God as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 4

Previously, I argued that it is not possible to become eternal. Recall that a person P is eternal if and only if P has always existed and P will always continue to exist. Here is a step-by-step proof showing that it is impossible for a person to become eternal:

<————|———–|————–>

…………….t1………..t2

1. At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (supposition for indirect proof/reduction to absurdity)

2. At time t1 P is NOT eternal. (from 1)

3. At time t2 P is eternal. (from 1)

4. At t2 P exists. (from 3)

5. At every moment prior to t2 P exists. (from 3)

6. At every moment after t2 P exists. (from 3)

7. At t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists. (from 4, 5, and 6)

8. If at t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists, THEN at every moment P exists. (analytic truth)

9. At every moment P exists. (from 7 and 8)

10. EITHER at t1 P does not exist OR at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist OR at some moment after t1 P does not exist. (from 2)

11. If at t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)

12. If at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)

13. If at some moment after t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist.(analytic truth)

14. There is a moment when P does not exist. (from 10, 11, 12, 13)

15. Any moment when P does not exist is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (analytic truth)

16. There is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (from 14 and 15)

17. It is NOT the case that at every momement P exists. (from 16)

18. At every moment P exists AND it is NOT the case that at every moment P exists. (from 9 and 17)

19. The following statement is FALSE: At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (1 through 18, indirect proof/ reduction to absurdity, because 18 is a self-contradiction that was deduced from 1).

Thus, it is logically impossible for a person to become eternal.

I have been thinking about omnipotence and the idea of omnipotence as an essential property of some person.

Some of my thoughts remind me of the conversations that boys in Jr. high used to have: “What if Superman was to get into a fight with Batman? I think Superman could take one swing at Batman and knock him so hard that he would land a block away.” Such conversations seem silly and trivial, but in the case of philosophy, it can be helpful to have a childlike enjoyment of such imaginary scenarios. Imagination helps one to map out the logical boundaries of a concept, plus it makes thinking about God fun, even for an atheist.

We have previously seen that ‘existence’ appears to be an essential property for anything that in fact exists, so if ‘necessary existence’ means ‘having existence as an essential property’ then necessary existence is nothing special. We have also seen that ‘being eternal’ is an attribute that cannot be lost; once something is eternal, it will always be eternal (and will always have been eternal). So, again having the property of ‘being eternal’ as an essential property is nothing special, there is no other way of ‘being eternal’. One cannot have the property of ‘being eternal’ as an accidental property.

I eventually want to figure out what it means for a person to have the property of ‘being eternally omnipotent’ as an essential property. But before I tackle that challenge, it may be helpful to first consider the simpler property of just being omnipotent. After that I will consider the more complex idea of having the property of omnipotence as an essential property.

Being omnipotent does not mean that one can literally do anything. An omnipotent being cannot create a four-sided triangle. This is no limitation of power or ability. The idea of a four-sided triangle is incoherent, so the statement “John made a four-sided triangle” is an incoherent statement, a statement that contains a self-contradiciton.

Can an omnipotent being create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? I agree with Swinburne’s analysis of this traditional problem. The answer is: YES.

But in order to do so, the omnipotent being must make itself less than omnipotent. Time is the key missing ingredient in this puzzle. At one point in time an omnipotent being creates a massive rock, say a rock that has ten times the mass of our universe. Then the omnipotent being causes itself to have a certain degree of weakness- the inability to lift rocks that are ten times the mass of our universe. Now the being is unable to lift the massive rock. The being, however, has sacrificed its omnipotence in order to achieve this feat, but it is a feat that an omnipotent being can achieve.

The being started out as an omnipotent being, formed the objective of creating a rock that it could not lift, and then using its unlimited power acheived that objective. However, in order to achieve the objective the being must sacrifice its omnipotence.

There are various other limitations on what God can do. God cannot change the past. This is because changing the past would involve backwards causation, and backwards causation is logically impossible. So, again God’s inablility to change the past is not a weakness or lack of power. The problem is, rather, that sentences like “John changed the past” are incoherent; they involve a logical self-contradiction.

Omnipotence can come into conflict with other divine attributes. God is perfectly good, and so according to Aquinas and Swinburne God cannot do evil. God’s goodness thus creates a limitation on what God can do. Human beings can be unjust and cruel but God is not able to be unjust or cruel, on this view. So human beings can do some things that God is unable to do. But this is considered to be a ‘legitimate’ exception or limitation of God’s power. So, when Christians assert that ‘God is omnipotent’ they usually will allow that God’s perfect goodness creates constraints on what God can do.

One might say that God can do anything that it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE for a perfectly free and omniscient and perfectly good person to do.
I think there are some additional constraints on God’s power or ability to do things, but this clarification of ‘omnipotence’ covers the constraints that arise from God’s other divine attributes.

Can a person become omnipotent? or is omnipotence like the attribute of being eternal? One cannot become an eternal person, so perhaps it is also impossible for one to become an omnipotent person.

On the face of it, I don’t see an obvious problem with the idea of becoming omnipotent. Human beings have various powers and abilities. We can imagine becoming more and more powerful. One can imagine discovering one day that one can make objects ex nihilo (from nothing) just by willing the objects to appear. One can imagine stumbling on the power to move mountains or even planets by sheer willpower. Of course one could never have enough experiences to prove with certainty that one had become omnipotent, but we can imagine experiences that would strongly support this hypothesis. Thus, it seems perfectly conceivable that an ordinary human being could become an omnipotent person.

But once a person becomes omnipotent, one might think that they could never lose their omnipotence. We think of gaining great power as being like obtaining great wealth: someone else could take away what we have gained. But in the case of omnipotence, who could take that away? If I’m the biggest and strongest kid at school, then I don’t need to worry about a bully taking my lunch money, right? If I become omnipotent, then I don’t have to worry about any being taking away any of my power.

But what if there was another omnipotent person? Such a person, it would seem could take away my omnipotence, because our power would be equal, so I would not be like the biggest and strongest kid on the block, if there were other omnipotent persons who might want to take away some of my power.

However, there is an old puzzle about omnipotence that comes to mind: Can there be two omnipotent persons? It seems as if there can be no more than just one omnipotent person. Suppose that there are two omnipotent persons: John and Sara. John and Sara both simultaneously look at the same little gray rock resting on a desk. John wills the rock to immediately rise up into the sky, but Sara wills the rock to immediately plummet downward, through the desk and through the floor and the foundation, etc. These two objectives are not logically compatible with each other. The rock cannot both rise and fall at the same time. So, either the rock will rise and Sara’s will will be defeated by John’s will, or the rock will NOT rise and John’s will will be defeated by Sara’s will. At least one of them must fail to cause their desired outcome.

Let’s suppose that there can only be one omnipotent person in existence at any given point in time. Does that mean that becoming omnipotent, and thus being the one and only omnipotent person, would mean complete safety? Does this mean that I have no reason to fear losing some of my newly gained power? Sadly, it does not. Even if there can be at most only one omnipotent person, there is nothing to prevent some other person from being or becoming omniscient (all knowing).

If I have become omnipotent, I would still be in danger of losing my omnipotence if some other person was omniscient. This would set up the classic struggle between brains and brawn. The omniscient person would know everything about me, including my deepest secrets and my every thought. The omniscient person would know all of my weaknesses. The omniscient person would know every detail of my personal history. The omniscient person would know everything there was to know about human psychology and about how to persuade and manipulate other people. So, it is quite possible that an omniscient person could fool me into destroying myself or causing myself to become less than omnipotent, perhaps even getting me to make that other person into the one and only omnipotent person, and then that person would be both omniscient and omnipotent.

However, an omnipotent person does have a way to fight back. An omnipotent person could make himself or herself become omniscient. There is no obvious logical contradiction between there being two or more omniscient persons. Two people can know the same fact without there being any conflict or contradiction, for example. So, if an omnipotent person was concerned about the possibility of being fooled or manipulated by an omniscient person, then he or she could simply will it to be the case that he or she immediately became omniscient, and presumably a being that was both omnipotent and omniscient would not have to worry about a being that was merely omniscient being able to fool or manipulate him or her.

Nevertheless, although there is this nice strategy for how a person could easily secure his or her newly discovered omnipotence, there is no logical necessity that this would be the case. If you wake up tomorrow morning and have become an omnipotent being while you were asleep, it will probably take several hours or days before you have enough experiences to confidently conclude that you have become omnipotent. The experiences you have that convince you of this fact would be quite unusual and extraordinary experiences (such as moving the moon across the sky with just a thought), and those experiences would keep you very distracted for a while. You probably would not immediately start thinking about the question “How can I secure my omnipotence, so that if there is a omniscient being somewhere I can avoid being fooled or manipulated by that being into giving up or losing my omnipotence?”. For as long as you do not think about this question, you would be vulnerable to being deceived by an omniscient person.

Furthermore, even if you immediately began to worry about this possibility of being decieved by an omniscient person, you might not immediately come up with the solution of making yourself become omniscient. Having been an ordinary weak human being for many years, your attitudes and beliefs about yourself may take time to change, and you might not immediately realize that you have gained the ability to radically transform yourself.

Even if you immediately started to worry about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, and even if you immediately realized that you had the power to make yourself omniscient, you might well hesitate to do so. You have lived your entire life up to that moment as a limited and finite human being, and willing yourself to become omniscient would mean basically willing yourself to become God. But being omniscient or having a God-like experience of reality would be radically different from experiencing reality as a limited and finite human being. Would you really want to give up ordinary human thoughts and feelings and experiences, to become a god-like being? The idea seems terrifying to me. I would certainly hesitate, and give some thought to the matter before turning myself into an omniscient person.

So, although it may be possible for an omnipotent person to turn himself or herself into a person who was also omniscient, it is quite possible that it would take a significant amount of time for a person who had recently become omnipotent to become worried about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, to come up with the solution of making oneself omniscient, and to actually make the very serious decision to carry out this plan and make oneself omniscient, and some might well decide to live with the risk rather than to so radically transform their own consciousness of reality. Thus, it is likely that there would be a significant period of time in which a person who had become omnipotent would remain less than omniscient and thus would be subject to being deceived or manipulated by an omniscient person, so that the omnipotent person would destroy himself or herself or would cause the loss of his or her own omnipotence.

Therfore, it seems to me that not only is it possible for a person of finite and limited power to become an omnipotent person, but it is also possible for an omnipotent person to lose his or her omnipotence.

  • Eric Sotnak

    I’m not sure that backward causation is logically impossible though it does seem to me that changing the past is. If the future is fixed (as 4-dimensionalists generally suppose), then it seems changing the future is also impossible, though forward causation is not.

    • Greg G.

      The bartender said, ” We don’t serve faster than light particles here.”

      A tachyon walked into a bar.

  • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

    I don’t think that (10) follows from (2). Suppose P is a beginningless but not endless being. P did not have a beginning, but will have an end. We don’t have a concept for such a property, but it is not obviously incoherent to imagine a being that did not begin to exist but does cease to exist.

    If this is true of P, then (2) (which says that P is not eternal at t1) is true.

    Now suppose that at t2, P becomes endless (by dipping himself in the river Styx, for example). Now P nether had a beginning nor will have an end and has thus become eternal. Thus, (4) – (9) are all true. But 10 is false

    10. EITHER at t1 P does not exist OR at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist OR at some moment after t1 P does not exist.

    The fact that P is not eternal at t1 does not imply that there is some prior moment at which P does not exist nor that there is some future moment at which P does not exist. It does not imply that there is any moment at which P does not exist. It only implies that, at t1, it is possible that there will be a moment at which P does not exist. (But once P becomes eternal, this ceases to be a possibility.)

    • Bradley Bowen

      Nice objection.

      I think your objection amounts to pointing out that there is an alternative conception or definition of ‘eternal’ that does allow for the possibility of a person becoming eternal. I don’t disagree on that point. However, on my understanding of the definition of ‘eternal’ (as specified by Swinburne) I think my inference is correct.

      My proof is not completely rigorous, and you have pointed to a specific inference that has a logical gap. So, later on (this evening) I will try to fill in the gap and add some more specific steps in support of the inference from (2) to (10). By itself (2) does not entail (10); I need at least to add the definition of ‘eternal’ into the mix to make it clear how (10) follows from (2). And this will only show that (10) follows from (2) given a specific definition of ‘eternal’, a definition which may not be the only plausible definition.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Swinburne’s definition of ‘an eternal being’ is idiosyncratic because he includes all (or most) of the divine attributes within this one concept. So, on Swinburne’s definition ‘an eternal being’ is basicaly the same thing as ‘God’, minus a couple of divine attributes (immutability and necessary being).

      This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, some of the divine attributes that Swinburne includes are ones that are NOT eternal, so Swinburne’s concept of ‘an eternal being’ appears to be incoherent. God cannot eternally be ‘the creator of the universe’, for example, assuming that the universe began to exist a finite number of years ago (say, 14 billion years ago). God cannot eternally be ‘a source of moral obligation’ for human beings, assuming that human beings made their first appearance a finite number of years ago (say, 200,000 years ago).

      Second, we use the word ‘eternal’ for other purposes besides characterizing God. We ask these questions: “Is the universe eternal?” “Is matter eternal?” “Can a human person obtain eternal life?”. So, to build the other divine attributes into the notion of ‘an eternal being’ is confusing and fails to help clarify the discussion of these other interesting issues.

      Because of these problems, I only use a part of Swinuburne’s definition of ‘an eternal being’ – namely the part that is about something EXISTING eternally:

      “This seems to mean, firstly, that he [God] has always existed–that there was no time at which he did not exist…” (COT, Rev. Ed., p.218)
      “The doctrine that God is eternal seems to involve, secondly, the doctrine that the above spirit will go on existing for ever…” (COT, Rev. Ed., p.218)

      Definition:
      Person P is ETERNAL at time t1
      if and only if
      (a) P exists at t1,
      AND
      (b) P has always existed prior to t1,
      AND
      (c) P will go on existing for ever after t1.

      What does it mean, then, to say that
      ‘It is NOT the case that P is ETERNAL at time t1′ ?
      The meaning of the negation of the defined sentence is contained in the negation of the definition. The definition in this case spells out three necessary conditions, which together form a sufficient condition:

      (a) AND (b) AND (c)

      The negation of a conjuction is a disjunction of the negation of each conjunct:

      EITHER Not(a) OR Not(b) OR Not(c)

      So, the meaning of ‘It is NOT the case that P is ETERNAL at time t1′ is:

      EITHER it is not the case that P exists at t1,
      OR it is not the case that P has always existed prior to t1,
      OR it is not the case that P will go on existing for ever after t1.

      To be continued…

    • Bradley Bowen

      I have defended my inference from (2) to (10) by spelling out the definition of ‘eternal’ and by clarifying both of these claims. So, I still think my inference was logically valid.

      However, Jason’s main point seems to be that there is an alternative way of understanding or defining ‘eternal’ such that (2) does not imply (10), and such that (2A) does not imply (10A). This raises some key questions:

      What is the alternative definition of ‘eternal’ that Jason has in mind?

      Once this alternative definition is spelled out, does (2A) entail (10A) if we use the alternative definition?

      Is there good reason to prefer the alternative definition over the one that I was using in the proof?

      In the final paragraph of his comment, Jason gives us some good hints at the alternative definition that he had in mind:

      ====================
      The fact that P is not eternal at t1 does not imply that there is some prior moment at which P does not exist nor that there is some future moment at which P does not exist. It does not imply that there is any moment at which P does not exist. It only implies that, at t1, it is possible that there will be a moment at which P does not exist. (But once P becomes eternal, this ceases to be a possibility.)
      ====================

      It is clear that in order to be a candidate for being eternal at time t1, P must exist at t1 and P must also have always existed prior to t!. So, the only point at issue is what being eternal implies about the future existence of P after t1. The key idea, based on the final sentences of the above paragraph by Jason, is that whether P is eternal depends crucially on whether “at t1 it is possible that there will be a moment [after t1] at which P does not exist.” To be eternal at t1, there must be NO POSSIBILITY that there is a moment after t1 in which P does not exist.

      I will attempt to incorporate this point into an alternative definition of ‘eternal’:

      Definition 2 of ‘eternal’

      Person P is ETERNAL at time t1
      if and only if:
      (a) P exists at t1,
      AND
      (b) P has always existed prior to t1,
      AND
      (c) it is logically impossible at t1 that P does not exist at some moment after t1.

      If this captures what Jason had in mind, then I see a significant problem with this definition. It rules out the idea of something or someone happening to exist forever as a simple fact, perhaps as a result of good luck. Death and taxes are inevitable, or so we are told. But really these are only empirical facts, lot logically necessary facts.

      There is no logical requirement that a person die before they reach a specified upper limit of years. It is logically possible for a human being to live to be 100. It is logically possible for a human being to live to be 1,000 years old. It is logically possible for a human being to live to be 10,000 years old.

      Experience tells us that 100 is close to being the maximum age, but logic does not dictate a maximum age for human beings. Therefore, it is logically possible for a human being to live forever. One lucky person might just beat all the odds and go on living despite the fact that billions of other human beings have all died before reaching the age of 150 years.

      But if one lucky person did live to be billions of years old, and we wonder whether this person might not continue to live forever, we might well consider this to be just an odd and very improbable event, and see no logical necessity involved in this person continuing to live, even if the person continued to live forever.

      I see no reason to deny that such a person falls into the category of being eternal. Just because his or her living forever is not a matter of logical necessity and is merely a matter of fact has no relevance as to the central issue, which is HOW LONG the person continues to live. If the person just happens by luck or chance to continue to live forever, then they will live eternally, even though this is not guaranteed by logic.

      Now in the case of God, Christians do not believe that God’s eternal existence is so tenuous. They believe that God’s eternal existence must be as secure and as stable as possible. God’s continuing existence cannot be merely a matter of chance or luck. This is where the idea of ‘necessary being’ comes into play, as well as the idea of ‘essential properties’. The belief that God is a necessary being means, in part, that God’s existence is not dependent on other things or events. For example, unlike human beings, God does not require oxygen in order to continue to live and exist. If all of the oxygen in the universe were to vanish, then humans would all quickly die, but God would remain alive and in existence. I have not spelled out what necessary being means here, just given the flavor of this idea.

      Being ‘eternal’ is clearly a separate divine attribute from ‘necessary being’, at least in Swinburne’s conception of God. So, although God’s existence is not supposed to be as tenuous as my example of a human being who by luck or by chance lives forever, that is because God is, supposedly, a necessary being, NOT because God is eternal.

      • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

        Bradley,
        Thanks for your very detailed and well-thought-out reply. It has given my a lot to think about.

        I will have something more substantial to say a bit later, but for now let me offer this: I think that if a being (e.g., a human) just happens to go on existing forever, then it is not eternal. First, let’s remember that, to be eternal on Bowen’s/Swinburne’s definition, the human being would have to not have a beginning. That strikes me as getting very near the logically impossible. But let’s set that worry aside.

        We are imagining that the human never dies just by happenstance. However, if it is just happenstance, then at every moment of her existence, it is true that she could die. In particular, for every moment of her existence, it is true that she could be killed. But it is impossible to kill an eternal being, since it is impossible for an eternal being to cease to exist. Since it is possible to kill her, she cannot be eternal even if she happens to live forever.

        I think that it might be more accurate to say of such a person that she lives eternally rather than that she is eternal.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Jason said…

          We are imagining that the human never dies just by happenstance. However, if it is just happenstance, then at every moment of her existence, it is true that she could die. In particular, for every moment of her existence, it is true that she could be killed. But it is impossible to kill an eternal being, since it is impossible for an eternal being to cease to exist. Since it is possible to kill her, she cannot be eternal even if she happens to live forever.

          ==================
          Response:

          It depends on how you define ‘eternal’.

          My definition requires (in terms of future existence) merely that the person in question will IN FACT go on existing for ever. If this definition is used, then there is no requirement that a person’s future existence continue for ever as a matter of logical necessity. It is sufficient under my definition for it to be logically possible for the person in question to cease to exist in the future, so long as this logical possibility does not in fact occur.

          There are all sorts of logical possibilities that might never be realized. It is logically possible that I will turn into a fire-breathing dragon one day. But even though this is logically possible, it will probably be the case that this never actually occurs. I might well go on being an ordinary human for the rest of my life, despite the fact that it is logically possible that I will turn into a fire breathing dragon one day. Similarly, there could be a person for whom ceasing to exist was a logical possibility, and yet that person never actually ceases to exist. Such a person would be ‘eternal’ on my definition (assuming that the person also exists now and has always existed in the past).

          So, I think the issue between us, if there is a disagreement here, is about the correctness of my definition, or about whether my definition is better than the alternative definition that you are proposing.

          I agree that an alternative definition can be constructed which would have the logical implications that you suggest. But the question is whether that alternative definition is better than the one I have used in my proof. Given my definition of ‘eternal’ my proof works. Given some alternative definition of ‘eternal’ my proof might not work.

          One argument in favor of my definition, is that it works for the use of ‘eternal’ beyond the discussion of divine attributes. The questions “Is the universe eternal?” and “Is matter eternal?” are significant philosophical issues that involve the word ‘eternal’, and it would be preferable, other things being equal, to use the word ‘eternal’ with the same meaning and same definition when considering those questions as when considering questions about the existence and nature of God.

          When we ask “Is the universe eternal?” or “Is matter eternal?” we are asking if the universe (or matter) has always existed, and if the universe (or matter) will go on existing forever.

          We are NOT asking whether there is a logical contradiciton in the statement “The universe will cease to exist one day” (or the statement “Matter will cease to exist one day”). We are NOT asking whether the continued existence of the universe (or of matter) is logically necessary. Rather, we are asking whether the universe (or matter) will as a matter of fact go on existing forever.

          So, if we want to use the word ‘eternal’ in philosophy of religion in a way that is consistent with how we use this word in relation to other interesting metaphysical issues, then a definition that does not require logical necessity of continued existence would be preferable to one that does require this.

          Another reason to prefer a definition that does not require logical necessity of continued existence is that we already have a term in philosophy of religion that covers this: ‘necessary being’.

          The divine attribute of ‘necessary being’ points to some sort of necessity involved in the existence and nature of God. ‘Necessary being’ relates to the religious or theological impulse to reject the idea that God’s existence is tenuous in the way that the existence of human beings and other animals is tenuous. God’s existence is supposed to be removed from all threat of destruction or termination, and to be independent of other persons and things and events.

          So, because we already have a term that can be used to characterize God’s existence as being free from threat of termination, we don’t need to build this requirement into the concept of being ‘eternal’. We can allow the concept of being ‘eternal’ to cover simply the duration of time that a thing or person exists, and not specify that the existence has some special sort of stability, such as that it is logically necessary, or that it is necessary in some other way.

          By keeping the divine attribute ‘eternal’ simple, we allow for clearer and cleaner analysis of the concept of God, where different divine attributes contribute different and distinct aspects of the characterization of the concept of God.

          As I pointed out previously, Swinburne actually defines ‘eternal being’ in a way that throws in everything but the kitchen sink, and I think this is a mistake. It is certainly misleading and confusing, at the least, and I think his definition makes the concept incoherent, because some of the divine attributes that he threw into the mix, are NOT ones that God has always possessed (even assuming there is a God).

          I think we do better, in general, when we stick to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). In this case, we keep things simple by leaving the requirement of logical necessity out of the concept ‘eternal’ and saving such a requirement to be part of the concept of ‘necessary being’.

          • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

            I think that my concern about the person who continues to exist indefinitely (let’s call her Eternity) is not that, if she is eternal, it must not be possible that she not exist. Rather, it is that, if Eternity is eternal, it ought not be possible to destroy her.

            I suspect that here might be a good place to make a distinction between what is physically possible and what is logically possible. It is physically possible, it appears, to destroy matter (well, technically, matter/energy) but it is not logically impossible. I suppose that what I am saying is that if a being is eternal, it is not physically possible to destroy the being.

            When we ask whether the universe is eternal, we do want to know whether it will continue forever, but we also are asking, I think, whether the universe could be destroyed in the sense of it ceasing to exist (e.g., do the laws of the universe guarantee that the universe cannot cease to exist?) So, to my mind, the concept of eternity and indestructibility are connected.

            If a person is eternal, then (again, to my mind) part of what that entails is that you cannot destroy her. This follows from the fact that she cannot cease to exist. Now, I don’t think this entails that it is logically impossible that she cease to exist, only that the laws of physics (or biology, etc.) guarantee that she cannot die.

            Of course there is a difference between the universe, an inanimate object, and a person. Am I perhaps confusing eternality and immortality?

            I need to think about this some more.

  • Greg G.

    How can an omniscient person know of any weaknesses of an omnipotent person? A weakness would be a lack of potency which would mean the person was not omnipotent.

    • Bradley Bowen

      A fondness for chocolate would be a weakness, but I don’t think this constitutes a ‘lack of potency’.

      I don’t see how omnipotence would exclude the possibility of having strong desires or inclinations.

  • http://www.chimericfire.com Nathaniel

    The argument that god is defined as the “necessary ground of being” seems like it has one huge gap in it’s armor. Because gods existence and necessity are tied together, if it can be proven that god is not necessary, then it follows that god does not exist. Even worse, if there is a non-zero chance that god isn’t necessary, then god does not exist.

    The tough part is that the argument is logically structured such that god becomes that which is both itself “being” as well as as the foundation upon which everything can be. The argument essentially goes like this “there is stuff, therefore god.”


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