Philosophy of religion part 2

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Philosophy of Religion – Module 2 - AQA


Divine Characteristics


The concept of God by most philosophers is compatible with the main world religions and their concepts of God



One God, otherwise finite as bounded by another God.


                Not composed of matter, no physical properties, cannot be perceived by sense


                Present everywhere at once


                His existence does not depend on anything, always existed and always will


                No limit to what God can do. God can eliminate the universe and therefore sustains it in existence


                All knowing, God knows everything (past, present and future)

Perfectly Good

                God is perfectly and completely good, wants the best for us and is the source of our morality and obligation to lead a good life


                God is changeless. Because he has infinite characteristics nothing could change him otherwise it would imply incompleteness


                God existence occurs outside the universe, beyond human experience


Divine Characteristics Problems




God is omnipotent = God can do everything


o    Square circles? Descartes thought God could do the logically impossible, that we could not understand it because of the limitations of our mind.

o    Most philosophers agree that it makes no sense to say God could do the logically impossible (a square circle is contradictory)


God is omnipotent = God can do anything logically possible


o    This means God can do anything except logically impossible actions (such as square circles)

o    What about actions that are logically possible but God could not perform?

o    If God is immutable and omnipotent can he cough? Can he die?



Paradox of the Stone


Can God create a stone that he cannot lift?


§  This action is perfectly possible for a human to do, so it is a logically possible action to perform, but in doing the action God would not be omnipotent.




1)       It has been suggested that this paradox is merely a problem of language; in fact the whole paradox is actually a logically impossible action (Mavrodes)

a.       God is omnipotent

b.       God can create a stone

c.        The stone is too heavy for God to lift

d.       A stone which is too heavy to lift by God whose power is sufficient to lift anything


As can be seen from that part d. is a self-contradictory statement.


2)       Swinburne suggested the above just begging the question, as we take the assumption that God is omnipotent in part a. Swinburne proposes that God could not make a stone he could not lift, however ‘the fact that God could abandon God’s omnipotence does not entail he will’

a.       To myself this appears to ignore the issue even further! Omnipotence means that God can do anything and it is not something you can just ‘abandon’




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