately became omniscient, and presumably a being that was both omnipotent and omniscient would not have to worry about a being that was merely omniscient being able to fool or manipulate him or her.
Nevertheless, although there is this nice strategy for how a person could easily secure his or her newly discovered omnipotence, there is no logical necessity that this would be the case. If you wake up tomorrow morning and have become an omnipotent being while you were asleep, it will probably take several hours or days before you have enough experiences to confidently conclude that you have become omnipotent. The experiences you have that convince you of this fact would be quite unusual and extraordinary experiences (such as moving the moon across the sky with just a thought), and those experiences would keep you very distracted for a while. You probably would not immediately start thinking about the question “How can I secure my omnipotence, so that if there is a omniscient being somewhere I can avoid being fooled or manipulated by that being into giving up or losing my omnipotence?”. For as long as you do not think about this question, you would be vulnerable to being deceived by an omniscient person.
Furthermore, even if you immediately began to worry about this possibility of being decieved by an omniscient person, you might not immediately come up with the solution of making yourself become omniscient. Having been an ordinary weak human being for many years, your attitudes and beliefs about yourself may take time to change, and you might not immediately realize that you have gained the ability to radically transform yourself.
Even if you immediately started to worry about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, and even if you immediately realized that you had the power to make yourself omniscient, you might well hesitate to do so. You have lived your entire life up to that moment as a limited and finite human being, and willing yourself to become omniscient would mean basically willing yourself to become God. But being omniscient or having a God-like experience of reality would be radically different from experiencing reality as a limited and finite human being. Would you really want to give up ordinary human thoughts and feelings and experiences, to become a god-like being? The idea seems terrifying to me. I would certainly hesitate, and give some thought to the matter before turning myself into an omniscient person.
So, although it may be possible for an omnipotent person to turn himself or herself into a person who was also omniscient, it is quite possible that it would take a significant amount of time for a person who had recently become omnipotent to become worried about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, to come up with the solution of making oneself omniscient, and to actually make the very serious decision to carry out this plan and make oneself omniscient, and some might well decide to live with the risk rather than to so radically transform their own consciousness of reality. Thus, it is likely that there would be a significant period of time in which a person who had become omnipotent would remain less than omniscient and thus would be subject to being deceived or manipulated by an omniscient person, so that the omnipotent person would destroy himself or herself or would cause the loss of his or her own omnipotence.
Therfore, it seems to me that not only is it possible for a person of finite and limited power to become an omnipotent person, but it is also possible for an omnipotent person to lose his or her omnipotence.

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 3

Richard Swinburne analyzes the concept of ‘necessary being’ into two implications (COT, p.241-242):
1. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily.
2. God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does.

In his simpler and more popular book on God (Is There a God?), Swinburne clarifies these implications further in terms of the concept of ‘essential properties’:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne also defines this concept for us (see ITAG, p.18). Here is my formulation of Swinburne’s definition:
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.
In a comment on Part 2 of this series, Eric Sotnak points out a serious problem with this definition in relation to ‘necessary existence’. If we treat existence as a property and draw the implication that ‘necessary existence’ equates with having existence as an ‘essential property’, then every thing that exists would have necessary existence, and thus there would be nothing special about God possessing ‘necessary existence’.
I’m not sure how Swinburne would respond to this objection. However, for now, given that there are two parts to Swinburne’s analysis of ‘necessary being’, I’m goin to suggest that existence is not a property, and therefore Swinburne’s discussion about ‘essential properties’ does not apply to the concept of ‘necessary existence’.
That still leaves us with the question of whether part 2 of Swinburne’s analysis makes sense, given his definition of ‘essential properties’.
Before I begin working through a specific example, let me share a key passage from Swinburne that I’m struggling with:
By contrast, theism maintains that the personal being who is God cannot lose any of his powers or knowledge or become subject to influence by desire. If God lost any of his powers, he would cease to exist, just as my desk would cease to exist if it ceased to occupy space. And eternity (that is, everlastingness) also being an essential property of God, no individual who had begun to exist or could cease to exist would be God.
(ITAG, p.19)
Note how Swinburne relates the concepts of ‘eternity’ and ‘everlastingness’ to the concept of existence. By itself that makes perfect sense. If God is ‘eternal’ that implies that God has always existed and that God will always continue to exist. But then being ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ implies existence, and Swinburne’s definition of essential properties does not work with the concept of existence.
Let’s suppose that ‘eternity’ is a property, and that some person P has this property. Can P be eternal on Monday, cease being eternal on Tuesday, and yet continue to exist for the remainder of Tuesday and the next day (Wednesday) as well?
This doesn’t seem to make sense to me. If P is eternal on Monday, that means that P will continue to exist forever. If P will continue to exist forever, then P will exist every day following that Monday. If P ceases to exist the next day, on Tuesday, then P will NOT have continued to exist forever, and the statement “P will continue to exist forever” (made on Monday) will have been dispoved, shown to be false. But that means that it was also false to say “P is eternal” (on Monday). In sum, if there is ever a day where P ceases to exist, then the claim “P is eternal” will be a false claim for any day prior to the day when P ceases to exist.
Now something like resurrection does seem logically possible, so it might be possible for a person to cease to exist for a period of time, and then come back into existence. If this is logically possible, then there is a sense in which ‘P is eternal’ might be correct, even if P later ceases to exist. If P ceases to exist for a period of time, and then P is brought back into existence and then continues to exist forever, without interruption, it is tempting to say that the claim “P is eternal” was correct even though there was a period of time (after that claim was made) in which P did not exist.
This particular complexity can be set aside by means of a definition. The meaning of ‘eternal’ in terms of this being a divine attribute implies that there will be no interruption of existence. In asserting that ‘God is eternal’ the theist means that God has always existed (without interruption) in the past, and that God will always continue to exist (without interruption) forever into the future.
Thus in supposing that a person P is eternal on Monday, in the sense intended when theists use this concept to describe God, it follows that P will also be eternal on Tuesday, and eternal on Wednesday, and so on forever and ever. Once you are eternal there is no going back to being non-eternal, at least not in terms of continuing to exist in the future.
What about the implication of having always existed in the past? Being eternal does not just mean existing forever into the future, it also means having always existed forever in the past.
Suppose again that a person P is eternal on Monday. We have previously determined that P cannot cease to exist on some day in the future, after that Monday, for that would mean that P was not really eternal on Monday. But what about P’s having always existed in the past? Could it be the case that on Monday P had always existed in the past, but that on Tuesday it was no longer the case that P had always existed in the past? Could this property of having always existed in the past go away?
The past cannot change. Let’s assume that this not a matter of physics, but is a matter of logic. Let’s assume that it is logically impossible for the past to change. So, if on Monday it was true that P had existed the previous Friday, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it must still be the case that P had existed on the previous Friday. And if it was true on Monday that P had existed for every previous day back into eternity, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it would still be the case that P had existed on each of those days prior to Monday.
Of course, P might cease to exist on Tuesday morning, and if so then on Wednesday it would be incorrect to say that ‘P has always existed’ since P would not have existed on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. But the possibility of P ceasing to exist on Tuesday morning is ruled out, because if it was in fact true on Monday that ‘P is eternal’ then P could not cease to exist on any day after Monday, including Tuesday.
So, it seems to me that if we treat ‘eternity’ or being ‘eternal’ as a property, this is an odd sort of property that one cannot eliminate or get rid of, in the way that one can eliminate or get rid of the property of being dirty or of being hungry. Once a person is eternal, that person will always be eternal; there is no going back.
OK. What about the idea of some person having the attribute of being eternal as an essential property? Does this make sense?
Suppose that there is a person Q who is essentially eternal, who possesses this property as an essential property. That means that Q is not only eternal but, according to the definition, if Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will cease to exist. Do you see a problem here?
Q cannot lose the property of being eternal, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. So, we might as well say “If Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will turn into a giant fire-breathing dragon”. The antecedent of the conditional statement will always be false, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. Because the antecedent is necessarily false, the conditional statement is necessarily true; it is a logically necessary truth.
Thus, it seems to me that ANY person who has the property of being eternal is also a person who has the property of being eternal as an essential property (given Swinburne’s definition above). Thus, there does not appear to be anything special or unique about having this property as an essential property. There cannot be any person who has the property of being eternal, but has this property as an accidental property rather than as an essential property.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 2

Although there is an extensive discussion of the meaning of the claim ‘God is a necessary being’ by Richard Swinburne in his bookThe Coherence of Theism (revised edition, hereafter: COT), the main passages that I’m interested in understanding are found in a shorter and more popular book: Is There a God? (hereafter: ITAG), also by Swinburne.
In COT, Swinburne specifies two implications of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’:
However, most theists, and certainly most theologians, have put forward two further claims [in addition to the usual claims about God’s divine attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, perfect goodness, etc.] which they have made central to their theism…. The first such claim is that God does not just happen to exist. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily. The other is that God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does. It is not by chance that he is omnipotent or omniscient. Being omnipotent is part of God’s nature.
(COT, p.241-242)
This gives us a general understanding and a feel for the meaning of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’.
In ITAG, Swinburne provides further discussion of what this means, a discussion that is simpler and easier to follow than what he says in COT. First, he briefly explains the idea that God’s divine attributes are possessed necessarily:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
So, to say that, for example, ‘God has the property of being everlastingly omnipotent necessarily‘ means that ‘Being everlastingly omnipotent is an essential property of the person who is God’.
But this is only helpful if we understand what it means for a property to be an ‘essential property’ of a thing or a person. Here is his initial clarification:
Every object has some essential properties and some accidental (i.e. non-essential) properties. The essential properties of an object are those which it cannot lose without ceasing to exist.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne gives two examples to illustrate this concept. The first example is about a physical object:
One of the essential properties of my desk, for example, is that it occupies space. It could not cease to occupy space (become disembodied) and yet continue to exist. Byt contrast, one of its accidental properties is being brown. It could still exist if I painted it red so that it was no longer brown.
(ITAG, p.18)
He gives a second example about a person (himself):
Persons are essentially objects with the potential to have (intentional) powers, purposes, and beliefs. I may be temporarily paralysed and unconscious and so have temporarily lost the power to think or move my limbs. But, if I lose the potential to have these powers (if I lose them beyond the power of medical or other help to restore them), then I cease to exist. On the other hand, my powers can grow or diminish, and my beliefs can change (I can forget things I once knew, and aquire new areas of knowledge), while the same I continues to exist through all the change.
(ITAG, p.18-19)
If Swinburne loses the potential to have the power of thinking, then Swinburne will cease to exist (even if his body continues to exist). So the property of ‘having the potential to have power of thinking’ is an essential property of Swinburne. But if Swinburne forgets the proof for Bayes Theorem, he can continue to exist. So, knowing the proof for Bayes Theorem is only an accidental property of Swinburne.
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.

To be continued…

keyboard_arrow_up
Copyright © 2006-2022. Internet Infidels Inc. All rights reserved.