I have written a number of posts concerning theism and God’s omni-qualities, and have loosely classified this as classical theism (though it is worth noting that this can often include ideas such as being immutable). My ebook The Problem with “God”: Classical Theism under the Spotlight deals with this type of god, namely one who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenelovent.
I have been criticised by a commenter previously, in my piece “But that’s not MY God!” for
None of these are “my” gods because I don’t believe in gods. However, I do not accept that the notion of god expressed here is the “classic” notion of it.
Well, he does not provide any data on what fraction does buy into the “classical omnis.” He just demands that it’s significant.
Point 1: the argument fails to address what fraction of theists, or even Christians, buy into the “classical omnis” and even fails to argue that the version of the omnis mentioned are indeed the classical ones.
Point 2: The classical omnis are either false by definition, or we must exclude the assumption that reality is logically consistent.
Point 3: the argument fails to determine whether or not those, who view the classical omnis as correct, believe reality is logically consistent.
He is demanding I produce evidence that a significant number of theists actually believe in the OmniGod, as I like to name him/her/it. I already declared in several of these posts that every single (Christian and Muslim) theist that I have personally dealt with (and this will run into the hundreds) believes in the OmniGod. And I have not interacted with any such (Christian or Muslim) theist who does not believe in the OmniGod.
Let me clarify. In my personal experience, which is not insignificant, 100% of theists have (as far as I know) adhered to a version of OmniGod, and 0% adhered to less than OmniGod. Now, he can choose to disbelieve me. Fair enough, but then this conversation ends. I have no time for the nuclear option. He could claim that the proportion I present in my experience is not representative of the rest of the world. He would need to show that is not the case because I think it is a reasonable assumption that hundreds of theists would in some way represent theism of the Christian variety out there. And that assumption is supported by pretty much everything written on the subject. As I have also mentioned, it is Christianity (and to some extent Islam) that interests me the most, and is most relevant to my readers and our cultural contexts.
I also provided this quote from Pojman and Rea’s Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (page 2):
Although there are various models of God with which we might fruitfully work in our thinking about God, contemporary philosophy of religion has mostly been occupied with the “perfect being” model. Working with this model means taking as a starting point the idea that God is perfect and allowing that idea to play the dominant role in shaping our decisions about what attributes to ascribe to God. Philosophers working with this model generally agree that God, if God exists, is at least omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnibenevolent (perfectly good).Indeed, theism is terrific typically just defined as the view that there exists a being with those three attributes…. Because theism and classical theism have taken center stage in contemporary philosophy of religion, our treatment of divine attributes will focus on controversies associated with attributes drawn from these lists. [My emphasis]
Of course, this is mere assertion But add this together with my own personal experience, and a pattern is being developed.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in its entry on omniscience, introduces the idea as follows:
Omniscience is the property of having complete or maximal knowledge. Along with omnipotence and perfect goodness, it is usually taken to be one of the central divine attributes. One source of the attribution of omniscience to God derives from the numerous biblical passages that ascribe vast knowledge to him.
Ubiquitously, we see terms such as and often stronger than “usually”, and no one seems to argue with this (our commenter aside). Indeed, no Chrisitan commenter has popped onto the forums here to agree with him. This is perhaps telling. There are Christian thinkers who no doubt do believe in the Christian God who somehow does not exhibit these properties, but these appear to be few and far between.
Much of this comes from philosophy of old, of course. Thomas Aquinas and subsequent Thomist philosophers have long argued for the OmniGod, refining (as CS Lewis did) the terms and considering criticisms that involve logical “nonsense” (such as God being able to be both the strongest and weakest entity simultaneously).
As wiki states on omnibenevolence:
Belief in God‘s omnibenevolence is an essential foundation in traditional Christianity; this can be seen in Scriptures such as Psalms18:30: “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him,” and Ps.19:7: “The law of the Lord is good, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Again, we see that it is an “essential foundation” – but yes, this is assertion. On omniscience, it states:
Thomas Flint states ( Divine Providence: The Molinist Account, 1998, p.12):
to see God as provident is to see him as knowingly and lvingly directing each and every event involving each and every creature toward the ends he has ordained for them.
Of course, we should not forget Anselm who proclaimed: “God is whatever it is better to be than not” out of which the Ontological Argument has developed.
So embedded is this idea in culture that people have tried to study its development through childhood:
Individuals in many cultures believe in omniscient (all-knowing) beings, but everyday representations of omniscience have rarely been studied. To understand the nature of such representations requires knowing how they develop. Two studies examined the breadth of knowledge (i.e., types of knowledge) and depth of knowledge (i.e., amount of knowledge within domains) that preschoolers, elementary-school children, and adults (N = 180) attributed to an all-knowing being. Preschoolers often reported that an omniscient mind would lack many types of knowledge, and completely failed to understand the depth of omniscient knowledge. With increasing age, children approached an understanding of omniscience—attributing broader and deeper knowledge to an omniscient agent—but only adults firmly understood the depth of omniscient knowledge. We identify socio-cultural and cognitive factors that correlate with children’s understandings of omniscience. Findings demonstrate that childhood representations of fallible, limited, human minds both make possible and constrain developing representations of radically non-human minds. [“Approaching an Understanding of Omniscience from the Preschool Years to Early Adulthood”, JD Lane, Developmental Psychology, 50(10), 2380-2392.]
The commenter would be right to claim that these omni-terms take a lot to properly define, and this is certainly the case. Personally, I think these terms are incoherent altogether – and even singularly. I spend a lot of time showing this. But, as also stated, I often grant them in order to show where they can lead (to further problems): to an equally philosophically spurious place. This gives the theist the two-horned dilemma – either accept that the omnis are incoherent, or allow them, but accept they are incoherent with other claims further down the line.
Apparently, though, this approach was “meaningless”.
For the vast majority of laypeople, they simply do not think about how these oomnis fail to cohere with other ideas and claims, but see them in very simplistic terms. The arguments that I propose are designed in part to deal with such believers. And to the more sophisticated believers, this should cause them to propose defences that might well include more closely defining the omnis.
And then, I would say, the burden of proof is on them to show what they understand of the omnis. After all, it’s their god, not mine.