There Are Only Two Gods Available, Really

There Are Only Two Gods Available, Really March 18, 2019

I was recently having a rather abstract conversation with my good friend and Tippling Philosopher founder the other night. We were talking about the different kinds of gods that logic could get you to. And I came to the conclusion that really, there were only two types of gods available:
1) the abstraction of a compartmentalised, determined, God.
2) the God of open theism that appears merely human in many ways.

And yes, this will no doubt have something to do with free will.

When we often talk about Perfect Being Theology (PBT), we talk about the ontologically perfect version of what God could be. Often, though, this turns out to be what God must be, not what he could be.

If God is to be perfection personified, or the entity of perfection, then God’s actions must by definition be perfect each and every time. God cannot make mistakes, God cannot make poor decisions, God cannot create imperfectly. Even if he fails in any of these ideas or actions, it will be to fulfil a perfect end in some way; there is no room for a corruption of perfection. Now, I understand that the term perfection is full of problem and I have spoken about this at length before. However, to the average Christian thinker, God is defined by his perfect nature. There is nothing greater than can be conceived when concerning God.

God gets pigeonholed into an abstract corner where he is constrained with only being able to do certain things within his nature. His nature is effectively the perfect prison cell for him for he can only act within its confines. This is the whole idea in the Euthyphro dilemma. It is God’s nature that underwrites his good actions but it also means that God can’t do any of these actions outside of his nature. This is kind of the same with humanity when we talk about libertarian free will and agents only being to do what is within their nature. To go without their nature is to be not them. To not have that real and actual ability to do that. For God, you can’t just rape and murder billions of people over millennia. Although, there is a case that he has actually done this as evidenced through the Bible…

God wouldn’t do that because that’s not in his nature. God can’t do this because it’s not in is nature. God can’t do evil because God is good by nature. So on and so forth. In the end, we just have this very linear understanding of God where he can only do a single given thing in a single given moment that is optimally the best thing to do. The only other option open to him is if he had a 50-50, a purely 50-50, choice open to him whereby each decision was absolutely morally equivalent down to the very last unit of morality. However, in those cases, the choice would be merely random anyway.

One of the many problems with this god is that it is not really the sort of god you can come to love and enter into a loving relationship with as insisted upon by so many questions. It’s hard to imagine that a meaningful union or bond with such an abstract constrained entity. Where would the personhood be here? If I was a, for example, Chistian and this was the only God that was logically open to me, there’s no way I would feel anything for it: it would just the sort of master computer programmer.

On the other hand, we have the God of open theism. In a general simplistic way of explaining this, this is a God who doesn’t know the future outcomes of any freely willed decision. So, if we assume that humans have libertarian free will (I do not and it is thoroughly incoherent), then this might be the God for you. The problem is, God does not have any form of omniscience. It’s almost as if creating the universe was a random sort of role of the dice. God could maybe make intelligent guesses about how people might act but at the end of the day, their free will will dictate what they do. However, this doesn’t gel particularly well with what we know about psychology. Indeed, social science, psychology and science, in general, show that humans are eminently predictable. Even Facebook can more accurately predict our personalities better than our own family members these days based on a certain number of likes. Big data is scary.

This version of God certainly seems somewhat less-than-God as we know him or her or it. Without omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence also seem to suffer. If you don’t know the outcomes of particular counterfactuals, then being able to do something about any given scenario is somewhat problematic. It is hard to do the most loving thing if you don’t know what the most loving thing might be given future counterfactual ignorance.

So, on the one hand, we have a God that is constrained into a box and appears to have no real personhood or personality of its own but it sort of blindly conforms a to a set of rules and nature about which he appears to have no control or, at least, if he defied those rules, he would not be the good God that people believe him to be. On the other hand, we have a God that appears to be less-than-God, more like superhuman. Although that kind of God might invite more love and respect through mutual commonalities, it’s not really the God that we see in the Bible.

This kind of dichotomy really is where I see the God problem existing. And I’m not sure though that there are any decent answers to get around this. But I’m sure some of you will try offer some. Good luck!

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