“Stone” Paradox of Omnipotence

Can God make a stone so heavy that He Himself cannot lift it?

If He cannot, then He is not omnipotent since there is something (namely, this) which He cannot do. If, on the other hand, He can do this, He is not omnipotent since there is something else (namely, lift everything) which He cannot do. So in any case He cannot, it would seem, be omnipotent. (331)

In order for God to create something He cannot lift, since nothing exceeds Him in power, He has to create an essentially unliftable stone (EULS). The EULS is an object described by the proposition, "No one can lift it." If God can make the EULS, then the power to lift it is not a possible power which could be instantiated in any being.

This is simply because the conjunction "No one can lift this stone" & "God can lift this stone" is a self-contradiction.

Conversely, if God cannot make an EULS, then of this stone, it will be true that "No one can make it." Since a similar contradiction can be constructed, the power to make what cannot be made is not a possible power and cannot inhere in God.

Still, if God can make an EULS, then He is a strong maker but weak lifter: there is an object that is not subject to His lifting power. Otherwise, God is a weak maker but strong lifter: there is a limit to His creativity, because an EULS is beyond His power to make.

Cowan gives the following example. He, Cowan, is able to make something he cannot lift. E.g., Cowan can make A, B, and C but out of these can lift only A and B. Perhaps Cowan is a real estate developer and can build a house that he cannot lift unaided. A certain Smith is able to lift anything he can make. Smith can lift X, Y, and Z but out of these can make only X. "But no one," Cowan says, "not even God, can do both what I can do and what Smith can do. ... So either Smith or I, although we cannot be logic alone say which, can do something even God cannot do. Thus God cannot be omnipotent." (335)

In this matter at least, humans are seemingly more powerful than God! But that's an illusion: God's power to lift is limited only by something crazy like an EULS. Cowan's power to lift is limited by, say, 200 pounds. Hence God's power to lift infinitely exceeds Cowan's. Furthermore, the EULS that God (by stipulation) can create is itself a testament to His power. Cowan cannot make anything like that.

Again, if God cannot make an EULS, then His creativity is limited only by the fact that His power extends fully to everything He can make, such that no creature can fail to be subject to His will. Smith's power to make is limited to any object that weighs less than, say, 300 pounds. Again, God's power to make is infinitely greater than Smith's. Furthermore and analogously to the previous case, the fact that God's power reaches the innermost depths of every object it encounters is a great-making property in itself.

God's power both to make and lift is infinite at first glance, and it is only by pitting these infinities against each other that a paradox arises. Either answer makes God such that no greater can be conceived. But one must choose one or the other.

We can come up with more apparent problems for omnipotence:

1. Cowan gives an example of the employer's power to hire and fire. Suppose that an employer can fire anyone at will at any time. Then he cannot contract to hire a person with a provision that he must employ him for no less than 6 months. The courts would refuse to uphold such a contract on the grounds that it would constitute a limitation on the power to discharge. If, on the other hand, he can make a contract that, say, gives a professor tenure, then he cannot fire him at his pleasure. (335ff)

2. Can God condemn someone He predestined to salvation? If He can, then predestination is a sham, like the contract to hire in the previous example. If He cannot, then that's a limitation on God's power to convict. Either way one or the other power cannot be possessed by God at the same time.

3. "Is it that God cannot completely control every universe He can create, or that He cannot create a universe He cannot completely control?" (348)

4. "Has the almighty being the power to achieve something which is immune to his later interference? If he has this power, then there are limits to his might and he is no longer almighty; if he lacks this power, he is by virtue of this fact alone not almighty." (Mises, HA, 69-70)

Therefore, Cowan is right: "We cannot have everything, but must be content with the best of all possible gods." (336)

Whether There Are Laws of God’s Nature?

Fulmer argues that God cannot be an explanation for natural laws and other global properties of the universe which are ultimate givens, because the fact that everything obeys His will is also a law of nature, only this time, of God's nature.

For if the god can impose his will on the world, it is a natural law that whatever he wills, occurs. ... The fact that events occur as he wills them cannot be the result of his will. Thus, this fact is logically more fundamental than the god's choices: his acts presuppose this fact, but not the converse. (327)


(G) "Whatever God wills, comes to pass."

Is (G) a natural law? A law is an abstraction, description, piece of information about how an object acts or ought to. A law then enunciates a limitation: an object must work this way but not any other way. It "informs the world" about what to do next and directs behavior into a definite channel. According to Newton's first law of motion, for example, in an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force. Such an object cannot up and decide to accelerate on its own accord. It has to act as the "law" that we humans have formulated "prescribes."

But omnipotence indicates precisely a lack of limitations. That God does not fail in his endeavors is a perfection not a limitation or law that constrains Him. (G) removes all unpleasant impositions and affirms God's freedom. Therefore, (G) is in no wise a natural law.

Again, (G) is a true proposition that describes the divine nature. But the mere ability to expatiate on God does not in itself constitute a limitation on God or proof of prior laws which God obeys. In this case, (G) cannot reasonably be considered to be an instance of a natural law.

It's an abuse of language to argue that (G) forces God to behave this way (e.g., always achieve what He intends), rather than that way (e.g., sometimes fall short).

When describing God, we end up removing limitations on Him. Asserting (G) is one such relevant piece of information. Since God's nature and the concrete being God are identical, with God being a "self-subsisting form," when we are done with thus describing the divine nature, we also understand God. For example, what united God as a concrete being and His power? Who made God omnipotent? Well, God has always been this way. There is no separation between God and His power, such that the union is maintained by a still more perfect super-god. Once we propose that God's nature is marked by omnipotence, we call God's suppositum "power personified." God then is "His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him." (ST, I, 3, 3)

What Paradox of Divine Agency?

McCormick's objection to theism is that "it is impossible for there to be a state of affairs in the world that does not accord perfectly with an omnipotent, omniscient, perfect agent's will. The world always conforms perfectly with God's will. And since action requires that there be some state of affairs that is different from what an agent wills, God cannot act."

Why is that? "No suboptimal state (from God's perspective) can occur because for it to occur, God must have willed it. And if God willed it, then it is not contrary to God's will, and it is not suboptimal." Moreover, "If God accepts a state of affairs and there is no obstacle to his changing it, then he is willing that state of affairs to be." (320-1)

I agree that the world always conforms perfectly to God's will. But this may be so precisely because God acts to bring it into such conformance. Suppose that the world has an inherent tendency, by way of the perverse workings of its secondary causes, perpetually to deviate from what God prefers it to be. Let it be then that God is perfectly content with the state of the world at time t. Foreseeing that a second later at t' something bad will happen, God intervenes, i.e., acts, to fix the problem, and all is well again.

At the same time, sin is never willed by God. It may be permitted for the sake of a greater good, such as free will, etc. We may judge that if God permits sin, then the state of affairs of Smith having sinned is superior to one where God acted to prevent that sin. Moreover, the particulars of the world can always be better. That criminal over there could be a better person. That sick child could be healthy. Etc. If God permits these evils, they must be part of His plan which is admittedly somewhat mysterious. But McCormick's paper does not deal with the problem of evil, and therefore neither will I in this response to him.

According to this theory, then, God continuously nudges the world toward the desired state of perfect agreement with His vision of it. Hence God can and does act.

Omniscience and Intentional Action

In these two long and tedious papers, Kapitan tries to argue that omniscience is incompatible with purposive action.

The core of the argument is that one's intentions to A at t' have to be acquired by an agent, call him X, at some t ≤ t'. This entails some previous state of the agent (e.g., at t3 ≤ t) of having no intention either to A or not to A at t'. This indeterminacy Kapitan calls an "open alternative" at t3, and it implies that the agent regards his intending at t to A at t' as contingent. But if it is contingent, then at t3 X believes neither that he will intend at t to A at t', nor that he will not intend at t to A at t'. And that means that X is ignorant at some point prior to intending of what he will intend. But God is omniscient; moreover, "there is no refuge in the conception that God is a timeless agent or that God's intentions are fixed from eternity. Qua eternal, whether timeless or everlasting, God's propensities to act cannot have been acquired and, therefore, are not intentions at all, rather, inherent dispositions. The latter spawn only instinctual behavior..." (294)

Suppose that Smith's car battery is dead. By making certain bodily motions, such buying a battery in Walmart and installing it, Smith fixes the problem. Interesting though these motions are, what's really important is that Smith's goal has been achieved, and he is now happier. The physical goings-on are incidental. Smith might've gone to the dealer and had them install the battery. He might've bought a new car. He might've opted for public transportation. Either way, Smith turns around his misfortune.

Going up one level, it is surely a curious situation that God willed the world to exist. The important thing, however, is not that God willed something, but that divine goodness diffused itself into being, whether by the Son's intention or in another way.

Now the upgrade of the divine 2nd-level nature from hopelessly "autistic" and indifferently aloof to open to and knowing of the Other, of created beings, took place in eternity. There was no "time" at which God was purely ad intra, untouched and in Himself in His happiness. But logically, a distinction between before and after the fundamental change in God can be observed. The purely ad intra God was crushed and rebuilt with full knowledge of all other things He would create. As a result, God did "acquire an intention" to create, etc. in eternity. God then chose all 3 aspects of the world to be created: its nature from the Father, the providence over it through grace by the Holy Spirit, and the particulars of Son's own everlasting reign over it.

If Kapitan wants to call the mode of causation of goodness an "inherent disposition," I won't object, even though it is hardly enlightening of a phenomenon so unique and awe-inspiring.

Our author defends the principle that in order to act, an agent must acquire an intention as follows.

(a) To act intentionally, an agent must have a specific intention (that is, the agent must intend a content which embodies reference to particular persons, objects, events, times, or places).

(b) To have a specific intention one must have specific information about particulars.

(c) One has specific information about particulars only if one obtains that information through causal interaction with particulars.


(d) Specific information about particulars is not innate.


(e) No specific intention can be innate.


(f) In order to act, an agent must acquire an intention. (305)

But God knows all things by "proper knowledge," as well as individual things and not just the universals. (ST, I, 14, 6; 11) It immediately follows that (c) is false, for God knows all things through His own essence which is their likeness. (d) and (e) are thereby also made false. Thus, God's intentions or, rather, actions are eternally fixed. For example, God knows and has always known that He will bestow grace on person P at time t1, do a miracle at time t2, etc. Therefore, there is no need for Him to acquire intentions from a previous state of being ignorant of whether or not he will have the intention.

Meaning of “Best Possible World”

There is reason, Resnick says, to believe that the actual world is the best possible one. He quotes Leibniz to that effect:

53. Now, as in the Ideas of God there is an infinite number of possible universes, and as only one of them can be actual, there must be a sufficient reason for the choice of God which leads Him to decide upon one rather than another.

54. And this reason can be found only in the fitness, or in the degrees of perfection, that these worlds possess, since each possible thing has the right to aspire to existence in proportion to the amount of perfection it contains in germ.

55. Thus the actual existence of the best that wisdom makes known to God is due to this, that His goodness makes Him choose it, and His power makes Him produce it. (275)

Simple enough, right? Wrong. For the possible worlds not chosen are, in fact, not possible worlds at all; on the contrary, they are manifestly impossible. This is because God would never have actualized them; could never have actualized them; these worlds do not ever have a chance of being actual. And this is so, because their being actual conflicts with God's (1) existing necessarily, (2) being omni-whatever necessarily, (3) manifesting His perfection in His works necessarily. In other words, if we are to have a God who exists in every possible world, is the only source of being, and perfectly competent in all respects, then only one world, namely, the actual one, is possible; any world which is worse than this one cannot exist. If it could, God would have be something else -- for example, imperfect.

In other words, if we consider God to be a part of the whole of reality, of the actual world, then the existence of a worse-than-best created world alongside the uncreated God is incompatible with God's goodness, wisdom, and so on.

This "Paradox of Alternative Worlds" is biting. For example, we can't say that these (im)possible worlds are conceivable, because they are conceivable only if we at the same time conceive of God as something other than a perfect being. A perfect God coupled with a bad world is like a square circle: here, the thing's in my hand, I am throwing it out the window; can you see it drop to the ground and break into pieces? If not, then neither is the first combination conceivable. Nor can I say that God's necessary existence is a contingent fact and that in some possible world God exists contingently; the modal logic involved won't let me get away with that. Nor, again, can I argue that we can easily imagine a world that's worse than the actual one (e.g., one in which angels constantly intervene to save people from the consequences of their own mistakes) and that I could create it: the point is that I wouldn't create it if I were exactly like God.

Resnick considers an apparently "perfectly straightforward" picture by Leibniz:

God, the Father Almighty, using His limitless knowledge, inspected all the worlds which lie within the bounds of logical possibility.

Drawing on His limitless goodness, He chose one and by means of His limitless power, brought it into existence. (277)

Resnick proposes that "this picture has no application."

Now as a matter of fact, it is not the Father who made the choice of which world to actualize but the Son who did it via His own counsel and calculation. The world is not objectively best; it is the outcome of the Son's choice performed according to His good pleasure. It might have been unfitting to create a bad world, but who can gainsay God's preferences? Since God was free to choose any world, any world was a possible one.

An objection to this reasoning could go as follows. Suppose I die and go to heaven. I ask God, "Why did you choose to create this world?" God explains His reasons to me in excruciating detail. I, along with the rest of the heavenly host, marvel, "Truly you are wise, Lord, and this world is sweeter than any other I can think of." The universal agreement obtained thereby that this world is subjectively most pleasing to the will may perhaps entail that it is also objectively best according to the intellect and wise judgment.

Perhaps then there was some inevitability to God's choice. Even if the 2nd-level Trinitarian God is compatible with any world, nevertheless God's 3rd-level goodness made God's choice predestined. Even if we postulate a logical timeline, such that at its first moment God did not know how He would rank the worlds on His values scale from best to worst, nevertheless, the correct answer already existed. In other words, the function God.Rank(W1, ..., Wk, ...) would yield the same unique result anytime it was invoked. This would cause all the worlds below the top one to become impossible and the top world, necessary (given the singularity of creation). So, even if God had to discover the ranking by actually comparing and contrasting the worlds in His mind (in His eternity, let's not forget), that this ranking would be a particular one was always the case.

God then less chose a world freely than discovered what was always the "objectively" correct choice. It was inevitable that the states of affairs involving created worlds would be ranked in some such manner and only in this manner:

God & W1
God & W2
God & Wk
God & no creation
God & Wk+1

Very well, if the term "possible" is objectionable, use "ideal." If it is incorrect to say that this is the best of the possible worlds, let us say that this is the best (and actual) world of all the ideal worlds, the thought of whose creation was entertained by God.

Whether and How God Thinks?

McCormick believes that God's omnipresence is incompatible with His personhood for a rather peculiar reason. Instead of personhood he defines what he calls "higher consciousness" which is predicable only of rational beings:

A. Higher consciousness includes the capacity to recognize one's mental states as representations or draw a distinction between one's representations and the thing being represented. (260)

A distinction between oneself, the object represented, the representation of that object in the mind, and the relationships between the three are attributes of higher consciousness.

Suppose the proposition "There is a brown desk in front of me" is true. This affirms the existence of an external object with definite properties. But of course, I have no direct intuitive access to the desk, perceive it with my eyes, and interpret the representation of it with my mind. What I have for the representation of the desk are signs of something out there, but what it "really" is I have no clue. My intellect thus differs from the object of knowledge and at the same time from the idea of the object expressed in my thoughts.


B. Higher consciousness includes the capacity to form judgements about objects, identifying and attributing properties to them. (262)

And then, of course, an omnipresent being has nothing which is not-self for it, so "an omnipresent being cannot grasp a difference between the self and not-self." Further, because God is everywhere, there is nothing separate from it, and so He can't apply concepts and form judgments about objects -- there is nothing to apply concepts to and form judgments about! Therefore, God has no mind and cannot be a person. (263)

Consider the situation in the logical moment "before" creation when God was alone. Surely, that is the state of affairs that makes the argument against God's personhood most compelling. There is no need to worry what omnipresence really means. But was God, in fact, alone without creation? He most certainly was not. God has always been a communion between the persons of the Trinity, viz., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And we can ascribe to the Father the office of the subject knowing; to the Son, the Father's image, the office of the object known; and to the Holy Spirit, the office of that by which the Son is known, i.e., the representation, the intelligible species, or the thought that grasps and comprehends the divine reality. It follows that in God, the subject, the object, and the representation of the object are unified in one and the same simple being:

Since therefore God has nothing in Him of potentiality, but is pure act, His intellect and its object are altogether the same; so that He neither is without the intelligible species, as is the case with our intellect when it understands potentially; nor does the intelligible species differ from the substance of the divine intellect, as it differs in our intellect when it understands actually; but the intelligible species itself is the divine intellect itself, and thus God understands Himself through Himself. (ST, I, 14, 2)

However, the divine unity does not abrogate the distinctions between the persons which are precisely the relations present in any being with "higher consciousness."

God then does not "have" a mind; He is a mind that thinks itself into existence.

Regarding the present situation of God + the world, omnipresence must be rightly understood. We must first reject pantheism, i.e., the idea that the creation is part of God or is made out of God's essence. This reality is entirely separate from God and external to Him.

Further, God is omnipresent materially everywhere and in all things as 1st-level divine energy.

And He is omnipresent spiritually on the 2nd level by essence, power, and presence.

But these kinds of presence do not erase the distinction between God and creatures. The creatures remain the "other" for God (though union through charity between them is possible).

McCormick babbles something about the alleged inadequacy of dualism and of spiritual presence, as though materialism is not full of pretense itself. He asks,

How does a nonspatial thing control or affect a spatial thing?

Where is the locus of their interaction?

What are the regularities or laws that govern their interaction?

What evidence do we have to think that there are these nonspatial, spiritual substances?

What are the other features of these entities? (268)

But materialism does not solve these problems; it merely dissolves them. Even if it admits that the word "soul" has a different meaning from the word "body," it sweeps aside all the hard questions by positing that the soul and body are numerically identical with each other: the soul is the body; the soul's reference is the same as the body's. It's easy and satisfying to rest in such invincible certainty but completely unhelpful.

Moreover, many questions can be answered satisfactorily. The locus of the soul-body interaction is in the intellect which is ½ immaterial and ½ material. The body is connected to the mind's material part; the will, to its immaterial part via a mysterious glue.

There is such a thing as teleological causation unique to humans which cannot be reduced to physical causation proper to inanimate objects. To learn the "regularities or laws" concerning the soul-body interaction, study economics, psychology, ethics, therapeutics, and so on.

The evidence for the soul is that humans beings are self-evidently radically different creatures in kind from doorknobs. Showing how they are different outlines the soul's attributes. There are ways to establish the immortality of the soul. And so on.

At any rate, if materialism is true, then I agree that the God of classical theism (perhaps now conceived as a Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky?) does not exist. But in that case God would fail to exist for far more compelling reasons than "omnipresence." A rejection of dualism would make our author's argument otiose and superfluous.

With respect to (B), all things pre-exist in God eminently as in the first cause in the form of innate "ideas." So, God knows all things not in themselves (such that His intellect would go out of Himself and establish correspondence with things) but in Himself, such that His essence contains a similitude of all that there is and all that there could ever be. God knows how each being which He actualized (that is, to which His power extends) imitates Him, and that He sees in Himself. It follows that God can apply concepts to and form judgments about, indeed, not only actual entities but possible entities, as well.

Thus, we see that God satisfies our author's conditions for having higher consciousness, having a mind, and being a person.

Divine Attributes Conflicts, 3

3) Involving Omnipotence.

Martin evaluates Swinburne's definition of omnipotence to the effect that:

(E) A person P is omnipotent at time t IFF
- P is able to bring about the existence of
- any state of affairs x
- that is logically contingent
- after t,
- the description of the occurrence of which does not entail that P did not bring it about at t,
- given that P does not believe that P has overriding reasons for refraining from bringing about x.

To reiterate, ad intra omnipotence consists in the ability to reach and forever maintain infinite and perfect happiness within God's inner life into which no pesky created world intrudes. Ad extra omnipotence regards creation of an external to God world.

Regarding the latter, (1) God does not become any less omnipotent because, for example, He lacks the power to chew gum (or in the previous example, to perform gymnastics), since He does not have the right body for this activity.

(2) God cannot bring about that 2 + 2 = 4, because it's a necessary state of affairs.

(3) God cannot change the past.

(4) God cannot bring about a state of affairs which would bear the property "not brought about by God."

Martin has a problem with this. Let McEar denote

the man capable only of scratching his ear. La Croix points out that on (E) McEar is omnipotent. This is because the only states of affairs whose occurrences after t do not entail McEar's not having brought them about are the scratchings of the ear of McEar. Other states of affairs, such as the scratchings of McEar's nose, would entail that McEar did not bring about these states of affairs. Thus, absurdly, McEar is omnipotent on (E). (256)

But (4) enunciates a trivial logical "limitation" on causal power as such. Let P bring about state of affairs S. We then examine S and seek to describe it. Upon investigation, it turns out that S is such that it was not brought about by P. This, it is suggested, is impossible.

In Martin's example, the state of affairs S' of McEar scratching his nose is incompatible not with the meaning of the term "causal power" but only with McEar's own nature. What (4) affirms is only that when McEar scratches his ear, it cannot be that this event was not caused by McEar. Hence it does not follow that McEar is omnipotent on (E).

This argument "works" for any definition of McEar. Take, say, an elevator, which is very limited in its powers, being able only to carry people up and down the building's floors. Then "the only states of affairs whose occurrences after t do not entail the elevator's not having brought them about are the elevator's proper motions. Thus, the elevator is omnipotent on (E)." Similar reasoning reveals the emptiness of this move.

(5) God cannot have any power that, once exercised, would corrupt His nature of love and light and freedom from all defect.

Let is be true of state of affairs S1: "S1 was brought about by a being that has never been omnipotent." If it is part of P's omnipotence to bring about S1, then P would have to be not omniscient. But if God is understood in a more robust sense, then the objection is solved.

(6) Swinburne add the last clause to (E) in order to safeguard divine "freedom." This is a mistake. Freedom regards being externally unlimited or unconstrained. There are more things God is free to do than there are things God has a power to achieve. Rather, God's omnipotence on His 2nd-level is restrained by His goodness on the 3rd. For example, God has the power to condemn saints to hell, but He, being good, He could not exercise it. God has the power to create an ugly universe, but His goodness disallows it. Etc.

Here are some example of God's powers:

  1. To create the heavens and the earth ex nihilo.
  2. To work miracles.
  3. To judge and impose rewards and punishments.
  4. To forgive sins.
  5. To bestow grace.
  6. To empower the sacraments.

All of these God is capable of doing, and they are sufficient to grant to God the honorific of omnipotence.

Divine Attributes Conflicts, 2

2) Involving Freedom.

The dilemma presented to us is as follows: God is a free being. Yet being free entails not knowing what you will do in the future. Hence God is not omniscient. Hence God does not exist.

Now once again, God is free vacuously ad intra by virtue of His perfect beatitude or happiness and of facing no choices to pick one good and set aside or sacrifice another.

Ad extra, everything about the created world, at least up until the incarnation of the Son, had been foreordained since before it began. God in His eternal present, possessing His life all at once, willed everything that He and the world were going to do, whether freely or not, whether through secondary causes or not, and, having willed it, He cannot change His mind. God knows what He wills, because He wills it, just as any human being might know what he intends to do. Willing is logically prior to knowing what is willed. God's willing and knowing and using His power to create the world, exercise providence over it, and rule the communion of saints are parts of a single event that took place in eternity. God's knowing that this event takes place and what exactly transpires is also an eternal piece of knowledge. Yet there is a sequence in which this knowledge was obtained.

It is not natural for the 2nd-level Trinitarian God to create. God's peerless unapproachable eternal contentment and indifference to anything other than Himself was shattered by His 3rd-level goodness. A viral potency was injected into God (the Son) which almost killed Him. But His recovery opened His eyes.

It is thus incorrect to imagine God as knowing what must take place and then being forced to act according to what He knows. Rather, upon creating, God schemes and calculates, makes a decision, wills it, and only then "realizes" what it is that He wills. He "listens" to Himself in order to learn what He wants to do. "I have thought this matter through," thinks God, "crunched numbers, analyzed all possibilities, determined the points of 'interventions,' etc., and now let there be this particular light." God's will then commands an action to occur, and God understands what He has wrought. He becomes ad extra omniscient at precisely this point in the logical sequence of events.

In this reconstituted eternity, God gained His free knowledge, having chosen the world to actualize. If He had chosen otherwise, He would have known differently, as well.

More “Conflicts” Between the Divine Attributes

1) Involving Omniscience.

This part of Martin's essay builds on the argument in the previous post. He distinguishes between propositional knowledge or knowledge-that (KT), procedural knowledge or knowledge-how (KH), and knowledge by acquaintance (KA). (Ch. 21)

I do not accept this distinction. First, KH is not knowledge at all but rather power. Martin's example is the KH of "how to do gymnastic exercises on the parallel bars" (243) which, Martin is of the opinion, God cannot possess. I agree that God has never competed on parallel bars, but the feelings attendant on competing and the skills and training (such as "muscle memory") thanks to which exercising on parallel bars takes place effortlessly and without conscious control are different from the knowledge of how to compete. What God lacks is not the KH but the power of using the bars. He has KT in intimate detail of the necessary and sufficient conditions of the states of a person's body and mind which will enable him to perform these exercises successfully.

Gymnastics is an exercise of human bodily power, i.e., of control over the body and external objects. We can assure ourselves of this by considering that such power is at its most graceful and primal precisely when one has let go of conscious control, freed himself from all inhibitions, hang-ups, and self-doubts, and is working almost on instinct. A master gymnast does not in fact have any "knowledge how"; he just performs with self-forgetful competence. Again, a cheetah is not rational and has neither KT nor explicit KH of, say, how to hunt. But it hunts beautifully nonetheless, not only despite its lack of conscious knowledge but precisely because it is not burdened with such.

I concede therefore that God does not "know how" to swing on parallel bars. He does not have a body, and a fortiori, He does not have a body which is trained to do the exercises in question. However, to the extent that it is at all a "limitation" of any sort, it applies to God's power not His knowledge, and hence is beside the point.

A mere algorithm, such as instructions on how to boil an egg or indeed a coach's art and tricks of training gymnasts, is fully an instance of KT.

Second, KA belongs neither to the intellect nor to power but rather to the will. KA is in of the will (including through the sensitive appetite) whereby the mind remembers the feeling (such as becomes able to identify a similar feeling in the future). God is perfect and cannot sin, in particular entertain thoughts of lust or envy; nor can He fear or be frustrated. As a result, it is true that God is unfamiliar with these feelings and therefore cannot remember them. Again, however, this is a natural "limitation" on God's will not on His knowledge and cannot be used as an argument against divine omniscience.

Whether the God of the Common Man Is an Absurdity?

So says the editor of this book, Michael Martin. Unlike the philosophers, the common man, Martin alleges in proof, holds that God knows at least as much as man, and that, since many men "know" lust and envy by experience, God must also know lust and envy by experience. Or, at least, that is the meaning that the vulgar attach to the term "knowledge." Our author wants to show that this God of the common man does not exist. But of course, lust and envy are sins, and God cannot sin, so there is a contradiction, and God disappears from the scene. Take that, you wretched multitudes. (Ch. 20)

My reply is that it is simply not true that ordinary men believe that God is familiar with sin by experiencing it. Most people know of God by reading the Bible (or by listening to preachers who are generally acquainted with it), and Biblical passages such as:

  1. "Who is like you among the gods, O Lord? Who is like you, magnificent among the holy ones? Awe-inspiring in deeds of renown, worker of wonders." (Ex 15:11);

  2. "The Rock -- how faultless are his deeds, how right all his ways! A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he!" (Deut 32:4);

  3. "God's way is unerring; the Lord's promise is tried and true; he is a shield for all who trust in him." (2 Sam 22:31);

  4. "When the trumpeters and singers were heard as a single voice praising and giving thanks to the Lord, and when they raised the sound of the trumpets, cymbals, and other musical instruments to 'Praise the Lord, who is so good, whose love endures forever,' the cloud filled the house of the Lord. The priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." (2 Chr 5:13-14);

  5. "The Lord is just and loves just deeds; the upright will see his face." (Ps 11:7);

  6. "The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple." Etc. (Ps 19:8-12);

  7. "O Lord, you are my God, I extol you, I praise your name; For you have carried out your wonderful plans of old, faithful and true." (Isa 25:1);

  8. "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt 5:48);

  9. "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct." (Mt 16:27);

  10. "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (Rom 12:2)

are all over the place, well-known, and accepted as authoritative. So, what is Martin talking about? Perhaps children might not be clear on these matters, but no adult who takes his Christianity with even a trace of seriousness will believe that God can sin. I dare our author to find in the Bible a passage in which God is shown to be lustful or envious.

Yet God knows enough about these to announce: "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (Ex 20:14,17), going so far as to teach that "everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mt 5:28)

And the author of Ben Sira responds: "Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes; remove evil desire from my heart. Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me; do not give me up to shameless desires." (Sir 23:4-6)

Therefore, it is false that the common man accepts premise (4), "If God knows lust and envy, God has had the feelings of lust and envy," by which fact Martin's argument is undone.

Whether Divine Omniscience Requires Ungodly Experiences?

This question is asked by Blumenfeld who argues that God cannot be omniscient, because He can't know what it's like to have certain emotions. God doesn't know what fear, frustration, and despair feel like, and therefore His knowledge of them is deficient.

It is further claimed that God must possess this experiential familiarity with some concepts in order to fulfill His duty of being all-knowing.

Our author is relying on what he calls a very weak version of "concept-empiricism": "for some objects, in order to fully comprehend them, one must have had the experience of an instance or exemplification of them." He goes on:

I am not denying that such a person could know a large number of true propositions about the sensation of red.

He could know, for example, that it is produced under conditions Q, R, and S; that it is correlated with (or, on some views contingently identical to) brain states of types X, Y, and Z; and so on.

Perhaps it could be said that this information would give him a partial grasp of the sensation of red. But he could not have an absolutely complete grasp of this concept without having had the sensation itself. (223)

Perhaps Blumenfeld will agree that God could see in a person feeling fear his C-fibers firing in the brain and his soul undergoing changes; He could see the source of his fear and his attempts to overcome it; He could help him deal with his fear with grace; in other words, God could look at a human being experiencing fear as a kind of a diagram, a schematic, such that every piece of information about that individual's internal state of will, mind, and body would be accessible to God. Further, God can know things in Himself, "inasmuch as His essence contains the similitude of things other than Himself." (ST, I, 14, 5) God would know all the causes and consequences of feeling fear for human beings and could even respond to an instance of such a feeling appropriately. And yet, Blumenfeld maintains, God would not thereby "know fear" by failing to appreciate its "feel."

The reason why God cannot feel fear is obvious: it involves a belief in being in danger, but God is all-powerful, impassible, and perfectly secure in His happiness ad intra. He knows that nothing whatever can harm Him. Similar reasoning shows that God cannot feel frustration, despair, embarrassment, etc., as well as effects of sin such as guilt.

One interesting question is how God would recognize fear in us humans, having never experienced it Himself. Since God knows secrets thoughts, He by that fact would know when one believed himself in danger. Yet this belief, though required for feeling fear according to Blumenfeld, is different from the experience of feeling it. For God does not feel my even more secret feelings. This is because God lives His life, and I live my own. Even if God loves me greatly, and there is union and mutual indwelling between us through charity, God is not me and can only understand me not be me.

Well, perhaps fear makes a human soul "smell" like something very specific and detectable by God. God can smell fear. God by perceiving this smell with his intellect, since He is in all things by presence, can be fully assured that a person is afraid.

Blumenfeld argues that not knowing what fear feels like in a first-person experience is a defect of knowledge. I beg to differ. Feeling fear and knowing fear are two very different things. Any human feeling must be interpreted in order to become actionable -- it must be understood what the feeling means; thus, fear can be interpreted as causing the heart to race; unpleasant in itself yet useful, e.g., by inciting a desire to run away from danger; needing perhaps to be overcome through courage; and so on. This interpretation suffices to make fear fully, to the extent that it at all can be, intelligible.

I have suggested that God can always know that Smith feels fear; God can know all the interpretations of fear, both possible and actual, going on in Smith; finally, God can understand and sympathize with Smith when he is afraid. These are sufficient for God to claim omniscience: He could know all there is to know about fear without ever feeling it.

God’s Immutability and Indexical Propositions

Let's summarize the argument. First, God in knowing Himself does not think in propositions but comprehends Himself all at once as a simple essence in a pure act.

However, God can easily form propositions in His mind and in fact interacts with humans by enunciating propositions. For example, the being of light in many NDEs speaks to the separated soul, though telepathically, nevertheless often by using ordinary language.

Second, God is not "timeless," since timelessness is the mode of existence of abstract objects, such as propositions. "2 + 2 = 4" is purely timeless, existing in neither the past, nor present, nor future. Rather, God is eternal, perfecting and transcending time -- all 4 of past, present, future, and timelessness -- as possessing His entire life and pleasure all at once in a super-alive divine moment. God's eternity and its superiority over temporal existence entail that God is fully aware of when the present moment is in this world.

Third, God knows eternally propositions of the sort, "At moment t, this is everything that's going on" at every t both in the past, present, and future.

These points would make God omniscient and immutable, if it were not for the problem of God's free knowledge of certain indexical propositions (call it FIP-knowledge):

  1. Is Socrates sitting?
  2. Is Christ's birth in the past or in the future?
  3. How far apart right now are these two cars that are moving in opposite directions?
  4. What day of the week is it? (When and in what time zone?)
  5. Are oranges a good food? (According to whose tastes?)
  6. Is this capital good underpriced? (As per the plan of production of which entrepreneur?)
  7. Am I in the mountains? (Who and when?)

Regarding omniscience, God would have to know (1), (2), and (3). He cannot answer (4) - (6), nor of course can anyone else, without further information.

We can see that God knows only those indexical propositions that are at all possible for Him to know.

Regarding immutability, God's perfection is not endangered but in fact is safeguarded by His changing knowledge, insofar as it involves knowing all truths. Although at any given time the content of God's FIP-knowledge is different from the content of His knowledge at any other time, He still knows everything there is to know at all times.

Kretzmann, for example, agrees with this, saying that such changes indeed prevent God from getting worse or from any deterioration. But, he objects, God still seems to lose His pure actuality, because there is now a process of change in Him. Perhaps Kretzmann thinks that the world moves and changes and in so doing forces God to adapt to its change. God has no choice but to change in the content of his FIP-knowledge as the world changes. The world drags God along with it who then becomes dependent on the world.

But is any potency introduced into God by the changing world? Now matter is potential to being divided, to being moved, to being given a form, and suchlike. There can be potential energy that can be converted into many kinds of kinetic energy. But none of these kinds of potencies are relevant. A spirit's most general potentiality has the sense of dissatisfaction. But no suffering is seemingly introduced into God even if He is duty-bound to change in His FIP-knowledge according to the flow of the creation.

My solution will consist in three points.

First, as regards the changing FIP-knowledge, so what? And why expect otherwise? We are real creatures and have a claim on God, and God is not inaccessibly distant. As I have argued, God underwent a grueling death and rebirth precisely in order not to be aloof.

Second, that a certain state of affairs involving God (since God knows and interacts with the world) has changed does not mean that God himself has changed really rather than merely apparently. It became true at some point in history that (let's assume) Socrates was shorter than me or came to be admired by me. The changes in these situations involve no change in Socrates (who, being dead, can't possibly change at all).

Third, if God need not think in propositions, then perhaps even His FIP-knowledge can be expressed in His own mind differently and in a uniquely divine way that would be unchanging.

Incompatible Properties, 3

7) Non-physicality vs. Personhood:

1. If God exists, then he is nonphysical.
2. If God exists, then he is a person (or personal being).
3. A person (or personal being) needs to be physical.
4. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1-3). (193)

My reply: First, God is not "non-physical." He has a 1st fully physical level which is materially simple and efficiently free. This "body" entails no potentiality in God.

Second, insofar as the opposition between non-physicality and personhood is an entailment from materialism, it suffers from all the problems of this doctrine.

Drange himself points out that "not all nontheists would accept 3. ... This argument turns on the issue of whether the idea of a 'bodiless person' is consistent and coherent. That is a difficult and highly controversial issue, and I shall not pursue it here..."

Well, alright then.

8) Omnipresence vs. Personhood:

My reply: I see no contradiction between omnipresence and God's personhood. As already stated, the former is not only material but spiritual, as well.

9) Omniscience vs. Freedom:

3. An omniscient being must know exactly what actions he will and will not do in the future.
4. If one knows that he will do an action, then it is impossible for him not to do it, and if one knows that he will not do an action, then it is impossible for him to do it.
5. Thus, whatever an omniscient being does, he must do, and whatever he does not do, he cannot do (from 3 and 4).
6. To be free requires having options open, which means having the ability to act contrary to the way one actually acts.
7. So, if one is free, then he does not have to do what he actually does, and he is able to do things that he does not actually do (from 6).
8. Hence, it is impossible for an omniscient being to be free (from 5 and 7). (194)

My reply: Once again, God ad intra is not free, or perhaps free vacuously, by virtue of not needing freedom to choose between satisfactions. He is perfectly and infinitely happy and wants nothing for Himself other than what He already has.

But ad extra, there is a problem of the seeming inevitability of the inference from God's foreknowledge to the nonexistence of God's own freedom of the will. The solution is the same as in the usual variant of this puzzle which deals with human freedom. As a matter of fact, Drange's version of the problem is even easier, because we don't need to know how God knows future contingents. God knows what He wills, because He wills it; if He had willed differently, then He would have known differently. In logical moment 1, God has decided to actualize the best possible world, but He does not yet know what that world is. He then crunches some numbers and finds this world. Having found the solution in logical moment 2, God wills it and in so doing learns what it is that He willed.

Regarding creation, the act of willing and the realization of what is being willed are of course "simultaneous" in God's eternity.

We thus deny the natural ad extra omniscience of God. But omniscience is restored to God in the form of complete free (as distinct from natural and middle) knowledge.

10) Justice vs. Mercy:

1. If God exists, then he is an all-just judge.
2. If God exists, then he is an all-merciful judge.
3. An all-just judge treats every offender with exactly the severity that he deserves.
4. An all-merciful judge treats every offender with less severity than he deserves.
5. It is impossible to treat an offender both with exactly the severity that he deserves and also with less severity than he deserves.
6. Hence, it is impossible for an all-just judge to be an all-merciful judge (from 3-5). (195)

My reply: St. Thomas' solution is that

God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice; thus a man who pays another two hundred pieces of money, though owing him only one hundred, does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully.

The case is the same with one who pardons an offense committed against him, for in remitting it he may be said to bestow a gift. ... Hence it is clear that mercy does not destroy justice, but in a sense is the fullness thereof. (ST, I, 21, 3, reply 2)

Rothbard, too, points out in Ethics of Liberty that forgiving offenses or debts is not unjust. (86; 89; 145)

Here's what seems to be the Christian view. Almost every human who reaches the age of reason will have done things in his life that are both good and evil. Now the effects of sin are threefold: corruption of nature, debt of punishment, and stain on the soul.

Regarding the first, God's mercy consists in having made human nature self-correcting and self-healing.

Regarding the second, God's shows mercy by forgiving the debt, because even a single unforgiven sin will prevent a soul from reaching heaven. Unless mercy is shown to a person, he is summarily executed and sent to hell, from which there is no salvation.

Regarding the third, God's mercy lies in graciously restoring the soul's beauty after sin.

In short, God is merciful in that for humans, unlike for angels, sins in this world do not fully bar their way to glory. In other words, mercy converts the infinite badness of a sin into merely finite badness, just as the sacrament of confession does. It gives you a second (and sometimes third, etc.) chance and lets your avoid hell; it cannot earn you heaven.

But God is just, insofar as when this life ends, so does forgiveness of sins, and each soul is then judged 100% according to its merits and character.

Hence we can ask God to "have mercy" on ourselves or friends including the dead, but it makes no sense to ask to "give glory," for the latter is guaranteed to be allotted objectively and precisely according to desert, nor can divine justice be swayed by impetration.

Incompatible Properties, 2

4) Immutability vs. Love:

3. An immutable being cannot be affected by events.
4. To be all-loving, it must be possible for a being to be affected by events.
5. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be all-loving (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (190)

My reply: St. Thomas solves this problem in an exceedingly simple way: "a thing has existence, or any kind of good, only inasmuch as it is willed by God. To every existing thing, then, God wills some good. Hence, since to love anything is nothing else than to will good to that thing, it is manifest that God loves everything that exists." (ST, I, 20, 2) Clearly, no immediate threat to the immutability of God is present in this understanding.

However, Drange asks us to consider the concept of love as "agape, which is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others." (190) Such love must exist in God. But how is it manifested, and how is it compatible with immutability?

The proof is in the 3 sacrifices of God the Son. Each time a potency was introduced in Him which reduced Him to almost nothing, yet in actualizing this potency, the Son was reborn in glory.

The first death uplifted His intellect. The Son was blinded and yet upon choosing to take part in creation, He obtained in addition to His natural vision and full comprehension of God the free knowledge of the world that He could not have otherwise. The reason why the Son was in ultimate control, taking the natural and middle knowledge as inputs and directing both the Father and the Holy Spirit, was that the world was made for Him, and He is its ruler.

The second near-death occurred at His conception. The Son was reduced from God to a zygote. His power was thus dialed down to zero, yet upon His embrace of life and public ministry (perhaps at His baptism), Jesus grew up with the omnipotence equal to the Father's, as manifested by His subsequent miracles. That's the sense of "kenosis."

His final death and self-sacrifice occurred through the Christ's passion on the cross. He was tempted with hating mankind yet found us worthy at the end by rising from the dead, loving us with His will so much as to draw all unto Himself as branches to His vine.

God therefore is absolutely immutable by His 2nd-level nature, but can be made mutable by 3rd-level goodness. Since God is by nature pure act, any potency added to Him all but destroys His nature, but each time His nature was restored along with the world without end.

God's self-sacrificial agape for us has therefore been demonstrated in action 3 times. Each death and rebirth changed God, but having accomplished all, God's love for us now is once more immutable. "To sorrow, therefore, over the misery of others belongs not to God; but it does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery, whatever be the defect we call by that name," says St. Thomas (ST, I, 21, 3).

5) Transcendence vs. Omnipresence:

1. If God exists, then he is transcendent (i.e., outside space and time).
2. If God exists, then he is omnipresent.
3. To be transcendent, a being cannot exist anywhere in space.
4. To be omnipresent, a being must exist everywhere in space.
5. Hence, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omnipresent (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (191)

My reply: Drange himself points out that premise 3 is vulnerable: "a being could be partly inside space and partly outside." However, he finds this idea incoherent.

Let's then clarify both concepts. God is present in each point in space both materially and spiritually. For material omnipresence, see

God and Inertial Motion,
Inertial Motion and the First Way, and
Proof of God's Material Simplicity.

If God were omnipresent as simple 1st-level matter, then He would by that fact exclude all other bodies from space. It follows that He is omnipresent rather as rest energy.

This divine energy or wave-vibration permeates all things and all space. Its very universality within all created "fabric of reality" makes it ordinarily undetectable by us.

Regarding spiritual omnipresence, God is everywhere by "essence, presence, and power": by essence which is existence, "inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being." (ST, I, 8, 3) "But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing... Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly." (1) St. Thomas summarizes this point: "God is in all things by His power, inasmuch as all things are subject to His power; He is by His presence in all things, as all things are bare and open to His eyes; He is in all things by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being." (3)

Transcendence means that God is not contained in the universe in any sense whatsoever, that He is not the world-soul, that He is "above all things by the excellence of His nature," (1, reply 1) yet, unlike in the philosophy of process theism, the world does not also transcend God, since all things pre-exist in God as in the first cause.

6) Transcendence vs. Personhood:

3. If something is transcendent, then it cannot exist and perform actions within time.
4. But a person (or personal being) must exist and perform actions within time.
5. Therefore, something that is transcendent cannot be a person (or personal being) (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, ...

My reply: The previous argument considered space; this one deals with time.

Now premise 4 is an unhappy one. God exists in eternity and would remain a person or rather the Trinity even without creation. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would each possess their own intellect, power, and will, and so would be persons.

Again, God does not exist "partly inside time and partly outside time," a straw man of an objection to his own argument that Drange considers (which I agree would be incoherent). God's eternity consists in "simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life," i.e., a package of past, present, future, and timelessness wrapped into a single moment in which God lives and is in pure act. See, for example,

God's Eternity, 1,
God's Eternity, 2.

What Drange probably means is that a transcendent eternal God cannot be related to by us, if He cannot come down to our human temporal level.

But one of the perks of being thus eternal or transcendent with respect to time is precisely the ability to inspect all 4 time periods from a vantage point. A being as absolutely superior as God can always communicate with His creatures.

Drange mentions a related argument that opposes transcendence and freedom. As already argued, God ad intra has a will, but no free will, because He does not need freedom, being perfectly happy. Freedom is needed to choose between pleasures, to pick one and for its sake reluctantly sacrifice all others. But as Mises argued,

For an [ad intra] all-powerful being there is no pressure to choose between various states of uneasiness; he is not under the necessity of acquiescing in the lesser evil. Omnipotence would mean the power to achieve everything and to enjoy full satisfaction without being restrained by any limitations.

But this is incompatible with the very concept of action. For an almighty being the categories of ends and means do not exist. ...

For the almighty being every "means" renders unlimited services, he can apply every "means" for the attainment of any ends, he can achieve every end without the employment of any means. (HA, 69)

But ad extra, in relation with the created universe, God is free by having chosen and created (again, as part of the Son's death and rebirth) the best possible world out of an infinitude of all possibilities, by issuing grace to the just, and by governing the communion of saints in both time in this life and aeviternity in the next according to his counsel.

Thus, God is both transcendent away from and immanent within the world.

Heaven and Paradise As Regards Time

There is an important difference between contemplation and action regarding time.

Both in heaven and in paradise, there will be events, and hence time in its "before and after" aspect. Even in the disembodied heaven, I will learn X first and Y second, and I will be aware of the sequence, i.e., of what comes first, second, third.

However, time in its aspect of the duration or amount of time between events will exist in paradise only.

Thus, in heaven I might contemplate something for a "million years," but I will in no way notice the passage of time. Thus, heaven is somewhat timeless.

But in paradise, I will be acutely aware how much time exactly any act of production and consumption will take. Time may even remain a factor of production, and waiting for pleasures of the active life will have disutility. Hence, paradise is in the here and now.

God’s “Incompatible Properties,” 1

Drange presents for our consideration supposedly incompatible attributes of God.

1) Perfection vs. Creation:

1. If God exists, then he is perfect.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants.
4. If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (186)

My reply: Premise 4 is false, since God created the universe according to neither physical nor teleological causation. God's nature is not dualist but uniquely triplist, with the 3rd level understood as "goodness." Therefore, God neither had to create as if a machine, nor wanted to create as if an imperfect dissatisfied spirit. God created through the overflowing of His goodness. I have of course dealt with this in great detail earlier.

2) Immutability vs. Creation:

1. If God exists, then he is immutable.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. An immutable being cannot at one time have an intention and then at a later time not have that intention.
4. For any being to create anything, prior to creation he must have had the intention to create it, but at a later time, after the creation, no longer have the intention to create it.
5. Thus, it is impossible for an immutable being to have created anything (from 3 and 4).
6. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5). (187)

My reply: We can distinguish logically between ad intra and ad extra divine faculties. Regarding God the Father as Creator, since God is eternal, there is, however, no temporal distinction: the Father (unlike the Holy Spirit and the Son) has always been good, and the world was always meant to be. The Father's intellect, will, and power have always been adequate.

Regarding intention, I argue that as the human (1st-level) body moves, so the God's (2nd-level) spirit loves; that is, as the body moves without any external forces moving it, so the spirit loves by creating things and infusing being without any dissatisfaction felt by the lover -- without any external object, the non-possession of which causes God displeasure.

Nothing other than (3rd-level) goodness moves God's will. The Father chooses the state of affairs "2nd-level God + the world" over the state of affairs "God alone," but only by reason of His goodness, or mysteriously in order to show forth and communicate His goodness. The world for God is not a consumer good from which He derives utility.

Therefore, God never had an unsatisfied desire that vexed Him until He scratched His itch, either in time or in eternity. According to the First Vatican Council, God created "not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures." (Catechism, §293)

3) Immutability vs. Omniscience:

3. An immutable being cannot know different things at different times.
4. To be omniscient, a being would need to know propositions about the past and future.
5. But what is past and what is future keep changing.
6. Thus, in order to know propositions about the past and future, a being would need to know different things at different times (from 5).
7. It follows that, to be omniscient, a being would need to know different things at different times (from 4 and 6).
8. Hence, it is impossible for an immutable being to be omniscient (from 3 and 7).
9. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 8) (189)

My reply: Ad intra, without reference to the creation, God is both absolutely immutable and omniscient. Regarding His knowledge of "enunciable things," i.e., propositions, St. Thomas argues that God does not in His inner life think by forming propositions in His mind and contemplating them. He "knows each thing... by understanding the essence of each thing; as if we by the very fact that we understand what man is, were to understand all that can be predicated of man. ... Now the species of the divine intellect, which is God's essence, suffices to represent all things. Hence by understanding His essence, God knows the essences of all things, and also whatever can be accidental to them."

Yet he insists that God knows and at least is able to entertain propositions: "Since it is in the power of our intellect to form enunciations [thoughts expressing propositions], and since God knows whatever is in His own power or in that of creatures..., it follows of necessity that God knows all enunciations that can be formed." (ST, I, 14, 14)

The main puzzle concerns indexical propositions, i.e., those varying in reference with the individual speaker though words like I, now, here. If God knows (has a justified true belief) that today is Wednesday, then tomorrow he will cease to know that it is Wednesday. If God knows that Socrates is sitting, then His knowledge will change when Socrates stands up. St. Thomas is fully aware of this problem, himself raising the objection: "God knew that Christ would be born. But He does not know now that Christ will be born; because Christ is not to be born in the future. Therefore God does not know everything He once knew; and thus the knowledge of God is variable." (15, objection 3)

As a result, things are considerably more complicated regarding God's ad extra attributes. Now God the Son died at the hands of goodness not once but three times for the sake of the improvement of each of His faculties -- intellect, power, and will (from merely ad intra to ad extra). His first death allowed Him to choose which possible Father's and potential Holy Spirit's world should become actual. God's natural knowledge is ad intra and fixed from eternity; His middle knowledge is ad extra, generated upon the decision to create, but also fixed from eternity. The Father's creative act was a miracle; the Holy Spirit bestows grace; and the Son solicitude regards nature. Thus, the Son's first kind of free knowledge, concerning every action of both creatures and Himself as ruler of the communion of saints into their everlasting lives, became fixed upon the Son's free decision at creation. The resulting best actual world may be called the "Path." Once the Path has been fully mapped, God is mostly done.

(A possible caveat already mentioned elsewhere is that before His incarnation, the Son did not know what would happen afterwards and so was not ad extra omniscient.)

Further, God is easily able to distinguish between this world's present, past, and future by virtue of His atemporal eternity and superiority thereof. God does not exist "outside of time" but in time perfected and transcended. He is eternal, surveying all time. As a result, God does not absurdly attempt to change the past or interact with a future person, etc.

But God's second kind of free propositional knowledge, regarding what time it is now and what's happening now and what's in the past or future, is ad extra and variable in time.

How Are Souls Created?

I have enumerated the parts of the human soul as follows:

Living, vegetative, sensitive, self-moving, and rational. It's a Tower of Hanoi sort of setup, whereby each more sophisticated part of soul rests upon all the more primitive ones.

Lower creatures have some but not all of these. There are several possibilities.

First, a full-featured soul may be created by God or descend from heaven immediately upon conception. The body's stage of development determines how severely the soul is handicapped in its powers. This opinion has problems. For one, if a miscarriage occurs sufficiently early during gestation, a frequent enough affair, then the soul would have to go back to heaven empty-handed, or without useful experiences, in vain. The idea of such objectionably masturbatory trips back and forth seems sufficiently comical not to be taken seriously. In addition, this makes especially embarrassing the problem of the "limbo" of the children in Christian theological speculation (which admitting reincarnation may of course render irrelevant) being populated mostly by embryos.

The second possibility is that God uploads each faculty into the body as it gestates step by step. This, too, is unsatisfactory. Now the fertilized egg is alive and so has a living soul at the outset. If all further faculties, vegetative, sensitive, etc., are forged and infused by God, then God would also have to control the prenatal growth of all plants and animals. A plant produces a seed, and suddenly God has to supervise the seed's "spiritual" development. Two porcupines have sex, and God immediately has to concern himself with their offspring, timing their soul developments perfectly. And this is absurd.

Third, perhaps the entire soul of any creature develops naturally, including through the stages described, along with the body. This has some attraction, but still is rather iffy, because the rational faculty is far too mighty a power simply to up and arise. One and one's soul either are rational or not; the gulf between the two is unbridgeable. And there is another major difference in kind: a rational soul is naturally immortal (once it exists) and is slated for heaven, while a non-rational soul is naturally corruptible and is indeed like a "puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears."

In addition, this solution is incompatible with reincarnation; hence, it depends on the fairly controversial premise that reincarnation is not a thing.

Therefore, we must assert that the vegetative, sensitive, and self-moving spiritual human faculties develop on their own accord along with the body of the embryo / fetus, while the rational faculty is either created by God or comes down from heaven, snapping securely into place in the fullness of time. The rational part completes the human soul's development as though a crown were placed on the king's head. (Again, this does not entail that the fetus can now think; rather, it would be able to think but for the primitiveness of the body which at this point shuts off most of the soul's powers.)

For example, only a few days after fertilization, cellular differentiation begins, thus endowing the embryo with the dignity of a plant and its vegetative "growing" soul. Unlike the conferring of the rational soul, this seems to require no divine action.

The benefits of this understanding are many.

First, it neither precludes nor requires reincarnation.

Second, it postpones the creation of the rational faculty considerably, into the 2nd trimester, thus preventing numerous apparently superfluous and frustrating journeys of a soul from heaven to earth and back; even without admitting reincarnation, it makes somewhat less offensive the ugly artifice of the limbo. Before its acquisition of the rational soul, the embryo's soul is not at all immortal and simply corrupts if the embryo dies, e.g., it is somehow absorbed into God or dissipated with no consequences.

Third, it suggests reasonably that early abortions are not immoral, with 21 weeks at quickening being the upper limit on permissible abortion. The correct cutoff age could of course be even earlier; thus, Wikipedia informs us that during weeks 13 to 16, "the fetus makes active movements; sucking motions are made with the mouth"; and even during weeks 10 to 12, "the fetus can make a fist with its fingers." It appears that the power of self-motion develops fairly early during pregnancy, at which point the rational soul can be finally infused. Once the soul is completed, aborting the unborn child is a major sin.

Salvation Unfairness

Schoenig aims to convict God of "unfairness." On the one hand, God seems unfair to people who do not attain the state of moral accountability by damning them, or sending them to limbo, or annihilating them, thus not giving them a chance to succeed and achieve salvation. On the other hand, He may slight people who do attain this state by saving them only on the condition of virtuous behavior, while the unborn, young children, the mentally retarded, etc. go to heaven automatically, without having to work for it.

The argument then is as follows:

A = the set of persons who die without ever attaining the state of moral accountability.
B = the set of persons who die only after attaining the state of moral accountability.
O = the gain of postmortem eternal salvation and avoidance of postmortem eternal damnation.

Let further RPT stand for reward/punishment theology. Then

1. If God treats A under RPTD [damnation], RPTL [limbo], or RPTA [annihilation], then God acts unfairly toward A in comparison to B with repect to O.
2. If God treats A under RPTS [salvation], then God acts unfairly toward B in comparison with A with respect to O.
3. God treats A under RPTD or RPTL or RPTA or RPTS.
4. Therefore, God acts unfairly toward either A or B with respect to O.
5. If a person acts unfairly, then that person is not omnibenevolent.
6. Therefore, God is not omnibenevolent.
7. Therefore, God does not exist. (171)

Our author writes about the first kind of unfairness, "Given that the maximal ecstasies of heaven are available, the nebulous consolation prize of limbo would be a bland and unfair eternal destiny for those whose destinies were never in their own hands in the first place." (172) One reply is that the A-persons in "limbo" never really know what they are missing.

He writes about the second kind, "Why... was Hitler not automatically saved by being naturally aborted?" (176) Well, God may have preferred to give Hitler a chance at "maximal ecstasies" despite (foreseeing) the fact that Hitler would foul it up, rather than have Hitler a perpetual zygote in some celestial nursery. Alternatively, perhaps Hitler's soul was sacrificed for some "greater good" that would not have been possible unless he was allowed to become a B-person (even if perhaps ultimately damned).

Now it is plain that attaining the state of moral accountability and living morally from then on must be rewarded (at least according to RPT). St. Thomas writes that one's happiness depends on how well one sees God in the hereafter, such that

Of those who see the essence of God, one sees Him more perfectly than another. This... will take place because one intellect will have a greater power or faculty to see God than another. The faculty of seeing God, however, does not belong to the created intellect naturally, but is given to it by the light of glory, which establishes the intellect in a kind of "deiformity"...

Hence the intellect which has more of the light of glory will see God the more perfectly; and he will have a fuller participation of the light of glory who has more charity; because where there is the greater charity, there is the more desire; and desire in a certain degree makes the one desiring apt and prepared to receive the object desired. Hence he who possesses the more charity, will see God the more perfectly, and will be the more beatified. (ST, I, 12, 6)

But charity can be only in those who reach the age of reason. What happens to those who do not?

This is a difficult mystery in Christianity which has never been solved to my satisfaction. I suggest that premise (3) in Schoenig's argument may be a false dilemma. First, "heaven" and therefore human "eternal destinies" may be far more complicated than we can imagine. Second, an obvious missing option is reincarnation which largely resolves this issue and for which there is, as far as I'm concerned, a preponderance of evidence.

Miracles As Evidence Against the Existence of God?

How does Overall justify such a surprising idea? She says, first, that miracles are gaps, "moments of chaos" in the causal structure of the universe. These events are "misleading to human beings who, as knowledge-seekers, attempt to understand the world by discerning the regularities and patterns in it. The extreme rarity of miracles and the difficulties and controversies in identifying them are an impediment to the growth of scientific and philosophical comprehension. A benevolent God would not mislead his people." (150-1) This argument seems strange. For if miracles are extremely rare, then the "gaps" in the matrix of the laws of nature occur very rarely, and so causality almost always works as expected. This makes discovering natural laws as easy as if miracles never occurred at all. Physicists and chemists and the lot of them are never afraid that their experiments will be compromised by miraculous interventions. So, what's the problem?

(I don't even mention the possibility that God can miraculously inform some scientist of a hitherto unknown law of nature.)

Perhaps Overall wants miracles themselves to be as predictable and open to study as regular events. On the one hand, this is unwise, since miracles do not happen mechanically according to physical causation. God is not a slot machine whereby pulling a lever causes a "miracle" to occur. On the other hand, miracles do point to something, which she terms "the pattern of the miraculous. Thus, for the religious believer, two very general patterns are discernible: the pattern of natural events, which is studied by science, and the pattern of divine events, consisting of interventions in the natural order."

Here she poses a dilemma to the effect that either miracles are very infrequent, and then it is hard to discern any pattern they make up, or miracles happen every day, and so they are "disruptive of human efforts to see the world as forming a coherent, unified, consistent pattern." (151) She need not worry; I can tell her what the pattern of miraculous events is right now. All miracles are signs of the divine power and goodness. They are attributed specifically to God the Father since, though He "completed the work he had been doing; He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken" (Gen 2:2), it presumably makes sense occasionally to remind the people that "God lives." Miracles never happen without someone's noticing them and interpreting them properly, i.e., that there exists an Author of nature who retains full power over it.

(We are now dealing with miracles other than those performed by Jesus which then testified to the Son's nature and mission.)

Given this singular purpose of miracles, it is no longer plausible to call God "capricious and biased" and His miracles "trivial and arbitrary."

Overall admits that "some slight confusion in our growing understanding of the world is but a small price to pay for the other goods that a miracle would afford us." Indeed so. One must then balance the good of miracles as versus the good of keeping the causal structure of the world intact. Some sort of "constrained optimization" must take place. Thus, there is a point at which the good resulting from an increase in the number of miracles even by single one will be outweighed by the evil of rendering the world more unpredictable (and of fighting men's battles for them too much), and, on the other hand, the good of making the world more predictable will be outweighed by the evil of reducing the number of miracles even by a single one. And it's God's job to optimize this system, such as to do miracles until their marginal benefit falls below their marginal cost.

Second, she asserts that miracles "seem to make use of human weaknesses -- for example, fear, suggestibility, ignorance, and awe of the unknown." (151) Meh.

Miracles make use of man's awe of God's infinitude, power, goodness, and so on. And to have this kind of awe is a strength.

Man is ignorant of God's essence, forever so, but to recognize that a finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite is itself a true and useful piece of knowledge. We obtain this knowledge after witnessing a miracle by realizing that God's ad extra power extends to infinity, as being able to create anything; and therefore His knowledge and essence are infinite also.

If one interprets a natural event as miraculous, then it is appropriate to condemn that person as suggestible, but not if he interprets the event as a miracle correctly. (Or if he is, in fact, suggestible, then this trait is a virtue, e.g., "openness to genuine religious experiences," while the contrary to it skepticism is a vice.) Etc.

Third, "if accomplishing good, communicating divine teaching, or reviving religious awareness are divine purposes, miracles seem scarcely adequate to their accomplishment, for few people have been helped, and many remain skeptical" (152), our author writes. That few people have been helped is false; thus, St. Thomas writes:

Now, it is plain that whatever the saints have believed and handed down to us concerning the Christian Faith is confirmed by God's seal, which is to be seen in those works which no mere creature is able to do, namely, the miracles by which Christ confirmed the doctrine of the Apostles and of other saints.

And if anyone says that nobody has seen those miracles done, I reply that it is a well-known fact, related in pagan histories, that the whole world worshiped idols and persecuted the Christian Faith; yet now, behold all (the wise, the noble, the rich, the powerful, and the great) have been converted by the words of a few simple poor men who preached Christ.

Now was this a miracle or was it not?

If it was, then you have what you asked for. If you say it was not a miracle, then I say that you could not have a greater miracle than the conversion of the whole world without miracles, and we need seek no further. (AC, 1.I.A.5.d)

In short, billions of Christians have been helped. And as for that "many remain skeptical," well, whose fault is that? Perhaps Overall's point is that miracles are inherently poor signs of God's abilities. Well, what else would Overall have God do? If a miracle is not taken as evidence of God's existence and properties as natural theology describes them, what will be? Should God align the galaxies to spell out Genesis? Should He perhaps show Overall His glory? With all due respect, our author is neither Jesus nor even Moses.

Whether the Old Testament Lord Is Evil?

Bradley believes that God as He is described especially in the Old Testament is an evil, immoral figure because of the violent actions He commanded or authorized or threatened people with, including (P1) the slaughter of innocents, (P2) giving captive virgins to the troops, (P3) causing people to cannibalize their relatives, (P4) condoning child sacrifice, and (P5) fire and brimstone for the unbelievers. (132-142)

Now (P1)-(P4) are unique to the OT; (P5) is unique to the NT. Let's apply to the former deontology first and consequentialism second.

First, that God had the right to take life in those days (and only in those days) I defend in my "Understanding the Salvation History" and elsewhere.

Second, how does Bradley know that the good that came out of God's actions in the end did not outweigh the evil that He caused? God, given his perfect foresight, could easily calculate the consequences of His actions from the beginning of the universe till kingdom come. If God is a perfect utilitarian, then He'll work to maximize human happiness as much as possible. And here is a plausible good that resulted from all those battles and punishments and whatnot: the coming of Christ through Israel and redemption of mankind, the establishment of the Church, the elevation of all humans to the rank of servants of God, and salvation for billions. But even if our author disagreed with this assessment, it would be up to him to show that the evils God inflicted on various people in the OT are not justified by some greater good. As long as the scenario I described is possible, I don't think that God can be shown to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

And as for (P5) threats of hellfire in the NT, well, you've got to be forgiven for your transgressions to go to heaven, and

(1) not believing in Christ entails not believing in the existence of the only being who can forgive all your sins;

(2) not believing in the Holy Spirit entails not believing in the only being who can cleanse and heal and uplift you into fellowship with God; and

(3) not believing in the Father entails not believing in the only being who is pleased to give you the kingdom.

However, we are saved by Christ not by Christianity, so this answer is insufficient.

I answer, therefore, that it is permissible for a Christian to hold that (1) hell exists and is indeed a place of eternal horror but actually is and always will be empty; and further that (2) hellfire is restricted to purgatory and to especially severe cases of sinfulness or self-destruction, where it functions not as punishment but as an ultimate and perfectly serviceable incentive to human moral monsters to reform. No one can feel the hellfire and fail to be reliably terrified into mending his ways right then and there.

It is then possible to go to hell, and moreover one must avoid hell through his own efforts, but God's mercy is so great that He ultimately saves everyone.