Attributes of God

Omipotence, etc.

  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 29-04-12 15:25


  • God is capable of doing anything. He is all powerful
  • Descartes = God can go beyond our limited logic and make 2+2=5 and make a square circle (absolutist)
  • Most theologians say God can do anything "possible". And he cannot go against his nature (he cannot do something evil or unloving)
  • However, we cannot say that God can do whatever is possible, because that is relative to the being; we cannot say what is possible to God
  • The Stone Paradox (God create a stone which is impossible for him to lift?)
  • One answer is that God can do whatever is de re possible: do all logically possible  things but not logically impossible things (contradicts Descartes)
  • An example of His power is His creation of the universe
  • "With God, all things are possible" - Matthew. "With God, nothing is impossible" - Luke
  • Central position in God's perfection
  • Must be omnipotent to create miracles and transcend mortal power
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  • Aquinas : can’t do what is logically impossible, such as make a married bachelor, or create someone to be married if they were not. (although Descartes thinks He can, “make a square circle”) Aquinas: “gods power is bound only by what is logically possible” yet he is being contradictory
  • If he were that powerful, he could alter events that had already occurred. (earthquakes, volcanoes etc.) - Contradicts benvolence.
  • He could not make 2+2=5, because he cannot change what is
  • God can't make someone go against their fundamental nature. He created a godo person - he cannot simply 'make' them go bad. He created a flower as red, he cannot change  it to be yellow.
  • The Simpsons, Homer asks Ned Flanders the question "Could god microwave a burrito so hot that even he could not eat it?
  • The problem of freewill: how can God have total power when he gave us freewill. If he had total power, everything would be under His control.
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  • However, it took power to give us the power of freewill. And that freewill may be just an illusion - Hard determinism. We are more inclined towards a particular hot drink in the morning
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Benevolence = Goodness

  • "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son" - he loved us that much, that he bestowed upon us his son, who created happiness and performed miracles.
  • Goodness is a form of perfection, nothing is wrong with you, you are completely perfect and free from deficiency
  • God is a moral standard and an example of how we should live our life (however, you can have a moral standard whether you believe in Him or not)
  • Link & problem with omnipotence: if he were that good and powerful, surely he would vanquish evil? Counter: there would be no compassion without suffering


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Benevolence 2

  • Plato's euthyphro dilemma – “Is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved?” – discussed as a fatal flaw in God’s ethics. If the acts of a person are morally good by nature , surely that means they are independent from god? God would have to appeal to them to find out what is good. God appeals to nothing other than his own character for the moral standard of what is good and reveals what is good to us. 
  • In the Bible, there are more deaths by God than by the Devil, which contradicts his own ten commandments “thou shall not kill” yet, if he creates or cannot stop an earthquake or a modern day disaster, he is going against his own commandment,which is in fact, malevolent 
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God is said to be permanently present everywhere and absent nowhere.

  • St Anselm. He argued that God exists in "no place and at no time"
  • Only ordinary physical objects are contained in regions of space and time, but He is present in every place and at every time.
  • God's presence can only be understood through his ineffable, or unexplainable knowledge and essence
  • God’s relationship to the world is like that which a mind or soul bears to its own physical body.
  • Aquinas gave an analogy of a king. Said to be in the whole kingdom by his power,  even though he is not physically present
  • Charles Hartshorne (1941) claimed that God's presence in the world is similar to a minds presence within a human body.
  • Richard Swinburne (1977) claimed that God knows, without inference, about any state of the world. "God controls all things directly, and knows about all things without the information coming to him through a causal chain."
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Problems with Immanence

  • "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen: 1) If God was always there, how could there be a beginning?
  • God took part in his own creation!?
  • As the Great Prayer Experiment suggests, prayers have no demonstrable effect on reality. If god is everywhere at once, then he easily should be able to hear everyone's prayers.
  • Great Prayer Experiment -  Heart-bypass patients: Group 1 and 2 told they may receive prayers - only 1 did. Group 3 definitely had prayers. Mortality rates were higher in those who had prayers
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  • It is difficult to think of God in earthly terms, because if we do, then we limit him. 
  • Presumably God cannot have desires or emotions as we do, because this suggests that there is something lacking in God, and this goes against the traditional understanding of his nature.
  • God must therefore have an existence that goes beyond earthly realities, he must transcend the natural laws that we are subject to.
  • But if God does not have emotions, he lacks something that humans have; contradicts his perfection.
  • To a non-believer, these two attributes seem contridictory

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  • God knows everything
  • Not only in the present, but in the past and future as well
  • Essential belief if we think God is perfect
  • Some things are only known by ourselves; therefore God cannot know any truth, it is not logically possible
  • Indexicals - only we know the feeling to look forward to something; God lacks this as he is immanent and transcendent
  • Does God have feelings? (but he got angry and killed everyone - Noah's ark)
  • The omniscience of God is logically incompatible with the concept of human free will
  • How can God know what will happen if it need not necessarily happen? To say that God knows future events, presupposes that the fixture must be determined and fixed, which in itself suggests that human beings do not have free will.
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