Attributes of God

Mindmap giving an overview of the main perspectives and problems surrounding various qualities attributed to God.

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  • Attributes of God
    • Eternal or Everlasting?
      • Eternal: If God is atemporal then he exists outside of time. He is therefore unlimited by human concepts of time and space and has full knowledge of the future (or what appears to us to be the future). He is therefore immutable (like Plato's forms and Aristotle's Prime Mover.
      • Everlasting: If God is sempiternal, then he is inside of time and we can refer to him with person-hood as he can respond to others, love and be affected by his relationship with humanity. Many argue that if he was eternal then this could not be the case. Swinburne argues that this is more Bibically accurate as we have many examples of God changing his direction after interaction with humans.
      • Process theory - presented by Whitehead, suggests that God learns alongside his creation and is in the process of obtaining knowledge. however, many Biblical ideas suggest that God is immutable and cannot change.
    • Omniscience
      • This means that God is all-knowing.
      • Influenced by the Greeks (like Boethius), many argue that if God is timeless then he has all knowledge of the past, present and the future. This raises problems with our free will as if God's knowledge is perfect then we cannot have control over our actions as they have been pre-determined.
        • Liberty of Spontaneity is the idea that our freedom is limited due to social and familial reasons. We can do what we want but these wants all have causes of which we are unaware.
        • Freedom of Indifference is the idea (supported by Boethius) that God sees history in a single glance, and him having knowledge of an action does not support that action. God sees events in a simultaneous present and therefore this does not take away our freedom over our actions.
        • God rewards and punishes
          • If our actions are pre-determined, how is it just for us to be rewarded or punished for these actions.
          • Calvinists argue that God has pre-decided who will be the 'elect' and succeed in ascending to heaven through his knowledge/ control over the actions that we will make. This determinist idea suggests that we have no free will.
          • If God is outside of time then all of history occurs simultaneously for him. All actions are eternally present, but this does not mean that they were freely chosen.
          • Swinburne argues that because God is within time, he has no control over our actions and rewards and punishes them justly, even if he may know what we are going to do.
        • However, if God is within time then many argue that he runs the danger of anthropomorphism.
      • If God is everlasting and within time then his knowledge of the future becomes solely predictive and we will therefore have the liberty of indifference.
        • Some thinkers dispute this idea because of conclusions it suggests about God's omniscience.
    • Omnipotence
      • God is all powerful. Descartes argues that this menas that God can do literally anything. Aquinas and CS Lewis say that he can only do what it logically possible. There is literally nothing that God cannot do if logiacl absurdities are excluded.
      • Mnay would argue that these logical contradictions  show limitations in our language and not in God's nature.
      • Kenny argues that a being is omnipotent if it has every power which it is logical to possess. Therefore the fact that God is not unjust or able to change the past does not retract from his omnipotence.
      • Biblical examples of God's omnipotence include Creation in Genesis and the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
      • Anselm argues that God must have all perfectibons as otherwise he would not be the greatest conceiveable  being.
      • The Problem of Evil: if God is all powerful and all loving, then how can he allow evil to take place in the world?
      • How can God be all powerful if he is inside time? If he is omnipotent then he must have all knowledge and this cannot happen if he learns with us.
    • Omni-benevolent
      • The Euthypro Dilemma: is something good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good. Either way this detracts from God's power or the intrinsic nature of goodness.
      • Chirsitans argue that God shows his unconditional love for us through letting Christ die for us. In the death of Christ, God shows love and goodness.
      • All loving - God is good and just.
      • Again we see the Problem of Evil, so many people suffer at the hands of natural disasters.
        • The Theodicies of Augustine and Ireneaus aim to solve this problem. Augustine argues that we are being punished for Adam and Eve's actions in the Fall and Ireneaus argues that we have to experience evil and suffering as part of the soul-making process that is life. Many argue that this is not an adequate solution.
    • Boethius
      • God rewards and punishes
        • If our actions are pre-determined, how is it just for us to be rewarded or punished for these actions.
        • Calvinists argue that God has pre-decided who will be the 'elect' and succeed in ascending to heaven through his knowledge/ control over the actions that we will make. This determinist idea suggests that we have no free will.
        • If God is outside of time then all of history occurs simultaneously for him. All actions are eternally present, but this does not mean that they were freely chosen.
        • Swinburne argues that because God is within time, he has no control over our actions and rewards and punishes them justly, even if he may know what we are going to do.
      • In his Consolations of Philosophy, he is comforted by Lady Philosophy as he awaits death for treason.
      • He argues that God sees things differently to us as he is not limited by the constraints of time. He can therefore view all events as simultaneously present.
        • He has no knowledge of our future events as these events are not in the future for him.
          • Boethius
            • In his Consolations of Philosophy, he is comforted by Lady Philosophy as he awaits death for treason.
            • He argues that God sees things differently to us as he is not limited by the constraints of time. He can therefore view all events as simultaneously present.
              • He has no knowledge of our future events as these events are not in the future for him.
                • We therefore possess the liberty of indifference and God has no control over our actions.
            • He goes on to employ the concepts of simple and conditional necessity. Some things are necessary through their nature, like the sun needing to shine. This is simple necessity. Conditional necessity happens when someone does something voluntarily. A man is walking and is necessarily walking because he can't not walk at the same time. However, God witnesses this but has no control over it.
              • Both acts are known by God, but when the action is conditional, God has no control over this.
            • Therefore, as our actions are free, God is just in his rewarding and punishing.
          • We therefore possess the liberty of indifference and God has no control over our actions.
      • He goes on to employ the concepts of simple and conditional necessity. Some things are necessary through their nature, like the sun needing to shine. This is simple necessity. Conditional necessity happens when someone does something voluntarily. A man is walking and is necessarily walking because he can't not walk at the same time. However, God witnesses this but has no control over it.
        • Both acts are known by God, but when the action is conditional, God has no control over this.
      • Therefore, as our actions are free, God is just in his rewarding and punishing.

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