How Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’? – Part 3

II. Only Three Attributes are RelevantIn this second case there will be far fewer possible definitions of ‘divine person’ because the assumption that one of the four attributes is irrelevant means that we only have three attributes to use in constructing sets of conditions that will in turn be used to generate definitions. Fewer elements means fewer combinations of elements can be formed.The following table illustrates the various possibilities in which only three of the four attributes are relevant (R… Read more

How Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’? – Part 2

I will now try to determine how many different definitions of ‘divine person’ can be generated from the four previously specified attributes, in the case that all four attributes are relevant to a definition of the phrase ‘divine person’.I. All Four Attributes are RelevantA. Four Conditions are Criterial and None are Necessary ConditionsIf all four attributes are relevant, one sub-category of definitions would be purely criterial definitions, where all four conditions were criteria, rather than necessary conditions.As we saw in… Read more

How Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’?

My estimate that there are more than three millon ways to analyze the word ‘God’ (using just four attributes in the analysis) was inflated by some incorrect assumptions. I will now make a second attempt to determine an accurate count of the various combinations and permutations of conditions that form different definitions, taking into consideration some things I learned from the first attempt.The word ‘God’ is a proper name, and I agree with Swinburne that the meaning of this proper… Read more

Three Million Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’

Assume there are only four possible divine attributes:powerknowledgefreedomgoodnessEach of the above attributes can occur in four degrees:humansuperhumanperfecteternally perfectThere can be 14 different combinations of acceptable degrees for each attribute:Four combinations with just one acceptable degree (e.g. only ‘perfect’ knowledge is acceptable).Six combinations with just two acceptable degrees (e.g. either ‘superhuman’ or ‘perfect’ knowledge is acceptable)Three combinations with three acceptable degrees (e.g. either ‘superhuman’ or ‘perfect’ or eternally perfect’ is acceptable).One combination with all four degrees being acceptable.For each of the… Read more

What God Cannot Do – Part 6

I did not especially want to get into a discussion about Jesus, the incarnation, the trinity, etc. However, my claim that God cannot suffer or be harmed leads naturally to objections like this one from Lincoln:God can be hurt. In fact Christianity is based off the fact that God can not only be hurt, but he can die. Jesus, who is God, sacrificed himself for us. This is an act of heroism.His reasoning goes like this:1. Jesus suffered.2. Jesus was… Read more

Demographic implosion

There is a common worry particularly among right-wingers, both religious and secular—that secular postindustrial populations are aging and reproducing below the replacement level. This, apparently, is going to lead to all sorts of disasters (doomed social insurance systems etc.), or, alternatively, is symptomatic of cultural disaster (a society in demographic decline has lost the will to exist etc.). And that’s even before the Europe-is-going-to-be-all-Muslim paranoia kicks in.Well, secularists have typically worried about the opposite: overpopulation. Indeed, I don’t see how… Read more

What God Cannot Do – Part 5

Could God be a hero? I don’t think so. Based on recent discussion of this question, I can formulate an argument for the claim that God is not capable of being a hero:1. Only a being who can suffer or be harmed can be a hero.2. A person who is eternally omnipotent, eternally omniscient, and eternally perfectly free is not capable of suffering or of being harmed.3. Something is God if and only if it is a person who is… Read more

What God Cannot Do – Part 4

Swinburne takes the word ‘God’ to be loosely tied to a list of criteria or descriptions, similar to how he takes the words ‘person’ and ‘bodiless’ to be criterially defined concepts. Among the criteria or descriptions used to denote or identify an individual as ‘God’, if there is such an individual, is the criterion that this being is eternally omnipotent. Such an understanding of the word ‘God’ and the sentence ‘God exists’ may well correctly represent the meaning of the… Read more

Secularism and positive rights

I was flipping through Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein’s The Cost of Rights, which points out that the distinction between positive and negative rights is dubious, or at least not very sharp. This is because assertion of a negative right—a right not to be interfered with by others or the state—is empty without the demand that this right be enforced. This demand involves significant burdens on the public treasury, so in that sense it is a demand for a positive right—that… Read more

I’m (In)famous!

My “retirement” notice posted on SO last Sept. 1 got MUCH more attention than I expected–or wanted. Religion Dispatches has an article about the announcement and the subsequent brouhaha: letters were written and a couple of questions were raised that I would like to address: 1) Q: If I no longer respect the “case for theism” sufficiently to devote professional activity (teaching, writing) to it, why do I continue to discuss these issues on SO? A: As I indicated in… Read more

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