Joe Hinman has just published another example of his muddled theistic thinking. The article, called Do God's Omniscience ,Omnipotance, and free will Contradict? purports to answer the problem often posed by atheists of how God's omni qualities can co-exist without contradiction. The problem, as he states it, is this:
God is asserted to be all good, all loving, all knowing, all powerful, in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time. Sorry, one simply cannot make rational sense to reconcile all these asserted properties. They contradict each other in various ways making the whole package incoherent by it's own theistic definitions. (highlight in original)Joe castigates atheists for their shallow thinking on this subject. But he fails to answer that question, and in the process, reveals his own shallow thinking.
First off, I'm not sure that this statement of the problem accurately reflects the way most atheists would state it. I've seen it many times, but the phrase "in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time" appears to be a superfluous addition. The logical conundrum is usually identified as contradictions that arise from the co-existence of the first three omni qualities: all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful, given that evil and suffering exist in our world. Notice the highlighting that Joe placed on his statement of the problem. He didn't include all-loving, and in fact his entire discussion completely ignores that quality, while focusing more on the quality of free will.
So immediately, we can see that Joe has failed to address the most common version of the coherency problem posed by atheists. If we consider those first three omni qualities of God, we could grant any two of them, but then the third creates contradictions. For example, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, he can create the world as we see it, but that world contains much needless suffering, which belies the all-loving quality. It would be logically possible to create an alternate world without suffering *, and an all-powerful being would not be constrained from doing that, but an all-loving being wouldn't create this world. Or we might assume that God is all-loving and all-knowing, so he understands the problem of suffering, and doesn't want his creatures to suffer needlessly, but he can't resolve the problem if he is not all-powerful. No matter how you look at it, in light of the world in which we find ourselves, there are logical inconsistencies between those three omni qualities. But Joe completely fails to address this in his article.
So then, what does Joe discuss? He starts out by discussing the problem of free will when God is all-knowing. That's another issue that is independent of the logical incoherency of the three omni qualities I mentioned above, but it's still worth addressing. He makes the point that knowing something is not the same as controlling it. Good point. I don't think that is the claim made by atheists. Joe explains to us stupid atheists that knowing the future is like seeing it all laid out at once, as if everything is an accomplished fact. OK, fine. I think that's the only reasonable way to look at it. If the entire history and future of the world was a book, and I know the entire contents of the book, that doesn't imply that I cause the events described in the book. That makes perfect sense, and I don't dispute it. But what Joe conveniently ignores is that if I am the author of the book, then I DO dictate what happens in it.
Joe glosses over the whole problem that the all-powerful creator of the world, who knows everything there is to know about what will happen in his creation, must have some role in the course of events. After all, he could just as well create a different world where some undesired event doesn't occur. Joe pretends that God just thinks the world into existence, but doesn't control it.
I accept the premise "to be is to be perceived." God is the observer that collapses the wave function and causes the universe to be by beholding it. God is observing a thought that he has set up to run on it own. He's not making it happen or thinking every event at a microscopic level.But this is an equivocation. The creator is not a passive observer. God, as an act of free will, intentionally creates the world, and if you believe what Christians say, it's all for a purpose. And he knows exactly what he's doing. This is not a case of God letting his thoughts wander aimlessly and having a passive vision of whatever world happens to cross his mind. This world is God's willful creation. He is the author of the book, and he knowingly and purposefully decides what the book says. Take, for example, the idea that God guides evolution to produce his intended outcome, which is what many Christians believe. How would this be possible if God is not in control of what happens? It's absurd to think that this all-knowing, all-powerful God, who intentionally creates all things simultaneously, past, present, and future, is just passively watching the world unfold.
At this point, Joe speaks about what it means to be omnipotent, and and it sounds as if he is defending the notion that that the outcome is beyond God's control. He again castigates stupid atheists for not understanding the concept that God can't do what is logically impossible.
God does not have to make rocks he can't lift. That is a childish trap set for eight[h] grade apologetic hobbyists in Sunday school classes.I must say once again that I don't have a problem with that. Nor does any thinking atheist. But that's not the issue. There is no logical problem with God creating an alternative world. What Joe seems to be saying (although it's unclear) is that it's logically impossible for God to create the world and control what happens in it. But if you think about it, it is logically impossible for God to be the all-knowing, purposeful creator - author of the book of the world that contains past, present and future - and NOT be in control of what happens in the book. If God is not the author, then it's not his purposeful creation. This is the incoherency of Joe's muddled thinking.
To sum up, Joe thinks he is taking stupid atheists to school - laying to rest our unsophisticated atheistic notions of the logical incoherency of the omni-God. But he only exposes his own incoherent thinking. And I would expect no better from him.
* Christians usually argue that it might be the case that God can't reduce suffering without changing the intended outcome, but that is certainly not a logical necessity. At best it's a possibility, and a remote one at that. I can easily imagine an alternate world where some creature in the remote depths of the ocean is spared from suffering, and yet people still face all the same moral choices in their lives. God should be able to do a little better than that.