Slides in this set
The traditional definition of God centres upon the five key concepts. These are;
1.simplicity, 2. Eternity, 3. Omniscience,4. Omnipotence and 5.
Omnibenevolence. In the exam, you will only need to be able to understand 2-5
of the five concepts. However, it is essential that you understand term 1 in
relation to the others.
·Christian philosophers use the word "simple" as a description of God. By
saying that God is "simple" Philosophers are saying that:
·GOD IS GOD this means that God cannot be broken down or explained
in parts. Brian Davies in "An introduction to the philosophy of Religion"
states that god is not a kind of thing and explains this by suggesting that
God is not a thing like "a human being" but God is a thing in the same
sense as you might talk about "the human race" as one whole.
·GOD IS UNCHANGING- This means because God is perfect, he is not
capable of changing into something else . Additionally, Christian
philosophers have argued that only something unchanging can logically be
the cause of the created world that changes. Brian Davies explains this
claim stating "If something changeable accounted for there being a world in
which change occurs, It would be part of such a world and could not,
therefore, account for it." Davies shows from his claim that anything that
changes is therefore part of the Deontological & Teleological Ethics
world, as God is.
Why does this matter?
· The simplicity of God matters to Christian philosophers as provides
understanding of God's nature that claims that God is not a physical
Key info to get a higher grade: Mention Brian Davies , (An introduction to the
philosophy of Religion) and his quote which is underlined.…read more
God's eternity has been hinted in a few passages such as "For thus say the high
and lofty who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy (Isaiah 57:15a)
Nicholas Wolterstorff ( 1932-) `God's Everlasting'
·As previously shown by the bible quote, many people have been influenced by
the idea of God being eternal from the bible and Greek philosophers such as
·However, Wolterstorff suggested that the eternality of God has appealed to
people not just because of the influence of the bible and Greek philosophy but
also because the eternal God is different from humans' experience of life in the
physical world or as he states it "led whole societies to place the divine outside of
Judeo- Christian view on God being eternal
The main reason on why Christians traditionally believe that God is
·The Bible suggests that God is always exists
·God is not a physical being
·God is the creator of the universe. Time passing is a feature of the
universe, therefore he is outside of it
·God is the ultimate cause on why things exist
·God is perfect
·Lastly, God exist necessary
The Christian belief of that God is eternal was strongly influenced by the
philosophy of Boethius and Aquinas.
A useful quote from Boethius on the definition of eternity is: "the whole
simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life." this means that life is not
only endless but that it is not like physical life as it doesn't involve change.…read more
Here is information about Boethius and Aquinas's on God's eternity in more depth
Boethius (480-c. 524) Consolation of philosophy
· Boethius argued that God's life is limitless and that God possesses the
whole of his/her life eternally without end. For God there is no past,
present and future. Instead, God exists eternally and all of time is present
to God at the same time. God does not see the future as it happens;
instead Boethius argue that all time is present to God "simultaneously". For
example; if you imagine a book or novel you know well, when you read the
book you start from the beginning and it flows from beginning to end. For
God, he takes in all of the novel in "one glance"-all at the same time. The
reason that Boethius believes that God is eternal is because God is simple
and hence does not learn new things and time does not pass for God.
· Or as he puts it; "God possesses this present instant comprehension of
and sight of all things not from issuing of future events but from his own
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Selected Philosophical Writings
· For Aquinas God exists unendingly without a beginning or conclusion.
Therefore, God must exist outside of time because time consists of parts
and notion of time involves beginnings and ends. Aquinas believes that
God is the creator of the universe and all life, who always exist without
end. Aquinas, like Boethius, states that time involves living life
"successively". This means that one event in life follows another, however
for God this is not the case. God exists outside of time and the nature of
God is to exist,
· Thomas Aquinas stated " The primary intrinsic difference of time from
eternity is that eternity exists simultaneous while and time does not"
.It is important to know the two different ideas of God's eternity in the exam .
Remember to use quotes and examples to support it.…read more
With the information about Boethius and Aquinas ideas, you will need to know the
criticisms made and how other respond to them
Criticisms of God's eternity
1. Firstly, one could argue that God knowing all time simultaneously is incoherent.
Antony Kenny argues against Aquinas's idea and states in his book "the God of
philosophers" that "on St Thomas' view, my typing of this paper is simultaneous
with the whole of eternity" This means he argues that the notion of all time being
simultaneously present to God is incoherent. This is echoed by Richard
Swinburne that stated that he could not "make sense" of talk of events being
simultaneously present to God.
2. Secondly, how can God be personal and act in creation. . For example God
respond to the Israelites prayer from slavery in Egypt and God intervenes to
help Joshua in battle at Ai and Jericho. These biblical events imply that God is
personal and acts in time.
3. Lastly, how can God love his people and respond to them. If God is eternal how
can God love his people and respond to them. In the Bible God responds to
people in need out of love.
Response to the criticism
1. Paul Helm responded to the first criticism and suggested that talk of God
being eternal does not involve the reductio ad absurdum which was
suggested by Kenny and Swinburne. He states in his book "Eternal God; A
study of God without time" that "God, considered as timeless, cannot have
temporal relations with any of his creation. He is timeless in the sense of
being time free.
2. In response to this, one could argue in response that God is not a person.
Philosophers alternatively would talk about God using language that is
3. Regarding to answering prayers, Aquinas could respond stating prayer is the
act of being aware of God's activity in the world.
Try to answer the following question; Evaluate the philosophical problems raised
by the belief that God is eternal. (35) REMEMBER TO USE YOUR OPINION…read more
One solution to the problems raised by claims that God is eternal has been to
suggest that God is everlasting.
Richard Swinburne- is there a God?
· Swinburne supports the view that God is everlasting. He argues that the idea of
events occurring simultaneously to God cannot be made sense of. Second, he
suggests that belief in an everlasting God fits more satisfactory with God as revealed
the in the Bible. He states " I cannot see that anything can be meant by saying that
God knows the events of AD 1995 unless it means that he exists in 1995 and knows
in 1995 what is happening there"
·It is important to understand that the notion of an everlasting God does not indicate
any lessening of the power of God.
Nicholas Wolterstorff (1975)
· Wolterstorff has argued that the only way to understand some of God's actions as
indicted in the Bible is to understand them as free actions in response to human
beings' behavior, suggesting that God's actions involve time passing. A further claim
is that God can only be understood as Savior and Redeemer worthy of worship if
God is everlasting. He states "It is not because he is outside of time eternal,
immutable, impassive that we worship God. It is because of what he can and does
bring about within time that we mortal are to render him"
·These two alternatives can respond to the problems raised by God's eternity as a
solution and new idea of God…read more
Omnipotence can have many definitions including; God's ability to do anything,
including the logically impossible, being about to do the logically possible and the
power of God
God's ability to do anything including the logically impossible
· Descartes supported the view that God could do anything, including what might
seem impossible. For example, following Descartes' definition of omnipotence, God
·could change the fundamental laws of physics, which as far as we know are
unchanging and apply universally.
He can do the logically possible
· Aquinas argued that God's power is omnipotent because it is infinite, and the
reason that God's power infinite is that God is not limited. In "Summa Theologiae" he
states " God's power can do anything and whatever involves a contradiction is not
held by omnipotence"
·This argument answers "The paradox of the Stone" as if God is eternal and not
physical then God does not have a body in which to pick up the stone and thus the
idea that God is not omnipotent .
Omnipotence showing the power of God
· Anthony Kenny (The God of the philosophers) states " A being is omnipotent if
it has every power which it is logically possible to possess" This means that
omnipotence is not only a statement of what is logically possible for God, but it
is also a statement that God has power to do whatever is logically possible for
God. This is different from human beings who often have logical capability to do
something, but lack the power necessary to achieve that global.…read more