Whether God Has Virtues?

Douglas Walton proposes the following atheistic argument:

1. God is (by definition) a being than which no greater being can be thought.
2. Greatness includes greatness of virtue.
3. Therefore, God is a being than which no being could be more virtuous.
4. But virtue involves overcoming pains and danger.
5. Indeed, a being can only be properly said to be virtuous if it can suffer pain or be destroyed.
6. A God that can suffer pain or is destructible is not one than which no greater being can be thought.
7. For you can think of a greater being, that is, one that is nonsuffering and indestructible.
8. Therefore, God does not exist. (38)

But if virtue is understood as a disposition toward using a power well, then since God is pure act, and all His faculties, such as His intellect, are fully and 100% engaged, and whose operation is God's very nature, God does not have virtues at all. Thus, St. Thomas points out: "if there is a being whose nature is not composed of potentiality and act, and whose substance is its own operation, which itself is for itself, there we can find no room for habit and disposition, as is clearly the case in God." (ST, II-I, 49, 4)

Further, God's power can be exercised only in a single way, namely, the way it is as a matter of fact in act.

Finally, God by His nature cannot act in a self-destructive ways, so His powers-in-act are always perfectly well used. Hence God has no need for virtues.

For example, none of the following virtues are in God ad intra:

  1. fear of the law as the foundation of all virtues;
  2. (cardinal) moral virtues: temperance, courage or fortitude, justice, and prudence;
  3. intellectual virtues: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; and
  4. theological virtues: faith, hope, charity.

Therefore, premise (2) is false, and the argument is unsound.

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